It's been nearly twenty years since we last had a full-length album from Ramleh operating in "rock" mode, but the sprawling new double album Circular Time sees these British noise rock legends returning with their most intense work since re-emerging in recent years. One of the key bands to emerge from the British post-industrial underground of the early 1980s alongside their Broken Flag label-mates Skullflower, Ramleh continually shifted between the extreme, confrontational power electronics of their early material and their later forays into searing, lysergic noise rock, right up until the band went on an extended hiatus in the late 1990s. The group would return later the following decade with a number of reissues and new releases, but up until now, almost all of the new material from the re-activated Ramleh leaned more towards their power electronics and harsh noise tendencies. But with this massive new album, these distortion masters (now comprised of founding member Gary Mundy, longtime member Anthony Di Franco, and new drummer Martyn Watts) have returned with nearly two hours of speaker-shredding, void-gazing psychedelia, pushing the pummeling, Hawkwindian meltdowns heard on classic 90's-era albums like Be Careful What You Wish For and Shooters Hill into realms of total obliteration.
Still forged from a simple but savage combination of pummeling mogodon drumming, monstrously overloaded synthesizers and elliptical, sludge-encrusted bass riffs that anchor the squalls of brutal, electrified guitar noise that crash across these thirteen tracks, Ramleh's sound remains hypnotically crushing. From the almost pastoral strum of opener "Re-entry" that ends up exploding into a frenzy of howling feedback and motorik propulsion, the galloping power and delay-drenched delirium of "Incubator", to the lurching post-punk of "The Tower", the ferocious, volcanic ragas of "Renaissance Warfare", and the lumbering, almost Sabbathian bass-thud and longform guitar exploration that winds through songs like "The March" and "American Womanhood", Ramleh excavate some of their most monstrous riffs and amplifier meltdowns to date. Heavy, zoned-out drone-rock grooves are unleashed amid gales of sky-scorching guitar noise, with epic psych-shred workouts stretched out across storms of nebular effects. Eerie choral ambience rises above over-modulated bass-lines and tumultuous drumming. Distant vocals howl beneath sheets of shimmering guitar, and streaks of twisted, mutant dub materialize within some of the album's catchier moments. Cacophonies of blissed-out guitar squall and violent drumming come tumbling out of the speakers in a rush of freeform psychnoise, and vast, rumbling dronescapes unfurl in the abyss, enfolding majestic but brutally distorted melodies in waves of shadowy low-frequency synth. It's dark, often brutal music, but also shot through with moments of sweeping, apocalyptic beauty, building to the powerful back-to-back finale of "Weird Tyranny" and "Never Returner" that are as utterly blasted and majestic as anything we've heard from Ramleh in the band's thirty-some year existence.
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DIGIPAK CD $9.98
One of many offshoots / alter-egos of the notorious Dutch industrial black metal outfit Gnaw Their Tongues, Cloak Of Altering returns to deliver the follow-up to the maniacal 2014 album Plague Beasts, unleashing yet another brain-scrambling blast of mutated symphonic black metal, nightmarish breakcore madness, and hellish electronics fused together into a sweat-soaked, chrome-plated nightmare. Compared to previous works, the seven-song Manifestation is a slightly less chaotic monstrosity, giving these blackened maelstroms added room to breathe, but the cumulative assault of Cloak Of Altering's sound on the band's fourth album continues to thoroughly scorch the listener.
The sound is still rooted in a bizarre confluence of majestic synth-drenched black metal, skewed industrial heaviness, and fractured Planet Mu-esque electronic music, seemingly as informed by the hallucinatory throes of early Coil and the violent breakcore of Bong-Ra and Venetian Snares as it is by classic Nordic black metal. Strange contrapuntal riffs weave drunkenly amid crackling electronic glitch and eerie drones. Mournful synthscapes unfold across glacial rhythms and distorted doom-laden dirges. Blasts of foul, industrialized death metal pummel erupt alongside ominous piano figures and swells of sickening orchestral dissonance. Swarms of blackened tremolo riffage sweep across sputtering malfunctioning rhythms and strange electronic accoutrements. One notable difference from the previous album: the vocals, which here often take form here as a vile, guttural robotic croak, a sickeningly putrid android presence that is layered among the rest of the distant shrieks, anguished screams and chilling, garbled cries that all feel as if they are trying to escape the bowels of some nightmarish AI system.
And as always, Cloak Of Altering balances all of this confusional, electronically-deformed madness with some strikingly beautiful and majestically bleak melodic passages, with blasts of bombastic, heavily atmospheric synthesizer roaring across songs like "Parasitic Altering Sickness" and "Hidden Celestial Deity". An arresting, alien album that violently mutates these strands of symphonic black metal DNA into a stranger and more complex strain of digital delirium.
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DIGIPACK CD $9.98
Appearing at the end of 2014 as a digital-only, self-released title, Dimesland’s Psychogenic Atrophy was met with little fanfare, yet made an immediate and powerful impression upon those who heard it. Described by Invisible Oranges as a "sonic nightmare of thrash...that blends instrumental ability with the progressive stabs of Dimension Hatross-era Voivod..." and landing on numerous end-of-year best-of lists, Psychogenic Atrophy flattened just about everyone who encountered it.
With members of art rock legends The Residents' touring band and blackened prog-doom ensemble Wild Hunt amongst their ranks, Dimesland released the promising Creepmoon EP a couple of years prior on Vendlus, but even that only hinted at just how maniacal the band's sound was to become. The eight songs featured here combine dizzying musical complexity and fearsome dissonance with a sort of off-kilter thrash. The confounding and complicated arrangements and demented riffing recall the likes of Watchtower, Coroner and Atheist, but this is darker, weightier, more sinister stuff, the band hurtling through the jagged arrangements of songs like "Institutional Gears" and "Xenolith" with an almost No Wave-informed abrasiveness, but also frequently sprawling out into well-crafted sequences of abstract, unearthly ambience and forbidding, hallucinatory industrial noisescapes. Frantically barked vocals are employed judiciously, allowing the band to weave long stretches of instrumental mayhem. Violent, discordant riffs are folded around psychotic time signature changes, then suddenly expand into passages of moody, doom-laden darkness. Cyclical rhythms churn beneath waves of dense, alien sound, and spastic skronk-assaults suddenly swerve into vicious angular thrash. And these guys have some serious chops. Psychogenic Atrophy's brutality is sharpened by their technical precision and prowess and driven by utterly frenetic drumming. But it's also a heavily layered album, each listen revealing added details and degrees of delirium. Intense stuff for sure, with an unsettling, nightmarish atmosphere that makes this album stand out further amongst the progressive metal horde.There is a surreal, ever-present malevolence lurking under the surface of these songs.
An in-house favorite release of 2014, Crucial Blast was so blown away by this album that the label wanted to make it available as a physical release, reissuing Psychogenic Atrophy on CD in digipack packaging that features subtly unnerving cover art from Swiss photographer and performance artist Chantal Michel. It cannot be recommended enough if you're a fan of avant-garde death metal and progressive thrash, as Dimesland have produced a work of challenging, terrifying extreme metal that stands amongst the more unconventional likes of Gorguts, Cynic, Confessor, and Voivod.
CRUCIAL BLAST WEBSTORE: NEW ARRIVALS FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 15TH 2016
We're slowly crawling forward after that long lag from the past few months here at C-Blast, but things are starting to come together for what looks to be quite the busy year over here. And we're back this week with the latest huge batch of new titles, represses and restocks in our store, gathered from across the spectrum of extreme adventurous music, literature, cinema and art, with lots of amazing and bizarre stuff for you guys to sink you're teeth into. We hope you'll dig in and check all of this great stuff out. And fingers crossed, this should be the beginning of more frequent updates from us over here, so keep an eye out for another missive heading your way from Crucial Blast later in the month.
The spotlight this week is on the brand new album from Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik's Skuggsjá, A Piece For Mind & Mirror, the long-awaited studio album featuring the music that these Enslaved and Wardruna members composed for a festival several years ago, a celebration of Norwegian history and culture set to a majestic mixture of ancient Scandinavian folk music and modern avant-metal that unfolds like a rock opera. Originally something you'd only be able to witness live, this fantastic project has finally made its music available as a full album, which just came out via Season Of Mist. In my review of the album that you will find below, I loosely compared Skuggsjá's sprawling, sonorous saga to a viking version of Neurosis, and while I'm still hearing that in parts of Mirror each time I listen to it again, it's actually much more unique than that comparison suggests. Captivating stuff.
Some of the other new, recently released and newly added titles that are featured on this list include:
... loads of skull-shredding noise punk from bands like Aborticidio, Allergy, No Power, Disclose,
... everything from the terrific dark-dub/post-industrial/dark ambient outfit Akatombo, which Scorn fans will love
...an essential new LP reissue of the studio recordings of legendary Texan weirdo sludgepunk band Stick Men With Ray Guns, titled Grave City
...the new CD reissue of Reencarnacion's 888 Metal / Acompañame A La Tumba, brain-scrambling black thrash primitivism from the 80s with flashes of bizarre, almost RIO-esque progginess
...the latest album from Italian prog-death masters Sadist, Hyaena, a ferocious jazz-tinged concept album involving Hyena cults in Africa!
...the new vinyl edition of Suicide Euphoria, the awesome bestial deathnoise assault from Philly death metallers Pissgrave
...a bunch of sinister-sounding, heavy releases from oddball Midwestern prog rockers Infero
...the hard-to-find CDR Herald Of Confusion from folky avant-garde French black metal outfit Sadastor, extremely limited!
...a new Macedonian import of early Grief titles on CD and LP, featuring the first throes of these masters of misanthropic, nihilistic sludge metal
...a massive double LP boxset featuring the reissue of Giles Corey's self-titled debut, spritualist goth-folk and noisy post-punk that comes with a thick perfect bound book of fiction
...another great early death rock reissue from Sacred Bones, Part 1's Funeral Parade, a killer early 80s blast of anarcho gloom in the vein of Rudimentary Peni
...lots of killer Amphetamine Reptile reissues from Cows, Halo Of Flies and more, and the new release of the terrific Am Rep documentray The Color Of Noise
...the latest from blistering, noisy French Canadian raw black metal outfit Akitsa, Grand Tyrans, in stock on all formats
...a brand-new vinyl reissue of the classic rasta-thrash album Rock For Light from legendary Bad Brains
...the twisted, nerve-wracked blackened noise rock/art metal of Genevieve's Escapism
...the new CD reissue of the Carmilla / Marcilla EP from British horror doom masters Moss
...a bunch of releases, some out of print, from cult Japanese harsh noise artist K2
...the experimental wall-of-sound of Hanormale's ?????, a blackened orchestral chaos metal that's one of the most unusual and challenging albums on this week's list
...Amber Asylum's gorgeous new album of doom-laden chamber music and gloomy cello-heavy ambience, Sin Eater
...multiple vinyl editions from the punishing US black metal outfit The Howling Wind
...a bunch of 7" EPs from my new favorite crust/punk outfit Thisclose, who sound amazingly like the classic brutal hardcore of Discharge fronted by King Diamond (!!!)
...No Negative's acid-gobbling psych-punk meltdown The Good Never Comes that sounds like some weird fusion of Brainbombs and Hawkwind
...the putrid death industrial of Nekrofellatio's ?Pesadilla En Una Noche Sin Estrellas, recommended listening for fans of Atrax Morgue and Mauthausen Orchestra
...a HUGE stack of older, long out of print vinyl releases from Bastard Noise that we recently stumbled across
...a vinyl reissue of the self-titled debut from Harry Pussy, a classic slab of atonal noise rock destruction
...lots of new and reissued stuff from extremist noisecore outfit Sissy Spacek
...a bunch of reissues from iconic metallic hardcore outfit Integrity, including the band's utterly vicious Humanity Is The Devil
...new vinyl and CD releases from ferocious blackened hardcore/thrash maniacs Gehenna
...the crushing evil synthwave mastery of Gost's Behemoth, essential driving music for a jet-black DeLorean
...a killer double album of pitch-black ambient death-jazz from Dead Neanderthals
...the new vinyl reissue of Aquilus's amazing Griseus, a stunning combination of cinematic symphonic music and epic black metal
...the recent CD reissue of cult early 90s album Hope Finally Died from prog-tinged doom metallers Decomposed
...the latest album Axis from Spanish avant-jazz-doom-metal duo Orthodox
...the supremely sinister blackened prog metal of Black Crucifixion's ?Coronation Of King Darkness, finally reissued on CD
...multiple variants of the new vinyl reissue of Blasphemy's insanely violent war/noise black metal classic Fallen Angel Of Doom
...the wonderfully warped basement occult metal of Necromantic Worship's Spirit Of The Entrance Unto Death tape
...a new CD reissue of Tearing Up Your Plans from fearsome NY power electronics fiend Slogun
...awesome new vinyl reissues of cult horror soundtracks for Cannibal Apocalypse, The Fog, Absurd, Tourist Trap, Phantasm, The Beyond and lots more
...restocks of the complete early Burzum discography, constituting some of the best black metal ever
...a heap of new Christian Death reissues on vinyl, some of the best death rock to ever come out of the 1980s
...a stack of new 7"s from hillbilly noisecore outfit Erectile Dysfunction
As always, that's just the beginning. There's much more mutant heavy music and misanthropic art to be found on our shelves and in our bins...keep reading below to check out all of the strange and extreme new music, film, and art that's included in this week's new arrivals list.
Go to the Crucial Blast Webstore to check out our list of new arrivals...