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

Photo by Nick Fancher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here: https://desiccatedproductions.com/

Floridian terrors Worm hammer psyches with ugly, doom-mashed death on boiling ‘Foreverglade’

Everyone jokes about Florida because, well, it’s Florida. Bugs Bunny had the right idea when he tried to saw that bastard off the country to have it sail off to wherever. But at the same time, heavy metal owes a fuck ton to that silly state with the legendarily terrible governor (one in a long line of them) as the swamps gave birth to some of the heaviest, gnarliest bands in history, so, thanks?

We must be nice to the Sunshine State again because they’ve now puked up Worm, a misery-inducing, doom-glazed death band that is bellying up to our table with their great third record (and first released domestically) “Foreverglade.” Slithering over six tracks and about 43 minutes, the band—Phantom Slaughter handles vocals and multiple instrumental duties, Nihilistic Manifesto offers guest guitar work, L. Dusk plays drums on a session basis, and Equimathorn provides added synth—buries you in the grotesque and wondrous, creating music that should absolutely sicken you but also provides a mental stimulation that makes your nerves tingle. It’s hard to explain, so you’re probably better off experiencing the thing for yourself and see what perverse journey it provides.

The album opens with the title track, a gloomy, dour crusher that soaks in misery and pain with the vocals sounding like they’re trying to gut themselves. The track opens and chugs, punishing as a doom fog thickens and helps wilt every living thing, playing with your senses until the thing ends in smoke. “Murk Above the Dark Moor” plods and pounds as shrieks explode, with the accompanying growls attempting to bury any sense of hope. Things feel spooky and unsettling as the pace picks up and brings violence, synth delivers thick moodiness, and the band then clobbers hard, cracking through the earth. Eerie keys chill blood while the leads glimmers, and the vocals surge and snarl to the end. “Cloaked in Nightwinds” runs 11:15, making it the longest cut on here. The track mashes and squeezes blood from your veins, and the terror builds like a plaque as the tempo starts to charge. The playing thrashes as a hazy synth cloud hovers and brings a cold shade, causing you to shiver out of control. The dueling shrieks and growls push and pull as things continue to gain momentum, slowly dripping chilling icy drops, draining until every fiber of life disappears.

“Empire of the Necromancers” starts with the riffs flexing and the growls hammering, ripping sheets of rust off corroded metal. The keys increase their presence as strong melodies stretch their enormous wings, and the playing gusts, taking on a strangely proggy vibe, picking up more speed, and thickening the emotional toll. A cavernous chill expands as the growls and shrieks unite and bury the song in filth. “Subaqueous Funeral” has guitars echoing and immersed in hallucinatory waters while the dual vocals rear their head again, creating sickness. There’s a balminess to melodies that make it feel like a chunky sweat is accumulating around your neck, the leads pick up some warmth, and the back of the cut scorches everything it picked up along the way. “Centuries of Ooze” closes the album with organs rising and a burly spirit hovering over this 9:48-long mauler. The feeling of dread spreads fast, crushing hard and aggressively, wrenching your tested muscles. It feels like the walls are melting around you as the ground rumbles, and solemn playing intensifies as guitars flourish, clean calls beckon, and the final moments bleed out into the sewers.

Trudging through “Foreverglade” definitely makes it feel like you’re picking webs and flies from your face as you sink deeper into the muck, wondering if you’ll ever breathe fresh air again. But Worm also pack their music with funeral-style doom that can feel elegant in anyone else’s hands, but with this band, it clogs with impenetrable grime. This is an adventure into darkness that is immersive and intriguing but also leaves you feeling like you’ve digested something your body is bound to reject.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Noltem smear autumnal colors, raging black metal on ‘Illusions in the Wake’

Every year, I look forward to enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, and colors of autumn, my favorite season of the year, one that might not actually exist any longer. The forecast here in Pittsburgh has us no cooler than 66 degrees through the next two weeks, and the goddamn fall colors mostly are non-existent, so I guess I’ll just get ready for winter. Eventually.

I have this on my mind not because Noltem relish the atmospheric black metal that so often bends the knee to nature. Well, that’s part of it. The other comes in the color scheme of the cover on debut full-length “Illusions in the Wake,” which splashes purple, green, and gold over a mountainous setting that makes me think of hikes in Thomas, WV., in years past. The rushing waters and the propulsive black metal floods your senses, which seems by design, as the band—guitarist/keyboardist Max Johnson, bassist Shalin Shah, drummer/vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist John Kerr—immerses you in the world of rich hues that fill your mind to its tipping point. They’re joined by guest guitar soloists including Zach Miller (Pyrithe), Aaron Carey (Nechochwen), and Jordan Guerette (Fall of Rauros) to help flesh out compositions that don’t just lather you with sound but also stimulate your imagination.   

“Figment” is the 8:30-long opener, and it arrives in rushing waves lapping the shores before the track opens in glory, the guitars leading the way. The shrieks hammer away, feeling feral and gapingly emotional, while the melodies sweep you under, eventually pulling you into colder waters. The drums rumble as the vocals crush, the pace keeps its foot on the gas, and spacious power eventually gives way to the same bubbling waves that greeted us. The title track has synth dripping and the vocals powering, while the playing has elements of castle metal to it, giving it a nice regality. Harder punches are landed by the rhythm section while the guitars are enraged, with the leads spiraling into the ground. The playing feels elegant, the final blows register, and the body heads into the stars. “Beneath the Dreaming Blue” melts into the scene, moving gently and thoughtfully before the roars swallow it whole. The melodies feel hypnotic before the power rushes in, strengthening the current, unloading a multitude of colors not unlike what’s on the cover, and ending in a haze of shrieks and madness.

“Submerged” is a quick instrumental that works the rushing waves back into the picture, the guitars create a haze, and the track bows out to the sea, making way for “Ruse,” an 8:48 gem that emerges in the heart of rich vibration and bustling power. The vocals wrench while the playing smears, bringing to the surface more varied textures and even some cleanliness that works its way in through the murkiness. Clean calls echo behind as the guitars awaken, a synth glaze thickens, and the track feels temporarily gothy, which makes your flesh chill. It feels like your head is caught in a fog, your mind eases into the colder temperatures, and the track ends at the feet of a dying machine. “On Shores of Glass” is the instrumental closer, and it’s a damn rousing way to finish this record, jolting and churning, increasing the moodiness. The drums pummel as the keys take on an alien buzz, feeling prog rock as fuck, agitating fires, and finally expiring as the souls it enchanted turn to dust.

It took a little while to finally get Noltem’s full-length debut offering in our hands, but that wait was worth it as “Illusions in the Wake” is a landmark effort as far as atmospheric black metal in 2021 is concerned. There is an energy at the heart of this record that is impossible to shake, a spirit that rages through it and into you, and it’s also a collection that gets more defined with each visit. Yeah, there are a lot of bands trying this same style, but very few are doing it with an inherent understanding and razor-sharp efficiency as Noltem, a band whose future we will follow with great interest.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.de/shop-en_1

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

Primeval Well combine spirited bluegrass, black metal thunder on haunting ‘Talkin’ in Tongues…’

Black metal is not uncommon ground for the mixing of worlds that don’t always exist alongside each other but somehow blend unexpectedly well. This is one of those stories. But it’s not just different forms of music being plied together; it’s also the union of eras past with the present, the living with the dead, and it all works to create a haunting atmosphere that fully ingests the active listener.

I say active because anyone passively listening to “Talkin’ in Tongues With Mountain Spirits,” the second full-length from Primeval Well, very well might miss the ghosts and rattling stories combined within. Over eight tracks, the band mixes thunderstorming black metal, bluegrass, and rustic folk along with stories from their homes in the eastern mountains in Tennessee and spirits that passed long ago but remain among us, weaving in and out of these songs. The band—vocalist/guitarist Ryan Clackner, bassist/vocalist Luke Lindell, keyboardist/vocalist Edward Longo, drummer Zac Ormerod—play in other bands such as StumpTail, Vile Haint, Arcane Morrow, and others, but what they do here is even out of the realms of those groups that also push ideas and expectations into the netherworld. This is best experienced with full attention, eyes and ears open, letting your mind be stimulated.

“Psilocybin Psychosis by the Mountain Top Cross” is quick opener that sets the tone, marrying strange chants, psychedelic weirdness, and feral cries as things move toward “Raising Up Antlers to Our Mountain Gods” that begins in heavy mood as the guitars explode. The riffs snarl as the melodies carve their path, taking you for an exhilarating ride that plays with your mind and pummels your soul. A brief respite of calm explodes on the other end as strange guitars furrow brows, a soulful display sets your guts on fire, and everything burns into a hypnotic rage. “She Flies Undead” dawns with guitars creaking and a heavy bluegrass feel exploding and carrying the pace. The vocals deliver an Appalachian folk fever, feeling like a black metal floor stomper, and the bulk of this thing is heavily catchy, compelling you to join in the experience. The patterns continue, it feels like ghosts have taken over the floor, and the playing explodes and leaves you tested. “Ghost Fires Burn Light in Our Eyes” is a dose of slowly burning black metal with growls adding pressure, with murk thickening the stew. Guitars mix in and overwhelm as organs enter, a proggy burst surprises and enthralls, and suddenly your heartstrings are tangled as a final gust explodes and then submits to feedback.

The title track has a hearty bluegrass rush that rollicks and works into a black metal fury that foams at the mouth and sinks in its teeth. Bizarre leads make you tilt your head over the perverse creativity, and then things change up and take on some unexpected gothy vibes. Atmosphere works its way through the center, speed stampedes again, and the track storms viciously, melting into the synth power. “Tales Carved in Stone on a Forbidden Road” starts with acoustic picking, quivering guitars, and wonderfully folkish melodies before the drums begin to mash. The playing unloads great energy and awesome power, the riffs smother, and animalistic roars lean into your ribcage. Banjos join the main lines, the band blasts hard, and the track comes to a guttural conclusion. “Where All Things Are Forgotten” explodes with a capella singing, with the old folk song “Am I Born to Die” recited with great spirit, conjuring ages passed by. The electricity arrives later and shocks your system with the wild chaos brewing, splitting open the ground and letting dark spirits collect, ending the track in boiling madness and bells chiming away. “Sickening Laughter With the Grinning Trees” is an acoustic, instrumental closer delivering eerie vibes and a sense that you’re being swallowed whole by the center of the woods.

Primeval Well sound like nothing else out there right now, even other bands that employ bluegrass and black metal hybrid. The playing on “Talkin’ in Tongues With Mountain Spirits” often sounds like vessels from ages ago uniting, injecting black metal into their formula, and bringing you into the center of something you never could understand. This is music that feels like it exists on a very different level, letting you have a glimpse into a volatile spirit world waiting to call you home.

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

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

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