Friday, September 30, 2016

Alcest - Kodama

By Justin C. When I first heard a new Alcest album was coming, I was unreservedly excited. Of course, one of my first questions was how the new album would compare to Shelter. Would Alcest continue in a more pop direction, or steer back toward the blackgaze they pioneered?
By Justin C.

Artwork by Førtifem

When I first heard a new Alcest album was coming, I was unreservedly excited. Of course, one of my first questions was how the new album would compare to Shelter. Would Alcest continue in a more pop direction, or steer back toward the blackgaze they pioneered? Then I heard that the new album, Kodama, was Japanese inspired, and I had no idea what to think. Plenty of artists decide to dabble and/or delve into different cultures and music. Done thoughtfully, you get a sublime triumph like Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain. Done carelessly, you get Avril Lavigne's irredeemable piece of garbage, made up of bits and pieces of half-digested Japanese culture barfed up on top of what might have been a decent pop song if anyone had put any effort into it.

I was confident that Alcest would create something closer to Miles than Avril, but even after I first heard Kodama, I was a little mystified. I was pleased, as it’s a fantastic album, but still mystified. There's no mistaking the opening strains of the album for anything other than Alcest, with waves of guitar soaked in melody washing over you. But where was the Japanese influence? I'm no expert--I've played a few classical guitar works from Japanese composers--but I was pretty sure I recognized hints here and there of a Japanese musical sensibility, particularly in the title track. But beyond a few hints and the clearly anime-inspired cover, where was the influence?

Photo by Pedro Roque.

I try to avoid other press about an album before I review it, but I broke my own rule this time to learn more. Kim Kelly interviewed Neige and Winterhalter over at Noisey, and from that, the picture became a little clearer. The duo describe the album as being inspired as much, if not more, by the spirituality and culture of Japan than any particular musical style. Neige mentions an anime film in particular, Princess Mononoke, that deals with themes of environmentalism vs. human progress. The themes of that movie seem to fit well within the themes that Alcest has been about all along--a duality of sorts, feeling a pull between two places but not feeling exactly at home in either.

With a better understanding of that aspect, what about the relative softness or hardness of the album? Well, you don't have to get far into the album to find out. The second track, “Eclosion,” is another melodic gem, but the guitars start to get aggressive early on. There are also those fantastic clean vocals, sometimes with aching harmonies, that appear and then drift off over the horizon. But it turns out this is a build up to a long section of Neige's black metal rasps, mixed with anger, frustration, and sorrow. They play right over the beautiful melodies, and the combination gives me goosebumps. Therein lies Alcest's greatest strength--playing the harsh against the beautiful.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

You'll find even more of this musical-duality-mirroring-lyrical-duality throughout. "Je Suis D'Ailleurs," which translates to "I'm from Somewhere Else," continues with yearning clean vocals and the music gaining in ferocity. It's really part of a multi-song arc of building intensity, peaking with "Oiseaux de Proire" ("Birds of Prey"). The harsh vocals here are some of the most intense you'll hear from Neige, and the instrumental build toward the end of the song is to die for.

Does all this mean a "triumphant return to form," as some will say? I'd actually say no. As I explained in my previous love letter to Alcest, the band has stepped away and back toward the black metal aspect of their sound before, but the core of their musicality is always there. Kodama, while re-emphasizing some elements that weren't present on Shelter, pushes that core sensibility yet another step further in this band's fantastic catalog. No one's infallible, but I haven't seen any signs of fatigue in this band yet.


Tagged with 2016, Alcest, Justin C, Pedro Roque, post-metal, Prophecy Productions, shoegaze

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wretch - Wretch

By Karen A. Mann. When Jason McCash of Indianapolis doom legends Gates of Slumber died a few years ago, his bandmate and longtime friend Karl Simon knew that he had to create new music to both honor McCash’s memory and effectively process his own grief. The result is a new band, Wretch, and an eponymous debut
By Karen A. Mann

Cover art by Branca Studio

When Jason McCash of Indianapolis doom legends Gates of Slumber died a few years ago, his bandmate and longtime friend Karl Simon knew that he had to create new music to both honor McCash’s memory and effectively process his own grief. The result is a new band, Wretch, and an eponymous debut (out now on Bad Omen Records) that feels almost overwhelmingly gloomy and visceral in its pain while continuing down Gates of Slumber’s Godforsakenly doomy path.

The album opens with “Running Out of Days,” which begins with a squalling guitar, out of which a heavy grooving riff forms. Recalling the chilling, warning tone of Black Sabbath’s “Hand of Doom,” Simon sings about losing ground, images slipping away, and finally about “a sad song sung again, the needle stole away my friend.”

Photos by Carmelo Española.

The rest of Wretch is equally grief-stricken and confessional, while musically mining old school doom and heavy rock for inspiration. They even include an inspired cover of the early Judas Priest gem “Winter.” Even when Simon isn’t singing, you can feel his sadness, as in the delicate instrumental “Grey Cast Mourning.”

Wretch is at their best when they go full bore with the riffage, which they do magnificently on the Obsessed-inspired “Icebound.” The album ends appropriate with the lumbering, dirgelike “Drown,” which also features some of Simon’s most despairing lyrics.

Promises that I made were lies, all lies, and the hopes that I had died, they all died,” Simon sings. “Waves that pull me under, I’m going to drown.”

Such raw emotional honesty, coupled with that heavy groove makes Wretch one of the most promising debuts of the year.



Tagged with 2016, Bad Omen Records, Carmelo Española, doom metal, Karen A. Mann, Wretch

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dark Descent Spotlight: Blood Incantation, Nox Formulae, and Ghoulgotha

By Craig Hayes. Colorado-based label Dark Descent celebrated its 7th anniversary recently, and while there are plenty of other great underground metal labels around, it’s rare to find one
By Craig Hayes.

Colorado-based label Dark Descent celebrated its 7th anniversary recently, and while there are plenty of other great underground metal labels around, it’s rare to find one that’s sustained such a consistently impressive run of releases over the years. Dark Descent’s success obviously owes a lot to the astute curating of its roster, but it’s also worth noting that the label’s never bought into trends or fostered any unnecessary drama in order to sell a few more records from yesterday's favourite band. That’s meant Dark Descent has maintained a reputation for delivering authentic music from authoritative artists. And that’s certainly true of the three releases below.


There’s been a great deal of online praise orbiting Blood Incantation since the death metal band released their Interdimensional Extinction EP back in 2015. It’d be fair to say Blood Incantation don’t sound like a band who really care about a bunch of ‘internet’ opinions, as such. They're analog, old school, and more otherworldly than digitally hip. But they’re going to have to get used to hearing a lot of online praise nonetheless, because the band’s much-anticipated full-length debut, Starspawn, is here, and come 2016's end of year list season, that album is going to be talked about a lot.

No question, Starspawn is one of this year’s best metal releases. It’s murky and filthy, and features chaotic abstractions and musical madness taking a 35-minute rocket ship ride into the farthest reaches of outer space, and steep dive into the deepest depths of your own minds too. Starspawn stands out in death metal’s rotten ranks because it sounds utterly unique, and while Blood Incantation have an uglier and more violent sound than death metal legends like Gorguts or Atheist, Blood Incantation have clearly been inspired by those band’s innovational approaches.

The dark void between the stars seems to be a catalyst for Blood Incantation’s creativity, and the band draws a connection between us and the wider cosmos. However, Blood Incantation also deal in the, “inner world of endless dimensions, astral projection, telepathy, remote viewing, walk-in souls, etc”. So their vision is a far cry from stock-standard death metal scenarios.

In essence, Blood Incantation underscore that death metal doesn’t have to be a blunt conceptual instrument. And their cryptic cosmic aesthetic is matched by mind-melting music that smashes open portals to…well, pick your own deranged dimension/destination.

Starspawn is built on a skeleton of macabre vocals and churning old school death metal; and in that sense Blood Incantation’s music is primitive and battering. But the band also hurl complex technical flourishes in amongst doomier and more ambient passages, which brings elaborate –– and I’m guessing, bong-fuelled –– progressive elements to the fore.

There’s jaw-dropping instrumentation and imaginativeness exhibited throughout Starspawn. Welcome to the death metal album to beat this year.



Mysterious Greek black metal band Nox Formulae consider their debut album, The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy, to be, “a true sonic grimoire...equal to an actual book of Dark Magic”. I’m guessing that’s good news, if occult communiqués matter to you, but even if they don’t, it’s certainly clear that Nox Formulae are deadly serious about their diabolic mission.

Musically, the band follows a fitting path to deliver their dark missives on The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy. Nox Formulae’s sound is orthodox, solemn, and even heavily gothic in parts, but it’s most obviously indebted to the raw tremolo and treble attack of black metal’s second wave. Expect pitch-black melodies, an icy atmosphere, lacerating riffs, and a fair few spine-chilling moments on The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy. But Nox Formulae’s real talent lies in getting under the skin.

That’s no easy feat these days. Metal is drowning in more-evil-then-evil posturing, and supposedly ‘satanic’ bands are now winning Grammys. But Nox Formulae shape ritualistic rites into insidious odes. They write songs that worm and worry at the edges of your psyche. And their tracks linger in the mind, tempting you to return.

The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy is a deep dark well of music and esoterica. It has all the hallmarks of classic Hellenic black metal, with its power to unnerve while unlocking forbidden secrets. A rare and devilish treat, indeed.


Cover art by Mattias Frisk.

To Starve the Cross is the second full-length album from Southern Californian death metal trio Ghoulgotha. The album is markedly off-kilter, and atonal, but for all it’s eccentricities, To Starve the Cross never becomes lost in its own self-importance.

Like Finnish gloom-mongers Hooded Menace (Ghoulgotha’s most obvious peers), there is a heaped helping of graveyard insanity to Ghoulgotha’s music. To Starve the Cross certainly tips its hat to classic horror themes, and Ghoulgotha inject a heavy dose of aptly vintage and black-hearted doom into their death metal. But while that’s all a mix of metal motifs very well-acquainted with each other, Ghoulgotha are still adept at delivering the unexpected on To Starve the Cross.

Ghoulgotha twist and turn their songs on the album inside out –– launching into bursts of impressively technical riffing, only to excoriate that with a wall of noise. Ghoulgotha take those doom and death metal tropes we’ve heard a million times before and deliver an album that’s familiarly barbaric, in one sense, but entirely idiosyncratic and unconventional in another.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Blood Incantation, Craig Hayes, Dark Descent Records, death metal, doom metal, Ghoulgotha, Nox Formulae

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sahg - Memento Mori

By Hera Vidal. Most people take their mortality for granted, and don’t really think about death or the way they and their loved ones will go. For those who are completely self-aware about their mortality
By Hera Vidal.

Artwork Robert Høyem.

Most people take their mortality for granted, and don’t really think about death or the way they and their loved ones will go. For those who are completely self-aware about their mortality, a foreboding thought about dying can launch them into fearing the unknown. After all, no one knows how where their lives will lead, how far they will travel, and how long they will live for. However, in the end, everything dies—and that constant reminder is something no one will ever shake away.
"Memento Mori was one of several options that we had on note for a long time. But then Lemmy died. And Bowie died. And all of a sudden, all these rock icons disappeared, one by one. People that have made their imprint on history and influenced us musically since childhood. It made a great impression on a personal level, and started a grieving process that influenced the making of the album. Suddenly it was very clear what the album title would be. ‘Remember, you must die’. Even immortal legends like Bowie and Lemmy don’t live forever.” (Olav Iversen discussing the album title)
Memento Mori is an album that reflects the acceptance that things all eventually end, and both the lyrics and the music reflect that. Sahg has always incorporated doom metal elements in their music, but here, it’s heavier; it’s a constant weight on the listener, as if they too can become aware of their mortality. The drum usage is heavy-handed and prominent, and the vocals give it that needed oomph to get the point cross. Iversen and Vetaas’s vocals are mostly clean, but there are a few moments where growls are used. However, they are an accent piece and are used sparingly, particularly in “Black Unicorn”. As the album continues forward, the bass becomes prominent and just adds more layers to the dark themes of the album. However, the way the music is arranged has the bass accent the guitars, and the guitars become melodic, adding a layer of hope that doesn’t diminish. Of course, that weight culminates in “Sanctimony”, as it is, by far, the heaviest song on the album.

Funnily enough, things begin to change towards the end of the album. In “(Praise the) Electric Sun”, a prog metal influence comes through, particularly in the acoustic-sounding guitar and Iversen’s vocals. It’s weightless, and it doesn’t hold back on its soft sounds. There is also a slight use of a wall of sound, albeit it doesn’t seem to stay for long. “(Praise)” is soft, melodic, and soothing, and it gives the listener a moment to breathe before returning to the heavy-handed sound the album has. Of course, once “Travellers of Space and Light” starts, the prog influence has diminished, but it’s there, underneath all the heavy usage of doom. Once the listener zeroes in on the layer underneath the vocals and the guitar, it begins to sound like keyboards. Given the musical changes occurring, it’s only a matter of time before the album changes themes, bringing up the real curveball. The album’s final track, “Blood of Oceans”, with its rather pagan-inspired arrangements and vocal usage, is the most powerful song on the album. Einar Selvik, of Wardruna fame, co-wrote this track and also added his own sound to the music. The song also features lyrics in Norwegian, making this the only Sahg song to contain Norwegian lyrics. It’s a nice touch to close the album on, given that Selvik used to be the Sahg drummer before starting Wardruna.

All in all, Memento Mori is a trip into accepting that everything ends, and it constantly reminds you of that fact. It has amazing vocals, clean instrumental work, and heavy themes to swallow. Given the band’s past affairs, they came to the realization that things could end for them, but, despite that, they moved forward, and created powerful music that is deep and moves the listener. Memento Mori is a powerful album, and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Prominent tracks: “Black Unicorn”, “Take It to the Grave”, “Sanctimony”, “(Praise) the Electric Sun”, “Blood of Oceans”


Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Hera Vidal, Indie Recordings, Sahg

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ramlord / Sea of Bones – Split

By Craig Hayes. Back in 2013, I wrote a review here at Metal Bandcamp praising stenchcore trio Ramlord’s second album, Crippled Minds, Sundered Wisdom. That review remains one of my favourite contributions to this site,
By Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Diego Bureau Anti-Art.

Back in 2013, I wrote a review here at Metal Bandcamp praising stenchcore trio Ramlord’s second album, Crippled Minds, Sundered Wisdom. That review remains one of my favourite contributions to this site, and to put that into wider context for you, I generally detest everything I write.

Not that Crippled Minds, Sundered Wisdom review, though. I like that, a lot. I think that review underscores that life (including writing, in my case) can feel like an unending struggle, and that the world often seems shockingly callous. That's why we revel in the kinds of twisted, cathartic noise that bands like Ramlord create. Although, it would be a lie to say that the band's music is any kind of soothing balm, as such.

We live in a world where even the things we love can easily end up crushing our souls, and Ramlord’s music really serves as a colossal-sized vent for releasing the pressure. If you think that sounds a little on the bleak side, then keep in mind that Ramlord know all about crushing souls. That's the band's bread and butter. They are masters of abject misery. And the good news on that front is that the world is apparently set on getting worse by the second. So Ramlord’s got tragedies galore to drawn upon.

Proof of that can be heard on Ramlord’s new split album with fellow gloom-mongers Sea of Bones. But, before we get to that split in full, it’s important to note that Ramlord’s sound is perfectly pitched to conjure the savagery lurking beneath society's crumbling facade. The music they make is a horrorshow; a churning mix of d-beat, crust, and filthy black metal. Or, as the band put it, “In stench we grind through the sludge we blacken.”

Sound good? Of course it does. Ramlord’s music is a glorious nightmare. (Equal parts Discharge, Dystopia and Venom, on a real bad trip.) The band’s two full-lengths and myriad splits have all been as primitive as they are nihilistic, and as fierce as they are feral, and Ramlord’s vocalist and guitarist Jan Slezak has an amazing lo-fi punk ’n’ metal side-project called Leather Chalice that’s equally as harsh and ultra-negative.

Ramlord’s contribution to their split with Sea of Bones consists of one lengthy track, “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)”. The track is a toxic brew of punked-up black metal, stripped to its bones, with gargling-acid vocals and icier, isolated scales offering brief moments of reprieve. “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” is dissonant and chaotic, and like the rest of Ramlord’s odorous oeuvre, the track is steeped in doom and gloom and tailor-made to soundtrack our species' long-overdue downfall.

Speaking of doom and gloom, that’s where Sea of Bones enter the picture. Like a couple of the band’s nautically named brethren – see Buried at Sea and Graves at Sea – Sea of Bones also deliver massive, rolling waves of sludgy doom. Sea of Bones’ contribution to their split with Ramlord, “Hopelessness and Decay”, is an aptly titled lurch across bleak terrain. And if mammoth and morose songs set at a funereal pace appeal, then rest assured that “Hopelessness and Decay” will provide 10 minutes of fathomless despair.

Sea of Bones’ catalogue thus far (two EPs, a couple of full-lengths, and this split) has been replete with similarly sombre music. That said, Sea of Bones do incorporate a broader set of sonic influences than your bog-standard doom band. Post-metal looms large in the band's work, providing a undulating backbone to many of Sea of Bones' songs, and the band make great use of the texture and weight of their sound as a whole – à la Swans.

If you’re a fan of Neurosis’ latter era, then how Sea of Bones’ set about sculpting a towering missive like “Hopelessness and Decay” will be familiar. The band set a slow and increasingly tense tempo at first, and as the track steadily unwinds heavier and heavier elements are added, with each progression, large or small, hammered home for full aesthetic effect.

And that’s Ramlord and Sea of Bones’ split. Two bands mining a similarly wretched vein, although each approach that vein from an entirely different angle. For Ramlord, it’s all tooth and claw; a virulent and vicious attack of jagged, punked-up metal. For Sea of Bones’ it’s the slow and steady approach; with additional element added trampling the will even further.

Ramlord and Sea of Bones meet at the point where rack and ruin threaten to tip the balance. That’s life, I guess, one minute we’re hanging on and struggling through, and the next minute life can remind us that we were only ever a breath away from having our hopes shattered. Ramlord and Sea of Bones' split is the perfect accompaniment for wallowing in that fact. So how about I buy a copy, and then you buy a copy (because misery loves company), and then we all can march into the final flames together. Laughing our collective heads off at the fucking futility of it all.

Sweet dreams, my friends.


Tagged with 2016, black metal, Broken Limbs Recordings, Craig Hayes, crust punk, doom metal, drone, Ramlord, Sea of Bones, sludge metal

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lotus Thief - Gramarye

By Justin C. Lotus Thief, perhaps the sole band working in their self-described genre of "text metal," is back with their second full-length, Gramarye. Born from the partnership of Bezaelith and Otrebor, the man behind Botanist, their first full length, Rervm, gave musical form to an epic poem written by Titus Lucretius Carus during the time of the Roman Empire.
By Justin C.


Lotus Thief, perhaps the sole band working in their self-described genre of "text metal," is back with their second full-length, Gramarye. Born from the partnership of Bezaelith and Otrebor, the man behind Botanist, their first full length, Rervm, gave musical form to an epic poem written by Titus Lucretius Carus during the time of the Roman Empire. For the recording of this album, they've added a third member, Iva Toric, who adds synths and another lovely voice joining with Bezaelith's own.** They've also expanded their subject matter--instead of one author, this album covers a veritable library of magic- and belief-based texts, including Homer's Odyssey, the Egyptian funerary text the Book of the Dead, and Aleister Crowley's occult work, The Book of Lies.

I've seen quite a few genre tags attached to Lotus Thief, including space rock, ambient, doom, drone, black metal, post-rock, psychedelic, and more. I looked back to my review of their first album, and I realized I cleverly avoided getting too nitpicky about genres. I'd advise you to do the same, because a full subgenre dissection offers little in the way of insight. At their core, Lotus Thief plays damn good metal, maybe leaning more toward art rock than anything else. There are hints of everything I listed, but everything has been blended so well that you'll never find the seams that join them.

What they continue to do brilliantly with that basic sound is add different touches and textures to match their subject matter without pulling too far away from their core sound. Circe is a goddess from The Odyssey who was fond of turning her enemies into livestock, a fate Odysseus managed to avoid. The chugging riffs and heroic guitar soloing that appear in the song itself puts a vivid image in my mind of Odysseus's galley beating through the waves toward home. "The Book of Lies" has just enough eerie atmosphere built in to conjure Crowley's occultism without going over the top, and the doomy opening riff, which the band revisits as the song progresses, is the perfect topper.

And through it all, there's Bezaelith's siren voice. She has very little competition when it comes to this, and if the music itself is at times cerebral, her singing is the beating heart that keeps the whole thing grounded and compelling. Favorite moments? It's hard to say where to start, but go to around the 4:30 mark in "Salem" and listen to this pure, elevating beauty. Listen to it several dozen times in a row, maybe. (I'm not saying I did that. I'm also not not saying I did that). As good as the entirety of the album is, the emotional crescendo that builds through "Salem" and album closer "Idisi" should provide at least 200% of your recommended daily allowance of feels. I said it in the review of Rervm, and I'll say it again here: If these vocals don't melt your heart, I don't know what to do with you.

We've had a good year of book-ish metal. Gorguts gave us a 33-minute tour of The House of Wisdom, and now Lotus Thief takes us from the library and back into the books themselves. But as unique as the subject matter may be, Lotus Thief continues to build an incredible sound rich enough to match.

**Lotus Thief underwent some personnel changes since the recording of Gramarye, and at the time of this writing, they are performing as a quintet.

Tagged with 2016, Justin C, Lotus Thief, post-metal, post-rock, Prophecy Productions

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dave’s Demo Roundup Vol. XI

By Dave Schalek. This is a three song demo from the U.K.’s long running Solstice. Solstice are releasing this demo, To Sol A Thane, at a name your price offering in order to raise funds for the recording of an upcoming full-length. Solstice probably need no introduction to most listeners, but newcomers will greatly appreciate Solstice’s epic take
By Dave Schalek.


This is a three song demo from the U.K.’s long running Solstice. Solstice are releasing this demo, To Sol A Thane, at a name your price offering in order to raise funds for the recording of an upcoming full-length. Solstice probably need no introduction to most listeners, but newcomers will greatly appreciate Solstice’s epic take on traditional heavy metal that has a few hints of melodic doom. Each of the well produced three songs is a hallmark of the style. Loaded from top to bottom with soaring riffs and with epic vocals from Paul Kearns, who joined the band in 2011, To Sol A Thane is an excellent means of diving into Solstice’s long discography. You can also find a sampling of Solstice’s more recent output on their Bandcamp site, as well.



Artwork by Doktor Ross Sewage

Yet another raw blackened death metal project from Oakland, Ulthar is a trio featuring, notably, Shelby Lermo on guitar and vocals. Lermo, of Vastum and Apocryphon fame among others, is joined by Justin Ennis on drums, and Steve Peacock on bass and vocals, both veterans of numerous bands from the Bay Area. The focus of Ulthar on this debut five song demo is a gigantic combination of blackened death metal, d-beat, and crust. The demo is monstrously produced and the bottom heavy sound hits you with such force that your head will have snapped off by the time you hit the repeat button for another go around. This may be the next big thing from the Bay Area, and expect a full-length in the future to sit alongside albums from Vastum, Acephalix, and the like. This one’s a must, folks.




Metalhit has recently made available a couple of very old demos from Vlad Tepes, a horribly low-fi, rancid black metal duo from France. Vlad Tepes dates back to the time of similar bands from France, such as Mütiilation and Celestia. The two demos now available are War Funeral March from 1994 (which also includes the four song demo Rehearsal Winter '93) and Morte Lune from 1996. Both are typical of the era, although War Funeral March has slightly better production. Thinly produced and sloppily played, these demos are almost a breath of fresh air today, dating back to a time when all things necro was in vogue. Vlad Tepes disappeared from view in the mid ‘90s, and, as a result, the band has become easy to overlook. However, the notoriety is definitely there, and these releases on Bandcamp are an easy way of sampling a bygone era.




Tagged with 1994, 1996, 2016, black metal, crust, Dave Schalek, death metal, epic doom metal, free download, Metalhit, Solstice, Ulthar, Vlad Tepes

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sumerlands - Sumerlands

By Karen A. Mann. After turning heads with their 2014 Guardian demo, Philly traditional metal outfit Sumerlands is back with a full Relapse debut that’s easily in contention for one of the best releases of the year.
By Karen A. Mann


After turning heads with their 2014 Guardian demo, Philly traditional metal outfit Sumerlands is back with a full Relapse debut that’s easily in contention for one of the best releases of the year. Fusing a love of classic guitar-driven ‘70s and ‘80s heavy rock, the self-titled debut is a satisfying slab of ripping leads, powerful vocals, and thought-provoking lyrics of personal and global chaos. It also helps solidify an emerging new American traditional metal scene (along with Magic Circle and High Spirits) that’s not afraid to go clean, be smart and shred.

Sumerlands gets its power from the double whammy of Arthur Rizk’s soaring guitar and former Hour of 13 vocalist Phil Swanson’s massive, multi-octave voice. The effect is evident from the very first song, “Seventh Seal,” which sounds like the perfect tune to blast from an IROC Z while you’re screaming down the road to pick up your buddy and go hang out at the mall on a Friday night. Lyrics like “hear the cries of martyrs, sound the angels call / Await your final judgement, your fate will soon be sworn”, add to the anthemic nature of the song.

From there, the album offers seven more songs, most clocking in around the four-five minute mark, that pay homage to the likes of early Judas Priest, Queensryche, Cirith Ungol and Van Halen while still sounding contemporary. Sumerlands is at its best on “The Guardian,” where Swanson takes it over the top with a Halford-style falsetto. Other standout tracks include the slower, moodier “Haunted Forever,” and “Lost My Mind,” which features an early Def Leppard-worthy riff.


Tagged with 2016, heavy metal, Karen A. Mann, Relapse Records, Sumerlands

High Spirits - Motivator

By Karen A. Mann. For those about to rock, High Spirits not only salute you, they offer a rock’n’roll self-help manual in their latest release, Motivator, to help you on your rock journey. Like a musical version of a Tony Robbins book-on-tape
By Karen A. Mann.

Cover art by Alexander von Wieding

For those about to rock, High Spirits not only salute you, they offer a rock’n’roll self-help manual in their latest release, Motivator, to help you on your rock journey. Like a musical version of a Tony Robbins book-on-tape, Motivator teems with Camaro-rock riffs, punchy melodies, and lyrics that entreat you to “let your spirits rise”, “take on the night”, and “stand by for the guiding light”. The cover art even features a jet taking off at sunset, into the night and presumably into glory. The message is simple and straightforward: It’s time to rock, so don your patch-encrusted denim jacket and put your fist in the air. There’s no time to be morose or lack confidence when listening to lyrics like “keep it close and in control -- after we rock we’ve got to roll”.

The album begins with a brief, high soaring instrumental, “Up and Overture”, which then sets the stage into “Flying High”, a passion-filled rocker that lands somewhere between Loverboy and Judas Priest and sets the bar for the remainder of the album, which is filled with mostly short, energetic songs. Other standout tracks include the galloping “This is the Night”, and “Haunted by Love”, which practically demands that you sing along with it.

High Spirits live lineup. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

High Spirits is the brainchild of Chris Black, who also records as Dawnbringer. If you follow his work at all, you know he’s into concepts, the most epic of which was probably the 2012 release Into the Lair of the Sun God. Black has said that the inspiration for Motivator -- music, lyrics and even the cover -- hit him at once, and that he actually had to prevent himself from moving too quickly and releasing it as a demo two years ago. Given the album’s relentlessly earnest and upbeat nature, there are times when it’s easy to wonder how serious it is, but there’s no doubt it’s fun.


Tagged with 2016, hard rock, heavy metal, High Spirits, John Mourlas, Karen A. Mann

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Frozen Forest - Ancient Ritual

By Calen Henry. Ancient Ritual is the debut LP from Zagreb’s Frozen Forest. On it, in a way that seems almost unique to modern European bands, they’ve gone absolutely all out with both metal imagery and musical styles; with little concern for genre conventions and it rules
By Calen Henry.


Ancient Ritual is the debut LP from Zagreb’s Frozen Forest. On it, in a way that seems almost unique to modern European bands, they’ve gone absolutely all out with both metal imagery and musical styles; with little concern for genre conventions and it rules. It starts with the album cover; a line drawing of a hooded figure, flanked by three reapers on horseback, prevailing over a ritual sacrifice on a bed of bones, wreathed in flame.

Coupled with ultra-metal track titles like “Devil’s Grin Retaliation” and “Spider Cures Fever” their presentation oozes Capital M Metal. The lyrics really seal the deal; a borderline nonsensical mix of black metal blasphemy, thrash/grind influenced nihilist anti-society vitriol and Death Metal English, it really touches on everything metal. Amazingly, it also flows in a bizarrely poetic way.

Frozen​ ​Forest’s​ ​aural​ ​assault​ ​is​ a tightrope walk between the ​swirling​ ​black​ ​metal​ ​maelstrom​ ​of​ ​bands​ ​like Misþyrming and the riff-driven snarl of Mgła​. While their particular death potion is brewed from the same ingredients as others’ it’s not from the same cook book. Like their cherry picked visual and lyrical aesthetic, Frozen Forest unabashedly genre mix for a sound that really sets itself apart.

Below the maelstrom rumbles a gargantuan thrashy bass pounding things forward and sometimes even thundering into the lead, like the intro to "Isola Dei Morta". Above the storm ride soaring leads that often throw right back to 80s thrash and would feel out of place in a less skillfully mixed pot. The soloing is fantastic, showing all manner of technique (Tapping! YES!), and giving a melodic polish to the black metal burn.

Though the mix is generally on point for modern black metal, it’s is a touch too heavy on the low end. It’s excellent to have the bass present, but the overall mix gets a touch boomy. It’s by no means a deal breaker, but it’s noticeable.

Frozen Forest, at this point, seem to be firmly underground, which is a shame, because they’re unique spin on an increasingly crowded genre deserves to be heard.


Tagged with 2016, black metal, Calen Henry, Frozen Forest

Monday, September 12, 2016

Colosso - Obnoxious

By Justin C. I've been following Colosso from the beginning with Max Tomé's (mostly) one-man show on Abrasive Peace. That was a fantastic modern death metal album right out of the gate
By Justin C.


I've been following Colosso from the beginning with Max Tomé's (mostly) one-man show on Abrasive Peace. That was a fantastic modern death metal album right out of the gate, and I described it as "adventurous and complex," and release after release, the band has grown both in musicality and in number of members. With the band's second proper full-length, Obnoxious, they've added singer André Macedo. He makes a great fit, and he's got one of those great mid-range scream-growls I love to hear in death metal. But what about the rest of the package?

Like Colosso's previous albums, Obnoxious goes by fast. The album clocks in at 36 minutes for 9 songs, and you have to appreciate the band's dedication to keeping it tight. As with their earlier work, Colosso isn't satisfied to just chug-a-chug along, and to avoid that, they add extra texture with different guitar effects, contrasting riffs, and even some judiciously used synths. The variety they pack into the songs helps give them a more expansive feel than a quick glance at the clock might otherwise suggest.

Unfortunately, there is a "but" coming here. On Colosso's previous work, I praised the band's willingness to let their instrumental work shine through, especially since it was so damn good. Heck, Abrasive Peace was even offered as an instrumental-only download, and you don’t do that with music that’s dependent on a vocalist to hold a listener’s interest. However, I don't think Obnoxious would remain as compelling without Macedo's vocal work. Make no mistake--most of these tracks rip, particularly later album cuts (and my personal favorites) "To Purify" and "Sentience"--but I can't help but feel the band may have sacrificed some of what made their earlier work special for the sake of a more streamlined sound.

That said, I'd be willing to bet some listeners won't mind the shift at all. One person's instrumental, semi-proggy goodness is another person's boredom, so a slightly more straightforward approach could gain them a different or even larger audience. And of course, with new personnel just being added, this album may be just a stepping stone to the next stage of Colosso's growth. It's not bad by any means, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss some of the boundary pushing the band did on their previous work.


Tagged with 2016, Colosso, experimental death metal, Justin C

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Metal Bandcamp is 5 years old!

Hip hooray, today Metal Bandcamp turns five years old. Since 2011 we have published 1340 reviews featuring a diverse selection of the best metal available on Bandcamp.
Hip hooray, today Metal Bandcamp turns five years old. Since 2011 we have published 1340 reviews featuring a diverse selection of the best metal available on Bandcamp. There are additional, more or less interesting, numbers I could rattle off but I won't (though you can look here if you're curious about the number of pageviews Metal Bandcamp gets). Instead I'll go all the way back to the first five posts, and do a "where are they now" style roundup.

Thanks to all our readers, and of course all the contributors. We wouldn't have made it this far without you.


The first post featured Wiht's The Harrowing of the North, which is no longer available on Bandcamp. A few years later the band split up, but in 2015 they reformed and started gigging again. And in July 2015 a new song "Edgar the Atheling" appeared...



Artwork by Kelly Nelson

In the second post I covered what turned out to be one of my favorite albums Shadows, by Embers. A fantastic band with their own visual identity due to the artwork by bass-player/vocalist Kelly Nelson. Last year Embers split up before they had a chance to record any new material, so there's no newer music from them to feature here. But here's their part of a 2009 split with Book of Belial featuring two songs; the epic "Wrath", and the violin driven "Awakening" which was also included as a bonus track on Shadows



Artwork by Samantha Muljat

Next up was Turbid North and the "awesome Alaskan mountain metal" of Orogeny. Last year they released the followup Eyes Alive which was reviewed very favorably by Andy Synn in his enthustiastic roundup of Turbid North's discography over at No Clean Singing.



Artwork by Michael Sturrock / Rockwork

The fourth post featured the "raw technical death metal" of Giant of the Mountain's Mother Hydra. In 2014 Moon Worship, their second full-length appeared and it's basically more of the same; technical/progressive death metal with an endearingly raw production.



Artwork by Emily Campbell and Arthur Zdrinc

The fifth post featured another favorite, the supremely well-titled I Am Mortal, But Was Fiend by Sioum. In the post there was mention of drummer Arthur Zdrinc's bout with a tennis elbow (and a hope for his speedy recovery). I'm guessing this was one of the reasons it took more than a while before Sioum could release the followup to the album. But after a successful Kickstarter campaign this year the appropriately titled Yet Further saw light of day. While not as immediately accessible as the previous album, Yet Further has started to grow on me, and it's nice to see the band is back on the tracks again..



Tagged with 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, black metal, crust, death metal, doom metal, Embers, free download, Giant of the Mountain, groove metal, post-metal, Sioum, stoner metal, technical death metal, Turbid North, Wiht

Monday, September 5, 2016

Dark Depths: Shadow Woods Saturday Preview

Kaptain Carbon continues his unsolicited preview of Shadow Woods by listening to every band on each day and writing about it with increasing weirdness. A Sound of Thunder has been a staple around the DC heavy metal scene if you have ever been interested in the sound of power or progressive at a local level.
By Kaptain Carbon.

Kaptain Carbon continues his unsolicited preview of Shadow Woods by listening to every band on each day and writing about it with increasing weirdness.


ThursdayFridaySaturday

Another Grimoire Records band and of course another showcase of weirdo genres that flicker in recording. Corpse Light is more doom in their constitution but that does not stop them from flirting with other genres which eventually corrupt their moral compass. Without Form was released last year and even though i missed it on the end of the year lists, it has slowly become on of my recent favorite EPs.



Oh fuck yeah. Ripping thrash / death from Richmond. Holy shit, I do not think I can takes this on Saturday. My head is going to explode at this hour. This band is still unsigned and they seem to give zero fucks about stepping on your toes in their sound and maybe performances. I am 85% sure these are nice people and will not punch you in the throat.



Black folk metal in the tradition of some of the more woodsy acts which have come out in the recent decades. Similar to bands like Agalloch and Ifing, Windfaerer is concerned with a much more transcendental sound which soars overtop of mountaintops and twilight. While this all sounds calm and realizing, the ferocity of Windfaerer can not be underestimated otherwise one is going to be bleeding in the woods.



This is one of the last Grimoire Records band and it is one of my favorites. First encountered on the fantastic split with Myopic, West Virginia’s Torrid Husk makes black metal both engaging and personal with their own sound of emotional devastation. Similar to most of the Grimoire roster, the sound of Torrid Husk starts in something like black metal but eventually wanders out into the woods and does weird things. If I were to imagine what most of these bands look like, it would be a witching ward posted on some grim looking tree that scares the shit out of you and your friends.



Baltimore based black metal which still has the scraps and bruises of the city which it wears proudly on its jacket. Uncultured, dirty, and perhaps made of criminals, this is the sound of old school black metal which does not give a shit about your feelings. Recently featured on Noisey, this band urged you to feel bad about what you have done in life. There is a pride in awfulness that one feels with this type of music. Total devastation by way of anarchy.



Calling all fans of OSDM, I am going to try to run an old school dungeons and dragons adventure sometime before this show and afterwards we are going to go listen to Cemetery Filth because that is what we do. Cemetery Filth appeared on a four way split with Ectovoid, Trench Rot, and Sabbatory from Unspeakable Axe. That sentence alone should be enough to get you to the show and throw yourself around. Yeah I know there is lots of black metal but the guys at the death metal camp have better beer and water balloons.



Coming all the way from Florida is Grave Gnosis -- an atmospheric black metal band which seems super concerned with esoteric philosophy which is arranged in their music like a summoning circle. With enough droning atmosphere and occultic decorations, this will feel right at home nestled in a small little woodland perhaps accompanied by burning sage. I have already made so many jokes about conjuring spirits so by this point in the festival, they are all just going to fight with each other.



Shitkicking southern sludge which will smell like boot leather and perhaps an aroma of weed and whiskey that forms a heavy vapor in the air. This is Horseskull and it will feel like a splitting headache when the sun crests the dawn. You are not worried about that now, you are here to wrestle the desert demons which dance on the horizon.



To be honest, this was the band I was most looking forward to when the lineup was announced. I saw Coffin Dust at last year’s Blood of the Wolf fest and they were easily one of the best shows of the whole weekend. Wall to wall death metal which digs up old skeletons and throws them on its listener.



So this is something about which I am more confused and possibly intrigued than I am knowledgeable. From what I can gather, Faith in Jane is a Maryland based stoner doom / rock outfit who have had a past connection with Saint Vitus/ The Obsessed frontman Scott Wino. At this year’s Shadow Woods, Wino will be playing or jamming or blessing Faith in Jane's’ set with whatever mystical energy guided those haze filled records.



I am not knowledgeable of Boston or many New England bands besides being up north of where I see many of my shows. What I do know about Lord Almighty is they ride the progressive black metal tag without allowing their songs to succumb to gargantuan lengths. 2-4 minutes is often enough for this band to swoop down and perch on the shoulders of listeners. It is clear and crisp and smells like dying.



This is going to be more of a study than it is a show. Teloch Vovin is a theistic black metal band who seems to be following in the angular and heady tradition of other orthodox black metal bands. Further Down the Tunnel was released last year but the band’s catalog is filled with rehearsals, live albums and EPs filled with bizarre song titles. You can consider me interested and slightly terrified.



Holy shit. This band rules and their promo photography is so utterly ridiculous, I feel it adds to the charm. Taught in the ancient ways of black/thrash similar to Absu, Aura Noir, and Nifelheim, this band is thousands of furious devil's riding winged horse across the horizon bringing the end times in its wake. It is either that or the sound of fists reaching towards the sky.



Of course we end with outcast black metal with a ferocious spirit which can break tree trunks. Somewhere in Portland Maine lives Zud which is more like the hermit of black metal who comes out from time to time and hurls weird fungus at trespassers in its woods.



Shadow Woods Metal Fest.
21+ ONLY.
Thursday 15 September through Sunday 18 September 2016 at Camp Hidden Valley, 4722 Mellow Rd, White Hall MD 21161.
More details
Weekend pass (includes on-site tent camping) $130 in advance or $150 at gate. Limited cabin bunks available for an additional charge. Single-day tickets also available.
Buy tickets


Kaptain Carbon moderates Reddit's r/metal as well as writes reviews for lesser known black, death, and doom metal for Tape Wyrm as well as Dungeon Synth, Tabletop, and Movie Reviews for Hollywood Metal.

Tagged with Blood Storm, Cemetery Filth, Cemetery Piss, Coffin Dust, Corpse Light, Faith in Jane, free download, Grave Gnosis, Horseskull, Kaptain Carbon, Lord Almighty, Teloch Vovin, Torrid Husk, Vorator, Windfaerer, Zud

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Dark Depths: Shadow Woods Friday Preview

Kaptain Carbon continues his unsolicited preview of Shadow Woods by listening to every band on each day and writing about it with increasing weirdness. A Sound of Thunder has been a staple around the DC heavy metal scene if you have ever been interested in the sound of power or progressive at a local level.
By Kaptain Carbon.

Kaptain Carbon continues his unsolicited preview of Shadow Woods by listening to every band on each day and writing about it with increasing weirdness.


ThursdayFridaySaturday

A Sound of Thunder has been a staple around the DC heavy metal scene if you have ever been interested in the sound of power or progressive at a local level. I know there are like a dozen of you. Fronted by a strong female lead, the band does its best to fit in with all of the black and death bands with music that is unabashedly geeky in nature. In fact the band's most recent work is entirely dedicated to the comic book character Shadowman. Perhaps they want to play Dungeons and Dragons with me during the off hours. I will have dice.



Genevieve has been a favorite of mine since the band’s 2015 debut Escapism. While still having themselves entrenched in respectable black/death, this Baltimore based band frays at the edges of experimental urges leaving music which sounds like it is doing its best to keep its shit together. Both intense and endlessly indulgent, Genevieve is a perfect destination for 12:30 on a Friday morning. I mean, if you are not awake, I will come by your campsite and kick your tent over.



At the Graves is another Baltimore area based band who seems to have set up residence on the outskirts of heavy metal. While loyalties to sludge and doom are apparent for this one man outfit, so is the more grey areas of shoegaze, grunge, and just droning noise. This is the perfect combination of emotionally wrenched music doused in gasoline. At the Graves is as self destructive and reflexive as it is entertaining to watch the demise.



Summarizing a band’s sound is sometime hard with various releases. If we were taking Destroyer of Light’s 2012 debut, their sound would be filled with sludge based aggression which whips like concrete blocks. If we are taking into account this Texas based doom band’s most recent split, then the wind seems to be blowing more towards stoned traditionalism. With loyalties laid down on a altar of bands like Reverend Bizarre and Electric Wizard, Destroyer of Light’s most recent split with Godhunter is fantastic trip into the luminescent and ultraviolet. Slow and heavy wins the race. .



This is Surgeon from Pennsylvania and they are tagged as progressive metal. I have rested on that style as the band exhibits many different inclinations throughout their career. If we are discussing Surgeon’s most recent work, then it is a blend of progressive, industrial and black metal where Chemical Reign leans more towards a heavy fusion. Similar to hard to pin acts like Devin Townsend, Surgeon is going to be camping with the oddballs but I am sure they will be a delight to a few over the weekend.



Myopic was one of the first bands from Grimoire Records that really took a hold of me a few years back. Perhaps this was a combination of elongated black metal which was stretched out on the forest floor like a field dressed animal. Both organic and transcendental as well as unclassifiable, if I were to pick a band that was going to capture the essence of an autumn metal festival in the woods this would be near the top near the field dressed animal.



I am 85% sure this is the band that is playing. Sometimes bands will have similar names or at least similar spellings that it gets confusing. I sure hope this is the band that is playing as Sapremia plays a brand of old school death metal that could only come from New Jersey. Tough as nails and emotionally dead, this band is perfect for the mid afternoon when the sun is at its height. Things will be alright with a stomach full of beer and a mouth full of glass.



Let us put Lotus Thief in the same cabin as Darsombra as those two would certainly get along with their cosmic outlook on creating music. Somewhere between electronic, space rock, and doom, lies the work of Lotus Thief. Hailing all the way from San Francisco this quintet has come to tell the tales of 1st century philosophy as their albums seems to be around with the subject. In fact, I would like to camp next to them all weekend. I am sure they have stories to tell and things to share.



Temple of the Void was one of the highlights for the midwestern metal fest Blood of the Wolf. Seeing their name on the lineup for this year’s Shadow Woods festival was a surprise and cause for joy. Even though doom is not my favorite style of metal, Temple of the Void’s stage presence and ominous disposition makes the whole thing a marvel for wonder. Come for doom, leave robbed of your spiritual essence and maybe a copy of their 2014 record Of Terror and the Supernatural.



Within the large net of related bands you can start to draw connections which make up a terrifying web. Sadgiqacea is related one member to Hivelords, who played last year at Shadow Woods, and Tombs who is the closing headliner for this year’s festival. Though all three bands are separated, they still share the same artistic focus which is gazing into the aether. Whether by sludge, doom, or black metal, these bands seem to be traveling towards the same nexus of darkness. Sadgiqacea is perhaps the more mystical of the bunch with meditative drone and a sparser atmosphere of two members, the sound is enough to shake one's mortal coil.



When one looks at Helgamite, they expect stoner doom. What one gets is something not too far off the mark but it is filled with closed fists and bloody noses. Psychedelic sludge would be a better description with themes bordering on ethereal daydreams, this band explores the horror of transcendence where the very concept is the one to drive its practitioners mad. Armed with a sax and something that sounds like a beast from beyond time, this is a band which is going to make me fear going to my campsite alone.



Acid Witch is the answer of what would happen is doom and death took mushrooms together and watched Evil Dead in a basement. Irreverent and endlessly entertaining, this is one of the saturday headliner which is going to light up the trees with scary hallucinations of fear and flashbacks. They are a horror show which is ready to ruin your trip with scary thoughts and scenarios. I just realized that I made a lot of hallucinogen jokes so I do not want people coming to my campsite asking me strange questions. Are you a police officer or a flesh eating monster?



Tengger Cavalry is not the first band I think about when I think metal festival in the woods. This Mongolian folk band is not what I think of when I ponder a lot of things. If we were talking of a remote metal festival somewhere out on the ancient steppe only accessible via horseback, then I could see it. I am not one to complain as this is one of the larger bands pulled into this small festival which I am sure will be dazzling on a small woodland stage. If one thing can be said about this whole experience, it is going to be interesting. I know I said that before but now we have Mongolian folk metal from NYC.



Tombs was one of my favorite bands back in 2011 when they released Path of Totality. It was dark and ruminating and pulled in various levels of tension and submerged it underwater. Since then, this band has continued to impress and amaze with their combination of blackened post metal which feels like drowning in some tepid swamp.



One of the newer stock from Grimoire is a fierce display of traditional black metal that is going to fit in perfectly with the rest of the bands. Staunchly orthodox in its second wave disposition, this is black metal which has no frill nor patience for weakness. Athame is also the first wave of bands which is going to take the late night Saturday on a trip into Hades. Think of this band as your Charon.



Symphonic black metal which exposes the virtues of sexual mysticism, the esoteric and the Qabalah? I am fucking in to whatever this band is selling. Perhaps it is the novelty of this Colerado based band which is enticing but if anyone wants to hear a sound which leans heavily on Emperor perhaps played by a campfire encircled by other weirdoes, then it will perhaps be a marvel to behold. Helleborus acts as the late night entertainment for a festival which is filled with adults anyway but their music sounds like a hellish orgy of sin and pleasure.



One can not go to sleep at Shadow Woods without being lulled to bed by the sound of raw lo fi black metal which is stepped in chamomile and dark noise. T.O.M.B has little information on the outfit other than being from Pennsylvania and operating since the 90’s. Cut from the stock of raw underground black metal, I have little idea what is going to transpire other than it being madness.



Shadow Woods Metal Fest.
21+ ONLY.
Thursday 15 September through Sunday 18 September 2016 at Camp Hidden Valley, 4722 Mellow Rd, White Hall MD 21161.
More details
Weekend pass (includes on-site tent camping) $130 in advance or $150 at gate. Limited cabin bunks available for an additional charge. Single-day tickets also available.
Buy tickets


Kaptain Carbon moderates Reddit's r/metal as well as writes reviews for lesser known black, death, and doom metal for Tape Wyrm as well as Dungeon Synth, Tabletop, and Movie Reviews for Hollywood Metal.

Tagged with A Sound of Thunder, Acid Witch, At the Graves, Athame, Destroyer of Light, Genevieve, Helgamite, Helleborus, Kaptain Carbon, Lotus Thief, Sapremia, Surgeon, Temple of the Void, Tengger Cavalry, Tombs

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dark Depths: Shadow Woods Thursday Preview

By Kaptain Carbon. Shadow Woods is an outdoor metal festival held in the upper reaches of Northern Baltimore. Shadow Woods stands are one of the few “open air” metal festivals left in the US and perhaps one of the even fewer overnight camping events.
By Kaptain Carbon.

Shadow Woods is an outdoor metal festival held in the upper reaches of central Maryland. Shadow Woods stands are one of the few “open air” metal festivals left in the US and perhaps one of the even fewer overnight camping events. While the US has a while to catch up the Europe in terms of camping festivals which do not involve drum circles, sandals, and the guy in the Free Hugs t-shirt. Shadow Woods is interesting because despite having a large amount of black metal, is still a diverse array of music. From death to doom to psych and folk metal, this is a three day event which will allow one to get in touch with nature and find the underworld beneath the soil.


After traveling a few dozen miles outside of Baltimore, the concrete and grime of the city drops off for scenic nothingness filled with sprawling fields and supposedly a pleasant sunflower patch. Here at Camp Hidden Valley, a few hundred metal fans converge for three days of music insulated by trees, hiking trails, and deep magic. I wrote and took pictures of the inaugural event and the announcement for the second Shadow Woods was more than welcome. One of the things I enjoy more than going to the woods, listening to extreme metal, and eating pop tarts for the weekend, is going through an entire festival roster and previewing every single band. This is a favored activity since it allows me to plan around specific acts but also introduce myself to pretty much most of the roster. Shadow Woods specializes in local and regional talent that have yet to make an impression on the larger metal community and for that reason is a treasure trove of new and exciting acts. Perhaps this article is the first step to finding my new favorite band and/or a dark omen to a stomach ache after eating too many pop tarts.

ThursdayFridaySaturday

Let us start this festival off right with a 6 pm performance from North Carolina’s Heron. Welcome. Hopefully you got your tent set up because it is time to wither and die. Cold and distant black metal in the style of the old depressive type which will perhaps sound amazing as a welcoming committee for a woodland festival. Listen to the echoes of sadness as they bounce off the treetops. I know some people do not think black metal in the day time works but the waning sunlight during dusk is going to be an immense backdrop for this band.



Since Shadow Woods is outside of Baltimore, one gets to see the variety of extreme metal from the area. Despite my travels to the surrounding area, Xeukatre is unknown to me yet their brand of raw and unhinged black metal is going to be a fantastic experience right around dinner time. Taking their cues from the Les Légions Noires book of black metal this band emphasizes lo-fi darkness which feels pressed under the weight of the world. Also the band’s only release takes its name from the Latin for "I shall either find a way or make one,” which was attributed to Hannibal when crossing the Alps. I do not know why this fits but I feel it is perfect.



Here was a blurb about Numenorean from Canada playing the fest, but this just came through the wire: "Unfortunately Numenorean were not able to get visa into the US from Canada. Frosthelm will replace them. Mantar will move to the outdoor Field stage at 7 p.m. and Frosthelm will play inside at 10:10. All other set times remain the same for Thursday."



If one thing is going to be said and written about Shadow Woods is its diversity. In the fray of extreme metal, Darsombra stands still eating peyote and looking like they are about to burst out laughing. With feet firmly planted in the realm of cosmic space rock, these groups of Krautrock weirdos are set to bring the sounds of echoing psych and space drone to the ears of people who may not be ready for it. I will of course be ready for it because this sound is awesome.



Ghost Bath has had a strange journey from depressive black metal obscurities with strange location details one day to underground superstars the next. The release and promotion of Moonlover took this band to a level that was perhaps surprising even for them. With similarities drawn between polarizing acts such as Deafheaven, Silencer and Austere, Ghost Bath is an emotional ride which leaves little behind closed doors and wears all emotions on its sleeves.



I enjoy doing these types of articles, because I can at least catch up on a bunch of different bands that went unnoticed. Enter Mantar and their combination of doom, black, and artsy sludge which has been hard mixed into something that is raw and slimy as hell. Traveling all the way from Germany and appearing after a particularly long US tour, this band is deserving of attention and possibly a beer or two. This is of course after a performance of nihilism being wielded like a baseball bat.



The tags for this Rhode Island band include black metal, occult and rituals. If I were to take the same tags and apply it to what I think of Shadow Woods, there would be a large overlap. Haunting and mysterious, this group is set to close the night with a performance which I am sure will at least open a few dimensional portals. Add to this Haxen led me to discover a wonderful Rhode Island based label called Eternal Death which seems to specialize in all forms of moral depravity and cassettes. Thursday night should be wonderful and I hope Haxen allows me to live through the coming weekend.



Shadow Woods Metal Fest.
21+ ONLY.
Thursday 15 September through Sunday 18 September 2016 at Camp Hidden Valley, 4722 Mellow Rd, White Hall MD 21161.
More details
Weekend pass (includes on-site tent camping) $130 in advance or $150 at gate. Limited cabin bunks available for an additional charge. Single-day tickets also available.
Buy tickets


Kaptain Carbon moderates Reddit's r/metal as well as writes reviews for lesser known black, death, and doom metal for Tape Wyrm as well as Dungeon Synth, Tabletop, and Movie Reviews for Hollywood Metal.

Tagged with Darsombra, free download, Frosthelm, Ghost Bath, Haxen, Heron, Kaptain Carbon, Mantar, Xeukatre