Whenever I want to look beyond the promo pile for new music, I inevitably head for Bandcamp. The site is a veritable world of wonders, a treasure trove of music from across the genre spectrum just waiting to be discovered, and best of all a ton of it is free. The problem is, I discover so much good stuff every time I go on a trawl, it’s nearly impossible for me to write about all of it, or at least, not in a full-on 400 to 600 word review format. So, I decided to start up a semi-regular feature highlighting my favorite Bandcamp discoveries, some new, some old, some great, some absurd, some evil as hell. Without further ado, let’s uh, plunge into the first edition of Bandcamp Band Crap.
Up first is AST, a duo from Germany playing black metal of the icy, droning variety on their self-titled debut EP. Imagine a more minimal and not as long-winded Krallice and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what these guys sound like. AST keep their songs concise but bring a lot of variation to the table in the riff department, which is a welcome change from the droning repetition a lot of black metal bands from the Weakling-influenced school tend to favor. I also detect a bit of a post-hardcore vibe lurking within the depths of their sound, further leading me to believe they’ve managed to soak up much more than just the obvious true kvlt classics while honing their sound.
The recording is all rough-around-the-edges buzz, as is befitting this style of black metal, but the guitar tone has a strange, crystalline quality to it that contrasts nicely with the impressively gnarly-sounding distorted bass. Vocals are the standard BM rasp, but are some of the more emotive I’ve heard lately, possessed with palpable feelings of sorrow and vitriol. The totality of these individual elements evoke an incredibly chilling, deathly atmosphere, driven home by the sampled sounds of a life support ventilator that create an emotionally devastating coda for final track “Argan.”
AST have definitely established themselves as a band to keep an eye on with this EP; the tape version is sadly sold out, but the digital version is up for pay-what-you-want download. I’ve been told by the band that they’re working on a split and a full length for release later on this year and I can’t wait to hear more from them, because sixteen minutes just ain’t enough to give me my fix. Then again, you can always just hit “play” again when it’s over…
With an album called Eat Me and cover art depicting the makings of a wicked overdose, there was no way in hell I could pass on checking out the Polish duo known as Tearfall. Information on these guys is pretty scarce, but the music speaks for itself; a mix of depressive black metal and doom that’s concerned entirely with drug abuse and various other forms of self-harm. Eat Me appears to be their first full length, and rest assured it’s one gnarly black trip.
The album is made up entirely of suffocating, mid-paced blackness, in this respect reminding a bit of Samael circa Ceremony of Opposites. There is also a mournful, gothic quality to the music at times that seems to point to an early Peaceville Three influence. It’s a potent combination of sounds that works well with the short songs; Tearfall typically keep things under the four minute mark, which means these plodding tunes never have a chance to get monotonous, something that can’t typically be said for most modern bands that flirt with doom.
In listening to Eat Me, it’s easy to imagine a loan, lost soul crawling across a dirty floor with slit wrists, wallowing in blood and filth next to a table full of hard drugs. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what the band was going for considering their slogan is “suicidal music for suicidal people.” Tearfall are already at work on another album titled The Seventh Circle of Hell; it’s going to be interesting to see if they hold onto the suicidal/drug addict themes or go down a more traditional infernal path.
After my parents got divorced, my father moved down to New Mexico for work after a brief stint in the Chicago area. I’ve only been there to visit a few times and don’t know much about the state; as a result, my only real association with it is my father, who is about the most un-metal person there is (that’s not a knock, just a fact). So, it’s incredibly hard for me to imagine something as black and grim as Predatory Light coming from there, but come they do, though on MMXIV they sound more like they’re from beyond than from the state of Kokopelli license plates.
Predatory Light sound exactly like their cover art, a noxious, swirling abyss of blackened, doom-laden metal that’s positively hypnotic in its execution. Of the four bands covered here, they possess the most memorable riffs, as well as the most fully-realized sound, as evidenced by their knack for composing lengthy songs that are crammed with enough cool ideas to justify their playing time. Elements of black metal, death metal and doom are combined in an expert manner to create something that sounds like it could’ve only risen from the deepest, darkest depths of the void, looking to ensnare you in its tentacles and drag you back down with it to the pit from whence it came.
It might be a bit presumptuous to say after only hearing two tracks, but I think Predatory Light might just be onto something special here. If they can pull off this kind of atmosphere and depth of songwriting for the span of a full length, there’s no reason why they couldn’t become the next band to ascend the throne of US black metal. In the meantime, get on this two track demo at all costs.
Oh, Gothkrimp. Between this and Tearfall I have no idea what’s going on over in Poland, but there’s apparently something seriously fucked up in the water over there. From the band name, to the cover art that appears to be a third grader’s favorite booby drawing, to the fact that the first song on this demo is called “Salty Dungeon,” you’d probably expect the music to be pretty fucking weird, but in actuality Gothkrimp is fairly standard in its execution as a one man black metal project. However, that doesn’t stop it in any way from being an enjoyable little slab of necro tastiness.
Indeed, Stone Woods of Angmar is a nasty little beast; ramshackle four track black metal complemented by eerie synth-work, raspy vocal vomit and minimal, canned drums. But even though this is largely a case of no alarms and no surprises, there’s something about it that’s a little bit bent, a little bit off, that’s tough to put a finger on… maybe it’s the Eighties synthpop drums in “Like Snow in Norway,” or maybe it’s just the booby drawing fucking with me. Either way, well worth checking out if you need a little more lo-fi blackened clatter in your life (and honestly, who doesn’t?).
That’s it for the first installment of Bandcamp Band Crap; I hope you found at least one of these bands to your liking. For the most comprehensive coverage of all things loud and angry on Bandcamp, I strongly recommend you check out the utterly fantastic Metal Bandcamp blog, as they are beyond a shadow of a doubt the definitive authority on the subject (and no, I’m not just heaping praise on them because they ask me to write for ’em once in a while 😉 ). Until next time, keep digging.