Electric Wizard’s drug-fueled doom immersed in misery, death on suffocating new ‘Time to Die’

Electric WizardWho out there feels like being miserable? Or maybe you’re already there and could use something to either keep you in the place or ensure you there is someone else feeling worse and more hopeless than you are at this moment.

I doubt anyone ever has referred to Electric Wizard’s records as pick-me-up music. If anyone ever has, they might be fantastic candidates for therapy, because there’s some deep-seeded shit going on there. But from the start of these UK doom legends’ run two decades ago, and across their world-shifting eight studio records, this band has developed the template for addressing everyday misery and how to remedy that, be it through mind-altering substances, dark rituals, violent intent, or a combination of all of those things. There is a drab pall over each one of the band’s albums, from their landmark 1995 self-titled debut, to their classic 2000 effort “Dopethrone,” to their cataclysmic last two efforts “Witchcult Today” (2007) and “Black Masses” (2010). They’ve been a haven for horror, pain, suffering, and self-medication all the way, with no apologies offered. They’re rotting through and through, and perhaps there isn’t a better example of that than their new record “Time to Die.”

Electric Wizard coverOK, first, look at the album title. That tells you everything you need to know philosophically. But if you think that title is hopeless enough, wait until you hear the music on this one. It’s misery through and through. It’s a dense, difficult record to absorb, and sitting front to back through this 65-minute behemoth might not be an option. It’s not inviting, it’s not warm, and it’s not simple. A lot of the time, their doom is buried in feedback and noise haze, making it sound like a record that was born to suffer. Through this thing, Jus Osborn (guitar, vocals), guitarist Liz Buckingham, bassist Clayton Burgess, and drummer Mark Greening (he was unceremoniously dismissed following the record, replaced by former drummer Simon Poole) create hell on earth. And they don’t back down from thirsting for an end as bloody and evil and possible. You really get the idea from this record that this band is ready for death, whatever form that make take.

The first three tracks on the record combine for nearly a half hour of music. Opener “Incense for the Damned” becomes clear just minutes into the 10:42 song, when its true meaning is revealed with Osborn’s detached calls of, “I want to get high before I die.” The track contains news report clips about “The Acid King” Ricky Kasso and his alleged satanic murders in Long Island in 1984, a subject that is stitched throughout this entire record. The song is drubbing and relentless throughout, and it could leave you exhausted. The 7:47 title cut opens with some murderous riffs and chilling synth slipping behind the terror. The track is total doom fury, with Osborn’s frightening howls of, “Wake up, children! It’s time to die,” as the band smothers you with their infernal power. “I Am Nothing” is just suffocating at 11:31, and at times, it feels like the band is in a druggy haze, delivering riff after riff, vocals that sound like they’re slithering from Osborn’s mouth, and noise weighing down on everything oppressively. It’s heavy and full of tumult, like they’re nodding off at visions of their own demise. “Destroy Those Who Love God” is an interlude that includes cuts from a “20/20” documentary “The Devil Worshippers,” and it’s a tremendously upsetting and morbid song. It’s also the ideal center point for this madness.

“Funeral of Your Mind” stretches 7:09, and it’s a damn fiery gallop, one of the most savage cuts from a tempo standpoint on the whole record. The lead guitar work is awesome, the vocals are effects laden and ghostly, though also more forceful, and the noise wails and eventually bleeds out into oblivion. “We Love the Dead” runs 9:05, and it devastates and penetrates right from the start. The doom crunches and leaves bruises, Osborn’s vocals have an alien nasal quality, and some great soloing emerges from a green cloud of smoke that aims to choke you out. “Sadiowitch” is one of the shortest cuts and also has been floated as the record’s first single. It’s thrashy, dark, and trippy, and it’s the only thing on this album that qualifies as catchy ion the traditional sense. “Lucifer’s Slaves” goes 8:40, and it’s their hellish devotional, with an ugly, heavy stomp pushed by the rhythm section, guitars absolutely bristling, ghoulish synth rearing its ugly head again, and everything coming to a head with psychedelic weirdness, culminating in Osborn’s wild shouts of, “Fuck you!” The track keeps wrenching you over and over again, twisting your guts, and making you see the face of real evil. Closer “Saturn Dethroned” is a brief ending statement, with blood-dripping organs, buzzing and ceremonial playing, and all sounds dissolving into the trickling waters and chirping birds that bookend the album.

A pleasurable record from Electric Wizard? That’s hard to fathom, though there are some parts on their past albums where you could crack a smile or get lost in their powerful fog. Not here. This is a pissy, downtrodden, depressed, angry, nauseated, disgusted record that begs for hell. It’ll make you feel like shit when it’s over. Some people may reject this thing outright for that. But if it’s nasty, death-obsessed, warped doom you seek, you won’t find a bleaker document than “Time to Die.” It’s decaying and worm infested, with the band having no interest in sugar coating a thing for you.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://electricwizard.merchnow.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: As current era closes, Witch Mountain deliver soul-toppling ‘Mobile of Angels’

Musician Portrait seriesTo use an oft-spouted cliché, all good things must come to an end. That’s a profoundly sad statement if you take time to really analyze what it means. Your relationships, families, circle of friends, and life all will vanish one day. Most likely, it will happen due to something bad happening. Everyone smiling now?

But not all ends are because of catastrophe, though they can be just as upsetting. Uta Plotkin, who has fronted the great doom metal band Witch Mountain for their last three releases, announced she is exiting the group following a brief touring cycle for their fourth record “Mobile of Angels.” Wow, how do I say this without devaluing the contributions of the rest of the band? Well, that’s not my intent, but I don’t see how they carry on now. Plotkin was a vital organ in the band’s creative body. She was that missing piece Witch Mountain lacked on their 2001 debut “Come the Mountain,” and she powered this band forward with her unmistakable voice and gut-wrenching delivery. The rest of the band is comprised of fine, accomplished players in their own right, and I’m sure the next incarnation of Witch Mountain still will be worth our attention. But wow, this is a major loss. This hurts. And the fact that “Mobile” is hands down their best record, one that could have been a major groundbreaker for the band, is even more gutting.

Witch Mountain coverBut here it is, this five-track, nearly 39-minute document that will be remembered as one of 2014’s finest records by a number of outlets. Rest assured. Plotkin and her bandmates, guitarist Rob Wrong, bassist Charles Thomas, and drummer Nathan Carson, reach something magical on this collection. I’ve been a little up and down on the band’s albums (loved “South of Salem” immediately; “Cauldron of the Wild” still is taking time to grow on me), but “Mobile” is a holy-shit-they-arrived document. It is must-hear, lifetime-achievement worthy, and I can’t help but again say what a shame it is that it marks the end of the road for this version of the band. They deserve to play huge rooms with this release, with Plotkin’s world-swelling voice filling every crevice. Too bad that won’t be so.

The opener “Psycho Animundi” is one of the dirtiest, most aggravated songs on the band’s entire catalog, with Plotkin going darker and grittier with her vocals, practically spitting out her words most of the way. The music, especially Wrong’s guitar work, is particularly bluesy, and there is a menace hiding in plain sight on this one. The song keeps charging, with Plotkin practically shouting, “All I want is to get out, to transport, to transcend,” which seem like very telling words, before the song goes clean and calm. Everything gets heavy again before the track bleeds to a sorrowful finish. “Can’t Settle” starts with sludgy riffs, the band heading again into blues territory, and Plotkin calling, “It’s growing like a cancer, it’s growing like Rosemary’s baby.” From there, her voice soars high, and the band backs her with atmospheric passages that head right into pure doom. Growls are unfurled, the only point on the record where that happens, and as the torment and dark clouds accumulate, Plotkin vows, “I’m getting the hell out of here,” with fiery soloing taking the song to its gripping conclusion.

“Your Corrupt Ways” is the 10:27 centerpiece, and it’s one of their most impressive songs ever. This is where all the forces comprising this record are at their highest, every instrument and every player. It’s an unreal track, with Plotkin opening, “I don’t think you’re aware of how falsely you appear,” with the band swelling behind her and offering a tidal wave of their own emotions. The track is like an extended relationship epitaph, and while it may have nothing to do with Plotkin’s eventual decision to move on, the way she delivers lines like, “I’m afraid our differences we can’t reconcile,” it sounds like she’s wrestling with dark shadows and decisions that have overcome her. The last few minutes of the song let everyone get out their energy, and it’s a massive caterwaul of expression. The title track follows and lets you blood come back to normal, with eerie soundscapes, keys swimming and creating a medicine head-like effect, and Plotkin wondering, “What will he see at the end of the world?” Closer “The Shape Truth Takes” is an incredible finish, the perfect way to drop the curtain on this record. The track is sorrowful and slower, as the band walks their final steps together. There are great, quivering guitars along the way, Plotkin’s vocals hit a higher register as she has her say, and the band builds to a crescendo that’s like a dam breaking and unloading billions of gallons of water all over. Wrong’s soloing is exploratory and enthralling, and the four members of Witch Mountain bring the record to a stunning finish that suits their power as a unit and should have your heart surging.

I hate making this review sound like a eulogy, and let me reiterate that every part of this band is vital and powerful. But you can’t help but mourn that that voice no longer will be a part of this band. That’s a tough thing to accept, especially considering how great “Mobile of Angels” truly is. At best, this band is going out on a major high note before they write their next chapter, whatever that may be. As for Plotkin, we can only hope we hear more from her in the future, be that on her own or with one of her other bands. She’s too vital, too good to lose. Hopefully both sides go on to new, great heights, with the majesty of this record powering their respective journeys.

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

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

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

Black metal cult Nightbringer conjure darkness and occult mysteries on ‘Ego Dominus Tuus’

Nightbringer bandMany bands these days are referring to themselves as cults. Plenty of groups call their live events rituals. It’s almost like 666 and upside down crosses aren’t attention-getters anymore, so to really hammer home how dark the music is, the bands and shows and records are given these highfalutin titles just to garner attention. And usually it’s all hollow silliness.

Then there are bands such as Nightbringer, the long-running black metal establishment that hails from Colorado that sounds like, and I’d say are, the real thing. Ever since their formation 15 years ago, the band has offered works that don’t just sound like a bunch of musicians plugging in and trying to conjure darkness. They sound like they’re pulling their sounds and melodies and words form their souls, from their worship, and from their hearts. Their records, including their devastating new one “Ego Dominus Tuus,” the follow-up to 2011’s “Hierophany of the Open Grave,” don’t serve to make the world a better, brighter place. Oh no. They’re here to invite death, pay homage to the dark forces of the universe, and offer up their art as a sort of sacrifice. Or, yes, a ritual. Some may still scoff and these ideas and write it off as a cool marketing tool. If that suits you, then fine, but all you have to do is take a ride with the band on “Ego Dominus Tuus,” or have traveled along with them on their entire journey, to know something genuine is going on here.

Nightbringer coverI am not an expert on any level pertaining to the band’s subject matter. Their form of orthodox black metal and drive to understand the hidden mysteries of life and death affects me purely on a musical level, and certainly I can appreciate what the band is striving for on their records. I won’t make a fool of myself trying to dissect the ideas going on here. Those who are on the same path as these gifted players–Naas Alcameth (vocals, guitar, bass, synth), Ophis (guitar, bass, vocals), VJS (guitar, bass), as Ra’d al-Iblis (vocals), Menthor (drums)–surely can reach out along their way to enlightenment and get an even greater degree of connection from these captivating, mesmerizing 10 songs that stretch out over a mind-altering 71 minutes.

“Prayer of Nephal” is a rather fitting opener for the record, as it sounds literally like what the title says it is. Weird noises, chanting, and a trancey atmosphere lead right into “Et Nox Illuminatio mea in Deliciis Meis,” the first of a number of elaborate, dramatic, challenging cuts that’ll take you for a loop. Over 8:59, the band goes through dizzying melodies, grim chaos, and harsh, creaky growls that sound as terrifying as they do transcendent. The music is piercing and spastic, and it leads to nightmare organs at the end that bleed into “Lantern of Eden’s Night.” Violent shrieks erupt right away, with infernal madness being spread from one end of this track to another. Howls are offered up to Lucifer, chilling speaking spills in, and the music rains down fire and burns everything to a crisp. “Things Which Are Naught” fades in from the murk, with riffy tyranny blasting through it, some slower, doomier parts making things even more bleak, and evil and captivating sounds to shake up your guts. “I Am the Gateway” runs 7:33, and it’s a dramatic serving that never lets go of its stranglehold. There are cries to dark forces, melody that floods the plains, more frosty organs, and an incredible final segment that breathes a world of fire.

“Call of the Exile” lets noise hang in the air like a cloud of smoke, and behind all of that, cries arrive from the night and seek answers. The track, while longer than four minutes, is something of an interlude or bridge into what’s next, that being “Where Fire Never Dreamt of Man.” The track begins dusty and mystical, like it’s pulling its inspiration from centuries ago, and the vocals are more like a speak growl for much of its run. As the cut progresses, it really breaks open, with the band storming full speed ahead. “The Witchfires of Tubal-Qayin” contains devastating drumming that turns your bones to dust, warped playing that’ll cause your head to spin, muddy and vicious guitar work, and words about sacrifice and final judgment that could sober you to the reality of total destruction. “Salvation Is the Son of Leviathan” begins like a dark thunderstorm that brings oppressive rain and mars your vision, and it remains pretty bizarre through its 6:17 run. Odd voices swirl in the chaos, guitars burn, and the stage is set for the cataclysmic closer “The Otherness of Being,” a 12:56 epic that finishes off Nightbringer’s visions. The guitars boil and give off heat, while the pace erupts and charges ahead heavily. The melodies are as majestic as anywhere else on this record, the shrieks are harsh and fierce, and the song cascades downward, like it is spraying shards of glass everywhere. All of the elements keep building to the climax, and the band puts a big finish on the end of the record like they’re ensuring this world they helped create is nothing but dust when they’re finished.

Nightbringer’s music is a special, unique brand of blackness, and their efforts to travel esoteric waters for greater understanding and to pay homage is both enlightening and kind of scary. There is a commitment to the cause, a pure blackness to what this band does on “Ego Dominus Tuus” that goes beyond what most other artists in their genre attempt. This music is here for you to enjoy, yes, and if you connect, that’s great. As far as the band’s work goes, it would exist and twist and morph whether their congregation was a million or none. That’s because for Nightbringer, this music needs to be here. It’s the only path they can take.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here: http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

1349 breathe hellfire again, push their madness full steam ahead on ‘Massive Cauldron of Chaos’

Photo by Jorn Veberg

Photo by Jorn Veberg

A lot of people want the same thing over and over again. I guess there’s comfort in predictability, especially when it comes to music, because it means people don’t have to adjust to their favorite artists taking chances and seeing what else is out there. It’s a sad way of viewing the world, but that’s how many people operate.

So when Nordic black metal stalwarts 1349 took a bizarre twist toward experimentation on their last two records, the response was predictably strained. It wasn’t the 1349 we heard on their landmark release “Hellfire.” It was them dabbling in sounds that made people uncomfortable. Why couldn’t it just steamroll like all their other records? Look, I don’t have an issue with people who heard those albums and they just didn’t gel with them. It happens. But there seemed to be this unwillingness to go on the adventure with the band and see the bigger picture. You already had “Hellfire” in your collection, so if you wanted to hear that, just go put it on. Should a band really adhere to a template in which they’re forced only to make something that won’t have their full hearts in it? And for the record, I love both “Revelations of the Black Flame” and “Demonoir,” albums I still visit regularly to this day, along with “Hellfire,” “Beyond the Apocalypse,” and “Liberation.” To me, they’re all really strong records by one of the world’s fieriest bands.

1349 coverHaving enjoyed the sidetracks 1349 have taken led me to really love their latest record “Massive Cauldron of Chaos” even more. It’s a call to arms. It’s a revisit to their black metal tyranny where it’s violence through and through. And because they took those adventures into the murk, this album bursts with life and a fury of a band reborn. It’s a really solid, really enjoyable record, and these tracks are going to kill live. The band–vocalist Ravn, guitarist Archaon, bassist Seidemann, and drummer Frost–rampages on this son of a bitch, and while their days of experimentation might not be fully behind them (at least I hope not), they still remember how to maul and bludgeon you along with the best of them.

Opener “Cauldron” actually sounds like the band is boiling up sound inside of one, with its weird, swirling noises afoot. Then the band hits the gas pedal hard, driving forward with intensity and savagery, with Ravn’s vocals sounding raw as hell. It’s a great first dose of what’s ahead, and next up is “Slaves,” a track that could be a crowd favorite in no time. The music is thrashy, the guys gallop hard, and the killer chorus declaring, “Slaves shall serve!” could be a crowd callback for years to come. There even are some moments where the composition sounds inspired by Rush, as they head into proggier territory. “Exorcism” explodes with sinister melody, a knifing tempo, and guitar lines that sound like classic 1349, so much so that they spark a sort of morbid nostalgia. “Despair, the mouth of fire swallows all,” Ravn declares, as the guys back him up with chaos that sounds flashy and a little show off-y at times. Yeah, sounds like they’re having a good time here. “Postmortem” is a little trickier but no less cataclysmic, as the track is bloodthirsty and speedy, and the vocals are creaky and monstrous.

“Mengele’s” likely doesn’t need much dissection simply based on the title, and the band indeed delves deep into inhuman horrors, with Ravn howling about boiling flesh and existence desecrated. It’s as ugly and terrifying as you can expect, and the creepiness at the fade out slams the lab door shut. “Golem” bursts out of the gates, with drums crushing, and the band wasting no time making their statement and getting out fast. It’s the shortest song on the record, but one of the most urgent as well. “Chained” is charged up, with guitars swirling in the atmosphere and some pure oxygen let into the room. The band goes back to exploring proggier waters, and Seidemann’s bass work gets muddy and tar thick as it splatters into the final bits of guitar work. Closer “Godslayer” is an apocalyptic ending, with Ravn’s vocals slamming home the song’s simplistic, but ultimately catchy chorus that greets you right away. The verses burn and give off smoke, some spoken lines come off like they’re being delivered from a crypt, and the guys lets the fires rage out of control as they draw to the finish off this punishing record.

It’s awesome to hear how inspired and motivated 1349 are on “Massive Cauldron of Chaos,” and those who hungered for a “proper” follow-up to “Hellfire” finally can stop their whining. To me, this album holds more weight because it sounds like a collection of songs they wanted to do and weren’t required to do. The band explored, morphed, and turned into a different monster, and now they’re back to flat out kill again. This is a really energetic, devastating release that should satisfy every dark pang within your filthy body.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/1349official

To buy the album, go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here: http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

OSDM-centered Unwilling Flesh put the death and decay back in focus on ‘Between the Living…’

Andrew D'Cagna

Andrew D’Cagna

Last year, I made a trip to Baltimore specifically to see Bolt Thrower. I mean, how could I not? They’re one of the greatest metal bands of all time, and anyone who feels the same way I do about them is a friend of mine. Or, any band that pays homage to them, even by chance, is someone to whom I’ll pay undivided attention.

That’s not to suggest Unwilling Flesh is a Bolt Thrower tribute act or something. No way. Instead, the act takes the same path that band did on awesome debut “Between the Living and the Dead,” and they also have elements of old-school death metal units such as Carnage, Eucharist, and Benediction, and they do so with an earnest and totally violent way that it’s impossible not to be utterly pumped by their music. I’ve visited with this record a number of times, as I do with every release we feature here on the site, and each time it infects me with its energy, passion, and devastation. Its classic death metal flavor hits the spot every fucking time.

Unwilling Flesh coverThis band–I say band because it’s a full-bodied experience—is the effort of multi-instrumentalist Andrew D’Cagna (who also plays in killer groups including Obsequiae, Nechochwen, Infirmary, and Brimstone Coven), who also gets an assist from Aaron Carey (also of Nechochwen and Infirmary) on lead guitars. So maybe it’s not a huge collective effort, per se, but it sounds huge and involved. I imagine five or six dudes on a stage dominating and getting people throwing fists in the air, and even though that may not be the case with this record, it’s huge enough that you might think it’ the case. It’s a fun, boisterous album, and it fills me with metallic glee. It also makes me happy I can indulge in a true death metal record that aligns perfectly with my feelings about how this stuff should sound.

“Fathoms Unfound” is a fine opener and one that truly sets the pace for the record. Out of ugly, grimy muck come gurgly vocals full of death and a hammering pace that’s out to deface you. The riffs are awesome, some synth slips behind to tilt toward eeriness, and D’Cagna howls, “There is no light!” with a force designed to make you a believer. “Vanquished Daylight” opens with a quote from the film “Legend” only to be followed by a scathing assault, a killer pace, and awesome melodies that paint the thing with glory and power. “Bathed in Desolation” sounds like it was dreamt up after hours of Bolt Thrower worship, and it’s a real smasher, with great, chugging riffs, filthy bass work, and more devastating vocals. “Nightmare Inception” pulls back a bit on the speed but not the heaviness, as the tempo is calculated but massive, the growls sound scraped from hell’s basement, and the soloing burns brightly over top the whole thing. “At One With the Earth” chews up everything in front of it, with burly riffs, monstrous vocals, and great melodies that help balance the catchiness and brutality.

“Morning Star Disciples” is another crusher, and it even brings with it hints of Second Wave black metal just for good measure. It’s a fiery piece that gallops hard and leaves no window for any mercy. “On the Wings of Hate” is a little chunkier, as it thrashes forcefully forward, grinding hard in the mud. The vocals are damn-near demonic, and it feels like you’re sitting and burning alive in a furnace. “Vaults of Eternity” revisits the thrash strains, with a bizarre whispery part chilling your flesh and total grimness taking over. As is the case with most of the songs on the record, the soloing is razor sharp and bubbles over like lava. Closer “Secrets of the Dead” is a fantastic finisher, a sort of summation of everything you’ve heard to this point, with charnel vocals  bringing menace, great lead guitar work, and total punishment leaving bruises you won’t mind having all over your body the next day.

Sometimes being a reviewer makes you forget enjoying metal for pure enjoyment. It comes with the job. But Unwilling Flesh is the type of band that forces you to remember to smile sometimes. This is an energetic, really fun project, and “Between the Living and the Dead” never ceases to fill my heart with cataclysmic glee and remind me why I love metal in the first place and have for all these years.

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

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

Myopic and Torrid Husk unleash fury on new split; Punch, Black Moth, Oberon make their marks

Myopic TorridI’ve spoken many times as to why I love split releases, because they can serve so many purposes. One of those is to put together two or more bands that really deserve extra attention than they have at the moment and give each group a little more momentum.

The always reliable Grimoire Records has one for you that exposes two of the better up-and-coming bands that aren’t household names quite yet but very well could be in the future. Both Myopic and Torrid Husk have a number of tremendous releases on their resumes already at this point, but they come together on “Crawling Mountain Apogee” to hammer out about 40 minutes of music combined that should give those unfamiliar a nice taste of what each has to offer. The bands make sense presented together, though they definitely have traits that separate them sonically, but those into death, doom, sludge, and black metal, especially that of the underground variety, should find a ton to like on this release. It’s a tremendous package.

We’ll start with Myopic, the Maryland-based band that has a handful of releases to their name, including their January EP “Beyond the Mirror’s Edge.” On this record, the band delivers two pounders that are epic in length and always spellbinding. They open their portion with 10:44 “Unction in Passing” that begins grimy but then lets some acoustics into the room. The song has a nice dose of atmosphere, though guitar work bristles and keeps things a little ugly, too, while the vocals are vicious and bloodthirsty. There is great energy and tumult to the song, and while it settles down a little in the track’s back end, it ignites before the finish with the band launching into emotional chaos that bleeds right into “Remembrance.” That song opens with doomy, sludgy fire, as they pound with a deliberate pace and the vocals delve into infernal death terrain. There is drubbing chugging that keeps this bruising, vocals that match the intensity of everything going on here, and plenty of blazing color throughout its 8:56, proving Myopic a band that deserves your attention and a tidal wave of adulation.

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

Now, we’ve visited with Torrid Husk in the past, and their atmospheric brand of black metal is pretty much right up my alley. This West Virginia band has a full-length and EP to their credit, and they also have two submissions on this split that shows a band evolving and getting more cataclysmic. “And Ballasted the Elk” is their opener, and it starts with strange cosmic blips that mix in with the sounds of nature. Maybe it’s the vision of an alien forest? Anyhow, the song eventually opens up, displaying their spacious style perfectly, with the vocals from guitarist Tyler sounding gurgly and ugly. The band switches up the pace throughout the track, mostly devastating with their playing, but also finding time to pull things back and inject some quiet. The final minutes feel like a raging, humid summer storm, with proggy weirdness popping up, and a killer finish to the cut. “So Howled Out for the World to Give Him a Name” starts with intense black metal and an old-school feel that reminds of the Nordic warriors of the Second Wave. The melodies are hammering, the vocals twisted and deranged, and there is a sense of cascading drama that snakes throughout this 8:12 song. The end is interesting as out of the mouth of madness, the band returns to those sounds of nature, with birds chirping and everything returning to the woods again. Great band. Pay attention now, damn you.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/merch

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

As any of my fellow scribes can attest, there is almost too much vital music out there right now and an even larger tidal wave of it to come in the next six weeks. We wanted to give some capsule looks at some important releases from the past few weeks in which you may be interested and to which we wanted to give time.

Punch coverPUNCH, “They Don’t Have to Believe” (Deathwish Inc.) – What a great, passionate collection of songs from socially conscious San Francisco thrashcore band Punch. This album is punishing, blinding, melodic, and bursting with passion, with vocalist Meghan O’Neil driving the band forward with her emotional, pay-heed-or-else voice. It’s impossible not to get caught up in this band’s intensity, unless you have no heart, and there is so much to like on this album from raging opener “Worth More Than Your Opinion,” where O’Neil howls, “Our looks, our bodies, are none of your fucking business!” that has to make you pump your fist hard; the chugging and powerful “Denial”; “Making Room” that has traces of doom, thick and intimidating bass, and O’Neil shouting, “I can only bite my tongue for so long!”; the powerviolence of “Anxiety”; and splattering closer “Unconditional.” It’s great to hear a band stand for something and deliver their word with such conviction. Awesome, awesome band.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Punch/165122930174113

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

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

Black Moth coverBLACK MOTH, “Condemned to Hope” (New Heavy Sounds) – Metal doesn’t have enough credible bands that rise past the underground, but England’s Black Moth could break through with their sophomore record “Condemned to Hope.” They retain their doomy, sludgy base, but their songwriting has improved dramatically, and they sound confident and swaggering on this new album. Vocalist Harriet Bevan sounds awesome as always, and the band proves it has what it takes to be a bigger act capable of filling larger rooms. Just give a listen to thunderous opener “Tumbleweave” that has a bundle of energy and biting words about celebrity obsession; “Looner” and its tongue-in-cheek suggestive lyrics, with Bevan teasing, “Crack an egg on my breasts, love,” knowing full well she’ll knock your ass out if you do; darker “The Last Maze”; “Red Ink,” a slow-into-crunch ballad that could be a breakout for them; and bluesy, guttery “Slumber With the Worm” that drips with attitude. This is catchy as hell and deserves to light this group on fire, especially here in the States.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.themothpit.co.uk/

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.newheavysounds.com/New%20Heavy%20Sounds/HOME/HOME.html

Front_cover_Oberon_Dream_Awakening_2OBERON, “Dream Awakening” (Prophecy) – It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Bard Oberon (13 years to be exact, as “Anthem” was released in 2001), so it’s nice to have “Dream Awakening” in our hands. As usual, the music is a mix of dreamy Neofolk, art rock, prog, and pure heavy metal, with the music absolutely soaring into the atmosphere at times. If you’re into what Alcest has been up to lately and aren’t familiar with Oberon, this could be a good gateway record for you. There is a ton of back and forth sonically. For example, the album opens with the relatively gentle “Empty and Marvelous,” where Oberon notes, “Night slips from you,” as he heads into ’70s folk territory. But “Escape” follows as a dose of melodic, surging metal that’s catchy and just a bit bruising. That’s how this whole record flows, and it makes it such a joy to behold. You can get lost in the quieter tracks “In Dreams We Never Are” that plays with space noise; “Flight of Aeons” that follows the same compelling path; and “Phoenix,” where he calls, “I am reborn, I shed this old skin.” And the burlier ones—“I Can Touch the Sun With My Heart” and closer “Age of the Moon”—give you the grit you might need. This is an awesome, infectious collection that should spark your dreams and make you want to launch into the stars.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: California’s Cold Blue Mountain could hit home on wrenching ‘Old Blood’

Cold Blue MountainMost of us wouldn’t take too kindly if someone tried to invade our homes and take over our lives, erasing our past entirely. That can apply to one’s house, one’s company, or one’s homeland, and the end result could be accepting what’s not the status quo in order to get through everyday life.

I used to work for a newspaper, one that was grassroots, family owned forever, but economic woes stripped that away over time. I’ve been gone for many years, but since then they’ve been infiltrated by a parent company that has stripped away every ounce of its identity, almost to the point where I don’t recognize it anymore. It’s gone. Swallowed. That’s a minor example considering entire populations and countries have been invaded over time and forced to adhere to new rules and regulations. The Native Americans here in the United States are an example of that, as what was theirs was wrestled away, with their history and path often pushed aside or paved over by “American history.” That’s a type of subject matter that Cold Blue Mountain tackled on their cataclysmic new record “Old Blood,” as they wrote their own tale about a society being overtaken by a foreign body, forced to adapt, and who have to watch their identity be stripped away over time. The emotional turmoil can be felt in the music on these incredible five tracks, and the band kept the story general enough that, if you want to apply your own (or your ancestors’ own) tale to it, it’ll fit and prove a place to go for some understanding and catharsis.

Cold Blue Mountain coverThe Chico, Ca., band emerged a couple years ago with their debut record, a great amalgamation of post-metal, doom, and sludge, and it was impactful enough that they opened up some eyes (ours included). But this new record is some next-level stuff, the band forming into a truly special machine capable of a record this good and transcending. The musicians responsible for this epic–vocalist Brandon Squyres, guitarists Will McGahan and Sesar Sanchez, bassist Adrian Hammons, and drummer Daniel Taylor–let every ounce of themselves out, from the cascading, crushing music, to the vocals that sound like they had to be torturous and bloodletting to record. If you’re looking for a band to competently slide in with your ISIS and Neurosis records, look no further than this band that definitely should scratch that itch.

“Seed of Dissent” opens up the story with piano gently leading you in, as guitars meet up and begin to unfurl the full colors. A really cool texture is established that’s both cerebral and stimulating, but then the band starts chugging hard and busting into savagery and atmosphere. The music and the vocals drip with emotion, and the band begins plowing, bringing a dramatic end to the first chapter. “New Alliances” has drums bursting from the seams, with burly lead guitar work and piano notes drizzling behind. The track then gets calmer, cooler, with some interesting playing that comes off as … space folk? Is that a thing? It is now. That leads back to another cannon explosion, with the band devastating again, Squyres digging deep for the most guttural shouts in his system, and a finish that’s damn near proggy. “Strongest Will” is built on some cool riffs, and behind it all, the cymbals take an absolute beating at the hands of Taylor. The vocals are monstrous, as usual, and the melodies that hold the thing together are compelling and powerful. The final moments find the band trudging heavily through the mud, and the screams sounding crazed at times.

Speaking of vocals that teeter on the edge of sanity, what Squyres does on the 9:23 “Retreat” sounds overflowing with tumult and passion. He dumps every bit of himself into this song and leaves every ounce of himself out there on this cut. That’s not to slight the rest of the guys, who also empty their souls with a clean, solemn first few minutes that, combined with the vocals, sound downright mournful. There’s a lot of back and forth, with the band pounding you at times, before slipping back behind the clouds and letting the ground get soaked. The final minutes find the band mauling at a deliberate pace, and the vocals completely dominating the picture. Just a gripping song. Closer “Demise” begins calmly, and it takes its time establishing the mood of this 11:07 last section. The song blows open eventually, with the vocals leaving welts, the band hitting a sludgy tempo, and much of what you hear pouring from your headphones or speaker seeming raw and bloody. Fiery guitar leads emerge from the smoke, thick basslines ooze power, and the vocals sound like they’re trying to make sense of everything that’s happened, provide both a place to find solace about the past and express frustrations about what’s come to pass. It’s an impressive last salvo to end one hell of a weighty record.

Cold Blue Mountain remain a bit of a mystery to the rest of the world, but “Old Blood” should get them attention and adulation in no time. It’s a career-making record, one that should win them a mass of devotees who not only relish their current work but wonder what’s possible for them in the future. This album should be heard by those who can relate to the story, those who want to be crushed by their music, and those who can appreciate a budding band at the start of their creative high. We could all look back in a few years and see “Old Blood” as one of those landmark records where an important band really got going.

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

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

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

Bizarre Norwegian black metal killers Khold finally resurface with catchy, crushing ‘Til Endes’

KholdThere are absolute truths about Nordic black metal band Khold. First, they’re really strange, which you can tell right away just by looking at their promo photos. Second, they do the black metal/rock n roll thing about as well as anyone ever has, and it’s been a long damn wait to get something new from the band.

But, behold! Khold’s latest opus “Til Endes” is upon us, and as usual, I still can’t understand a damn word they’re saying because I haven’t smartened up enough to learn any other language competently other than English. But sometimes a great album with monster hooks and devastating melodies catapults over that pesky language barrier, and this new eight-cut record does just that. We haven’t heard from this face-painted, strange band in six long years, since they dropped “Hundre ar Gammal” on our heads in 2008, and in that time, their members have kept busy in other places. Most of them have plied their trade with Tulus, though drummer Sarke has made a mark with his self-named band and even invaded Maryland Deathfest this year. OK, back to Khold, who deserve our undivided attention.

Khold cover“Til Endes,” the band’s sixth release ever since forming in 2000 is one of their catchiest. Yeah, that might not sound very cult, right? It’s supposed to be charred, dark, ugly, clearly evil? OK, well, it’s not, and who cares? I’d say these guys rival Entombed and Immortal as finding ways to add accessibility and fun to their music, and every moment of this thing just drips with energy. Go ahead and try to avoid getting caught up in it. You’ll fail. Maybe credit vocalist/guitarist Gard, guitarist Rinn, bassist Crowbel, and Sarke (don’t forget shadowy fifth member Hildr, Gard’s wife who writes the lyrics) with putting out a spirited record that brims with life, even if their sound and look is buried in death and morbidity. I can’t stop listening to this record, and it’s been in my ears regularly since getting the promo several months ago.

The album starts with the awesome “Myr,” as its razor-sharp lead guitar riff burns their way into your skin and the melodies stick to your ribs. The song, like most on here, is catchy as hell, and the guys sell it full bore. Good luck getting the chorus out of your head, by the way, even if that just means the thrashing stays with you. “Skogens uye” pierces from the start, with the guitars chugging and doing their best to do some melodic damage and the group hitting on a killer groove. There’s a Dakthrone-style gallop that rises up toward the end, driving up even more dust, and the tempo is absolutely surging. “Ravnestrupe” grinds up early, with raucous riffs and some thick bass playing. The verses are ugly and nearly infernal, and then they meet up with punishing rhythms and harsh growls that work ideally together. It’s the perfect amount of speed and chewy tastiness. “Dommens Arme” is the big surprise of the record, and an astute listener should catch on pretty easily. It’s the band’s reworking of Sepultura classic “Troops of Doom,” and it’s a great take on the track with their own black metal stylings splashed over this beast. They do some serious trucking here. This is the second great cover of this track this year, as Pittsburgh doom-death institution Derketa also put their bloody fingerprints on the song.

The swirling title cut is up next, with melodies that should cause heads to swing on necks hard and in windmill fashion. These guys really dig into the grime on this one, with the guitars chugging away and Gard’s vocals a gurgly high point, especially driving home the simplistic chorus. “Det Dunkle Dyp” is another one of those tracks so clingy, they stick to you long after the record’s over. The guitars are sweltering, the tempo is a little more restrained in spots, and again, the chorus makes its mark most effectively. It does kick things into higher gear here and there, but the best moments are the more calculating ones. “Avund” has a dissonant beginning, as the guys pound away and achieve a strange atmosphere. The track definitely is more in the rock n roll vein than anything, and there are some interesting progressions that should keep you guessing. Closer “Hengitt” opens with mud-thick bass before giving way to a nasty guitar riff and the band building to a really strong blow up. Once the song ignites, the band knifes full steam ahead, with guitars dripping darkness, the vocals a throaty violent, and the drums beaten to a pulp. They hit on more tremendous grooves that should get your fists moving no matter what you’re doing, and they kick up the intensity even further over the final minutes of the song, making sure you’re both rocked and reeling. I’ve more than once hit repeat as soon as this record ended, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing the same. It’s that good.

Yes, this thing is catchy, thrashy, fun, and pretty well produced. Those are things at which many black metal fans turn their corpse-painted noses, but doing so means you’ll miss out on one of the year’s most pleasurable listens. These guys have a great formula, sound like they had plenty of heathen-like fun making it, and are at no shortage for inspiration. Maybe six years is a long time to wait, but I’ll handle it every time if we keep getting Khold records as damn good as “Til Ended.”

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

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

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

Mortuus’ dank, dizzying black metal revels in death, begs for its arrival on ‘Grape of the Vine’

MortuusIt’s going to get dark, spooky, ugly, and horrific soon in America. Or at least that’s what a majority of the population thinks. I always find the Halloween season a little bit silly, especially when the religious dorks rise up and protest what is a pretty cartoonish, harmless season. But elsewhere, real terror awaits.

If you want to look into the true face of death and evil, look no further than Mortuus, the long-standing Swedish black metal band that will have no problem causing chills to go up and down your spine. Their freshly released second full-length “Grape of the Vine” has arrived after years of their minions waiting for an answer to 2007’s “De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis.” That’s one hell of a mouthful of a title. Anyhow, this seven-track, nearly 50-minute excursion is painted all over with the stench of death. It’s a nightmarish soundtrack of your body expiring and what’s left being sent on a suffocating journey through a darkness full of mysteries and perhaps danger. The record is chilling from front to back, and they establish a dank atmosphere that relies more on psychological punishment than it does overwhelming you with power and speed.

Mortuus coverThe band is made up of two musicians, that being vocalist/guitarist Tehom, and bassist/drummer/backing vocalist M. Hinze. Together, they work to create a dark vortex of hell that might take some getting used to. It might not suck you in right away simply because they eschew convention, with sticky melodies and any hooks completely absent. Instead, the vocals often sound like a running diatribe, designed to provoke the forces of evil, while the music rains down like blood, getting in your eyes and causing your lips to stick together. It’s not a comfortable experience, but it is one that’ll feel a lot different than the ones on which most modern black metal bands take you.

Frosty instrumental “Layil” opens the record with ominous playing, drums throbbing hard, and guitars spilling all over the place, instilling a foreboding atmosphere into the proceedings and leading into the furious title track. There, guitars chugs, maniacal growls sting your senses, and the music drives a dizziness that could leave you trying to regain your footing. Most of the track is a slow burn, with drubbing compositions and driving vocals that sound accusatory. “Torches” has a scintillating lead guitar line that knifes into the beginning of the track, and a calculating pace meets up with monstrous howls to blow fire into your face. Some traces of tangible melodies slip into place, giving the track the slightest hint of accessibility, and the final dose of storming glides into dripping piano that closes the door on the cut. “Sulphur” has fires crackling and a poisonous gust in the air, as the band churns slowly, violently. The song opens up a bit, with Hinze howling, “I hear the devil speak while I lay asleep,” setting imagery from which your worst dreams are made.

“Disobedience” is eerie at first and takes it time setting the scene, but as it goes on, it turnsurh into something cold and prickly. The tracks bleeds slowly, while the darkness sets in thick, and a frozen, deathly melody arrives the make things even more charnel. The song is just ugly, with infernal vocals and vicious mashing dragging you to the finish. “Nemesis” is psychologically damaging and even manages to hit a little harder than what preceded it, with Hinze declaring, “You are prophets of your own demise.” There is a hope for death, if not a worship of it, in the air, and the entire song feels like it’s luring you not just to your grave, but to eternal damnation. The final moments are so destructive that they’re oppressive, and this is the most aggressive track on the whole record. Closer “Tzel Maveth” has a cloudy start, only to have riffs burst from it like lightning. The songs lurches like a slow-moving, deadly lava, and the pace returns to the calculated climb most of these cuts take. The song burns heavily, filling everything with a thick smoke, and mercy is only given in its final moment, when the record meets the demise it promises all along.

When people are reveling in ghouls, ghosts, devils, and skulls next month, remember to give them a break. For they do not know of the true chaos and death that is Mortuus’ music, and most would faint at the first few notes of “Grape of the Vine.” As for you, the hardening of the arteries and exposure to real fright will get you ready for the cold months when everything around you is dead and decaying. Nature is getting ready to take that rotting journey, and everything on this nightmare of a record will have gotten you pretty much prepared.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/collections/all

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

Beak assuming a higher pecking order among best new metal bands with great ‘Let Time Begin’

BeakThe jump from release one to two can be a tricky one. That first record is usually a culmination of songs a band has been working on for some time while plying their trade on the road, finding their feet as musicians and songwriters, and playing those songs repeatedly until they’re practically DNA. The second effort, though, is where we see if the band has any real staying power.

If that above model can be applied safely, for the most part, there’s genuine reason to be excited about Beak, the atmospheric, sludgy maulers out of fertile Chicago whose newest work, and their first full-length “Let Time Begin” is at hand. Their 2012 EP “Eyrie” was enough to get us excited about what this band could do, as they seemed to walk a line between ISIS and Pelican as far as their sound was concerned. Yeah, a lot of bands can say that same thing. It’s a heavily traveled area for sure. But they seemed to have something extra that made them worth giving your attention, and that pays off in dividends on this devastating eight-track new record. Over the past two years, the band certainly has grown and developed their own colors, and this is a great coming-out party for these guys, who have something fresh and vital to add to the post-metal, sludge world.

Beak coverBeak haven’t made gigantic alterations to their sound or anything. They just play better now and have a ton more confidence. When their music explodes, you can feel it in your guts, and they have a conviction and energy that’s infectious and real. The fellows making up the band–vocalist/guitarist Jon Slusher, guitarist Andy Bosnak, bassist/backing vocalist Jason Goldberg, drummer Chris Eichenseer–sound like they’re ready to make a gigantic dent in the metal world, and “Let Time Begin” is a devastating new step that should leave like-minded bands in the dust.

“Souls in Streams” gets things off to a massive start, with noise spilling over, vicious guitar chugging, and brutal vocals that flat-out destroy. In fact, the vocals are an area of vast improvement, not that they were bad on the EP at all. They’re just better here. “Light Outside” lets guitars trickle in lightly before the sludge just rips and everything gets dumped into the lava. Forceful shouts punch holes, a cool synth glaze emerges for an alien feel, and the whole thing punishes hard. “The Breath of Universe” is a really interesting one, with cosmic Vocoder-splashed vocals giving the song a Cynic feel, and the muddy warfare going on elsewhere making like something out of Neurosis’ camp. It’s a track that balances colorful texture and all-out devastation perfectly. The title cut has more of a rock feel to it, though it doesn’t skimp on the heaviness either. There is cleaner singing here that works great with the tones, psychedelic keys behind the crunch, and just a little hint of Pink Floyd for good measure.

“Into the Light” is the longest cut at 7:05, and it makes the most out of its running time, opening with all guns blazing before settling into a little outer space wonder. Key woosh, while the guitars burn over top of them, and furious growls persist through all of this. “Carry a Fire” has a sci-fi bend to it when it begins, but all of a sudden the lid is ripped off, and the band starts mauling harder than anywhere else to this point. The sound is just massive, and their playing can be cathartic if you get lost in all of their tumult, giving you another reason to indulge in this track other than pure heaviness. “Over the Shelter, the Morning Breaks” is a calm before the storm, a short, tranquil bridge that leads to the thunderous closer “Fiery They Rose.” The track begins delivering heavy body blows before it pulls back some and calms down. But it’s a ruse as the band starts an assault that will rip the breath from your lungs and have you running for shelter. They destroy everything in front of them, with the atmosphere smothering you, along with hulking madness and a pace set to kill. Finally, mercy is bestowed, as the song dissolves into watery sequences, the music drizzles, and intergalactic synth sweeps everything into the stars.

Beak sound poised and ready to jump to the next level, and they have a killer new slab in “Let Time Begin” to get them there. From my first listen on, I felt like this record was a pivotal one for them, an album that should wake up people who don’t know about the band yet and cement the affection for those who have been around since the first EP and even before. This record is a smasher, and they should be super proud to unleash this beast on the world.

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

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

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