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Bolzer's Aura EP, Nemorensis, Hellebore and Irkallian Oracle's 'Grave Ekstasis' LP reviewed. 

Aura EP
(Iron Bonehead Productions) 
   In a permanent state of catch-up with metal from 2013 - missed alot and I'm sure alot was worth missing but my god, this 23 minute slab of rarefied riffola from Swiss duo Bölzer is just astonishing, so good it doesn't feel absurd to call it a new high-point in metal, something WAAAY too good to just sadly note and prod people towards, a record I want to press into strangers lives with evangelical fervour. It's a total and utter stone cold red hot freakin masterpiece, addictive, a record I can't stop listening to, loud. Sometimes it's easy to seek controversy or revelation where there is none, insist that something 'progresses' or 'moves on' a genre - what's wonderful about 'Aura' is that it's so fucking good none of that even occurs to you, it just does what it sets out to do so brilliantly, rocks so fucking hard, so beautifully, that you can't believe these people weren't stars by 2013's end, can scarcely believe metal isn't now thoroughly engaged in 'Aura's absorbtion, wondering how in holy fuck it can even dream of topping it. It's as good as its sleeve. Look at that sleeve. It's THAT good. 
    Opener 'C.M.E' (catchy shorthand for only slightly less-snappy 'Coronal Mass Ejaculation') takes precisely 2 seconds to get and what you get is the three components of Bölzer's ound that makes 'Aura' so utterly compelling. Firstly - riffs. No, not just riffs, I mean RIFFS. Planet-sized. Riffs that latch themselves to your brainpan and then start thrashing your body about like split-head Palmer chowing down on Windows' skull in The Thing. Bölzer's songs are constructed around about a half-dozen riffs each, every single one of them so fucking awesome you get serious Sepultura-style palpitations from every single corner and spiral 'Aura' drags you down. The guitars never refract into sheer noise, there's a sharpness, a corrosive skins-stripping adhesiveness to this music and the shapes it makes - you have to pay attention to go on the journey but it's an attention you give gladly cos the riffs are so utterly enslaving, hooky, obsession-creating. Swinging like Hanuman's balls.
   Secondly - the sound. Inexactly right. Like the similarly two-strong Towers & the magnificent Primitive Man, not so macho-maximal to have no sense of space, somehow managing to give all of this racket its own tangible tactile room to breathe and impact. Something analogue about it in that space, the way pumping the volume up reveals MORE not less, but absolutely nothing dated about it. A spacecrucial to what makes Aura so devestating because both of Bölzer are on fire, the guitarist seemingly the greatest riff machine on the planet in 2013, the drummer able to blast-beat and Bill-Ward it simultaneously, keeping the tracks at this wonderfully ambiguous, hugely suggestive place between frenzy and dread, a murderous intensity, an almost reflective self-loathing. On the second track, the astonishing 'Entranced By The Wolfshock' they hit a monstrous psychedelic weight redolent of Amon Duul, Oneida or Comets On Fire while also shitting on ALL those bands from a truly spectacular promontory height. Like I said, it's as good as its sleeve. Look at that fucking sleeve! It IS THAT good. 
   Thirdly - the utter unplaceability of it. You see that name, you hear lyrics like 'His psalms emanate power/ Beset with lightning and thunder/ As you slip into trance/ You swear allegiance to dance'. Your smirky first-language prejudices might come into play, or like me you might immediately start thinking of previous Swiss genii who've blown your mind, The Young Gods, Celtic Frost. But really, 'Aura' is genuinely unplaceable in any one subgenre (and metal's all about the subgenres). Not quite Death Metal, too uplifiting, although in its most furious moments 'Aura' is like the best death-metal you've ever heard. Not Doom cos even the moments of quicksand-drowning crawl still flicker with all kinds of lightspeed detail. Not Black Metal cos at no point is anything obscured, at no point is there any 'attitude' about honouring an old form or staying 'true' to anything, just an outpouring of the good great awesome stuff that happens when Bolzer plug in and play.  An incredibly catchy record, too catchy to be thought of as anything except immensely generous in its conception and execution. Warm fuzzies? Yeah, along with the mute awe, along with the broken shredded proneness, you will feel affection for this record, a need to evangelicise for it. Can. Not. Wait. For A Full Length, although to their credit Bölzer are apparently insistent that the EP form is what best suits them. Until the next one, avail yourself of 'Aura's blissful bewitching brutality fucking YESTERDAY. Too good to let die on the margins. Should be bigger than Satan already. 

[Oh and BTW, while on the darker end of things -  two things I can't make head nor tail of but that I can't stop listening to. The half hour of building drone & doom that is The Lady In The Lake by Nemorensis, now out on tape & bandcamp from the ever-intriguing Northern Idaho label Sol Y Nieve. . . 

and from the same label the spellbindingly strange, lo-fi fizz and fury of Anouof Thwo by Quebec weirdos Hellebore

Get back to me when YOU figure them out. And keep em peeled on ANYTHING Sol Y Nieve drop. These people are clearly the kind of sick twists you want to follow and love]

Irkallian Oracle 

Finally, also tickling my racket-receptors this month is IRKALLIAN ORACLE's masterly 'Grave Ekstasis' LP. Originally, like Bolzer, 'Grave Ekstasis' was released in a beautifully thought-out limited edition, only on tape, like much of the most compelling black/extreme metal at the moment. Just now reissued on CD & Vinyl by those lovely people at San Fran's Nuclear War Now , on original label Blovark's site the following statement appears: "Irkallian Oracle - Grave Ekstasis is now sold out. The band should not be bothered about copies as they have none. The few remaining copies at Bolvärk are reserved for people that already have contacted us on this matter and waiting. New orders are not possible. Bolvärk will be back in business in early august when we have access to tape machines and communications." That kind of sullen, hostile, blank almost machinelike refusal to boyhowdy and do the ordinary friendly gladhanding that characterises most mainstream media-friendly promo also finds itself in IO's own stated aims, unblinkingly serious, daring you to smirk, knowing that if you do you're condemned to the flames forever. "Ekstasis (as in ”out-of-itself”) denotes the great leap beyond the limited existential confinements of being wrapped up in confused states of ego-centrism. It is here drawn forth by both terror and awe at the apocalyptic totality of the Grave; the abysmal Other that mirrors the infinitude of endless possibility upon the beholder. Like an absence of self it becomes the very significant of Being, as the notion that existence only may be relevant in the encounter with inexistence. Hence, the ecstasy here spoken of is based upon the mystical endeavor of transgression, deconstruction and iconoclasm of selfhood that is revealed in the face of DEATH." Compared to 'we just want to make the music we want and if other people like it that's a bonus' this is some mission statement:  "Born in the year 2012 on Swedish soil, Irkallian Oracle is a musical vehicle for the Void. Drawing its art from the darkest and most horrific vaults of the Death and Black Metal tradition yet still searching ever deeper and beyond all confined artistic boundaries, it wishes to both musically and lyrically explore the ecstatic mysteries of abysmal infinitude. "Grave Ekstasis" is the first released material of Irkallian Oracle and consists of five revelations at the combined length of almost 45 minutes, and it shall function as message to all those who wish to enslave Death and Black Metal to purposeless retrospection, mediocrity and shallow ideals." LOVE that last line, and listening to 'Ekstasis' the rhetoric becomes less lofty, a million miles away from the empty promises of so much 'rock and roll' at the moment, far more accurate, far more convinced and justified. 

'Grave Ekstasis' is simply fantastic, Black Metal writ vast, Death metal jacked up with more low-end than it's ever sustained before, Doom metal too committed to putting you in an altered state of consciousness to be a dead end, five tracks that'll fit on one side of a C-90 with enough crunching repetition and UTTER SHITTINGLY ENORMOUS HEADSHREDDING HEAVIOSITY to squash a multiverse between its fingers. Irkallian's genius is in absolutely not attempting to be 'progressive' or to 'extend' anything - rather, like all the best metal bands ever, what they're committed to is a refinement, a distillation, a perfection, the kind of paring down and purification that can only be enacted by egos and abilities in some serious headsdown synchro-meshed union, bereft of any one persona pushing to the fore. Opener 'Ekstasis' comes rolling at you over the moors, a lung-freezing fog, medieval drums you want to hit yourself over the head with a plank to, the band at first distant, slowly encroaching to the fore, a pre-imprint coming into horrific close-up. And by the time they're there with you, up in your face, the singer opens up a hole in his face and the rank stench of putrefaction hits your senses - all the ridiculous, partly-laughable shitchat you've heard black-metal bands trade in for so long finds true resonance in Irkallian's music - this is genuinely horrifying music, horrifying for its sounds and impetus, but also horrifying because at root this is an agonisingly human document.
   'Iconoclasm' kicks off so lunatic-fast, yet so heavy, it's like the Boredoms finally jammed with Corrupted (like us popkids always dreamed about) but then settles down into a truly seethingly venal slo-mo groove so sexy, yet so deathly, it's like witnessing, through a widely-dilated shitscared eye through a keyhole, Barry White transmogrifying into a skinny white necrophile. And every time that riff is returned to, it seems a little slower, a little heavier, a little more disturbing, as the vocal splits in two and starts coiling around itself and you succumb to the writhings of the bottomless pit. See how this music sets you thinking? 'Dispersion' simply will not stop until you are dead, the brilliantly titled 'Trans-Abysmal Echoes (Non-Sense)' is full-pelt demoniac-grindcore and closing epic 'Absentia Animi' sets out to make atonality your new tonality and succeeds over 13 minutes of molten fuzz and doom, the pulse slowing into coma beyond any fibrulation the band can bring to bear on it. And like the sick bastard you are you rewind back to the top of 'Ekstasis' to undergo it all again. A black hole of a record. A nothing you keep wanting more of. Caught up now. Ready. If any more of this godlike shit comes down the pipe you'll be the first to know. 


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