Lucifer strike back, take aim at doubters with alluring magic, swaggering power on great ‘IV’

As far as the music world seems to have come with welcoming all types of people under the umbrella as artists and not just, like, white dudes, there’s still a long way to go. Every time I get an email that specifically pushes a “female-fronted” band in the subject line, it feels like they’re selling a gimmick rather than the legitimate artwork. And there remain women who still don’t feel fully embraced by the metal community at large, no matter how their numbers have grown.

Johanna Sadonis, vocalist for doomy and swaggering throwback metal band Lucifer decided to take that sentiment and use it as a “fuck you” statement to the music business in general that still seems to treat women as some sort of token or something precious instead of legitimate, true creators. So, she’s crucified on their cover of the band’s killer new record “Lucifer IV,” perhaps the most confident and direct record of their run. It’s an incredibly bold and attitude-filled shot that drips with anger. Sadonis didn’t just pour that disgust into the artwork as she and her band—guitarists Martin Norldin and Linus Björklund, bassist Harald Göthblad, drummer Nicke Anderson—rip through 11 tracks and 46 minutes on their follow-up to last year’s great “Lucifer III,” channeling their magic, charisma, and power.

“Archangel of Death” is a punchy opener, a good indicator of what’s to come as Sadonis calls, “I was born the child of winter.” The chorus pops, which is a common theme on this record, things get a little meaner later, and the track comes to a fiery finish. “Wild Hearses” is a great song title, and it’s doomy and bluesy as it shoves out of the gates, with the vocals sounding alluring and sultry. “We’ll arrive by hearse, you and I,” Sadonis declares as the guitars blaze, the chorus jolts, and the punches are pain you’ll savor. “Crucifix (I Burn for You)” is an easy pick for lead single as it could slip into rock radio playlists, if those were still a thing, and utterly thrive. The chorus is tremendous and coated with evil sugar, while the guitar work makes blood bubble and drive like a river. “Bring Me His Head” starts with the drums taking the lead and start/stop playing making the adrenaline surge. The song is defiant and swaggering as Sadonis jabs, “Don’t break me down,” with the song driving to a delirious end. “Mausoleum” kicks into high gear right away with the keys lathering and the hair standing up on the back of your neck. “You fear the dark, it has no end,” Sadonis calls as the guitars rip out, organs swell, and the final moments land some haunting blows.

“The Funeral Pyre” is a strange interlude built with acoustics and sweeping synth, leading into “Cold as a Tombstone” that has steaming riffs and a chugging pace. The track has the vibe of a ’70s Heart jam as Sadonis wails, “Stone cold, you’re no friend of mine.” The soloing is tremendous as the steam rises like a hot shower on a dark winter’s night. “Louise” has Sadonis in deeper voice through much of this as she lures you into her trap, with this feeling like it trickled into your ears from four decades ago. “Why don’t you call me?” Sadonis wonders as the track digs its claws into flesh. “Nightmare” is thunderous with spooky keys and a fun pace. “Take your hands off me, I beg you please,” Sadonis cries desperately as the keys trickle, and the track picks up steam and blazes to its end. “Orion” is a decent track, but it’s the weakest of the bunch simmering in mid-tempo verses with the chorus making the blood rush harder. The guitars open and send beams of light, and the track burns out and right into closer “Phobos” that’s instantly more aggressive. “You’ve been searching to destroy,” Sadonis accuses as the chorus blasts in, and the soloing tears holes in the sky. The track gets heavily psychedelic and dreamy as it reaches its second half, and the final gasps breathe lightning, leaving you gasping heavily.

Lucifer keep creating solid building blocks each time out, and “IV” is a rock-solid entry in their catalog, one that really lets Sadonis soar as the voice of the band. The tracks are a little deadlier, and Sadonis takes aim at the patriarchy more than once, demonstrating she is a force who is not to be crossed. This band keeps getting better with each record, and hopefully this is the one that will catch on with even more people, swelling their following like they absolutely deserve.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/luciferofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/index.aspx

Churchburn use personal loss as fuel to agitate creative fires on devastating ‘Genocidal Rite’

Photo by Mike St Onge

Sometimes death metal is about actual death, and that’s the most obvious thing I may ever have written, but maybe it isn’t? Yes, death metal obviously largely is obsessed with death as a concept, but sometimes real life gets in the way and becomes fuel for creating one of the most aggressive forms of art on the planet. Catharsis is a good thing.

We haven’t heard from Churchburn in three years now, which is totally normal for most bands, but think about what the past 36 or so months have meant. For death metal lifer Dave Suzuki (formerly of Vital Remains and a former live member of Deicide) vocalist/guitarist for Churchburn, life has been harrowing lately, which it is for many of us, but most of us don’t have an outlet like this to unleash our torment. Having lost a close family member in 2020, Suzuki set off to create “Genocidal Rite,” the band’s third record and a crushing blow that equates what he felt with the music he wanted to create. With the rest of the band in tow—guitarist Timmy St. Amour, bassist/vocalist Derek Moniz, drummer Ray McCaffrey—the sorrow, anger, guilt, and pain are wrapped into these six songs that are absolutely crushing both musically and lyrically.

“Toll of Annihilation” is a quick intro track that simmers in vibrating noises and agitation slowly building, with the doom bells tolling and paving the way for the title track that mauls right away. The vocals feel like they’re trying to carve flesh from you with a cheese slicer as doomy dripping makes things uglier, and the pressure mounts for the death surge to get meaner. The guitars soar as the gloom thickens, relentless fury rises, and the final tortured wails swim amid sticky grime. “Swallowed by Dust” brings guitars carving into rock and then the playing bursting from the chest, spurting blood. The nastiness levels increase dangerously as the cloud cover darkens and hangs overhead, and burly trudging makes your footing even less secure. Ungodly bashing takes things to new levels of pain, fiery growls mangle, and the final moments smash and leave you disoriented.

“Unmendable Absence” is an instrumental piece with plucked guitar, strange whirring, and heavy fog increasing the somber mood, and then we’re into “Scarred” that opens with the drums destroying everything in sight and savage vocals scorching your flesh. The heaviness feels like it’s aiming to cave in your chest while some classical-style guitars emerge and add a different texture to this ongoing war. The screams punish and melodies soar, aggressive pounding makes a final stand, and the track ends in complete and utter chaos. “Sin of Angels,” which features Incantation legend John McEntee, has industrial exhaust at the front followed by death metal might that melts steel, and a raspy, hellish serving of growls with only the worst of intentions. This thing is beastly and murderous, a total death metal burial that weighs down hard with sinister intent as the track ends in strange winds.

Churchburn bring veteran death metal smarts with playing that weighs you down with slower-moving heaviness on “Genocidal Rite.” Suzuki has been through the wars, and those scars and still-bloody wounds go a long way toward making this record as destructive and intense as it is. The harrowing life experiences that informed these songs, and the era in which we’re locked make this album one that could live alongside your own tumultuous existence and perhaps help you release some of that pent-up aggression that’s living in the center of you.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CHURCHBURNDOOM

To buy the album, go here: https://orcd.co/genocidalrite

For more on the label, go here: https://translationloss.com/

Rundle dials back the volume, reveals wrenching collection of memories on ‘Engine of Hell’

Photo by Mason Rose

When we hear particularly painful and poignant music, we have a tendency to shower the artist with praise for having the strength to be so open. And that’s for good reason because it cannot be easy to share one’s tougher moments with the entire world. But I think sometimes we forget to revel in that creator’s actual pain, the struggle and sorrow that impacted them for real and is on full display.

Emma Ruth Rundle long has been an artist who leaves everything out there, and you know when you hear her music, she’s showing you the scars that led to where you are in that moment. But her new record “Engine of Hell” is amplified to degrees that might make listening uncomfortable at times if you happen to be an empathetic person. These eight songs are fully stripped down, featuring just piano, acoustic guitar, and her voice, a huge step away from the full-band treatment of her past couple records. There’s an interview Rundle just did with Stereogum that can paint this picture more fully than we can here, but suffice to say these song revel in painful childhood memories, her mental state, and ghosts that have haunted her, which she displays with total exposure on these songs. The record is arresting and incredibly heavy for being so quiet, and it must remain in front of one’s mind just what Rundle experienced to create this album. It’s heart crushing, unsettling, and devastating.

“Return” immediately lets you know things are different this time as it is starkly quiet, just Rundle’s voice and piano, and it absolutely takes control of you. “No one to steady your hands,” she calls, sounding worried, and then she pleads, “Where have you gone to?” as she hits a higher register later, calling, “Return to me.” “Blooms of Oblivion” has piano and acoustics balancing as things are painful. “Down at the methadone clinic we waited, hoping to take home your cure,” Rundle recalls, quivering and quiet. Keys drip as the singing is breathier and totally vulnerable, aching into her noting, “A fistful of sorries you’ll never say,” as the track winds to a close. “Body” brings dark, echoing piano, reminding a lot of Tori Amos as she moves gently through murky waters. A male voice joins her on the chorus, adding a ghostly presence, and later Rundle admits, “I’m still a little girl who needs you one more time,” a heartbreaking admission that gets more devastating when she calls, “I can’t feel your arms around me.”  “The Company” has acoustics brushing, moving quietly but steadily. Things warm up later even if the sentiment stays cold as Rundle jars with, “My whole life is so bright now without you,” that just cuts you down and leaves you heaving on your knees.

“Dancing Man” has keys dripping and the essence feeling a little looser as the playing moves like rain. “You’ll wear your makeup, and I’ll wear my mask,” Rundle calls as the pianos get louder, and the whole atmosphere thickens and brings emotional power. “Razor’s Edge” feels rustic and airy, a track that wades deep in folk waters. The playing is softer and unassuming, the singing keeps leaving moisture on your arms, and the final moments feel like an old soul brushing against your back. “Citadel” starts with Rundle declaring, “There is a fortress in my heart, I try to get there in my dreams,” as strings aches and the texture layers. The track feels cold and dreary, picking up as the clouds thicken, and then the final moments get more aggressive, with the guitar strings stretched to their limits. “In My Afterlife” closes the record, and while it doesn’t sound like it, it reminds of the same sentiment delivered by “Real Big Sky” at the end of “Marked for Death.” “I have a feeling I might be here a while,” Rundle confesses as bare-bones playing amplifies the dusk, the shadows thicken, and the track bows out to the night.

Every time Emma Ruth Rundle returns with new music, it’s an experience like no other, a journey into the heart and mind that often is painful to experience. “Engine of Hell,” words that finally drop on the closing track, is both an arresting experience based on Rundle’s stripped-back, naked approach but also full of blunt, seeping pain based on the events that inspired these songs. We’re lucky to have such an honest, vulnerable record to explore and get to know, but at the same time, it’s crushing to think of what Rundle had to endure to create this collection. We hope to have her with us long into the future, making music that is unlike anyone else’s on earth.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/emmaruthrundle/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/emma-ruth-rundle

For more on the label, go here: https://www.sargenthouse.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Nadler expands alluring sonic DNA on shadowy, enrapturing ‘The Path of Clouds’

Photo by Nick Fancher

A lot of us can relate to the isolation and strangeness of being homebound the last year and a half, and for those of you who did not have that level of safety due to your jobs, I can’t imagine that type of anxiety. But being homebound is not always the dream that is sounds like as you can drive yourself mad if you don’t have something to break up the monotony or quell your own inconsistent mental state.

Marissa Nadler was one of the many who were basically tied to home in 2020, and in that time, she disappeared into murder, love, mysticism, and loss as well as taking on “Unsolved Mysteries,” a show that can send you down a wormhole forever. I should know. From that, she crafted some of the darkest, smoothest, numbing songs of her career. That’s saying something that an artist on her ninth record can reinvent her influences and further massage her sound in the alluring murk, but that’s just what she does on “The Path of Clouds.” This 11-track record is fully engaging and impossible to shake, and I’ve already spent a lot of time with these songs and uncovered new things every time. Nadler also worked with other artists including Emma Ruth Rundle (more on her next week), Amber Webber (Lightning Dust), harpist Mary Lattimore, Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins), Jesse Chandler (Midlake, Mercury Rev, and Nadler’s piano teacher), and Seth Manchester to fully flesh out the skeletons of her songs. The results are different from what Nadler has done before, yet still recognizably and refreshingly her.

“Bessie, Did You Make It?” opens the album, a folk retelling of the story of Bessie and Glen Hyde, two newlyweds who disappeared in 1928 after attempting to run the rapids from the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon. The track is unforgettable as Nadler delicately recounts the tale, calling, “Deep in the canyon you were swallowed.” It’s a noir dream that keeps the hope that Bessie made it out alive. The title track has a full-bodied sound, plotting darkly, going into sweeping tides and electric impulses. The playing is both syrupy and sunburnt, giving off vibes of ages long lost to time. “Couldn’t Have Done The Killing” is a great one, moving slowly through the fog of mystery. “Leave your weapon at the door, you don’t need them, because I’m not your killer anymore,” Nadler calls in a chorus that’ll stick in your head. Later, the leads buzz and the bass hammers away, bowing out in a wave of noise. “If I Could Breathe Underwater” starts with drums pacing, harps making the track feel heavenly, and Nadler noting, “I thought I saw you floating by.” The track sinks deep into ’70s-style folk, which pulls at nostalgia, gliding through elegance and heavy mood. “Elegy” glimmers and feels softer, moving into hushed areas. The singing is vulnerable as Nadler pleads, “Make me a memory,” and the playing splashes into the night.

“Well Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay” unites guitars and keys, delivering heavy mystery that makes your flesh chill. “Did you give up the ghost that night?” Nadler prods as psychedelic bliss turns into a lather that pulls you under. “From Vapor to Stardust” settles into acoustic and organs as the singing is more delicate, and angelic callbacks make the hair rise on your neck. The guitars well as the song bubbles, heading off into deep space. “Storm” feels sleepy on purpose, lulling you into your dreams as the psyche wall is built. “I thought I would disappear, go anywhere but here,” Nadler admits as organs swell, and an old country spirit sweeps the room. The vibes simmer in loneliness as Nadler’s heart bleeds, heading into “Turned Into Air” that starts with buzzing guitars and bass rumbling. The vocals infect, and again we’re deep into folk ghosts from the past who make us feel alive as they disappear into the woodwork, our souls in their possession. “And I Dream of Running” falls like a delicate, quiet snow, as guitars glimmer, and a nighttime vibe makes your heart race. The singing moves like a lost soul through the world, everyone unaware of its presence until the haunting begins. “Lemon Queen” closes the record with pedal steel and nakedly vulnerable singing, cutting you to the bone. “Seasons change the color, and the lemon queen, it grew taller and taller over you,” Nadler directs as a fantastical feel makes your mind surge, and the track ends at the wall of a mysterious mist.

No matter what Nadler does, she always finds new ways to be infectious and mysterious, which she does on her amazing ninth record “The Path of Clouds.” The stories of love, strangeness, murder, and disappearance are absolutely haunting, some of the best writing she’s ever done lyrically, and the music just cuts to the core. This album feels timeless, a collection of songs that might as well have been delivered by phantom from decades past but also sounds perfectly set in our tumultuous time where our pain and suffering see no end.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.marissanadler.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/marissa-nadler

For more on the label, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/

Kayo Dot reunite with maudlin forces, examine life and rebirth on ‘Moss Grew on the Swords…’

Our lives have a beginning, middle, and end, period. That’s a fragile and sometimes terrifying proposition to which none of us chose to commit, but here we are anyway, trying to survive another day even as we watch the world around us crumbling. But no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, we all face the same ending, and there is nothing we can do to change that.

That said, the idea of rebirth, of a world that continues to regenerate itself even as it battles the parasite of humanity, is an encouraging way to look at life, even if at some point that doesn’t include us. Toby Driver is an artist who seems to come back in a different form every time he releases new music, and the new Kayo Dot record “Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike” continues that shapeshifting, this time with the help of old friends. Driver, who handles vocals, programming, and multiple instruments, teamed up with his Maudlin of the Well mates Greg Massi and Jason Byron (who handles all lyrical content) to record this seven-track, hour-long effort that’s a little harsher and heavier than some of the past KD records but also retains the strange exploration and heartfelt experimentation that sets this project apart from so many others. It’s a gripping experience from front to back.

“The Knight Errant” starts in dramatic fashion, apropos for the rest of this record, as keys and emotion stir. Driver’s vocals are a yelp that near death metal territory, and the music has a strange aura that plays in chaos and mysticism. Synths zap through space, the playing is spacey and rumbling, and Driver howls, “Wildflowers growing through useless steel,” as the track bows out. “Brethren of the Cross” begins with guitars striking and the vocals jarring as a thick synth fog develops. The vocals get gnarlier and then soar as again the keys mesmerize, going off on a prog adventure that races toward the sky. The vocals pick up, the playing agitates, and then a dream state is achieved as intensity echoes out. “Void in Virgo (The Nature of Sacrifice)” starts dark and smeary as the singing is softer, and a moody story begins to play out, giving off deathrock vibes. The synth eases as chimes ring out, the guitars reach, and whispers crawl down your spine as light beams through the clouds, and the track bleeds away.

“Spectrum of One Colour” has the bass and drums playing games with one another, the vocals piercing, and a burly pace leaving blisters. We’re into a strange vortex as clouds surround your brain, the growls enter the murk, and the final moments batter you fully. “Get Out of the Tower” has the bass snaking and the guitars generating heat, while the vocals go off on a violent tirade as metal is melting into rivers. The keys shimmer later as the vocals remain ugly and confrontational, the guitars work vibrates, and your senses are numbed. “The Necklace” delivers double-kick drums and misty synth before vicious wails strike, and hypnotic Rush vibes make their way into your bloodstream. Things keep melting as the vocals hammer away, and then we’re on a path to closer “Epipsychidion” that, at 13:10, is the longest track here. We start with a death-style assault as everything comes for you, voices echo, and the ground quakes before some calm is achieved. The vocals then float in ether, working into the atmosphere and slowly cooling your nerves. Suddenly, sounds jolt, the band enters a new awareness, and the final five minutes simmer in noise and tranquility, easing you into the void.

You never know what you’re going to get from a Kayo Dot record, which is one of the reasons they remain one of the more intriguing and challenging bands in all heavy music. “Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike” is a title that should be an easy indicator that you’re entering into something altogether different, and the band’s move back into heavier, deadlier sounds makes this one of their most aggressive in some time. Reuniting with old creative forces sounds like it was a new spark for Driver, and this is a record that exists in its own galaxy with no similar planet anywhere near its incredibly enthralling orbit.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/kayodotofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://lnk.spkr.media/kayo-dot-moss-grew

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

Lys strikes out on his own, keeps paying homage to nature, forest on heart-surging ‘Silent Woods’

This is a great time to walk through the woods in the Northeastern United States, or it usually is, but we’re just climbing out from under summer. Like, it was 80 a couple days ago. But the weather forecast at least hints that cooler days might be ahead, and eventually the leaves will change, and then it’ll be prime time to take walks through the woods in Northeastern U.S.

That bleeds into tackling “Silent Woods,” the first record from Lys, who you might know better as a member of long-running Italian black metal band Enisum. On this four-track debut, the music doesn’t stray too far from his roots, but with a greater concentration on acoustics and cleaner singing in spots, there definitely is a reason for this to exist. Homage, quite naturally, is paid to the outdoors, most specifically the wooded areas of Northwestern Italy, where it looks like it’s still kind of balmy based on my Google search. The elements very much are a part of the music here, and when things go more rustic, it’s more propulsive than one might expect, which gives the music its unique attitude.

“Like Ashes in the Wind” opens with winds blowing and the guitars strummed, already packing on the thick atmosphere. The power kicks in with gutting shrieks that feel like they can topple you with their force, and then things blend into a more folkish territory with Lys’ clean singing pushing in. That adds to the essence and demonstrates just how diverse this project can be from one moment to the next, and the ripping terror comes back later, feeling mangling and bloody before calm returns and ends the track in a haze. “Mountains, Forests, Rivers” dawns with fires crackling and acoustics working in before the track blows up and goes for the throat sonically. Of course, the rustic winds blow before too long, with Lys’ nasally singing returning (that’s not a criticism) as the track gets into serene waters. The burst eventually happens as the vocals carve, the guitars layer, and speed explodes, rushing hard and making your blood surge before the track bows out.

“Bonfire” begins with calls echoing and fires burning with the guitars delving deep in folk terrain. The singing is creaky and strong, giving off an acoustic Alice in Chains vibe, which is never a bad thing, and then things get quiet and plodding, like night sneaking up on you. The singing then pushes, the playing is active, and the track disappears into the campfires. The title track ends the record, and it’s anything but silent as storms hang overhead, and then the track tears open, bringing raging chaos. The shrieks are bloody, and the drumming threatens to break through rock with great melodies raining down. The precipitation soaks as the pace picks up, acoustic blasts strike, and the playing hammers hard with shrieks crumbling and a melodic gust taking you out.

Lys ‘first turn on this solo project is a pretty rewarding one as “Silent Woods” is an album that treads similar waters as many others, but he adds some of his own flourishes that helps this sit apart from the rest. The vocals could cause some hesitation for some—I like them, but I can see where they could be a challenge—but that would be ignoring the great world created here and the music that feels like it is soaked in nature. Curious to hear where Lys goes from here and how the project develops, but this record is a really strong first step into the unknown.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Lys-103019214957853/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sound-cave.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://avantgardemusic.com/

Ukraine crushers Mortal Vision push thrash attack, bask in war and fury on ‘Mind Manipulation’

I don’t know what it is about thrash metal, but it’s not a style that’s easily picked up, evidence of which comes from the trash pile of bands that have tried it, failed, and kind of disappeared. It feels like this type of metal is solely in the hands of the of the pioneers who also mostly lost their grasp of the sound, but there hasn’t been much in the way of groups capable of picking up and carrying the banner.

But that’s not a terminal state. We’ve seen bands do it—we just visited with Wraith a few weeks back who more than prove their meddle—and now we have another contender in Ukrainian force Mortal Vision, who have their debut record “Mind Manipulation” for your perusal. Turns out the art form isn’t dead as these four—vocalist/guitarist Ivan Dyshlyuk, guitarist Andrey Gayduk, bassist Ivan Gorbatyuk, drummer Eugene Zakharchenko—sound like they’ve been sent here from the war-torn 1980s to fight these battles all over again. And it’s relevant because the same struggles then haunt us now, and these guys deliver the goods over and over on their eight-track, 33-minute first offering.

The title track starts the record with an explosion and then we’re off with classic ’80s thrash with nuclear anxieties. Everything here is properly blistering as the soloing heats flesh, and the vocals carve at your nerves. The playing is punishing and gritty, fittingly ending with another hellish burst. “Eternal Hatred” has strong riffs and raspy shouts, feeling like your teeth are being crushed. The chorus is vicious, and everything around it is mangling, bruising with power as the band whips you in the face. “Apophenia” rips open as strong bass playing recoils, and the thrashing is meaty and massive. The pace speeds up as the vocals are spat out with tornadic rage, the guitars scorch again, and the ending is vile and vicious. “Raw Poison” punches right away as it takes no time for things to get thrashy as hell, blasting through and sending rock flying. “Don’t let your mind be haunted!” Dyshlyuk howls as the soloing lights up, and thrashy power takes the track into a pile of rubble.

“Condemned to Death” is clobbering when it starts, ripping through your muscles with the vocals pelting you with shards of glass. The verses lay into you and loosen brick while the guitars go off, blinding you before the track ends abruptly. “Possessed” mashes away with the guitars catching fire and everything just going insane, feeling a little off kilter in a really cool way. The track gets nastier as it goes, aiming for your eye sockets, carving away with lathering leads that bury you in its filth. “Forced Extermination” explodes in and splatters you with blood and bone, even bringing some added melody for your own good. The chorus is fun, a simple recitation of the title where forced is pronounced “for-CED,” rumbling into your chest. “Devastated Existence” is the final blow, whipping in with nasty vocals and sweltering leads, sometimes going mid-paced but remaining heavy as hell. Leads wail as the playing floods over, the basslines hammer, and the track ends in a pile of ash.

I’m always wary of new thrash bands because it’s the one style of metal that doesn’t seem to translate as well between generations, but Mortal Vision have done their homework as their debut “Mind Manipulation” goes to show. All the tenets are here, almost like they lived through the era several decades ago, which is relieving to know there are younger artists out there that have absorbed the blood from the roots. This is a killer record, a really fun blast for any thrash fan no matter how old and miserable one may be.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/mortalvision

To buy the album (CD version; vinyl coming in 2022), go here: https://redefiningdarknessrecords.limitedrun.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://shop.redefiningdarkness.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Grief, trauma have Blackwater Holylight in reflection on ‘Silence/Motion’

Dealing with grief is a complicated process, one that is not the same for everyone who experiences it, one that very often makes no sense at all. The five stages, yeah, they don’t go in order. They happen all at once sometimes. They fill you with sorrow, anger, hopelessness, sometimes nostalgia, and they can make getting through a single day a seemingly insurmountable task. I don’t recommend it.

But it’s not like we have a choice if we’re going to face it, because burying the emotion is far worser and more destructive, so having an outlet to express these feelings can be the best thing for your health. Blackwater Holylight use their third record “Silence/Motion” as a sort of vessel for their grief, be it personal or the pain the world has been in for the last 18 months, which has just crushed so many people. Over seven tracks, the band—vocalist/bassist/guitarist Allison “Sunny” Faris, guitarist/bassist Mikayla Mayhew, synth player Sarah McKenna, drummer Eliese Dorsay, (Erika Osterhout will join as second guitarist live)—poured themselves and their frayed and bruised emotions into what turns out is their most impactful and varied work yet. Yes, their doom thunder remains, as does their power, but they’ve also delved deeper into folk territory and softer, more vulnerable sounds to make a more well-rounded, realized sonic picture. It’s a high point for this year for my listening, and I don’t think I’ve gone a day without visiting since I got the promo both for the music and the deeper meaning within.   

“Delusional” begins the record fairly inauspiciously at first, letting the music drip through a crack in the window before the power is released, and we’re on our way. Faris’ vocals have a way of getting into your bloodstream and calming you, while Thou’s Bryan Funck lends his instantly recognizable scowl to the background as the track really reveals its power. Melodies jar as the chorus melts anew, the guitars trickle, and strings create a haze. “Who the Hell?” spirals in as the singing haunts and cold waves wash upon you, giving you instant gooseflesh. A crystalized vibe is achieved as their dreams enter yours, and Faris wearily calls out, “I can’t describe this pain I wear, it suffocates, and you left it here.” Psyche energy pulsates, keys zap through your spine, and the track burns to an ashen finish. The title track rests in acoustic beds and solemn singing as the music moves its way into your brain. The pace begins to intensify as organs mix into the formula, emotion wells, and the guitars catch fire, bristling and giving off sparks as the track returns to the atmosphere that created it.

“Falling Faster” is dreamy and psychedelic, easing you in as Faris’ vocals float, and the ether in which you’re swimming intensifies. It feels like your mind is numbed, the melody lines buzz harder, and your feelings are flushed from your cells, slowly drubbing you into submission. “MDIII” moves gently through acoustics and piano before the energy kicks in fully, mashing you and heating up to levels that test your strength. An infectious black glaze bursts as you can imagine heavy lava spilling, shimmering heaviness wrenches your muscles, and the track ends in a noise sheen. “Around You” soaks in steely guitars and a gnawing atmosphere as Faris’ vocals are in full command. The guitars rage with a ’90s edge when alternative rock had an actual meaning and tangible soul, and that ignites passions in your own heart. The playing gives off strange blue hues, the singing sits in the clouds, and the final moments disappear deep into the cosmos. “Every Corner” wraps the record and starts on a mind-altering trip to which you’ll commit without question. Synth beams emerge as the track grows sludgy, and growls from guests Mike Paparo (Inter Arma) and A.L.N. (Mizmor; he also produced the record) add some extra thorns to pierce your flesh. The guitars lather with chaos, the heat increases, and vicious shrieks and forceful winds pick up and carry you into terrain you’ve never before experienced.

Blackwater Holylight have been building a really special, infectious existence ever since their first record landed, and “Silence/Motion” is an incredible step forward for the band. This is a record that should find the band a deeper, hungrier audience, and I know I’ve already told many friends about this album and made sure they scheduled some appointment listening once it officially arrives. I don’t do that very often, but this album has had such a profound effect on me and aligned with me spiritually that I want to make sure I spread that word to whoever I can, because this album is that important.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.blackwaterholylight.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product-category/ridingeasy-releases/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

Russian rockers Scarecrow go back to metal’s formative days on adventurous, swaggering ‘II’

Having been a child in the 1980s when I really started to warm up to heavier music, the landscape was much different than it is now. I’ll admit with zero guilt that there was a lot of glam metal that comprised my listening, and I ran the gamut before the heavier stuff took over. Also, since the 1970s weren’t that far behind, so it was easier to drink from the roots of Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc., just to make sure your education was well rounded.

The members of Russian doom rock band Scarecrow came up under very different circumstances than I, but their musical enrichment seemed to sway into similar waters as my own. The band’s new full-length “II” reminds me a lot of the ’80s metal bands that tried to worship at the altar of Zeppelin, but they add a darker edge, a heavier shadow no doubt brought on by their harrowing experiences living in the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken Russian city of Perm. That said, there also is a lightness, a sense of fun, and a push into folklore that the band—vocalist Artemis, guitarist Max, bassist Elijah, drummer Vadim—pour into these eight tracks. It has a massive retro vibe that’s blistering and swaggering, and the music full of confidence and spark that could have made them a pretty big deal in the era from which they found their inspiration. Not that they can’t now!

“The Endless Ocean Overture” kicks off the record, and it’s an over-the-top symphonic instrumental that made me think of Dimmu Borgir at their Disney best. That’s also the last time during this record I thought of that band as “Blizzard” takes us into totally different terrain. The classic metal vibe is heavy here and remains that way through the entire record, and Artemis’ ridiculous high-register vocals get their first chance to knock you on your ass. It’s an adventurous, bluesy trip we’re on as the playing shuffles, the singing rips, and the track has a huge finish that gets your heart pumping. “Magic Flower” starts in doomy rock waters as the harmonica playing sizzles, and then the guitars go off and thicken the stew. Steamy soloing coats your face with condensation as Artemis’ wordless wails, sounding very much inspired by Robert Plant, reach for the sky, and then the band hammers the nails as they take you on a fiery final excursion. “Spirit Seducer” again delivers on the piecing vocals and also brings punchy fun you can’t help but let infect you. The tempo is strong as the band hits the gas, the playing gets burlier, and the final moments bow to the intense blazing the track created.

“The Moors” is your classic old-style storyteller, an 8:11-long track that starts with acoustics and voices muttering, letting gothy winds blow through and establish the darkness. The vocals are a little breathier for a stretch while things slowly get thicker, and heaviness returns to the mix as your adrenaline starts to pump. Fluid soloing takes over, synth creates strange cloud covers, and the track ends in huge, dramatic fashion. “The Mushroom Wizard” is just blues-stuffed as fuck, a huge throwback vibe that feels mind altering and immersive. There is some strange warmth floating through this one, the guitars swing for the psychedelic fences, and you’re left trying to determine what is reality. “The Golden Times” basks in acoustics and hand drumming, yet another heavy nod to Zeppelin. The guitars jerk as the power kicks in, and then the pace chugs hard, the leads blaze, and the vocals kill, leaving you in a pile. “The Endless Ocean” is your closer, starting with waves crashing and an unsettling fog settling. The vocals reach for the heavens as the tempo explodes and mashes about as hard as it does anywhere else, the heat bubbles, and the leads scorch flesh. Eventually, we’re into a cold, calm section where sax enters and creates some soothing breezes, jazzy leads increase the intrigue, and the bass lathers, ending in thick sea foam.

We’ve never written about anything quite like Scarecrow’s “II,” though if this site was operating in the ’80s we’d be talking about releases like this all the time. This record is a really good time, something that I wasn’t sure I was super into the first few times I heard it, but it really grew on me, like gnawing on some of my own heavier music roots that got things going for me as a listener. The best way to enjoy this record is to enjoy some safe, legal mind-altering substances, let down your guard, and allow Scarecrow to take you on a journey we don’t get to take nearly as often in today’s metal landscape.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Scarecrow.RockBand

To buy the album, go here: https://wisebloodrecords.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/wisebloodrecs

Danish beasts Sulphurous jolt with cosmic horrors, death on ‘The Black Mouth of Supulchre’

Typically, heavy metal album art is there to grab the eye and make you wonder what’s contained in the music that lies within. That’s one of the most obvious things I’ve ever said on this site, but hold on. I promise I’m going somewhere. You would think most art would be an invitation into something—Cannibal Corpse art aside—but what happens when a cover has the opposite effect?

I ask because the cover of Sulphurous’ thunderous second record “The Black Mouth of Supulchre” contains a cover, the record’s doorway, if you will, that makes me never, ever want to visit the place it’s depicting. It’s a scene that reeks of “fuck this shit, I’m going a different direction,” and the band’s morbid brand of death metal only amplifies those feelings. All of this is a positive, in case you’re confused, because these six tracks that spread over 37 minutes contain horror you practically can taste and a fear that builds up in your mind. The band—M.F. (guitars, vocals, piano), M.C. (bass), T. (drums)—creates a terrifying ambiance and music to match that douses you in soot and darkness as you crawl on your hands and knees hellbent to avoid whatever that is on the cover. It’s hell. It has to be.  

“Emanated Trepidation” starts the record on a morbid note, mauling and opening wounds, testing with its furious pace. The drums bring further devastation as the humidity thickens, the growls maul, and the leads stretch their wings and blacken with shadow. The growls devastate as the guitars amplify their stranglehold, dealing some final thrashy burns. “Dry Breath of the Tomb” starts basking in doom as the center is sliced open, and gnarly growls begin to land blows. The band then starts to clobber you as the leads heat up, and the pace seemingly aims to rub your face in cinders. Things get faster, the drums smash, and a final assault ends the display in flames. “Shadows Writhing Like Black Wings” starts in a fog that has keys dripping and the sense of dread intensifying. The track then shows its teeth and increases the attack, the riffs breed melodies, and the playing seemingly glows as it moves out of the sunlight. Emotion increases as the intensity boils, and that lets off penetrating steam.

“Eyes Glaring Black Fury” situates itself in doomy blackness as monstrous vocals explode out of corners, and a brutal fury lands and spits rock and soil into unsuspecting mouths. Things feel sinister and volatile as the growls crush, the drumming opens holes in the ground, and everything funnels into the dark, shrouded in mystery. The title track enters amid gushing guitars and a chugging pace as the band keeps mercilessly pounding away. It feels like you’re taking heavy gashes to your sides as the playing gets increasingly monstrous, gargantuan growls smother, and the track blasts out into the atmosphere. “Gazing Into the Patch of Darkness” is the final track, and it feels like it’s going right for your head from the start. The track is just hulking as it gets its footing with the guitars spiraling and spindling, and chaos makes itself the heart of the whole thing. The guitars eventually tidal wave as melodies stretch, the tempo powders bones, and everything suddenly fades into the air, leaving burns behind.

If at the end of Sulphurous’ “The Black Mouth of Sepulchre” you don’t feel shaken by cosmic horror, you’re either not easily disturbed or a total fucking liar. This is a devastating dose of death metal mixed with doomy synthesis, and its dalliances with terror beyond what the mind can comprehend adds even more heaviness and uncomfortable feelings. This is a smasher of a record that is not designed to recognize compassion and only works to amplify your worst fears. Mine is that cover.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100048470091245

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

Or here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/sulphurous-black-mouth-of-sepulchre-vinyl/

Or here: https://desiccatedproductions.com/shop/product/sulphurous-the-black-mouth-of-sepulchre-mc-preorder/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

And here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/

And here: https://desiccatedproductions.com/