Sounds From The Underground: Calligram – Askesis Review

*Sounds From The Underground*

Band: Calligram
Album: Askesis
Label: Basick Records
Genre: Blackened Hardcore
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: 24th November, 2017

In the world of metal we constantly see bands coming up with innovative new ways of writing music. From the very beginning we have seen bands splice together popular sub genres in the quest to find the latest, unique form of music. From bands such as Behemoth who took the traditional Black Metal stylings and fused them with traditional Death Metal to create a grand, crushing sound that has since become their trademark to the relatively new sub genre of Deathcore which was born from moulding Death Metal, Hardcore Punk and Metalcore together to create a scathing form of extreme music.
Perhaps the most interesting new take on Heavy Metal music is that of Blackened Hardcore. Now, bare with me here… The genre consists of the dark, brooding atmospherics and imagery of Black Metal (along with other traits depending on the band) fused with the energy, speed and intensity of Hardcore Punk music. Enter Calligram. These boys have been on the scene in London for over six years pedalling their bleak take on heavy music and in that time they have honed their craft in to something truly unique. Their previous EP release ‘Demimode’ was released in the latter stages of 2016 and has worked brilliantly in setting the footing for the UK formed band to work from. Since then the boys have toured relentlessly and have put together their debut full-length release ‘Askesis’ which will hopefully continue their upward trajectory and keep the momentum going.
The album opener ‘Della Mancanza’ begins as you would expect most Hardcore Punk albums to. The riff is catchy as hell and wouldn’t be out of place on a classic Discharge album but when the thirty second mark hits the script gets thrown out of the window and the song shifts into a full-on Black Metal assault complete with blast beats, tremolo riffing and shrill, high pitched vocals before once again shifting back into a Hardcore Punk style. Normally I would say that this sort of constant shift in the dynamics of one song could come across in a messy and disorganised manor but when these guys seem to achieve it so seamlessly it works fantastically well and provides results that are just crushing. The rhythm section of drummer Ardo Cotones and the bassist (colourfully referred to as “Smittens”) tie everything together neatly to add some stability to the rabid animal that is Calligram.
The next track of note ‘Scourge’ along with its accompanying video was used to promote the album prior to the release date and in that respect I feel that it did a brilliant job. The video was incredibly well shot and provided an accurate representation of the kind of bleak, dark nature that surrounds Calligram’s music. The song itself is another lesson in brutality. The riffs from guitarists Bruno Polotto and Tim Desbos are fast paced and cut through the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere like a chainsaw through flesh. The drumming stands out once again on this track as they switch between bludgeoning, high speed runs and trudging, half-time, punk enthused beats and it is here that the smooth transitions find their base. If it wasn’t for the suave changes in pace and delivery from Cotones the whole thing would fall apart, I don’t think I am over exaggerating when I say that his surgical precision is the glue that holds the Calligram machine together. During the latter stages of the track we find my personal favourite segment of the album, which is a haunting spoken word piece that sounds almost as if Shagrath from the Black metal titans Dimmu Borgir has guested on the album. In actual fact it is vocalist Matteo Rizzardo showing off a flair for the dramatic that is leaned upon by so many notable Black Metal artists in order to create the murky world that surrounds ‘Askesis’.
Another major plus on this album is the quality of the production. Normally when we see bands aiming for a Black Metal sound they sacrifice the cleanliness of the production in the quest for the ‘true kvlt’ sound. Thankfully this not the case on ‘Askesis’ and the boys have given all of the instruments and vocals a real chance to stand out amongst the chaos that is ensuing in these six grand tracks.
This album appears to be a fantastic starting point for a band that shows a lot of promise. The creative juices seem to be flowing freely and the quality of the music that is being produced as a result is of the highest quality. The only thing I can see that would make this album even better would be a little more variation on the vocals. Do not get me wrong, I really enjoy the performance on this album and the ability of Rizzardo to create the kind of high pitched, emotive shriek that we see throughout ‘Askesis’ is not to be undersold at all. But with that being said, seeing a little more range in the vocal parts on this album would help to add that extra layer to the constantly shifting dynamics and make them even more intriguing.
These boys are clearly on the ascendancy and are a breath of fresh air in the rather stagnant and oversaturated Hardcore and Black Metal scenes. Their dark take on heavy music will undoubtedly divide fans of both of sub genres, but for those who are prepared to open their minds to this fascinating hybrid they will bring a whole new soundscape to be engulfed in.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. Della Mancanza
2. Sinking Into Existence
3. Scourge
4. Murderess
5. Entwined
6. Lament

Total Playing Time: 29:09

Links to the band:

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