*OLD CORPSE ROAD / THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL: The Bones of this Land are not
Speechless / English Black Punk Metal split CD 2010*
This CD was sent to me as a promotional item when I ordered the Britannia
Infernus compilation from Godreah Records some time ago. What is a
respectable thing for me regarding this band/label is that they are still
in the Underground after so many years. THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL has been
around since many years and they are still willing to support rather
unknown bands such as OLD CORPSE ROAD in this case. Not that TMOA is a
hyped act, but still.
The split is opened by OLD CORPSE ROAD a five-piece from North East England
and I can tell you that what they present here has quite some nostalgia for
those into the English (Black/Dark Metal) bands (or is it maybe only one
band…?) of the early/mid nineties. You know the first CRADLE OF FILTH
album with its Gothic-like atmosphere, dry production, with the deeper
grunts/spoken passages thrown in at times, fast, majestic parts and
screaming vocals. But it sounds quite good, and surely better than any COF
release after 1996… Yet, I think it’s not a carbon copy of that band, it
has some more spirit in it, like the opening theme and weird middle part of
the third tune “The Witch of Wookey Hole” with melodic vocals. The lyrics
deal with the Haunted and historic past of their country, fitting well the
atmosphere of the the tree lengthy songs they are present with. All in all,
despite their rather unoriginal music, they are a good band with
well-composed music. Actually, these songs are supposedly their first
creations after the debut demo (and by now they also have a full-length out
on Godreah) so they still have time to develop their own style.
Next up is the English bastards of THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL. They start with a
gloomy intro (“Embalming of the Gods”). After that they actually have only
one own track on this release under the title “On the Surface”. This song
is, as usual, quite eclectic, and it is not easy to describe this mixture.
It sounds Metal, it is rooted in Metal, it has some Black Metal in it, it
uses melodies that are rather catchy but it still sounds compact so the
talent is surely one of their helpers. I think think a lot of bands would
fail in an amalgam like this but TMOA comes out even triumphant. Weirdness
and Metal packed into 7 minutes. The remaining 5 songs are all cover
versions of British alternative/Punk/crust music, namely DOOM (“Same
Mind”), HELLBASTARD (“Nazi”), CONFLICT (“Protest & Resist”), SKEPTIX (“War
Drum”) and THE KINKS (“You Really Got Me”). I do not really know these
bands so I can only judge these by the covers but I have a feeling TMOA
have shaped these to their own needs using even piano at times, but the
results sound quite Metal and enjoyable.
I think this is a good and interesting split release and not just a pile of
randomly thrown in songs without any coherence.
Emphasising the folk aspects so wonderfully in evidence, OCR open their three track segment of this split EP with English legends The Meads of Asphodel with ‘Hob Headless Rising’ which kicks off with an almost Paradise Lost-esque piano opening before getting into its stride as the heaviest track I’ve heard from OCR yet. The shimmering build up quickly shifts into a freezing blast of pure black metal fury but, of course, this is Old Corpse Road and as superficially simple as the track might appear to be a whole host of disparate elements are incorporated into the whole, including a stunning folk section that rounds out the track rather beautifully. Once again the guitars are produced on just the right side of rawness – not over worked but retaining the heaviness you can expect from a live performance while the folk elements are captured perfectly with the strident strum of the acoustic backed up by tom-heavy drumming and the massed vocals sounding suitably like a medieval drinking party. ‘The devil’s footprints’ is equally impressive with a sweeping orchestral feel once again recalling the epic, stately missives of latter-day Ulver while the effect of the various vocalists (ranging from a Gorgoroth growl to a Dani yelp to the cleanly spoken passages so reminiscent of Aaron Stainthorpe) offers a sense of dynamic that can only enhance the effect of the heavier moments. It’s a remarkable track, possibly my favourite by the band to date, and with the band utilising so many progressive elements it is a mind boggling possibility that OCR will even better this amazing track when they come to record their full-length debut. One can only feel a little sympathy for the Meads who have to follow this astounding three song set – a task not unlike trying to climb a mountain with a boulder stapled to one’s shoulders (this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the Meads, rather an affirmation that OCR have magnificently outperformed even the lofty expectations levied upon them after their excellent debut EP). The final track from this three song set, ‘The Witch of Wookey Hole’ opens amidst the sound of driving rain and sets a horror-movie tone with acoustic guitars set against a darkly symphonic backdrop and providing a suitably sinister atmosphere into which the band then pour a torrent of searing guitars and agonised screams. A rather more traditional black metal moment it positively seethes with rage and highlights the band’s ability to play straight blackened metal with a vengeance when the mood so takes them. After the hypnotic ‘the devil’s footprints’ it’s a blast of frozen water to the face that removes any doubt of how spectacular a band Old Corpse Road are.
With only two discs currently available (although the band do have various tracks on compilations, the details of which you can find on their website) Old Corpse Road have been careful to tend to their output with a respectful care that suggests a certain element of perfectionism which has served the band well. The level of development between the two CDs is simply staggering and with the band’s debut available for a mere £3.50 and the split a further £7.00, there really is no excuse at all not to pick up these incredibly fine slabs of extreme metal at its finest. Encompassing elements of folk, black metal, doom and progressive music, Old Corpse Road are arguably without peer in the UK at this moment in time and with careful nurturing and the support of their fans have the potential for a long and fascinating career ahead of them. These are two very special releases from a band who deserve your support.
Beowolf Productions – May 2010
This is a split release between two bands out of England. The first three tracks are from OLD CORPSE ROAD and make up “THE BONES OF THIS LAND ARE NOT SPEECHLESS”. These guys continue doing what they do best and that’s playing some of the best written and played Black Metal to ever emerge from the U.K. Atmospheric dark cold passages mixed with fast blasts, spastic guitars and harsh vocals. The other seven tracks come form THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL. These guys play a different style of English Black Metal that incorporates many elements of Punk into their sound. Their music is a little raw, harsh and aggressive. This is where I would see the Punk influences coming into play. They do have some more atmospheric parts as well. A killer split release.
Lords of Metal – May 2010
Martin: This split cd is pure nostalgia. Pure British nostalgia, that is. The kind of black metal played by both bands on this fifty five minute split simply reeks of Albion and in this case that is not a particularly bad thing.
The Old Corpse Roadpart of the split, deemed ‘The Bones Of This Land Are Not Speechless’, consists of three elaborate tracks, clocking at a whopping thirty minutes, that bring back the days that Cradle Of Filth were a proper black metal band instead of a cabaret act. Everything from the atmosphere, the spartan, slightly muffled but effective production to the Suffocation-style blasts, alternated by energetic polkas, and the versatile, unprocessed vocals almost screams ‘The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh’, although comparisons to early Akercocke are not out of place either. One can argue that Old Corpse Road bring nothing new, but the fact is that black metal so typically British has become a rarity, so ‘The Bones Of This Land Are Not Speechless’ is a very welcome exception. Add to this that these three songs are top notch in terms of songwriting and one can only conclude that this tastes for more!
The more well-known band of the two, The Meads Of Asphodel, have opted for a more off-kilter approach to their end of the split. The title ‘English Black Punk Metal’ is completely self-explanatory as five of the seven songs are covers of predominantly punk and crust bands. The Meads’ own compositions, and intro and a full song respectively, showcase the band’s typical style of rather old school, British, black metal with an atmosphere that brings the listener back to the crusades. Metatron’s vocal style, more reminiscent of a hooligan than an actual black metal vocalist, might be something that takes some time to get used to, but ultimately it suits the old school vibe of the music. In fact, the transition between the own compositions and the covers is not that big, which is not a surprise given that the original artists inspired The Meads Of Asphodel to do what they do. One can therefore conclude that ‘English Black Punk Metal’ simply highlights the band’s punk and crust roots. Obviously, in comparison to Old Corpse Road’s contribution to the split, The Mead’s operate in a relatively crude, yet highly energetic way, making these seven songs equally likeable. The only exception is the band’s daring interpretation of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, which would have actually worked fine in an extreme metal context if it weren’t for the OTT vocal layering, which makes the song sound like a cover version by The Muppets.
This split cd by two very British bands has been made with great care. Both bands have delivered their end of the bargain commendably, making this cd really worth giving it a try.
Live 4 Metal – May 2010
Not only is this a most important slab of British Metal, it is also a historical occasion. This is the first time two British black metal bands have shared the same release, a practice common on the continent. Let us hope Godreah’s example will be followed and this will be the first of many such releases, as it is a fine way of presenting true underground metal. That this release should come from Crin’s own Godreah label comes as no surprise to those of us privileged to know him. Crin’s devotion to underground metal and the UK underground in particular is an example to us all. It is only through supporting the underground that UK metal has a future. The next Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Venom, Cathedral, or Black Sabbath may be out there, but if people don’t start thinking for themselves and ignore whatever moronic trend of the month they’re being fed by the mainstream media, they will remain unknown and unheard.
Old Corpse Road have blown away everyone that has heard them. Old Corpse Road meld the musical influence of Sabbat and pre-Disney Cradle of Filth, but to that mix they add a strong emotional depth, such as one would hear on a classic Bathory album. Old Corpse Road are inspired by old English folk tales, lore and history. Hob Headless Rises tells the tale of a wicked spirit and would make an impressive subject for a film (those of us who care about such things will note the part Hob plays in Nigel Kneale’s classic Quatermass and the Pit). Musically beautiful introspective parts give way to raging metal. The Devil’s Footprints is a tale I have fond memories of hearing as a child, while The Witch of Wookey Hole is a tour-de-force, effortlessly encompassing more ideas in one song than most bands do over an entire album.
The Meads of Asphodel are next, and if you are not familiar with their unique and original take on British black punk metal, this is the ideal place to start. An impressive intro, The Embalming Of Gods leads into On The Surface, a Meads original, which is stirring stuff in this dire time of disposable downloads and even more disposable bands. The Meads have achieved a rare thing, their own distinct sound. The rest of the Meads tracks are largely covers of UK punk/crust bands, Metatron having told me quite rightly that he believes black metal is a collision between punk and metal, one that began with Venom. Highlights include an intense version of Doom’s Same Mind, pure D-beat fury and very true to the original. The Meads version of Hellbastard’s Nazis Killed is a radical reinterpretation indeed. This is followed by the Meads blasting through Skeptix’s War Drum. Again, their version of Conflict’s From Protest to Resistance is very true to the original. But the final track, is a delightfully eccentric reinterpretation of You Really Got Me by The Kinks. I eagerly await forthcoming full-length albums from both bands.
Metal Reviews – May 2010
Bringing together one of the best-known and one of the least-known members of the underground British Black Metal scene, this split will doubtlessly be snapped up by Meads fans but deserves an even overview for the quality of Old Corpse Road’s contribution, The Bones Of This Land Are Not Speechless. I don’t mind admitting that I’d never heard of them before now, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out in future; their three songs here total up half the running time, with none of their tracks dipping below the eight minute mark, and they use their time well. First track Hob Headless Rises makes it clear that their splitmates here have been a big influence, but you can also hear an audible nod to old Cradle Of Filth with tinkling piano and vocals that move between roars and snarls.
Emperor-esque build-ups and break-downs structure the track overall, tinny keyboards working well behind the near-monotonous drumming and more varied guitars, and it soon becomes clear that Old Corpse Road have the chops to prolong their songs to this extent, especially with the pagan acoustic interlude with clunky percussion that follows. Folk-tinged riffing and epic group vocals make it clear that the band have genre-crossing ambitions, and whether it’s the spoken vocals of The Devil’s Footprints, intense and old-school in its wonderful corralling of melodies in Black Metal form, or ominous and atmospheric storm that is The Witch Of Wookey Hole, Old Corpse Road come close to upstaging The Meads here. Certainly a band that I’ll be keeping an interested eye on, and I recommend that you do too.
As a forerunner to their long-expected fourth full-length, The Meads Of Asphodel are gifting their fans with their half of the split. It’s typical of them to use five out of seven of their tracks as cover versions, that cynical British sense of humour coming through as clear as ever, but it’s also typical that they don’t use this as an excuse for a drop in quality. The Embalming Of Gods, the intro to their half is an enjoyably sweary and miserable proclamation of intent, Metatron groaning about Mother Earth being on the ‘spitroast of our inhumanity’ before sarcastically uplifting keyboards transport you seamlessly into the seven-minute On The Surface. Massive chugging riffs and Eastern melodies soon have you back in the band’s typical territory, playing to their strengths as their catchy blast develops with a call-and-response extended chorus and galloping guitars.
I had previously thought that the band’s aggressively talented drummer Urakbaramel had departed, but his multi-limbed approach is easily detectable, and audibly as organic as ever. He’s put to the test on the aforementioned covers, four of which are from Crust/Punk bands and all of which kick maximum amounts of arse. Fans of the band’s trips to Discharge territory on the In The Name Of God… EP from 2006 will be immediately at home here, as tracks from Doom, Hellbastard, Conflict and Skeptix are tackled with relish. You can hear the band really enjoying themselves as they plough into the originals, Hellbastard’s Nazi especially turning out well with the keyboard-drenched sound and glorious solo, and Skeptix’ War Drum giving Urakbaramel a chance to shine. The split finishes with a ridiculously fun cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me, proving that the band were right to name their half English Black Punk Metal. Comparisons to Darkthrone are apt, but The Meads are far too entrenched in their own sound for this to hold up; think of them not changing their sound, but naming it, as they’ve been pretty Punk for years. Either way, this is yet another enjoyable release from the band, and expectations are higher than ever for their Jesus-based concept album due later in the year.
Killing Songs : Hob Headless Rises, The Devil’s Footprints, The Witch Of Wookey Hole & On The Surface, Nazi, War Drum, You Really Got Me
Aquarius Records – March 2010
MEADS OF ASPHODEL, THE / OLD CORPSE ROAD English Black Punk Metal / The Bones Of This Land Are Not Speechless (Godreah) cd 14.98
The return of our favorite crust punk obsessed black metal horde, Meads Of Asphodel. Not sure if they’ve always been so into eighties punk, but over the last few records, the band have seen fit to mix it up, sprinkling classic covers amidst their epic pagan black metal jams, seems like a weird mix, but somehow, in the twisted sonic world these guys inhabit, it sort of works.
Two new tracks, a creepy, medieval intro, buzzy synths, rumbling drones, a growled distorted proclamation, some weirdly cheesy piano, tinkling chimes, sirens, a serious dose of whatthefuck, which gives way to 7 minutes of totally majestic, and classic sounding pagan blackness. NWOBHM inspired guitar harmonies, wrapped around pounding drums, chugging black riffs, the arrangements convoluted and complex, peppered with soaring synths, creepy processed vokills, some haunting interludes, with more of that creepy spoken word, and then right back into the tangled epic thrashing. And then it’s on to the covers, some of which make perfect sense, some of which don’t at all, which only makes them that much cooler. Doom, Hellbastard and Conflict, the Meads versions of which are appropriately raw and pounding and thrashing, the Hellbastard track has some strange piano melodies draped over chugging guitars and monklike chants, the Conflict cover is weirdly produced, turning the metallic crust punk into something almost cabaret sounding. We had never heard Skeptix before, but the Meads version is awesome, fierce and fast and melodic and heavy as fuck, definitely gonna have to track down the original. Then there’s the last cover, going waaaaay back to the roots of heavy metal, The Kinks’ “You Really Got me”, which the Meads tweak, making the main riff minor key, so it definitely sounds black metal, the vocals over the top and WAY goofy, at first it seems so silly, but as the track plays on it makes some sort of twisted sense, and definitely suits the Meads’ fucked up sound.
The Meads share this disc with countrymen Old Corpse Road, a sort of naturalistic folk flecked black metal band, but barring the intro of the first song, there’s nary any folk to be found, the band spitting out epic, almost orchestral sounding blackness, not that far removed from Cradle Of Filth, with keyboards WAY up in the mix, wild shrieking vox, even some creepy plonking piano melodies, and that’s when the folk comes in, the band breaks down into a sort of jig, launching into a jam that wouldn’t be out of place on a Finntroll record, complete with group sing along, incredibly catchy, and the more we listen to this, the more we find ourselves digging these guys. Three looooong tracks, super dramatic, over the top, keyboards all over the place, wild vocals that slip from deep croon to hysterical shriek, a tangled almost circusy bit of blackened chaos that is totally kicking our asses. Which means WAY recommended, for both Meads AND Old Corpse Road, and we definitely need to hear more OCR…