Welcome to Crack’s monthly round-up of extreme music
Make no mistake, the fringes of music are closing in on you. A world preoccupied by weighty, formless experiments, corpse painted theatrics and palm-muted misery is now but a click away. Those record sleeves decked with unreadable logos – the ones formerly only available in specialist shops in grimy small town malls – are now yours for the taking.
In the last few years the heaviest, most difficult artists committing their work to tape have been able to find an audience with relative ease. Sure, the audiences might not be huge but they’re always fiercely devoted. It’s a beautiful mystery. What seems totally absurd to one listener completely absorbs another. Those who are absorbed? They’re in it for life.
Grindcore, black metal, death metal, power electronics – call it what you like – each month we’re rounding up the best extreme music we can find on the internet and feeding it back to you.
PKWST - I/ II/ IIISelf-released
PKWST is not a phonetic pronunciation of letters or a verbal moniker. PKWST is a sigil consisting of the letters P, K, W, S, and T. The sigil, adorning the artwork of all three releases, manifests itself in disparate forms. I is cast almost as a negative photo, with black and white imagery of some inverted chemical combustion. II finds the symbol stemming out of a warped cadaver like a stunted wooden effigy. III, the sigil is barely visible, sinking into dark putrid seawater. Each visual instance diverging from the last yet, such as PKWST’s music, totally symbiotic. This ‘collective’ of unnamed artists (most likely a solo project with various collaborators) throw vials of acid over black metal, maiming its makeup, and watch as it melts down to a corrosive pool of electronic mess. These three records are so far detached from normality they could convert even the most stoic of power electronic listeners back to the mainstream. Absolute sonic catatonia.
Boris With Merzbow - GenshoRelapse Records
Named after the Japanese word for ‘phenomenon,’ Gensho is a distinctly lengthy collaboration. Notably longer than Swans’ The Seer. Notably shorter than what it feels like to watch Dream Theatre live. Boris’s side is a collection of nine percussion-less reinterpretations of classic cuts from their back-catalogue. Merzbow’s side offers entirely new compositions. Separately, the artists deliver an audible dichotomy – Boris fleece their low fuzzing riffs with a downcast, almost hushed production style. Aggressive and spectral. Merzbow’s treble heavy electronics has no low end and pillages sound barriers with unbroken dissonance. Together, the high and low converge. Their polar extremes meet with a magnetic synergy that could turn a yin-and-yang symbol inside out. With Gensho, these wayfaring mainstays continue to be the harbingers of Japan’s metal and noise scenes.
Skáphe – Skáphe2I, Voidhanger Records
Pennsylvania’s Skáphe is comprised of Alex Poole (Krieg, Chaos Moon) and D.G. (Naora). This, their followup to 2014’s self-titled debut, further explores the group’s miasmic wanderings in the realms of death lesioned black metal. As one of the more beta black metal records of this year, Skáphe2 is alarmingly brassy with its experimentalism. Titanic collisions of cymbals and snares are smudged by reverb. Delayed guitar work moans and moans before naturally fading to nothing. D.G.’s echoed roars sound like cries of help lost in battering winds. Poole’s ambidextrous nous as an instrumentalist has already been lauded by his past output but with Skaphe2, it’s in plain sight and it’s truly hellish. Peculiarly, the utilisation of cleaner guitar lines adds another abnormal quality to this release, making the record surprisingly heavier and all the more caustic. This is undoubtedly set to be one of the most forward-thinking metal releases of the year.
Goatpsalm - DownstreamAesthetic Death Records
Part-Russian, part-Ukrainian ambient doom act Goatpsalm are the archetypal shamanistic occultists endlessly fashioned by many of their counterparts. Yet to deny the group of possessing any original thought or creative substance is shamefully wrong. The totemic spirituality to Downstream carries a candour and veracity unmatched by affiliates of the funeral-come-industrial-sludge doom genre. Tempo is kept reservedly low with every chordal maturation politely easing from one slide to the next. Tracks such as Grey Rocks and Flowers Of The Underworld progress steadily, without hurry, allowing every note to gently flower and die. It’s a devilishly precise interpretation of authentic ritualistic folklore within the discordant paradigms of dark ambient doom.
Pogavranjen - Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne UmrenArachnophobia Records
Monotheistic salutations to Zoroastrianism and Judaism riddle Croatia’s Pogavranjen’s lyrical motifs. Huskily warbling like an open-air preacher, Ivan Eror swooningly croons “In my youth I zealously donned the robes of sloth/ of foolish pride and fever for all things undone…”. Jedva Čekam da Nickad Ne Umren (translated to Looking Forward to Never Die) the group’s third full length, is a stouthearted exercise in black metal lyricism. Unearthly yet endearingly human. And it’s this impenetrable songwriting swilled with what can only be almost grossly described as jazz black metal that makes Pogavranjen’s latest release a beacon of influence for Croatia’s aspiring metal acts. Abstract yet coherent.
Wolvserpent - Aporia:Kāla:AnantaRelapse Records
Modest in output yet incalculably dense in quality, Idaho’s Wolvserpent have returned. It’s been three years since the release of Perigea Antahkarana – a devastating sprawl of folk pigmented drone. Yet while The metal duo’s productivity has been somewhat muzzled, what Brittany McConnell and Blake Davies lack in quantity is redeemed for in creative virtuosity. Consisting of a single 40-minute track, This EP saunters on the peripheries of drone, buckles under the weight of experimental doom, and whimpers to the cordial lament of traditional folk. It’s an esoteric purging of noise awash with violins and guitars. McConnell and Davies gently permit each other to explore space and timbre with each chordal shift and percussive movement. There’s a patience required here. One that may alienate those with an intolerance to slow-broiling drone. But over the stretch of its duration, Aporia:Kāla:Ananta deserves nothing more than your infinite and undying attention.
Church of Misery - And Then There Were NoneRise Above Records
Lineup mutations can occasionally complicate the historical and creative capital of a group’s material. Constant interruptions, layoffs and re-examinations of band members are frequently the cause of combative ‘artistic differences,’ general artistic indifference, or death. Excluding longstanding founder, Tatsu Mikami, Tokyo’s Church of Misery have made no less than twelve alterations to their lineup since their inception in 1995. Yet while these episodic comings and goings may seem self-indulgent or inordinate, it has only heightened Church of Misery’s collective efforts. And Then There Were None, this Harold Shipman heralding doom quartet’s sixth studio album, boasts the involvement of Repulsion’s Scott Carlson, Blood Farmer’s Dave ‘Depraved’ Szulkin and Earthride’s Eric Little. It’s a dreadfully distinctive collaboration. Despite the Sabbath riff assemblage remaining well in tact, there’s a tapered edge to this release. Carlson’s sludge rooted gnarls are a profound augmentation to Mikami’s impervious bass lines. Malignant, offensive and horribly groovy. This current roster may be as fleeting as the last so we recommend savouring every pitiless moment of it.
Oranssi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä20 Buck Spin
Väräthelijä is not black metal. It’s not simply doom. Nor does it fondle with the fibres of death, thrash, funeral, drone, grind or any of the aforementioned genres’ weaker supplements. Instead, Värähtelijä, Finnish quintet Oranssi Pazuzu’s fourth record, is an misanthropic orchestration of hell. It’s a psyched out cesspit of mutant prog noise. It leafs through styles with guttural arrogance. It positions itself as this nebulous arcadia of thought and fantasy. Inferences of krautrock add a refreshing vista within a panorama of Darkthrone nodding blast beat and hyperactive stoner rock. At times, this amalgam of noise is outwardly complex. Yet, as they established on 2013’s Valonielu, Oranssi Pazuzu have this nimble proficiency in bringing order to their disorder. The group may owe their prior successes to the tropes of traditional black metal, but, on Väräthelijä, their unyielding scope and innovation is only beginning to take form