CVLT Nation’s Top Six
Releases of 2011
Number One Oranssi Pazuzu
Fuck labels, fuck putting music into little boxes to make it easier for people to understand. Call me weird, but I really fucking dig it when bands break free of the labeling bondage! Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu is one of those bands that truly defy genres to create their own sound that has so many different radical layers to it that they are almost never-ending! On their latest album, Kosmonument, via Spinefarm, they have envisoned a huge universe of dark exciting music that changes shape by the second, shapeshifting from song to song. I was amazed by Oranssi Pazuzu’s first record, I respected them for being brave and open-minded in the way that wrote songs, and with Kosmonument they surpassed my expectations. These humans are willing to take their creative spirits to places that leave them open and emotionally naked, but that’s what makes Oranssi Pazuzu so fucking special! Also, I respect the way that this band is able to combine all of their influences together in a way that flows like the running water of an enchanted stream. Every song on this album is like its own planet, and the band’s creative energy force is the sun that all of the songs rotate around. The opening track, “Sienipilvi,” is a blackened space doom audio UFO that will have your braincells flying off to an alternative galaxy. You will hear sounds in this song that will etch themselves into your memory, and bass lines that seem to be hovering above you on the wings of a raven, while the vocals in this tune soar into another world. “Uusi olento nousee” is an extremely dark place, where the chilly drumming has the power to shatter huge glaciers, but before it’s all over they will have you traveling into a cave of nothingness. There are so many gnarly riffs hidden in Kosmonument that with each play, your ears will hear new nuggets of of black gold! I could write for days about how awesome this record is, but in reality, the only fucking way you will know the greatness of Oranssi Pazuzu is by encountering Kosmonument on your own terms.
Number Two Horseback/Pyramids
Review Written by Bryan Proteau
Pyramids frontman R. Loren has already proved that he plays well with others. Last year he started two new highly collaborative bands, White Moth and Sailors With Wax Wings, and he started a record label called Handmade Birds. Pyramids has already done an excellent collaboration with Nadja, and now they’ve hooked up with forward thinking musician Jenks Miller aka Horseback for the album A Throne Without A King. Both artists operate on a completely different level than their peers and are unique and exciting forces in the music world, and this collaboration is as golden as the album art.
The physical version of this release with be an LP plus 7″ with art and design by Aaron Turner. Horseback and Pyramids each have their standalone tracks that will be featured on the 7,” with the the LP containing the four part title track that features members of both bands. The Horseback song is similar to the material on his split with Volitgeurs, but like every Horseback release, it’s an evolution from the last one. Forbidden Planet was the last Horseback full length and featured layers of droning, scuzzy guitar and harsh vocals. The new Horseback song “Thee Cult Of Henry Flynt” takes the same tremolo picked guitar from Forbidden Planet and backs it up with programmed drums. The melodies are far more discernible, with Miller’s scathing voice crackling in like it’s coming from a dying CB radio. The song is incredibly high energy and really sets itself apart from the rest of the Horseback material. Read the rest of the review and view a sample of the album art after the jump.
The Pyramids “Phaedra’s Love” song never goes where you expect it to. Right off the bat you’re hit with Pyramids’ trademark tripped out electronic blast beat, but it quickly dissipates into synth washes and piano. The beats comeback and disappear just as quickly. M. Kraig’s heavenly voice makes an appearance a little more than halfway through the song, as if to assure the listener that humans are indeed making such strange and ethereal sounds. “Phaedra’s Love” shows why no one can touch Pyramids when it comes to forging new ground in extreme music.
The collaborative title track is a 45 minute exercise in sonic experimentation. It is a chain of tape hiss, field recordings, samples, voice, organ and harsh noise. It’s a composition that sounds totally different from anything that either band has done in the past. Rather than elements of both bands showing through, the result is something unique altogether; the result of a true collaboration. There’s an element of spontaneity that keeps things exciting. You can almost imagine the song being pieced together as you listen to it, rather than a pre-existing recording.
The Hydra Head Records release schedule has been fairly quiet over the last couple years, but they make every release count. Pyramids are one of the most important bands that the label has signed, and this record is a perfect example as to why. A Throne Without A King comes out on black Friday. Pick up a copy and you’ll have a lot to be thankful for.
Number Three The Body & Braveyoung
Review Written by Bryan Proteau
Last year, Rhode Island doom duo The Body released All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood, an album that totally smashed and reshaped everyone’s perception of the doom metal genre. It was an album that featured a full women’s choir, noise, sampling and electronics. All of these elements helped make Waters such a weirdly compelling listen. Underneath all the brain scrambling weirdness is the core of The Body; chest-caving drums, muddy distorted guitar and shrieking vocals. Take those three elements and combine them with the spacious, folky post-rock of North Carolina’s Braveyoung and you get Nothing Passes, The Body & Braveyoung’s new collaborative album. Essentially.
While there are moments on Nothing Passes where you can hear the unique styles of both bands, the overall vibe of the record is something entirely distinct from their past albums. The feel of the first three songs of this record is that of unsettling melody paired with distortion and harsh noise. The first song, the aptly titled ‘Song One’ opens the record with a harsh distorted drone, like the sound of an old generator struggling to power flickering lights. Eerie violin lines creep in and slither on top of the chugging drone. ‘Song Two’ is the only song on the album that harkens back to the last Body record. The 15 minute track is the only song on the record that employs The Body vocalist/guitarist Chip King’s trademark shriek, as well as the only song that has truly discernible riff. The choral elements present throughout Waters are used to great effect on this song.
The title track is a tempo-less dronescape. The first five minutes is made up of a distorted drone that is harshly contrasted by an eerie and repetitive xylophone melody. The drone eventually dwindles into beautiful volume swells and subdued synth passages. After the violence of ‘Song Two,’ the fine tuned ambience of title track assuages the listener and creates the impression that Nothing Passes is essentially a drone record, with one “rocker” song. When the title track ends is where the record does a complete 180. After the drone decays, the lightly strummed acoustic guitar and melodic female vocals kicks off album closer ‘The Vision.’ This is hands down the best song on the album, and one of the best songs of the year. The fact that it comes as the last song is too perfect. The Body & Braveyoung somehow managed to write a full fledged gospel song. The guitars strum and twang, the soulful voice sings about a vision of being visited by angels while the choir hums along. The harsh noise of the rest of the record is still present, but buried deep under all the layers.
Nothing Passes is out on At A Loss, and is an incredibly intriguing listen. Fans of either band should take note. It was an ample opportunity for The Body to experiment and collaborate before their next album, which I honestly hope is a gospel record.
Number Four Burial Hex
21 minutes of darkened bliss is what you will encounter when you allow Burial Hex’s last/new album In Psychic defense, out now via Sound Of Cobra, into your universe. This record is a labyrinth of sonic caves, leading you into ancient rooms filled with your forgotten thoughts. Every four minutes, Burial Hex opens up a different audio vortex for the listener to travel into, and before you realize it, your whole being has been taken over by In Psychic defense. The first five minutes is my new favorite post punk song, but then silent, small sounds take over. What was once tiny is now growing slowly, with the shadows of the afterlife lurking in your ear, but it’s the light from the piano that will be your guide. 7 minutes later, I hear a loud heartbeat that seems to be calling me, and then a huge, monster voice makes its presence known. Both of these entities are being seduced by the cryptic melody that is the balance to their insanity. It’s the words of the ghosts that are walking around the eerie backdrop that really draw you into this bleak world Burial Hex has created. The last four minutes of In Psychic defense, all of the skeletons get their groove on, because Burial Hex breaks it all down into a place where dancing is a path that reconnects us with Nature. I guess you could say that this album is a trip, but whatever you want to call it, Burial Hex is going out on a HIGH!
Number Five AELTER II
I really dig when music can be used as fuel for your dreams. When I find albums that have these properties, with each listen I find out something new about my existence in this universe. I also get excited when music is in a sonic form that can’t fit into a box, so the only way to really know it’s magical power is by listening to it! One band that gives my being audio nourishment is AELTER II, and on their most recent release, Follow You Beloved, released via Wolvserpent Records, they have created a world of sound where you can lose yourself and find yourself all at the same moment. The album is broken down into two epic tracks that unfold into heavy, beautiful, menacing and angelic soundscapes. The first, “Follow You,” starts off with a low drone, but then morphs into at least five different sonic mountains that will speak to all of your senses. What I find interesting about this track is the way that each instrument or tone is telling a story, and they all come together to paint an awesome picture in your spirit. “Follow You” will totally enchant you once the voices of the black angels descend into your ears, as they ride huge spheres of feedback and distortion. Then there is AELTER II’s twenty minute track, “Beloved,” with some of the raddest guitar playing I have heard in a long time – it’s so simple, but so moving and complex. The very slow riffage on this tune will have you in a dream state – it makes me daydream about walking on Route 666 in the middle of nowhere. The way that this song is written is just fucking killer, and the singing is just surreal and otherworldly. I truly recommend Follow You Beloved to all beings who dig music – I know for a fact that you will not be disappointed. If you are a reader of CVLT Nation, you know that I rarely compare groups to each other, but I must let it be known that AELTER II moved me just as much as the new Corrupted album! So on that note, allow Follow You Beloved into your life and fly away home!
[audio:http://staging.cvltnation.com/wp-content/audio/02 Follow You.mp3|titles=AELTER II Follow You]
Number Six Bosse-De-Nage
I come from the school where the name of the label stood for something, like when Dischord or SST put out a record back in the day, you knew you would be getting a quality product. What I see happening in the underground is a rebirth of those kind of labels. One such label is San Francisco’s Flenser Records – they put out some really rad releases this year, & they did it again. This album is just so fucking rad on so many levels. This release could be called black metal weirdo, but I would rather call it music for people in the right state of mind. This band is so comfortable in their skin it’s a joy to listen to, plus every song pushes creativity to a whole other sphere of reality. Bosse-De-Nage builds dynamic walls of emotion with their use of off-kilter, epic riffs that engage you with torment. The singer’s voice is full of agony, you can hear that he is calling out for change. There is not a moment when he is singing that you can’ t feel his sincerity. I’m also in in awe of the production – yes, it’s huge & clean, but you can hear deep caves of dirge that you fall into. It should be a crime to scratch at people’s hearts the way the melody does on this release. Bosse-De-Nage’s songwriting is unique and will have you transfixed from the very first moment. This record is not about one or two songs, it’s the whole experience, which for some reason makes me feel like a better human being for being a part of it. Bosse-De-Nage has created an album that took courage, & for that I give them my respect, so should you.