PICK OF THE WEEK: Horrendous at completely different level with thrash-minded smoker ‘Anareta’

HorrendousA band truly coming into its own is a fascinating thing to experience, that is if you’ve been along for the whole ride. Meeting up with a band when they first start and following their peaks and valleys often ends in maximum enjoyment for the listener when that true breakthrough moment strikes.

Horrendous have been making serious waves in underground death metal with their take on the old school philosophies they have twisted to meet their modern needs. They’ve been a band on the rise, and in a pretty short amount of time, forming six years ago and already having developed a sterling reputation based on their output. In fact, last year’s “Ecdysis” was a high-water mark for the band, a record that opened up a ton of ears to their style and one of 2014’s most inventive and interesting metal albums. But now comes “Anareta” barely more than a year later, and everything has changed again. That high-water mark? Yeah, it’s at tsunami level now with this new collection that, all the hyperbole aside, could find itself remembered as a modern classic that broke the band onto a new level.

Horrendous coverWhat we have on “Anareta” is not just an exemplary death metal album; it’s one of the most lively, colorful, fun records to come out of the sub-genre in a long, long time. In fact, if I can mix sub-genres for a moment, much of this new record makes me imagine of what “Rust” era Megadeth and, say, “Human” years Death could have conjured had they mixed together their influences. The playing is absolutely top notch and breathes furious fire, and the band—guitarist/bassist/vocalist Damian Herring, guitarist/vocalist Matt Knox, drummer Jamie Knox—never have sounded this channeled and deadly before. It’s a joy to hear (weird to say about a death metal band) and gets even more intriguing the more you explore the thing.

“The Nihilist” begins the record with guitars arriving, wild howls taking hold, and the song hitting full launch. The riffs are nice and crunchy, while the tempo gets trucking, and the guitars seem to race each other. There are some great exploratory sections, a quick moment of reflection, and then another burst, with howls of, “I am everything, I am nothing!” Ozymandias” is the longest cut at 7:21, and it has a nice, fluid start. The leads are razor sharp, while the howls are harsh and abrasive, and the band sinks into deep thrashing. It should go without saying that the playing is so on the money here (it really is everywhere), and some great soloing leads into vicious growls and a final blast of madness. “Siderea” is an instrumental cut where Horrendous show their proggy side, with the track slowly unfurling, the guitars swimming in the murk, and the pace eventually blistering. “Polaris” starts stomping right away, with creaked growls leading the way, colorful leads exploding, and some pretty cool twists and turns, feeling techy and thrashy, and always full of heart.

“Acolytes” runs a healthy 7:14, and it has an ominous beginning, chugging and sweltering, playing tricks with your mind. The tracks breaks open more, with the vocals blasting out furiously, the pace absolutely steamrolling, and the guitars stretching out into the cosmos. Manic progressions prevail before the song becomes calmer, and then we’re onto “Sum of All Failures” and its quiet, acoustic opening. Naturally the serenity doesn’t last long as the crunch unloads, strong guitar work rollicks, and more prog fire spits out, adding some weirder textures. A nice classic metal feel emerges, as the guitars enrage the fires, and everything builds right up to its abrupt end. “Stillborn Gods” has a bit of a rock feel to it in spots, but that doesn’t take any bite out of the track’s intensity. The race is catchy and fun, while the vocals are violent and screechy, and the melodies kill everything. It’s a nice organic development for this one, and it fades out, paving the way for closer “The Solipsist (Mirrors Gaze).” The track has an elegant, clean launch, sprawling slowly before the fireworks burst. The band pours on the punishment, with every element bringing chaotic flashes, but from there, the track goes more calculated. The band takes its time, punching and bruising, with the vocals delivered harshly, and the song mashing and thrashing before the whole thing slowly bleeds away.

“Anareta” already has been met with quite a bit of praise, and there’s a damn good reason behind this. Horrendous truly have come into their own, at least how that’s defined in late 2015. They likely could do more, grow further, and discover other ways to blow minds. This is a damn fine example of classic-minded death scraped with modern thinking, and it established Horrendous as one of the finest bands going in this or any other corner of metal’s landscape.

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

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

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

Pittsburgh’s Black Yo)))ga sets to reach dark souls globally on new set ‘Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1’

Black Yoga

Photo by Paul Werkmeister

Finding balance in my life is not something I’m all that great at achieving. I can be a constant ball of anxiety, wondering if any weird thing going on with my body is something that spells doom, and calming down and collecting facts often go by the wayside for an old-fashioned panic attack. It’s a good time.

For the longest time, my wife has suggested I try yoga. Let me warn you there isn’t some happy ending bow tied to this one as I have yet to actually go into a public setting and try this. I have a hard enough time eating in public much less stretching out and letting myself be vulnerable in a physical setting. That said, the closest I’ve ever come to doing this has been with Black Yo)))ga, a project started by Kimee Massie, a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher-certified instructor, her musician husband Scott (who also helms Pittsburgh label Innervenus), and their friend Chad Hammitt. For years, you could see flyers for their sessions all over Pittsburgh, at record stores, on coffee shop windows, you name it. The venues would change, but their unique program, that used drone, doom, and stoner metal, continued to spread and gain wide acceptance locally. Now, they’re taking Black Yo)))ga to the world with the release of “Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1,” a CD/DVD package that contains an hour-long instructional class session, as well as their own soundtrack created by a collective of local musicians.

PrintI’m going to concentrate more on the musical aspect here, as I noted I’m bereft of yoga knowledge, but no doubt the DVD portion is a great help to people like me whose social anxiety may get the best of them and rob them of an experience such as this. This lets you unwind without the pressure of other people, learn the process, and make as many mistakes as you need to in the comfort of your own home. Only the dog will be there to laugh at me! Plus, the music is something that helps connect with those of us with darker personality complexions who find more relaxation and connection with dark, pulsating sounds. I literally find bands such as Sunn 0))), Sleep, and Nadja incredibly relaxing, so this makes all the sense in the world to me. But this effort also seeks to help those struggling with addiction, anxiety, PTSD, dark passengers, phobia, etc. in order to help these people cope and make more of their lives.

As for the music, Scott Massie (you also may know him from Storm King), Hammitt, and a collection of musicians from bands such as Hero Destroyed, Agnes Wired for Sound, Vulture, Torrential Bleeding, Moonstation Burning, Complete Failure, and a ton more grouped together to create the soundtrack to go along with the yoga instruction. The music is full of dark ambiance, doom drone, mystical chants, and all sort of foggy corners designed to get inside your veins, work their way to the burning spots, and help you reach beyond your turmoil. I’ve used the soundtrack itself to help me gather myself or simply meditate during bouts of panic, and it has worked perfectly. Hell, even if you don’t want to do the yoga portion, the music itself is rumbling and evocative, and a really strong collection that hopefully paves the way for more creations for any future installments of Black Yo)))ga.

“A Wandering Through” begins the music, with static and noises rising, chattering swimming underneath, and strings cutting through. I kept imagine sailing on dark waters, with nothing but storm clouds ahead but feeling oddly at ease. Melodies slip into the scene, drone chants emerge, and guitars open up, with strings continuing to scrape and this flowing into “The Dark Places in Our Lives.” Stomps echo at the start, with guitars looping inward, and the pace righteously plodding along. Chimes punctuate the end of each musical thought, while the accumulating melodies roll ahead with the strings following. Everything flows ideally, with dark cries reaching out, sounds swirling, and the end bleeding into “Carmentis,” where the vocal calls continue. Guitars and bass begin to bubble and scorch, with noise snaking through, and a compelling passage takes you into a liquid-filled, spacey section. Creaky moans and gasps poke, with the wordless wails stretching, and the glistening music going right into “Hungry Ghosts” that starts with echoes and waves crashing. The sounds are chilling, with the guitars mimicking birds chirping (or I’m imagining that), the strings pattering, and mist rising, along with a threatening cloud of noise.

“Negative Confession” charges up, with drums cascading and the noise getting bigger and more gargantuan. Screams simmer, while darkness and morbidity rise up, making itself into a strange beast you stare down as you head right into “Lament,” where soulful, heartfelt singing wells up and bursts. As the song builds, the doom bottom drops out, the feral cries build in intensity, and the rising storm bears down, mauling away and challenging you. The riffs that emerge are episodic, as the noise boils and spills over into the piece’s longest track “Nest of Thorns” that runs a healthy 14:20. The start is gentle but ominous, with the deliberately paced music figuring out its way and the guitars taking on a satisfying, exploratory, psychedelic wash. Things get trippy and then throbbing, as it continues to move your emotions and then feed you a thick drone. The drums start to splatter, and this mixes into the final movement “Loophole in the Universe,” where noise sizzles, wooshes cool your skin, and what sounds like alien sirens begin reaching out. It feels like spaceship exhaust is enveloping you, with thick and penetrating tones having their way, while the piece rings out in silence. By the way there also are edited versions of “Carmentis” and “Negative Confession” available only on the digital release.

Black Yo)))ga has become a large part of the Pittsburgh metal scene, and it’s great to see this project branch out so that it can touch the lives of people all around the world. The commitment the Massies and Hammitt have made to this effort is admirable, and they have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Black Yo)))ga to get it where it is today. This is a worthwhile addition to your life if you could use some relaxation, a chance to branch out, or some soothing influences if you struggle with you own darkness. And the other great thing about “Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1” is if you struggle with social anxiety like I do, you can take advantage of this in your own home first before you join the group at one of their events.

Speaking of which, if you’re in Pittsburgh tonight, there is a release party for “Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1” from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Union Project, 801 North Negley Ave., Pittsburgh. Bring your own mat!

For more on the release party, go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1613061185612192/

For more on the project, go here: http://www.black-yoga.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.screamingcrow.com/shop/55-black-yo-ga

Or here: http://blackyoga.storenvy.com/

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

Hooded Menace stretch back to doom’s early years, weave death into ugly ‘Darkness Drips Forth’

Hooded MenaceThis time of the year is perfect for certain things. Two of them, in my humble opinion, are doom metal and monsters. That’s not exactly a reach, is it? I’ve been harping on about autumn being the finest time to indulge in doom, and with Halloween capping off the week, bloody, gelatinous, undead, and horrifying creatures tend to be in the forefront. Unless you’re a loser and hate this time of year.

Anyway, today’s band and record could not be arriving at a more perfect time with all of that in mind. Hooded Menace long have pulled their inspiration from zombie movies and all kinds of old horror films that probably would confound people who bombard themselves with today’s offerings of these types of movies. This Finnish band is a throwback to those days, and the doom they conjure on their latest record, the supremely awesome “Darkness Drips Forth,” also should have people harkening back to the early Peaceville Records days. That’s no hyperbole, by the way. These songs wretch doom, slithering with a punishing pace, and even inject some lush melody into the ugliest of settings. It’s one of the band’s best records to date, and it’s also one of their most unexpected.

Hooded Menace coverHooded Menace have been one of the more consistent doom bands of the past decade, also injecting quite a bit of death metal into their cauldron, as well as the aforementioned hints of horror movie chaos. Having started out in 2007, they quickly made a mark with their 2008 debut “Fulfill the Curse,” following up two years later with the awesome “Never Cross the Dead” (released by Profound Lore domestically), and then jumping to Relapse for 2012’s “Effigies of Evil.” Lasse Pyykko has been at the forefront of this band from the start, handling guitars and vocals. Well, he still is the band’s vocalist in the studio, but in a live setting, it’s different. Along with him, the Menace lineup is rounded out by guitarist Teemu Hannonen, bassist Markus Makkonen (he’s the vocalist for their live shows), and drummer Pekka Koskelo, and they are at their doomy finest on this record, which is a total … monster.

“Blood of the Burning Oath/Dungeons of the Disembodied” is a mouthful of a title, and it’s the album opener, starting with chimes ringing out, only to have guitars bubble up like foam and meet it. In the background, you can hear villagers wailing in agony, as the tempo lurches along and the growls begin bleeding. The track really opens up later, with riffs glimmering, strong leads taking command, and the growls getting more forceful and in your face. The tempo later slows and burns, with riffs lapping over top, the track marching and grinding, and the song disappearing into a pocket of wails. “Elysium of Dripping Death” follows, with a mournful setting being set, and the vocals retching. The track then starts to break apart, letting violence well up. The guitars form a strange wall that has a hypnotic effect, while the tempo boils, giving off mists that add to the surreal atmosphere. The track turns even more dizzying, though at the same time gritty, and the vocals bubble in the back of Pyykko’s throat like a thick film of blood. It’s not long until all the sounds meld together, boil over, and fade away.

“Ashen With Solemn Decay” begins with guitars surging and the rhythms rumbling heavily, and then the growls kick in and make things ugly. The band hits a harder, more aggressive tone, though strong melodies arrive to make your brain tingle, and the clouds open up to let light break through the clouds. Strong soloing causes sparks, while the pace keeps rolling on, with melodies twisting and turning. The growls get mucky, and then each element piles up and bleeds away. Closer “Beyond Deserted Flesh” starts with riffs. Of course. But the growls erupt from there, with the guitars spidering their way through, with mournful and brutal melodies raining down. Things feel spacey and weird, but then everything spill into darkness, with the pace chugging and thick guitars flowing over. Sinewy riffs take hold, the song stretches out its muscles, and cleanliness arrives, almost like it’s pretending the blood never was there, as it all flows down the drain.

Hooded Menace really have nothing to prove to anyone, but instead of rest on their reputation, they made one of the most curious, yet satisfying, records of their run with “Darkness Drips Forth.” There’s plenty of death and doom to keep everyone well fed, and considering we are in the spooky season, these four songs should soundtrack you scaring the shit out of your neighbors. This is a great effort from a band that always seem to have a dastardly surprise up their sleeves.

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

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

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

Italian black metal heathens Tundra return with fire, melody on grimy ‘The Burning Fanatism’

Tundra coverHurtling through chaos, into a vortex of mystery and madness, ready at any time to take the blow that puts you out of your misery for good. That’s the way really good, infernal black metal can make you feel, and as the sub-genre has essentially exploded the past decade, getting that sensation has become a little less common.

But it’s not a deceased concept by any means. Sometimes you get a record, put it on, and it feels like you’re headed toward a pit of vipers, ready to take one for the team. I got that when tackling “The Burning Fanatism,” the latest record from long-running Italian horde Tundra. From day one with this band, it’s all been about violence and torment, and they deliver the goods wholeheartedly on this album. Yes, it’s plenty vicious, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find cool pools of melody making things even more interesting. The band has more substance to them than just bombarding you with blasts and carnage, and the fact that there is plenty of meat to the music means you’ll return for more once the shock of their fire subsides.

Tundra have been running strong since 2002, putting out their debut full-length “Ansia” three years later in 2015. Since that time, they’ve only put out one more record, that being 2008’s “Primordial,” but they’ve offered up a slew of EPs and split efforts (with the likes of Inferno, Ruina, Operation Winter Mist, Alastor, and Korium, just to name a few) to keep their ravenous audience well fed. Another thing that’s been common for Tundra over the years is lineup turnover, of which they’ve suffered plenty. But original member Pesten remains on bass and guitar, and with him are Thorns (Fides Inversa, Deathrow, Kult, Acherontas) on vocals and drums and Shatraug (Horna, Sargeist, Behexen) handling guitars on this record that’s a really solid entry in their bustling catalog. By the way, this lineup is the one that recorded the record, and now Demogorgon (vocals) and Under (guitars, drums) have joined, replacing the latter two.

The album opens with “Disgust,” and from the start things get kind of weird. The song begins sounding more like a Neurosis piece, complete with the desperate wails, but it’s not long until the track blows up and the stampede strikes. Melody and savagery unite, while Thorns’ vocals get nasty and gurgly, growling along with intensity matched by the music. A little calm sets in, but then we’re quaking again, with howls of, “You are nothing!” sounding both anthemic and accusatory. “Oblivion” is fierce from the start, with the band hammering away and the growls sounding more talkative. The storming continues through the song’s body, only ending when the track comes to an abrupt finish. “Breakdown” simmers as it starts, with the pace whipping up a good fog, and the band working hard to disorient as they lay in the punches. “Everything around me must collapse and disappear,” Thorns howls before he’s overcome by the flood of panic. “Insanity” is another that bruises, but it also confounds. There is an unsettling element to this one, as the vocals sound tortured and detached, and the music is fast and blinding when it isn’t deliberately clubbing you. “Blurred” slips in and also changes the pace a bit, with some acoustic strains ringing out, guitars creaking, and thunderclaps and storms soaking this instrumental cut.

“Wrath” has a dissonant start, with the guitars churning in the atmosphere and preparing for landfall. Melodies fire up, and tales of humanity’s collapse are woven, with Thorns howling what we all have come to know: “Only death is real!” From there, the band stages a hellish invasion, with the growls going crazed, and total destruction unearthed. “Revenge” digs up speed again, with the riffs blaring, and the vocals almost sounding choked. “There is no god,” is a declaration made over and over again, and there’s a punk feel to some of the melodies, making this seem all the more raucous. “Fanatism” boils slowly at times, letting the intensity of the song be the focal point. “Eradicating the human virus,” Thorns calls, as the tempo simmers, hypnotic waves of melody reach out, and the final horrifying notes are allowed to just hang in the air. Closer “Empty” also delivers strangeness, with guitars sending out weird signals as the pace goes slower but remains undoubtedly heavy. There are reflective passages, scorching parts that cause you to cover your eyes, and a bottomless pit in which this song swirls and drains away forever.

Tundra may have had some faces change over the years, but their hellish mission remains true and steadfast. “The Burning Fanatism” proves Tundra’s collective teeth remain sharp, and their penchant for brutality amid melody is as strong as ever. This is just a damn good slab of traditional black metal, a refreshing collection amid a sea of albums and bands that just can’t measure up.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Vhöl’s second record ‘Deeper Than Sky’ shows the band reaching true powers

(Photo by Sarah Brady)

(Photo by Sarah Brady)

Amassing a team of all stars is no guarantee. Look at sports. It always seems like the teams that jam their roster with big stars are blinded by past statistics and greatness elsewhere and lose the idea of chemistry being the binding factor. Whatever it is, the system never seems to work anymore, and teams that build from within are the ones that have the most success and longevity.

That same ideal also seems to carry over to metal. Off the top of your head, name as many bands as you can of all-star players mashed together who went onto any great creative heights. I’ll give you a second. That in mind, when I first heard the lineup for the band Vhöl, I had two thoughts: How soon can I hear this, and what the hell is a Vhöl? Combining noted members of bands including Hammers of Misfortune, Agalloch, Ludicra, YOB, Amber Asylum, and a few others sounded like a metallic dream made in whatever kind of heaven state would produce such a thing. Yet, as noted, all-star teams don’t always work, and the proof was going to be in whatever music the band created.

Vhol coverWell, Vhöl’s self-titled 2013 debut instantly melted away any worry, as the band—vocalist Mike Scheidt, guitarist John Cobbett, bassist Sigrid Sheie, drummer Aesop Dekker—released a pretty unpredictable collection of songs that came at you from all sorts of points. There was classic metal, thrash, punk, hardcore, you name it, and the album felt either like a really fun one-off or the beginning of something special. Turns out it was the latter as the band has returned with “Deeper Than Sky,” an even more exciting, ambitious collection that feels like Vhöl truly coming together as a unit. There is metallic glory through and through, but there also are gritty moments, weird ones, and sequences that feel like the band is letting loose and just having a damn good time. I feel like there’s a Queen influence in spots with some of the dramatics, but maybe that’s just me hearing that. I’ve loved this thing from listen one all the way through to whatever number I’m on now, and this is the album that really starts showing the band’s terrifying potential.

“The Desolate Damned” gets the record off on a raucous note, with classic metal guitars blaring over top, the band launching into an amalgamation of power and thrash, and Scheidt going all Rob Halford, with his voice reaching high register and piercing the senses. This is total metal indulgence, with the band whipping up a frenzy and not letting go until the track reaches its end. Then “3 A.M.” goes in a total opposite direction, with Scheidt howling and barking his words as the track takes on more of a hardcore/D-beat personality. “The air is getting thin,” Scheidt wails over the chorus, while the band also dips back into power surges and even some prog. The title cut runs a hefty 12 minutes, and it starts grim, with the vocals spat furiously and the drama being ramped on high. There are plenty of twists and turns over this thing, as one might imagine, from moments that recall King Diamond theatrics, to mystical sequences where fogs and mists meet, to reflective playing where you mind can relax, to bursts of noise and panic that shatter all illusions of calm. Later there is a heavy psyche wash, as the band keeps rambling forward, pounding away, and ending the thing with some serious guitar solo fire. Then the oddball arrives in “Paino,” an instrumental cut that sounds like what it might if there was such thing as an old-time metal saloon. The track drives pretty hard in spots, but in the place of meaty riffs come Sheie’s piano playing, and the band taking on the feel of an organic jam that’s preceding a whirlwind bar brawl. Pretty unexpected, and in a good way.

“Red Chaos” has charred riffs and bursts with speed from the start, with more thrashing thundering down and screams that fly by. The speed continues until the song goes quiet, teasing serenity until the track starts to chug again, with Scheidt going for the stratosphere with his singing and the pace absolutely shredding. The soloing scorches and torches until the song dies down and blows away. “Lightless Son” runs 8:18, letting loose with guitars smoldering and really great riffs spilling out. Scheidt’s vocals are gruff at first, with authoritative yells directed right at you, before he switches up and soars again. This is another one where the tempos are all over the place, jumping tracks and changing speeds right as you get used to the trip. There is plenty of crunch and devastation that pile on right up to its conclusion that bleeds out. Closer “The Tomb” is a real treat, a horror-filled tale that reminds of the King again, only this time just as much thematically. There are vicious growls, stomping drums, and chilling terror that could freeze your flesh. As the plot progresses, Scheidt wails in pain, “This can’t be real! How can it be?” as the band trudges the ground, exploding into smothering madness, and then suddenly being sucked into the stars, where noises and spacey zaps rip the thing into a black hole.

“Deeper Than Sky” is the record that seemed likely when this insane lineup was announced, and Vhöl are morphing into a pretty scary machine. The band relies on all of its parts and never rests on each individual’s history or background. Anything is possible in this sphere, and the longer Vhöl remain an active, breathing organism, the stranger, more violent this journey is likely to become.

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

To buy the album (CD), go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Or here (LP expected out in 2016): http://www.erodingwinds.com/

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

Wilt’s ‘Moving Monoliths’ never afraid to dig down into darker emotion and unleash torment

WiltFrom what I’ve gathered from listening to metal for, like, the past three decades and from interacting with some of the people who indulge in it, I have gathered it is not proper to have human emotions unless they are anger, morbidity, hatred, doom-ridden terror, and/or lust. Sadness and depression, while making huge inroads, still are kind of scoffed at by a lot of people because metal = tough Viking no tears.

Of course, I’m generalizing a bit, and really, things have changed in some circles when it comes to making metal that shows vulnerability, but you know people. You know the Internet. Probably as tired as people get of rubes like me espousing the virtue of acceptance and treating others like humans with feelings, I get irritated at these folks who bristle at showing any sensitivity. If any of them are among us, they might want to see their way out as we discuss “Moving Monoliths,” the debut record from Canadian band Wilt. I have been through this album many times now, and the one thing that really grips me is just how emotional and human these songs are. It’s heavy and crushing, yes, but it also gets me inside, when having a particular spell with loneliness and sadness often can mix well with music like this. I never get the idea we’re off for bloodshed or that brutality is the most important element. Records like these are very necessary, and for folks like me who like to spend time with kindred spirits when I’m down, this album is bound to become a great companion.

Wilt coverWilt aren’t weepy or overly solemn or anything. This is black metal at its heart, and atmospherically so, and what started as a studio project has morphed into something greater, something on a grander scale that sounds like it could enjoy one hell of a creative shelf life. Originally the creation of vocalist Jordan Dirge and guitarist Brett Goodchild, the band put out its initial EP in 2012, and after creating a live lineup, took their music to the people. As time went on and the music was embraced by more and more people, the band turned into a full operation, with Jay Edwards (guitar), Mike Lewis (bass), and Blair Garraway (drums) added to the fold. The result is this great album that grows in grandeur with each listen.

“Illusion of Hope” rolls open its 11:46 running time slowly, letting the waves lap and the atmosphere develop. The tone is majestic and melodic, with the music unfurling and spilling before the eruption happens and Dorge’s vocals explode. His expressions really convey the sense of anguish on this record, digging deep down and pulling out all of his darkness. The band unloads and shows the burlier side of their personality, smothering at points, letting the elements cascade in others, and they hit on some interesting, breath-taking progressions as the song goes on. Out of the gaze, the playing intensifies, furious shrieks are unloaded, and the song keeps up its will until is slowly trickles away. The title track follows, with the tempo slithering along and mournful guitars moaning with ache. The vocals bring even heavier tidings, with the band bringing wrenching emotion, making it seem like tears and blood are coming from their very instruments. The drums rumble, the elements keep pouring down, soaking the ground, and the personal heaviness completely overwhelms you and sweeps you away.

“The Elder” is the longest track by one second (it’s 13:09, while the title track is 13:08), and it wastes no time, ripping apart and feeling like the earlier days of Enslaved. Melody surges like a flood, while the vocals inject savagery into the scene. The pace begins to simmer, while the growls manage to pierce. The music feels like it is soaring through the stratosphere and into space, burning brightly and intensely, and then it starts to melt away. The music begins to bubble and brings with it coldness, and Dorge goes from animalistic howl to hushed whisper. Just as the gooseflesh crawls on your arms, the song detonates again, with a relentless fury unleashed and the band pouring every bit of fuel they have on the fire they’ve created, ensuring that everything burns away. The two-minute closer “Solitude” is an ideal way to end the record, as the instrumental cut wraps a bow on the album in a serene, calm manner, allowing you reflection after the bloodletting you just witnessed (or even participated in yourself).

To feel and address sadness and despair is human, and Wilt have provided a tremendous piece with “Moving Monoliths” that proves digging down into your deepest self can have rewarding results. Things don’t have to result in war and bloodied scalps all the time, and it’s great to have a band like this that can offer volume and heaviness but also a place to find solace.

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

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

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

Grave Ritual’s killer concoction of death metal destroys senses on violent new ‘Morbid Throne’

Grave RitualEveryone loves a tragedy, so long as they aren’t involved in the thing. People crowd around TVs after wars break out, maniacs go on shooting sprees, or cities burn. We cannot possibly have enough bloodshed and horror, and you even can see that when you drive on a highway and there’s a terrible wreck on the other side of the barriers. Everyone is rubber necking to see that one.

I guess I understand the appeal. Or at least the lure. People want to see exactly what happened. They want to have a reaction to something. They want to see suffering that doesn’t directly involve them. It’s human to indulge in pain. That’s why death metal works so well for many people, myself included. It’s ugliness personified, basically, a chance to encounter something so awful and miserable but have no threat of being consumed by the thing. We get close enough to avoid being burned. I kept thinking about this for some reason when listening to “Morbid Throne,” the crushing new record from Alabama-based death squad Grave Ritual. It’s so dark, morbid, and hopeless, a complete scrape with the underbelly of hell, that it made me wonder why I love death metal so much and why this particular record was striking all the right, terrible chords. I guess I’m not so far removed from the people who consume tragedy via mass media. It just resonates, as does this band.

Grave Ritual coverGrave Ritual have not reported back in some time with a record, their last arriving in 2010 with “Euphoric Hymns From the Altar of Death.” So it’s nice to have these guys back, who also ply their hellish trade in horrifying Abysmal Lord (whose new record “Disciples of the Inferno” is out Nov. 27 on Hells Headbangers). On this new album, the band—guitarist/vocalist Ryan Evans, bassist Bane Wolfgang Donohue, guitarist Matt Bokor, and drummer Jeremy Berry—whips together nine terrifying tracks that spread over an economical 31 minutes, making it an ideal serving size. You get just enough of this madness to keep you satisfied and just a little bit bruised up when all’s said and done. Plus this stuff is just vicious, often hurtling out of control and spitting chaos right at you. Damn, it’s a good time.

This terrifying journey opens on “Baleful Aversion,” a dark, doom-filled piece that grinds away until it launches into a blistering death assault. The infernal fury keeps going, leading into a strange groove highlighted by raspy growls and guttural stomps. “Autonomous Death” is smeared and filthy, with the tempo causing panic and general discomfort. The growls scrape, with the patterns causing nauseous jerks and the power blasting out. “Adversary Crown” is full of meaty riffs and brings the filth along with it. The vocals are thick and mauling, while the band applies thick layers of horror and then thrashes away relentlessly. “Invoker of Heathen Gnosis” is the best song title on the record, and the band tears out of it with faster playing and growls that are purely abrasive. The pace grounds your face into the cement, with strong soloing blaring, the power torching your flesh, and the gears slowly twisting and turning toward its finish.

“Tyrant’s Hammer” is clobbering, with the vocals delivered at a faster clip, making them sound even more out of control, and the rest of the band mashes heavily. Eventually, Evans conjures some horrific shrieks, soloing erupts and lights fires, and the crunchy pace of the song delivers the final blows. “Masters & Slaves” is punchy and chaotic, with the band chewing up everything in front of it and spitting out the bones. The song takes on a burly tone later before unloading more demolition. “Lewd Perversities” has an ominous tone to start, with dark riffs bubbling up, furious crunch leading the way, and the back end of the song just pulverizing. “Behind the Reigns of Gods” clobbers, creating an ugly ambiance that’s also weirdly catchy. Not pop hook heavy or anything. But there’s plenty to feel here and get your emotions going. The track takes a vicious turn as it develops, and the growls are smoking and bloody. Closer “Throne of Continuum” has guitars spiraling from the start, with grim growls emerging, the pace of the song lurching, and the guitars wailing away. Evans emits some final pained groans, and the track comes to its ultimate resting, bringing your charred nerve endings along with it.

Grave Ritual’s aim is true and misery inducing on “Morbid Throne,” a record so dark and furious it is bound to satisfy every need within you to witness real human horror. Yeah, it might not be a bloody accident scene or a building exploding, but it’s the next closest thing. This band’s unbreakable chokehold on death metal has been sorely missed, and who knows when we’ll hear back from them after this? So clutch this record and realize you are in the grasp of real blood-and-guts pain.

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

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

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