In the dying embers of a meaningless year, in the midst of critics picking through the debris and pulling out their hair; re-spinning early-runners trying desperately to find something that could come together to be called an end-of-year list. The truth, we’ve found, is that there isn’t a list. A tired net of no-hopers and high-minded misfires is all you can hope to string with this year. But there is still good stuff getting made and getting out. The life-changing bands aren’t touring the world, they’re plying insane quality between the arcade machines and the fire exit in some smoky bar on a Wednesday night. But don’t despair, the number of audionauts may have fallen to new lows, but our lords and masters wisely press their wisdom into metallic tape, vinyl and hidden in ones and zeroes for posterity. Regular readers (and their psychoanalysts) will know I have a fondness for glacial doom. Melodic and intellectual explorations in blue whale-heavy formats. Also I have a fondness for female vocalists (female anything really) AND I also think Britain does this shit better than most countries, because we’ve got the oppressive climate and the national self-loathing; and so the new Tartarus/Graanrepubliek/At War With False Noise records split between two of Britain’s most excellent female-fronted drone doom bands is so up my street it should be downright illegal.
|Thank you Tony Roberts. |
Released in all kinds of good vinyl forms, good ole black vinyl, a flashy red LP, or cassette in a red bag, or a mix of all of them. All bearing the artwork of the incomparable Tony Roberts, who also helped out Conan/Slomatics CD from Burning World, catapulting it to stratospheric highs of precious rock artefacts with his cover illustration of the mounted snail rider. I’m envisioning the darkest and most transcendent moments of Dark Souls inspiring his latest piece, of a figure lost amidst treelike pillars. The two sides provide two songs, Nottingham’s Bismuth with Collapse and Witney’s Undersmile with Titanaboa. Both clocking in at over a quarter of an hour, both some of the most hefty sonic slabs of the year, on a par with Of Spire and Throne’s triumphant Vagary from last year.
Collapse is a verdant crawling jungle of bass fuzz, overflown by supersonic drumkit claps and Navy Phantoms dropping screaming Snakeeye bombs and their piercing destructive shrapnel explosions. I’ve found myself waking up at night, in my freezing flat with crawling skin and warm sweat. Woken from fever dreams of thudding bass and screaming vocals and needing to stew in my dread. As the seventeen minute colossus proceeds, the speeding Phantom undergoes speed-aging; rusting, decaying, melting away through time. The fuselage peeling away until a bare airframe remains; just as the song devolves into a rhythmless universe as the very fabric of structure collapses. It’s the more essential of the two songs on the split.
The more established Undersmile drops the second and final track, a 23 minute monster by the name of Titanaboa; drawing its name from the sixty-foot snake of archeological legend (and after a quick search, my nightmares). A hissing, impossibly long, impossibly heavy beast with only the ability to crush with bone-snapping force sliding out of the speakers and strangulating brains with its inconceivable 2,500 pound heaviness. Unclouded by conscience and only possessed of the need to feed on the souls of its listeners. The split is two distinct sides, and while I’ve spent very early mornings with Collapse, I’ve spent hours pinned down by Titanaboa-induced rictus. Most splits function together as a single cohesive whole, but despite the similarities, each of the pieces on this split requires a large amount of digestion time, or rather, the Titanoboa requires time to fully digest you. Like day and night, or tundra and desert, despite their apparent verisimilitude, they are different continents, different sides, night and day; but both are thoroughly essential, and I can’t think of a doom record this year that comes close to their accumulated quality.
Written under duress by birthday boy.