Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Alchemical Mixture - Chains, Nonsun & Slow Heart (album review)

CHAINS - 'Of Death'
Highlights include: "Anticosmic Void" and "Necromantic 
Force".  From: Slovenia.  Rating: 4.5/5
"Chains was born under the black mark in the Samhain night of anno MMXI. The goal of this project is to make a Hypnotic Ritualistic Music in order to spread the verb of our master Satan.

The making of this kind of ritual is a kind of transcendent hypnosis trance who is channeling all the spiritual essence of the black flame into music form. Chains is strongly linked to 3 senses; vision, hearing and smell; because the experience must be accompanied by hearing music with the visions of all the conceptual artworks and spiced with incense and so all the chants are a mixture of lyrics mixed with a phonetically language transformed in mantras." - From Chains' official blog, Chains Hypnotic Ritual Music.
It's not often that a band invokes the sense of smell but the genre of drone sludge might be the most appropriate venue for one to do so.  All three of these bands emit their own olfactory effulgence in their own inimitable ways.  The ritualistic incense of Chains is offset by Nønsun's animal musk and the rotten decay of the body in the trash bin heard on Slow Heart's debut effort 'Dead Friends and Angry Lovers', a title that could easily refer to my year from mid 2010 to mid 2011 and believe me, it was an awful, awful stretch.

Why review three albums together? When I'm not at work or doing music reviews I write supernatural horror. This is my fuel. There are different moods for different scenes, but when I need to really feel the desolate despairs and desperate terrors of my creations I throw on these albums to set my mind right. The quote above is quite accurate in that, this is all-encompassing music. Sounds that have a physical presence, or at least a physical manifestation of electrification and hairs standing on end.  Each of these albums brings out their own specific mood, for Chains it's the presence of evil just behind you, for Nønsun it's the sense of lurking danger and for Slow Heart, it's the bleakness of hopeless self-defeating thoughts.

But the way in which these three diverse albums achieve these effects is by the same method, the heavy drone. Heavy sludge drone that, again, has a physical presence, a sheer weight, that makes the summer heat heavier, it makes the winter chill colder and makes positive action impossible.

NONSUN - 'Good Old Evil'
Highlights include: "Jesus' Age" and "Forgotten Is What
Never Was".  From: Lviv, Ukraine.  Rating: 4/5
Nønsun's 4-track demo EP 'Good Old Evil', creates the sludge metal equivalent of the clinical yet insect and parasite infested worlds of early Ridley Scott or James Cameron films.  They allow the listener a running headstart on "Jesus' Age", capture him on "Rain Have Mercy" strip the listener of all hope and human dignity on the straight drone of "Message Of Nihil Carried By The Waves Of The Big Bang" and ultimately leave the  listener tied naked to a chair with a shotgun in his face on organ-driven closer "Forgotten Is What Never Was".  A lonely refrigerator hum closes the album out, and the listener knows their tormentor won't be coming back, they'll be left that way, til the end.  Hopeless.

The overall vibe of Nønsun is to crush down all hope.  There are 'hopeful' passages in "Jesus' Age" that are trampled almost as soon as they appear from the rubble, hopeful weeds pushing their way, improbably from the hard pavement only the be crushed down for their tremendous efforts.

There is a sheer light at the end of the tunnel of "Rain Have Mercy", with a bright riff and uptempo beat but it leads directly into the nearly seven minute static drone of "Message Of Nihil Carried By The Waves Of The Big Bang".  The victim escapes the killer's shack in the woods, looks over a shoulder momentarily ... and wakes up half-conscious back in the shack under tighter bonds.

'Good Old Evil''s merciless vibe and filth-spewing sludge tone are crushing and brutal, an unflattering tattoo, a slow drive past a car wrapped around a pole before emergency crews arrive.  The haunting image that cuts past the unaffected and the urbane facade and leaves the inner self gutted.

SLOW HEART - 'Dead Friends & Angry Lovers'
Highlights include: "We Want The Night" and "Never 
Trust a Woman (Dressed in Black)".  From: Boston, Mass.
Rating: 3/5
The feeling carries over into the music of Slow Heart, only this band does it differently.  Where Nønsun's Bohdan Goatooth's vocals are deep, raw and guttural, Ron's from Slow Heart are vastly subdued.  It appears to be a giant effort just to sing at all through the overwhelming dark mood.  There is a heavy tone here in the instruments, but the lasting impression is the mood of the album.  Dredging the depths of darkness and despair, the title of the album describes the music well, but doesn't say it all.  The lyrical content and the subdued tone of voice go a long way towards weaving that mood and interlocks with the relentless drone of the instruments.  Everyday's the same and it always rains, mercilessly.

The most 'uplifting' moment is the anthemic opening track "We Want The Night".  Featuring a shambling corpse like tempo and frustratingly obscured pinpoints of light via guitar, it isn't exactly 'Singin' in the Rain'.  As 'God Old Evil' is a shimmering black album 'Dead Friends and Angry Lovers' is a matte gray album.  The perfect musical equivalent of a dense fog.  If Chains' music is set in a black draped, skull-decorated, candle-lit parlor, Slow Heart play the national anthems of Limbo.  Underpinning the entire project is a monomaniacal vision of futility and again hopelessness, achieved by the relentless repetition of musical phrases and tempos that rarely change.  Even the length of the compositions is consistent with four of the five tracks over five minutes and under six.

Slow Heart is the musical step-child of David Lynch babysat by Nick Cave.  Chains is the sound of static given form and substance.  It's the white noise in your ears in the silent room as you try to sleep, amplified.  One finds oneself on a sparse rocky landscape with a hazy yellow and unbreathable atmosphere.  Everything is spare save the choking sludgy drone, as a whole bottle of ketchup drowns a small serving of mac and cheese.  Drums pound low in the mix like the death throes of some giant Lovecraftian millipede far off in the distance.  Disembodied voices pierce the veil and moan dark nothings.  The occasional melodic element grows out of the void like a plant in timelapse photography and is quickly choked off and left to wither.

Chains' music is like a reset button for the mind, it's the perfect soundtrack to dark mental meanderings.  It puts the listener in the right frame of mind to imagine, be creative and focus thoughts.  It's unobtrusive without being background music.  It won't distract the listener from a train of thought because it is an active participant in the process.  It is a vehicle for creativity and in that regard the duo of Chains (Chad Davis along with E. Chains) are quite successful in accomplishing their goals.

In the extremely limited and now sold out CD version of 'Of Death' a 'lyrics' booklet is comprised of song titles in psychedelic font with pictures in lieu of words which are not only excellent graphic artwork (the entire package is) but give form to the ideas present on this release.  "Of Death" features a wild eyed mummified corpse turning in a tight coffin, "Anticosmic Void" shows an hourglass with bat wings emerging from a spinning disc, "All The Colors Of The Dark" reveals a skull-littered cave of torture, "Fireborn" displays a skeletal fetus emerging from flames.  "Necromantic Force" depicts the approach of a skinned horse whose head is framed by a black moon, "Electric Doom"'s totem is a cloaked and hooded wraith and the horned, ragged, saw toothed demon is finally made manifest in the artwork for "Spiritual Evocation".

Three albums of bottled inspiration.  No, this isn't party music, this isn't the kind of thing to throw on when buddies are over for beer, unless of course those beer swilling buddies are travelers down the left hand path. For this writer, this is utilitarian music, it's useful music, but it wouldn't be so if it weren't also enjoyable music.  Pitiless drone for those morbid moods or when it's simply time for a change of pace.  We can't all listen to Red Fang all day or whatever.  That's the great thing about underground music, it doesn't just all lead you in One Direction, so to speak.  Bands like Nønsun, Slow Heart and Chains are from vastly different backgrounds and take the listener to some chilling and eerie places.  The adventurous, the spiritual, the thoughtful will go along for the journey and some will return the favor.

Genre: Drone, Sludge, Doom.

Release Date: October 5, 2012 (Chains); December 12, 2012 (Nønsun); December 18, 2012 (Slow Heart)

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Writing.  Or waiting at the river's edge for the boatman to return

Better Reviews:
Sludgelord Nonsun review
Heavy Planet Nonsun review
Temple of Perdition Slow Heart review

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