In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.
When in doubt, take a cue from Bard himself. Or herself. Or whoever it is we suspect Shakespeare to be this week (I’m only a quarter of the way Rosenbaums’s The Shakespeare Wars). Anyway, for this edition of Second Circle we’re focusing on new EPs coming out this week so let’s take the plunge and check out the latest spaced out black metal of Progenie Terrestre Pura and the wallowing psych-tinged doom of Frayle.
There’s something about how Italy’s Progenie Terretre Pura is able to craft such epic atmospheric black metal without it feeling tired and repetitious. Hot on the heels of last May’s oltreLuna full length comes new EP starCross, and it manages to be more of the same stellar quality black metal while also branching out and moving away from the dense songwriting of the previous albums. It’s also the first album with English lyrics, telling a story about a space vessel picking up a mysterious signal from an uncharted moon and what happens next (SPOILER: bad stuff).
Musically it hews a rougher, angrier path than its predecessors. After a short instrumental, “Toward a Distant Moon” crunches with a nasty buzzing riff, standing out in a mix that gives everything from the ambient keys to choral vocals room to breathe within the cinematic landscape the band sets out for itself. “Twisted Silhouette” starts in the ambient, ethereal space vibe I would expect from the band’s previous interludes, but there’s a menace and industrial tinge as the instruments kick in, layering a static blanket over the dueling tremolo patterns that’s disorienting, and all before the drums decide to play tricks with rhythm. “The Greatest Loss” has a middle section that branches off into space techno before bludgeoning its way back down to Earth, leaving us to decipher the intent of closing mystery “Invocat.” starCross is a great brief burst of creativity from Progenie Terrestre Pura, and if they continue this process of shorter, more immediate works between proper full lengths I’ll be a happy camper.
Loo, I’m not a fan of describing any music in terms of the gender of the front person, but since their promo describes Cleveland’s Frayle as a “female-fronted doom / witch-rock band” I guess I’ll go with it, although truth be told if they had just said “witch-rock” I would have checked it out regardless of who was singing. Because c’mon…who doesn’t want some serious Witch Rock? And the merits of The White Witch really stand on its insistence on not injecting too much stoner blues rock (looking at you, Witch Mountain), instead forging a dark and evil path to doom metal that reeks of dead candles and the wisps of incantations gone bad.
“Let the Darkness In” trades in dark psychedelics and heavy, dripping drums that punctuate the riffing that plays in and around vocalist Gwyn Strang’s superb voice. Often struggling to break free of the music, she projects a deceptively fragile quality that works beautifully paired against the mesmerizing pull of the music. Sean Bilovecky’s command of how to let a riff inhale and exhale instead of thundering into the next musical idea recalls Sleep in their best moments. Both the title track and closer “Things That Make Us Bleed” really adhere to this formula, with special emphasis on the drums which sound positively massive, striking out from the hazy gaze of the rest of the music. But extra mention has to be made to the stunning cover of Portishead’s “Wandering Star” which the band completely make their own while evoking the same sense of wounded innocence Beth Gibbons routinely pulls off in any project she’s involved in. Based on The White Witch Frayle is going to have a great future and I can’t wait to hear what comes from the duo next.
That’s it for this one. Do yourself a favor and check both of these out. In the meantime, keep it heavy and pure and let us know what’s been working for you so far this year.