New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Creepy, Anthemic, Relevant Metal From Semblant

Murder of Crows, the first track on Brazilian band Semblant’s new album Obscura explodes out of a creepy minor-key intro from keyboardist J. Augusto. Drummer Thor Sikora gets his twin kick pedals going behind the big crescendoing chorus, with layers and layers of digital reverb on the guitars – that’s Sol Perez and Juliano Ribeiro getting into a tantalizingly brief, machinegunning duel. These guys want you to listen to the rest of the record, whether at their youtube channel or elsewhere.

The persistent dichotomy here is between soaring frontwoman Mizuho Lin and Sergio Mazul’s guttural death-metal roar. The songcraft is catchy and anthemic, usually based on upward waves from verse to chorus, as in the rapidfire intensity of Left Behind, a relentless minor-key punk-metal number.

Dethrone the Gods, Control the Masters, Legacy of Blood is much the same: somebody sends a scream into the stratosphere and signals a guitar solo over the classical synth and ominously ascending firestorm. “The number of unconfirmed deaths is unknown…the government declares a state of emergency.” Sound familiar?

Techy, blippy synth introduces the venomous guitars and gritty bass of Mere Shadow, set in an in an increasingly familiar dystopia where “The walls are closed down, separating me from the emptiness unfolding,” as Lin wails.

Likewise, the band explode into the chorus of Porcelain, an ominously lingering anthem in 6/8 time. They shift up the rhythm for The Hunter, the Hunger, angel versus devil, then pick up the pace with Wasteland its menacing, allusively Middle Eastern guitar break. They hit Barely Breathing just as hard, although it could have been a new wave-era hit if you switched out the guitar roar for a synth and left the vocals to Lin.  Remember Ninth House’s crushing cover of Real Life’s Send Me an Angel?

The demon/angel tension reaches a peak in the murderously crescendoing, rapidfire Wallachia. A tortured blues intro foreshadows the album’s best and most dynamic, classically-influenced anthem, Daydream Tragedy, Lin’s avenger vocals finally taking over for good. The album peaks out at the end with Insomnia, a grimly strutting chromatic assault: it looks like the bad guys win this time. 

Magical, Otherworldly Korean Improvisation From Baum Sae

Some of the world’s most fascinating and strange music has been coming out of Korea lately. Upstart record label Mung Music are fixated on bringing some of these amazing sounds to a broader audience, not only digitally but also on limited edition cassette and 10” vinyl with original artwork. Perhaps the most individualistic and fascinating of the initial crop of releases is the new ep, Embrace, by Baum Sae (Korean for “Night Birds”), streaming at Bandcamp. Imagine Morphine at their most stark and surreal, with a woman out front singing in Korean: and that’s only a small part of the picture.

The offbeat cicada-like exchanges between pansori singer Borim Kim and geomungo bass lute player Gina Hwang in the first song, 여름 (Summer) reflect the lyric’s pastoral melancholy. The melody strongly evokes Moroccan gnawa music, at least until Kim goes up the scale toward melismatic drama.

The second number, 화 (Anger) is a duet between Kim and drummer Soojin Suh. It’s shorter but much more dramatic and closer to traditional pansori, recounting the execution of a brave individual who dared secondguess a bellicose Chinese emperor. The final cut, 가느다란 선 (Thin Line) slowly and spaciously rises from Suh’s temple bells and Hwang’s suspenseful geomungo, through rather brooding variations on a traditional work song from the Jeju Islands. For all its shadowy ambience, those basslines are catchy!

You will be hearing more here about several other artists on the label in the near future.