PICK OF THE WEEK: Escuela Grind blast back against oppressors with snarling ‘Memory Theater’

It’s crucial to have a spot to ruminate on issues or one’s own philosophies in a place that’s secure and doesn’t threaten ideas that could trigger those who don’t feel the same way. Having your own territory to explore your mind and ideas is crucial to becoming a fuller person, and as long as those subjects aren’t feeding off fascism or oppression, it’s a great way to enhance your intellectuality.

New England crushers Escuela Grind center on that idea with their thunderous second full-length “Memory Theater.” The title is based on a concept where a space created by those thoughts, feelings, and philosophies is formed, and these thunderous nine tracks are just that for this band—vocalist  Katerina Economou, guitarist Kris Morash, bassist Tom Sifuentes, drummer Jesse Fuentes. This is as volatile creation that also involves Economou’s studies in history, politics and experiential events, along with her own life (a sort of memory play, as it were) and piles that into this pit of explosiveness that aims to destroy those whose goal is to keep people down and fight back against power structures with no interest in equity. It’s so great hearing more bands embrace these ideas and lashing back at the growing tyrannical embrace so many people are inexplicably embracing. This music is more vital than ever.

“Endowed With Windows” opens with urgency, firing up and sludging, easily leaving bruising. “Access my mind through all its windows,” Economou howls, “Not through my hormones nor through my skin tone,” as the track rips away. “My Heart, My Hands” explodes and hammers, sending jolts through your nervous system, chugging and splattering, smearing menace that’s lined with blood. “Cliffhanger” feels doomy and dark when it starts, but then the detonation sends sparks flying, the thrashy fire claiming victims. “Don’t push me because I’m close to the edge,” Economou warns, the playing slowly swaggering and burying you in sand. “Strange Creature” brings trampling guitars and power that corrodes, adding grit that leaves abrasions on the skin. “Banished from the ground, banished from the sea, banished from the spirit,” Economou wails as the menace builds, and the playing melts flesh.

“Faulty Blueprints” is blinding and filled with rage, slaughtering and draining marrow from bone. The guitars swoop as the massacre increases, the words, “Must not rebuild faulty blueprints,” spat from Economou’s mouth. “All Is Forgiven” crushes as the drums mash, and the playing sends bone fragments sprawling. Economou shrieks and rakes you across the coals as the pace gallops dangerously, and the playing stampedes to its end. “Forced Collective Introspection” is absolutely storming, overwhelming before you even know what hit you. The playing continues to get faster and gnarlier, and things are properly unhinged, Economou shouting, “Feels like you got something you want to say, crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” as the final moments are stomped into the ground. “The Feed” mashes as everything comes unglued, the vocals destroying everything in its path. The channeled aggression releases stream that’s built up inside, guitars sweep, ad the drums splatter, letting the blood drip and pool. The closing title track rings out before engaging violently, the fiery vocals elevating your body temperature. The energy is thick and rich, the playing has a manic desperation, and Economou wails, “When I dream, I see skin flailing, loose from tissue, gilt as a painting,” leaving terrifying imagery in your brain as the record comes to a devastating end.

For the cowardly crowd that cries over everything being woke, Escuela Grind is a band you won’t survive, “Memory Theater” a record that will elevate the quivering fear you feel in your guts. This band’s brand of muscular grind is empowering, fights back against people trying to rewrite rules to move the gears of oppression, and fears no one who is trying to stand in the way. The record gets your blood rushing, your strength pooling, and your fists clenched as you join to battle the forces trying to hold you back and bury them deep into the earth.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/escuela-grind

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

Labyrinth of Stars travel deep into cosmos, unveil death that scars on ‘Spectrum Xenomorph’

I’m going to be super disappointed if one day we finally make contact with intelligent life on other worlds and they end up just being other humans like us. I’m prepared for other humanoids, but I want to them to be exotic and completely different from us. I probably won’t live to see this happen, so I’m not super worried about it, but it’s going to occur one day, and I hope it’s mind blowing (and that I’m still alive).

Newly formed death metal trio Labyrinth of Stars has intergalactic storytelling and examination at their core, and they splash that all over their devastating debut album “Spectrum Xenomorph.” Combining members of other metallic forces including Lantlos, Valborg, and Owl, the band—Markus Siegenhort aka AcidGhost Athereum (vocals, rhythm guitars, bass, synthesizer), Christian Kolf aka Invisible X-Star (vocals, lead & rhythm guitars, bass, keyboards), Dirk Stark aka Transcendent Architect Astralis (vocals)—creates black metal that’s furious, encompassing, and even industrial-leaning in many corners, always leaving room for your imagination to run wild as they dig into extraterrestrial terrain.

“Star Pervertor” feels like it tears in from light years away, delivering stomping that feels like it’s built from alien particles and industrial haze. The playing is piledriving, sinking a knife into the earth, vibrating amid total devastation. “Aethereal Solitude” starts with clean guitars that melt and grind away, pounding through muddy pools of hell. Voices swirl in the air as the playing gets more guttural, crushing hypnotically as it claims your mind. “Ancient Machines in Authority” explodes as the vocals sink in its teeth, trudging hard as you choke from the thick smoke cover hanging overhead. The chorus hits hard as the leads catch fire, a proggy feel twists your brain, and chilling synth leaves you encapsulated in ice. “Log Gamma – Orphan With An Abstract Face” is a quick interlude that sounds like it is delivering transmissions from galaxies far away, feeling frigid and isolated as you wander through the cosmos.

“Galactic Ritual” is devastating, pouring fire and multiplying the monstrous assault that’s coming right for your throat. The lava bubbles as it multiplies at dangerous levels, and the band turns on the burners, scorching and defacing as the cries demand, “Release me!” as things fade into dust. “Vacuum” opens with mechanical terror and power that punches into the crust of the earth. The playing melts into an atmospheric dream as clean trickles push like they’re trapped under ice, the howls reengaging the fury that’s a constant element of this record. “Dissolving Into the Eternal Nothingness” bleeds in and then trudges through blood and bone, the savagery wading in thick oceans of oil. The playing blisters and trudges, delivering dour spirits that slowly dissolve into the night sky. “Transmission Delta – Exile” is the 12:41-long closer that’s an extended ambient piece, one that’ll chill you to the bone. Bass plods as the sound vortex envelopes you, detaching you from reality and building pressure that feels like it’ll make your face explode and belch guts, rumbling into temperatures no human being could withstand.

“Spectrum Xenomorph” is a scintillating journey into worlds not visited by human beings where the darkness is impenetrable, the cold a physical prison. This first record from Labyrinth of Stars might be one that combines hefty forces from other metal projects, but this band is not pinned to any of those entities and exists as its own spirit. This is exciting, scary, and isolated, an album that’ll make you know fear but also adventure as you hurtle into black holes in your own mind.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/spectrum-xenomorph

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

Stormland dig even deeper into Gundam’s mythology, storylines on captivating ‘The Human Cost’

Stormland: Mecha death

There’s a level of violence and devastation one normally expects from death metal, whether or not that’s fair. It’s not like there’s only one way to do things, and as long as it’s something that gets inside your guts and makes you feel the torture, the approach philosophically and lyrically can be any number of things. And it can be fun. That’s OK, even if it’s gross and blook soaked.

When it comes to one-man death bruiser Stormland, long helmed by Justin Pierrot, you’re going to get playing that squeezes your nerve endings, technical prowess that never forgets to add heart, and … tons of tales about the anime creation Mobile Suit Gundam meta-series. I’ll admit up front I know fuck all about this nor Gundam as a whole, but I walked away from “The Human Cost” thoroughly entertained and now somewhat informed about the basics, which I may examine further. Pierrot leapt into the Gundam world on the first Stormland full-length “Songs of Future Wars,” and before that the topic field ranged from politics to Stephen Colbert to fucking Bas Rutten. It’s been a rich collection of ideas that has always made Stormland a good time. But delving again into the Gundam universe makes for as record that’s still violent, plenty bloody, usually ominous, and packed with death metal glory on an eight-track, compact serving of an album that never forgets to entertain you. WITH DEATH!

“Marida” begins, a track based on the character Marida Cruz that bursts wide open and delivers a frantic pace that keeps up the entire track. “You watched your sisters get annihilated, somehow you survived unspeakable things, how could you forgive? Now let violence ring,” Pierrot howls, the leads glimmering, and a spacious jolt swallowing everything whole. “Esper” delivers drumming crashing and slashing death giving a disorienting beating. The guitar work takes on a burst of atmosphere, the low end crushes, and everything speeds up before chugging out. “Extreme Reaction” explodes with zany guitars and an explosive thrust into the stars, the howls rampaging along the way. “Adopting this identity, I am what has saved me, if I can ever be redeemed, I must transcend humanity,” Pierrot belts, the chorus spiraling, ending with the declaration, “I am become Gundam!” The playing continues to open and reverberate, hammering out the final declarations. “Test Subject” is harsh and sludgy as it starts, and there’s even a Korn/Sepultura filthiness that feels oddly satisfying. Pierrot is joined on vocals by Leda Paige (of SISSY XO and The Hallowed Catharsis among others), and her howls over the chorus carve into your mind and let you bleed out from psychosis.

“Lethal Ballet” starts with clean guitars haunting before the energy begins to jolt, and thrashy goodness blasts through, sending cinders flying. There’s a lot of color and variety in the playing, making an already interesting record a little more vibrant, and as Pierrot wails, “To survive another day, time expands as I dance between the beams, I shoot to kill,” the danger is amplified and blisters out. “Rebuilt for Your Whims” features Ross Sewage (Exhumed, Ghoul, Ludicra, etc.) and enters amid a humid atmosphere, the dueling vocals mixing toxicity nicely. The thrashing bruises ribs as the mud thickens, and the spiraling punishment bleeds away. “Beast of Possibility” brings sweltering leads that tease and threaten, and then things get sooty, burying your face into ashes. “What happens when the key opens so much more? When you’ve been given the Beast of Possibility?” Pierrot drives, barreling toward challenging terror and eventually a brief respite of calm. The soloing picks up speed, the viciousness drives the knife, and everything comes to an ultraviolent end. Closer “Beyond Gravity, Outside Time” is an imaginative, even breezy instrumental that takes on some jazzy dashes and swelling melodies, switching back to mauling waves that crash over and wash you away.

Stormland and Pierrot figure out a way to make death metal that’s still plenty violent and twisted, yet in the fantastical world of Gundam, so it’s best of both worlds. “The Human Cost” is a rather compact adventure that is content to blister you with energy and passion and never comes close to overstaying its welcome. This is a gut-wrenching and fun adventure into an anime classic series that doesn’t require your knowledge to enjoy this battering but likely makes it even richer if you’re tied into Gundam.

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

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

Death brawlers Acephalix look at empty heavens and laugh on devastating ‘Theothanatology’

Photo by Adam Houmam

I live in equal parts amusement and abject fury over people who have decided god, the Christian one, is some sort of tool for mocking people in protected statuses, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and anyone whose lifestyles aren’t compatible with theirs. It’s almost like they don’t even understand the faith they hijacked. Provided this god is even real, what if he or she or it died? Gone. Never to be seen or heard from ever again.

“Theothanatology” is the idea or belief that god is dead, and it happens to be the name of the new record from Acephalix, their fourth and first in five years. The band’s brand of spiraling, psychologically scarring death metal remains intact, and they use these eight songs to explore this idea that a celestial god figure did exist and now no longer does. It’s a terrifying idea whether or not you’re a believer in such a thing, and the band—vocalist Daniel Butler, guitarists Adam Camara and Adam Walker, bassist Erika Osterhout, drummer David Benson—plasters these tracks with sinister dread and a spirit that feels like it’s eating into your mind and reminding you that everything you thought was possible has changed forever in as unsettling a manner possible.

“Theothanatologist” is a punishing opener that begins with an ominous preacher quote before it’s on to blistering death, Butler wailing, “Theo… thano… tologistic might,” over the bruising chorus. Guitars heat up as the intensity remains beastly, the growls mar, the playing hits back, and the detached speaking works like a ghost into your brain. “Godheads” has a savage pace and a mix of growls and shrieks, Butler howling, “Godheads, invading Godheads, enslaving Godheads, gripping us tight.” The pace continues to flatten as the band thrashes violently, and everything ends as a warped mess. “Abyssal” lets the bass drive the first mile before the guitars take a spiraling dive, strange speaking sending chills down your spine. The guitar work stretches out and creates a balmy atmosphere, and the heat continues to rise before fading. “Postmortem Punishment” is utterly morbid, crunching bones and plodding as you’re dealt severe punishment. The growls deface as a meaty pace digs into your psyche, the drumming steamrolls, and the final blows leave burn marks all over your body.

“Innards of Divinity” manages to find a way to get even darker, the growling/speaking mix again working its moribund magic. “Blanketed with blood, born amidst as crud, this God eclipsing light, this warmth of sacrifice,” Butler snarls as the guitars grind into a mush, and the pace snakes and destroys, leaving its victims convulsing. “Pristine Scum” dawns amid warmer leads before things get blunt and bloody, the punishment lathering with filth. “Godless believers, they run toward blighted, vacant heavens, disillusioned and squandering life, mania as religion,” Butler stabs, a sobering and accurate portrayal of much of American society as spacey hell opens its jaws, and the guitars glimmer before fading. “Defecated Spirit” brings riffs that threaten and thickening shadows as the growls creep up your back. Twisted madness challenges your mental well-being as the tempo blisters hard, and the final blows of thrashing easily hit their marks. Closer “Atheonomist” delivers thawing riffs and breathy calls before we land in a very deliberate hell. “Atheonomous brute, the law is death, atheonomous brute, acephalic,” Butler howls as the pressure pushes into a sound pocket that aims to swallow you whole, only to be undone by one final push that drives nails into your skull.

In a land where religion once again has been weaponized and used to beat people down, would it be the biggest shock in the world if a god worth any merit would hurl him or herself into the void? “Theothanatology” is the confrontational, devastating documents we’ve come to expect from Acephalix, but as we creep deeper into the point of no return, there perhaps never has been a more vital time for their music. This is a record that will dig deep into your psyche and recalibrate all the mental wounds you’ve suffered at the hands of religion and help you fight back with proper amounts of spite and scorn.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ACEPHALIX79

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/acephalix

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: KEN mode blast with molten rage, frustrations over mental darkness on ‘Null’

Photo by Brenna Faris

I don’t think anyone is arguing that the pandemic has sucked and took a lot out of people psychologically. A lot of people just gave up caring and did whatever they wanted, other folks’ lives (and their own!) be damned. For others, it was a period of necessary isolation where our existence turned into monotony and worry, often taking a severe toll on our well-being.

Winnipeg-based noise beasts KEN mode felt it too, perhaps more than some other people because their artistic outlet essentially was shut down completely. Being in a music scene and having regular activities around making music created a sense of community for the band, and losing that took a toll psychologically, creating darkness where the despair already was thick. The band eventually broke out of that and ended up on a creative tear, the first portion of that arriving with their monstrous new record “Null,” the first of a two-album arc. The second will arrive in the future, but for now the band—vocalist/guitarist/synth player Jesse Matthewson, his brother and drummer Shane Matthewson, bassist/backing vocalist Skot Hamilton, and new member Kathryn Kerr, who plays saxophone, synth, and piano, and does backing vocals—absolutely delivers a stinging, destructive, violent collection of eight tracks that are the most varied musically of their entire run and contain some of their most direct, blunt lyrical content. If you’ve been following along with KEN mode, you realize how serious that.

“A Love Letter” gets things off to an unsettling, bludgeoning start, Jesse’s vocals taunting and snarling, Kerr’s sax feeling like an unhinged jugular convulsing and puking blood. “It was a mistake to ask me for help,” Jesse wails as things continue to collapse both musically and mentally. “This untasteful place, something is broken, something is FUCKED,” drives home the dagger, the violence of hopelessness angling and gushing, ending this thing in warped gears of machine. “Throw Your Phone in the River” follows that up with mauling intent, the vocals scratching at the throat, guitars burning and striking, giving you no time to take control of your emotions before it’s directly into “The Tie” and its warped pit of noise. Jesse calls over the soundscape as the sax returns like a beast at night watching you, always returning to chill your blood. The warped experience climaxes with further disillusion, Jesse begging, “Let this never actually matter at all.” “But They Respect My Tactics” trounces and tangles as guitars heat up, and the humidity is so thick that breathing turns to gasps. “I’m just trying to keep myself from drowning,” Jesse levels soberly as your senses are battered, and your brain is permanently rewired.

“Not My Fault” brings fluid guitars and an uncharacteristic tempered pace even as the vocals scrape fresh wounds. Things get moodier as the blisters rise, and then the agitation overflows, shouts pummel, and your well-being suddenly is called into question. “Lost Grip” runs 10:02, easily the longest song here, and it lurks steadily, Hamilton’s bass making the scene even more harrowing, the menace starting a slow boil. “I don’t believe that you mean well,” Jesse hisses, a sentiment that keeps popping up throughout this creature, also admitting, “We deserve this.” Desert heat thickens as the pace begins to swagger, slashing senses and bones, rolling in somber soil, letting keys drip as everything finally rests in pulsating ash. “The Desperate Search for an Enemy” wrenches as the vocals attack, the bass flattens, and the guitars carve away. Kerr stalks with her sax playing, your nerves are frayed, and the band keeps punching back, letting the disturbed energy take complete control. Closer “Unresponsive” brings gurgling bass and a clubbing pace that sets the perfect stage for Jesse realizing, “I’m unraveling so much faster than I used to.” That sentiment festers, cold sweat lines palms, and Jesse, almost in a trance recites, “Forgotten, erased, unresponsive, replaced, abandoned,” like it’s been beaten into his head. That devastation manifests itself as the sounds thrash, and the essence disappears in filth and noise.

KEN mode records never are easy terrain nor a place where you want to go feel better about yourself and/or humanity, but “Null” takes that to an even higher, scarier level. This record feels like the end of a long period of mental torment, where the recipient has taken on damage so deep and severe, there may not be any climbing out of that hole. Most of us have been there, some of us still are, and for those settling on the brink, these eight songs prove the tension is real, tangible, and something to lash back at with absolute bloodlust.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://ken-mode.com/products/ken-mode-null

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

Philly killers Sonja recount life in shadow, seek bloody revenge on smoking debut ‘Loud Arriver’

Photo by Don Vincent Ortega

I don’t know what it’s like to live my life in fear, and I’m thankful for that. But that doesn’t mean that makes me feel good about our world, because there are many people who live every day unsure if they’ll survive it based on other people’s hatred. There are many groups of people who often are forced to live in the shadows, and half of the government officials in this country are trying to make that fight even harder for many fellow humans.

For Melissa Moore, she hoped she had a place among her Absu bandmates where her coming out as a trans woman would be embraced. Sadly, every member of that band but one is a fucking coward and fired her via email, and now the only label that will embrace that group is one also happily housing music from a band with nazi ties that potentially dabbled in pedophilia. Moore was not deterred as heavy metal is in her heart, and now she and her band Sonja are here with their awesome debut record “Loud Arriver,” a swaggering, steaming slab of power that offers no apologies. Moore—she handles vocals and guitars and is joined by bassist Ben Brand and drummer Grzesiek Czapla, the lone member of Absu who supported her—recounts her life when she had to live in secret and suffered as a result. She also offers messages of revenge for those who judge her and tried to destroy her life. The fact trans people are facing bullshit legislation being levied against them and still have to fear for their safety is a travesty, one of this country’s worst failures, and having more musicians such as Moore out there, in public, creating great art hopefully can help people see her and others as humans who are not to be feared or ostracized and whose work is to be celebrated like anyone else’s. Sonja’s is fucking great.

“When the Candle Burns Low…” gets things going with synth driving and Moore’s vocals sweeping in, with her voice demanding and keeping your attention. There’s a great dark energy lurking, and when Moore vows, “I will never die,” you can feel the defiance as the final blasts send extra energy. “Nylon Nights” is a killer, a track that dawns on a great riff and some lushness sitting behind the shadows. The singing even soothes at times, even when you know you’re being seduced, and Moore calls the title over and over, pushing toward great dual guitar lines and a final surge that bruises. “Pink Fog” starts with guitar work that reminds of Alex Lifeson as things get crunchy and catchy in a hurry, driving and lashing into the inviting shadows. Guitars pummel as Moore’s singing jolts your spine as she calls over temporary silence, driving the dagger into your thigh. “Wanting Me Dead” has an ominous flow as vintage riffs set fires, the playing sending your heart racing. “I’ve been waiting,” Moore warns as the bass plods, things get more delicate, and the call of, “She’s going to start killing people,” is a stark reminder not to get into path of revenge.

“Fuck, Then Die” is both fun and threatening as the guitars prick and probe, and Moore encourages the debauchery by reminding, “Because you’ll be dead tomorrow.” The sleaze thickens in the best way, the playing drives your foot on the gas pedal, and Moore wails, “Just want to fuck all day and all night,” knowing the end result is demise. “Daughter of the Morning Star” starts with the drumming taking the wheel, the vocals soaring higher, and strange tidings spreading, making your flesh go cold. The pace picks up later and catches fire as guitars lather, attitudes get nastier, and everything churns off into a puddle of sweat. “Moans From the Chapel” opens fluidly and sends shivers down your spine, combining elements that are equally breezy and morbid. Guitars glaze as Moore howls, “Tonight, she rides,” as the tempo picks up, and the promise of bloodshed is at hand. The closing title track starts with acoustics and softer tones before the pace launches, the bass thickens, and the guitars slip through the fog. Shadows emerge as wordless calls jostle, the air gets richer, and the final blows leave you gasping for air.

Sonja’s debut “Loud Arriver” is colorful, dark, and rousing, a seedy journey into true-life reality where danger lurks at every corner. Moore’s experiences with her transition, the darkness she had to encounter, and the bloody revenge that lurks in dreams and desires are tangible and get your own blood flowing. We stand with her and every trans artist trying to make an impact without judgment for who they are. We aren’t there yet, but bands like Sonja are vital in helping grow that understanding. This also is a triumph for Moore and Sonja in that they present a bold, defiant, and unforgiving record that captures real heavy metal spirit and stands as a fuck you to anyone who stands in their way, sparkly headband or not.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

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

UK’s Terra expand black metal’s borders, create intense mental journey with ‘Für Dich Existiert…’

Many years ago on a road trip, I was listening to a record as I was driving, and one of the passengers lamented all of the songs are too long, and this isn’t fun, and can we listen to something else. First, not all records are made the same ; second, I’m not in charge of your fun; third, no we fucking can’t. Yeah, sometimes bands create songs longer than three-minute fun bites, and we should all be thankful.

UK black metal trio Terra would have thrown that person from the car, and I would have helped. They return with their mammoth third record “Für Dich Existiert Das Alles Nicht” (loosely translates to “none of this exists for you”), a four-track, nearly 64-minute behemoth that is in no hurry to push your instant entertainment buttons. That doesn’t mean this record isn’t something that can provide pleasure, but it takes a certain audience and a lot of patience to take this entire journey. But if you do, you’ll find it’s worth it, and it’s a record that can expand your mind and put you into a state of concentration. The band—guitarist/vocalist Ryan Saunders, bassist/vocalist Scott “Scuz” Brophy, drummer Luke Braddick—pours everything it has into this record and rushes absolutely nothing in creating these pieces. This is something that’s more for late-night reflection than crushing skulls, a black metal album that’s interested in your mind rather than your guts.

“The Beginning” is a beast of an opener, running 15:24 and using every drop of that time. The pace builds and eventually bows to chaos, and a crushing wave of black metal washes over everything, spilling toward the blanket of darkness. Shrieks destroy as the underbelly thickens and spreads doom, rumbling and pummeling, rousing your bloodstream before fading into somber atmosphere. Gazey power stretches as the gray skies beckon, leaving you with wounds that don’t seem capable of healing.  “Verisimilitude” is a 14:33-long excursion that lights up and spews life, giving off a hypnotic vibe that pairs up with wrenching calls and a pace that flattens. The storming gets harder as the vocals reach for the throat, emotions flow generously, and a proggy feel emerges and penetrates the mist. All elements then combust, simmering in its own juices and bleeding out into the night.

“Gelbwerdend” is the longest track, flowing for 17:46 and taking its time setting up an ambiance that wafts toward thick chugging and playing that causes your adrenaline to rush. The cloud cover thickens and chokes out the sun as the pressure builds, and deep howls sink into your ribcage. The cries jolt your skeletal structure as the pace calms briefly, then everything re-engages, playing in spirals, driving fiercely as the drums go off and level structures. The growls gut as the playing pounds away, plodding and bruising until everything fades into noise. Closer “The End, My End” is 15:30 and escapes from an enveloping fog, punching its way out and leaning into whirring melodies. The bass stomps through the murk, the storm hovers, and then the thing melts into chaos. The playing operates like a buzzsaw as delicate piano notes drip, birds chirp, and the weight is lifted from your chest to start your long recovery.

“Für Dich Existiert Das Alles Nicht” is not an easy listen, nor is it one that’s going to hand-feed you bite-size chunks you can digest according to your own schedule. Instead, Terra take you on existential journeys, pushing you take on these epic pieces and find portions of yourself in them as you challenge your own will to how much you can endure. Patience is rewarded here, and sometimes you might wonder if these pieces are meandering, but at the end, the sweat and tears are worth it as you reach the end of the challenge.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.code666.net/webstore/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.code666.net/

Aussie death terrors Writhing devastate, attack your psyche on pummeling ‘Of Earth & Flesh’

I am terrified of Australia, even though it seems lovely on the surface. Like, straight up, if I ever encountered a Hunstman spider, I’d probably pass away immediately. I can’t even look at a photo of a whistling spider without it making my guts crawl, and I wish I was making this up. I’m upset enough that I exist on the same globe as these things, meaning a meeting with one is not 0 percent.

I feel like that’s why Aussie death metal is so harrowing and horrifying because who knows what the fuck potentially is under your bed or behind a drape? That’s scarier than some fake devil shit, and even though it’s not the basis for “Of Earth & Flesh,” the debut record from death metal force Writhing, it might as well be. This feels like something creeping up your backside, putting every ounce of fear imaginable into your body, with a side of strange atmospherics that hardly offer a serving of calm. The band—vocalist Pat, guitarist Joel, bassist Jackson, drummer Jake—find a way to put ferocity and creativity into the same package, giving you the brutality you require but also teasing your psyche into wondering what in this style of music is truly possible.

“Monolithic Extinction” opens in the pit of gloom before the guitars take on a life of their own, leading the punishment that’s bolstered by growls that aim for the throat. The chorus mashes as everything here gets deadlier, bludgeoning with gnarly power and ending in a dizzying haze. “That Which Becomes Death” fires up but also carries a hypnotic edge, the growls rushing alongside it and doing bodily harm. The lead are fluid as the bass flexes its muscle, the power increases, and abrasive heat leaves you running for cover. The title track has a deliberate start, letting the temperature rise as growls rumble, and the bass lurches and leaves an oil slick behind. Guitars create a fog as the brutality mixes with balminess, plowing through and burying everything in muck. “Concealed Within the Soil” blisters from the start as the growls penetrate and head down the path to destruction. Growls and shrieks mix, the playing thrashes, and everything ends abruptly, robbing your lungs of air.

“Uncreation” brings stirring leads and grisly growls, the pace sending you for a loop where you question your sanity. Menacing riffs sink in their teeth as the playing explodes with a bloodlust, the one-word chorus battering its way into your brain. “Passages of Misery” is packed with sinewy guitars and a jackhammering tempo, even as spacious sections allow you to breathe fresh air. The growls smear powdered bone, the pace slowly mangles, the guitars burn the remaining flesh off the bone. “Squalid Sanctum” bleeds in from the cosmos, laying down the hammer in a disorienting manner. The guitars explore outer space as things float in psychedelic waters, melting away walls of ice that flood the earth with dank, putrid waters. Closer “Portal to Unhallowed Realms” is an instrumental piece that destroys right away, rushing through mud and thickening the collection of filth. Melodies surface and repeat as the track is infused with unexpected colors, and final gasps of sludge close off the blood flow for good.

This Aussie wrecking crew in Writhing have a twisted and violent approach to death metal on “Of Earth & Flesh,” but they also have an imagination you don’t get with all bands playing at this level. There are unexpected twists and turns, trap doors you won’t see coming, and plenty of bursts that twist your brain. This is challenging stuff dished out in a compact serving that leaves you just satisfied enough and ready to handle the next adventure with this beast. Also, fuck large spiders.

For more on the band, go here: hhttps://www.facebook.com/writhingaus

To buy the album, go here: https://everlastingspew.com/search?controller=search&orderby=position&orderway=desc&search_query=WRITHINGOFEARTH%26FLES&submit_search=

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Sumerlands sit in driver’s seat for classic metal odyssey on blazing ‘Dreamkiller’

Photo by Jaclyn Woollard

Walk with me a moment as I think back to my high school years, late summer, right after finishing cutting the gigantic lawn (I got push mower duties). I’d make a little bit of money doing that, and those earnings almost always were turned into heavy metal cassettes, all different styles since I listened to just about everything. I get nostalgic about that, and it makes me think of when metal first claimed me.

That brings me to “Dreamkiller,” the second record from Sumerlands, a band that drinks deeply from the pools of classic heavy metal from the late 1970s and early 1980s. All of that is woven into their sound, and it gets me right in the chest because it reminds me of the days scouring for albums after finishing my lawn work. There has been a major change with the band since their 2016 self-titled debut, that being the exit of singer Phil Swanson and the arrival of new vocalist Brendan Radigan (formerly of Magic Circle), an element that made me skeptical despite being a fan of Radigan’s work. One trip with these eight songs dashed all of that as Radigan takes this thing to a new level of greatness, and the rest of the band—guitarist John Powers, guitarist/synth player Arthur Rizk, bassist Brad Raub, drummer Justin DeTore—responds in kind, turning out an insane performance that practically takes you in a collision course with metal’s history from the first seeds right up to this day.

“Twilight Points the Way” gets things off to a rousing start as riffs tangle and Radigan’s killer voice guides, calling for “one final strike against the setting sun.” The chorus is awesome and sticks in your brain, and as Radigan calls, “Will you remember our name?” the only answer is the affirmative. “Heavens Above” delivers a Dio vibe as the track feels warmer and is less intent on bruising, which is a nice change of pace. Shimmery hazes hypnotize as the tempo pushes back, and the muscular chorus mesmerizes and leaves behind its mark. The title track is spirited with the synth pulsating and forceful vocals as Radigan lashes, “Killer of dreams, stealer of time.” Great soloing launches itself across the horizon as the power eventually fades and is swallowed by space. “Night Ride” slowly builds and lets the ambiance set itself, bringing fiery early 1980s energy. The bass plods as Radigan admits, “I won’t live to see tomorrow,” as things get cooler, and the keys replace your body’s heat with icy madness.

“Edge of the Knife” brings jolting guitars and a welcoming summer feel, Radigan wailing, “We dance on the edge of the knife.” The soloing utterly melts while the chorus rushes, the steam rises, and the final moments zap away. “Force of a Storm” enters amid synth that chills bones and a vibe that’s almost tangibly neon. The gears of the machine keep moving as the singing reaches the stratosphere in spots, blistering before draining away. “The Savior’s Lie” is balmy as the keys mix into the picture, and the playing moves elegantly through clouds and into shadows. The pressure rises as the vocals hit a fever pitch, bowing to pastoral keys that pull a blanket of storm clouds across the earth. Closer “Death to Mercy” unloads with a killer riff and a blistering tempo, Radigan wailing, “On to desolation, led by the war machines.” Synth swirls and melts with blazing guitars, the playing exercises a push-pull philosophy, and everything fades into the final rays of daylight.

It’s been a long wait to get a second album from Sumerlands, but, as cliched as this will sound, it was absolutely worth the wait. “Dreamkiller” is an incredible record, one that’s been on constant rotation since the promo landed, and it brings back huge vibes from my own formative days as a metal fan. This is a perfect classic metal record from the playing to the emotion to the production, and it’s the ideal way to proclaim Sumerlands remain a devastating force that will not be toppled.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/sumerlands

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

Danes Dead Void devastate with doom-mashed death that feels devious on dire ‘Volatile Forms’

It’s still technically summer here, but the daylight is expiring sooner, and the skies are sullen, reminding that the cold weather and morose times are creeping up on us again. That’s not a complaint at all, as these are the days that live deep in my bones, a time to retreat into the shadows and take in darker colors and art that matches.

Danish death metal power Dead Void should be perfect fodder for the colder weather, and their debut full-length album “Volatile Forms” is a daunting, sooty destroyer that has a power and force that drags you into the dirt. The band—guitarist/vocalist K, bassist/vocalist D, drummer/vocalist A—digs deep into scuzzy, muddy doom metal, giving off some classic metallic vibes that turn your organs black. The five-track, 44-minute beast is oppressively heavy, unforgivingly bleak, and takes its toll on your psyche in a way that burns you back to your most vulnerable state.

“Atrophy” enters in a thick, doomy haze as the growls wrench, and the lurching pace aims to bury you in smoke. Speed picks up as the filth increases, punishing and battering, erupting in fiery residue that reminds on heyday Celtic Frost, at least tonally. Guitars bubble as the playing slowly mauls, scathing howls scrape minds, and eventually everything falls to ash. “The Entrails of Chaos” explodes in a savage gust as growls engorge, and mucky stomping increases the violent pressure, lightning brooding fires that coat your lungs. Growls mash as warped playing twists your psyche, guitars add more heat, and some final blasts bury this thing under bloody soil. “Sadistic Mind” takes its time developing an ambiance, turning the screws, absolutely bulldozing with strength. Growls dig deep inside and bludgeon organs while a gut-wrenching pace intensifies, drums crush, and the guitars turn rock to lava. The tempo slows crushingly as your brain is left dizzied, and infernal howls slam down the final dagger.

“The Reptilian Drive” is sludgy as hell and instantly open wounds, the growls mauling with reckless abandon. The stomping grows agitated and chaotic as the nastiness becomes an even greater factor, hammering hard and adding insults to the festering wounds. Guitars catch fire as the heat turns oppressive, blinding and turning misery into a terminal condition. Closer “Perpetually Circling the Void” is the longest track, running 11:01 and immediately bringing morose and brutal tidings as heavy blows land against the ribcage. Punishing howls dice flesh as the playing drubs mercilessly, steam rises and clouds your vision, and it feels like you’re being encased in stone, left to suffocate. Throaty growls do ample harm, the outright meanness multiplies in a hurry, and the monstrous power breaks through the earth’s crust and turns everything into a global graveyard.

“Volatile Forms” is a massive statement from Dead Void, one of those records that leaves you physically and mentally exhausted when your time with the thing has ended. The devious ghouls you only see in shadows on their promo shot dress this record in mystery and torment, almost as if they’re fleeing the scene after setting up an explosion that hasn’t reach you yet. This is mangling and horrific, an album that pulls you apart limb from limb and leaves you to suffer in your own juices.   

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/

Or here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/dead-void-volatile-forms-lp/

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

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