July 3, 2020

Overthrow to Overgrow

Mark Duggan (2011), Michael Brown (2014), Eric Garner (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Sheku Bayoh (2015), Walter Scott (2015), Dalian Atkinson (2016), Philando Castile (2016), Alton Sterling (2016), Rashan Charles (2017), Stephon Clark (2018), Stewart Kevin Andrews (2020), Ahmaud Arbery (2020), George Floyd (2020), Chantel Moore (2020), Sean Monterrosa (2020), Regis Korchinski-Paquet (2020), Erik Salgado (2020), Breonna Taylor (2020).
Artwork by Nate Burns.

Mark Duggan (2011), Michael Brown (2014), Eric Garner (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Sheku Bayoh (2015), Walter Scott (2015), Dalian Atkinson (2016), Philando Castile (2016), Alton Sterling (2016), Rashan Charles (2017), Stephon Clark (2018), Stewart Kevin Andrews (2020), Ahmaud Arbery (2020), George Floyd (2020), Chantel Moore (2020), Sean Monterrosa (2020), Regis Korchinski-Paquet (2020), Erik Salgado (2020), Breonna Taylor (2020).

Too many of us have sat back and watched, or looked away, as faces in our communities were wiped from history; disproportionately affected by police violence and systemic racism. Too often we have seen our black, brown, native American and First Nations brothers and sisters killed through unnecessary police violence. While this has become an international issue in the last few months, racism has been a fact of daily life for millions around the world.

We feel that the time has come for members of the metal and punk scenes to offer material support to the struggle against racism and for equality, engaging with our brothers and sisters in the streets who are out in front of the conversation against pervasive prejudice and systemic racism. While many of us are in the streets supporting these causes it became apparent that we could amplify the voice of those who are most at risk by using our platform as musicians.

To that end, thirty bands from across the extreme music world have come together via this digital compilation featuring artists as varied as Doom, Panopticon, Obsequiae, Agathocles, Thou, Chaos Moon, Outlaw Order, Deviated Instinct, Dawn Ray’d, and many others to benefit Black Lives Matter, Life After Hate, and Stand Up To Racism.



The compilation was put together by Austin from Panopticon and Mike from Hag Graef. New tracks were provided by Aerial Ruin ("Becoming the Sunken Lake" is an outtake from the Nameless Sun sessions), Chaos Moon, Detractors, Hag Graef, Human Failure (members of Akasha), Inexorum, Krieg, Nori (members of Axis of Light), Obsequiae, Throne of Blood, Tvær, Uprising (a new and exclusive track with Austin helping out on drums), Vukari, and Woe (the "Abject in Defeat" demo. A little different from the album version, it has more lyrics).

Covers were provided by Hornet Murmuration (members of Kostnatění covering Dead Kennedys' "Drug Me"), Nechochwen (Gospel of Vomit's "Sulphuric Stench"), and Ripped to Shreds (Unholy Grave's "No Racial Superiority!").

Remixes, live cuts, and re-recorded tracks from Agathocles, Alda, Chat Pile, Cloud Rat (a previously unreleased acoustic recording of "Blind River", with the lyrics from "Losing Weight", taken from the Pollinator sessions), Dawn Ray’d (a live version of "Colony of Fevers" from Black Flags Over Brooklyn), Deviated Instinct ("Fall of the House of Cards" is one of 5 old songs re-recorded during the Husk session in 2017), Doom, Falls of Rauros (a re-recording of the live show staple, "Silence" from The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood. Recorded and mixed entirely by the band), Krallice, Mania, Outlaw Order, Panopticon, Thou, and Tired of Everything.

All proceeds will be donated to: Black Lives Matter Over-arching movement to combat racism and fight for social justice in the US and Canada. Life After Hate A nonprofit in the US that seeks to combat racism by providing resources to help people leave racist movements, as well as help de-radicalize violent far right extremists. Stand Up To Racism A UK based nonprofit that is focused on organizing against racism throughout the country.


[Note: this post is an edited version of the announcement posted by many of the involved bands on Facebook, together with additional information about some of the songs].

Kamancello - Of Shadows

Cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne is no stranger to Metal Bandcamp at this point. Matt Hinch recently reviewed his solo album Worlds Within on these very pages just a few weeks ago. Matt listed Weinroth-Browne’s metal bonafides--including Musk Ox and Leprous--but he’s no slacker when it comes to other projects.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Maahy

Cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne is no stranger to Metal Bandcamp at this point. Matt Hinch recently reviewed his solo album Worlds Within on these very pages just a few weeks ago. Matt listed Weinroth-Browne’s metal bonafides--including Musk Ox and Leprous--but he’s no slacker when it comes to other projects. Kamancello is a duo, featuring Weinroth-Browne’s cello contrasted with Shahriyar Jamshidi’s kamanche, a Persian stringed instrument, bowed like a cello, which is prominent in music from Iran, Kurdistan, and other nearby Middle Eastern countries. As played by Jamshidi, it features sounds similar to the cello, but in a higher register and with a raspier timbre.

Of Shadows is the duo’s third album, and I’ll give you the highlight right from the top: The entire album is improvised and unedited. Now, depending on your depth of musical interest, you may have heard a jazz combo or two, and those might have shown you the fine line between masterful improvisation and “oh god why are we listening to a 20-minute trombone solo.” Kamancello are firmly in the former category, but they take it even a step further. Unlike improvising over a jazz standard with a fixed chord progression, Kamancello approaches their songs with the most minimal planning. Weinroth-Browne told me that sometimes he and Jamshidi will agree on a Persian mode or key signature beforehand, but sometimes not even that. They keep contrasting moods in mind for the progression of the tracks over the course of the album. Sometimes they’ll use alternate tunings for their instruments. But if you, like me, conjured an idea of the two men meeting in a room, silently nodding, and beginning to play, you’re not far off.

There is an extraordinary amount of communication here. Sometimes it’s relatively straightforward--you can hear a distinct call and response between the two artists late in “The Rider,” but you’ll find more subtle interactions elsewhere. “Dance of Shadows” finds the duo merging to a single melodic line before diverging again. “To Mourn” has melodies that wind around each other, elevating the song beyond a simple dirge to a piece as complex as the process of mourning itself.

If you’re worried that this will be strictly classical music that you might not be interested in or otherwise attuned to, think again. “On the Precipice” will tempt you to bang your head--maybe just a little--or at least tap your foot to the driving rhythms. The players use every sound texture available to them. Sweetly bowed passages, staccato plucked lines, and even the occasional percussive sound with a finger tapped on the body of one instrument or another. Sometimes you’ll even be convinced you’re hearing a vocal melody, perhaps in a language you don’t understand.

The fact that these improvised pieces stand as fully realized compositions--sometimes much more so than songs that have been meticulously planned--is a testament to the level of artistic communication between these two musicians. They straddle the line between “music made for musicians” and easily accessible melodies and rhythmic figures that anyone can immediately grasp and enjoy. A balance is struck between music to get lost in and music to absorb while fully present. It’s a stunning work, and I heartily recommend it and their previous two albums.

June 26, 2020

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin - Stygian Bough Volume I

By Justin C. You’d be forgiven for thinking Stygian Bough Volume 1 was a split, since it does list both Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin as artists, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. This album features Erik Moggridge, who plays dark, acoustic folk under the name Aerial Ruin, playing with Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, the duo that makes up Bell Witch.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Stygian Bough Volume 1 was a split, since it does list both Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin as artists, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. This album features Erik Moggridge, who plays dark, acoustic folk under the name Aerial Ruin, playing with Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, the duo that makes up Bell Witch. It’s not a new band, per se--it’s not even a new idea, since Moggridge contributed vocals to Bell Witch’s monstrous album Mirror Reaper. It’s a collaboration. Or, given that the music often drifts into tempos so slow that metronomes can’t measure them, a funereal relay race, with both musical entities passing ideas back and forth.

Maybe the clearest example are the songs “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” and “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll).” Part I is mostly Aerial Ruin’s show, featuring Moggridge’s inimical clean vocals and acoustic guitar. But as the song progresses, Bell Witch begins to creep in around the edges, giving Moggridge’s sound the epic swell that’s usually implied in Aerial Ruin’s music, but not actually present.

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin live. Photos by Nessie Spencer (licence).

As Part I slowly fades, Part II roars to life with the distorted bass and slow-moving melodicism that’s unmistakably Bell Witch. Moggridge continues to provide vocals, but massive, distorted bass notes stretch out and break into howls. The songs clearly take heavy emphasis from Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch, in that order, but it would be a mistake to say that Part I is “Aerial Ruin’s song” and Part II belongs to Bell Witch. One often takes center stage, but the other is always supporting and expanding.

There’s a lot of heart-breaking beauty in this album, and even though it’s just over an hour--which is pretty tame by funeral doom standards--it has the effect of dilating time. I listened to this album during a long drive, the first in a long time, and the light, pandemic-affected traffic on top of the music made me feel as if I were being pulled into some other realm. The album feels endless at times, but not in a tedious or tiring way. Timothy Leary’s old drug-addled adage of “turn on, tune in, and drop out” applies in a weird way, but no LSD is needed here. The artistry itself that takes you away.

June 23, 2020

Dawn of Ouroboros - The Art of Morphology

By Master of Muppets. Versatility is a tough thing to pull off well. Too much of it and any given album is likely to be a jarring mess, not enough and it's Disturbed. While older, seasoned acts tend to more or less settle into the confines of one genre or other, many young bands find themselves to explore their sonic boundaries at will.
By Master of Muppets.

Artwork by Jill Colbert.

Versatility is a tough thing to pull off well. Too much of it and any given album is likely to be a jarring mess, not enough and it's Disturbed. While older, seasoned acts tend to more or less settle into the confines of one genre or other, many young bands find themselves to explore their sonic boundaries at will. Though the fruits of such youthful ventures are often spirited and compelling, they are not always particularly well-guided endeavors, nor do the wide scopes of the artist's intent necessarily manage to find their mark; many debut albums attempt to be more than they're actually capable of being, but then again many debut albums aren't Dawn of Ouroboros' The Art of Morphology. It's actually possible that most albums aren't The Art of Morphology, but that's neither here nor there. What's here is one badass album, and what's there is an absence of reasons as to why you shouldn't be jamming out to it right this second.

Before we get too far on course with this great album, we must wander off course to pay tribute to… another great album! In the name of karmic balance, I must admit to have only stumbled across Morphology while trying to get the most bang for my buck; Naturmacht Productions offered it included at a discount alongside What We Leave Behind, the latest offering by Swedish doom act Soliloquium, and the only thing I love more than Katatonic doom is pinching the proverbial penny. If the deal is still going on whenever you read this, I'd urge you to take advantage as both albums are well worth your time. I'll almost certainly be back to babble about What We Leave Behind at a later date, but in the event that you can't be patient or I can't be trusted, I'll say this: it's a wonderful piece of modern post-doom on a lovely label, and without either I would never have found the excellent album in discussion today. Everybody, say 'thank you!'

Categorizing the Katatonia core of Soliloquium or explaining the appeal of saving money are relatively straightforward tasks. Describing Dawn of Ouroboros' sound, on the other hand, is no such thing. These Californians wear a lot of hats, adopting several sonic styles throughout Morphology's 8 tracks and pulling all of them off downright fiercely. Proggy, deathy riffs? Check. Frostbitten tremolos and blackened shrieks? Ch-ch-check. Clean, pleasant passages with ethereal vocals? You know how this game works, I'd also throw in 'melodeath sensibilities', 'symphonic flourishes' and 'random djent outbursts' if I felt like continuing that shtick, but I don't. The point is that Dawn of Ouroboros do a lot of things with 43 minutes, and they do them surprisingly well for this being a debut. The Art of Morphology is a constantly shifting soundscape, a hostile world where the weather's always changing and yet it feels like home nonetheless.

This vibrant sense of variety brings with it a feeling of vitality so vaguely, faintly familiar that it almost feels foreign to today's metal climate. Dive through any genre on Bandcamp and you'll find not only several prominent artists of the scene but also myriad clones, all attempting to cash in on a sound that's been proven to work by 'doing [genre] right;' The Art of Morphology has that mythical air of a band just being themselves and having fun with their own sound, the kind of palpable sincerity and earnestness found amongst such unifying, time tested classics as In Flames' Whoracle or Pantera's Far Beyond Driven - except, again, this particular slab of exploratory greatness is a friggen debut. The potential that tracks such as the artfully balanced prog death of "Pinnacle Induced Vertigo " or the symphonic blackness of "Serpent's Charm" foretell is impressive and incredibly promising, to say the very least.

I love The Art of Morphology, and I am absolutely gunning for Dawn of Ouroboros' future. I found this album entirely by accident, only to discover the first album to make me genuinely excited about a young band's future in years. It's well crafted, well paced and well executed; The Art of Morphology is one of those special albums likely to unite fans from all ends of the metal spectrum, and it is incredibly refreshing to find such a thing as the rest of the world is falling apart. If I somehow haven't sold you on this sweet slice of scariness yet, I would like to point out that every shriek, growl, roar and otherwise nameless vocal declaration of war uttered within Morphology's tracks was delivered by one loud little lady named Chelsea Murphy. You would be doing yourself a disservice as a fan of metal to allow yourself to miss out on her incredible performance here on Morphology.

June 19, 2020

Eye of Nix - Ligeia

By Justin C. A tidy genre tag for Eye of Nix is elusive. We could go with Black/Doom/Avant Garde, from their Bandcamp page, and that’s more or less O.K., but that leaves out the gothic, psychedelic, and sometimes operatic elements. Maybe “post-everything” covers it.
By Justin C.


A tidy genre tag for Eye of Nix is elusive. We could go with Black/Doom/Avant Garde, from their Bandcamp page, and that’s more or less O.K., but that leaves out the gothic, psychedelic, and sometimes operatic elements. Maybe “post-everything” covers it.

Their newest, Ligeia, is that rare album that manages to encapsulate a wide palette of sounds without sounding like an album made by seven different bands. The first track, “Concealing Waters,” is actually a pretty good introduction in more ways than one. It’s a mysterious opener that showcases a lot of the sounds you’re going to hear on the rest of the album. Lush guitars and clean vocals start out, creating a doomy, psychedelic start reminiscent of Ides of Gemini and even a little bit of The Doors. Vocalist Joy Von Spain weaves a spell, but the perspective takes a hard left when the drums start to blast and she adds blackened harshness to her vocals. Sure, the song is almost 7 minutes long, but in a contradictory way, it feels both more immediate and more expansive than that run time suggests.

“Pursued” charges out of the gate with more of a death metal feel, but the proggy, off-kilter touches you heard in the album opener are still there, even if the mood has suddenly turned more vicious. This track also features the first demonstration of Von Spain’s operatic style of vocals. It’s typically not a style I enjoy in metal or its natural habitat--although I appreciate the skill--but Von Spain’s use of it as just one of the styles in her arsenal works for me.

The rest of the album dwells in these dualities--”Stranded” starts in an ethereal plane before moving to churning heaviness--and it’s a sound to behold. All of the band members get a chance to shine here. The intricacy of the drumming, the atmospheric guitar, the bass providing the solid bridge connecting the instrumentals, and the synths and “sound collages” are all showcased at one point or another, but yet this is still very much a band effort, and that band is exploring its own path in a very unique space. Even if one of the many things I mentioned here is usually a turn off for you, I highly recommend you give the whole a chance.

June 16, 2020

Raphael Weinroth-Browne - Worlds Within

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.

Painting by Heather Sita Black.

This site may be Metal Bandcamp but this solo album from Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Worlds Within, is barely even metal adjacent. That term doesn't make much sense anyway. Raphael has played with Musk Ox, The Visit, and of course Leprous so he is well known to the metal community. However, we haven't really heard him play the cello quite like this. Unaccompanied. Every sound on here was made by him on a cello. The instrument itself has great range but add in the percussive elements and effects pedals and you'd swear a whole orchestra is in on this. It's just him though. Rhythms, leads, everything. Worlds Within seems like a spectacularly apt title given the worlds that open up in the minds of the listener on this 45-minute piece presented as 10 movements.

All 10 of those movements are quite moving. The piece's bookends, “Unending I” and “Unending II” feel like dawn and dusk, casting shadows with beauty and subdued light, brightening and fading, albeit with melancholic qualities. Melancholy and darkness find their place often. “From Within I” and “From Within II” open up the mind and paint an expansive picture. Raphael himself has stated a mind-nature connection exists with this section and with eyes closed the majesty of both worlds fills the soul.

As we move into “From Above” and the “Tumult” suite Worlds Within starts to show its diversity even more. Non-traditional playing techniques (is that strumming?) and percussive elements change the mood. It feels more dramatic and expansive once the spacey layers find their home. Layers move in and out of consciousness amid a steady beat until gorgeous leads take your breath away. There are times even that the Walking Dead theme comes to mind. So does Blue Man Group!

“Fade (Afterglow)” brings things back down to earth after all the drama. In fact, it feels watery, like ripples spreading in a pond as rain falls on the surface, leading us back to the aforementioned dusk of “Unending II”.

Worlds Within is an escapist piece of music. Wrap it around you like a blanket and let the emotions it conjures penetrate you. Serenity, fear, joy, sadness, conflict, peace. Traditional sounds via untraditional methods form a profound 45 minutes of encapsulation. The cello is an amazing instrument and Raphael is an amazing musician and composer with amazing vision, passion, and skill. We all need to escape. Escape to Worlds Within.

June 12, 2020

Ulthar - Providence

By Bryan Camphire. I saw Ulthar perform much of this set here in Texas last year. I knew they were good, I had their debut full length. The righteous album art drew me in, plus the fact that they were signed to the venerable death metal label, 20 Buck Spin.
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Ian Miller.

I saw Ulthar perform much of this set here in Texas last year. I knew they were good, I had their debut full length. The righteous album art drew me in, plus the fact that they were signed to the venerable death metal label, 20 Buck Spin. I liked their brand of blackened Old School Death Metal. Still, their first full length did not prepare me for the ferocity of this set of songs that are now released as Providence. I was in the front row at the show hanging on every note. (Damn, I miss live shows.) After this fiery initiation rite of witnessing them spreading carnage onstage, I became obsessed. I walked up to the merch table later and bought a shirt. The bassist had on an Order of Chaos shirt, illustrating that his commitment to the old school was for real. I asked him how he plays so fast. He said, "I practice a lot."

Listening to Providence, it's clear that this band is a well-oiled death machine. The aptly titled opener, "Churn", blasts off with a take-no-prisoners approach. Dueling blacked vocals and death growls, swirling aggressive riffs and relentless drumming all race towards the finish in just over two minutes. As the shortest song on the record, it's the perfect opener to this set. Its lean gristly riffs function as a mission statement of what's to come, assuring that listeners sit up and pay attention from the jump.

Completely unexpectedly, track two, "Undying Spear", opens with an acoustic intro. At this point, the listener is led deeper into the dark thicket of horrors on display in Providence. This cut further showcases the band's ridiculous chops in a cavalcade of tangled blistering riffs. Put headphones on to relish in the detailed playing on offer, or simply play it loud to offend some neighbors held captive in quarantine.

Next comes the record's title track, and it's from this point that the band locks into its steady stride that remains more or less consistent through the end of the record. You can hear echoes of Death's 1991 masterpiece, Human in the gnarled labyrinthine structures of Providence. The record harkens back to golden times before "technical" became a dirty word when applied to death metal. Providence brings the riffs with plenty of low-end and ample urgency. Songs on offer here, like "Cudgel" and "Furnace Hibernation", are as these titles suggest blunt edged forces of restless burning fury.

In the wake of watching their live set, I remember getting an oil change later that week, reading an interview with the band on my phone. My wig was so flipped that I wanted to know more about how such a tumultuous din gets kicked up by these three men. The guitar player describes once upon a time flying from California to Pittsburgh on his birthday for the sole purpose of placing the band's demo cassette in the hands of the label boss of 20 Buck Spin, saying, "I told him it would be a real dick move NOT to put it out, after all that. ...he wrote me a couple days later, saying he wanted to do it." This anecdote recalls the lore surrounding the first Deicide record in 1989, when legend has it that Glenn Benton waltzed into offices of Roadrunner Records presenting them with the band's demo saying, "Sign us, you fucking asshole." You want OSDM bona-fides, Ulthar's got 'em. Providence represents everything the band gets right taken to an even greater extreme.

June 5, 2020

It's Bandcamp Friday Again.

It's Bandcamp Friday again, and for the third time they're waiving their fees. Originally the Fridays were meant as support for bands who had to cancel shows and tours because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but this time around many bands and labels have chosen instead to donate their proceeds. Ayloss from Spectral Lore explains:
It's Bandcamp Friday again, and for the third time they're waiving their fees. Originally the Fridays were meant as support for bands who had to cancel shows and tours because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but this time around many bands and labels have chosen instead to donate their proceeds. Ayloss from Spectral Lore explains:

"Together with 40 60 other metal bands, I'll be donating every purchase at Spectral Lore's Bandcamp page to the National Bail Fund Network. Support and solidarity to the demonstrators that fight for racial equality and against police brutality in the US, without any "but" or "if" or anything. This is a one in a lifetime uprising, even things that seem like they'll last forever like racism can be overturned if we fight hard enough."

The first 41 bands.

This initiative was started by Sarah from Smoulder. Here's her message on behalf of the bands:

"Following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer on May 25, protests have erupted across the United States decrying police brutality and decades of institutionalized racism. As an act of solidarity, on Friday, June 5, 41 heavy metal, rock, and punk bands [plus a few surprises] will be donating proceeds from sales made on Bandcamp to the National Bail Fund Network.

The National Bail Fund Network organizes to end all forms of detention, criminalization, and surveillance. The charity uses community bail funds as organizing tools to free people and push to abolish detention. Go here for more information on bail funds.

To get involved, head to the Bandcamp pages below on Friday, June 5 from 12 - 12 PST and buy! More importantly, you can donate to the National Bail Fund directly here."

Artwork by Loukas Kalliantasis.

Mystras is a new project from Ayloss. It's a good deal rawer and more aggressive than recent Spectral Lore output. The obvious comparison is the majestic castle metal from Obsequiae. but Mystras comes without the romanticism. While the music is meant to "shed some light on unsung acts of valour and bravery from the Middle Ages", Mystras' focus is on the common folks instead of kings and nobility.


Artwork by Michael Whelan

Smoulder plays epic doom. Seriously good epic doom. Three things tells you exactly what the band is about: the motto "Love Metal | Hate Fascism", the awesome cover art by fantasy great Michael Whelan, and the dedication of Dream Quest Ends to the memory of the mighty Mark "The Shark" Shelton from Manilla Road.

While compiling this list another 20 bands were added to the Network. All 60+ of them are listed below in alphabetic order. The initiative have gained popularity fast, but it bears mention that many other bands and labels are donating to similar causes. This is just one list of many that could have been made.

A Flock Named Murder


Astral Witch


Azath


Black Knife


Blood Star


By Fire & Sword


Cemetery Filth


Cirkeln


Citizen Rage


Concilium


Culled


Cultist


Destroyed In Seconds


Emblem


Ezra Brooks


Falsehood


Feminazgûl


Fer de Lance


Flavortoun


Haunt


Häxan


Hitter


Horrendous


Horror Vacui


Hyperia


The Isosceles Project


Knightmare


Lady Beast


Lightning Born


Locust Leaves


Maldita


Malleus


Mega Colossus


Midnight Priest


Mount Cyanide


Nomadic War Machine


Nucleus


Oath


Obsequiae


Olórin


Pale Mare


Ravensire


Ravenous


Ripped to Shreds


River Jacks


Rough Spells


Sallow Regent


Septuagint


Syryn


Third Chamber


Thorazine


Thronehammer


Throne of Iron


Völur


Vulgarite


Yovel


Zealotry


5¢ Freakshow


May 22, 2020

Cauldron Black Ram - Slaver

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

Artwork by Misanthropic-Art.

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

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

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

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

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

May 13, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (Beastwars)

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

May 8, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (Hamferð)

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


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

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

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


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

May 4, 2020

We Miss Live Music So Much (A Roundup)

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

Artwork by Cameron Hinojosa.

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

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




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

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



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

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

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


May 1, 2020

10 Nazi-Punching Metal Albums to Celebrate May Day

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

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

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


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



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



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



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



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



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


Artwork by Guang Yang.

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


Artwork by Florian-Ayala Fauna.

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



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



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