These days, PR companies feel the need to come up with unique classifications and genres for the bands they are repping. I’ve lost count of the number of “new” genres we’ve had to add to our tag system this year. Great example: this new release from Angela Martyr, with a label prominently affixed to the cover declaring the music as “grungy, mechanical, pessimistic metalgaze.” Okay. Why don’t they just say, “Sounds like Nine Inch Nails?” They then proceed to name the bands Angela Martyr do sound like: Godflesh, Slowdive, Katatonia, Alice in Chains. Okay PR guys, your ploy worked and I am officially intrigued. Don’t let November Harvest disappoint me; I’ve suffered a lot so far this month!
First, an introduction. Angela Martyr is the brainchild of Italian Morgan Bellini. Previously, Bellini had formed a one-man band called Vanessa Van Basten (I’d like to know his thought process behind these band names), which evolved into a trio and released a number of EPs and LPs with a decidedly doom/post-rock/shoegaze bent. For reasons unknown, Bellini ended that project last year and formed Angela Martyr. Seems like just a name change to me, and details are sketchy so I haven’t been able to figure out if Bellini is solo again, or if he’s had help on this album. November Harvest is his first release under this moniker, seemingly a month late based on the title but here nonetheless.
November Harvest is nine songs long, each ranging in length from 1 to 14 minutes. Discordant riffing starts things off on “Deviant,” and when the rest of the instruments join in three things are obvious: first, the sound is big and thick, with a ton of rich bottom end. Second, Bellini favors cheesy 80s drum machine sounds. If you listen only to the drums they sound ridiculous, but the samples actually work with the rest of the instrumentation. And last but not least, the sneering vocals remind me of nothing if not Voivod’s Denis Bélanger. If Snake decided to form a one-man industrial-tinged doom band, this is exactly what it would sound like, and that’s a good thing. “Deviant” also displays what the rest of November Harvest does, and that is a knack for holding our attention with interesting arrangements. The song lurches to a halt in the middle before churning out more washes of thick doom.
Catchy songs continue throughout. “Deathwish” bursts through the speakers, massive and majestic, with killer guitar tones. Feature song “Serpent” kicks off with an odd vocal sample, grinds forward ponderously for a few minutes before calming strings grace us in the middle, and then degenerates into a wash of feedback and static. One-minute “Imprinting” is a quiet acoustic number bathed in more static and leads into the epic title track, where six minutes of doom precedes a serene orchestral movement before the band bursts forth with mid-paced riffing for the final few minutes of the album. Even the weaker songs (“Carsleeper,” “Georgina”) hold our attention. Sure this is a DR6 recording but it doesn’t matter. Crushed drum machines and molasses-thick guitars don’t need more room to breathe, and the mix perfectly suits the songs, with Bellini’s Snake-ish vocals atop the music just the right amount.
What it all adds up to is a quirky, intriguing, doomy album that for the most part lives up to the label on the cover. Pessimistic lyrics grace industrial metalgaze instrumentation that, when taken individually, doesn’t work, but when listened to as a whole, it meshes remarkably well. November Harvest won’t land on many year-end lists — I say many because I did see it on one — but for a late December release it’s surprisingly solid and definitely worth checking out.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Avantgarde Music
Websites: avantgardemusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-november-harvest | facebook.com/Angela-Martyr
Releases Worldwide: December 19th, 2016