This week I’m dedicating Hatred Of Music to the labels who have made a big impact on my year. First up is Canadian metal label extraordinaire, Profound Lore.
At this point in time, it’s unlikely anyone will attempt to contradict you if you say that Profound Lore are the most important metal label in the world. Incredibly, the label is a one-man operation, with Chris Bruni operating somewhere a couple of hours west of Toronto and somehow managing to keep things going all by himself. With nigh-on 100 releases in the label’s eight year existence, the Canadian powerhouse has brought into the world work from the likes of Xasthur, Leviathan, Altar Of Plagues, Krallice, Isis, Agalloch and Ludicra. Year on year, their output has become more and more vital and 2012 saw a host of important records get the PFL stamp of approval.
Pallbearer’s epic debut album Sorrow & Extinction was perhaps the flagship release, a strangely uplifting and passionate exploration of classic melancholic doom. Grand in scope and flawless in execution, the five tracks here feature epic drums, ultra-crisp guitar work (both electric and acoustic) and a spine-tingling, blood-curdling vocal performance from Brett Campbell. The whole thing reeks of Sabbath in the best way but also brings in the glorious transcendence of a more clear-headed 70s psychedelia and even OM in places. It’s the strange contrast between the traditionally downer tempos and the uplifting soar of the vocals that makes this such a great record as the friction between these two apparently conflicting forces keeps you coming back for more. Also the winner of the official Totally Dublin “Best Album To Walk Around In The Rain At Night” award for 2012.
Beyond Pallbearer lies a wealth of intensely brilliant and individual metal. Each record is a fresh take on the worlds of doom and black metal, with people like Bosse-De-Nage coming along and blowing even those descriptors out of the water. Their newest album, iii, is something akin to post-hardcore, channelling Slint or Converge as much as Isis. It is another epic, this time narrated by spoken word passages and harsh screaming. Opener ‘The Arborist’ shows the punk influences at work alongside and within the more metal sounds, with verses rolling along with blackened guitar riffs before a spacious breakdown allows those Spiderland vocals in. There’s a lot going on here, it’s the opposite of ‘purist’ and a very refreshing listen.
Dawnbringer’s Into The Lair Of The Sun God is another slab of classic metal, like Sorrow & Extinction but less melancholic. Instead, this is full-on fun riffing and epic vocal harmonies. Clean, bright and body-rockin’, this kind of metal is just never going to go out of style. It only highlights Profound Lore’s commitment to diversity then when you consider that Menace Ruine’s Alight In Ashes is pretty much the opposite.
Taking arpeggiated synth lines and blowing them out of all proportion, Geneviève Beaulieu’s vocals then float strangely through the dense haze, picking melody out of nowhere. Percussion is minimal, with industrial, military beats happening deep underneath the music, pulsing along subconsciously rather than leading the way.
Jessica Way and Lorranie Rath’s Worm Ouroborous make a folk-influenced doom that is all about atmosphere and subtle melody. Way’s vocals are generally soft and detailed but never over-done, never too ornate for their own good. Much of Come The Thaw is barely metal in the traditional sense, feeling altogether warmer and softer than much of the label’s other output, but it retains an atmosphere that will be familiar to any fan of doom, even if it is played out very differently.
Bless Them That Curse You, the collaborative album between Locrian and Mammifer is similar to Come The Thaw in its subtlety and restraint though it is much heavier in execution. The mood is more blackened around the edges, with heavily distorted guitars and rotten ambience forming a crucial part of the album’s calculated assault on the senses. Never ones to play it straight, both bands twist the forms of black metal into something even more drawn out and intense, using quietude and creeping dread to immaculate effect. As much in tune with noise and ambient music as metal, this is two of the metal world’s most intrepid experimental groups pushing themselves to somewhere completely uncharted.
Ash Borer’s take on black metal may well see them come to be one of the most important names in the scene over the coming years. This year’s album, Cold Of Ages, is a good place to start with their intense, angry, passionate work. Fans of Wolves In The Throne Room will find a lot to like here as the California five-piece aim for spiritual relief through pummelling, hypnotic rhythm.
Last but not least, is the Bell Witch and their debut album of prolonged, blackened doom. This is some sad shit. It’s as isolated, lonely and depressed as it comes. It screams with the rage of separation, from humanity, from the earth, from the soul. Appearing late in the year, Longing is a perfect soundtrack for endless winter nights.
That’s a long list of fantastic albums that came out this year on Profound Lore. None of them sound like each other, or really like anything else, and that’s what makes PFL such a vital source of metal in 2012. As a catologue of one man’s impeccable taste and seemingly unquenchable thirst for new and progressive (but never prog!) metal, PFL is an inspiration and a pillar of the contemporary metal scene.