August 2, 2014

Transylvanian Tapes: Bädr Vogu, Naught, Xenotaph, and Swamp Witch.

Written by Craig Hayes.

Right off the bat, there are two very good reasons why you should pay a visit to Transylvanian Tapes’ Bandcamp page. First is the fact that the label’s based in Oakland, California, which is obviously going to perk the interest of anyone searching for underground metal that reeks of squalor and decay. Second is that Transylvanian Tapes released Caffa's Day of Disease back in 2013, and that was an album that featured a wonderfully crusty and putrid mix of black, doom, and death metal. That’s two big ticks for Transylvanian Tapes already, but I happened to stop by their Bandcamp page recently, and found another four reasons you’ll want to check the label out immediately.

Number one, is Bädr Vogu. The Oakland-based “blues crust” band released a fantastically grimy and grunty debut, Exitium, back in 2011; and you can find that on the band’s Bandcamp page to sate your thirst for dirty and destructive audio delights. For Transylvanian Tapes, Bädr Vogu bring the same thunderous sludge/doom/death/crust assault on their latest release, Agglomeration XXIV. The Bandcamp version features two tracks, “Traitor” and “Anathema of Time”, but there’s three more tracks available on the B-side of the physical tape release. Those B-side tracks are taken from the band’s 2012 split LP with Seattle grindcore band Wilt, and you can find those tunes on Bädr Vogu’s own Bandcamp page to download too. If you’re a fan of band’s like Noothgrush, Eyehategod, or Grief, then you’re going to love the hate that oozes from Agglomeration XXIV. This is filth and forlornness spewed out by gutter punks wielding pulverising guitars, with zero hope for the future in sight here. It’s just bestial blues and cough-syrup crust piling on the negativity and brutality. Obviously, this is essential. Buy it. Now. (And grab Exitium and those split tracks while you’re at it).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The second reason to check out Transylvanian Tapes comes from the other side of the world. In this case, Iceland’s Naught. The band bring the same level of crushing crust as Bädr Vogu, but Naught also tap into a tar-pit of catacomb doom on their debut EP, Tómhyggjublús. The Ep’s three lengthy songs, "Í Paradís", "Tómhyggjublús", and "Hold er Mold", provide one long, slow, and grinding funeral rite. We’re talking mammoth riffs, tortured vocals, and pounding percussion -- somewhat in a similar vein to Asunder, on occasion -- and it all makes for an overdose of hatred and torment. There’s traces of subterranean death metal here too, and Tómhyggjublús is bleeding-raw, which only makes things even more emotionally and sonically devastating. Tómhyggjublús definitely marks Naught as a band to keep a very close eye on.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Third on this Transylvanian Tapes' list, is Californian black metal band, Xenotaph. The band’s four track EP, Vitae Iactura, is hugely impressive, especially because it’s only Xenotaph’s debut recording. There’s second-wave necro worship to be found here, with atmospheric melodies and villainous vocals all adding plenty of intense energy to chip away at the nerves. Extra points to Xenotaph for not being afraid to stretch things out too. Three of Vitae Iactura’s tracks head past the seven minute mark, but there’s no sense of the band repeating themselves here. Vitae Iactura feels supremely confident, and Xenotaph deserve to be. There’s accomplished songwriting and musicianship on display here, and it’s all been extremely well produced, to amplify that all-important, ice-cold wickedness. (Also, as an ill-omened bonus, Vitae Iactura’s last track, “Descending”, is a sinister synth sojourn. Just to really get under your skin).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Last in my Transylvanian Tapes discoveries is, Swamp Witch. The band’s Gnosis EP was originally released back in 2011, but the Bandcamp re-release also features a remix of the EP’s three tracks by DJ Dreemz. We’ll get to what that DJ Dreemz brings in a second, but what you’ll find on the original tracks is howling, psychotic sludge that's been liberally dosed with cruddy psychedelia. Boiling away in the background of Gnosis is cosmic doom, albeit in very twisted form, and that slowly seeps into the up-front suffocating sludge. Everything is slathered in suffocatingly evil vibes, making for a heavy-ass brew of dementedness, with buckets of bile poured on. In other words, Gnosis is trip gone very, very wrong. About as wrong as it can get. That’s where DJ Dreemz comes in, to really drag the psychological punishment out. Dreemz takes those core tracks and slows things right down, adding scratches and samples to contort the tracks even further. Swamp Witch are utterly mad, but then, that’s also what makes Gnosis so utterly brilliant.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Note: The budget conscious metal connoisseur can find Naught - Tómhyggjublús as a Name Your Price download on their Bandcamp page.

  1. Can't say enough good things about the Cyanic album they have, too.

    1. Cyanic you say?. OK, I'll be getting that one too.