Saturnalia Temple create black magick metal, psyche clouds on ominous, spacey ‘To the Other’

Saturnalia TempleI am not a user of mind-altering substances, unless we’re counting high ABV beer in the equation. If so, then I guess that first sentence is a lie. But what I’m really after is that I don’t partake in the types of things that generally help you think you’ve achieved some sort of great trip to another realm or plane. I’m good right here.

But I find certain bands can help you do with nothing other than their music. One that always does manage to catapult me through various levels of existence and worlds is Saturnalia Temple, a band that’s as challenging mentally as they are physically. And make no mistake: This is a damn heavy band in every sense of that description. But there is way more to their art than just pummeling, as you’re bound to find out on their great new record “To the Other.” Recorded in their own studio in the forests of Uppsala, Sweden, it feels like the band took to lying on the ground, staring at the stars, and remaining there until all of the galaxies started to spin and mix together. The band’s melding of doom, sludge, stoner, black metal, and psychedelics helps create their colorful world and transport the listener to another place, where you’ll be happy to stay for the fully captivating 48 minutes this band unfurls on their second full-length effort.

Saturnalia Temple coverThe band labels its sound “black magick metal,” and that feels like a pretty accurate description from experiencing their music over the years. Thematically, what they stab at here feels pretty universal from a metal standpoint–the destruction of the world and individuals fighting back against the forces that be in the name of individuality. The band itself—Tommie on vocals and guitar, bassist Peter, and their U.S. live drummer Tim Call pulverizing the kit—feels cosmically aligned, pumping out dark energy and fiery riffs that will get inside you and connect with your darkest inhibitions. Or translated, it’s just a great, dark slab of muddy metal that will go down just right.

The record kicks off with an eerie, ambient introduction piece that trickles right into “ZazelSorath,” a sludge-heavy, imposing track that brings the riffs and pounds you over the head with them. There are warped, damaged guitar parts intertwined with the music, echoey growls that make the messages feel as if they’re being delivered telepathically, and shouts of, “Rise!” that plod along with the drubbing. The title cut has a clean, yet slurry start, and then powerful guitar lines catch fire and burn over top. The growls are creaky and chilling, with the melodies feeling soulful and jarring and a dusty Western sense making its presence know, whether or not that was intended. The band hits a deep trance state, with guitar lines repeating over and over again, causing your pupils to turn to swirls and causing you to fall into a mental abyss. The final moments are psychedelically warped and leave you grasping for a sense of understanding. “Show of Reason” has a pushy, numbing tempo, beating on you again, with the vocals coming off like gruff warnings. A serious dose of buzzing sets in, with the riffs mashing everything in sight, like the band is some sort of intergalactic Black Sabbath, and the madness continues its relentless nature until it finally fades into the night.

“March of Gha’agsheblah” is a mouthful to say, and it begins with massive guitar work that feels humid and mighty, and the vocals sounding like they’re being delivered by a detached monster. The song blisters and boils for the most part, but it also has its psychedelic angles. But the main story behind this one is the relentless trudging they carry out, leaving the ground battered behind them. “Black Sea of Power” has dizzying guitar work, further pounding that carries over from the song before it, and deranged, echo-rich growling that sounds terrifying. The doom hammer is swung heavily on this one, with a bit of melody sneaking into the picture and the background as the song fades into the fog. “Crowned With Seven” is charged up, feeling like an early High on Fire song at times, and the thrashy, mucking assault is balanced by noises that sound like they’ve traveled here from bizarre worlds far away. This is a chugging, punishing cut that definitely leaves bruises. Closer “Void” is strange when it enters the room, with alien guitars floating, spacious pockets of sound, and hypnotic, swirling melodies that mesmerize. The playing easily can help create visions in your mind, and once you’re in the state of daydream, the whole thing plunges deep under the black sea, drowning out the sound, only to resurface for mere moments before it fizzles out like static spit.

Saturnalia Temple’s dark energy never has been stronger, and “To the Other” finds them truly coming into their own as a magnificent force. This collection is engaging, mesmerizing, and powerfully heavy, and there are no down moments on this massive beast. This thing is a nightmare-inducing crusher that will take you to other realms and leave you wondering where exactly you exist.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Ufomammut soar through new galaxies on molten seventh record ‘Ecate’

UfomammutI am sort of transfixed with the idea of space travel. It’s not something I’d necessarily ever want to do voluntarily–regular air travel bothers me as much as it is. But the concept of soaring through the stars to other worlds and past strange worlds is an amazing concept to me.

Because of the above acceptance that I’ll never soar through space, I need to find music that makes me feel like I’m floating amongst alien worlds. One go-to band for me every time is Italian doom experimentalists Ufomammut. Nearly impossible to truly classify (despite my best stab at descriptors), these guys have been making mind-altering, cosmic chaos for years now. You can’t really put a finger on what they do and be totally right. Yes, they’re heavy. Awfully heavy at times, and when they are, it feels like worlds are exploding. They can induce dream states, so much so that when I’m listening to their music in a non-critical situation, it’s easy for me to float away. They’re also daring, never remaining loyal to one path, sound, or way, making each one of their studio records (as well as their live shows) unique beings.

Ufomammut coverThe band is back with their mesmerizing seventh record “Ecate,” the follow-up to 2012’s dual, yet separately released records “Oro: Opus Primum” and “Oro: Opus Alter.” Once again the three musical chemists—bassist/synth player/special effect/vocalist Urlo, guitarist/synth player/special effects Poia, drummer Vita—blaze new trails across the sky and leave you enthralled. The title is based on the three-sided goddess that travels among the living and dead realms, representing the past, present, and, future, and often acts as either a positive and negative omen to travelers. They pay homage through thunderous, always captivating compositions only they could create and perform, and once again, they’ve come up with something utterly masterful.

“Somnium” launches the ship, running 9:55 and opening with static haze, synth that spreads and thickens, and rumbling that slowly emerges. Later, the top gets ripped off as the volume spikes, with the band pounding away at you, eventually giving way to some calm. Things start to boil again, as the music rises up, detached singing colors the background, and the whole thing heads toward a bottomless mudpit that swallows you whole and finally spits you out at the end. “Plouton” is one of the shortest, most direct songs in the band’s entire catalog, lasting just 3:08 and acting as a corrosive, punishing assault. The guitars are as loud as they seemingly can go, with the vocals more forceful and drenched in echoes and the rest of the band dealing out fuzzy, mashing punishment. Quite the change of pace for these guys. Then it’s into “Chaosecret,” the album’s longest track at 10:47. The whole thing starts like a cosmic soup, with things bubbling slowly, the murk gently making its way overhead, and strange chants emanating, putting you on the brink of hypnosis. It continues into what feels like a fever dream, with the music causing you to see strange visions before the volcano erupts and their force grows greater. The vocals decimate, as the pace starts trucking hard, and more brain numbing playing takes the track to its rightful conclusion.

“Temple” tears apart right from the start, with mucky and heavy pounding, the band hulking in the most beastly of fashion, and more vocals that sound like chants reaching out to other worlds. Fog rolls in and chokes out the surroundings, settling and letting things burn only to have everything break apart again. But then, the guys put on their most vile face, launching into an outright violent section, unleashing absolute fury and letting everything burn in hell-like blazes. The band trudges ahead and keeps up the pace until the intensity is allowed to fade. “Revelation” is a shorter, mostly ambient cut that acts much like a bridge to the conclusion. The song swirls in psychedelic gases, floating and zapping overhead, delivering occasional static shocks. The 10:30 closer “Daemons” starts off harshly enough, with riffs that cut like barbed wire and vocals that are pretty monstrous. There’s a hazy period where voice samples weave through the mire, leading right into the next thashy section, with more gruff singing blowing in, all of the elements piling on top of each other, and a collection of organs, chimes, and synth forming a poisonous cloud. The song, and this journey itself, ends in a field of sci-fi-minded synth, chilling your body and soul and returning you from your journey into the stars.

Ufomammut’s reputation already was stellar before the arrival of “Ecate,” but these six songs just push their status further into the stratosphere. They’ve managed to keep making riveting, challenging, devastating music while maintaining their sense of weirdness and organic adventure. There’s not another band on the planet quite like Ufomammut, another quality that makes these guys so damn special.

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Hæthen’s atmospheric brand of black metal gets spacious, raw with ‘Shaped By Aeolian Winds’

Haethen bandIt’s going to start raining and storming pretty regularly pretty soon, and I, for one, am excited about that. Unless it’s rush hour, because people in my town can’t drive in the elements. It’s the height of human terror, with nature opening up and exacting revenge for whatever wrongs we have perpetrated over the past year.

Anyhow, the return of soaked grounds, thunder crackles, and lightning make for a fitting background to the more atmospheric blends of black metal. They really go hand in hand with the season, just like they do during autumn, and being able to drink in the noises of like-minded savagery with the weather is something that makes me profoundly happy. This is where bands such as Philadelphia’s Hæthen come into play, and their debut full-length “Shaped By Aeolian Winds” is one that’s perfect for visitation right about now. You may already have your hands on a version of this album, as it was released independently in December, but now Ars Magna Recordings (CD version) and Fallen Empire (vinyl) are bringing this great, powerful record back into focus. And it feels like it was made for this time of year.

Haethen coverHæthen grew out of NJ-based band Opus Dei after they split up, and this lineup is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Phaedrus, guitarist Wanderer, and drummer Gone. On this first full offering (they delivered a 2009 demo “Wanderer”), the band spread their spacious black metal over nine tracks and 55 minutes, showing both brutality and brains into the operation. Fans of groups including Agalloch, Fen, Wolves in the Throne Room, and artists of that ilk should fall in line with what Hæthen accomplish here. It’s an ambitious yet grainy effort, an album that shows the band’s prowess but also keeps their dark hearts burning and the sense of utter savagery firmly in place.

“Entranced By the Unknowing” is your opener, with black waves lapping, winds whipping, and bells chiming, almost as if signaling the funeral of winter. The song bursts a bit before subsiding, and that leads into “Taking the Auspices,” with its furious storming, acoustics slipping behind the curtains, and crushing shrieking. The pace bubbles hard, with the band pushing ahead with ambition and strength. “Amongst the Forlorn Larch” (runs 10:03) bursts open immediately, with creaky vocals weaving ugliness into the mix and acoustic strains drizzling over the background. The song feels hazy and foggy, the ideal soundtrack to an all-day rainstorm during a long stretch of warm, humid weather. The track gets gruff near the end, as melodies cascade mournfully until they fade into the night. “Fragments of Spectral Uncertainly” rages for 11:03, with brutality meeting interesting instrumentation, ferocious growls and shrieks penetrating, but then the track suddenly taking a weird turn. It feels like everything sinks underwater and to the bottom, like a weird movie score from the depths of the sea, only to return to volcanic fury and end up glorious and dreamy.

The title track then arrives, a short instrumental track with grim guitars and weird glimmering, leading into “In the Absence of the Eternal,” which ignites and is built on aggressive melodies and vicious growling. The band just grinds away, with dizzying guitar work, drums that are decimated, and the whole thing feeling like a total mind melt. “Captured Within the Annulus” has a thick sense of rustic folk at the start, which is darkened by an assault of dark black metal and a tempo that shifts repeatedly. When the pace gets raucous and clubbing, it later eases and brings a sense of calm. But that’s never permanent, as the guys always find ways to reignite the fires and blast your senses again. “The Gate of the Firmament” is slow and sweltering, with guitar melodies bustling and harsh growls breaking the skin. The bulk of the track has a dreary, dampening feel, keeping the elements pounding down on you until you manage to wander into “Spiritrise” which is a continuation, or second half, of what’s already afoot. Here, the music gets louder and more dangerous, the vocals corrode and feel damaged, and a bed of noise drone kicks up, leading into more stinging winds, storms that are born again, and a final burst of natural power before it fades into the distance.

If you were late to the boat for Hæthen’s debut, no worries for you. “Shaped By Aeolian Winds” sounds even better now than it did in mid-winter, as these songs are perfect along with our boots sinking into the hungry earth and the thaw swelling rivers and streams. They have a great mix of atmospherics and pure black metal rawness, and the fact that this music will be available in more formats means that additional people can bask in their dark glory.

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Mysterious black metal band Murg emerge with ’90s-smeared black metal on ‘Varg & Björn’

MurgSo many artists seem like they are trying to reach back to eras past, from some of the fuzz-heavy bands looking to reignite the sounds of the late 70s to the current collection of groups trying to do the 1980s proud. I also understand there is some sort of nu-metal revival afoot? Is that a real thing?

Another era that is paid plenty of homage is the nasty wave of black metal that burst from the Scandinavian region in the early and mid 1990s. You can throw a rock out of your car window and strike someone from a band trying to repeat that sound, and more often than not, those artists aren’t worthy of carrying around the bullet belts of those who preceded them. So when I got the advance promo for the debut album from Murg, and the words in the press released promised a trip back to that unmerciful time, I was skeptical. I’ve heard that all before, and I almost never come away satisfied. But what this band does on their thunderous debut offering “Varg & Björn” is revive hopes that, yes, those raging fires of old can burn again, and if the music is in the right hands, it can sound downright glorious.

Murg coverMurg is made up of a mysterious duo from Sweden who, as far as I can tell and research, do not have any known ties to any other bands (nor do they have any online presence). They conjure thoughts of early Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Mayhem, Immortal and bands of that nature, and their fiery and passionate delivery easily can get you caught up and going on a ride into hellfires. The record is a concept piece about what they view as the “uselessness of humankind” and the constant lack of co-existence with other elements on this planet. They must be eating up and sadly spitting out the many folks in my home country’s government and their total disregard for nature and the planet. Because money. But the way things are going, nature will be judge, jury, and executioner, and by the time we realize what we’ve done, our fates will be sealed.

“Vindarna luktar rök” starts the record ominously, as fires crackles, insects buzz, and a short blast of carnage bleeds right into “Nejderna brinner,” which has some spectacular riffing that starts the proceedings. The guitar tones feel nostalgic in a way, with spacious sections offering a chance to dream and melodic glory meeting up with metallic carnage, providing a proper burst of energy. “Grannen är din fiende” launches into a burst, with fast and punishing playing, shrieks and growls that go for the throat, and many colors raining down and adding tecture to this horror. The pace later calms some, feeling more like a rock song, but then noise rings out, winds whip, and maniacal cries carry the track into the dark. “Massvandring & blodbad” has a relatively clean intro that feels cold and eerie, with voices crying out and the band finding a calculated tempo. They chug along, with harsh vocals telling the tales, the music feeling riveting and adventurous, and nature once again pushing its weight and exacting its influence.

“Den starkes rätt” just ignites, with heavy riffing leading the way like a bulldozer, the sounds simmering in their own boiling juices, and the vocals sounding menacing and tortured. A chill later hits the air musically, as the track causes your skin to chill over before the band punishes you in the track’s final minute. “Farsoternas afton” begins with buzzing noises penetrating heavily, and the music feels like it could be emanating from a dark basement in the center of winter. The track subsides a bit and goes frosty, before the track drives again heavily, the riffs take over the situation again, and the back end gets bloody and vicious, leading right into the title cut. There, the sounds are torn from the earth, with the band galloping heavily, the vocals going from guttural grunts to piercing screams, and the whole thing utterly rumbling over you. The record then ends with the 8:07 “Ett slut, ingen början,” where melodic charging rushes from the gates, sheets of sound cascade downward, and searing leads burn a path. The vocals sound chant-like at times, like they’re lulling you into hypnosis, and after a few minutes of chaos, acoustics arrives and take the song to its emotional, tear-soaked conclusion.

Every visit I’ve had with Murg has been a great one, and the music and messages they deliver on “Varg & Björn” are both thunderously furious and worthy of our undivided attention. But humans are stubborn creatures who never learn and only pay mind to what advances our own agendas, consequences to others be damned. With that in mind, this record could be the literal soundtrack to our destruction, as we slowly but certainly choke ourselves to death.

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Colombian death vets Nepente storm back with thunderous return EP ‘I Will Get Your Soul’

Nepente coverTearing the week open like a crusted-over wound probably isn’t everyone’s favorite choice to get going, but sometimes it’s just has be done. It’s going to hurt like hell for the first couple seconds, but once those bruised nerve endings cool down, you’ll be happy you did it. Now, let’s let that thing air out so it can start to heal.

I say all of this because we’re diving right into the face of brutality with Nepente’s vicious new EP “I Will Get Your Soul.” I like this thing for a number of reasons, but here are two that really stand out for me. First, these Colombian maulers go right for your throat with no attention paid to be clean and neat. Their mission is blood, and they will do what they can to draw it as soon as possible. The second isn’t all that consequential from a musical standpoint, but it’s the cover art. Yeah, it’s not the sleekest thing in the world, but that’s what I love about it. The thing reminds me of bands I’d hear locally on the nearby college radio station in the afternoon, because groups like that would have similar style covers and a brutal, pummeling sound that would scare off the mainstream kids. It makes me feel a little nostalgic.

As for Nepente, their sound is somewhere between death and black metal, played as punishingly and non-sanitized as possible, making their brutal assaults on your senses the most important thing. The band—vocalist Jose Fernando Ospina, guitarists Pablo Vasquez (who is the primary songwriter), Juan Pablo Buitrago, and Esteban Daza, bassist Wilmar Correa, and drummer Mauricio Aristizabal—have been at it for 12 years, releasing their first EP “Ascension” in 2005 and offering their debut full-length effort “Atonements” three years later. The band’s last release was 2012’s “Suffering Is the Seed,” and now this EP arrives to let you know the band is alive, well, and hungry, and that these four songs mark the road back for Nepente.

The record opens with the title cut, as acoustic strains arrive and echo in the background before the song is absolutely torn open. The pace is heavy and ridiculously fast, with the drums being beaten into dust and the vocals sounding like they’re delivered on the wings of the world’s worst sore throat. Behind all the muck is soaring melody, which is a recurring element that gives the EP more color, and they end this thing with strong soloing and gutty thrashing. “Show Me That You Are Suffering” is as maniacal and mashing as its title indicates, with melodic guitars blistering over top, outright savagery making up the lower end, and the vocals once again sounding throaty and mean. The back end is rather catchy actually, with the speed and thrash elements going for broke and the growling lurching like a wounded monster to the finish line.

“Gray Land” follows the same punishing path as the other two songs, ramping up the thrash components and unleashing crunchy bursts of fire. The vocals are fierce, with Ospina going back and forth from guttural growls to manic shrieks, while the rest of the band backs that up with misery-inducing mashing, more electrifying guitar work, and a strong, pulverizing closing that’ll have your blood racing right to the finish. Closer “Last Rites” is a pretty fun one, with the guitars whipping up a break-neck riff that powers this thing and the drums completely clubbing you. Melody again rears its end, adding new textures to this declaration of all-out war, and the vocals sound channeled and angry as hell, with Ospina in complete commands as he repeatedly howls, “Last rites!” The music simmers in spots, with fluid guitar work arriving and bringing mind-melting soloing, while the finish crashes and burns in the best possible way, leaving your whole body scraped and bleeding.

While it may be a holdover EP before Nepente drum up a new full-length, “I Will Get Your Soul” deserves your utmost respect and attention, especially if you like your metal seriously rough around the edges and delivered like lightning. This crew sounds like they’re mobilizing for something big, getting the troops lined up so they can unleash their weapons and massacre anything and anyone that stands in front of them. If you happen to be in their line of fire, you might want to find cover, because I doubt Nepente will be showing you or anyone an ounce of mercy.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Vinyl reissue gives Predatory Light’s debut demo ‘MMXIV’ massive new life

Predatory LightWe’re taking a bit of a different path today, the day when we present the record from the week that got most play and created personal enjoyment in my brain the past seven days. Almost always that’s a newly released full-length album that gets the feature, but there’s no hard and fast rule it has to be that way.

So this week’s pick actually is something that was released last year but is being reintroduced via the magic of vinyl. If you missed out on Predatory Light’s debut demo “MMXIV,” released a little more than a year ago, then you’re in luck. That initial independent issue was on cassette, but now it gets a bigger, more fitting presentation on its new version made especially for your turntable. The band’s mixture of noise-buried doom and roughed-up black metal should appeal to fans of band such as Ash Borer (who also claim a member of this band), Fell Voices, Weakling, and Dispirit, and the two tracks included here will make you feel like you’re miles deep in the mine, with soot coating your lungs and making every breath a struggle. It’s a really awesome birth into the world for this New Mexico-based band (it was followed by a second demo “Death Essence” months later), and their future is infernal and promising.

Predatory Light coerAs for the band itself, they’re made up of players who hide behind a modicum of mystery, with LS, KM (of Ash Borer) and TW making up the band for this particular recording. They’re a thunderous bunch, aiming to bury your the weight of their sound and not paying particularly close attention to making things palatable for the unwashed or clean and glimmering for anyone. It’s ugly, punishing, and painful, and they will bury you under the weight of an ice-capped mountain.

“Changing Skins” starts off clean, almost as if giving off a cold mist, before it lurches forward and stymies with its mystifying melodies. The vocals are raw and sound pained, with the song erupting around all of this, and the band hitting a new, more violent gear. Some of the sounds are smeary and feel like they’re being splattered all over, with the drums bashed heavily and the guitar work causing the room to spin. The track reaches a patch of calm, but it’s a mere layover as the band hits full speed again and brings the song to a glorious, yet blistering, finish.

“Spiritual Flesh” runs 10:32 and is the longer of the two songs, also opening with some serenity that helps set the stage for the inevitable collapse. When that arrives, strings are scraped, the band hits a doom-infested, slow driving groove designed to haunt more than hurt, and the tempo takes on a calculating pace. At about the halfway mark, the savagery hits, as the band launches full speed ahead, the riffs arrive like lighting and rip you apart, and the vocals hit a deep, guttural level, as if they’re being scraped from the colon. The tone becomes fever dreamy again, with the band seemingly interested in hypnotism, but that later dissolves. The tempo chugs hard, the guitar spew pure blackness, and melodies and violence sweep up everything like a funnel cloud and send them hurling toward the most hellish section of space.

If you have yet to encounter Predatory Light, now is the perfect opportunity for you to change that. This debut demo certainly was exciting a year ago when it first trickled out, and it retains all of the power, fury, and chaos. They merely hint on this piece at the massive intensity welled up inside of them, and it’ll be awesome to watch that come to fruition in the years to come.

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Canadian black metal maulers Kafirun blaze own bizarre path on ‘Glorification of Holy Death’

kafirun photoThere is no one way to play black metal, and people who act like there’s a formula that must be followed must have lost their sense of freedom and rebellion a long time ago. At least to me, the most interesting black metal bands are the ones that try new things, take different paths, and bend traditional sounds to meet their own fire.

One such band is Vancouver, Canada’s Kafirun, a savage yet thought-provoking group that certainly is black metal at its core, but they do so much more than just follow patterns. Their transmissions are dark and dreary, they can send chills up your spine with their ominous ways, and they certainly have mapped their own unique code into black metal’s constantly evolving DNA. Making thunderous noise on their debut EP “Death Worship” that dropped just last year after this hellacious band formed. From there, they continued to build on their chaotic sound and kept pushing forward their vision, which we get to hear in fully realized form on their crushing new EP “Glorification of Holy Death.” It’s five tracks of black metal that is delivered anything but by the numbers and that will haunt your every move when you indulge in this thing.

KAFIRUN Glorification of Holy Death EPThe band itself is made up of four mysteriously named individuals, and finding out any more about these shadows beyond what they’ve let leak out is pointless. But that kind of adds more intrigue to the fury that Kafirun create on this record, and the band—vocalist Luzifaust, guitarist Hanephi, drummer Corpus Vile, and bassist Hypnocrotizer—keeps your mind wondering, your blood surging, and your sense of terror on high as they weave their murky tales. If you’re a fan of bands such as Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Funeral Mist, Thantifaxath, and others of that ilk, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with this still relatively new band.

Things get off to a strange start on “Wings of Malevolence,” as clean guitars trickle and create an odd environment, as things head into spacious atmosphere and snaking melodies. The vocals swim in the chaos, changing up from growls to shrieks to detached wails, while the band creates a swirling vortex of madness behind all of that, hammering in the punishment. “Salvation Through Sin” has colorful storming at the start, like stars and fire raining down from the sky, only to have the vocals turn gruff and the track take a dip into a trance. The singing then dissolves into droning murmurs, while the band churns ahead and lets all the elements boil over as everything comes to an abrupt finish.

“Destruction of the Divine Self” chugs and thrashes at the start, getting vicious and violent, with the tempo burning brightly. The vocals are delivered as harsh shrieks, with the melodies sounding chock full of mournful sentiment, and then things taking a turn for the strange. Again. The vocals transform into a buzzing underneath the canopy of terror, and the final moments ignite an oil drum of black riffs. “Chaos Magnum Opus” tears open from the start, with the band pummeling you heavily, and haunting melodies making their way into the mixture. The bulk of this song is aggressive and mashing, but there always are unexpected twists and turns that pop up along the way before the song ends suddenly. Closer “Open Veins” has an air-infused start, as the band drags you into the stratosphere, where you feel yourself losing control of your health. The vocals sound like fuzz and droning, like they’re gurgling in the back of Luzifaust’s throat, before the singing turns into pained, tortured wailing. There’s no way to be unaffected by that, and when the music makes more changes and even permits slicks of brightness into the picture, it’s always leading to another suffocation, which they perpetrate as the track and this thrilling collection come to a thunderous conclusion.

Kafirun are not on the tip of people’s tongues quite yet, and with just a year or so under their bloody belts, they have plenty of time to get there. More music like what’s contained on “Glorification of Holy Death” is sure to open more hungry ears and to help them worm their way into the earthier sections of the metal underground. The fact that they do things a little differently will help the stand out as well as find devotees who want their black metal a little more warped than usual.

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Noise duo Lightning Bolt push their levels of noise, weird to next level on ‘Fantasy Empire’

Lightning BoltWeirdness and experimentation are two traits that should be more common in music. Can you imagine if an actual daring band or artist was permitted to have mainstream exposure and change the way the populace hears and accepts music? I know. Let’s keep our dreams a little more reasonable and attainable, why don’t we?

That line of thinking has been in my head as I’ve been visiting repeatedly with “Fantasy Empire,” the new record from noise duo Lightning Bolt, their first effort in six years. It’s so ridiculously fun and infectious from first listen on, and to hear these two guys just going for it and totally selling their art emotionally is such a joy to witness. The music that the band—drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson—create sounds like something that could emanate from a dance floor in outer space. And the people taking in those sounds could draw from a large number of people, from those who love noise rock to those who embrace doom and black metal to people who just want to rave out and let the music take them to a new destination. These guys achieve that on this record, and it’s one of the most satisfying efforts of their entire catalog.

Lightning Bolt coverTo attain the sounds they create on “Fantasy Empire,” their sixth full-length, Lightning Bolt tried some new things. Trying to capture a sound more indicative of their in-the-crowd live performances, the duo made further use of live loops and recorded the instruments in complete separation to maximize the power and energy. They also used hi-fi recording equipment for the first time, and worked hard to ensure they were getting just the sounds they wanted from their instruments. Some of the tracks on this new record might even be familiar to those who have witnessed the duo live before, and they have been in their repertoire, and the new ones should hit just as hard. It’s such a damn satisfying record, with the energy just bursting, and I have found myself listening over and over again in a single setting, letting the sounds affect my mood and thinking in a positive way.

“The Metal East” is your opener, with the bass charging, the sounds purposely washed out as if to make one giant smeared color, and the vocals barked out over the din, letting things get fiery and fun. The song is strangely catchy, especially when following along the nearly indecipherable singing, and the extra coats of noise it gets really push the track on its way. “Over the River and Through the Woods” is not their take on the holiday traditional, but it does give you a nice bit of mashing in which to sink your teeth. The riffs hammer, the drums are whipped, and the whole thing has a mechanical feel, like robots are commanding your attention. You might find this song really messes with your head, and by the time it’s over, you’re subservient to their will. “Horsepower” chugs ahead hard, with the tempo clubbing and swinging, and the fellows hitting a heavy groove that could have you on your feet one minute, at someone’s throat the next. “King of My World” has vocals that border on deranged, with the drums leading the way and the melodies coated in fuzz. The back end is pretty warped, with the music knocking you for a loop, leaving you seeing stars.

“Mythmaster” has drumming that sounds tribal and spiritual, leading you toward a trance. But then the song bursts into a jolt of speed, with the bass galloping and the melodies teetering toward corrosion. They return to hypnotic waters later, with their playing leaving you a dizzy mess. “Runaway Train” gives off fumes right away from the heavily burning riffs, and then the guys settle into a cool groove where they achieve a level of peace. But it’s short lived, as the music bubbles up and penetrates like a tooth drill, and they continually maul and stomp hard all the way to the finish line. “Dream Genie” is a short, but needed, interlude, built on cosmic dreaminess and hints of chaos, leading into “Dream Genie,” which picks up the closest hammer and begins swinging away. This is the most outright metallic thing on the record, with the guys stomping away, the noise crushing you hard, and the fuzz and buzz seemingly taunting you. “Snow White (and the 7 Dwarves Fans)” closes the record and is the longest cut on here at 11:21. The duo takes its time to let the noises and levels build properly, luring you into the maze before they let loose the really dangerous stuff. The bulk of this one is a psyched-out jam, with the quivery vocals reminding a bit of David Byrne’s delivery, and as the song reaches its ending, the pace convulses hard, noise spits, and everything around you is left shaking, crumbling, and folding in on itself in the band’s wake.

Whether it’s your first experience with Lightning Bolt or if you’ve been along for their entire ride, you’re bound to be moved and electrified by this new record. These guys sound as channeled, punishing, and on fire as ever before, and I can only imagine what this new material will do to further liven up these guys’ live show. “Fantasy Empire” is a portrait of a band at the top of its game, never content with what they’ve done in the past and always looking for that new level. No doubt they found it on this record and probably will again on their next.

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Death grinders Theories inject tons of anger, ill feelings into bloody good debut ‘Regression’


Photo by Invisible Hour

The ability to make someone feel absolutely miserable is an art form not everyone is able to conquer. The ones that do can it can take that dark magic and spread it all over the universe, distributing their brand of fury and depression for everyone to experience.

Brand new Seattle death grinders Theories already have that thing down pat on their debut album “Regression,” their vicious, gnarly record that’s found an unlikely home on Metal Blade. That’s not a shot at Metal Blade, by the way. It’s just that bands of this ilk generally end up at other noteworthy places such as Relapse, so it’s cool to see the metal behemoth of a label giving these guys a proper thrust into the world. And having such a big label behind their debut should do wonders for Theories, because they are as vicious and explosive as they come. Now more people will be exposed to their thunderous vitriol that could give you a massive headache (uh … in a good way) once you’re done with this 10-track monster.

Theories coverThe components that make up Theories have made their marks elsewhere with other devastating outfits including Samothrace, Book of Black Earth, and Skarp, and you can hear elements of all of those groups mixed into this poisonous concoction. Comprising the lineup are vocalist Rick Powell, guitarist Lee McGlothlen, bassist Kush Karimi, and drummer Joe Axler, who combined their destructive forces to make for a fiery, not-to-miss debut record. The songs are on the shorter end, but the guys make the best of their time here, spilling tons of chaos and madness into these cuts and, yes, making sure you feel as miserable and agitated as possible along the way.

“Burnt Concrete” is the first burst of hell from this band, as a vicious, sludgy stream of mucky grind pours forth like cement about to harden. The track crushes without mercy, with the vocals lurching and bruising and the drums being completely decimated. “Cycle of Decay” is smeared with soot and mauls hard. The pace picks up, as they push forward with surprising force, and some melodic guitar lines burn underneath the chaos, allowing the mud to glimmer. “Shame” has punishing riffs, vocals that trample you hard, and a strong, smashing tempo, where it feels like the music is splitting your guts open and spraying them everywhere. “Abortive Crescent” has a breathless pace as it begins its assault from the word go, and the package of thrashy noise and aggressive battery raises the threat level and keeps its focus on killing until it finally bleeds out. “Bathing in Pig’s Blood” is as crazed and smearing as its title indicates, with the band rewarding your attention with menacing death and vocals that sound like they may have left Powell hoarse and raw when he was finished.

“First World’s Last Breath” unleashes pummeling drums, a thrashy and toxic guitar display, and vocals that reach into the deeper end for visions of complete annihilation. The horrors here are evident and they stick to your side long after the cut subsides. “Swimming in Mud,” despite its title, is one of the more adventurous, mind-altering of all of the songs included here. The guitars bend and sway, leaving a slurry feeling, and the vocals are massive and feel like they’re delivering a lifetime’s worth of pain. “Revenge/Rewild” rips apart immediately, with the guitars tearing a gaping hole in your chest and the other elements feeding off the carnage. The vocals, by the way, sound like they’re spat out in disgust, like Powell is trying to relieve himself of the worst thing he’s ever tasted. “Hell in Her Eyes” is the longest of the group at 4:59, and it starts in a bed of chilling guitars and eerie transmissions before they take a turn headlong into total devastation. The band adds some different colors on this track, like streaks of orange and purple across a dusk sky, while melody cuts through the smoke at the end, giving the track a thrilling finish. Closer “Landfill” then takes everything back into a raging fire, with hard riffs, vocals that are gruff and unforgiving, and a mangling last burst of terror that gets in some final gut punches.

If you are looking for something that’s good and angry and bound to leave you feeling miserable and irritated when all is said and done, Theories could be your band. “Regression” is a fine debut for the band, a record you should give a serious shot, especially if you want something to align with your own blackness and inner turmoil. This band will reward you time and time again, even if they also leave you with skinned knees on the verge of infection.

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Unrest tell you everything you need to know about their debut in the record’s title ‘Grindcore’

UnrestIt’s hard to argue with a record that has a title that tells you everything you need to know about the music before you even experience it. Like, the first time your virgin ears ever encountered Venom’s “Black Metal,” didn’t you already have a pretty good idea of what was contained on said album?

In that same line of thinking, the debut from Unrest also tells you right away what you anticipate when you take on the music. “Grindcore” might not seem to be the most creative of titles, but damn it if it doesn’t work. That’s exactly what the record contains: grindcore. It’s as honest as you can get when it comes to titling your art, and the bashing you’ll experience on this 26-minute, 12-track album will leave you feeling battered, bloodied, and bruised. This is nuts-and-bolts grindcore, without any weird flourishes, odd colors, or additives. It’s lean, menacing, and should scratch every one of your itches for pure, unadulterated violence.

Unrest coverAs for the characters who make up Unrest, they’ll be familiar to you, and we’ve covered every one of them before on this site. On drum and vocals is Chris Grigg, who also fronts the awesome black metal force Woe and plays in Infiltrator. On guitars and vocals is Steve Jansson, who is a member of tremendous trad doom band Crypt Sermon as well as the aforementioned Infiltrator and Trenchrot. Rounding out the trio is bassist Brooks Wilson, who is Crypt Sermon’s vocalist and also plays with Trenchrot. So there you have it: a strong lineup of players who have proved their power elsewhere and are now unloading the fury on you with this killer union.

The record tears open with “We’re Calling You Out,” a song that sounds just like its title, with the guys blowing down your doors and massacring you with a crazed pace, throat-mangling growls, and pure punishment. Then it’s on to “You Take,” with its thrashy assault, shrieked vocals, and vicious riffs that chug along at a dangerous pace. “Inaction” is a masher from the start, with Jannson and Grigg trading off vocals lines and sounding downright accusatory. The band lights shit on fire here, finding yet another level of madness and completely bulldozing everything in their way. “Quit” has gurgly, death-style vocals, break-neck speed, and more lightning-fast guitars that could jar your neck and make your face bleed. “Protest Culture” is a short blast, coming at you with arms swinging in windmill fashion, leaving you no place to avoid the attack. “Faith Is a Hearse” opens with a doomier setting, as the guitars bleed a little slower, but then it kicks up dust and goes full throttle, trying to take you out in one death shot.

“Anything to Shock” is a ripper from the beginning, with raspy growls, guitars that actually allow some melody into the room, and a spectacular and meaty groove that drives the song to its conclusion. “Nothing (That’s All You Have to Give)” sounds like an insult from the start, and they pay that off with crunchy thrashing, vocals wailed over a thick and ominous bassline, and then some tremendous charging when it hits the home stretch. Awesome cut. “Identity in the Internet Age” burns wildly, with a punk rock feel to the verses, catchy carnage along the way, and guitars that light up and blind you with its flames as it speeds up to ridiculous rates. “Consumption” is another thrashy one that shakes up your insides and could force the contents of your stomach onto the floor. “False Brotherhood” has a nice dose of black metal-style riffing, more vocal interplay, and a catchy, hammering ending. Closer “Drown” is the longest cut at 3:13, and it has some pretty interesting guitar work, different textures, but still gruff, mangling playing that provides the final blasts in this total grind barrage.

Unrest are grindcore. There’s no more concise way to say that, and their aptly titled debut record should fill up your insides with devastating goodness. This is a flattening, totally fulfilling serving that will leave your body bruised, your thirst for bloodshed completely satisfied, and your hearing permanently compromised. What more do you need to know than that?

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