Death-gore maniacs Exhumed still spill blood with strongly played ‘Necrocracy’


A lot of people can’t stand the sight of their own blood. Some people can’t stand to see blood, period. It’s never really bothered me much unless said blood was smeared across a street (saw that before) or on walls (that one, too), but when it’s coming out of my body, it’s no big deal. Unless I’m bleeding buckets, then I’ll be a little worried.

I’ve always been kind of cool with blood and gore, going through watching horror movies growing up to loving the Abdullah the Butcher/Bruiser Brody bloodfests during my obsession with pro wrestling, and something’s always drawn me there because it always just looks like so damn much fun. That’s also probably because I’m not the one bleeding, but whatever. No one forced Ric Flair to bleed so badly that his platinum hair turned red, but it was pretty fucking cool nonetheless. That blood-and-guts appeal is also what turned me on to death metal initially, before the gruff sound and uncompromising brutality infected me just as deeply, and the shocking lack of genuine horror and plasma from so many bands the last decade is what makes me sad when I think about the state of death metal today. Then again, not everyone has abandoned us.

Exhumed coverAny time a new Exhumed record lands in my inbox, it’s a good day. And a promising one. The death and grind monsters who have been lacerating foreheads with their sounds for more than two decades now and are one of the reliable bastions of the genre. They’re never going to go easy on you or censor the terror. If that’s what you require from death metal, I’m sure Hot Topic has plenty of CDs and related shirts that promise death metal but delivers fluff. But if you want the real thing–razors and knives and hammers and broken bones brand of death—you really can’t go wrong with Exhumed, and their new album “Necrocracy” delivers what you want in spades. The follow-up effort to their 2010 return album “All Guts, No Glory” even has some really impressive playing from a band that’s been there, done that, and come back from the dead to claim more bodies. Not that that should surprise anyone.

Matt Harvey, of course, is your master of ceremonies of sorts, with his deranged and savage vocals and accompanying guitar slaying. Joining him are Bud Burke, Rob “Body Bag” Babcock, and Mike Hamilton, rounding out a brand-new lineup that sounds like it’s ready to explode. They sound mean, heavy, and channeled, and chances are they won’t mind showing people what their own blood looks like, which is kind of mean but also sort of expected. Keep in mind it’s also a pretty good sounding record, so you’re not getting basement-scruffed recordings that some death metal purists demand, but when you have players this good, you need to songs to be clean and smooth.

“Coins Upon the Eyes” is your first salvo, and it also was released as a single, so you might be familiar. It’s a really great choice for the kickoff, as it hits a nasty thrash groove, the growling/screaming tradeoff already is at a fevered pitch, and the lead guitar work is simmering and impressive. “Dysmorphic” dares to get a little proggy in sections, with more flurried guitars and inhumane screaming over the chorus, with gang shouts to back up Harvey. In the middle of the cut, the song kicks into an acoustic passage that sounds a hell of a lot like the intro to Testament’s “Eerie Inhabitants.” Then it explodes again. “(So Passes) The Glory of Death” is a killer track, with a savage, practically spat-out chorus and killer blast beats. “The Rotting” has a really cool lead melody line, more strong lead guitar work, and a tempo that reeks of thrash, and it’s more of a melodic cut than a brutal one.

The album then hits a bit of a snag with “The Shape of Deaths to Come,” a song that goes a little too deep into cliché territory, even if it is a little bit fun. It feels a little gimmicky though. The title track follows and also gasps a little bit, with thick bass and tricky riffs, but it’s missing something. Luckily the record recovers with “Sickened,” a chugging, grind-friendly monster that’s belchy and fast, pouring on the pure death goodness. “Ravening” brings back the growl/scream stew, and the drums absolutely obliterate everything, leading toward the meat-shredding “Carrion Call,” that is grisly and maniacal. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, and there it is, waiting to pounce on you as the record winds down. Closer “The Rotting” is a nice, battering finish that’s ugly but also intricately played. It’s a great example of how Exhumed can be blood-soaked and wizard-like at the same time, during the same track.

“Necrocracy” isn’t the best Exhumed album on their gory resume, but it’s still a damn good one. The world certainly needed these guys as death metal was getting terribly watered down, especially when it comes to the stuff that could appeal to those looking to get away from the mainstream and into something a little more furious. This is a fun record that gives you the best of both horror and compositional style, and it works to maintain death metal’s good name.

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The Lord giveth more hardcore with new records from Dead in the Dirt, Centuries

Dead in the Dirt

Dead in the Dirt

Now that they’ve served up some pretty chaotic, obliterating metal so far in 2013, Southern Lord is back to the hardcore grindstone in the deepest furnace of hell, situated in their headquarters. Yes, for everyone who whined about the Lord’s foray away from doom and black metal and drone, they shut you up with Power Trip, Agrimonia, and Hessian.

But yes, Southern Lord’s heart is very much into exposing new, hellacious hardcore bands, and no matter your opinion on this direction, you have to admit they’ve done a pretty good job with their selections, especially Nails and The Secret. And honestly, there’s enough crossover appeal with the bands the label has signed that no one should really feel alienated or disenfranchised. Maybe you even discovered some bands you ordinarily would not have realized existed before had the Lord not clued you in to them, and we all could use a little variety in our lives and listening patterns. So get ready for another lesson, because there are two new albums ready to tear off your eyelids.

dead in the dirt coverOne band we’ve met before, that being Atlanta’s crushing Dead in the Dirt, are back with their first full-length “The Blind Hole,” a record that should make you run out of oxygen very quickly. Over the course of 22 fucking tracks, the band blasts into you over and over again, forcing you to run for cover. The blasts hit hard and fast, with most songs ending before you’ve gotten your footing, only to have the next track blast in and take over the carnage. Dead in the Dirt concentrate on socio-political commentary and straight-edge/vegan ethics, so they have something the hardcore purists will identify with, but their metallic rage is what makes them flexible enough to satisfy a metal fan.

It seems pointless to do a blow-by-blow account of this album, because many of the songs take less time to do their thing than it’ll take you to read this paragraph. As noted, there are 22 songs on this thing, and the album lasts a mere 24 minutes, so, you know, do the math. The album is a barnstormer, with songs smashing into each other and doubling up on the assault, and tracks like “Suffer,” “The Blaring Eyes,” and “Mask” demolishing you in a minute or less. When the band branches out, they do a smotheringly awesome job, especially on Converge-like “Strength Through Restraint,” the slurry, dizzying “Cop” (that concludes with a reading of Jim Harrison’s poem “Barking”), and “Halo Crown.” It’s nice that they mix up the styles and lengths of their blasts, and every moment of “The Blind Hole” is stunningly effective and wholeheartedly crushing.

Dead in the Dirt’s debut is more evidence that Southern Lord know what they’re talking about when it comes to the most volcanic bands in the hardcore underground, and this record should keep you agitated and on edge for the rest of the day. That’s not easy for a 24-minute album to accomplishment, but these guys always manage to find a way.

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Centuries are practical newcomers, with their full-length debut “Taedium Vitae” being their first release for Southern Lord and probably the first music a wider audience ever will have heard from the Florida-based band. If Dead in the Dirt’s record seemed immediate and lightning-paced, then this will feel like an explosion out of nowhere, what with all of their vitriol and punishment jammed into nine tracks that only once break the three-minute mark. If you’re into Southern Lord’s taste in hardcore, then you’re bound to be down with this album, quite obviously. They’re a younger band with a lot to prove, and while they do so on their debut, there’s also room for growth in the future. That’s a good thing, by the way. No one wants to carve out a career of treading water.

centuries cover“Taedium Vitae” is an interesting debut, and it’s the sign of a band that seems to have a pretty strong formula and ambitions beyond simple violent hardcore. There is some post-rock dreaming and punk-style melodies hidden in these nine tracks, and that provides a breath of fresh air for the genre. It’s not a perfect record—some of the songs tend to blur together and sound too much alike—but it’s definitely a solid first step. Intro piece “Incipid Tragoedia” sets the stage for what follows namely the fast, throaty “Caeruleus,” that sounds like it hurt like fuck to record; the melodic twist toward the sky that is “Pessum Ire,” where the painful howls of, “I can’t feel anything!” sounds like a cry for understanding; “Grave Cordibus” is grisly and earthquaking, with stunning D-beat smoke that blankets your face; and “Irrita,” a song that shows some progressive tendencies, a willingness to explore their artistic side, and true signs that this could be a band to watch in the future as they form into a more destructive machine.

Centuries have room to grow for sure, and from the sounds of their 20-minute debut album, they won’t have any problems branching out and exploring their full potential. I could see this band blossoming into something like a Deafheaven-style band, a group that always will have a throrny demeanor but will find new and colorful ways to express their cascading emotion.

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Jucifer tell the stories of Volgograd with stunning ‘за волгой для нас земли нет’

Photo by Scott Stewart

Photo by Scott Stewart

History lessons and metal have gone hand in hand pretty much from the start, so much so that if you’re not fond of learning a thing or two about events from the past, then this might not be the genre for you. Yes, so many unaware folks pass off the metal crowd and its performers as mouth-breathing lunatics, but we know better. And we’re anything but unaware.

Iron Maiden have made enough war-torn songs about battles and sagas from various lands (hell, one of their biggest hits ever “The Trooper” should be enough to make you at least go to Wikipedia to research how Native Americans were treated by their usurpers), Primordial sing of the blood and woes of their native homeland Ireland, and while often mythological in nature, Amon Amarth long have treated us to tales about the Norse legends and Viking history. Not only are we recipients of some great, epic metal, but we get to learn a thing or two about something perhaps we didn’t know about before we put on a 45-minute album or four-minute song.

jucifer albumWith all that said, nomadic sludgers Jucifer very well might take the entire historical cake when it comes to their ambitions. As of late, they’ve turned their interests toward the past and some of the world’s most vicious and unforgiving stories and places. In 2008, the band released its incredible “L’Autrichienne,” a concept record about Marie Antoinette (the title means “that Austrian woman,” which was her nickname) that guitarist/vocalist Amber Valentine felt compelled to write about after reading a book on the French Revolution. Now, they’re serving up “за волгой для нас земли нет,” a record about Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad and Tsaritsyn and the struggles, battles, and hardships that their people and troops have faced through the years. It’s a 77-minute epic that’s as volcanic as anything the band has ever released and certainly is one of their most ambitious projects to date. The record is chaotic and filthy, almost like you’re trudging through snowy fields and pits of heartache, and the Russian monologues weaved through the record gives the land a voice, quite literally. It’s a monster of a record, quite obviously, at 16 tracks, 77 minutes (twice the length of 2010’s “Throned in Blood”) but it flows masterfully and is an easy epic in which to lose yourself.

The record opens with “First Narration,” which is a monologue spoken by a Russian woman that references Stalingrad and goes on for about three minutes. You might not get a lot out of piece if you don’t know the language but it also is a really interesting way to set up a record about the people of Volgograd. Plus there’s something  about her speaking voice that just draws you in. That leads to “Song of the Waking City,” an instrumental that finds the duo (Valentine is joined by drummer Edgar Livengood, quite obviously) slowly building the pace, piling on the doom, and collecting mud. Then “White Lies/Winter Is Coming” ignites with crushing, bruising pummeling, as Valentine finally lets loose her banshee wails. Livengood crushes his kit, Valentine’s guitar melts souls, and eventually more Russian voices mix in to continue their tale. “Fight Hard Live Free” is a filthy anthem that begs to be shouted back with authority and gets dressed by slurry guitars, pits of tar, and outright madness.

“Ni Shagu Nazad” is volcanic and fiery, with shouted vocals and absolute fury, and that leads into “Pavlov’s House,” that’s the shortest, meanest track on the record and boasts punk and hardcore roots. “Shame” is accusatory, static-fueled, and also feels like abrasive punk, with the back end getting absolutely drenched with noise. Then “Siberia” strikes, a song that bubbles with doom drone, like they’re waging war with Sunn 0))) on some scorched battlefield somewhere, and it’s massive and aggressive. “Wolf” is anything but easygoing and drops many a hammer, but they also let some prog influences blend into the background, showing a more colorful side to the band.

The dual “Evolution” tracks change the tempo and attitude again, with the first half sweltering and haunting, with Valentine delivering cleaner vocals, at which she always excels, and the song turns trippy and dreamy. The second half gets ugly and rough, with Valentine’s singing turning to blood-curdling screams, Livengood pounding away, and the band eventually slipping into classic heavy metal mode. “Barrier Troops” is fast and chaotic, with the vocals becoming inhuman shrieks that sound like the result of torture and the tempo crushing the ground beneath it. “The New Grave” is full of doom and gloom at first and then settles into a nasty shuffle, and this all leads toward, arguably, the best song on the record in “Queen of Antlers,” a smothering track that’s sludgy and menacing at times, dreamy at others, and with Valentine sounding her most authoritative. Noise moans and winds, the song twists and turns over its nearly eight minutes, and when it’s all over, it’s hard to catch your breath. Then the record, and our story, begins to wind down, but in a pretty heartbreaking manner. If you expect “Patriotic Song” to be uplifting and surging, you’d be wrong. It’s sad, with solemn piano dressed a mood piece where people scream, storms move in, gunfire rings out, voices call out, and drone swallows you whole. “End Narration” is mostly as you expect, with the same woman speaking, though once her dialog ends, you hear footsteps and atmosphere, letting you drink in the final moments of Volgograd.

For an ambitious band like Jucifer, this record raises the bar even for them. It’s an incredible accomplishment, a true work of art from a band whose back catalog is full of them, and one of the most affecting, emotional, crushing concept records in some time, where the language barrier never prevents the message and story from breaking through. Go out of your way to hear this thing, even if it’s your first visit with Jucifer. You’re bound to find yourself captured in this frigid, unforgiving world brought to life by the most explosive duo on Earth.

The album is available in a limited edition digipak and digitally now, and in October, a standard CD version and vinyl will be available.

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Anagnorisis return with scorching album ‘Beyond All Light’ that’s full of black glory


There are a lot of really enjoyable metal albums that sound recorded off the cuff, as if they were trying to channel a burst of creative energy or anger that they were able to turn into a palpable album. And that can result in some really awesome chaos. But there remains an art to meticulously putting together and playing songs so that musicianship still has a place at the table. You don’t have to court the weirdo prog audience to do this either.

The level of skill and musical execution are just two of things that make Anagnorisis‘ latest album so much fun to hear. It’s savage and violent and cascading, yes, all important tenets of a pulverizing metal album, but these guys also have their shit together musically, which only helps this six track, two-movement album “Beyond All Light” work as well as it should. From the moment the record begins, you’re overtaken by their power and majesty, and you don’t even need to be half-paying attention to realize how good these guys are as players. While black metal is their base, and they play it well, they incorporate death and power as well, proving they’re not only bloodthirsty but totally capable of pulling off just about everything. Oh, and in case you’re skeptical from what I’ve said so far, no, this isn’t a band concerned with musical wankery. That shit’s absent. They’re just a really good, really powerful band, and their music is razor sharp.

anagnorisis coverAnagnorisis actually started out as a project by the great Austin Lunn (Panopticon), who was a major part of their debut record, 2007’s “Overton Trees,” as a writer, guitarist, and vocalist. But he moved on the following year, and the rest of the band carried on with renewed purpose, releasing their “Alpha and Omega” EP in 2009, and their “Ghost of Our Fathers” EP last year. Today’s lineup finds Zachary Kerr on vocals (he formerly handled bass), Zak Denham on guitars, Josh Mumford on bass, Chris Smith on drums, and Samuel Hartman on keys. Sure, losing Lunn would seem like a devastating loss for any band, but these guys not only overcame his departure, but they turned into a meatier, hungrier animal since then and are doing a damn fine job laying the first path on their way toward a legacy. If you like adventure and musical power in your black metal (hey, Emperor weren’t exactly slouches in those categories, and there are some serious comparisons to them), you’ll love this.

Part I of this album opens with “Eulerian Path,” a weird, wooshy, misty song that makes you feel like you’re lost in the woods for the first portion. But hang on. The song then explodes like a bomb, with strong melodic black metal blasting through. Savage, thorny mashing delivers the proper amount of fury, and it’s quite an introduction to this effort. “This Cursed Blood” starts off with some fluttery riffs and then meets up with more devastating vocals (Kerr’s voice is a high point on this record because he always sounds on the verge of lacerating his vocal chords), and the chaos turns into raw, end-of-the-world fodder that practically promises to rip the planet apart. “Death Mimics Life” brings the first triptych to a close with a helping of drone and the song slipping out from the shadows, with Kerr howling, “I carry the torch you left behind!” There’s a strong sense of classic metal glory and chugging wildness that brings this portion to a killer end.

“Abyss” brings you into Part II with weird, mechanical noises that get drowned out by penetrating noise. The song hits its gear, Kerr unleashes hell, and the song eventually goes into a mystical, slow-driving pace. “Bountiful Godless Life” (a theme of the record) has a bouncy little riff and sounds downright poppy at times (in a good way), and it gives way to dramatic, synth-driven black metal that brings to mind those aforementioned Emperor references, as well as early Dimmu Borgir before they want to Disney hell. “Everything I know is dead and gone,” Kerr screams as the song bleeds into closer “Forever Night.” The clean moody intro blends into a post-punk-style melody that eventually gets ground into bits. Kerr offers up more raspy shrieks, piano notes drop and drench the ground, and the song ends on an emotional high so surging, you practically beg for a seventh song. You don’t get one, but there’s something to leaving the listeners wanting more. And I certainly do.

Anagnorisis have been through a lot of changes since they got started, but they really seem like they’re about to explode and become a serious force. “Beyond All Light” is an astonishing, powerful piece of work, one that should thrill the biggest classic death and black metal fans among us and even could be a great bridge for those who have sampled metal’s underground periphery but would like the dig a little deeper. These guys are great players, a formidable band, and should have their best days ahead of them.

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Morne’s dark, blurry intensity returns on surprisingly bleak new album ‘Shadows’

Photo by Hillarie E. Jason

Photo by Hillarie E. Jason

I’ve often said that most records worth your while take some time before they settle into your bones. At least the ones that seem to matter do because you kind of have to earn them. You have to let the music sink in and percolate in your system in order for you to truly understand the meaning behind it all and why it should matter to you.

Earning a record, to me, is a way to build a relationship with the music because you took time to get to know what’s going on and, therefore, have deeper ties to it. It means something to you. I have had that same learning experience with every release that Boston’s Morne have put out to date, and have had mostly positive results with them. But, at the same time, even if something from Morne doesn’t resonate with me entirely, I at least know why and can make an informed decision based on all of the time I spent immersed in the band’s world.

Morne coverMorne’s debut full-length “Untold Wait” was one of those promos that I put on to sample (I do that with every record I am considering reviewing just to get a quick glimpse before jumping in) and immediately was intrigued by the band’s approach to atmospheric doom, crust, and sludge. It didn’t sound like every other band’s stab at it as it had more imagination, more darkness, and though it took me some time to fully get my head around it, it has become a go-to release for me. Their 2011 album “Asylum,” their first for Profound Lore, also kept me at arm’s length my first few visits, but strangely, hard as I tried, I never was able to fully get on board with that record. It’s certainly not bad by any means, but I just couldn’t get with it and engage completely. Even when I listen now, two years later, it sounds fines to me but it just won’t stick.

That leads us to “Shadows,” the band’s third album and one of their darkest, most emotionally spent records to date. It’s dreary, miserable, depressing, and makes me feel like I’ve been standing in the cold, unforgiving rain for hours. As unpleasant as that may sound, however, it’s a positive. The more time I spend with “Shadows,” the more it slips into my consciousness, and as much as I love the band’s debut opus, this arguably is Morne’s strongest outing to date. Yes, it took a while for this record to have an effect—my first few listens, I worried it was going the same direction as “Asylum”—but now that it has taken its hold, I can’t shake its excellency. It’s psychologically damaging in all the right ways, and the band—vocalist/guitarist Milosz Gassan, guitarist Jeff Hayward, bassist Max Furst, and drummer Billy Knockenhauer—have never sounded this vital and this violent, drubbing home their frustration and discontent unmercifully.

“Coming of Winter” gets the record off to an admittedly plodding start, as melodies repeat over and over, Gassan sounds purposely detached like he’s staring off into the distance and pouring out his woes, and the band treads thick water. As Gassan howls, “Seasons change!” it’s almost a warning sign for what’s ahead on the remainder of “Shadows.” “A Distance” really gets thing into gear, with a clean, drizzling, eerie open that’s murky and foggy and hovers overhead for several minutes until it bleeds into funeral doom territory. Finally, about seven minutes in, Gassan lets go with his howls, adding thorns into what’s a slippery, mossy surface, and as the song reaches its conclusion, the muddy water gone clean.

“New Dawn” starts on a stream of deathrock-style guitars that meet up with hoarse growls and atmospheric synth wooshing in the background. The song meanders a bit in the middle, but it’s just setting the stage for the lead guitars to slice through and draw more blood. The music lightens up a bit, not exactly opening an embrace but at least feeling less menacing for a bit. “Shadows” has some glorious, epic doom guitar, reminiscent of early My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, while Gassan bellows, “Hide from your fear!” The melodies grow wintry and chilly, and the conclusion is both soaring and sorrowful, bursting with dark energy. Closer “Throes,” that runs exactly 10 minutes, is an interesting piece, with the first half built on hefty fields of drone, and then once you feel like you’re getting lost in the fog, funeral doom-style melodies trickle in and cover your prone body, leaving you immersed and feeling like your lungs are filled with frigid water.

Morne’s had a really interesting, morose journey in their time together, and while they certainly have a trademark sound, you still can’t safely predict exactly what they’d do each record. “Shadows” is a cataclysmic effort that happily takes your hand and walks you into a room containing your most vicious demons and gut-wrenching emotions, and you know damn well Morne won’t blink. This is a devastating document, one of the heavier of the year, and it proves Morne are as mighty and bleak as ever.

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Unmothered emerge from nowhere with one of the year’s most promising debuts


Have you ever put on a record for the first time and were astonished by how good the band is and how well they play together? OK, that’s probably a stupid question. We’re all here because we love metal and, as a result, have had tons of experiences with music that blew us away because of just how mighty the band is.

What I mean is, sometimes you encounter a band you don’t know much about or that is new, and while you might have some expectations for how the music might sound, what you walk away with is the impression of just how explosive the band is and how well they do their thing. I had that happen with Unmothered, the new Austin-based trio that just released their debut, self-titled EP on Toxic Assets. Over the course of seven tracks and about 30 minutes, these guys not only got me excited about their noisy, doomy, fiery brand of metal, but they also blew me away by just how well they translated their chaos. They have an explosiveness about them and a way of playing where you anticipate the peaks and valleys, and even though you’re right about the path, you don’t expect just how hard they hit you and how forcefully they drag you. “Hitting on all cylinders” is such a cliché, but that’s exactly what Unmothered do. Again and again.

unmothered coverThe band formed when guitarist/vocalist Matt Walker left Lions of Tsavo and formed Unmothered with drummer Daniel Curry. Their union would not last, however, and Walker eventually teamed up with bassist Joe Barnes and drummer Matt Moulis (formerly of The Hidden Hand) to put together this bulldozer of a unit. They got their strange moniker during one of Walker’s friend’s trip to Mexico City, when a cab driver described the area as “desmadre,” or “unmothered” because the people had been left to fend for themselves with no one to help them. Their sound is hard to pin down, as it has parts of doom, thrash, sludge, and noise rock, and put together, the guys stumbled upon magic that they dubbed “haunt rock.” Whatever they call it, it works, and this EP should be one hell of a base for what could be a promising run making metal that caves chests and levels buildings.

The record blows open with “Gravitons,” a doom-laden yet atmospheric song that soars nicely but also weighs, yes, a ton. Walker’s growls sound like they were defaced by razors, while the band hits a killer groove that could have you punching the air or the face of someone who really has it coming. There’s a nice off-centered melody that slips in toward the end, and the whole thing is then sucked into space. “The Awakening” kicks into a strong Southern-style swagger, and that attitude is amplified by a choice Johnny Ringo clip from “Tombstone” and some furious growling. “Solstice” has an unforgivingly heavy opening, with drumming that sounds like it’s trying to break through the floor and sludgy guitars that aim to clog your throat. As the song goes on it just gets better, and eventually they explore their proggier side before they bring the fucking hammer down at the end.

“Dark Energy” opens with a frenetic pace, monstrous growls, and a wave of complete devastation. There are hints of really early Mastodon and current Black Tusk with some of the muddy chugging, and the guys display some exemplary teamwork as the song reaches its conclusion. This is just one of the many examples of how tight this band is and how well that play together. It’s just a blistering cut. “Leviathan” is stabbing and weird, the true oddball of the collection, and it’s so explosive that before you know it, the song’s over and you’re surrounded by rubble. “Spectre” has a fiery opening, with the drums nearing blast beat territory, and the guitars go from smoldering to dreamy, as a post-rock gaze is spread across the song, and the melody even gets a little poppy. It’s a fun cut. Closer “Trancendor” is thrashy and mangling, with some slide guitar there to give the song some added texture, and before the cut ends, the temperature in the furnace is ramped up to high, and a psychedelic wash splashes over everything to give you some relief from your eyebrows burning away. Nice of them.

Unmothered is one of the more promising new bands that have emerged this year, and I’m pretty psyched to hear what these guys do with a full-length assault. This is a tight band that crushes you with precision and has chops to devastate worlds. Go find out about this band right now. They deserve your time, and you’ll be rewarded repeatedly with their metallic fury.

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All Pigs Must Die don’t care if you’re hurt, angered on ‘Nothing Violates This Nature’


Look, there are a lot of things to hate in life. Let’s just be honest about this. Yeah, I like to laugh and be in splendid moods like the rest of the world, but most of my day is spent hating things because there is just so much by which to be disgusted. Just get in your car and try to drive. If you don’t come home with a migraine, you’re probably one of the people causing the problems.

There’s no better way to contribute to a mental hatefest than to have music that is full of loathing, punishment, and anger that sounds a million times worse than what you’re feeling, and All Pigs Must Die step up to the fucking plate each and every time. Their black-metal-and-doom-splattered hardcore is raucous and takes no prisoners, and there have been times when I finish listening their music wondering if they hate ME. The disdain drips like sludge off a rotting garbage can, and there isn’t a moment on their second full-length “Nothing Violates This Nature” that doesn’t sound 100 percent poisoned, scornful, and resentful. And, really, I’d have it no other way.

APMD cover“Nothing Violates This Nature” follows the band’s volcanic 2011 debut “God Is War,” one of that year’s most immediate, pissed off records, as well as their self-titled 2010 EP that only hinted at the madness and all-out terror that was ahead. These guys play this shit like it matters to their survival, as each track blisters you and stomps you, and never asks you if you’ve had enough because they don’t care. There is no mercy in this dojo, and the more you take on these 10 tracks of spite and all-out violence, the more you’ll wonder if there is anything that could quell this band’s anger.

In case you’re new to APMD, we’ll go through introductions. Kevin Baker, also of Hope Conspiracy, is the guy barking and shouting at you, and there really isn’t a safe distance to remove yourself from his target. Joining him are Ben Koller (who you know from Converge), as well as Adam Wentworth and Matt Woods of Bloodhorse. Together, they form a hellish militia ready to violate and offend your morals, as well as any sense of good grace you have inside that tries to keep at bay the dark feelings. Let them out. It’s healthier that way, and one day you won’t explode once your little body has had too much.

“Chaos Arise” explodes on impact, so there’s no easing you into this bastard at all. The song is punchy, thrashy, and maniacal, and just as the track hits a grinding pace, it slips into a slow-melt close that feels like a melting face. “Silencer” has no mercy for you, especially with Baker taunting, “See you suffer, watch you die!” It’s fast, aggressive, and short, and it feels like a hurricane of nails blowing through your face. “Primitive Fear” has strong lead guitar work, simmering melodies, and a killer drum groove that gives the song its spastic pace. It’s not as explosive a song, but it’s meaty and pulverizing. “Bloodlines” is caked with noise and menace, then it slips into black metal and doom territory, giving the song a nice bloody texture. “Of Suffering” has a clean opening and a wall of synth, then it hits a weird sludgy pace and is the true oddball of this collection.

From this point, the record really goes for the throat. OK, it’s been doing that the whole time, but this portion really ramps up the chaos. “Holy Plague” is glazed with noise before it launches into hardcore-led savagery and runs into furious screams and shouts. “Again Siege” is a really short burst of madness that’s fast and mean, while “Sacred Nothing” is raw, crushing, and demeaning, especially when Baker howls, “You exist for nothing!” “Faith Eater” opens with a Black Sabbath-inspired dose of bluesy doom before it leaps into a hardcore furnace, and the stabbing craziness and charred vocals give it a nuclear finish. Closer “Articles of Human Weakness” launches into a black metal assault, with chugging, fiery guitars, a violent wave of sound that’ll singe your hair, and a conclusion that drowns in sound.

APMD’s madness is continuing along the same path it’s been on since the band formed, and the fiery trail they’ve been blazing shows no sign of dying out. This is perfect music if you’ve had enough and need some way to blow off steam, blood, anger, what have you. Fuck, watch the news and follow it with “Nothing Violates This Nature” and you might be ready to decimate your car with a chainsaw so you feel better. Shit, I’m going to get my chainsaw.

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True Widow stay true to their darkness, fog on mesmerizing ‘Circumambulation’

true widow

As we noted earlier this week, there are bands that have a way of doing things that probably won’t change any time soon and really should not anyway. That was said about Coffins in our review on Tuesday, and they’ve made a killer career cranking out doomy death that rarely takes contains any creative changes from what they’ve done in the past. And it’s always awesome.

Another band in that same territory is Dallas trio True Widow, a band that’s slowly been moving their way up the ranks since their formation and now find themselves on the mighty Relapse, whose releases have dominated our site this week. Ever since their formation in 2007, the band has perfecting its calculated stonergaze sound that might not exactly be heavy metal (which Decibel recently pointed out in a useless, childishly written review that benefitted no one) but surely have enough crossover appeal that they should be just want someone needs to chill out and let your mind wander. Imagine a burlier Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine, and you’d have a pretty good idea of what you’ll get when you tackle True Widow and their excellent third album “Circumambulation.”

true widow coverBuried in the band’s noise and psychedelic glaze are some sticky melodies and airy vocal work, no matter who is singing, and their creations can be labeled as mood music because you’ll get a great chance to explore some of the darker emotions clogging your soul. It’s perfect for sitting, reaching out, and identifying with your demons. The band has dual heads vocally, as guitarist Dan Phillips and bassist Nicole Estill take turns at the mic, while drummer Timothy “Slim” Starks back them up with the perfect pacing and pockets of groove-heavy beats, acting as a rock-solid backbone. Phillips and Estill generally don’t interact with each other vocally during the songs, as each get to have a share of the spotlight, though they do sometimes appear together finishing each other’s sentences.

If you have followed the band since their 2008 self-titled debut and onto their tremendous Kemado-released “As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth” from 2011, you won’t find yourself lost on this one. As hinted, the band really hasn’t altered its formula much, if at all, over the years, and you’ll get no complaint from me. This band has a great, hazy formula that sets them apart from every other band on Relapse’s label, and while their sound isn’t wholly unique, you still know when you’re hearing True Widow. That’s because their music has a shadowy personality that’s all their own, and all three of these artists inject parts of themselves into the band to give it its character. I unabashedly love this band, and “Circumambulation” only amplifies that adoration.

The record opens with “Creeper,” a song that lives up to its name as it sneaks behind you and, before you know it, it’s right by your side. Like the rest of the record, the Philips-led lurker seems crafted perfectly for those humid summer days when the air is so thick that is steams your windows, and when he levels with you admitting, “I need to make my escape,” you wonder if you shouldn’t do the same. “S:H:S,” one of the band’s handful of weirdly titled songs, is eerie, buzzing, and dreary, and it’s a nice partner if you’re stuck in the rain. “Four Teeth” puts Estill in front of the band, and her breathy, atmospheric vocal melodies drive the song and give it its pumping heart. “Numb Hand” is sleepy, not in a way that denotes dullness, but in a manner that eases and relaxes you, even if you’re entering into thick darkness with no indication of what’s on the other side.

“Trollstigen” is another shining moment for Estill, as she is in steady command of this 7:19-long crawler that’s rich in reverb and rolls over you like a smooth-moving but heavy wave. “I:M:O” (not to be confused with their mammoth track “I.N.O.” from their EP of the same name) has slinky guitar work, hazy buzzing, and warm plodding that makes this instrumental tasty and boozy. “HW:R” is a satisfying slow burner, with Phillips and Estill trading the mic (he’s on verses, she delivers the velvety chorus), and this cut feels like the ease your body slips into right as you’re lured into slumber. Closer “Lungr” has dark guitars chiming out, noisy wails, and Estill’s moody vocals that drop like drapery over the song and easily claim you as its captive. My guess is you won’t be struggling to get out of the band’s clutches.

True Widow are a special band, one that I’ve followed hungrily ever since hearing their music for the first time. It wouldn’t feel right if they tried to make a thrash album or adjusted their sound to make more people comfortable, because that would prevent them from being who they are. “Circumambulation” is another strong step forward for the band, and it can be argued it’s their best one yet. It’s been a steady companion many evenings while trying to decompress from the day, and it’s one that, like all of their other releases, will be a friend I go back to often. Everyone, no matter how rowdy and brutal your record collection may be, needs some time to pull things back and slip unseen into the darkness, and True Widow can be your cover.

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Lord Dying make heavy first impression on strong debut ‘Summon the Faithless’

Lord Dying

Over the weekend I was spinning the new Ghost album and got to thinking as to why there’s been a backlash against the band. It’s not like they’re in Coke commercials or are doing things that should cause metal fans to lash out against them. They made a catchy record that’s fun to hear, and isn’t that the same things on which artists like Dio and Iron Maiden staked their legend?

I think it boils down to resentment and some sort of silly genre ownership in fans and not on actually taking in the music for the fun that it is. While they sound nothing like Ghost (OK, B.C.) at all, I get the same vibe listening to “Summon the Faithless,” the full-length debut from Portland’s Lord Dying. The guitars are raucous, the metal is heavy, the songs are catchy, and it is metal through and through. To me it’s impossible to hear this record without realizing the fun you’re having following along, and the band’s sludgy, High on Fire-friendly bashing might even make smile those amongst us who haven’t become judgmental pricks who need to be above everything.

Lord Dying coverLord Dying have been roaming the earth since 2010, and they’ve offered up a demo and a tour EP before getting things together for what comprises the eight-track, nearly 40-minute “Summon.” The album is perfectly portioned, as you get enough molten riffs and violence to satisfy your primal urges, but they know when to get out and leave you wanting more. That’s a trick more metal bands could stand to learn, as well as labels that think they need to stuff 16 songs into a package for whatever reason. It’s sort of the early Slayer rule. Know when enough’s enough, and Lord Dying have a stranglehold on that idea.

The band’s members have been kicking around in other groups such as Black Elks, Portals (not the shrouded Australians), and Damn Your Eyes before pulling together to form Lord Dying, and these first name-fearing warriors have a tight, rupturing sound made possible by guitarist/vocalist E. Olson, bassist D. Capuano, drummer/vocalist J. Reid, and guitarist C. Evans. The cover of their record reminds me of a weird, psychedelic takeoff on Death’s “Leprosy,” though the music inside is entirely different, pummeling just as hard, but giving you doses of sludge, thrash, and doom that’ll stick to your ribs and leave you nice and full.

“In a Frightful State of Gnawed Dismemberment” roars out of the gate with muddy guitar work, screamy howls, molten heaviness, and shouts of, “You’ll find no peace you can salvage!” That rolls into the title track (eh, sort of … it’s “Summoning,” not “Sumon”) that’s built on high-powered guitar riffs, metallic chugging, and yowling shouts that should wake you up in no time in the event you somehow aren’t yet at full attention. Hey, I don’t know how much sleep you got last night. “Greed Is Your Horse” reminds me of Mastodon’s early days, when they were a burly killing machine, and the charging riffs and angrier vocals feel downright evil at times. “Descend Into External” is proggier when it kicks off and leads its way toward some really creative guitar work, and as the track progresses, the band seems like it’s trying to up the ante.

“Dreams and Mercy” has more chugging guitar work, leaning deeper into thrash territory, and the vocals are aggressively in your face. The middle of the song lets Reid take the spotlight behind the kit as his work gets to move up front and cause some chaos. “Perverse Osmosis” not only is a weirdly title song, it also features some of the most bizarre music on the record, with slurry, vicious guitar work and howled warnings of, “You’re buried alive!” “Water Under a Burning Bridge” is thick and volcanic, spitting smoke and lava, and the pace is calculated and punishing. Closer “What Is Not … Is” boils and swirls, with powerful riffs, crushing drums, and a huge dose of penetrating drone that gives the record a cosmic, intergalactic finish.

Lord Dying are a hell of a lot of fun for the 40 minutes they stick around, and they inject the overcrowded sludge scene with a needed burst of adrenaline. “Summon the Faithless” is a promising start for this band, and as they add miles of travel and more experience, they should only get deadlier. You can take that as a warning or a promise that their best may be yet to come.

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Japanese death-doom monsters Coffins hardly change a thing on ‘The Fleshland’


Adhering to a proven formula is kind of going to be a theme here this week, so you’ll bear with me as I work my way through bands that have a particular way of going about business and don’t seem all that interested in changing it anytime soon. Is that a good or bad thing? I guess you’re going to have to come back and read. Awwww.

If you’ve gotten into Japanese death-doom merchants Coffins, you pretty much know what to expect each time they put out new music. Shit’s going to be heavy and trudge along, violence will erupt, and you’ll be drubbed to death by these guys who have been making ugly noise since 1996. In that time, they’ve come up with four full-length releases and about a million mini and split efforts, and all the while the formula really hasn’t changed much. But why should it? Coffins obviously love what they do, as do the folks that follow their every gory twist and turn, so why mess with a good thing?

Coffins coverActually, there has been one big shift going into “The Fleshland,” their fourth album and first for Relapse. Ryo, who used to sit behind the drum kit for the band, now is their lead vocalist. Guitarist Uchino, who used to handle the bulk of the vocals, is still there wailing away as the guitarist, and bassist Koreeda remains, but they felt Ryo would be the best option fronting the band. After multiple visits with “The Fleshland,” I’m hard pressed to argue the point with them because he does such a good job growling and gurgling his way through these nine songs. It’s ugly and bloody, which is just the way a Coffins record should sound. Oh, rounding out the lineup is drummer Satoshi, who’s the new kid in the band. He does a fine job bashing skulls, in case you’re wondering.

After some initial noise wail, weirdness, and feedback, “Here Comes Perdition” hits you like a runaway cement truck right in the chest and blasts you into oblivion. The riffs are rich and creepy, the drums pulverize (that Satoshi is OK!), and the infernal growling runs amok all over the song. The first track alone proves moving Ryo in front of the band on the mic was a great choice. “Hellbringer” pours on the murky, ugly death, but they also keep things catchy enough to move your head. Before it falls off. “The Colossal Hole” (go ahead, get the laughing out of your system) is lurching and flooded with blood-and-guts mashing, taking its damn time doing its damage and bruising your body. The growls from Ryo go along with grimy melodies, searing soloing, and gurgly vocals.

“The Vacant Pale Vessel” is another slow-moving basher, with sweltering guitar work and more razor-sharp soloing in a classic heavy metal vein, while “Rotten Disciples” is punishing and mean, sounding like what it might sound like if Slayer (you know, the classic version of the band) and High on Fire were to go to battle. “Dishuman” is crushing and blistering, with thick, gargantuan growling and impossibly heavy metallic fury. “The Unhallowed Tide” has a similar style as the track that precedes it, as it trucks along looking for any bodies to jam into its wheels, and the grisly, monstrous pace eventually slows to a simmer. Closer “Tormentopia” is a really fun, groove-heavy finale where the band clearly is having a lot of fun making noise trying to get your adrenaline flowing. You could punch along, stomp along, or shout along, but you’ll be spent once it’s over regardless of what you do.

Luckily Coffins know what they do best, and they realize there is no reason to go and change something that already works extremely well. This band’s always done the doom-death thing wickedly, and now they’ll be able to find a larger audience with Relapse’s backing. “The Fleshland” is one hell of a strong Coffins record, and if you like what the band’s done during their whole run, they you certainly won’t be disappointed in the least by this beast.

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