July 26, 2014

Ill Omen - Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence

Written by Craig Hayes.

Cover art by Alexander L. Brown

Home might be where the heart is, but you can be damn sure that hate resides there too. In fact, where you live in this wide world really matters little as far as brewing hate is concerned. As human beings, it’s in our nature to always find someone or something to detest, and Australian one man back metal band Ill Omen is proof of that. The sunny skies of Ill Omen’s homeland shine no light on the band’s oeuvre, and all the sunbeams in the world wouldn't change Ill Omen’s desire to remind us, in the most hateful fashion, that we’re all heading towards a pitch-black grave.

Ill Omen was formed in 2006, by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist IV, and the band’s full-length debut, 2011’s Divinity Through Un-creation, was packed with odes to accompany you on your journey to the final exit. Divinity Through Un-creation isn’t the only nightmarish fare that IV’s been involved in recently either. He’s also a member of Temple Nightside, and that band’s Condemnation album, released in 2013, was a wonderfully spiteful piece of black and death metal, and it’s well worth tracking down.

There’s no mistaking IV’s obsession with death’s cold embrace on Ill Omen’s latest release, Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence. Fact is, we’re all going to rot or become ashes, and while that’s not news to any of us, Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence envelopes you in bitterly cold and bleak black metal to really hammer that point home. There’s a conceptual arc to Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence too, with the album’s 11 tracks all titled “Abhorrence” (with numerals running from I to XI, separating the songs). As mentioned, Ill Omen is interested in the grimmest of destinations, and Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence doesn't allow hope to shine for a second.

“Abhorrence I” starts that journey, with corrosive washes of tremolo riffs, ill-tempered percussion, and vocals rising, fittingly, from the tomb. “Abhorrence II” adds a little more dissonant, buzz-saw fury, and “Abhorrence III” brings even more of that. However, while Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence cuts a clear pathway towards a harrowing end point, IV ensures there are twists and turns to hold the interest, on your way to meet the Angel of Death.

“Abhorrence V” brings Gothic-tinged acoustic guitar, and “Abhorrence VI, VII, and VII” see majestic melodies rising from the catacomb clamour. “Abhorrence IX”, finds sinister choral vocals, set around frostbitten guitars and Stygian drone, and “Abhorrence XI” ends the album with a steep plummet, into a black hole of noise. It’s all one long wretched march towards your demise, with blackened avant-garde progressiveness meeting the indomitable evil of first and second wave black metal.

IV mixes the darkest colours on the palette on Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence. Slower, rack and ruin riffing transitions into stormier sections. Droning soundscapes are cut by mournful howls. And every song here sends shivers up the spine. There’s no doubting the esoteric angle on Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence; this is, blood-curdling and cryptic black metal after all. IV certainly makes the most of Ill Omen’s sonic sorcery to dig deep into the burial pits as well, but as we all know, black metal bands seeking to do the same are a dime a dozen.

What marks Ill Omen as a band worth paying attention to comes down to Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence’s production. The songs themselves are interesting enough, but what tops it off is the bone-chilling atmosphere. Everything resounds back and forth of catacomb walls, with feedback playing off percussion, and whispered, croaked, and rasped vocals arising from the deep dark depths. It all makes for a very evocative album, and there’s no spit and polish here.

Death isn’t pretty, and Ill Omen clearly has no desire to make it so. However, to ram the misery home, the band doesn’t simply rely on chaotic assaults to break the will. It’s the constant pressure the band brings to bear through that deadfall production, throat-gripping sense of impending doom, and all that unremitting wickedness. Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence isn’t an album for anyone looking for some quick-fix blast of black metal, because it’s a 60 minute funeral rite that you need to experience in full. Don’t go looking for any sympathy or reassurance here either. This is where you rot. This is the end.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 24, 2014

Dave’s Demo Roundup Vol. III

By Dave Schalek.

Here we go with the third edition of Dave’s Demo Roundup! This time around, we take a look at a variety of different bands in various subgenres.

Rome’s Deceptionist, play technical death metal on The Beginning, a four-song promotional CD given a digital release on Bandcamp. Consisting of very tight riffing and a range of tempos, Deceptionist firmly toe the line between technical and semi-progressive death metal with this well done assault. Most of the songs concentrate on the technical riffing backed up by gruff vocals, but a few moments of melody creep in with some well placed guitar soloing and a nice jazzy bass line or two. Although Deceptionist are not particularly original, they certainly know their way around their genre of choice.

Here’s an EP from Finland’s Ghastly, released by Demonhood Productions. Playing old school death metal with a doom laden vibe, Ghastly display a great deal of potential. Although this two-song affair is a low quality recording with hollow drums, Ghastly play with tight musicianship and showcase some songwriting chops. Backed up by a powerful production, I've no doubt that Ghastly could sound like a freight train, but that ideal has not been reached on this recording. Regardless, this taster will leave you hungry for more.

Florida’s Tetragrammaton play very powerful, doom laden black metal with a huge, dense production on this demo from 2013. A plodding, crushing pace and a gigantic sound to the guitars anchor the band’s approach with vocals somewhere in between a scream and a rasp. Two songs appear on this demo with the second track showing considerable variation with haunting, clean vocals, and a blastbeat or two making appearances. A subsequent EP on Dying Gods Records has since been released by Tetragrammaton.

July 22, 2014

Stomach Earth - Stomach Earth

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

Art by Sophie Penrose

This self-titled morass of a debut is the first solo offering from Mike "Gunface" McKenzie, founder of, and guitar player in, the Red Chord. Stomach Earth is a death-laced doom tar pit, weighty and laboured. The layered guitar work has various thicknesses of distortion, from subtle, wounded trembling to almost unrecognizable blasts of feedback. Likewise, the impossibly deep growls are layered and so deeply broken and obscured that they sound inhuman, as though issuing from several monstrous mouths at once.

The clawing, crushing rhythm is the most industrial influenced aspect of the record, recalling the grimmer, more threatening elements of Godflesh, but the guitar work is unquestionably the highlight. Huge, looping riff structures suck the listener into a sick, suppurating centre, like the relentless pull of a maelstrom in an ocean of bubbling pitch. Bleak, terrifying and relentlessly heavy, this is funereal doom if your burial plot is located in the Pit.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 21, 2014

Ad Infinitum - Woven Within

Guest review by BreadGod from Servile Insurrection

Photograph by Edward S. Curtis.

Near the end of January, I reviewed a demo by a black metal band called Ad Infinitum. I liked it. Eventually, the guy behind the band read my review and liked what I had to say, so he told me to check out his full-length debut, which he had released shortly after I wrote the review of his demo. So I downloaded this album, and let me tell you that Ad Infinitum's music is excellent.

The production is as cold as deep space. The sound is dark, cloudy, and depressing. It sort of reminds me of bands like Xasthur, but more polished. It's a grim wall of sound that surrounds you with the cries of dying stars. Not only is the production bone-chillingly cold, but so is the music. The guy behind Ad Infinitum, simply known as J.G.S., handles all the instruments himself, and I must say he's really skilled with all of them. I can't really tell if he uses a drum machine or real drums. What I can tell is that they're performed really well. They mainly stick to slow beats similar to Xasthur but they also play a lot of mid-paced rhythms that feature a great deal of double bass.

The vocals consist of a scream that is drowning in reverb. The performance is grotesque and violent. I'm guessing this is what it would sound like if the void could speak. The guitars sound just as viciously cold as the rest of the music. Sometimes they play some dark shredding that sounds like a binary star system where the two stars are about to collide and tear each other apart. Other times they play some really atmospheric tremolo riffs that feel like streams of interstellar gas blowing against your skin. He then tops it all off by including some atmospheric synthesizer work that perfectly capture the cold emptiness of space.

Woven Within is filled with awesome atmospheric black metal that is as cold as the void. Best of all is that this album is available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp, so go get it.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 20, 2014

The Atlas Moth - The Old Believer & An Ache for the Distance

Written by Justin C.

Artwork by Invisible Creature

The last two albums from The Atlas Moth, 2011's An Ache for the Distance and this year's The Old Believer, defy easy categorization. Listening to An Ache, I kept coming back to the somewhat-ridiculous label of "blackened, bluesy psychedelia," and although The Old Believer shares a lot of sonic territory with An Ache, it's also something else entirely.

Both albums use the same vocal approach: Stavros Giannopoulos provides blackened screams, and David Kush provides weathered clean vocals. Listening to them trade lyrics on "Gemini" from An Ache is mesmerizing, particularly as Kush climbs from deep chant-like timbres up to his higher range. At times--and promise not to laugh because I mean this as no insult--he puts me in mind of Peter Gabriel, or at least a version of Peter Gabriel where he split with Genesis because he wanted to make metal. Listen to "The Sea Beyond" from The Old Believer and tell me I'm crazy.

Both albums feature excellent guitar work with plenty of melodic riffs. "Holes in the Desert" from An Ache is one of my favorite examples, with a chunky low riff topped with an echoing psychedelic line. They've scaled back on some of the more psychedelic touches on The Old Believer, but that's not to say the riff writing is any less fantastic. I've listened to these two albums back to back a lot recently, but I've still struggled to find the words to adequately describe the progression, although my gut feeling is that calling the song writing more direct on The Old Believer would be as good a description as any. The songs feel tight and laser-focused, but that's not to say that they've shed any of their more experimental touches--if you like the piano and jazzy trumpet freak out at the end of "Horse Thieves" from An Ache, you'll like the piano in "The Sea Beyond" and the trippy synths in "City of Light" from The Old Believer. I think the fact that I can listen to these two albums back to back, repeatedly, without feeling drained or bored is a testament to the artistry the band put into both, and the progression they've managed to achieve.

Maybe even more important than the instrumental progression is the palpable change in mood. The Old Believer feels like a more emotional album, with a potent mix of melancholy and a sense of survival, and with good reason: You can read about the band's personal struggles from recent years, but even not knowing that, the emotion comes across loud and clear in The Old Believer.

I’d be hard pressed to name another band out there that’s doing anything near what The Atlas Moth is doing these days. Many bands take a huge array of influences and meld them together into some kind of Frankensteinian mess. The Atlas Moth stand apart from their peers and creates a cohesive, unique sound. An Ache for the Distance and The Old Believer are both must-haves.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 18, 2014

Cloak of Altering - Plague Beasts

Written by Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Mories

Individual musicians, who work on a slew of different projects, aren't a rarity in metal, but Maurice de Jong’s (aka Mories) discography stands out as particularly formidable. Among Mories’ various projects include Gnaw Their Tongues (black/industrial/experimental/doom); De Magia Veterum (avant-garde black metal); Aderlating (drone, blackened noise, and malicious electronica); and Seirom (mesmerizing waves of celestial guitar). That’s a fair spread of musical interests right there, and accompanying those bands is a steady stream of releases that underscore Mories’ ceaseless creativity too. However, that’s not what makes him a formidable artist.

The reason that Mories’ oeuvre is so intimidating, is that he can be guaranteed to produce a uniquely twisted interpretation of whatever sub-genre he’s exploring. And, in the case of his music that resides in the realm of the unstable and extreme, it always comes with a deeply unnerving component too. There’s definitely something very unsettling about Mories’ Cloak of Altering project, with previous releases from the band, like 2012’s Ancient Paths Through Timeless Voids, seeing symphonic black metal shoved through a digital hardcore/industrial electronics meatgrinder.

Cloak of Altering produces the kind of noise you’d expect to hear if Spektr, Mysticum, and Emperor all decided to gobble hallucinogenic toadstools, and then jam together until their extremely painful death arrived. Really, the clue to Cloak of Altering’s objective is right there in the band’s name, because Mories certainly aims to alter reality by wrapping the listener in something chaotic and unsound. He contorts tremolos screeds into sickening form, assaults already abrasive vocals with breakneck percussion, and promises an experience that is very, very wrong, with all the demented synth and electronics.

Of course, in the world of Cloak of Altering, very, very wrong is exactly the point that Mories is aiming for, and the band’s latest offering, Plague Beasts, hits that mark. The fact the album is being released by the consistently fascinating label Crucial Blast is a enough of a hint that it will contain the kinds of hostile, cutting edge noise that'll drill right into your synapses, and Plague Beasts certainly does that. The album distorts black metal with barrages of electronic insanity and all manner of crooked rhythmic wrenching, and the result is a freakish hybrid, with Mories, the mad scientist, concocting endless evil mutations in the lab.

Plague Beasts' self-titled opening track kicks in with rapid-fire drum-and-bass blastbeats, followed by caustic programmed pummelling, and baleful riffing and vocals. Then Mories layers in the synth on the track, and things get real weird, real fast. “White Inverted Void” and “Translucent Body Deformities” bring more murk and fuzz, with orchestral passages transforming into bursts of blackened static, and symphonic sections getting trampled by dissonant riffs and glitch-fed electronics. And just when you think it’s going to be an aggressive sonic blitzkrieg, a sun-lit second or two appears, making things even more deranged.

You’ll find much the same sense of schizophrenic transformation on Plague Beasts’ other tracks too. Mories injects melody in some places, then chokes the life out of it with brain-piercing percussion. He ramps things up with a sweep of progressive or psychedelic synths that wouldn't seem out of place in the 70's, and then demolishes that with an onslaught of acid riffs, fetid vocals, and grim electronic mayhem.

Mories plays DJ Frankenstein throughout Plague Beasts, building malformed songs from monstrous parts, with every single one of them pissing pitch-black, spiteful toxin out of some gnarled appendage onto banks of short-circuiting synthesizers. That’s what makes Plague Beasts so utterly brilliant; it’s a descent into madness and nightmare visions with Mories taking demonic glee in unnerving and disturbing. There’s no cruel to be kind here. Like a lot of the best releases from Crucial Blast, Plague Beasts is cruel to be fucking cruel. Just like the world outside your door.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 17, 2014

Pseudogod - Deathwomb Catechesis

Written by Steven Leslie

Cover art by Antichrist Kramer

The past few years have seen an explosion of extreme metal bands emerging out of the frozen wilds of Russia. Formed in 2004, the mighty Pseudogod have established themselves as one of the leading groups in this burgeoning field of death and black metal. After years of building a fanatical cult following, Pseudogod have finally chosen to grace us with their presence on Bandcamp. And it’s about damn time.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Deathwomb Catechesis is the bands first full length originally released in 2012, and it is an unrelenting beast of an album. While the band falls into the black/death category the truth is this is pure, unbridled death metal. The black metal influence is only really prominent in the lyrical focus, which as you might have guessed, is centered around Satanism and devil worship. Just a cursory glance at the lyrics for the opening song, “Vehement Decimation”, shows you clearly where the bands allegiances lie. And these boys do their master proud.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Unlike many of the bands in the black/death world, Pseudogod doesn’t rely on murky production to get their sinister message across. Instead, the band utilizes technically precise riffing, searing blasts, and deep hellish bellows to crush every bone in the listener’s body. One of the best things about this album is the superb riff work provided by Spīritō Destitutus and D. Nekros. They manage to create catchy, memorable riffs that loose none of their brutal impact on repeated listens. Even more impressive is their ability to drop from vicious, flesh searing speed into catchy mid pace grooves. This is best exemplified in tracks like “Malignant Spears” and “Encarnacion del Mal”, where they lay off just enough to add some nuance to their otherwise unrelenting maelstrom.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

The drumming is also quite impressive throughout the album. While some might complain about the triggered sound of some of the blasts, it’s clear that Yogsothoth can play with the best of them. Even though blast beats are prominent in every song, each one also incorporates some killer fills and grooves. This is no one trick pony. The biggest sticking point for most will probably be the fairly monotonous bellow of I.S.K.H. Yes, I admit based solely on the vocals it can be hard to tell one track from the next, but repeated listens confirm that any other vocal approach just would not be as effective. It’s I.S.K.H.'s bone-crushing roar that really ties all the killer songwriting and variety in the music together. Anyone who is a fan of bands like Grave Miasma, Dead Congregation or even Portal should do himself a favor and pick this one up immediately.

Recommended track "Malignant Spears".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 16, 2014

Owl - Into the Absolute

Written by Matt Hinch.

It seems I'm late to the Owl party, having missed last years's You Are the Moon, I Am the Night. I'll get my ears on that in good time but for now we'll stick to the majesty of follow-up EP Into the Absolute. The songs here are shorter than on the LP but that by no means says anything about their depth. Each track is full of layers, moods and auras. Obsidian tones, cascading melodies, dynamic percussion and diverse vocals coalesce with captivating synths to create four gorgeous and emotionally abundant movements.

The brilliant title track leads the way with a dooming discord stumbling into the hammering riff that follows. Its needle-like potency infects the listener wholly. It feels like someone's driving nails, nay, uncommonly sharp hot iron spikes deep into your skull. “Into the Absolute” is a kaleidoscope of darkness and emotion. The same can be said of the EP as a whole. As the colours shift and fade new auras crystallize. Terror, pain, grief, despair, and triumph all ascend and fall into place. Making the second track “We Ascend As We Fall” all the more appropriate.

Its churning black metal is run through with ominous synths and unsettling guitars masked by the driving rhythms. The track plumbs the depths and soars to great heights buffeted by airy synths, bleeding-heart melodies and a vocal duality that reminds one of Mike Scheidt.

The instrumental “Apparition” is all synths, lonely guitar melodies and booming tribal, marching percussion. It speaks of ancient doom and a fear of the unknown.

Closer “Unearthly Arcana” is dark and brooding, mixing tempos amidst a heavy fog. Militant BM percussion opens up into post-metal heartache. The melodies are swollen with sorrow but as has come to be expected on the EP Owl dig deep and pull triumph from desperation to emerge into the light.

Into the Absolute is utterly beautiful on a number of levels. The synths are both ominous and inviting. Sterling melodies weave intricate paths around the soul. A dynamic approach to blackened death/doom runs the gamut from pure evil to joyous exultation, and the multifarious vocals speak with the breadth of voices clamouring for attention in the mind of a tortured soul. Into the Absolute is brilliantly transcendent, philosophically manifold and worthy of your utmost attention.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Cough / Windhand - Reflection of the Negative

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Both doom metal bands that contributed to this EP, Cough and Windhand, hail from Richmond, VA. The product of their collective effort is as bleak and chilled as the coldest late spring.
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Both doom metal bands that contributed to this EP, Cough and Windhand, hail from Richmond, VA. The product of their collective effort is as bleak and chilled as the coldest late spring. Cough offer the suffocating "Athame," a swampy, deeply distorted piece of musical quicksand that constantly threatens to choke and swallow the listener. A full 18 minutes of crushing weight, "Athame" evokes the idea of a solar eclipse — darkest at its apex.

Cough (top) and Windhand. Photos by Metal Chris

The first track from Windhand, "Amaranth," is more frantic, relieving some of the gloomy tension and replacing it with panic. There's a clawing desperation to the peaks and crescendos of this song that serves as a foil for the stiller and much more restrained "Shepherd's Crook," which exudes an oily confidence and eerie calm that convince the listener they are being led astray.

July 15, 2014

Primitive Man splits with Xaphan and Hexis

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

If you read my review of last years Primitive Man album Scorn you know I am a big fan (the album made my year end list). I also had the pleasure of seeing them live last year, that only cemented my fandom.

For the uninitiated Primitive Man is the project of Ethan McCarthy (ex-Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, Vermin Womb). He along with Jonathan Campos on bass and Isidro Soto on drums create dark, ugly, heavy, blackened Sludge. Just the type of music I love the most.

They have teamed up to do two splits this year (so far) with two different bands. Admittedly I was not familiar with Xaphan before this split and had only checked out Hexis’ album Abalam once. I bought both of these splits for Primitive Man and figured I'd give the other bands a try.

First up is the split with Xaphan featuring ex-members of Disembodied, Threadbare, Blinding Light, 108, Martyr AD, Bosnia, Black Sleep of Kali. They play what could be described as Hardcore with an industrial tinge to it. The song is in your face from the get go. Vocals are a great mix of hardcore style shouts and throaty roars that remind me a bit of Neurosis’ Dave Edwardson. Heavy and full of energy. A good pairing with Primitive Man’s song. One that opens with this almost Grind feel before going into a full beat down of heaviness. Both songs are relentless, short, sweet, and to the point.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Next up is their split with Denmark’s Hexis. This is a band I did know. Their album Abalam was solid, but ultimately didn't do that much for me. They play Blackened Hardcore with no song clocking in at over 4 minutes, except one. The closer "Inferis", that is almost 9 minutes and is the one song I really enjoyed. It is slow, dark and full of atmosphere. Their contribution to this split is very much in the same vein. It’s starts off a tad faster before going into a dronish middle section. Ending in sludgy, doomy goodness. Primitive Man’s song does what they do best. Mixing up the intensity and ugliness of Sludge and the heaviness of DOOM in ways not too many others can duplicate.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The thing I loved most about these splits is the pairing of not only the bands, but of the songs too. Both show the diversity that Primitive Man bring in their song writing. Neither are duplicates, yet both would sound fine if they were tracks on the same album. As for the other two bands. They both did enough on one song to make me want to hear more, as is the case for Xaphan, and give Hexis another try. To me that is a successful split.

July 14, 2014

Ruins / Usnea

Written by Matt Hinch.

The always reliable Halo of Flies recently released this filthy little 7” split between Germany's Ruins and Portland's Usnea. Not being familiar with either band this split served as my intro to both and upon first listen I knew I'd be digging up their back catalog.

On the Ruins side the band guides us through a twisted path to reach fulfilment. The track builds to a sludgy bleakness at the onset. The tone is a heavy black metal one but the sludge roars lend warmth. “Discrimen” moves into pseudo-screamo territory with guitars soaring beyond the clouds. It then turns effortlessly towards a swinging hardcore groove. Dropping further into a quiet moment its conclusion explodes with crashing, momentous riffs and harried percussion.

Usnea counter with “Only The End Of The World”. It's a little more straightforward. And the direction is down. A lonely guitar line leads to heaving doom, plummeting the listener towards the growls emanating from beneath the earth. The track is sinister and mean, as befitting the apocalyptic nature of the title. Chaotic guitars are layered over low and slow filth while insane screams of utter pain and anguish force their way into your head. Those cursed screams are not for the faint of heart.

Ruins and Usnea balance each other well even though their styles follow different roads. Ruins' meandering is not off-putting while Usnea are content to hold your head beneath the surface and deliver you to your doom with considerable distaste. I'll be interested to see how Ruins' approach plays out over a full album and how much torture one can take from Usnea on their forthcoming full length.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 13, 2014

Pet Slimmers of the Year - Fragments of Uniforms

Written by Justin C.

The reason I randomly picked this band out of the digital promo pile is probably obvious--in a sea of bands based on the same three or four root words (BlackNecroDeathBlood!), a band whose name sounds like a product from your local veterinarian's office is bound to stand out. The name might be a little silly, but the band plays some of the best instrumental rock/metal I've heard in a while.

The UK's Pet Slimmers of the Year hover somewhere near the edge of metal and rock. If you put a growler on top of this music, the riffs would definitely be heavy enough to push this into post-metal or post-hardcore territory, but they've gone in a slightly different direction. The band calls themselves "primarily instrumental," and to that end, there are clean vocals on three of the tracks. The vocals are very good, managing to be emotive without being at all saccharine. The soaring vocals on "La Tormenta" are a particular standout. I wouldn't have minded vocals on all of the tracks, but I admire what they're doing here--like the recently reviewed Colosso, Pet Slimmers seem to be saying, "If the song needs to be instrumental, it will be, but if it needs vocals, that's fine, too. We're not going to restrict ourselves that way."

The instrumental parts lean toward the sweeping and majestic. The band specializes in heavy, very melodic riffs, and they build and fall from a lot of what I call "well-earned" crescendos. I've heard a lot of bands in this general genre that have two dynamic settings: very loud and very soft, and they mercilessly careen between the two. It's effective in the short term, but it can get to be wearying for the listener in a hurry. Pet Slimmers manage to ebb and flow in a more organic way.

All of the instrumental performance are great, but I have to give the band special props for the interaction between guitar and bass. They're not afraid to let the bass take a more melodic stand, like in "Gathering Half the Deep and Full Voices" and "Churning of the Sea Milk." (As you may have noticed, the band's flights of fancy in naming things isn't restricted to the band name itself.) In songs like these, the guitar takes a more atmospheric, rhythmic role, and the tasteful drumming is always matched perfectly to the flow of the music.

This release initially snuck by me, probably because it's not completely metal, nor is it completely post- or alternative rock, but since I found it, I've spun it many, many times. Highly recommended for anyone who likes their heavy mixed with some light.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 12, 2014

Bongripper - Miserable

Written by Craig Hayes.

Mike Miller

You can guarantee that the majority of the chatter about Bongripper’s new album, Miserable, is going to link its title directly to the band’s sound. That’s fair enough. Bongripper does play downbeat, sludgy, and thoroughly caustic instrumental doom. There’s certainly been no obviously buoyant moments to assuage the sonic agony on full-length albums like Heroin, Hippie Killer, Satan Worshipping Doom, or 2012’s magnificent, Live at Roadburn either. All those albums have brought plenty of red-eyed, woebegone tidings, but as much as they've demolished the spirit, and the eardrums, they've also made for wholly euphoric listening experiences too.

Obviously, any euphoric feelings you get from listening to Bongripper come from a realm of sadomasochist satisfaction, and that’s clearly something a great deal of metal provides. In Bongripper's case, the band’s tone and temper is unquestionably battering, and they're not averse to throwing in an abundance of acid-burn feedback and painful percussion too. However, all that torment is still undeniably pleasurable, and I'm guessing Bongripper would entirely approve of any sordid gratification in that arrangement, because the band has always sounded in favour of indulging in unhealthy pursuits.

That’s exactly what you’ll find on Miserable too. More of Bongripper's gutter-dwelling and pulverising doom, and more of the band’s monolithic, step-by-skull-crushing-step, stoner metal onslaughts. In that sense, Bongripper are doing much as they always have on Miserable, and that’s no bad thing. Bongripper are playing to their strengths here, and those are very admirable strengths, but that’s not to say there aren't any surprises to be found on the band’s new album.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

With Bongripper being an entirely instrumental band, one that takes the long way round the block, with epic-length tunes, that puts one issue front and centre; namely, holding the listeners interest. As we all know, there’s plenty of doom bands that take a similar route to Bongripper, only to make for very dull company, because they repeat the same sluggish steps over and over again. Thankfully, Bongripper have never done that. Sure, the band’s songs all have clear commonalities, and that’s to be expected, because this is down-tuned, heavy-lidded doom, and there’s no vocals to guide the journey. That’s always put a lot of pressure on Bongripper's guitarists Dennis Pleckham and Nick Dellacroce to hold your attention, and they haven’t been afraid to experiment with the band's sound to do just that.

There’s certainly a sense of that experimentation to be found on Miserable. Opener, “Endless”, is a 17 minute dirge featuring the kind of giant cosmic riffage that’d satisfy Sleep or Ufomammut aficionados, but it also comes with the trippy stomp that'd appeal to fans of OM too. However, what really makes the tune, is that Bongripper drops in a more ambient passage mid-song, to toy with the dynamics, and let things burn at a lower temperature, before throwing the fuel back on the fire, and ending on a full-blown, psychedelic maelstrom.

The similarly lengthy, “Descent”, follows on, and Bongripper immediately changes tack. Where “Endless” worked it ways up to its climax, “Descent” takes the opposite path. It starts off with more up-front chug and churn, dragging its knuckles, as the percussion repeatedly kicks you in the stomach. However, then “Descent” does something very interesting in its midsection too. Bongripper begins mixing in warmer, melodic riffs, then a massive cavern appears, and as the pummelling riffs and drums disappear, the song ends with a long and slow series of echoing effects, fading into the distance.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

“Descent” is, and I don't use this term lightly, kind of beautiful. Now, beauty is obviously something that hasn't featured a lot of in Bongripper’s discography thus far, because the band’s generally concentrated on frightful sounds, and ugly scenes. Still, as formidable as Bongripper's past work has been, there’s no doubt that change in compositional alignment makes for a impressive injection of far more melodic texturing.

Still, I don't want to lead you astray here, Bongripper haven't softened their sound, or reined in the menace. That’s not the case at all, and Miserable’s 28-minute final track “Into Ruin” is proof of that. “Into Ruin” is spectacular opus, blending all that has come before. Colossal, distorted doom meets trance-inducing, sparser sections, with everything incrementally building to the inevitable crescendo. That arrives, of course, with spectacular destructive force. The bass, guitars and drums all hit their peak, but it's the wait, and all that tension beforehand, that ensures the songs length is never a burden.

So, that’s Miserable. An album that’s anything but. I mean, to be clear, you can soak in the sorrowful swells, and wallow in all the low-end muck, if you want; because there's plenty of formidable doom to be found on Miserable. However, it's entirely possible to just get on board with all that euphoria that Bongripper brings here too, because every shuffle, lurch, or faster paced burst on Miserable tells the same tale. Here’s a band, celebrating everything that is dark and twisted about metal, and having a fucking blast exploring just how much pain and pleasure they can bring.

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July 10, 2014

Profetus - As All Seasons Die

Written by Steven Leslie

Profetus is a Finnish band that has been peddling their brand of stately, melancholic, nature inspired funeral doom metal since about 2007. They've built a solid name for themselves in the underground funeral doom seem since their first full length, Coronation of the Black Sun, which I highly recommend you pick up immediately if you don’t already own it. While I felt their second album fell off a little bit from the stunning first, their newest release is a welcome return to form.

The album starts with about three minutes of a rather pointless atmospheric intro, so common in underground music these days, but quickly makes it’s quality known with the opening notes of the first actual song. Anyone familiar with the Finnish brand of funeral doom peddled by bands like Skepticism or Thergothon won’t find any real surprises here, aside from the stellar production. That really is one of the strongest facets of the album, every note and every roar hits like a 10-ton brick. I always feel like funeral doom is some of the hardest music to review, because at least personally, it requires a certain melancholic mood to truly be enjoyed. That said, this album has a bleakness about it that allowed me to enjoy it even in the blazing hot Arizona summer sun.

Another thing that should be mentioned is the spectacular use of keys on the album. They are quite prominent throughout the record, which could be a turn off for some, but really made the record for this humble scribe. They add a truly elegant and regal tone to an otherwise barbarous (although slow) assault. Unlike bands like Elysian Blaze or Nortt that focus on more occult themes, the lyrics on As All the Seasons Die, as the title implies, are heavily nature influenced. This album would make the perfect soundtrack to a cold, gloomy fall or winter night, which is why I found it’s summer release date so puzzling. While it might take a few spins to really sink in, and honestly what funeral doom record doesn’t, it’s well worth your time if you have even a passing interest in the genre.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 9, 2014

Wrought Iron - Rejoice and Transcend

Written by Matt Hinch.

I've come to rely on a certain level of quality from Grimoire Records releases. Rejoice and Transcend, the debut full-length from Wrought Iron doesn't disappoint in that regard. It's just as black and unyielding as you'd expect from a band with such a name.

The band doesn't use that iron to build fences however. While firmly based in the black metal realm, they open the gates to other influences as well. Tracks like “White Death” and “Brine” in particular call upon the energies of grind and Swedish death metal to extend their reach around the listener and squeeze for all they've got.

Razor sharp guitars and dynamic percussion anchor a sound that blends both second wave black metal and USBM with the aforementioned styles creating an album that avoids the pitfalls of simply slashing and burning for the entire run time.

For the most part, Rejoice and Transcend is harsh as sandpaper and comfortable in the upper reaches of the BPM spectrum. But they're not afraid to bring things down a notch. “Revelation and Awakening” especially reveals a decidedly less harsh facet through a slower tempo and melodies amongst the battering.

Throughout, no matter the speed or level of sonic evisceration, the vocals remain steadfast in their ability to terrify. Callous black metal shrieks and feral death metal roars reach out from the darkness and grip the listener in an icy embrace. It's those sewer-fed and blood-curdling vocals that hold the album in the clutches of black metal.

Wrought Iron are scathing and violent, carpet-bombing the listener with scorching rhythms and grinding blasts, but not without enough tempo changes and mood shifts to keep your attention. Rejoice and Transcend is a dense and layered album equally content to roll like thunder or send shards of broken glass swirling through the ether. Wrought Iron have captured a nice balance between a bleak and evil Scandinavian flavour and its more brutal US counter. Feel the anguish. Feel the terror. Rejoice and Transcend.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 8, 2014

Fange - Poisse

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Artwork by Ben from Fange

Once in a while it occurs that an album sweeps me off my feet upon first listen. And that’s what Fange’s EP Poisse did. The three piece band from Rennes/France (consisting of members of Huata, Brain Pyramid and Zalhietzli) formed in 2013. Poisse is their first release and came out in April 2014.

The album is a beautiful mess of noise and groove, crushing heavy riffs and ugly vocals clouded in distortion. Everything about it is excessive and extreme… fuzz, reverb, distortion, feedback, vocals, all piled up in layers creating a thick, heavy, dissonant, hellish chaos. Still there’s a deep and heavy groove to it, with bouncy riffs and rhythms strong enough to prevent the chaos from being boundless. Instead the groove provides depth, movement and direction (probably straight to hell) without taming the chaos but building an exciting tension between both.

The harsh aggressive vocals are quite low in the mix and get nearly drowned in the heavy riffs and noise that gives them a ghostlike quality. All the elements are set and balanced in a way to create and nourish an utterly dark, dangerous, depressive atmosphere. In the fifth track “...” the vocals are like some heavily distorted ritualistic chants or prayers, that are able to scare the shit out of you and conjure up even the filthiest and ugliest beasts and demons hell has to offer.

The bracing recklessness and boldness with which Fange unleash their utterly raw and brutal energy in a sweet mix of sludge, HC and noise is simply compelling. Poisse is a 30 minute face melting jarring outrage, abrasive, intense and highly addictive.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 5, 2014

Wolvhammer - Clawing into Black Sun

Written by Justin C.

For whatever reason, it always takes me a little while to get into Wolvhammer albums. When I first heard 2012's The Obsidian Plains, I thought it was fine, but it didn't stick with me. A few months later, after being reintroduced to it by Metal Bandcamp's own Andy Osborn, it quickly became one of my favorites.

The same happened when I first got my hands on their new one, Clawing into Black Sun. I was a little let down on first listen, but after three or four playthroughs, I can't get enough. My best guess is that my brain says, "Oh good, new USBM," but Wolvhammer doesn't quit fit next to my go-to USBM bands. They might share geography with Woe and Deafheaven, but they're better suited to a Sex Pistols kind of mood than a Wolves in the Throne Room kind of mood.

Like their last album, Clawing into Black Sun still delivers their sludgy, doomy, punky version of black metal, but if anything, they've turned the snarling punk up a few notches. They largely eschew blast beats and waves of tremolo-picked guitars for doomier sounding riffs, like in "Slaves to the Grind," but when Adam Clemans snarls, "True redemption is out of reach / When you're living your life as a fucking leech!" there's more than a little Johnny Rotten in there. This is less frosty, Norwegian bleakness than it is fighting in an alley or spitting on pictures of the royal family. (Yeah, that doesn't make a lot of sense for a USBM band, but work with me here. I'm writing this on Independence Day here in the U.S., so a ridiculously out-of-date anti-royalty vibe seems appropriate.)

Vocalist Adam Clemans pulls the neat trick of having his growling and snarling vocals still be largely understandable without printed lyrics. And they're just so damn fun. Try not chanting along with "BLACK! BLACK! BLACK!" in the title track. There are also some more great gang vocals in the closing track, "A Light That Doesn't Yield." I know from the band's Facebook page that they're pretty proud of this track, and that pride is well deserved. It's a nearly nine-minute, slow burner of a song, but it's worth every second.

I don’t know if Clawing into Black Sun will ultimately become my favorite Wolvhammer album or not, but maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at it. Maybe The Obsidian Plains scratches an itch for something a little more complex, whereas Clawing into Black Sun is a more immediate, more visceral thrill. Either way, give this whole album the multiple spins it deserves and make up your own mind.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 4, 2014

Secret Cutter - Self Titled

Written by Matt Hinch.

Trying to put a label on Secret Cutter is an exercise in futility, and also a bit unnecessary. All I know is, I have a split in my forehead and a concussion (permanent brain damage?) from all the banging of my head against the table. Plus there's a limp body on the floor that I filled with haymakers when they asked if I was okay. I tell ya, it's a blessing and a curse that I write with a pen and paper. A blessing in that I didn't break a computer with my face, a curse in that the body on the floor is also full of pen stab wounds. Of course I'm being figurative but if a badly beaten body shows up at the morgue looking like someone went all Joe Pesci on his ass, I am so fucked.

I'm pretty fucked anyway from the violating violence Secret Cutter lay down on this self-titled assault. Their brand of blitzing grind, planet smashing doom/sludge and angular noisy weirdness is shot through with corrosive, lysergic hardcore vocals and enough hatred (real or feigned) to keep the entire psychology profession employed in perpetuity.

This shit is heavy as fuck. There's no other way to put it. Monumental, noise ridden riffs reign unholy terror down upon you like a ten ton hammer wielded by a mentally unstable Thor whacked on methamphetamines. Right from the onset (“Mirror, Mirror”) this Philly crew reduces bones to dust and cities to rubble with a vicious stomp. There's a sense of glee behind the devastation though as those noisy little notes thrown in sound like a twisted grin below crazy eyes. Using feedback as a weapon they bloody their guitars on riff after riff of left-of-centre doom/sludge.

Looking over my notes I can see lots of “oh my god” and “holy fuck”s. Most of them are centered around the album's mid-section with “Vow of Poverty” and “Shake the Malevolent”. The former obliterates with extreme prejudice via a propulsive sequence. It hammers away at the chest like a series of concussion grenades fired from a semi-automatic canon. The latter features some of the most jaw-dropping picking I've heard in a long time. So fast, so much energy and wildness. I didn't even know a guitar could do that.

More powerful sludge, stomp-to-a-bloody-pulp riffs and stunning feedback hang out with flattening grind until closing track “Driftwood”. It starts and it's all like “What the hell? Is Les Claypool snorting coke over here?” Then “FUCK NO, MOTHERFUCKER!! GRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIND!!!!!!!!!” and a continued castigation of ungodly tone and fractured chords.

From beginning to end this album wears its physicality on its sleeve. It's uncompromisingly heavy, gleefully spastic, vocally terrifying (amazing stress therapy when screaming along) and surprisingly catchy. Define it as you will but one thing is for certain, Secret Cutter make it a point to make you feel small and insignificant. And goddamn do I feel like an ant right now.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

July 2, 2014

Gotta love the Greeks

By Kevin Page. We start in Thessaloniki, home to Kult of Taurus, a black metal band with one full length album under their belt (Divination Labyrinths, released in 2013). Formed in 2007, they released a demo, EP and split before finally releasing their debut late last year.
By Kevin Page.

We start in Thessaloniki, home to Kult of Taurus, a black metal band with one full length album under their belt (Divination Labyrinths, released in 2013). Formed in 2007, they released a demo, EP and split before finally releasing their debut late last year. Vicotnik of Dodheimsgard mixed and mastered this album (if that sorta thing gets you all wet and giggly). But what works me up is the quality of the music. It's black metal no doubt, but it deviates enough from the standard formula to keep me interested. The guitar has almost a punchy jazz tone to it. They leave space in their sound, which gives everything room to breathe. And unlike another band we will talk about later, this isn't a huge time commitment on your part, as this blows by in slightly over 30 minutes.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Our next stop is in Athens (where we shall stay for the remainder of this post) to check out Lunatic Medlar. Featuring Nick (bassist of Universe 217) on bass here as well, their debut album Finely Tuned Machine was self released last year. This is a FREE DOWNLOAD of sludgey progressive doomy post rock with vocals reminiscent of Crowbar. I did mention this was a FREE DOWNLOAD right? Simply no reason for you not to check them out.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I normally roll my eyes and don't think much when I'm told to check out yet another one man black metal band. But Spectral Lore came highly recommended from people who's opinions I respected. III is actually the band's fourth full length album released (and my introduction to them). This is going to take a time commitment on your part, running at 87 minutes in length. Even after 4 full spins I don't feel I've fully grasped the extent of what Ayloss is doing, but I know enough to recommend you check it out.. Progressive ambient black metal is the general style here, but it has a little bit of everything: traditional black metal, acoustic guitar & serene passages that make you feel like you are in a planetarium. It would be an understatement to say this is not what I usually listen to, but after each spin I seemingly want to come back for more. Also, the 2CD version from I, Voidhanger Records has some pretty nifty packaging and exceptional artwork.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

I guess when you are the cradle of Western civilization you are gonna churn out some quality metal bands. So let's finish this off with Dead Congregation, who needs no introduction. It's been 6 years since they released an album, so you are surely going to see this pop up on many year end lists. Promulgation of the Fall (released by Martyrdoom Productions) is straight to the point, no bullshit, no frills death metal. What they truly excel in is their ability to not overstay their welcome or sound like they are trying too hard. Dead Congregation are not playing anything that you haven't really heard before, but they play it so well and convincingly, its hard not to appreciate. And unlike the plethora of bands that go with the old sinister evil tone, they stay away from the overly reverbed wall of noise too many get caught up in.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

As much as I would have loved to include the new albums by Aenaon & Hail Spirit Noir in this post, Code666 Records doesn't have them up on their Bandcamp. So you'll have to track those down yourself (and I highly recommend, no, IMPLORE YOU, to do so). But on a more positive note, that allowed me to talk about some other great bands. [Note: Both albums are now available on Bandcamp, and Kevin wrote about them here.]

July 1, 2014

Sunwølf - Beholden To Nothing And No One

Written by Majbritt Levinsen.

Sunwølf is a new favourite band of mine and I would probably have missed out of their brilliant and versatile Beholden To Nothing And No One if Matt from Sunwølf hadn't contacted me and asked me to listen to them. As I’m sitting here writing these words I am listening to their first two albums Beyond the Sun from 2012 and Midnight Moon from 2013 which both offers really enjoyable instrumental ambient post-rock/drone recordings with a combination of a nice relaxing warmth and grand emotionless space. Midnight Moon has some stoner rock influences, which I like, who doesn’t like fat vibrating guitars? Well enough about the old stuff! Onwards to 2014 and a completely different chapter for Sunwølf.

Beholden To Nothing And No One is a very diverse double album. Disc one holds some great atmospheric, drone, stoner/sludge, post-rock and doom-ish tracks that are more raw but also more ethereal than their previous releases. Disc two holds absolutely wonderful ambient drone/shoe-gaze compositions that will mesmerise you. One major thing that differentiates this release from their previous releases is the addition of vocal on some of the tracks and of course the many guest appearances!

I have written about each and every track on my personal blog but will refrain from it here, even though each track has their own highlights I’ll give you the opportunity to go on your own journey and discover this double album by yourself and hopefully you’ll get your own visions while doing so. You might get the same chills I got when listening to the opening track "In the Darkened River I Found the Silence Loom". The delicate vocal of Tiffany Ström (from Myyths and Fvnerals) accompanied by Alex Hannan (Band of Hope Union) on violin, elevates the song to a dreamlike realm where time stops.

After a delicate ethereal and melancholic start, more bleak, nihilistic, post-apocalyptic compositions takes over with a rawer, more slow-grinding drone/doom/sludge/stoner pace. The tracks "Vultures Crown" and "The Wake Of Leviathan" offers gritty, screeching, noisy guitars, a raw vocal delivered by Ben Corkhill (the abominable cave goblin from Bongcauldron), pounding drums and a bass thick as mud. Another guest vocalist, Phillip Flock‘s (Aleph Null), can be found on the next track: "Thrown Into A Nameless Time".

The title track "Beholden To Nothing And No One" is as beautiful as it is drained from all kinds of warmth. Desolate, vast, barren, ethereal, emotional and chilling. "Heathens Rest" continues on the same path – slowly dragging itself forward to close off this nihilistic journey in a pace that makes you feel like life itself has been drained from your body and death slowly lulls you into its eternal sleep. It’s calm, bleak and beautiful. Guest performers on this track are Tiffany Ström on vocals and Sarah Tyler on Saxophone.

Disc two takes you on an ambient drone ride, that will take you places far away to bleak post-apocalyptic sceneries. "Ithaca" and "Symptoms Of Death" offers a sleepy jazzy feeling much due to the trumpet, played by John Scully. I have to say that I have grown quite fond of this track, much to my own surprise.

I've come across many tracks in my life I wished were longer and Sunwølf manages to get such a track on Beholden To Nothing And No One. "Lotus Island" being 5 minutes long, could have been longer, but sadly isn't. It is a droning spiritual voyage where the vibrating, humming calm of the instruments and Dominic Deane‘s chanting vocal automatically engulfs you and slows time down.

Beholden To Nothing And No One is a great trip to far away corners of a musical landscape, that is both beautifully ethereal, nihilistic bleak, deeply melancholic and at times claustrophobic unsettling, hard and raw. As opposed to their older releases I find this more experimental and offers more to discover for the listener. Enjoy!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]