July 22, 2017

Tchornobog - Tchornobog

By Justin C. Markov Soroka gave me a challenge two-and-a-half years ago, namely how to write about his Aureole project. The debut album, Lunar Citadel, is an elusive, space-based journey through ambient/atmospheric black metal soundscapes
By Justin C.

Markov Soroka gave me a challenge two-and-a-half years ago, namely how to write about his Aureole project. The debut album, Alunar, is an elusive, space-based journey through ambient/atmospheric black metal soundscapes, and as much as I liked it, its ethereal qualities made it difficult to put into words why I liked it so much.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Now, after a long gestation process, we have the debut of another Soroka project, Tchornobog. On its face, the self-titled Tchornobog album seems like something more tangible to sink our ear-teeth into. The first track, "The Vomiting Tchornobog," starts immediately with a blackened death fury, with mysterious-sounding roars and frantic guitars and rhythm--solid meat and potatoes stuff. But before we're done with this nearly 20-minute-long track, tempos slow to doomier sounds, harsh brass sounds you might expect from hell's own marching band blare through, and at some points, the music almost slows to a crawl.

The question, of course, is this the hallmark of an incoherent mess or some larger plan? Although at some points I thought a little could have been trimmed from the longer tracks on this album (the four tracks clock in at over an hour), I've finally landed firmly into the "larger plan" camp. The fascinating thing about Tchornobog is that, in spite of being generally heavier than Aureole, it also possesses an elusive quality to it, some slippery bit that's hard to put your finger on, but makes you want to listen more. I've given it many listens since I got my grubby hands on the promo, and it still both fascinates me and, at times, eludes my attempts to pin it down in words.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

About that title: Tchornobog refers to a Slavic "black god" with many spellings and seemingly only speculation about how this particular god was viewed or understood. Reading the lyrics at a surface level, one might be convinced that Soroka just wanted to take a break from metal's Cthulhu worship and do something a little different, but his stated intentions describe the use of Tchornobog in more of a metaphorical context, including "a testament to those with severe illness and a nod to those of a religious related coping mechanism for the fear of death"

That said, I'm always hesitant to try to impose my own understandings on other people's lyrics, so I'll shift focus to the music itself. "The Vomiting Tchornobog" will give you a general idea of what's to come in the album (although the vomiting sound effects at the end of the track don't seem to recur), but I think the crown jewel of this album is the third track, "Non-existence's Warmth." The track opens with buzzing cellos and minimal percussion opening up to a descending guitar riff that's both eerie and melancholy at the same time. More quiet, clean guitars add to the song's strong melodic sense, and before the whole thing's done, we're treated to some saxophone playing (tenor, unless my ear betrays me), heavy riffs that manage to be both majestic and meditative at the same time. There's even more to unpack before the heavier fare kicks back in much later in the song. It's a monument.

I've known about this album for a while, impatiently waiting as it's struggled to make its way to the light of day, so there was certainly a danger of the album failing to live up to extended anticipation built up in my own head. I'm happy to say that it exceeded my hopes anyway.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, death metal, doom metal, Fallen Empire Records, free download, Justin C, Tchornobog

July 21, 2017

Heresiarch - Death Ordinance

By Bryan Camphire. Dark Descent Records does it again, delivering another dose of uncompromising apoplectic death metal. Death Ordinance, the debut full length by Heresiarch, is a a forty-one minute set of nine tracks
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Mistanthropic-Art

Dark Descent Records does it again, delivering another dose of uncompromising apoplectic death metal. Death Ordinance, the debut full length by Heresiarch, is a a forty-one minute set of nine tracks with zero clean parts and zero concessions made. The result is unrelenting evil ripping through your speakers.

Heresiarch play chaotic blackened death metal full of aggression and hate. The band hails from New Zealand, home to some of the most terrifying acts working in metal today; bands like Vesicant, Sinistrous Diabolous, Vassafor, Diocletian and Solar Mass. Heresiarch seem to be quite at home among this cantankerous lot. Don't let the tank treads on the cover fool you, though: this is music for sensitive souls. I am being facetious there. This music sounds like getting run over by that tank.

At the risk of sounding reductive, it should be said that this music is indebted to some fearsome Canadian bands like Revenge and Conqueror. To this hellish mix, Heresiarch add extra heaps of filth and dissonance, following along the darkened path laid before them by such devilish bands from down under like Bestial Warlust, Sadistik Exekution and, more recently, acts like Impetuous Ritual. That is a lot of name-dropping. Suffice to say, Heresiarch exist within a tradition of some of the most punishing acts in extreme metal. What they may lack in originality, they make up for in entropy.

For me what shines most about this recording is the production. Death Ordinance sounds humongous. Every instrument is given ample space. This is no easy feat with music that is as suffocating as this. A lot of great bands simply do not manage to sound their best on record. The fact that each amp sounds like it's been turned up to eleven, the drummer is playing his guts out throughout, and the screams still manage to be harrowing on top of all of this... it's impressive. It makes you marvel at what a vicious beast this band must be to behold in the flesh.

The third cut, "Harbinger" is a highlight for me. I am a total sucker for half-time hardcore-style breakdowns in death metal. All the better if these mosh-worthy moments are sandwiched between breakneck blastbeats, as happens to be the case here. The deviations from a straight up 4/4 approach really sweeten the deal here, as well as on several other cuts throughout the LP.

There is a nice variety of tempo over the course of the record, and this keeps the songs from blending together. The song lengths range from as short as two minutes to as long as over seven minutes, and it's precisely this type of variety that makes this set unpredictable and engrossing. All in all, Death Ordinance marks another solid entry in the Dark Descent catalog by a true force to be reckoned with. All hail Heresiarch.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Bryan Camphire, Dark Descent Records, death metal, Heresiarch

July 19, 2017

Solbrud - Vemod

By Karen A. Mann. Solbrud is not a band to be hurried. On their latest release, Vemod, the Copenhagen quartet builds solemnly elegant atmospheric black metal slowly and precisely, layering sounds that are furious and dramatic with those that are softer and reflective.
By Karen A. Mann.


Solbrud is not a band to be hurried. On their latest release, Vemod, the Copenhagen quartet builds solemnly elegant atmospheric black metal slowly and precisely, layering sounds that are furious and dramatic with those that are softer and reflective. There are only four songs on the album, but they are long (the shortest is almost nine minutes), and each takes the listener on a beautifully gloomy journey through a variety of soundscapes.

The opening track, “Det Sidste Lys” (The Last Light) opens slowly with a full 10 seconds of atmospheric noise before the first tentative notes are played. With the sound of a thunderstorm in the background, the sparse melody evokes a sense of withering loneliness. More than two minutes go by before the song explodes in a burst of tremolo picking. Singer Ole Łuk’s gnawing screech comes in at around the five-minute mark. The ambient thunderstorm sound appears again under a short passage where the instruments drop out except for the bass, which repeats the central melody of the first half of the song. “Det Sidste Lys” finishes with a return to metallic fury.

Photos by Morten Jensen.

The band is at its best on the middle two songs. “Forfald” (Decay) blasts full-throttle for more than seven punishing minutes, before twisting into a slow, beautiful passage, and finally ending with a pastoral organ melody. “Menneskeværk” (The Work of Man) floats in with ambient guitar and bass tones, then sharp, dramatic bursts of sound that evolve into pummeling black metal.

Solbrud swerves into blackgaze territory with the final song, “Besat af Mørke” (Obsessed with Darkness), which offers a myriad of soundscapes in which listeners can lose themselves. A surprisingly traditional guitar solo brings Vemod to a soaring, mournful, unhurried end.

Solbrud is currently on tour through Europe supporting like-minded South African group Wildernessking. Aficionados of nature-worshiping atmospheric black metal should definitely check out this tour.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Karen A. Mann, Solbrud

July 16, 2017

Lizzy Borden - Visual Lies

An Autothrall Classic. There are a few things one has to take into account to avoid an immediate bias against Lizzy Borden. For one, they were 'glam' in the sense that they wore big hair and trashy 80s metal gear like Kiss or Poison. Second, they were a very theatrical band
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.


There are a few things one has to take into account to avoid an immediate bias against Lizzy Borden. For one, they were 'glam' in the sense that they wore big hair and trashy 80s metal gear like Kiss or Poison. Second, they were a very theatrical band, and they liked their women in leather with hair as big as their own. Third, Lizzy himself, the vocalist, has a voice which can sooth like a crystal scream or wail like a siren, an obstacle for some.

That being said, they are one of the best metal bands ever produced in the United States of America, with a pretty spotless discography. With all that hairspray, I didn't want to believe it either. Sitting at the peak of this body of work, alongside the rock opera of Master of Disguise, is the excellent Visual Lies. This record has a lot in common with Menace to Society or Love You to Pieces, but it's got a cleaner, accessible sound that in no way hinders the marvelous songwriting.

Every track on the album is loaded with memorable riffs and charming vocal melodies. The guitars are expertly crafted: every hook, every melody, every lead, no wasted notes. "Me Against the World" is power metal lite, deriving its energy from the constant, steady thump of its rhythm guitars and big NWOBHM chorus. In fact, Lizzy's entire style is like a beautiful dedication to the masters of NWOBHM who paved the road for 80s hard rock. "Shock" is another another mid paced track with the huge vocal hooks and delicate, memorable guitars. "Outcast" starts with a great riff, and slows for an emotional, acoustic verse. This verse alone has better vocals in it than many bands have on their entire records...and of course, another of those amazing chorus hooks that should have ensured this band would have dominated radio play if the $$ weren't changing hands for other bands to do so. "Den of Thieves" picks up speed at just the right time on the record, and the guitar work during the verse is simply stunning, with some kickass leads to boot. This is one of my hands-down favorite Lizzy tunes, and for the power metal's fans time and money, the one you want to hear the most on this album.

She's a harlot, she holds the key
She's never free, she's a good time
What you see is a slice of the knife
A piece of life in a heartbeat

The title track "Visual Lies" uses some gentle melodic picking lines to create an incredible atmosphere before the swollen, glorious vocal hooks that could easily have given Cinderella or Def Leppard a run for their money. "Eyes of a Stranger" may not be the equal to Queensryche's track of the same name, but it's an excellent melodic mid paced fist pumper. "Lord of the Flies" once again picks up the pace for some more extremely memorable speed metal. It's almost a shame that so many of the songs on the album are slower, not that they're bad by any means, but it would have been a pleasure to hear an entire album where Gene Allen and Joe Holmes were allowed to just go off. "Voyeur (I'm Watching You)" also has some delightful licks but based off more of a blues hard rock vibe. The album ends with the great "Visions" and its swinging hooks and rollicking percussion.

Visual Lies is easily the best produced album of 1987, I don't hear many albums in the 21st century that come close to sounding this good. Every note is at the perfect level and no element of the music dominates another. With a vocalist this graceful and talented, that's not an easy feat. The guitarwork deserves an award for both its restraint and the sheer amount of quality found in every track. This album is a major achievement and it's a crime the band doesn't get the credit it deserves. While not as directly heavy, the material is easily as catchy as a Primal Fear or Hammerfall, in fact it's superior.

Tagged with 1987, Autothrall, heavy metal, Lizzy Borden, Metal Blade Records, power metal

July 14, 2017

Destroyer of Light - Chamber of Horrors

By Karen A. Mann. Austin’s Destroyer of Light weave riffadelic melodies and ominous lyrics to create a personal brand of Texas doom that’s dark, smoky and not afraid to boogie. With two full releases and a split EP with Tucson’s Godhunter under their belt
By Karen A. Mann.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Austin’s Destroyer of Light weave riffadelic melodies and ominous lyrics to create a personal brand of Texas doom that’s dark, smoky and not afraid to boogie. With two full releases and a split EP with Tucson’s Godhunter under their belt, the band now takes a creative leap forward with Chamber of Horrors, out July 14 on the band’s own Heavy Friends Records.

The album begins with the sound of heavy doors clanging open, followed by guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca’s feedback wail. This intro song, “Whispers In the Threshold,” is just under a minute and a half long and it’s basically instrumental (though you can hear ominous voices underneath the murk), but it offers a preview of what you can expect in this particular chamber: plodding, dirge-like rhythms, fuzzed-out melodies, and vocals that are always ominous, whether they’re being sung, bellowed or whispered.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

From there, the album quickly segues into “Into the Smoke,” which showcases Colca’s powerful, expressive voice at full throttle. The band lists Mercyful Fate and Electric Wizard as two of its biggest influences, and it’s easy to hear why, especially in Colca’s lyrics and vocal delivery. He’s angry, terrifying, and fearful, as he delivers enraged threats and dire admonishments.

“The Virgin” begins with a sample from the 1973 B-movie thriller Satan’s School for Girls, which adds to the dreadful occult atmosphere. But Chamber of Horrors isn’t completely dark and despairing. Mid-way through the album the instrumental “Twilight Procession” offers a slow, floating respite, with delayed psychedelic melodies that turn almost bluesy at the end. That’s part of what distinguishes this album among others in the doom genre -- the band’s willingness to go in unexpected directions, including adding a bit of Texas swagger.

The album comes to a close with “Buried Alive,” a 10-minute wah-drenched dirge with Colca sounding particularly portentous. The song chugs to a wail of feedback and the sudden sound of those same heavy doors clanging shut. It’s a fitting bookend to an enjoyably dark musical journey.

Tagged with 2017, Destroyer of Light, doom metal, John Mourlas, Karen A. Mann

July 12, 2017

Mortuary Drape - Spiritual Independence

By Tom Campagna. One of Italy’s best metal exports; Mortuary Drape has returned from a decade long silence with a triumphant return in the form of Spiritual Independence. A very straightforward blackened death metal attack
By Tom Campagna.


One of Italy’s best metal exports; Mortuary Drape has returned from a decade long silence with a triumphant return in the form of Spiritual Independence. A very straightforward blackened death metal attack with plenty of ethereal and evil sections that are peppered with heavy metal guitar solos and a bass that is so high in the mix, you’ll wonder why more bands in this genre don’t do the very same.

Songs like “Lithany” and “Once I Read (Marble Tomb)” chug along to some rather spectacular and revenant riffs and the excellent vocals of Wildness Perversion, combine this with SR’s great guitar work which can even feel like the neoclassical sections of Andy LaRocque’s repertoire. Imagine a song that has the framework of an Iron Maiden song and include Steve Harris’ bass and then cram a ton of death metal riffs between some truly evil sounding song structures and you have this album all figured out.

The Drape are nearly 30 years old as a collective with Wildness Perversion being the lone remaining original member; this kind of age adds a serious bit of authenticity when you consider that this album is made with the old school firmly in mind; because the band luckily has never left it behind. When you consider the turnover of band members and the amount of time between albums it is an amazing sight to behold a collective that sounds so tight and so unrefined by today’s metal standards; yet the band is able to stand head and shoulders above other similarly structured bands.

There is a reason that the underground has a deep respect for these hooded warriors; there is plenty more than just aesthetic with this quintet. Equal parts mystery, flash, flourish, and downright ghoulish; Mortuary Drape has pulled back the curtain on a retirement and made Spiritual Independence an album that should thrust them back in the underground’s consciousness. A sure fire favorite for fans of old or anybody who like a great collective of so many older styles of metal mashed together in a precise way.

Tagged with 2014, black metal, death metal, Iron Tyrant, Mortuary Drape, Tom Campagna

July 10, 2017

Jute Gyte - Oviri

By Bryan Camphire. Here we have another profoundly strange suite of music from Jute Gyte. Adam Kalmbach is the sole progenitor of this singular black metal project. Kalmbach has been sharpening his craft prodigiously for over a decade and Oviri is his most focused record to date.
By Bryan Camphire.


Here we have another profoundly strange suite of music from Jute Gyte. Adam Kalmbach is the sole progenitor of this singular black metal project. Kalmbach has been sharpening his craft prodigiously for over a decade and Oviri is his most focused record to date. The layers of guitars and percussion—woven together into interlocking harmonic and rhythmic superstructures—suggest an alien music of a future era.

The song architecture is exorbitantly complex, which is nothing unusual for Kalmbach. Jute Gyte has always worked in microtonal scales that contain more than the usual seven tones to an octave. This amounts to an amalgam of frequencies coming together that sounds foreign to most ears, accustomed as we are to Western harmony. Yet Oviri marks a new milestone for this artist. In constructing the ghastly edifices on this album, it appears that a critical mass was achieved harmonically, which seems to require a cleaner sound. To answer to this, the distortion of the guitars has been dialed back considerably from previous releases. The dissonance of the microtonal harmonies—semi-tones clashing against each other in combinations heretofore unexplored in music: this is what creates menace. And this menace is as dizzying as it is fascinating to behold.

Oviri is a record of tremendous and subtle feeling. The scampering guitars and electronics closing out "Yarinareth..." feel like malevolent vermin making a meal of your toes. The rubato at the beginning of "Fauna of Mirrors" feels like you're somersaulting down a steep hill out of control. The hard-panned accelerando flitting through "The Norms..." feel like so many uninvited guests stealing past your room as you try to rest.

Oviri is something of a magnum opus for Jute Gyte. Of the eight full-lengths this artist has put out in the last five years, it is the longest. Six songs clock in at over an hour and fifteen minutes. Its titles alone reference Synthetist artist Paul Gauguin, fantasy-horror-science fiction author Lord Dunsany, and ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus, "The Mocker," who is commonly depicted in art as incessantly laughing at human follies. The music on display in Oviri is no less extravagant in its scope than the worlds-within-worlds at which it hints.

It may be tempting for some to dismiss this artist as grandiloquent. To do so, however, would be to fail to appreciate the sheer devotional nature of the music of Jute Gyte. There is nothing haphazard about any of this. It is hard to fathom the hours of labor and intense levels of concentration involved in fitting all the manifold aspects of this music together just so. Few releases this year will challenge you to contemplate the unknown quite like this one. Only brave souls need apply.

Tagged with 2017, ambient, Bryan Camphire, experimental black metal, free download, Jute Gyte, noise

July 8, 2017

Skyeater - The Maw of Time

By Aaron Sullivan. When you live in a large city you can list its pros and cons. I happen to live in Los Angeles and depending on the day, can depend on which side of that list is a bit longer than the other.
By Aaron Sullivan.


When you live in a large city you can list its pros and cons. I happen to live in Los Angeles and depending on the day, can depend on which side of that list is a bit longer than the other. But one thing that has always been in my pro list is that as a major city you get to see a ton of bands as its a for sure tour stop for most bands. But what makes it even better is that the local scene itself has a ton of great bands that make going to the smaller shows as good if not better than seeing the tour bands. Skyeater is definitely one of those bands that does the local L.A. scene proud.

Last year I reviewed their demo here on Metal Bandcamp. While some things have changed some have remained the same. The most noticeable is the production. Having recorded at Earhammer Studios with the great Greg Wilkinson (Asunder, Lycus, Fórn). The songs have depth and a real clear sound. Their ability to seamlessly move from funeral dirge openings to tremolo picked Black Metal insanity is something I really enjoy. And it’s not just that they do it, it's that it's done so well. The doomier parts of "Anticosmogony" have a real Asunder feel to them. Songs are saturated in atmosphere. You can almost smell the burning of a pyre as they play lit only by the light of a full moon. The way they utilize the two guitars is really cool also. Allowing for riffs to be played while the other adds these small accents, if you will, throughout. The one thing that always stands out the most to me is the drumming. It’s really top notch. Which says a ton as all the members are very talented.

I was lucky to catch these guys very early on and hear their evolution as a band and for that I am grateful. They really have shown themselves to be one of the best in the L.A. metal scene. When this is published they will be on a small West Coast tour spreading the good word of metal. I suggest you catch them if you can. If you can’t, them by all means do yourself a favor and purchase this album. I doubt you’ll regret it.

Tagged with 2017, Aaron Sullivan, Baneful Genesis Records, black metal, doom metal, Skyeater

July 7, 2017

Shroud Eater - Strike the Sun

By Justin C. I was first introduced to Shroud Eater four years ago, by Ulla on this very blog. You can see from my comment on the post that I really liked Dead Ends. Finally, we're treated to a new full length, Strike the Sun.
By Justin C.


I was first introduced to Shroud Eater four years ago, by Ulla on this very blog. You can see from my comment on the post that I really liked Dead Ends. Finally, we're treated to a new full length, Strike the Sun.

If the band's 2015 EP, Face the Master, was a quick, one-two punch of sludgy fury, then Strike the Sun finds the band spreading out nicely into a full length, with atmosphere to spare. (I have to confess at this point that I missed an intervening split and single after Face the Master, but I'll have to rectify that situation soon.) The filthy, endless bottom end that hooked me on Dead Ends is still present and accounted for. I think they've managed to distort the very fabric of time and space. The album might open with a low-level fuzz contrasted with ethereal cleans, but "Iron Mountain" opens with that familiar, dirty crawl, and eventually builds into a stomping rager about storming gates and climbing towers.

The main vocals have a whiskey-throated rasp but stay melodic and sometimes even soaring at the same time--they're some of my favorite metal vocals so far this year, and maybe some of my favorite, full stop. All three band members are credited with vocals, but it's a special treat when Jean Saiz and Janette Valentine harmonize, as they do in "Awaken Assassin." The bluesy turns the vocals take in album-closer "Futile Exile" is just another welcome twist. (Which is not to discount drummer Davin Sosa's contributions, both in rhythm and extra vocal textures.)

To make sure you don't forget Shroud Eater has more to offer than distortion upon distortion, they also offer up an instrumental, "Another Skin," that's packed to the brim with riffs. "Dream Flesh" offers a short respite, focusing more on the eerie atmosphere and lovely clean vocals, but the simple-but-thundering bass line doesn't let you forget where you are and where you're about to go. "It Walks Among" kicks off the album again with more raunchy, stomping, sludgy goodness.

I may have lost track of the band for a few years, but I have to say I'm just as taken by this album as I was when I first heard Dead Ends a few years ago. Strike the Sun gives us more Grade-A meaty metal, but expands the band's template in all the right ways.

Tagged with 2017, doom metal, Justin C, Shroud Eater, sludge metal

July 5, 2017

Triumvir Foul - Spiritual Bloodshed

By Kaptain Carbon. It has been a wild ride for Triumvir Foul since the project's debut in 2015. In these two years, not only has recognition washed over this act but its label / hivemind, Vrasubatlat, has also received considerable praise. I wrote glowing reviews regarding projects from Vrasubatlat
By Kaptain Carbon.

Artwork by Timo Ketola.

It has been a wild ride for Triumvir Foul since the project's debut in 2015. In these two years, not only has recognition washed over this act but its label / hivemind, Vrasubatlat, has also received considerable praise. I wrote glowing reviews regarding projects from Vrasubatlat and even did a feature on the labels output. With 2016 already seeing a heavy amount of great releases from Dagger Lust, Uškumgallu, Serum Dreg, and Utzalu, the label waited a few months into 2017 to release something very special, the second offering of Triumvir Foul. If things were not bleak enough for the world, then prepare for a rain of filth.

Triumvir Foul, out of the Vrasubatlat roster, is the most traditional death out of the bunch, but concerns itself with chaos and general mayhem rather than death metal’s traditional themes of death and demise. While there are certainly old school riffs that run through this record, Spiritual Bloodshed is much more interested in rot and ruin, on a worldwide scale than it is in mimicking any legacy band. Starting with the aptly named opener, “Asphyxiation,” this is a band that does not waste much time getting to their point. Death, destruction, and endless suffocation are the core values that are a part of Spiritual Bloodshed and, while this record is not as oppressive as bands like Revenge or Teitanblood, Triumvir Foul has found a medium in which complete and utter destruction can be entertaining and dynamic for its running time.

Comparing the project's two records side-by-side shows a similarity in not only the sound but also the outlook. Aside from the aforementioned penchant for destruction and grim atmosphere, Triumvir Foul poises itself as the aggressor in some mythical battle, either for or against whatever forces of darkness are set to consume the world. With not that much separating the two records, aside from small changes in production, the band proposes a second chapter in a gross looking book. From the doom ridden breakdown of “Serpentine Seed,” to the riotous opening of “Disemboweled Pneuma," to the punk influenced grooves in the colorfully named “Vomitous Worship in Rotting Tombs,” Triumvir Foul captures the essence of the grime that lays caked on the headstones of an endless underground cemetery. Yes, you heard me right.

Triumvir Foul, and that associated bands of Vrasubatlat, have always been one of my favorite answers when people ask about the state of current heavy metal. While this sounds like gushing praise, the fact that Triumvir Foul and its label are experiencing popularity for basically independent releases is truly the current state of heavy metal. When fans can connect with labels directly, and be impressed for months and years with the output, it is that sort of relationship driving the current aspect of lesser known parts of the genre.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Triumvir Foul, and the rest of Vrasubatlat in general, is both the forward thinking nature of the bands and the ability to take worn tropes of the genre and make them frightening. Lyrical themes of death, destruction, and occult lore are heard in a dozen bands from this year, and perhaps every year stretching back decades. The ability of Triumvir Foul to mix what is expected and what feels unexpected is fantastic. Add to that the growing hype around this label, and a stream of releases that seem to add to a library of rot, and Spiritual Bloodshed is a victory lap around the nine circles of Hell.


Kaptain Carbon moderates Reddit's r/metal as well as writes reviews for lesser known black, death, and doom metal for Tape Wyrm as well as Dungeon Synth, Tabletop, and Movie Reviews for Hollywood Metal.
Tagged with 2017, death metal, Kaptain Carbon, Triumvir Foul, Vrasubatlat

July 3, 2017

Walpyrgus - Walpyrgus Nights

By Karen A. Mann. North Carolina’s Walpyrgus play classic heavy metal that recalls the period in time when British Steel and Number of the Beast ruled MTV, and a bevvy of European and American bands popped up with variations of that raw, aggressive sound.
By Karen A. Mann.

Artwork by Gustavo Sazes.

North Carolina’s Walpyrgus play classic heavy metal that recalls the period in time when British Steel and Number of the Beast ruled MTV, and a bevvy of European and American bands popped up with variations of that raw, aggressive sound. The band’s reverence for the era of Denim and Leather is obvious from the outset: Think screaming dual leads, ripping melodies, and singer Johnny Aune’s powerful voice wailing creepy odes about dead girls, ghosts, witches and woe.

Formed in 2012 by veterans of long-running regional acts Twisted Tower Dire, October 31, Daylight Dies, Heaven Wept and Viper, Walpyrgus has teased listeners with several singles and two live albums. And just in case you doubted where their musical interests lie, two of those singles were faithful covers of Riot’s “Outlaw” and Mercyful Fate’s “Doomed by the Living Dead.” Now the band offers the most complete illustration (literally and figuratively) of their full metal power on Walpyrgus Nights, their first full-length.

Photos by Karen

Ripping through eight songs (including a cover of Witch Cross’ “Light of a Torch”), Walpyrgus Nights weaves a spooky, Lovecraftian tale that’s macabre, but in an almost light-hearted way. Aune’s voice is passionate and emotive, even when the lyrics turn a little campy. A sample:

Dead of night, come to life. You’re the Queen, got no equal.
But you’re cold, and you’re dark and you’re evil

Adding to the fun factor: Vinyl versions of Walpyrgus Nights includes a 56-page comic book that illustrates the stories behind the songs with drawings of sexy witches, clawing goblins, foreboding palm readers and dire warnings.

While the majority of the album is straightforward, meat-and-potatoes classic metal, the band veers into pop-punk territory on the first single, “Dead Girls,” a fun, furious four-chord ripper that features chanted backup lyrics and even an organ solo. It’s a standout song on an album that marks Walpyrgus’ as one of the best bands in the New Wave of American Traditional Metal scene.

Tagged with 2017, heavy metal, Karen A. Mann, Walpyrgus

July 1, 2017

Dynamic Metal Roundup

By Calen Henry. Metal is loud and abrasive, but metal fans like it that way. Over the past 25 years, there has risen a pernicious side to the loudness of metal (and music in general). Dynamic range compression has
By Calen Henry.

Metal is loud and abrasive, but metal fans like it that way. Over the past 25 years, there has risen a pernicious side to the loudness of metal (and music in general). Dynamic range compression has drastically increased in a phenomenon called the Loudness War.

Simply put, during mastering much contemporary music is altered to raise the volume of all parts to the same level as the loudest part, often the drums. The resulting loss of dynamics decreases the overall impact of the music; when you turn it up everything gets super loud, instead of some parts being accented.

A loud master doesn't necessarily ruin an album, and poorly produced dynamic albums can still sound terrible, but there are essentially no examples of more dynamic masters sounding worse than the louder version, provided other factors are not also drastically altered.

Thankfully, since I started paying attention a few years ago the trend has been toward more dynamic masters for metal, though it's far from standard. That being said, a few artists really stand out in both their commitment to dynamics and their excellent music.


I'm a sucker for concept albums and Vainaja take it even further; they're a concept band. Comprised of The Preacher, The Cantor, and the Gravedigger they play absolutely crushing death doom, in Finnish. The concept revolves around Wilhelm, a mysterious (and fictional) cult leader believed to have risen from the dead to corrupt the townsfolk with his blasphemous sermons. The albums are based upon unearthed excerpts of his writings.

Musically, their first album Kadotetut is pretty straightforward death doom while the second Verenvalaja expands the sound with more interesting arrangements and some guest guitar work by Hooded Menace's Lasse Pyykko. On music alone Vainaja have made a name for themselves, but going above and beyond, they've released digital versions of the vinyl mixes for both Kadotetut and Verenvalaja and they sound incredible. Vainaja was the catalyst to write this roundup.

Death doom is far from the first genre one thinks of in relation to dynamics, but the dynamic mixes sound incredible. The drums in Verenvalaja are absolutely thunderous and every filthy guitar note is clearly audible. Plus the dynamic master makes it positively easy to blow through the whole album in one sitting. It will make you yearn for a vinyl mix of every album



Bordering on a household name, at least in the metal community, Horrendous inject just the right level of "progressive" into Old School Death Metal to make super interesting albums without leaving the bounds of "OSDM". In contrast to full on progressive death metal Horrendous stick to the OSDM sound but shake things up with truly interesting melodic compositions. Their two most recent albums, Anareta and Ecdysis were some of the earlier of the "New Wave of Dynamic Metal" and they sound fantastic. Everything from the buzzsaw guitars to the powerful drums and lush acoustic passages sounds phenomenal.



Like Vainaja, Be'lakor made a name for themselves based on their music, then released vinyl masters of older albums. Widely praised for injecting new life into the somewhat stale Melodic Death Metal scene, the vinyl masters of Stone's Reach and Of Breath and Bone sound stellar. Each individual part of the music, right down to the individual drum and cymbal hits comes through with amazing clarity adding another level to already fantastic albums.



Kuaun's latest album, Sorni Nai, sees the Finnish singing Russian band craft a concept album about the Dyatlov Pass incident. In 1959 a group of 9 skiers in Russia disappeared then were found dead with bizarre injuries and the whole story is still unknown. Sorni Nai is a cinematic album flowing through doom, black metal, post rock and even sections broaching on classical. It's all delivered with a huge dynamic mix and is Pay What You Want on Blood Music's Bandcamp (like all their releases).



Auric are another fantastic anomaly on this list. The Arkansas based band play blackened sludge with echoes of early Mastodon (they use the same tuning) and Pallbearer. Their most recent full length, Empty Seas, is absolutely jaw dropping and criminally underrated. They employ an Elder-like ability to incorporate aspects of Stoner metal, sludge, black metal, and post-rock into a cohesive whole, and bless it with a hugely dynamic mix. The drums, though have an oddly compressed character which stands out strangely during slower passages, but helps preserve clarity during the some of the lightning fast sections. Of particular note is the track "Backlit", where they take a filthy sludge riff and build all sorts of levels of melody over top of it. So good.


If this list piques your interest in dynamic metal it's worth noting that Earache records has a large back catalog of classics ranging from the death metal triangle (US, Sweden, Britain), to grindcore available as Full Dynamic Range versions; digital versions of the vinyl mixes. It's worth revisiting classics like Carcass' Heartwork and Entombed's Left Hand Path to hear the dynamic mixes.
Tagged with 2012, 2015, 2016, Auric, blackened sludge metal, Blood Music, Calen Henry, Dark Descent Records, death metal, doom metal, free download, Horrendous, Kauan, melodic death metal, post-metal, post-rock, Vainaja