Echtra, which is/features a member of Olympia, Washington's ritualistic black metal band Fauna, employs many of the same elements found on any given Fauna release - cascading black metal guitar riffs, slower melodic interludes, acoustic guitar sections, and droning, ambient passages - all of which work together to create music with incredibly surreal atmosphere. Echtra has always focused more on repetition and atmosphere than Fauna, I think, but I admit that this probably oversimplifies things, as each of them are really separate sides of the same coin.
What we have with Echtra's forthcoming album, Sky Burial, is an examination of the passage of human consciousness from life to death. This seems to be a recurring theme for Echtra; given the titles of the past two records - Paragate and now Sky Burial - it is obvious that Vajrayana Buddhism has influenced the composition and recording of these albums. This is all rather logical, as one of the main focuses of Vajrayana Buddhism, both in practice and in study, is human consciousness in life, death, and rebirth. What I hear when I listen to this new record is like a dream - the aforementioned atmosphere is overwhelming in just how stark, dense, and hypnotic it is. (I can't help but think that the dream-like feel of this record is intentional, as dreams are also an important part of the Vajrayana.) At times I felt like I was quite literally lifted off of the ground and carried to another state of mind, or perhaps just another part of my own consciousness. It is dark in its exploration without being a downer, focusing
conceptually on evolution rather than lingering on one aspect of
consciousness. The same, simple melodies seem to play from the beginning of the record to the end, varying just a little bit, as repetition is the key here. These two tracks (each 23 minutes in length, like all Echtra songs) were written and recorded in 2007, and the CD is accompanied by a DVD documenting the one and only performance of Sky Burial in December of 2008. This album earns the highest possible HSS recommendation.
Total Negation. I admit that my taste of DSBM is rather selective, but this is really interesting and thoughtful, as DSBM goes. The signature tortured vocals typical of DSBM are present here but are augmented by some pretty original and even experimental instrumentation. Dissonance plays a part in the sound, but the tempo changes and impressive lead work are really the bread and butter of this record, which compiles two EPs. The 8 songs on this record are pretty catchy, and I've found myself wanting to listen to this more than I thought I would. Pretty impressive work, and it is highly recommended; if you have any taste whatsoever for DSBM, I think you'll enjoy this. And even if you don't, give it a try. You can stream a couple of excerpts from the album for free here.
Once you've made up your mind, you can order these both from Temple of Torturous. Both of these albums will be released on March 31st.