PICK OF THE WEEK: Pissgrave have no interest in creating comfort on muck-filled ‘Suicide Euphoria’

PissgraveThe saying “not for everyone” often can be applied to many death and black metal bands that take things to the utter extreme. Yeah, yeah, people all into their Best Buy-purchased metal albums probably think they have some pretty hardcore tastes, but there are plenty of bands and records that would scare them right back to those big-box stores for something safe and secure.

Like, take one at the cover art for Pissgrave’s debut record “Suicide Euphoria” while eating lunch. Especially if you’re having something gravy-based. Still hungry? Didn’t think so. It might be the grossest album cover in Profound Lore history. But despite that pile of bones drowning in brown goop that may or may not be shit, don’t expect a gross-out album. But definitely anticipate something as unsettling and depraved as that cover art, because the Philadelphia-based death metal band’s brand of chaos is something that would scare the hell out of most people first time they heard it. Same could be said for those who think SLAAAAAAAAYER is the most intense thing on the planet. Those days are long gone, friend, and more perverse, dangerous inhabitants have moved into the neighborhood.

Pissgrave coverPissgrave had but a self-titled demo to their name before their first full-length that’s being released via the mighty Profound Lore. Still, their sound and live show developed a reputation, enough to land a tour with Greek death squadron Dead Congregation, and as we can hear on these horrifying nine tracks, their rumblings that accompanied this band were not hollow. This band—guitarists/vocalists Tim Mellon and Demian Fenton, bassist Johannes Van Haethen, and drummer Matt Mellon—have carved out a cesspool all their own, where their dark vibes and relentless chaos form a poisonous gas could rise above and sicken everyone in its wake. This band is utterly violent, and while the cover could be called something of a shock tactic, all they lay out before you is their profane fury that is raw and unclean.

“Perpetual War” kicks off like an eruption, with monstrous vocals that sound not of this parish, a completely crushing assault, and guitars that wail out and create non-stop terror. The pace is relentless from front to back, setting the scene perfectly for what’s next. “Impaled Vibration” has guitars buzzing like chainsaws, with a chugging, mauling approach and a dizzying, suffocating environment that will make it feel like not enough oxygen is getting to your brain. The riffs absolutely reign, and the vocals are unforgivably infernal. “Pain Enchantment” surges viciously, with the vocals coated in abject terror and the tempo catching fire and blazing out of control. The music boils, intending to melt off faces, while shrieked soloing wails out at the end, lacerating the song with a blunt end. “Field of Scattered Bones” actually starts sounding fairly up front … well, for Pissgrave. The song takes a doomy turn, with the vocals bathing in noisy filth, and later the band launches into a fury and starts rambling ahead with reckless abandon. Caustic sounds blind you, as the song eventually slips away. “Prevail in Hell” is molten and ashen, just like the title suggests. The guitars sprawl out of control and violently toward you, while the band keeps piling on, the drums are completely decimated, and a choking cloud of smoke encircles everything in its wake.

The title cut is smearing and terrifying, with a massive offensive launched that promises nothing but total obliteration. Sounds churns, your will is tested, and before you know it, it’s over. “The Second Sorrowful Mystery” is chunky and thrashy, with the walls crashing down around you, and a psychologically marring attack unleashed. The guitars wail out of control, like a loose saw blade soaring recklessly through the air, and fire-breathing pounding leads to the final gates. “Mass Cremation” is as infernal as expected, making it feel like human ash is swarming through the air and choking lungs all around. The tempo is sweltering, while the vocals are wildly unleashed, and the last moments are suffocating and severe. Closer “Blood Fog” splits open, letting loose a wave of horror and crushing with evil intent. There isn’t room to breathe, as the pace switches up later to a more doom-ridden path, with the misery raining down and the band blasting you straight in the face. Once it finally loosens its grip, you might feel a sense of relief, but the torment you faced is forever.

Pissgrave’s brand of death metal is foul and bloody, and they go a long way toward proving they are a band that deserves the attention of any listener with the guts to hear them out. They’ll never be on an end cap of your local electronics shop, and chances are you won’t see masses of people wearing their merch. Like any of that matters. “Suicide Euphoria” is a massive, smothering debut record from a band that could be laying the foundation for ugly underground death metal into the future. This type of death is all that matters.

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

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

One Master’s tyrannical black metal unleashes assault on hope with ‘Reclusive Blasphemy’

One MasterThese summer days here in the States generally are used for basking in the sun, having fun, and doing stupid things. People are happier, more free-spirited, and it’s a prime time for our national beer companies to bombard us with ads showing groups of ridiculous people doing inane things with their bad products. That image along just turned me against summer violently.

But doesn’t some of this just mask all of the sorrow and despair out there? We can forget about what ails because someone just brought over a 30-pack of shit, and we can drown out for the evening. Summer, man! Wooo! Look, I enjoy the warmer months as much as anyone, but I also prefer not to shoo away negativity because I choose to acknowledge it’s always there, lurking, even if the blinding sun sometimes makes that hard to say. I got a good reminder that wallowing in the blackness can be a good thing when taking on “Reclusive Blasphemy,” the third record from malicious black metal assault unit One Master. For more than a decade now, this band has been making gears-grinding black metal not designed to play on some beams-splashed outdoor stage on an energy drink-sponsored tour of artistic hell. Instead, it’s meant to be heard in a dark room or a damp basement, where hope is at its lowest and you’re left to wonder how the actual fuck you’re going to function the next day. That’s not necessarily in a depression sense; instead it’s an exclamation of one’s disgust in everything around.

One Master coverFollowing a series of demo releases, the band released its debut “Forsaking a Dead World” in 2006, followed by “The Quiet Eye of Eternity” three years later. There was a split effort and a live album since then, but they’re finally back with their third opus “Reclusive Blasphemy” that spreads their tyranny over five tracks and about 36 minutes. At the helm with guitars and vocals is original member Valder (also of Lustrum and Fatalism), as well as guitarist Doctor Messiah, bassist Black Wolf, and drummer Blood Eagle. The band sounds as massive and striking as ever, and their eerily melodic, often penetrating tones are enough to drill holes of chaos into your psyche.

“At the Hour of Saturn” blows the lid off the record as a total brain melt, as the song blisters but also achieves a sci-fi-ready, drilling melody swarm similar to Krallice. The vocals are mean and penetrating, sounding both off the hinges and absolutely channeled, while the bass begins to churn, and the assault heads full speed into the wall. The composition is as brainy as it is brutal, and as the song changes paces and the elements swarm, the back end of the track will have you feeling delirious. “A Cursed and Dismal Mind” has noise spreading like a plague, with slow-driving guitars lumbering and a scorched-earth doom presence leading the way. Then the track blows open, with fury and speed spilling from the music and the vocals teetering between maniacal wail and tortured yelp. The storm front rises, as the vicious, thought-provoking guitars ramble toward you, and spidery playing makes the song feel even stranger. “Intolerance” explodes, with the gas pedal pushed dangerously again, things feeling like they’re barreling out of control, and madness ready to consume you. The song is a show of brutal force, as the music is ferocious, and the vocals are at their charred best.

“Infernal Silence” keeps the sense of discomfort boiling over, as the drums are just decimated and the vocals feel like a diatribe that’s been welling up for generations. The track is just blinding, as the band strikes from all sides, and never from the angle you expect. Shrieks rain down, the playing gets deadlier as it progresses, and once calm finally comes, it’s only to let a thick, doom-ridden cloud into the scene to blacken everything in sight. The closing title cut is an eerie one at first, opening with an extended pocket of noise that hovers over trance-like chants. Drums are struck slowly, while the pace slithers, and spoken lines sound feel like they’ve been ripped from a fever dream. Naturally, the bottom is torn out later, with the treachery returning, the feeling of all-out sensory war being waged, and final blasts of violence ensuring the message comes across black, bleak, and bloody.

One Master won’t brighten your day or your disposition. In fact, they just may do the opposite. “Reclusive Blasphemy” is an unquestioned dark spot on the body of black metal, and the band is one of the sub-genre’s deepest, darkest hopes that this stuff remains as harsh and unforgiving as possible. One Master are showing you the way into the dark tunnel to take on your constant frustrations, and it’s up to you whether you want to follow that path or keep drowning in the artificial glow of soon-to-pass summer.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.one-master.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://eternaldeath.storenvy.com/

Or here: https://eternaldeath.bandcamp.com/album/reclusive-blasphemy

For more on the label, go here: http://www.eternal-death.com/

Shroud of the Heretic ‘s thick death metal darkness unfurls over ‘Unorthodox Equilibrium’

Shroud of the HereticSmothering insanity. That’s probably the best way to describe Shroud of the Heretic in a really quick, to-the-point manner. They’re like a hell storm of locust and other insects swarming toward your town, blackening the sunlight, and promising nothing but misery.

In just a few years as a band, Shroud of the Heretic already have put together an EP “Boiled to Death” two impressive full-length efforts—last year’s eye-opening “Revelations in Alchemy” and their punishing new album “Unorthodox Equilibrium” that we’re here to discuss today. This new record is comprised of four mammoth songs spread out over 42 minutes, and inside the chaos is soot-black death metal that will twist your brain and your insides while experiencing it. It’s like being inserted in the middle of a horrible, oppressive nightmare where you can’t get any measure of control and all you can do is hang on and pray for a modicum of survival.

Shroud of the Heretic coverThe band has only been around for the past four years, but they’ve already made a severe impact. Shroud of the Heretic is based in Portland, OR, and they are comprised of bassist/vocalist Thom (Sempiternal Dusk), guitarist JT (Symptom), and drummer Lauren, who have culled a massive amount of chaos and hellish fury into their world. This is impenetrable darkness that hangs overhead and makes you see the true misery and hopelessness of the world. The muck and grime you face is terrifying, but in the best possible way, and when this thing is over there’s no question you’re going to be hurting.

The title cut opens with dark noises wafting and the things being torn completely apart sonically. There is a massive serving of drubbing, with the vocals sounding sooty and infernal and the pace completely sickening. The entire scene is draped in filth, with mucky madness lurking beneath your feet, suffocating intensity riding high, and after a brief period of calm, there’s yet another tear in the Earth’s crust. Colossal damage is done, the vocals rumble, and a bell rings out signaling the carnage is over. “Metempsychosis” starts in serenity, but it’s not long before that’s destroyed. It begins to storm massively all over, with the melodies sounding like a dirge for the universe and the vocals gurgling blood. There is monstrous horror afoot, but also somber, doom-filled guitars, and much of the pace crawls and burns heavily. The back end of the track stomps hard with unforgiving force, while sorrowful melodies return and drag the song into the dark.

“Sprawling Black Mass Consummation” might as well be the way this band’s sound is described, but it’s also the name of this heavy, lurching beast that’s packed with savage punishment. The song goes cold and cosmic, letting cold air blow over and chill your blood, with textured lead lines and eerie sentiments spreading their wings. Just when you think things can’t get more unsettling, the song erupts, ghostly growls pair with strong guitar leads, and a mean, dark smearing absolutely crushes you. Closer “Omega Apeiron” has a really strange, unsettling start, with airy sounds leaking, the drums rattling, and the gates torn open for the band’s ferocious sound to ignite. The growls swarm around you, filling you with fear and anxiety, while the band keeps churning, with terrifying guitar work, a dizzying pace, and doomy carnage making one final push before the song dissolves into a pocket of sweltering noise.

Shroud of the Heretic will grab a stranglehold of your mind and twist you into submission, which isn’t a terrible fate to be honest. “Unorthodox Equilibrium” is a fantastic, crushing death metal record, and it will beat the hell out of you. They’ve been putting out tremendous music for the past few years, and hopefully they get the attention and respect they deserve with this album. This will make your soul feel sick and warped, and hopefully it gives you the dose of true, maddening death metal you deserve.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Locrian push their visions to new heights on captivating ‘Infinite Dissolution’

LocrianLast week’s, NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft passed Pluto and gave us a better idea of what exists on that faraway world that no one in our lifetime, barring a miracle of epic proportions, ever will visit. It was fascinating to see what was captured as the craft flew by, and in my head, I couldn’t help but wonder what a soundtrack to that experience would be. Funny, but I later realized I had that collection of music right there on my iPhone.

It’s not that Locrian make space music. Not intentionally anyway. But their dream-inducing soundscapes and charging forays into cosmic darkness really are perfect for gazing at the first visions of a planet tucked deep into our solar system, or simply staring a hole into the night sky. For years now, the band has been weaving doom, ambiance, black metal, post-rock, and all kinds of mesmerizing sounds to create a sci-fi friendly world that could help you take journeys in your mind. Over their countless releases, the Chicago-based band has been a go-to act when it comes to indulging in experimental sounds that have a human (or is that alien?) heart that gets inside of you. Unless you need your music down the middle and by the numbers, it’s impossible not to get swept away, and that definitely is the case with their new full-length “Infinite Dissolution,” the follow-up to 2013’s incredible “Return to Annihilation.”

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}The three heads that come together to make this exemplary, characteristic sound are André Foisy (guitars, electronics, piano), Terrence Hannum (myriad Moog synths and other electronic goodies), and Steven Hess (drums percussion, electronics). On this album, they stretch their cinematic visions further than ever before, dressing these nine tracks with oxygen-infused wonder, stabbing chaos when the need strikes, caterwauling atmosphere, and strange melodies. It’s an album that might take some time and a few visits to really set itself in your heart and mind, but you’re bound to appreciate and relish each journey, finding new layers every time you dive inside.

“Arc of Extinction” begins the album with a colorful synth haze, with drone clouds rolling, beats dropping slowly, and the temp taking its time to build in full. The track then opens fully, with screaming situated in the background, ominous riffs arriving, and guitars dizzying and burning as a dose of speed arrives to crash land at the finish line. “Dark Shales” feels cold and of the stars, with moody playing, guitars bustling, and a calm settling over. Everything goes into a chill, almost like you can see ice capsules forming, and that trickles into the first of three “KXL” tracks, this one initially feeling windy and mechanical. Charnel gusts push in, with thick synth lines leading the way, guitars blending in with them, and distortion charging up and bursting. Wild pockets of noise shriek in the distance, with the beats churning, and the song spilling right into “The Future of Death.” This one is another that could have you questioning your state on consciousness, as a lather of keys spark thoughts of mid-1980s Rush, a more rock-oriented tempo arrives, and howled vocals give the track and extra shove.

“An Index of Air” is driven by deliberate drumming, with zaps stinging and the swirls gathering overhead. The first half of the track has a long, carefully constructed build, as screams erupt, the assault begins to pound without remorse, and the guitars light brighter, more unpredictable fire. A mist settles in, with the emotions at a high point, muted singing sits on the horizon (sounding a bit like Mike Patton underground), and a gust of noise floods over the scene and eventually fades away. “KXL II” arrives, with chirps and static charges comprising its DNA, and then it’s into “The Great Dying,” a track that moves disarmingly serenely when it arrives. Voices call out, as if ghosts stuck in time, and guitars gaze behind the scene, creating the texture. As the song goes, it gains more and more life, with cool melodies bustling and chant-like vocals echoing out at the song’s close. “Heavy Water” has glimmering synth, noises pumping, and shrieks tearing out of the middle of the picture. A heavy psychedelic storm pushes through, causing the skies to jolt with light and the ground to become saturated. When it’s over, the song will be so thick, you’ll have to work your way through blind. Closer “KXL III” feels like an alien transmission, a hopeful signal sent out across the universe hoping someone will hear and respond. Its static and electronic impulses are the final things you hear on the record, making you wonder if someone from another world hears this music, if they’d know what to make of the experience.

Locrian’s music keeps morphing into deeper, stranger corners, and “Infinite Dissolution” is one of their highest peaks. This collection is like none other in their catalog (granted you can say pretty much that same thing about most of their work), and as noted, it’s perfect for looking deep into the night skies and wondering what’s boiling on worlds we’ll never know exist. Locrian’s music always promises something that takes you into the beyond, and they’ve yet to disappoint us.

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

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

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

Lifetime Shitlist fuse hardcore with filthy, mud-smeared doom on clubbing new ‘Pneumaticon’

Lifetime Shitlist coverBeing able to slip into a band’s headspace simply by absorbing their name is something that is a pretty cool thing. You hear the name and immediately get an idea of what’s in front of you, which makes the ride a little more fun because you’re already equipped with some surface knowledge.

There’s no way to hear the name Lifetime Shitlist and not have an instant idea of what’s ahead. The Baltimore-based band has been making a name for themselves the past three years playing shows and flattening audiences (they’re regular visitors to my hometown of Pittsburgh), and their interesting blend of hardcore and doom makes you instantly feel like you’re on the receiving end of a venomous rant. You get steamrolled by their sound, the hair on your arms gets burned off by their intensity, and the vocals make it feel like you’re being ridiculed in front of people, with your face growing beat red in embarrassment. Or instead, maybe you identify with the anger and frustration you’re hearing and realize it’s the same thing going on inside of you.

This is a really interesting band as their sound is as beholden to Black Flag and Poison Idea (who they cover on this album) as it is to Saint Vitus, Motorhead, and High on Fire on their new full-length album “Pneumaticon.” The quartet—vocalist Dave Pennington, guitarist “Metal” Matt Crocco, bassist Ryan Larkin, and drummer/vocalist Ryan Glaiser— are awash in filth and create a sound that is dirty and hefty but also punk-fueled and organically violent. The 10 tracks on this record will give newcomers to Lifetime Shitlist’s sound a nice dose of their blistering power, and it will cement what those of us have known about them for years in that they’re one of the more intriguing, smothering bands on the East Coast.

“Flag Draped Coffins” rips open with a furious blast, gruff vocals spilling out, and a trudging, menacing pace. Pennington’s barks are gruff and mean, later evolving into spirited shouts, and the track thrashes to a finish. “Burned at the Stake” is a sludgy, doomy assault, with the group heading right into the mud, with more howled vocals and everyone tossing fuel on the fire. The back end has a killer solo that sounds classic metal-influenced. “Blood Money” is a quick one, galloping all over, feeling a lot like it was inspired by Matt Pike’s work, as guitars burn and fade. “Horse Drawn” has drums driving hard, riffs bringing thunder, and harsh vocals that sound like accusations. Melodies hide and slip underneath all the chaos, while massive guitars bring the track to an end. “Psychic Vampires” is complete demolition, with a punk-style tirade unleashed and an otherwise mangling good time being had by all.

“Unhinged” is based on a meaty riff, with gurgly howls, music catching fire and burning fast, and more darkened doom moments that add the perfect morbid edge. “Give It Up” is their take on the Poison Idea original, with them delivering this gem with complete, utter violence. “Lip Service Rituals” piles on the mucky guitars, as the music scathes and the playing brings even more treachery to the proceedings. It’s a cool instrumental that gives Pennington a breath and proves the band has some neat tricks up their sleeves. “Negative Polarity” is bashed heavily from the start, with the drums rumbling, the band hitting a thrashy pace, and the vocals being emitted by savage yelp. Sludge meets hardcore later on, with sticky riffs arriving and the band having face-smashing fun. “Another Charade” ends the record with sickening blasts, deep growls that collect dirt, intense chugging, and a fast pace that kicks up dust, leaves you choking, and takes off without a trace.

Lifetime Shitlist’s new album is a clubbing, fierce record, making “Pneumaticon” one you need to check out if you’re into both hardcore and doom, or even just one of those. Their sound is caked with soot, they hit you with one body blow after another, and their reign of horror is only just beginning. If you catch these guys live, watch your ass.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lifetime-Shitlist/153625221342098

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

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

Outer Edges: Lycia’s darkness spills all over emotional 10th offering ‘A Line That Connects’

LyciaIt’s been a while since we traveled to the Outer Edges on this site, the place where we take a look at releases that, while not exactly metal, sure have their place in the DNA of the stuff. Look, very few people worth their salt listen to only metal all day long. I sure don’t. Obviously I love metal since I devote an entire website to it, but there are plenty of other things out there, some of which darkens some of the edges of the music form we all love.

A couple of years ago, darkwave pioneers Lycia made a triumphant, unexpected return after a decade of silence when they released their ninth album “Quiet Moments” on Handmade Birds. Hell, since we’re on the subject of metal fans being able to immerse themselves in other things, that label is the embodiment of the way of thinking. So it wasn’t a shock to find Lycia recording there, and it sure made a ton of sense when a package from the label that arrived recently in my mailbox contained the heavily anticipated 10th Lycia album “A Line That Connects.” Naturally, this was a release that had to go on immediately, as I wanted to sink into these 14 tracks (well, 15 if you count the brief outro), and what I found was a dark world with water trickling down black walls and the same morbid charm we’ve come to expect from this band. It’s pretty damn drab, but it’s a great listen that will arrest you and hold you hostage. Not against your will, oddly enough.

Mike VanPortfleet remains at the helm of the band he founded in 1988 as a solo project. Along with him on the album is longtime musical companion Tara Vanflower (who contributes her ghostly vocals) as well as returning member David Galas (he handles a slew of duties on this record). They bring with them some guests including Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Math Horseman, Black Mare) and Michael Irwin to flesh out the songs, and as a whole, it’s a weighty, involved recording that requires your participation. You need to engage and bleed along with these songs to really appreciate what’s going on here, and their mix of post-punk bleakness and doom darkness is an engaging, fascinating listen.

“The Fall Back” opens the record with a doomy glaze and a ton of murk, with the vocals softly delivered, even hushed at times, with the line, “Today’s the day,” driven home repeatedly. “Monday Is Here” is a line that could bring anyone into the doldrums, and the song is built on liquid guitar dripping, gloomy fog casting its spell, and lovely vocal harmonies adding a dash of color to lines such as, “Lights fade away.” This is a really great track awash in total sorrow and hopelessness. “Silver Leaf” follows, and it moves very slowly, with smooth, yet quivering vocals carrying the line. The song also has a spacey psychedelic feel (sorry to drop the Floyd reference, but I can hear it a little) with lyrics that spin inside your head and make you think about life cycles. “A Trade Out” takes its time setting the stage, with a thick haze in the background and a hypnotic loop of the line, “Slow motion,” causing hypnosis. “Blue” finds Vanflower taking lead vocals, as she weaves what sounds like a dim lullaby that she absolutely commands, later calling, “I’m turning blue.” Beautiful, arresting cut. “An Awakening” is a short, chilly instrumental that’ll feel most at home in damp mid-autumn, and “The Rain” follows, actually kicking up the tempo a bit. Parts of this feel a little poppy, which is a nice change of pace, with VanPortfleet’s dry drawl admitting, “Waited all my life for you.”

“Bright Like Stars” then emerges, with Vanflower taking over again and delivering a dizzying performance that may leave you gasping. The song is honest and raw emotionally and then makes way for “The Light Room.” This one’s a little brighter, with bells chiming and both VanPortfleet and Vanflower singing together, blending ideally even when they’re owning up to, “I don’t understand what you say,” as guitars cut and the song buzzes out. “Illuminate” churns during its run with ominous tones, pounding doom, and beats cracking as the track unfurls its horrific wings. The song drones wonderfully, just enough to balance emotion and anxiety. “A Ghost Ascends” is cosmic, with the vocals feeling a little Bowie-ish in their showmanship. This cut really opens up and charges forward, which helps it stand out, and it rattles right over to “Hiraeth,” a slow, dreamy song that Vanflower owns. The track feels like it enters into your dreams, with her wondering aloud, “Where did you all go? Don’t let time touch me,” almost as if she’s a lost soul read to take a journey into the unknown. “Autumn Moon” fades in, an oddly breezy song that seems designed for you to let down your guard. The singing is deep and rich, while the emotional layers added on top agitate your mind. Finally, “The Only Way Is Out” lands, with quivering feelings, thick and dark playing, and melodic singing that feels like it’s trying to let you in on some intergalactic secret that you must fully uncover yourself. It’s a bit of a cliffhanger of an ending that only spits out a few more seconds of silence in a hidden track that only has a child speaking softly in the background.

Lycia have inspired many, gone through enough changes over time to make up for several bands, and still remain today making vital music that should identify with every dark spirit in your heart. “A Line That Connects” is another great, spiritually-punishing entry into their vast catalog, and it’s something that more daring, emotions-bleeding-on-our-sleeves listeners likely will devour as a whole. Great to hear this band still pumping dark, oil-thick plasma through their powerful veins.

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

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

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

Sol y Nieve gives deathly new life to Essene, Kafirun demo efforts via cassette releases



Writing about music all the time and indulging in each aspect of that subject matter regularly sometimes takes you outside of what real people know about this stuff. That’s a weird sentence, but what I mean is there are things that are commonplace for me, such as owning an operating record player and still buying and listening to cassettes, that are gigantic surprises for some people when they walk into my music room.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that we’re going to be talking about cassettes today, but I think the point stands. There are many people who don’t know the medium still exists and that tapes are bought regularly by some people. I just moved recently, and I was putting my collection of tapes in alphabetical order in my cases, and I was surprised by how many recent releases dot the lineup. So I’m one of those people, and labels such as Sol y Nieve keeps that collection growing with their myriad releases. We have two of those today to discuss, and while you can have either digitally, holding this cassettes in my hand, hearing them rattle inside their cases, took me back to summer raiding the tape bins at Hills and Kmart trying to get my hands on any metal releases I could find. All hails to Sol v Nieve for keeping the format alive and continually finding great artists with which to work.

Essene cassetteFirst up is Essene, a really interesting, peculiar band hailing from Kansas City. I can tell you almost nothing about the band as they really don’t have a social media presence, Metal Archives has nothing on them, and they only have a shadowy Bandcamp page to give you any hint. No matter, because what counts is the music, and their weird, bending take on black metal on quite interesting and really doesn’t sound much like anything else out there (your closest comparison is Bosse-de-Nage). The band’s music can be jangly and post-punk in spots, a little bit indie rock in others, and full-scale, gruff black metal elsewhere. Their demo, originally released in autumn 2013, now is out on pro-dubbed, pro-printed cassette in a limited amount of 100 that are hand numbered. It’s a really nice package, with a sturdy in-lay card and a great-sounding tape. I’m always one to eschew digital for physical, so if this sounds like your thing, put down some cash and get something you can hold in your hands.

The tracks are untitled, though they get Roman numerals on the band’s originally digital release, so we’ll go with that. “I” twists and churns, with guitars ringing out and racing, the drums being pelted, and even a surfy vibe to the whole thing before it tears into blackness and fierce vocal rants. It’s moody and strange and spills into “II” that has a similar guitar style and is fairly unhinged. The growls are harsh, as the pace erupts and goes into overdrive, with liquid melodies, passionate wails, and an atmospheric twist that eventually chimes out. “III” trickles from the start and sounds cosmic, with a weepy haze taking hold and a move deeper into tranquility. Then, the closer “IV” tears open like a summer storm, punishing with gazey guitars, strange and echo-rich guitar work, and a cascade of sound that builds and builds, finally dissipating into a strange fog. Essene is a band that has its own vision when it comes to black metal, and further developments from this project are highly anticipated.

For more on the band, go here: https://essene.bandcamp.com/



The second album is by Vancouver black metal squad Kafirun, a band with which we visited earlier this year on their monstrous “Glorification of Holy Death” EP. That independently issued mauler sure opened our eyes and took us back to their 2014 demo “Death Worship” that preceded it. Now, Sol y Nieve is giving cassette treatment to that demo (same type of details as the Essene), giving beastly, meaty new life to these three songs that will smother you with filth. The band takes on pseudonyms with Luzifaust on vocals, Hanephi on guitars, Hypnocrotizer on bass, and Corpus Vile on drums, and this demo recording provided a first glimpse into the band’s warped, volcanic world of black metal that’s anything but by the numbers and could leave you totally brutalized when all is said and done.

Kafirun tapeThings start off with “Beyond the Flesh Vessel,” a weird, damaged track that spirals and leaves you dizzy after just a few minutes. The vocals go from titanic howls to throat-buzzing agony within seconds, splashing you with the reality that things are different in their world and they’re not going to do anything to make it more comfortable for you. “Death of All Man” should not be too hard to comprehend just from its title, and as promised, this thing hammers you with violence. The track rips right open, with the riffs causing havoc, harsh shrieks emanating and chilling, and an ominous vibe swimming through the center of this cut. The guitars sear and then cause your skin to go cold, while the infernal vocals provide a breath of fire from below, later turning into hypnotic chants that the music wraps around and sends into the stars. Closer “Thousand Spears” punishes from the start, lacing you with punches and letting the vicious growls spill over you like locust. Things hit a vortex, with the guitars chewing at you and the vocals dissolving into weird cries of agony. The back end is raw and furious, eventually giving way to a clean finish that finally gives you a drink of cool air. Kafirun’s might already is well known on this site, but it’s nice to finally dig into their origins and find the band’s first blast of terror.

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

To buy the albums (physical), go here: http://solynieve.bigcartel.com/

Or here: https://solynieve.bandcamp.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Indesinence’s strange doom and death metal expand further on wondrous ‘III’

IndesinenceSlipping into the murk of dreams is one of the reasons I look forward to going to sleep each night. Your brain telling you stories based on your thoughts and experiences is a strange way to spend several hours every day, but it’s something I anticipate greatly because there’s no way to predict what will happen. And it’s going on in my very head.

I relish in taking on music from UK doom/death leviathans Indesinence for the similar reasons as why I count down to my slumber. Their long, elegant, dramatic passages make me think of a perfect soundtrack to what could be roiling in my brain when I am dreaming, especially if the visions are dark and foreboding. Over the course of three records and a decade and a half together, Indesinence have grabbed me by the hand—not unlike the way the hooded figure on their 2012 gem “Vessels of Light and Decay” that invites that vulnerable child into a mystery lair—and pulled me into their world. Their new record, the gargantuan “III,” is their finest collection to date and a legitimate contender for best doom/death album of the year. They unravel greater, more expansive adventures, they mix mystery and texture into their grandiose compositions, and they capture the imagination in a way few others can. The fact this band isn’t yet deemed doom and death royalty is an indefensible crime, though hopefully “III” changes that.

Indesinence coverThis massive, world-toppling band is comprised of three players, with Ilia Rodriguez (Binah) on guitars and vocals; Andy McIvor (also of Binah, as well as Code and Blutvial) on bass; and Paul Westwood (Fen, Landskap) on drums. The band’s ambitions always have been huge, but on “III,” the trio climbs to its highest peak yet. Over the course of seven tracks and 70 minutes, Indesinence create worlds of shadowy wonder, death-like mystery, and astonishing adventure. While the songs are unquestionably heavy and seeped in death and doom, there also is plenty of melody and colorful twists and turns that add even more substance to their already rich sounds. If you commit, you might find yourself lost in the middle of this journey, unable to see the beginning or end, and riding on the waves to wherever fate takes you.

“Seashore Eternal” begins the record (there certainly is a nautical feel on much of this album), a slow-driving intro piece that picks up steam as it goes, hammering away and establishing a thick atmosphere. Then it’s into “Nostalgia,” a cut that starts with Rodriguez wailing, “It breeds deep inside, every season, every night,” as guitars begin to soar and the entire piece swells with power. The melodies are thick, jarring, and strong, with lush arrangements arriving to provide some air, and then it’s into a dreamy death sequence that continues to pound at the corrosion done by memories and feelings. The tides get a little proggy, sections crush and pummel like the planet’s four corners collapsing, and sorrowful playing takes the song to its sunset. “Embryo Limbo” then settles in, with clean guitars washing over, hitting on gushing energy, and thriving on slowly meted out drubbing that gets quite the musical sheen over top. As you delve deeper into the song, the track really opens up and gets heavier, twisting, and morphing around you, tearing through sinewy muscle, and finally fading into a mystical finish that feels like cold mist on your face.

“Desert Trail” comes up next and parches your throat with unforgiving heat and a journey into the void. Pianos drip over the surface and open into sorrowful melodies and lurching doom. While sheets of mystery rain down, the band chugs and grinds through the sands, dragging you into heavy, chunky terrain before it hammers shut and is swept off in the winds. “Mountains of Mind” is the first serving of a 15:15-long epic that is absolutely enthralling. It starts slow-clubbing and mucky, with melodies slithering and the guys taking time to unfurl their majesty. The song gets heavier and heavier as it builds, smothering and weavings its tales, and eventually it grows moody and psychedelic, with the vocals spilling out in whispers. The back end of the first half is thrashy and menacing and then … it spills into one of the most unexpected covers in some time, their excellent, post-punk-infused take on “Five Years Ahead (Of My Time),” a lost classic by The Third Bardo (released in 1967, which stands as their only single). The transition is seamless, fun even, and makes for the most surprising moment on this record. Then we approach deep water on “Strange Meridian,” a 17:30 trip over furious waves, murk, and an unknown destination. The vocals are more of a forceful yell, a doom-like presentation, and at times it feels unhinged and losing control. Organs sprawl in, warm guitars arise, and harsh vocals have their way, driving toward drenching melodies and a deeply involved, moving section of playing. The final moments enter a haze that is fluid and trance-inducing. The closing title cut is a partially ambient instrumental track, with each dreamy, strange sequence interrupted by a chime, almost as if it’s signaling you into new planes of consciousness. The track acts like a perfect sequence to bring you out of deep slumber, with laughter from a crowd, applause, and a slamming door jarring you awake, stuck to your sheets in sweat.

Undoubtedly you will go on a journey with Indesinence on “III,” their mightiest album to date. It also should be pointed out that while the band conjures vivid dream-state imagery, it’s rarely serene and without danger. Be it on land or on sea, conscious or deep in exploration in the back of the mind, the band is always churning, building new layers, and proving to be one of metal’s most peculiar storytellers. This is one of doom and death’s best, most daring artists, and it’s about time they get the respect and adulation they deserve. Otherwise, maybe they’ll snatch you into the night and immerse you in a world from which you’ll never return.

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

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

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

Vorage’s filthy, mind-altering brand of death punishes and captivates on terrifying first EP

VoageI have these dreams now and again that my face is being obscured by a fog or something like a blanket, forcing me to gasp for air and become terrified I am being smothered. I am claustrophobic, which I think explains it, but every time that dream strikes, it makes me erupt into a cold sweat and sit up in bed.

This reminds me just a bit of the music played by Vorage. While dabbling in death metal but bending it to their insane will, this band’s debut self-titled EP (released on cassette last year in limited numbers) is a warped, deranged bit of punishment. At three tracks and just over 20 minutes, this band should remind of groups such as Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Mitochondrion, and Aevangelist, who also blur the line between creativity and madness. The two who comprise this music—vocalist Al-Xul, and multi-instrumentalist A.H.S (also of Adversary)—do so almost ritualistically, with the music sprawling and stunning with evil precision and the vocals sounding like they scrape from the throat, through the skin, and into your ears. This is charnel misery that pounds you with horror and torment, and even at a shorter run time, you’ll still feel like you’ve been in a psychological battle at the end.

“Paradisiac” opens the record with imposing noise and smeary guitars, almost scowling at you from the floor and threatening to take you down with the chaos. This is where the comparisons to Portal feel most relevant, as the band compounds smothering terror and mind-boggling musical dexterity that will make their technical work sometimes go unnoticed amid all the smoke. The pace is dizzying and humid, with the growls slithering in the dark, the melodies lashing at you with monstrous repetition, and infernal vocals digging even deeper toward the end, eventually fading into a hiss.

“Deatheodidact” has strange, drama-rich riffs raining down upon you, with guitars spiraling out of control and a layer of soot gathering beneath. The melodies keep lapping, with the vocals burning in Al-Xul’s throat and the rest of the band clubbing you heavily. Every element continues to surge and stab as it moves along, sitting in heavy mud beds, leading into wind-milling noise, and slipping into frosty sound. The closing title track (band track?) launches into flames and tarry riffs, with intense and agitated noise and guttural growls that sound painful. Some of the music gets rubbery and disorienting, drilling a mystical hole in your chest and eventually disappearing into a noise haze that scrapes and chills over the track’s final few minutes. The stretch is eerie, cosmic, and an ideal way to finish this album.

Terror is abound, nightmares become reality, and yeah, you might feel like a million tons are sitting on your chest cavity when you take on this release. The filth and hell are impenetrable in Vorage’s sound, and as you find yourself dragged through the darkness on these three songs, in the back of your mind you’ll be begging to wake up. You will, but you’ll be psychologically altered once the experience is over.

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

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

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

Ectovoid unleash mind-numbing, violently played death metal on new crusher ‘Dark Abstraction’

EctovoidAnytime I get an e-mail from Hellthrasher Productions, it generally means there are some nasty records waiting for me to dig into the violence. A few weeks back a new promo package arrived, and like many of the ones that came before them, they are jam-packed with death metal filth that have provided hours of terrifying enjoyment.

The most recent communications from Hellthrasher contains two fine death metal offerings, each one standing far apart from each other even if they rightfully belong in the same sub-genre quadrant. One of the bands offers up a more traditional style of death metal albeit with their own weird twists and turns to the sound, while the other travels darker paths and takes you on a trip into madness that you won’t soon forget. These are two strong albums that demonstrate just how powerful underground death metal is at the moment, and over the next two days, we’ll take a closer look at each of these albums.

Ectovoid coverFirst up is Ectovoid, a trio hailing from Birmingham, AL., that has been doing their thing for the past five years. Their style is twisted and vicious, sometimes mind-altering, and often basking in doom. Their approach isn’t exactly direct, but it should appeal to those who prefer their death sounding like it just crawled out of a swamp, blood and mud running all over it, slithering over the Earth’s crust. This band put out their first full-length “Fractured in the Timeless Abyss” in 2012, and now they return with their massive, devastating new record “Dark Abstraction.” The band—bassist/vocalist C.B., guitarist M.S., and drummer C.M.—all play together in thrash band Conduktor, but what they do here is meaner, deadlier, and a furious charge of feral power.

“Obscure Altars” grinds into the body of the album, with the music penetrating and pounding and the vocals sounding vicious. The guitars set a dizzying haze, with ominous playing adding muscle to this sinewy death. “Visions of Reflective Decay” burns right along with the line, “Twisted thoughts course through me,” giving you a deep look into the terrible void. The track has a strong, slow-smothering, old-school death feel that goes down right. “Mental Netherworlds” drives hard and violently, crushing as the tone gets guttural and hellish. The band churns away, applying the pressure and watching your eyes pop out. “Precipice of Absolute Chaos” feels doomy and lurching, getting stormy and shadowy before it launches into madness. The drums are just crushed, with a gruesome display unloaded before you, guitars stymying your brain, and your sanity pushed to its limits. Soloing is unleashed as the song blazes to its ending.

“Rituals of Hallucination” is aptly named as it induces nightmare visions and brutality. The tempos tease you, going back and forth but always pummeling, while the band chugs hard, grinding up bone and flesh in its gears. “The Expanse Between Slumber and Death” charges out of the gates, feeling like it’s much closer to the death spectrum than sleep. The vocals evoke mind-altering imagery, while the music sends shockwaves to both your body and your mind. “A Prisoner of Paradox” tears apart right away, with brutal heaviness smashing your guts, the vocals sounding massive and threatening, and the guitar work taking on a Sabbathy twist before an abrupt conclusion. Closer “Spawned From Unending Mystery” lets guitars rumble at will, the vocals add another layer of terror, and the pace achieves a level of fluidity and melody that adds texture to an otherwise bleak, hopeless conclusion.

Hellthrasher keeps the good shit coming, and anytime their music arrives in my inbox, I’m tearing right into it. Ectovoid’s “Dark Abstraction” is a great reason for that, because it’s another unearthed death metal gem that should be revered. The band is the right amounts of vicious and visceral, and they are threatening to break through the Earth’s crust and into more people’s worlds.

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

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

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