April 28, 2017

From The Metal Archives Vol 5 - Self Mutilation Services special

[When I add labels to the Metal Labels On Bandcamp page I usually scan their releases looking for anything interesting I might have missed. The reviews on The Metal Archives are a great help when doing this
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

[When I add labels to the Metal Labels On Bandcamp page I usually scan their releases looking for anything interesting I might have missed. The reviews on The Metal Archives are a great help when doing this: a couple of great reviews means an album I should probably check out. With this series I'd like to share some of my finds, accompanied by a paragraph from the review that made my ears stand up and take notice. In this edition we feature three very non festive releases from the Mexican black metal label Self Mutilation Services.]


While listening to atmospheric black metal releases, I do not often feel the sorrow transported with the music, which is intended most of the time, of course. It certainly is very prominent on this one, though. Sorrow can be chained together with other emotions like hate, envy, frustration, and loneliness, which makes it not very easy to listen to this stuff, but also gives it an indescribable beauty. And Alrakis manages to bring this combination of two seemingly opposite feelings to damn near perfection. And this one word just mentioned summarizes the album quite good: loneliness. An atmosphere is created where you can flow around in an endless universe with nothing but the stars around you... and it actually works for me. (read Urnoev's full review here).



Here I am thinking that "9 Crimes" by Damien Rice is the most depressing, most emotionally damning love song ever concocted then Hanging Garden come along with "Only in My Mind" and completely blow my hypothesis out of the water. Usually songs about love and heart break do nothing for me, but Hanging Garden present it in such a unique and profoundly emotional way that after extensive listening it is still impossible to not get affected by. Hanging Garden have took a concept that is universal to all of us; love, and despairs at it. In the same way that No Country For Old Men despairs at violence, Hanging Garden despair at the whole concept of love. Creating an emotionally devastating journey into the sick and tormented minds that make up this band. (read Nokturnal_Wrath's full review here).



This is one of the saddest, most droning albums to come out of the genre in its entire history. I may be a bit biased due to my love for this style of music but this album really is something else, and I believe it to be essential listening.

The guitar tone on this album is extremely thin and raw, however, unlike a lot of other bands in this field, the bass is extremely thick. This is a rather investing anomaly that still surprises me after hearing this album four years after hearing it for the first time. A lot of these bands mute the bass completely out of the music or even go as far as to not utilize the bass guitar whatsoever. When Mine Eyes Blacken treats the bass quite different. It is at times even louder than the electric guitar. For example, take the song "Secluded Within Sorrow, Solace Awaits". The bass is extremely loud in the mix, and underneath, we hear the guitar riffs following the pattern of the bass. It sets the path for the music and the guitars and drums follow. (read BlackMetal213's full review here).

Tagged with 2009, 2011, Alrakis, ambient, atmospheric black metal, black metal, depressive black metal, Hanging Garden, Self Mutilation Services, When Mine Eyes Blacken

April 24, 2017

Ingurgitating Oblivion - Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light

By Bryan Camphire. Ingurgitating Oblivion is a Berlin-based group headed by Florian Engelke, who has hewn his visionary style of death metal for the past twenty years. Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light, features a new cast of musicians
By Bryan Camphire.


Ingurgitating Oblivion is a Berlin-based group headed by Florian Engelke, who has hewn his visionary style of death metal for the past twenty years. Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light, features a new cast of musicians, perhaps most notably Lille Gruber of Defeated Sanity on drums. Engelke remains as the band’s sole original member and functions as the group’s primary songwriter.

It bears contemplating the word ‘symphonies’ from the album’s title, because the album is just that. It is not difficult to imagine this music transcribed for an entire orchestra, as the record is rife with rich interlocking harmonies. The composer is clearly a careful student of the deep history of death metal. Rather than looking inward and provoking an old school revival as is commonly done, this music looks outward toward what death metal can become.

Visions... is a collection of four long-form tunes that are packed with dynamics. The heavy sections are chock full of unorthodox guitar harmony and blistering convulsive rhythms. The guitar uses a lot of sustain - letting notes ring out for several beats, which is a technique more common to doom rather than death metal. Interestingly, the rhythm section keeps churning and pummelling throughout, giving the music an almost seasick off kilter feeling like an uproarious crashing sea amidst a horrible storm.

A fair amount of space is devoted to more restrained sections of music, which serve as a sort of ballast, stabilizing the tunes between apoplectic fits. Still, during its quieter moments the record maintains its savagery. At such times it tends to remind me of post-hardcore masterpieces by 90s bands like Don Caballero or Rodan. Ingurgitating Oblivion do play pretty sections of music, yet these stretches always feel foreboding, with the possibility of an attack ever looming overhead like a sword.

The second track, the brilliantly titled, “A Mote Constitutes What to Me Is Not All, and Eternally All, Is Nothing”, begins with bowed vibraphone. If anyone can tell me of a heavy metal song preceding this one that begins with bowed vibraphone, I will happily eat my shoe. And the record just keeps getting stranger as it goes along. The piano outro of the third track sounds almost like an excerpt of Scriabin's mind-melting Piano Sonata #6. Still, make no mistake, this is very much a death metal record, and a crushingly heavy one at that.

With Visions…, Ingurgitating Oblivion show themselves to be a group with originality to burn. It is unusual enough for a band to have riffs that sound like no one else. It is especially rare for a band to have its own approach to timekeeping. Ingurgitating Oblivion's rhythms feel nuanced in a way that is entirely of their own invention. The phrasings leave the listener grasping for solid footing, like scaling a steep cliff face as rocks turn to dust in your hands and under foot.

Adventurous listeners will find themselves transported by this music into weird realms of dizzying heights.Visions… offers forth strange imaginings that travel beyond the frontiers of accepted knowledge of the form, arriving at a heavier and darker death metal. With all the buzzing dissonant harmonies and menacing rhythmic assault on display, the music seems to come at you like a swarm of enemy insects. It is almost too much to take in all at once, nevertheless there it is, and it is dangerous.

Tagged with 2017, Bryan Camphire, death metal, Ingurgitating Oblivion, Willowtip

April 22, 2017

Farsot - Fail·lure

By Justin C. German black-metal act Farsot has released their third full-length, Fail·lure. The dot is intentional, not a stray umlaut that's broken and fallen between the cracks. The album name is actually a portmanteau
By Justin C.


German black-metal act Farsot has released their third full-length, Fail·lure. The dot is intentional, not a stray umlaut that's broken and fallen between the cracks. The album name is actually a portmanteau of "failure" and "allure," and according to the description on Bandcamp, the album "addresses the inevitable dilemma between fascination and mania, desire and disgust, power and weakness..." It's a great topic to address with a metal album, and the music matches the concept.

One of my first thoughts when listening to this was that it reminded me a bit of late-period Enslaved. I know that's a bit dangerous to say because some people are angry that Enslaved has, in their view, drifted too far from some sort of black metal purity standard they adhered to in earlier albums like Frost, but I disagree. (In fact, I think "Thoughts Like Hammers" from RIITIIR is one of their best songs. Fight me!) Farsot isn't an Enslaved soundalike by any means, but their combination of different vocal styles, including cleans, and their mixture of heaviness and more sparse interludes find them exploring similar sonic territory.

"Vitriolic" opens the album with what at first sounds like your standard "evil sound effects," but on closer inspection reveals laughing and sobbing mixed together, tying back to the opposing forces in the album's conception. The music itself starts out with a buzzing, droning riff made propulsive by the underlying drumming, and low, croaking vocals in the vein of Abbath. But it's not long before the guitar line thins and some clean, chanting vocals enter. As I hinted at earlier, the music matches the concept by pairing gnarly black metal with more varied and spacious sounds. You'll find similar pairings in other songs, like the simple arpeggiation that opens "With Obsidian Hands." If you think this will be a song without bite, you're soon proven wrong, as the screams that soon kick in are some of the most pained-sounding on the album. This track also shows off some chunky riffs that would sound at home in a regular hard rock tune (if anybody even makes "regular hard rock" anymore). That's not a criticism at all--they're damn good riffs, and they add another layer of contrast, and that’s not even getting into the slick bassline that kicks in later, and probably another dozen layers I could point out to this song alone.

Another strength of this album is that although it's technically "progressive" in nature, it's still a tight listen. It's 48 minutes long, which isn't a record breaking length by any means, but I kept finding that as the instrumental closer, "A Hundred to Nothing," came along, I was still ready for more. The philosophical ideas may be weighty, but that weight doesn't push down on the listeners. Fail·lure is yet another great entry for off-center black metal this year.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Farsot, Justin C, Prophecy Productions

April 21, 2017

Artificial Brain - Infrared Horizon

By Bryan Camphire. Artificial Brain begin their sophomore record, Infrared Horizon, with a tune called “Floating in Delirium” and they could hardly have chosen a more fitting title for a cut to kick off this monstrous record.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Artificial Brain begin their sophomore record, Infrared Horizon, with a tune called “Floating in Delirium” and they could hardly have chosen a more fitting title for a cut to kick off this monstrous record. The track starts and immediately your sense of gravity is completely thrown off because you don’t know what just hit you. Artificial Brain has just come at you like a highly sophisticated well-oiled killing machine with razor sharp teeth.

Titles to tunes further on in the record can serve as something of an interstellar road map. “Estranged from Orbit,” “Vacant Explorer,” “Graveyard of Lightless Planets”... we are seeing a theme developing here. This behemoth of a release seems to be dealing with things not as they should be. In the face of such quandaries, there is a sense of constant frenetic motion in the music. A darkness resonates on Infrared Horizon, as though the music is frantically charting a course spiralling toward a deep black void. Perhaps that’s why the horizon is seen as infrared, because it might be completely indecipherable otherwise.

Artificial Brain plays with tempo so drastically that each song feels like a violent car chase as the music careens every which way, peeling out, caterwauling, switching gears, heaving and roaring toward a fiery death. Maybe all this is occurring on a distant lightless planet. It’s impossible to be sure.

This band is no vehicle for one star player, everyone in the group pays a deep commitment to the crushingly complex material. The playing is executed with surgical precision from all of its members.

The vocals range from deep guttural lacerations to shrill maniacal screams. The low vocals often seem to harmonise with the detuned guitars, rather than to act as a mere ornament. A highlight is the denouement of the record’s title track, the instruments lock into a half-tempo dirge, and this malevolent juggernaut roars past when the instruments drop out. A sinister bubbling emerges out of the wreckage. The vocals spew forth immitigable vibrations of tectonic dissonance, down to the very burning core of human suffering where the heart seems to crackle like flesh on hot coals.

The bass is quite prominent throughout the whole record; not only is it high in the mix, but bass lines are often leading the music. The drumming is completely visionary and suits the music perfectly. It’s never predictable and always exceedingly precise. The guitars eschew typical power chords and are constantly augmenting the band’s harmonies with jarring discordant playing. It’s a dense admixture, and in another band’s hands it might be murky. The production is so clean on this record, however, that all of the band’s harmonic mischief is on gloriously vivid display. The choice of amps and distortion for the guitars seems to steer away from a wall of sound approach, instead letting the sinister melodies speak for themselves. This effect is helped by the breakneck pace at which the band plays, throwing new parts and new atmospheres at you every five or ten seconds. All the while, Artificial Brain is really straining at the reigns shattering the confines of what has been done thus far in death metal.

Artificial Brain do not sound like that band from Canada that plays dissonant death metal. They don’t sound like that band from France that plays dissonant black metal. Nor do they sound like that band from New Zealand that plays dissonant blackened death metal. Artificial Brain sounds like Artificial Brain. They set themselves apart by putting forth dynamic tunes, none of which sound quite alike. Each song possesses its own integrity, its own gravity and its own atmosphere. With Infrared Horizon, Artificial Brain have emerged as one of the most unique sounding bands in the vast ever-expansive universe of death metal.

Tagged with 2017, Artificial Brain, Bryan Camphire, Profound Lore Records, technical death metal

April 20, 2017

Alunah - Solennial

By Matt Hinch. If you haven't seen me shoving Alunah in your face on social media yet, it's only a matter of time. Even after penning this review I'm still going to plug this band every chance I get. You see, they’re
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Adrian Baxter.

If you haven't seen me shoving Alunah in your face on social media yet, it's only a matter of time. Even after penning this review I'm still going to plug this band every chance I get. You see, they’re well versed in Sabbathianisms but move forward a few years worth of influence and you've got a fuzz factor more akin to a certain Mr. Scott “Wino” Weinrich. Couple that with guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day's bewitching vocals and it's a recipe for playlist domination. And dominate my playlist their Svart Records debut, Solennial has.

Previous album Awakening the Forest probably set a record for longest presence on my phone/iPod. I couldn't bear to take it off until I got the promo for this one. That's well over two years. I'm never not in the mood for Alunah. Solennial with likely stick around until they release another one.

Let's get some particulars out of the way before we get much further here. As mentioned Sophie Day handles guitar and vocals, David Day mans the other 6-string, Daniel Burchmore's on bass and Jake Mason anchors the band on drums. I should also note it was recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding of Conan at (Jon Davis of Conan's) Skyhammer Studios and was mastered by Greg Chandler. Also Charlotte “Chipper” Nicholls (Crippled Black Phoenix) enhances the atmosphere with her cello across much of the album and Rich Harris (Oily Toys) makes a guest appearance on vocals. Not to mention Adrian Baxter's spectacular cover art.

OK, back to the music. Opener “The Dying Soil” is a dreamy intro slowly building on a melody until it drops dead leading into the fuzz odyssey that follows. “Light of Winter” sets the mood with its dark yet warm aura brimming with tone. The riffs here and throughout Solennial fall on the hypnotic side inducing involuntary toe tapping and head nodding.

Another aspect permeating the album is its catchiness. “Feast of Torches” especially takes up residence deep in the brain with its repetitive main riff and killer chorus. Heaviness and groove don't let you forget this is doom however. Soulful leads and Sophie's croon lift the overall feel out of eternal darkness and into the light while numbing the nerve centres, calming the psyche and inducing a state of mellow relaxation through stoner/sludge ecstasy.

Nicholls' cello accents soothe deeply and amplify Alunah's melodic sensibility sending the listener heavenward while lyrically Alunah make you feel like heaven is right here on earth. Personally, it can feel quite spiritual.

I have to admit the album's closer has me feeling a bit embarrassed. Had I read the promo materials (I skipped right to “Download”.) or had a goth bone in my body, I would have known “A Forest” was originally done by The Cure before listening to it 50 times and sitting down to write this. My apologies. Upon checking out the original it's obvious but after the telling intro Alunah takes the song down a notch or two, not only tonally but on speed as well. They turned it into a soporific doom opus with hints of the original poking their way through. Alunah have made the track all their own and exposed at least one listener (me) to a band not previously on the radar.

Solennial is simply superb. The smoky fluidity of Alunah's melodies coil around you imbuing warmth as comforting as your favourite wool sweater or a mother's embrace. Repeated listens only enhance the connection to the encapsulating album and reveals the deeper subtleties such as Burchmore's bass touches and Mason's smooth percussion. Solennial will become a staple of my listening habits for the foreseeable future and hopefully you'll become awakened to its endless charms yourself.

Tagged with 2017, Alunah, doom metal, Matt Hinch, stoner metal

April 19, 2017

Dragunov - Korolev

By Justin C. Dragunov, the self-described "Parisian Soviet-Instrumental-Post-Metal duo," released a concept album mostly by accident their last time around. Their EP 637 consisted only of songs that were 6 minutes and 37
By Justin C.


Dragunov, the self-described "Parisian Soviet-Instrumental-Post-Metal duo," released a concept album mostly by accident their last time around. Their EP 637 consisted only of songs that were 6 minutes and 37 seconds long. They noticed the first few songs were all very close in length, and they ran with it. This time around, though, the band has gone a bit higher in concept. Korolev is a tour of Russia's aeronautic history, particularly some of its grimmer parts.

The album title itself comes from Sergei Korolev, the man who became the Chief Architect of the Soviet Union's space program, in spite of the fact that he had been imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death as a young man. And the album starts on a bleak note, with an opening song named after the crash coordinates of a Korean passenger airliner that was shot down by a Russian fighter in 1983 ("46°34'N 141°17'E"). From there, we get not one, but two dead cosmonauts in "Kosmonavt" and "24IV67," the latter of which is the somewhat-infamous incident of Vladimir Komarov, the cosmonaut who burned up on re-entry while allegedly cursing his superiors for sending him to die in a shoddily constructed space vehicle. (You can see the ghastly end results in the album art for Leucosis's Pulling Down the Sky.

Given the subject matter, you'd expect the music to be a bit on the melancholy side, and it often is, mixed in with equal parts anger and ominous atmosphere. "Kosmonavt" starts with some almost-gentle, chiming riffing, accompanied by radio transmissions from an obviously distressed source. You don't have to speak Russian to get the general gist, and the music builds in tension with the recordings while staying mournful at the same time. "24IV67" is probably the most disorienting song on the album, musically, featuring sound effects and more radio transmissions deep in the mix, accompanied by stabbing guitar chords. The song coalesces toward the end, but it ultimately comes to an abrupt ending, much like Komarov's space flight.

But it's not all dead cosmonauts and gloom. "Semïorka," named after a Russian ICBM that was ultimately repurposed for space flight, is a barn-burner of a tune with an excellent call-and-response riff that alternates in high and low registers. It evolves and mutates through the song, using the classic songwriting technique of stating a theme and then playing variations. "Bella i Strelka" refers to two Russian dogs who were sent into space and returned unharmed. The song is one of the more varied in construction on the album, including some bluesy bends that put me in mind of Soundgarden channeling Black Sabbath. Fast and slow parts mix, but without losing a sense of forward momentum. Although we know the dogs had a happy ending, the full range of mood is hard to pin down, which I think makes the song all the more compelling.

As on 637, Dragunov continues to play to their strengths on Korolev. They make a hell of a racket for just two people, but the compositions stay fresh, and appropriate portion control is observed--the whole album is only 34 minutes long, so there isn't a bit of extra fluff to be found here. It's surprising how much some instrumental metal songs suffer from a lack of screaming/growling, but that's not the case here. Sure, they could have added lyrics to make explicit the history I've described, but as I've said before, one of music's best qualities is the ability to express emotions that aren't so easily put into words. Dragunov dispenses with the words, but they tell a compelling story just the same.

Tagged with 2017, Dragunov, Justin C, post-metal

April 17, 2017

Fucked Up, Fuck You, and Fuck Yeah: A Tankcrimes Threesome

By Matt Hinch. I should have know better than to approach a Fucked Up release with expectations. Unless we're talking about expecting the unexpected. I don't know the band well but I saw them play a couple years ago and
By Matt Hinch.


I should have know better than to approach a Fucked Up release with expectations. Unless we're talking about expecting the unexpected. I don't know the band well but I saw them play a couple years ago and it was nothing like Year of the Snake. It was a hardcore show. This is neither hard nor core. The title track is almost 24 minutes of groovy psych pulling on an Asian hookah, astral planing through time, spiraling skyward, bathed in a meditative aura. The ambient sections and blissful sojourns to realms beyond the earthly call forth peace. The gravelly vocals (and clean female) do little to harsh the mellow even when the track is at its most muscular. The climax will transport you and the varied instrumentation (synths, bells, panpipes) are trippy as fuck!

The only other track they have time for is “Passacaglia”, six minutes of Monster Magnet meets Brant Bjork with an almost classic rock tilt. It hits on a riff and rides it across the galaxy. It's instrumental, with endless groove and it's a bloody shame it's not 10 times longer.



Lemme dumb this down for you. FYPM's Dumbed Down is crass, abrasive and as nasty as the floor after a Piss Into A Cup Contest for blind alcoholics. It's about as subtle as trying to cure syphilis with hydrochloric acid. It's superb hardcore. They get in, fuck you up, and get out. It makes you feel like you took a shitkicker to the temple just listening to it. It's the auditory equivalent of getting curb stomped but with all the feral energy you just get back up and eat some deserving douchebag's face with busted chicklets. Crazed Cleveland hardcore, crossover sensibility, street punk swagger and song titles like “Dark Side of the Spoon”, “Douche Chills” and “You Hate Me and I Hate You” kick as much ass as the bruising tunes they represent.

Perhaps the best part is that they are very self-aware (“50 White Dudes with Machetes/Crisis Actors”), socially conscious (“Steubenville City Limits”) and not afraid of calling anyone out. Dumbed Down will seriously beat you silly.



Two years after dealing out some Stoner Justice, Connoisseur are back with Over the Edge. Smokeland's finest weed enthusiasts fall somewhere between Fucked Up and Fuck You Pay Me in a way. Like FYPM they're as nasty and infectious as hepatitis, brutalizing the listener with gnarly tone and unrefined vocals. While there are no real sonic similarities to Year of the Snake, Connoisseur's drug of choice pairs perfectly with Fucked Up's psychedelic and mind expanding offering.

As you'd expect, Connoisseur bathe the listener in as much pot smoke as you can handle. If I had a nickel for every time they mention smoking weed I'd have enough money to buy some weed. If you can drag yourself off the couch Connoisseur's sludgecore makes for some pretty violent moshing. Whether fast or slow Over the Edge gets its sense of heavy from the state of the band's eyelids. Take the red eye Over the Edge and death to false stoners!


That's Tankcrimes output for 2017 so far! FUCKING KILLER. The first track off Necrot's June release (Blood Offerings) sounds pretty good too!
Tagged with 2017, Connoisseur, Fuck You Pay Me, Fucked Up, hardcore, Matt Hinch, psychedelic rock, punk, sludge metal, stoner metal, Tankcrimes

April 14, 2017

Nightbringer - Terra Damnata

By Bryan Camphire. If the music you’re listening to does not give you gooseflesh, you are listening to the wrong music. A relative of mine told me that when I was young, and I have found those to be words to live by.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by David Herrerias.

If the music you’re listening to does not give you gooseflesh, you are listening to the wrong music. A relative of mine told me that when I was young, and I have found those to be words to live by. Terra Damnata by Nightbringer is nothing short of hair-raising. In a sea of seemingly innumerable metal bands at present the music can tend to blend together. In turn, it becomes increasingly difficult for bands to distinguish themselves. How does one continue to sound extreme in 2017 when seemingly nothing is shocking, one wonders. If a metal listener begins to think that things all sound the same, that it’s all been done before, I say, look harder. Discover Nightbringer.

Three things are really impressive about Nightbringer. Firstly, their philosophies run deep. Recent interviews from this year alone (here and here) will enlighten the curious and open-minded reader into an inkling of what the band’s lyrical content and spirituality is all about. They certainly do not mess around with what they do. Their seriousness and conviction befits the intensity of the devotional music they produce. Secondly, the fact that they function as a live band gives their music a living breathing feeling. This is not a bedroom project. This is not music with a thousand guitar overdubs that could not possibly exist live. These men mean to come to a town near you to spread their blasphemic gospels. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, the music itself impresses with its sheer ferocious potency.

The music on Terra Damnata is complex. It is symphonic. It is the sound of an uprising, the sound of an overthrow. One thing that stands out almost immediately are the soaring lacerating lead guitar lines, way high up on the neck, tremolo-picked. It conjures up images of a rapidly spreading brush fire engulfing everything in its path, coughing up smoke, reducing all the eye can see to charred hapless embers. The heat of these leads feels like a laser. This is the sound of something that will make conservative parents nervous that this music may just irrevocably corrupt their children. The rhythm guitars are crisp and clean and ablaze with fury. Three of the band’s six members contribute vocals to this album, which certainly keeps things interesting. The vox range from vicious screams to chanted spiritual incantations. The synths are sinister, supplying the tunes with sorrowful minor key melody. The drums are breakneck. The patterns change up often. The playing is immaculate.

A highlight of the record comes midway through the release, "Let Silence Be His Sacred Name". After a demented piano waltz serving as an intro that sounds like it’s being played by some sickly count in a high collared black cape high up in some castle spire, the full band break into a furious riff in ⅞. That meter can often sound off kilter, but you might not even notice the odd time if you blinked. By two minutes into the tune, the band have broken into half tempo, and the riffs are murderous. It’s a tune worth listening to on repeat.

Terra Damnata is indeed a perfect soundtrack to this ‘cursed land’. From the stentorian opening of "As Wolves Among Ruins" through to its final cut, "Serpent Sun", on Terra Damnata, Nightbringer tear you apart worse than a vulture’s beak. Lasciate ogne speranza voi ch'entrate.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Bryan Camphire, Nightbringer, Season of Mist

Oranssi Pazuzu - Muukalainen Puhuu & Farmakologinen

By Karen A. Mann. For most North Americans, their introduction to Finland’s otherworldly Oranssi Pazuzu came with the 2013 release Valonielu, an engaging head-scratcher of an album that seemed like a missive from another world.
By Karen A. Mann.

For most North Americans, their introduction to Finland’s otherworldly Oranssi Pazuzu came with the 2013 release Valonielu, an engaging head-scratcher of an album that seemed like a missive from another world. The band followed up with 2016’s Värähtelijä, which launched the band’s free-form blackened psychedelia into the sonic cosmos -- and landed them on a lot of year-end best-of lists. While the band seemingly appeared out of nowhere with Valonielu, they actually had been recording and releasing albums in Europe for several years. Now, thanks to the band’s higher profile, 20 Buck Spin is re-releasing two previous albums and the band’s half of a split EP with Candy Cane, another band from Tampere, Finland.


The first, Muukalainen Puhuu, was originally released in 2009, and shows that Oranssi Pazuzu had a solid vision for their sound from the very beginning. As with every Oranssi Pazuzu release, the only constants here are singer/guitarist Jun-His’ corrosive, almost mechanical sounding vocals, and a sense that you just never quite know where the music is going to take you. Tribal drumming, discordant guitars and droning ambience all make an appearance. The organ does have a more prominent role in this release, and as a result, the music is a bit warmer than the band’s other releases.



Farmokologinen, which is Oranssi Pazuzu’s four-song half of the the split with Candy Cane, is much colder, bleaker and more dramatic. It’s short, but powerful, and shows the band fully diving into a more blackened sound. Perhaps because it’s so short, it’s also the most cohesive, least otherworldly of these re-releases.


The last re-release is 2012’s Kosmonument, a double album , which is unfortunately not on Bandcamp. The band returns to a spacey, rhythmic sound, at time veering into trance and blackgaze. Kosmonument was originally released in a very small quantity with detailed artwork, which 20 Buck Spin is replicating in this re-release.

There’s a lot to explore in all three of these Oranssi Pazuzu re-releases. Each offers a new musical ocean on which they seem to be the only qualified ship captain. Oranssi Pazuzu doesn’t defy genres as much as sail along unencumbered by them. The upshot: If you loved Valonielu and Värähtelijä, you will not be disappointed in any of these releases.
Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2009, 2017, Karen A. Mann, Oranssi Pazuzu, psychedelic black metal

April 12, 2017

All Hell - The Grave Alchemist

By Karen A. Mann. It’s a long way from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Carpathians, and the only “castle” in the area is an opulent tourist attraction that was built less than 150 years ago. Still, Asheville trio All Hell evoke an ancient gothic creepiness on the band’s third release, The Grave Alchemist.
By Karen A. Mann.


It’s a long way from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Carpathians, and the only “castle” in the area is an opulent tourist attraction that was built less than 150 years ago. Still, Asheville trio All Hell evoke an ancient gothic creepiness on the band’s third release, The Grave Alchemist. While showing promise on two earlier, punkier releases, All Hell leaps ahead with a more mature and varied sound on this release. Ripping through 12 caustic blasts of blackened thrash, all of which are under five minutes long, the band spins a ghostly centuries-long story of alchemy, lust, and vampirism.

The morbid tale begins with “Grave Alchemy,” whose riff-heavy intro evolves into a thrashing ripper that displays the band’s influences (first-wave black metal, D-beat, early deathrock) for all to hear. There’s a castle and a dragon. “Secrets of blood passed down,” and “the wisdom of all time, ripped from the dead.” Before the Alchemist’s eyes, a deadly shape begins to rise.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The band sticks fairly closely to this toxic formula for the remainder of the album, occasionally slowing down and replacing the demonic snarl with creepy clean singing. Blackened fury interplays with catchy hooks throughout. A tale unfolds of burnt offerings, deadly lust, and a vampire rising from the undead to exact his bloody vengeance.

The album closes with its best and longest song, “I Am the Mist,” a mid-tempo headbanger that almost forces you to put your fist in the air and chant along with singer/guitarist J. Curwen as he spits out the words “I am the mist!” over and over again. The year is young, but I’m pretty sure The Grave Alchemist will end up on my year-end best-of list.

Tagged with 2017, All Hell, black metal, John Mourlas, Karen A. Mann, Prosthetic Records, punk, thrash metal

April 11, 2017

Satan's Hallow - Satan's Hallow

By Calen Henry. Satan's Hallow piqued my interest on the strength of their advance streaming track, "Beyond the Bells". Sounding like Christian Mistress but faster, it’s a blistering traditional metal track kicked up to speed metal velocity, overlaid with Mandy Martillo's soaring vocals.
By Calen Henry.

Drawing by Eric Rot.

Satan's Hallow piqued my interest on the strength of their advance streaming track, "Beyond the Bells". Sounding like Christian Mistress but faster, it’s a blistering traditional metal track kicked up to speed metal velocity, overlaid with Mandy Martillo's soaring vocals.

Their self-titled album is a solid start for a band who show a lot of promise, but it doesn’t live up to the excellent “Beyond the Bells”. The foundation, speedy traditional metal with a female singer is great and puts a new spin on a pretty common genre as well as featuring lots of great guitar work. The album, though, is a mixed bag in terms of successful implementation of their formula. Initially I thought this was based on speed, with the faster tracks working better but that's not the case.

Some tracks, regardless of speed, absolutely nail it while others never quite come together. "Hot Passion" and the title track, "Satan’s Hallow", for example both unfold at a more standard metal pace. The former never quite comes together. The various parts never quite lock in and the lyrics are trite, seemingly featuring arbitrary lines for the sake of rhyming. The title track, on the other hand really comes together. The guitar and vocal grooves lock together for a truly fist pumping song.

Their sound is most of the way there, but simply lacks on a couple of fronts, most evidently the vocals. Martillo seems unwilling to fully commit to either totally clean soaring, powerful vocals, or middle finger to the world, sloppier-than-thou delivery. Some tracks lean one way or the other and show great promise. She delivers "Satan's Hallow" with a metal sneer, whereas "Black Angel" and "Beyond the Bells" are much cleaner and powerful. But all the tracks sound a bit restrained; the soaring vocals, in particular, lack power and the sustained notes are a bit flat.

These are blemishes on a really, really solid sound which is both disappointing and encouraging. Satan's Hallow have all the pieces for an absolutely stellar second album. I hope they put them all together to get there. In the meantime, their hits are hits and absolutely worth checking out.

Tagged with 2017, Calen Henry, heavy metal, Satan's Hallow

April 10, 2017

öOoOoOoOoOo - Samen

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. This is a review that has been in the works for months, in part because of my status as both a chronic procrastinator and as a Grown Up with Many Important Adult Things To Do (like Raising My Kids, Trying To Sell My House, and the old classic Working All The Fucking Time).
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

This is the uncensored cover, not available with the download (click for full size).

Greetings and salutations, friends. This is a review that has been in the works for months, in part because of my status as both a chronic procrastinator and as a Grown Up with Many Important Adult Things To Do (like Raising My Kids, Trying To Sell My House, and the old classic Working All The Fucking Time). However, it’s also in part due to the nature of the album I’m reviewing. You see, France’s öOoOoOoOoOo (aka Chenille, which is French for Caterpillar, and now the name makes sense) is the sort of band that is nigh impossible to describe because of the varied nature of their music. This is one of those rare chameleonic bands that changes styles numerous times throughout the course of a song, and how do you put something like that into words?

In the absence of a simple and concise way of describing öOoOoOoOoOo’s music, we can at least start with a few similar-ish bands to give us at least a point of reference. The most obvious is the ever-popular Mr. Bungle, and while the comparison isn’t exact (öOoOoOoOoOo tends to have more of a basis in metal and isn’t quite so scattershot), there’s a lot of common ground between the two, especially in the vocals (more on that in a moment). The next, somewhat obvious parallel would be in the French oddball duo Pin-Up Went Down, mostly because öOoOoOoOoOo vocalist Asphodel was also PUWD’s singer, but also because they shared a similarly wacky musical style. There are also parallels to the likes of Diablo Swing Orchestra, Pryapisme (whose drummer Aymeric Thomas handles session duty for öOoOoOoOoOo), Carnival In Coal, and the late great Unexpect, but make no mistake, öOoOoOoOoOo stands on its own.

öOoOoOoOoOo is a collaboration between the aforementioned Asphodel and French multi-instrumentalist Baptiste Bertrand, along with the session drumming of Aymeric Thomas. If you’re unfamiliar with Asphodel’s prior work, it cannot be stressed enough that she may be one of the most versatile vocalists in music. I mentioned before a comparison to Mr. Bungle, specifically to the voice of Mike Patton, and I can say in all fairness that Asphodel is at least Patton’s equal when it comes to sheer depth and breadth of vocal weirdness and range. This is not hyperbole; one needs simply listen to "Chairleg Thesis" or "Bark City (A Glimpse Of Something)" to get a taste of what Asphodel can do. Her voice soars to operatic highs, dips to lounge singer lows, detours to guttural grunts, and occasionally goes full-on childlike. It’s the sort of vocal performance that you honestly won’t find anywhere else.

It’s also the sort of vocal performance that needs appropriate accompaniment to reach its maximum potential, and on Samen Asphodel has found an effective counterpart in Bertrand, whose songwriting prowess is impressive for an unknown (I did some brief Googling and was unable to find any previous work in his name, making this an exceptionally impressive debut). There are moments when öOoOoOoOoOo goes full-blown death metal, but those moments are relatively rare and all the more precious because of it. Much of what Bertrand does plays off the vocals perfectly, finding moods and twists in the songs and bringing them out, from the lurching orchestral swing of "No Guts = No Masters" to the electronic underpinnings of "Fumigène" to the melancholy outro to "LVI" (I think that’s a xylophone). Bertrand’s musical prowess is absolutely essential to Samen, aided by the able drumming of Thomas (no stranger himself to weirdness thanks to his tenure in Pryapisme, a gloriously odd band in their own right).

Describing Samen, even in a track-by-track fashion, would be an exhausting and overwhelming task, and ultimately it would be pointless. This is not the sort of album that can be easily described in words any more than you could explain the color orange to a person blind from birth. This is the sort of musical adventure that needs to be experienced firsthand. It is, however, one of 2016’s most rewarding, refreshingly odd releases, and one well worth multiple listens. Stay weird, my friends.

Tagged with 2016, Apathia Records, avant-garde metal, öOoOoOoOoOo, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

April 7, 2017

Vaee Solis - Adversarial Light

By Hera Vidal. Vaee Solis is a relatively young band, but with Adversarial Light, they show that they are not here to mess around. There is something so compelling yet ominous about this record that it makes your skin crawl, and that feeling doesn’t go away, even after the record has stopped playing.
By Hera Vidal.


Vaee Solis is a relatively young band, but with Adversarial Light, they show that they are not here to mess around. There is something so compelling yet ominous about this record that it makes your skin crawl, and that feeling doesn’t go away, even after the record has stopped playing. Now, Adversarial Light is a hard album to categorize—the best I could come with is blackened doom with sludge influences—but there is something extremely honest about it that you cannot ignore.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

Adversarial Light starts with “Saturn’s Storm”, a song filled with enough claustrophobic atmosphere that it feels like a pressing weight on your chest. This song brims with a hate and a rage I have only seem in depressive black metal bands like Shining (the Swedish one): the distorted, downtuned guitar gives the song a slow, ominous feel, while the vocals hit you with relentless abandon. It’s almost as if they are trying to exorcise their inner demons through song, and it works perfectly. Then, it transitions to the title track, “Adversarial Light”, which downplays their catharsis. Unlike “Saturn’s Storm”, “Adversarial Light” errs on the side of being enjoyable, but the atmosphere and the density of the music is incredibly punishing. What makes this song interesting are the male-backed vocals that punctuate the main vocals after major parts of the song. It makes the song easier to swallow—a first-time listener may be put off by the first track, especially when emotional intensity seems to be the major focus. Now, “Ennoia” returns to the themes that “Saturn’s Storm” dealt with, albeit they are a watered-down version of the emotional intensity. The pace is slower—almost zombie-like—and the vocals add to that, enveloping you more into this dense fog of dread, further blurring the lines between drone doom qualities and small crust touches.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

Things begin to change on “Feral Isolation”, which immediately makes the listener focus with an intense amount of feedback, followed by the vocals. The vocals here are different from what was going on at the first half of the album: they sound absolutely feral and remind the listener that their listening experience is not over. However, this song is also the shortest one on the album, which has the problem of being completely seamless. If you don’t pay attention, the song fades away and moves on to “♎”. Surprisingly, the sign of Libra is usually seen as a symbol of justice and balance, which shows in both the music and vocals. Unlike the rest of the song, which either focused too much on the vocals or on the eternal slow pace of the guitar, they move coherently into a pleasant tonality. It’s a good continuation of what was happening on “Feral Isolation”—slow yet paced drums, with a distorted guitar reverb, and vocals that sound incredible and make the song memorable. Things return to normal on “Cosmocrat”, the final track on the album. Building up on everything that the album has been creating, this track is a culmination of the slow yet dense atmosphere that the album has. This song reminds you that the band has a distinct style they want to carry out, despite how heavy and draining it can be on the listening. “Cosmocrat” is a test to the listener’s attention, and they are rewarded with a long outro that is paced by the drums. While the vocals towards the end of the song is almost overkill, it makes the brutality the band has shown seem worthwhile,

Photos by Pedro Roque.

All in all, Adversarial Light is a testament to a band that has created their own identity without fanfare. They are brutal, filled with rage, and are willing to take you by the hand to show you the heart’s inner torment. The stellar vocals by singer Sofia Loureiro blur the line between genders and show that you can’t judge a band based on their vocals. The rage behind it all is incredible, and to contain it in 39 minutes is a feat. They also have incredible production value, which further demonstrates that the band knows what they are doing. If you are looking for something that shows the catharsis of extreme emotion, then Adversarial Light is for you.

Tagged with 2015, blackened doom metal, Hera Vidal, Pedro Roque, Vaee Solis

April 3, 2017

Extremity - Extremely Fucking Dead

By Matt Hinch. As an album reviewer (I don't like calling myself a writer) I get inundated with promos all day. You have to throw up filters. There's just too much sometimes. One filter is “fucking” in the title. So initially I passed on Extremely Fucking Dead, the debut from old school death metal quartet Extremity.
By Matt Hinch.


As an album reviewer (I don't like calling myself a writer) I get inundated with promos all day. You have to throw up filters. There's just too much sometimes. One filter is “fucking” in the title. So initially I passed on Extremely Fucking Dead, the debut from old school death metal quartet Extremity. Then someone said how awesome it was. Someone whom I don't consider a huge death metal fan. So I looked it up again and remembered who was in the band. Then I felt stupid for my language-based culling process.

I felt stupid, you see, because I'd read about the band and forgotten. Not that a band deserves preferential treatment based on membership but(!) when those members are Erika Osterhout (Necrosic, Trepanation) on bass, Shelby Lermo (Vastum) on guitar and vocals, Aesop Dekker (VHOL, Worm Ouroborous, etc. ad infinitum) on drums, and Marissa Martinez-Hoadley (Cretin, Repulsion) on guitar, it becomes a mandatory listen for any metal fan worth their weight in salt. I will admit however, that I didn't know Erika previously but I'll probably check out her other bands considering how well she meshes with the three known unfuckwithable talents on this album.

Now in terms of personal taste I prefer my death metal on the simple side. No grand dissonance, mind-altering weirdness or juvenile pig squeal antics. Meat and potatoes death metal is where it's at. Sick riffs, guttural growls and bruising percussion. Something you can bang your head to. Those attributes make up Extremely Fucking Dead. And it's extremely fucking good. Regardless of membership Extremity found that sweet spot where death metal can be both brutal and fun, but also both “easy” and not boring. It's a hard task to think inside the box in a saturated genre and still come up with something that rises above the masses and punishes you over and over and over again.

That's one of the album's best qualities; listenability. No matter how many spins this gets it doesn't get stale. The pugilistic riffs just get better the more familiar they get, worming their way into your head only to strike from within when your mind's defences get lowered. Plus, they're varied. Extremity mix up the tempos very well. Take the title track for example. One minute they're laying down a simple, heavy riff with a nice heaviness, next it's a little-better-than-mid-paced with some groove and the next it's pummelling speed set to break necks, hoist invisible oranges and shred throats. It's a strong finish – as strong as the start ("Crepuscular Crescendo") – with the sinew holding the ends together no weaker.

Let's not forget the solos, please. Not only are the solos themselves great on their own but the band have placed them pretty much perfectly and they never overstay their welcome. They elevate the tunes and don't feel shoehorned in in the slightest. The punch comes right when it should and the knees weaken in kind.

Basically, Extremely Fucking Dead is a killer death metal album from a group of seasoned vets. Other highlights include “Chalice of Pus” (especially the solos) and “Fatal Immortality” but there are really no weaknesses here. I'm terrible at comparing death metal bands (because I don't listen to enough “classic” death metal) but when bands like Extremity put out an album like this, you shouldn't feel the need to listen to something old. Just listen to this! Again and again until you’re extremely fucking dead.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2017, death metal, Extremity, Matt Hinch

April 2, 2017

Vanum - Burning Arrow

By Justin C. I had some trouble starting this review. I really enjoyed Vanum's debut, Realm of Sacrifice, very much, and my feelings about their new EP, Burning Arrow, are similarly positive. Putting that feeling into words, however, was proving difficult.
By Justin C.

Cover Art by Todd Ryan White.

I had some trouble starting this review. I really enjoyed Vanum's debut, Realm of Sacrifice, very much, and my feelings about their new EP, Burning Arrow, are similarly positive. Putting that feeling into words, however, was proving difficult. Vanum play black metal, and on this particular EP, there's a martial, and perhaps triumphant feel to the music, but why was I finding it so hard to pin down?

I was finally able to get some insight from reading Invisible Orange's excellent interview with Michael Rekevics, who, along with Kyle Morgan, makes up Vanum. The interview makes clear some of the dualities in this EP, and those dualities make the music both compelling but somewhat hard to describe. Rekevics talks about Jung's ideas about introspection and self-actualization as inspirations, so clearly we're dealing with material that's a bit more cerebral than the typical ode to Satan/Cthulhu. But those thoughts are delivered in one of the more distinctive and harrowing voices in black metal right now. Rekevics’s vocals are the kind of hoarse bellows you'd expect to hear from a warrior confronting an arch enemy. Of course, introspection could very well be seen as a confrontation with a formidable enemy, so maybe the vocals are a better fit for Jung than what one might initially expect.

As for the music itself, it can feel lush and melodic, but as Jon Rosenthal suggests in the IO interview, it's also muscular at the same time. It turns out that there are as many as 24 recorded layers on this EP, and although they add texture, they also add a contrasting amount of punch. I also like that there's a raw feeling to the recording, but the obvious care put into the structure of the music keeps it from having any of the downsides of a raw, lo-fi recording.

I've been lucky enough to see Vanum, Vilkacis, and Yellow Eyes--three of Rekevics's many projects--and his stage presence is as magnetic and intense as his recorded vocals suggest. I found myself drawn to him while simultaneously fearing that he might shoot lasers of pure black metal intensity out of his eyes at any moment. I highly recommend the experience, but even if you don't get a chance to see them live, Burning Arrow is a great place to start digging into Vanum, as well as the other projects these two exceptional musicians are involved with.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Justin C, Vanum