This week, on a vaguely appropriate number, I’m returning to my past. Around a decade ago, the unexpectedly successful extreme metal night Stormblast that I ran on Thursdays in Sheffield came to an end, and from time-to-time, the question has come up as to whether I’d bring it back for the occasional night here and there. Seeing as I barely have time to do everything else I already do at the moment, the likelihood is vanishingly slim.
But, I wondered, after a chance visit (finally!) to the excellent Crypt of the Wizard a couple of Sundays back, what kind of extreme metal would I be playing now if I was still doing Stormblast? So this week, I’m taking a look at what new music I might well be playing at an entirely hypothetical Stormblast in 2019. And if this works, and if you, the reader want more of it, I’ll continue this as a regular thing, rounding up the new metal releases that I hear.
In the meantime, I’ve also begun added the old setlists (the first few are here, and the remainder will follow in due course), if you want a bit of nostalgia, and thanks – as ever – to the various people who were involved as DJs, punters, or simply spread the word at the time, as Stormblast would never have been a success without you all.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
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While 1349 go back to the mid-nineties, their first album wasn’t released until 2001, and they came to my attention with the blistering Hellfire in 2005, which remains one of the best Black Metal albums since the millenium, in my opinion – and tracks from it were frequently played at Stormblast. They’ve divided opinion since, mind, with at least one album of experimental, downtempo atmospheres, and it’s now been five years since the last album, but at least we have this new track to appreciate. It starts sluggishly, perhaps, but once Frost picks up the pace with his ever-astounding drumming, the track tears into life and the burning fire that is 1349 is all present and correct.
Korpsånd – An Introduction to the New Wave of DKBM
Black Metal long since spread beyond the long-associated “home” of Norway (and indeed it could well be argued that it’s origins were elsewhere anyway), and there are interesting bands in the style to be found just about anywhere nowadays. So it goes with this Danish group, apparently associated with the Korpsånd circle (there is an extensive compilation of associated artists here, but I know little or nothing about them otherwise), and are rather clearly owing a lot to the raw fury of the early Black Metal artists. I first heard some of this artist playing in Crypt of the Wizard, and while this track has rough production to say the least, the cold, dank atmosphere shines through, and the vocals sound like cries of the damned in hell.
I love heavy riffs and ripping blastbeats, and this Spanish band delivers both in spades, and has a familiar drummer in the form of Nick Barker, who spent time with both Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, as well as a great many others – and his prowess is certainly needed here to keep up with the roaring tempo. Elsewhere, this song – as a friend pointed out – doesn’t half owe something to Pantera, particularly in the screaming guitar riffs and the vocal stylings, but this is perhaps even heavier than most Pantera ever was, which is saying something.
Fear the Living EP
I often find myself a little bored by Death Metal nowadays, as many bands seem to have backed themselves into a corner, retreading the same old styles and tropes. But I do still keep an ear out for something interesting, and I might just have found it with the tech-death maelstrom cooked up by Québécois band Ignominy. In the best way, this is absolute filth. Head-spinning riffage and dense drumming back up vocals that sound like the Great Beast Himself is addressing our many failures, and this track even finds time for a stately breakdown before returning to neck-snapping metal. This is fucking great.
Halo (Snakes for the Breeding)
I rather missed out on mentioning their return last year, much to my regret (it was a busy year, and a few things got missed) – part of that being that I perhaps didn’t listen to half as much metal as I have in previous years. So consider this some form of reparation. Originally part of the metal scene in London in the late eighties – somewhere between Thrash and Crust Punk – they rather abruptly split in 1989 and it was, perhaps, a little surprising to see them return nearly three decades on. The new album Satori, though, remarkably still feels like the same band, just with a production that perhaps doesn’t have as much grime on it. In fact the cleaner production works in the band’s favour, as it gives the whole album that much more punch, even when the riffs aren’t tearing past your ears at light speed. In addition, they play the New Cross Inn on 13-Jul.
The Crimson Crown
When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light
Taking things darker and slower, one style I was more than happy to play as much as possible was the doomier side of metal, and I’ve maybe retained more interest in this than most other areas of metal in recent years. Maybe it’s the inner Goth in me, I don’t know. But anyway, Finnish doom band Swallow the Sun released their seventh album just recently, and it is a lush, melodic album that sees them in a realm unmatched by pretty much anyone else, as far as I can tell. The melancholy feel of this track, though, is the absolute standout.
Soilwork were a band that featured prominently in the early days of Stormblast, partly because they’d released a couple of stellar albums in the years before – but I must confess that I’ve rather lost track since, and I was surprised to learn that this is their eleventh album. That said, not a lot has really changed on the surface – they are still treading the fine tightrope of bludgeoning, melodic death metal and huge, huge choruses, and nowhere on the album do they do that better than on this track, which has all the elements that made me love the band in the first place, and it’s also catchy as all hell.
Love Lust and Greed
A new one on me, this, but I’ve long-loved interesting hardcore – and played a number of such bands at Stormblast over time – and this Icelandic band certainly deliver there. A mix of face-melting hardcore and more melodic elements, it’s a really great and listenable album, as it goes, and I hear from reports at Roadburn last weekend that they are quite something live, too (as these kind of bands often are). There are a few nods in their sound to other bands that I can’t quite put my finger on (and there’s the odd nod to Glassjaw, too, particularly in the vocal stylings), but that’s no issue – you have to be influenced from somewhere, otherwise music would never evolve. I love that filthy, down-and-dirty bassline that opens Pathetic, though, which goes in a surprisingly bright direction to begin with, but drags you down into the mire quickly. Recommended.
Heilung have made quite the splash in recent years – their take on “Amplified History” has seen a collective of metal and folk musicians create a quite unique, quasi-tribal, quasi-devotional sound that on their debut, live album LIFA resulted in an astonishing, powerful outburst. Quite how historically accurate this was/is is another thing entirely (something I went into with Dr Simon Trafford in my talk at Nine Worlds last year, and is also partly detailed on Tuesday Ten: 341), but it sounds amazing, and bravely it seems that the band are heading in a different direction for their second album, at least based on this first song. Apparently based on the “Norwegian rune poem”, this is a much more understated track where female vocals take precedence over a soothing, gentle rhythm. Would I have played this at Stormblast? Quite possibly, actually, as there is a hell of a lot of interest from the extreme metal fans that are my friends in this band, that’s for sure.
One thing I do know is that I’ve never featured a Mongolian band before on these pages, and indeed in nearly twenty-three years of writing about music. But they certainly warrant a mention here – as a number of extreme metal musicians in the West have gravitated towards the folk traditions of their predecessors (the aforementioned Heilung included, but also notably Wardruna, and there are many others), it would appear that similar moves are happening elsewhere. The Hu are notable for their use of traditional instruments and throat singing, coupled with their own take on anthemic metal – and the results on this track in particular are astounding. This is ritual music that sounds amazing recorded, and I can only imagine how much fun it might be live.