Cradle of Filth begins Evermore Darkly in much the same way as Evil Dead, with a “found audio” playback of what sounds like even more found audio. It’s some dude who came across his uncle’s tapes (which he dubs ‘The Siberian Sounds from Hell Story’) and, though it pains him to do so, he presents them for your listening [dis]pleasure. This narrator is longtime CoF collaborator Doug Bradley—a.k.a. PINHEAD himself—so I think the idea here is this guy knows what’s up with Hell. But I dunno, being told something is scary pretty much makes me reflexively oppositional. Not to mention that there’s only one solitary for-realsies new song, the cleverly-titled “Thank Your Lucky Scars”. It’s good—as are the “elder versions” from Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa—but I don’t need to hear Cradle of Trance ever again…okay? Most intriguing for me were the symphonic treatments applied to “Lilith Immaculate” and “Summer Dying Fast”. The latter is a ‘breadcrumb trail’ (their words) to the forthcoming Midnight in the Labyrinth, where the band will adapt songs from its first four albums into full orchestral pieces. However, it does fall victim to the traditional trapping of any holdover album:  it’s nonessential to all but diehards. 3/5

Cynic are not afraid to die. The beginning of Carbon-Based Anatomy has a play on an old Latin adage: Contra vim mortis non crescit salvia in hortis (“No herb grown in the gardens against the power of death”). Their take goes like this: Contra in mortis crescit salvia in hortis (“Against the power of death a sage grows in the garden”). By reversing the order and removing the negative, they seek to not only lift the spirits up, but also out; free of the body, of the titular flesh. I really needed that, because I’ve been playing classic Prince of Persia to get myself in the mood, since Cynic have incorporated more influence from further East with each passing release—and man, in this game you gotta get used to death. Both the game and CBA have a similar start and progression: a lowly imprisonment; perfecting skills and gaining weapons; overcoming adversity and seeking love through ascension; fearlessly sacrificing the body. The title track is my favorite from the first half, framed by atmospheric adventures that function best on a full listen. Then “Box Up My Bones” emerges much as “The Unknown Guest” from Traced in Air—almost tentative, except that word never suits this group. Intricate feels more operative. Some of the vocals could be called the “heaviest” here, with Paul Masvidal delivering a punchy performance across the chorus as distant whispers drift between. Notably, with the departure of Tymon Kruidenier, Paul handles all guitar duties. And when combined with his synth work, he creates masterfully-balanced cascades. Robin Zielhorst also departed so he & Tymon could work on new Exivious music, so original bassist Sean Malone returned to record CBA. I get chills every time he plays the notes following “let go of your mind / let your self die” and in the following track, “Elves Beam Out”, the band positively explodes. Plus, how catchy is that bridge‽  Carbon-Based Anatomy is the kind of EP I hoped to hear from Cynic following their welcome return …unlike, well, you know. 4/5

Le scimmie literally translates from Italian to English as “the monkeys” and the primal simplicity in the duo’s debut Dromomania is slung like so much… ehhh, let’s skip the poop joke. By its very nature, the music will conjure up names like Black Cobra and Pelican and maybe even other riff-oriented bands not named after animals. However, they sound like neither. I guess they have that dirty, dusty desert Kyuss vibe, but the lack of vocals means those hooks are ever-important. They sometimes sink in: the driving title track (with a cool conceptual video below), furious “Frustrazione della psiche”, and (Spaghetti) Western-tinged “Frekete” follow familiar trails well. But the latter left me hungering for more experimentation, which does follow—it’s just not enough. “Il Filo de Lana” (“The Thread of Wool”) piqued my interest with its music box intro and sonic phasing, but it meanders too much before literally burning out. The burning motif also bookends “Nostofobia”—however, much as I wanted it to be a real song, it seems like an extended false ending. Le Scimmie could mean (big) business if they stop monkeying around, and I believe in these dudes. Though I say again—craft stronger hooks, pull us through, add more dimension, make it all matter. They know how to do this (don’t forget to watch that video!) but with greater focus could evolve into something altogether unimagined. 3.5/5



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