May 31, 2013

Avulsed - Gorespattered Suicide

Artwork & design by Phlegeton

Spanish death metal band Avulsed has made all their full-length albums available on Bandcamp. Plus various live albums, cover albums and compilations. All for the low price of 1 €. My favorite is Gorespattered Suicide from 2005. This is tightly executed brutal death metal that is catchy, groovy, and well produced (The crisp production job is by Eric Rutan of Hate Eternal fame). Avulsed also throws in little surprises like a 15 seconds grindcore blast (winnnigly titled "Infernal Haemorrhoids"), and the enormous Amorphis like intro to "Filth Injected".

Avulsed proudly mentions that "As always... no fucking vocal distortion effects were used on this recording!!. Which is pretty amazing considering the inhumanly growls and shrieks vocalist Dave Rotten pulls off. But on the two live bonus tracks you can hear him sounding just as beastly outside of the studio. Gorespattered Suicide is great death metal. Some people prefer Yearning for the Grotesque from 2003, and their latest Nullo (The Pleasure of Self-Mutilation) from 2009 is also good. Check them all out. At 1 € per album you can't possibly go wrong.

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May 29, 2013

Indesinence - Vessels of Light and Decay

Review by Justin C.

Artwork by Jaume Mayans & Daniela Kropeit

Indesinence's latest album, Vessels of Light and Decay, took me a while to get into. I liked it well enough on first listen, and their doom-death mix is definitely right up my alley, but it didn't really stick with me like some albums can. If I'm honest, I didn't have a strong urge to listen to it again--it was more of a tickle in the back of my brain. There was definitely something interesting there, but I couldn't put my finger on what.

After a few listens, though, the album finally clicked with me on my commute to work. My commute around the edge of Boston usually seems longer (and more annoying) than it actually is, but on that particular day, I got to my office with no real sense that any time had passed. I completely inhabited the dark chambers this album conjures. I think this is truly music to get lost in. If you're worried that 14-minute-long epics like "Paradigms" and "Fading (Further Beyond)" will be impenetrable monoliths, don't be. Tempos may stay slow--this is doom, after all--but the music builds, creating a wave that carries you along with it.

I know this description probably sounds a bit too new-agey, so let's give some specifics: The guitar riffs are often split between low, grumbling monsters and higher, eerie lines moving above. The bass isn't content to just double the guitar lines, so as often as not, it joins with the drums to create a thunderous bottom end. The vocals are usually done in a low but understandable growl, but there are moments, like three quarters of the way through "Vanished Is the Haze," where the singer lets his voice rise and become almost unhinged. He uses this to great effect in the album-closer, "Unveiled," which is probably my favorite track. Slowly strummed, dissonant chords and almost whispered vocals start, but the song swells, adding in lovely single-note guitar lines. By nine minutes in, the drums are more intense, the guitars are sounding beautifully off-kilter, and the vocals have risen to a hoarse shout. The song builds to an ending that's nothing short of triumphant.

I don't think this is an album that will immediately grab most people, but if you're willing to put in the time for a few listens, you'll be well rewarded.

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Dysrhythmia – Test of Submission

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

Combining elements of death metal, prog, math rock and jazz, instrumental titans Dysrhythmia have deigned to release their sixth full-length record on Profound Lore. Without any lyrics, or even abstract vocals, to anchor the record, it's easy to grasp at straws in an attempt to pin down the narrative. While it may be that the title is exerting an undue influence over impressions, this is Dysrhythmia's more sensual album. The eight tracks weave languidly through a progression of self-imposed constraints, writhing elegantly against their musical shackles.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

While Dysrhythmia are an incredibly technically gifted band and display their talents frequently ― even the most dizzying moments are performed so deftly as to appear effortless ― any stretch is steeped in pleasure. That isn't to say that the album doesn't have any sharp edges. "The Madness of Three" has some particularly sadistic drumming and the guitar and bass lines absolutely revel in contorting themselves into unpredictable and painful shapes. But even at its most abrasive and surprising, Test of Submission possesses an element of keen, almost hedonistic indulgence.

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May 28, 2013

Occultation - Three & Seven

Review by Red.

Initially, I was skeptical about Occultation’s blend of doomy rock and the uniquely weird guitar tone employed on Negative Plane’s last album. However, since the album was released through underground metal giant Profound Lore, I gave it a chance.

The easy comparison (aside from Negative Plane, obviously) is to The Devil’s Blood. Occultation’s songs are more streamlined and the guitar tone helps separate them from the pack. It also does the trick of leaving more space in the mix for the rhythm section, which is a lot more active than in most doom bands.

The two female vocalists are generally pleasant to listen to. They stay within a comfortable area of their range, which means that even in the higher-pitched lines, there’s no sense that either one of them is stretching to hit notes they aren’t equipped to hit, or that they’re artificially emoting when it isn’t necessary.

My favorite track on the record is “Dreamland in Flames”. The chorus contains a beautifully sung melodic line which floats above the busy drumming and heavy rhythm guitar. For a band that hasn’t been together long, they have a solid grasp on their group dynamic that shows consistently.

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May 26, 2013

Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions: Part I - The Grimmrobe Demos

Written by Craig Hayes.

Self-proclaimed 'power ambient' duo Sunn O))) was formed by guitarist Stephen O’Malley and bassist Greg Anderson in the mid 90s, and since then, the band have explored the possibilities of sonic and emotional reward via thundering and increasingly more adventurous drones. Recently, Sunn O))) put their entire catalogue up on Bandcamp, and over the next few months I'm going to look at every release. Call it my 'Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions' project, or call it a fan biting off far more than he can chew. Whatever the case, here we go... unto the breach my friends; I hope to see you on the other side.

Not too many Sunn O))) fans would cite 1999's The Grimmrobe Demos as their favorite release from the band, but it’s an underrated pool of mind-bending noise to wallow in. Originally released in a minuscule run by label Hydra Head Records, The Grimmrobe Demos is more an exploration of Earth's droning keystone Earth 2: Special Low-Frequency Version than an investigation into the wider possibilities of sound that Sunn O))) would subsequently scrutinize. However, its lava-like momentum, cavernous frequencies, and sub-sonic and intestine-churning electromagnetics still make for a superlative odyssey into the abyss.

Photo by Anna Tomie.

The work of Earth's founding guitarist, Dylan Carlson, was, of course, the initial source of inspiration for Sunn O)))--and The Grimmrobe Demos contains a song called "Dylan Carlson" should anyone be in any doubt about his influence. Accordingly, the release is a raw, smashed-spine slither over tectonic soundscapes à la Earth, albeit cut with the darker themes and the slow-baked metallic pulse from O’Malley’s and Anderson’s backgrounds. "Black Wedding", "Defeating: Earth's Gravity" and "Dylan Carlson" are über-low-end drones. Sluggish, sludgy and hypnotic, the songs unleash the band's maximal minimalism, providing consummate introductory texts in the art of abrasive communication.

Photo by Anna Tomie.

There are multiple versions of The Grimmrobe Demos to seek out, and Sunn O)))'s Bandcamp page includes The Grimmrobe Demos // Extended version as well, providing "Grimm & Bear It", the sub-harmonic horrors of "Bremerton" (which is worth the purchase alone) and "Live at Gabah" too. The Grimmrobe Demos is bound tight by doom--albeit stripped down to its fundamental aural accoutrements--but the release hints at the pitch-black orchestral soundscapes, jazz, free-noise and myriad avant-garde sounds that would follow in its wake.

The Grimmrobe Demos is, of all Sunn O)))'s releases, the most spartan and direct. However, in its pared-back, fundamental creep, the band’s essential essence is writ large. It brings with it an amplification of density and aesthetic, and of course demands untold volume, and those elements have remained at the heart of Sunn O)))'s work, no matter how far the band has tread creatively since.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The Sunn O))) Monoliths and Opinions series.

Thou Art Lord - The Regal Pulse of Lucifer

Artwork by Manuel Tinnemans

Thou Art Lord - The Regal Pulse of Lucifer is available on the Nuclear War Now! Productions Bandcamp. This is the all-star band's first album in 8 years and it's archetypal Greek black metal at it's absolute finest. One catchy riff after the other, intense drumming, and synths that adds the proper old school ambient touches here and there. Terrific varied performances by the three vocalists. Brutal growls, classic Black Metal shrieks, and harrowing screams, they do it all.

The Regal Pulse of Lucifer features a perfect production in the sense that it doesn't feel "produced" at all. It gets out the way and lets you enjoy the well paced album. It grabs you right from the beginning, and the songs keeps getting better and better until the epic triumph of evil that is "Justicia Profana". Without losing steam, the album concludes with "Fire and Blood". Based on A Song of Ice and Fire, it ends with a tremolo picked version of the Game of Thrones theme! Now go read the mighty Autothrall's review, and check out Thou Art Lord below.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

All albums on the Nuclear War Now! Productions Bandcamp have been streaming only until recently. But besides The Regal Pulse of Lucifer you can also get albums by Abigail and Morbosidad now. I hope the trend continues, there are many albums on there, I would grab instantly if they were made available...

May 24, 2013

Apocynthion - Sidereus Nuncius

Review by Majbritt Levinsen.

Artwork by Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets)

Alcest and Les Discret are two groups I return to ever so often for my fix of dark melancholic out-of-this-world sounding songs. Now I can add Apocynthion to this small elite group. They have the same melancholic spacy mood hanging over the tracks.

Apocynthion are from Spain and plays a blend of post-black metal/post-rock with a grinding spacy shoegaze guitar sound and a soundscape that will send you out into outer space. The singer W. blends clean singing, screams, spoken word and rough screaming vocals (at some points it reminds me of Dani Filth) and it works really well I have to say. The bass is audible which is a major plus in my book and goes very well with the gritty guitars. The drums are mesmerizing and I find myself tuning into them and just enjoy the steady beats and patterns, completely forgetting about the rest of the music.

The songs hold many interesting passages, and there is enough to listen to for more than one listen-through. I really enjoy music, where I can just focus on one instrument at the time and get a new experience every time I listen to it, and Sidereus Nuncius offers just that.

The album title Sidereus Nuncius is derived from the first publication about the observations of space done through a telescope and was written by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Also the bands name, Apocynthion, is space related as it is the point where a planet or a spacecraft, in orbit around the moon, is the farthest away from the moon. When you read the lyrics you understand that also here lies a fascination for the endless space surrounding us. It’s like they were spawned while laying on a vast field at night, staring up into the dark endless, ever expanding, universe, where nothing else but the wind and the sound of nocturnal creatures interrupts the vacuum of loneliness and allows thoughts to wander far and wide. Pondering about our place in it all - how small and insignificant we are in the bigger scale of it all.

This is well composed music that will not let you down and from a debut album I’m only hoping for more to come in the future.

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May 22, 2013

Ephel Duath - On Death And Cosmos

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

Artwork by DehnSora

Italian progressive metal band Ephel Duath have undergone several transformations and line-up changes over the course of their amorphous career. The current incarnation of the group is the product of another complete turnover ― only founding member Davide Tiso remains and occasional drummer Marco Minneman has returned to the fold. Steve DiGiorgio joins them on guitar, as does legendary vocalist (and Tiso's partner) Karyn Crisis. The three-song EP, On Death and Cosmos, is a welcome evolution in Ephel Duath's sound.

While still jazzy and avant-garde in aesthetic, there's a sense of restraint and keen intelligence that their earlier work lacked. For example, "Black Prism" pulls back to become positively minimal by the end, the lone guitar bare and aching. Crisis's astoundingly deep, resonant voice is a highlight, the vastness of her range often providing a welcome counterpoint to the myopic intricacy of the music. An extremely promising restart to Ephel Duath, On Death and Cosmos is the kind of substantial EP that makes one long for a full-length.

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May 21, 2013

Antero Sleeps - Titan

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Out of the big state of Texas comes the big concepts of Antero Sleeps. A band that combines original Sci-Fi stories with Sludgy DOOM. As it says on their Bandcamp,
In a different age, there was a planet populated by genetically perfect people. They lived in peace until an accidental discovery, on a distant moon, unearthed an alien weapon that threatened to destroy them all. We are telling their stories.
Indeed they do. With songs that are packed with power and emotion. Each song feeling like it’s own chapter. Atmosphere is something they are going for and there is tons of it. Calling to mind bands like Neurosis. Songs are sprawling landscapes built by the notes played. The guitar chugs and buzz’s away along side throbbing bass and pounding drums. Vocals are harsh throaty yells. The music is infectious and in no time you find your head bobbing with it. No song under 5 minutes and thanks to all the twist and turns within, no song feels overdone or too long. No matter how heavy they get there seems to be an underlying beauty to it all.

This is a band that is perfect for fans of Yob, Neurosis, and early Mastodon. These guys have the music and the concept, and when combined they have something that really can set them apart from the pack.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The original stories Titan is based on are available on the Antero Sleeps website.

May 20, 2013

Ordo Obsidium - Orbis Tertius

Art by Médan Savamhel

Ordo Obsidium's album Orbis Tertius from 2011 is available on the Eisenwald Tonschmiede Bandcamp. The is black metal mixed with the atmosphere and melodies of funeral doom. The songs skillfully combines chaotic black metal and moody funeral doom into emotional roller coaster rides. As the album progresses the doom elements gets more prevalent, culminating with the majestic "By His Unflinching Hand". The emotive acoustic outro to that song is an example of the little touches (acoustics, tasteful synths) that Ordo Obsidium deploys exactly where needed. In fact Orbis Tertius is an album where everything feels just right. The production hits the sweet spot between sounding raw and analog (it was recorded to two-inch tape), and being clean enough to enjoy the instrumentation (and there is much to enjoy). And the vocals... as the merry Lurkers so eloquently put it: "His voice is at once a tour-de-force of distress and hopelessness and then a harrowing call to arms". Highly recommended.

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May 19, 2013

Kongh - Sole Creation

Review by Justin C.

Kongh's latest album, Sole Creation, is available on the growing Bandcamp page of Agonia Records. The band has just two members, David Johansson and Tomas Salonen, but they make a mighty wall of sound in a genre I'll call "high-intensity doom."

I think it will be clear why I'm going with the "high-intensity doom" label when you hear how this album charges out of the gate. The opening track, "Sole Creation," quickly builds to a thundering riff over a tribal-sounding drum pattern. If this doesn't make you want to go on a King Kong(h)-style rampage of destruction, then I don't know what will. There are plenty of stately, doomy tempos on this album, but even if the speed ebbs and flows, the intensity stays high.

The lyrics of "Sole Creation" and "Tamed Brute" both describe some kind of beast, imprisoned against its will. How the beast came to be and how it was captured aren't clear, but the rage is unmistakable. Vocalist David Johansson has a wicked guttural, but he mainly sticks to clean vocals throughout the album, using his growls as punctuation. The vocals may be clean, but they have a very satisfying rasp that works very well with the music. I hear bits and pieces of 90s grunge in them, particularly Alice in Chains, with some hints of early Ozzy, but Johansson's vocal style is ultimately his own, filled with eerie menace. It also doesn't hurt that he's a good singer, period.

I don't normally geek out on production--I'm fairly tolerant to anything but the very extremes of quality, but it just so happens that this is a fantastic-sounding album. Salonen's drums are clear and well-balanced, and Johansson's guitar tone is growling but still focused, with the thundering bottom end serving as a great counterpoint to the winding lines he often plays above the foundational riffs.

I feel like this album didn't get a lot of attention in North America, but hopefully its availability on Bandcamp will change that.

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May 18, 2013

Cssaba - Underground Lo-Fi Songs

Review by Majbritt Levinsen.

So a mail landed in my mailbox telling me a 'new' album from Cssaba was available on bandcamp. As I am a curious person I had to go hear what it was all about. I hit play without any pre-conceptions and the first track "Nails" from the album Underground Lo-Fi Songs started to fill my headphones with a dark industrial beat and atmosphere that lead my first thoughts to NIN. As the track progressed I couldn't help thinking that this was a weird combination of NIN, Locrian and Terra Tenebrosa, but in a dark ambient industrial version.

This is experimental ambient industrial black metal and according to the little info I have been able to dig up, this is a one man band from Poland with Michał "Nihil" Kuźniak behind it all. The album Underground Lo-Fi Songs was originally release in December 2012, but is now made available for download on Bandcamp by Metalhit.

I don’t know why this album appeals to me as it does, as it isn’t really anything I listen to normally as this is way too industrial for my likings. But there is something in the almost droning background ambience, the repeated beats, the dark sounds and the chanting vocal that somehow manages to keep me interested, and a strange calm finds itself in me. "To The Moon" is a perfect example of this.

The tracks all have the same atmosphere, mood and offer little variation in regards to pace, which holds this album together just perfectly. One would maybe think the tracks and the entire album were on the more monotone side of songwriting, but I like the straightforward no-nonsense drive the songs have.

Well if you are up to something different, this is it!

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May 17, 2013

Ade - Spartacus

Artwork by Phlegeton

Ade's new full-length Spartacus is available on the Blast Head Records Bandcamp. The Italien band calls their music "Ancient Roman Death Metal" and it is a fitting moniker. Technical death metal played with a brutality that matches the battlefields of yore, and infused with traditional instrumentation. The little bass flourishes, guitars leads, and drums fills so typical of technical death metal, are replaced with short sections featuring ancient string instruments like the lyra and the oud. There's also well integrated parts with tribal drumming, female vocals, and haunting choirs. They create the proper "ancient" atmosphere without making Spartacus sound less metal in any way.

The metal elements themselves are top notch. The drumming (by George Kollias of Nile fame) is intense. The singer uses a raw mid range style that fits perfectly with the music, not too high or too low. The guitarists are given places to shine like the piercing lead in "Duelling The Shadow Of Spartacus". The bass, well, I don't know, because Spartacus is wrapped in a clear modern production where the bass isn't given much room. But that is a minor flaw that doesn't really detract anything from this energetic and engaging album. Check out Erik Thomas' review from Teeth of the Divine, then jump into the fray.

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May 15, 2013

Deathcode Society - Ite Missa Est - Indiegogo campaign

Review by Justin C.

Deathcode Society describe themselves as "symphonic black metal." I usually get nervous when I see "symphonic," fearing music dripping with cheesy-sounding synths and overwrought choral effects, but there's no such problem on the band's two-song demo. The synths and electronics are tastefully added to machine-gun drumming, melodic black metal riffing, and a distinct bass presence. Even when the symphonic-like elements take center stage, as they do in a brief interlude in "The Inner Vortex," they're so well written and arranged that even the most skeptical of us have to admire them. The vocals take the form of a fiery, mid-range rasp. They've recently changed vocalists, but the band has helpfully posted two snippets of their new vocalist singing their demo tracks on their Bandcamp page, and the new guy is obviously up for the job.

1:45 of "Seraphic Requiem" with the new singer.
1:26 of "The Inner Vortex" with the new singer.

The preview of the new vocalist is relevant because Deathcode Society is crowd-funding their full-length album at Indiegogo. For the uninitiated, sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer bands (and other artists and craftspeople) a way of funding their projects with support from the public at large. Backers can choose how much or how little they want to contribute, and in turn, they get a sort of "pre-order" package of their choosing. There's a little more risk involved, since the projects at hand are usually still in progress during the campaign and you can't go back and cancel your pledge once the campaign is complete, but the plus side is that you can help support a band that doesn't have access to huge record label advances. I've personally done this a couple of times already, with albums from Byzantine and Dreaming Dead, and it's been a lot of fun. I even kicked in some extra money to Byzantine for an extra reward, in the form of the complete guitar tablature for the album.

So if you think Deathcode's music is worth it and you have a little cash to spare, consider helping their funding along. They've chosen a Flexible Funding campaign, which, unlike Kickstarter's all-or-nothing projects, means the project can still be successful even if the full funding goal isn't reached. (If you haven't supported any crowd-funding efforts before, see Indiegogo's FAQ page for more details on how these things work.) Deathcode's campaign closes on May 27th, 11:59 U.S. Pacific Time. Even if you're not interested in the campaign, you can still get the excellent demo for a measly $2.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Taurus - Life

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

Taurus are a psychedelic doom duo from Portland, OR, that are self-releasing Life as they prepare to support doomed and blackened folk band Agalloch on their summer tour. Taurus are composed of guitarist/vocalist Stevie Floyd (Dark Castle) and drummer Ashley Spungin (ex-Purple Rhinestone Eagle). Life is composed of a single 35-minute movement, which is divided into two parts, recorded live-off-the-floor in A Studio With No Name and mastered by James Plotkin. The fruits of their labours are drones and drools, shakes and shambles, a darkly monstrous and emotive piece of doom.

Photo by Karen A. Mann

Were this album an example of a literary genre, it could only be a work of horror. The atmosphere is as grim and ominous as mist rising from unhallowed ground, skulking around broken gravestones. The vocalizations are eerie and pained, the wails and moans of restless ghosts, while the drums crash like things breaking, somehow miserable. Rather than liner or circular, the structure of this drone project comes in waves, ebbs and flows that crash and then abate. While Life is undoubtedly a challenging and difficult work, it also leaves a cold ache in the joints and echoes in the listeners' head long after you stop listening.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

May 14, 2013

Demoncy - Joined In Darkness

Artwork by Michael Riddick

Demoncy's Joined In Darkness from 1999 was remastered and re-released by Negative Existence in 2007. This is truly eerie black metal. The use of 7-string guitars and 5-string bass creates a bottom heavy almost doomy sound. The drumming is utterly mechanical, and the production sucks all remaining life out of this. Combined it is a droning wall of dread over which you can hear a corpse whisper to you in his inhumanly cold voice. Chilling tales about summoning evil:
Demonic entity of night
I call thy name
Come before me
Of thy own free will
Cursed are the sorcerers
That bind you against your will
Show thyself in true form
Thy hideousness is beauty
("Demoncy") or surprisingly beautiful odes to the eternal cold:
And after all has failed and died
The sun will turn to dusk
Earth becomes as cold as the souls within it
Sleep to last bright day
Awakened by the silence of snowfall
A beauty beyond belief
Embodied in eternal white
("Winter Bliss"). This is an album that may take a few spins before you succumb to it's dark atmosphere. It is generally hailed as an early USBM classic, and I think that praise is well deserved.

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May 11, 2013

Yawning Sons - Ceremony to the Sunset

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

To speak of Yawning Sons one must first speak of Yawning Man. Yawning Man came from the same California deserts that birthed Kyuss. In fact they started in 1986 (although nothing was released until 2005), jamming in garages and at parties to the very people that would go on to form Kyuss. Their influence on the desert rock scene in tremendous. Kyuss even had Yawning Man’s drummer Alfredo Hernández join the band for their last album (...And the Circus Leaves Town) even covering a Yawning Man song, "Catamaran".

Yawning Sons came about when Yawning Man’s guitarist Gary Arce was asked by the UK band Sons of Alpha Centauri to produce their album. As it says on their Bandcamp page,
Upon the first day of working in the studio, it was clear that something special was taking place. Within the space of a week Gary and the band would work together to write and record their own collaborative album. The resulting sound is like no other experienced before.
The resulting sound is one that is mostly instrumental and totally laid back and hypnotic. This may be an album recorded in the UK but the sunshine of the California desert is all over it. Echoey guitars over solid bass playing. Drumming that is not about power but about driving the songs. The atmosphere created on these songs give me a sense of flying over vast landscapes. Enjoying the peace and serenity of the scenery below. Vocals are provided on three different tracks by Scott Reeder (The Obsessed, Kyuss) Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson, Desert Sessions) and Wendy Rae Fowler (Queens Of The Stone Age, Mark Lanegan Band, Unkle). Each adding a change of pace on an otherwise instrumental album keeping things from getting stale.

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May 10, 2013

Graves at Sea - Documents of Grief - Split with Asunder

One of the most anticipated concerts at the Heavy Days In Doom Town festival was Graves at Sea's closing set on Saturday. The band returned to active duty last year after a 4 year hiatus, and this was their first European show ever! And let me tell you, they absolutely killed it. Their blend of doom and NOLA sludge riffs carried by Nathan Misterek's blackened rasps, works so goddamn well live. The Heavy Days In Doomtown set was one hour of pure primal metal.

Photo by 4:30am from the HDDT concert.

Check out Repulsive Revolutions' lively description of the moment when Graves at Sea kicked into "Red Monarch" from their 2003 demo:
When the intro twists into that opening riff, the whole room loses it. Heads are banged, beer is spilled, stages are dived from... it's one of the best moments of the whole weekend. The guitars ratchet the tension up with each repetition of the riff, the drums build and build but never quite lock in, the whole thing threatening to erupt at any moment. And then it does, and I almost destroy my face against the stage. This is what music is capable of. Sheer fucking bliss.

Nick Phit and Lola Henderson. Photos by 4:30am from the HDDT concert.

The new lineup includes Lola Henderson on bass and Chuck Watkins on drums (and that is one massive rhytm section) in addition to original members Nick Phit on guitar and Nathan Misterek on vocals. Currently the band is touring Europe together with Meth Drinker (tour dates on Facebook). Go see them if you get the chance, you wont regret it.

The band is also working on new material. According to the above Facebook page Seventh Rule Recordings is "is slated to do a release with Graves in the next couple months". In the meantime you can check out a couple of their old releases on the 20 Buck Spin Bandcamp. Their 2003 demo (favorite track, the aforementioned "Red Monarch"), and their 2005 split with Asunder (favorite track "Pariah") which has just been made available for purchase.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Unsacred Seed - Unsacred Seed

Artwork by Eric Styler

Canadian band Unsacred Seed has just released their self-titled debut album. This is well done groovy blackened death metal. Very solid riffing, not super brutal or technical. Unsacred Seed seem to focus on writing memorable songs (and more often than not they succeed in doing so), in that sense they remind me of Bloodshot Dawn. And like Bloodshot Dawn they know the art of badass soloing, each song contains one or more well played and well integrated solo. As for the production, the band says "the album has a raw, slightly imperfect sound", and that is right. Is is also good. So much modern metal has an overly clinical sound, with horribly replaced drums. I think the slightly raw production makes Unsacred Seeds take on modern metal more interesting. And I think you should check them out.

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May 7, 2013

Locrian – The Clearing & The Final Epoch

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

Locrian are one of those consummately creative bands that take genuine pleasure in their ability to sweetly torture and shock the listener. Combining the fine textures of excellent ambient metal with the stately reserve of European doom and the ability to surprise that only the finest experimental metal can boast, The Clearing & The Final Epoch is truly rare for its aesthetic balance, musical excellent and imaginative scope. Both halves of this double album fit together surprisingly well, considering that the first is a re-release of their acclaimed 2011 effort, The Clearing, and the second is a collection of previously unreleased material.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

Opener "The Clearing" spends nearly half its length offering subtle embellishments on a single hypnotic pulse before fragmenting into an eerie, broken soundscape pierced by distant screams. What is so consistently wonderful and upsetting about Locrian is their ability to play with texture. The bright electronic wail that begins "On A Calcified Shore" is iridescent and impenetrable as nacre, but gradually, the song begins to flake apart and then melt, by the end devolving into a wet, squishy, enveloping sound, lush and organic. And then there is "Omega Vapours," an 8-bit black metal track that is an absolute revelation. For merciless clarity of vision, The Clearing & The Final Epoch is a rare gift.

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Anciients - Heart of Oak

Written by Sean Golyer.

From the shores of Vancouver emerge heavy metal newcomers Anciients and their debut full-length album Heart of Oak. Drawing from nearly all corners of the metal spectrum there’s a little bit of something for every metalhead out there. Thrashy chugs, progressive weedily-doos, blackened tremolos, sludgey chords, post-metal atmosphere, and guitar solos all thrive in Anciients’ world. Not to mention the varied vocal performances ranging from growls, screeches, and singing.

Technical talent fuses with an excellent sense of interesting songwriting and pacing that kept me engaged throughout. There are no gimmicks or fancy soundscape filler here (save for the acoustic interlude "One Foot in the Light"), just pure heavy metal. In that sense, some listeners may become a bit fatigued by the sound partway through. There aren’t any particularly surprising dynamic shifts or crazy experimentation going on here. The production and mix is superb, but one may get a hint of sameness throughout. Fortunately, what the band lacks in sonic innovation they more than make up for in the riff department. Every passage lasts just long enough for me to enjoy banging my head to before changing up the pace while the vocals swap between various styles at all the right moments.

Fans of progressive metal heavy-hitters like Opeth or Mastodon may not find a whole lot new here, but there’s certainly plenty to enjoy. Easily one of the most well-rounded and solid debut albums a newcomer could muster. Keep an eye on these guys and support them on Bandcamp and at their upcoming live performances.

Favorite Track: "Faith and Oath".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

May 6, 2013

Boneworm - Boneworm

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Boneworm are a three piece Sludge/Doom band from Portland/Oregon/USA, formed in 2012. Their self titled debut album was released in the same year! The album consists of only three songs but with a runtime of about 42 minutes overall, and the shortest song being 12:55, all of them can be called long, unhesitatingly.

Boneworm play sludgy doom with sprinkles of psychedelic and post metal sounds. Their style is a quite unique combination of slowness and heaviness with a kind of minimalistic attitude and a definitely sweet melvin-ish vibe to it. With these ingredients they create torturing dark atmospheres of desolation and hopelessness.

Each song takes about 666 years to expand and pour their viscous corrosive venom into your ears and unfold gloomy soundscapes in your head. Ostensibly unobtrusive, but relentlessly intense and menacing they carry a sense of omniscience and inevitability where no hurry or outburst of rage is necessary. You are doomed, there is no way out of it. And Doom is the essential thing you hear and feel throughout the entire album. All is sounding very immediate, direct, natural and organic. Despite their dazed-snail like tempo everything sounds right on point. Every evil riff, every delusive escape promising psychedelic guitar part, all is set perfectly right.

This exciting and beautiful gem of an album is bursting with originality and creativity. It is not an easy listening thing. The album is demanding and exhausting and you will feel the agonizing, gnawing slowness and heaviness in each second of it, but the intrinsic hypnotic attraction and the bewitching intensity and depth you will feel all the same.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

May 4, 2013

The Psyke Project - Guillotine

Review by Majbritt Levinsen.

1st of April 2013 the album Guillotine from Danish sludge/hardcore metal band The Psyke Project was released. This is brutal blackened sludgy post-hardcore at it's finest. Martin Nielskov's vocal is raw anger/angst filled roars, that suits the music just perfectly. The massively rumbling bass, delivered by Jeppe Skouv, vibrates and chugs along together with drummer Rasmus Gajhede Sejersen's skilled playing, creating a stable rhythm section. This gives a firm structured contrast to the guitars that plays with your ears and brain in a most tickling way. Behind the guitars are Mikkel Vadstrup Schmidt and Christian Bonnesen.

The album offers much variation among tracks, but also within each track. They are all connected by the same overall sound and feeling though, making Guillotine a very homogeneous album. If I have to pick a favorite it would be the eerie "Partisan". It's Dark and haunting, and the repeated outcry from Martin "And we pray for something that will never happen", just feels so right and so perfect. When "Partisan" releases it’s grip on you "The Mute" firmly reels you back into this darker corner of this album. The track 'Empire' continues in the same vein, but after these three darker tracks, the album continues in the angst-filled brutal pounding hardcore style. In the later part of the album we get a little breather with the instrumental ‘When Man Became God’ showing a lighter side of the band.

The lyrics are very much on the dark side of life, the internal struggle of mankind, the ever searching for something better, anger, discontent, meaningless life. Not happy lyrics I tell you! And to finish this off, I leave you with the final lines from the final track "Menneske" (Sung/yelled in Danish):
Vi prøver at finde den rytme, den dans, den form der gør os tryggest.
I sådan fuldkommenhed vil døden lure
And isn’t it just so...

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

May 3, 2013

Sinistrous Diabolus - Total Doom//Desecration

Written by Craig Hayes.

Twenty years. That's how long we've waited for Sinistrous Diabolus's debut full-length, Total Doom//Desecration. Back in 1993 the Christchurch, New Zealand-based band released Opus One, a three-song cassette that has long been recognized as one of Australasia's most influential extreme metal demos. Opus One was reissued recently by Dark Descent and Goat Gear (selling out immediately), and its importance for NZ's underground metal scene--or for anyone who has drawn inspiration from its chasms of putrescent death and even more festering doom--can't be understated.

In the world of lugubrious Antipodean death and doom you can certainly hear Opus One's echo to this day. Much like similarly revered NZ metal veterans Vassafor, who recently released their throttling full-length debut, Obsidian Codex, Sinistrous Diabolus played a crucial role in constructing the aesthetic framework of the gloomiest, dankest, and staunchest end of the NZ metal scene. Things have come full circle in recent years for the band’s frontman, N.K.S., as his role in providing eerie noise-scapes on Stone Angels' magnificently shadowy sludge debut, 2011's Within the Witch, has seen members of that band join Sinistrous Diabolus’s current line-up. However, the darkest gods have truly aligned with N.K.S having also featured in the line-up of NZ's most (in)famous doom cult acts Witchrist and Diocletian--and both bands continue to honor the artistic vision Sinistrous Diabolus first evoked back in 1993.

Given Sinistrous Diabolus's history, legacy, and influence, and of course the unabashed title of Total Doom//Desecration, it'll come as no surprise to hear that the album’s contents are supremely dark and iniquitous. If references are required, think of it as a blend of the old-guard of death and doom (Incantation, Asphyx, Thergothon, and disEmbowelment) meeting newer purveyors of morbid and malicious eccentricity (Abyssal, Mitochondrion, or Portal). However, keep in mind, N.K.S has been honing the blade for 20 or so years now, and Sinistrous Diabolus do have a sound very much of their own. They call to mind the classics, of course, how could they not? But somewhere in that mix of old and new is Sinistrous Diabolus, crouching in a cave, roasting the bones of sacrificed Christians over a roaring fire.

Total Doom//Desecration is 40-plus minutes of Stygian atmospherics and soul-crushing, grinding doom. Within, Sinistrous Diabolus revisit older tracks, reconstructing them into more intimidating form, with monolithically heavy and murky passages of faster death-metal riffing, and grim soundscapes burying melodies under churning, frequently harrowing, requiems.

"Wipe out Christianity (Exordium)", and the 12 minutes of ritualized misery on "Wipe out Christianity (Pestis)" seethe with an (obvious) abhorrence of doctrine and divinity. The hawkish chimes and drones--flecked with Orthodox timbres and battering percussion--on "Gate of Hell" plummet into the uber-downtuned roil of "Sleep of the Damned Pt. I". And the album's highlight, "The Essence of Divinity Given to Abstractions of the Human Mind", is a colossally menacing composition--inexorably building layer upon layer of apprehension and tension towards its maelstrom-like zenith.

What defines Total Doom//Desecration is Sinistrous Diabolus's ability to maintain a sense of trepidation and corruption, underscored by intense despair. Alternating between old-school mid-tempo lurches, pitch-black feedbacking noise, and surges of dissonance and technicality intensifies the palpable reverberations--and drowning harmony in quagmires of immeasurable filth only amplifies the undercurrent of torment and torture.

Total Doom//Desecration is utterly barbaric, but not just musically. Sinistrous Diabolus conjures dread, and it's a perverted and pitiless kind too--the band taking obvious pleasure in generating plenty of discomfort. The album makes for disconcerting listening, but, of course, it’s that unsettling nature that makes it such a successful release. It evokes what we all ponder in our darkest moments, and what any fan of catastrophic doom adores; that relentless and inescapable march to death.

The production on Total Doom//Desecration deserves mention too, because no such catalogue of ruination is ever going to be effective without the appropriate audio wretchedness. The album is thick and sludgy, and magnificently oppressive. With a similar mass, though less ornate, than a latter-day Esoteric, Total Doom//Desecration comes with all the raw asphyxiating weight of Winter or Indesinence. Vocals are scraped from the bowels of the earth, with sepulchral growls and indecipherable guttural chants reinforcing the album’s bone-chilling harshness. Instrumentally, the pummeling percussion, rupturing bass, and distortion-laden guitars have equally important (and equally audible) roles in contributing to the significant and notably tarnished magnitude. But what is also of note is what's behind all the noise. In those moments when Total Doom//Desecration is at its most somber, and the yawning mouth of its godforsaken depths are most exposed, there's a strong sense of something truly malevolent lurking within--something just out of sight, but something that repeated listens will clearly draw to the surface.

Ultimately, Total Doom//Desecration is ample reward for the wait. Obviously, expectations were high, but N.K.S is an artist bent to perfection, so wait we did--and it didn't help that he suffered a horrendous hand injury in an industrial accident a couple of years back. Still, it's 2013, and the debut is here, and for fans of deafening death and doom with an ear for old-school intensity (and a boiling hatred of religion) then Total Doom//Desecration is well worth checking out. For any metal fan in the southern hemisphere, it’s obviously an essential purchase; for everyone else, doubly so. After all, Total Doom//Desecration is a piece of cult metal history, and we can only hope the future is just as musically formidable and forlorn.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Note: Opus One is available as a free download on the group's Bandcamp page. You can get Total Doom//Desecration there too, but beware that it seems you will only be getting half the album if you buy it there...

May 2, 2013

Agrimonia - Rites of Separation

In a short time the Southern Lord Bandcamp has doubled in size. The latest addition is Rites of Separation, the brand new full-length by Swedish band Agrimonia. We covered their self-titled debut here and thankfully Rites of Separation is much more of the same. Sludge. Post-metal. Crust. Epic, well written songs that consists of many diverse movements, like some of the longer Opeth songs. Terrific harsh vocals by Christina Blom (with the fitting nickname Crustina). Excellent production, and tons of anger and aggressiveness. And it's precisely Agrimonia's aggression that makes them stand out, as Austin Weber so nicely explains in the No Clean Singing review
"In general, the label of post-metal describes a cocktail of sludge, doom, and hardcore ideas shaken and stirred into a longer song structure [...] What this usually sacrifices is speed and aggression, since those qualities are not the primary focus. However, Agrimonia do not follow that path. Their take is gritty and vitriolic, adept at punishing you in waves, with a strong affinity for crushing heaviness."
Simply put Rites of Separation is a great album, it's the metal equivalent of tasty dish, that combines elements from different kitchens just right, and leaves you full and entirely satisfied.

Cult of Erinyes - A Place to Call My Unknown

The enigmatically titled A Place to Call My Unknown by Cult of Erinyes, available on Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions Bandcamp, is a hidden gem of majestic black metal. This is the Belgian bands debut full-length from 2011; the previous EP, the raw Golgotha was featured here. In an interview with Mortem Zine, Cult of Erinyes stated that "With the full-length, we worked on the sound a bit more, but I think we still managed to keep it rather organic as well".

And yes, production values on A Place to Call My Unknown are good; the sound is large and forceful, this combined with the harsh vocal performance by Mastema makes for a pretty aggressive sounding album. The aggression is tempered by the varied songwriting though. Songs take their twists and turns, and tempos vary. Brutal riffing gives way to more atmospheric parts, some utilizing clean singing. The drumming, by Baal, is nuanced for black metal, it backs the songs with interesting fills, and the riffs with speedy blasting.

In another interview, with Don't Count On It Reviews, Corvus (Bass, Guitars, Keyboards) describes the music as "ritualistic" and says that "It’s the reason why almost all the songs have a precise moment where everything will implode". He goes on to mention the second part of "Black Eyelids" as the best example, and rightly so; when Mastema intones "My hands are shaking almost constantly" shortly before the song explodes, the tension is palpable. According to the interview, Cult of Erinyes had the skeleton of the next album in place, and in 2012 they released a split with Zifir. I hope that album finds a home on Bandcamp too.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

May 1, 2013

Paroxsihzem - Paroxsihzem

Written by Atanamar Sunyata.

Art by Krag from Paroxsihzem

I’m a sucker for guitar tone. The right shade of raging will draw me into an album; the right riffs will make me stick around. On their debut full-length, Paroxsihzem roll out a sound that inhabits a buzzing, balmy circle of hell. The guitars recall the distinct distortion of Tom G. Warrior and the warm swarming of Amon Amarth. The milieu is death and the attitude is bestial; I think you get the picture.

Paroxsihzem are astoundingly heavy at any speed. Bulbous riffs burst with catchy crunch as they twitch in spasmodic bursts. The beefy blasting is far more engaging than the average death sprint. The drums are particularly enjoyable, benefiting from a sound that reflects nicely off of the pungent guitar tone. Paroxsihzem is seething with chaotic fury; this is the rallying cry of an army bent on bloodshed. The incomprehensibly irate vocals are executed with the cadence of a youthful Chris Barnes, enhancing the album’s crazed character.

Paroxsihzem utilize the cryptic-soundclip-as-extra-band-member schtick; it works quite well. This device on top of a grinding-death smorgasbord is evocative of Dragged into Sunlight’s Hatred for Mankind. In fact, this is how I wish a follow up to that album might have sounded. Paroxsihzem is printed without lyrics, so any inherent message is obscured; I’m happy to walk away from the album with a massive, mindless rage-on.

I’ve had Paroxsihzem in rotation since Dark Descent unleashed its magnificence upon the postal system last year. It was quite rightly amongst my favorite albums of 2012.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]