Enslaved to Release Utgard This Fall; Single Coming May 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

There’s a new Enslaved album. It’s called Utgard. It’ll be out this Fall. It’ll probably be brilliant. There’s a single. It’s coming out May 22. It’s not out yet. No. Not yet. Not today. Today’s not May 22. Unless it is. Then it’s out. In that case, I take it all back.

That’s pretty much the news though. After saying they were going to record an album and recording an album, they have recorded an they are releasing an album. Oh yeah, it has a cover. It’s kind of Mordor-esque, but also pretty great. It’s by Truls Espedal, who at this point is basically a member of the band and should probably be considered as such. Doing nine out of their now-15 record covers isn’t nothing. It’s more albums than at least 40 percent of the band have appeared on, for example.

Enslaved are doing the streaming-gig thing on April 1 as part of a big Norwegian brewhaha. That’s cool. I’ve yet to ever watch them play and regret it, in-person or otherwise.

Here’s the album info they’re giving out thus far:

enslaved utgard

ENSLAVED ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM, “UTGARD,” TO BE RELEASED THIS FALL

BAND REVEALS ARTWORK & ANNOUNCES ONLINE SHOW

Norway’s avantgarde metal heroes ENSLAVED reached out to their fans yesterday, to present them the cover artwork for their upcoming album “Utgard”:

ENSLAVED’s official statement:
“Due to the current situation, we took the decision together with our label Nuclear Blast to postpone the release of ‘Utgard’ to the fall. Therefore, as you can imagine, the whole schedule had to be adjusted quickly! We understand that seeing a video teaser followed by nothing has been confusing. As of today, we can announce that our first single and video will be released on May 22nd, and we can’t wait to share this new music with you all! We are sure you understand that this is for the best.

In the meantime, we’d like to tell you a little more about the ‘Utgard’ cover artwork! This is the 9th consecutive album cover artwork done by Truls Espedal – and like the album itself it is definitely on the wavelength of the long-distance pulse from the Enslaved generator. It is a piece of art that mirrors a massive concept and a band that is also more lyrically and philosophically inspired than ever before. That Truls is a master of his art is established a long time ago, but he has truly outdone himself on this interpretation of our Utgard. Just looking at how the colors and techniques are used to create the depth and grandiosity of the horizon. The perfect travelling companion into these uncharted territories.”

Furthermore, the band announces today to headline the Verftet online music festival in USF, Bergen, on April 1st.
The online event will be streamed via www.bt.no and www.youtube.com.

The band states:
“When the old Bergen ring-fox Mikal Telle asked us to join his and local venue USF’s fantastic initiative that is this festival, we pretty much said “yes and thanks for asking!” before he could finish the sentence. Of course we are itching in our fingers to play now that the world of live music is on halt, but we also saw a chance to get our live music out there to all the fantastic fans out there – the studio recordings is of course a pillar in what Enslaved is, but without the other pillar of playing high-energy shows and creating musical magick together with our magnificent audience – things get out of balance. Now we will have a chance to restore that balance for a virtual time with all of you – and time is time no matter what matter it moves through, right? See you in the ether!”

Enslaved is:
Ivar Bjørnson – guitar
Grutle Kjellson – vocals/bass
Ice Dale – guitar
Håkon Vinje – keys/vocals
Iver Sandøy – drums

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Enslaved, “What Else is There” (Röyksopp cover) official video

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Paradise Lost Post “Fall From Grace” Video; Obsidian Preorders Start

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

paradise lost

I’m curious how closely the promotional plan from Nuclear Blast for Paradise Lost‘s new album, Obsidian — which is out May 15 — will follow the pattern of the latest record from My Dying Bride that came out earlier this month. There are, of course, additional factors at play now that weren’t at the beginning of the year as they were rolling out the first of that band’s singles — blah blah blah pandemic — but starting with a narrative-style video and the launch of preorders is on point so far, and likewise the choice of a powerful lead single. In this instance, that’s “Fall From Grace,” for which the video is streamable below, followed, as happens, by the preorder link.

Granted it’s cliché as heckdarnshoot to compare these two acts either sonically or in terms of their respective career trajectories, but now that they’re once again labelmates — Paradise Lost signed to Nuclear Blast for their 2017 album, Medusa (review here), following a long stint on Century Media — it’s hard to avoid since at least one assumes it’s the same teams working behind the scenes on promoting them. My emails come from the same parties, anyhow. Paradise Lost are nothing not a proven commodity, as even the reception to their last offering proved, so maybe that’s me being interested in how the industry works these days — if what comes next is a lyric video, it’ll be on target — but as we’ve all learned to one degree or another in the last month-plus, plans can change in ways not previously anticipated. Still, even on a label with the reach of Nuclear BlastObsidian will obviously be a priority.

If the cinematic feel of “Fall From Grace” is anything to go by, that’s how it’s being treated. More to come, I’m sure.

Enjoy:

Paradise Lost, “Fall From Grace” official video

PARADISE LOST RELEASE NEW SINGLE & VIDEO FOR “FALL FROM GRACE” + START PRE-ORDER FOR “OBSIDIAN” (MAY 15TH)

The book has been closed but the story is not over: PARADISE LOST sharpen their pens and add another chapter to their dark, glooming history of death doom and gothic metal. In difficult times, the British legend from Halifax is the drug that numbs the pain , the lover that takes away the sorrows, the story that craves to be told.

“Obsidian”, the new album from PARADISE LOST, will be released on May,15th.

You can order “Obsidian” now in various formats here:
https://nblast.de/ParadiseLostObsidian

Nick Holmes states: “As a global crisis, it goes without saying Covid 19 has affected everyone and everything, including every aspect of the music industry. As a result, our record label Nuclear Blast offered us the chance to postpone the launch of our latest album ‘Obsidian’ to a less volatile time later in the year.

Taking this into consideration, and the fact the live music circuit is currently in lockdown, we think it’s unnecessary to postpone the release as we think our fans wouldn’t want to wait. Music can be enjoyed in practically any environment, so therefore we are going ahead with the same release date 15.5.20, and we sincerely hope our new album helps to lift your spirits, and is a beacon of light in the dark during these uncertain times! Thanks for your continuous support through the years and see you on the road!”

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Paradise Lost Set May 15 Release for Obsidian

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

paradise lost

So the new Paradise Lost album is called Obsidian. Think it’s dark? Might be. To go with the announcement of the record’s May 15 arrival — certainly welcome news as far as I’m concerned, and I’d imagine you probably feel much the same if you heard 2017’s Medusa (review here) or, say, any number of the other offerings they’ve put out over the last three-plus decades — they’re sharing a teaser for the opening track, “Darker Thoughts.” But here’s the thing. It’s 12 seconds long.

Come on, guys. That’s not a teaser. That’s a teaser for a teaser. “Look out for the teaser coming soon! Here’s a taste!”

12 seconds. What do we get? Some strings and the lyric, “This one-way street you’re on is gonna get you killed.” That’s not nothing. It’s a darker thought than many, but it doesn’t tell you much about the record. In the PR wire info, they call it “more eclectic,” which might hint that it’s pulling away from some of the more direct heaviness of their highly successful last couple outings — and I guess this 12 seconds would support that to some degree — but who the hell knows at this point? Two months ahead of the release, that’s what we’ve got.

Here’s art and details:

paradise lost obsidian

PARADISE LOST ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM, “OBSIDIAN,” OUT ON MAY 15TH

Obsidian… dark, reflective and black: it’s a pretty decent description of the music that PARADISE LOST have been making over the last 32 years, even though this most resilient of British metal bands have stoically refused to be pinned down to one easily defined formula. Powered by a lust for creativity and a stout devotion to haunting heaviness, PARADISE LOST have defied the odds by coming back stronger than ever over the past decade.

“Obsidian”, the new album of Gothic legend PARADISE LOST will be released on May 15th.

Singer Nick Holmes comments about the new album: “One of the most eclectic albums we have done in some time, we have miserable songs, sad songs ,slow songs and faster songs. Did I mention miserable?”

The sixteenth PARADISE LOST studio album, “Obsidian“ eschews its immediate predecessors’ gruesome, myopic approach in favour of a richer and more dynamic deluge of black shades. From the deceptive elegance and dual atmospheres of opener ‘Darker Thoughts‘ through to the crushing, baroque doom of war-torn closer ‘Ravenghast‘, “Obsidian“ reveals a band in masterful control of a broad array of vital ideas. Most noticeably, the record boasts several songs that draw heavily from the much-loved, Kohl-encrusted days of ‘80s gothic rock: in particular, newly-minted PARADISE LOST anthems‚ ‘Ghosts‘ is a guaranteed dancefloor-filler at any discerning goth nightclub.

PARADISE LOST – “Obsidian”
Tracklist

1. Darker Thoughts
2. Fall From Grace
3. Ghosts
4. The Devil Embraced
5. Forsaken
6. Serenity
7. Ending Days
8. Hope Dies Young
9. Ravenghast

Formed in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in 1988, PARADISE LOST were unlikely candidates for metal glory when they slithered from the shadows and infiltrated the UK underground. But not content with spawning an entire subgenre with early death/doom masterpiece „Gothic“ nor with conquering the metal mainstream with the balls-out power of 1995’s„Draconian Times“, they have subsequently traversed multiple genre boundaries with skill and grace, evolving through the pitch-black alt-rock mastery of ‘90s classics “One Second“ and “Host“ to the muscular but ornate grandeur of 2009’s “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us“ and “Tragic Idol“ (2012), with the nonchalant finesse of grand masters.

The band’s last two albums – “The Plague Within“ (2015) and “Medusa“ (2017) – saw a much celebrated return to brutal, old school thinking, via two crushing monoliths to slow-motion death and spiritual defeat. Consistently hailed as one of metal’s most charismatic live bands, PARADISE LOST arrive in this new decade as veterans, legends and revered figureheads for several generations of gloomy metalheads. In keeping with their unerring refusal to deliver the expected, 2020 brings one of the band’s most diverse and devastating creations to date.

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Paradise Lost, “Darker Thoughts” teaser

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Witchcraft Announce Acoustic Album Black Metal

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

witchcraft

True, it’s been four years since Witchcraft released 2016’s Nucleus (review here), which was the successful follow-up to their 2012 Nuclear Blast debut and modernization-pivot Legend (review here), following the pioneering vintage style of their first three albums, but in the meantime, the band’s founder and frontman Magnus Pelander offered up the later-2016 solo outing, Time (review here), and the band have been around for fests and such, so while perhaps somewhat more reclusive than they once were, they haven’t entirely disappeared.

Interesting that Pelander is also the only member of the band listed as performing on Black Metal, and yet, rather than release it under his own name, the apparently-fully-acoustic offering coming as a Witchcraft LP. The song “Elegantly Expressed Depression,” which opens Black Metal lives up to the weighty expectations its title sets, and brims with the sincere-sounding fragility of Pelander‘s immediately recognizable vocals. Seems like perhaps sadness is something of a theme — at least going by track names like “Sad People” and “Sad Dog” — but we’ll see on May 1 when Black Metal is released.

Behold:

witchcraft black metal

WITCHCRAFT To Release Acoustic Album! Black Metal Coming This May On Nuclear Blast!

Pre-order Black Metal here: www.nuclearblast.com/witchcraft-blackmetal

Magnus Pelander’s Witchcraft have existed at the forefront of occult tinged classic rock ever since their formation in the year 2000, when Magnus decided to form the band so that he could record a tribute to his idols Roky Erickson and Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling. The pioneering band has never made excuses for their inspirations, but went on to craft numerous genre-defining classics themselves. Witchcraft’s illustrious career from their self-titled debut in 2004 through to the 2012’s Legend album to the wondrous Nucleus in 2016, became cult classics and propelled the band to new levels of reverence within their scene. When it comes to blending doom with classic rock and flourishes of masterful ambience, nobody could touch them.

Now, Magnus takes WITCHCRAFT in a brave new direction, setting forth into entirely new territory! Exhibiting the pure emotion that has always lived at the core of the band’s work, by moving forward alone: The band’s first new album in four years, titled Black Metal, is an entirely acoustic affair. From opener and the just premiered, first single, “Elegantly Expressed Depression,” it’s clear that this new facet of the band’s sound allows the rawness and fragility to shine in an entirely new light. The minimalism of Bill Callaghan, the tenderness of Elliot Smith and the air of slight discomfort that could only be WITCHCRAFT combine to make this record a truly unique spectacle, not only in the band’s catalogue, but in the world of guitar music as it stands in 2020.

Below is Black Metal’s track list:

1. Elegantly Expressed Depression
2. A Boy And A Girl
3. Sad People
4. Grow
5. Free Country
6. Sad Dog
7. Take Him Away

Black Metal will be available as a CD, vinyl and in digital formats on May 1st 2020 via Nuclear Blast.
Pre-order your copy of Black Metal here: http://nblast.de/WitchcraftNucleusNB
Pre-save the album on Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer: https://nblast.de/WitchcraftPreSave

Witchcraft has also announced to play a few selected shows this year, such as at Desertfest Berlin and London.

Album Line-Up:
Magnus Pelander | vocals, guitar

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Witchcraft, “Elegantly Expressed Depression”

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My Dying Bride Post “To Outlive the Gods” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

The new clip for ‘To Outlive the Gods’ is the third song-based video to come from My Dying Bride‘s newly-issued The Ghost of Orion (review here) — their first for Nuclear Blast after spending nearly 30 years as a flagship act for Peaceville — arriving as it does behind a lyric video for “Tired of Tears” (posted here) and the mud-covered clip for album opener “Your Broken Shore” (posted here). That seems like plenty in and of itself, but there have been a host of other videos as well that would seem to be culled from an interview with band founders Aaron Stainthorpe (vocals) and Andrew Craighan (guitar) talking about various aspects of making the record, constructing the band, and so on. As these have basically arrived piecemeal, one question at a time — because attention spans — it’s safe to say that both band and label are laying it on fairly thick when it comes to promotion.

Reasonably so. The Ghost of Orion earns it, both in emotional weight and in the quality of its songwriting and of course in the masterful poise with which My Dying Bride present their particular take on doom, once groundbreaking and still affecting. With much of its material based around the horror of Stainthorpe‘s then-five-year-old daughter being diagnosed with cancer, it’s the kind of work you’d have to be a sociopath not to feel on some level, but melodically and in terms of its brutal moments, the band don’t lose sight of songcraft either, as tracks like “To Outlive the Gods” showcase well. If “Your Broken Shore” told the audience there were gonna be death growls on the record and “Tired of Tears” was a gut-wrencher of a single, then “To Outlive the Gods” is the string-laced flowing melodic side of The Ghost of Orion coming to bear. Still based around a memorable chorus, the song unfolds across eight minutes or so of My Dying Bride‘s signature melancholy.

My only question at this point is when they’re going to hit the road, where, and for how long.

Guess we’ll see.

You can check out the video below — it’s got acting! — followed by more from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

My Dying Bride, “To Outlive the Gods” official video

Doom legends MY DYING BRIDE unleashed their new album The Ghost Of Orion last week and today the band are releasing the official video for ‘To Outlive The Gods’. Directed by Hal Sinden, the video features frontman Aaron Stainthorpe and tells the tale of a doomed love story.

Aaron commented on the track: “When passion is so strong and so driven, even the Gods will be put to shame.”

Order The Ghost Of Orion on CD, black 2LP Gatefold, white 2LP Gatefold, red 2LP Gatefold and picture disc 2LP Gatefold here: nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

My Dying Bride’s three decades of misery almost came to an end several years ago. Following 2015’s universally lauded Feel the Misery album, vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s daughter, just five years old at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. Shocked and heartbroken, Stainthorpe put all band activities on hold while he, his immediate family, and My Dying Bride put their collective energies into eradicating what Stainthorpe called, “the cruellest of God’s bitter and loveless creations.” The high hurdles, however, didn’t stop with cancer. In 2018, returning original member and guitarist Calvin Robertshaw texted his departure, effective immediately. No reason was given or explanation provided to anyone.

Then, just as My Dying Bride had regrouped after positive news that his daughter was effectively cancer free, returning drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels departed right before the band were slated to enter Mark Mynett’s studio, Mynetaur Productions. Down two members but feeling right as rain, My Dying Bride moved on, mastered the doldrums, recording magnificent new album, The Ghost of Orion, to the joyful tears of fans across the globe, in the process.

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Blues Pills to Release Holy Moly! June 19; New Single “Proud Woman” Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

blues pills

Sweden’s Blues Pills will start the album cycle for their new record, Holy Moly!, well in advance of the actual June 19 release date. Nuclear Blast is behind the offering as they have been since they picked up their self-titled debut (review here), and the band begin playing shows this week in Uppsala. Sure, they took some time to record, but there’s a certain point at which the notion of a “cycle” becomes kind of irrelevant, i.e., a band just tours. Blues Pills have not been shy about hitting the road, I guess is what I’m saying.

“Proud Woman” is the first single from Holy Moly!, and though it’s tempting, I’m not going to sit here and mansplain to you how the idea of vocalist Elin Larsson feeling compelled to make such a declaration should be considered a quaint example of the band’s retro foundations rather than an urgent and relevant statement regarding current issues, but there you have it anyway. I’m also not going to sit here and mansplain how I just mansplained the thing I said I wasn’t going to mansplain. That’s what it’s like to be a dude. For what it’s worth, I’m not particularly proud. Ain’t like I earned any of this cultural privilege.

The PR wire has more interesting things to say:

blues pills proud woman

BLUES PILLS Announce New Album Holy Moly! + Release First Single “Proud Woman”

Often compared to a jam session between Aretha Franklin and LED ZEPPELIN, BLUES PILLS’ career took them from an American garage to international glory within a few years. Their self-titled debut album (2014) entered the German album charts at #4 and two years later they went straight to #1 with the successor Lady in Gold. Starting in the smallest clubs the band suddenly found themselves playing on some of the world’s biggest stages from Rock Am Ring, Download, Sweden Rock and even the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival where DEEP PURPLE famously saw smoke on the water during Frank Zappa’s performance.

With the band’s 3rd album, Holy Moly!, to be released on June 19th, 2020 via Nuclear Blast, BLUES PILLS plan their return to a number of major festival stages, playing Download, Hurricane and Southside among many others throughout the summer.

But fans need not wait until summer for their first taste of the action. To support International Women’s Day on March 8th BLUES PILLS have released their first single “Proud Woman”. The band describe their intentions with the song:
“With ‘Proud Woman’ we wanna give the fierce women and grrrls of the world a power anthem to turn on whenever they wanna feel empowered. Or just have fun. A song to everyone who stands behind the most obvious things of all. Equality and unity. Whoever you are, wherever you come from. Women will always be a driving force of change. And a change is gonna come.”

Get the single digitally here: https://nblast.de/BP-ProudWoman

In regards to the lyrics of “Proud Woman” vocalist, Elin Larsson, says: “I’m a proud woman came out from my inner self and the first thing I thought was: someone must have written this before. And if not, why? Hey! It’s about damn time then!

To be a woman or non-binary in the music industry seems to be more about the gender then the music sometimes. As a woman you’re being belittled, threatened, scrutinized, made fun of, targeted and harassed in a way that the men in the industry aren’t. And even so, there are so many women in the industry who made and are making their mark just as mighty as the men, and they do that despite all of the hardships they get for simply being a woman and that makes their triumphs even greater.”

“I’m a proud woman. And I’m not the only one!”

BLUES PILLS live:

13.03. S Uppsala – Katalin (w/ BROR GUNNAR JANSSON)
14.03. S Norrköping – Arbis Bar & Salonger (w/ BROR GUNNAR JANSSON)
19.03. PL Warsaw – Antyradio Award Party @ Stodola
27.03. RUS Moscow – Pravda Club
28.03. RUS St. Petersburg – Club Zal
03.04. GR Thessaloniki – Fix Factory of Sound
04.04. GR Athens – Fuzz Club

02.05. UK London – Desertfest

12.06. UK Donington – Download Festival
13.06. F Tourcoing – Le Grand Mix
15.06. LUX Esch-sur-Alzette – Kulturfabrik
16.06. F Strasbourg – La Laiterie
18./20.06. B Dessel – Graspop Metal Meeting
19.06. D Neuhausen ob Eck – Southside Festival
21.06. D Scheeßel – Hurricane Festival
27.06. N Ekeberg – Tons of Rock
28.06. I Verona – Rock The Castle
09. – 12.07. CZ Vizovice – Masters of Rock
11.07. N Kvinesdal – Norway Rock Festival
23. – 26.07. RO Brezoi – Open Air Blues Festival
14.08. E Barcelona – Keeping The Blues Alive

BLUES PILLS are:
Elin Larsson | Vocals
Zack Anderson | Guitar
André Kvarnström | Drums
Kristoffer Schander | Bass

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Blues Pills, “Proud Woman” official video

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My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion: Mending Shores

Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride the ghost of orion

While it’s true that The Ghost of Orion is My Dying Bride‘s 14th album in a career that hits the 30-year mark in 2020, it’s also their first in a half-decade. That is a longer break between full-lengths than they’ve ever had, and in addition to signing to Nuclear Blast after issuing 2015’s Feel the Misery (review here) and each of its predecessors through Peaceville Records, the distance from one LP to the next might be found in vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe dealing with an illness in his family. More specifically, his child, and even more specifically, his five-year-old daughter got cancer. This is something addressed directly in the material itself, and as the eight-song/58-minute offering passes between the opener “Your Broken Shore” and its brief choral counterpart, the finale “Your Woven Shore,” the theme is writ large throughout, perhaps most directly in “Tired of Tears,” which remains an exceptionally beautiful work of songcraft despite its tragic lyrical origin — it is also equal parts sorrowful and catchy — and a piece like “The Solace,” where Wardruna‘s Linda Fay-Hella steps in on lead vocal joined only by the guitar of Stainthorpe‘s fellow My Dying Bride founder Andrew Craighan. Fay-Hella is one of two guests alongside cellist Jo Quail, and as Lena Abé‘s bass and Jeff Singer‘s drums and Shaun MacGowan‘s keyboards and violins flesh out arrangements, the encompassing whole remains characteristic with the particular style of emotive death-doom that Craighan and Stainthorpe helped pioneer in the band’s landmark early work. The Ghost of Orion, to put it as simply as possible, is the work of masters.

That’s evident from the first strains of guitar and the first thuds of drums that introduce “Your Broken Shore,” and as that track unfolds with its blended death-growl chorus and melodic-vocal verse, its string accompaniment and its unadulterated feeling of rhythmic force, there’s no mistaking My Dying Bride for anyone else among the minimum-two generations of acts they’ve influenced and no doubt will continue to influence, not the least because of the work they do here. As gutturalism and melody come together in the crescendo, “Your Broken Shore” gives way to strings in a fluid transition to the quick keys at the outset of “To Outlive the Gods,” which will return in both the midsection and at the finish, while in between, what plays out is an immersive shift between the leadoff and “Tired of Tears,” of which the immediacy is not at all dulled by the fact that it’s nearly nine minutes long. It is a signature hook for The Ghost of Orion, more so even than “Your Broken Shore,” while and seems very much intended to standout from what surrounds. The fact that it comes situated next to “The Solace” might have something to do with that as well, since that at-least-partial-departure-from-form is also a chance to digest the proceedings up to that point even as they progress through a new stage, but that only adds another level of consideration to how effective The Ghost of Orion is on the whole. Again, the work of masters.

my dying bride

“The Solace” also functions as a transition into the remaining tracks, which take a somewhat different approach than the album up to that point, though perhaps one might look at the structure of “To Outlive the Gods,” with its breaks into clearly-defined sections, as something of a precursor. Positioned as the final cut on side B, “The Solace” itself is stark for its lack of drums and inherently folkish with Fay-Hella‘s vocals standing alone overtop the layers of guitar leads, and what it lends to The Ghost of Orion in terms of atmosphere isn’t out of character certainly with what’s come before, but is definitely built upon in what comes after, as the shape of the second LP moves between the most extreme moments in “The Long Black Land” and the penultimate “The Old Earth” — both of which top 10 minutes long — and the shorter pieces that accompany in the tense but ultimately quiet piano/guitar interlude title-track and the aforementioned closer “Your Woven Shore,” which shifts smoothly in its two-minute stretch between a choir of voices either organic or synthesized and a movement of strings that seems to represent the resolution so much of the album has been begging for — its second half doing so in especially visceral fashion. Though neither wants for overarching lushness or dynamic, they nonetheless represent the darkest reaches of The Ghost of Orion, and even as Stainthorpe self-harmonizes in an especially mournful lower register in the later portion of “The Long Black Hand,” the emotional weight is no less grueling than that of the tone or rhythm surrounding.

Likewise, after “The Ghost of Orion” leaves off its brief passage, the quiet introduction of “The Old Earth,” subtly building to a cymbal-wash-and-stop as the full-thickness riff joins in, the ensuing roll is a setup for the punishment of the record’s harshest, sound-like-they-physically-hurt-to-deliver-in-the-studio growls. Stainthorpe plays back and forth almost in a call and response as “The Old Earth” lumbers through its midsection, and it’s not until after six and a half minutes into the total 10:52 that the tempo picks up to a more kinetic chug. The drums also join that build, and thus drive it, and it seems like My Dying Bride will ride that chug to the song’s finish, but they turn to a more angular section derived from earlier, the strings and guitar continuing to mount tension before finally letting go somewhere just before the final minute begins, Craighan holding on through the last fade from which “Your Woven Shore” emerges to underscore the death-and-life-from-death-and-life thematic that all of The Ghost of Orion has been working through on at least one level for its duration, and usually more than that. Taken individually, its initial salvo feels poised to capture the listener and engage the beginning of the story the band are telling, while everything thereafter answers that by deepening and enriching the plot as it unfurls. An interchange between beauty and pain is not by any means new aesthetic territory for My Dying Bride, and one must allow for the context in such a consideration here perhaps more than one otherwise might, but rarely has their turmoil ever sounded so genuine, and rarely has their triumph through it felt so resonant.

My Dying Bride, “Tired of Tears” lyric video

My Dying Bride, “Your Broken Shore” official video

My Dying Bride website

My Dying Bride on Thee Facebooks

My Dying Bride at Nuclear Blast website

Nuclear Blast on Thee Facebooks

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Friday Full-Length: Cathedral, The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Cathedral, The Garden of Unearthly Delights (2005)

The various eras of Cathedral have their detractors and proponents, and if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t know where 2005’s The Garden of Unearthly Delights sits in terms of average fan esteem. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I also don’t really care. The record rules. It was the Coventry-based doomers’ eighth album, and also marked their first offering through Nuclear Blast after releasing 2002’s The VIIth Coming through Dream Catcher/Spitfire Records and spending the bulk of their career to that point on Earache Records, to which they signed ahead of their 1991 landmark debut, Forest of Equilibrium (discussed here; reissue review here).

Vocalist Lee Dorrian‘s ties to England’s formative years of grindcore in Napalm Death and Cathedral‘s transition from the harsher-edged doom of their own beginnings to and through the other end of stoner rock in LPs like 1996’s Supernatural Birth Machine andcathedral the garden of unearthly delights 1998’s Caravan Beyond Redemption and into the mature doom of 2001’s Endtyme and the aforementioned The VIIth Coming were already given considerations when it came to the band, and as they made their way onto Nuclear Blast for the first time, it seemed like they had a chance to refresh their sound with a collection of hyper-strong songs that not only reconciled the various sides of their approach, but celebrated them, giving the doom and the rock their due while looking through a progressive lens at what the band — who by then had already been together for some 16 years — might still accomplish. That’s exactly what The Garden of Unearthly Delights became.

Produced by Warren Riker, who’s probably more known for the work he was doing around that time with the likes of Crowbar and the resurgent Down, The Garden of Unearthly Delights highlighted the to-that-point-undervalued aspect of songwriting in the work of Dorrian and his fellow founder, guitarist Gaz Jennings, as well as bassist/flutist/mellotronist/synthesist Leo Smee and drummer Brian Dixon (lately to be found in The Skull). Its 10-track/70-minute run made it some 17 minutes longer than its predecessor, but it used that time wisely and purposefully, even if splitting up the near-27-minute multi-movement epic “The Garden” onto two vinyl sides of a double-LP version made for a somewhat awkward (and also, one has to admit, more digestible) presentation.

But even the preceding psych-doom quirk — singing kids, ’60s garage bounce, strings and all — of “Beneath a Funeral Sun,” the songs throughout The Garden of Unearthly Delights are unquestionably the focus of the record itself, rather than any particular stylistic concern. And the album is that much stronger for that. It’s as though Cathedral threw up their hands to some degree and said, “screw it, we don’t know what we’re supposed to sound like so let’s have fun,” and don’t tell anybody I said so — because what could be less doom than admitting to a good time — but The Garden of Unearthly Delights is an absolute blast. Sure, it opens grim with the intro “Dearth AD,” but that’s just the first minute, and then it’s off through the gruff riffing of “Tree of Life and Death,” dirty, rocking, brash — and fun.

So much fun. Crazy catchy. But not dumb. The arrangement is clever, the mix is golden and the performance is vital. “Tree of Life and Death” throws down a gauntlet that the historical narrative of “North Berwick Witch Trials” picks up with an even more earworming hook, and it seems like by the time the band are into “Upon Azrael’s Wings” and deceptively melodic “Corpsecycle,” sprinkling samples here and there amid chorus after memorable chorus, it kind of just feels like the band are showing off. And gloriously. I know the narrative of Cathedral is very much wrapped up in the deathly ways of the debut and all that, but seriously, I defy you to read this sentence, listen to “North Berwick Witch Trials” or “Corpsecycle” — your pick — and not nod along approvingly. I’ll tell you right now it won’t happen.

And the sound only expands as Cathedral move through the interlude “Fields of Zagara” through the speedy, careening “Oro the Manslayer” — boasting some highlight work from Jennings and Smee alike in a building instrumental section in the second half before shifting back to the verse and chorus — and into “Beneath a Funeral Sun,” the bizarre-seeming turns of which act as a preface to “The Garden,” which is a record-unto-itself smorgasbord of progressive doom construction.

The song clocks in at 26:59 and announces its arrival with a drum thud emerging from sparse but swelling noise, and subsequently tells a story of apocalyptic vision through nine parts, some of which have sub-movements. There are more strings, mellotron, guest vocals, acoustic stretches — and that’s the first two minutes — and an unabashed conceptual weirdness that almost 15 years after the fact still comes across as equal parts brazen and ambitious.

It’s a lot to take in — hence the comment above about digestibility of splitting it up — but even through it all, there’s a chorus, and as far off as the song goes, that chorus comes back in striking fashion in later reaches. It is gleeful in its weirdness, manifesting in every bit the spirit of the Dave Patchett full-poster foldout cover cathedral the garden of unearthly delights full posterart adorning the album in all its nuance and complexity. “Proga-Europa,” a minute-long semi-hidden track that emerges after a few minutes of silence to close out the record in boogie fashion, is about the only way they could have possibly backed it up.

It would be five years before Cathedral issued a follow-up to The Garden of Unearthly Delights in 2010’s The Guessing Game (review here), and that record shifted to incorporate many of the more progressive elements of “The Garden” into some of its own tracks, and pulled it off, but there seemed to be competing impulses at work. The next year, they marked 20 years since their debut with Anniversary (review here) on Dorrian‘s own Rise Above Records, and the same label would also stand behind Cathedral‘s final album, 2013’s The Last Spire (review here), which brought an end to the band’s arc by returning to the darkened grit of their earliest work but still retaining the lessons in craft the intervening years had taught. As ever, they did it on their own terms.

That’s very much how I look at The Garden of Unearthly Delights as well: the output of a band refusing to compromise on what they wanted to be and what they wanted to do. Even aside from the basic appeal of its initial salvo or the breadth of its semi-title-track, the scope and craft the band showcase throughout what, again, was their eighth long-player — long after most groups would have settled into a pattern of repetition or at least a basic aesthetic formula; a “sound,” to be more kind — remains deeply admirable. It is a reminder that any creative work is only worth pursuing over a longer term if it continues to grow and fascinate the artist or artists behind it.

Plus, riffs.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Most of the week was a blur, but I guess that’s not necessarily bad? It was The Patient Mrs.’ birthday on Wednesday, so my family came over for dinner. We’re doing a bigger thing on Sunday with her mother and sister coming down from Connecticut to spend the day and my family will be over again and so on. It’ll be good times, hopefully somewhat low-key, but probably not. Whatever. We’ve done this kind of thing enough at this point with this crowd that it’s pretty standard operating procedure. That, in itself, is kind of nice.

Living in New Jersey, having moved back, is not without its complications. There are all kinds of things we want to do to update this house and make it more livable that we can’t because we’re not actually on the deed — because paperwork, and family, and money, and lawyers — but I don’t regret being here.

Today at 5PM Eastern is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. You’ve already seen the playlist, but it’s all C.O.C. in honor of Reed Mullin and I talk a bit on there about his impact on the band’s sound. I don’t really have any insights to offer, dude was just a great drummer and brought a lot to the band, so I thought the music was worth celebrating in its various eras and incarnations. You could do a hell of a lot worse than listen to two hours of Corrosion of Conformity, as far as I’m concerned. Despite the circumstances, that’s pretty much a gift to any day.

Listen on their app or at http://gimmeradio.com.

And thanks.

Next week is about half-planned. I don’t know. Do you really care? It’s gonna be rock and roll. I’ve been reviewing a lot of psych records lately — kind of where my head is at, honestly — but I think I’m going to try to tackle the Dool album on Monday for a change of pace and to give myself a bit of a challenge. That’s a good record, so it’ll be fun too to write about, but something a little different from all the melting-brain, lysergic whatnot. In the spirit of Cathedral above, gotta keep it interesting.

There are announcements and streams and this and that booked too for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Wednesday’s open now but something will either come along or I’ll find something to put there. Maybe I’ll go see Torche and maybe not. I haven’t really decided, which means probably not, but it would be nice to get out. I didn’t go see Church of Misery this week. Just too much. Plus, is murder really all that cool? I remain torn when it comes to that band, but in any case, I’ve seen them plenty and I wasn’t hurting for stuff to write about.

I guess I’ll leave it there since The Pecan is up — it’s after 6:30, so that’s no surprise — and needs to be retrieved before he tears down the drywall in his bedroom. Because he might. Because he’s two. So yeah.

Great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. Please check out forum, radio and merch at MiBK. The ol’ FRM.

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