PICK OF THE WEEK: Alraune ignite new black metal torches on ‘The Process of Self-Immolation’

AlrauneSurely you’ve put on a record before that, the moment the sounds begin to assault you from your speakers, you stop dead in your tracks. This doesn’t happen to me often enough, mostly because of metal’s over saturation and that I listen to anywhere from 10-30 new records per week. But when it does, you have my attention.

I just started a new job, and getting used to being up early and driving a vehicle competently among a sea of people who aren’t, took some adjusting. Having music like I described above provided a huge boost, and I got that with “The Process of Self-Immolation,” the debut full-length from Nashville black metal monsters Alraune. The music is immediate, sudden, and savage, and there is a huge wave of creativity locked into their style that separates them from the many other bands trying this same thing. They sound primitive, animalistic, and raw, but they also have a modernity to them that draws you in. It’s sort of like hearing familiar sounds in a new vein, because these guys have their own way of approaching these dark arts and raucously displaying them for you their own way, doubters be damned. This record is such a force, it’s taking two labels to get this madness to the people–Profound Lore is handling CD and digital, while Gilead Media is releasing the vinyl a little later this summer. When you hear this monster, you’ll understand why it’s taking this effort to get it into as many ears as humanly possible.

Alraune coverDepending on what other underground extreme metal bands you follow, you might know some of the players in this formidable new band. Guitarist/vocalist Z. Allen also works as sound engineer for doom metal maulers Loss, plays in Vesicus, and used to play in Mourner; while drummer T. Coburn is a member of noise heathens Yautja (who you need to hear if you haven’t already) as well as Gnarwhal. With them are guitarist J. House and bassist J. Weilburg, and their power is undeniable and full of dynamic energy. Yes their sound is dirty, unpolished, and guttural, but you can hear the inventiveness and freshness of their playing, and they are one of the most exciting new U.S. black metal bands to crop up over the past few years. These guys sound like the future.

The first thing that greets listeners is the off-kilter, string-strangled, but oddly melodic “Prelude,” a brief instrumental that isn’t just there as a standard introduction. It’s alluring and different, and the feel of the thing makes it clear you’re in for something different. “Exordium” practically bursts from its cage, with nasty, feral black metal melodies, and the vocals sound unhinged and able to warp any sense of morality that exists inside you. There are moments of crusty fury, eventually some scintillating atmosphere that slows you down to take some deep breaths, and drums that rip apart any sign of beauty. The band begins to wrap up their loose ends, and the track concludes on a majestic note. “Simulacra” starts with weird guitar playing that sounds like it’s coming from a warped machine, and the it’s onto a prog-fueled section that could have you tilting you head with intrigue. A storm blows in our of the calm, with the band firing hammers at you with some of the most sweltering guitar riffs known to man, and the vocals go from creaky growl to a hardcore-style shout, as if trying to round up like-minded souls to join their mission. The song has a ton of twists and turns, never alerting you when a neck-wrenching turn is coming, and the final moments switch from warm to cold, bleeding into what’s next.

That would be “Kissed By the Red,” a track that opens with soaring glory and static damage that mix together perfectly. Vicious growls roll into cascading black melodies and continual metamorphoses by the band. The track never stays in one place for very long, but it’s not just piling on changes and abrupt halts for nothing. The guys are going somewhere with this, dragging you around unexpected corners, down the wormhole, and as the song reaches its finish, the violence bursts anew. The final moments come from Isla Cameron’s chilling take of “O Willow Waly,” from the 1961 film “The Innocents.” It crackles like it’s spilling in from a dream, and it’s hard not to feel a chill down your spine at that very moment. The closing title track is the longest song on here at 11:17, and it opens in a rabid metallic outburst that is mean and blistering. The vocals sound like they’re coming from an asphyxiated throat, getting across the feeling of chaos and damaged thoughts, and just like the other songs on the record, it twists, turns, and puts on new faces that give the track an entirely new personality continually. Some gazey darkness sweeps in, preceding a section that feels like heavy rains are drowning the earth, and the final minutes of the song are swirling, incredibly ambitious, and trying their damnest to take out as many as people possible with its wilding aimed fists. These ae 38 of the most exciting metal you’ll hear all year long, and the only thing you can do is be thankful that you got to be a part of it.

Alraune is a great new hope for black metal, and their first album “The Process of Self-Immolation” is one you should make a point to hear as soon as possible. This is a destination release for 2014, the emergence of a new band that could be a hellacious force heading into the future and one that could rewrite the template for this style of music. This is a collection that forces heads to turn, as violently as possible, and they have on their hands one of the best debut records of 2014.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ALRAUNE/132403286836721

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

Or here (click on upcoming/pre-order): http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

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

Or here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Sunwølf challenge metal’s template, forge new ones on ‘Beholden to Nothing & No One’

SW promoOne of the many things that makes metal so great is that it practically is a living, breathing organism. It has developed over time, starting as something that grew out of the blues into a beast that is altogether its own thing. It didn’t get there overnight, and it took bands that took chances to keep pushing the boundaries.

You really can’t just say “heavy metal” anymore, as it has so many offshoots that the term only applies in the loosest sense. That’s a positive thing, as it has made for the inclusion or artists and sounds that perhaps would not have been embraced a decade or two ago and made it part of its DNA. If this was 2000 or 1990, chances are that England’s Sunwølf would not be a part of the conversation on a site like this and might even struggle to find where they belong. But the genre has changed, and we have progressed as listeners, so a band like this totally has a place somewhere up on that massive, heavily branched family tree. Yes, they have their heavy, doggedly punishing moments that might remind some of bands such as Neurosis or Cult of Luna, but they also have calmer, more picturesque sections to their music that could help them find favor among a great deal of hard rock or indie rock fans.

Sunw├╕lf - Beholden To Nothing And No OneThe band has returned with their incredible, compelling new double album “Beholden to Nothing and No One,” and this sprawling gem is one that’ll captivate you from the first moments and take you on a 14-track journey that’ll go by in a flash. There are elements of doom, death, and sludge, but there also are huge post-rock sections, folk tendencies, and atmospheric wonders that blend beautifully. The band has toured with artists that speak to their musical diversity, including Jesu, Chelsea Wolfe, and Forest Swords, and their sound also would sound perfect preceding bands such as Boris or Deafheaven. Not that they sound like those groups. They just have enough in common that they’d make great bedfellows. The duo of Matt Carrington and Dominic Deane is joined by some special guests along the way and put together their most expansive document yet, and each side of this mammoth differ from each other greatly. That’s just another element that makes this record so powerful.

The first half of the record is 50 minutes, and it’s the heavier, gnarlier of the two. “In the Darkened River I Found the Silence Loom” opens the album with a wave of ambiance and drone, with guitars eventually trickling in. Tiffany Ström of Myyths provides vocals, with her lovely voice adding a dream-state element to the song–she reminds me a lot of the aforementioned Wolfe–and the 7:13-long opener eventually fades into the night and paves the way for “The Widow’s Oil.” That cut has clean, cold guitar work that drizzles and causes shivers, leading into “Vultures Crown,” the heaviest cut on the record and one that’ll take off your head. The vocals are gritty and howled, there is a hulking dose of metallic violence, and the song is heavy as hell. “The Wake of the Leviathan” also is devastating and menacing, with chugging riffs, noise that pierces your eardrums, and wild howls including, “We drown at their feet!” “Thrown Into a Nameless Time” is buzzing and hypnotic for its first minutes, and then it begins clubbing you hard, with throaty growls, droning clean singing, and mucky sounds that hang in the air. “Totem” is a smothering instrumental caked with mud, and it’s followed by the title cut, that takes its time to start burning, and once it does, Peter Finch’s speech from “Network” sweeps in and adds a dramatic, forceful blast. “Heathen’s Rest” caps off the first half, as the 10:14-long burner meanders purposely and has a burnt Western feel to it. This song has amazing body and emotion, complete with vocals that’ll arrest your soul, and it’s an ideal segue into the second half of the record.

Part two of “Beholden to Nothing and No One” runs 35 minutes, and it’s pulled back, more atmospheric, and more reflective. The 7:15 “Twelve Sunne” begins with pulsating sounds and cosmic noises that reverberate in your mind. There is a clip from a Noam Chomsky speech woven into the song, giving it a sobering dose of reality, and that track bleeds into “Come O Spirit, Dwell Among Us” that sizzles from the very start. There is an ambient haze, but noise beneath it begins to bubble and swell, threatening any sense of calm you may have achieved. Guitars moan and whine, sounding equally in pain and ecstasy, and all of the sounds combine to cry a river all the way to the song’s conclusion. “Ithaca” is a shorter track, with a field of horns adding humidity, and dusty guitars injecting psychedelic power into the scene. “Symptoms of Dearth” has a slow, sprawling personality, and it reminds a bit of Earth’s later-era work. The melodies set in over time and get into your bloodstream, and horns rear their heads again and provide a brassy finish. “Lotus Island” is the darkest cut on the second half of the album, as chant-like vocals spread out, with electric stabs lacing the area with bruises. Doomy waters begin to flow heavily, with a sense of danger rising up, and the final moments eventually release their grip and permit air back into your lungs. Closer “Of Darknesse” is the perfect way to let you off gently, with piano notes dripping, somber and dreary melodies unfurling, a female voice calling out, and the record folding itself up and fading much in the same way it introduced itself. It’s quite a journey you’ll take with this record, and don’t be surprised if you go back again and again. I know I have.

Sunwølf is another band pushing the limits of heavy metal and infusing new ideas and sounds into the genre and their own work. This third album “Beholden to Nothing and No One” is a fantastic record that gives you heaviness and inventiveness, and every moment of this thing is worth fully absorbing. This is a band that hasn’t met its full potential yet on a recognition standpoint, but this record very well could get them there. They already have the artistic chops. The only way you can be disappointed by this music and this band is if you have no heart or soul.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://Sunwølf .bigcartel.com/

Morose Wreck and Reference construct cold, violent tales of isolation and pain on ‘Want’

Wreck and referenceFeeling miserable, detached, and without tangible hope is a way for going through life for some people. Not everyone has the same fortunes as you or is as happy as you are (and the opposite also can be true), and it can be healthy for us to immerse ourselves in darkness just so we can appreciate the good in our lives.

That’s why new music from Wreck and Reference always is a sobering way to realize things aren’t as bad as one imagines. These guys sound like they’re on the brink of self-destruction, if they’re not literally reporting from that area while creating their music, and the band’s new record “Want” is a volatile trip through dark emotions one cannot hope to control and violent outbursts that can be as mental as they are physical. Nothing this band does ever goes down easily or smoothly, and what they accomplish on their latest album is explosive, teetering-on-the-brink of insanity madness that captures your mind and then crushes it until the juice comes out.

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}Over the course of their two dull-length records and two smaller releases, the band of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Felix Skinner and drummer Ignat Frege have made a musical world entirely their own. They don’t fit into a genre, not nicely anyway, and while they have elements of doom, metal, hardcore, New Wave, No Wave, post-rock, and a ton of other sources, they don’t fully belong in any one of those areas. On “Want,” they push even further into abrasion, terror, and psychotic isolation, even more so than they did on “Youth” and “Content.” The vocals are angrier, more forceful, and filled with manic growls and shrieks, while musically, the palette is richer than ever before. What remains are what sound like rants of desperation and struggle to make sense with the world and things that happen to darken one’s life. The music is a reaction to that, and it’s impossible not to feel every ounce of pain and torment.

You get a heavy dose of what’s so different this time around on the monstrous, ugly opener “Corpse Museum,” that is dressed in distressed, death-like howls, weird doom clouds that blacken the area, and strange percussion. Amid echoes and buzzing melodies, Skinner imagines being gunned down in a crime of passion, and repeatedly observes something that’s “never ending, always ending, floating away.” “Apollo Beneath the Whip” pulls the vocals back to a deep croon, with somber destruction dominating and the song coming to a sudden, bleak end. “Stranger, Fill This Hole in Me” is disconcerting from its title, but then digging in, you get slow, spacey atmosphere, psychedelic lashings, eerie keys, and Skinner vowing, “I don’t want to feel.” “Bankrupt” returns to off-kilter screaming, deranged melodies, and cold keys that easily could freeze you. Noise begins to spit sparks, stinging you skin, and the slow-paced drum beats make the pace feel deliberate. “A Glass Cage for an Animal” has roiling noises, with primitive-style wailing of, “He knows the price of his apparent freedom,” like he’s an animal subject to the bars. It sounds like frozen, winter-ridden hardcore. “A Tax” trickles like a ghost, making everything uncomfortable, with drone, foggy transmissions, and vocals that go from singing to speaking to shouting.

“Flies” feel ominous and angelic, if that was a horrible, torturous thing. There is choral backing, noise that buzzes and penetrates, and numbing tones that lull you into a drug-like state of bliss. Then you’re awakened hard by the mad cries of, “With our hands out to the sky, just to surrender,” as if Skinner has endured too much pain to go on and can’t quite determine the proper avenue for his own mercy. “Convalescence” is like a damp, unwelcome draft coming through your window, with chilled, detached vocals that sound robotic, and eventually the complete disintegration of the senses. “Machine of Confusion” is a bowl of cosmic soup, gray, with all kinds of odd matter scattered about, and static-stained vocals that sound delivered from beyond. “Shallow” has a sci-fi synth edge to it, with throaty, pained vocals, weird blips, and an eventual request for information with, “Is this the end?” Closer “Apologies” is dense and soaking in organ fog, wild screams, and threads of solemnity. It feels like the last whims of a beaten man, with repeated cries of, “Surrender!” that both seem like a plea and an observation of the narrator’s crumbled mind.

Each Wreck and Reference release is its own beast and also feels like its being followed by one just as bloodthirsty. The noise, panic, personal chaos, and psychotic detachment contained in these songs could make you fumble for a light or a friend or some kind of solace. The tracks on “Want” dig in that deep, making for one of the most disturbing, mentally terrifying, yet artistically stimulating records to surface so far this year. God help us if someone figures out a way to top it.

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

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

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

7-inch roundup: New mini vinyl releases from Derketa, Krieg, Ramlord, Wolvhammer & more

Derketa (Photo by Miser Photography)

Derketa (Photo by Miser Photography)

With all of the full-length records that come out each month, it’s easier for the smaller releases to get lost in the shuffle. We try not to let that happen here, and there is a nice collection of 7-inch records that have come out recently that deserve your attention.

Whatever style of metal is your preference, there is something good for you to enjoy, and the one we are going to feature today sold out in Pittsburgh in practically no time. If you don’t have it by now, sorry. You may never have a physical copy of it, and that’s a major loss for you. But there are plenty more new mini releases out that you can get your hands on and annoy your neighbors, family, pets, whoever as you set these up on your turntable to do as much auditory damage as possible.

Derketa 7-inchLet’s start with Pittsburgh death metal crushers Derketa, who helped pioneer the death and doom sound in the city and who have been on a killer roll ever since their full-length “In Death We Meet” arrived in 2012. They’ve certainly been busy playing shows, including a bunch around here, and now they’ve hit back with a special 7-inch release in conjunction with Mind Cure Records. That shop is located in the Polish Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and started to put out monthly singles by local bands, also featuring Killer of Sheep, Old Head, and Mud City Manglers (a band that also features Derketa guitarist Mary Bielich). Derketa’s was just released last month, and unless you happened to hit the shop the weekend it was released, you’re out of luck. That sucker flew off the shelves, and all copies are now spoken for (though it’s possible to find one locally at Sound Cat Records or Desolation Row).

You can hear the songs online (check out You Tube and Reverb Nation), and plans are in the works for the tracks to be released digitally in the future. Keep checking with the band’s Facebook link below for more info as to when you can grab these two tracks. And you’ll really want to get these in your ears as soon as you can, because the band sounds doom-encrusted, grisly, and fiendishly melodic as always, kicking off with the new band-penned cut “Darkness Fades Life.” It’s pure, true Derketa death, a nice extension of their album and a bloody step into the future, with guitarist Sharon Bascovsky’s growls sounding like they’re emanating from a dusty, web-marred grave. If this song is a sign as to how their next album is going to sound, then it cannot get here fast enough. The B side is a real treat, a cover of the Sepultura classic “Troops of Doom.” It’s a nice amalgamation of thrash and death, and the band puts a dark, bludgeoning spin on it. This is a smothering release for Derketa, and they remain the reigning masters of death metal in Pittsburgh. Next up: The world.

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

For more on Mind Cure, go here:http://mindcurerecords.com/

Krieg WolvKrieg have been especially busy on the 7-inch front, as the Neill Jameson-led project has two new ones out for your consumption. We’ll start with Krieg’s split collaboration with the mighty Wolvhammer, brought to you by Broken Limbs Recordings. Krieg hammer you with grimy black metal on “Eternal Victim.” The track sounds like a threatening thunderstorm hanging overhead as the fury full unfurls. The band unloads a thrash assault that drips with darkness, and the vocals eventually go unhinged and deranged. It’s not pretty, to be sure, but it’s a fine piece of work that should make longtime Krieg fans more than happy. Wolvhammer’s cut “Slave to the Grime” is a rough version of the track of the same name that’s on the band’s destructive new record “Clawing Into Black Sun.” It’s a nice appetizer cut for those who haven’t heard the record yet or are new to the band, and it’s chock full of morose melodies and gritty pounding. Really good track, and a 7-inch release you should probably buy right now.

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

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

To buy the record, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/

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

Krieg RamlordAs noted, there is more Krieg for you, this time on a split with Ramlord that’s being released in mid July by Unholy Anarchy. On this record, Krieg rips open with “Mocking Dead Empires,” a track that’s black metal for sure, but it also has a filthy punk feel to it as well. It bludgeons and speeds over your prone body, with tasty riffs and wheels moving faster than you can handle. The other track is a cover of DOOM’s “Worthless Nothing” that is as ugly and gritty as they come. It’s a pretty fun look at the song, albeit in a way that could bloody you, and it might be the main event of this collection for some. Ramlord’s tyranny is obvious from the start of “Grey Sky Prison,” a track that mixes doom, hardcore, and noise into one ball of hell. The vocals sound spat out forcefully by a disconnected lunatic, and the guitar work should get fists pumping. “From Absolution to Eradication” has much the same sound, with raspy yowled vocals and as familiar melody, and after 1:08, the thing is over. Cool pairing and a completely deranged collection, which is a good thing.

For more on Ramlord, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ramlord/116149375131744

To buy the record, go here: http://www.store.unholyanarchy.com/

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

Ruins UsneaWe wrap up with a split collection pitting Germany’s Ruins with the U.S.’s Usnea, a pretty damn strong pairing. Ruins get started with “Discrimen,” a sludgy, blistering cut that also has a decent dose of atmosphere. The vocals are practically barked out, while the music boils underneath, and the build is done expertly, leading you into each peak and valley. It’s a tremendously heavy bastard, and each second of this thing could make you want to wrap your fist around a pole. Usnea’s “Only the End of the World” begins rather gently, with clean notes floating in and bending. But you know it’s not to last, and that pays off when the doom hammer drops and the gory vocals spill into the scene. The panic drives slowly, and as the song progresses, the band digs into muddy terrain, dragging you face-first along their quest. The song bubbles when it needs to, demands your interest stay put, and delivers a heavy debt. These two bands deserve more attention, and perhaps this release will lead to each band getting exactly that.

For more on Ruins, go here: http://www.blacksquares.de

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

To buy the record, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pittsburgh’s Wrought Iron pour violence, filth into ‘Rejoice & Transcend’

Wrought IronPittsburgh has many things going for it. There have been decades of great sports triumphs with the Steelers and Penguins winning multiple championships. The city transformed itself from a smoky, steel-producing behemoth to one of the most picturesque places in America with a thriving healthcare industry. It’s more than a place that just puts fries on a sandwich.

There also is a deep pool of killer bands, from long-running death metal warriors Derketa, to grinders Complete Failure and Hero Destroyed, to hardcore punchers Code Orange (no longer Kids!), Killer of Sheep, and sadly defunct Heartless, to classic throwbacks such as Ladybeast, to gnarly mind-benders including Meth Quarry and Storm King. There’s a ton here for heavy music fans, and though you might not know that if you rely too heavily on local media (they like Bob Dylan, you see), if you know where to look, you can find tons of ways to get your head beaten in and your eardrums permanently defaced. Seriously, I just rattled off some top-of-my-head shit above. Dig deeply into our city, and you’ll find so much buried treasure.

wrought iron coverNow come Wrought Iron, a band that you can see opening locally for national headliners like Absu, Pyrrhon, and Vattnet Viskar and totally holding up their end of the deal. It’s hard to figure out exactly how to label these dudes, but they splatter death, black, doom, grind, and noise metal every time they play, and if you ever watched this band destroy a room, you know exactly why they’re one of Pittsburgh’s great metallic hopes. The band cuts a pretty straight path through the room when they play, and while they don’t subscribe to any silly histrionics, their ability to remain content while pummeling you with their power and heaviness is a real drawing card. That same sense comes across on their new album “Rejoice and Transcend,” their debut for the always reliable Grimoire Records and one of the nastiest things to slither out of this city in some time.

The people responsible for this unholy racket are four men who don’t seem to have anyone’s best interests in mind, including their own. Vocalist Kenny Snyder, one of the more unpredictable, prowling figures in this town, a dude you’re not quite sure if he’s just getting into the character of a song or if he’s thinking about you assaulting outright in front of a roomful of witnesses. Guitarist Nick Lucci keeps thing dark and captivating, taking time to open up some wounds and twist your scars and scabs. The rhythm section of bassist Brooks Criswell (also of other Pittsburgh pounders Oh Shit They’re Going to Kill Us and Circle of Dead Children) and drummer Nick Tupi are a formidable unit that keeps the low end brutal and could make your heart feel like it’s about to explode inside your chest cavity. You feel their intensity both live and on their record, and they have the ability to be a band that puts Pittsburgh in a bloodier, more respectful position on extreme metal’s map.

“Dawn of the Swamp” greets you like a mouthful of fire to the face, with a fast, devastating drumming, vocals that sound so unhinged, a doctor probably could prescribe proper medication just by hearing them, and swirling black metal riffs that dizzy and crush. “White Death” unloads buckets of blasts and lightning-fast riffs that make perfect compatriots for the maniacal vocals that are so discomforting, they could have you clawing at your skin. “Danse Macabre” is one of the most impressive songs in the band’s catalog, as it is built on sinister riffs, death-like thrashing that is tasty and meaty, goblin-torture vocals, and even some aggressively proggy work that shows these guys are capable players along with decibolic butchers. “Brine” has a slow-driving, bone-crushing personality, with vocals that could welt your eyelids, and as the piece progresses, it becomes sludgy and full of muck. “Konig von Scheisse” has an awesome, explosive riff tied to it, it’s thrash-infested and clubbing, and the crazed frenzy that the track becomes could leave you hearing voices.

“Revelation and Awakening” has guitar lines that catch fire and deface the path in front of it, while the vocals are guttural and evil, with Snyder howling, “You are the chosen one,” almost as if he means it in mockery and pure disgust. “Descendant” explodes open, with the drums leading the way and causing a fracas, and the vocals again giving reason to believe the person letting the words fall out of his mouth might be ripe for examination. The song is gurgly, wholly violent, and a perfect representation of what makes Wrought Iron so good. “Impulse Hangover” which is a tremendous song title, has a punk rock ethos to it, and it’s a firebreather. Yet the band explores space a little more than before, with the guitars becoming spacious and atmospheric, but underneath it all is that seamy, ugly sentiment that inhabits all of their songs. Closer “Coyote” also is a bit more experimental, but with all eyes focused on bloodshed nonetheless. After some fog is let in, and moisture beads the trees, the band works toward lighting all of that on fire, with calculating madness, filthy darkness, and the final barked vocals from a man on the edge who you’re not sure has gone through catharsis or just pushed himself closer to finality.

Wrought Iron is one of Pittsburgh’s most devastating bands, and up to now, we’ve mostly had the band to our selfish own. They’re capable of pushing beyond city limits and out into the great unknown, where they can bloody faces, sicken the masses, and remind people that metal can be nasty, dangerous, and bad for your health. They are making sure people hear their violence and will force those with the heads in the sand to pay heed to “Rejoice and Transcend”. They’re a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth beast live, and they manage to translate that chaos to their album as menacingly as possible.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/rejoice-and-transcend

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

Oh, hey, if you’re lucky enough to be in Pittsburgh June 25, you can check out Wrought Iron’s album release show at Howler’s in Bloomfield. Show starts at 8 p.m., and there’s a $7 cover. Also on the bill are Post Mortal Possession, Begrime Exemious, and Cryptic Yeast.

Auroch celebrate, transform what you call death metal on mind-altering new ‘Taman Shud’

AurochDeath metal can be all kinds of things to all kinds of people. It’s hard to say if any particular group of people is right, considering opinions are supposed to be open ended, but whatever. I feel like slick, glossy, Best Buy-available metal isn’t death. Well, except Autopsy. How’d that get on the shelf? But that’s just how death metal is to me.

There are many different ways to go about death metal, from technical to guttural to infernal to glossy and pretty (though we reserve the right to reject those bands outright), and we’ve been inundated by groups that practice all of those approaches. Then we have bands such as Auroch that just kind of throw the whole rulebook out the window and do things the way they want. That means they do it all jacked up and weird, and they easily can make you wonder if they’re trying to come up with some bizarre new scientific formulas while they’re plugged in and drubbing your brain. They do have some of the classic tenets of death metal that have been passed on through the ages, such as the savagery, intensity, and power. They even have the technical side to things, in case that’s your thing, but not in a way where their hearts and minds are detached from their mission because they’re trying to wow with their prowess. They’re just good. That’s all. They have an interesting way at attacking death metal and assaulting with it. Their teeth are sharp, and they’ll split your skill with their bare hands.

Auroch coverAuroch have been around since 2008, having dropped a series of demo recordings before their 2012 full-length debut “From Forgotten Worlds” dropped on Hellthrasher Productions. That album leaned a little harder toward the thrash side of things, in the most violent, devastating manner possible, and it was a really promising sign of what was to come. Now with the arrival of their hellacious second record “Taman Shud,” they’ve increased the amount of bloodshed and made things even stormier than anything they’ve done before. The band–guitarist/vocalist Sebastian Montesi (bassist with Mitochondrion) bassist Shawn Hache (guitarist/vocalist with Mitochondrion), and drummer Zack Chandler–burns the torches for Canadian death metal and the genre as a whole. What they do on this nine track, 26-minute record is prove that this style of music can be deadly and creative at the same time, without giving a ounce of mercy. It’s a frenzy, and if it doesn’t make your neurons fire, maybe a slicker, less dangerous product is in store for you after all.

“Villainous” is the perfect opening for this record both because of its name and because it steamrolls you from the get go. There are scintillating melodies woven through the song, as gritty vocals are spat out and smeared on the walls, and the whole thing is devoured by crunch. “Octavo (Swirling in Capricorn)” has guitars that whip up like a funnel cloud, and the vocals are demonic and dangerous. Soloing erupts that grabs the track by its legs and whips it into a carcass pile, and the slurry final leads would leave even the most hardened listener dizzy. “Noxious Plume” feels like just that, as the sound rises up and chokes you, with heavy amounts of damage, guitars that switch back and forth between speed and muck, and vocals that sound absolutely animalistic.The title cut is a mystical-style interlude, complete with dusty passages like an ancient book being opened for the first time in centuries, and the acoustic guitars provide the perfect passageway into the second part of the record.

“Voice of Gemini” is lighting fast, intricate, and hammering, with grisly vocals and noise shutting off all beams of light. “Death Canonized” feels like it gets down in the mud, yet at the same time it lets some of its fumes rise back into the atmosphere to instill a sense of dread. It’s not around for very long, but it makes its weird impact easily. “Defixio” has guitars that spiral all over the place, like a strobe gone wild in a dark room, and the sounds bubble over, leading into deep, from-the-bacterial-tracts-style growling. It’s dark and ominous for sure. “Novemportis” is all over the map, with mind-erasing playing, guitars with a sense of adventure and death, and growls that sound pained and drenched in anguish. Then the final cut “The Balkan Affair” arrives, dressed in eerie acoustic guitars, whispers, and howls, and before you know it, it’s over. Not just the song, but this strange, alien-like serving of mutating death that wrapped your nerves into balls for the past half hour.

Auroch’s path is unpredictable and rumbling, and their style of death metal injects more hope into a sub-genre that’s lost much of its edge. This band will keep you up at night, but not necessarily in fear. They’ll keep you on the edge of your seat, head tilted, confused and intrigued, never able to guess the next bends in their path. “Taman Shud” never loses its edge, no matter how many times you visit, and this sounds like the very beginning of their campaign, both mentally and artistically.

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

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

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

Mournful Congregation pack lifetime of sorrow, misery into EP ‘Concrescence of the Sophia’

Mounrful CongregationThere are bands that use sadness and misery as a sort of channel in order to make a connection with an audience and perhaps help their listeners get a little insight into themselves. Then there are those whose black emotions and world of sorrow is so immense, so overwhelming that you can’t help but feel fully enveloped by their music.

Australian funeral doom group Mournful Congregation always impressed on me that what they are doing is not a gimmick or way to get attention. They live and feel these things for real, and their music is an artistic representation of what is going through their bloodstream and running across their minds. Their sound is massive and impossibly heavy, but not in the usual sense when discussing doom metal. Yeah, they can crush you but that heaviness is more mental than physical, and their long, hulking dirges often go on for 10 minutes and longer, letting every drip of their torment drip down your throat. The band’s records make it seem like its members lived many tortured lifetimes, with their misfortune repeating upon each fresh birth, and they have all of the generations of chaos to draw upon.

Mounrful Congregation coverWe last heard from Mournful Congregation on their amazing 2011 record “Book of Kings,” the first to really get good penetration into the United States, thanks to them having a reliable advocate in 20 Buck Spin. The band is getting ready to return to the country to play a few shows (on the East Coast this time!), and in tow they have a massive new EP “Concrescence of the Sophia.” I know it seems silly to call an EP “massive,” but this is Mournful Congregation, after all, and this document is longer than most grindcore bands’ full-length albums. Damon Good (StarGazer, Cauldron Black Ram) remains out front of the band as its vocalist and guitarist, and along with him is guitarist Justin Hartwig (Black Orchid), bassist Ben Newsome (Cauldron Black Ram, Intellect Devourer) and drummer Adrian Bickle (though Tim Call of Aldebaran and Nightfell played drums on the record for an ailing Bickle). The band sounds as morose and bereft of hope as ever, and this is a great tide-you-over release before full-length number five bubbles up from the Earth’s crust.

There are two tracks on this thing, but as you can imagine, they’re long and involved. The title cut opens with buzzing drone, slowly hammering melodies, and speak-sung vocals that sound like Good delivering his own final epitaph. Finally, the low-rumbling growls emerge, as they slither along with the pace of the song that unfurls itself with no particular sense of urgency. The guitars sound as if they’re weeping over a lost soul, perhaps the players’ own, and eventually calm arrives with acoustics letting a gust of cold air into the room. The vocals go back and forth from quivering singing just above a whisper and growls that sound pained and anguished, and the final minutes of this 21:42 eulogy is dressed with poetically flowing leads and the noise settling for fading into silence.

The second cut is a quick jam in comparison, the 8:57-long “Silence of the Passed.” The track begins building its fires with slow-burning guitar work that wastes no time coating your lungs with soot, until clean playing arrives like a cool, soothing rain. Hushed howls and low-register vocals tell the tale, weaving misery and darkness that match the music ideally. The pace drives slowly, like a long funeral march, and the deep growls join in with glorious guitar leads that sound like they’re paying homage to the pioneers of their genre. There’s a fury beneath all of the darkness, and the final moments of the song make that apparent. There’s a frustration, a struggle to survive that becomes apparent with the music, and the track ends like a tall pillar of fire reaching into the night’s sky and suddenly disappearing.

It may only be 30 minutes of new Mournful Congregation music, but that’s more than enough to tide us all over until their next full-length. Anyone who’s been a devout follower of the band will be more than pleased with what they hear on “Concrescence of the Sophia,” and anyone with an interest in what the best funeral doom band in the world is up to will get one hell of a taste. There are few bands that make you feel as sorrowful and bleak as this one, and that’s why they’re always going to welcome in my home for as long as they choose to live.

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

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

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

Industrial metal powerhouse Godflesh return with massive four-song EP ‘Decline & Fall’

GodfleshI’ve had a chance to write about some truly legendary, untouchable bands doing this site. That’s something never lost on me, and the fact that sometimes those bands later reach out and thank us for doing a story on a new record is stunning. It really never loses its luster.

But today, we’re going to talk about new music from one of the most influential bands alive, who I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to write about. It’s not like it was a given we’d ever get new music from Godflesh ever again, despite the band’s reunion and playing shows semi-regularly the past few years. Kind of like when Carcass first got back together, it was great that they were doing shows and giving people a chance to hear their classics live, but a new record never was a given. Same with Godflesh. Witnessing them play major festivals such as Maryland Deathfest, and even getting smaller tours always was nice, and there was no reason to expect anything above all of that if the band wasn’t into that idea. Luckily, as time has passed, they have geared back toward recording new music, and now we have the new four-track EP “Decline & Fall” at our disposal.

Godflesh coverThere hasn’t been new, original Godflesh music in 13 years from this duo of guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin Broadrick (Jesu, Palesketcher Greymachine, ex-Napalm Death) and bassist CG Green, that being 2001’s “Hymns.” They made their mark as an industrially powered, noise-infested metal force on classic records such as their legendary 1989 debut record “Streetcleaner,” as well as other stops along the way including “Slavestate” (1991), “Pure” (1992), “Selfless” (1994), “Songs of Love and Hate” (1996), and “Us and Them” (1996). “Decline & Fall” blends nicely into their back catalog, as it keeps their touchstone sounds in place, so that longtime fans can grab this thing and instantly feel right at home. Their savagery and intensity are there in full, and hearing these four songs bleed out and pulverize your senses is a great feeling. It’s awesome to have an active Godflesh back and bringing us music that gives a stark reminder of what “heavy” really means, and they sound as dedicated and relevant as ever. I can only imagine what their upcoming new full-length “A World Lit Only By Fire” is going to be like.

“Ringer” open the EP with a deep static wave, and then the crushing begins. The vocals sound like they’re swimming in chaos, driving against the waves and always holding up their end of the bargain. The pace is devastating and calculated, as the drumming punishes, and the guys head into a blistering section of thrashing before a mucky finish pelts extra helpings of mud onto everything. “Dogbite” is thick and riffy, with barked vocals that are authoritative and slightly tyrannical, kind of like you’re being hollered at with Broadrick’s finger poking your chest like a drill sergeant. The guitars simmer, the noises taunt, and the howl of, “Nowhere safe to hide!” seems to act like this EP’s prevailing statement. “Playing With Fire” bristles and burns early on, with Green’s meaty bassline leading you right into the conflict. The singing is a little cleaner on this track, through the music is sludgy and swaggering, with riffs that sound hellbent on maiming. Broadrick calmly sings, “Born of water, born of fire,” as the grimy tones take this song out into the night. The closing title cut has more barked vocals, sleek programmed beats that give a trip-hop shade to the song, and clobbering, humid guitar work that’ll grease your face. There is a techy feel to the guitar playing, delving just a bit into death metal territory, and the sounds penetrate and lace you until the track finally bleeds out, certainly leaving you breathless.

So there we go, new Godflesh music in 2014. Not only is this an incredible thing to behold based on its existence alone, but it’s also pure, honest Godflesh, which is all anyone really could ask for. They sound as devastating and channeled as ever before, and it’s a great thing to have such an important band back and creating new anthems of devastation. It won’t be long until we have that new full-length, so until that time, we have these four great new Godflesh songs to remind us that it won’t be too tough to find a perfect soundtrack for the end of the world.

For more on the band, go here: http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the album, go here: http://avalancheinc.co.uk/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Barghest’s hatred, disgust come in black waves on ‘The Virtuous Purge’

relic54Do you know what it’s like to have someone truly detest you? Or, have you ever been on the other side, with such a deep-seeded discomfort in or displeasure of another that it practically makes the bile rise up and choke you? Are you ever so disgusted by the ways of the world and the manner in which people have devolved and begun attacking each other’s character that it makes a black morning seem welcome?

Hopefully you never felt any of these things, because they are not pleasurable. If you have been in these situations, you probably will immediately connect with Barghest, the Baton Rouge, La.-based band that makes black metal sound like an exercise in pure disintegration of everything around them. A quick trip down another path: Black metal doesn’t sound like it used to, for the most part, as labels have figured out how to make it slick and appeal to the masses. There’s not much real hate and disgust left in the music. This is where we get back to Barghest, who have no problem letting every awful feeling contained within them out to gallivant and strike hard. It’s not against any particular person or movement, but against the world in general and what’s inside the place. Pay close enough attention to your surroundings, and you may realize the way people act can sicken you. Barghest clearly have been gagging long enough.

The band’s behemoth new record “The Virtuous Purge” has arrived, and like a great plague with no eyes for who it kills or any plans for who it infects, they’re here for us all. The follow-up to their basement dank, self-titled 2011 debut rages with power. For one thing, the production is higher grade, but not to a level where it sounds acceptable or pretty. It’s still chock full of violence and abuse, and it will hurt badly anyone not ready for it, but it does give the band a slightly crisper sound that is to their benefit. They also have more of a death metal edge this time around, proving they can be just as menacing in that terrain as in black metal. The alliance of guitarists/vocalists Dallas Smith and Jason Thorning, guitarist Matthew Thudium (also of Thou), and drummer Philth convinces you without a doubt of the black fury they feel deep inside of them, and you never have to ask yourself if what you’re hearing is nasty. You’ll know it right away, and if it scares you off, then maybe this kind of metal isn’t for you. I’m sure Best Buy will have something kick-ass to suit your needs and get you home safe and sound.

Opener “Our Last Night on Earth” doesn’t tear right into you. Instead, a wave of static leads into dark, mournful guitar work that sounds bleak and devoid of all hope It unfurls and hangs in the air. Naturally the bottom eventually falls out and the band starts hammering you with full force and utter violence, paying you a hellish visit. The song later turns back into a slow-driving storm, spilling into black guitars and vocals that sound set to maim. “Agonizing Spiritual Descent” begins with boiling guitar work, like blood bubbling in a pot, and the charcoal-smeared vocals erupt as pure death growls. The music bores into your soul, like it’s trying to make a permanent, open scar, and the tempos switch around to leave you guessing and your head spinning. The final moments thrash like mad, blowing the doors off the place. “When the Cross Points to Hell” is like classic death metal set on fire and left to burn for days and days. The vocals are unforgiving and laced with warnings, calling forth the “bringer of evil,” and the guys sound like they’re ready to do any dirty deed required of them. Just an ugly pile of carnage.

“Thought Disease” has a spacious open, atypical of the band’s piledriving style, but then the drums go off, and the pace grows heavy and relentless, with poking shouts of, “Your savior is nowhere to be found.” The final moments are buried in smoke and speed, like a funeral pyre set to accelerate. The title track has bendy, tricky guitars that are unexpected, and then it lets in destructive vocals. The song spurts and sprawls all over, throwing blazing fists in every direction, leaving you no place to take cover. Following the shout of, “Now your life is no more,” the band settles into a sinister groove that takes the track to its finish. “Spent Brass” is vicious and clobbering, with the vocals looking to do damage to both the listener and the messenger. The music is slurry and damaged, giving it a truly warped sense of danger. Closer “My Own Grave” is a 7:18-long instrumental that is full of misery and calculated horror. The song is rich with doom, long sections of solemn playing, and a dark sense of foreboding. It feels like a thick, suffocating fog is wafting in and darkening everything. You can’t see more than a few inches in front of you, yet you hear the hulk breathing, heaving, ready to strike. Then he attacks, as the band rages along with him, mauling you and grinding your face into the pavement, striking again and again until you can take no more. Then it all goes back into the murk, regaining its doom senses and dragging you through every square inch of their misery. It’s a fitting end to an exercise in human agony.

“The Virtuous Purge” is maniacally played and viciously executed, a true slab of charred black and bleeding death that will rot inside your system. There is no solace here, no warm greetings, and no chance for understanding or compassion. Barghest breed hate and ill intentions, and they smear their disease on whoever is closest, because that being likely deserves it in some form. If this sounds over the top to you, visit this record. You’ll realize I might not have gone far enough in describing to you this filthy document of anti-humanity.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/releasedirectory/relic54-barghest-the-virtuous-purge-lp/

For more on the label go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Blut Aus Nord, P.H.O.B.O.S. join forces for cosmic terror with dream state-inducing ‘Triunity’

BAN PHOBOSWhen two of metal’s strangest, most shadow-casting forces come together to offer up creations on the same collection, you have no choice but to sit back and hear the magic unfold. That’s the best advice I can offer for encountering “Triunity,” the new split record that brings together Blut Aus Nord and P.H.O.B.O.S.

Both entities call France home, and as we’ve said time and time again when it comes to that country, the water must be infected because of some of the strange transmissions that come from there. Both groups have made some pulverizing, thought-provoking music over the years, with Blut Aus Nord taking the dream-inducing lanes of the black metal highway to come up with their work, and P.H.O.B.O.S. driving industrial drone fires and engines for their abrasive creations. Yet both sides have their adventurous tendencies, and while they might sound terribly alike sonically, you can tell they meet somewhere in the middle of their art. That’s part of what makes this record work so well. The other is the music that has both bands sounding haunting and penetrating.

Blut Aus Nord have been plenty busy since their birth in 1994, creating 10 albums, the most recent three comprised the incredible concept “777” trilogy. Over the years, the band, led by Vindsval, hasn’t been afraid to add various non-black metal elements into the music, such as trip hop, electronics, and even industrial strains, and 2012’s “Cosmosophy” turned out to be one of the great artistic triumphs in the band’s career. But if you were one of those who couldn’t help but fret their sound has changed and become a little easier to digest, their three cuts here will ease your mind, you big baby. P.H.O.B.O.S. began as a full band in 2000, taking cues from groups such as Godflesh and Voivod, before slowly whittling down to Frederic Sacri for the band’s 2005 debut record “Tectonics.” As time went on, the band’s machine-like sound grew darker and more ominous, as “Anœdipal” arrived in 2008, and “Atona Hypermnesia” followed in 2012. Now, for this record, Sacri worked with James Plotkin on these three suffocating songs that match Blut Aus Nord’s mind-warping sound nicely.

Blut Aus Nord get started with “De Librio Arbitrio,” a song that opens with eerie keys and a hazy environment. It picks up on a tempo it is hesitant to let go, drubbing and smoldering, keeping you running in place. Strange noises erupt, the vocals slip into cosmic growls, and there’s a slight industrial edge to the song that makes the cut a little gritty. “Hubris” runs along a similar path as the first song, even drumming up a melody that sounds like it shares the same DNA. The vocals sound like they are delivered by a ghoul floating through space, perhaps being filtered through a Vocoder, and then the guitars charge up hard. The song is similar to what we heard on the second helping of the “777” series “The Desanctification,” and Vindsval spills more animalistic growls over everything. “Nemeinn” finishes off Blut Aus Nord’s contributions, and it’s a total mind warp with heavy crunch, creaky vocals, and a tempo that pushes along dreamily. Eventually there is some rumbling, as the track has the feel of a classic Blut Aus Nord track at times, and the stormy piece eventually subsides. This song gives serious hope for what’s ahead on the band’s upcoming new record, the third installment of “Memoria Vetusta.”

P.H.O.B.O.S. kick off with “Glowing Phosphorous” that emits weird noises, some trippy ambiance, and eventually heavy industrial pounding you’ve come to expect from this project. The track also blasts off into the stars, making it a great companion for the Blut Aus Nord cuts, and it is a strange, ominous piece to behold. “Transfixed Golgotha” is quite trancey and could have you doing the million-mile stare. The song and the playing feel machine-like, but not without heart, and the stretch of this thing is cool and mesmerizing. I kept going back to this one because it slips into the bloodstream so willingly. The last P.H.O.B.O.S. entry is “Ahrimanic Impulse Victory” with talky vocals, more ghoulish sounds that haunt, and a pace that remains steady but penetrating over its running time. Some growls emerge, and some cool blips rise up, drumming up Sacri’s own trip-hop tendencies. The cut eventually fades into black, giving enormous hope for what’s ahead for this band.

“Triunity” is a wholly pleasing, mentally involved journey that should engage the more ambitious, experimentally inclined listeners. For fans of both bands, you’ll be hard pressed to find any complaints since both remain loyal to their traditional traits but also push forward into new terrain. These bands sound like they were meant to inhabit the same corner of the universe, even if sonically their respective DNA remains mostly different.

For more on Blut Aus Nord, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blutausnord.official

For more on P.H.O.B.O.S., go here: http://www.phobosdrone.org/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/