January 31, 2015

Odetosun - Gods Forgotten Orbit

Written by Justin C.

Artwork by Thomas Hoechstaedter

Odetosun is a proggy death metal outfit from Germany. You'll see that some of the Bandcamp comments name check bands like Insomnium and Be'Lakor, and although that's not too far off the mark, I'd be reluctant to lump Odetosun under melodic death metal. They have a strong melodic sensibility, but they're bringing some other sounds to the table beyond what you'll hear in standard melodic death metal, including some psychedelic atmosphere and a strong Pink Floyd influence in some of the guitar work. It's definitely a unique mix.

On their full-length, Gods Forgotten Orbit, Odetosun largely eschew low, chunky riffs in favor of a more twisting, melodic guitar style, and they're very good at it. They range from the open, ringing lines in "Eclipse Chaser" to the simpler, doomy riff that brackets the beginning and end of "The Swarming Infinity." Regardless of style, they're always propulsive, and they're fantastically backed by hard-driving bass lines, like in the instrumental track "Journey to Gilese." Sometimes they're as much percussion as they are bass, and it works really well. The death metal growls also have a perfect amount of grit and grime for my taste, while still being clear enough to be able to make out a decent portion of the lyrics, which is always a tricky balancing act.

If there's one weakness of the album, it comes near the end when the band slightly overindulges with the guitar solos. As I already mentioned, "The Swarming Infinity" has a killer riff, but nearly half of its eight-minute run time are given over to a backing rhythm track with Floyd-ian guitar soloing. It's pretty well done, but the momentum of the song suffers. The closing track, "Gods Forgotten Orbit," has a similar problem, and it's made slightly worse by the song ending with over a minute of ambient noise. Metal, and music in general, does not have to be high intensity all the time to be compelling. For example, the second track of the album, "Veil of Leviathan," shows a fantastic sense of push and pull, tension and release, which kept me engaged for its full nine minutes, but the last two tracks rarely held my interest for their full length.

That aside, there's a lot to love on this album and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing where they go next. If you're a bigger fan of extended, psychedelic guitar jams than I am, this might come close to nirvana for you.

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January 30, 2015

Darkspace - Dark Space III I & Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith

Written by Kaptain Carbon // Space Pilot from the Year 5000.

This is how the universe collapses. Darkspace's legacy is rooted in their interesting exploration of ambient black metal, as well as one of their guitarist’s work in the seminal side project Paysage D’ Hiver. It also helps that the band has an air of mystery, with their releases becoming increasingly more sparse. Darkspace’s previous record Dark Space III was released in 2008, and for the past four odd years fans have been awaiting the arrival of whatever the fourth installment would be called. In thematic fashion, the band’s announcement of their new record came in cryptic transmissions, with the full album being released almost immediately. I think I would have been happy with anything, but this is something else entirely.

Darkspace makes music that are pieces to a whole. Since their first release Dark Space I, and even their 2002 demo Dark Space -I, the band has released sequentially numbered tracks that vary in length but seem to be a part of the same cold universe. To add to this, the band seldom releases lyrics, save for dialogue and quotes from literature, philosophy, and film texts. The band’s dedication to the exploration of the coldest recesses of space is extraordinary, as sometimes the most horrifying things can dwell in the limitless expanses of darkness. Darkspace has kept this mystique strong for more than ten years and the fact that their records keep getting more and more interesting gives me hope for a century of darkness over this galaxy.

Throughout their timeline, the Darkspace albums have become more and more dynamic with their production. Dark Space III cemented the full range this band was capable of with heavy guitar tones and a dynamic range of atmosphere. Rather than the high end swirls that marked their first two albums, Dark Space III was lower and deeper in a contrast that makes the whole experience immersive. For this reason, Dark Space III I steps into its place as one of the most effective records of the band’s career, with a heavier drum machine and even more panoramic horror. Split into three tracks ranging from 18 to 27 minutes, the landscapes in “4.18,” “4.19” and “4.20” are something fitting of deep cosmic terror — one that could only be achieved by a band who is probably not of this earth.

If this review sounds like it was written by a fan, it is because Darkspace has achieved a non traditional thematic scope that is backed by outstanding releases. The presentation of this record, combined with their stellar past releases, make it an event that is either on a trajectory into deep space or something coming back from its depths. Given that the records are getting increasingly clearer in their sound, I imagine Dark Space X to be even more horrifying when it is released in 3022.

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Cover art by Luciana Nedelea

Part of me finds the cover for Mare Cognitum’s third full length odd, while the other half is convincing the former that it is all part of a new realm of black metal. Mare Cognitum is a one man black metal outfit who seems to be completely obsessed with the darkness that dwells in space. I have been familiar and friendly with Mare Cognitum since his 2011 debut The Sea Which Has Become Known. It has been a few years since then, and I am pleased to realize that his new album, Phobos Monolith, is perhaps the best work from this creator and probably one of the more enjoyable atmospheric black metal records of 2014.

Space is a vast theme with multiple angles. Unlike Darkspace, Mare Cognitum retains some starry eyed wonder for the mysteries held between the darkness. Unlike his previous two records, the cover for Phobos Monolith is bright and iridescent with violets and whites. Additionally, Mare Cognitum's music is starting to embrace multi layered flourishes, such as the guitar cascade on “Weaving the Thread of Transcendence” or the half tempo acoustic accents on “Noumenon.” These changes in the music, along with a continual maturing of his abstract and transcendent lyrics, allows Phobos Monolith to step out as a solid record that can be embraced by crowds outside of atmospheric black metal.

I have made mention before how atmospheric black is flooded with bands that can easily mimic the sound. Phobos Monolith is a special case, as it allows this style of music to fully embrace its thematic focus and makes those style choices interesting. Why not have a record dedicated to the majesty of deep space filled with wandering atmosphere? There has been a lot of atmospheric black metal records in the past decade, but Mare Cognitum will never cease to be interesting or entertaining with his records.

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Kaptain Carbon is the proprietor of Tape Wyrm -- a site site dedicated to cassette releases and underground metal reviews. In his free time, Kaptain Carbon reviews sword and sorcery films for Hollywood Metal, moderates Reddits r/metal, and spends way too much time playing Magic the Gathering.

January 28, 2015

Doomsday - Doomsday

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

Cover art by XNA

Pressing play on Doomsday feels a lot like opening the doors to a blast furnace: a sudden, overwhelming wall of heat hits you and doesn't let up. At barely over 20 minutes, this self-titled, blackened and crusted death metal debut shows mercy only in its brevity. Four of the five band members have served time in Nachtmystium, which translates into the record's blackened, brimstone-reeking guitar tone and relentless pace. The dominant texture of the album, however, is a thick, filthy crust element that makes every song seem to drip rust and corrosion.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Most of the tracks are defined by a savage, primal violence, embodied best in album closer (and G.G. Allin cover) "I Kill Everything I Fuck," but there is a moment of bleakness in "Empty Vessel" that's not a respite as much as a shift of perspective, the one time the record moves from vicious agency to furious reflection. This is a baleful, rancid debut that arrives like a whirlwind and leaves the listener similarly wondering what just happened to them.

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January 25, 2015

Boddicker - Crime Upheaval

Written by Matt Hinch.

Cover art by Joshua Brettel.

While everyone (including myself) was talking up the latest Trap Them release, Detroit's Boddicker were being criminally ignored. And it's hard to ignore something as unabashedly violent as Crime Upheaval.

Much of what Boddicker embody is right there in the album title. Crime (lyrically and aesthetically) and upheaval, as in how their HM-2 saturated buzzsaw guitars churn up a filthy and intimidating ooze of hardcore aggression.

With 12 songs in around 21 minutes none of these killing blows stick around too long but all are delivered with menace and remorselessness. The shorter shots are quick and deadly while the longer bleeds ring like a shotgun blast beside the ear.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

Boddicker mix tempos with ease from hit and run blasts through heaving, slow beatdowns. The latter a cruel torture akin to holding your hand on a person's face after a serious slap to really make it sting. But that's what gives the album its dynamicism. It would be easy to just hit the gas and mow down anything in the way. Mixing it up makes Crime Upheaval hang around in the old noggin a little longer.

Down-picked riff magic and chaotic violence come together to adrenalize the listener. Bestial growls rally the hatred while spazzed-out guitar complication is forced into competition with bone-breaking, mosh-ready rhythms and enough swing to send elbows and knees off in pendulous motions.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

Moments in tracks such as “Energy Blackmail”, where a lone guitar waits for the rest of the band to explode back in, like a cocked hammer and pulled trigger, are what lend the album extra gravity amid the breakneck pace that barely touches the ground.

It's no surprise that something as violent as Crime Upheaval is a product of Detroit. It's nasty and charged with a relentless energy for destruction. It came out months ago but it's best not to ignore it any longer. You never know what these guys might do.

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January 23, 2015

American - Coping with Loss

Written by Steven Leslie.

Artwork by Kevin Gan Yuen

American is a little known, relatively new duo out of Virginia that plays a blend of black metal, sludge and noise. Having not heard any of their demos or singles, released in 2013, I just happened to stumble across them on one of my many late night bandcamp browsing sessions. And I am very glad I did. The band presents a unique and thoroughly engrossing take on modern USBM, while creating a distinctly dark and disturbing atmosphere.

Coping with Loss kicks off with three really killer tracks. Veering between melodic and captivating black metal sections and some really memorable, but minimalist sludgy low-end riffs, the tracks are pieced together with some rather effective noise samples and electronics. Not being a big noise fan personally, I must say that the early tracks get the balance just right, never overstaying their welcome or becoming monotonous. Songs like “Ritual Suicide” and “Decedents” constantly feel like they are on the verge of disintegrating, which adds an element of discomfort and unpredictability that make for a captivating listening experience.

I must say that while there is not much vocal variety on offer, the throat shredding screams are delivered with such palpable emotion and desperation that I really can’t find any fault with them. Dripping with raw unbridled hatred and nihilism they help drive home the depressive atmosphere of the music. They sit perfectly in the mix, ensuring that their power is maintained without ever overwhelming the music. The drumming is excellent throughout the album and really helps hold the tracks together as they drift between fast and slow tempos.

The tempo drops significantly toward the middle of the album as “Lamb to Slaughter” claws its way along in slow dirge. This is followed by three minutes of rather ominous noise in “Pulse Beating Slowly”, before “Solace in Silence” comes crashing in with blast beats and a relentless tremolo picked assault. Coping ends with 18 minutes of drones, samples and power electronics that, at least for me personally, is a bit of a let down and doesn’t really do justice to the power of the opening tracks. With that said, this really is an album worth checking out if you are a fan of utterly bleak and soul crushing sounds. I look forward to hearing how the band continues to progress and develop its sound on future releases.

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January 21, 2015

Atanamar’s Favorite Bandcamp Finds of 2014

Written by Atanamar Sunyata.

Metal archaeology is the work of a lifetime; there are pages missing from every grail seeker’s diary. As more and more music appears on Bandcamp, we are offered a unique opportunity to rediscover the past in high fidelity. 2014 was prime time for musical gravedigging; I was able to unearth albums I had only heard in passing during the '90s, resuscitate specters of long lost tape trades, and replace the content of CDs that mysteriously disappeared in college. Best of all, I discovered classics completely unbeknownst to me. These are some of my favorite Bandcamp hauls of 2014:

Deathevokation - Chalice of Ages (2007)
Cover art by Axel Hermann

Deathevokation quietly produced a death metal masterpiece in the not too distant past, disappearing into oblivion before their prodigious achievement could be properly recognized. Chalice of Ages unfurls a fusillade of doom-tinged death propelled by Amon Amarth-grade grooves and fascinating melody. These tunes ride on a riff-hardened chassis, rampaging at all the right speeds. Deathevokation had a distinctive character, and their sole creation's pedigree is simply spectacular. Reunion, please?

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The Chasm - Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm (2009)
Artwork by Daniel Corchado

The Chasm is the best band whose discography was most unrepresented in my collection. That was quickly resolved when Max clued us into The Chasm’s Bandcamp page in March. Like Max, Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm is my favorite of the titles represented. The Chasm stand astride the death metal's continental divide, blending the progressive precision of Death with the skin crawling filth of Incantation (mainman Daniel Corchado actually played on Diabolical Conquest). Fascinating riffs, thrashy intricacies, and dynamics for days are the name of the game; Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm is all wins.

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Adramelech - Psychostasia (1996)
Artwork by Turkka Rantanen

Adramelech emerged from the bountiful Finnish death metal scene in the mid '90s, possessing the utmost power of the riff. Psychostasia is the finest moment of the band's brief career. It's also a death metal classic, a balm to these jaded and abused ears. Impossibly compelling anti-melodies flow in torrents of glorious death, coalescing around indelible riffs and feats of compositional ingenuity. Adramelech have indubitable roots in Demigod's sinuous sonic oeuvre, but they also inherit bits of bizarre behavior from countrymen Demilich. Everyone should have a little Psychostasia in their life.

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Disembowelment - Disembowelment (2005)

Funeral doom, as an art form, is concerned with feats of amazing restraint. Grindcore and death metal? Not so much. Disembowelment bridged that dichotomy in spectacular style in 1992. Transcendence into the Peripheral (included here along with most of the band’s recorded output) presents discrete visions of crisp, sharp, and haunting doom of the literal sort. Driven by industrial strength percussion, the outbursts of putridity manifest as sheets of blinding, grinding rage. Disembowelment’s time on this earth was brief, but their legacy is a delicious landmark.

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Gadget - Remote (2004)

I'm usually behind the ball on grindcore. When I need it, I need it bad. The rest of the time? Clueless. I missed Gadget's debut by a decade. Here stalks Swedish grind-mastery that's light on the Sunlight sauce preferred by their countrymen (see Nasum, etc.). Articulate crunch is borne on precision blasts and big fat beats. Caution is thrown to the wind, but satisfying, nuanced melody seeps into the gears, ensuring optimal aural lubrication. Someone dropped their dipstick in a bit of Dissection; cheers to you, Gadget. Remote is timeless grind.

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Human Remains - Where Were You When (2002)

Building on meaty mounds of spasmodic deathgrind brilliance, Human Remains recorded in fits and spurts in the early ‘90s until the Using Sickness as a Hero EP spelled their untimely demise. Human Remains possessed all of the genius you’d expect from a band featuring Steve Procopio (Gridlink, Discordance Axis) and Dave Witte (Discordance Axis, Municipal Waste, and every band ever). Where Were You When is a compilation of the band’s recorded material, and I was clearly not there when it was released in 2002. Every one of these tracks, from the most immaculately recorded to those produced in a toilet, are a pure joy of crushing daedal impossibility. Rejoice in moist, mandatory mucoidal madness.

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January 20, 2015

Snakefeast - The Pythoness

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Artwork by Michael Sturrock

The unusual line up of instruments for this album alone arouses my curiosity… vocals, bass, drums, cello, sax… and unusual is the listening experience that the quartet from Baltimore/MD called Snakefeast offers us with its debut The Pythoness. It could roughly be called progressive blackened sludgy jazz, but it combines so many different stylistic elements, that it forcibly resists to be pigeonholed

There’s a huge amount of progressiveness and technicality with a quite clear sound, yet with a thick and heavy atmosphere to it, the latter almost solely created by the incredible abrasive vocals (oh yes I'm prone to falling in love with vocals). They use a raspy black metal style, and dark extensive roars that lend a droney sludge/doom metal feel and a beautiful contrast to the clean bouncy, percussive, funky sounds of the bass and the drums.

The vocals here are really used as an additional instrument doing a job equal to the other instruments. And the jobs are somehow divvied up, like bass, drums and sax throw in the progressive, jazzy elements, the vocals the sludge/doom metal, and the cello (plus sax) the melancholic melodies. Combined they create an atmospheric tension between a distant coolness and an oppressive heat, occasionally relieved by moments of quiet ambience.

It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on within this frame of atmospheres. Everything is constantly and erratically changing, be it the poly-rhythmic drum and bass work, the tempo or the various styles that include jazz, balck/sludge/doom metal punk’n’roll and what not (I think I even hear some ska and humppa beats). My diagnosis of this 42 minutes long musical insanity would be manic-depression with occasional episodes of melancholia.

So it’s not just the unusual choice of instruments that is intriguing, it’s the way Snakefeast use them - especially those stunning vocals - to create something extraordinary that makes The Pythoness really exciting and compelling. It may take several listenings (and still may not be for everyone), but it’s well worth the effort.

The Song "Wither" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 79

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Note: For physical copies of The Pythoness go to the Grimoire Records Bandcamp.

January 17, 2015

Matt Hinch's Top 5 (or 10) Canadian Releases of 2014

Written by Matt Hinch.

When I was first tasked with selecting my favourite Canadian releases of 2014 I thought it was a weak year. But as I dug through my Oh Canada! 2014 playlist it didn't seem that weak at all. Picking my top 10 was hard enough let alone top 5. But I did and I must say, this is one helluva collection of releases! So, I present my favourite Canadian releases of 2014!

10. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
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9. Begrime Exemious – Primeval Satellite
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8. Morgue of Saints - Monolith
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7. Northumbria – Bring Down the Sky
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6. Harangue – By the Strength of the Mighty Atlas
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5. Olde – I

It took all of about 11 seconds for me to know that this album was right up my alley. That first riff is the kind of fuzzed out heavy stoner riff that directs blood flow to my nether regions. Looking deeper into the band I found that it comprises members of “local” stoner legends Sons of Otis, as well as Moneen, Cunter, Grift, Five Knuckle Chuckle and Jaww. And is for fans of High on Fire, Sleep, Sabbath and Saint Vitus. What more could you ask for? You've got the tone of Sleep/Vitus, the groove of Sabbath, and the heavy-fucking-riffage of High on Fire et al. But Olde sound like they're having a lot more fun than any of those bands. Bleary-eyed stoner sensibilities, groove to spare and whiskey-throated vocals make it feel more in line with the likes of Weedeater or Black Tusk on cough syrup. Lump them in with whatever bedfellows you want but all that matters is how hard they riff. And hard do they riff. Sludgy, doomed, fat-bottomed stoner metal rolling around in a pile of riffs and tone makes I a calculated assault on sobriety and reason. Plus there's a (somewhat androgynous) person riding a bear on the cover!

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4. Astrakhan – A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin
Artwork by Nick Patterson

These guys really impressed me with The Pillarist EP. For this EP they've added two new songs to the two on The Pillarist to create twice as much awesome. Spawned from the same scene that brought us Bison and Anciients, Astrakhan play some serious prog-inflected sludge. Even that descriptor doesn't seem accurate. They've got the massive riffs and heavy tone of sludge but the guitar work is incredibly nuanced. Sublimely crafted songs reflect the talents of a band not afraid to grasp at the grandest of scope. Astrakhan can run rough shot with the best and then blast off in a cloud of kaleidoscopic guitars ripping out complicated rhythms and solos that will inspire even the most lumpish of metalheads. My favourite aspect of the band and EP is the vocals. Trading off hollers full of emotion and passion, they fully engage with the listener. They're not always gruff, in fact sometimes the cleaner, the better, but they aren't half-assing anything. “The Pillarist” itself illustrates the band's best points quite well. Excellent vocals, an assembly line of sweet riffs, sinuous groove, meaningful solos and tremendous flow. Two songs really impressed me. Four songs blew me away and kept getting better the more I listened to them. When Astrakhan puts out a full length who knows what kind of musically induced coma it's gonna put me in. I can't wait!

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3. Archspire – The Lucid Collective
Artwork by Ken Sarafin

This one surprised the hell out of me. I'm not usually one for over the top technicality. Origin, Obscura and the like. But Archspire? Oh fuck yeah, bud! I can't exactly pin down what makes these West Coasters different but I kept coming back to this album over and over. The technical prowess on display here is outrageously spectacular. Yet, I never felt like they just pasted together a bunch of self-congratulatory shit and called it a song. The songs have flow and logical shifts from breakneck speed to mind-mangling technicality to head-caving brutality. Say what you want but this is technical death metal of THE highest order. I suppose a big part of what makes Archspire so appealing to me is how bassist Jaron Evil makes his bass go interstellar WITH FRETS. It's a personal thing but what keeps me away from equally talented bands like fellow Canucks Beyond Creation is that fretless bass sound. So with Archspire and The Lucid Collective you get next-level technicality fused to tangible death metal and awesome vocals on par with death metal's most inventive. Break your neck, brain and fingers all at the same time.

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2. Auroch – Taman Shud
Artwork by Antithesis

I referred to this album earlier in the year as the only death metal album you need to buy in 2014. That may not exactly be true (see above) but if I had to pick the most impressive death metal album of 2014 it would be this one. The Vancouver group puts together a potent arsenal for attacking the modern death metal landscape. Guitarist/vocalist Sebastian Montesi's slavering growl seems like it comes straight from the Lovecraftian tales that inspire their work. Back his fiendish vocals up with top quality blistering death and Auroch is unstoppable. They blend technical flair with bludgeoning brutality and a horrific atmosphere created naturally through swirling riffs. They never let the listener get totally comfortable, and the vocal diversity, from guttural to whisper and plain angry yelling keeps things from getting stagnant in that department. Taman Shud blows away much of the competition through their obvious skill and well executed vision. No death metal album in 2014 was able to dazzle and destroy quite the way Taman Shud did. It's well rounded violence equally suited to impress through technicality as it is through brutality.

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1. Culted – Oblique to All Paths

One could make an argument that Culted aren't exactly Canadian since vocalist Daniel Jansson lives in Sweden. However, they qualified as Canadian for the Juno Awards (basically the Canadian Grammy Awards) so that's good enough for me. Released back in January of 2014 Oblique to All Paths stuck around on my playlist almost the whole year. Their brand of doom is like no other. Slow and brooding obviously but the atmosphere they create is wholly unsettling. Droning noise and creeping synths create a darkness most foul as Jansson's snarling, hateful, throaty growl raises the hair on the back of your neck. For all the doom and gloom surrounding their sound, they can flat out bring the heavy when they want. “Illuminati” features a fierce doom riff that smashes it's way into your brain and refuses to be ignored. I could listen to that chord progression for days. Oblique is all about creating a mood but it's not the same mood throughout. Disconsolate, vengeful, sorrowful, and more. It's over an hour of heaving, depressing yet surprisingly uplifting at times blackened doom. The noise, synths and industrial touches put Culted a unique place in the doom world. One thing is for certain, Oblique is massive, encapsulating and as I wrote in a 9/10 review elsewhere, “painfully affecting” and the best thing to come out of Canada (and Sweden) last year.

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January 16, 2015

The Year of Hellenic Darkness

Written by Andy Osborn.

Over the course of the past two years, the Greek black metal scene has easily become my favorite in the world. Those who have studied their history know that the Hellenics were pumping out magnificent blasphemies just as well as the Scandinavians during the early nineties, but in recent years a new wave of Greek titans, heralded by a few long-running groups, has come into prominence and made their country proud with devilishly brilliant releases. And in 2014 the planets aligned and resulted in one of the most incredible territorial-specific offerings in modern metal history. Every month there was a ground-shaking release from somewhere on the ancient peninsula, encompassing all kinds of evil hymns and exhortations.

Some albums have previously appeared on these pages, but the amount of brilliant Greek black metal uploaded to Bandcamp in 2014 is just even too staggering to fully explore. I did my best to round-up the best releases from the land of democracy and decline, but this is just the tip of the world-shattering iceberg.

Injekting Khaos - Injekting Khaos
Artwork by Viral Graphics

While this came out in 2013, Injecting Khaos’ self-titled EP went criminally unnoticed; even more of a shame since the band promptly split up after its release. Furious and dark, the highlight of the 5 tracks is the superbly pronounced low end, something almost completely unheard of in black metal. [Note: Vinyl copies of the EP are available on the Blastbeat Mailmurder Bandcamp].

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Lord Impaler - The Serpent Seal
Cover art by Petros F.

A band who has mastered the art of short releases, Lord Impaler have been going strong for 15 years yet only have one full-length under their bullet belts. Just like last year’s impressive Babylon Whore EP, The Serpent Seal is full of shorter songs that constantly switch things up. Consisting of re-recordings from their early days, this is a great little release for those with melodic sensibilities who like to be kept on their toes.

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A Diadem of Dead Stars - The Mist Bearer 

With a band name that’s clearly a nod to Wolves in the Throne Room, it’s not surprising this one-man project reeks of Cascadian influence. This dreamy debut is about to be physically released on Pest Productions, the world’s foremost authority on black metal dripping with atmosphere. It won't convert any skeptics of the style, but it’s perfect for those looking to get hypnotized in a sea of fog.

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Human Serpent - The Gradual Immersion in Nihilism
Artwork by Moornebheym

Although the album has one of the most terrifying covers I've ever seen, the music is surprisingly accessible. Following the left hand path of greats like Taake and Sargeist, Human Serpent play raw black metal with an uncanny ear for melody and catchy guitar work.

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Varathron - Untrodden Corridors of Hades
Artwork by Mark Riddick

One of the country’s most well known blackened exports, Varathron has been honing their craft for a quarter century, and it shows. Coupling pure evil with an epic atmosphere and worship of all things mid-paced, the sonic wonders to be explored are never-ending. More progressive than you would expect, Untrodden Corridors of Hades is best served with a glass of fine wine and an open mind.

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Thy Darkened Shade - Liver Lvcifer I: Khem Sedjet
Artwork by Vamperess Imperium

Without question my favorite black metal release of the year, everything about this album is absolutely mindblowing. The frenetic riffs and dizzying guitar work is a nonstop barrage for the album’s length as the hymns to Lucifer only get more impressive by the minute. And the stunning production highlights the mind-bending bass performance, one of the best in black metal history.

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Principality of Hell - Fire & Brimstone 

Principality of Hell don’t try to hide the fact they worship the early cohort of black metal, in fact, they embrace it. The title track’s chant of “black fucking metal!” is just one of the many boot-stomping, fist-pumping moments on this grin-inducing debut. A side project featuring the country’s elite with members from Necromantia, Ravencult, and Thou Art Lord, the rock n’ roll solos and beer guzzling anthems are as fun an homage to the early days as you can get.

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Spectral Lore / Nachtreich - The Quivering Lights 

Spectral Lore’s unbelievable III was given a lot of attention in 2014, but they also quietly released a split with Nachtreich late last year. The Germans provide soothing neoclassical pieces which rub off on Spectral Lore’s hypnotic, dazzling blasts. The entire split is painfully pretty, but will even appeal to those with darker intentions as former Dark Fortress vocalist Azathoth contributes vocals on “Ghost Lights”. [Note: the download comes with the tracks in the wrong order. The correct one is listed on the Bandcamp.]

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Diablery - Architect

In a style that’s become a punchline in recent years, Diablery’s Architect is a breath of fresh, icy air into the orchestral black metal world. The symphonic orchestrations are pronounced, but not overwhelming or overly bombastic. The long, varied album of triumphant anthems is held together by drummer Jan Westermann’s fantastic performance.

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Goetic Equivalent - Goetic Equivalent

Taking cues from both the Second Wave and the current USBM scene, sole maniac Filer channels nihilistic dark energy in this debut. For a unknown solo artist with a drum machine this is a fantastic foray into the beauty that is evil black metal. The tempo changes and frenetic guitar work make this stand out among the hordes of mediocrity.

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January 13, 2015

Desolate Shrine - The Heart of the Netherworld

Written by Kevin Page.

Cover art by L.L. from Desolate Shrine.

I've noticed a trend with these Finn's. 1st album - 46 minutes, 2nd album - 55 minutes and now their 3rd album, The Heart of the Netherworld, clocks in at 63 minutes. Don't be fooled, the band hasn't gone soft or introspective by any stretch of the imagination. This is dark, punishing Finnish death metal right from the get-go. If you enjoyed any of the bands previous work, you'll feel right at home. If they are new to you, there's no better jumping in point.

In a unique twist, the band is comprised of 3 members: LL, who handles all musical duties, RS on vocals (also a member of Lie in Ruins) and ML on vocals. The dual vocal approach might go unnoticed if you are not paying attention, as there isn't a huge variation in styles. But upon closer inspection you'll hear a deeper growl and a slighter higher shriek. Ultimately I think its something that works on a more subconscious level than anything else, providing a bit of variety.

Musically this is a lengthy record to digest since it's layered, diverse and artfully crafted. Most bands of this ilk would be fine churning out the standard 3-5 minute songs. But Desolate Shrine eschews that idea by spitting forth ones ranging from 6 to 14 minutes. And none of these numbers waste any time with multiple minutes of just pure atmosphere or ambiance to "pad" their length. Each track rumbles along like a expertly designed out of control wooden roller coaster at night in some abandoned amusement park in the middle of nowhere. The main guitars are loud and meaty, the production is superb (with just enough filth), and the serene melodic guitars underneath the brutality really allow you to digest all of the madness properly.

While I have enjoyed the bands previous efforts, The Heart of the Netherworld ups their game considerably, and is simply their finest work to date. A must listen.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 12, 2015

Metal Bands-you-might-have-missed-camp 2014

By Calen Henry. Here is a list of a few albums I really liked from 2014 that I either didn't see at all on year end lists, or that I thought were underrepresented on them. Vukari play what is best described as "atmospheric black metal" featuring long, slowly building passages
By Calen Henry.

Here is a list of a few albums I really liked from 2014 that I either didn't see at all on year end lists, or that I thought were underrepresented on them.

Artwork by Mike DeStefano from Vukari

Vukari play what is best described as "atmospheric black metal" featuring long, slowly building passages, culminating in blistering black metal explosions, but they frequently employ post-rock chords rather than the typical black metal voicings, so the result sounds like Mono covering Agalloch. It's great. The approach makes for a record that sounds familiar and cohesive, but also novel. The post-rock leanings, and the black metal fury both shine through without completely mixing.

The mixing for the album is what really brings it ahead of a band like Deafheaven, for execution. All the different part sounds right in the mix. The instruments and vocals are present without anything being overpowered, and the band has gone for clarity, over raw, lo-fi black metal, which suits the style perfectly. Absolutely my favourite band in the style.

Artwork by Ogino Design

Gloson's mix of metal and post-rock is eerily similar to Vukari's but with doom rather than black metal. They mix crushing doom sections with more ambient, clear guitar driven sections. Like Vukari, they often employ post rock chords, but know how to keep the doom, and worship the riff, while experimenting. It always comes back to monolithic riffs, first and foremost with the post rock experimentation adding to the downtuned assault, rather than taking over.

It's also worth noting that the EP is generally either free, or hovering around $1. It's absolutely unmissable at that price. Bonus: the album art is fantastic.

Artwork by Metastazis

Black Anvil come from the NYC black metal scene but, unlike some of their city-mates, play blackened thrash with a progressive edge, and the addition of all-the-things, including, but not limited to:
  • wah drenched leads
  • shredding leads
  • tapping leads
  • gang vocals
  • clean as well as rasped vocals
  • a gunshot
  • shouted “1-2-3-4” before one of the aforementioned styles of lead
It’s so good, but a lot of publications seemed to write it off as “almost there” or “good, but overlong”. Personally, I didn't even notice it was long until I read it. It’s so great that I’m happy to have every minute of it.

January 11, 2015

Attic - Seasons

By Justin C.

I had a moment of doubt when first listening to Attic's Seasons. The band kindly provided lyrics, so I read along while I listened. I was brought up short when I got to "Spring." This is not a mournful affair about how all the villagers that died during the winter must now be buried. In fact, it's a downright sunny affair, with lyrics like, "It's time for spring / prepare for smiles." Happy springtime smiles? What kind of death metal is this? How can I take this seriously? But then I realized something: How many overly serious (and dare I say "comical"?) analyses of Satan do I have on my iPod? And raise your hand if you really, truly need some more songs about Chtulhu. The bottom line is this: This album rips hard, so if Attic wants to throw in some April showers and May flowers, I'm O.K. with it.

2014 death metal sometimes felt to me like it was all about OSDM and Entombed worship. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Attic's take is fast, bright, and heavy on thrashy goodness. The band self-identifies as tech death, among other things, but the instrumental chops serve the songs. None of them break the 5-minute mark, and they're refreshingly free of wankery. The vocals favor a higher/raspier approach compared to a lot of death metal, but it works, and it adds a slightly blackened feel. The riffage is catchy, and it varies everywhere between hints to Master of Puppets goodness and proggier affair--check out "Fall" for examples of both in one song. The band is fantastic at effortless switches between ripping metal and melodicism, as shown in "Centralia" and "When Trees Attack." "Snow" even offers a nice break as a Russian Circles-esque instrumental tune.

If the springtime-happy lyrics I mentioned worry you too much, don't be afraid. There's plenty of other material covered here. The aforementioend "Centralia" is about Centralia, Pennsylvania. A coal vein under the town caught fire in 1962, and needless to say, it will be burning for a very, very long time. The sinkholes, carbon monoxide, and other poisonous gasses eventually forced all but seven of the town's residents to abandon their homes, and Attic has deftly turned the town's sad story into a horror movie-themed tune.

Seasons shows Attic going in a lot of directions all at once, but they make it work for them. Sometimes a laser focus isn't everything, and even if they choose to keep their song writing fast and loose like this album, I don't think that would be a bad thing at all.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 8, 2015

Top 10 Bandcamp Metal Releases of 2014

Written by Kevin Page.

We all love year end lists, right? Well, here's 10 pieces of music you should own in your Bandcamp collection. Let us know your favorites in the comments section.

10. Vanhelgd - Relics of Sulphur Salvation

My review.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

9. Temple of Void - Of Terror and the Supernatural

It gives you that feeling of being flattened like a pancake, but it sounds so good you really don't mind. In fact, it will put a huge grin on your face.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

8. Infestus - The Reflecting Void

One of those albums I heard earlier in the year and thought, "okay" and I bookmarked it. I then listened to it last month and was like "WOW". I'm just thankful I had the good sense to revisit it.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

7. Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel

How do you follow up a debut album that was critically acclaimed and avoid the sophomore jinx? By eating vegemite and avoiding drop bears every day, that's how!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

6. Emptiness - Nothing but the Whole

My review.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

5. Swallowed - Lunarterial

My review.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

4. Hail Spirit Noir - Oi Magoi

One could use about 10 adjectives to describe their sound. I'll simply let you decide for yourself. But please go in with an open mind and no preconceived notions. Unless of course you heard their debut, Pneuma, then you can just expect more of the same, but better in every regard.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

3. Aenaon - Extance

I'm so happy they finally made this available on Bandcamp last month. The album came out in January and it drove me nuts that I couldn't review it here or had a nice handy link to share with friends for them to check out. Now that this has been rectified, do yourself a huuuuuuuge favor and listen.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

2. Universe217 - Ease

My review.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

1. Majestic Downfall / The Slow Death - Split

My review.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

January 6, 2015

The Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda albums of 2014

By Kevin Page. I always complete my Best Of list by the beginning of December. But that means there are sometimes a few releases that come out late in the month I can't get to. It also means you probably won't see them on many other lists either.
By Kevin Page.

I always complete my Best Of list by the beginning of December. But that means there are sometimes a few releases that come out late in the month I can't get to. It also means you probably won't see them on many other lists either. Besides all that, there are always albums that just slip through the cracks. Sometimes I overlook an album or it doesn't click with me until much later. In that spirit, here's 4 metal albums you may not see mentioned all that much but definitely need to check out (and one non metal album that's just too good to pass up).

Cover art by Misanthropic-Art

Hollow Dominion is the 4th album from Czech Republic's, Destroying Divinity. Blistering death that almost treads into the brutal death metal realm at times, but mixes things up a bit with some doomy sections and sweeping melodic solos. Definitely not what I was expecting when I initially hit the play button on the first song. They bounce back and forth between these styles without feeling disjointed. It creates an interesting mix that not many bands do (or can pull off).

Art by Zbigniew Bielak

There's no messing around here. Straight up filthy black death from these Irishman on their debut album. ZOM hold nothing back on Flesh Assimilation. The production is a swirling mass of chaos. The vocals reverberate from toxic hellfire. Admittedly when this came out last month I was basically at my saturation point of albums for the year, so it didn't do much for me.. But I would put it on from time to time and the raw energy just won me over. It also helps that they have a plethora of memorable riffs in there, where most bands of this ilk do not.

Artwork by Mark Riddick

If you've been listening to extreme metal for more than 5 minutes over the past 20 years, chances are you heard the name Varathron before. For the most part they have been unfairly overlooked by fellow Greek countrymates Septicflesh and Rotting Christ. Untrodden Corridors of Hades (their 5th full length) is tasteful melodic mid paced black metal with a rock solid production. There's no pretense to try and be the most evil and brutal band on the block. This is a confident and seasoned band that knows its place. The soulful guitarwork shines and helps to infuse the whole experience with such a dark and occult vibe, that other bands only wish they could capture.

Cover painting by Santiago Caruso

I'll be honest with ya right up front: this record is gonna demand more of your time than anything else we've discussed so far. Equal parts progressive, black thrash and death metal, the Australian power trio, StarGazer, has really come up with something unique. A Merging to the Boundless is the bands 3rd full length album and also features members of Cauldron Black Ram and Mourning Congregation. It's by no means straight forward.   I don't even want to list what bands they sound like if you put them all in a blender, as that would do them a disservice. Just go in expecting a musical journey. You'll thank me later.

Artwork by Ariel Zucker-Brull

Hailing from Paris, France, Perturbator, is the brainchild of electronic music artist, James Kent. Dangerous Days isn't something that's even remotely in my wheelhouse, but it just scratches an itch I didn't know I had. If you are a child of the 80's or just love movies/shows like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Terminator or Knight Rider and thought, wouldn't it be cool to get naked and dance, then this is for you! It's not metal but its metal enough for metal fans to enjoy. Clothing optional.