Gosudar, Malignant Altar team for split release that centers on doomy, gutting death metal

Growing up in the 1980s, two things were burned into our brains: Marijuana was a gateway drug that would either kill you or have you hopelessly addicted to heroin and cocaine imminently, and that Russia and the United States were bitter enemies that would potentially slaughter each other and end the world in nuclear holocaust. Metal…

Obviously the U.S. and Russia still are openly hostile when it comes to government relations, but the people who live in those countries do not hate each other. Why would we? Oh, and marijuana is the deadliest drug on earth. That’s just science. But today, we have a split from Russian force Gosudar and American crushers Malignant Altar proving we can all come to an understanding under the banners of doom and death metal. This five-track collection brings these forces from across the planet together and delivers a forceful display as destructive as any warhead and warps you from the inside out. Gosudar are a little grimier and delve deep in the doomier waters whereas Malignant Altar serve death metal as scathing and menacing as they come. It’s a perfect match.      

Gosudar opens with “Mortified Transformation” that instantly jams you into a murky haze before doom and death sprawl, and the growls aim to gut you alive. The playing trudges while the leads scorch, making way for muddy, clubbing fury and the vocals slithering through viscous waters. Animalistic howls sever nerves as the tempo slows but remains heavy, and everything is crushed totally and completely as the air is forced from your lungs. “Domination of Irreality” fades in and begins mashing, the growls pummeling as the earth moves beneath everything. Filth piles up as the stress multiplies, the drums crush, and the vocals wretch before the playing explodes. Chaos erupts while the guitars drill into rock, growls maul, and everything ends in blackened brutality.

Malignant Altar starts with “Malfeasance (Inexorable Enmity)” that explodes in a death metal assault, the riffs entangling as the growls explode and spatter. Your sanity is mangled as the leads catch fire, and doom horns signal the fear you’ve held deep inside coming to pass as molten terror flexes its muscles. Atmospheric strangeness lands as the guitars fire away, drilling everything into the heart of the blaze.   “The Awakening of the Majestic Darkness” is their take of the Imprecation track from the 1993 EP “Sigil of Baphomet.” It’s vile and molten, evil and in the midst of slaughter, a devastating version of a track that had a major impact on the band and underground death metal, as punishing a tribute possible.

Over these hostile 28 minutes, Gosudar and Malignant Altar prove bands from entirely different worlds can speak the same language when it comes to death and doom filth. There’s nary a moment to breathe, and over these four tracks, your mind will suffer mental wounds you can’t easily soothe. This split drips with ill intent, bathing in nothing but blood and guts.

For more on Gosudar, go here: https://www.facebook.com/gosudardeath/

For more on Malignant Altar, go here: https://malignantaltar.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/gosudar-malignant-altar-split-12/

Or here: https://www.rottedlife.com/all-products

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Thrashing fury lathered over Ready for Death’s brain-melting self-titled debut

I don’t know how many bands were formed from kids kicking and striking each other, but we know that number isn’t zero. This isn’t as bad or as objectionable as it might sound on the surface as we’re not here to encourage youth violence. In this case, we’re talking about kids learning Tae Kwon Do, and how one particular class led us to Ready for Death.

Vocalist Artie Thomas and guitarist Dallas Thomas both had their kindergarten-aged kids in the same class, and later on, the two got to know of each other’s background as Thomas did vocals in Indecision, Millhouse, and Concrete Cross, while Thomas played with Pelican, Asschapel, and Swan King. That birthed Ready for Death and their self-titled debut record that’s a raucous, smashing collection of 10 tracks that dabble in death metal, hardcore, punk, and thrash spread over an economical 22 minutes. The band—rounded out by guitarist Dan Binaei (Racetraitor, Haggathorn), bassist/backing vocalist Luca Cimarusti (Annihilus), and drummer Shawn “The Beast” Brewer (Haggathorn)—wasted no time whipping this frenzy together, with the lyrics based on a sci-fi dystopia where two cosmic forces battle for the bones of a nuclear-ravaged earth. It’s a fast, furious great time that spills blood and crushes bones.

“Vaporized” is an opening blast that crushes you fast and effectively, mangling with relentless power and sooty madness that churns inside your belly. “Blackmasker” brings spiraling guitars and mangling howls, defacing your mental well-being and bringing a boiling pace that amplifies the humidity. The chorus is simple but effective, blackness spreads its wings, and everything ends in filth. “Chamber of Disease” rips by, thrashing and stomping, aiming to gut you alive with sharp riffs and ugly power that makes everything feel awful inside. “Cyborg Priest” is fun as fuck as strange howls meet up with black metal-style melodies and storming terror that has its way with you. Things gets daring and stabbing, the leads blaze, and the rowdy gang shouts of, “Cyborg priest!” are impossible to remove from your brain. “Synthezoid Warrior” flattens with devastating riffs and drums destroy, and infectious energy shoots through your veins. Deliberate thrashing changes the pace a bit, the playing twists muscles, and the final blows leave you gasping.

“Savior Sinner” is speedy with wild shrieks and a storming assault, pushing and bruising with no sign of mercy. “Church of the Nuclear Bomb” trudges as rapid-fire howls devastate, and darkness is abound, the simple, effective chorus feeling like the earth is imploding and swallowing you into that gaping maw. “Wasteland of Peace” is dark and sooty, a change of pace that leans more on increasing the threatening shadows than destroying your spine. Not that the track holds back at all as it scorches and scars, rubbing your face in the bloody mud puddles. “Worldwide Blackout” packs a punk edge and wastes no time kicking up dust, the leads adding strange new colors. Harsh howls drive in the daggers, the playing pounds, and the final moments burn off into a vapor cloud. Closer “Microchip Mutilation” is the epic of the bunch at 3:34, and it immediately plasters, adding some hardcore toughness and mauling chaos that wastes no time spilling over. “I rip myself apart,” White howls as deadly thrashing sinks in its teeth, and brain-voiding heat ends worlds.

Leave it to little kids kicking and punching to spawn an exciting and devastating new band, but that’s what we have with Ready for Death and their monstrous debut offering. These tracks are fast and effective, stripped of excess, and go straight for your neck with no concerns for your health. This is a promising project, one that has sharp teeth, misleading hooks, and plenty of aggressive blows to leave you prone on the ground, aimlessly trying to defend yourself.  

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/readyfordeathband/

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/ready-for-death

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

The Atomic Bomb Audition rocket into doomy prog, metallic glory on adventurous ‘Future Mirror’

Photo by Rex Mananquil

Music is often described as cinematic and, while I didn’t do a search for the word on this site because I didn’t feel like it, I’ve definitely used the descriptor for plenty of bands and records. But most often that’s just because it’s a useful term to use to describe something that takes you out of your reality and into something dramatic and picturesque.

Sometimes artists intend that effect such as The Atomic Bomb Audition, whose run the past nearly two decades has been loaded with the intent to create something that should accompany a story on a movie screen. That was their focus when the band got going in 2004, but in 2022, a decade after their last release, they’re back with “Future Mirror,” a record that keeps their big vision intact but also packs that in with enough emotion and hooks to capture any heavy music fan. The band—guitarist/vocalist Alee Karim, bassist/vocalist Jason Hoopes, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Gleeson, and The Norman Conquest, responsible for synthesizers, wurlitzer, Hammond B3, ARP 2600, farfisa, ARP Solina, Prophet 5, Eurorack modular, vocals—dug in and created something that makes your heart race but also maintains their storytelling tendencies. This record could charm listeners who embrace rock, metal, prog, you name it, and there’s so much richness baked in, it’s impossible to come away unaffected.

“Render” opens in a doomy soup, thick and bubbling, hearty singing getting deep into your bones. The guitars flood and amplify the emotion, spirited drubbing gets your juices flowing, and the keys blip, driving this thing deep into the cosmos. “Night Vision” could be the breakout of this collection, the bass driving hard, the guitars absolutely glimmering. The hidden gem here is the chorus, an energetic burst as you’re hit with the call, “It’s so dark but I know you can’t see me,” a refrain that will stick in your brain. There’s an undeniable late-era Rush vibe that fills with energy, and this whole thing is a blast of adrenaline.  “WNGTIROTSCHDB” is a brief interlude with Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” dreamily buried deep within it, creating a strange aura that hangs around for a while. “Dream Flood” quivers in place, the bass reverberating, the keys giving off a psyche sheen. The sludge collects as the synth mesmerizes, a gritty chorus spits cinders, and the guitars slice through and add to the doom cloudiness.

“Golden States, Pt. 1” arrives amid guitars buzzing and the keys haunting, giving off an uneasy apocalyptic feel, as if there was a comfortable version of that. Militaristic drumming paces as the synth turns in alien frigidity, the power jolts, and everything turns breezy and fades off. “…Spells” is a strange interlude that contains children singing a song about witches and Halloween, moving through your mind and making reality seem unattainable. “Haunted Houses” follows, naturally, the longest track here at 9:56. Guitars drip as the playing slowly spreads, drone firing up and blackening, your imagination running wild. Doomy mauling begins the bruising as the vocals swelter with the wailing of, “You don’t know what you can’t see,” a sentiment that’s repeated throughout. The guitars scuff as a psychedelic edge cuts, an admission of, “I’m still afraid of ghosts,” strikes, and the playing amplifies your lingering fears. Closer “More Light” runs 8:36 and brings haunting guitars and gentler singing, the power gradually becoming a bigger factor. “Nothing changes what’s been done, there’s no way back to the past,” resonates as the words circulate in your head, the energy feeling not unlike Cave In’s spacier moments. Finally, the power bristles, emotions race to the surface, and the blood eventually runs dry.

It’s really difficult to put a finger on what “Future Mirror” feels like, as it’s all over the map in a really good, creative way. The Atomic Bomb Audition have made what’s likely their most approachable material to date, but they did so by leaving in the intricacy and challenges, making sure they expand your mind along the way. This is a record that certainly lives outside of metal’s terrain but will find favor within that world. It’s capable of so much more than boundaries offer, and it excels because of its ingenuity and heart.

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/theatomicbombaudition

To buy the album, go here: https://theatomicbombaudition.bandcamp.com/album/future-mirror

Dutch power Onhou put screws to comfort, guide celestial, yet brutal journey with ‘Monument’

Photo by Richard Postma

There are people among us who can remain cool and calm in the face of absolute chaos, and I 100 percent am not one of those people. At least not in real life when situations brutally out of my control come for me, and I’m left to deal. I’m much handling discomfort in my art because I can remain in control of the situation and find something within that journey to embrace.

I got to thinking about that when taking on “Monument,” the second long player from Dutch sludge/doom power Onhou who have quite the test with which to treat you. On these four lengthy songs, the band—guitarist/vocalist Alex, bassist Henk, keyboardist/vocalist Florian, drummer Arnold—immerses you in discomfort and disturbing notes about our shared existence. But inside that torment, based heavily on the sometimes-dreamy sounds and celestial shadows, I could not help but let my mind wander beyond the torment to something else. It’s a great record to hear if you’re spending your evening pleasantly high, letting the music soak into your cells and enable you to travel far away.

“When on High” splits open with the drums leading and sludgy power rising, forceful calls soaring off into a synth glaze. Vile howls then knife in as the storm cloud combusts, and the bloody menace leans into a thickening fog. Synth spills as the tempo delivers piledrivers, muddy hell thickens the juice in your arteries, and noise scars, the final moments draining away. “Null” simmers in mud as the numbing cries remind of Conan’s barbarian doom. The synth coats faces as the playing spreads, and heavy hammers begin to drop. An increasing cold front brings heavy shivering as roars burst out of that, and savage howls make your flesh crawl and your bones ache. The pace crushes as the melodies get ghostly, mammoth destruction rears its head, and the playing drives over an icy, alien terrain.

“Below” is the longest track, running 11:55 and beginning with spacey keys that give off a sense of isolation in darkness, adding to the eerie strangeness before bursting open. Mangling growls reign as the power continues to multiply, washing into a brief calm until the claws sink in again. Leads light up as the vocals flex their muscles, howls lurch, and the synth glows like the moon over the horizon. The drubbing continues and lasts as the playing exits this earth and moves into the stars. Closer “Ruins” runs 11:03 and brings guitars ringing out and synth bleeding before the devastating cries pierce the night. The playing scrapes as the intensity becomes a greater factor, moving into galactic wonder that moves into your dreams. Shrieks punish, the playing destroys, and everything bathes in a flood of feedback.

For a record that intends to poke at the gruesome and destructive elements of our existence, “Monument” also happens to be a record that lets your mind wander among the stars and makes your thinking get richer. Onhou certainly have plenty of barbaric moments mixed in with this mind fuck of a record, and its combination of imaginative playing and scathing violence is a perfect match for anyone who wants to be devastated and challenged. This is immersive and slashing, an album that’s perfect for late-night contemplation washed in moonlight.

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/onhouband

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

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

Death/grind killers Dehiscence apply boots to throats, create bloodshed on debut EP ‘Colony’

Hey, you’re not doing anything constructive, run into the living room and grab my stogies. Oh, and take like 17 minutes of out of your day to orient yourself with putrid, pestilence-dripping death metal and grind that’ll make your body and mind feel even worse than usual once consumption has finished. Sounds like a great way to end the month, yes?

The band in question here is Dehiscence, and their debut mini album “Colony” is the type that, if manifested into human form would be sweaty, smell awful, and live a life surrounded by filth. Pretty fucking hot, huh? Well, it’s not meant to be easily digestible, and the eight tracks found on this festering wound of an EP will eat into your guts and leave pain and pus behind. The band—guitarist/bassist/vocalist Stillbirth, lead guitarist  Gangrene, drummer Hammer Pulse, most likely not their government names—wastes no time getting knee deep in the muck, pulling you down to their level and grabbing you so forcefully into the grossness that you get some in your mouth.  

“Demented Terror” opens with deep roars and a blinding pace that sets the stage for the rest of the record. Battering and trudging guitars make their case as the growls rumble through a snarling burst of power. “Leperphiliac” is heavy and relentless, the growls flexing their muscles as everything fires away and spirals. The tempo pummels as the ash gets thicker, and you’re left no choice but hack the soot from your lungs. “Lobotomized at Birth” starts with the drums destroying and the rest of the elements following suit, coming dangerously close to your chest cavity. The playing chugs as the guitars take flight, and everything catches fire and bows to a maniacal pace. “Against Your Will” pounds away as jarring howls loosen teeth, and the guitar work lacerates and sends blood spurting. Growls rip through as the bludgeoning gains more steam, everything ending in complete chaos.

“Animal Abuse” is gutting as animalistic howls go for the throat, raspy howls raining down and adding to the misery. The intensity hits an even higher gear as the thrashing multiplies, deathly misery spreads, and everything burns off into the dirt. “Begging” smashes right off the bat as the growls deal ample punishment, and the playing drubs unforgivably. The guitars tangle and blind as furious growls flatten, pushing the air from your lungs. “Rust Wound” charges up and mashing bones while the guitars entangle you in violence. A furious menace flashes its blades as the splattering sends blood and flesh flying, the guitars leaving scathing wounds. Closer “Divergent” is over before you know it, serving speed and battering power, the riffs gaining power, and the howls tearing out your guts.

This is a record where you won’t feel good at all once it’s over, and I’m pretty sure that is Dehiscence’s entire agenda. “Colony” feels disease-infested from the start, and things only get more ominous and destructive as these eight songs play out fully. This initial offering from this three-headed beast is a warning of what’s to come, namely disgusting grind and death that’ll gnaw off your face.   

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083799499044

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://www.chaos-records.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Prog & thrash unite as Hammers of Misfortune unleash new fire on ‘Overtaker’

Every band has a style and a sound on which you pretty much can rely, strange wrinkles aside. You know you’re getting top-flight metal from Iron Maiden. You can guarantee Panopticon will deliver woodsy black metal with a side of bluegrass. You can be assured Metallica will serve thrash metal with some strange diversions into the “Load” era. Amon Amarth? Melody and Vikings.

When it comes to Hammers of Misfortune, the anticipation isn’t so easy. Sure, you’re in for riffs, top-notch vocals, be it clear or harsh, and a hefty serving of dramatics. But you never can fully anticipate how it’s going to hit you. Well, on their seventh album “Overtaker,” the guessing game gets deliciously out of control as they present their most aggressive record to date, but one that still pulls in their cavalcade of progressive tricks. The album, not initially intended as a Hammers record but that became one when some of its family of players returned to the fold, is part heyday thrash and part ’70s prog, and it is fucking glorious. The main band contains Jamie Myers on vocals; John Cobbett on guitars, bass, mellotron, and solina; Blake Anderson on drums, piano, and timpani; and Sigrid Sheie on Hammond B3 and backing vocals. Other than Anderson, the other three all date back to “The Locust Years,” with Cobbett its longtime mastermind. Joining them are former member Mike Scalzi (The Lord Weird Slough Feg) on vocals; Frank Chin (Crypt Sermon, Daeva) on bass; Tom Draper (Spirit Adrift, Pounder) as guest guitar soloist; Steve Blanco (Imperial Triumphant) on synth solos; and Brooks Wilson (Crypt Sermon) on backing vocals. That a massive team to pull off a killer record that’ll take off your head but also dazzle you with power. Try to listen to this and not feel instant happiness.  

The title track opens and immediately rips as Myers’ singing powers, and sinister guitar work eats away, adding a heaping dose of darkness. Murky synth blends in as the melodies blind, and Myers’ voice utterly snarls as the playing pummels and echoes away. “Dark Brennius” simmers in vintage keys as Scalzi’s familiar and unmistakable voice howls, the band thrashing heartily. The playing is intense and sometimes gleefully zany, dramatic twists and turns adding electricity and character, the guitars going off and catching fire as everything comes to a haunting end. “Vipers Cross” begins with keys rushing and the guitars getting the blood flowing, Myers howling and jarring your heart. Organs sprawl and increase the progginess, and then things go cosmic, the playing zipping through time and space, bleeding infectious strangeness. “Don’t Follow the Lights” is a brawler, bleeding out of icy keys into full-on thrash, Myers warning, “They’re not what they seem!” over the chorus, discouraging your trust in the light. The energy glistens and feels wonderfully ambitious, Myers’ voice calls into the distance, and the playing rushes hard before burning off its energy. “Ghost Hearts” has keys heating up and the leads boiling and blistering, Myers flexing her power and increasing your heart rate. Vicious, scathing bursts go for your throat, guitars lap and lather, the bass chugs, and bruising is left behind.

“Outside Our Minds” thrashes heavily as the keys add an adventurous texture, Myers’ singing driving the emotion. A psychedelic wash adds numbing energy, the guitars scorch, and the keys sprawl, the splintering power dealing heavy blows. “The Raven’s Bell” slashes away as the guitars swirl, and the tempo jabs through your mid-section. The playing shuffles as organs lather with psychedelic sheen, shrieks rip, and the pace picks up and destroys, dealing monstrous, thrashy punishment. “Orbweaver” is rousing and exciting, Myers’ vocals increasing your adrenaline levels before calm arrives. That settles the waters a bit and adds dreamy gazing. But it’s temporary as the shrieks send chills down your spine, the playing dashes and excites, and fluid energy ravages you completely. “Overthrower” serves aggressive riffs and Scalzi returning on vocals, the playing threatening and forcing wounds to fester. The pace is delirious in spots, and at times the keys enter to change the temperature and add haziness, but the energy underneath is undeniable, carrying you into the middle of the battle. Closer “Aggressive Perfection” unloads with mauling thrash and the keys coating like a syrup, the howls hissing as the pace picks up and murders the gas pedal. Maniacal howls echo in the night, the leads explode and give off thick smoke, while the frosty bass freezes your cells. Darkness sprawls as the fury multiplies, the thrashing encircling and drilling into the earth’s molten core.

There isn’t a twist or turn that scares Hammers of Misfortune, and while “Overtaker” is their most unexpected release in their vast catalog, it’s also not really a surprise to anyone who has been following along. This vile mix of aggressive thrash and dramatic prog rock energy suits this band perfectly and is an ideal statement for the chaotic times in which we are entrenched. This record is a joy to behold, a destructive reunion of forces that belong together, and a statement that heavy metal has no rulebook, and anyone who adhere to regulations will be consumed by the Hammers’ relentless fire.

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

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

Celestial Season strike back for a second time in 2022 with doomy, melancholic effort ‘Mysterium II’

This is the time of the year that the dreaded seasonal disorder starts to rear its ugly head with winter nearly on our doorsteps. It gets dark earlier, and the sunshine so many of us vitally need for our mental health is in short supply. It’s very real, and I’ve seen it in my own life manifest itself and drive misery and hopelessness deep into one’s psyche.

If you seek a musical accompaniment to that phenomenon or just need a dark friend with which to share the experience, “Mysterium II” is as good as anything else you might find. The second release this year from long-running Dutch death-doom vets Celestial Season packs that morbid and dismal punch you might be seeking. Over six tracks that serve generous portions of heavy shadows, the band—vocalist Stefan Ruiters, guitarists Olly Smit and Pim van Zanen, bassist Lucas van Slegtenhorst, violinist Jiska Ter Bals, cellist Elianne Anemaat, drummer Jason Köhnen—dig deeply into themselves to lather this record with thunderous highs and gut-wrenching lows, an ideal piece of music for this time of the year. It also speaks to the band’s ambition that this second in a trilogy of albums arrives a mere seven months after “Mysterium I” dropped in April, and this also is their third record since returning to action two years ago after a two-decade layoff. If they’re making up for lost time, they are doing it as prolifically and powerfully as humanly possible.

“The Divine Duty of Servants” begins under doomy, cloudy skies as the growls slither, and the atmosphere grows more ominous as it develops. The tempo lurches as the mystery builds, the playing launches cement blocks, and the growls crush as the horizon darkens as the fog swallows everything whole. “Tomorrow Mourning” enters amid quivering strings and menacing growls as the playing keeps pounding harder, and heavy sorrow encompasses everything, slipping into bleary guitars and the feeling that the edge of the night is permanent. The leads take on a David Gilmour weepiness, the pace wrenches and squeezes the breath from your lungs, and voices warble as the strings scar and leave blood streaks behind. “Our Nocturnal Love” is an instrumental piece built on teary piano, strings lathering, and heavy emotion pushing the moon over the sky, knifing open an entrance for a storm.

“In April Darkness” dawns with beaming guitars and whirring strings as the growls begin to gut. The guitars then get even more foreboding as morbidity spreads its wings, layers are built on top of each other as the emotions get more intense, and the melodies lap onto the glass-covered shore. “The Sun the Moon and the Truth” opens with guitars drizzling and a slow, somber ambiance becoming an early factor. An angelic haze mixes with fiery playing, rupturing as the heavy growls knife ribcages, and the strings sweep in order to amplify the sadness. The playing crushes slowly, the darkness flourishes, and the final moments drive the dagger deeper. Closer “Pictures of Endless Beauty – Copper Sunset” practically melts in streams from ice, the vocals slithering with the emerging strings. Clouds get thicker and grayer, and tormented melodies add pressure to your heart, the guitars flowing painfully and sorrowfully. A somber glaze bleeds over top, the playing continues to flow with force, and the final embers leave the intimidating horizon devoid of light.

Celestial Season haven’t let a moment slip by them, adding “Mysterium II” to the first volume released earlier this year and giving us another gloomy chapter to end this dying year. The melancholic and thorny approach to this record makes for fitting late-autumn listening when the light expires early, and seasonal disorders begin tapping on our tired shoulders. This is dark, beautiful, and sinister, a record that lives alongside your pain and fears and makes them less intimidating to address.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.burningworldrecords.com/collections/burning-world-records

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

Ocean of Ghosts unleash rage, sorrow over trans hatred on ‘I Am Awake and My Body Is on Fire’

As the alleged “greatest country on the earth,” the United States and the people in power sure do a shit job making its people feel safe and secure. Well, unless you’re white and straight and Christian. You’re fine, and I know you’ve been pining for some persecution status, but that’s ridiculous. Gay and trans people have been victimized for real, and the hatred that’s brewing feels like it’s not decreasing.

It’s an ideal time for a record such as “I Am Awake and My Body Is on Fire,” the new record from Ocean of Ghosts, a project long helmed by sole member FC (also of Bury Them and Keep Quiet). On this five-track firestorm of emotion, FC addresses and delves deeply into the anger and frustration of presenting and living life as a transgender person in America, a hellscape that has a major political party trying to write legislation to silence and end these people. FC sees her existence in a country that doesn’t want her to exist and feels the pain and frustration, but she’s taking this moment to live who she truly is and fully embrace her identity. The title of this piece hammers that point home, and the music is an absolute force, something that hopefully can be cathartic and a battle axe for other people living with same experience. Also, a portion of all sales will be donated to TransHealth, an independent and comprehensive healthcare center that supports and empowers trans and gender-diverse individuals and families. You can find their site here: https://transhealth.org/

“Dysphoria/Revenge” is the 12:39-long opener, and it’s an adventure, beginning with murky, foggy transmissions, feeling through the darkness and burning with somber energy. The mystery builds and beckons, then FC’s shrieks rage across worlds, crushing as the playing slowly pulls you into the void, adding soot and anger that you practically can taste. The clouds and torment collect as gut-wrenching darkness implodes, taking you with it, the guitars drone and add layers of cement-thick doom, and the final strains spiral into the enshrouded beyond. “Glorious Wrath” opens with desperate calls and a doomy pall, the guitars cutting through along with FC’s monstrous howls. The pace swells as melodic cries lurk in the background behind the gristle, off-kilter leads make the room spin, and heavy hypnosis has its way with your psyche pushing toward a burly finish.

“Trauma” brings mauling riffs and crushing shrieks, the power flattening the ground it treads, clean calls swishing behind it all. Throaty howls send jolts through the system as the riffs get hotter and encircle, spacious playing offers an infusion or air, and muddy trudging trails out into the cosmos. “Nothing” starts with warbling, disorienting voices, then vicious howls land blows, the riffs warping as a sinister groove is achieved. A gust of strangeness makes any sense of comfort short lived, the guitars rip into flesh, and strange singing haunts and leaves your body cold. Closer “Disgust” heaves static and moves deliberately, the playing getting increasingly heavier, the doomy power gutting. Growls scrape as the playing lurches along, making you pay the price, and then things slip into mysterious terrain that tears into your brain. The guitars engulf, the fires are further agitated, and noises hover overhead, ending everything on an uncomfortable note.

I cannot imagine the torment and hatred that face people like FC who are just trying to live as their genuine selves and still find anger and lack of compassion from so many people in modern society. “I Am Awake and My Body Is on Fire” is a title that tells you a lot from first glance, and then delving deeper into this latest Ocean of Ghosts release reveals the true fury and longing built into these songs. It’s fucking ridiculous people such as FC have to live based on other people’s hate, but until that time comes when this isn’t the case, these types of records and projects will be here to live in defiance and lash back against oppressors.

For more on the band, go here: https://oceanofghosts.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/album/i-am-awake-and-my-body-is-on-fire

Or here: https://vitadetestabilisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/i-am-awake-and-my-body-is-on-fire

Or here: https://realmandritual.bandcamp.com/album/i-am-awake-and-my-body-is-on-fire

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

And here: https://vitadetestabilis.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/realmandritual/

PICK OF THE WEEK: High Command weave tales from Secartha into thrash on vicious ‘…Dual Moons’

Two things that solidified my love all of things metallic were heaviness and storytelling, both of which hooked me into the style of music I write about multiple times per week. Thrash metal was the first thing that drove me into more aggressive sounds, yet the adventures spun by Iron Maiden, Dio, Queensrÿche and bands of that ilk locked in the fantastical elements. Unbreakable bond solidified.

From the time I came to know of them, thrashers High Command checked off all the boxes, delivering a sound that feels transported from the ’80s heyday but with their own edge and a world they created that is the center point for their music. Their second record “Eclipse of the Dual Moons” is a massive late-year treasure, an eight-track, 48-minute excursion into the world of Secartha (the concept is similar to Immortal’s Blashyrkh) and the events and chaos abound in that place. The band—vocalist Kevin Fitzgerald, guitarists Ryan McArdle and Mike Bonetti, bassist Chris Berg, drummer Ryan Pitz—deliver mashing goodness, staying true to the roots of the subgenre but adding their own mark to their formula. I’ve loved everything this band has put out to date, and this record is another massive high point.

The title track gets things starting, rampaging in and opening a wild pace. This is thrash. The real shit. You can just feel it in your bones. “The sky will collapse into madness, the rift will emerge beneath the eclipse of the dual frost moons,” Fitzgerald howls as gut punches land, the guitars catch fire, and everything ends as viciously as possible. “Immortal Savagery” chugs in as menacing vocals slice, and a calculated drive amplifies the menace. The playing speeds up and warps your brain, the chorus punishes, and wild howls belt as things naturally bleed into “Imposing Hammers of Cold Sorcery” that smashes right away. Guitars dice as the throaty howls bring you to your knees, the leads spiraling before the guitars detonate. Speed takes off as the devastation increases, the howls getting meatier, the playing more aggressive, and the spoken calls to the warriors of Secartha chilling you to the bone as the battle plans are set. “Omniscient Flail of Infamy” fades in, feeling like an homage to Metallica’s old tricks, and then a letter from Veeanithzar is read as the world crumbles. The storm lands and makes its presence felt, vicious power leads, and everything ignites, fighters crushing enemies in front of them and making the violence worth the effort.

“Fortified By Bloodshed” has organs blazing and the band pumping your blood with vintage thrashing, dark forces uniting and carrying the energy into war. “Strengthened by violence, fortified by the souls of those that died, summoned from death to kill again,” Fitzgerald wails as the intensity somehow increases, twin guitar lines glimmer, and the final howls send you for a loop. “Chamber of Agony” begins with acoustic strains as the darkness spreads, wallowing in misery before explosions leave you gutted. Dark, cloudy synth creates strange visions, the playing snakes and spirals, and muscular howls bruise as everything comes to a vicious end. “Siege Warfare” speeds and stomps with horror, shrieks killing, and a simple chorus of, “Siege warfare!” make for something shouted back energetically live. Soloing explores and lights up the sky, the playing goes for broke, and muscles are put to the test before finally relenting. Closer “Spires of Secartha” is the longest track, running 11:59 and slowly dawning. Another frosty dialog sets the scene as the playing gets aggressive and punishing, storming and ripping through the mounting assault. Defiance is thick as Fitzgerald vows the spires will not fall and will remain standing long past their enemies draw breath, calling, “Time to die, you will crumble beneath my wrath.” The pace is hammering and relentless, and then victory bells begin to chime, acoustic passages rise, and somber strings add an element of finality, bringing on an elegant finish that glimmers in the atmosphere.

High Command’s second full serving of tales from Secartha is a rousing, excellent serving of thrash and storytelling, something the masters always do so well. “Eclipse of the Dual Moons” is an apocalyptic, violent, and righteous tale that’ll challenge you physically and mentally, stretching you to your limit. It’s not easy to find great thrash records that understand the spirit of the style and also leave the artist’s fingerprints, but High Command do that here with great precision and power, weaving a fantasy world of their making into which you’re easily pulled in for the fight.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/store/high-command-eclipse-of-the-dual-moons/

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

Progressive stormers Elder let mind wade in infectious warmth on exploratory ‘Innate Passage’

Photo by Maren Michaelis

There has been so much going on the past few years from a pandemic to contentious elections to cultural wars that put those defending the rights of the oppressed vs forces that aim to keep them buried. One of those alone would be enough to fuel a volatile adventure, and while we’re all tied into this shared chaos, we’re all on our own trajectory on whatever path we have chosen.

That’s a similar thought pattern Elder was on when creating their dynamic sixth record “Innate Passage,” another fiery, contemplative slab of progressive power that should unite listeners of myriad extreme sounds be it rock or metal. This band— vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player Nicholas DiSalvo, guitarist/keyboardist Michael Risberg, bassist Jack Donovan, drummer Georg Edert—always has created music that provokes thought and impacts philosophically and psychologically, but their position in history enabled them to expand even further on this record. This album that stretches over five tracks and 54 minutes leans less on heaviness (though it’s still served generously) and aims for more atmosphere and immersion, drawing you deep within its core and stimulating your senses.

“Catastasis” enters like waking from a foggy dream as you work to reorient your senses, then the sounds begin to flood, and the synth gaze explodes. DiSalvo’s smooth but powerful singing is a familiar strain, and the band keeps building the intensity, taking time to set an ambiance but always promising the next burst. The leads fire up as harmonized singing stings, the energy surges, and the massive atmosphere ruptures and ends in a display of cosmic keys. “Endless Return” dawns with keys shimmering and DiSalvo powering over top with his voice, the leads bubbling and rousing around him. Blood rushes as the melodies thicken, the playing pulsating before going cold for a moment, returning with infectious, adventurous playing, the mellotron filling your head with vintage richness. Lush playing calls, the energy becomes a factor again, and proggy thunder strikes and leaves bruising behind.

“Coalescence” trickles in and maintains a fluid pace, exciting and continually awakening new ideas. Keys blanket as the singing joins about four minutes in once we’re fully engulfed, and everything keeps digging harder. The ground rumbles as the warmth from the guitars thaw your limbs, and sun-splashed vibes gives off a burnt, summery edge. The keys pick up as the singing thickens and soars, and the playing dazzles before slowly fading. “Merged In Dreams – Ne Plus Ultra” is the longest track at 14:44, and it comes to life, blending with swirling keys, the intensity galloping and sending up dust. A powerful and progressive breakdown follows, melting ice and breezing through as the guitars pick up and charge, making your heart pump before heading into space lab synth. That eases your mind before the playing jars again, the playing picks up the intensity, and the spirits heads into the cosmos. Closer “The Purpose” remains among the stars before the guitars blaze, and a deliberate pace keeps you engaged and drubbed. DiSalvo’s voice lands hard and powers and emotional chorus, and from there, the pressure gets thicker, and then the playing liquifies. Keys melt and chill the night, your mind wanders along with them into worlds unexplored, and delicate waters flow, taking you gently into the unknown.

Elder’s power is undeniable, and while “Innate Passage” isn’t their heaviest record to date, it’s one of their dreamiest and most immersive. And make no mistake, there is plenty of power behind these tracks, and no one here has gone soft by any means. This is a stream-of-consciousness-style display that fills your head with dreams, takes you on an enthralling journey, and returns you to reality, you wondering how nearly an hour has gone by so quickly.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://beholdtheelder.bandcamp.com/album/innate-passage

Or here: https://www.stickman-records.com/shop/elder-innate-passage/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.armageddonshop.com/

And here: https://www.stickman-records.com/