There’s been lots going on, huh? People are busy and things are strange, but that’s not stopped bands from releasing new music, so here is a long-overdue look at some great new albums put out in the last few months.
Driven by swathes of sleek synth and guitar melodies, Swedish post-rock/post-metal trio Barrens’ debut album Penumbra is a gorgeous 40-minute escape that wouldn’t go amiss as the soundtrack to a sci-fi adventure. Opening with the sombre tones of “Antumbra” before the punchy snare and synth bass kick in on “Atomos”, Barrens gently build up the second track with more and more layers of the three instruments increasing the momentum, complexity and heaviness. Moments on Penumbra range from delicate and sombre, “Grail Maker” lulls the listener before the impact of the tremendous “Arc Eye”, to the upbeat and high energy of “Shifter”, which sounds not far off Russian Circles covering New Order via Three Trapped Tigers. Certainly one for post-metal, and indeed math-rock, aficionados, there’s much to unlock and a hell of a lot to like about Penumbra that will keep drawing you back in for another soaring playthrough.
King Witch – Body of Light
Rising from the ashes of Firebrand Super Rock, Edinburgh’s King Witch made waves with the release of their excellent debut album Under The Mountain in 2018 and the doom quartet are now back with album number two, Body Of Light. Thanks to the crisp, striking production from Deep Storm Productions, the first thing you’ll notice is that everything on Body Of Light sounds enormous.
All of those rip-roaring solos from Jamie Gilchrist, Laura Gilchrist-Donnelly’s powerful, passionate vocals, the stupendous but steady rhythm section of Lyle Brown’s immense drums and the fast, roiling bass lines of new-ish recruit Rory Lee are all huge heavy-hitters. The majority of the songs are high-energy and rousing, however, there are reflective, melodic moments scattered throughout (the luscious intro to “Solstice I…”, for example) that add atmosphere and help to emphasise the more brash moments. Loud, bold and charismatic, Body Of Light is epic doom metal as it should be, and provides the perfect blend of recalling the genre’s classics, as well as touching on grunge and heavy rock, while continuing to sound modern and forward-thinking.
Hope Vs Hate – Hope In The Face Of Fear Compilation
With 58 tracks, this substantial charity compilation (the proceeds from which are going to Amnesty International) from the recently formed and Scotland-based label Hope Vs. Hate has a hell of a lot to dig into. Essentially, there is a whole heap of great stuff on here from all around the globe and within many different (mostly) abrasive sub-genres that all has a focus on anti-fascism, fighting against bigotry and dealing with society’s hardships. There’s the fast, gritty blackened hardcore of Denmark’s Hexis, Goblinsmoker’s weed-drenched sludge, and the grimdark, droning synth of the anonymous S H R I E K I N G. Many of the songs were already previously available (highlights include the tracks from MØL, Dark Habits (RIP), Allfather, and Underdark), and some of them are new and exclusive, such as the seething “This is Not a Brave New World” from Order of the Wolf, Even if there were half as many tracks, at £8, this quality compilation would still be exceptional value. Donations for this release can be made through Bandcamp.
Beggar – Compelled To Repeat
Although it’s one of the grimmer and grimier metal sub-genres, sludge needs groove and swagger (a point realised by progenitors such as EyeHateGod and Acid Bath), and that’s exactly what Londoners Beggar serve up on their much-anticipated full-length debut, Compelled To Repeat. The quartet’s thick, down-tuned riffs and the occasional death-y blastbeats provide heft and are sometimes counterbalanced by interesting leads and a few mellower moments, but on the whole, Compelled To Repeat is intense, bleak and angry. An aptly grim reflection of the environment to which it was borne.
This one should really not be missed. An incensed mix of thrash, hardcore and anarchic punk, Fight War, Not Wars. Destroy Power, Not People is the self-released first album from Sheffield three-piece Utilitarian. With nods to the likes of Crass, Discharge and Napalm Death, and through vocals that are a curious but comprehensible mix of screeching and shouting, Utilitarian’s message is unambiguously and energetically delivered above furious thrash riffs and programmed drums. As outlined in the title, all of the songs on this excellent debut are antagonistic rallying calls to rise up against things such as money-grabbing capitalism, duplicitous landlords and warmongering politics, and it’s hard not to raise your fist in the air as you scream along. The crossover style works extremely well, especially on the likes of “Profit or People” and short but to the point “Zero Tolerance”, while the programmed drums add an almost industrial tinge to the whole thing. Another release with proceeds going to charity, this time to Shelter, I’ve been listening to this raging album a lot and I can’t recommend it enough.