Khemmis mix traditional doom with modern-style punishment on impressive debut ‘Absolution’

Photo by Travis Heacock

Photo by Travis Heacock

As much as I love doom metal and tend to bask in it pretty much constantly, I am becoming more and more skeptical about the onslaught of new bands that hit us on a weekly basis. There’s a lot of the same stuff going on, and not like I’m the grand master of taste or anything, but it gets a special effort to really wake me up.

Possibly it was the trust I have in 20 Buck Spin, but when the Khemmis promo landed in my inbox a few weeks back, I dug in immediately. The lure of traditional doom strains piqued my interest (though there are many bands that butcher that terrain as well), and mere minutes into the band’s debut record “Absolution,” I was totally hooked. A lot of what people like about Pallbearer is here, from the elegant doom storytelling to the clean singing, but the music isn’t a mirror image. There also are elements of Sabbath, St. Vitus, and many of the other doom pioneers, as well as some grimier, heavier parts that travel more modern pathways. All in all, they take these various aspects of this well-worn sub-genre and create six songs that burst with life and should get your fists firing into the air.

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}The Denver-based quartet only have been alive for three years now, and they already have an impressive, soulful grasp on their sound. The members choose to go by single names for this project, with Phil and Ben on guitars and vocals, Dan on bass, and Zach (Dominion, Vasaeleth) on drums. The band’s sound is heavily steeped in the late 1970s/early 1980s, especially when it comes to the clean vocals, but when the time is right and some thorns are required, the band can unload the hammers and get as heavy as you need them to be.

The record opens with “Torn Asunder,” a track that simmers in buzzing doom and muscular riffs before it opens up. The singing envelops you, swallows you, and drives you into the smoke, where the guitars light up and start blazing. Later the growls emerge and the grit smothers, with cosmic feedback filling in the final moments. “Ash, Cinder, Smoke” unveils more strong guitar work, as well as some vocal harmonizing you don’t hear everyday on a metal record. The pace starts to gallop, with melodies aligning, dual guitars glowing, and vicious growls filling in and injecting a sense of dread. “Serpentine” uncoils slowly, with the vocals filling the space, providing both character and a guide through the murk. The guitars begin to spill out, helping give the song its form, but then it’s right into a tempo shift that signals storms on the horizon. The music gets heavier and deadlier, with the growls sounding vicious and the rest of the band surrounding all of this with blinding power.

“Antediluvian” is a bit more raw, trudging hard out of the gates and being drizzled with psychedelic guitars. Out of the smoke, burly and beastly howls lead the way, adding to the song’s menace. Singing later colors in the background, as the song’s title is howled with strength and desperation. “Burden of Sin” kicks up the mud, with the growls arriving first for a change and taking the track down a shadowy path. Later, clean singing arrives, adding engaging drama to the whole thing. While there is sludge, and it is thick, there is just as much great melody to balance everything out and split time between dark and light. Closer “The Bereaved” is a nine-minute climax, the longest cut on the record and one of the most impressive. After a clean psychedelic open, sounds start to burst and the guitars begin to wail. The singing is emotional and reaches out for a hand from beyond, with the band digging deep into the same places mined before them by Sabbath and other greats, as they surge and put on a final display of power. The final moments find the band pushing their might into the stratosphere, giving way to swirling pockets of fuzz that lead the song into the unknown.

Khemmis’ debut is totally solid and one you should try to track down no matter what style of doom is your favorite. These guys have a great style, awesome delivery, and knack for writing songs that are just long enough to feel epic but not overstay their welcome. “Absolution” is a tremendous effort that signals the arrival of a great new doom power.

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

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

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

Finnish space warriors Abyssion spill mind-altering chaos into ‘Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä’

Abyssion bandMetal has an obscene amount of sub-genres and sound descriptors that it has caused a backlash with a lot of people. But look, metal has grown and expanded. It doesn’t contain the same elements it once did exclusively. As a writer, just tabbing a band “metal” is a sort of disservice to the reader. You have to say more especially since so much music that fits underneath metal’s umbrella needs more description.

There’s no better example of this than Finnish power Abyssion, whose latest album “Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki” will dump you on your head and have your mind spinning. Sure, at its core, this band is metal. But everything mixed into this bizarre soups pulls at so many other strings that one needs to go further in fully explaining what this sound entails. So, here goes: cosmic doom and psyche-laced black metal. It’s a huge journey you take with this band on its third record, and over these five cuts, nothing is certain except for adventure into the black abyss. This group comprised of members of other noted daring chemists including Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising never lets onto where they’re going next, and the music that spills out over the album can make you feel mentally warped one minute, steaming with anger the next as you live vicariously through their art.

AbyssionThe album opens with “Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki” that lets noise and fuzz filter into the room and fill it with smoke. Just as you’re feeling yourself drift away, the song bursts open, with fiery riffs, a seriously catchy tempo, and blips and space madness. The vocals arrive as monstrous barks, scarier than what might be expected from music that seems to have an element of chill to it. The song blasts pretty hard, with the atmosphere swelling, the playing pummeling, and the back end delivering massive crunch. “Kosmoksesta tuli hautani” also spills a bucket of sound into the scene before really getting under way. The guitar work, again, is rock solid, with the vocals menacing and splitting into maniacal howls. The riffs have an infectious effect, and at one point the tempo feels like it is settling into serenity. But it’s a tease, as every element explodes again before catapulting into outer space.

“Vihreä liekki” starts with furious shouts and a punk-driven assault (damnit, ANOTHER element to their music) that runs head-first into a folk-like (fuck it, guys!) wall. It’s ridiculously huge and stimulating, and that’s before it reveals its sharp teeth and starts working its way into your chest cavity. The vocals are like a burly tirade, with the music swirling and enrapturing, leading into a swarm of drama and alien stabs. “Ajatus kirkastuu” simmers in dream-inducing zaps before heading into a more rock-oriented terrain that feels both catchy and fluid. The vocals remain fierce, firing daggers your way, while the band unleashes a huge synth haze that leads on your path into the night. Closer “Pysähdyn kuuntelemaan hiljaisuutta” starts with drums stampeding over you, with the guitars hanging out in the background taunting. Then the thing blows up hard, with more intergalactic violence clubbing and the vocals sounding as scary as they do anywhere else on the record. This song has the most pure black metal elements of anything on the album, with everything they do flooding your senses and leaving you a sobbing, sweating mess who just took the strangest trip of your life.

So yeah, good luck trying to pass off Abyssion as just some ordinary metal band. What they’ve been creating for nearly a decade now is from a different world, and they’re a band that’s injecting fresh ideas and strange DNA into metal’s overall makeup. “Luonnon harmonia ja vihreä liekki” is a really fun, at times really brutal record, and it threatens to destroy everything you thought you knew about metal.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Valdur’s hate and vitriolic expression colors ugly ‘Pathetic Scum’ with blood

ValdurI realize the week is over and it’s time to get some relaxation for many of us, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to dwell in utter negativity and soot-caked fury. Not everyone had a good past few days, and maybe having a hellish blast of hatred can be just what one needs to black out over beers this weekend and not feel actual feelings for a stretch Or something like that.

Valdur have been a pretty reliable go-to resource when I want to drown in filth and remember that there are people out there deeper into the blackness that I. Not that I revel in other’s people negativity, but knowing I have a record like the band’s mammoth new “Pathetic Scum” means I have something that can channel the frustration of every day’s demands and idiocy and align with them so I am not compelled to throw a desk out of a window. Out of the band’s four studio efforts, all of which we hail, this is one of the dirtiest, most deafening collection of blasts, an album that sounds like it is taking you on an unrequested ride down the halls of severe mental and bodily torture. The band always had an infernal, nasty sound to them, but what they smear over these six new tracks is a newfound level of anger that makes their work that much more enjoyable and cathartic.

Valdur coverThe black metal-smothered, death-minded band has a weird lineup issue coming on the heels of the album’s release. Valdur’s guitarist/vocalist Samuel remains in the fold but is in sort of a holding pattern with the band right now as he deals with personal and family matters. Luckily he was here to lend his hellish pipes to this bastard. William remains on bass, and Matthew plays drums, with Vuke joining the band as a second guitarist. Or when it comes to live matters right now, the only guitarist, with Roskva taking Samuel’s place on vocals. Yeah, it’s a little confusing, but you won’t mind when you are getting mashed by these crushing six songs, which follow up the work the band did on 2013’s miserable and awesome “At War With.”

The record blasts open with the molten “Tank Torture,” a 9:27-long serving of decibolic torture that’s heavy and grievous. The dark fury and wretched growls combine to form a great beast, pushing forward and claiming souls, with punishingly dense churning that might make it feel like your inner core is turning to burning liquid. The song gets uglier as it goes on, with the band wailing at you, battering your senses, and keeping the onslaught going to the very end. “Impending Doom” is sooty and gnarly, with riffs piling on top of each other and gruff growls bruising your skin. Speed eventually hits, as the band hits a new mode of violence, and the remainder of the song spills blood in a sticky, gruesome assault. “Blessing of the Goat” might make some smirk, but it’s serious business. Wailing and bleating begin the track, with black melodies raining down, and the pace playing games with your mind. Later, chilling chants rise up, which are answered by wild shrieks, and this mean and eerie passage finally bleeds out.

The smothering title cut follows, with charged-up guitars, evil riffs, and heinous growls that sound like they have the worst of intents. Guitars race ahead and achieve blinding heat, with the band going on a clobbering, destructive path that leaves only bodies and dust in its wake. “Incantre Part 2” (the first part appeared on “At War With”) is the shortest cut at 3 minutes, with the band wasting no time to get on the killing path. But just as the intensity builds to its highest point, spacey noises swoosh in, letting cosmic dust spread and weird synth blips create a strange atmosphere. But then it’s back to chaos for the final minute, ending in a haze. Warped closer “Morbid Emanations” rises out of a pocket of noise, with riffs rippling and vocals seeming to bubble. Then it bursts, with deranged, gurgled wails, music that lacerates, and eventually wild chants, feeling primordial and churning. Keys again take hold, bringing more strangeness into the picture, and the band pummels hard and wildly toward the finish, leaving burn marks all over your body and soul.

Valdur didn’t waste a hell of a lot of time following up their last record, and that’s for the best for all of us, because their amalgamation of death and black metal remains molten and terrifying. “Pathetic Scum” keeps the band trudging through the bloody mud and aiming right for your jugular with their rage. Valdur deserve to have more people know about them and basking in their ash-choked agenda. But I doubt they care about that. As long as they’re willing, Valdur are sure to bulldoze hearts and souls into oblivion as they burn their way across the Earth.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/VALDUR/113286852094147

To buy the album, go here: http://www.bloodymountainrecords.com/valdur.html

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

Mind-melting prog black metal crushers BearstorM unleash captivating album ‘Americanus’

unnamed(8)As involved and heavily populated as the metal globe is right now, getting something new that makes you wonder what the hell is going on is becoming a rare occurrence. Actually, usually when I do feel this way it’s over a record that makes my insides turn in a bad way and that ends up in my e-mail trash bin.

That changes today with the arrival of the peculiarly named BearstorM. Yes, you read that name right, and no they don’t employ wacky gimmicks nor do they have eye-killing T-shirts nor do they grate at the nerves like the name might indicate. They play an amalgamation of black metal, death metal, prog, American folk, and Southern rock that sounds like it should not make sense but totally does. Well, that is if your brain is willing to handle the insanity going on here, because right from the start, this band and their latest album “Americanus” (a re-recording of their 2013 record by the same name) will dump you on your head. The band plays with insane skill and precision, though never at the expense of the music’s heart, and the vocal are pretty damn grisly. This record is bound to not be for everyone. I just realized that the “grating nerves” thing I mentioned earlier might actually come into play for some people. But I love the inventiveness and skull-spinning devastation of it all, and it never ceases to astonish me.

Bearstorm coverThe band is made up of Michael Edwards on vocals; Kelsey Miller on guitar and fiddles; Greg Bates on guitars; Jay Lindsey on bass and midi synth; and Patrick DeRoche on drums. This Richmond, Va., based unit also uses the power of their imagination and storytelling on their albums, as debut “Horrobilus” told the tale of banished thief going to the Baba Yaga for help, which comes at the expense of his life. He re-emerges as a bear (perhaps a hint toward the bane name) and consumes his human form, but after seeking revenge, he finds he has his own cost to pay. Heady. “Americanus” is a little stripped back from that, instead concentrating on the history of the North American continent and its transformation and destruction from both natural and human forces. It’s a wake-up call of sorts.

The story begins on the 11:22 brain-melter “Glacial Relic/Riparian Forest,” a song that gives you little time to prepare for this band’s ways. Strange, cosmic guitar work erupts, leading into a death prog explosion that’s both baffling and surging. The growls are harsh and feral, as they are for the bulk of the record, and later the music heads for the stratosphere. There are sequences of crushing and then settling, which go back and forth, and after one final violent burst, the band heads back toward the front and wraps the song up nicely. “De Soto” blows open, with the band whipping up a storm and the melodies feeling Rush-inspired at times. There’s a lot of challenging, jar-you-awake stuff here, bleeding into the song’s final valley of Southern-inspired melodies. The final moments are dressed in banjo and rustic underpinnings, which gives the track a nice campfire feel. “Little Portals to the Greater Sadness” has a spiraling, flurried opening before the thing toughens up and starts throwing haymakers. The melodies then come in and cause mild dizziness, with the growls taking on an animalistic tone and the guitars having a Thin Lizzy-esque fire to them, making the song perplexingly catchy before its gruff end.

“Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” begins with guitars burning brightly, and then it slides into old-style Mastodon territory, which is a positive. The growling leans toward a melodic end, like a monstrous sing-song terror, though later that turns into gurgling growls. Toward the end, musical sparks fly, molten soloing erupts, and the band totally bashes your brains in. Closer “Glacial Relic II” is an 8:53 finale that starts with fluttering guitars spiraling into Southern-style sludge. The guitars start jabbing with the pointy end, as the melodies that swell up stymie and confound your mind, and just underneath all of that murk, the growls crawl. The band goes back to the swarming, humid guitar work before taking an unexpected jaunt into the stars where cosmic blips arrive, strings strike, and the final sounds you hear are water trickling and birds calling. Perhaps this signals the world turning back to natural roots.

Certainly BearstorM won’t be for everyone’s ears, as they can be a little bendy and harsh for some (it actually took me a few tries to completely warm up). But I like an adventure, and the music on “Americanus” keeps me wide awake and wondering what’s next, even on subsequent listens. That’s how many curves and back roads they take on this record, and while it might make your neck hurt the following day due to all the twists, you might find yourself morbidly interesting in taking this ride all over again.

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

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

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

Mutoid Man’s evolution takes them into psyche blazing, fiery metallics on punchy ‘Bleeder’

Mutoid ManHalfway through the week is a great time to acquire the kick in the ass one needs to keep moving over the other side of the hump. I know by this point I’m usually badly in need of a boost, and considering caffeine eats away at my already fragile anxiety, that really isn’t the answer to find the strength I need.

This is where a great high-octane album can come in and do the trick, and “Bleeder,” the first full-length effort from Mutoid Man, more than fits the bill. Originally a fun side project pitting two rock behemoths in Steve Brodsky (Cave In) and Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die), the band’s initial EP “Helium Head” hinted that there was something there worth exploring further. Now, a couple years later and with the addition of bassist Nick Cageao, the band has grown further, fuzzed up their sound even more, and come up with a killer 10-track album that is a lot of fun to behold. Yeah, brutality and out-right metal fury aren’t vital parts of the mix on this record (though they exist in some form). Instead, we’re treated to powerful riffs, melodic singing that might make some think of 1970s classic rock, and a rough underbelly that the rhythm section works to make as meaty as possible.

Mutoud Man coverThere are a lot of audiences who could find favor with Mutoid Man’s infectious sound. Those clinging to the classic Hydra Head days are sure to love what they hear here, as will fans of bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Torche. There’s also a lot of psyched-out magic going on, music lightning that will scorch you, and plenty of blood-surging rock to get you out of whatever rut you’re in. It’s not exactly dictionary-definition metal, but there’s enough thrashy goodness and doomy power to please even the grimmest among us.

“Bridgeburner” tears open the record properly, with chugging guitars, mucky fury, and a galloping assault, as vocals barb poking, “Time to wash my hands of you.” Psyche melodies work their way in, and the track ends in demolition. “Reptilian Soul” bursts from the gates, blistering and crunching its way ahead, with explosive fun all along the way. “Sweet Ivy” opens with a shimmery haze before it ends up in the mud. The vocals have a clean swagger that you can’t shake, while the soloing burns hard, the riffs smear, and Brodsky ends the thing howling, “Everything is green!” “1,000 Mile Stare” mauls at the start with sooty and catchy playing mixed in with bluesy guitar. The back end of the thing ignites, with the fellows thrashing heavily and causing major bodily bruising. “Surveillance” also brings the punishment, with the drums absolutely crushed and the singing washed in echoes. Later on, Brodsky ditches the singing for some metallic growls, as the pace smokes, and he wails, “Watching me watching you.”

“Beast” is a short blast that is over before you know it, with the leads swimming, the drums whipping rocks, and the guitars leaving you dizzy. “Dead Dreams” has sludgy charging with punchy riffs, and once again, the blues-infested guitars come back to bite you. Things spiral into madness, with the back end built on clubbing and shouts. “Soft Spot in My” lets drums blasts erupt, with a jerky riff over top that later melts in the heat. “My mind is yours to control!” Brodsky insists, as the final moments delve back into psychedelics. “Deadlock” has Maiden-like guitars that blow down the doors, the vocals splitting into screaming, and a smothering, noise-infested finish that fills the room with smoke. The closing title track, the longest on the album at 5:55, takes its time building a mood, with cleaner guitars trickling and reflective melodies present. Then the intensity builds and Geddy Lee-style vocals histrionics explode, with Brodsky stabbing, “Gave you my blood,” as the smoldering sounds and threatening pace build, eventually burning out at the end with power and glory.

Mutoid Man have evolved into a really spectacular outfit, and “Bleeder” is a perfectly sized, pleasing listen that will make you immediately come back for more. This basher is a quick burst of fury, and soul, and hopefully it is just the beginning of this band’s meteoric journey into the stars. There’s so much to like on this record, and it’s sure to make the rest of your week that much more tolerable. And wait until you hear how this thing sounds over beers this weekend!

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

To buy the album, go here: http://hellomerch.com/collections/sargent-house

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

Ash of Cedars’ debut offering mixes black metal with warped, cosmic chaos ending in madness

Ash of CedarsI love getting a curveball. Not in baseball. I couldn’t hit one for shit when I was younger and playing a semblance of organized ball, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t hit one now. But yeah, instead I mean when something comes at me I don’t expect and it causes me to have a bizarre reaction. Getting records like that is a ton of fun, and they don’t come along nearly enough for my liking.

When I do get them, generally there are reliable labels behind them, like the one we have today served up by Handshake Inc. Ash of Cedars piqued my interests right away simply because of who was releasing the music, but then I dug into this band and their self-branded Southern Gothic black metal and found a whole new world to a sub-genre I have grown to love and equally dread. So many bands pay lip service to offering their own unique angle on black metal, and so many come out sounding like so many other things already out there. But Ash of Cedars is different. They’re loud, crazed, frightening and enlightening in the same breath, and truly worth your time. Their first, self-titled effort, released on cassette and digitally, is 26 minutes of wonder that’ll leave you in the soot and wondering just how you got there in the first place.

Ash of Cedars coverAsh of Cedars is comprised of folks from other bands many of you likely know well, including Rwake, Snakedriver, Epoch of Unlight, and Vore. The members of this band—CT on vocals, Dustin Weddle and Jeff Morgan on guitars, Skullcrusher on bass, and Tino LoSicco on drums—seem to channel their surroundings in Little Rock, AR., expertly. There is a feel of being alone on the ground, staring into the endless cosmos, hearing trees blowing in the breezes as a stormfront approaches, and realizing you are utterly vulnerable to nature. The music is scuffed up, blazing, and obviously from their black hearts and souls. Even if you can’t decipher all of the mangled words, the music and way the lines are delivered smash into your psyched and take you on a battered trip along with them.

The album opens with “All Dies” that has guitars wailing and calling, wild growls smeared over top that, and eruptions of sound that might as well be blood crashing the walls of the heart. The chaos is thick and apparent, but there is melody mixed in as well, giving this thing different shades of color. “Anti-Life Venom” reveals itself from its very title, with dark riffs boiling, riveting playing, and feral vocals absolutely going for the kill. The melodies bruise and smother, with total madness spilling forth, and the finger-tapped guitar shooting sparks. The anguish and frustration flows freely, and as the song approaches its back end, all noise elements swell and tear open like a cloud. “I’m Not Done” pays off that promise of spacey wonder, as the first minutes could leave you feeling disoriented. The growls are harsh and battering, but that star swoosh never is far behind, sweeping you up into dreamscape. The final moments strike delirium, with the guitars crashing down on you, and the drums pulverizing your bones into mere powder. You may find this one has an unforgiving lingering effect.

The second side starts with “Sun Invert,” where guitars glimmer and cause you to shield your eyes, and the band takes its time to set up the piece and conjure a proper mood. Once that atmosphere is achieved, the band lets loose, with the vocals exploding from CT’s mouth, the background getting smeared in blood, and the riffs crashing down hard. The assault is monstrous and impossible to duck, and later on, the guitars start to buzz, driving you to the brink of mental breakdown and only holding you back from the very edge for reasons only they know. The bizarre closer “Mother Satan Bright” is an instrumental track that could have your brain swelling and your thoughts betraying you. Sounds quiver as eerie synth patterns repeat themselves, creating what could be the ultimate soundtrack to an alien abduction. The noises pour on mechanically, with chilling sounds hovering, almost as if it aims to open a vault into the ground so hell and damnation can release themselves and burn the Earth’s crust to a crisp. It’s an unexpected ending to a record that keeps you guessing wrong.

Ash of Cedars are a band that deserves your attention, and what they offer on this quick self-titled debut is a trip to another dimension, where the beatings do commence but leave you mentally stimulated along with your bloody wounds. It’s great to hear a band take black metal and manipulate it to its agenda, warp the roots, and damn the codes. This is just the start of a mission that doesn’t reveal very much beyond its prologue. You’re left to guess where it goes, and if it sends you charging blind into the night, your final destination unknown, at least you know it’ll pay off your every curiosity and test your will like few other metal bands seem to do.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ash-of-Cedars/262469727097733

To buy the album, go here: https://handshakeinc.bandcamp.com/

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

Nordic thrashers Deathhammer keep their approach raw, simple, wholly metallic on ‘Evil Power’

DeathhammerAs cool as it is when the advancements of technology are applied to the face of metal, it’s just damn refreshing to put on a record sometimes and wonder if the thing was recorded in your garage. Just a pile of plugged in guitars and bulldozed fury with no real concern paid to polish.

Nordic thrash warriors Deathhammer never have had any concern for tossing millions into picture-perfect production, and if they started doing that tomorrow, it would be a huge disappointment. Part of the fun of indulging in this band’s collection of mucky riffs is the time and effort is put into playing and hellish expression, something the best producer in the world couldn’t provide if it wasn’t really there. Deathhammer have built their chaos from the ground up, starting with their early demos that surfaced nearly a decade ago, on through the debut album “Phantom Knights” in 2010, now to their brand new full-length “Evil Power” that feels like it was jettisoned from thrash’s swollen belly in 1983. It’s fast, harsh, raw, and blinding, and it’s some of the best fun you’ll have this summer.

Deathhammer coverDeathhammer remains a two-piece, with Sergeant Salsten on bass, guitar, and lead vocals, and Sadomancer handling drums, guitars, and backing vocals. Live, they expand to a fuller unit, but when they’re creating new evil spheres of hell in the studio, it just takes these two warriors. This new record is eight tracks, nearly 37 minutes of thrashtastic fun that is served in just the right portion and feels like your head exploding in the name of all that is evil. This band keeps delivering the blistering goods, and as long as they do, they’re always going to be worth visiting each time they conjure fresh jams.

Naturally we begin with a track called “Warriors of Evil” that has a smashing riff, melodic carnage, and harsh howls that crackle like Satanic puberty has struck. Salsten has that “Kill ’Em All” James Hetfield and Mercyful Fate-era King Diamond thing going, which makes these songs that much more engaging. “Total Metal” sounds like its title, with fast guitars pounding and a great burst of speed, taking you into thrashy pockets that’ll bruise up your face. The vocals wail and scrape, while blazing guitar soloing builds a fire no one can contain. “Satan Is Back” is raw, simple, and wild, blasting out of the gates, building toward a sinister chorus that’s catchy as hell, and later changing pace on a dime toward a new, albeit no less smothering tempo. Everything crushes and boils, leading to guitars pushing the way and fading out. “Powertrip” gallops hard, with crazed vocals splattering, completely unhinged playing causing extra waves of destruction, and an assault that will leave you squished under their boots.

“Sinner’s Possession” takes a few pages from Maiden’s playbook in the best possible way, as they lay down the thunder and keep your blood pumping. The vocals are pure brutality, with another gem of a chorus that’ll be stuck in your head for hours, excellent soloing that causes flashes, and spiraling thrash to keep you good and disoriented. “Belial’s Curse” tears open with rougher growls to go along with the piercing shrieks, and once again, speed is the king, dashing and killing everything in its path. Soloing takes center stage once again, something this band does quite well, before the vocals return and give this thing one final square kick in the ass. “Rot in Shreds” doesn’t hold many secrets. You likely will be able to guess exactly where this one’s headed, and you’ll be right. And that’s a good thing. The words are basically spat out in mucus form, and the music surrounding them is delirious and fiery. Closer “Omen of the Beast” is meaty and the longest track on the album at 6:47. They make good use of the time, starting with great riffs that do the title well, and the vocals are animalistic and gruff, with Salsten howling, “Armageddon, the best day of life!” Additional strong soloing explodes, as each element of the song blazes harder and higher until the conflagration explodes, leaving soot.

Deathhammer keep getting better with each record, which is a funny thing to say considering they keep simplifying their sound and going for the roughest production values possible. It’s that what they do, which keeps things fun and aggressive, and their records are explosively great times. “Evil Power” arguably is the best shot in their canon, and it’s bound to keep listeners metal thrashing mad until they drum up something else.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop-hellsheadbangers.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Vanum’s debut ‘Realm of Sacrifice’ bursts with fire-breathing, chaotic emotion

VanumWhen a band forms combining members of other noted, respected groups, expectations can be unnecessarily high. And misplaced. Sometimes both. No matter what, listeners are going to expect something akin to what the artists created in the past with their other bands, and if it doesn’t come close to that line, disappointment is sure to follow. Or, for more open-minded listeners, enlightenment into what else these artists can do just might occur. We have a lot of the latter today.

Vanum’s debut offering “Realm of Sacrifice” might fall somewhere in the middle for fans of the two musicians who comprise its lineup. This union of K. Morgan of Ash Borer and M. Rekavics of Fell Voices, Vorde, Sleepwalker, and Vilkacis probably have a lot of people salivating to hear what they put together on this four-track album. All of those bands noted above have helped create a new level of atmosphere and creativity in the U.S. black metal scene, and they are some of the most respected groups inhabiting and reinventing the underground. While these two musicians have crossed paths on split releases, as well as on tours crisscrossing the country, Vanum is the first time they’ve ever gotten together to form a whole new entity and original creations therein. It should be one of the most anticipated underground releases going right now, though the hype machines are fired up for other things. That’s a mistake, because this document is massive and brimming with power.

Vanum coverSo yeah, if you want a record that puts together some of the best elements of Ash Borer, Fell Voices, and Vorde, you get enough of that to suffice your overly demanding expectations. Here is thunderous, dreamscape black metal that should have you feeling like you are operating in a fog and looking for the other end of your adventure. But there’s far more to it than that. One thing that rises above everything else is the amount of pure human emotion packed into these songs. You feel these tracks. The guitar work affects the heart, soul, and mind, and the vocals spread bleeding expression all over this thing. It has melodies that seem to regenerate at will, and as weird as it is to say this, what these two create with Vanum pushes well past the boundaries established by their other groups.

The record opens with “Realm of Ascension,” a cut that begins with unsettling pounding and then guitar work that leans toward the progressive side. Suddenly, riffs begin to rain down and soak the soil, with melodies riveting, howls erupting, and every element surging forward with power. The sounds eventually subside, with a calming, glimmering passage emerging, letting things sprawl and stretch before one final gasp. Then the seams burst and the final moments feel like they were dreamed in a sci-fi lab. “In Immaterial Flame” starts clean and murky, with tributaries leaking and moving forward. Heart-grasping growls flood the surface, with howls of, “A multitude of visions circle the mortal axis/A lens at both ends of the labyrinth of perception.” It’s pretty heady, philosophical, and ultimately bathing in violent imagery, with guitars spiraling and punishing, the senses being assaulted, and the red-blooded emotional playing sweeping you up into its fury. The vocals practically lace your organs, with the power shifting, your head left swimming in the mire, and final throaty gasps unleashed before everything fades.

“Convergence” feels spooky in its first few moments, with spacious exploration and the sounds causing strange feelings in every cell of your body. The track then launches in earnest, with faster tempos and gigantic riffs leading the charge and infectious melodies revealing themselves. Chaos bursts to the surface like spurts of lava, with the vocals aiming to leave abrasions, the music soaring through the stars, and pockets bursting all over again with rage. The track’s introductory riff comes back around again, almost as if to tie the whole thing together, and the song rushes rapidly to its conclusion, leaving you with a crippling head rush. The closing title cut is bled into from the tail end of “Convergence” and feels like a strange shadow hulking through the night. Guitars light up and hit a gazey crescendo, with melody and heart-grasping passages stunning you and a deluge of gut-spilling playing creating yet another high point where you can’t even see the ground anymore. The music then takes a somber turn as it nears the finish line, with the darkness poured thick, the band’s heart pumping black blood, and the particles dissolving into a mist that coats your face and leaves you heaving at the end of your journey.

Vanum decimate all expectations with “Realm of Sacrifice,” as this record is so much greater than I expected it would be. I assumed it would be a great collection because of who is involved, but it bursts through the stratosphere and defies all boundaries anyone could put on these two. It might not be Ash Borer + Fell Voices = that even louder. And I’m happy it’s not. This is an entirely different beast, one that breathes rarified air, lives on another plane, and threatens to get bigger and more thought-provoking as time goes on. Vanum’s arrival should be getting more attention that it has, because it’s that astonishing. Maybe once it gets in more ears, everyone’s voice will get louder.

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

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

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

After years preparing, Mefitic finally unleash their horrors on ‘Woes of Mortal Devotion’

MefiticTaking one’s time with his or her craft is not something for which everyone has patience. There’s a big do-it-now philosophy that pushes so many people, and the virtue of patience is basically out the window. We’re probably all guilty of that from time to time, but letting things breathe and develop can make a venture turn out even better than first imagined.

I’m not sure if that was the exact impetus behind Mefitic taking a full decade together to finally release a debut full-length, but it sure works out in their favor on the monstrous, bruising “Woes of Mortal Devotion.” This pounding eight-track first opus sounds like the product of hard work and devotion to their sound. Yeah, the band has sprinkled a series of demos, a couple of split efforts, and a 2012 EP since their formation in 2004, but all of that has been building toward this nicely paced and served 40-minute cruncher that finally is reaching underground miscreants. Served up by Nuclear War Now! Productions, this Italian band’s initial foray into destroying our senses is fiery, warped, and chaotic, but also well played and excellently executed.

GDOB2-30CH-001.cdrThe four players who embody Mefitic—bassist/vocalist G., guitarists KrN and AtroR, and drummer Axor—unleash hellish and stormy murk into this record, and it should hit home with anyone who consumes anything else this label offers, as well as bands such as Abyssal, Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Incantation, and other sooty creations like those. You’re not going to find choruses to sing back or anything remotely approaching accessibility for the masses, but that’s the way this should be. It’s dark, filthy, guttural, occult-based death metal that chars and churns your senses and leaves you mentally disfigured.

“Grievous Subsidence” opens the record in a haze of eerie noise before it rips apart and heads into muddy pounding. The vocals sound infernal and destructive, rumbling just under the din, while the band hits a massive groove that will shake your insides thoroughly. A razor sharp riff emerges, and the song then ramps into top speed that takes the track to its finish. “Obloqui” has roiling riffs and suffocating tempos, with the vocals mostly lurching and crawling (but with growls rising higher toward back half) and an end that comes without warning. “Noxious Epiclesis” has a weird start, which should cause eyebrows to furrow, and then it slips into an oppressive, slow-driving assault that mashes dangerously. The pace eventually breaks open with savage vocals, dense playing, and a newfound level of intensity. “Eroding the Oblates of the Lord 2” lets guitars cascade down like sheets of rain, with damaged melodies marring the scene, warped playing causing further confusion, and voices spiraling through the picture. The final moments apply the pressure again, with deep growls and a fade out.

“Mendacious Plasmodia” is fast and murky, with the sounds creating a storm, hypnotic speaking laced through the track, bells chiming, and a sense of horror coloring this instrumental cut. “The Tomb of Amaleq” has growls boiling beneath the surface, while guitars drive up the heat index, and then it’s into a crushing burst of playing that sounds like war has broken out. The growls later are warbled, as if howled from a fever dream, and the riffs coil and strike as the attack multiplies and keeps pounding away. “Pain” pours on the fury, with the growls caked in soot and the sounds boring their way into your soul. The guitars blister, with strange melodies arriving later and the song grinding all the way to its finish. Closer “The Swirling Columns of Staleness” perhaps is a strike out against the bulk of the commercialized death metal world, as the track dizzies with its speed and sounds like it is trying to remove layers of flesh with each blow. The vocals seem like they’re baking in a furnace, with the music blinding you with terror and the track coming to a muddy, doom-infested conclusion.

Mefitic’s charnel, hell-baked debut record was worth the wait, and certainly the time they put into crafting their sound paid dividends. “Woes of Mortal Devotion” gives those who hunger for true metal of death another band to indulge in, not to mention it’ll scare the hell out of your everyday, uninhabited listener. This sounds like it is on fire and smoking heavily for its entire run time, and won’t your poor lungs feel the pain once it’s all over.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mefitic/453108608054358?fref=ts

To buy the album, go here: http://nwnprod.com/shop/

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

High on Fire thunder back with mountainous riffs, surprises on paranoid, molten ‘Luminiferous’

High on FireAs heavy metal builds and expands its borders (sometimes to its detriment), the idea of the genre flag bearers gets cloudier. Yeah, there are a ton of great bands out there, but having one that is a standard bearer, a mighty conqueror of worlds is getting tougher to find. Thankfully we still have High on Fire in our midst.

As people’s cynicism grows and underground metal fans make an art of turning their backs on bands that suddenly aren’t their own to horde in a corner, High on Fire have managed to rise above all of that. Who doubts them? They’ve remained true to themselves and their audience, and over seven full-length albums and nearly two decades as a group, High on Fire have gotten stronger and more venomous as time has gone on. Their brand new album “Luminiferous” is more of the good shit – catapulting riffs, barked vocal fury, drumming that’ll level your house, and pure metal that’s honest and crushing to the core. Having found a kindred spirit in producer Kurt Ballou, the band’s sound has gotten even more muscular over the past two records, and what they unveil on this seventh platter is a band with sharp teeth, violent intent, and the perfect amount of fantastical weirdness.

High on Fire coverHighIn front of the band is the mighty Matt Pike, whose guitar work and massive vocals are some of the most distinctive in all of the genre. The man’s been through his trials and tribulations as of late, doing a stint to get himself healthy after their last album “De Vermis Mysteriis” that obviously did him a world of good. He’s on top of his game on this record. Of course along with him are bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel, and damn, are they just killing on all cylinders. Lyrically, Pike and crew are firing back against the powers that be, throwing their venom against government, religion, and, well, the lizard people who very well could be embodying the hearts and minds of the world’s leaders. Hey, not like these guys made up that theory. It just adds more fuel to what’s already a massive High on Fire blaze.

Opener “The Black Plot” gives you a dose of what to expect right from the start. The riffs charge up and crush, and Pike’s trademark yowl sounds as strong as ever, really benefiting the track’s powerful chorus that sticks in your head. The bulk of this stampedes hard, with blazing soloing and the rhythm section looking to decimate you. Smothering “Carcosa” trudges hard, with plenty of bluesy swagger, which pretty much is the story of this one. The thickness creates impenetrable darkness, with guitars buzzing, psychedelic haze rising, and the soloing spitting fire. It’s pretty much seven minutes of metallic sludge spread thick and rich. “The Sunless Years” also stampedes, with some really strong singing from Pike and excellent soloing. Melody is intertwined with the violence, with Pike howling, “He shows insecure confidence/He’s out of his mind!” as the song absolutely barnstorms. As heavy as things have been to the point, “Slave the Mind” manages to up the ante. The assault is thrash-minded and relentless, with the vocals practically spat out, the melodies sounding diabolical, and the double-kick drums blowing the doors off this thing. It’s a punisher. “The Falconist” then goes in another direction, pulling back a bit, letting Pike do some cleaner singing over the chorus, and still unleashing fire, but in a more calculated pace. It’s one hell of a song, one that’ll conjure dream imagery in your mind as you hear Pike unleash the tale. There even is a classic-style solo section that feels like it’s from metal’s past canon, which is exhilarating.

“The Dark Side of the Compass” is thunderous and mean, with hazy humidity hanging over the chorus and guitars just wailing. Pike’s soloing cuts through the mire, and the track comes to a volcanic end. “The Cave” is one of the most interesting songs in High on Fire’s catalog, one that could raise the ire of those same-thing-all-the-time types, who will be missing out on a potential classic. The verses are calm and plodding, with Pike unveiling a clean singing voice (albeit clouded by a blanket of noise) that’s effective and fits the atmosphere ideally. Of course, crunch emerges on the choruses, with Pike’s gravelly voice punching holes, but that moodiness always comes back. This is one hell of a song and could be a breakthrough cut toward an even larger audience. That’s not a bad thing at all. The title track is next, and it’s a brief (for them) rumble that lets the dust kick up again before the dense, mud-caked closer “The Lethal Chamber.” This is High on Fire at its sludgiest, with warped guitars smothering, a thrashy sense of violence taking over, and Pike pushing his throat to the limit with his howls. The riffs just keep on coming, with a final blast of Pike lead guitar magic to burn brightly. The whole thing finally fades away, taking its bizarre, paranoid imagery right along with it.

All hail High on Fire, one of metal’s most reliable bands and true elite warriors of the genre. This band has taken its bruises and climbed many mountains to get where they are, and “Luminiferous” is another wailing slab of tried-and-true heavy metal. As long as Pike and his warriors are rolling this hard, they are going to be tough to match, and seven records in, they remain some of metal’s greatest warriors.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://us.eonemusic.com/genres/metal/catalog

For more on the label, go here: http://us.eonemusic.com/home