PICKS OF THE WEEK: Dark Descent unleashes more death power with Corpsessed, Lie in Ruins

Corpsessed

Corpsessed

The weekend might be time to unwind, collect our thoughts, and get some much-needed rest and relaxation, but who’s to say it can’t be about audio torture, visions of a hellish existence, and a total assault on your senses from some of the finest new death metal units laying waste to the underground scene? It’s great for that, too!

Dark Descent has been bringing us torture-filled death metal for many years now and already gave us the new album from Lvcifyre record this year. Now, just weeks later, with this year unable to even get its traction, the label is back with two more killers that mash to death all of the bands that pile the gloss and polish on their final products. Instead, these two bands smear theirs with blood and guts, serve it you you that way, and force your mouth closed so you can choke on every raw bit. In fact, each record is so explosive, we chose to combine each of these records and declare our first dual picks of the week. It’s all the death you’ll need to tide you over until the snow melts and the pretty flowers grow again.

First up is the Corpsessed, a Finnish outfit that’s been mauling people since formation in 2007, after after releasing a pair of EPs, finally are offering up their debut long player “Abysmal Thresholds.” Hell, that album title and band name alone should be enough to entice you into hearing this maniacal madness, and if you like your death raw and ugly, you definitely won’t be disappointed. The band is comprised of vocalist Niko Matilainen, guitarists Jyri Lustig and Matti Mäkelä (who also provides backing vocals), bassist Mikko Pöllä, and drummer Jussi-Pekka Manner, and they make a snarling, filthy sound that is both monstrous and demonic.

Corpsessed coverFollowing a weird, ghoulish “Intro” track, it’s full bore into “Of Desolation,” a grim song with vicious riffing, mangling violence, deep, snarling growls, and even some menacing doom to give it an extra dose of blackness. Then it’s on to “Trepanation,” a song that explodes out of the gates, treated with gurgly vocals, wailing terror, and strong lead guitar lines that scorch flesh. “Sovereign” follows, and it’s full of sizzling guitar work, rumbles on the low end, belchy growls, and gritty, gut-splattering fury that is unforgiving. “Necrosophic Channeling” is the second-longest cut on the record at 7:07, opening with deeps gasps of atmosphere and funeral bells before it settles into a mid-paced, mauling track that’s massive, has hazes of doom, and unleashes unforeseen dashes of horror and trauma designed to make you flee in fear.

“Ravening Tides” tears the lid off the second half of the album, with murky keys, a grinding assault, wicked riffing, and wild growling, hardly giving a moment for catching one’s breath. “Apotheosis” fires heavily from the first moments, with lurching vocals, more muddy guitar work that seeks to choke, and doom horns that should chill your bones. It is massive and savage, and it feeds perfectly into “Demonical Subjugation,” one of the most intense songs on the record, where the band blows right through you with slow-driving death metal that is relentlessly heavy. “Transcend Beyond Human” is as scary as the title indicates, with fiery madness and even more doom goodness, which runs right into the 7:30-long closer “The Threshold.” That song explodes on sight, with guttural growls and some morbidly dark guitar work, whipping and slashing at you. The sound’s last half is positively crushing, with strange sounds whirring, guitars creating a hell of chaos, and the drums being beaten to a pulp. It feels like the Earth’s crust has been ripped open, and all of the undesirable forces lurking below have spilled forth to kill us all.

Corpsessed’s debut is a strong one, and yet another new band that indicates death metal’s future is alive, well, and in good hands. I can’t really point to anything they could change or adjust, because they seem to be in damn good shape. Just keep increasing the audio body count, and I’m pretty sure people like me will remain happy with whatever Corpsessed does.

Lie in Ruins

Lie in Ruins

Next, let’s look at Lie in Ruins, yet another band from Finland (Dark Descent might as well set up a satellite office there for all the talent the find) that started in the early 1990s as Dissected, before taking on this moniker in 2002. Their ambitions are a little greater, as their desire isn’t to get in, pound you, and get out, but to spread out their mission, crush you for long periods of time, and leave you begging for mercy. The band is made up of vocalist Roni S. (who also howls for death smashers Desolate Shrine), guitarists Roni A and Tuomas K, bassist Jussi V, and drummer Aki K, and their latest album “Towards Divine Death” is their sophomore effort and follow-up to 2009’s “Swallowed By the Void.”

Lie in Ruins coverThis 71-minute pounder opens with “Endless Void,” with eerie bells chiming in the winds and the band delving into a doomy death explosion. The guitar work is very strong, the vocals are ugly, and the drumming is massive. “Charred Walls” sounds like what its title indicates, that being soot and dirt choking your lungs. The song is smothering and drubbing, with the vocals bubbling below the surface, while an old-school death metal feel permeates the entire track. It’s just a total killer. “Blood of the Dead” runs a meaty 8:08, and it goes headfirst back into doom’s cold caves But the track also injects some lightning speed into the proceedings as well, with vicious howls and a stampeding gallop adding to its violent effectiveness. “The Jaws of the Wolf” is another long one at 8:29, and it gets treated with strong guitar riffs, maddening vocals, and furious clubbing, making it a track that stands out for its heaviness among songs that are devastating.

“I Am the Dark” opens up like a killing machine, but it’s not just bloodshed. The guitar lines are nice and warm, calling back to the early days of heavy metal, and even the serving of death here has a vintage feel to it. It’s a really nice cut. “Sacrum Vitae” has a slow-driving, ominous, almost torturous first few minutes before it kicks up dust and starts wailing full bore. “Venomous Tongues” is the shortest song on the album at 5:14, and it uses its time wisely combining charnel guitars, wrenching vocals, and more speed. “Beneath the Surface,” a 9:16-long masher, is lurching and heaving, with the drums standing out as the bone-crushing highlight. The riffs are sweltering as they interact and push each other back and forth, and the final moments are immersed in doom crunch. The 11-minute closer “Of Darkness and Blackened Fire” takes its time to set up, slowly luring you into its trap before it pounces with stampeding guitar work, gritty vocals, and sweltering heat, finally slowing down with just a few minutes left. At that point, piano begins to drip, almost as a final epitaph to all the heads they crushed and bodies they destroyed in the previous 70 minutes. It’s a fitting, creepy end to a massive record.

Lie in Ruins clearly have a grasp of what they want to accomplish, and they do so with infernal power, might, and agony. They are exploring more hellish terrain with their music and finding ways to keep you sustaining massive beatings for even longer amounts of time than your average three-minutes-and-out band. If that doesn’t make you happy, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

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

For more on Lie in Wait, go here: https://www.facebook.com/lieinruins

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

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

CROSSING OVER VOL. 1: Have a Nice Life unfurl post-punk murk; Mogwai, Warpaint back strong

Have a Nice Life

Have a Nice Life

In the three years since this site has been alive, I’ve mentioned many times that my musical tastes and interests do not begin and end with metal. I imagine a lot of you are the same way. Put it this way: I bow down as earnestly and with as much reverence to Neko Case as I do to Iron Maiden. No apologies offered either.

There also are tons of releases each year that logically could fit at a place like Meat Mead Metal that aren’t exactly heavy metal–and we’ve done some of those–that don’t feel out of place to me. Last year’s Liar in Wait EP is an example. But how far can you really go? Well, I decided that one day a month at the site, we can go as far as we want, and we will introduce that idea today with the debut of the monthly Crossing Over column. Basically, I’ll give you an in-depth look at one record per month that isn’t exactly metal but at least has some logical reason for appearing on a site like this, and below, I’ll provide capsule glimpses at totally non-metal records from the month in question that have gotten regular play around here. That way, I feel like I can cross over to other areas of music for one day, and maybe I can help you find some stuff that perhaps you’ll enjoy yourselves. Plus, it gives me an outlet for all those promos I get that I love but don’t have a creative space for writing about as I’d like.

Have a NIce LifeOur main record for the first Crossing Over segment comes from Have a Nice Life, a New England-based duo that delves into shoegaze, New Wave, deathrock, goth, post-punk, and even some doomy sentiment. Their latest release “The Unnatural World” is being released by Flenser Records, known for their crop of forward-thinking metal bands such as Necrite, Palace of Worms, Bosse de Nage, and Botanist, but that also put out stuff by Wreck and Reference, a dark-as-hell band that is sort of similar to Have a Nice Life, and is planning to release the new record from Brooklyn’s White Suns. There are no boundaries at that label, which is likely why they come up with such thought-provoking artists, and this one of no exception.

Dan Barrett and Tim Maguca met in college and started making aggressive acoustic music together, getting out to play shows, and eventually keeping their idea moving beyond graduation. In the following years, they built upon their music and eventually released 2010’s “Deathconsciousness,” a record that caught fire, so much so that they had to keep making copies and eventually started their own label Enemies List to keep up with demand. An EP “Time of Land” followed in 2011, and now we’re getting their excellent new record that could find favor among fans of bands such as Swans, Bauhaus, My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division, and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra.

“Guggenheim Wax Museum” opens the album with whirring keys, murk, and dark vocals, giving off a sense of scary chill and somber feelings. “Defenestration Song” follows and is the highlight of the record for me, with thick, buzzing basslines, a strong, swelling chorus that cuts into your head and burrows its way in, feedback, intense melodies, and demands of, “Get off my back.” The track drowns out in noise. “Burial Society” maintains the dark edge the record has conjured, as it’s slowly delivered, dirgey in spots, and with admissions such as, “It isn’t real, but it feels real,” that sweeps over your senses. “Music Will Untune the Sky” has noisy scrapes, vocals calling from the distance, some doom-infused riffs, and ambiance that glazes over the entire piece, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. No one is partying after this one.

“Cropsey” begins Side B in as disruptive, disturbing a manner as possible, with clips from an interview featured on “Suffer the Children” with a young patient John at Pennhurst State School, a place that was a target of many investigations for some horrific child neglect and abuse of mentally challenged patients. The song’s title references the film “Cropsey,” a topic that’ll keep you up at night if you read and watch too much about it, and the song swells with thick synth, murky melodies, and total darkness that perfectly captures the terror and inhumanity of its subject matter. Just chilling. “Unholy Life” pulsates with synth drone, some of the strongest, most passionate vocals on the record, and really catchy sections that are damn-near danceable. “Dan and Tim” has a deathrock feel, with cold, damaged static marring the sound, a New Wave sense, great blurriness that makes you feel like you’re hearing a story told with water trickling out of your ears, and a finish that approaches surfy. The 8:50 closer “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch” has a slow, deliberate build with keys rising like a fog, quivery yet direct vocals, organs swelling to increase the haunting essence of the track, and a long passage where you feel you’re floating away, only brought back by occasional wood block clicks. It’s a dark, unsettling track that might remind you of slipping into a deep nightmare from which, try as you might, you cannot shake..

It might not be a metal record, but Have a Nice LIfe still manage to jab at all of the psychological points many of those bands attempt to reach yet fail. This band is deeply, emotionally immersed in their darkness, and their commitment comes through in huge, black waves. Perfect listening for these final hopeless days of winter where brightness has been suffocated.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Have-A-Nice-Life/273357312191

To buy the album go here: http://store.theflenser.com/

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

Other releases from January we really loved:

Dum Dum cover
DUM DUM GIRLS
, “Too True” (Sub Pop) — The third full-length from throwback, ’60s-’80s dream rockers Dum Dum Girls picks up where 2011’s “Only in Dreams” left off, that being headed right into Pretenders territory, with extra layers of noise glaze and attitude. Dee Dee sounds at her best vocally, as she has progressed with each release, and the band does dark and noiry just perfectly on tracks such as “Rimbaud Eyes,” that has an impossibly infectious chorus; “Are You Okay?” a slower, tender song that has the band holding their torches high; and “Little Minx,” a charged up number with a steady pace, some bursts of guitar power, and a whole of of bruising. Another really strong record from a band that keeps getting better.

Get the album here: https://megamart.subpop.com/releases/dum_dum_girls/too_true

Hospitality cover
HOSPITALITY
, “Trouble” (Merge) — Brooklyn-based indie pop trio Hospitality sure have grown in leaps and bounds since their 2012 debut record. They maintain all of the approachable charm they had on that record, but they explore their musical ambitions on this one, going into longer sections of jamming and even venturing into prog. Amber Papini’s voice remains a focal point for the band, and for good reason, while the other members have sharpened their tools nicely and should make for an even better live band. The best cuts here are the punchy fun opener “Nightingale,” where Papini calls, “You see ghosts in your bed”; “Inauguration,” where they really stretch out and explore the space with their playing; proggy, fun “Rockets and Jets”; and “Last Words,” their most expansive track yet compete with Steely Dan-style guitar work.

Get the album here: http://www.mergerecords.com/hospitality-trouble

mogwai cover
MOGWAI
, “Rave Tapes” (Sub Pop) — If you’ve been along for the ride with Scottish post-rock band Mogwai since they launched their debut record “Mogwai Young Team” in 1997, you will and won’t be surprised by their eighth full-length “Rave Tapes.” The band never stays in one place for too long, and they prove that by adding a lot more keys and synth to this album, feeling like they’re perhaps borrow a page from sci-fi duo Zombi. But there are crunchy parts, sections where you’ll feel like you’re floating through a space dream, and even some provocation, courtesy of “Repelish” complete with music swirling around a Christian radio “analysis” of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” by the Rev. Lee Cohen. Other highlights include the ominous, creepy keyboard work on the excellent “Remurdered”; solemn, softer “Blues Hour,” with its gently delivered vocals and Pink Floyd psyche sentiment; and “The Lord Is Out of Control,” the most classic Mogwai cut on here with trickling guitars, pumping keys, and Vocoder-laced vocals.

Buy the album here: https://megamart.subpop.com/releases/mogwai/rave_tapes

Warpaint cover
WARPAINT
, self-titled (Rough Trade) — If I had to pick a best non-metal record of the month, Warpaint’s second and self-titled new record would take it easily. I have listened to this record on and on even since the promo arrived in early January, and it’s dark, nighttime-style, moody, alluring songs get into your bloodstream and refuse to leave you. The band had never composed a record together with full collaboration before, and the results of them going this route for this album bears so much fruit, it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s hard to even start talking about highlights, because the entire running time is one, but be sure to check out cuts such as murky opener “Keep It Healthy”; the off-kilter but ridiculously infectious “Love Is to Die,” where Emily Kokal sings, “Love is to die, love is to not die, love it to dance”; New Wave synth-leaning “Biggy”; and punchy, danceable “Disco//very,” that has some MIA-style voice inflections. This record is perfect for taking time to sulk, dream, and get moving all in a 45-minute span. Great record.

Get the album here: http://shopusa.roughtraderecords.com/rt-homepage-1/warpaint

Sol y Nieve unearths gems with Nemorensis’ sweltering chaos; Hellebore’s cosmic black metal

sol y nieve
With a ton of major-name metal releases getting ready to overwhelm us and devastate the Internet with overexposure, let’s not forget those who are releasing music as good as, if not arguably better, than the indie majors but won’t get even a percentage of the hype.

Kind of how we did last week with discussing Grimoire Records’ latest offerings, today we turn toward Sol y Nieve Records, a label based out of Northern Idaho that focuses on “analog technologies and handmade packaging,” according to their Facebook page. So basically, there’s a real human touch to these releases you can hear and feel, something that’s not nearly common enough in today’s metal world, much of which was based on tape trading and practices like these. The label has released some damn impressive music so far, including from bands such as Yellow Eyes (who, if you haven’t heard them yet, you need to change that now), Monument, He of No Name, Dead Dragon Mountain, and Golden Fawn, and now are firing back with two more releases that are worth checking out.

Now, the lo-fi, harsh sound of the label’s other bands also is a trait found with Nemorensis and Hellebore, both of which have new releases out that you can grab physically or for obscenely reasonable prices prices on the Sol y Nieve Bandcamp page. Each brings something different to the metallic table, though I can see there being crossover appeal for each band, as well as for listeners who simply love what the label represents, Oh, and you’re not going to be able to find out a whole lot about these groups because they’re basically shrouded in secrecy, with such  small online profiles, it’s almost comical. But we embrace keeping things mysterious, because we know way too much shit as it is, so it’s cool that these bands are eschewing all that.

Lady Lake cover
We’ll begin with Nemorensis’ incredible 27:27-minute opus “The Lady in the Lake,” a single track that makes its way over all kinds of musical terrains, leaving your mind floating in the ether when it’s all over. It’s spacey, has quieter moments that reflect in nature, sometimes feels like a seance calling upon spirits long gone, and despite its challenging presentation (hey, some people have an issue with single-track albums, as silly as that seems), really keeps your attention and keeps you wondering what’s next. And it always delivers.

The track begins with a cosmic atmosphere and chilling keys that eventually dissolve into a section that sounds a lot like bizarre chants. Guitars begin to charge up and inject electricity into the track, while a sense of murkiness remains thick and present through most of the song. Shrieks are buried millions of layers beneath the chaos, giving off a sense of being lost so far off in the wilderness, your voice barely can be heard, and just as the song seems to be building into a boil over, it levels off, letting some serenity into the room. Waters begin to trickle, as it feels like the scene has shifted into the middle of a frosty forest, and amid drone, folk flourishes, and smoky keyboard, the song shifts into strong, emotional melodies. Screams once again call out, seeking its inspiration, and the final minutes are awash in both beauty and savagery. I’ve had many journeys with this album so far, and each time something different takes hold, be that the serenity or the fury. There’s plenty to examine here, and you’ll want to put aside some time, get a comfortable chair, and devote all of your brain waves to “The Lady in the Lake.”

Hellebore cover
Hellebore, a Canadian solo black metal band, also has its eyes set toward the skies, but their music in their latest piece “Anouof Thwo” feels like a gigantic sci-fi exploration into the stars, past planets and galaxies unexplored by humankind, and into a cold, isolated blackness that should scare the hell out of you (think Darkspace at times).There is a lot of crushing and black metal rage that might make you think of the early days of the Second Wave of Nordic bands, and the mind-altering passages could have you seeing things, hearing strange sounds, and wondering if there is some way you, too, can go beyond this planet and headed toward another level with species who we haven’t met yet. And the fear sets in when you realize you don’t know if you’d survive the encounter or not. That’s just the feeling I get, not my interpretation of what’s being said, as I don’t speak French and cannot translate the words. But again, mystery is good.

The album kicks off with the noisy interlude “Etoiles d’eau” that leads into the 12:42 “Aootw” that begins chugging right away. There are strong riffs, harsh vocals, and bits of melody that sweep through the machine-like drumming and massive under section. The music keeps building, getting darker and meaner as it goes, and as the song grows off-kilter and cosmically weird, it keeps delivering violence and chaos that rages until the song fades out. “Udrea” is a chillwave-style interlude with beats and sweltering synthesizer, setting the stage for “Les Martiens Eta’ient la’,” an 18:28 crusher that begins with whirry, spooky keys, that give way for guitars exploding and going off, keys buried into the torment, and vocals that cry tyranny. As it builds, the song climbs aboard soaring riffs, the drums don’t just keep the pace but blow it into powder,’and the lead guitar playing is both glorious and explosive. The fury subsides a bit about halfway through the song, but as finger tapped guitars take over, the track’s soul soars deep into space, the tempo violently changes back and forth, and beastly growls erupt from the pit of fires to give a terrifying voice to the thrashing chaos that brings the song to its wild conclusion. Closer “…reflechis dan l’eau” ends the album ideally, with acoustics that meet up with whirring keyboard, buried growls and howls that remind of Leviathan, wildness that feels uncaged and free, and that final jaunt into the stars where the rest of the story will repeat itself forever.

These albums aren’t going to be easy listens for those whose ears are used to the smooth, polished side of metal, but someone who wants to get in touch with more primal, raw sounds, energies, and emotions should find both of these albums rich with content. Both bands may be bound for the underground forever, but we need those types of artists that are real and honest and always bring us back to the roots of what we love. Also note that each of these cassette releases are limited in quantity, so if you want a physical copy, you better get on that.

For more on Nemorensis, go here: http://nemorensis.bandcamp.com/

For more on Hellebore, go here: http://hellebore.bandcamp.com/

To buy the albums, go here: http://solynieve.bigcartel.com/

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

Sunn 0))), Ulver combine cosmic forces for collaborative spiritual journey ‘Terrestrials’

sunn ulver
There’s nothing wrong with being a critic and being a fan of the bands you cover. It’s foolish to think this is something that doesn’t happen all the time anyway, but I feel like there’s this separation some people think takes place when you write about music that you can’t equally express fandom and have your favorites.

But that doesn’t mean that critical senses don’t kick in even in the cases when one of your favorite bands puts out a release. I usually tend to overthink those because I want to be fair and say how I really feel about the music instead of letting my devotion to the band take over. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that at this site. So we’re in doubly strange territory today because I’m bringing to you not one, but two bands that I follow and whose music I collect. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting past few weeks I’ve spent with today’s record, and reading other people’s reaction to said collection has been as interesting as the time I’ve spent with it.

Sunn

Sunn 0)))

I’d be lying if I said chills didn’t go directly down my spine when I read that drone kings Sunn 0))) and black-metal-pioneers-turned-cinematic-dreamers Ulver were combining for a joint effort, collaborating together on a new album “Terrestrials.” Immediately, my mind started to wander, imaging what these two creative forces would do together, as one unit, and if it would meet my own personal expectations?

Honestly, it took some time to understand the album and to filter out my preconceived notions of the thing, but the more I visit, the more it takes me over. I’ve subsequently used the music for helping me in situations of meditation and even when I need to even out for writing or other creative endeavors, so it has had value for me beyond just being a record matching up two bands I admire greatly. So this record was richer for me that I expected. Some of that could mean I accept the record more because I admire and deeply understand each band, but the heart also will tell you if what you’re hearing isn’t reaching you. And mine has done nothing but pump blood forcefully every moment I devote to this record.

Ulver

Ulver

Turns out the seeds were planted for “Terrestrials” several years ago, after Sunn 0)))–Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley–played their 200th show in Olso, Norway, when they teamed up with Ulver in Crystal Canyon studio and created an improvisational piece that ended up being the first track on the album “Let There Be Light,” a song that feels like the first strains of morning opening up and spilling across the land. Noises rise up, horns greet them, guitars simmer under the surface, and sounds squeal, setting up a cloud of drone. Later in the track, drums kick in, setting in motion the final sequence that brings all of the song’s elements back together, letting ominous strains bleed into the setting and take the song to its conclusion.

While “Let There Be Light” feels more like an Ulver-influenced song sonically, “Western Horn” is decidedly darker and more of the Sunn 0)))-style low-end doom and drone spill in and blacken the surroundings. There is heavy static and buzzing, the bass feels like a demon gaining power and getting ready for strangulation, and guitars rise up and match the noises that are ringing out and preparing to deafen you. Strange rattling erupts, and the song’s final moments are eerie and haunting, with a clean, psychedelic washout. The finale “Eternal Return,” a musically palindromic cut, does a nice job melding both bands’ influence, with shimmery noise, foggy smoke emerging from the ground, thick string sections adding texture and beauty, and dark interplay between the two bands. Organs cause bone chills, keys zap around like lasers, and Ulver vocalist Kristoffer Rygg offers the only singing on the record, conjuring ancient Greece, Egypt, and other Biblical lands, giving the cut a warm David Gilmour (vocally) feel to the composition. It’s a dream-inducing, spiritually transcendent cut that puts the perfect cloudy finish on this amazing collaboration.

This is not bound to be a record that pleases all of the fans of both bands, particularly those of Sunn 0))) because it’s not a thick, devastating piece their listeners have come to expect. But look beyond that, branch out, and allow your mind to wander with these two incredible forces. They have conjured something magical that goes beyondpast each bands’ headspaces and explores new universes. It might take a while for it to make sense with you or align with your emotions, but if you put in the time and really let this wash over you, chances are good you also will find a record that’s more than just 35 minutes of music, but instead of a companion for your own intellectual, personal journey you take in your mind.

For more on Sunn 0))), go here: http://sunn.southernlord.com/

For more on Ulver, go here: http://www.jester-records.com/ulver/ulver.html

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

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

Nashville’s Yautja mix sludge, grindcore, doom on impressive debut ‘Songs of Descent’

Yautja
Mondays always suck, so if you’re in need of a little motivation today, might I recommend spending some time with Yautja and their face-mangling debut record “Songs of Descent”? If you’re not ready to go after listening to this record, with blood fully pumping, then I’m not sure anything is going to work for you. Maybe go back to bed.

Yautja is another rock-solid entry from the always reliable Forcefield Records (Inter Arma, Windhand, Bastard Sapling, Earthling) and rise from Nashville, a place most people align with country music, and for good reason, but that also has some pretty great indie rock bands and metal acts. This band is comprised of member of other notable bands such as Coliseum, Gnarwhal, and Nameless Cults, and they combine grind, sludge, death, and doom into a 14-track, 37-minute package that is filthy, heavy, and damaging. In fact, after listening to this thing for yet another time over the weekend, I was so motivated to go do some damage somewhere that I went and shoveled six inches of snow out of my driveway. How’s that for motivation?

Yautja coverYautja is comprised of three people making all of this noise, notably guitarist/vocalist Shibby Poole, drummer/vocalist Tyler Coburn, and bassist vocalist Kayhan Vaziri. Ever since their formation in early 2010, have been mauling people live, and putting out music here and there, namely an EP called “2011” and a 7-inch release with Enabler. They comprise all kinds of different sound on “Songs of Descent,” and while they fit nicely into the heavy metal stronghold, they offer sounds beyond that, going into noise rock and even some hardcore leanings. This record also is a pretty fun listen, as you’d probably expect from something I described as having serious kick-you-in-the-ass qualities, and these songs sound like they’ll scald you live.

The album opens with a noisy, thick instrumental “Path of Descent” that runs headlong into “Denihilist,” a crafitly named track that has some blistering bass work, punchy melodies, and screamy vocals. It’s a mangy, thrashy thing that also slips into doom from time to time. “Blinders” is a furious blast of grindcore madness, with burly riffs and violent vocals intent to do major damage, while “Concrete Tongue” blasts by in just under a minute, with blinding intensity and ill intent. “Tar and Blindness” is pretty aptly named, as its sludgy and muddy, eventually giving way to more grind fury, throaty howls, and sonic devastation. “Teeth” is another short one, with a slower pace and penetrating buzzing, which leads into the record’s epic “Faith Resigned,” that runs 6:53. This cut is relentlessly heavy, tough as nails, and eventually storming with fury. The band just destroys everything in its wake, with feedback wailing and aiming to cut flesh, guitars soaring into the stratosphere, and a killer instinct.

“Path to Ground” is a short instrumental that’s slow moving and ominous, and that leads into “An Exit,” a fast bit of hardcore-style punishment and grind intensity. “A Crawl” is a calculated bruiser, taking its time setting up its fire, before launching into a diatribe that has wild screams and animalistic violence. “Of Descent” is the second-longest track on the record at 5:06, and it, too, has a deliberate pace that isn’t trying to hurry up, but instead treads in place and let the storm build. There are bursts of speed, mauling doom passages, and throaty growls, and as the song reaches its finish, the drums whip into a frenzy and leaves welts. “Humility-Humanity” has some tricky guitar work (this is where the Jesus Lizard comparisons ring true), slurry melodies, and some bits of brutality. “A Cleansing Fire” is a noisy, drowned-out interlude that leads into the closer “Chemical,” complete with black metal-style riffing, clubbing madness, and out-of-control smashing, like a car without a driver heading down a hill toward its certain destruction. It’s a pretty impressive way to finish off this stellar debut record.

Yautja have effectively kicked our ass on “Songs of Descent,” a damn fine record by a band that’ll get you ready to get some shit done in your life or else. It’s another great find by Forcefield and one of the early killer debut albums of the year that hopefully will result in bruised bodies and punished eardrums everywhere they play.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/site/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Striving for perfection works wonders for Avichi’s ‘Catharsis Absolute’

Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski

Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski

Being a perfectionist can have its ups and down. On one hand, you’re going to do your work until you absolutely, positively believe it is finished, awaiting masses be damned. On the other, you can overcook, overthink, and overdo your project until you strip it of its character, power, and interest. Axl Rose just gave me the finger.

Andrew “Aamonael” Markuszewski (also of Lord Mantis and Unholy Trinity, and formerly of Nachtmystium) is one of those perfectionists, and when it came to his Avichi’s much-anticipated third record “Catharsis Absolute,” nothing but the very best record was going to satisfy him. If you followed the plight of this record, you know this thing should have been in our hands a half a year or so ago, but Markuszewski continually wasn’t happy with what he was hearing and kept going back to the lab to refine his creation. I kept reading updates, mostly from his label Profound Lore, with bated breath, so much so that it was turning into some mythical thing that never really was going to materialize. Or once it did, it would sound overdone and end up being a disappointment. That wasn’t out of the question. Luckily, that’s the furthest description of “Catharsis Absolute” I can think of. This thing is a triumph.

avichi coverWe last heard from Markuszewski in 2011 on “The Devil’s Fractal,” itself one hellacious record that set itself apart in the black metal field. Now, three years later, we’re hearing Avichi grow into a more refined form, one that isn’t afraid to destroy boundaries on “Catharsis Absolute.” Fuck what black metal is supposed to be, and forget the rigid rules that always get spread over the subgenre, Markuszewski obviously was hellbent on doing something that not only extended his canvas but that would satisfy the creative fire burning inside of him. It’s a record that sounds like an artist truly coming into his own and hitting all the right buttons. It’s a defining record for Markuszewski and Avichi, and it’s sure to be one you’ll hear about all over again 11 months from now when those pesky year-end lists pop up.

The album trickles open with introductory “Repercussion,” a brief song dressed by simple piano and a sense of foreboding. Then “Flames in My Eyes” just ignites, with metallic savagery, wild shrieks, and even some monotone clean singing behind it all, adding an extra sense of frozen sentiment. “Your soul is in my eyes!” Markuszewski howls, as the song rambles and slashes to its vicious finish. “Lightweaver” is an incredible song, one of the best in Avichi’s arsenal, and a perfect example as to how much this project has grown and progressed. While it’s heavy and uncompromising, there’s a dark, murky, New Wave-style keyboard line that slinks in, adding an extra dark pocket of melody. There are monstrous vocals and powerful guitar work, raging with power and emotion, and it’s everything Nachtmystium always seemed to be aiming for but never really accomplished. Markuszewski sure as hell figured it out.

“Voice of Intuition” begins feeling dreary and depressing, but that gives way to a volcanic eruption with Markuszewski howling, “Speak to me!” with such force, you think he’s talking to you. There are ominous sheets of guitars that rain down on the track, adding more blackness to the proceedings, and once the song reaches its conclusions, the growls reach a new animalistic level. It’s just crushes. “All Gods Fall” is another head turner, running 12:36 and acting as the perfect epic. It begins slowly, with chimes slowly blowing in, like a ghost sleigh traveling through the night, and eventually doom thunder erupts and begins the storm in earnest. The singing is cleaner through most of the song, with more keyboards setting up behind all of the thunder, and it’s a totally different glimpse into Markuszewski’s personality. As the song builds, it does get heavier, as do the vocals, with Markuszewski crying, “A new awareness reveals itself to me.” It feels like that line could be a summary for this record. The closing title cut is a near-eight-minute track played entirely on piano, which some may see as a risk for a black metal album but that works beautifully on bringing the album to a close. The song is eerie, somber, emotional, morbid, and dark, and when the music finally fades away, you cannot help but feel utterly transformed by what you just witnessed.

Avichi has gone from being a great band to one that’s figured out how to get to that next creative level. Markuszewski took chances, trusted his instinct, and made one of the most interesting black metal albums in some time. It’s only January, but there’s not likely to be another record that sounds like this one in this subgenre in 2014. Of course, pretenders will arise, but we all know the source material. “Catharsis Absolute” is Avichi’s masterpiece, though it might just be the beginning of what’s going to be a really special run. Go buy this.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Avichi/87428

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

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

Deadly reissues: Tech maulers Demilich release discography; Dark Funeral classics return

Demilich

Demilich

The reissue game can be a tricky one, and it’s a good way to infuriate people who get tired of rebuying things they already own. But they serve really good purposes as well, such as helping listeners get up-to-date copies of classic albums or helping newcomers catch up on releases they perhaps haven’t had a chance to grab yet. I think we all can agree reissuing a record that’s a year old just to grab more buys from hardcore fans sucks though.

Today we have two reissue projects that very much fall into the hellaciously worthy category, as they bring into circulation fresh versions of music from two bands that have had their influence on today’s crop of artists that followed their path. Now, again, there are going to be people who already own these albums/recordings who will moan because they don’t want to have to buy them again. Simple solution, really: they don’t have to. I have found a lot of value in both of these projects, and each of them more than prove its worth.

demilich cover

We’ll start off with the awesome “20th Adversary of Emptiness” collection from Finnish technical death pioneers Demilich. They’re one of those bands that I got into years after their active period, and the whole reason I did is I’d see their indecipherable logo on shirts whenever I’d go to metal shows and wanted to know more about them. This 2-CD, 3-LP set is for listeners who want their hands on everything Demilich ever released. Literally. It is all here in one package, along with old and new artwork and a 40-page booklet for fans to salivate over. Granted, the band’s catalog isn’t the deepest thing of all time, but having everything in their arsenal in one compact place makes it easier to lug their greatness around with you.

The band’s run has been short and sporadic, with their active years only ranging from 1990-1995 on their first run, with a reunion in 2005 that spawned some new music, and another show in 2010. Their only full-length is 1993’s “Nespithe,” released on Necropolis Records, that influenced a generation of death metal bands that followed. This set opens up with that album, which now is remastered from the original 24-bit unmastered tapes, and it sounds pretty damn impressive. Funny, but their technical death is not as bizarre and out there as some of today’s bands, which actually is refreshing on the ears. Yeah, they showed their prowess and dexterity on comically more-than-a-mouthful songs such as “The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son of Fourteen Four-Regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed),” “Inherited Bowel Levitation–Reduced Without Any Effort,” and … get ready for it … “The Planet That Once Used to Absorb Flesh in Order to Achieve Divinity and Immortality (Suffocated to the Flesh That It Desired …),” but they have a heart, a monstrous soul, and a lot of mind-warping melody. Add to that guitarist Antti Bowman’s gurgly, burping death growls, and you have a record that somehow stands the test of time and still sounds damn relevant. I’ve never gotten my hands on a physical copy of this record before, so having a chance to get it now has been a long time coming.

On the other disc/LPs, we get three new tracks from 2006’s “Vanishing Sessions,” finding the band as alien and deranged as ever before, with “The Faces Right Below the Skin of the Earth” feeling thunderously awesome, with less belchy vocals; “Emptiness Of Vanishing” exposing buzzing guitar work and awesome metallic mauling; and “Vanishing of Emptiness” unleashing swirling guitars, lizard-like growling, and a punishing, satisfying finish. Also included are “The Echo” demo from 1992; the “…Somewhere Inside the Bowels of Endlessness…” demo also from 1992; “The Four Instructive Tales of Composition” demo from 1991”; and their more-than-raw one-song demo “Regurgitation of Blood” from 1991, that sounds like it’s melting as it plays. Most of the material on their demos contains early versions of “Nespithe” songs, so it’s cool to hear how they changed leading up to their full-length. All in all, this is one hell of a great collection, one that should be in the home of every death metal fan, especially those who think they must overplay and outthink themselves to make memorable, technically proficient music. Demilich only were with us a short time, but they left us some bizarre treasures.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.anentity.com/demilich/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/shoppe/en/

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

darn funeral band

Dark Funeral (circa 1996)

We shift from death metal to one of the most savage members of the second wave of Nordic black metal in Dark Funeral, a band that’s never kept secret their intentions of evil and blasphemy. The band engaged in a proper reissue project with Century Media late last year that started with their first three landmark releases, some of the most notorious, celebrated albums from that subgenre’s history. The expanded editions contain detailed essays about the creation of the records, new photos that were culled from the band’s history, and, of course, full lyrics so that you can howl back with great terror along with the band. Also, the albums sounds pretty damn great and make for spectacular headphone sessions. Oh, and all of this comes on the heels of Dark Funeral seeking a new vocalist as they ramp up for a new record, so now’s a nice time to get back into the band and remember what made them special in the first place.

in the signsecrets ofvobiscum

Naturally, we begin with their “In the Sign…,” comprised of their 1994 debut EP (which was self-titled), as well as two songs from their contribution to a planned Bathory tribute (eventually released by their former guitarist, the late Blackmoon, in 1998), that being their maniacal takes on “Equimanthorn” and “Call From the Graves.” They prove more than adept at these black metal classics, and these are fun to have. Tacked on at the end are three live cuts from South America in 2003, that give you a deep taste of their savagery live. That takes us into their classic 1996 full-length debut “The Secrets of the Black Arts,” a record originally made at Unisound Studio with producer Dan Swano that didn’t meet the expectations of Dark Funeral. That’s discussed in the essay inside the booklet, with Swano quoted as admitting he wasn’t up to task in his work, so it was redone later with Peter Tagtgren. This includes both versions of the album, the one we’ve all come to know, as well as the Unisound version, so it’s pretty cool to hear what is and what might have been (though the shelved version has been available before). The official version of the record also has some bonus content, including a cover of Von’s “Satanic Blood” as well as “Dark Are the Path to Eternity (A Summoning Nocturnal)” that originally was on the tracklisting for the Unisound version.

Finally, we go into their second album, 1998’s “Vobiscum Satanas,” a record that saw a major lineup shift, with a change in lead vocals/bass from Themgoroth to Emperor Magnus Caligula (who also played in Hypocrisy and God Among Insects, among others); the departure of Blackmoon and arrival of Typhos on guitars; and drummer Equimanthorn leaving and making way for Alzazmon (who eventually went on to Dissection and Gorgoroth). That left only guitarist Lord Ahriman as an original member, but the band didn’t lose their intensity or bloodthirst for black metal. The vocals are a little deeper and a little less demonic sounding, but they work nonetheless, and the band rips toward its new era with cuts such as “Ravenna Strigoi Mortii,” “Thy Legions Come,” “Evil Prevail,” and “Ineffable King of Darkness.” Added to the end of the album are four live cuts from their 1998 appearance at Sweden’s Hultsfred Festival in 1998.

So yeah, maybe you have the originals or the Regain reissues of these records, but the CD spine art that’ll pop on your CD shelf, the comprehensive booklets, the improved sound, and the overall coolness of this project makes it more than worth the investment. The band’s final three records also have been reissued by the label, so we’ll work to get our hands on those and let you know if they measure up to these killer releases. I’m guessing they will.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.darkfuneral.se/

To buy the albums, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

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