November 30, 2016

Phantom Winter - Sundown Pleasures

By Ulla Roschat. Sundown Pleasures is Phantom Winter's second album that follows up their debut Cvlt they released last year. The title track doesn't only open the album, it also opens a door to a world of bleak, cold darkness. The extremely extreme ear-piercing vocals, shrieks and growls, totally got me right from the start.
By Ulla Roschat


Sundown Pleasures is Phantom Winter's second album that follows up their debut Cvlt they released last year.

The title track doesn't only open the album, it also opens a door to a world of bleak, cold darkness. The extremely extreme ear-piercing vocals, shrieks and growls, totally got me right from the start. They are very dominant throughout the album and are pretty much responsible for the scary eeriness and slightly surreal, uncanny feel.

Add depressive heavy Sludge Doom riffs, hypnotic mantric rhythms , climactic build-ups, terrifying loud low dynamics, distorted chaotic noise, well placed word samples.... and the demons are summoned. Suddenly, they are everywhere, hunt and haunt you and drive you to the verge of insanity and chaos, constantly threatening to push you over the edge, into the black void.
And even the beautiful quiet guitar melodies that are woven into all the nastiness, don't offer any relief or rest from the torture, they, instead, add a sense of mournful hopelessness to the atmosphere and another layer to the musical structures and textures.


The six songs are like chapters of a story. Apart from their own individual build ups there's one that encompasses the entire album. As I said above, the first song opens the door to darkness, it's like a wall of illusions that hides a disrupted inner and outer world begins to crack and crumble and the demons are released. And each following track awakens more of them and they hunt you down to the edge of the black void, to the album's fifth track "Black Hole Scum". This song is constantly morphing without any structural stability you could cling to and save you from being absorbed by the apocalyptic chaos.

The album could stop here, but no, there's still one song left "Black Space", the album's longest song (10:53), with a slowly evolving and expanding mournful gloomy atmosphere, a post apocalyptic tristesse and hopelessness, with beautiful melancholic melodies. At the same time it is the essence of the album, showcasing its stylistic variety and the band's rather extraordinary approach to extreme music.

Phantom Winter's individual hybrid of Doom, Post HC, Sludge, Black Metal, Drone and Noise elements and those prominent vocals are indeed an exciting and satisfying listening experience.

Tagged with 2016, Golden Antenna Records, Phantom Winter, sludge metal, Ulla Roschat

November 28, 2016

Take Over and Destroy - Take Over and Destroy

By Andy Osborn. It’s always fun when you can’t peg a band’s sound and influences. For three years now I’ve been listening to Take Over and Destroy and I still haven’t quite figured theirs out. Sometimes it’s frustrating, because listening to something recognizable and traceable is always easier, familiar.
By Andy Osborn.


It’s always fun when you can’t peg a band’s sound and influences. For three years now I’ve been listening to Take Over and Destroy and I still haven’t quite figured theirs out. Sometimes it’s frustrating, because listening to something recognizable and traceable is always easier, familiar. But other times it’s exhilarating when you want something entirely different that keeps you guessing.

Their self-titled album doesn’t make make describing them any easier, but it’s so insanely fun that the necessary repeat listens have forced it into my regular rotation since its release. Like an American Kvelertak, they fuse black metal and old school rock with a painfully addictive result. A tinge of sludge mixed with Andy Labarbera’s sometimes-growl, sometimes-goth vocals are what push the Arizona crew into territory all their own. The upbeat, almost danceable dueling guitars are just the icing on the cake with almost too many ingredients, but they pull off the delicate recipe easily to claim territory in their own unique world.

Catchy riffs and horror movie lyrics, along with the occasional piano that has just the right tone to avoid the ironic synth-based bandwagon, TOAD write lean, interesting songs. They have just enough chorus heft and structure variability to be memorable while balancing that fine line of intensity and melody. “Bring Me The Rope” is the perfect example as it’s almost joyful in its depression; and ode to both suicide and the best that the 80s have to offer.

Blasts and double-kicks are rare, but Take Over and Destroy throw in just enough metal to tide over fans of the extreme while retaining enough badass rock ‘n’ roll that it’s a shock the Pitchfork crew hasn’t cast them as the hip flavor of the week. That may or may not be fortunate, but they certainly do deserve a wider audience. Eight years and three full-lengths into their career, it’s hard to imagine the band can do much more to set themselves apart. They’ve invented, nurtured, and perfected a sound all their own and although it won't appeal to all audiences, it's undoubtedly a unclassifiable gem.

Tagged with 2016, Andy Osborn, black metal, Prosthetic Records, sludge metal, Take Over and Destroy

November 27, 2016

Hierophant - Mass Grave

By Craig Hayes. I first encountered Hierophant around the time they released their second full-length, 2013’s Great Mother: Holy Monster. That LP was released by noted US punk label Bridge Nine, and it was an aptly skull-cracking riot of über-incensed metallic hardcore. Hierophant’s 2014 album, Peste
By Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

I first encountered Hierophant around the time they released their second full-length, 2013’s Great Mother: Holy Monster. That LP was released by noted US punk label Bridge Nine, and it was an aptly skull-cracking riot of über-incensed metallic hardcore. Hierophant’s 2014 album, Peste, was also released by Bridge Nine, and it delivered more of the same ultra-nihilistic noise. But the band’s latest album, Mass Grave, is being released by famed metal label Season of Mist, and it sees Hierophant slather their crusty hardcore with more sludge, black metal, grindcore and death metal than ever before.

No question, Mass Grave is Hierophant’s most extreme metal album yet. Punk still looms large, especially in Hierophant’s attitude, but Mass Grave’s savage ordnance is delivered with more of metal's bludgeon than hardcore’s bite. It’s a subtle shift in sound for the band, which may seem a little incongruent given Hierophant’s music is so ear-splitting and confrontational, but that change in Hierophant’s approach means Mass Grave does feature more multifaceted musicality.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

Don’t get me wrong, Hierophant haven't gone prog or decided adding post-anything elements is a good idea. Like their phenominally talented punk/metal labelmates, This Gift is a Curse, Hierophant have simply added more steel-edged armour to their sound for their first Season of Mist release. The band is still making wrathful music for the impending apocalypse, it’s just that when tracks like "Execution of Mankind", "Forever Crucified", "Crematorium" and "The Great Hoax" come hurling out the gate, it's death metal and grindcore leading the charge. If the band’s previous predilection for situating filthy hardcore upfront was what drew you to Hierophant, then maybe all that metal leading the audio assault will feel a little different. But there’s no lessening of intensity or anger on Hierophant’s behalf, and Mass Grave is certainly the band’s heaviest release to date.

Ultimately, closing Mass Grave with 7-minutes of feedback as the trampling HM2 overload of "Eternal Void" winds down is a superb exit strategy that explains everything here. It hammers home that parts of Hierophant's sound have changed, but it also reafirms that their desire to do things their own way remains as punk rock as it ever was. (Note: make sure to also check out Mass Grave's fantastic cover art courtesy of Paolo Girardi.)

FFO: Nails, Trap Them, Black Breath, All Pigs Must Die, and Baptists.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Craig Hayes, hardcore, Hierophant, Pedro Roque, Season of Mist, sludge metal

November 24, 2016

Khemmis - Hunted

By Calen Henry. Khemmis’ last record Absolution made waves in the metal press but didn’t quite hit the mark for me. At its core it was excellent Pallbearer-ey melodic doom, but it was mixed with out of place deathcore vocals and the result didn’t quite work. With their second full length, Hunted, Khemmis hits the bulls eye.
By Calen Henry.

Cover art by Sam Turner

Khemmis’ last record Absolution made waves in the metal press but didn’t quite hit the mark for me. At its core it was excellent Pallbearer-ey melodic doom, but it was mixed with out of place deathcore vocals and the result didn’t quite work.

With their second full length, Hunted, Khemmis hits the bulls eye. It's is again rooted in mournful, melodic, twin guitar driven doom with some of the best clean vocals in the genre, but they also bring in myriad other doom styles in a kind of “kitchen sink doom” approach (they call it Doomed Rock and Roll, which also works). The result is the phenomenal record at which Absolution hinted they were capable of making.

Two things really make the album work, the style jumping and composition.

All the various doom styles are expertly executed. The vocals run through clean harmonized sections, tunnel shrieking, well bellowing, and some Matt Pike style stoner doom shout-singing. The vocal styles are supported by matching riffs and guitar tomes, lightly distorted soaring harmonic riffs morph into filthy fuzzed out plodding funeral riffs and back.

It’s held together by fantastic composition. The songs ebb and flow organically between styles even intertwining different styles. "Candlelight", for example, starts with an extended classic doom section before a drop into plodding sludge-doom, complete with a vocal shift to well bellowing. After establishing the new motif harmonized leads are brought in over the sludgy riffs. It’s fantastic.

To top it all off, the solos are amazing. In contrast to the mostly slow pace of the rhythm section the solos feature all kinds of flashy fret work, again, surprisingly well integrated with the record’s overall sound.

There is a caveat to the record, and depending on your proclivities, it’s a big one. The album is loud all the way through with many of the more intricate and busy sections having audible clipping. Because Khemmis use so much distortion a lot of the clipping is somewhat disguised but it detracts from what is a home run, musically.

Undoubtedly a high water mark in modern doom somewhat, but not irreparably marred by poor mastering.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2016, Calen Henry, doom metal, Khemmis

November 21, 2016

Bastard Noise & Sickness - Death’s Door

By Craig Hayes. Harsh noise is a hard sell. It’s deliberately challenging, purposely demanding, and intentionally punishing, and most people don’t even consider noise to be music at all. That includes people who’ll otherwise happily listen to warp-speed grindcore, gruelling sewage sludge, or the rawest black metal.
By Craig Hayes.


Harsh noise is a hard sell. It’s deliberately challenging, purposely demanding, and intentionally punishing, and most people don’t even consider noise to be music at all. That includes people who’ll otherwise happily listen to warp-speed grindcore, gruelling sewage sludge, or the rawest black metal. But it often seems like noise is just a step too far. If you’re in that camp, then you’ll hate what sonic executioners Bastard Noise and Sickness have cooked up on their strident two track collaborative release, Death’s Door. However, if you’re broad-minded noise fan with a penchant for abrasive sonic trauma, then Death’s Door is set to deliver a perfectly provocative, and always brain-battering, stockpile of power electronics.

Many years ago, I read an article about noise music that summed up the genre's appeal in a few simple sentences. Essentially, and I’m paraphrasing here, that article argued that noise is noteworthy because it breaks the code. What code? Well, generally, music is all about the message, those recurrent motifs, and the meaning –– i.e. the code. But noise distorts all of those elements. It reconfigures them. Redefines them. And in the case of bands like Bastard Noise and Sickness, and releases like Death’s Door, that code is smashed into unidentifiable pieces. And then erased off the fucking map.

These days, we’re drowning in endless multi-platform communiqués, and that means bands like Bastard Noise and Sickness, and their music-mutating kin, matter more than ever. Whether they're using maelstrom synths, feedback-fuelled guitars, or ear-piercing electronics, those bands corrupt or even entirely halt that incessant stream of communication. In doing so, they provide a visceral sense of catharsis rendering the inconsequential mute, and purging the trivial in a torrent of static.

In other words, noise offers a much-needed albeit frequently brutal reboot. Bastard Noise have been providing that since the early 90s. These days, the mega-prolific band is primarily helmed by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Eric Wood, but Bastard Noise has also featured plenty of other renowned contributors and collaborators over the years. Sickness (aka Chris Goudreau) has been an audio assassin since starting his “tape-loop/industrial” project in late 80s. And his work in the extreme noise and cut-and-paste electronics realm is highly regarded too. Wood and Goudreau working together on Death’s Door makes perfect sense because they are experts at (de)composition, reconstructing hardware, and then subverting software in order to produce sheer hellish malware.

That’s exactly what Bastard Noise and Sickness do on Death’s Door. The release opens with a gut-wrenching vocal roar that kicks off the 16-minute title track, and then a nightmare unfolds as glitchy stabs of caustic sounds collide with blaring sirens, alarms, and eviscerating frequencies. "Death's Door" is a dissonant horror show, where Bastard Noise and Sickness tear a rent in reality. And the good news is, if you make it out the other side, you’ll find "Ever Downward" patiently waiting to fry whatever's left of your synapses with its corrupted electronics.

If "Death's Door" smashes open a portal –– and, really, there’s no doubt that it does just that –– then "Ever Downward" is where Bastard Noise and Sickness sculpt dark scenes from beyond the veil. the track is darkly rhythmic, and eerily dynamic, with deep droning layers of acid-burnt electronics and feedback being entangled tighter and tighter as the track builds to its ear-splitting climax. "Ever Downward" is an exquisite example of how to simultaneously ratchet up the high frequency torment and emotional tension. It's a harsh but necessary lesson. With deliverance delivered via audio exorcism, waiting at the track's end.

If you weren’t a fan of harsh noise or power electronics already, Death’s Door certainly isn’t going to convert you to the cause. But that’s not any kind of deficit. Nor does it reflect any deficiencies on Bastard Noise and Sickness behalf. Death’s Door is a welcomingly uncompromising endeavour, delivering two pieces of piercing music that travel entirely different pathways into the pits of perdition. No question, the code is certainly crushed along the way. And doorways to other dimensions are kicked wide open. Death’s Door really is a harrowing and soul-scouring reboot –– i.e. it's exactly what’s needed, in this day and age.

Tagged with 2016, Bastard Noise, Craig Hayes, noise, power electronics, Relapse Records, Sickness

November 20, 2016

Short and to the point 6

By Atanamar Sunyata. [Over at his blog Mindful of Metal, Mr. Sunyata writes dense little poems in exaltation of metal, then cleverly disguises them as metal reviews. The format fits perfectly for our Short and to the point column, so here's a roundup of albums from a year ago, or so, that we didn't get around to cover.
By Atanamar Sunyata.

[Over at his blog Mindful of Metal, Mr. Sunyata writes dense little poems in exaltation of metal, then cleverly disguises them as metal reviews. The format fits perfectly for our Short and to the point column, so here's a roundup of albums from a year ago, or so, that we didn't get around to cover. From Khthoniik Cerviiks to Gygax, let Atanamar guide you to what is best in life.]

Artwork by Khraâl Vri*ïl

A gem of extreme artifice. Pleasing, perplexing death-black oddity. Voivod vaulting The Chasm, or Atheist genuflecting in the Chapel of Ghouls. Elastic and intricate. Loosely woven, elusive threads bound by a knot of riffs most mighty. Much more compelling than their demo; a tall order.



Single-minded savagery. Beastly death-drone minus the murk. Charismatic, guttural ravings rife with murderous intent. Dense, hyperblasting epiphanies writ in guitar tones most meaty.


Artwork by Orion Landau.

A tremendous album. A skillful sidestep of the immutable tech-death template. Strong whiffs of Death and Cynic whipped to admirably stiff peaks. Less interstellar circus, less fucks given. Equal measures creativity, subtlety, and heaviness that feel timeless. Warmer, more introspect, more sprawling. Leads and solos that beg for hyperbolic adjectives and your best air guitar. Their finest hour, methinks.



A revelatory blaze of light amidst a bleak black metal desert. Rides a bolt of Cascadian lightning, but does the deed without sycophantic intent. Whorls and eddies of dense melodic alchemy evoke the nofucksgiving of Weakling, while skirting the esoteric inhumanity of Krallice. An organic outburst of utter chaos, with a feeling of uncalculated necessity. An inexorable undertow, a bullseye of atmosphere and riffs, a no-mercy killing.



Unabashed heaviness of the auld school, executed with charismatic aplomb. This is how I want my straight-up heavy metal served, but modern purveyors consistently disappoint. Gygax roll a natural 20, threading the needle of impossibly compelling mojo. More Thin Lizzy than Maiden, more rocking’ than a sack of Deep Purple socks. Vocals more earnest than Mike Scalzi, less operatic than Russel Allen, somehow perfect. Righteous riffs, songwriting, fucking Dungeons & Dragons. What is best in life?

Tagged with 2015, 2016, Atanamar Sunyata, black metal, death metal, Gygax, hard rock, heavy metal, Khthoniik Cerviiks, Necrosemen, Obscura, progressive death metal, technical death metal, Yellow Eyes

November 19, 2016

It Only Gets Worse - It Only Gets Worse

It's no secret that we like It Only Gets Worse a lot around here. I wrote about the dynamic duo's debut EP back in the day, but it was subsequently removed from Bandcamp. Now it has been made available again, and here we are. Again. Like the rest of It Only Gets Worse's output the EP has the same kind of atmosphere as some black metal

It's no secret that we like It Only Gets Worse a lot around here. I wrote about the dynamic duo's debut EP back in the day, but it was subsequently removed from Bandcamp. Now it has been made available again, and here we are. Again.

Like the rest of It Only Gets Worse's output the EP has the same kind of atmosphere as some black metal, but it is not metal. This is darkened electronica, dark electronic soundscapes with pulsating beats on top of spoken word vocals. Or as the review from the merry Lurkers put it:

the listener is led through disturbing passages of constant mechanical rumbling, embellished by bleeps and bloops of distant, frosty synths and detailed drum programming, all culminating in something quite frightening for what is essentially dance music... of sorts.

The elements of dance music has all but disappeared from It Only Gets Worse's later releases, making the EP a unique part of their discography. I am happy to have it back.

Tagged with 2011, ambient, electronica, free download, It Only Gets Worse

November 18, 2016

Urzeit - Anmoksha

By Matt Hinch. Back in August Gilead Media released Yodh by Mizmor. That blackened doom mindfuck was the work of the man known as A.L.N.. He's also a member of the equally excellent Urzeit; whose debut, Anmoksha takes a different approach to black metal
By Matt Hinch.

Art by H.V. Lyngdal.

Back in August Gilead Media released Yodh by Mizmor. That blackened doom mindfuck was the work of the man known as A.L.N.. He's also a member of the equally excellent Urzeit; whose debut, Anmoksha takes a different approach to black metal but with the same devastating effects. Rather than soaking the listener in despair, misery, etc. Urzeit gathers up a fury and thrusts it forth under roiling skies to spread like an unstoppable cancer.

In general the tempos here are light years ahead of (much of) Yodh but let's stop comparing the two and focus on just how dynamic Anmoksha is regardless of personnel. Throughout the album we're subjected to an onslaught of razing black metal that bleeds a raw energy and a general lo-fi, fuzzy feel that still “pleases” the ear. Far from formulaic, Urzeit play with tempos and volume from front to back to a degree that it does become expected but not unwelcome. Blast beaten rage sprays blood from severed necks on the title track only to drop into a Darkthrone-esque groove that loosens the noose and then goes further still into a slogging cadence as if all the fight has been drained and all that's left is lament and longing.

Sonically Urzeit encapsulate audio carnage; gnashing, pounding and flaying with reckless abandon right through to slow, painful torture and every corrosive second should be relished. Dark atmosphere and uncompromised misanthropy ride on the back of an ever-present driving pulse of muscular percussion. It pushes the listener to the edge of a cliff where it takes only the slightest nudge to send them to their doom. A nudge that is most often the psyche-scarring vocals.

Hoarse bellows and deathly growls squeeze tight upon your chest, threatening to cave in your ribcage wherein your heart gets ripped out and devoured with a feral remorselessness. But as those liquid rasps and cavernous roars cause one to cower in fear it is the ear-piercing pterodactyl screeches that truly ice the blood and trigger the desire for escape. On a few instances they're enough to stop the heart completely. Truly terrifying.

As the title track sets up the dynamic of Anmoksha in the album's early movements, the closing seizure-inducing episode (“Entitiksha”) will leave you entirely spent. It features the most harrowing screams on the album, fluid and explosive tempo changes that leave nothing to be desired through complete annihilation and a slow burning denouement bringing you down from the climactic cacophony.

Anmoksha lives on chaos, fear, and darkness. The icy black metal in its veins infects the mind as blood is let, churning with untreatable insanity. From beginning to end Urzeit put forth the raucous and powerful “old school” black metal more in line with the second wave than their American contemporaries. Anmoksha is a scowling, sinister beast. Remorseless and devoid of compassion. It takes no prisoners and expects no glory. It is pure hatred for the pretty side of life given the power to destroy through ancient and evil forces. Unstoppable, deceptively catchy and relentless, Anmoksha is worthy of your sacrifice.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Matt Hinch, Urzeit

November 17, 2016

Asteroid - III

By Karen A. Mann. Considering that Örebro blues rockers Asteroid have been fairly inactive since 2012, you’d be forgive for thinking they had gone ahead and called it a day. Now, nearly four years after their last release, the band is back with their best work to date, the aptly titled third full length, III
By Karen A. Mann


Considering that Örebro blues rockers Asteroid have been fairly inactive since 2012, you’d be forgive for thinking they had gone ahead and called it a day. Now, nearly four years after their last release, the band is back with their best work to date, the aptly titled third full length, III (Fuzzorama Records), an album that’s heavier, slightly more experimental and more focused than anything else the band has released.

III begins with "Pale Moon," a shuffling jam that spends the majority of its time as an instrumental, with swinging drums and slide guitar riffs. Eventually co-vocalists Robin Hirse and Johannes Nilsson come in together with one harmonizing verse:

It’s time to lay down your guns, there’s nowhere left to hide
And the horse you used to ride won’t carry you no more, my son
Because the pale moon hides behind the clouds.

From there, the album dives straight into the deep end of heavy blues, with riffs that alternately recall The Beatles at their heaviest, and Pink Floyd at their most experimental. Hirse, handles the majority of the vocals with his raw, expressive baritone, and Nilsson fills in with a high, clear tenor. The interplay of these two stellar vocalists is one of Asteroid’s most distinctive qualities, and truly sets them apart from the rest of the Scandinavian blues rock pack. There’s fuzz and harmony aplenty, and song structures that build and twist upon themselves in captivating ways.

III really should be listened to as a whole, since each song feels like a mini-chapter in an intense novel. However there are clear standouts. The first is the double whammy of “Wolf & Snake,” and the immediate follow up “Silver & Gold.” The first song with begins with a slower, groovy bass line, and gradually builds through layers of reverby guitars.

In the end we are the same said the wolf to the snake, you and me we’ve been asleep, when everybody else had to stay awake.
Had to stay awake,

sings Hirse. The song speeds up from there and culminates with a sludgy breakdown as Hirse’s guitar solo calls from out of the void, very low down in the mix. “Silver & Gold,” is a short, shimmering, almost exotic song, with a Pink Floyd like opening riff, and gorgeous harmonizing from Hirse and Nilsson.

The album ends with its best song, “Mr. Strange,” the bluesiest, most straightforward and and best song on III. There’s plenty of mid-tempo, bluesy riffing that builds dramatically to a psychedelic guitar freak out crescendo. It’s a perfect ending to an album that isn’t just a return but a renewal. Asteroid is ready to go from simply being respected to being a dominant, genre-defining force in the scene.

Tagged with 2016, Asteroid, doom metal, Fuzzorama Records, Karen A. Mann, stoner metal

November 16, 2016

Rotten UK - That is not Dead

By Craig Hayes. The first record I ever bought was a rowdy UK punk compilation called Punk And Disorderly III. I’ll understand if you’ve never heard of it before, because it was released way back in 1983. But in all the years since, I’ve never forgotten how
By Craig Hayes.


The first record I ever bought was a rowdy UK punk compilation called Punk And Disorderly III. I’ll understand if you’ve never heard of it before, because it was released way back in 1983. But in all the years since, I’ve never forgotten how I felt when I dropped the needle on that compilation’s first track. My life changed forever when Abrasive Wheels’ “Burn 'em Down” kicked in. It was like getting hit by a bolt of lightning. Or being plugged into some electrifying and rabble-rousing grid. I had found the music for me. And I guarantee you there’s a kid out there right now who’s going to hit play on Rotten UK’s debut, That is not Dead, and experience that exact same life-changing rush of emotion.

Reason being, Rotten UK’s music is as visceral as it gets. The band’s first full-length features 14 throwback tracks that hit like thunderbolt of chaotic punk. That is not Dead is violent in tone, and thoroughly old school in temper, but Rotten UK are no fly-by-night punk rock fashionistas. Yes, the band’s music is features a vice-ridden snarl like plenty of incendiary bands of yore, but Rotten UK don’t deal in limp simulations of the past. The band capture a genuine feel for the fiery, anthemic spirit of UK82. And while a lot of bands simply take that four-letter abbreviation to mean a few riffs inspired by GBH or The Exploited, Rotten UK dig far deeper into second wave UK (and Scandi) punk to unearth not just the bones of their sound but the heart of their attitude too.

It’s clear that Rotten UK are heavily influenced by those aforementioned groups, and by the likes of Discharge, Broken Bones, and plenty of other underground 80s hooligans on That is not Dead. That adds an authoritative flavour to rip-roaring tracks like “Revolution Moon”, “Their Dreams”, “Dark Times”, and “Stagnation is Sin”. All the filth, fury, and unruly attributes that UK82 scene so instinctively appealing are front and centre on those tracks, and throughout That is not Dead. But Rotten UK also deliver their short and spiky tunes in rapid-fire fashion, and that means the bulk of That is not Dead hurtles past at a whirlwind pace that clearly shows the influence of the early years of speed metal as well.

That mix of breakneck metal and primitive punk is given even more of an abrasive edge thanks to That is not Dead’s rough-hewn production. Combine that rawness with Rotten UK’s anthemic songwriting, and there are more enough ill-bred elements to ensure the album’s a total fucking riot throughout. But Rotten UK don’t stop there.

The band add a mountain of eldritch ingredients into their raw hardcore as well. As the band’s record label Hells Headbangers notes, Rotten UK’s music is a, “special breed of revolution-inspired Lovecraftian punk”. That is not Dead duly features a deep well of fiendish mysticism alongside all of the bloody-minded rebellion, and the anarcho-punk therein is darkened by the wonderfully gloomy presence of deathrock.

Tracks like “Waiting for the Bomb”, “Reaper Follows”, “Royal Blood” and “Deathbeat” see propulsive gothic punk collide headfirst with gutter punk. And in some instances, Rotten UK’s wretched melodies sound like the band are channeling Christian Death covering Kaaos. (Or Disorder simultaneously reinterpreting the The Damned and Fields of the Nephilim.) It’s a great fusion of mysterious and murderous aesthetics, and colouring Rotten UK’s anarchic message with a haunting accent adds another level of grim gratification to an already wicked brew.

That is not Dead is a full-throttle reminder that intoxicating and exhilarating punk rock remains primed for changing lives. The album oozes authenticity, and it’s as much of a rousing call to arms as it is a plea to the Great Old Ones to smite this world, and wipe the slate clean. Admittedly, that’s a message you’ll not hear often, but that’s exactly what makes Rotten UK so captivating. The band are outliers, freaks, and their binding of punk to deathrock with a jagged metal edge is made for connoisseurs of truly lawless music. Rotten UK drag UK82-fuelled music forward, and sharpen it with a distinctively dark design. Degenerate and disrespectful till the end. Punk rock 666.

Tagged with 2016, Craig Hayes, Hells Headbangers Records, punk, Rotten UK

November 15, 2016

Double Feature: Gateway to Selfdestruction and Saor

By Hera Vidal. 2016 has been an excellent year for black metal releases, and, despite its shortcomings, the genre continues to show that it has more tricks (and releases!) to bring to the table. Thus, for the purposes of this double feature
By Hera Vidal.

2016 has been an excellent year for black metal releases, and, despite its shortcomings, the genre continues to show that it has more tricks (and releases!) to bring to the table. Thus, for the purposes of this double feature, we are looking at two bands that deserve our undivided attention (if they don’t have it already): Saor and Gateway to Selfdestruction.

Artwork by Martin Mordoc

Gateway to Selfdestruction is a new and upcoming German atmospheric/depressive black metal band that formed back in 2013. Despite of them being relative newcomers to the scene, they have played in a lot of successful live gigs, including one at In Flammens Open Air back in 2015. Their debut from Northern Silence Productions, Death, My Salvation, is one that people should take note of, because it sounds familiar, yet it has something completely new to it.

Their debut album Death, My Salvation, which was recorded, mixed and mastered in July 2016 by one of Germany’s leading Black Metal producers, Patrick W. Engel (Temple of Disharmony), shows influences ranging from old Katatonia (primarily the Brave Murder Day-era) to more contemporary acts such as Shining, Woods of Desolation, Ghost Brigade or Antimatter. The lyrics describe the moment when one decides whether to live or to die as well as the history behind such a decision and its aftermath.


While I completely agree that atmospheric black metal can be considered a saturated subgenre due to the many bands that have come out in the past decade, there have been a few diamonds in the rough that I have come to appreciate over the years. Death, My Salvation has caught my attention for two reasons: the cohesiveness of music and the emotional range it has at the backbone of the music. This album is the crossbreed between Shining’s emotional, vocal range and Katatonia’s dreary atmosphere. This album shows an incredible emotional spectrum while playing music that seems to enhance that emotional range with harrowing vocals, fast drumming, and soft melodies that are layered underneath the atmosphere the music has constructed. Gateway to Selfdestruction may still be a young band, but they clearly know what works for them. Their capacity of taking their influences and merging them with their own personality astounds me, as they have made the sound their own.

One key note to discuss is the impressive musicianship that seems to accompany the album. The music never wanes or loses its character as the album progresses, only amplifying the vocals that seem to accompany you in those existential moments. After the sixth track, “Soziopath”, and the music’s energy begins to wane towards the beginning of the last two tracks. Considering the level the album carried itself, having to stop the musical assault means that the band decided to close the album on a softer note, which is rather nice. The scream at the end of “Mirrors of Despair” is an interesting choice to end the album on, which begs the question of whether it was intentional. Whatever its intentionality, it definitely surprises the listener, as it remains as unexpected as it should.

As far as debut albums go, Pain, My Salvation is great and definitely worth checking out. It’s emotional, has various influences in its atmospheric black metal DNA, and will eventually grow on you once you give it your undivided attention. This album is a good beginning for cementing the band’s career, and I expect great things to come from this fledgling band.


Cover painted by Sebastian Wagner

If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that you should expect the unexpected, especially when creators have strong work ethics. While I had expected—and looked forward to!—various releases out this year, I didn’t expect Andy Marshall to announce a new album this year. I was slightly concerned about the album Marshall had released this year under the name Fuath, and all I could think about was whether the sounds of both projects would overlap, bleeding onto Guardians. I also thought about the release dates of both albums; would there be enough time in between releases for people to know the difference? I am happy to say that Fuath and Saor are two completely different entities that each show a side of Marshall’s personality.

When it comes to composition of both music and lyrics, do you need to have a particular mindset or do you need to be at a particular place to compose?

I don’t need to be in any particular place but I like to take my acoustic guitar with me when I’m visiting my family’s cottage in the Isle of Skye. It’s really remote and the landscape from the garden is stunning. I also get a lot of inspiration from hill walking or when I’ve been out exploring in the wild. Sometimes it just takes a film, book, or soundtrack to trigger my creative side. I usually start out with a guitar riff or melody then start adding other instruments. As for mindset, I definitelyhave a place in my head I go to when I’m writing Saor material. It’s total escapism.


This album has everything one comes to expect from Saor: beautiful melodies, emotional, fluid passages of music, cohesiveness in its structure, and superb songwriting. It is also highly atmospheric and sorrowful, as if commemorating the life and struggle of Scotland. This album picks up right where its predecessor, Aura, left off, and it shows the deep love Marshall has for his home. After all, when you adapt native poetry and melodies into your music, your pride and love for your mother country tends to show.

One of the things I can appreciate about Saor’s superb songwriting and composition is how they always seem to have a theme that the listener can easily follow. Whether it shows up throughout the album or it fills into some of its tracks, you can always be sure that the theme will be there. In this case, the theme was weaved throughout the entire album, and showed up prominently in “Guardians” and “Autumn Rain”. That construction makes the album come alive, especially with additional instrumentation from the likes of Bryan Hamilton (Cnoc An Tursa) on drums, Meri Tadic (Ex-Elueviete, Irij) on fiddle, John Becker (Austaras) on strings and Kevin Murphy on bagpipes. Despite the somewhat repetitive nature of the music, it isn’t dull, and the addition of those instruments and their tonalities help the album from becoming boring. The layering of the music, the instrumentation, and the vocals provide the album with a sorrowful, melancholic tone. Unlike Aura, where there seemed to be elements of pride and happiness, the sorrow that engulfs Guardians takes a life of its own, adding a deep level of melancholy and respect to fallen lives and the struggles Scotland has faced throughout its history.

Guardians is definitely worth your attention, and it continues to show that Marshall’s brand of Celtic-influenced atmospheric folk/black metal has not slowed down in the slightest. This album remains a beautiful piece of work and I am sure it will be a contender in many end-of-the-year top 10 lists.

Tagged with 2016, atmospheric folk metal, black metal, depressive black metal, Gateway to Selfdestruction, Hera Vidal, Saor

November 9, 2016

Crystall Balls / Kief Demon - Roots

By Karen A. Mann. Florida’s Crystal Balls create sweeping, stoner doom that uses elements of shoegaze and the occasional blackened bit to create a sense of decay and extreme anguish. Their songs tend to unfurl slowly, meandering in unforeseen ways, but carefully balanced between raw and refined
By Karen A. Mann


Florida’s Crystal Balls create sweeping, stoner doom that uses elements of shoegaze and the occasional blackened bit to create a sense of decay and extreme anguish. Their songs tend to unfurl slowly, meandering in unforeseen ways, but carefully balanced between raw and refined.

Roots is a split with fellow Floridians Kief Demon, and includes two songs by each band. “Baby Prison,” the first Crystal Balls song, begins melodically, with atmospheric looped guitars that are soon pierced by a guttural screech. Sludgy grooves, and vocals that toggle between shrieking and growling, take the song in a harsher direction. The band returns to a cleaner, shimmering melody at the end.

Their second song, “Altered Strain,” is more raw, with a lumbering, repetitive sludgy groove, and a blackened breakdown. Like “Baby Prison,” the song closes in a cleaner, more traditionally stoner manner.

Kief Demon’s contributions are rawer and looser, but still show promise. They tend to ride the line between sludge and Southern rock. All proceeds from their side go to HoneyLove, an urban beekeeping organization focused on saving bees and spreading bee knowledge.

“Paradox Void” begins with a raw low sludgy riff, punctured by the sound of bong hits and coughing along with inhumanly growls vocals. The second song “Crow Eater,” is their standout track, with a droning, hypnotic riff and more traditional vocals.

Roots is the first release by either band. At the least, it’s the only music either band has on Bandcamp. I’m hoping that both bands -- especially Crystal Balls -- issue a full release soon.


Tagged with 2016, blackened doom metal, Crystal Balls, free download, Karen A. Mann, Kief Demon, sludge metal

November 7, 2016

Anagnorisis - Peripeteia

By Justin C. It took me a little longer than I would have liked to write about Anagnorisis's new album, Peripeteia. It's not because the album is flawed in any way--far from it--but because it's such a powerful personal statement by singer Zachary Kerr. There are layers and layers to peel back
By Justin C.


It took me a little longer than I would have liked to write about Anagnorisis's new album, Peripeteia. It's not because the album is flawed in any way--far from it--but because it's such a powerful personal statement by singer Zachary Kerr. There are layers and layers to peel back, even more so because the Bandcamp download contains a booklet that Kerr included to explain how the album came to be.

I tend to shy away from track-by-track reviews, since they're really no longer necessary when you can listen to an album in full yourself. I like to highlight and guide, but I don't feel as though I need to hold anybody's hand through an entire album. I'm going to make an exception for this album, though. It's my way “in,” if that makes any sense, and it's the best way in I can think of.

The album opens with a chime-like figure, which is joined by additional guitar and spoken word vocals. This builds to a proper black metal blast, finally wrapping up with the first of many cassette recording samples. "Transparent -" is an apt title for this song, as Kerr is seeking to be transparent not only to himself, but to the listeners. The sampled cassette recordings are from Kerr's childhood, and they were presented to him by his mother after his father died in 2010. The samples often seem innocuous enough--Kerr's father, for the most part, seems calm and unmenacing, if not a bit persnickety with the details as the then 4.5-year-old Kerr answers his questions. But if you're like me, your hackles will be instantly raised. It's rare these days to be presented with audio recordings that aren't going to be damning in some way or another.

"Disgust and Remorse, Pts. I and II" are as dark as you might imagine. Kerr's black metal shrieks are raspy but full, and the instrumental work is layered and sweeping. With lyrics like "My wound is self disgust" and "Depression now leads me by the leash," you get a pretty clear sense of the mood of the work. But even so, the end of "Pt. I" starts to lift just a bit. You can hear Kerr trying to move past something, as he tells us that "This reflective version of atoms is not my story." These turns in the music are what allow us, the listeners, to survive the intensity of this music. This is black metal first and foremost, but throughout the album, we're offered a variety of turns and surprises. Of course, relief doesn't come quite that easily. "Pt. II" sees Kerr pushing the harshness of his vocals just a little bit harder, telling us, "I’ve never been enough / I've never done enough."

It's worth noting at this point that in Kerr's booklet, he describes reacting to the innocence and honesty of his childhood self when hearing those cassettes after so many years. It's also worth noting what they are in contrast to. Kerr doesn't give us all the details, as he himself says it would "turn this thing into what I wanted to avoid," although he doesn't offer more specifics than that. We learn that his father had difficulty with alcohol and gradually grew distant from Kerr as he grew up. We learn that his grandmother was extremely abusive to his mother. In other words, his parents came to their new family with their own wounds, and clearly some of these were visited on Kerr. Maybe most importantly, we learn that teenaged Kerr was sent to a boarding school in West Somoa, what basically amounted to a prison camp that billed itself as a paradise in which troubled children could heal, but in reality was scamming parents for money and providing nothing but abuse and deprivation on their children.

The next track, "5306 Morningside," is suggestively titled after Kerr's childhood address. The track starts with a moment of levity, with Kerr's father introducing a song Kerr is to sing, which dissolves into a fit of giggles. It's a gentle introduction to one of the fastest and most punishing songs on the album. But with the giggling and change in styles still fresh in our minds, we're left to wonder if it's Kerr's father who is being addressed by the final line of the song, "You always provoked the best in me / by showing me the worst of you."

"Night Skies Over Nothingness" enters with a clean guitar line that's been covered with a heavy dose of fuzz. It definitely gives you the feeling of being in the wilderness, although Kerr's stint in boarding school might be coloring my impression. We get another cassette sample, this time of young Kerr reading "Invitation," a poem by Shel Silverstein that invites its readers to share their stories, regardless of what misdeeds they may have done. Although it's a poem for children, it's appropriate for an adult working through their demons in such a naked way. At times, the music in this song lends itself more to driving hard rock-type riffs that the usual black metal tremolos, but again, this is the kind of variety that keeps this album from being an unrelenting monolith of aggression and sorrow, one that would be difficult to sit through.

"Peripeteia" is both the title track and a literary term that usually refers to a turning point, and so this song seems to be in the sequence of the album. We're treated to a lovely rendition of Kerr's mother singing Connie Francis's "Cruising Down the River," a song that she explains to Kerr was important to her mother. It's hard to know what to make of this, knowing what we do about the bad relationship between Kerr's mother and grandmother, but as the song progresses, something does turn. We're treated with melancholy synths backing the black metal, and even an electric organ makes an appearance, harking back to an older rock sound.

"Metamorphosis" has an almost upbeat feel. It makes no sense for me to psychoanalyze Kerr, on what his relationship with his parents or his own struggles ultimately mean, but this song, and the record as a whole, puts me in mind of what a lot of us come up against at a certain age. You feel damaged, both by design and by your own mistakes or self-destructive tendencies, and you're angry at your parents for real or perceived failures. But ultimately you're a grown up, and you have to come to some kind of peace with yourself, and peace with the fact that your parents came to parenthood with their own damage. You have to learn to move forward, even if it hurts, and even if some things are never said or never resolved. The clear tribute to Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" in the middle of this track is an interesting choice. The band plays the hell out of it, and it works, but of course "numb" isn't always "healed."

At the end of the album, we come back to the idea of transparency. We're treated to half-singing/half-chanting vocals, and beneath, the words, "Dad, I just wanted you to know..." Kerr sings of "metamorphosis or death, the only freedoms I see," and we're led out of the album with the same, slow chiming that the album began with. Perhaps not a resolution, but part of a cycle.

I've given you only a taste of what Anagnorisis has put out here. So much of metal is escapism, so if this rawness is too much, you may be better off sticking with the usual death metal monsters. But for those who are brave enough to delve in, the rewards are great.

Tagged with 2016, Anagnorisis, black metal, death metal, Justin C

November 5, 2016

Short and to the point 5

By Aaron Sullivan. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you may have noticed a huge influx of Black Metal bands out of Iceland recently. Bands like Svartidauði, Sinmara, Misþyrming, and Zhrine. But to be honest, none have really done much for me. With the exception of one, Ljáin.
By Aaron Sullivan.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock you may have noticed a huge influx of Black Metal bands out of Iceland recently. Bands like Svartidauði, Sinmara, Misþyrming, and Zhrine. But to be honest, none have really done much for me. With the exception of one, Ljáin. Jef Whitehead (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice) posted them on his Instagram, and if he’s promoting them then who am I not to check it out. Glad I did.


The two albums are atmospheric and raw at the same time. Vocal deep in the mix adding the cacophony of it all. Shifting rhythms keeping things from getting stale. Reminds me of a less chaotic Skaphe (who is half Icelandic themselves). How these guys have not been signed yet is a mystery to me. So check them out before they are so you can say, “I knew them before they were signed to <label name here>”.


Artwork Daniel Obzejta

Out of my scene here in L.A. comes Wovoka and their album Saros. How would I describe this band you ask? Well imagine if you will Neurosis and YOB making sweet sweet love. Go on, do it. Good. Now the love child produced by that love making would undoubtedly be Wovoka. The atmosphere and vocals of Neurosis combined with the riffs and sheer towering tone of YOB. First time seeing them live was like being run over by a herd of slow moving elephants. Their sound fills your ears to maximum capacity. Glacial in movement and in weight.



From the windy city comes the artist J.R. Robinson. He is the mastermind behind the band Wrekmeister Harmonies. When it started it out the band was more of a collective. J.R. being the main guy and with each album bringing in a slew of artist from the Chicago scene and elsewhere. Names like Sanford Parker, Jef Whitehead, Bruce Lamont, Marissa Nadler, and many others. The songs, like on my favorite album of his You've Always Meant So Much to Me, were sprawling 30 minute plus slow burns of jammy rock ambience rising and rising until a giant crescendo. Combining elements of DOOM, and experimentation, post-rock, and drone. Like a darker Godspeed You! Black Emperor. He expanded upon this for the next two albums. But with his latest Light Falls, some things have changed.

For one he has a permanent band mate in the multi-instrumentalist Esther Shaw. Two, no more 30 minute plus songs. The album contains seven songs that are no doubt connected (as evidenced by the title track broken into three pieces) but can also stand alone. Having been fortunate to have seen him live several times I get the feeling it was these live shows that may have informed this albums shorter song lengths. They have a real live feel to them. But then what do I know. Maybe the man just needed a change. Either way this is still a worthy addition to an already great catalogue of music.



Wreck and Reference. A band that recently was listed in an article on Invisible Oranges titled, 10 of the Heaviest Modern Bands Without Guitars, I would agree. I first heard them on their second album Want. I was struck immediately. To be that heavy in mood, to be that aggressive vocally, drumming with such power, and while not a metal band, sure feeling like one.

Their evolving catalogue is well documented on this site. With their new album, Indifferent Rivers Romance End, the mood is still heavy but the music, not as much. Softer in tone perhaps but not in message. This album feels more open allowing the layers to be heard more. I know the word “mature” is sometimes seen as a bad word for some. But I think it describes this album well. They have honed their anger and depression. So instead of firing a shotgun that spreads their sadness anywhere and everywhere. They instead use a heat seeking missile to annihilate their intended target. Who ever that poor unfortunate person may be, even if it's pointed at the band themselves.



Last, but certainly not least, another band from my Los Angeles scene is Skyeater. Made up of former musicians of Crowhurst (they were on the self-titled album) and now going about it on their own. But don’t expect that type of Black Metal, this is atmospheric and ritualistic. They combine the atmosphere of Lluvia and the ritualistic feel of Merkaba. The drumming is top notch. The thing I dig the most is they have three vocalist with three distinctive vocal styles. One a guttural black metal style, another almost depressive suicidal, and the other black metal style with just a hint on hardcore style in it. Don’t think the rawness is only a result of this being a demo. It translates to the live sound also.

They are currently in the process of recording their full length at Earhammer Studios with Greg Wilkinson (Asunder, Lycus, Fórn) at the helm. To be released next year on Baneful Genesis Records.

Tagged with 2015, 2016, Aaron Sullivan, ambient, black metal, doom metal, drone, Flenser Records, free download, Ljáin, post-metal, rock, Skyeater, sludgemetal, Wovoka, Wreck and Reference, Wrekmeister Harmonies

November 4, 2016

Usurpress - The Regal Tribe

By Hera Vidal. Everyone deals with pain differently; some choose to talk to others about it, others choose to keep the pain in and refuse to seek any help when it gets too much, and others choose to deal with it through music.
By Hera Vidal.

Artwork by Marald van Haasteren

Everyone deals with pain differently; some choose to talk to others about it, others choose to keep the pain in and refuse to seek any help when it gets too much, and others choose to deal with it through music. After all, in a medium that allows us to simultaneously empathize with and purge the pain the person is experiencing or has experienced. In the case of Usurpress, it seems that dealing with pain is a cathartic experience, and the only way to sometimes to deal with it is to let someone else in.

What kind of things has inspired the lyrics this time around? What kind of themes does the album deal with?

Stefan [Pettersson]: I think my battle with bone marrow cancer inspired the lyrics quite a bit. I was very sick when I wrote the story for the album, yeah, it’s a concept album, so I think the lyrics came out darker than usual. The story of the album is based around life versus death and what choice you make between them; it’s also a story of jealousy, vanity and betrayal.

From the Spanish Friedhof Magazine. Translation from the Usurpress blog.

The Regal Tribe is heavy, both in tone and in atmosphere. The first notes of “Beneath the starless skies” brings melancholic overtones with backing synths and death metal elements that seem to convey a sense of loss and a sense of desperation. This theme plays throughout the entire album, and adapts itself to several melodies and backing tones in each song. The first half of the album is heavier than the second half, as most of the death metal elements reside and make excellent use of all the instruments at their disposal. There are fierce, backing drums in “Across the dying the plains”, extensive jazz-like, prog-infused guitar distortion in “Beneath the starless sky” and, most prominently, “The halls of extinction”, which flows seamlessly into the second half of the album. That track marks the change the album will go into, paving the way to the road of acceptance.

The second half of the album begins with the deep bassline of “Throwing the gift away”, which leads to the clean vocals, heard for the first time on the entire album. The doom elements become prominent here—nevermind the change that happens halfway through the song, where everything returns to death metal for a while—especially in the ending sequence. It leads into “Behold the forsaken”, which has some interesting Sotajumala vibes, especially in the vocals and the guitars. It particularly shows in the guitars, where the constant beat seems to drive into you before releasing you back to its doom state. It’s fast, dark, and primal, making this the heaviest song on the record. The atmosphere sets the entire mood for the rest of the tracks, culminating in “In the shadow of the new gods”, where the theme throughout the entire album and the emotions behind it come to head. The acceptance of what has happened and what that has led to leads the song to end abruptly, before you realize that the beginning of “Beneath the starless skies” is the true ending of the album. Talk about a cyclical ending!

All in all, Usupress’ The Regal Tribe is emotionally intense, with superb vocals and instrumentation. There was a lot of death-doom tonalities that held the album together, although I wished they have been used more evenly throughout it. My only complaint is that the transitions between songs should have been smoother, as, sometimes, the transitions weren’t very clean. However, this might be to the digital edition of the album, so I digress. Regardless, The Regal Tribe may be difficult to get into on the first listen, but once you really get into it, it rewards you with music that is entirely the band’s own.

All the best wishes to vocalist Stefan Petterson in his battle with bone marrow cancer!

Tagged with 2016, Agonia Records, death metal, Hera Vidal, sludge metal, Usurpress

November 2, 2016

Decapitated - Winds of Creation

An Autothrall Classic. Winds of Creation is not the sort of album one experiences every day, and at the dawn of the 21st century, that was exponentially the case. I had grown quite jaded on a lot of brutal/technical death metal and was finding my thrills elsewhere, but records like this and Cannibal Corpse's underrated masterpiece Bloodthirst
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Cover art by Jacek Wiśniewski.

Winds of Creation is not the sort of album one experiences every day, and at the dawn of the 21st century, that was exponentially the case. I had grown quite jaded on a lot of brutal/technical death metal and was finding my thrills elsewhere, but records like this and Cannibal Corpse's underrated masterpiece Bloodthirst rechristened my attention span for the style. Decapitated's Earache/Wicked World debut is hands down one of the better efforts the Polish scene has produced, proudly standing alongside Calm Hatchery, Lost Soul and about half of the estimable Vader backlog, while taking only minimal cues from their countrymen or really any regional death metal sound the world over. In fact, Winds of Creation was so anomalous that even the band's own future output, as hard as they might try, could not really compare to it riff-for-riff, so I've obviously revealed my hand here... This is The One. This is my favorite Decapitated material and very unlikely to be dethroned if they keep producing duds like Carnival is Forever in the immediate future...not that they haven't put out other good albums in the interim, but whenever I journey back to experience how refreshingly intense they were upon their debut to the world, I become fairly frustrated at such an inconsistent legacy.

Let's clear the obvious: I don't know of too many death metal bands who were performing at such a level of proficiency at so early an age...most of them still teens during this era, and playing progressions of notes with both a precision and agility that would make Trey Azagthoth blush. I chose that man intentionally, because I feel that somewhere along the line, it was his intense velocity picking on records like Altars of Madness, Covenant and Domination which might have inspired Vogg's playing. Other than that, there's not much of a comparison I might make elsewhere in death metal...Decapitated were brutal and incorporated a lot of the dense chugging components one might expect, but they were always interesting and served primarily as bridges between the classically-inspired progressions that put the band on the map. The riffs included some inherent groove to them, but were also incredibly detailed and complex...which would mean nothing if they weren't so goddamned catchy. Even if I listen to renowned records like None So Vile or Pierced from Within, the intricacy and forethought of these particular tunes reveals an entire other level of calculation and execution. Mysticism and technique translated into pure concussion, and hopefully (but not ultimately) the precursors to many such exhibitions to come. Part of Decapitated's appeal was pure spectacle, but these were not songs lacking in substance...in fact, they patented a form of gluey guitar porn here which has been gangbanging my gray matter ever since.

Fuck, just the riffing of "Blessed" alone is more inventive and impressive than the sum of ideas found on most brutal death metal records, and though I won't call the music 'accessible' to a broad audience, it's surprisingly easy to follow regardless of the acrobatics. A fusion of old school tremolo picked death metal aesthetics via the Floridian forerunners with something more eloquent, accurate and explosive. Eager and technical enough to assert itself into a younger generation of listeners raised on soulless, brutal death metal where technique, mosh culture and soulless brutality took center stage above songwriting, but also itself a flavorful and solid example of the latter, substantial enough for death vets like myself to spin it endlessly (at least so far). This is not a PERFECT album, it didn't entirely rewrite the playbook for me like those first two Pestilence discs, or Left Hand Path, or Realm of Chaos, but it was certainly unexpected that such a young band could come forth and help reinvigorate my interest in the largely stagnant cesspool of soundalikes that the medium had long been steered towards. And it doesn't just end with the rhythm guitars, because the leads are frilly and exciting, the drumming of the late Vitek far better balanced and grooved out than on the band's previous demos, and even the bass-playing here dextrous and mandatory to anchor down the mile a minute guitar picking centered on endlessly genius 'fills' of note choices.

Sauron's probably the least advanced figure in this equation, but his blunt guttural presentation proves a welcome contrast against the brighter, thinner guitar picking. Like a neanderthal being tapped to present the latest NASA technology, he's got an expressive low-end roar somewhere between a Karl Willetts and Frank Mullen, and throws a lot of decayed sustain that stands out against the clinical production of those goddamned guitars. Though Winds of Creation is largely culled from the Eye of Horus demo (1998), it sounds deeper, darker, more serious and sinister, otherworldly beings channeled into the limbs and lips of a quartet of young Polish gentlemen. It's also quite compact: just about 30 minutes of concise, incredible content before the "Dance Macabre" ambient outro leads into an excellent cover of Slayer's "Mandatory Suicide" which maintains the original's sense of heinous despair, while making it their own. Granted, I felt like, as with most album-closer cover songs, that it did detract a little from the supernova of excitement and originality that they were creating with their own content, but if you're going to include one, even such a safe choice, then it must be at least this good.

Otherwise, the only complaint I might have is the shitty imagery on the cover art, which looks fiery and acceptable at a distance but really just seems like the cluttered, computer-generated garbage you'd find on a lot of records in the latter half of the 90s (Monstrosity was also guilty of this on their sophomore). But it seems a moot complaint when the music is just this impressive. Winds of Creation might not be perfect, and I might not short-list it among the 10-20 death metal records I'd bring with me to a desert island, but it is the only valid justification for the band's considerable career hype, and an album they have yet to match. I do appreciate other Decapitated discs for other reasons, and the aesthetics of this one certainly fuel the followup Nihility to some extent, but the amount of effort Vogg packs into individual tracks seems to have devolved, to have dumbed itself down on subsequent recordings. I can only imagine what travel in the opposite direction might have offered us, but at least this debut still stands as a standard-setting monolith for what a musician can pull off, even at such an impressively young age. Am I jealous much? Well, I definitely was the first 50 times I popped this in my CD player. How could I not be? Tremendous stuff.

Tagged with 2000, Autothrall, Decapitated, Earache Records, technical death metal