Canadian destroyers Blight put focus on vile mission statement with debut ‘Temple of Wounds’

Things that are worth the effort do not necessarily come to fruition overnight. Sure, sometimes a project can strike gold and come together quickly and be better for it, but just as often, time has to be spent, blood must be shed, and sweat must fly in order to be fully satisfied with something in which you’ve invested your life.

Canadian black metal heathens Blight have their origins dating back to 2008, yet we’re finally in the presence of their debut record “Temple of Wounds,” a nine-track, 50-minute opus that is utterly brutal and painstakingly laid out to a degree in which your total devotion to the cause is demanded. Centering on themes including inner-alchemical transmutation and antinomian philosophies (if you’re not familiar, enjoy the insane Google rabbit hole in which you’re about to leap) the band—vocalist G. McCaughry, guitarist Pascal Pelletier, bassist Cedric Deschamps, drummer Rob Lapalme—devours you into this world and puts you through their mental ringer. This is pure brutality and warped chaos that refuses to relent over this course of this brain-tangling journey.

“Dar-Akh-Qayin” trudges open as the vocals buzz in McCaughry’s throat before it melts into screams. Strangeness bleeds into the music as the guitars spiral, deep chants erupt, and things burn out in the end. “Elsewhere & Elsewhen” has guitars in a tornadic formation as vicious wails and raucous emotions swelter. Growls boil underwater as the track takes on a mystical edge, ramping into piercing shrieks as the music dissolves in echoes. “Kingship” unleashes slurry guitars as growls peel off, and the guitars play tricks with your brain. Things speed up as the band ushers in majestic black metal sheets while the vocals strike back, and things come to a furious finish. “Before the Monolith” spills crushing drums and meanders through the fires, mangling with charring riffs. Warbled speak singing haunts as the playing gets hypnotic, and droning calls mix into the night.

“A Violent Light” has a punchy tempo as the vocals are shredded shrieks, and a black metal gaze rises up. Guitars intertwine as clean vocals rush in before the playing explodes and is mangled in its gears before the track blows into space. “The Aurous Nescience” bleeds in from mystery and starts blistering while the vocals begin choking. Desperate cries ring out as the music takes on a gothy feel, turning into more of a driving rock tempo before corrosion pushes in and eats away the foundation. “Palish-I” opens with guitars awakening and then ripping open the sky while playing is vile and crushing. The vocals scrape along as a sense of evil permeates, and fluid guitars flush the track with atmosphere before blasting out. “Scrying the Iosis” brings barked vocals as the guitars cut through, and a strange pace sickens. The tempo is battering as noises rise and the shrieks pierce, stirring and pummeling. “This blessing is a curse, this curse is a blessing,”  McCaughry calls as the track hammers closed. “We Left of Our Own Volition” opens and rivets as the shrieks creak, and droning hell is unleashed. Hypnotic tones and acidic shrieks do damage as wailed instructions hailed toward “our lord Lucifer” rain down as the track grinds through your psyche.

It may have taken 12 years from their initial formation to get a debut full-length record from Blight, but as “Temple of Wounds” makes clear, that time they took getting everything the way they wanted bore disgusting fruit. This album feels like not so much a collection of songs as much as a mission statement, a dagger forward in spite and ferocity. This is a brutal blast to the chest that drives the air from your lungs and leaves you gasping on the ground.

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Philly’s Witching confront dark shades of existence, chaos with charred doom on debut ‘Vernal’

It’s not been a very bright time for a lot of people right now. With so many in quarantine away from people and living in a psychological darkness, demons have surfaced, and long-running issues that have slipped under the waters have reared their heads. That darkness can be impossible to navigate, and other issues can become amplified without some sort of release.

I got to thinking more about that when taking on “Vernal,” the debut full-length offering from Philly’s Witching. Anger, abuse, and grief are themes that are woven into these eight songs, and the ability to process these emotions and diffuse some pressure are just as vital to what’s going on. The band—vocalist Jacqui Powell, guitarists Nate Zagrimanis and Lev Ziskind, bassist Tatiana Buonassisi, drummer Miles Ziskind—delivers that message in a grimy, devastating manner on this record, something that’s disarming when you first dive into the music. It hits you like a wall of lava, and their performance swallows you whole, taking you on a dangerous journey through the darkest regions of your mind, making you confront how you’re going to deal with all of this. It’s a teeth grinder.

“Witness” starts the album and rips open with Powell’s growls clashing as she absolutely owns the room. The playing races and punches while guitars wash in and out as she belts out commands. The final minutes are utterly shredded apart, ending in burnt ash. “Roses” is a slow melter at the front as Powell’s vocals boom, and the playing grinds your midsection. That’s until the song starts to destroy as the guitar work buzzes like a swarm of hornets, and the vocals power a charge that turns up the heat to uninhabitable levels. “Lividity” starts with acoustic gasps and Powell’s clean singing that feels solemn and heated. Then the track jolts as Powell switches to harsh wails, and then things come unglued. Guitars rush, the pace floods, and the vocals lay waste one final time before the song burns out. “This Is What You Deserve” opens with basslines rumbling and the playing having a punk edge while Powell digs down and delivers some deeper singing. Grime and speed become partners and assault you, and then melodies swirl and make the room spin, and the intensity cuts through to the end.

“The Pack” punches open right away, with Powell’s voice simmering and the guitars daring you to challenge them. The track is dark with violence lurking beneath the waves before outright savagery is achieved. Powell switches off from shrieks to wails as the guitars bubble up and boil away. “False Martyr” has a psychedelic edge with the sultry vocals crawling through the muck and the playing beginning to burn. Growling then helps deliver slaughter as the song begins to swagger, and the playing gives off anxious energy. Doomy punishment then follows as the track blasts away and fades into hell. The title track trickles open, and before you know it, everything has burst to life. Riffs smear, the shrieks snarl, and suddenly we’re racing at uncomfortable speeds. The guitar work heats up and drives a dagger through you, while the vocals scrape for blood, and the track comes to a violent end. Closer “Eschaton” delivers a black metal-style edge as Powell sings over the fury, and the pace is destructive. Group calls add bruising while the riffs just slay. Powell mixes shrieks and gruff yells, while the pace mauls you into final submission.

Witching’s first record “Vernal” quakes you at your core both musically and philosophically, and this album should find favor among those who like their doom on the more mentally smothering scale. Powell is an unreal force as a vocalist, and the rest of the band is a black wave that poisons the waters and lays waste to your physical well-being. This is a really promising debut from a band that’s been through the grind and turned into a stronger, more channeled beast.

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Exhumed, Gruesome mash own brands of violence on bloody split crusher ‘Twisted Horror’

I’m a big fan of the split release, which should be obvious to anyone who reads this site with any regularity. Typically, they’re a great way to get a quick taste of two or more bands to see if you want to dive deeper into their catalogs. Or they’re nice appetizers of bands you’re already are into.

“Twisted Horror” is a five-track offering that’s a little different than most in that it’s wall to wall Matt Harvey as his long-running horror grind band Exhumed and Death-inspired juggernaut Gruesome share this thing, so it’s best of both worlds if you’re one of his many zealous followers. Exhumed—rounded out by bassist/vocalist Ross Sewage, guitarist Sebastian Phillips, and drummer Mike Hamilton—deliver three crushers here that have the taste and feel of their most recent LP “Horror” though they’re a little lengthier than what’s on that album. As for Gruesome—also includes guitarist Daniel Gonzalez, bassist Robin Mazen, and drummer Gus Rios—their channeled death metal sounds brutal and razor sharp, a nice blast of two tracks that are their first since 2018’s “Twisted Prayers.”

Exhumed photo by by Orion Landau

The Exhumed portion opens as “Rot Your Brain” has huge riffs attacking and leaving instant blood spatter as Harvey and Sewage tangle vocally, their shriek/growl combo sickening. Scathing, mashing death is afoot as the soloing blares and burns flesh before raspy vocals punch back in, and everything comes to a mashing finish. “Buried to Die” erupts as deep growls lurch, and the band issues complete demolition. The soloing rips hard, while Hamilton’s drumming destroys the earth beneath it, and another blast through the chorus takes the track to its end. “Dead, Deader, Deadest” is the final Exhumed cut, and guitars are unleashed and allowed to run rampant. Again, the shrieks and growls trade off like ghouls arguing as the band drums up a murderous pace. The chorus is a simple but deadly recitation of the title, while the track barnstorms to its final resting place.

Gruesome photo by Ryan Tamm

“A Mind Decayed” starts the Gruesome set, and right away there is a marked change in tone from the Exhumed selections. Guitars charge up while Harvey’s scathing voice powers the track as things pick up speed dangerously. The track shifts to a different pace as weird soloing zaps out of it like an alien attack before the vocals return to drill more holes. Drums mash, the band goes for broke, and the track ends in a flaming pile of ash. “Led Into the Dark” is their closer and thrashes hard, with double kick drums penetrating your skull. Guitars take over as the band achieves a classic death metal vibe, and then the playing explodes. Growls scrape as the pace sludges away, with the band landing final body shots right up to the end.

This is a pretty fun collection from two bands that are the brainchildren of Harvey, and while they might not sound too much alike, they do revel in the same levels of horror. Distractions from life’s realities are very much welcome these days, and the music from Exhumed and Gruesome are ideal for getting you lost in something else. Or for just warping your brain for 20 minutes.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Many Blessings provide views into a hellish void on mind-burnt ‘Emanation Body’

You’ve heard the saying “screaming into the void” before, and that can have any number of connotations from anger to frustration to helplessness. Nonetheless, it’s not something you can actually do, as great an idea as that may be, so we often have to find alternatives to that action.

Here’s the thing though: Ethan McCarthy doesn’t believe that void concept is undoable, and he tries to prove that on his project Many Blessings and new record “Emanation Body,” his second. If you’re familiar with McCarthy’s work in Primitive Man and Vermin Womb, you should leave expectations behind you, because this is an altogether different idea. Here, McCarthy creates terrifying soundscapes that sound like the emanation of the aforementioned void, a place in which he can scream through his frustrations and anxieties, though the pieces here contain his compositions rather than his voice. These tracks also easily could spark anxious moments if these sheets of relentless sound get to you. If you relate to them, it can be perfect catharsis as you pour yourself into the pit of hell and let the pain inside of you mix right into that and add other colors.

“Invocation” starts with beats striking and noise lurking in shadows as eerie movements spread over everything. Ringing brings strangeness and panic into play while a bad storm is brewing outside your window. Noise keeps building, challenging your mental frame as hell rushes over, and the pressure swells. Beats tap, the playing swirls in hell, and everything swelters and fades out. “Immersion” has weird, warped voices in a halo as a ghostly cloud front hovers with the spirits stuck in hell. Howls and moans sit behind the front as the noises eat away at flesh, while the volume rises to dangerous volumes before subsiding. Gloom floods while what sounds like a failing engine calls as the final moments pulsate before fading out.

“Pandæmonium” is immersed in mind-altering oddness, disorienting before sheets of chaos arrive, increasing the pressure that’s mounting. Sounds scar as hypnosis spreads its wings, and the body of the track hurtles through the atmosphere. Mechanical yells combine with tornadic pressure while anxiety amplifies, and the psychosis explodes between your ears. “Ruina” sends barometric pulses and feels like it’s rolling through the clouds before it meets up with an industrial haze. The playing continues to soar, making for some of the record’s more calming stretches. “Harm Signal” is the closer and immediately steps into shockwaves that wail and crawl before squeaks poke, and things hit a boil. The piece flutters nervously, chewing away at the flesh, leaving small, oozing marks while large metal sheets appear to be scraping against each other. The haze picks up again, noises burst and release chemicals, and the final moments drill at the senses before dropping out.

We already knew McCarthy was an absolute beast of a performer, but with Many Blessings, we hear a different side that’s violent in an entirely different way. “Emanation Body” creates that swirling vortex in which you want to dump all of your negative energy and watch it disappear into terrible mystery. This is a creation that can either stage your psychological reformation or devour you from inside out.

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Twilight Fauna’s combo of folk, black metal never richer than on stunning opus ‘Foundations’

The idea of home has taken on an entirely different meaning the past few months considering many of us are stuck in ours. That’s been a good thing for some, a little bit of a trap for others, and no matter how it hits you, home probably feels a little different than it did before all of us were in some form of lockdown in order to keep ourselves and others safe.

But that home doesn’t necessarily mean the dwelling in which you send your time and where your stuff is stored. Our neighborhoods and communities also can be counted in that concept, and Paul Ravenwood, mastermind before folk-flushed black metal band Twilight Fauna has poured plenty of himself into his Appalachian surroundings. He has shared those emotions and ties with his audience for years, but perhaps never more so than on “Foundations,” the banner’s excellent new record and ninth overall. Ravenwood is joined by drummer Josh Thieler (Slaves BC, Arête) on a 10-track, nearly 63-minute excursion that combines the best of all Twilight Fauna worlds, with guests Kendal Fox and Kelsey Maye adding their incredible voices to the mix. You’re sent into the heart of Ravenwood’s surroundings, his experiences within, and some of the area’s history on an album that enraptures and quakes.

“Am I Born to Die” is an unassuming but jarring open with Fox singing a capella, with her voice echoing off the walls. “Soon as from this earth I go, what will become of me,” she wonders as the track ends in frigidity. “Tavern Hill” starts with banjo being plucked as acoustic guitars meet up, and then it blasts open, as a heavy dose of warmth mixes in with freezing terrain. The pace teeters back and forth from volatile to calm, with strong melodies woven within, and Thieler’s drumming pounding away. The final moments drill hard before disappearing into the atmosphere. “The Silence Between the Trees” is a quick instrumental piece with acoustics strummed, light chants and stomps beneath the din, and the track moving into solemn lushness. “Into the Hands of Night” also starts in a bed of banjo play before slowly opening and scalding as Ravenwood’s vocals scrape open wounds. Cool slide guitar works into this, giving it a nice Americana feel (an element that reappears at other moments on the record), while the growls utterly rain down. Harshness spreads before cooling off a bit, allowing some breath before the next slice as we end the track in destructive swirls and drums that loosen teeth. “A Voice in the Wilderness” has guitars rumbling right away as the drums join, and the howls penetrate. As is commonplace here, calmer waters take over for a stretch before the seams burst again, and the playing overwhelms. Elegant melodies reign within the chaos as a huge deluge in riffs floods, making it feel like a storm that isn’t going to relent until all the ground is covered.

“Under the Falling Snow” has chimes blowing in the breeze as Ravenwood duets with Fox for the first four minutes as the track stretches its arms deep into folk territory. After that, the top is torn off as the track melts into lava, though with a calm speaking voice behind stating, “I want my life to really stand for something.” Emotion caterwauls as sheets of sound crush, and the final minutes go back to echoey cleanliness. “The Breeze Through Willows” is the final dose of heaviness on the record, at least from a volume standpoint, as guitars wash you in gazey magic before the punishment arrives in spades. It’s a bruising path that’s stomped as the guitars go for broke, and Theiler lays waste to his kit. Finally, the track retreats to quieter sounds, a hint toward what’s to come on the remainder of the album. The final three tracks all are folk based, starting with “Fires Carry You Home” that has banjo, whistles, and Ravenwood’s gruff singing, making this feel raw and off the cuff. Here, he tells a story of a woman who refuses to give up her land to the coal industry and gets come help from her kin to ward them off “where the old river flows. “In a Breath” has melodies fluttering as Ravenwood recalls taking a trail that he’s walked many times and all the memories that come rushing back with that. The track is reflective, vulnerable, and undeniably human especially as he realizes, “You know you’ll never be the same,” as he absorbs moments that have passed by, some rich with hurt. “West Virginia Mining Disaster” closes, a take on the Jean Ritchie-penned song handled here a capella by Kelsey Maye, whose performance is stunning. You can hear every breath and swallow as she takes this track that recalls an event in May 1968 that trapped 25 miners for days, with four not surviving. Her singing booms as she tells of a young mother who realizes her sons soon will head underground, ending the track with, “His occupation was mining, West Virginia his home,” with her delivery of the word “west” buckling your knees.

Ravenwood has been steering Twilight Fauna in this direction for quite some time, as his black metal always has been twinged with Appalachian folk grandeur. However, “Foundations” is where he absolutely nails this formula, with this being his most realized work to date and the richest collection of songs in his catalog. It took me just a single listen to understand just how good this record is, and subsequently, I’ve gone back to relive each track multiple times, trying to glean even more meaning.

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Mysterious death metal powers Akolyth wrap weirdness, chaos on bone-crushing debut album

So, I get a lot of promos from bands I don’t know about beforehand. When that happens, I dial up the internet (Ricky Morton rules!) and try to learn what I can, whether that’s other releases they have out, who’s in the band, their history, or whatever else there is to know. But that doesn’t always work.

So, the band Akolyth have put out their debut self-titled record on Amor Fati, but digging into just about every source I have at my disposal, I came up with nothing. No idea who they are, where they came from, how long they’ve been together. But none of that really matters in the end. What is crucial is how their music sounds, and it is horrifying and truly satisfying for anyone looking for aggression and evil in equal amounts. This is normally where I tell you who’s in the band, but again, I don’t know who they are, as mentioned, but the music works its way down my spine, chewing away at nerve endings, and leaving me bleeding in a pile of rubble. This is a bruiser of a record no matter who is involved.

“A Work of Ages” starts off with creaking growls and punchy riffs that aim to topple. Strong guitar work rams away, while the growls add thick layers of filth to what’s already a foreboding environment. The playing stampedes with raw power, speeding up and dangerously leaning into bends, mashing away with a monstrous spirit. The drumming decimates even more violently as the track blows out in smoke. “The Night, the Fog” starts laying in the strikes almost immediately as the growling lurches, and the sweltering pace leaves you sweating and gasping for air. Deranged echoes pummel while desperate howls call out in the night as the playing hits a full boil, and then everything rounds back and continues the pressure. Heavy body shots are dealt while the atmosphere gets sucked up in tornadic winds and driven into the ground.

“What Dwells Between Fractured Worlds” bursts open with echo-rich screams and riffs driving right into a front of decimating drum work. It feels like your chest is being crushed as cackles ring out, and the playing flattens you before entering into a thrashy barrage. The wails feel meaty and smothering while the pace mashes you, and a massive fury strikes like a folding chair to the face. “To Become His Doorway” finally brings mercy, but not until it lays waste for 9:18. The drums again bring devastation, speeding along and mauling while fierce yelps blast into a gale force wind. The pace lumbers like a slow-moving cement truck with no one behind the wheel as the riffs go off, and the blowback burns your face. The final moments are a struggle with terror as the playing wrestles you to the ground and demands outright submission.

This devastating display of death from the faceless void that is Akolyth is a chasm of mystery and horror that spreads over this stunning debut record. These nearly 37 minutes drill inside of your psyche and set up shop there, and since you’ve willingly let them in, they’re not vacating. This will leave warped, mental bruising that will take ages to cure.

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Aussie skies darken further as Evoker slithers from hell with crushing first EP ‘Evil Torment’

Why is metal from Australia so vile and uncompromising? That place terrifies me based on the sounds coming out of there, but digging a little deeper, there are more things going on that have to be amplifying the terror. My guess is the spiders and snakes. The huntsman spider can 100 percent fuck off, as can the inland taipan. Wait, I’m learning there are huntsman spiders in the US?!

I also blame these things for the insanity that is spread all over “Evil Torment,” the debut EP offering from Evoker, a trio hailing from the Down Under place that offers punishment that veers into both death and black metal. They’re been going for about four years now, but this six-track, nearly 23-minute collection is the first time a larger audience will hear what they have to offer thanks to Blood Harvest getting behind this thing. The band–guitarist/vocalist Merlin Quinlan, bassist Hass, drummer Eren Steyr-Aug—mangles you from the start, and since we’re talking a mini release, they obviously waste no time taking it to you over and over again until they’ve gotten into your head and drawn blood physically. Like that goddamn snake!

“From the Depths” crashes in out of a lightning storm and rushes at you with an instant ferocity. Infernal howls buckle you at the knees as Quinlan howls, “From the depths, the evil awaits.” Furious leads trudge through old-school death grounds before rushing back out. “Old Evil” destroys with a rapidly spat chorus and Quinlan calling of “raising hell on earth.” Soloing blazes out as everything in sight is bound to be destroyed, with the final moments drenched in doom and death bells. “Shackled to the Grave” has ominous riffs and gruff shouting while the guitars swim amongst everything. “Let me die, endless torment,” Quinlan wails while the track devotes itself to a heavily thrashing finish.

“Exhumation of the Damned” clobbers right from the word go as it races dangerously and settles into a thrashy hell. Guitars light up and spread havoc while the title is howled over and over on the chorus, and the track hammers closed. “Sacrilicious Lust” blazes away and exposes you to monstrous heat while the vocals are heaved out like poison. The barnstorming pace at which they deliver this is intimidating as they set to squash everything in front of them. “Parasomanic” is your closer, and it begins with doomy riffs that eventually give away to a blinding assault. Nasty growls combine with a crushing pace, and then the soloing utterly explodes. Doomy winds blow again later, only to be dumped into a sizzling cauldron, left there to burn into oblivion.

Evoker’s first official foray into the smoldering death and black metal worlds is a short but effective burst that gives a good indication of what this band is capable of accomplishing. “Evil Torment” is a great first seed as their roots grow beneath the surface as they finally break through the Earth. This is some devastating stuff, and this is only beginning for this promising Aussie death squad.

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