May 22, 2020

Cauldron Black Ram - Slaver

By Bryan Camphire.. If you don't already know, Cauldron Black Ram are living death metal legends from Oz. This band has been making uncompromising original death metal since 1996. Slaver, their new release for the venerable label, 20 Buck Spin, takes their sound to new heights.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Misanthropic-Art.

If you don't already know, Cauldron Black Ram are living death metal legends from Oz. This band has been making uncompromising original death metal since 1996. Slaver, their new release for the venerable label, 20 Buck Spin, takes their sound to new heights. This band cooks more flavor into a single riff than most bands eke into entire albums. Theirs is the sound of a power trio taken to its fullest extreme.

Never a band to blast beat their way from start to finish, each composition on Slaver is packed with ever-changing rhythms and feels. This is what sets Cauldron Black Ram apart from other acts in extreme metal. In a single track, they're liable to thrash it up at a gallop, only to slow things to a lurch, then lock into an OSDM style mid-paced stomp. Slaver continuously leaves the listener wanting more of each tasty riff only to outdo itself in intensity with what comes next.

The band's know-how comes from experience. The members' other active projects - Mournful Congregation and StarGazer to name just two of many - are legends in their own rights. Both of those bands have also been making high-test death metal since the mid-90s. What is so interesting about Cauldron Black Ram is that theirs is a sound that is always re-inventing itself. Unlike nearly any other death metal act comprised of elder statesman who've been making music for the past quarter century, Cauldron Black Ram's material keeps getting more and more fresh with each new release. To date, Slaver is their masterpiece. The fat is trimmed. The menace is visceral. 

Favorite moments on this record include but are not limited to the following examples. The second riff in the second song, titled, "Smoke Pours From The Orifices From The Crematory Idol" (If ever there was a song title that conjures the ambiance of the music within, this is it): the disjointed drumming tramples forth like a violent stampede. Another blood curdling detail occurs and recurs in track four, "Graves Awaiting Corpses" (Another fittingly evocative title): The corroded arpeggiated guitar chord that creeps out of the rests during the verse and claws at you with its rusted hook. Memorable moments such as these abound across the entire wretched run-time of Slaver. The seasick rhythms, the gurgling tar-pit low end and the craggy guitars all punctuate the rough edges of this jagged, fearsome music.

This music originates in a scorched section of the Earth. Australia is home to some of the most extreme metal being made in this day and age. The unholy trinity of Portal, Impetuous Ritual and Grave Upheaval, in addition to StarGazer, Mournful Congregation, Temple Nightside, Consummation have all together significantly raised the quality standard of what extreme metal can be. Up to now, Cauldron Black Ram was perhaps the least well known of this pack, lurking in the shadows & toiling away with evil patience. Slaver stands to mark their name on the map indelibly, for all those who dare to venture to death metal's darkest depths. The fact that the vinyl of the first pressing of Slaver already sold out on release day shows that people are taking due notice of this massive record.

May 13, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (Beastwars)

By Calen Henry. "Damn the Sky" was the first song where I got Beastwars. From that single track I was hooked and tore through their discography just in time, unfortunately, for them to go on hiatus then announce that singer Matt Hyde was (ultimately successfully) battling cancer.
By Calen Henry.


"Damn the Sky" was the first song where I got Beastwars. From that single track I was hooked and tore through their discography just in time, unfortunately, for them to go on hiatus then announce that singer Matt Hyde was (ultimately successfully) battling cancer.

After all that their announcement of a surprise comeback album, last year's IV, was the most exciting musical moment of 2019 for me. The anticipation was well founded; it ended up being my favourite album last year. It turns out that wasn't the only surprise the band had up their sleeve.

On May 1, Bandcamp's second "all proceeds to artist" day since global COVID-19 quarantine efforts began and bands faced a cascade of gig cancellations, the boys in Beastwars decided to drop a live album. Not just any set either, their entire comeback concert from July 2018 at Wellington NZ's San Fran. As a Canadian fan who is unlikely to be able to catch the band live, it's an incredible gift. Not just a comeback album, but their comeback show, professionally recorded and mixed. It's even got some nice dynamic headroom with a master clocking in at DR8.


Being a year before the release of IV the setlist is made up entirely of songs from their trilogy. They start the set with the Beastwars song "Damn the Sky". From there they rip through some of the best tracks from the three albums in largely chronological order though they save two tracks from the first album, the savage stomp of "Red God" and mantra-like "Daggers" as the one-two punch to end the set. "Daggers" is such a perfect note on which to end the set, with its repeated refrain

Play that song
Play that one we know
Play it loud
Play that one we love

They sound like a different band from the snapshot of despair, grief, and hope captured on IV. By time they got back to the stage Matt was back to full demon-bellowing capacity and the set is a band with fire in their bellies ripping through their back catalog for their hometown crowd. It's magical and kind of perfect for a band with so much mysticism in their lyrics to hear the moment they hit the stage after so much turmoil and a rebirth. To top it off the band have been kind enough to ask for absolutely nothing in return. It's Name Your Price on the band's Bandcamp page.

May 8, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (Hamferð)

Hamferð was the last band I saw before the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down. With nothing in between, their set has stuck with me to this day. It was a welcome release at the end a somewhat underwhelming festival. It was one of the best sets I have seen and a different experience from most other metal shows.
Hamferð was the last band I saw before the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down. With nothing in between, their set has stuck with me to this day. It was a welcome release at the end a somewhat underwhelming festival. It was one of the best sets I have seen and a different experience from most other metal shows.


Hamferð turns the metal band experience on its head. All members dress in jacket and ties. Even the drummer wears a white shirt, a vest, and a tie. When a song stops, the stage lights are immediately turned off. There's no contact with the audience between songs. After our applause we can spend a few seconds contemplating what we just heard before the next one begins. The mood is somehow both solemn and very joyous.

Jón Aldará has both a deep full-throated growl and a majestic clean voice. He sings in Faroese and sounds alternatively like an emissary from Hell or a chanter of otherworldly sacred songs. He's far from the typical extroverted frontman. During the beautiful encore, the person in front of him gets a brief pat on the shoulder, and the rest of us get a quiet "tak." And that's the extent of his interaction with the audience.

The drummer, Remi Johannesen, is more active than most drummers playing music this heavy and sad. There are passages where we're almost in drum solo territory, at least briefly, and it sounds so good. Now and then the lighting is used to great dramatic effect, like the time when Aldará switches from crooning to growling and is instantly bathed in firelight. The sound is just perfect. At times I get so carried away it feels like I'm not touching the ground.


Hamferð is signed to Metal Blade Records. Their second full-length, Támsins likam, and the live EP, Ódn, are on Bandcamp. For their debut EP, Vilst er síðsta fet, and their first full-length, Evst, you can go to the Faroese Tutl Records, and they will ship them to you, literally, aboard a boat from the Faroe Islands. Recently, Aldará was announced as the new vocalist of Metal Bandcamp favorites Iotunn, and I cannot wait to hear how that turns out.

May 4, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (A Roundup)

The mass cancellations of metal shows, tours, and festivals due to the Covid-19 pandemic has made me think about what live music means to me. Obviously the bands are hit much harder by this than those of us in the audience - it affects their livelihood directly - but I know I'm not alone in missing that live magic. And THE PIT.
The mass cancellations of metal shows, tours, and festivals due to the Covid-19 pandemic has made me think about what live music means to me. Obviously the bands are hit much harder by this than those of us in the audience - it affects their livelihood directly - but I know I'm not alone in missing that live magic. And THE PIT. This week on Metal Bandcamp will be my small tribute to live music, beginning with this roundup of three recent live releases.

Artwork by Cameron Hinojosa.

This Khemmis EP, Doomed Heavy Metal, is only half-live. There's a newly recorded song, two studio rarities, and three live tracks, one from each of their albums. It takes a confident band to cover a Dio song, but here Khemmis takes their shot with "Rainbow in the Dark." They make it work as a "Khemmis song" without tweaking the original overmuch.

But we're really here for the live tracks. Of particular note is "The Bereaved," the best song from Khemmis's debut album Absolution and always a live favorite. Here's a Shitty Video™ from their set at Maryland Deathfest 2018. It's short and the sound quality is terrible, but the jubilant audience wohooo's when the song kicks in probably tell you better than all my words what it is we're missing.




The Inter Arma live EP takes me to a venue in Copenhagen last year. On record, Inter Arma have passages that sound great, beautiful even. Live, they're an entirely gnarly beast. Even the epic instrumental "The Long Road Home" (which was a bold choice for opener of the set) becomes a part of churning maelstrom of nonstop metal, anchored by the incredible propulsive drumming of T.J. Childers. After the last song of the Copenhagen set, there were a few seconds of stunned silence before somebody said, only slightly slurred, "Could you please play one more, if you don't mind... please?" And they did.

Note that all proceeds from the EP will go to Direct Relief, an organization that provides PPE to healthcare workers in regions affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.



I never saw Porcupine Tree live - they went into hiatus before I started going to shows again in earnest. In March, the band launched a Bandcamp page with a cache of live recordings, making up for what I missed out on. Some of them are pretty rare, like the surprisingly good recording of their first ever live performance in 1993. My favorite is the immaculate Köln 4th Dec 2007 (TV broadcast). It's a nice collection of songs, including a particularly good performance of the 17-minute "Anesthetize" and a beautiful version of "Dark Matter." I guess I am a sucker for songs with that kind of epic build up.

Like Inter Arma, the drumming on these songs is a joy to hear. Take for example the way Gavin Harrison's cymbals start playing double time during the solo in "Dark Matter." He can change the rhythmic feel of a song like no other, and he knows when to add something interesting to the song and when to step back and let it breathe. It's a high quality live recording, you can hear every little fill he does.

Should Porcupine Tree ever tour again I will definitely try to catch them. But for now I am happy that these recordings has found a home on Bandcamp.


May 1, 2020

10 Nazi-Punching Metal Albums to Celebrate May Day

By Kim Kelly. Happy May Day! Around the world, May 1 is traditionally celebrated as International Workers Day (except in the U.S. where our craven authoritarian government pushes “Loyalty Day” on us instead). It’s a time for love, and solidarity, and joy, but is also a day for rage and protest.
By Kim Kelly.

Happy May Day! Around the world, May 1 is traditionally celebrated as International Workers Day (except in the U.S. where our craven authoritarian government pushes “Loyalty Day” on us instead). It’s a time for love, and solidarity, and joy, but is also a day for rage and protest. Normally, many of us would be in the streets today, but given the current reality of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the best thing we can do for our fellow humans right now is stay inside. One small silver lining there is that, right now, we have an opportunity to extend some support to our fellow members of the music community who are struggling to make ends meet right now—the bands and artists who are stuck at home alongside the rest of us, unable to tour or play live during what would usually be a busy springtime touring season.

Bandcamp will be waiving their fees today, which means that every penny of every purchase will go directly to artists. They did this last year, too, and the response was so enormous that their website could barely handle all the traffic (I have a feeling there will be a repeat this year, but at least now we know we’ll need to be patient in getting our precious new tunes). As a small token of my appreciation for their labor, I wanted to put together a little list of bands that I am especially excited to support today, and share a few of them with you (a much longer list of recommendations will be public on my Patreon as of 2PM EST). Some may be familiar to you already, and some may not, but all of them have two very important things in common: they’re actively trying to make the world a better place, and they fuckin’ hate Nazis (which you could roll up into one, really). Happy listening!


Voarm doesn’t just dabble in darkness; this Richmond black metal collective (gathered from the ashes of Argentinum Astrum) invites it in, offers it a cup of tea, and settles into its lightless, suffocating embrace. Their doom-laden spin on the genre summons up punishing, magisterial riffs, weighed down with swaths of smothering distortion, and beckons you closer into the abyss.



It’s been over a decade since we last heard from these black/death anti-civilization stalwarts, but recent stirrings of life on their end (and the enduring timeliness of their anti-racist, anti-oppressive, pro-environment message) made me want to include them on this list. As the world burns around us and an invisible plague lays bare the gaping structural flaws upon which our modern society has been hastily constructed, bands like Peregrine remind us that things don’t have to be this way.



These Texas troublemakers skirt the line between punk and metal, but their fierce leftist politics and battering-ram intensity make them the perfect candidates for mention on a day celebrating radical working class resistance. Their live presence is unsurpassed, and their music—a gritty melange of hardcore punk, crust, sludge, doom and even skramz— is the perfect soundtrack for an uprising.



This Boston outfit bends sharp fragments of noise to suit its paranoid vision, drafting in elements of grindcore, industrial, and depressive black metal as they go. Their debut LP is discomfiting, ambitious, and impossible to tear oneself away from once its horrors begin to unfurl.



Denver's premier sludgy black/death miscreants are back with some new blood; this time, there's some nice, rotten Domination vibes involved, and their death metal proclivities are on full display. This is just one teaser track for what hopefully will be a new album, but even that is enough to whet the appetites of the unholy (and I still haven’t gotten over their “Fuck Nazi Sympathy” cover).



One of the prime architects of post-black metal has uploaded some of his most cherished releases on Bandcamp, and not a moment too soon. I’m especially partial to the Manchester, UK artist’s 2009 self-titled EP, but there are lots of gems to sift through for those who enjoy their black metal with a twist of the experimental, the spacey, the emotional, and the strange.


Artwork by Guang Yang.

Straight outta the Bay Area’s hyper-capitalist hellscape, these California nightmares dole out bloody HM2 worship with sacrilegious glee. Sworn to the old school, rooted in the classics, and armed with the chops to pull off aggressive modern death without lapsing into proggy fretboard Olympics territory, Ripped to Shreds is a disgusting delight.


Artwork by Florian-Ayala Fauna.

Adzes’ raison d'etre has long been to churn out socially conscious, noisy, atmospheric sludge with teeth, and this latest entry into their anti-capitalist canon seems finds them even more woebegone over the fate of our dying planet. Taken off the band’s upcoming full-length debut, the pair of tracks currently live on Bandcamp tell a dreary tale of dashed hopes and burning radical potential.



The buzz around Cascadian black metal as a micro-genre has lain dormant for the past few years, but Awenden is a shining example of how lovely the form can be when executed well. Golden Hour offers shimmering melodic black metal that's bursting with light, and aligned against the evils of empire, fascism, and civilization.



Talk about an antifascist metal (and hardcore) dream team. This four-way split between reactivated metalcore greats Racetraitor, antifascist war machine Neckbeard Deathcamp, high-intensity grind force Closet Witch, and raw black metal storm Haggathorn makes for an essential combination of brutality, integrity, and blastbeats.

Riff Spreader Best of April

[Today it's Bandcamp Friday again. From midnight to midnight Pacific Daylight Time Bandcamp are waiving their revenue share for all sales. And they'll be doing the same thing June 5 and July 3. Helping with your shopping list here's Riff Spreader with some of his favorite righteous riffs from April.
[Today it's Bandcamp Friday again. From midnight to midnight Pacific Daylight Time Bandcamp are waiving their revenue share for all sales. And they'll be doing the same thing June 5 and July 3.

Helping with your shopping list here's Riff Spreader with some of his favorite righteous riffs from April. For more recommendations hop over to Twitter where he'll be posting throughout the day.]

Artwork by Sludgework

Artwork by Ian Miller.

There's a new Ulthar album coming out in June on 20 Buck Spin and the new song fucking SLAP [Also look at that incredible album artwork (large version). Enter the forest of penises and balls?]


Artwork by Adam Burke.

Antifascist post-black/doom metal that reminds me a lot of Dead to a Dying World (though I like this more, tbh). It's a shame this wasn't on everyone's radar sooner. It's gorgeous.


Arwork by Rodrigo Pereira Salvatierra.

This Rejoice! For the Light Has Come EP is killer skronky blackened death metal (pay no attention to the weird blackgaze genre tag). Produced by Colin Marston so it sounds great, too.


Artwork by Jason Barnett.

Kombat put out a damn good death metal album this week. But is the kombat mortal? RIFFALITY!



The new Calligram album The Eye is the First Circle is out today via Prosthetic Records. Highly recommended. Listen for yourself here:



Speaking of fucking good, this Wretched Empires EP is everything right now. Allfather's Tom B. doing the yelling. Job well done.



New album from Brazilian black metal band Kaatayra was released today. Killer shit as always.


Artwork by Raymond Wedhorn.

This is completely insane death metal from Encenathrakh. At a reasonable price... [This review from Metal archives sums it up: "I'm happy this exists and everyone must hear it even if they absolutely know they're going to despise it."].


Artwork by Unexpected Specter.

Speaking of putting dope shit on your wishlist for Friday, Hypnotic Dirge just put up the new Feral Light album for pre-order. If you're not familiar with Feral Light, you should fix that. There are 2 tracks streaming here, so now's your chance.


April 29, 2020

Drown - Subaqueous

By Master of Muppets. If space is mankind's final frontier, the ocean's depths must be something like the birthplace of the end. To some extent it is where life as we know it first began its misguided adventures on Earth, a plane of existence close to our hearts by evolutionary proxy
By Master of Muppets.

Artwork by Adam Burke/Nightjar Art.

If space is mankind's final frontier, the ocean's depths must be something like the birthplace of the end. To some extent it is where life as we know it first began its misguided adventures on Earth, a plane of existence close to our hearts by evolutionary proxy; in another sense it is a world of its own which exists entirely beyond our grasp, elusive and magical in its indomitable vastness. It's a fantastical realm where the cold realities of science and the infinite possibilities of the imagination walk hand in hand into the dark, and many artists have attempted to turn this world we cannot see into something we can hear instead. One-man metal manufacturing monster Markov Soroka (Tchornobog, Aureole, Krukh) more than meets this challenge through the massive, immersive music of Drown; it turns out that the crushing darkness of funeral doom provides a perfect tonal palette for painting the depths of our oceans into a vivid soundscape, and Subaqueous - Soroka's sophomore slab of sea-centric slow-burners - is a beautifully merciless rendering of such a scene, one that you have zero business missing out on.

The point of this genre is to create something that stifles and swallows the listener, and where better to do that than at the bottom of the ocean? Soroka seizes this sonic potential to further a tale that began with Drown's debut, Unsleep, chronicling the drowning of an unnamed protagonist and drawing it out into a collection of aquatic metaphors and tempestuous funeral doom. Purveyors of such aren't known for being particularly sympathetic to the attention spans or time restraints of others, and Drown is no exception. Subaqueous is divided into two colossal tracks, the first of which ("Drowned VI: Mother Cetacean") boasts a duration just shy of 22 minutes while the second ("Drowned VII: Father Subaqueous") clocks in a few seconds over that mark. Both songs cultivate their own mood and atmosphere, achieving a perfect foil relationship along the way, yet the pair are equal in terms of sheer oppressive lethality.

At first blush, "...Mother Cetacean" is the gentler of the two, ushering in its chapter with a serene dance of reverberant atmospherics and gently coruscating guitars. Just as bioluminescence and the pale sheen of pigmentation's absence color the watery deep, a deceptively blithe melody dances along a current of subterranean tone and sustain, instilling the surrounding dark with a sense of vibrancy. However, the dance is deceptive in these dangerous depths - this is the bottom of the ocean, after all; despite the almost jocular nature of "...Mother Cetacean", it is still funeral doom. Guttural bellows and thunderous distortion are interwoven into the ebullience with fluid cohesion, maintaining a delicate balance of wonder and unease perfectly befitting the ocean's floor. Here there is violent life playing a deadly game, and what fleeting light can be found offers just as little in the way of safety as the shadows that linger further beyond in the pitch black hostility of "...Father Subaqueous".

The second, titular half of Subaqueous makes no attempt to convey, promote or else harbor life of any kind; "...Father Subaqueous" is pitiless and unforgiving, a masterful manifestation of the inhospitable realm of pressure and darkness that lurks beneath us all. Here, the growls become ungodly shrieks, and the churning low end rumbling of the guitars has erupted into a monolithic expanse of unbridled fury. There is nothing playful or pleasant here, only a 22 minute view of the screaming maw of the void. Though it is unclear to this reviewer just what exactly might be happening to the story's protagonist at this particular point, it is all but certainly all but unbearable. Where "...Mother Cetacean" brings us somewhere new by incorporating elements which are almost diametrically opposed to funeral doom's customary bleakness, "...Father Subaqueous" harnesses every bit of incessant wrath known to the genre then dials things up to 11 with a splash of black metal.

Unlike mankind and the oceans that make our invasion of this planet possible, the two tracks which comprise Subaqueous exist in perfect harmony with each other. In the simplest of terms, "...Mother Cetacean" captures the essence of life and light amidst the deepest reaches of said oceans, while "...Father Subaqueous" levels out the album with death and darkness. For an offering rooted in a genre that defies the notion of moderation, Subaqueous is a thing of perfect balance. If funeral-at-sea doom sounds like it'll float your boat and you have 45 minutes to spare - and, frankly, that's a good chunk of us these days - then give Subaqueous a spin. It is well worth your time, and it has already jumped to the top of my personal favorite albums from 2020 thus far.

April 27, 2020

Black Curse - Endless Wound

By Bryan Camphire. Speaking about death metal, in an interview with MTV back in 1991, Morbid Angel front man David Vincent offered this opinion, "It's the extremity of it. Death metal is the the most extreme form of music there is. There are no boundaries." Some three decades later
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Denis Forkas Kostromitin.

Speaking about death metal, in an interview with MTV back in 1991, Morbid Angel front man David Vincent offered this opinion, "It's the extremity of it. Death metal is the the most extreme form of music there is. There are no boundaries." Some three decades later, how bands can continue to push boundaries in a genre where there never were any to begin with... this is what keeps rabid fans coming back for more. With Endless Wound, Black Curse has made one of the more extreme new death metal records you are liable to hear this year. This quartet from Denver, Colorado achieves this by focusing on heaviness, atmosphere, and riffs.

The heaviness Black Curse brings to the table is thanks to ferocious playing and a monstrous production. This music is full throttle right out of the gate. Every instrument nearly in the red and yet somehow a level of clarity is maintained. Each voice is distinct in the whirling blackened din. The smoldering low end sounds almost completely untethered, making it the perfect vessel for the searing solos and wailing vocals the band scatters on top.

As far as ambiance goes, the band themselves put it like this: "to those who have drawn down the moon, joined in darkness in worlds without end, BLACK CURSE unfolds its evil." In this one sentence displayed on their site, the band name-checks three seminal records of extreme metal by Beherit, Demoncy and Katharsis respectively. Indeed, Endless Wound can be seen as carrying the torch along these lines and into the present. The harrowing use of delay on the vocals - made infamous by Katharsis - is the most overt homage that Black Curse deploys. The band's bio goes on to say, "The band rips open holy portals to times when Black and Death Metal shared the same principles, the same aesthetics, and the same diabolical wrath." The statement holds true. The atmosphere of Endless Wound is pure nocturnal evil, plain and simple. It's at once a hymn to the ancients and their own unique sacrificial offering.

All this might not amount to much if not for the riffs, and Endless Wound has them in no short supply. The record is as calculated as it is aggressive. The band weaponizes tempo. At a cursory listen, their unrelenting sound resembles bestial war metal along the lines of modern masters like Diocletian, Deiphago, and Teitanblood. However, after breakneck starts, as the tracks wage onward, tempos are often slowed to half-time, as can be seen two and a half minutes into track 1, and again two minutes into track 3 and track 6, and again five minutes into cut 7. It's a formula that doesn't get tired on repeated listens because the riffs are so catchy and massive. Other tracks stay fast or mid-paced throughout. It's this use of rhythmic dynamics that really makes these songs memorable and spell-binding.

This is music as a living raging force, threatening to jump off the rails around each hairpin turn it races past. On their debut full length, Black Curse bulldozes through any strictures of orthodoxy, laying waste to boundaries between black and death, old school and new. All this is done in the name of evil unfolded.

April 26, 2020

Witch Mountain - Mobile of Angels

By Megan Scottie Ross. Heavy metal has evolved so much in the forty-four years of its existence that it's all too easy to forget about our roots. With every blast beat and sweep arpeggio, we get further from the dirt that we rose out of, and that dirt is richer than just “rock and roll.”
By Megan Scottie Ross.


Heavy metal has evolved so much in the forty-four years of its existence that it's all too easy to forget about our roots. With every blast beat and sweep arpeggio, we get further from the dirt that we rose out of, and that dirt is richer than just “rock and roll.” That soil of emotion and tension that was necessary for a genre as extreme as metal to arise was The Blues. So when I hear an album that digs into that foundation and turns up the rich, rich loam of blues music I immediately take notice. Mobile of Angels by Portland, Oregon's Witch Mountain is such an album. In fact, one could call Mobile of Angels a blues album just as easily as a doom metal one. Whatever genre lense you choose to view the album through, however, it is phenomenal.

Witch Mountain 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The album isn't long, with only five songs and clocking in just under thirty-nine minutes. Amazingly in that thirty-nine minutes the band never repeats itself. These songs just don't have any traditional verse structure. Rob Wrong spins out amazing solos, and the guitar tone reminds me why a big ol' stack of guitar amps is such a desirable thing. Charles Thompson's bass keeps the sound amazingly fat—these guys aren't detuning to Drop-X, they're just putting pure blues into a heavy metal frame. Nathan Carson in particular impresses. Slow drumming is, in a number of ways, harder than fast drumming. When you're flying along with blasts and double bass, who really cares about your tom work or your cymbal tone? When you're going slow, every stroke is going to be heard. You can listen to this album just focusing on what Nathan does with cymbals and your time will still be well spent.

Witch Mountain 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

I'm tempted to say that vocalist Uta Plotkin is the star of the show, as her incredibly expressive voice is an essential part of what makes these songs, but that would be unfair to the rest of the band. Still, she sounds so much more comfortable singing these songs than she did on Cauldron of the Wild, an album that, while not bad, didn't stand out to me among the many other doom releases in 2012. Not this time. The songs dig in and catch you. The start-stop of “Psycho Animundi.” The almost spoken-word beginning of “Can't Settle.” Everything here sounds intensely personal in a way that heavy metal often lacks. “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn),” the longest track and centrepiece of the album, in particular highlights this with lyrics like this:

I will wish you all of the best
As I walk away and relish
The sweet relief that I will feel
When I finally put my heels down.

The final two tracks are a bit different. The title track, half as long as the next longest song at only three and a half minutes, is a single drum beat away from being a witch house track. The leslie-drenched organ is absolutely haunting as Uta promises “Oh Dreamer, waking brings no comfort.” The album closer “The Shape Truth Takes” goes back to guitars, drums, and bass, but it's melancholy waltz instead of a gritty doom slammer like “Psycho Animundi.” The song hits an emotional climax that I haven't heard the likes of since Ihsahn's “Undercurrent.” The way the band builds the tension and emotion of the song using tone and volume is just phenomenal. When the guitar solo comes in it always brings tears to my eyes. “The Shape Truth Takes” isn't just the perfect song to close the album, but to close a chapter of the band's existence. It's fitting that this is the last thing that we'll ever hear from this version of Witch Mountain is a song this sad, as Uta Plotkin left the band to pursue other endeavours. I don't envy whoever ends up replacing her in the band, as they will have absolutely massive shoes to fill.

Witch Mountain 2012. Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Nearly every time I listen to Mobile of Angels, I immediately restart the album as soon as it's ended. Jumping from “The Shape Truth Takes” back to “Psycho Animundi” is always jarring, but within a few bars I'm back in the music. It's exceptionally rare for me to get so hooked on an album these days that I play it exclusively twice or even three times in a row. With Mobile of Angels it happens nearly every time. I don't know what more to say other than that you should be listening to it right now. You'll never get the next thirty-nine minutes of your life back. You won't regret spending them on Mobile of Angels.

April 24, 2020

Elder - Omens

By Calen Henry. Omens’ cover, by long-time Elder artist Adrian Dexter, seems at first blush a curious departure from Reflections of a Floating World or Lore’s fantastic, vibrant landscapes; a simple broken statue wreathed in fog. A closer look at a larger version reveals details of the statue lost in smaller renderings.
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Adrian Dexter.

Omens’ cover, by long-time Elder artist Adrian Dexter, seems at first blush a curious departure from Reflections of a Floating World or Lore’s fantastic, vibrant landscapes; a simple broken statue wreathed in fog. A closer look at a larger version reveals details of the statue lost in smaller renderings. It’s crumbling and overgrown with moss. Much less of a departure from the rugged, surreal landscapes that formed the focus of earlier albums than it first looks. Still a surreal still life of nature. This time after humanity, rather than before.

The album itself makes a similarly deceptive first impression. Where Reflections of a Floating World and Lore each led with massive riffs (like the one that just started playing in your head), Omens gently unfurls with ethereal keys. It sounds almost like a different band, one unconcerned with immediately grabbing the listener. And why should it be? Elder have nothing to prove. Since 2015 they’ve been deep down a sound rabbit-hole anchored by singer/guitarist Nick DiSalvo’s unique droning riffs and spiraling leads. They are light years ahead of any other stoner rock, a genre in which they only fit by association at this point. On top of that, even within their unique sound they've never made the same record twice. From Dead Roots Stirring each album has moved towards closer towards progressive rock while always maintaining their signature riffing.

After a few listens Omens fits into the Elder catalog. It's easy to hear how the softer elements from The Gold & Silver Sessions blend with the big riffs and circuitous leads. Despite the fit within Elder canon, the approach on Omens isn’t without risk. It’s a much gentler album than any before it. The guitar fuzz is toned back, making the HiWatt amp driven sound even more Pink Floyd-ian, accompanied by keys that are far more prevalent and varied. Reflections of a Floating World flirted with keys, mostly the iconic Mellotron patch “3 violins”, and sometimes slightly awkwardly. Here the keys are woven completely into the compositions giving the album a classic prog rock sound to which the band never fully committed before.

Obviously Omens was recorded before the global pandemic, but this calmer version of Elder is a perfect counterpoint to all the stresses we're coping with. The record ebbs and flows naturally, polishing the harder edges of older releases while still maintaining Elder's almost mystical ability to structure long songs so they feel short and are constantly engaging. It's even mastered more dynamically than before (DR 8), making it a warm, easy-to-listen-to proggy blanket in which to wrap yourself and ride things out. It's the perfect version of Elder for right now.

April 21, 2020

Riff Spreader Best of February-March

[At the Metal Bandcamp international headquarters the quarantine days blur into each other and everything is running late. But over on Twitter Riff Spreader has been very busy, and here's 15 of his best picks from February and March. As always there's no fash trash. Just righteous riffs.]
[At the Metal Bandcamp international headquarters the quarantine days blur into each other and everything is running late. But over on Twitter Riff Spreader has been very busy, and here's 15 of his best picks from February and March. As always there's no fash trash. Just righteous riffs.]

Artwork by Sludgework


Thankfully antifascist blackgaze band Awenden's new album Golden Hour came through on time. Got around to listening to the full album and while yes, there are blackgaze elements here, there’s also a hefty dose of killer death doom. Way more prevalent than in their debut. I’m really into this.



Melodic black metal from China that incorporates Chinese folk instrumentals with searing riffs and bad ass solos. Did I mention the vocals are great? This kills.


Artwork by Timmmnnn

Oh my, and I cannot stress this enough, GOD. This Nebulium EP Grow is fucking killer. Progressive death metal from the gods.



Just discovered this Widziadło album from a few years ago. This is stellar atmospheric/cosmic black metal.


Artwork by Trez Laforge

Oh shit, Feminazgul just dropped a new album! And.. it's so good.


Artwork by Margoat

Olhava released a new album today that’s probably going to end up being one of the best, if not the best, blackgaze albums of the year.


Artwork by Misanthropic Art.

This Atavisma/Void Rot split from Everlasting Spew Records is just one stellar release among many from this killer label. While you're buying this (you fucking better), peruse the rest of their catalog for several (death) metal gems.



Begotten does DSBM with punk-influenced riffs. Really, really good shit here.


Artwork by Adam Burke.

The new Rotting Kingdom album A Deeper Shade of Sorrow came out today. This is top shelf death doom that you should not sleep on.


Artwork by Tom is the Bastard.

There’s a new 2 song 7” from Ancst and I don’t have to tell you it’s good. Ancst is a b(r)and you can trust. Bit of a different vibe from these guys on this one. I like the branching out. Plus it’s probably the sharpest sounding they’ve been.


Artwork by Al Woody/Healing Ways Artistry.

Native American raw black metal with reverb drenched tormented screams. "Dedicated to all the indigenous people of this brown continent, from the north to the south to the east and the west."


Artwork by Valeria Metsker/Blood Art.

Skam slaps so fucking hard. This is one of those times when I go "oh right, THAT’S why I got into grindcore!"



Is Violet Cold going to be the first black metal band on the radio? Some of this is straight up EDM pop. And by the way it's really fucking good.



Found some stellar antifascist blackgaze by It Only Ends Once. There’s a lot of screamo/skramz influence here, but it also has that DSBM strain running through it that makes it distinctly black metal. Plus fuck fascists.



I’ve been trying to tell y’all that Hagetisse was legit. The new album The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin is next level hypnotic, violent black metal.

April 3, 2020

Errant - Errant

By Justin C. O.K., I’m not even gonna pretend I’m not a big fan of Immortal Bird (see, for example, here and here). So when I found out vocalist Rae Amitay was doing a solo project, I expected to like it. Sure, she could have done an album of deathcore-stye Prince covers that might have been hard to learn to love, but I had higher expectations.
By Justin C.


O.K., I'm not even gonna pretend I'm not a big fan of Immortal Bird (see, for example, here and here). So when I found out vocalist Rae Amitay was doing a solo project, I expected to like it. Sure, she could have done an album of deathcore-stye Prince covers that might have been hard to learn to love, but I had higher expectations.

Her self-titled album errant does not disappoint. Playing all the instruments, she brings the fire, feeling, and pathos from Immortal Bird, but shows it to us from a different angle. Album opener "The Amorphic Burden" starts on a subdued, doomy note, but it's not long before the song explodes into a very satisfying, full-tilt riff accompanied by Amitay's unmistakable rasps and growls. Not content to stop there, the song morphs again into an almost sunny-sounding, blackgaze vibe. It's a four-and-a-half minute song with at least three distinct movements. Pretty much what you'd expect from someone of Amitay's compositional skills. (And of course, Amitay still knows her way around a drum kit, throwing in a little off-kilter rhythm here and there to spice things up.)

The second track, "A Vacillant Breath," answered the question I immediately had when I heard about this project: Will Amitay do clean vocals? She does indeed, and she does them extremely well. Not long after I heard this track for the first time, I made a pandemic-terror-run to the grocery store and heard Heart's "These Dreams" over the store's sound system. The fact that I could hear a bit of the Wilson sisters' in Amitay's voice should say a lot about just how good her singing is. (This is also my humble request for a Heart cover on her next album.) The lyrics of "A Vacillant Breath" are a tour through a personal hell of self-loathing, with lines like "If there is a method to hide how deeply I have failed / I've yet to learn it,", but the emotion laid bare in both the clean and harsh vocals elevate the track well above a mere inventory of misery.

She may not cover Heart this time around, but we do get a cover of Failure's excellent track "Saturday Savior." If you don't know Failure, that's understandable because they never got the attention they deserved, but let this cover be an introduction. Amitay does a pitch-perfect take on Ken Andrews's vocals, and although the track isn't as ferocious as the EP's other three songs, the mood it sets is a fitting closure to a damn-near perfect debut. I want more of this. A lot more. Please?