Archive for the ‘Ahab’ Category

Dave Cutbush’s Top 10 Albums of 2015

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

LIFE IS NOISE’s head honcho shares his favourite releases from 2015, with Elder, High On Fire and Shlohmo among the year’s best.

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon
The drone giants Sunn O))) return in 2015 with another crushing display in the form of Kannon. It is heavy, it is slow, it is fearful and it is imposing. My only criticism is that it is a little short. I wanted more than just the three songs. Who knows, perhaps this is just a tease for another Sunn O))) album in 2016. After all, six years is too long to wait for such epic majesty.

9. Echoes of Yul – The Healing
The Black Captain introduced me to Polish act Echoes of Yul. Ever since I have loved their work. You can read The Black Captain’s review here. I love the dreamy dark quality of this record. It is a melancholic masterpiece.

8. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Windhand return with the their third record Grief’s Infernal Flower. As heavy as ever and featuring the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Dorthia Cottrell, Windhand have a great balance between the depth and crushing on one had and the ethereal and haunting on the other. Grief’s Infernal Flower is a consistently good album and confirms Windhand’s pre-eminence in the worldwide doom revival.

7. Church – Unanswered Hymns
My favourite debut album of the year came out of the blue from Church (or Chrch as they are now known). Unanswered Hymns has a musical bed of depravity and destruction with vocals that sound like a demon sacrificing a virgin on a satanic altar on top. An occult masterpiece from these Californian natives.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Sufjan returns to his folk roots on record number seven. He gets to me when he is super sad, and on this album he is at times at his most serenely melancholic. ‘Should Have Known Better’ is my favourite in this respect. It is what folk music should be and most often isn’t. Stripped away from the overburdening production of previous work, Carrie and Lowell gets down to basics. It has beautiful melodies and thought provoking lyrics. Dare I say it — a return to form for Stevens.

5. Ahab – The Boats of Glen Carrig
Funeral doom/nautical doom/progressive rock/post-rock whatever. The Boats of Glen Carrig may be an interesting fusion of styles packaged in their ever expanding worlds of boats and krakens and wrecks but when you boil it down it is just a great heavy record. Super riffs aplenty, great clean vocals and brutal growls. Super catchy in a destructive way.

4. Drowning Horse – Sheltering Sky
The latest Drowning Horse album is totally crushing. Read The Black Captain’s review here. No other words need be spoken.

3. Shlohmo – Dark Red
Shlohmo is a consistently amazing electronic producer. His latest album Dark Red is no exception to this. He inhabits a dark and weird world most of today’s beatmakers dare not inhabit. But the final word on this should come from the press release for the album, where we are told Dark Red would sound like “if Electric Wizard tried to make an R&B record, or if Boards of Canada met Burzum by the River Styx” – maybe not true but certainly an interesting concept.

2. High On Fire – Luminiferous

Lyrically mind-altering and musically earth-shattering, the latest effort from High on Fire is another pummelling journey from the metal three-piece and a great addition to their great catalogue. All members are in great form. Des Kensel’s drumming is relentless, Jeff Matz’ bass work is as always without fault and team leader Matt Pike’s vocals and guitar work have reached a new pinnacle. But with all the Motorhead-style fast fury, it is the slower tracks that stand out for me. ‘The Falconist’ has a sneering menace, while ‘The Cave’ is the standout for me. High on Fire have developed as a band with Luminiferous. There is power aplenty but listen further and you can reach other dimensions.

1. Elder – Lore
In 2015 nothing beat the power riffs and melodic mastery of Lore from Massachusetts band Elder. It is a tip of the hat to the iconic rock legends of the 70s but Lore is a furious modern stoner take on all things psych and doom. I love how Elder meld various passages in their songs so seamlessly. At times monolithic and bludgeoning and at others beautiful and delicate, Lore is impressive from first to last listen. It’s an album I have punished but continues to give me great joy every time I put it on. Thanks Elder – you just keep getting better.

Honourable Mentions
Vhol – Deeper Than Sky
Glowsun – Beyond the Wall of Time
Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
Sumac – The Deal
Dungen – Allas Sak
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – Yield to Despair
Kowloon Walled City — Grievances
We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs
Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise
Built to Spill – Untethered Moon
Fourteen Nights at Sea – Minor Light
Joanna Newsom – Divers
Wrekmeister Harmonies – Night of Your Ascension

Ahab — The Boat of Glen Carrig

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

“…there came to me out of the immensity of weed that lay to leeward, a far distant sound that grew upon my ear, rising and rising into a fearsome screaming and shrieking, and then dying away into the distance in queer sobs, and so at last to a note below that of the wind’s. At this, as might be supposed, I was somewhat shaken in myself to hear so dread a noise coming out of all that desolation…”

Written by William Hope Hodgson at the turn of the 20th century, The Boats of the Glen Carrig is the account set in 1757 of shipwrecked survivors and their fearful tribulation drifting upon the open sea, eventually encountering a mysterious island whose implied sense of salvation disintegrates through a series of encounters with bizarre “monsters”. The topic and narrative style make Hodgson an obvious precursor to and influence upon the writings of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Like many of the stories written by the more famous writer of those two authors, the value and evocative imagination of The Boats… is sifted from beneath a crust of challenging and archaic narrative style, a single narrator’s journal entries that at times go into even the most mundane level of detail. And, sure enough, beneath this jarring and often trying writing style, there is a dark and dramatic world that provides perfect inspiration for a brilliant album of doom metal.

The German band Ahab have, as their name might suggests, made it their conceptual modus operandi to draw inspiration from nautical literature that delves deeply into the effect the ocean has upon character. In terms of sound, Ahab are often referenced as one of the groups who have had a defining influence upon funeral doom as a whole. In fairness to musical history, their beginnings did come a good ten years after bands such as Unholy and Thergothon were at their peak; however, in terms of their themes and how they have both evolved and produced at such a consistently high level of quality as musicians, Ahab have certainly shown it is possible to stand out with aplomb from amidst a saturated stylistic mass. It is, therefore, reasonable to speculate that their effect on other doom musicians has been a powerful one, one great example being the Canadian band Sea Witch (who, whilst also aiming to create the sense of the sea, have sought out and established distinguishing characteristics for their sound that clearly set them apart from their peers).

If you had not guessed yet, for Ahab’s newest and fourth album the story the music is set to is Hodgson’s tale of The Boats of the Glen Carrig. For those familiar with both the short story and this new album’s predecessor (The Giant), the tale is an ideal opportunity for progression of that direction in which Ahab began to head back in 2012. Like The Giant, The Boats… instrumentally shifts between tranquil, bewitching calm and unforgiving storms of heaviness. The difference this time is simply that it flows in a more refined and effective manner, conveying the narrative dynamic of the album’s concept more organically and powerfully. Matching the story’s lulls and explosions of terror, the patient delivery of peace and beauty on the album lends greater impact to its heaviness, imbuing the latter with a greater feeling of escalating tension and subsequent invocation of the narrator’s spirit in the face of alien provocations of terror.

As the instrumental aspects have a more masterful handle on the dramatic transitions this time around, vocalist Daniel Drost has all that he needs to be permitted to articulate the story as brilliantly as he has ever been able to. Deft changes between clean vocals and phenomenal bellows brilliantly convey the transformation between the narrator’s musings at engagement with his fellow survivors, with their subtle lingering dread, into sheer panic and fright at confrontation with the hitherto unknown lifeforms of the island. The clean vocal parts are particularly wonderful, and serve greatly to further distinguish Ahab from their peers. In particular, the harmonized vocals over the top of such a beautiful guitar passage in the beginnings of “The Thing That Made Search” are as enjoyable as anything from a doom band you’ll hear this year.

With such a natural feeling developing to their stylistic transitions, The Boats of the Glen Carrig should gain them plenty of new lovers from outside the band’s previous niche. The Giant was, as all of their albums have been, a great listen. However, The Boats… creates a more well-thought-out and emotionally dynamic context in which The Giant begins to sound like an incomplete search for something, somewhat forced rather than a polished vision. If that is a valid opinion, then Ahab has now discovered its coveted fountain of conceptual storytelling, with flawless ebbs and flows that engross the listener and continually draw you back to experience the tale again. On this island of exotic horror, this band gels like it never has before.

Ahab’s The Boats of the Glen Carrig is out now through Napalm Records.

The Black Captain hosts RTRFM’s Out to Lunch Thursdays at 12pm (+8GMT) with Dave Cutbush.