April 3, 2020

Errant - Errant

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


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

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

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

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

April 1, 2020

Déhà - A fleur de peau - I - There Is No Home

By Master of Muppets. Single track albums can be a bit of a tough sell. Attention spans being something of an endangered species, the shuffle button rules over many with an iron fist and the idea of committing more than 3 minutes of one's life to a single song is tantamount to lunacy these days.
By Master of Muppets.


Single track albums can be a bit of a tough sell. Attention spans being something of an endangered species, the shuffle button rules over many with an iron fist and the idea of committing more than 3 minutes of one's life to a single song is tantamount to lunacy these days. So it goes, yet - surprise, surprise - sometimes artists don't particularly care about what you want when they're making things, and sometimes artists do make things which defy today's patience deprived listening climate; Déhà's A Fleur de Peau - I - There is No Home is one of those things. It may not necessarily be your thing, but if it turns out that it is then trust me: it's really gonna be your thing.

Just what kind of thing is that? For starters, A Fleur de Peau is, obviously, a single track album. Sure, it's presented as 'Parts I - VI', with said chapters being given titles and everything, yet this 41 minute ride is solely offered as one cohesive listening experience: if you want to listen to any of it, you're listening to all of it. In the name of full disclosure, I'll also confess that if you've heard some of A Fleur de Peau, you've heard most of it: the track/suite/album largely operates around one core melody, sustained for the entirety of its duration. A Fleur de Peau is a single moment in time stretched out into something sprawling and unforgiving, it does not care about your feelings or your attention span, aside from its mission to strangle the former and bleed the latter dry. As I've stated, this album is not for everyone, but if it's for you it's likely really for you.

Just who is this thing for, anyway? In a word: me. In a few more words: fans of NONE, Vvilderness and Unreqvited. There is no happiness to be heard amidst these shrieks and tremolo-picked guitars, and though the atmosphere that Déhà has created here is as cold and jagged as it gets, it is also tender, wounded in its own right. At its core, A Fleur de Peau is atmospheric black metal of the DSBM variety, with slight traces of sludge mixed in to keep things properly oppressive. Clean, brooding guitars get things started and occasionally resurface along the way, but by and large this soundscape is awash with distortion and screams, a world of sheer despair. Unbridled agony and a plea for its cessation is what Déhà has for us today, and if you haven't been scared off yet it's likely that you've arrived at the doorstep of your musical home.

Normally I'd have more things to say at this point in a review, but ordinarily I'd also have more songs to discuss and these are not normal times, so I don't… Or do I? I really don't, but Déhà does: while you're at his Bandcamp page, check out the recently released Just Stay at Home single posted there. Apparently Déhà hates COVID-19 just as much as the rest of us, his gripes just sound better. Written as a means to vent his own frustrations regarding the coronapocalypse, eventually the track will find a home on a future Déhà album, provided The Great Toilet Paper Famine doesn't kill us all, but for now it's as good a way as any to channel your disgust as we ride out this pandemic in isolated solidarity. Honestly, if blackened post hardcore decrying a plagued humanity doesn't isn't what the doctor ordered, then frankly your doctor sucks.

A Fleur de Peau is, for the millionth time, not for everyone. It is not for the deficient of attention, nor is it for the casual black metal fan. Those without patience or a penchant for pure, pummeling pessimism will find little to love here - and that's just fine. However, those listeners whose tastes dwell in darkness and dream of the end are likely to find something to be cherished in these 40-some minutes, a haunted and hateful home of their own.

March 27, 2020

Wake - Devouring Ruin

By Matt Hinch. Wake's previous album, Misery Rites, should have garnered the attention of anyone who hadn't been paying attention already. It was a potent blend of black metal and grinding madness. Anyone who thought new album, Devouring Ruin was going to follow the same formula would be wrong.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Alexandre Goulet.

Wake's previous album, Misery Rites, should have garnered the attention of anyone who hadn't been paying attention already. It was a potent blend of black metal and grinding madness. Anyone who thought new album, Devouring Ruin was going to follow the same formula would be wrong. Sure, those key elements are present and accounted for but they've further honed their melodic touches and technicality and shifted in a more deathly direction.

Opener “Dissolve and Release” opens the listener's ears with a fairly melodic section but the hammer has to drop, right? It does with the force of a Prairie blizzard leading into “Kana Tevoro (Kania! Kania!)”. Technicality and off-kilter riffing compete with blasting drums and chest-caving vocals. As claustrophobic as it sounds the solos are quite expansive while still grounded in darkness.

Elsewhere we find demons unleashed. Fast, angry, and destructive. Vocals breaks and a slower pace rub elbows with more impact riffing. The back and forth between annihilation and lamentation feels more like reality than some bands one-vector approach. “Mouth of Abolition” features devastating deathgrind sewn together with prog touches and melody. The vocals, however, give no quarter amid the pummeling, yet there's enough emotion throughout to pull something out of you.

“Torchbearer” sees an atmosphere of doom devolve into noisy paranoia. A slow chug drags the listener through swamps of death before it rockets into black metal fury. There's really a lot more than just that as this track tops 10 minutes! Not too typical for grind! I don't think anyone has accused Wake of being typical.

“In the Lair of the Rat Kings” balances their signature grinding madness with some flourish. It's a banger though; total annihilation with some real heavy movement. It leads right into the penultimate track, “Monuments to Impiety”. More rage, more speed, more angularity, more heavy-handed groove.

Other than its runtime of over seven minutes closer “The Procession” brings together all the elements present in the previous nine tracks (save the two “noisy/arty” interludes). It encapsulates all the deathly weight, speed changes and bulging muscularity Devouring Ruin is built upon. It even feels like a conclusion (to the album). It has a climactic feel like it's rising, freed from the ground it so mercilessly pounds.

Wake are seriously making a name for themselves. Not only in the grind scene but as one of Canada's best extreme acts. With Devouring Ruin they are elevating an already top shelf game. This is a band not content to sit on their laurels and remain in a comfortable zone. They're pushing themselves and genre conventions and we are all the beneficiaries.

March 24, 2020

Planet of the Dead - Fear of a Dead Planet

By Calen Henry. I love Beastwars so imagine my surprise when an album from a Wellington-based stoner doom band boasting a wicked sci-fi album cover surfaced on Bandcamp and it wasn’t them. Surprise turned to delight when I hit play on Planet of the Dead's Fear of a Dead Planet. While they certainly Obey the Riff, they set themselves well apart from New Zealand’s apocalyptic doom phoenix.
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Jonathan Guzi.

I love Beastwars so imagine my surprise when an album from a Wellington-based stoner doom band boasting a wicked sci-fi album cover surfaced on Bandcamp and it wasn’t them. Surprise turned to delight when I hit play on Planet of the Dead's Fear of a Dead Planet. While they certainly Obey the Riff, they set themselves well apart from New Zealand’s apocalyptic doom phoenix.

Planet of the Dead draws deep from the well of stoner metal and 90’s alt-rock to create a menacing atmosphere then whips up a sci-fi sandstorm. With lyrics drawing from well-known fantasy and sci-fi as well as a few deep cuts - bonus points to them for having lyrics on their Bandcamp page.

The album opens with "The Eternal Void". It's drawn out intro creates the perfect ominous vibe for vocalist Mark Mundell’s melodic howl to tell the tale of the advance of the White Walkers. He then drops into a menacing growl with echoes of stoner metal godfather Matt Pike. The vocal shift kicks the instruments into a lumbering staccato shuffle, showing their hand for the rest of the album. Their “trademark” sound is the juxtaposition of sinister semi-clean vocals and more guttural howls over a similar juxtaposition of slow, menacing passages and extremely groovy, choppy fast riffs.

Album standout "Mind Killer" is the grooviest of all. Opening with a sample of the Mentat Mantra from David Lynch’s Dune, the band then shifts into a groove that sounds like Queens of the Stone Age filtered through High on Fire. With Mark turning the Mantra into the first verse and the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear into a glorious chorus reminiscent of Trent Reznor. The rest of the verses weave in the band’s own lyrics about Paul Atreides’ choice between the machinations of the Bene Gesserit and the logic of the Mentat way.

Shifting to a stomping rhythm weirdly reminiscent of Silverchair’s largely forgotten hit "Freak", the band completes the sci-fi / fantasy hat trick with another Dune track. "A Million Deaths" focuses on Paul’s visions of death, his fear of them coming to pass, and his inability to prevent them on his current path.

"Nashwen" goes deep with nerd cred (full disclosure: I didn’t figure this one out myself) for another groovy track with 90’s NIN sounding vocals, this time about Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe. It’s also the first track on the album to feature an extended guitar lead and it’s pretty killer over top of the bands crunchy riffs.

The rest of the track list carries on the band’s formula of groove vs trudge, but the back half of the album has fewer direct sci-fi references and is slower, on balance. "Walk the Earth" bears special mention, though, as it’s inspired by Dawn of the Dead and thereby calls back to the band’s name (though the main inspiration for the name is the Electric Wizard track Funeralopolis). The subject matter is a great fit for the band’s sound. Much like the album opener the slow riffing is a perfect fit for the creeping dread of a George A. Romero inspired song.

Planet of the Dead’s slow/fast formula creates a great signature sound considering Fear of a Dead Planet is only their first full length. It does, however, have the odd recycled riff, but the feeling of deja-vu never lasts long before they do something creative and switch things up. Plus it sounds great, especially for a debut. The master is more dynamic than average for stoner doom coming in at DR 8 and it really shows. Everything sounds massive and the bass really comes through to drive the huge grooves.

Planet of the Dead are unlikely to convert staunch detractors of their chosen style but stoner metal lovers will find a lot to love here, and a surprisingly original take on an overdone sound in what I consider to be the best stoner metal debut since Ordos’ House of the Dead.

March 20, 2020

Hubris - Metempsychosis

By Justin C. Chances are good that you’re reading this while under some level of self-imposed quarantine. It’s not a lot of fun, even for those of us who have had work from home situations before. It’s even less fun for people whose income depends on being able to go out in public and gather people around them, like our beloved bands.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Jérémie Hohl.

Chances are good that you’re reading this while under some level of self-imposed quarantine. It’s not a lot of fun, even for those of us who have had work from home situations before. It’s even less fun for people whose income depends on being able to go out in public and gather people around them, like our beloved bands.

So what to do? Well, there are no easy answers to that, but some folks are trying. Bandcamp itself is waiving its share of sales on March 20 to help artists. (And for those of you griping that it’s just a “token” or some such nonsense, please go away unless you’re also donating 100% of your income to others for any period of time.) Art as Catharsis, a label that supports all manner of avant garde music, is giving 100% of their profits directly to their artists through the end of March.

So what to buy, what to buy.... I got into Art as Catharsis way back when through Serious Beak, an instrumental band that Lachlan Dale, label founder, plays in himself. That’s a good start, but for a recent release of metal-adjacent, instrumental music, let me recommend the latest by Hubris, Metempsychosis, an entirely engaging album centered on Greek mythology.

I say “metal-adjacent” here because this doesn’t have the heavier vibes of bands like Russian Circles or Pelican, but like those bands, Hubris knows how to write a damn fine instrumental song. And although there is a lot of delicate loveliness, they also aren’t afraid to get their stomp on when needed. The heaviness is judiciously meted out, like around the halfway point of album opener “Hepius.” I’ve poked fun of other post-metal-type bands that seem to stick to the quiet-LOUD-quiet-LOUD formula, which can be a bit exhausting, but Hubris ebbs and flows, builds and retreats, making even their longer songs pass by like a dream.

Give Hubris a devoted listen, especially since your other option is to enter the Thunderdome to fight people over toilet paper. If you’re able, support the bands you like through Bandcamp this Friday, or from Art as Catharsis the rest of this month. Every little bit helps.

March 14, 2020

Tints of Obsidian - EP Edition

By Justin C. Once again, we present some takes on black metal bands--which of course has nothing to do with some other site’s black metal roundups. Any resemblance in name or purpose are purely coincidental. Black-death-doom-other band Lychgate has been making wild, hard-to-categorize metal for close to a decade now
By Justin C.

Once again, we present some takes on black metal bands--which of course has nothing to do with some other site’s black metal roundups. Any resemblance in name or purpose are purely coincidental.

Artwork by Khaos Diktator Design.

Black-death-doom-other band Lychgate has been making wild, hard-to-categorize metal for close to a decade now, and over three full lengths and their new EP, Also Sprach Futura, they’ve made music to fire up your mind and body. This EP doesn’t diverge too much from the singular sound they’ve developed--including the unmistakable strains of a pipe organ--but they do what they do so well that it doesn’t really matter. The spooky, almost-jazzy interlude in “Progeny of the Singularity” makes for a subtle break from the chaos, but album-closer “Vanity Ablaze,” with its staccato shouts over artillery drumming, will get your engine revving again. If you haven’t checked out this band, this EP makes for a more manageable intro to their dense sound.


Artwork by Aghy Purakusuma.

Pure Wrath self-identifies as melancholic black metal, and the label is particularly apt for their newest EP, The Forlorn Soldier. Although there are only three tracks here, the emotional impact is high. The EP deals with the 1965 genocide in Indonesia, part of a Western-backed anti-communist purge, a mass murder in which an international panel found that the U.S., the U.K., and Australia were all complicit in. Pure Wrath’s musical take matches that darkness. “When a Great Man Dies” might come charging out of the gate like standard, high-energy melodic black metal, but anything “standard” about this track goes out the window with the addition of an off-kilter piano riff that suddenly comes out of nowhere. The heavy emotional toll quickly becomes clear, and it’s amplified in the long, closing track, “With Their Names Engraved.” The track, at times, feels more like funeral doom than black metal, at least in spirit, allowing for rage and quiet mourning to coexist. Another highly recommended entry in this band’s catalog, and possibly one of their most affecting.

February 27, 2020

Munknörr - Futharuna

By Master of Muppets. It's tough to tell exactly when 'metal' transcended its earliest, simplest yet most clearly defined self and became all but a blanket term for 'awesome music that isn't on the radio.' Because of the metal community's appropriation of pretty much
By Master of Muppets.


It's tough to tell exactly when 'metal' transcended its earliest, simplest yet most clearly defined self and became all but a blanket term for 'awesome music that isn't on the radio.' Because of the metal community's appropriation of pretty much anything that's ever made a sound, these days it's tough to tell what isn't metal. We'll take acoustic works - from traditional one-off albums to bands who strictly utilize straight-up medieval instruments - just as readily as we'll claim purely programmed digital nonsense to still be metal. I don't claim to know what the rules are regarding which subgenres are up for metal annexation, I also don't claim to care: Munknörr's Futharuna is apparently metal enough for me to babble about it here, and that's all I care about.

So, yeah, if you're looking for overdriven amps and riffs written in the name of Satan, Munknörr probably aren't for you. Like Wardruna or Eldrim, this Uruguayan act evokes a world long since passed, transporting the listener to a time of shamanism and rune worship. In its most serene moments, Futharuna evokes the air of an ancient ritual by firelight, enveloping the listener in pensive, atmospheric percussion and guttural chanting; at its most intense, it's the kind of music that makes you want to don your battleaxe and run to your nearest woodland, screaming death to the enemy and glory to Odin all the way - and really, isn't that all any metalhead really wants?

In the absence of electronically augmented instrumentation, Munknörr's percussive elements are largely responsible for keeping things immediately heavy. Thundering, ominous drums bring Futharuna to life the way they did before all the digital sonic accessories of modern metal, their pummeling almost palpable in the pulse of the unsuspecting listener. Vocals are likewise utilized in a manner that amplifies the album's atmosphere more awesomely than any effect pedal could ever achieve, testifying to the resonating power that is the core of music - and in doing so, to the futility of our modern attempts to digitally enhance something that is inherently perfect. That such intricate soundscapes are constructed with such simple tools is more than impressive: it's fucking metal.

A more/actually qualified reviewer would almost certainly be able to provide you all with more apt and succinct points of reference for the Munknörr sound, but you got Muppet so you get this: Futharuna exists on a sonic plane directly adjacent to the scores for Spartacus and Game of Thrones, full of energy and ancient imagery. I can't tell you which instruments were used to summon the eery, airy ambience of "Odin", or the pensively plucked procession of primeval sounds that comprise "Laguz". I have no idea at all what's going on "Raido", but it makes me want to commune with the spirits of fallen warriors by fire light on the eve of a great battle, and if that not only makes any sense but also sounds like something that you'd like to hear then this album is more than worth your time.

Futharuna is neither br00tal nor kvlt; it does not djent, nor will it melt your face off in a sea of high gain guitar noodlery or else blast-beat you into next week. At its non-core core, it is more ambient than anything, and surely only an obscure technicality or else a grave lapse in judgment allowed it to appear here on Metal Bandcamp - but here it is, nonetheless. This album never got me to bang my head or hail Satan, but it did manage to take me somewhere that I've never been and yet inexplicably yearn to return to, and that is truly fucking heavy.

February 21, 2020

10 Years of Death in Kill-Town

The first Kill-Town Death Fest was held in 2010 so this years edition is billed as "10 Years of Death". Due to 2015-2018 hiatus it's actually fest number eight, but hey, ten years is ten years. All 36 bands of the lineup has been announced and here's a Bandcamp playlist of nearly all of them in announcement order

The first Kill-Town Death Fest was held in 2010 so this years edition is billed as "10 Years of Death". Due to 2015-2018 hiatus it's actually fest number eight, but hey, ten years is ten years. All 36 bands of the lineup has been announced and here's a Bandcamp playlist of nearly all of them in announcement order, some with a quote from the announcement telling why the band is extra special. Even if you won't be visiting Kill-Town this year there should be something to enjoy for any lover of Death Metal.

Like the last years the fest takes place in Pumpehuset in Copenhagen, a venue with small and a larger stage. Expect the small stage to become super crowded for some of the sets. Tickets go on sale here Friday 21st February at 17:00 CET The festival is now SOLD OUT. Check the Kill-Town Facebook page for more information.

This post will be continually updated with with the latest Bandcamp releases from all the bands involved, and when is the schedule is announced the bands will be sorted according to their set times.


1 - Coffin Texts (United States)
They rarely play live and have never set foot on this side of the Atlantic, so it’s with immense pride we can present the first European show ever of the mighty COFFIN TEXTS!!!


2 - Acephalix (United States)
It’s been 9 years since this Bay Area 5 piece played shows in Europe, so it’s with great pleasure we can announce ACEPHALIX for the KTDF VIII lineup!


3 - Father Befouled (United States)


4 - Vanhelgd (Sweden)


5 - Krypts (Finland)


6 - Witch Vomit (United States)
They have never played Europe before and they will only come over to do this KTDF special one-off set. Please welcome one of Portlands best contemporary death metal bands; WITCH VOMIT!!!


7 - Sijjin (Germany)
Arisen from the ashes of the soon defunct Necros Christos, its with great pleasure we can present SIJJIN as part of the KTDF VIII lineup!!!


8 - Mortiferum (United States)


9 - Faceless Burial (Australia)
its with great pleasure we can present the first ever European show for FACELESS BURIAL!!!


10 - Ossuary (United States).
This three piece, consisting of 2 members from the amazing occult rock band Jex Thoth. It’s with tremendous pleasure that KTDF can present the very first European performance of OSSUARY!!!


11 - Burial Invocation (Turkey)


12 - Interment (Sweden)


13 - Bloodsoaked Necrovoid (Costa Rica)
it’s with great pleasure we can announce the first ever European performance for BLOODSOAKED NECROVOID!!!


14 - Gorephilia (Finland)


15 - Deathcult (Switzerland)


16 - Innumerable Forms (United States)


17 - Concrete Winds (Finland)
a new project as a duo who set out to take the direction of Vorum’s final album and bring it to a whole new level of extreme. Therefore it’s with tremendous pleasure we can welcome CONCRETE WINDS to the KTDF VIII lineup!!!


18 - Void Rot (United States)
We are excited to announce that VOID ROT will be performing their first ever European show at KTDF VIII!


19 - Engulfed (Turkey)


20 - Sněť (Czechia)


21 - Ascendency (Denmark)


22 - Atavisma (France)
We are obviously happy to be presenting this band and a special show, but also sad that this will be their last ever live performance ... so it’s with great pleasure that we can welcome ATAVISMA to the Gloomy Sunday line-up!


23 - Mortal Wound (United States)
we are proud to present the very first European performance for MORTAL WOUND!!!


24 - Cryptic Brood (Germany)


25 - Cavurn (United States)
It’s with great pleasure we can present an exclusive one off performance and first European show ever for CAVURN!!!


26 - Carcinoid (Australia)
Today we head all the back down under to present to you another first time in Europe band! We welcome Australia’s CARCINOID to the KTDF VIII line-up!


27 - Convocation (Finland)
This band has never played live before and will possibly never play live again. Therefore we are elated to be able to present a unique one-off live experience with the mighty CONVOCATION!!!


28 - Hyperdontia (Denmark/Tyrkey)


29 - Proscription (Finland)
Please welcome from the ashes of Maveth, PROSCRIPTION!!!


30 - Astriferous (Costa Rica)
We are excited to be able to present the first ever European performance for this great 4 piece from San José, Costa Rica – please welcome ASTRIFEROUS!!!


31 - Encoffination (United States)
We are honoured to be able to present an exclusive European one-off for none other than the mighty ENCOFFINATION!!!


32 - Morta Skuld (United States)
[Morta Skuld only has this compilation of their first two demos on Bandcamp]


33 - Degial (Sweden)
With two members currently playing for Watain their busy schedules rarely allow them to perform live. So therefore its with tremendous pleasure that we can announce that the mighty DEGIAL will be performing the 8th edition of KTDF!!!


34 - Blood Incantation (United States)


35 - Dead Congregation (Greece)


36 - Asphyx (Netherlands)
[Asphyx are signed to Century Media which means nothing on Bandcamp. So here's the last EP by the excellent Dead Congregation to round things off]


February 14, 2020

Konvent - Puritan Masochism

By Calen Henry. Copenhagen based newcomers Konvent are billed as death doom. From the first huge guitar note, however, their blown out fuzz assault is more reminiscent of manic sludge punks Mantar than the likes of Hooded Menace and Runemagick. The trudging pace is certainly reminiscent of those two, though, making for an intriguing sludge doom mix.
By Calen Henry.


Copenhagen based newcomers Konvent are billed as death doom. From the first huge guitar note, however, their blown out fuzz assault is more reminiscent of manic sludge punks Mantar than the likes of Hooded Menace and Runemagick. The trudging pace is certainly reminiscent of those two, though, making for an intriguing sludge doom mix.

Puritan Masochism is the band’s first full length, though they’ve been together since 2015. The result sounds confident, purposeful, and extremely focused. The women in Konvent know exactly what they’re doing: Bludgeoning melodic riffs, guttural growls, witch rasps. Rinse. Repeat.

Such a no frills approach is a bit of a gamble in an increasingly saturated metal world but the band draws enough from doom, death metal, and sludge to create a signature sound while backing it up with good riffs and good vocals It does mean there isn’t a lot to say about them, though. But what more do you need than: Turn on, Tune in, drop into a continuous slow head bang.

February 11, 2020

Riff Spreader Best of January

[Riff Spreader is back with his best discoveries from January. As usual the agenda is: No fash trash. Just righteous riffs]. There’s a new Nachtlieder track called “Avgrunden” and I’m starting to wonder if Dagny Susanne was built in a black metal lab somewhere. If you imagined perfect black metal riffs I don’t think you could get much closer than this song. ["Avgrunden" is a single from the EP Views from the North vol. I, due late February].
[Riff Spreader is back with his best discoveries from January. As usual the agenda is: No fash trash. Just righteous riffs.]


There’s a new Nachtlieder track called “Avgrunden” and I’m starting to wonder if Dagny Susanne was built in a black metal lab somewhere. If you imagined perfect black metal riffs I don’t think you could get much closer than this song. ["Avgrunden" is a single from the Views from the North vol. I EP, due late February].


Artwork by Karmazid.

Hey, there's new shit from Garroted out - a split with Calcemia, who I have never heard but will shortly. Garroted rules, if you didn't know. [So does Calcemia].


Artwork by Lordigan Pedro Sana.

The new Wormhole album has arrived. Slammy tech death with hardcore influence. These guys were a lot of fun live, and I've been waiting for this one for a while. Good times. Actually a lot of the hardcore influence is gone on this release. This is much more proggy/tech than their debut.


Artwork by CT Nelson.

There's a new Sutrah track streaming on Bandcamp and it's very, very good. I almost wet myself at the 2 minute mark. If this track is any indication, the new album is going to be even better than the debut, which is insane. [And the pre-order for the Aletheia EP is only $4].

February 6, 2020

The Doomed Concept - Bull Elephant, Howling Giant, and Bushwhacker

By Calen Henry. Last year saw the release of three great doomy concept albums, all of which I either initially missed or glossed over and all of which are worth revisiting both for music and stories. Anonymous UK collective Bull Elephant dropped their self-titled debut in November. They go all in on their concept telling the story of a slaughtered African elephant reanimated by Nazi occultists
By Calen Henry.

Last year saw the release of three great doomy concept albums, all of which I either initially missed or glossed over and all of which are worth revisiting both for music and stories.

Cover art by all4band.com.

Anonymous UK collective Bull Elephant dropped their self-titled debut in November. They go all in on their concept telling the story of a slaughtered African elephant reanimated by Nazi occultists to further their war effort, only to be interrupted by a witch-shaman and turned on its killers. Elder forces, having other plans for the beast, intercede through time and space. They realize that no matter which side prevails, the earth is doomed to a slow cycle of degradation as humans, a mere cosmic footnote, wage their slowly escalating war on nature. After the great pachyderm falls in battle against its captors and killers, these elder gods raise it for one final battle to catalyze humanity’s ruin and reset the cosmic balance.

Backing up the story is a wall of doom/sludge that constantly churns through riffs, leads, and vocal styles. At first listen the heavier side dominates; thundering drums, crushing guitar riffs and guttural vocals. Ultimately, though, the vocals unlock the album’s potential. The vocalist(s) run the gamut from guttural death metal growls, to black metal rasps, gritty mid-range, and a manic falsetto that just pushes into distorted without turning into a shriek.

The instruments lock in with all these changes, always the right sonic palette for the vocals. They effortlessly slip from psychedelic clean guitar passages into crushing doom riffs, and soaring guitar leads, even dropping into full-on HM-2 fueled OSDM for “Corrupted Truth”. The swirling musical shifts match not only the vocal changes, but the scenes in the story. As the story moves from terrestrial to celestial happenings, and into the future and back the musical backdrop always matches. It makes following the story with the included PDF lyrics sheet thoroughly enthralling.

The icing is that, though Bull Elephant are anonymous and independent, they’ve gone to great lengths to perfect their album. It sounds amazing. No matter how airy, busy, or dirty it is at a given point it always sounds just right. Everything comes through and nothing gets lost.

By delivering the full package of ridiculous kitchen-sink metal concept album Bull Elephant have set the bar high on their debut and are allegedly already working on Bull Elephant II...


Cover Art by Lindsey Camelio.

The Space Between Worlds is Howling Giant's first full length after a series of pulp science fiction themed EPs. This time the Nashville trio has gone full sci-fi concept album. The overarching story is that of a huntress on a journey through the metaphysical realm of humanity’s collective dreamscape. In it she must confront a dream eater in an attempt to stop it devouring dreamers and destabilizing the dimension itself. The actual story is told completely within the dream realm and plays out more like a classic fantasy yarn as the huntress traverses the land on the way to the dream eater’s citadel for the final confrontation.

In contrast to Bull Elephant’s prog doom melting pot Howling Giant play extremely melodic stoner rock. The closest touch-point is ASG (Jason Shi even provides some guest vocals). All the vocals are clean with lots of harmonized parts and the guitar tone is warm and fuzzy. It’s an extremely easy album to listen to, and indeed, I glossed over it on my first listen. Underneath the easily digestible sound the band have written a selection of great songs full of hooks and ear-worm sing-along choruses. Instead of falling into the common stoner rock trap of stringing together some huge riffs and calling it an album, the songs feel intentionally structured to both support the story and come out as good songs. They keep things moving along, rarely riding a riff for very long and often working in 6/8, so that when they do drop into a huge “slow headbang” stoner metal riff it always hits hard.

Like The Sword’s sci-fi concept period (Warp Riders and Apochryphon) Howling Giant aren’t reinventing the wheel. But The Space Between Worlds deliver an exciting concept that’s well executed with a signature sound that’s immediately approachable, but continually rewarding.


Cover Art by Adam Burke.

Originally hailing from Canada’s Klondike, Vancouver’s Bushwhacker go full cowboy concept metal on A Fistful of Poison. It chronicles the downfall of a drug addicted band of desperadoes, tricked by a local barkeep into seeking out a cult rumoured to grow their chosen drug and worship the ancient Egyptian crocodile-headed god Sobek. Matt over at Can This Even Be Called Music delves deep into the story better than I possibly could, and it really requires that level of immersion because the narrative drives the whole album and is essential to its success.

The narrative drives everything from the radio-drama style vignettes to the flow of the music itself. The vignettes are over the top, but so is the whole concept so it works. They unambiguously deliver the core story, letting the lyrics deliver the metaphorical and psychological side of the desperadoes' doomed journey. Between these the musical content of A Fistful of Poison leans heavily on long atmospheric instrumental sections to fully develop the story's pervasive feeling of manic desperation. Bushwhacker take the framework pioneered by Sleep of lengthy passages dominated by a single riff, slowly building and shifting, and employ it in service of the narrative. It's a perfect match for the vocals. The incantation-like delivery, a rhythmic chanting, escalates in parallel with the instruments to an unhinged rasp at key story moments.

Bushwhacker are all in on the storytelling and A Fistful of Poison is a fantastic soundtrack to an engrossing narrative, but without delving into both it risks falling flat. That may make it a polarizing album, but it's well worth the effort to unpack and unlike almost any other.

January 31, 2020

Former Worlds - Iterations of Time

By Justin C. Some metal, especially in the sludgy-doom arena, can be deceptive. An album starts with a furnace blast to your face, filled with SUFFOCATING ANGUISH. You’re immediately sucked in, but then about 35 minutes later--which is only the second song--you sheepishly raise your hand and say, “I’ve anguishly suffocated enough, thank you.”
By Justin C.

Artwork by Erin Severson from Former Worlds.

Some metal, especially in the sludgy-doom arena, can be deceptive. An album starts with a furnace blast to your face, filled with SUFFOCATING ANGUISH. You’re immediately sucked in, but then about 35 minutes later--which is only the second song--you sheepishly raise your hand and say, “I’ve anguishly suffocated enough, thank you.” Everything’s dialed to 11, and there’s little to differentiate one passage from the next.

Enter Former Worlds, who deftly avoid this trap on their first full-length, Iterations of Time. How do they manage it? Sure, the opener, “Spectre,” comes out blasting just as I described above, but listen to that rhythm section. They’ve got a filthy, slow-motion groove going on that carries the song along. Nobody’s going to mistake this for dance music, but might it be the rarely heard sludgy funk? (I hereby dub this microgenre Slunk™) It’s low and slow, but with a contradictory high energy and propulsion.

Add to that the songwriting skill--knowing when to bruise and when to step back to give the listener a little breathing room--and you have a four-song, 41-minute slab of doominess that holds your attention instead of abusing it. See “Variations on a Cave” for some of the band’s slick moves. There’s a higher-pitched line hanging eerily over the chugging, and vocalist Erin Severson mixes some lovely cleans in with her predominantly harsh bellows. I hate ending reviews with a negative, so I’ll say now there’s one point where the band slips, just a little. In the otherwise excellent “Widow Moon,” the closing track and the album’s longest, there’s an extended, quiet interlude in the middle that, although meditative and beautifully done, does have the effect of unmooring the song a bit. But this is a nitpick on an otherwise solid track.

If you’re looking for some genuinely inventive sludgy doom to kick off your year, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Iterations of Time. I knew I was going to write about this album halfway through the first listen, which is a testament to how hard this band can grab you and draw you in.

Dragunov - Arkhipov

By Justin C. Just a little over three years have passed since French post-metal duo Dragunov gave us Korolev, a concept album about the Soviet Union’s space program. They’re back now with another gem, Arkhipov, this time focusing on a specific and frankly terrifying incident that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
By Justin C.


Just a little over three years have passed since French post-metal duo Dragunov gave us Korolev, a concept album about the Soviet Union’s space program. They’re back now with another gem, Arkhipov, this time focusing on a specific and frankly terrifying incident that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The album takes its title from Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, a Soviet naval officer. In October of 1962, he was a commodore in command of a flotilla of Russian submarines near Cuba. He was personally on board a sub named B-59. The U.S. Navy located B-59 and began dropping depth charges in an attempt to force the sub to surface. The captain and political officer both agreed to launch a nuclear torpedo. However, Commodore Arkhipov also had to agree to the launch, and he refused. If they had launched, it's entirely possible we wouldn’t be here to discuss metal or much of anything at all, except perhaps how to avoid irradiated super-mutants that would undoubtedly be hunting humanity’s few survivors.

It’s an incredible story that I personally hadn’t heard before, and once again, Dragunov captures the intensity of the situation with just guitars and drums. The band is still instrumental, so except for a few scratchy sound samples, the story is told without a sung, growled, or spoken word. The slow build of “B-59”, featuring a simple, eerie guitar line that eventually builds to heavier riffs with discordant notes punctuating on top, is as good a musical recreation of what that argument aboard the sub must have been like. Similarly, “Keldysh” includes quiet pings that will be familiar to anyone who’s watched a TV show or movie with a submarine using sonar. The sonar is joined by alarms, what sounds like Morse code, and a muscular riff with lockstep percussion.

Even if you don’t care much about Soviet history, Dragunov should appeal to anyone who likes powerful, memorable riffs. They’re not noodly or overly technical, but they’re always head-bangingly good, whether they’re taking a slow Sabbath-esque approach or ripping along like a freight train. I’ve said it in previous reviews, but the fact that just two people are making this incredible noise is beyond impressive. Instrumental metal is often hit-or-miss because we’re so used to having the vocal component. A less competent band would write songs that probably should have vocals but just don’t, but Dragunov is back to show us, once again, that there’s a right way to write compelling, heavy instrumental music. And the right way is their way.

January 28, 2020

Knelt Rote - Alterity

By Bryan Camphire. The title Alterity refers to the state of being other or different; otherness. It's a fitting and poignant title for this forth record by Knelt Rote, a three-piece American band whose work avoids easy categorization.
By Bryan Camphire.


The title Alterity refers to the state of being other or different; otherness. It's a fitting and poignant title for this forth record by Knelt Rote, a three-piece American band whose work avoids easy categorization. The band's sound has dramatically evolved over the years, and this release feels like a sticky concentrated black resin of their musical ideals. Alterity contains a sound that is potent and dangerous, its lean concoction of harsh textures and precise playing is both uncompromising and eye-opening.

The first track is "Lachesis", the title of which refers to the allotter of human destiny, one of the three Fates of Greek mythology. In under three minutes, Knelt Rote adopt a take no prisoners approach to unspooling their brand of blackened death grind. The tune is chock full of minor key melodies put forth at breakneck tempos over blistering dominant drums. If the record continued on at this pace, it would be great, albeit not altogether dissimilar to music you may have heard before in the realms of high caliber death grind. What makes this release stand out is how the music's rusty screws come lose as performance begins careening off the rails, as though nearly buckling under the force of its own ferocity. By the time we get to the third cut, "Rumination", the guitars have opened up, playing more spaced out rhythms and using the higher registers to cut through the murk.

A succinct set, Alterity tallies up at seven songs, clocking in at twenty-one minutes. Surprises continue through to the end, like the fact that the first guitar solo happens at the beginning of the fifth track, "Othering". The solo is already complete twenty seconds in, no more time was needed for this putrefaction to make its way from the music's yawning maw. The sixth song, "Salience", offers mid-tempo sections that give you just enough time to check yourself for bruises and make sure you haven't lost a tooth before the music sets off at its greased lightning clip once again. "Black Triptych", the record's last offering, presents another twenty second guitar solo about a minute in that pierces through the song like a cigarette burn on a handcuffed arm.

On Alterity, Knelt Rote's creative élan comes from its melding of torturous messy textures and sharp focused execution. Still, it is worth noting that for all the brute heaviness on display, absent from this album is any imagery of brainless skulls or even any overtly direct references to death, as is common in these realms of aural assault. Knelt Rote is an atypical group and they are not going to hit you over the head with this. They have other methods to bring forth their hostile onslaught.

January 26, 2020

Alunah - Violet Hour

By Matt Hinch. Let's get some formalities out of the way. Since Alunah's last full-length the band has seen some significant turnover. After Solennial, vocalist Sophie Day left to pursue other endeavours. Guitarist David Day stayed for Amber and Gold, the EP that introduced us to new vocalist Siân Greenaway.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Felipe Froeder/Arcano XV.

Let's get some formalities out of the way. Since Alunah's last full-length the band has seen some significant turnover. After Solennial, vocalist Sophie Day left to pursue other endeavours. Guitarist David Day stayed for Amber and Gold, the EP that introduced us to new vocalist Siân Greenaway. However, new LP Violet Hour finds the guitarist spot now occupied by Diamond Head bassist Dean Ashton. The rhythmic backbone has stayed intact in drummer Jake Mason and bassist Daniel Burchmore. As such, despite a 50% turnover the band still sounds like the Alunah I know and love yet the evolution of their sound leaves no doubt the players are different

I tried to keep the compare and contrast to a minimum while both listening and writing but I couldn't shake it entirely. No one would mistake one vocalist for the other but both work for the material. Live performances have shown that Greenaway doesn't sound out of place handling older material and on Violet Hour she definitely takes the vocals as her own. The version of Alunah that evolved up to what we heard on Solennial felt slower overall as well as more doomed and earthy, suiting Sophie's delivery perfectly. Violet Hour immediately has a different edge on opener "Trapped and Bound". Harder, edgier, with a different force behind it compared to the softer, hazy, more natural feel of old. There seems to be a shift in tone towards "hard rock with doom" rather than "doom with hard rock". It's not really a drastic change but it's powered by different elements. There's a swagger and a more rollicking feel at times.

As the album progresses it settles into darker places. By the time we get to "Hunt" familiar feelings start to come forth. The darkness of "Dance of Deceit" bleeds into the "classic" plodding riff that headlines "Hunt". It feels decidedly like traditional doom bringing to mind Trouble, or even Candlemass.

"Hypnotized" and the title track further display their evolving sound. The former is pretty doomy but still more uptempo. Greenaway's vocals are the smooth and haunting sort the band is known for while in the latter she brings a real power to match the riffier aspects of the track. It's like riding the album rather than sinking right into it. "Unholy Disease" feels like a sprint compared to some of their work both old and new. It's through these middle tracks where the solos highlight the stylistic difference. Definitely more rock oriented. Speaking of solos, during the solo on the smooth-moving "Velvet" the bass lurches into a more prominent recognition with a growl and the whole album is better for it. This is the track that sealed the deal for me. It's very reminiscent of previous albums and Greenaway gets truly bewitching and haunting. A definite high point.

Album closer "Lake of Fire" is my favourite track on the album though. The keys at the opening add more atmosphere. The bass is featured and the smooth cadence warms my soul. The chorus is huge and magnificent with a riff you can really get behind. Greenaway opens right up to captivate the listener. Even the solos have a quality to them that embraces the listener. It's massive and epic and the perfect way to end the album.

There's more comparison above than I wanted but it is what it is. Despite the new lineup this still sounds like Alunah. It's still doomy. The vocals still soar and the rhythm section is still rock solid. Violet Hour will really start to bury itself in your head after a brief and painless adjustment period. It's catchy, man! There's a little more muscle in the delivery but we all need to get a little stronger in some way. The band has always been evolving. Violet Hour just skipped a couple steps in the process of what they'll become. Come along for the ride.

January 23, 2020

Emptiness - Oblivion

An Autothrall Classic. Guilty to Exist had already proven an adequate foundation for this Belgian experimental death metal squad's immense and immersive permutations on the genre, but what it lacked was a truly distinct riffing ability, the means to draw the listener back beyond its elemental, atmospheric outreach.
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Artwork by Olve from Emptiness.

Guilty to Exist had already proven an adequate foundation for this Belgian experimental death metal squad's immense and immersive permutations on the genre, but what it lacked was a truly distinct riffing ability, the means to draw the listener back beyond its elemental, atmospheric outreach. Oblivion addresses these issues and more, with an incredibly rich production that was easily one of the best of 2007, in death or any other metal, and a slew of full bodied guitar work that more than apologizes from the shortcomings of its elder sibling. But behind this, Emptiness remain loyal to their grim, engrossing aesthetic, only tightening the duration and number of tracks they will require to cave in the listener's cranium while having he/she drooling for more.

No time is spared in parading the three years of evolution this band has undergone; "Truth of Trinity" comes out with all cylinders firing off into the void, a brief wash of noise and samples exploding into a well of complex riffs that constantly lay scourge to the mind, produced with as much discord as a technical black metal record, a mix of the band's guttural and higher pitched rasping vocals, and a tendency to continue quickening until the deeper, thrashing segments of the track that are bathed in pale, clinical lighting. "Summon" goes beyond even this, with one of the most superb arrangements on the entire record, an unforgettable stream of melodic wildfire and intense bass playing that stands out well on its own below the descending dementia of the guitars during the jazzy, atmospheric break at 1:00. This is followed by a great, twisting mute riff before 1:30 which dominates its own lead accompaniment, and the tracks wailing climax imprints deep into the memory.

Merely half a second later, the frenzy of "Feeding Force" continues the compulsive brilliance, a roiling mesh of brilliant grind/thrash, deep battering grooves and sporadic bursts of arching melody that once again pass unto legend. Essentially, you are given no chance to rest your bones before the next ass kicking, the rising hostility of "Crushing Ignorance" which completely rocks your kneecaps off again, sprawling you upon the asylum floor. "Forgotten" offers a glint of melodic despair, once again hinting at black metal through its morose hysterics, later adapting a gliding, pensive death metal structure which feels like parasailing across a dense, black sun. Also of note would be the chaotic crusher "Beyond the Rites", the thrash and bounce of "Guilty to Exist" (named for the debut album), and the sleek, memorable grooves that inaugurate "Exhausted Forms". "Slave" and "L.E.A.D." are likewise worth hearing, but they are the least of the band's compositions here, so it's just as well that they arrive so late in the duration.

Oblivion sees Emptiness reaching their true potential, and it's easily one of the best Belgian albums of its class. It may lack an engrossing industrial sequence as the one which closed the debut (though there are a pair of title track segues that fit this bill), and yet it compensates with so much good riffing that you'll very quickly lose count. Dark, concise, and compelling, there really are not many other albums out there like it, and it's set up some huge expectations for anything the band could possibly produce in the future. My initial reaction to this album was one of disturbed enticement, but through only a few shorts years it has grown into a tense rapture. Well worth whatever you would need to spend on it.


[Note that in January Oblivion and all other albums on the Agonia Records Bandcamp are available for $3.90]