October 31, 2012

Imperial Triumphant - Abominamentvm

Review by Zamaan Raza.

Album art by Andrew Tremblay

When the word “technical” is used to describe a band, it is usually a byword for self-indulgence and overproduction. Although Imperial Triumphant must be described as such (check out the preposterous bass shredding on “Manifesto”), their virtuosity never feels needless or contrived.

Imperial Triumphant are a USBM band from New York, and Abomninamentvm is their first full length despite the fact that they have been knocking around since 2005. Their sound is strongly reminiscent of a concise Deathspell Omega --- indeed, the intro to “Crushing the Idol” sounds remarkably similar to DsO’s “Obombration.” Which is not to take anything away from Imperial Triumphant; they manage to fit a lot of riffs and grooves (see, for example, the jazzy break midway through “Devs est Machina”) into a frenetic 25 minutes without descending into an inchoate grind.

The highlight of the album has to be “S.P.Q.R,” with its uneasy, lurching beat provided by the ridiculously tight rhythm section, morphing into a grindcore-esque breakdown, and ending with one of the most memorable riffs you will hear all year. This is forward-thinking black metal of the highest calibre.

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Ringworm / Mindsnare - Your Soul Belongs To Us

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Brief as it is brutal, this Ringworm/Mindsnare split is a series of short blasts, like bursts of machinegun fire. Cleveland, OH-based Ringworm are renowned for the intensity of the aural assaults they wreak upon their audiences. Led by vocalist Human Furnace, their metallic hardcore is delivered with all the subtlety of a grenade launcher. Their two tracks are just over a minute and two-and-a-half minutes, both feeling like you stuck your eardrums in front of a blowtorch.

Human Furnace from Ringworm. Photo by Carmelo Española.

Australia's Mindsnare are certainly not a soft or smooth band, but in comparison, the breaks in their work, the ebb and flow to their songs, become more apparent. "Gather and Decompose" accelerates then slows, going through this cycle several times. Their work emerges ass the twistier when juxtaposed against Ringworm's, the intricate curls more visible.

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October 30, 2012

Seven Sisters of Sleep / Children of God - Split

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

On this split endeavour, Seven Sisters of Sleep and Children of God combine their efforts into 24 minutes of unbridled fury. Seven Sisters of Sleep contribute three tracks that are as lugubrious as they are monstrous ― the sounds take the shape of rancid, snarling dirges. Their section begins measured and drawn, but by the time they've unleashed "Almighty Black Talons," the brooding passages break out into assaults.

The contribution from Children of God is both more up-tempo and chaotic. The vocals are thinner, a strained wailing in contrast to the deeper, more anguished sound of Seven Sisters of Sleep. "Bled Dry" is their most introspective track, but it's still characterized by harsh rejection and disgust. Both bands are lashing out in anger, but where Seven Sisters of Sleep wait and strike, Children of God violently and indiscriminately flail. The only respite to this fury is sheer exhaustion.

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October 29, 2012

Doommantia Vol. 1 - Ed Barnard support compilation.

Art by Coby Ellison

Sometimes quoting the Bandcamp page is all that is necessary:
This compilation was put together to raise money to benefit Ed Barnard of Doommantia.com. He suffered a heart attack and due to huge medical bills, he is now homeless. 39 bands from all around the world have contributed over 4 hours of music. Killer artwork was donated by Coby Ellison. A $7 donation gets you these tracks but you can donate more if you have the means to do so. Lets help get Ed back on his feet and keep Doommantia alive!
Eric Yanyo from Valley of Steel put together an awesome list of all the bands involved, including links to their Facebook pages where possible, or websites or Bandcamp page.

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Elder - Spires Burn​/​Release

I'm on a pretty strict and healthy Bandcamp diet, only occasionally chewing on a dry tasteless CD. One of the occasions was Elder's fantastic and incredibly guitar heavy Dead Roots Stirring from last year. Their label MeteorCity has a Bandcamp but only sell one track from each album, due to a deal with a third-party digital distributor, and I just had to have that album.

Now Elder has released a new EP on their own Bandcamp. Spires Burn/Release, is reminiscent of the sludgier parts of Dead Roots Stirring. Not entirely as adventurous or hypnotic, this is rawer and jammier. But it is equally guitar heavy and the bass buzzes delightfully. Ultimately the two long songs works very well as an inbetweener before the next Elder full-length.

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October 28, 2012

Auroch - From Forgotten Worlds

Artwork by Danille Gauvin

Auroch from Canada bills themselves as "Lovecraftian metal". In that way, they are the death metal counterpart to France's The Great Old Ones, and I think they are just as good. From Forgotten Worlds is a nice blend of 90's style brutal death metal and numerous old school references. So, while not much is new here, Auroch make nearly all of it sound fresh; or as The Inarguable puts it Auroch manages to not only live in the past, but prosper in the present. The brutality and the analog sounding production (I especially like the warm drum sound) cannot hide the high level of technicality that is at work here. Twin-guitars are put to good use, dual riffing against each other and spewing out awesome solos. The drumming is excellent, both hard hitting and dexterous. All in all, a very likable debut full-length from Auroch. Read more in this review from From the Dust Returned.

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October 27, 2012

Screaming Savior - Infinity

Guest review by BreadGod from Servile Insurrection

China is a vast, massive country with an epic history dating back five thousand years, and on Infinity Screaming Savior makes sure to reflect this. They've included a lot of bombastic symphonic elements on the album, However, unlike many other metal bands who attempt this, they include these elements in a way that amplifies the metal instead of overpowering it. You know all those complaints about Fleshgod Apocalypse's Agony album where the orchestral elements overpowered the metal? This album doesn't really have that problem; the metal and the orchestra intertwine and complement each other.

Then again, the orchestra means nothing if the metal is not up to task. Luckily, the metal on this album is fucking brilliant. I never knew China could make something like this. They may not be breaking new ground, but they take what already exists and play it with almost scientific precision. I've done some research (read: looked up their band page on Metal Archives) and I discovered that these guys have been around since 2001. They obviously have a great deal of experience under their belt, and it really shows in the guitar work. They do a lot of fast and furious shredding (“Star of Fatality”, “Sanguinary Salvation”), but they also do some melodic and atmospheric solos (“Ocean of Asura”, “Pray to the Chthonic”), and of course, they don't forget the face-melting solos (“Ode to the Expedition”).

Moreover, they remember to pay attention to the other elements. The drums aren't doing anything new, but they pound and blast with absolute ferocity and a level of skill that's hard to top. There are three kinds of vocals on this album. The standard black metal croak; again, nothing new, but well-performed. The vocalist also pulls off these low death growls from time to time that serves as a nice juxtaposition. Finally, there are the clean vocals. They only show up on about two songs, but they really took me by surprise. These multiple vocal styles add a great deal of variety and keep the album from getting boring.

I know it's a bit early to declare this, but Infinity ranks up there with Obolus's Lament, Agruss's Morok, and Pseudogod's Deathwomb Catechesis as one of the best metal albums of the year. When I first got into the depths of extreme metal back in 2005, China's metal scene was downright puny. I never expected anything like this to be created. China is a rising star in the world economy in every aspect, even metal.

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October 26, 2012

Nightslug - Demo

By Ulla Roschat. The Brain Monster. Don't expect anything near objectivity here. What you are going to read now is pure worship - worship of the raw, bold, brutal energy of this downtuned, downtempo sludge. Nightslug is a three piece band from Düsseldorf/Germany, formed in 2011. This three song demo album is their first release in the same year!!!
By Ulla Roschat.

The Brain Monster

Don't expect anything near objectivity here. What you are going to read now is pure worship - worship of the raw, bold, brutal energy of this downtuned, downtempo sludge.

Nightslug is a three piece band from Düsseldorf/Germany, formed in 2011. This three song demo album is their first release in the same year!!! (None of the musicians are tenderfeet though, they all are/were involved in different other bands. Some of you sludge lovers might know "Union Of Sleep".)

These three songs with a playing time of about 15 minutes altogether just seem to have the right key to my receptor cells in my ears to open the way to my brain and gain control over it. Resistance is futile. Utterly heavy and thick they crawl through my brain like a sludgy monster and here the monster spits out hellish violent doom riffs, vicious dynamic drumming and a sweet hardcore feel. Impossible to not fall in love with this bold breathtaking directness.

If your receptor cells are roughly built like mine, I highly advise you to listen to this demo as loud as possible and let this monster into your brain.

October 24, 2012

Amarok / Pyramido - Split

This is the second interesting split from Boue Records on Metal Bandcamp. Amarok was also featured on the first one (together with Enth), they play modern atmospheric doom, slow and droney, but less so than funeral doom. The riffs are really, really heavy and the guitar harmonies wonderfully noisy. Amarok knows how to make their doom dynamic; the use of multiple vocalists are interesting, and the 14 minutes song culminates with a faster section with more abrasive riffing, and an evil sounding bass drone.

Pyramido has two songs on the split, but in total they're less than a minute longer than the single Amarok track. While not experiental, the songs are well constructed, rising them above generic sludge riffing. But mostly Pyramido is a pretty straight take on well done doomy and crusty sludge metal; heavy as hell, and appropriately angry sounding.

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Fuck The Facts - Die Miserable - Misery

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Canadian grindcore icons Fuck the Facts remain the sonic definition of iconoclasts. Their latest full-length, Die Miserable, is a veritable sonic laboratory. After well over a decade aggressively refusing to be confined to a single genre, they approach the complete demolishing of expectations and predictability with a grace and sophistication that would be comfortable were it not so weird. Individual moments on this album shine out, twisted, writhing and brilliant. The throbbing distortion in the titular "Die Miserable" could be mistaken for the sound of time bending. Next, "A Coward's Existence" opens with a mechanical squeal that sounds eerily organic, like a whale song rendered by guitar strings. Everything is broken, squeezed, torqued and under pressure, and the bent sound that's produced is at once distressing and completely engrossing.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Coinciding with Die Miserable, Fuck the Facts are self-releasing an EP entitled Misery. This release takes a completely different approach to recording and songwriting, which shouldn't be surprising, considering the band. The production is much rawer, and the songs are shorter, focussed blasts of hot aggression. Guitarist and founding member Topon Das has said that Misery is composed of songs that didn't make the cut for the full-length, but the EP doesn't feel like a collection of leftovers. The approach is more relaxed ― less surgical precision in these experiments lead to more volatile results. On Die Miserable, Fuck the Facts play the role of mad scientists. On Misery, they become the monsters tearing the lab apart.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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October 22, 2012

Absvrdist - Illusory

Review by Brandon Duncan from The Sequence of Prime

Teeth fly out of your mouth as your head cocks backward. Blood rushes down your throat. Before you can even choke another blow is dealt to your gut. You keel over, blood spraying from the open sockets in your gums to the ground below you as all the air in your lungs is forced out. Pollock-esque splashes of blood form on the asphalt before your very eyes. Next thing you know you’re face first in your own bodily fluid. As you gasp for air you inhale your own blood along with chunks of gritty pavement. Tiny fragments and shards of street rip through your nasal cavity and esophagus. A blunt object makes contact with the side of your face, rotating your head and consequently the rest of your body 180 degrees, just in time for you to see a steel-toed boot accelerating straight towards your throat. Your eyes practically fly out of your head as it is forced into the curb. The unmistakable sound of cracking bone penetrates your eardrums. The realization that this sound is your skull breaking hits you just in time for your brain to swell out from the newly formed cracks in its container. A fog sweeps in front of your eyes. The world spins around you in slow motion. You see just clearly enough to make out the silhouettes of two men hovering over you. It takes every remaining ounce of strength you have left to form the word “.....help.” The two men remain motionless, growing hazier as they are swallowed in blackness. And just before you let go, you hear them laugh.

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October 21, 2012

Label spotlight: Fallen Empire Records

Fallen Empire Records is a small label from New Jersey USA, dedicated to releasing black metal on cassette and vinyl. Fallen Empire Records have no need for a label sampler, as all releases on their Bandcamp is available as free downloads. It functions as the try before you buy section of their webshop. Recently Fallen Empires added a slew of new releases, below are my short notes on two of them; two very different takes on underground black metal.

Death Fortress - Pulling Ancient Stone. Unforgiving black metal. Interesting mix of screams and growls for the vocals. Both pummeling and melodic. Production is in your face, your hear the hiss of electricity, the hum of the amplifiers, and every raw crunch of the guitars.

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Kaxan Suum. Selftitled compilation of their two previously recorded works. Part of the Black Twilight Circle. While still pretty raw, this is much more abstract black metal. First track is a little too guitar droney for me, the second (featured below) is an black metal epic, that effortlessly combines ambient parts, noise freakouts, heavy riffing, and almost progressive chord progressions. Amazing. Now go to the Bandcamp to download this.

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October 20, 2012

Abyss - The Reins of Horror

The Reins of Horror is the second demo from Canadian band Abyss, originally released on tape and now available on Bandcamp. This is pummeling uptempo death metal with an almost punkish edge. Straightforward, effective and highly headbangable. Not more needed to say really, this is another one in the "Death Metal, fuck yeah!" category.

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Sithu Aye - Invent the Universe

Sithu Aye's Invent the Universe is instrumental progressive metal. Beautiful melodies on top of djenty grooves, and lots of tasteful shred. The framework for the album is nothing less than the formation of the universe, and some of the songs, like my favorite Dark Ages, do have an appropriately epic space feel. Invent the Universe is also nicely sequenced, the songs flow together without sounding overly samey. Thankfully the djent production tricks like the glitchy guitar sounds are not overused, in fact they make some of the rhythm tracks more interesting than on your typical shred album. Check it out.

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October 18, 2012

Cryptopsy - None So Vile

By Dane Prokofiev. In hindsight, Cryptopsy is one of those bands that never managed to outdo themselves. When None So Vile dropped on the extreme metal world in 1996, it cracked it right down to its misanthropic, molten core and remolded one of the most sonically extreme metal sub-genres ever: technical death metal.
By Dane Prokofiev.

In hindsight, Cryptopsy is one of those bands that never managed to outdo themselves. When None So Vile dropped on the extreme metal world in 1996, it cracked it right down to its misanthropic, molten core and remolded one of the most sonically extreme metal sub-genres ever: technical death metal. It became an instant classic, and set a new benchmark for what it means to be simultaneously crazily proficient in one’s instrumental skills, musically unconventional and viciously sick in the head.

As the album title aptly suggests, the music contained within the innocent-looking disc is pure vileness. In particular, the greasy, throbbing bass lines will slap your ears as hard as a boa constrictor’s fat tail would and leave you dazed and quivering in masochistic joy.

The highly irregular time signatures, breakneck tempos and frequent syncopation constantly make the tearing onslaught of cheek-ripping noise viciously entertaining. The music often stops suddenly for a very brief moment, only to accelerate to 666 mph in a split second and then decelerate to 333 mph or so, like a Satanic and bipolar version of the Acura NSX Concept car (the sexy beast we see Tony Stark drive away in during the closing scene of The Avengers); and the whole process does not necessarily repeat itself in this exact order. As a result, ribcage-cracking grooves are created, and they just keep coming and crushing in various musical patterns.

Eargasmic guitar solos (check out 3:05 to 3:32 in “Slit Your Guts”) are also present, and not only do they provide structural balance to the groove-dominated songs, they will make your neck muscles convulse and slam your head back and forth rapidly between the surface of your table and the wall behind until your brain bashes itself into a squishy grey mess. Basically, Cryptopsy was the Insect Warfare of technical death metal; there is never a dull moment on this album.

And we are not done with the “never a dull moment” part; there is even a beguiling piano introduction in the track “Phobophile”! After lulling you into a false sense of security with its beauteous melancholy, the piano exits to make way for something slick and sinister. A bass guitar solo slithers in to wind around your neck, before constricting suddenly to snap your neck as effortlessly as Hercules would with a dry twig in a sudden burst of corpse-grinding noise.

None So Vile is a timeless metal record that perfectly captures the scabrous spirit of extreme underground death metal, and it is also a testament to the tenet that death metal can never only settle for fast – only faster! Cryptopsy’s later works do not surpass this masterpiece, and they will probably never be able to produce such an important record ever again. Whatever chance they had of having a go at this challenge disappeared with Lord Worm’s second departure from the band in 2007.

October 17, 2012

Vilipend - Inamorata

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots.

Art by Randy Ortiz

Rarely have I been asked to write a review because of my absurd amount of bias, but when Metal Bandcamp approached me to review Vilipend's debut full-length, Inamorata, it was specifically because the editor knew this was a record I was intimately close to. I was hesitant, at first, but eventually agreed, because the opportunity to analyze a record from the inside out is something I so rarely get to do.

I've reviewed Vilipend's live performances before — with disclaimers. The vocalist/lyricist, Christopher Gramlich, is my partner; I consider all three other members of the group (bassist Mike Crossley, drummer Adam “Skeletor” McGillivray and guitarist Derek Del Vecchio) to be my good friends. Even guest guitarist Luke Roberts is someone I'm fond of and have shared beers with.

Photo by François Carl Duguay

There is no possibility of objectivity here — there is no journalistic distance. This is the work of someone who shares my life, someone I trust, admire and believe in. I think it is incredible. But, I suppose, it is interesting, through an almost-impossibly bent lens, to explain exactly why I think that — where my admiration comes from. I don't think I could be with someone whose art I didn't respect.

There's also the fact that I got to watch Inamorata being made. When I started dating Chris, most of the songs on the record were written, but I watched several of them grow from scratch. I watched Chris agonize over lyrics, drawing from painful experiences he'd suffered over the past few years: his recovery from a devastating back injury and subsequence dependence on painkillers; the end of a relationship; and his struggles with depression and addiction, physical and mental illness. We'd talk about words and language, the poetry of what he was writing, and I was consistently amazed with how much he was willing to give of himself, how much pain and insecurity he was willing to expose in the pursuit of creating authentic art.

I watched Vilipend agonize over the recording and mastering process as well. Chris became sick with a terrible case of bronchitis and sinusitis, which he picked up while playing a freezing basement show in New Jersey and subsequently brought home to me (band dudes: worse than toddlers for transferring infectious diseases), and was only barely well enough to track his vocals after all the other recording was completed. I watched them capture incredible sounds with Leon Taheny, but struggle with the mixing and mastering, as Leon was unfamiliar with the tone and texture of aggressive music, and then ultimately make the decision to absorb the additional expense of working with Dave Sheldon. I watched the band pore over multiple versions of the record, tweaking the mix, texture and timbre obsessively until they were happy with it, a process that took months. So when I listen to the clarity of the drums, the precision of the meaty heft of the bass or a moment of sparkling transcendence in the guitars, I remember the agony of that process as much as I appreciate the quality of the final result.

I watched Vilipend initially make an agreement with one label who, after Vilipend waited several months for a formal announcement from, suddenly reneged, causing the band to unexpectedly find the album back on the market. They ultimately ended up in a far better situation with A389 Recordings (Full of Hell, Eyehategod, Ringworm, etc.), but that setback cost them time and energy, and in the end meant that Inamorata had been finished for a year before it actually appeared in the world. I watched Chris battle the frustration of that, and the whole group attempt to remain optimistic and creative, move on to new material while Inamorata hung in limbo.

I also got to see the physical design of the CD and LP versions of the record evolve, with beautiful art by Randy Ortiz, and be in the room when the first gorgeous box of vinyl arrived in the mail. I've gotten to watch them assemble, deconstruct and rebuild set lists, varying their performances and always striving for more intense and memorable shows. I've watched them all push their bodies and minds as far as they will go in the pursuit of creativity and catharsis, and I've had an especially close opportunity to watch Chris work through that, finding peace in exhaustion and stillness after expressing agony. Knowing the demons he is trying to work out intimately, it's strange to listen to a record that deals with some of the things we've had to contend with together. For example, at a moment when he was dealing with a major shift in his medication, attempting to go off of one combination of pills in order to start another, he went into a vicious state of withdrawal, complete with seizures and hallucinations. To listen to that exorcized, musically, is difficult.

It's also a record I am ridiculously proud of, in a way that claims no ownership, merely appreciation. Someone I love helped create something I believe is a genuine and powerful work of art, and there is no feeling quite like that.

So, the record itself. In terms of its sounds, Inamorata is constantly wrestling with physical discomfort and pain, trying to translate that into sound. Pain is one of the most personal and lonely experiences, and, in many ways, it's impossible to describe, but Vilipend make a concerted effort to accomplish this via music rather than words. The riffs often crawl and writhe around each other, evoking someone trying desperately to escape their skin — the confines of a broken body. The bass lines throb and ache, forming a low counterpoint to the sharper, more blistering pain embodied in the guitars. The drumming is an ordered act of assault, as clamourous as it is athletic, bashing itself against the walls of each track's thinly padded walls. This is exemplified nowhere as clearly as in the opening battery of “To Impede the Healing Process,” which comes out wailing and swinging.

Which isn't to say the songs are pure chaos, far from it. The structures simply follow an unfamiliar narrative. There is no peace, no resolution to the songs, as there is no neat progression to their stories. Where the traditional arc would begin in pain and follow through to serenity and redemption, Inamorata tells darker tales that instead end with endurance, betrayal and defiance. There is no mercy from the outside world to be found: love is always painful and unrequited, the world always too bright and merciless to the sufferer. The hope that is found within is bleaker, but in may ways stronger: all we have to get us through the darkest moments in our lives are stubbornness and defiance, the capacity for our bodies and minds to endure. The intro to “The Thin Red Line Between Salvation and Damnation” captures this most clearly, for me, with a pounding rhythm and Chris's spitting, vicious delivery, which is as aching as it is impudent.

Photo by François Carl Duguay

It's strange to listen to his voice transform as well, to hear someone I know as soft-spoken and introverted suddenly become a vessel of bile and violence. He has a way of singing, both harsh and clean, that sounds as though he's hurling the sounds from himself, trying desperately to expel the poison.

Maybe it is because I have a half-sleeve tattoo of Gustave Dore's Lucifer Falling on my arm, but I find the last song, “Meant To Be...,” hopeful in its absolute defeat. The huge, towering chorus of “it was meant to be” that gradually evolves into “it was meant to be/ nothing at all” is a release, an acknowledgement of loss in all its completeness and complexity. It is a song for being at the bottom of your life, the cellar of yourself, finding nothing left and instead beginning to build. It is Lucifer laying on the very floor of Hell and deciding to continue the war. It is, in response to the failure of a relationship or an effort that consumed all of your heart and life, the possibility for that energy to finally be repurposed. In defeat, there's a chance to begin anew.

I am reading my own things into this, of course. I see Inamorata, thematically, in many ways as an exorcising of the ugliest things that Chris was dealing with both before and after we met. It's an album not necessarily of triumph, in the traditional sense, but of expulsion and redirection. For the sour and anguished themes of the record, it also represents a chance to begin again, scarred but clean.

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October 15, 2012

Aeternam - Moongod

Review by Andy Osborn.

Album Artwork: Pascal Laquerre

Sure, infusing Middle Eastern melodies and themes into death metal isn’t exactly revolutionary; Nile’s been doing it for almost twenty years. But Aeternam take the style and offer it on a more melodic platter, sprinkled with symphonic elements and a near-perfect ear for note choice. And guitarist Ashraf Loudiy’s Moroccan ancestry adds a touch of credibility to the sound that a couple South Carolinians may lack when singing praises of the cradle of civilization.

You may be surprised to learn not only has Aeternam been around for five years, but Moongod is actually their second release on the mighty Metal Blade Records. 2010’s fantastic Disciples of the Unseen should have put them on the world metal map, but the apparent lack of attention they appear to receive from their label has kept them a clandestine powerhouse, rarely venturing forth from their French Canadian homeland. But with the new full-length, there is no reason for this band to remain in the shadows of pyramids. Moongod has upped the ante, infusing more layered synths and a more bombastic approach to the band’s niche style than their previous effort. The cascading keyboards give way to frenetic solos of the highest quality as the drums play perfectly understated brutal blasts that never take the focus off the heavy Middle Eastern atmosphere presented by the rest of the band. It’s also more experimental than their debut. While bridge tracks in metal albums are largely hit or miss, when used sparingly their inclusion can be powerful. Take fourth track, “Iram of the Pillars.” It presents a break from the melodeath onslaught to relax with an acoustic hymn longing for the mythical city of the same name. And that it launches straight into one of the most powerful intros on the effort makes it both an interesting addition and well-placed

Sand-soaked scales abound as Aeternam flawlessly combine the best of East and West without effort and a flair for catchy, palm muted riffery. If you’re looking for a heavy effort that’s a little different, a bit catchy and a lot of plain metallic fun, look no further.

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October 14, 2012

Infernal Stronghold - Godless Noise

Infernal Stronghold's Godless Noise from 2009 certainly lives up to it's name. The songs are short bursts of thrashy black metal. Punkish and primal, some of the tracks reaches grindcore levels of intensity. I agree with the Chronicles of Chaos assessment that at 26 minutes and change, Infernal Stronghold don't have many opportunities to prove their diversity - on the other hand this means that they are pretty far from overstaying their welcome!

Photo by Carmelo Española.

The review from Metal Review mentions Infernal Stronghold's grungy, regular guy image, perfectly captured in live photo above. Black metal bands eschewing the corpsepaint and other genre regalia is more common nowadays, but I guess it was something new when Godless Noise was released. Invisible Oranges also reviewed the album; let me close with with Cosmo Lee's words: Infernal Stronghold want to kill you, your god, and your godforsaken world. Now show them some love.

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October 13, 2012

Barghest/False - Split

Gilead Media made the Barghest/False split available on their Bandcamp. This is an opposites attract kind of split featuring black metal with two distinct personalities. First up is Barghest and their punk and death metal infested take on black metal. Though both raw and blistering their two tracks differs somewhat in sound and dynamics. Barghest explained why in an interview that is no longer online

...they were somewhat the beginning and end to a chapter of the band. “Shifting Sands” is arguably my favorite track of ours that has been released so far and is also the first song we ever wrote. The other track, “Inhuman Hatred” was the last unreleased song from our original line up and a very rough recording at that...

False's part of the split is a stunning black metal epic. While much more complex than Barghest's offerings it is also quite accessible; False knows how to keep the listener’s attention from waning. Here's That's How Kids Die enthusiastic take on the song:

“Heavy as a Church Tower” encompasses everything I want from a great black metal track in one fell seventeen minute swoop; it transports me from this mundane existence to a freezing-cold underworld where Mephistopheles sits regally upon a throne of ice.

The split has deservedly gotten a lot of positive reviews. Here are a few, by Islander from No Clean Singing and by Andy Osborn from Cvlt Nation.

October 12, 2012

Alunah - White Hoarhound

Aluhnah's White Hoarhund layers classic epic doom on top of fuzzy stoner metal. The riffs are huge, the melodies are catchy, and the soaring voice of Sophie Day is just beautiful. The songs are driven by these simple and

Aluhnah's White Hoarhund layers classic epic doom on top of fuzzy stoner metal. The riffs are huge, the melodies are catchy, and the soaring voice of Sophie Day is just beautiful. The songs are driven by these simple and effective riffs, but that doesn't mean they all sound the same. There are fluid changes in song structures and tempos, as the detailed review from The Obelisk puts it: "while it’s the riffs being followed, the destination changes". Alunah is band that manages to be both doomy and dynamic.

The title track features the best of the many great choruses on the album. Plus an exemplary use of the fuzzy fade, followed by the triumphant return of the melody. In this interview with The Sludgelord Sophie Day details the creation of the song.

"We went up the Great Orme which is a huge, beautiful headland which I've been going to since I was in the womb! We were reading some info about the plants which were natural to the area. White Hoarhound (normally spelt White Horehound) was one of them and was used by the monks to treat coughs and general lung conditions. In my head there and then I wrote the song."

The album closes with the two parter Oak Ritual I and II. I is stripped down as Sophie Day harmonizes with herself accompanied by acoustic guitars and Hammond organ. II starts as a 'typical' Alunah song, but then goes all psychedelic on us, and finishes with an explosive solo. And after a long pause the Hammond organ returns and delivers a suitably haunting ending. Way to go.

October 11, 2012

Unleash the Archers - Demons of the AstroWaste

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Upon initial inspections, the design and packaging of this disc are on the completely epic side of awful. But once get past the garish, badly photo shopped initial impression, there's a very good, creative power metal album hiding underneath.
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Upon initial inspections, the design and packaging of this disc are on the completely epic side of awful. But once get past the garish, badly photo shopped initial impression, there's a very good, creative power metal album hiding underneath. Brittany Hayes has a great voice, displaying fantastic tone, range and power, making good use of the many techniques at her disposal. Her voice is mixed strangely though, with her vocals coming across as matte, with a bit of a hollow echo, sounding completely alone and in a closed room. This is out of place against the sparkling guitar sound and the expansive atmosphere the rest of the instrumentation create. The sound is ultimately successful, creating a huge, strange auditory landscape for the listener to explore.

Unleash the Archers are going for a futuristic, sci-fi warrior vibe on Demons of the AstroWaste, setting themselves apart from a great deal of power metal that firmly roots itself in high fantasy. This is an album made of rivets and blasters instead of dragons and chain mail bikinis. While this works in the soundscape, the lyrics are generic. Hayes could be singing about anything: knights, astronauts, demons, historical battles, etc. The lyrics all gesture towards the epic, but never give any details. This is a shame, considering there is such a rich potential lexicon to draw from. However, Demons of the AstroWaste is a surprisingly good album with great transitions, such as when swooping, soaring arena rock anthem "Realm of Tomorrow" somehow moves effortlessly into the wistful, solo-heavy "General of the Dark Army." The music here is strong and lovely.

October 10, 2012

The Only Good Tory - UK Grindcore Powerviolence compilation

No Clean Singing and Grind to Death have combined forces and released a compilation of UK grindcore and powerviolence, featuring a staggering 46 bands. The compilation is available as a free download accompanied by a pdf booklet with separate artwork for each of the 46 tracks. Later it will be released on cassette by DIY Noise. For a non grindcore/powerviolence aficionado like me this collection is great showcase of various styles (and production values). So do like I did, read the No Good Tory manifesto, and prepare your ears for some major sandblasting.

And if you're ready for more, go see some of these bands in their natural habitat. Like when Carmelo Española saw The Afternoon Gentlemen with Weekend Nachos in a basement last year. And took pictures of the event as he always does.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

October 8, 2012

Schrei Aus Stein - Tsisnaasjini

Tsisnaasjini by Schrei Aus Stein is available on the Crucial Blast Bandcamp. This is ambient, trance like black metal inspired by the experience of mountaineering; Tsisnaasjini (Dawn Mountain" or "White Shell Mountain") is the Navajo name for Mount Blanca in Colorado. The first two songs Light on Wing and Like Arctic Moons functions as a single piece. It starts with ambient structures combining noise and drone and unfolds into a slow black metal dirge. Two single drumbeats heralds a section of truly majestic blasting black metal, the track ends with a metallic drone and ambient soundscapes that mirrors the beginning. The last track Vague Like Blown Smoke kind of combines the first two, and adds a wall of sound quality to the mix. The review by The Inarguable calls it a snowstorm of pure bliss, and I agree. Here is another review from The Metal Archives.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Theologian - The Chasms Of My Heart

Theologian - The Chasms Of My Heart like much material on the Crucial Blast Bandcamp is not really metal, even if you squint at it real hard. But if you're interested in experimental black metal, drone, and industrial you might want to lend your ears to it. Theologian combines noise and dark ambient with industrial percussion and the occasional eerie layered vocals. Crucial Blast terms it jet-black synthdeath, parts sounds like dance music from a scary party you wish you weren't attending, parts sound like Tangerine Dream filtered through a lo-fi black metal production. Check it out, it is dark interesting music.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

October 7, 2012

Abigail - It Is The Night I Fear

Artwork by R from Abigail

Abigail is a long running Romanian band (their first demo is from 1994), who released a new EP last year. It Is The Night I Fear is four tracks of classy, slightly gothic tinged death doom. It is a very song oriented EP, the melodies are memorable, and the transitions from medium tempo doom to the faster, deathier parts are pretty seamless. Keyboards and orchestral arrangements are also well integrated, in fact everything works in service of the songs. It Is The Night I Fear is the forerunner of a new full-length coming next year, I will definitely be checking that out.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

October 5, 2012

Label spotlight: Kaotoxin Records

Recently we featured the excellent death doom album Sui Caedere by Eye Of Solitude, and added the label Kaotoxin Records to the Metal Labels On Bandcamp page. Now the label has uploaded a free sampler of their roster, and you'll notice that Eye Of Solitude is kind of the odd duck there, as Kaotoxin mostly focuses on death metal and grindcore (and subgenres like brutal death, goregrind, etc).

I found it intriguing that the sampler was labeled under permanent construction and asked Kaotoxin what they meant by that. Here's their reply:
The idea behind the "under permanent construction" idea is that once we reach 80mns (we will continue to add tracks to it 'til then), we release it on CD, to give it, for free, with all orders on the Bandcamp and on our web shop. Then, we'll start a "vol.2" but will let the "vol.1" be available anyway.

The idea behind it is, despite we have one track downloadable for free on each Bandcamp listed album, we noticed people weren't downloading them that much, so we thought offering them a "full album", for free, would be easier for them. It's also easier to promote all releases at the same time.
So it's a series of sampler albums that will be continually updated with tracks from new Kaotoxin releases. Pretty cool idea, and an interesting use of Bandcamp.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

October 3, 2012

Witch Mountain - Cauldron of the Wild

By Natalie Zina Walschots. It's already been an incredible year for doom metal releases, with Pallbearer's haunting and abyssal debut, Sorrow and Extinction, and doom-noise duo Mares of Thrace's transformative journey The Pilgrimag. If 2012 is the year that metal crushes all to death, then bring on the bone vices
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published by Exclaim!

It's already been an incredible year for doom metal releases, with Pallbearer's haunting and abyssal debut, Sorrow and Extinction, and doom-noise duo Mares of Thrace's transformative journey The Pilgrimage. If 2012 is the year that metal crushes all to death, then bring on the bone vices, because Cauldron of the Wild belongs in the same category as these exquisite releases. It is technically Witch Mountain's third record, though it is their second following a seven-year hiatus and the addition of vocalist Uta Plotkin. Her voice is now the cornerstone of their sound, as clear and nimble as a birdsong or as rasping and harsh as the music demands, in perfect counterpoint to the dark, clotted tones of the sludgy, Southern-tinged guitars.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

From start to finish, Cauldron of the Wild is excellent. The record is measured and knows its strength, allowing the songs to build slowly, such as during "Shelter," which begins like far-off flashes of lightning and some fat, playful raindrops that gather into a foundation-shaking storm. There is also wildness to this record ― unexpected eruptions in the instrumentation and twists in the lyrics ― like how a wolf that has been fed may seem tame, until it rips out your throat.

October 2, 2012

Aquilus - Griseus

You can enjoy Griseus, the debut full-length from Aquilus on their Bandcamp. This is atmospheric folk inspired metal. Symphonic, cinematic, progressive, and the work of just one man from Australia. The album is held together by long full scale orchestral passages, some are simply beautiful, the best creates scenes in your mind like the soundtrack to an epic movie. The metal parts could be described as blackened folk metal, and there's a few plaintive straight folk sequences too. Griseus is full of beauty, bombast and sudden mood swings; at 80 minutes it is a long journey, but one worth taking.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

October 1, 2012

Bloodiest - Descent

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Bloodiest is the latest project fronted by Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Nachtmystium, Minsk). A seven member band making what can be described as Sludgy Post-Metal. But if you are looking for a Neurosis or Isis clone this is not the band.

Trance like, dark, ritualistic, and atmospheric. These are words that come to my mind as I hear this album. Songs crawl and burrow their way into your mind as you realize your body is swaying with the rhythm. Guitars are a mixed bag of acoustic style picking, Sludgy riffing, and Black Metal tremolo picking. Piano and tribal like drumming creates an dark and unsettling atmosphere. Even Bruce’s vocal delivery sounds like chants from some underworld priest trying to summon the dark lord himself. Nothing here is safe or sunny. A mood that is set early and kept throughout the album.

How I missed this last year I do not know. But I am glad to have found it. A real gem of an album, I hope gets the recognition it deserves.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]