Australia has become one of my favourite places in the world to look out for new and exciting bands. From alien overlords such as Portal to fresh faces of progressive metal like Caligula’s Horse, there is a pallet of sounds to be found on the Lucky Country. However, there is a special label that has gained recognition for finding and delivering some of the most unique albums I’ve heard in recent years: Art as Catharsis.
Psychedelic drone music with eastern influences (Ḥashshāshīn), John Zorn worship jazzgrind (Kurushimi (苦しみ)) or experimental hardcore madness (Tired Minds), Art as Catharsis has something for everyone interested in opening their ears to new music. Today, I’ll be reviewing four of their upcoming releases; be prepared for the unexpected.
Opium Eater – Ennui
Citing Elder, Intronaut, Mastodon, and Neurosis as influences, Wellington-based post-metal band Opium Eater caught my eye with their first available song from their upcoming album, Ennui. “Babelsteps” starts off as a psychedelic post-rock track that evolves into a monstrosity of heaviness with sludge tones and Aaron Turneresque screams from ISIS’ Oceanic and Panopticon era. With three quarters of the band singing in different styles and switching between droning soundscapes and exploding and dissonant crescendi, Opium Eater delivers a unique and interesting record that blends a lot of material and will most certainly catch the attention of fans of the aforementioned bands or those who are always on the lookout for challenging and ambitious music. Don’t sleep on this one, and listen to the track “Post-Tense” when it comes out. You’ll thank me later.
Raven – The Night Is Dark, the Night Is Silent, the Night Is Bright, the Night Is Loud
FourPlay String Quartet member and collaborator to several Australian multi-instrumentalists (including Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance) Peter Hollo experiments with cello, piano, electronics, and tape loops under the moniker Raven, with his latest album being his most expansive to date. Each track has its own feeling, whether that be droning and menacing (“Lugubrious”) or mysterious and beautiful (“Untethered”). Across sixty minutes of instrumental drone, beats, neo-classical layers and electroacoustic touches, Raven embraces you with this record. The night might be dark here, but not full of terrors.
Seims – 3
I’ll be honest with you: instrumental bands that fall on the math rock or metal spectrum are not my cup of tea, sometimes they meander on just showing off and not on structure. This, however, is not the case with Sydney’s Seims and their upcoming album, 3. Short in length, but not in ambition: even if it’s thirty minutes long and just containing four songs, this album will leave you out of breath easily. From chaotic jazz bursts, post-rock crescendi, and – oddly enough – vocals that work out as another instrument rather than leaving the instrumentation aside, Seims has gone full house with 3, and it will attract those missing a new Battles album or who have already listened to the new The Physics House Band. Did I mention that the last track of the album, albeit short, uses parts of the other tracks and is a collaboration with fellow Aussies Wartime Sweethearts? Definitely, don’t sleep over this one.
Slowly Building Weapons – Sunbirds
Sometimes, I just need an album that kicks me right in the head when I hit play. The Armed’s Untitled did that for me a couple of years ago, and I’m glad that Slowly Building Weapons have offered themselves for the task this year with Sunbirds, their sophomore album after ten years of their first release, Nausicaä. This album is not for the faint-hearted, this is a forty-minute assault that plays between the brutal instrumentation of Oathbreaker’s Rheia and the vocal madness found on several Converge albums (seriously, Nick Bowman sounds like Jacob Bannon possessed by the devil). The blend of blackened influences is also present on tracks such as “Zoltar” and “Horses”, and adds a whole layer of experimentation to this already unique album. Slowly Building Weapons have arrived to stay once again, and I assure you that Sunbirds will leave you satisfied with their onslaught of blackened hardcore. Close your eyes, and let the madness embrace you.