Thursday, 30 December 2010

Genius Loci: Tangential Intrusions

SOLID granite monolith cutting through Pacheco Pass... aka Blood Alley cursed lands since the Pioneer times for sure...the Natives did their good work here
Pacheco Pass on Highway 152 is one location said to be a gateway to an other-world realm. Legend has it travelers driving through this scenic route east of Gilroy often experience unexplained terrors suddenly striking them. Some people have claimed time became "distorted" during their trip, and their car journey of many miles only took a few minutes.
Many thanks to Kevin Yuen for the data.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Zero Tolerance

Mysterious and sinister, slowly rising and droning, ominous waves of distortion, TenHornedBeast spread a cerecloth of hypnotic torpor across the consciousness with grim determination. A calmly sinister shroud of soothing lunar terror with a refreshingly organic approach to ambient noise, this is just structured enough to attain a considerable strength of personality whilst remaining serpentine and duplicitous in a manner that demands attention. The title is particularly fitting, a primordial sense of predatory strife invested in the martial rhythms which frequently surface amidst the chaos:skin-crawling forest-clad ambiance skitters through the undergrowth whilst something wet and scaly shifts deep below the surface, an almost percussive bass moving in strange shapes atop the pervasive horror beneath. With a length of over 60 minutes, there's a point at which concerted attention becomes something of an effort; I would hope for a more concerted sense of release towards the end of such a journey, yet the obscure atmosphere remains constant right to the finish, leaving the listener lost and miserable. Not essentially a problem but some closure would have been welcome.


The primeval drone of TenHornedBeast is designed to stir emotion, to seep into pores and take over the mind and transport it to a distant realm away from human contact, to be in a place before cities, consumerism, organised religion, governmental control and 9-5 drudgery, a place where nature's dark chaos lurks, where the wild is unpredictable and the beast in man is free to run and hunt. The dark ambient contained within "Hunts & Wars" conjure images of untouched forests in early spring, nocturnal hunting sessions, sombre reflections, the demise of of the beast and the aftermath of battle (whether it be internal or external). "Hunts & Wars" reconnects the listener to the part of mankind that has been forgotten, the part that is free from the daily grind, but is still governed by instinct and superstition. A spellbinding release. [8].


This is Christopher Walton's third release on Cold Spring under his TenHornedBeast alter-ego and rather unsurprisingly it is a remarkably bleak affair, albeit one interspesed with the odd moment of introspection. Comprising of four larger pieces separated by three briefer intermisssions, it lies somewhere in that grey area where drone ends and ambient begins, a hulking colossus of bass and free-form drumming one minute and a somnambulistic foray by way of birdsong the next. Whilst the droning sections are suitably atmospheric it's the intermissions which are the most interesting.. Each one possesses its own particular charm,be it the natural beauty of "Hilnaric", the clinical precision of "Ironborn" or the bizarrely unsettling waves of synth in "Cimmeria", and in each case acts as the calm before the storm, a brief moment of respite before another onslaught of crippling distortion. The album is closed by the title track, a 20-minute long composition which does its title justice with plenty to spare; it quite simply crushes everything that has come before, overcoming all with its sheer density and leaving a potent aftertaste. Definately not one for the faint of heart.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

On The Sacred Truth and My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth Christopher Walton as TenHornedBeast crafted a sound so bleak and desolate you might wonder how they could evolve. With greater emphasis on bass and percussion, it's clear that Hunts & Wars is an altogether different beast. On this their third album they present three shorter interludes to the four expansive tracks, each offering a lighter tone to the dank, oppressive sound prevalent of their previous releases.
Having said that the opener here, 'Reaching For The Stars We Blind The Sky', is definitely one of TenHornedBeast's finer moments, with its dark arching drone and controlled guitar feedback that makes up their doom sonic sound. Here a funereal procession of drums bashes out a primal beat that continuously becomes more thunderous amidst cymbal crashes and heavy bass drones. TenHornedBeast's guitar drone carries the torturous squall of eighties guitar noise bands such as Skullflower, even though at the hands of TenHornedBeast it is reduced to a slower-than-slow sluggish crawl.
Unlike their previous releases, percussion plays a pivotal role on Hunts & Wars. It's most evident on 'I Am The Spearhead' where rhythmic wrenching gives way to cymbal crashing and pounding beats. It's almost as if Walton has swapped drones for rhythms to create the layers. Even the tones of the guitar drones are forever changing. Tracks are more structured too. Stark but effective in its simplicity is 'Father of the Frosts' where lumbering bass notes are surrounded by heavy distorted chords. Cymbals crash and controlled feedback drones are added bowing out on a series of gongs. This is TenHornedBeast at their most skeletal.
Previous TenHornedBeast releases by their nature have been pretty bleak affairs - and that's an observation not a criticism - but Hunts & Wars is far more structured in terms of composition and flow. The inclusion of short musical interludes is highly effective offering Christopher Walton the opportunity to step away from the inherent malevolence to produce tracks much lighter in tone. On 'Hilnaric' the twittering of birds is set against a brooding soundscape. It carries a heavy sense of anticipation; a foreboding atmosphere that draws images of a desolate battlefield where something is afoot. It makes me think of the pastoral fields of Michael Reeves' quintessentially English horror movie Witchfinder General; of an English countryside charged with an impending evil. 'Ironborn' is more martial; a muffled fanfare of horns and percussion that sounds like an army of soldiers beating their shields. With its lulling melodic keys unfolding gently over aching drones 'Cimmeria' is the tenderest of tracks to emanate from the claws of the TenHornedBeast. Like much of Hunts & Wars it takes its inspiration from Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, to whom the album is dedicated.
Hunts & Wars closes with the epic title track where washes of atmospheric guitar drone are wrapped around a low loping bass shudder. Gaining in power and volume this twenty minute piece rises and falls with the sound of a gong being struck. Drones veer from layers of blackened noise to a golden shimmer eventually dissipating entirely as the entire piece slips into a short slumber. Reawakened 'Hunts & Wars' then closes with a renewed vigour.
Hunts & Wars goes way beyond dark ambient, its shorter interludes add shading to the pitch-black atmospherics. It remains resolutely a product of the TenHornedBeast. The structure created from percussion and low-end bass could easily attract doom-drone listeners. Three albums in and they've carved a niche of their own and Hunts & Wars is yet another stunning release from TenHornedBeast.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


SAINT VITUS have confirmed that the band's former drummer, Armando Acosta, passed away on Thanksgiving Day (November 25) at the age of 58.
Hearing Saint Vitus on the radio in 1987 was a life changing moment. We will never see anybody capable of wearing a studded leather warhelm with quite the same style.