Category Archives: Albums You Might Have Missed

Album You might Have Missed: From The Human Forest…

If terms like ‘blackened death metal’ are familiar to, you should really be aware of English band Akercocke, one of my all-time favourite bands. Rejecting the corpse paint and theatrics of Norwegian black metal acts, they billed themselves as smart, English gentlemen, evoking comparisons to The Hellfire Club rather than a bunch of Kiss fans who are really into nails and axes.

Akercocke released some fantastic albums over the period in which they were active (though their debut album was a bit crap, if truth be told), incorporating a rather avant garde take on what extreme music should and could be. This less than straightforward approach to metal probably narrowed their audience more than it should, which is a damn shame because they were goddamn fantastic; I managed to catch them live at Bloodstock close to before they disappeared off the face of the Earth. They just went silent, more or less. No more releases, their website was simply left to fade, and fans like me were left really quite upset.

Except it doesn’t look like they’ve taken a one way trip to meet their Horned One just yet, because almost utterly under the radar some of the band members managed to slip out a release under the new name of Voices. Admittedly, this shouldn’t be taken as a new Akercocke release; but it looks like it’s the best we’ll be getting for now, and the fact that the sound is very similar with most of the Akercocke line-up, it’s almost impossible not to start drawing comparisons.

The songs on ‘The Human Forest Create A Fuge Of Imaginary Rain’ (yes, that is the title; yes it’s terrible) have a stronger black metal vibe to them than Akercocke ever did, and this isn’t a bad thing. But they really haven’t forgotten how to make some really quite killer riffs to complement some not-quite-as-good-as-Akercocke vocals; thank fuck for that. Kudos to vocalist Peter Benjamin though (one of the ex-Akercocke members), he manages to sound very similar to Jason Mendonça (Akercocke’s vocalist); Jason is easily one of the better metal vocalists out there, so it’s no bad thing to be able to get a comparison. There’s also a female vocalist on the album, and I’m not certain who it is, but she does sound very similar to Miri Milman (of System Divide / Distorted fame); again, I think she’s pretty decent, so yay.

With the pummelling drums, the catchy and almost hypnotic guitar work, and suitably Satanic vocals, this album really should be checked out. It has less money, promotion, and fanfare behind it than Behemoth’s latest release (reviewed here)—just check out the not-particularly-safe-for-work music video below, which was presumably done on a budget of good will—but I’ve always thought that the kind of sound that Akercocke / Voices evoke is far more suited to the subject at hand than the pomp that Behemoth favour. ‘From The Human Forest…’ is by no means a perfect release—for example, the song ‘Sexual Isolation’ could do with being shorter—but it’s a strong enough release to warrant more attention than it’s gotten thus far, and to look forward to more releases in the future.

Voices–Fragmented Illustrations of Anger

Albums You Might Have Missed: The Ties That Blind

mota_tiescd_(big)Post-metal as a genre stemmed from roughly two bands and then exploded into countless acts—most of them largely forgettable—in a matter of a year or two. When that scene first came to my attention all those years back, I instantly became an avid fan, embracing it quicker than a basket full of kittens and ale; funnily enough I had picked up the album that started my obsession, ISIS’ ‘In The Absence of Truth’ on a whim. To explain, when record stores were still a viable business—and I was young enough to still get pocket money—I made a holy trip to the magical shop of CDs once a month the instant I had money in my bank. Because back then I didn’t actually know anyone (save the odd person online) who was into the heavier side of metal, I made a bit of a game of what to buy next; browse the metal section, find the album with the most interesting album cover, try to guess the genre and sound of the band, then purchase said album. The number of times it worked was really quite impressive, even if I do say so myself. That ISIS album was the product of one such game; for clarity, my best guess for a similar band to the mystery album was Tool, I wasn’t exactly a million miles off, to be fair. Anyway, I remember when my dad picked me up from town in the car I dutifully put on my headphones, put the CD in my prized possession at the time—a Sony Discman—and hit play. The moment those tribal-like drums started up on opening track ‘Wrists of Kings’ I knew that the album was probably going to be one of favourite albums of all time; which it still is. And so began my love for post-metal. Now, ‘back then’, MySpace was actually a really good way of finding new music, especially in metal (though no-one seems to ever mention that). You went on a band page you liked, looked at the few bands at the top of their friend’s list, and checked them out (wash, rinse, repeat). From that I quickly stumbled upon Cult of Luna, Neurosis, Pelican, Kenoma, and Mouth of the Architect. The downside of MySpace at the time was that you could only upload songs of a certain length; many post-metal songs were way over that length. Luckily, someone I spoke to online was a big fan of Mouth of the Architect and helped me out with getting hold of their releases (this is the days before Amazon really existed).

The Ties That Blind is Mouth of the Architect’s second album, and it remains to this day one of the best post-metal albums ever. And very few people have listened to the fucking thing; this is very frustrating, and needs to change. The album is a perfect blend of crushing walls of guitar and roars, against simply beautiful moments of clarity and harmony. Take my all-time favourite song of theirs, first track ‘Baobab’. It opens up with full force, the rage and anger is palpable, and after a few minutes it gives way to one of my favourite melodic guitar sections of all time. The song is beautiful, yet has this undertone of melancholy throughout. Now, I managed to catch and talk to them in Sheffield a few years back, and after much gushing, I asked them about ‘Baobab’. The baobab is a reference to the book ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the song itself is about someone they knew who, if I recall correctly (apologies if I get this wrong, memory is a little hazy—I was too busy thinking ‘HOLY SHIT YOU’RE CASUALLY TEXTING JULIE CHRISTMAS?!’—Of Made Out Of Babies and Battle of Mice fame) slid into drug abuse and passed away. The album as a whole seethes with emotion, and its clear that the band poured their stories and feelings into this album; it was never a generic post-metal album that are so tirelessly churned out these days. Hell, the lyrics on that song feel incredibly heartfelt; after a beautiful melodious stretch of guitar work, the song kicks back in with the words ‘We watched you fall into the fire, alone’, or take the repetition of the lines ‘Our tears couldn’t carry you’ & ‘Our hearts broke without you, our hearts would have followed you’. Some of the best music feels deeply personal, and this is definitely one of them.

The melodies haunt, but never in a negative way. The guitars on ‘Carry On’ are stunning, the sort of sound you could listen to on a gorgeous summer’s day and just zone out, taking in everything around you. In fact, I’m struggling to praise their sound in a way that would do it justice. People listen to post-metal (or ‘atmospheric sludge’) because they want more than just a catchy hook or some satisfying use of double base pedals with blisteringly chunky guitars. In the way that classical music captures landscapes, scenes of an event, or take you on a journey, post-metal is an attempt at something greater; there’s a reason that Aaron Turner (of ISIS) once said it’s ‘thinking man’s metal’. ‘The Ties That Blind’ is a perfect example of the post-metal genre; when so many bands end up sounding formulaic, or trying too hard to stand out in a now over-saturated scene, Mouth of The Architect make it clear that it’s a part of the band’s life blood. If bands like Neurosis, ISIS, and Cult of Luna are in your music collection, this album is a must.

Mouth of the Architect–Baobab

P.S. I got the band to sign my copy of ‘The Ties That Blind’ when I caught them in Sheffield. Fuck yeah.