Belus is the twisted son created by Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind the black-metal, heavily-anticipated, long-winded band, Berzum. Originally sprung in the music industry as a producer of his own low-budget, ambient and deathly focused sounding records that Vikernes himself went onto stating, “wanted the worst recording quality possible”. The lo-fidelity works of art slowly marches their way into the mainstream and Vikernes found a mainstream level of attention after a controversy of murder trials, convictions, arson cases, and eventual jail time. Through the continuous ups and downs with Vikernes own personal life, Berzum has remained a statement in music history as a prime example of how one singular person can accomplish something truly daunting and inspiring.
Belus is the first record coming from Vikernes after his release from a sixteen-year sentence, with the gloves finally off and a return to more than just synthesizers, Berzum can finally flourish and become a more polished, but still impactful journey through the heavily-wooded, under cover hills of what was to become Belus. The atmospheric measures taken to enclose the sound and feeling behind Belus is incredible, and Vikernes spares no expenses when using handmade introductory instruments to create these creeping instrumentals that slither between the cracks of Belus. On the opening track, “i. Lukans Renkespill (Introduksjon)” Vikernes begins with clasping pieces of what sound similar to bottles to get a subtle, but building level of atmospheric focused layering that then leads directly into “ii. Belus Doed”, the first fully-sprung track on Belus.
The shrill of the guitars, the pounding of the incoming crash cymbals, and the relentless pounding on the percussion brings a smile to the face and sudden rush to the brain. Relentlessness is a word that Berzum focuses on with Belus and the crushing nature of the instrumentals when paired with the mostly growling vocal production, makes for a match only made in hell. Even with every single instrument, every key being played, every lyric being sung by a single person, Vikernes still manages to create both similarities in the chord progression and a distance within himself. It is almost as if he works with a gravitational pull to dissect the production of Belus, creating an album that features both old and new styles of black metal music. The constant pounding is a prominent staple in black metal, but the varied style of singing and the cleaner production feels fresh to longtime Berzum fans and newcomers alike. The sense of depth within the fifty-two-minute experience is exciting, with many morose layers to dig through, while still keeping a consistent pace of rushed thrills.
Even through later tracks, both “vi. Keilohesten” and the final track, “viii. Belus’ Tilbakenkomst (Konklusjon)”, Berzum is a conquering mess of sound that illustrates a greater sense of sinking depression and animosity with each continual step. An intense sense of dread is overcome with a fascination to hear more, to learn more, and to take the leap into the greater unknown of Berzum’s Belus. The additional pieces of the puzzle that string everything together and make Belus a wonderful album are present till the very end; the droning guitar that finally seems to take a break from the near-nonstop crushing. The percussion that finally eases its steps and allows a re-catching of the breath, and the final inevitable silence that drowns out any and all noises from Vikernes, a fitting and well endowed ending to a long-awaited return of the Lord of the Basal.
To entrap the sound of pure aggression is never an easy task, it takes years of meditational anger and incredible pain to break through the rough outer shell of a human psyche and to then tap into the unending folds of despair is a task almost unachievable. Ho99o9 or more formally pronounced Horror, is a wealth of absolutely noise-driven sucker punches of bass, screams, and almost never-ending sound that can manage to evoke more movement and more emotion within the near fifty-minute record than a party full of punk rockers. The genre-blending, emotionally-driven assault is wonderful in its own right, and makes for a memorable journey that never overstays its welcome, but does destroy the house you live in, burn the car you drive, and spray paint nearly ever wall in your happy home, a dark, unwashable black.
Ho99o9 is comprised of two, unified members and often times a third who fills in for the percussion. TheOGM and Eaddy are the two primary members, while Ian Longwell often times fills in for their live performances and the trio makes for an incredible display of intriguing instrument bending and impressive switch ups throughout United States Of Horror. From the classic punk rock, more straight-forward approach with a simple two step percussive beat and one of, or even both vocalists shouting at the top of their lungs; to the grinding style of some of the later tracks that take the listener by surprises as they lure those in like a creeping snake waiting to strike on a prey. The track “Feels Like… – Interlude” is a perfect example of acting as a pure hip hop track, including a classy undertone and a large focus on the instrumental aspect. The mood is then quickly changed however as the beat fades out into “City Rejects” which takes inspiration from GG Allin and some of the godfathers of punk rock. With the sporadic vocals and the buzzing string section, Ho99o9 makes bold moves in creating a mutant of a record with the enjoyable factor being pushed to the forefront, ignoring the practicalities and rules of creating a true full-length record.
Perhaps it is even later in United States Of Horror where the consistent changes are even more progressive and if “Feels Like… – Interlude”, “City Rejects”, “Hydrolics”, and “New Jersey Devil” where all played in a consecutive manner with no context, every track could seem like it was produced by entirely different artists all together. Both “Hydrolics” and “New Jersey Devil” are such polar opposites that the sudden transition will leave you speechless and questioning just exactly where Ho99o9 has been all your life. “Hydrolics” starts with a very trap influenced, wavy style of instrumental with a focus on the glamour of rattling hi-hats and crashing bass drums that act almost in a boom-bap accordance. “New Jersey Devil” is however an unexpected blast of double-bass slapping right through the past track, and leads right into a hardcore influenced wave of blitzing guitars and vocalization. One thing that can be said about Ho99o9 is that they have a serious amount of energy and really seem to take a true love in paying homage to what made hardcore such a popular genre in the first place. They can stomp heads into the ground with the punishing sense of instrumentals one second, then take the mood down several notches into a more chilled, club style of track that reminisces about the cold nights in Jersey.
It is by no means an easy job, but someone has to do it. Ho99o9 is not the lord and savior of music, but peace was never an option with Ho99o9 and they soon make for the quick break to the fire pit, destroy everything in sight, and bring a swinging mix up of fun-filled punches and questioning morals, making for one hell of a ride.
A revolution has been coming for a long while, everything has a life cycle and this extends into the foregrounds of music where even the most experimental of albums have a lifeline. A place where geniuses are forgotten about, a place where a sound can be replicated a million times and never be remembered, a place where a single changing distinction can redirect the boundaries of music; this is a place where Swedish Metal became a frontrunner of 1970’s-1980’s of the continuing sound for decades to come, with Bathory at the helm. One of the first artists to create a “Black Metal” sound of low-budget, junky, and absolutely filthy recording style, Bathory was an artist that made a continuous shakedown of an industry and revolutionized on the noise that would come from Sweden, and from the rest of the neighboring world even today.
An instant classic album is hard to create, even harder to replicate, but impossible to eliminate. Bathory’s self-titled debut record Bathory has become a staple in hardcore for being a seasoned veteran of the surviving trends. The album is timeless and shows a distinction of being something captured in the spirit of hardcore at that time, and with only two functioning musicians; it is incredible to see exactly what Bathory became. Quorthon, who is the multi-instrumentalist behind the vocals, guitars, songwriting, and atmosphere, but he also worked with Stefan Larsson who handled the percussive aspect on Bathory and while the album itself has withstood the test of time, the true fact behind Bathory was that Quorthon was only eighteen-years old when this album would be released on Black Mark Production. A truly premature mastermind of his craft; Bathory adapted a harshness behind it, making it one of the first punishing records to grace across the Northern Skies
From the beginning of church bells and thunderous crashes, to the eventual pounding of the feverous percussion swelling guitar, Bathory makes quick moves and shows a destructive prowess. Like a recreation of a Stefan Eggeler painting, Bathory uses the shadows to its advantage and summons a shroud of darkness around themselves. There are moments of sudden jumps and punches through the silence that make Bathory seem almost terrifying in instances, but this terror is then brought back into the inevitable silence and mix-ups of atmospheric tracks that overlay throughout Bathory’s debut. Even their short-lived intermissions, Bathory still seems relentless in becoming crushing and showing a distinct, instantly recognizable sound; a sound that would carry on for years after the initial release.
Black Marble could have survived in the early 80’s, among the racks of VHS, Laser Discs, and Cassette Tapes; Black Marble is a wonderful piece by piece look into the past, while keeping a progressive forward-thinking future in mind. It is most easily described by Ghostly International, a record company that houses Black Marble, “Black Marble formed in 2012 as an artistic extension of Chris Stewart’s collection of songs and ideas.” Not only does Black Marble become both a minimalistic sense of gentleness, but it also becomes a contrasting, deeply-layered adventure of dashing percussion, grinding guitars, and buzzing amplifiers that carry Stewart’s voice into what feels like another generation.
The latest project, It’s Immaterial has a lightweight, laid-back, but never careless sense of feeling behind it. From the very beginning, it is apparent that Chris Stewart has an incredible amount of technicality behind his work and shines through. From the “flurry of ideas floating around him”, to the singular style of production, Stewart breaks through the mold of lo-fi, a term that seems almost oversaturated at this point, but becomes a stronger, more adaptable breed of animal. The tracks are mostly straight-forward; they do not make sudden changes or create loops for the listener, instead Stewart uses loops of percussion, synthesizers, and guitar to create a steady wave for the listener to happily follow along. From his beginning tracks where cheerful rock music can be echoed throughout, to the later songs where the more subtle tracks where Stewart is so incredibly soft-spoken that he is almost inaudible, Black Marble is truly a force of beauty that embodies sunshine on a rainy day.
His opening track, “Interdiction” is comprised of all synthetic sounds and samples with arpeggiator chords, creating this waving motion of patterns that coexist within themselves. It is almost horrific in motions and is fantastically unparalleled when compared to the rest of It’s Immaterial. The first track and the rest of the record are polar opposites and the sound is soon abandoned to then become the standard sound that Black Marble so wonderfully produces. The following track, “Iron Lung” is rather faint and while it contains a large amount of sound, it is actually quite gentle and leaves room for the guitars and percussion to take the spotlight while the ambient bells and background noise lay the backing of the track. Stewart does an outstanding job of mixing and mastering all the sounds together to create a well-rounded exhibition of noise.
Even much later into the near forty-minute performance, Black Marble still manages to create a memorable style and way of progression within his tracks. The track, “Self Guided Tours” is one that sticks out as it uses more electronic percussion than most of the other previous tracks and each instrument feels like a major piece of one giant puzzle. From the synths to the guitar, back down to the percussion and the chimes, every segment is impactful and eye-catching. While none of the instruments over-power each other, or create a distance, they actually bring each other together and are incredibly harmonious. The true amount of beauty that follows Black Marble’s sound is awe-inspiring, there is not a single track that feels like a filler or something out of place. Even as Black Marble reaches the final moments of It’s Immaterial, Black Marble winds down and creates the perfect closer to an already near-perfect journey.
“Collene” feels like a step in the time machine for one last ride, the last side of the vinyl, and the last play on cassette Side B; a blissful ending to a joyous journey. Every fantastic album needs a closer that makes the journey want to be repeated over and over again and with “Collene”, Black Marble makes sure that no stone is left unturned in a last effort to bring the final act of lo-fi loveliness together. Stewart’s masterpiece is a few steps in, with multiple releases, but it is It’s Immaterial that truly creates a monument in stone or in the marble slab in this case, forever encasing a past look within a future idea. The wave of the 80’s may have ended, but to Stewart and Black Marble, the past looks incredibly bright.
The legacy of punk music is a vast and extensive list of aggression, community-based organizations, and a focus on originality and identification. Minor Threat is not just another addition to the vast majority, they are one of the corner marks of music and there can not be a conversation about punk music without bringing up Minor Threat. Their influence not just scratches the surface of other hardcore musicians, but also spans a way of life through present musicians of varying genres that take what Minor Threat did in such a short span into consideration. Changing the game is not easy, but it was Minor Threat that really took the mold and made it their own through using complete and total control of emotions in their music to make one of the best compilations of songs known to a generation, and even to man today.
Minor Threat’s First Two Seven Inches or rather, First Two 7” came along with an inspiration to make a record that wanted to be made. It was the lovechild of explosive energy and a lust to step away from the mainstream, making their own path in the incredible world that is the music industry. With Ian MacKaye on the lead vocals, Brian Baker on the bass, Jeff Nelson on the percussion, and Lyle Preslar on guitar, Minor Threat became both iconic and synonymous with the hardcore movement that spanned in the 1980’s. By seemingly becoming a movement overnight, Minor Threat basked in the glory; making a historical chip in both the movement of hardcore and in music history. With crushing tracks of relentless force, “Small Man, Big Mouth”, “In My Eyes”, and “Guilty of Being White” became incredible stepping stones and while the album never graced any billboard charts, it did not have to as it became a legend around punk fans and was respected by all.
From the start, Minor Threat is violent and takes a stand-offish approach. Only after truly reading into the lyrics and starting to understand what Ian MacKaye was trying to convey with his words, is it then realized that Minor Threat was about expression to a group that had no expression. The first tracks and the entire record of First Two 7” is about giving the voiceless a voice and truly managing to change a generations’ way of thinking. Minor Threat did not force their ideals, but they wanted to make them known and did that simply by making as much noise as possible. From the track, “Out of Step” where Minor Threat expresses their disapproval of doing what was surrounding them at the time, MacKaye angrily explains, “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t fuck, at least I can fucking think. I can’t keep up, can’t keep up, can’t keep up, Out of step, with the world.” Minor Threat’s aggression is one of the catalysts for their wonderful sound, but is also the abrasive distinction in all their lyrics. Punk rock’s lyrical style is usually angry and guided at the wrong of the world, Minor Threat takes this mantra and makes it their own.
Even through covering a track on First Two 7”, Minor Threat takes their own spin on “Steppin’ Stone” and brings the Paul Revere & the Raiders’ track into a modern age. They use blinding percussion, raging strings, and screams to illustrate one of the best anthems that would eventually reign as a punk symbol of honor. From Minor Threat’s abrasive sound to their callous outlook on the world, they still are one of the supreme leaders of punk and have spawned more than just a minor movement with their music.
Subtly is an important factor when building intrigue and mystery behind a piece of music. Some artists can struggle with this key component and thus their music has no real flare or true depth. Loss is a band that transcends against the grain and builds an entire album on both the fact that their music is mostly slow-builds, gentle breaks, and an indefinite theme of struggle within their lyrics. Their newest record, Horizonless is a profound look into just how creeping beauty can clash with swift speed and use duality to the highest advantage. Loss builds an atmosphere with their music, a broken down, sluggish monument that eventually gains its footing and begins moving with impeccable timing. Loss can not only build upon the atmosphere, but they can crush what is around it and truly become a punishing force of ruin.
While nine tracks, Loss’ Horizonless stretches into the one-hour mark and it is a complete rollercoaster of emotion through in and through out. The opening sporadic drum pounds from Jay LeMaire are an indication of what kind of hell is coming to pay. Then as the other instrumentalists, an incoming hydra of Timothei Lewis on guitar, John Anderson on bass, and Mike Meacham on both the guitar and vocal aspects. These four instrumentalists are the catalyst for becoming both the harbingers of impending doom, and are the heralds of immense beauty that is instantly present on the first track, “The Joy of All Who Sorrow”. From the wicked guitar that seems to howl to the subtle style of playing that acts like waves in the ocean, both Meacham and Lewis are incredible in their craft and make for a truly wonderful experience on the strings. Anderson also supports Lewis and Meacham with crushing grooves and truly punishing strength that shines through when paired with Anderson’s smashing crash cymbals and ride cymbal. Loss is a rare breed of band that can work well with each other, creating an instantly recognizable chemistry and a serious threat that rides in fours.
The following track, “I.O.” is an atmospheric track that relies on the clicking of what feels similar to a type-writer and the use of ethereal vocals that work to the likeness of a horror film. The guitar featured relates to a music box and is then the seguing motion into “All Grows on Tears”, a track that proceeds back into the longwinded sagas that Loss masterfully creates. The lyrical style of Meacham is truly depressing and works well in agony, he begins, “I’ve sunken to that place again, where the sun only throws shadows and the stars have all burned out. Bury me in a lonely place and plant thorns on my grave, I wonder as to what nourishment those roots must be suckling from that tomb?”. His lyrical approach is fitting with the style of music that Loss produces and feels from a place of personal anguish. The concurrent theme of both the appeal of death, and the morosity of life are given vitality through his growls and the subtle building of the pounding instruments behind him. Loss works as a single entity to bring the idea of eternal agony and the everlasting end to the forefront of their music and is able to capitalize their sound in a colossal manner.
Loss can also work to make a feeling of dread become almost sudden like on the track, “The End Steps Forth” where the piano and guitar combination are simply one of the more beautiful mixtures of both an authentic and a synthetic style of instrument. Then almost as suddenly as the two begin, a grim voice comes like a powerhouse that brings a pipe organ and unforeseen percussion, shifting the entire mood to an almost cult-esque side. This is why Loss is such an impactful band as they can completely shift everything within a matter of mere seconds. From the abrasive to the subtle, from the thunderous to the faint, Loss can manage almost anything and creates new worlds within their sound.
The self-titled track comes into frame, “Horizonless” and is a prime example of how Loss can switch their sound, maintain a level of energy in both aspects, and wreck anything that surrounds them. As Loss begins to become larger with their overbearing sound, they still managed to keep a solid mold of both the vocals and instruments that work incredibly well together. From the gentleness to the pounding near war-like music that follows, Horizonless is a constant mix of non-complacency that never fully relaxes, never gives the listener a full second to breathe, and manages to become more of a journey than a simple record. Loss’ Horizonless is a rare-breed that can conquer, but can also become a tender ally of sound that is inviting and is a gradual process that becomes corrosive.
Staying available and accessible to an audience is never easy, but Loss does a fantastic job of keeping a constant theme of despair with a pretty packaging. They move almost effortlessly and create one of the best records to come from Profound Lore this year. The clashing tides of neutrality, the overbearing sound, and the final nails in the coffin of Horizonless, Loss is an act of nature that not only creates wreckage, but also rebuilds and shows the beauty in despair.
If the 90’s could be reimagined and repackaged through a modern age, Javed would come the closest to making a time machine of sound and one of the dopest records to come out of hip-hop in a long time. The level of class that Javed reinvigorates into his music and which then, in turn creates a new contemporary level flow and style that is impossible to replicate, and even better to hear first hand.
His project Window II Your Soul is like jumping right back into the golden era of hip-hop where boom-bap reigned supreme and was the king of sound. Not only does Javed adapt this subsection to be his own, but he dominates the court and is a step above the competition. From the first opening self-titled track “Window II Your Soul” to the playful “N64(No Games),” Javed uses witty wordplay, clapping bass lines, and a focus on making each instrument feel unique and stand alone in the crowd of sound. While the first track is a sample of Madvillain, Javed still uses the instrumental to begin a hyping and uses a seguing motion into the first authentic track of Window II Your Soul, “Blindest Eyes.” Javed makes hip-hop approachable and something that anyone could hear and fall in love with. It was a style that seemed to almost disappear, but Javed makes sure that it stays better than ever.
Even moving on into the later tracks of Window II Your Soul, Javed continues with the same level of energy and classic style that he began with. Not only does Javed create a world of sound, but he invites the listener in and has authenticity behind his voice. As one of the later tracks, “Sweater” is a perfect example of being able to feel every lyric behind Javed and truly make Window II Your Soul transcend just being a collection of tracks but to actually feel like a journey through sound. Javed is a visionary in the craft and Window II Your Soul is a buried diamond in a rough of hip-hop.
The final track “Deadly Sins,” while short, is a strong personal recollection of his past life and what he can see in his future. Hip-hop is a universal bonding movement and Javed is a local leader of Pittsburgh but has the potential to branch out and make the United States his home. From his lyrical style, boom-bap revival, and prowess to succeed, Javed is an artist that needs to be under the spotlight.
From humble beginnings, Caleb Coradi jumps into a different atmosphere with his newest record, The Getaway. Disassociating himself with the materialistic style of rhyming, Coradi instead adapts a more down-to-Earth nature and proves himself as a natural lyricist and as a producer as well. From his earliest tracks to his debut projects, Caleb Coradi has made a name for himself and is slowly on his way up to being a real name in the local music scene of Pittsburgh, as well as progressing onto a more global sound.
Subtly is the catalyst to Coradi’s beginning track, “Trees” where Coradi explains, “Let’s go to a place where we got no service, where they can’t disturb us. We’ll be all alone, looking at the trees far from home,” before launching into a mix of slapping 808 percussion and warping synths that act sporadically for a moment before falling back into a soft-spoken rephrase of the chorus. The track itself shows signs of a jungled-style of music with tribal-esque percussion while keeping a modern twist and the following track, “Oasis” takes this modern twist and completely makes it the theme of the track. It uses rising synths and sudden bursts of 808’s with different modulations on Coradi’s voice that adds an additional layer of depth behind the production. “Oasis” has some of the tightest production on The Getaway and it is easily approachable, but the different styles of depth make the track feel more packed down than at first glance. Caleb Coradi is not just going to rap on The Getaway, he also does singing over acoustic tracks and this mix-up keeps a fresh style and the consistency is going to be broken up through both a solid mix of over-productive rap tracks with synthetic percussion and flashy instrumentals; to the acoustic tracks that focus on piano and guitar with a more subtle approach to the lyrical style as well.
Coradi shows that he is more than just a rapper, more than just a singer, but he is actually a versatile artist that is cheerful in his approaches to tracks and manages to let the twelve-track album never feel stale or that it drags on. With his feature list that adds more creative minds to the mix, to the sudden switches of style, Coradi is a display of courage within his music. He shows the necessary risks to succeed and shows just how bright his future is for his own personal getaway.