PICK OF THE WEEK: Darkest Era’s second record ‘Severance’ may be what puts them over the top

Darkest EraIn the midst of all the darkness, morbidity, and evil espoused by so many bands that dot these pages, there’s something to be said about a group that can just get your adrenaline going the old-fashioned way. I’m talking with glorious guitars, great melodies, and drama-filled stories, with the songs getting stuck in your head and you going back to visit over and over again to take the ride all over.

I always felt that way about Northern Irish metal band Darkest Era, a criminally underappreciated group that mixes classic heavy metal with power and Celtic energy, always finding ways to make catchy songs that have great sweet spots. Their debut record “The Last Caress of Light,” released by Metal Blade in 2011, was one of my favorite records of that year, one with great spirit and rousing anthems that sounded arena-ready but also kept a foot in the underground with the heathens. The fact that record didn’t catch on astonished me because it was just so damn infectious. It’s insane more people don’t know about it or this band. Maybe their first record came a little too early, and perhaps with the way a band like Atlantean Kodex has been embraced by the extreme metal community that the time is just right for Darkest Era’s second platter “Severance,” being released by Cruz del Sur (a very fitting home). Plus, it’s just a damn good true metal record, and it deserves heavy accolades.

Darkest Era coverThe band has a knack for those Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy-style galloping melodies, thanks to their two killer guitarists Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Weighell, as well as their powerfully solid rhythm section of bassist Daniel O’Toole and drummer Cameron Ahslund-Glass. They make for a formidable unit that injects so much energy, darkness when they need to, and storming emotion into their music, it’s impossible not to get caught up and swept away by what they do. Fronting the band is their dynamic frontman Krum, whose soulful singing really sells the hell out of their Celtic tales and really makes this group into something truly special. In a time when so many eschew great singing for growling and shrieking, he stands in a corner of his own, and the closest comparison I can draw is Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill of Primordial. He’s just excellent and one of my favorite modern vocalists in metal.

“Sorrow’s Boundless Realm” opens the record cleanly, solemnly at first, perfectly setting the stage for what’s ahead. The vocals swell and soar above the adventurous music, with strong guitar work and every member matching the intensity being displayed by everyone else in the band. It’s a great first dose. “Songs of God and Men” is a dark one, with foreboding history and death in the air, but it’s also a damn catchy one, with Krum ruling, “Light a candle for the dead,” and later, “Raise a glass to Caesar,” as the band catches fire and drives this song to a righteous finish. This song is unreal, and probably my favorite track on here. “The Serpent and the Shadow” has compelling drama and a true old-school power metal feel, with a gigantic, intense chorus, and the soloing on this one just scorches all the hair on your arms. This is another burner. “Beyond the Grey Veil” pulls everything back a bit, with ceremonial playing, slower tempos, and danger afoot, with Krum noting, “All is lost in earthly fire.” The song is full of darkness and sadness, like a major wound dealt eons ago that still is felt ages later.

“Trapped in the Hourglass” gets things back in high gear, with speedier guitars opening the track, then things settle into a more controlled tempo. You can sense the loss of control being conveyed by the song, as Krum admits, “I’m falling fast, trapped in the hourglass,” and as the song goes along, it gets darker and darker. “The Scavenger” feels like a Maiden classic, as it has a great thread of storytelling woven through it, with Krum declaring, “The silence is broken.” The song goes from classic metal fire to Celtic-style folk melodies, with the tempo shoving forward the dropping back a few times, just to keep you on the edge of your seat. Then there’s a smoldering finish that caps this track off right. “A Thousand Screaming Souls” has energetic riffs and a great show of force, and it’s a cinematic, raucous track that has what you’ve already come to expect from the band—killer guitar leads, a low end that’ll blast you, and singing that keeps you engaged and following every step. Closer “Blood, Sand, and Stone” has a cold start, making you think you’re in for a purposely foggy cut, but then the thing ignites, getting explosive and thorny in a hurry. The singing is as soulful as ever, and the tempos go back and forth over this 8:08-long epic, with compelling melodies, slower sections that let everything breathe, and some fantastic soloing by the two tremendous guitar players, who are as strong of storytellers as their amazing vocalist. The band gives you just enough on this record and certainly leaves you wanting more.

It was ridiculous that Darkest Era’s debut record got swallowed and forgotten like it did, but this band didn’t take that lying down. They’ve come back with just as great an album in “Severance,” a collection that should light the fires of anyone who hungers for classic heavy metal and is searching high and low for bands that pay proper respect to the roots but have designs on the future. This group has the potential to be a huge one, and if that comes to pass, we might look back on this record as the first step on their path to domination.

For more on the band, go here: http://darkestera.net/

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

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

Winnipeg’s Sabbatory unleash old-school death, thrash chops on ‘Endless Asphyxiating Doom’

SabbatoryThis week, we’ve been exploring bands that are breathing new life into older sounds, and that’s not really on purpose. It just happens there are a lot of bands putting out records this week and next who have more of a vintage bend to their formula.

Today, we’re taking a look at “Endless Asphyxiating Doom,” the debut mauler from Winnipeg-based death metal killers Sabbatory, who count among their lineup current and former members of thrash squadron Besieged as well as technical instrumental wizards Electro Quarterstaff. If you don’t have to dust off all of your late ’80s thrash records and early ’90s death metal collection because you still listen to both regularly, you’re going to find a ton to like about these guys. Think Kreator, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Asphyx, things of that nature. It doesn’t sound like its purposely serving that purpose either because, let’s face it, tons of bands these days are feeding off the past for current glory. No, these guys sound like they could be transported back to that formative age and fit right in.

Sabbatory coverSabbatory only have been a unit for the past three years, with just a 2012 demo to their name before the arrival of the crushing “Endless Asphyxiating Doom,” but they sound like a pretty well-oiled machine. Yet they maintain a rawness that let’s you know that keeping it violent and heavy takes precedence over making it digestible by the masses, and that’s another area where this band shows its charm. The guys responsible for all this noise are guitarist/vocalist Kier Keating, guitarist Marshal Fries, bassist Nick Tober, and drummer Dan Earle Ryckman, and they mete out plenty of fire and disaster on this seven-track, 33-minute record, that is the perfect dose. There’s another way these guys get what made some of the bands that influenced them clearly understood about presentation size and impact.

“Being, Thy Eternal Perplexor” rips the lid of this record with a furious blast, growl-infested vocals, and stabbing madness, with raspy howls of, “Perplexor!” coming right at you. Makes me think a bit of the Hellhammer classic “Horus/Aggressor,” to be honest. That’s never a bad thing. We then go into “Hypnotic Regression,” a punk-fueled masher that’s punchy, thrashy, and just the right amount of evil, with heinous cackles, riffs swirling and ripping you out of your comfort zone, razor-sharp guitar soloing, and a final blast of speed. “Corrosive Decay” has a nice bit of crunch to it, but also some swollen guitar work and a bone-crunching gallop that leads into a gritty, heavy section that ups the ante in a huge way. It keeps the beatings going in full as it ends in a blast of thrash and throaty howls.

“Infantasy” is richly riffy, as gruff vocals are emitted, and even some doom gloominess enters the make everything a little blacker. The song eventually gets charged up and explosive, with shrieks helping the growls make the song more menacing, and the drum work making a bloody mess of everything. Ah, in a good way. The title cut is meaty and clubbing, with more throat-mangling vocals and punk-style stomping that adds a sense of fun to this pulverizing track. “The End of a Pessimistic Voyage” is more spirited than its title indicates, with Keating howling the command of, “Go!” and his mates battling alongside him with searing leads, mean and monstrous playing, and even some atmospheric soloing at one point, that’s eventually buried in a mound of ash. Closer “Orbiting Obscuron” begins with eerie, sinister guitars that seem to build toward a slow burned until the track just ignites. There is plenty of speed and punishment, fierce growls leading the charge, and awesome all-around playing from every member, sending this great debut out on a stellar note.

“Endless Asphyxiating Doom” isn’t going to be remembered as a revolutionary album that started a new movement or anything, and it doesn’t have to be. It’s a solid slab of classic death mixed with true thrash metal, and it satisfies every time. That’s good enough for me, man, and as long as these guys keep plugging in and pounding away, the metal world will be a better, slightly more volatile place.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabbatory/302276589803917

To buy the album, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase.html

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

Swedish death cult Vanhelgd strike back in anger on charred ‘Relics of Sulphur Salvation’

VanhelgdThere are people who claim there is a war on religion taking place in the United States. Of course this is ridiculous, but when there’s an entire television network selling this lie, and plenty of people willing to blindly follow along, these things gain traction. Truth is, some people of the religious persuasion are upset they don’t get to dominate all proceedings and push their will on others, so their response is that of a spoiled child who doesn’t get his or her way.

Naturally, there is a backlash against people forcing their beliefs on others and wanting everyone to live the same way they do, and that very thing has been a part of heavy metal pretty much since the beginning. There’s a blind belief by some that all bands who rail against religion are trying to get attention or seem hollowly rebellious, but many of these people live in societies where these ideals are forced on them, and their rejection of said thinking makes them into the outcast. That’s how we get bands like Vanhelgd, a Swedish death metal force looking to strike back against those who try to impress their ways on others. The band’s third record “Relics of Sulphur Salvation” is a violent strike back against those who refuse to let others live as they choose. It’s a breaking of the chains.

Untitled-1This band has been kicking around since 2007 and released their first record in 2008 with “Cult of Lazarus.” They fired back in 2011 with “Church of Death,” released by Nuclear War Now! Productions, and now they’re back with this fire-breather that is being joint released by Pulverised Records in Europe and 20 Buck Spin in North America. The warriors who created this chaos have plenty of experience in other bands such as Thy Primordial, Ceremonial Execution, Blump, Bloodshed Nihil, and King of Asgard, and the lineup here includes guitarists/vocalists Mattias “Flesh” Frisk and Jimmy Johansson, bassist Jonas Albrektson, and drummer Bjorn Andersson. The band has a knack for filthy, old-school death metal that’s also infused with melody, and the vocals are as infernal and dangerous as you may expect. The sound totally hits that sweet spot for the good, vicious stuff that turns its collective nose at polish and anything that aims to be widely embraced. It’s death metal. It’s supposed to be ugly.

The record begins with “Dödens Maskätna Anlete” and a serious helping of swirling guitars, airy atmosphere, and eventually gut-wrenching violence, complete with menacing growls. The music runs headlong into death and black metal fury, with a savage delivery and fantastic riffs that sound like the very foundation of this genre. “The Salt in My Hands” has thrashy tones, throaty vocals, and channeled guitars that are working hard to drive home the madness. Eventually the song halts and teases calm only to blow back open and start killing again with hefty drums, lumbering guitars, and howls of, “I am the great deceiver!” “All Flesh Is Soil” simmers in doom at the beginning before it ignites into a total death assault complete with relentless speed and devastating growls that are terrifying and weighty. “Ett Liv I Traldom” grinds away with filthy guitars but also some melody that dashes the song with color. The band kicks in with a gang-chanted section that keeps coming back, like they’re holding a séance in a cave before a mission, and the track is completely barbaric and out for blood.

“May the Worms Have Mercy on the Flesh” obviously doesn’t have good intentions, and it launches full bore into crushing riffs, hellish vocals, and even some higher-pitched screams that injects more terror into the track. There is a tradeoff of doom clouds and speedy fire, with the growled words sounding like they were choked forth. The title cut has piercing guitar work and drums that are looking to maim, and the mauling that takes place is both heavy and threatening to bury you. The final minutes are equally smothering and flushed with razor-sharp melodies, leaving everything in a gigantic pile of dust. “Sirens of Lampedusa” rips right open, with aggressive riffing, painful-sounding shrieks, killer blast beats, and shriek-filled vocals, with the band sounding like they’re letting loose and planning to take out whatever or whoever is in front of them. The end of the song is buried in meaty riffs, with heavy waves lapping the shore. “Cure Us From Life” is a closer that is short and to the point, with a punk-fueled surge and a tempo that trucks forward heavily and with malice. A declaration stating, “We all face eternal damnation!” wails on you, as the grisly, ugly journey comes to the end, leaving you with a mouth full of blood and a body full of bruising.

Vanhelgd’s brand of death metal isn’t going to be featured on some corporate-driven summer shed show (thankfully) and isn’t buffed and pristine. It is filled with hate and bad intentions, with “Relics of Sulphur Salvation” landing as one of this year’s more dangerous exercises in classic death metal. They have a mission to fight back against what they have perceived as spiritual oppression, and they’ve done so in the ugliest way possible. This record completely kills, and it’ll blacken your entire day.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

Or here: http://pulverised.bigcartel.com/

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

And here: http://www.pulverised.net/

Funereal Presence tear open hell’s gates, unleash beasts on debut ‘The Archer Takes Aim’

Funereal PresenceDark forces have had a huge part of metal ever since the dawn of time, and the element of danger taking over the world and swallowing humanity always has been there as a threat thematically. At the same time, that thread might seem a little tiresome, but when the tale is told right, it still can be as compelling as anything.

New York-based black metal band Funereal Presence nail the whole thing on their debut full-length “The Archer Takes Aim,” a record that is as spooky and haunting as it is devastating and moltenly heavy. Led by sole creator Bestial Devotion (who also plays drums for the mighty Negative Plane), this band is one of the most interesting going in U.S. black metal and in the sub-genre the world over. The fact there is one man behind this whole thing is stunning, because this record is wholly realized like it had a handful of artists involved. There is so much going on here, and it is woven together seamlessly, that you can’t help but get totally hooked and sink into the dark violence lurking beneath everything. This is one of the most original-sounding metal albums I’ve heard so far this year, and I can’t stop listening to the thing, just trying to get a grasp on what’s going on. That doesn’t happen nearly enough these days.

If you go through the lyrics, you get a dark, threatening tale of the great beasts rising up, trying to choke out all light. In a way, it feels like a Biblical-style tale the way the story is told, and it has a feeling like what’s going on here not only threatens all humanity but the entire universe. There is a poison lurking that is seeking any vein that will accept its black tar, and if it has to infect by force, it will do so. It’s a terrifying display, one that could have you quaking inside, and this record gets over the idea better than any number of movies and television shows have tried to do and failed. It’s a charred display, and it’s not just a black metal opus. There are gothy, post-punk undertones present, as well as processional passages that might make you feel like you’re witnessing a mass burial in the face of black death.

The record opens with 12:29 “The Tower Falls,” a doomy, elegant number that sprawls out before it hits a devastating pace. The vocals are charred and chaotic, and death bells ring out on a consistent basis, always reminding you that death is right around the corner. There is some clean singing that reminds a bit of Ian Astbury, feeling dark and morbid, and the song keeps churning, making like a perfect soundtrack to a dark, ominous thunderstorm that soaks the earth. The song delves back into clean, murky territory before it charges back up again for one final assault. The 12:47-long title track follows, with huge, infernal organs breathing black smoke into the room, and the song blowing open with a great fury. There are strong guitar leads, galloping that has a NWOBHM feel to it, and savage, thunderous playing that is threatening and bold. More clean singing is worked into the mix, giving the song goth-fueled texture, and eventually the fierce tempo re-emerges and keeps the pace matching the menacing, calculating storyline, with a final howl of, “And the fall comes hard, down below into fires.”

The instrumental “Dammerlicht” is up next, which acts a perfect bridge from the title track to the epic conclusion that wraps it all up. More bells chime, a classic metal feel is infused back into the proceedings, and a full assault is launched onto your senses. The pace goes back and forth, letting this rise, subside, and boil over again, with the final moments absolutely exploding. That all sets the stage for the 16:19-long closer “Gestalt des Endes,” with guitars spilling out, the vocals sounding like they’re filtered through coal, and later some clean singing coming back to darken everything. Swirling melodies emerge and add a new element into the song, and more classic guitar work is infused to keep the charge moving forward. Once again, the tempos rise and fall, bringing you through various steps of drama, and the final fury-filled moments let the fires reach their highest point, strangling you with smoke and delivering a final blow designed to let the dark forces take hold and choke the world to death. It would be beautiful, actually, if the tyranny and violence wasn’t so thick and omnipresent.

Funereal Presence have a take on black metal all their own, and “The Archer Takes Aim” is one of the most interesting releases of the year so far. The record gives you plenty, always keeps you engaged, and continually feeds you morbid reminders that the world could be swallowed by dark forces at any moment, be that of a beastly or human variety. This album will envelop you in madness in a way few could, and the stories lurking here should keep you terrified and uncertain of your fate for hours on end.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.last.fm/music/Funereal+Presence

To buy the album, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/products/funereal-presence-2

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Black Anvil reach new levels of blackness, hate on smothering ‘Hail Death’

Black AnvilLet’s not waste a lot of time with today’s album, because Black Anvil have dropped something on us that is revelatory. This band always killed. But they always hinted at having something a little more than what they were showing us, like they had stockpiled weapons for a massive assault and only were giving us heavy body blows until the real arsenal arrived.

Over the course of their great first two records—2008’s debut “Time Insults the Mind” and 2010’s “Triumvirate”—the NYC maulers, veterans of hardcore unit Kill Your Idols, found a way to take the base they formed with their old band and add giant helpings of black metal and sludge to form a terrifying, lumbering group that could face any other band out there in hand-to-hand combat and more than hold their own. So the arrival of their third record “Hail Death” already was heavily anticipated by the metal world, and definitely by me, who spent a ton of time with the first two albums. In fact, for my running/exercise hate playlist, I have plenty of Black Anvil on there to keep me motivated, pissed off, and moving. But I had no idea that we’d hear on this third record would be this world toppling.

GD30OB2-N.cdrAt 10 tracks and clocking in at 71 minutes, Black Anvil have turned in the most ambitious, varied, violent, and astonishing record of their seven-year run. It topples everything they recorded before this, which is no easy task because, as noted, those offerings were massive. But they go so far beyond and into the darkness on “Hail Death,” that it’s practically a point of no return for them. In the best way possible. My first experience listening to this record stopped me dead in my tracks because I knew this was the band realizing their true potential. This would be their high water mark, and everything that comes after will be measured against this, whether or not that’s fair to the band—bassist/vocalist Paul Delaney, guitarist/vocalist Gary Bennett, drummer/vocalist Raeph Glicken, and new guitarist Sos. They remain true to black metal, for sure, but there are more elements of thrash, classic heavy metal, and even rock and roll, which makes for one raucous combination.

The record tears open with “Still Reborn,” a 9:09 crusher that opens gently enough with strains of acoustic guitars before erupting into molten lava. The music gets crunchy and vicious, the growls sound like they’re coming from the depths of hell, and the guitar soloing tears through your flesh like a knife. It never feels half as long as it is, but it definitely leaves you exhausted. “Redemption Through Blood” follows with militaristic drumming, bleak growls, gang shouts, and a hardcore spirit trickling through the song. Toward the end, everything ignites, with strong soloing, thrashy madness, and more chaotic shouts that hammer home the intensity of the thing. “Eventide” is chunky and fiery, with the growls letting menace rise, and eventually melody flushes into the song, infusing it with a Motorhead-style catchiness. “Together we run to death,” Delaney howls, as the band responds with vile amounts of crushing. “Seven Stars Unseen” has a clean intro that gives way to simmering, rock-style guitars, vocals that spit fire, and a true sense of classic heavy metal that makes me think back to the early 1980s. Great track. “G.N.O.N.” has wicked sounding guitar lines, chugging thrashing that could incite violence, and a blistering, speedy pace that will beat you half to death.

“Until the End” also begins with a sense of calm, taking its time to set up its intentions. The vocals are a mix of clean, but gruff singing and growls, and more classic metal guitar work sets up shop and meets headlong with their black metal tyranny. The song hits on a crushing pace that could destroy buildings if played loudly enough, and the track ends in a blaze of savagery. “My Hate Is Pure” kicks into high gear after an eerie intro, with the bulk of the song reeking of demolition and the torture of lost souls. The guitars gallop madly, the soloing is blazing, and the cut ends with everyone laying waste to their instruments and your senses. “N” is a strange one, with heavy moments but also paths of dark melody, and there are plenty of tempo changes that jerk you back and forth. The band eventually takes up arms by shouting in unison, “We are all, we are nothing!” making it almost like a mantra. “Next Level Black” could not have a more fitting name, and at 11:39, it tests your will. It begins with vocals and playing that are doomy and sour, leading you on a path to misdirection, before they launch in full and pour on the hate. The guitar playing is channeled and angry, the tempo smothers you, and the growls are downright animalistic. The band spends the entire run time just gouging away, piling on layers of blackness, and slaying until the final second when the song finally gives way to mercy. Capping off everything is a cover of one of Kiss’ weirdest songs—“Under the Rose” from their “Music From ‘The Elder’” record. It actually fits really well here, as the band puts in an honest reading of the song that matches the dour personality of this record. Cool choice.

“Hail Death” is a monumental moment in Black Anvil history, the record that truly signals their arrival as a leader of underground metal.  I can’t get over how heavy, abysmal, and violent this album is and just how far they’ve come as a band. If you’ve been along for the ride with Black Anvil, seek this out now. If you’re new to these guys, get ready to have your world burned to the ground by one of the world’s most devastating bands.

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

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

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

NOLA’s Eyehategod return with first new record in 14 years, and it’s totally worth the wait

EHGMetal bathes itself in destruction, both literally and figuratively. Of course, the sound is heavy and the thematic elements often are doused in punishment and death, but so are many of the lives of the people who play this music. That’s often the reason the music is so compelling.

The fact that we have sludge/doom legends Eyehategod still with us and operating is something of a miracle. This band has been tested like few others, as they have faced personal issues, drugs, arrests, and every bit of chaos one could imagine having to endure. Last year, the group was dealt yet another blow when longtime drummer Joe LaCaze passed away due to a respiratory ailment. Likely no one would have batted an eye or been the slightest bit shocked if the band decided to put their nearly 30-year legacy on the shelf and devoted their attention to the members’ myriad of side projects or just their own lives. But here we are in 2014, 14 years after their last full-length “Confederacy of Ruined Lives” dropped, with a new, self-titled platter that should more than please longtime devotees.

EHG coverDespite having such a storied history and a number of split, DVD, and other smaller releases, this is only full-length number five for the NOLA warriors. They’ve remained active and have toured, tackling demons along the way, and this new platter fits right in with their most noted work, 1993’s “Take As Needed for Pain” and 1996’s “Dopesick.” The band is in fine form, sounding strong and formidable, and singer Mike IX Williams (also of Corrections House, Outlaw Order) is as pissed off, passionate, and coherent as he’s ever been, making it a filthy joy to hear his work on this record. Along with him are guitarists Jimmy Bower (Down, ex-Superjoint Ritual) and Brian Patton (Soilent Green, Outlaw Order), bassist Gary Mader (Outlaw Order), and new drummer Aaron Hill, though LaCaze was able to finish the record’s drum tracks before his untimely passing. That’s a great final testament for him, and he’s an absolute force on this album.

“Agitation! Propaganda!” kicks things off with a punk-fueled rage that gets to those Black Flag comparisons right off the bat. Williams’ screams are bile-filled and nasty, and the rest of the band backs him up with attitudinal aggression. They could not have gotten off to a better start. “Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar” is up next, with feedback leading into a doomy pace, the vocals coming out gnarly and throaty, and the band hitting an awesome Southern-friend swagger, something to which they return often. “Parish Motel Sickness” is cold and uninviting at first, but then that bluesy demeanor returns in full, with Williams howling, “It takes a life of its own, it takes its own life!” The song is sludgy, heavy, and unhinged. “Quitter’s Offensive” has gruff screams and shouts from Williams that sound spat out, and the band gets thrashier, especially the guitars that whip a storm of a frenzy. “Nobody Told Me” opens in a cloud of noise, with a blues-fed groove back for more punishment. “Climb the walls!” Williams howls, as the rest of the guys hit onto a thrashier sequence and a killer guitar exchange that takes this thing out on a fiery note.

“Worthless Rescue” has more swampy vibes, but it gets down in the dirt as the song goes on, with filthy playing and grimy vocals to match. “Framed to the Wall” is charged up right from the start, as they let things boil over, with the punk vibes returning and the music sent into a rage. “Robitussin and Rejection” sounds as messed up as its title indicates, with Williams shouting, “Staggering backward,” as if he’s reliving some old war tales, with menacing, humid music giving his delivery even more weight. “Flags and Cities Bound” is the longest cut at 7:11, and it’s full of Williams’ dark poetry, some simmering heat, and truly thought-provoking work before it meets up with thunderous guitars and a more sinister pace. Williams unleashes his howl once again, with LaCaze’s drums absolutely demolishing everything in sight and dousing gasoline on this already blazing heap. “Medicine Noose” is doomy and has a proper bluesy strut, while closer “The Age of Bootcamp” gives the record a perfect conclusion, with Williams howling a diatribe of one-word shouts such as, “Hammer! Sickle!” that makes him sound like he’s assembling a weapons list. The song is confrontational and wailing, and the whole thing fades out into a bath of chaos that lets everything melt down to the ground permanently. If the hairs on your arms aren’t standing after this is done, you’ve either shaved your arms or you can’t feel anything worthwhile.

Having a new Eyehategod record in 2014—and a ridiculously awesome one—is a gift to all metalkind, and this self-titled opus was worth the 14-year wait. It’s great to hear this band hitting on all muddy cylinders all these years later, after all the tumult, and they deserve to have this album be remembered as one of their greatest triumphs. Because that’s what it is.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.eyehategod.ee/

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

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

Serpentine Path back to crush heads with their vicious doom on second record ‘Emanations’

Serpentine PathDoom metal, at its core, is not supposed to be friendly and inviting. It is meant to be ugly and dark, potentially scary, and with bad intentions. That’s why, when done right, even at its most melodic, it feels like a dark omen and bad things waiting to happen.

One band that totally gets that right on their second album is metal superforce Serpentine Path, made up members of the befallen Unearthly Trance and the mighty Electric Wizard. Those two bands right there had their own ways of bringing out darkness and fury, and each differentiated enough from each other that they had their own followings, but certainly a meeting in the middle for much of their respective audiences. On their self-titled 2012 debut record, they proved they could pull their forces together and make for a great band that could combine the sum of its parts and come out sounding dangerous and like a monster born anew.

Serpentine Path coverThey accomplish a similar feat on their new record “Emanations,” a seven-track, 45-minute skull basher that isn’t trying to win any style points and doesn’t care to wow you with theatrics. Instead, this is plug-in, forge-forward, maintain-the-course doom that sludges and pounds relentlessly. There are few tempo switches, not many fireworks, and no room for dazzling playing, so what you get is a workmanlike effort that’s giving you exactly what you deserve, in a serving size big enough to leave you full and swollen. What more can you ask for? The band is just about the same lineup as who killed you on their debut, with a member added for good measure. Ryan Lipynsky (currently also with The Howling Wind and ex-Unearthly Trance, ex-Thralldom) on vocals, Tim Bagshaw (ex-Electric Wizard) and Steve Flam (who came on after the debut and is of doom stalwarts Winter) on guitars, Jay Newman (also ex-Unearthly Trance and ex-Thralldom) on bass, and Darren Verni (ex-Unearthly Trance) on drums.

The record opens with “Essence of Heresy,” the shortest track of the bunch at 3:47 and as good an introduction to this feast as possible. Lipynsky’s growls are gruff and instantly recognizable, and the band wails away with a steady attack with just a little melodic dressing over top. “House of Worship” is mucky and plodding, with strong guitar work and more monstrous growls to hammer home the message. “Treacherous Waves” is a 7:45-long pounder, opening with spacey, atmospheric noise that eventually gets overwhelmed by a slow-driving doom assault that feels like a volcano slowly overflowing. The vocals take on a scary pitch, and the bulk of this piece simmers in place, letting smoke rise up. “Claws” runs 7:30 and is built on sinister riffs, guitar lines swirling, and mesmerizing melodies that could dizzy you. The final moments of the song bring the whole thing to a blazing finish, with metallic chaos rising up and the vocals evoking savagery.

“Disfigured Colossus” is as punishing and crushing as the earthquake that destroyed the Colossus statue in 226 B.C., as the track pounds and rumbles hard, mauling your insides and continuing to slam away at you until you think you can’t take anymore. It’s wholly devastating. “Systematic Extinction” pulls you through 7:14 of horror, with huge roars, slow-cooking drubbing, and some mournful tones to the guitar work as if they’re channeling the darkest of Black Sabbath. The final moments have the guitars bubbling up again and threatening overflow before noise takes over and leads right into the 8:24-long closer “Torment,” that easily lives up to its name. “No chance to survive,” Lipynsky howls over corrosive guitar work and a pace that stays pretty much the same as it lays in the bruising. The band chugs hard over the length of the cut, with everything taking on a thornier tone, only to drown in relentless feedback and eventually dissolve.

Serpentine Path’s mission remains true on “Emanations,” and it’s a solid blast of calculated, drubbing doom that explores the darkness and brings you along for the ride. It’s an album suited for solitary listening, preferably by headphones, where you can absorb the music and the words, and not be distracted by outside forces. There are bands out there with more flash, but few with the drive, bloodthirst, and determination of Serpentine Path.

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

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

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

Young and in the Way let morbid darkness, fury explode on new killer ‘When Life Comes to Death’

YAITWIt is our right as humans to feel nasty and angry, and as long as we find constructive ways to get out that vitriol, there’s nothing wrong with that. It always seems like there’s that one person out there who wants you to smile through agony and look on the bright side, but to hell with that.

Music that equals that mentality and makes you understand the rage and disgust inside of you can be cathartic and make you feel a part of the chaos you’re hearing, and I find that every time I hear Young and in the Way. It feels like a cult in a way, something to which you can subscribe and find that thing that unites you with others who feel the same things inside. Over the course of their four full-length efforts, including the cataclysmic new “When Life Comes to Death,” their first record for Deathwish Inc., where they could not be more at home. Their combination of furious black metal, crust, and hardcore melds perfectly, and their assault never has been more on point than it is on this new album.

YAITW coverThe band chooses to look at itself as a brotherhood, a single entity united in pain and anger, so we’re not going to list the various members here to keep in line with their philosophy. The Charlotte, N.C., group also has members of other bands such as Votnut, Ayr, and Worsen, but this union as YAITW is ready to set fire to the world and take unprepared prisoners who don’t have any idea what’s about to hit them. Yeah, the band uses familiar sounds and mashes them together, but it’s the way they do it and their incredible execution that sets them apart from most other heavy bands, and you can feel in your veins the madness and chaos afoot on this great record.

“Betrayed By Light” opens the record on a raw note, with creaky vocals that sound like they originated in a cave in Norway, a razor-sharp black metal approach, and some great guitar work. Lines such as, “The time has come!” are howled that sound as much like a warning as a declaration. Chilling pianos drip at the end and lead into “Fuck This Life,” that keeps the mentality the same, as well as the sonic assault, and the band completely steamrolls over you on this track. “Be My Blood” has more of a hardcore feel to it, both in sound and spirit, and the song is punishing and callous. “Self-Inflicted” has thunder and feedback pouring down, but just when the band reaches a fever pitch, the tides turns and it goes eerie and cold. “Loved and Unwanted” sets everything ablaze again, with dangerous howls of, “Pull the trigger! Shoot me dead!” and the pace of the song matches the insanity of the words. “We Are Nothing” keeps the sentiment in place, as it’s sludgy and dizzying, with nothing but black thoughts flowing freely.

“Final Dose” is short and to the point, wasting no time decimating you with their power and ill intent, and then it’s into “Weep In My Dust,” that blows open with devastating drumming, black metal-draped guitar work, the band trying to kill you slowly, and a molten end that burns hard. “Take My Hand” has slow-driving muck, a thrashy groove that is tasty and full of torment, but then everything halts and goes clean and spooky. It doesn’t feel comforting at all. It feels like they’re setting the stage for horror, and sure enough, the explosions tear you to bits. “A Shadow of Murder” sounds like, from its name, that it should be another dose of napalm, but it’s not. There are eerie noises, acoustic guitars strumming, and lowly delivered growls that match the environment. The song is sorrowful and dark as a day-long downpour, and the blast you expect is coming never arrives. It’s an awesome, effective change of pace. Closer “Embrace Extinction” is the 9:46 closer that begins dreary and spacey, like something you might hear during an out-of-body experience. The song eventually begins to open up, with the band starting to club you anew, chaos re-emerging, and noise simmering and eventually bubbling over. There is a morbid shout of, “I die in vain!” that sounds like a bloody exclamation point at the end of the record, and it allows you one final chance to bask in the morose atmosphere.

YAITW bring back an element of danger to metal, and that’s something that’s been sorely missed. From the artwork for “When Life Comes to Death” to their menacing approach to their utter darkness, this band is a killer, one you need to hear right now if you haven’t already. This band is going to roll heads and spill blood, and if the darkness you feel inside matches theirs, you’re likely going to find a kindred spirit that knows how to draw forth those demons and put them to good use.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://store.deathwishinc.com/category/new.html

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Emptiness pack unconventional terror, murk into ‘Nothing But the Whole’

EmptinessWarped chaos and black infinity sound like better subjects for a Monday post, I know, but there’s no reason why they can’t brighten your weekend in a real charred way as well. You do the same thing every weekend, right? So why not dig into a new record that’s almost impossible to describe and will make you feel uncomfortable and just a little nauseous when it’s over?

See, today we have “Nothing But the Whole,” the fourth full-length effort from Belgian monsters Emptiness, and what you’re bound to feel inside when it’s over will pretty much be the opposite of the band’s name. It’s a strange, warbling, challenging record, and chances are this won’t be the thing you want to hear as you’re driving down a highway looking for an adrenaline rush, you amateur. Instead, this is the type of record you put on late at night, with the lights down, and hopefully it’s storming with plenty of lightning just to add another layer of eerie ambiance. It’ll fill you with fear and make you think your head is full of noises telling you to do strange things. You might find when the record comes to an end, you’re flooded with strange ideas and indecipherable messages, but that means you absorbed this thing just right, and you’re ready for another trip.

Emptiness coverEmptiness is masterminded by two members of black metal cult Enthroned, that being lead vocalist and bassist Phorgath and guitarist/vocalist Olve j.LW. While their other band is a little more conventional in the black metal sense, they uncover new levels of strangeness and savagery with Emptiness, showing you they have far more prowess for the dark arts than you ever realized. Alongside of them are two more black souls in the form of guitarist Phil Pieters Smith (a former member of Manic Movement) and drummer Jonas Sanders (who also plays in Drakkar, Resistance, and Age of Movement, among others). The band reaches a new level of menace and mystery on “Nothing But the Whole,” and it’s bound to be one of the most unique, unsettling death metal experiences you’ll have all year long.

The vicious, malicious “Go and Hope” begins the record, and while it’s a grisly, furious song, it’s not brutal riffs and blast beats on top of each other. Instead it’s a cold piece, with strains of deathrock and dreary playing, as Phorgath delivers his growled vocals almost as if he’s reading an epitaph. It’s not a conventional delivery, and that’s what makes it so damn effective. There are pained cries and wails, some gothic instincts, and final noises that grind out into dust. The title track follows, built on low rumble growls that sound like they’re bouncing on an underground electric wave, charged-up riffs, and some off-kilter melodies that lash back and forth. There are elements of doom and classic black metal to be heard, as well as voices swirling all over the place, with the song disappearing into madness. “Behind the Curtain” is a strange one, opening with more odd noisemaking and the song floating in ether before it hits on a death groove and some chugging that seems to come out of nowhere, with Phorgath howling, “I call to you, my faithful friend!” The song switches tempos often, from spooky to crunchy, all the way up to its conclusion. “All Is Known” is the longest cut of the seven at 8:51, and it has liquidy guitars tricking, some thorny riffs that threaten to scar, and gravelly vocals. The track has some moments where it leans more toward a rock tempo, which feels strange considering the surroundings, but the tumult comes back around again, eventually drowning out in static.

“Tale of a Burning Man” brings back the aggression, with corrosive guitar work, dizzying melodies, and creaky growls that sound like they’re being transmitted from beyond the grave. “The Past Is Death” has threatening riffs, a plodding atmosphere that boils and burns, and furious growls that are frightening because they feel strangely detached. Later, there are some vocals that feel like they’re meant to be spoken, though they sound filtered through glass, and the final moments of the song veer back into explosive chaos and finally dissolve into nothingness. Closer “Lowland” injects more deathrock cloudiness into the record, following that up with an explosion display from the band and Phorgath following up with grisly vocals. The band drives far off the path of conventional and expected with their playing, exploding over and over again with their murky assault, leading toward its sinewy bizarre finish complete with echoey growls and guitars slicing and dicing everything in front of them. If you need a moment once the record ends, you’re not alone. I needed a few minutes to figure out what I’d just heard, and even then it took another trip to really grab hold of my thoughts.

There’s nothing normal about Emptiness’ approach to death metal, and that is awfully damn refreshing in a world where everyone is grinding out the same thing. A band that can put chills up your spine is a lost treasure in today’s world, and having a band like this that can freeze you over and over again is something to behold. “Noting But the Whole” is an experience you won’t soon shake, and like a ghoul looking to exact revenge on you for some kind of wrong, it will haunt you until your final days.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.emptiness.be/

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

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

Landskap’s debut ‘I’ packed with trad doom, psychedelic fog, and bizarre cosmic transmissions

LandskapIt’s always cool when a label tosses you a curveball and releases a record you might not ordinarily expect them to handle. I’m talking stuff like Relapse working with True Widow, or Profound Lore putting out Liar in Wait’s EP, or even Gilead Media releasing music from Lychgate. All of those labels have open minds for sure, but they still surprise you with something now and again.

Now the same thing can be said for Iron Bonehead, who usually put out the gnarliest, most vicious of death metal bands, most of which create sounds that seem like they originated in a crypt. They’ve become a pretty damn reliable label for when you want death metal that feels raw and violent, but now they have a release that might take some by surprise with Landskap’s debut offering “I.” The music sounds influenced by psychedelic rock and doom metal from the late 1960s and early 1970s, and it’s one hell of a headtrip taking on this four-track record from this UK-based band. If you let the music take over your mind and body, you could find yourself transformed somewhere unexpected, and you might not even need mind-altering substances to get there. But it’s also heavy and riffy, so you get a dose of weightiness along with the trippiness.

landskap coverLandskap are comprised of musicians who have made marks elsewhere in a number of noteworthy bands, and they came together for the simplest of purposes, to share influences and play a different style of music from what they were doing in other groups. The lineup includes Jake Harding on vocals (he also plays with sludge/doomers Dead Existence); George Pan (Father Sun) on guitars; Frederic Caure (currently of Serpentcult) on bass and rhythm guitar; Kostas Panagiotou (Aphonic Threnody and Pantheist, and formerly of Crippled Black Phoenix) on keyboards and organs; and Paul Westwood (Pan and death metal dreamers Indesinence) on drums. They sound pretty damn tight together, and their ability to throw themselves into eras past and remain true to that sound is pretty remarkable and makes for a record that should please longtime doom fans and newcomers who relish a vintage sound.

The first side of “I” begins with the 11:37-long “A Nameless Fool,” a song that begins loud and disruptive but then settles into a psychedelic groove, with strong doom riffs, death bells, and smoking organs. Harding’s vocals finally open up, and they definitely stand apart from the rest of the metal world, even the doom category as they sound transported right from the 1970s, when having pipes mattered. The song eventually darkens again, with a sinister rhythmic underbelly, simmering, fiery guitar work over top, and the band unleashing their true power at that point. Harding returns to warn, “Possessions weigh you down until the day we die,” as the band fires its final salvo that fades out in noise. “My Cabin in the Woods” follows, and this instrumental sounds like said cabin would be located on a far-off planet somewhere. It’s full of psychedelic space rock, and it’s a cool little piece.

“Fallen So Far” kicks off the second side of the album, and it’s packed with bluesy doom swagger that shows off their attitude. Even the singing, as melodic as it is, has a menacing shine to it even when Harding is trying to wallow in positivity with lines such as, “Speak the words you forgot to say, a belief in better days.” The song kicks into a cool Black Sabbath-style shuffle, complete with mind-altering keyboards and fiery soloing. It’s a great piece. “To Harvest the Storm” is the 11:54-long closing instrumental, and it packs in more space rock, but in a much darker sense. Eventually the volume and intensity really kick in, giving you a good drubbing before the next section blows in and fills the air with mesmerizing tranquility.  The last portion of the song really gets the jets going as the band starts clobbering you and letting smoke rise everywhere, with the storm continuing to build and everything dissipating in a psyche fog. Naturally. I mean, how else would you expect this to end?

This is an interesting, spirited record that really hit a sweet spot with me. Especially since so much doom is starting to sound so similar (sludge and growled vocals), it’s cool to hear these guys sticking to classic sounds and doing a damn fine job interpreting them. Hopefully we get more from Landskap in between the members’ other projects, because it sounds like they have a lot more to say and plenty of psychedelic magic to make killer music for years to come.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://ironbonehead.de/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.ironbonehead.de/