In October 2021, we went on a little 6-date tour with our brothers in post metal arms and practice-room-room-mates, Gozer. We documented the whole thing and Chris put together a little tour diary of the whole thing, day by day, which you can find in the playlist on our YouTube channel below!
After months of talking about it, we’re finally launching our YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe to us there to see rig rundowns, interviews, song playthroughs and more from us.
Ellipsism has now been out for a week and the response has been phenomenal. Thank you all for listening and buying it – we really appreciate your support. You can pick it up from https://cvltofbaal.bandcamp.com/album/ellipsism, or get it on any of your usual streaming/purchasing services.
Now that it is out in the world and available to your ears, we thought we’d take a more detailed look at each track and share some insights into the writing process. In Ba’al, each band member has full creative control over their own instrumental or vocal parts and we all have input into the writing of every song, but here we outline the genesis of some of the riff ideas and some of the challenges we faced in writing them.
This is the oldest song on the album; we actually started writing it with a very different lineup back in 2018, after the release of ‘Thy Sorrow’. We finalised it when Joe first joined the band, and we’ve been playing it live at almost every show since he started performing with us in the middle of that year.
The writing of this song was a real collaboration between Tom, Nick and Richard’s riffs. The opening black metal riff (which comes back later) is one that Tom had had kicking around for years before he joined Ba’al. The drone section and clean riff in the odd time signature was penned by Nick. The big groove riff was Richard’s. Of course we all layered our own parts of the top of each, and we fleshed out the riffs in between those three main ones all together in the room. It’s also the first song that Joe wrote lyrics for in Ba’al, and it’s metaphors about life after the death of a mad monarch are something we all relate to in one way or another.
An Orchestra of Flies
This track was an example of a song being brought to the practice room largely fully formed already, in this case by Richard who had all the main riffs and the general structure planned out at home. The exception to that is the big drum fill/bass slide and the little chordy bit right before them, which was an idea that came from Tom in the room. The drawn-out ending was originally conceived just as a slow, simple Amenra-like dirge, but the lead part that Tom layered on top adds a level of melody that we didn’t originally think could fit there.
On this one we get both doomier than we have been in some time and also play the fastest blast riff we’ve come up with to date – thanks in no small part to our insanely proficient drummer Luke, who joined the band as we were writing this track.
Joe’s lyrics here deal largely with suicidal thoughts and ideation.
XIV – I – MMXIX
The three interlude tracks on the album were known simply as “Richard’s interlude”, “Nick’s interlude” and “Tom’s interlude” up until after the recording was finished, when Joe devised the titles – this is Richard’s. The central, reverby bass motif was something Richard came up with whilst pissing about in between jams in an old practice room several years ago. He held onto it until it felt like it fitted somewhere, and realised that it could be shifted to match the key and intro of Jouska. The tremolo viola was an idea thrown out at random in the studio, and Nick’s reverse-delayed guitar parts were also pretty much devised by Nick and Richard on the spot.
The genesis of this one also came from Richard, who had written what we called ‘the Deftones riff’ back in about 2017; this became the ‘chorus’ riff for Jouska, if you can really call it that. It’s one of the most consistently melodic tracks on the album, with lots of interweaving harmonies amongst the guitar lines and plenty of post-rock/shoegaze vibes. That said, we tried to balance it out with some proper dirgy slow parts and a chunky riff in the middle.
Though the first two-thirds of the riffs came from Richard, he never had an ending in mind, so Nick stepped in and brought things to a conclusion with the last few riffs, which range from polyrhythmic head-nodders through tight chugging rhythms and out into a final emotive chord structure. We reshuffled all the sections quite a lot of times in the room before we finalised this one. This track also has some of the most shining examples of Tom penning both really textural guitar lines and also soaring leads which flesh out all the different sections.
The word ‘Jouska’ refers to hypothetical conversations that you play out in your own head of situations that have not happened. We debuted this track live at our one gig this year, in January supporting Wren.
III – II – MMIIII
This was “Nick’s interlude”, as the desolate central guitar line was all his. The idea of really distorted, distant drums also came from Nick very early on, and we worked with Joe Clayton in the studio to find just the right combination of effects. Again the viola was Richard semi-improvising on the fly in the studio, and ended up being more of a prominent feature than we had anticipated.
Tarred and Feathered
This was by far the hardest songwriting process we’ve had to date – we were very thankful that it ended up staying as comparatively short as it did. Nick had the long black metal section and the slower beatdown riff floating around the practice room for some time, and we tried many times to bolt various different ideas and riffs to them to make them into a full song and also make them fit together. We really struggled to find a tempo, too, with each one we tried working well for one riff and not another, and we also kept switching between having the track be in 6/8 time and 4/4 time. Several times we considered either scrapping the song entirely or splitting up the ideas into more than one track.
After lots of work with other ideas, Tom wrote the opening riff which really helped things. Then, in the end, we decided we’d attempt a full tempo change mid song, which we’ve never done in quite such a drastic way as this. It felt like the only way we could play all the riffs we wanted to at the speed they felt right at, and amazingly we think we pulled it off. Once we’d made that decision, we were able to fill in some gaps by teasing the slow riffs in the fast part and vice-versa. We finalised the arrangement only about 2 weeks before we entered the studio, with Tom and Nick adding and subtracting sections every week, much to the annoyance of Joe who had to keep changing his lyrics to fit.
We had a lot of fun making the end of this one as nasty as possible, with the bizarre counts between notes becoming a fun little maths puzzle we all had trouble remembering. There’s also an egg shaker in the mix somewhere around the middle of the track – listen out.
Father, the Sea, the Moon
This is another one we’ve played live a fair few times since probably early 2019. The genesis of this one came from Tom, who also came up with the title and general concept of lyrics about childhood memories and their links to specific important places in your life.
The very textural intro passage of Tom’s contrasts nicely with his lumbering, opening riff, which suddenly drops away to virtually nothing – this is another challenge we’ve never really taken on thus far. The myriad guitar harmonies that layer over this early slow riff were partially made up on the day in the studio.
The song progresses through more of Tom’s slow but chord-heavy riffs, through a black metal passage written in tandem with Nick, and finally into a typically post rockl build-up, whose chords were written by Nick with Tom floating his own leads over the top.
X – I – MCMXCII
This was devised as “Tom’s interlude”, as his purely ambient piece was not necessarily going to have vocals originally. All the music here comes from Tom’s guitar run through myriad effects pedals; of course there are plenty of delays and reverbs, but there’s also some magic going on via a bass synthesiser pedal and also the truly insane Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine (it’s also on various other songs on the album, believe it or not). There’s only a couple of different guitar tracks layered here to create this sparse but enveloping ambience.
The spoken word piece was written by Joe and done in a single emotional take late one night in the studio. He decided to give it a go pretty much on the fly, and it ended up bringing something really special to the track.
Nick’s long, slow introductory riff here is obviously something of a departure for us, but we’d been wanting to do something super sparse like this for a very long time. Working out just how much drums, bass, viola and extra guitar layers to put in here to add to the atmosphere without taking away from the sparse feel was a challenge we grappled with in the practice room for a long time. Funnily enough, the idea to introduce a distant distorted guitar track (which comes in at the same time as the snare drum) came from an early demo where Nick pressed his distortion pedal by mistake and quite liked it.
The transition from this passage into the first ‘big riff’ was one we deliberated over for a long time, auditioning lots of different ideas before we settled on this Alcest-y one as a way to move from one vibe to a very different one. That big, elephantine riff itself was one of Tom’s that we’d been gagging to fit in somewhere for months, so it was great to finally give it a home.
The very drawn out, emotive chord sequence that comprises most of the second half was also Nick’s, but all of us spent a long time working out which layers of which instruments to add, take away or change to make it the right length and also with just the right amount of variation. Similarly, when Richard wrote the viola parts in the studio, it was a fine line to tread between SubRosa and Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s so many layers going on in this section that it could easily have fallen apart – hopefully we got it right in the end.
The very dramatic end of the track was a fairly last minute additional riff from Tom, giving Joe the time to tie things up with a few final lyrics summarising the incredibly personally emotive lyrics of love and loss.
Next up, we take a look at our guitarist Nick’s playing and writing influences, in the lead up to the release of Ellipsism on the 30th October.
You’ll find a Spotify playlist at the end which now contains tracks from Richard, Luke and Nick.
Deafheaven – Worthless Animal
Alcest – Ecailles de Lune, Pt. 2
Mew – Comforting Sounds
Mew – Snow Brigade
Pallbearer – Foundations
Bossk – The Reverie II
The Elijah – I Loved
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
Conjurer – The Mire
Letlive – Muther
Falls of Rauros – White Granite
It’s interesting to consider how varied this band’s influences are, and especially how a lot of that reflects the age gap. Around the time we first started Ba’al, I was 19, at university, and looking to start a melodic post-hardcore band. I listened to a very wide range of genres and styles casually, but in terms of what I wanted to do creatively, I was mostly interested in bands like Architects, Letlive, Gallows, and The Elijah. I’ve actually found that a lot of these types of bands actually crossed over into what Ba’al are doing today.
As far as doom went I was into plenty of the bigger names like My Dying Bride and Candlemass but joining Ba’al really prompted me to dig a lot further down into that quagmire of dank misery. Before long I discovered Bossk, and lo my love affair with post-metal did begin. As the youngest member by several years, at first I felt somewhat out of my depth. Hearing bands I’d never heard of getting name dropped frequently was a little intimidating at first but also provided such a wealth of new stuff I wanted to listen to and take inspiration from. We’re also a band that massively supports having varied ideas and not rejecting something because it’s not typical of the genre, which is nice because it allows us to pull all our respective tastes into the creative process.
My first track is ‘Foundations’ by Pallbearer which, in my opinion, comes from one of the best doom albums this decade. I love harmonies, no matter how obvious or predictable a second guitar line playing a harmony of the first is, I just think it pretty much always sounds amazing. Pallbearer do massive, melodic doom with killer dual guitar parts so brilliantly that I often find myself writing second-rate knock offs of their riffs without even realising it. One of them sneaked into Ellipsism.
I first discovered Mew many years ago, my dad had a copy of Frengers and I just remember being blown away by the crazy mix of sounds and oddball musicality. Bo Madsen undoubtedly one of the most under appreciated guitarists around. Everything he contributed to the band was so inventive in his technique, musicality and the kaleidoscope of sounds he created. I constantly strive to approach songwriting in the same way this band does. They’re wonderfully off the wall and constantly catch you off guard. Their influence on me probably isn’t obvious just from listening to Ba’al because we’re musically extremely different, it’s more the approach to writing that influences me. Although it’s probably the most straightforward track on the album, I consider ‘Comforting Sounds’ to be one of the finest songs ever written. As far as melancholy tracks that start quiet and build into a huge crescendo go, this is just a perfect example of how to do it. I’ve also included Snow Brigade as it’s a zany little masterpiece of a track. It probably illustrates my aforementioned points a little better.
As I mentioned previously, few bands have had as much impact on me as Bossk. They were my gateway to such a broad array of artists and I suppose every time I’ve written anything for Ba’al, I’ve subconsciously thought “what would Bossk do here?”. For me, they are a benchmark of what post-metal can be, in particular Audio Noir which was such a revelation for me when I first heard it. The track ‘Atom Smasher’ carries so much energy, I wish I could write something as groovy as that.
Perhaps the most obvious and immediate influence you’ll hear on the album is Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper. The whole album is amazing but the haunting clean introduction is so compelling that I wanted to try something similar. This gave me a starting point for our song ‘Rosalia’, which evolved a lot, but I think you’ll hear the influence there.
Deafheaven are such a vital band that it’s almost impossible to find a band like us that doesn’t take at least some influence from them. I think they’re actually one of the closest bands to a middle ground between black metal and the more emo post-hardcore bands I mentioned earlier. Pretty much every blasty riff I come up with comes from Deafheaven. The same goes for Alcest who were the first blackgaze band I ever heard (it’s always one or the other isn’t it). As much as I like nasty, evil sounding BM, I’m always striving to come up with more plaintive and melancholy parts like what these two bands have mastered over the years.
As already covered by Richard, Conjurer are one of the most relevant underground bands around at the moment. We have a white board which we use to help structure songs and generally each riff or section is named after whatever band it sounds the most similar to. It says Conjurer several times on there. There’s lots of interesting nuances to their music that often slip into Ba’al tracks without us even realising. But often it’s completely intended.
I actually want to mention Letlive and The Elijah as they potentially carry the most impact out of all the bands I listened to as a teenager. They might not necessarily come through in our music in an immediate sense but I think these kinds of band informed a lot of the music I listen to today and what I generally gravitate towards more. They’re both exceptionally emotive bands which is one of the main aspects I’m continually drawn to in atmospheric black metal, doom, post-metal etc.
My final pick, after a lot of deliberation and cutting down, is ‘White Granite’ by Falls of Rauros which is just a mesmerising, illustrative journey of a track. It’s another case of being a 10+ minute that you can get completely lost in, as I have done countless times. This extended, flexible structure lends itself to this style of music so well. The ebb and flow of energy gives the experience of an expertly crafted story that is truly gripping. One of the best post-metal albums from one of the best post-metal bands around.
Continuing the lead up to the release of Ellipsism on the 30th October, today we turn to our drummer Luke, who looks back over his biggest drumming inspirations and how they ultimately led to what he played on the album.
You’ll find a Spotify playlist at the end, now with Richard and Luke’s tracks within, and more to come in future posts.
Green Day – American Idiot
Avenged Sevenfold – Sidewinder
Slipknot – All Hope Is Gone
Lamb of God – Ruin
VOLA – Ruby Pool
Periphery – The Way the News Goes
Meshuggah – Behind the Sun
My drumming was initially influenced by the rock bands that I came across from the TV music channels. The first song which really caught my imagination was Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, which was only enhanced by their live album Bullet in a Bible. The drums were fast and energetic and Tre Cool looked like he was having so much fun. I just wanted to be like him.
My second main influence was from Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil album, with Sidewinder being my favourite track from it. I considered this as my first intro to progressive metal, as it was a 7 minute song with a structure unlike anything I’d heard before and incredible drum parts.
Slipknot and Joey Jordison then introduced me through All Hope is Gone to ridiculous spinning drum risers, blast beats, and insanely fast drumming as you can hear me trying to imitate (to a lesser extent) early in our song ‘An Orchestra of Flies’.
Getting into Lamb of God and Chris Adler, songs such as ‘Ruin’ really showed incredible technical ability while driving the music, and enhancing the other parts which our song ‘Jouska’ particularly took advantage of.
More recently I’m influenced by bands such as VOLA, with songs like ‘Ruby Pool’ where the drums are more minimal, bringing space into the music and adding tasteful flourishes. This style of drumming isn’t so dominant in Ellipsism, but there are certainly some parts to listen out for.
Periphery, as one of my favourite bands, with songs like ‘The Way the News Goes’ has influenced my groove substantially, using syncopation and polyrhythm to add flavour like what’s found in the second part of our song ‘Long Live’, and various other parts throughout the album.
Meshuggah have been a big influence for the heavier, darker elements of my playing, with songs like ‘Behind the Sun’ influencing the end of our song ‘Tarred and Feathered’.
Generally though, my drumming is influenced by all sorts of external and internal forces, and while the specific mentions above have had a definite impact on me, there are countless other bands & drummers ranging through metal, jazz, funk, rock, & pop that I’ve heard and they’ve all played important roles. But when writing specifically for a band, I’d say the most important influence (for me at least) is listening to what the rest of the band is doing and creating parts which compliment that. This is only made easier by listening to as much music as possible to build a musical vocabulary which can be drawn from and expanded on.
As we approach the release of our debut album Ellipsism on the 30th October, we decided to think back to it’s writing process. Over the next few blog posts, we’ll be sharing some of the influences that we were inspired by individually whilst piecing together these songs, building up a Spotify playlist of them as we go.
Today, we start with our bass and viola player, Richard’s picks. You’ll find the playlist at the end.
Bast – Denizens
Deftones – Prince
Primitive Man – Inevitable
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Unendlich
Steak Number Eight – Slumber
Archelon – Hollow Gloom
Amenra – .The Pain. It Is Shapeless. We Are Your Shapeless Pain.
Conjurer – Choke
A-Sun Amissa – Remembrancer
SubRosa – Killing Rapture
My influences, like my daily music listening are generally pretty varied, but when it comes to thinking about specific things that impacted my writing and playing on Ellipsism, it’s impossible to get away from the big riff masters. I’d like to think that my equal loves of electronic, ambient, hip-hop and classical music might come through in more subtle ways, whilst this bunch of heavies might be a bit more obvious.
Bast are a band who blend a similar set of genres to us – post metal, black metal, sludge – and do it nearly perfectly in my eyes. In that sense they are a general influence, but this song in particular had a role to play in our track ‘An Orchestra of Flies’, the basic riffs on which were largely mine. In particular, Bast’s crushing slow riff later giving way to more atmospheric territories is something I think works really well.
The melodic ‘chorus’ riff on ‘Jouska’ (the other song I would say I had the most individual input into) is one that I came up with in the very earliest days of Ba’al and has been kicking around as ‘the Deftones riff’ ever since, so it was great to finally put it to use. This Deftones track is a good example of how they cross over with our heavy territories, with the low-tuned large riffery mixed with the chord-heavy emotional parts.
There’s rarely a moment where I’m not trying to make Ba’al sound more like Primitive Man. This track is one of many showing their technique of having disgusting, tremolo-picked guitar lines sat atop super slow-motion filthy drums and bass, which is something else I employed in ‘An Orchestra of Flies’.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit have, in the past year or so, become one of my all-time favourite black metal bands. Their super-tight, clean and precise aggression mixed with a powerful atmosphere is something I always have in mind for our blastier moments, but their song ‘Unendlich’ also shows some great movements in the bassline which change the feel of the guitar chords above them, which is something I’m always trying to do with my bass playing.
Steak Number Eight are a rare band who combine huge Cult of Luna-esque post metal textures with groovy, melodic riffs, without losing the power of either. That’s a big inspiration in general, but the opening riff on this song of theirs typifies the catchy, hooky yet still heavy riff style I was aiming for with the groove in the middle and end of our song ‘Long Live’. Similarly, our close friends Archelon’s debut album (also recorded at No Studio where we recorded Ellipsism) is full of brilliant riffs and shifts in texture, and this song of theirs again inspired some of the changes in feel from open and washy to choppy and rhythmic that I aimed for in ‘An Orchestra of Flies’.
Amenra are – and always have been – a very obvious influence on us as a band in general and this is one of my all-time favourites from them. The unending sledgehammer to the face that is the second half of that song is the feeling I was trying to go for at the end of ‘An Orchestra of Flies’. I wanted to be just as unafraid as they are to let a note ring out during a crushing moment.
Nick and I both love Conjurer, so again they are a general riff influence, though the absolutely frenetic pace at which they unleash a tight blastbeat when they want to inspired me to write what is definitely our fastest blast riff to date on ‘An Orchestra of Flies’. There’s also a cheeky nod to them in a little gap of silence in ‘Tarred & Feathered’.
SubRosa and our friends A-Sun Amissa fit together in this list for me, as they have a lot to do with the vibes I was aiming for with my viola playing on this album, albeit to opposite extremes. A-SA’s experimental dark ambient tones (here featuring Jo Quail on cello too) create a layered atmosphere which really inspires me when I’m planning out viola harmonies on our soft tracks. The twin violins in SubRosa, on the other hand, go all out with two separate and powerful melodies, panned to the left and to the right, during big, heavy riffing from the guitars. This gives rise to exactly the grand feeling I wanted to create with my gratuitous viola layers during the climax of our closing track ‘Rosalia’.
There’s plenty more I could talk about here, including the likes of Obscure Sphinx, Isis, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Earth, Gilmore Trail and Carbonscape. Needless to say, a lot of thought went into this album, not to mention a lifetime of listening as unintentional homework leading up to this point.
One more monthly playlist before the year is out, showing you what all five of us have been listening to. Then we’ve got something else to come on here before the year is out – it might not surprise you…
Nick – Guitar
TLC – No Scrubs
This one gets rotated a lot at work so naturally it’s perpetually one of the most listened to songs in my day to day. Interestingly the synth line during the chorus is remarkably similar to a piece of incidental music from the 2002 video game, Nightfire, which holds a great deal of nostalgic value. ‘No Scrubs’ is a great song anyway but perhaps the repeated reminder of an enjoyable period in my life enhances my appreciation of it.
Cranial – Faint Voice
I’ve made a point about having an unexplainable knack for discovering German sludge bands that have already split up before. Thankfully these haven’t split up so I should be able to enjoy more releases by this great band in the future, barring a heart-breaking sting in the tail.
A.A. Williams – Control
I wrote A.A. Williams off a while ago having only heard one song which I didn’t like. Now however, I can’t get enough of her and feel liberated for it. Shame it’s technically an EP and not an album so it can’t make it onto my albums of the year list on a fucking technicality. Life is shit.
Slow Crush – Ease
Another EP that unfortunately cannot be included on my album of the year list. Had it been an album and not an EP, it would surely be on there. Sadly, life is a crock of oppressive shite.
Full of Hell – Armory of Obsidian Glass
Really sucky what happened to Full of Hell, seems like they’ve received more than enough donations to get up and running again and a nice gesture to donate the rest to charity. Also their new album absolutely SLAPS.
Tom – Guitar
Slowdive – Sugar for the Pill
Just a simple beautiful song, and the guitar sounds are really nice.
My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow
The opening track of Loveless is a classic blend of chaotic noise and pop sentiments.
The Clash – I Fought the Law
Always loved The Clash and this keeps coming on the radio and gets played a lot at home as well.
Pink Floyd – High Hopes
Best track off The Division Bell and the slide guitar at the end is beautiful.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Galleon Ship
One of the standouts from the new record. Minimal and mournful yet achingly beautiful.
Joe – Vocals
Winterfylleth – The Ruin
A band that clearly love Drudkh as much as I do. Brilliant melancholy riffs, true atmosphere.
Deadwood Lake – Into The Unknown
A band formed as a tribute to frontman Bruce Powell’s late brother. The lyrics to this track leave a lump in my throat.
Germ – Under Crimson Skies
Entrancing atmospheric black metal from Australia; a fine tapestry of dreamlike dissonance and wails.
Azaghal – In Deathlike Silence
Criminally underrated black metal, true darkness.
Dying Fetus – Vengeance Unleashed
Sometimes you just want something pummeling. This is good pummeling….. pummeling.
Richard – Bass
White Ward – Stillborn Knowledge
An absolute gem of a band I’ve discovered recently who marry gorgeous post-black metal with electronic and jazz elements, including some saucy sax playing. It all works perfectly; this first album has been called ‘black metal Perdition City‘, and I can’t argue with that. Can’t wait to air their new one.
Zhrine – Empire
Another great recent black metal find for me. Zhrine take the overwhelming avant-garde sonic assault of bands like Deathspell Omega and make it more palatable by slightly dialling down the insanity and increasing the overall heaviness. Wallop.
Blanck Mass – Dead Format
I’ve been mad into both Blanck Mass and Fuck Buttons this year, and went to see him recently – bangers aplenty. It may be an obvious choice, but this track really stood out on the night. My thoughts on his new album are changing on a daily basis, so we’ll ignore that one for now…
Kontinuum – Breathe
Solstafir meets The Cure meets prog. What is about Iceland that makes artists sound so unique? This album, Kyrr, is so unassuming but so well done that I can’t stop listening to it.
Dizraeli – Oi Oi
There’s very little chance the new Dizraeli won’t be in my top albums of 2019. There’s no one else in UK hip-hop (if you can really even call him that anyway) like him, and his last few releases, this included, have shown him to be a continually unique, inventive and vital voice.
James – Drums
Gojira – Low Lands
Gojira is a typical band for me to listen to. Lately though it’s been this track that has me gripped. Not as heavy as some of my favourite tracks of theirs, but loving the haunting melodies and polyrhythms. Their drummer has been a favourite of mine for a while now.
Devin Townsend – Singularity
Dev’s latest album Empath has caused quite a split among my friends. Personally I love it, and this has to be the biggest journey on the album I reckon; crossing more avenues of music than any track I’ve ever heard. Brutal in parts and delightfully silly in others.
Deftones – Digital Bath
One of my favourite tracks of theirs. Between the juxtaposition of Chinos soulful voice and the almost playful drumming, it sets a contrast I often still look for in bands.
Amon Tobin – Freeformed
I’ve been following Amon Tobin for the last few decades. When I’m not listening to metal, this is often the first track I’ll put on to wind down. Like most of his work it’s both interesting and weird…
Gunship – Tech Noir
These are just a nostalgia trip for me to my childhood in the 80s. The last month has seen this track played the most. It reminds me a lot of film scores from many 80’s classic neon-baked sci-fi’s and distant future type films that were common when I was growing up.
Just to balance out Tom’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things gear-related, now it’s our resident tall man’s turn to talk about his string baby, despite openly acknowledging that gear is not his forte…
When I joined Ba’al, I’d been wedded to 5-string basses for about 5 years already; I was invited to join a Meshuggah-esque math metal band in 2012, which prompted me to find the cheapest 5-string I could find, which was a second-hand Stagg for £50 on eBay, which was posted to my student halls without a case and wrapped in about 5 inches of bubble wrap. Said band never came to be, but I really enjoyed the extended range that the instrument made available to me, so I continued to use it for all bass purposes anyway and got used to writing and playing across 5 strings.
That purple Stagg enjoyed heavy use for the first year of Ba’al, including all our early shows and a demo recording that never saw the light of day. To be honest, it sounded pretty good and I was continually impressed by the tones I got out of something that cost me £50. However, when it came time to think about our first EP proper (In Gallows by Mass), I thought I should probably step it up a bit so started shopping around. After trying it out in a music shop, I was pretty set on getting an Ibanez SR505, mostly because it was such an easy play and felt great. However, our singer at the time then pointed me towards local Sheffield legend Niall Kingdom (of Santiago Kings, Deltanaut and more), who was selling off a small portion of his large bass family, specifically his Music Man Sub Ray 5. I tried it out in his kitchen, and then he let me borrow it for the initial guide tracking for the EP, and although it was a close-run thing between it and the Ibanez (I even briefly considered buying both), the Music Man won me over and I made the purchase on the strength of its recording quality – and the fact that I’ve always secretly wished I was John Myung.
Although it’s the affordable ‘little brother’ of Music Man’s flagship Ray series, the Sub Ray 5 really packs a punch. It’s got a beefy solid hardwood body and all the warm low end that I’m always looking for in a bass tone; I hate it when metal bassists run the mids on their tone to the extent that it just sounds like another guitarist making noise. It also really takes well to the myriad distortions and other effects I subject it to without losing that gut punching power. It’s a pretty hefty beast, too, so it survives a lot of assault both intentional and accidental (though I have thrown it about sufficiently for one of the tone knobs to have fallen off and been lost to the void). Its also a really lovely colour, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a reasonable factor.
Strings-wise I’ve tried a few, but I’ve been using D’Addario XLs for a while and they’ve served me well. I used to use heavy gauge just because I thought that was what I should do when we’re tuned to either B or drop A, but in the past year or so I’ve been using lighter gauge (.045-.130) and it’s actually been much more comfortable. And let’s face it, I could still tie you up with with the bottom string even with those.
It doesn’t take a long time speaking to me to realise that I’m the absolute opposite of a gear nerd (especially compared to a certain someone in this band whose name rhymes with ‘bomb’). I know next to nothing about the workings of basses, amps or pedals, and will often glaze over when people talk circuitry, valves or even guitar models. I had to search my Amazon orders to even find out what string gauge I use. But I know what I like when I hear or see it, which does often make my decision process pretty long and aruduous and based very much on trying things out. However, the Sub Ray 5 was a pretty easy decision and I’ve not regretted it for one moment. It’s versatile enough to hit all the right spots live as well as in the studio and the practice room, even when the guitars are flying above, below and all around me in terms of frequencies and sounds. I’ve got no complaints and I think it’s really pushed me to improve my playing and writing to match it’s tone and range.
We’re back on our playlist business again, as a break from the incessant guitar chatter. Listen and read on to hear what four fifths of us have been listening to in the past month.
Nick – Guitar
The Cure – Plainsong
Saw some footage of their headline slot at Glastonbury and they opened with this track. To be honest that live version is probably even better than the studio version but it’s still great on record.
Alcest – Le Miroir
Really strong album (laughs exuberantly at the suggestion that they could release a bad album). Only had 2 listens through so far but this track is a highlight for me.
Sibiir – Guillotines
Mastodon riffs and hardcore tinged black metal all bundled up in a ball of thorns and emotion. Lovely.
MUNA – I Know A Place
Really great glossy synth pop track with big hooks. Not much else to say other than IT FUCKING SLAPS.
Kero Kero Bonito – Trampoline
Wish the key to happiness was as simple as the lyrical content of this song. Sadly it’s not, and even if it was, I don’t have a fucking trampoline anyway.
Tom – Guitar
Iggy Pop – Loves Missing
You can’t go wrong with Iggy, and the band he’s assembled for the free album are fantastic.
Russian Circles – Arluck
Love the simple yet pounding drum intro.
Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave
Can never go wrong with Johnny Cash.
Nine Inch Nails – We’re in This Together
Always liked the fuzzy filtered guitar sound in the middle of this.
A-Sun Amissa – Seagraves
Richard – Bass
Sumac – The Deal
For an avowed post metal worshipper, I realised recently that my Aaron Turner knowledge is woefully lacking outside of a couple of Isis albums, and checking this out was like a sledgehammer to the face. It’s like all Isis’ heaviest tones with a drummer on speed.
Ocean Wisdom – Don
Ocean Wisdom is just an insanely talented and reliably entertaining rapper and I’ve been really into his second album Wizville recently. Mad flows that’ll have you grinning.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Eiswanderer
One of a few brilliant black metal discoveries I’ve made recently. These guys have the sheen of modern post-black metal bands like Downfall of Gaia, but do not shy away from crushingly dense guitar layers.
Coil – The Last Amethyst Deceiver
After years, the Ape of Naples record has just recently properly clicked with me, for some reason, and the eerie avant-garde weirdness of this track really pulls you in (despite the vocals sometimes sounding like Bill Bailey…).
Fennesz – Rivers of Sand
If you like your ambient music to be constantly glitching, but also cut together with some humanizing real instruments, look no further than Fennesz. Somehow both sterile and deeply emotional, he’s a real master.
Joe – Vocals
Cult of Fire – Zavet Svetku
Absolutely sublime black metal in the vein of Mgla and Batushka, with some real earworm riffs and atmospheres.
Cairiss – Disgraced
Perhaps the best kep secret in UKBM. Stunning composition, eerily beautiful.
Forest Stream – Snowfall
The album Tears of Mortal Solitude is criminally underrated; awe inspiring synth driven blackened doom.
Oathbreaker – Being Able To Feel Nothing
Lyrically heartwrenching and one of the most emotive vocal performances in extreme metal.
Hecate Enthroned – Within The Ruins of Eden
Shouldn’t really be mentioning a band I’m in, but on our recent tour this track has been especially epic.
We’ve been doing monthly Spotify playlists for a while now, picking five tracks each that we’ve been listening to of late. Now we have this blog, we thought it’d be nice to share some thoughts about the tracks to go along with them, in the hopes that you all find some nice new sounds for your ears, perhaps even spot some threads into our own songs. Listen and read on below.
Nick – Guitar
Junius – Black Sarcophagus
Pretty bleak track this one. They have the miserable vibes of My Dying Bride and Katatonia with some really nice layers of guitars and synths. They’ve got some hard hitting moments as well
Herod – Fork Tongue
This band slaps and this album is in my top 10 for this year and it’ll take some beating. As opening tracks go, this one is like that bit from that film when the ship hits an iceberg, but in a good way.
Charli XCX – Blame It On Your Love
Hard to pick a track off this album but this is a contender. Really strong album and I can see many artists following in Charli’s footsteps in the coming years. Without doubt one of the most forward thinking and interesting pop acts around at the moment. Fucking catchy too.
Plini – Electric Sunrise
This one has grown on me actually, I’d heard a lot of hype around Plini for a while. At first I wasn’t particularly sold on him and I’m yet to determine where he shall sit on my list of favourite prog metal instrumentalists (we all have those right?). But this track is a banger and I’m looking forward to exploring more of his stuff.
Omega Massif – Im Karst
I have a weird habit of discovering german sludge bands that are no longer around, quite sad but at least I am discovering them. One of my less useful talents for sure but hey, it’s something right?
Tom – Guitar
Oathbreaker – Ease Me
The vocal loop at the start and that reappears through the song is what grabbed me. That, and that it’s not heavy at all.
Cult of Luna – The Silent Man
The new album is fantastic and ‘The Silent Man’ is a great collection of big riffs and interplay between guitars, synths and percussion, without sounding cluttered.
Deafheaven – Luna
Its just a good savage riff and my favourite track off the album.
Cave In – Stained Silver
I’ve always loved Cave In, but tend to forget the Antenna record – but the opening track is massive.
Portishead – Roads
My favourite Portishead track. It’s one of those songs that I can happily play any time or mood.
Richard – Bass
Torpor – Mourning the Real
I’ve been waiting for the new Torpor record since I first fell in love with them after seeing them in Sheffield in 2017. They’re are a top-3 underground UK band for me, and this does not disappoint in the longform-crushing department.
Daft Punk – Da Funk
I went to see the movie The Shock of the Future recently, and although they didn’t feature, the general concept of cool French dance music made me return to Daft Punk’s house roots and get my boogie on.
The Body – Nothing Stirs
I’ve been borderline obsessed with The Body this year after ignoring them before for no good reason, and this track is a double whammy because it also features a stunning performance from the inimitable Lingua Ignota. Raw, honest and savage.
Sikth – Sanguine Seas of Bigotry
Djent years before djent was even a word. I’ve always admired their scattershot and schizophrenic songwriting, but for some reason recently this song and album has properly hooked me more than ever before.
Fieldhead – 812 Keefer
Top tier glitchy ambient from our pals at Gizeh Records. I can’t believe it took me until recently to check out Fieldhead, because the a correction record is incredible if you like a mix of warm ambience and some Carbon-Based-Lifeforms-esque minimal grooves.
Joe – Vocals
Formicarius – May The Rats Eat Your Eyes
Played several shows with this brilliant black metal band who have just released an album. Interlacing keyboards and lead guitars, extremely old school vocals and an ability to keep things interesting in a genre that all too often treads water.
Violet Cold – She Spoke of Her Devastation
Exceptional black metal, awash with layers of noise and atmosphere that gradually builds to a fantastic crescendo. Essential listening for anyone who likes their black metal raw but beautiful.
Her Name Is Calla – Pour More Oil
I saw this band opening for Solstafir one time and they absolutely blew me away. This track in particular just oozes emotion from start to finish.
Rolo Tomassi – A Flood of Light
It’s coming up on the year anniversary of Ba’al opening for RT so I’ve been thinking about this track a fair bit. By far the best on the latest album with a second half that is laced with pure atmosphere.
Cairiss – Disgraced
The best black metal band in the UK by a country mile. Since finding out they are playing Winter Warhorns I’ve been spinning their EP Fall on repeat. Incredible musicianship and fantastic ranging vocals from delicate cleans to harsh black metal rasps. Absolute masterpiece.