Compelling Natural Force: A Caligari Records round-up (Heavydeath, Act of Impalement, Ellorsith).

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As Caligari Records continues to pick up steam, it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep up with the avalanche of quality cassettes.  Fifteen releases deep and not a single dud in the bunch is a hell of a track record, and you can pretty much rest assured at this point that anything Caligari puts its name to is going to be excellent.  Case in point: the label’s three latest releases are all very different from one another, but all well worth your time.  So without further ado, let us investigate the latest from Caligari’s cabinet…

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It seems like Sweden’s Heavydeath crank out a new demo every other week and they’ve quickly become one of the standout bands on the Caligari roster with their crushing yet atmospheric brand of buzzing death doom.  Forebear Avenger is their fourth(!) demo of 2014 and it sees the trio unleashing just under half-an-hour of new material along with a couple of re-recordings.  In spite of their prolific release schedule, Heavydeath have remained quality-consistent, effortlessly conjuring up yet another pitch-black slab of slo-mo metal.

This time around Heavydeath have gotten even more trippy, upping the atmosphere to the point where prolonged exposure to the music might have you convinced you’ve been dosed with some sort of hallucinogen, even if you’re a total square like me.  Many doom bands strive for it, but few are able to actually evoke that bad trip vibe through music alone, in fact I’d go so far as to say that Heavydeath are currently rivaled only by Electric Wizard in this department.  But Forebear Avenger isn’t just some brown acid freak-out; it feels like the last trip you’ll ever take, straight into the bowels of the abyss.

Heavydeath continue to impress with Forebear Avenger, and now that they’ve signed with the mighty Svart Records, it’s only a matter of time before they drag us down into the depths of infinity with a full length that’s sure to devastate.  In the meantime though, the final chapter in their tetralogy of demos leaves us with plenty to chew on.  Consider this one hell of a warning.

 

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MUSIC REVIEW CLICHE RED ALERT: If Celtic Frost and Entombed had a kid, the vicious little bastard’s name would be Act of Impalement.  In all seriousness though, the Nashville, Tennessee-based trio have whipped up a hybrid of Swedeath buzzsaw riffs and Tom G. Warrior-style doomed rumbling that’s as ridiculously ass-kicking as you’d imagine it to be.  The band’s Caligari Records debut collects their two EPs, Hyperborean Altar and Echoes of Wrath, so you’re getting plenty of headbang for your buck with this killer tape.

As one might expect, the production here falls somewhere between To Mega Therion and Sunlight Studios circa 1989, making this pretty much the gnarliest thing you’re going to hear in 2014.  What one might not expect is Act of Impalement’s ridiculously catchy approach to songwriting.  The tape is chock full of riffs and refrains that are bound to lodge themselves in your skull with the force of a battle axe.  The band’s straightforward assault won’t win any awards for innovation, but they still manage to triumph due to a combination of craftsmanship and attitude.

Act of Impalement’s sturdy, memorable approach to death metal is a ton of fun and will likely be just your cup of blood if you’re down with labels like Hells Headbangers and Dark Descent.  While it’s true that there are quite a few bands treading similar territory at the moment, Act of Impalement do it a hell of a lot better than most.  Besides, how can you not like a band that has a song called “No Viking Funeral for Betrayers?”

 

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Last but certainly not least, Scotland’s Ellorsith have released what might best be described as a “concept EP” in the form of 1959. 1959 takes its inspiration from the Dyatlov Pass incident, in which nine skiers mysteriously lost their lives amidst the heavy snows of the northern Ural mountains.  It’s pretty much impossible to think of a more perfect concept for a black metal release, and Ellorsith capably evoke the chilly atmospheres the ill-fated party likely encountered via twenty-six minutes of fantastically frozen riffs.

The ambience of 1959 is such that at times I’m reminded of the likes of Velvet Cacoon and Xasthur, yet Ellorsith juxtapose this with a cavernous heft that’s more old school death metal than anything else.  The guitars are a smeared, frost-bitten blizzard of distortion that often obscures the solid, un-flashy drumming, while the vocals are a deep, lugubrious growl, melting their way through just enough of the musical ice storm to be heard.  The production is organic-sounding without being too lo-fi; although that cold guitar tone is undoubtedly the focal-point, all the instruments have room to breathe, with the exception of the bass guitar, which has been lost amidst the snows from what I can tell.  The recording quality suites the music so perfectly that it’s damn near uncanny.

There is also something of a cinematic quality to 1959, thanks largely to the intro track “Vvedénije” and the final minutes of the EP-closing “Compelling Natural Force,” both of which do an excellent job of framing the listening experience.  Sonically speaking Ellorsith do an exquisite job of crafting the musical equivalent of the cover art; an archival photo of black-clad skiers heading off into the endless white abyss, never to be seen again.  It’s enough to send chills down the spine of even the most stoic metalhead.

This is one of the most compelling EPs I’ve heard in some time, and I look forward to seeing what Ellorsith can do with a longer release. Whether they continue to explore the themes of 1959 or look to other unexplained historical tragedies for inspiration, there’s little doubt in my mind that it’ll be anything short of excellent. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

http://caligarirecords.bandcamp.com/

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