September 30, 2012

Thrawsunblat - Canada 2010

Review by Andy Osborn.

Thrawsunblat – say that five times fast, or even just once slowly – is a Canadian side-project of Joel Violette of Woods of Ypres fame. He and David Gold (RIP) teamed up to release this slab of northern majesty a few years back and it’s stood the test of time wonderfully. While the comparison to Woods is both obvious and noticeable, Thrawsunblat purvey a much more hopeful sound yet stay in the realm of folkened, melodic black metal.

What sets the album apart from the torrent of groups playing a similar genre infusion is Thrawsunblat’s ability to attain folk aesthetics without giving in to clichéd cheesery. There’s no field recordings of babbling brooks, extended acoustic passages where the band sings in forgotten languages or other such attempts to appear falsely one with nature. The folk influences shines through with the carefully constructed riffs and chord progressions, relying on nothing but Joel’s musical prowess. It’s subtle, humble and of the utmost quality, the embodiment of the Canadian ideal. The album is furious and utterly relentless in its attack yet still easily conjures up images of the Great White North without taking you on a dreary tour. David’s frantic blast beats add an undeniable energy to the album, with “Slake the Earth” standing out as Canada 2010’s highlight.

The eight tracks blaze by screaming, begging dozens of repeat listens to fully appreciate their graceful nuances and common, snow-lined threads. And fear not, this almost three-year-old project is not laying dormant; Joel is hard at work recording a follow-up.

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September 29, 2012

Wolves Carry My Name - Amongst Ruins And Ashes

Written by Ulla Roschat.

The Chili Chocolate

I love chili chocolate. I love the taste of supposedly contradicting flavors. Amongst Ruins and Ashes, the debut album of the 5 piece sludge band Wolves Carry My Name from Siegen/Germany is just like that. Just like the chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth to unfold the different flavors on your tongue and you realize the chocolatier knows his job and created a multi-layered and variant delicacy, the six songs of this album slowly unfold their different flavors of sludge, stoner doom, post metal and even bluesy swampy southern sounds and you realize the chocolatier....., wait... no the musicians know their job and composed a multi-layered variant delicious sludge beast. Heavy, crushing, creepy, grooving. There’s the ambient post rock atmosphere that gets slayed by crushing sludge riffs, bluesy grooves to soothe your mind, again to be destroyed by the chili... what? Yes the vocals, they are the chili in the chocolate. The bleak, gravelly, somewhat unusual vocals make the whole thing even more delicious.

Amongst Ruins and Ashes is a little gem with a distinctive style and it comes from a very young band that was formed only some months (September 2011) before the release of this debut album (April 2012)!!!

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September 27, 2012

Cult Of Erinyes - Golgotha

Cult Of Erinyes' EP Golgotha from 2010 is available on the Kunsthauch Bandcamp. This is aggressive and atmospheric black metal from Belgium. The EP start with an ominous ambient track, and then it's raw black metal metal time. There's much to enjoy; the inspired drumming, the doubly inspired harsh vocals (and the weird clean ones). What you don't know is that something is missing. At 2:20 the bass/second guitar kicks in and the song suddenly becomes twice as large. A simple effect, used well.

According to this in-depth interview from Mortem Zine Golgotha was recorded quickly, and is meant as a manifest of the Cult Of Erinyes sound. And the production is pretty basic, but it is also organic and fits the music perfectly. The last song The Year All Light Collapsed features thick raw riffing and propelling drumming. There's nice touches like harsh call and response vocals, more weird cleans, and some oddly enjoyable black metal gang vocals. The drummer even manages to turn it up a notch; the last third of the song is a drumming extravaganza, Three well sequenced songs, the EP format befits Cult Of Erinyes.

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The Gathering - Disclosure

Disclosure, the new album by The Gathering has been released on their on their Bandcamp. The album starts out with two tracks of classy progressive tinged rock, then the songs become longer and more atmospheric, culminating in the nine-minute I Can See Four Miles which Adrien Begrand calls one of the most adventurous songs the band has done in a long time. My favorite is Gemeni I with its dramatic and slightly metallic chorus.

The download includes a pdf booklet with lyrics and liner notes, and a video of Heroes For Ghosts. An epic ballad with progressive touches (and trumpet!), that harkens back to classic The Gathering albums like if_then_else. Here is a review of Disclosure from Sputnikmusic.

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September 24, 2012

Necrot - Necrot

Front Cover: Lukas Krieg

The Necrot cassette is available as a digital download for a couple of bucks on their Bandcamp. This is two tracks, 8 minutes, of putrid old school death metal. Just about everything sounds like it's covered in layers of crust, including the properly vile sounding vocals. There are plenty of gnarly riffs, pummeling drums and an ominous rumbling bass. Sometimes a simple "fuck yeah death metal!" is called for, I believe this is one of those occasions.

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September 23, 2012

Brokel - Anthems of Heresy

Anthems of Heresy is the second full length by Brokel from Mexico. This is an interesting amalgamation of death metal, it manages to be both raw/chaotic, and technical/melodic. The production has nice raw crunch to it, without sounding old school. The playing is impressively technical, and you get the occasional virtuoso flourishes associated with technical death metal. Still, at times it also sounds like it is on the verge of falling apart, which is often countered by a sudden switch to one of the many melodic breaks that punctuates the songs. Brokel is a little like a Chimera of death metal, and I like that.

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Pestilential Shadows - Depths

Pestilential Shadows - Depths from 2011 is available on the Seance Records Bandcamp. This is well done, even classy black metal. Majestic without being symphonic, its anguished moods are created by the blazing and hypnotic guitar riffing. Some parts makes me think of Altar of Plages as channeled through a more frostbitten sensibility; as the Invisible Oranges review puts it
What makes Pestilential Shadows so interesting is their ability to expertly dwell between the two extremes of black metal, channeling an atmospheric mixture of violent thrash worship and freewheeling ambient sorrow that made Scandinavia’s second wave of black metal so successful.
The production gracefully integrates modern touches like synths and acoustics into the murky blackness, it is a very coherent sounding album. Check out another review from the omniscient Autothrall and sink into the Depths.

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September 21, 2012

Rodha - Raw

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Hailing from Hamburg Germany comes the sludgy sounds of Rodha. Sludge that is just how I like it. Slow and low. Guitars ooze out the buzzy crunch that make up the riffs. Bass maintaining the heaviness at all times while the drums stomp. The vocals add a touch of Hardcore that is a nice addition, and conveys the emotions of the lyrics in a way not always found in this genre. The album is aptly titled. The recording has a rawness to it but more important the emotions contained within the lyrics are raw. You get the feeling these are not just words to be sung, but to be felt.

A really good demo from band putting their twist on an established genre. A twist that helps set them apart from the rest.

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September 19, 2012

Ihsahn - Eremita

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Designed by Ritxi Ostariz

Eremita is the fourth recording that Ihsahn has produced as a solo artist since his departure from Norwegian black metal lords Emperor. Emperor dissolved officially in 2001, though they reunited briefly in both 2006 and 2007 for festival date. Ihsahn's first solo record, The Adversary, was also released in 2006, and now this solo project is the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist's primary artistic focus. Ihsahn performs vocals, guitar, bass and keyboard on Eremita, while Jorgen Munkeby's saxophone adds a layer of jazzy complexity to the compositions and Tobias Andersen's drumming provides the engine and forward drive. The record also features an impressive list of guest performances, including the voice of Devin Townsend and the guitar of Jeff Loomis.

Eremita (which means "to live in the desert") is a dense, brooding album, as musically lush as it is atmospherically desolate. The rhythm of the drumming often takes on a dark, scuttling quality, while the guitars and vocals writhe together above, like creatures making their painful way across hot sand. This feeling is epitomized in "The Eagle and the Snake," which incorporates a merciless and explosive heat into the tone. Also like a desert, Eremita has a shadow side, a dark underbelly. Once the sun goes down, it gets startlingly cold and rather than being roasted alive by anger, all manner of creatures emerge to stalk and hunt you. It's easy to imagine the chords of "Catharsis" as ravenous beasts, the notes as dripping teeth. As compositionally complex as Eremita is, it's the hunger of the album ― the elemental and animal simplicity of the tone ― that gives it strength.

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Worm Ouroboros - Come The Thaw

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Chamber doom dream weavers from the San Francisco Bay area, Worm Ouroboros combine dark rock with ambient metal on their second release for Profound Lore, Come The Thaw, following their self-titled debut in 2008.
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published by Exclaim.

Chamber doom dream weavers from the San Francisco Bay area, Worm Ouroboros combine dark rock with ambient metal on their second release for Profound Lore, Come The Thaw, following their self-titled debut in 2008. The group feature Aesop Dekker of Agalloch on drums, with Lorraine Rath (ex-the Gault) and Jessica Way (Amber Asylum) sharing vocal duties, as well as all other instruments. This album lies at the intersection of several genres, including metal, neo-folk and ambient gothic.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

Come The Thaw is a study in the power of musical textures, as delicate, fern-like arrangements stretch out tendrils of sound. It's deceptive in the apparent fragility of the song structures, as Worm Ouroboros are also extremely skilled in terms of emotional heaviness, and the thick melancholy pervading Come The Thaw transforms the lace-like patterns into a crushingly depressive weight.

The combination of light and dark, enveloping mood and gentle instrumentation causes the album to progress as a series of compositional contrasts. An excellent example is "When We Are Gold," which features sedate and subtle, yet wholly engrossing bass lines and languid, slowly rolling percussion. Come The Thaw is a completely unhurried album, unfolding at its own pace like some night blooming plant stretching out its leaves. This will be frustrating for fans of metal that require violent, rollicking energy from their music, but for those willing to quiet themselves, this is a fine record to sink in to.

September 18, 2012

Cryptopsy - Blasphemy Made Flesh

Hot on the heels of the release of their new self-titled album Cryptopsy has added their debut full-length Blasphemey Made Flesh from 1994 to their Bandcamp (plus the demo Ungentle Exhumation from the year before). It is always enjoyable when classic albums are given a new home on Bandcamp; None So Vile from 1996 is generally considered Cryptopsy's best album, Blasphemey Made Flesh is the raw and unpolished predecessor to that album, and a death metal classic in its own right. It is also an album with a personality; as the AllMusic review puts it:
Instrumental performances are technically impressive, but occasionally sloppy in an almost punk way. Lord Worm's vocals are all over the place, punctuating phrases with spewed, almost awkward rhythms. He intuitively switches from a belch to a shriek in a way that, when coupled with the about-to-fall-off-the-edge playing, gives this album an off-kilter personality.
Buried under the primal growling you can find death metal poetry like
I just want to hold your pretty hand
The rest of you can be dissolved in acid
I just want to hold your pretty hand
And pretty high up in the mix, there's the lightning fast drumming of Flo Mounier, adding another layer to the songs. In fact he almost single-handedly steers the album into technical death metal territory. Check out the review from Sputnikmusic and Blasphemy Made Flesh below.

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September 16, 2012

High Spirits - Another Night

High Spirits - Another Night is on Bandcamp! This is sweetly melodic traditional Heavy Metal, often ridiculously catchy, and always with a vibe that is familiar, yet so refreshing.

High Spirits - Another Night is on Bandcamp! This is sweetly melodic traditional Heavy Metal, often ridiculously catchy, and always with a vibe that is familiar, yet so refreshing.

The first three songs are a triptych of hard rocking perfection. Starting with the multi-tracked falsetto vocals of "Another Night in the City", continuing with the poignant lyrics about remembering that special relationship of "Do You Remember", and culminating with the up-beat tempo and almost empowering dynamics of the anthemic "Full Power".

The rest of the album doesn't reach the level of those three songs, but there is still much to enjoy. The musicianship is precise, and the production is just perfect; clear but not polished. There's ample room for every buzzing riff, every harmonized solo, and all the details like the guitar breaks in "I'll Be Back", and the powerful bass line of "Nights in Black".

The three reviews from The Metal Archives covers Another Night in exquisite detail, but let me round this up with the words of BadWolf from No Clean Singing: Another Night is "No concepts, no conceits, no bullshit. Just good times and hard rocking".

September 15, 2012

Okera - A Beautiful Dystopia

Guest review by Islander from No Clean Singing.

Cover art by Ben Weatherall

When Max asked me to write a guest review for Metal Bandcamp, he said he wanted to give me something a little out of my usual comfort zone, and specifically, something connected to the realm of doom. When I agreed, the album he picked was A Beautiful Dystopia, released earlier this year by Okera from Melbourne, Australia. I'm afraid Max failed in his mission. Not only am I comfortable in the company of A Beautiful Dystopia, I'm ready to marry it and have kids.

As a genre term, "doom" is a big tent, encompassing a wide range of music, particularly when it's joined through a hyphen with other styles of metal. A Beautiful Dystopia is one of those hybrids. All of the music is wrapped in the blanket of night, moving in an atmosphere that is often suffused with sensations of melancholy or even the energized bleakness of agony. But the music is also heavy and compulsively rhythmic at the same time as it's wonderfully melodic. To varying degrees, depending on the song, Okera meld together melodic death metal and doom to produce dramatic, memorable songs.

Every one of the sevens tracks share certain hallmarks: Most of them are long, with three of them lasting more than nine minutes and three others ranging between almost seven minutes and eight -- which means they depend on changes in pacing and intensity. Okera establish core melodic themes and then weave them through a course that drops and rises, with soft, contemplative, occasionally acoustic passages and sudden enormous crashes of might and power. The music ebbs and flows, and ultimately the songs build toward an almost overpowering surge of emotion.

The bass is massively heavy in its tone, whether it's rumbling or thrumming ominously in the foundation of the songs, or hammering like a sledgehammer on an anvil, or rising up as sole accompaniment to the guitar in certain relatively quiet passages, or even taking the lead as it does in a segment of "In Solitude", with a shimmering, ethereal guitar in the background.

The drumming is equally heavy and strikingly varied, serving to create distinctive changes in the intensity of the music. The variations are perhaps most striking on the album's title track (the last song), which begins as a stately, dignified march and then erupts in an explosion of blasting percussion and a wall of layered guitars.

Another constant in the songs is the juxtaposition of the heavy, distorted bass and rhythm guitar with higher-pitched lead guitar lines and solos that are perpetually reverberating and echoing, often richly layered and joined together in dual-guitar harmonies. Those beautiful lead guitar parts are alternately ghostly, ethereal, and soulful, sometimes spiraling slowly up through the dense weight of the sonic foundation, sometimes swimming dreamily through the indigo atmosphere of the background, sometimes piercing the heavy clouds like rays of sunshine that have found an opening. And on the album's title track, the lead guitar notes become intricate, even flashy, in a workout that approaches Opeth levels of dark prog extravagance.

A well-known metal blogger recently expressed the provocative opinion that the time has come to dispense with vocals in metal. But that would rob A Beautiful Dystopia of one of its most vital components. In addition to being a guitarist with a deft touch and a strong sense of how to ring changing emotions and memorable melodies from that instrument, Jayme Sexton has an amazing voice -- if you're a fan of really harsh vocals.

Most of the time, his vocals are truly cavernous roars, of the kind that bring to mind the harsh vocals of Niilo Sevänen (Insomnium) and Tobias Netzell (In Mourning), but he also rises up into bestial howls and banshee shrieks that are equally effective. And if you want to raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck, listen to the two extended, wordless roars/howls that follow back to back beginning at the 4:39 mark on "The Black Rain". Truly awesome shit.

At times, Okera do remind me of those two above-mentioned bands -- Insomnium and In Mourning -- as well as their better-known countrymen in the amazing Be'lakor, especially on the tracks where melodic death metal is a strong ingredient in this hybridized style ("I Hope", "All That's Lost", and "A Beautiful Dystopia"). Yet Okera isn't a clone of any of those bands. The other songs on the album have a more traditional doom influence, and Okera also work progressive elements into many of the songs in a way that also sets them apart.

Last but not least, I come to the songwriting: It's really good. It's very easy to get lost in the dark music on A Beautiful Dystopia, to let your mind ride with it, and to imagine visions of sailing through the void with stars as your companions. The melodies are all memorable, but my favorite is the slow, simple, instantly infectious one that begins "The Black Rain". The moment when it returns again at the 5:30 mark of the song may well be my favorite moment on an album that's loaded with great listening. I'm also partial to the 2:00 mark in "A Beautiful Dystopia", when the band unleash a lightening storm after a very stately introduction.

By this point it will come as no surprise: I recommend this album strongly.

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September 14, 2012

Pagan Altar - The Time Lord

Guest review by Eric Yanyo from Valley of Steel.

Shadow Kingdom Records has re-released The Time Lord, a long-out-of-print EP by NWOBHM stalwarts Pagan Altar. This is a collection of old demo recordings — some dating back to the band’s beginnings in the late 70s. Considering the fact that the five songs here were not intended to be officially released, the sound quality is pretty decent -- in this remastered version, I'd say The Time Lord could stand alongside records of many of the band's contemporaries without suffering from the comparison.

These songs definitely represent the band's niche in metal history, spanning from the hard rock "proto-metal" years through the inception of doom metal and beyond. Shades of early British metal influences such as Deep Purple are very prevalent here, especially on the first couple songs, but Pagan Altar also incorporate some sounds traditionally associated with American southern hard rock -- in particular, the title track seems to recall some of the long-form guitar jams of Molly Hatchet or the Allman Brothers Band.

With "Judgement of the Dead" and subsequent tracks, the band really seem to have found their voice in the early doom metal style -- full of Sabbath-esque riffing, along the lines of the kind of stuff Pentagram were doing at the time.

The Time Lord offers a fascinating snapshot into the history of a band that has been wrongfully overlooked for far too long, as well as encapsulating the evolution of the NWOBHM into doom metal. Fans of these styles will definitely want to pick up a copy, and be sure to keep an eye on Shadow Kingdom too, as I've heard whispers that there might be reissues or repressings of other Pagan Altar material on the horizon as well!

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Venus Blue - Blue Venus

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Hailing from Texas comes Venus Blue with an interesting take on Stoner. If you took the song writing of early Pentagram, the fuzz of Blue Cheer, the raw sexuality of The Stooges, added a dash of Punk, and mixed them up in a blender. This is the band you would get. It’s a mix that not only works, but works well. If someone told me this was some long lost 70’s garage rock demo I would believe it. The production is raw adding to it’s garage rock feel and captures that era with great effect. Guitar is strong on this album. Between riffs and solos it’s in your face and fuzzed out. The rhythm section is a rock. Solid and heavy. While vocals are somewhere between Liebling, Pop, and Bowie.

For the most part this album is very simple. No bells or whistles. Just a guitar, bass, and drums. But it’s all it needs to get you off your ass, shake your hips, and bang your head. So just push play. The music will do the rest.

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September 13, 2012

Beastwars - Beastwars

Oil on canvas by Nick Keller.

Beastwars' self-titled debut album is back on Bandcamp. It had been taken off because of an impending vinyl release. Now the vinyl is out, and the Beastwars Bandcamp is again open for business. This is primal sludge, but not the heaviest you've ever heard, the riffs are more of the intricate kind. Memorable melodies, carried by a very deliberate stoner groove. Rock solid drumming and a seriously distorted bass. And a vocal that at times sounds almost as raw and distorted as that bass. Good stuff. Here is the review from The Obelisk that originally alerted me to the band.

Oil on canvas by Nick Keller.

Full Metal Attorney listed escapism in 7 Reasons I Listen to Metal. Well just check out that gorgeous and totally over the top Beastwars art by Nick Keller. It adorns the track When I'm King which is billed as "one of the first songs we ever wrote" and is available for free download here.

September 11, 2012

Cryptopsy - Cryptopsy

Review by Dane Prokofiev.

Artwork and Design by Mircea Gabriel Eftemie

The first thought that jumps to mind is not a positive one: Why in blazes has the legendary Canadian tech-death band, Cryptopsy, chosen such a hippie piece of album artwork? And it inevitably leads to another negative (or positive, depending on how you see it) thought: Did Cryptopsy spend too much of their record money on beer? C’mon, it is not like they play the kind of metal that encourages people to live a laidback lifestyle (only bands like Red Fang can be excused for such a lack of personal discipline). If anything, the kind of metal they play is often interpreted as being the embodiment of humanity’s physical and mental imperfections.

As the group’s seventh and first independently released full-length album, 2012’s “Cryptopsy” does not take anything further in terms of sonic extremity; unless one considers that the departure from the deathcore sound of the previous album is extreme in its own way. This is unexpected, considering that bands (and especially those of a legendary status) usually release albums independently in order to pursue a particular sound that no label would be interested in backing. If anything, shouldn’t 2008’s “The Unspoken King”, which was released by Century Media, have been an independent record? And this, released by Century Media?

Regardless, what one gets from this self-titled effort is still quite similar to old Cryptopsy: pummeling grooves, rapid time signature changes, frenzied tempos, grotesque growls, and the idiosyncratic tendency to occasionally break out into a jazzy interlude (“Red-Skinned Scapegoat”).

Still, it is not stupendously fresh in any manner, but that is not to say that it isn’t enjoyable. Amidst the hurricane of precisely-crafted noise, some traditional aspects of death metal can be found, and they will certainly make the ears of older metalheads perk up in nostalgic comfort. Simple pleasures such as that oh-so-delicious guitar shredding that kicks in at the 3-minute mark of “Amputated Enigma”, and the blatant overusing of blast beats are there to anchor the otherwise overwhelmingly technical song-writing.

Apart from the continued absence of Lord Worm and a noticeably sterile production as compared to older albums, this sounds like Cryptopsy returning to form. Why, then, does no label want to take on this born again Cryptian? Only the Cryptian God knows.

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September 10, 2012

Anagnorisis - Ghosts of Our Fathers

Anagnorisis have released the EP Ghosts of Our Fathers after three years hiatus. The music is progressive black metal with lots of influence from death metal. Understated keyboards, intense death metal riffing and a mix of death and black vocal styles. It is modern and aggressive, it also about death in way most death metal isn't; The EP is a tribute to two close family members of the band who has passed away. And meant as a move forward against a planned full-length album.

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The Anagnorisis debut full-length Overton Trees from 2007 is also available on the Bandcamp. Back then Austin Lunn of Panopticon/Seidr/etc fame was a member of the band. The production is a slightly rawer, the music a little more to the death metal side, and it is very interesting to hear Lunn sound positively Opethian at times. Teeth of the Divine called the album a true unearthed gem of a record that any fans of A Lunn’s work should try to dig up. Check out the title track below.

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September 9, 2012

Deep Mountains - Deep Mountains

Review by Andy Osborn.

Music being a universal language is without question. It bridges gaps, promotes understanding between cultures and teaches Americans a hell of a lot about Scandinavia. But it can also open your eyes and ears to locales where you never thought individuals with your same musical tastes would thrive. Hailing from Tai’an, China, this EP is Deep Mountain’s only recording as of yet but speaks volumes about their potential.

It opens with an acoustic folk passage which builds the mood for the tracks to come. Upon my first listen, I was nervous. Maybe it’s a stereotype (ok, definitely), but I automatically assumed that an underground recording from China is going to be of a lower quality than what we’re used to in the Western World (can you blame me?). Minutes into the second track it becomes very apparent that this is a professional release through and through. When the clean guitars switch their tone to buzzsaw mode, they’re crisp and thick yet retain a sharp without a hint of muddiness.

From there, the descent into the deep mountains begins. And it’s a winding one. The path seamlessly weaves between folk interludes, Pink Floyd-esque bridges and seething black metal panic attacks that can sound anywhere from early Nachtmystium to a doomy Taake. But it never doubles back. Don’t get too attached to any one piece, because unlike the mountains the imagery is based on, the verses are fleeting. Once you’ve heard it, it’s gone. It mimics the death of someone you hardly knew. I fell love too quickly and Deep Mountains exploited my foolishness. “远山”, which translates to “Distant Mountains”, has one of my favorite black metal riffs in history, erupting out of nowhere during a soothing string section, then it’s ripped away – returning the song to a place of peace and reflection. Multi-intrumentalist Liu Qiang is in complete control of his voice. He showcases anguished screams and soft poetic speaking in his native Mandarin, contributing a gorgeous atmosphere throughout the recording. The sixth and final track feels the most straightforward, dividing its time down the center between the band’s two aesthetics. Starting with an atmospheric blackened piece that rivals anything by their best American or European counterparts, it ends with beautiful acoustic harmonies that give you time to reflect on the journey of the past 45 minutes.

This EP holds the weight of the mountains on its cover and will hopefully stand strong just as long.

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Masachist - Scorned

Art by Anna Rosół / Trynity Art Studio

The second album by Polish death metal engineers Masachist has just been released on the Selfmadegod Bandcamp. Scorned is carefully constructed death metal. Just the right amount of brutality here, a brief feat of technicality or a touch of eerie ambience there. Each song has it's own feature (or solo) that is applied very precisely, from the ominous backing keyboards of opener Drilling the Nerves to the brief opera singing of the crushing closer Inner Void. But the care especially shows in how these components join together to form the end product: Dynamic and imminently likable death metal. For more information check out the review by Autothrall from From the Dust Returned.

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September 8, 2012

Tempel - On The Steps Of The Temple

Written by Andy Osborn.

Despite metal being one of the most complex and intense forms of music, the vocal-lacking variety still remains an outlier and no heavy instrumental band has ever come close to mainstream success. In most groups the vocalist always becomes the de facto front man, giving fans an easy way to connect with the band through his lyrics and voice. This may explain why instrumental bands will always be on the fringe, the lack of an organic instrument can make a band seem mechanical or somehow less human. They need to fill in the expectation gap with songwriting that can touch souls.

The genre typically balances between two extremes, with the post-rock inspiration of Pelican and Russian Circles on one end and the technical shreddings of Colin Marston projects on the other. Uniquely, Tempel fall neatly in the middle with their debut full-length. It would be easy to give them the standard sludge/doom badge but the Arizona duo is so much more than that. They stick to a more sinister path; although despairing beauty is bountiful in their sound, their tendency for menacing chord progressions adds a tinge of ugliness that makes them appealing to fans of any extreme subgenre. The 53-minute album draws inspiration from any number of nefarious influences, attacking you with top-notch blastbeats, deathlike riffage and humble solos when you least expect them.

Each piece has its own unique voice and is easily able to keep attention with ever-changing moods and dynamic arrangements. “Final Years,” the third track, is the only introspective turn, a relaxing bridge that spans the chasm between pillars of intensity, showcasing the type of beautiful melodies and atmosphere the band is capable of without resorting to aggressive distortion. The closer is by far the album’s heaviest, whirling through decaying southern riffs over a constant double bass barrage and proving that a vocalist in the mix would only diminish the band’s towering creation. This temple is made of metal, and it’s begging for worship.

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September 7, 2012

Skully Mammoth - Skully Mammoth Demo 2011

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

With a name like Skull Mammoth it’s not surprising that they play a psychedelic style of Stoner/DOOM. Songs are hypnotic trips that sway with an undeniable groove. Guitars dance over a foundation laid down by the bass and drums. Production is raw! It gives the feel of a Black Metal record especially with the guitars. At times sounding less like riffs and more like a cascade of distortion. Vocals are harsh and at times barely audible, adding more to the rawness of the album. I’m not sure if this rawness is due to it being a demo or if it is the sound they are shooting for. I for one love it. All in all a solid demo from a band I hope to much more from.

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September 6, 2012

Dawnbringer - Into the Lair of the Sun God

By Natalie Zina Walschots. When Dawnbringer released Nucleus in 2010, on Profound Lore, the metal community suddenly sat up and took notice, wondering where this band had been all their lives. With Into The Lair of the Sun God, the Chicago, IL metallers have once again
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published by Exclaim.

When Dawnbringer released Nucleus in 2010, on Profound Lore, the metal community suddenly sat up and took notice, wondering where this band had been all their lives. With Into the Lair of the Sun God, the Chicago, IL metallers have once again produced a record that's as engaging as it is refreshing. Dawnbringer manage to capture a classic heavy metal sound without sounding retro, evoking the incomparable energy of a heavy metal anthem while making those traditional structures sound new again.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

The songs are titled simply with Roman numerals corresponding to the track numbers; it's an ingenious tactic that forces the audience to listen more closely than usual to find the flow of the album's narrative, rather than drawing easy hints from the songs. The record's story arc follows the journey of a young assassin who has taken on a job that quickly spirals out of control.

The riffs ripple and crawl with anxious energy, while bassist/vocalist Chris Black (who also fronts Superchrist and High Spirits, and drums in Pharaoh) delivers a slightly grittier, darker performance than his usual fare. His slightly hoarse voice gives the lyrics a somewhat noir quality, while the instrumentation remains crisp and incandescently bright. Fans of Nucleus will not be disappointed.

September 5, 2012

Slash Dementia - Split Sessions 2012

Slash Dementia have updated their Bandcamp with 10 new songs. They are from two upcoming splits with Zombie Raiders and Agamenon Project, but are also meant to function as a single release. Slash Dementia mixes grind with the crusty and downtuned death metal sound of bands like Entombed, and an almost rock'n'roll like sense of catchiness. For the latter check out closer Night of the Living Dead and Stench of Lies, that also has these lyrics you should heed
The ability to think
Is the only thing
That separates us from the (fucking) animals
Feel free to use your brain and mind
With guest vocals by a dude named Necroelvis you know this is going to be raw and fun, thankfully it is also seriously well done. Slash Dementia adds nice touches like the creepy intro to Umpikuja (yep, they're Finnish), tempo changes, awesome gang vocals, solos and shit. Really, just click that player below and check them out.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Obsessor - Mental Hell

Artwork by Andrei Bouzikov

Brandon Ferrel is back with the fourth and final installment in the series of Obsessor singles. The production values has improved during the series, on Mental Hell there's a good balance between clarity and rawness. Very befitting the fist pumping punkish thrash that Obsessor delivers. The second track Evil Supremacy is a veritable riff-fest. The title track has a short flirt with 80's metal, and is supremely illustrated by Andrei Bouzikov's cover art: "Give me the gun, give me the knife - So I can end this nightmare life!"

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 4, 2012

Aldebaran - Embracing The Lightless Depths

Aldebaran's Embracing The Lightless Depths is available on the Profound Lore Records Bandcamp. This is straight up funeral doom, but not of the crushing kind. Aldebaran is all about the guitar textures, subtle tempo changes, and exploring the negative space between the riffs. The band utilize their guitarists to their fullest; the quieter parts are filled with intricate interplay, some of the heavier passages sounds like they are painting with washes of distortion. Not the heaviest funeral doom band out there, not the most melodic either, the melodies are kind of hinted at, but certainly one of the most interesting. Check out Cheryl Prime's review from Cvlt Nation and this detailed one from The Obelisk.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 3, 2012

Uzala - Uzala

Review by Adrian Tan.

Cover art by Darcy Nutt

Doom metal is a genre that find bands fall too easily into a pigeonhole. Ideas and approaches become constricted. All too often, the music becomes simply all too predictable. Once in many moons, however, a band like UZALA would emerge from the void to break that mould.

This four-piece from Idaho, plays an eclectic brand of doom with an avantgarde spin. Eschewing the plodding and downtuned riffing style associated with typical doom metal acts, they’ve instead opted for mixed tempos, warm fuzzy guitar tones with subtle amounts of ‘wah-wah’ pedal effects and feedback that are more familiar with psychedelic and stoner rock. Alongside the mesmerizing vocals of Darcy Nutt (on most of the tracks), the end result is nothing short of mind-bending.

The intentions of the band is declared with an opening salvo in “Batholith” that starts with a mournful guitar piece that quickly picks up in tempo as the full band crashes in a chaotic crescendo. If this does not jolt the listener into heeding the warning signs to abandon all expectancy and stereotype, then the jarring transition into the second track “The Reaping” certainly will.

All through the record, the band explores a plethora of styles ranging from Eastern tinged folk (“Ice Castle”) to thrash (“Fracture”) to death/black metal (“Wardrums”) without actually losing the doom metal underpinnings. The undoubted highlight of the album would be the track “Cataract” that finds a piece of psychedelic chorus bookended between mournful doom passages. The powerful and haunting vocal delivery on the song, crystallizes the manic feeling of one’s mind spiralling out of control.

The lack of cohesiveness as an overall record may be of complaint to some. However, I do feel that its schizophrenic nature is intentional in creating tension and unease within the listener and in this, it is greatly successful. If I were to pick a fault, it would be the feeling that the myriad of musical ideas were much too crammed and not fully fleshed out. But again, that would indeed be nitpicking.

At the end of the day, this is an extremely solid debut and well worth picking up. If nothing at all, this will certainly open up your horizons on what is possible within doom metal. Perhaps there is life in that well-flogged horse after-all.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 2, 2012

Summit - Demo 2011

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

From Norway comes the DOOM band Summit. Their brand of DOOM is one that is flowing with emotion. The music is heavy and dark while the vocals establish the emotion of sorrow that washes over all of it. No harsh vocals to be found here. Like DOOM of this kind vocals are sung in a clear voice in order to convey the message clearly. But not all is low and slow, Pleasing to the Lord midsection takes things up a notch in terms of speed, if ever so briefly. Musically no new ground is broken really; just solid DOOM. Guitars are heavy, the bass sound is warm and full, and the drums bring the thunder. All mixed well. For a three song sample, this album shows real promise. Comparisons with Warning or Pallbearer are not unfounded. Hope to hear more from these guys in the future.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

September 1, 2012

Stoneburner - Sickness Will Pass

Stoneburner's debut full-length Sickness Will Pass is available on the Seventh Rule Recordings Bandcamp. This is blackened and doomy sludge. Downtuned, moody, and heavy as hell. But also with intricate songwriting, clean breaks, and progressive parts that wouldn't have been out of place on early Mastodon albums. Stoneburner will be judged because bassist/vocalist Damon Kelly is son of Scott Kelly from Neurosis, but are clearly a band capable of standing on their own. Check out the reviews from The Sleeping Shaman and The Sludgelord.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]