August 31, 2018

KEN mode - Loved

By Justin C. I've been a long-time fan of KEN mode, but I have to make a confession: I never got into 2015's Success. The album struck out in a different direction from their previous work, and I found it a bit uncomfortable to listen to.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Randy Ortiz.

I've been a long-time fan of KEN mode, but I have to make a confession: I never got into 2015's Success. The album struck out in a different direction from their previous work, and I found it a bit uncomfortable to listen to. Some quick research shows that I wasn't the only one with that opinion at the time, and it wasn't unusual to see the word "uncomfortable" come up. Sure, you say, but most of metal/hardcore is supposed to make you uncomfortable. That's true, but something about Success just didn't jibe with my particular sensibilities. But that happens. Sometimes bands and fans move in different directions.

One look at the album cover for Loved, though, and I was intrigued. What the hell is that smiling/grimacing/hooded figure doing? The artist, Randy Ortiz, really knocked it out of the park with this one, and it turns out that the art itself was an inspiration to the band throughout recording. Luckily, the insides of the album are as interesting as its outsides, and I was hooked on KEN mode all over again.

The noisy hardcore mix that the Matthewson brothers made their home is once again in full force here. Vocals alternate between bellowing, snarling, sneering, and even taunting, as the character in "Feathers & Lips" berates an unknown target with "Bully. Coward. I'm filled with this overwhelming instinct that I can break you." The lyric sheet reads like a tiny collection of short stories, not simplistic shouting like you might expect. (Although there are plenty of scream-along moments, too, like the repeating refrain of "Just because no one else is talking doesn't mean you need to be!" in "Learning to Be Too Cold.")

The riffing varies anywhere from straight-ahead bludgeoning in "The Illusion of Dignity," to the gentle, jazzy strains in "This Is a Love Test," a song that can't help but harken back to Rollins Band's "Liar." Not a surprise given that the band takes a line from Henry Rollins's memoir as their name.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the wild sax, provided by Kathryn Kerr. It first rears its head in "The Illusion of Dignity," adding a bit of jazzy chaos to a song that shambles along like a drunken elephant parade. It comes back to keep things from getting too smooth in the aforementioned "This Is a Love Test." I know some of you will inevitably say, "Ugh...horns," but Kerr's contributions are so frantic and filthy that they sound perfectly at home.

I don't know if you'd call this album a "course correction" or "return to form" for the band. I hate saying things like that because it's almost always an oversimplification of what the band was trying to achieve. But if you, like me, drifted away, you owe it to yourself to give Loved a fair shake. It's only 36 minutes of your time, and you'll find that KEN mode is as fresh and vital as ever.

August 28, 2018

Migration Fest 2018

By Matt Hinch. I don't travel much. I live a mere two hours East of Toronto and I might get into the city once a year for a show at best. So driving all the way to Pittsburgh was a big deal. But that big deal was Migration Fest 2018.
By Matt Hinch.

I don't travel much. I live a mere two hours East of Toronto and I might get into the city once a year for a show at best. So driving all the way to Pittsburgh was a big deal. But that big deal was Migration Fest 2018. Totally worth the sweaty-palmed eight and a half hour drive. Damned traffic. Three days packed with bands either on Gilead Media or 20 Buck Spin or hand-picked by them. The trust level here was sky high.

As much as I would have liked to I didn't see every band perform. Out of the 26 bands (I think) that shook the foundation of Mr. Small's I only completely missed 4 bands. Not bad if you ask me. So nothing here on Zombi, Deadbird, Pryolatrous, or the Cancer Conspiracy. Sorry. Other than that I'll try and recap the first multi-day festival I'd been to since 1996. I told you I don't get out much.

Day 1

I also missed the pre-show Thursday night because I was taking in a Pirates game, so at the coincidental time of 4:20 Friday afternoon Migration Fest proper fired up with Cloud Rat's violent grind. I wasn't as familiar with them as I thought but their energy pulls you in anyway. Couch Slut followed up with a hugely anticipated set. Their noisy sludge grind sucked people in as vocalist Megan O. screamed, rolled around, bloodied herself, and threw other cautions to the wind. She's a force on stage and the only disappointment was that she wasn't able to get down on the floor and kick all our asses.

I missed enough of Forn's set that I can't really comment much but I heard enough to regret missing most of it. However OSDM locals Derkéta crushed. It's a simple kind of death metal but they were tight and when they locked into a groove there wasn't a head that wasn't nodding. They looked like they were having a really good time too. As did many over the course of the weekend.

Perhaps the most talked about set from Friday was from black metal extremists, Yellow Eyes. They impressed so much their merch basically evaporated. They looked like an unassuming bunch but holy shit did they rip! Fierce, cold, and fast. Vile screams forced attention and the goodness. Such ferocity and power! I thought he was going to break every piece of that kit. Yellow Eyes left many simply awestruck.

Bongripper shifted gears rather abruptly for those taking it all in. Going from Yellow Eyes's lightning-quick BM to instrumental doom, Bongripper was one of the main draws for me and I grinned/scowled the whole time as I watched hundreds of heads all nodding in unison, slowly, as they bulldozed their way through a heavy, heavy set preceding Khemmis.

The Colorado group had the crowd excited. Their newest LP, Desolation is fantastic and I was not alone in anticipating some of its songs blessing our ears. Obviously they did and did well. I started close to the stage but too far to the left. After 4-5 songs and failed attempts at a decent picture I moved to the back of the room and boy, did it make a difference. The vocals were sharp and the twin guitars flourished in an even more powerful way than they do on record. It was one of the best sets of the weekend and a fitting end to MY night. I skipped out on Zombi (never listened to them) in search of grub before everything closed!

Day 2

I know I wasn't the only one anxious to be on time for Day 2. “Last minute” replacements, Immortal Bird were set to open Saturday's festivities. I even heard one fella say it was the only set he actually watched. Hanging out with friends was a big part of the weekend. Immortal Bird, like everyone else, did not disappoint. Their amalgam of styles went over well and served as a killer kickstart. Props to vocalist Rae and the rest of the band for the afternoon adrenaline shot. Especially the drummer!

The crowd thinned noticeably for Scorched. They didn't deserve that. But the young death metal upstarts didn't let the smaller crowd get them down. Groovy and tight, they pounded through some gnarly tunes led by their circle-headbanging singer. On the drive back to my lodgings at the end of the day we discussed rules for a circle-headbanging competition between him and Corpsegrinder. They should just tour with Cannibal Corpse anyway.

I was wandering around and missed the start of The Ominous Circle's set. Shame on me. While I personally enjoyed some of the later sets more I think TOC made the biggest impact. Donning black hoodies under black leather jackets (hoods up obviously) and grim reaper masks the Portuguese monsters made for a very visual display. The singer even wore robes, gloves, and something to make him seem 8 feet tall. Maybe he is. Good god though did they put on a show. The singer openly gestured with his hands when growling from the depths of Hell, and stood stately with hands crossed when his cult mates were doing the heavy lifting. They were surprisingly great and they were quite busy at the merch table as well.

I can't say much about Mutilation Rites as I didn't catch all their set. I was getting a head start on Spirit Adrift merchandise but what I did see held true to their dirty and and wretched style. They introduced their new drummer and otherwise burned through their mid-afternoon set as one would expect. Their new album, Chasm is pretty good by the way. This is also a good time to say that you should not trust the order I'm talking about the bands in. There were changes and it was all just so much fun I may have lost track.

I totally skipped on Deadbird to take a much needed walk and scarf some chocolate bars but you can bet your ass I was back in time to get a decent spot for Spirit Adrift. I was close but with a central spot this time and I could hear it all. Nate's vocals came across different than on record. Less doomy? Still great! Some people even said it was better. With a similar setup as Khemmis their twin guitars soared as well. They've got such a grand, epic style of trad doom that translates extremely well to the stage. Or more likely vice versa. They even played a new song! It was somewhat more urgent, thrashier even, than their previous work and if you're a fan, be excited.

Mizmor. OH MY GOD, Mizmor. Ungodly heavy. Wholly doomed black metal is right! Whether slow or raging the air vibrated with negativity. They switched out drummers a couple times. Both great. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think one of them was Hell's MSW. (I think it was Mizmor's ALN beating the skins for Hell too.) The biggest impact came from the vocals. All those fucking terrifying screams you heard on Yodh are real, man. He pulled it all off live and you felt it in your bones! Spectacular.

I'll admit I hadn't listened to Pelican in a long time. Not sure why. Maybe I heard an EP I wasn't fond of and moved on? No matter. Their set made me want to get back into them. Maybe it was the shared back line or maybe I just misremembered their recorded works but they were heavy! Their musicianship was never in question but they looked like they were having a really good time. So were we. Vocalists be damned!

Due to a faulty Bluetooth connection, broken auxiliary cable, and fickle CD player I listened to Krallice's Years Past Matter on repeat for six and a half hours driving down to Pittsburgh. That didn't mean I didn't want to see the wizards of experimental technical black metal in the flesh. I had mixed feeling watching though. On one hand, gazing with awe at their fingers, hands, and feet and seeing the multitude of notes unfurl was pretty cool. On the other hand, that kind of playing doesn't necessarily make for a lot of stage movement. That was a bit expected but I can still feel a little let down. It didn't seem to bother anyone really though as their Saturday-ending set was met with raucous admiration.

Day 3

OK. The home stretch. I wanted to see Lev Weinstein drum for Pyrolatrous after seeing him in Krallice the night before but pints and puppies at a nearby brewery (Grist House) was too good to rush so I missed their whole set. But, pints and puppies! So Daeva was the first act I caught. It was also their first show! Impressive! Basically thrash metal. Good performers. And the vocalist made me think of a more extreme Dave Mustaine for both visual and audial reasons. I'd keep an eye on these guys.

O Canada! Torontonians Tomb Mold (figuratively) followed me down from Canada to infect the Mr. Small's stage with their filthy brand of death metal. They kicked ass to one of the more packed rooms over the whole weekend. They're a band on the up and up and you could tell by the reaction they received. Their new album, Manor of Infinite Forms is getting a lot of hype and they lived up to it! Just as nasty as you would expect. I'm bummed I didn't get one of their Fest exclusive shirts though.

The Cancer Conspiracy's set was my break for the day. Not that I didn't want to discover but I needed some moving air. The air sure was moving when Hell took the stage. They pushed the PA to its limits with slow, insanely heavy doom. Their mantra is “lower your head” and I did. Parked behind the sound booth I closed my eyes, lowered my head and banged/swayed through their loud and impactful set. I live for this kind of heaving doom that you can feel more than you need to see. Absolutely crushing!

False followed them with keyboard-accented black metal fury. Although I did have some trouble hearing the keys from a couple spots in the room. You couldn't help but hear vocalist Rachel's desperate screams though. Their atmospheric blackness was a nice change of pace from Hell but impressed on their own merits regardless of when they played. I talked to keyboardist Kishel for half of Mournful Congregation's set too. But that was later. There was another big Fest draw to see. Thou.

I'm not as familiar with Thou as I thought I was. That didn't mean I didn't enjoy their sludgy and hard-hitting set. With a third guitarist! They obviously drew a large crowd too being one of the bigger names on the bill. They crushed. In fact, I'd say they're better live than on record. As it should be. Although at the rate they're pumping out releases this year you would expect a band to be as locked in as they were. They kept the set relatively heavy thankfully and they have me excited for the upcoming Magus now!

Yes, I missed half of Mournful Congregation's set but that was only two songs. Their third comprised the other half. Slow, meaningful death doom filled the room as the fullness of night took hold to the delight (despair?) of the sweaty masses. This was one of those sets where I felt bad for not digging into their work more. The emotional performance won me over enough to put their newest slab back on my phone. Everybody wins!

Judging by the enthusiasm Fest closer Panopticon received I felt like I had missed the boat on them. I'm glad I stuck around. Bluegrass doesn't really do it for me but luckily their set was all ripping black metal. Sure, there were some acoustic moments and otherwise not-flesh rending movements but it was the only time the no moshing policy was disregarded, however briefly. They killed it. And made me a believer, as good performances should. Almost every song they played was so triumphant you thought it was going to be the monumental end to the fest. But they just kept throwing out more and more. No one complained. In fact, they even got an encore! People lost their minds for their whole set and with good reason. Plus, Austin Lunn is hilarious. They couldn't have chosen a better band to wrap up the crazy weekend.

Three days, over 25 bands and untold millions of degrees of heat later and I doubt you could find a soul there that left unsatisfied. The quality of bands that performed was rock solid top to bottom. Every band nailed it on stage and it all ran on time! Early even! Kudos to Adam and Dave for putting on such a fantastic festival of noisy, angry, heavy, dazzling, loud, and entertaining underground metal. Fans migrated for the weekend from across continents and Migration Fest was worth the trip however long. The only problem now is waiting to do it all over again.

Max and Matt having fun.

In the words of more than one Fest performer, “MIGRATIOOOOOOONNN!!!!!”

August 21, 2018

Kodiac - Formless and Void

By Ulla Roschat. Doom duo Kodiac from St. Louis/MO offer their 3rd EP called Formless and Void. It consists of only two tracks and has an overall playing time of 11 minutes and 2 seconds. That's short, all right. For one thing it simply
By Ulla Roschat.

Doom duo Kodiac from St. Louis/MO offer their 3rd EP called Formless and Void. It consists of only two tracks and has an overall playing time of 11 minutes and 2 seconds. That's short, all right. For one thing it simply doesn't need more than that to blow your mind and give you a listening experience that feels totally complete, then again it makes you want to hear more from Kodiac and their distinct style of Depressive Doom.

The two songs differ much from one another. The first one, "Nocturnal Ambrosia", is about half as long (3:44) as the second one "Figure In The Garden" (7:18). It is also an instrumental piece, whereas the other one gifts us with an abundance of vocal bliss and deeply touching lyrics. Most striking though is how they vary in the intensity of their respective sound.

"Nocturnal Ambrosia" is characterized by a mainly quiet and thrifty sound, but not in the sense of sounding "acoustic", there's definitely an "electric" feel to it coming from a cold guitar tone and tremolo in almost Black or Post Metal style. The song creates a kind of pastoral atmosphere right from the start, but the images that appear are like photographic negatives of pastoral scenes, low crackling noises add a creepy nostalgia and all this builds up a growing sense of uneasiness.

Towards the end the song gathers energy with a slow plodding but driving drum beat and sound and mood get more intense to prepare you for what's to come in "Figure in the Garden". Here nothing is quiet or thrifty - far from that - except for a calmer part in the middle of the song, pure massive Doom power thunders down on you. Sound and atmosphere are dense and intense throughout the entire song and the vocals hurl their painful and unsettling messages at you.

Despite their ostensible contrasts, the two songs are closely linked, it actually feels like they are one song. Not only do they merge seamlessly into one another, they relate to each other in their melodies, guitar tone, their moods of darkness and depressing melancholy. Even the pastoral feel of "Nocturnal Ambrosia" lingers on in "Figure in the Garden". If you listen to Formless and Void in a continuous loop (like I did the last couple days), you'll notice that it doesn't even matter with which song you start, you'll always get a cohesive story and an organic sound.

There are no frills in sound and song structures. Everything feels very immediate, natural and unfiltered, the force of the thundering sound as well as the beautiful melancholic melodies and the gut-wrenching words. Both songs together develop an avalanche-like dynamic that grabs you with an overwhelming emotional impact and inevitably tears you down into abyssal nothingness.

August 17, 2018

Rebel Wizard - Voluptuous Worship of Rapture and Response

By Justin C. I've most-often seen Rebel Wizard summed up as "NWOBHM meets black metal," and although that's a little reductive, it's also a pretty good summing up. Whether switching back and forth between those two broad styles or
By Justin C.

I've most-often seen Rebel Wizard summed up as "NWOBHM meets black metal," and although that's a little reductive, it's also a pretty good summing up. Whether switching back and forth between those two broad styles or mixing them in more subtle ways, there's no denying that dual influence, and it's still in force on the new album, Voluptuous Worship of Rapture and Response.

That's not to say that sole member NKSV (a.k.a., Bob Nekrasov) is in any way musically lazy. The second track, "The Prophecy Came and It Was Soaked With the Common Fools Forboding" starts out with some seriously riff-tastic NWOBHM before gradually escalating into black metal territory with the addition of tremolos, black metal screeches, and blast beats. Once the two elements have been successfully mixed, the song charges onward to the end with the throttle wide open. "Healing the Chakras With Heavy Negative Wizard Metal" takes a slightly different path, starting off with a more "traditional" black metal intro before moving into trash territory. No matter how NKSV proceeds, though, it's impossible to deny how ripping these songs are.

Is this all a bit tongue and cheek? Most likely. The cover art shows a hooded figure triumphantly holding aloft two Gibson Explorer-style guitars, which young me remembers being a signature move from bands in the NWOBHM heyday. Song titles like "Drunk on the Wizdom of Unicorn Semen" mix the profane and the goofy into word salads. But is the music itself a joke? Not at all. Unlike Steel Panther, for example, who tries (and fails) to entertain by parodying a musical style that was already a parody of itself, Rebel Wizard cranks out damn good tunes without making you feel the need to qualify it by saying, "It's good...but it's kinda dumb."

Sure, I could pick a few nits. Two different songs go with the somewhat-tired "rain/nature sound" effects. The album's closing track, "Exhaustive Glory," is unfortunately named because pushing 10 minutes and lacking the dynamicism of most of the other tracks does, in fact, make it a bit exhausting. But credit where credit's due: NKSV samples a fairly moving speech from philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti for the album closer, when he could have gone the easy path and put in some overcooked Satanism or dialog from a Mad Max movie.

But when all is said and done, this is an album that will rip right through you. Triumph of Gloom is the last Rebel Wizard album I've spent significant time with, and NKSV has upped his songwriting game as well as his level of shred, but technicality never overwhelms the musicality. So by all means, put the extra-kvlt doom and gloom aside for a little while and rock out. Maybe even smile a little?

August 15, 2018

Dvne - Asheran (Vinyl Master)

By Calen Henry. Just in time for the first anniversary of Asheran, Dvne and Wasted State Records released a digital version of the vinyl master on Bandcamp. The vinyl master (DR 9) is less compressed, allowing details in the music to come through better
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Eli Quinn.

Just in time for the first anniversary of Asheran, Dvne and Wasted State Records released a digital version of the vinyl master on Bandcamp. The vinyl master (DR 9) is less compressed, allowing details in the music to come through better than the digital master (DR 6). The original master is quite good for a loud master, but it's such a dense and carefully composed album that the vinyl master gives it the depth it always deserved.

Asheran is a concept album. Drawing inspiration from Frank Herbert, Hayao Miyazaki, and other conservationist-leaning science fiction writers, it tells the epic story of a long exiled space-faring race returning to their home planet to find those left behind having shunned technology, living in harmony with nature. The returning Asheran see the planet as their birthright and thus are compelled to wage a holy war on the others, forcing them to break their sacred oath and unearth their long dormant war machines to defend themselves. Eventually the planet itself goes into self-preservation mode and culls both factions, restoring the balance of nature.

The music flows naturally through the acts of the story, but it’s an album of contrasts: quiet builds versus crushing fuzz, psychedelic stoner metal versus suffocating death metal, and Victor’s cleans against Dan’s growls. The added dynamic range gives a heft that was lacking before. Almost every track on the album features some kind of soft/loud or fast/slow contrast, and these sections sound glorious on the dynamic master; little details surface with each listen. The band has said that they cut around 30 minutes of material from the final album, and it shows. It is expertly paced.

The most evident improvement is the clarity of the bass and drums. All the little cymbal accents are now apparent, and transitions into drum-heavy sections, like the intro to "Viridian Bloom," sound huge. The bass is an integral part of the compositions, often picking up the melody and leading songs, and the added dynamic range helps the bass cut through giving a much fuller listening experience.

Asheran was already a jaw dropping achievement, and the newly released vinyl master makes it even better. Credit to Wasted State Records and the band for releasing it, and simply adding it to the existing album listing, rather than a separate album forcing people to double dip. Hopefully for their next album Dvne will simply release the DR 9 master as the standard version, like Pallbearer and Unleash the Archers.

August 13, 2018

Golgothan Remains - Perverse Offerings to the Void

By Hera Vidal. Black metal will forever be associated with Norway; there is no denying that aspect, given black metal’s origins and lyrical content, especially post-Black Circle shenanigans. Because of this, country-specific black metal is usually overlooked and underrated.
By Hera Vidal.

Cover art by Morkh.

Australia is well-known for their vast metal scene, and while my focus has remained on the realm of black metal, I tend to pop up my head from time to time to smell the flowers outside. Now, death metal is certainly not my thing – I tend to prefer the symphonic and melodic versions of death metal – but I slowly eased into enjoying Perverse Offerings to the Void, Golgothan Remains’s debut album. A stellar piece of work that comes wrapped in a disgusting, putrid layer of sound that contains the dirtier aspects of wherever this album came from.

Before jumping headfirst into the album, I wanted to look into the band’s name. Their name is a reference to Golgotha, known as Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. Although no one can agree where exactly the crucifixion occurred, the Gospels claim that Golgotha was outside the city of Jerusalem, accessible to passers-by. Golgotha can also be translated as “skull,” meaning that church scholars have interpreted the name to mean a place that looks like a cranium or has skulls buried on site. (Golgotha is also said to be the final resting place of Adam’s skull.) It would make sense that the band would take their name from the remains of Calvary, as it was known as a heap of death where the skulls of the deceased could be found.

Perverse Offerings to the Void is unlike anything I have ever heard. It has a heavy black metal backing but remains heavily focused on its death metal roots. There is something incredibly melodic about it, slowly easing the listener into enjoying the record. However, a big part of the album’s impact is just how gross it sounds. It feels like the members are playing music with instruments covered in filth and grime, making them sound harsh and dissonant. It also doesn’t help that Golgothan Remains made their music sound cacophonous with a touch of melody. This becomes evident on “Timeless Eradicator” and “Looped Depraved Spell,” as their penchant for melody helps contrast the sound of the down-tuned guitars and harrowing vocals. Perverse Offerings to the Void sounds like death metal being played in a swamp in dense climate, which, given Australia’s climate, should come as no surprise.

The vocals also don’t help with easing this image of filth and putridity, as they are both ferocious and muted. Their quiet aggression is constant, and they sit in the foreground, acting as a balance point to the music. They also have a tendency to be haunting, as if the void opened up and let all of these screaming souls out by accident, calling anyone unfortunate enough to hear them to their doom. I also couldn’t help but notice that the vocals sounded a lot like their brethren Spire’s on Entropy. Underneath the layers of filth, the vocals are the only anchor that keeps the listener hanging on beneath the heavy atmosphere and the cacophonous instrumentation. They haunt you and torment you until the end of the album, and you can only hope that their onslaught is over before you decide to end it yourself.

All in all, Perverse Offerings to the Void is a good debut that fills a niche in death metal. Although its brand of death metal is not something I am familiar with, I can appreciate the aesthetic and the dedication that went into making this album. I found myself enjoying the album despite its cacophonous nature, and I recommend this album to anyone who needs some intense death metal in their lives.

August 11, 2018

Parius - The Eldritch Realm

By Calen Henry. The Eldritch Realm surfaced from cruising Bandcamp tags. Stephen Andrade’s pitch perfect 1930’s movie poster-inspired cover jumped out from the list. Expecting some sort of horror themed “Scooby doom” album, I was pleasantly surprised
By Calen Henry.

Artwork painted Stephen Andrade

The Eldritch Realm surfaced from cruising Bandcamp tags. Stephen Andrade’s pitch perfect 1930’s movie poster-inspired cover jumped out from the list. Expecting some sort of horror themed “Scooby doom” album, I was pleasantly surprised to find Parius play technical melodic death metal permeated with vintage horror. Though death metal is rife with supernatural themes, Parius is the only melodeath band I’ve encountered that’s so committed to the campy vintage horror aesthetic usually confined to doom bands, right down to a Rod Serling impersonator narrating segments to bookend the story.

Technical death metal tends to be a hard sell for me. I like bands with a unique spin on the genre over simply riffs. Parius’ sound is rooted in the melodic death metal of US heavy hitters like Arsis and The Black Dahlia Murder, with a dash of neoclassical-leaning Necrophagist. Parius bring killer but accessible melodic riffs and solos. They're not reinventing the wheel. Their strength is how they alter the formula with aesthetic. For Parius the aesthetic is far more than a gimmick; it permeates the album and elevates it to something truly special. It’s a concept album, of course, and in 29 minutes they’ve got more conceptual ideas than many bands can manage in an album of any length.

An unnamed protagonist goes on a journey to save his immortal soul. Guided by Lilith, the earth’s second moon according to astrologer Sepharial, the protagonist journeys across the river Styx, phylactery in hand, unafraid, taunting death. Led by a mysterious melody, he passes through the Lychgate, the threshold to the underworld, on his way to confront the Ophidian God. On his way, the serpent king snares him and destroys the phylactery. The hero disconnects from his physical body and breaks the bonds, but, shock and terror, his unbound self is given totally to the mysterious melody, and he becomes enthralled. Lilith, now personified as a demon, has betrayed him, and he takes her place at the serpent king’s side, binding him forever in the Eldritch Realm, just as fear of death sets in.

The album starts with the crackle of needle on wax, then an ominous orchestral intro, segueing into the first track’s introductory piano motif, reminiscent of "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits." The music then moves right into full-on melodeath assault, but the campy horror is never lost. Underneath the lightning guitar solos, hard-hitting riffs, and machine gun drums, a vein of reference and reverence runs. Without straying far from the melodeath formula, they add motifs and progressions found in vintage horror soundtracks. The back half of "Crashing Black Moon" offers some of the most prominent examples, including reintroducing the bass riff from the first half of "Eldritch," the piano picking back up the intro to underscore the double kick-driven clean vocal section, a spooky keyboard solo, and the break into evil circus music.

The vocals tie the musical approach together with an equally all-encompassing approach. Vocalist Louis Thierry is a beast. Like the instrumentals, the vocals are rooted in death metal, mostly split between a rasp and a guttural growl, both wonderfully delivered. But as the story progresses, he also employs a hard rock sneer, falsetto vocals (sometimes harmonized), a manic sermon style delivery, and some spoken word passages. There are even a few times when a vocal melody is revisited by the guitars or bass, tying the concept together further.

It’s possible that this would all fall apart if they didn’t have such a fantastic concept to tie it together. Drawing from pulp horror, debunked astrological musings, and Greek mythology, they’ve crafted a story that’s Lovecraftian without any mention of Old Ones; campy, but not totally silly, and the concept is more rewarding the deeper you look.

Like the recurring motifs that underscore the death metal, song titles and lyrics reference each other. The phylactery, being boundless, and what lies between hell and the protagonist recur throughout the album’s run time. The whole thing is also perfectly in tune with both "The Twilight Zone" and Lovecraft’s writing, where in the face of adversity, the protagonist may not come out on top and dramatic irony looms large.

The icing on the cake is the production. Though not particularly dynamic (DR 6), everything sounds excellent and balances. The bass is clear and present, and the drums have an appropriate heft without succumbing to the clicky sound that busy tech-death drums sometimes can. They sound human, but all the complexities are apparent. In fact I’m hard pressed to think of another album with high-speed drums that sounds this good. It’s hugely impressive for an independent release.

From nowhere Parius have blown me away and released one of my favourite albums of the year. They’re asking next to nothing for The Eldritch Realm on Bandcamp. You won’t hear anything else like it this year. It won’t bring the tech the way some other bands might, but I like it all the better for the way they balance it with concept. The whole package is like nothing else I've heard.