I honestly did not have high expectations for Deafheaven‘s follow up to 2013’s Sunbather, New Bermuda. Follow-ups to albums that really mean a lot to me often turn out to be rather disappointing—never able to capture the feeling of what came before and instead sounding like they’re just rehashing a boring formula. Lead single “Brought to the Water” didn’t make an impression on me the first time I heard it, with its abrupt shifts between heaviness, post-rock and a piano outro. Likely because it works a lot better within the context of the full album. Since Deafheaven are now honing in on a genre they blew wide open, this latest album can’t be as much of a revelation as Sunbather was, but by tweaking the formula enough and adding the right amount of snarling uncaged anger, Deafheaven have managed to surprise once again. Continue reading
We talk about plenty of metal here at Nine Circles, but we also enjoy music from other genres. “Rainbows in the Dark” is our outlet to explore those other types of sounds and share them with you.
For my first crack at Rainbows in the Dark, I thought I would tackle In Plain Speech, the latest album from Indiana native turned Chicagoan Haley Fohr, who performs under the name Circuit des Yeux. Fohr recorded — and has been touring — this album with a team of Chicago musicians, including folks from bands like Bitchin Bajas, Verma and Little Scream, among others. If anyone’s looking for a non-metal album that’s still a dark and challenging listen, this is a good bet. Continue reading
Return to Annihilation, the last album from Chicago trio Locrian, took a bit of time to grow on me, as the band dropped out of ambient dronescapes and into noisy black metal. But once it clicked, I found myself listening to it so often that its songs stick in my head even now. On their newest release, Infinite Dissolution, everything is smoother and slicker, with more post rock elements bringing together the pieces of Locrian’s sound. Continue reading
This third album, Døden Læger Alle Sår, from Danish death metal band Undergang, was one of those albums that I didn’t expect to like when I first heard it. But I was giving the album a cursory listen well before I decided to review it, and the immediacy of the album really struck me. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to hear anything through the jumble of low end, but it turns out that there are some great moments on this record—instantly accessible due to the semi-traditional version of death metal Undergang play. Continue reading
Sutekh Hexen, a black metal/noise project from Oakland, CA, have one of my favorite about pages in the history of black metal band descriptions: “There are in the abyss architects building great temples…Amid splinter and nail, among cavern and spire, we find the black temples of Sutekh Hexen. Here, finely woven shrouds of static hang from clattering bones…”
After releasing three short demos, three EPs and a box set, Sutekh Hexen issued their full length, Luciform, almost four years ago, in August 2011. It was the first almost corporeal manifestation of the band’s subterranean machinations—the image of shrouds of static hanging off long-forgotten bones is an apt one to evoke. I imagine the bones hanging in Sutekh Hexen’s temple as forgotten black metal structures and the now-ancient concept of The Riff, and the shrouds as sheets of harsh noise and power electronics, billowing in the wind. The cover of the album looks like an image created by a hollow earth theory enthusiast, that underground lair Sutekh Hexen probably crawled out of.
I’ve written before about how I got into metal through noise. My original crossover point was through drone/doom, but finding bands like Sutekh Hexen and Wold and albums like Ulver’s Nattens madrigal that mixed black metal and noise really sold me on the whole deal. It’s why bands that blur boundaries, not even limited to those that incorporate noise, are my favorites.
It’s the potential for noise music to be transcendental that brings me back to the genre, always. It’s about picking up random patterns and beautiful tones out of static, like the beginning of “In Worship, They Weep His Name,” where layers and layers of biting static bounce the original notes of the introduction off of each other until a black fog descends over the whole song.
The idea of ritual is central to Sutekh Hexen, coming from that dark transcendence they find in their music. In a cryptic quote from an interview, band member Kevin Gan Yuen explained (or didn’t explain), “the genesis of this project was based on esoteric thought, values and occurrences from various cultural perspectives.” It’s certainly not ritual ambient, but there are some influences, including the creepy chanting and doom-y introduction at the beginning of “Serpents.”
And, of course, the addition of black metal to the mess of noise on Luciform returns great results. “The Hermetic” is just nuts: growled vocals over frantic guitar work, ugly and angry. The tension between the idea of release through chaotic noise and structured ritual is fascinating on “The Hermetic” and throughout Luciform.
I was wondering if I would destroy the illusions created by Sutekh Hexen by writing about their music. I even read a few interviews with the band, and they seem like fairly normal people, talking about working with labels and listening to NWOBHM. But no, the sense of mystery and uncharted depths within each of their releases remains.
Pro tip: Sutekh Hexen have their entire discography available at their website, sutekhhexen.org. But for now, here’s a sample—check out Luciform‘s first track, “The Great Whore,” below: