PICK OF THE WEEK: Mizmor poses questions of survival, pushing beyond life’s torment on ‘Yodh’

Photo by M. Garcia

Photo by M. Garcia

For a lot of people, getting up each day, eating breakfast, going to work, and muscling through another 24 hours is a given. For others, it’s a struggle as mighty as anything else they’ve ever faced. There are plenty of reasons putting one foot in front of the other is so difficult, and tucking oneself into the bed at the end of a day to face more can be something of a victory.

Why we choose to carry on despite a mountain of negative forces pushing against us is something each person answers with his or her own reasoning. For example, despite last week’s RNC delusion circus, a lot of us chose to move forward and not write off the rest of the country based on some folks’ warped brains. Not sure if I’ve beaten that dig into the ground yet. That’s merely one scenario in a sea of them, and the basis of survival is the center point of Mizmor’s stunning second full-length effort “Yodh.” Over the course of five mammoth tracks and an hour-long running time, Mizmor (more formally known under the Hebrew spelling מזמור) mastermind A.L.N. packs black metal, noise, doom, and drone into a package that is dense, scary, emotional, and gripping from beginning to end. Sitting with this thing for the entire run time is a challenge, so be warned. It’s a lot to take on, and it’s a gut punch over and over again, but doing so is the best way to digest this thing. Then give yourself time to come down when it’s done.

MIzmor coverA.L.N. started his Mizmor (Hebrew for “psalm”) project several years back, launching a self-titled debut record in 2012 and following that with smaller releases, including a 2013 EP and split releases with Hell, with whom A.L.N. performs as a live member, and one with Dross. But “Yodh” is this project’s most massive and ambitious release so far, a record that feels like it is constructed with the weight of a planet and forces you to address the matters of what pushes you to survive. What carries you day through day, no matter how bleak life is around you or how poisonous the nature of society has become. Even if you’re simply taking this on as a piece of music and don’t tend to dwell on the emotional issues attached, you’re still setting yourself up to take a massive pounding all over your body and soul.

“Woe Regains My Substance” is the 13:38 opener that balances on noise fields and doomy guitar work, before shrieks and growls tear their way in and pour on the psychosis. The pace crushes slowly but mercilessly, with the vocals gurgling and a torturous heat being unleashed. Sounds spit while guitars churn, with the body of the track seeming to hang in the air before another violent outburst. The song starts a new charge, while the vocals lacerate the skin, fury and destruction arrive, and everything ends in a haze. “A Semblance Waning” sweeps in on acoustics, with cold guitars sending shivers and feedback wailing. A.L.N.’s voice echoes, meeting up with doomy pounding and a noise vortex that feels like it’s pulling every molecule into its grasp. Power bursts from the sides of that, while the pace starts to gallop, animalistic cries are unleashed, and pain and sorrow are smeared all over the walls, a sign that all might not be right. From there, the tempo slows, letting everything dissolve into pure agony. “The Serpent Eats Its Tail” is the longest cut at 14:40, and it drips chilling mist into your face, feeling like the birth of the first cold Autumn day, as it pours on solemn punishment. The growls destroy everything in its wake, while the guitars take on Sabbathy tones, with thorny playing drawing blood and a thick blanket of sludge pulled over everything. The growls stretch, while the sense of pain and suffering never is more tangible, and the chaos eventually dissolves into the fog.

“Inertia, an Ill Compeller” erupts right off the bat, with guitars burning, the growls scraping at the crust of the earth, and the pace melting away. The vocals find a new level of ferocity, while the doom storm smothers, the guitars begin to swagger, and another passage that feels inspired by Iommi’s fingers push the track right into the babbling acid bath. Terror and deep emotion combine for a black tidal wave, while the back end of the song disappears in exhaust. Closer “Bask in the Lingering” rumbles out of its cave, with cloudy guitars marring the vision ahead, and the song starting to stomp holes. Black metal-rich melodies drizzle tar over the landscape, while unsettling, scathing roars increase the horror level, mixing into a scorching pace that kicks up and drives this piece into a cosmic noise black hole.

Mizmor’s journey has been catastrophic in nature and strives to find greater understanding with the forces that impact our lives and world, and that’s heavily apparent on “Yodh.” A.L.N. obviously wrung his heart dry examining himself inside and out, seeking his own reasoning for what’s led him to where he is and sharing that energy and chaos on these five tracks. This is a record that will quake you and smash you to your core, and it might even help you understand your own mission better and what pours you in from one day to the next, ready to prevail over what ails you.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.erodingwinds.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

A.M.S.G. bring their dark spiritual campaign to new level of weird on odd ‘Hostis Universi Generis’

AMSG bandMost people generally don’t think of spirituality when it comes to heavy metal, and that’s with good reason. Just about all Christian bands are not very good at all (Stryper is the lone great one, and don’t you fucking argue with me), and much of the orthodox metal for the dark side often is well shrouded and wouldn’t seem very explicit to someone not in the know.

But you have your exceptions, such as with Canadian black metal destroyers A.M.S.G., who have returned with their punishing second record “Hostis Universi Generis,” about to land like a fireball from Profound Lore Records (they also brought you their 2013 full-length debut “Anti-Cosmic Tyranny”). This band and this album immerse themselves in absolute darkness and worship of death, and they do so in a bizarre and twisted way that could chill your cells. The band’s name stands for Ad Majorem Satanae Gloriam (For the Greater Glory of Satan), so they’re not just putting up scary imagery and selling you records based on a marketing scheme. It does go beyond this, as the band seeks to achieve higher levels of consciousness and revels in cosmic power, but it all blends together very well. This band lives this way, and the more you read about the groups and scan interviews with leader Angelfukk Witchhammer, they don’t sound like people you necessarily want to hang out with. And I’m pretty sure they’d have it no other way.

AMSGAs for the forces behind A.M.S.G.’s music, we’ve already mentioned Witchhammer, also known under his given name Ryan Page, the driving force behind this band and also a member of Gloria Diaboli and formerly with Ouroboros. Along with him are guitarist F. Andramelech and drummer Bzath (also a member of Insidious Omen), and their work on Hostis Universi Generis” is bone-crunching and utterly terrifying. You go through a tunnel of hellishness that will make you feel dizzy, disoriented, and possibly accessing portals in your mind you weren’t aware of before. If you’re just here to absorb the music and not the spiritual elements, you’ll still have your flesh and organs grinded by the sheer power of it all and likely will be horrified like never before.

“The Exodus of All Life” is the bruising 9:33 opener that starts with whispers swirling amid clean guitars before the tempo pounces. Melodies dizzy as infernal growls tear away, while later, bizarre passages smear soot, and gurgly voices bubble to the surface. Fluid, classic metal guitar leads are launched, with pace twisting and warping, and the song ending in chaos. “Baptized in the Blood of Galaxies” has a Middle Eastern-style vibe at the start, giving off an entrancing feel, but then the song detonates. Speed arrives and maims, but then you’re jerked back into a slower tempo that remains ungodly heavy. Doom bells strike, as the ambiance turns liturgical, and a cascade of death emerges, dropping bloody hammers and alien-like growls. Cosmic saxophones settle in and create stardust before the song re-ignites and blasts toward its end. “Broken Chains of Cursed Flesh” opens in serenity, with acoustic guitars breathing fresh air. Then the monstrous fire erupts, with whispery passages haunting, a storm of sound creating a buzzing effect, and detached speaking causing your head to spin. The back end is a little proggy in spots, with the howl of, “To become one with death!” striking your soul.

The strange “Divine.Madness.Transcends” follows, feeling like something out of the strangest fever dream you’ve ever had. The soundscape stretches through most of the song, with a brief break toward the end for madness, but the bulk finds Witchhammer warbling and chanting. As per the label, the song itself is inspired by occult teachings, as well as visions the band members have had during meditation rituals, enhanced by the use of hallucinogens. So you’re going to hear some weird shit here that might freak you out, but the content is based strictly in the occult. It’s sure to leave you utterly disoriented. “The Perpetual Dance of Existence and Demise” sprawls over 11 crushing minutes, and when it opens, noise envelops, voices creak, and some damn stellar guitar work lashes out, again making me think back to the glory days of the genre. The growls are grim and clash with spiraling guitars, and space sounds mar the senses while the tempo chugs. Strange moans sicken, while the playing turns humid, winds woosh through, and the song ends in charred melodies. Closer “Astral Projections of Lucifer” sits in a bed of sound, with clean, spacious guitars flooding, keys hypnotizing, and sax crashing through the boundaries. A long stretch of the song is stimulating and really feels like it’s pulling you to another plane, with the pace exploding again later on, deranged wails clawing at your skin, and savage scraping disappearing into an acoustic storm. You’ll probably need a few deep breaths and a wall to keep you steady when this is over.

This is hellish art, music that is about something and for something and in adulation of forces the band members deem far greater than they are. For those who think Satanic heavy metal is all about covers with pentagrams and upside crosses, you have no ideas the danger you’re about to encounter. “Hostis Universi Generis” is one of the most mangling and bizarre metal albums of the year, with A.M.S.G. out front battling to crush the hearts of all humanity.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AMSG-Ad-Majorem-Satanae-Gloriam-110719362296013/

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

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

Caïna’s morbid and constantly changing visions reach choking black levels with ‘Christ Clad…’

CainaIt was just yesterday that we paid homage to a band taking a steady path, always staying within their world and rarely branching beyond. Today, we have the exact opposite of that. Instead, we’re looking at new work from a band that always is shedding its skin, trying on new colors, and doing whatever pleases them and drives their vision.

Over the past 12 years, Caïna have remained steady in that you never could anticipate where they’ll go next. There’s almost no sense buckling yourself in for the ride, because that would make it feel much less dangerous and provoking. To boot, just last year the band delivered its bleak black metal Armageddon tale “Setter of Unseen Snares,” one of our 40 favorite releases of the year and one that touches upon the terrifying possibility an asteroid could come hurtling toward us with no chance to thwart its crash. Fuck, would we even want to do that anyway, considering how things are going? Anyway, now comes “Christ Clad in White Phosphorous,” an 11-track, 53-minute album that could not possibly be more opposite of its predecessor. It’s like being inside the brain of someone who can take no more and whose circuits are melting down, as a strange variety of sounds assault you, not to mention the unhinged vocals that make this all the more terrifying. It’s a record that could offend and upset some people, because that’s how people are, but it’s exciting and agitating in the best possible way.

Caina coverCaïna long has been a project driven forward by Andy Curtis-Brignell, one of metal’s true visionaries and someone who disrupts the status quo wonderfully on social media, calling out the bullshit and hypocrisy reigning throughout metal’s ranks. Along with him are vocalist Laurence Taylor, bassist Paul Robertson, and guests Dwid Hellion of the legendary band Integrity, as well as members of London experimental improv music smashers Warren Schoenbright. The result of all of this is a frantic, destructive force that feels like picking up the pieces after a catastrophic disaster, or one that has the members communicating from a different plane of existence. It’s an album that took me a few turns to truly digest, and even now when I hear it, I still uncover new things and understand the piece differently.

“Oildrenched and Geartorn” opens the record amid a pit of weird shuffling, buzzers going off, coughing and hacking in the background, and industrial madness that then leads into “Torture Geometry” that unloads penetrating noise and sound swirls. Wild growls wreck into that insanity, as a dizzying pace and thick grimness suddenly crash land. “Fumes of God” gives off industrial steam, as riffs steamroll heavily, and growls go right for the intestines. Sorrowful keys bubble up and bring a black shroud over everything, while the vocals keep wrenching, and the thrashing pace is halted, with the piece fading out in synth shimmer. “The Throat of the World” has strings being plucked, noise wrenching into ambiance, and a sense of complete anguish unleashed. Crazed howls strike over top the soundscape, with the bulk of this generating panic-inducing horror. “Gazing on the Quantum Megalith” has industrial-fed riffs, harsh growls, and some black metal-splattered melodies that hint back to “Setter” just a bit. The guitars chug and stab, the vocals bruise, and a sense of menace crushes you. The pace slows and mashes, while violent cries carry to the end. “God’s Tongue as an Ashtray” is foggy at first, but then black metal bloodshed rears its heads, only to be consumed by slow-driving doom fury. Speaking goes along with the growls, but then speedy guitars take over and rush to the finish line.

“Entartete Kete” has blinding speed, with guitars striking, chaos breathing fury, and complete agitation launched. Strange, warbling singing is drizzled over top, giving it a weird feel, and raucous, yet melodic, mud clogs veins and leads to the song’s ending violent outburst. “Pillars of Salt,” featuring aforementioned Warren Schoenbright, is an unsettling one, with noise fluttering, church bells striking, and drums going off, setting its rhythms into a cacophony of confusion. A trip hop-style section turns heads, while horns squeak, the pace spews start-stop trudging, and noise sheets carry you into the night. “The Promise of Youth” has huge black metal-style riffs, with fire-breathing vocals, a sense of desperation bringing anxiety, and a goth-style path being carved. The guitars dominate once again, pulling the track back into the hell in which it formed. “Extraordinary Grace” is a 12:20 nightmare that takes its time spreading its reach, with strange synth, detached speaking, and things feeling like an electric haze dream. That’s a thing, right? This transmission lurches over the entire run time, feeling absolutely horrifying and chilling. The closing title track is the strangest of the bunch, at least compared to what preceded it. Blippy synth and post-punk darkness flow hard, especially with the singing, and warm guitars stretch over the song, with the warning, “We all burn!” bringing on the album’s exclamation point driven home like a knife.

Caïna always seems like a band teetering on destruction, a union always a little too tuned into how fucked up the face of the Earth truly is. I always get that Caïna sense we’re closer to our own destruction than anyone else realizes, and that sentiment is smeared all over “Christ Clad in White Phosphorous.” As long as we’re all too happy to destroy ourselves, this band always will find inspiration, but you can feel from the bleak terror that even they are growing perversely angrier by the minute, and they’re all too happy to take out that frustration on the rest of the world.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: http://apocalypticwitchcraft.co.uk/

Russian Circles take inspiration from pack of execution photos on strong, riveting ‘Guidance’

Russian CirclesThere’s something to be said about a band that can take a long road and never veer from the path, no matter what temptations are out there. Even more can be said about a band that does that but also manages to keep their craft interesting and stimulating to their audience. People are fickle fucks these days, and if you can prevent them from getting bored, you’re onto something.

Chicago instrumental force Russian Circles happen to be one of those bands. You generally know what you can expect with their releases, and despite that, it’s still easy to walk away excited having digested another chapter in their story. Same goes for “Guidance,” the sixth record from the band and one that takes its inspiration from a pretty unlikely source. The spouse of one of the band members was given an envelope of photos depicting a man being led to his execution. No story or historical anecdotes were provided. Just the photos and the messages they took from the man’s face, unbowed even being led to his demise. That’s apropos for the band’s music. Telling stories sans words has been their way all along, yet you always can get caught up in the emotion of their music without a plotline being fed.

New Doc 3Russian Circles have been doing their thing for 12 years now, slipping nicely between the bombast of MONO and the metallic crunch of Pelican but offering their own fingerprints on heavy rock’s instrumental terrain. The group is comprised of guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Dave Turncrantz, and they’ve established themselves as one of the most passionate and reliable bands in the entire instrumental realm and beyond. “Guidance” is another steady step in their journey, a record that bears the artwork of that photo packet that came into the band’s possession, trying to paint a portrait of strength and dignity even in the face of hell.

“Asa” starts the record with noise wafting then guitars trickling into the space, giving off a gentle feel. Melodies slither into the picture, only to be swallowed by fog, and it seems as if a waiting storm is off in the distance, threatening to land but taking its time doing so. That spills into “Vorel,” where noise agitates, drumming bursts the bubble, and things start to light up. Burly doom riffs take over, as melodies slip in and out of the mix, and sludge terrain is stomped. The bass thickens up while riffs cut in, and the playing swells up, scorching and giving off smoke, heading right into “Mota.” There, guitars spark, reflective playing rolls in, and a pulsating, atmospheric sentiment settles. Later, things toughen up, with doom riffs clobbering, darkness draping its curtain, and the track ripping into the night, only to be resurrected by synth dreaminess. That leads right toward “Afrika,” where the keys continue to waft and a heartfelt melody sweeps up. Drums kicks into the gazey matter, while cosmic keys send rays, riffs chew up the scene, and all of the elements cascade, sending the song off into an unexpected calm.

“Overboard” lets keys hover, and serene guitars emerge like a mist coating your face. Much of the song makes me think of a sunrise, watching colors explode on the horizon as a new set of possibilities arrives. The guitars work forms tributaries into which everything flows, stinging the senses and heading into a greater body of water. “Calla” is the piledriver of the record, starting with guitars gouging away and punishment being delivered in spades. The track is scathing and threatening, setting fire to everything and crushing all that stands in front of it. Savage sludge slips into calm for a split second, a tease in the midst of turmoil, and then it’s on to an ending that’s heavy with decimation. Closer “Lisboa” brings things back to Earth with a numbing, echo-rich start that later gets blown to bits. The cut is chock full of emotional bloodletting, gazey fire, and tempo shifts that coax the heart, and one final explosion lands before the song sinks back into the Earth’s crust.

Russian Circles may not take bizarre twists and turns, and they’re probably never going to turn in a symphonic black metal-based record nor drown in, like, EDM just to make waves. And really, who could ask for more from this band? They’ve been a rock-solid group through their entire run, and “Guidance” is more of the good stuff from a force you always can lean against.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Vukari’s story of power and corruption hits home on powerful ‘Divination’

VukariI try to make plans when I can when it comes to this site. Since we don’t review every record that comes out each week (because that would kill me), a lot of planning goes into which records we pick to feature each week, and even more goes into what our pick of the week will be. This week was no exception, though as final preparation for the reviews you read that past few days approached, I quickly came to realize I had to scrap some of my plans.

The reason for that is late last week, when taking another listen to “Divination,” the great new record from Chicago-based black metal band Vukari, it quickly dawned on me that it was the best thing I was going to feature this week. This record slowly has grown on me and gotten into my bloodstream, and it was during a listen last week that I realized how much this record was affecting me. “Divination” is a concept album steeped in historical fiction based on a story centered on a patrician during Roman times who has a thirst for acquiring power. After he has dreams that seem to be speaking to him and reveal as powerful symbol that would drive his campaign, he begins to amass powerful followers. But as time goes on, reality and messages get distorted, and his followers ultimately are the ones who take the biggest fall. Oh shit, Donald Trump. Maybe Vukari are soothsayers. Kidding aside, it’s a gripping plot that the band pushes brilliantly on this eight-song, nearly 49-minute record.

Vukari coverVukari only have been together as a band for the past three years, and they already have two full-length efforts to show for that time, the first being their 2013 debut “Matriarch.” In the meantime, Bindrune Recordings has gotten behind the band—vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player Marek Cimochowicz, new guitarist Richard Stancato, bassist/keyboardist Spenser Morris (Vit), drummer Mike DeStefano—and they’ve been rewarded for their investment with this excellent, rich new record. “Divination” is filled with black metal grimness, atmospheric melody, and bloody drama that is the result of their central storyline, which, as sort of hinted at, may be seeped in history but is just as relevant today.

The dual “Divination” tracks start the record, the first more of an introductory with guitars reverberating and weird noise gusts, and the second part tearing the lid off the thing. The cut erupts, with Cimochowicz’s growls pummeling you, and the whole thing is flushed with melody. The song hulks into atmospheric pockets, with the passage feeling both savage and sorrowful at times, and a furious finish taking the song out. “Cursus Honorum” picks up on the momentum and unleashes a tidal wave of melody (come to think of it, that’s a common theme of this record), grim growls, and hammering playing. The riffs get ominous, with every element cascading hard, and a cold wash of air that takes over flows into a furious final few minutes built by wrenching cries and a noise haze. “Invictus Maneo” has a post-metal-style opening, with grim growls clenching, meanness pushing its way in, and the guitars swimming in the shadows. Later, foreboding sounds hang in the air and sting mightily, with a cloud of energy hovering overhead.

The second half of the record begins with the paired “Ad Delirium” tracks, with the first part of it sweltering in noise, with guitars bubbling up and echoing. The second portion has a chilling, solemn start, with gentle playing letting calmness flow, taking on sort of an ISIS feel. Then, the most energetic, and passionate guitar riff of the entire record blasts out, and the growls grind against everything standing in front of it. The track continues to be utterly infectious, sweeping you up in gazey fury and enormous power, standing as the high point on this record. “Sovereignty Through Extreme Tyranny” blasts out and mixes into catchy punishment, while shrieked vocals lacerate the skin, and a furious storm front lands. Another atmospheric stretch arrives, with calm and chaotic doing battle, and a huge burst tearing out of the back end bleeding into serenity. Closer “Bathe in Divine Light” begins with clean, cold guitars, making it feel like you’ll be let down gently, but it’s short lived. Gargantuan howls cut through like a sword, while gazey guitar fire catches, and the inferno builds from there. The guitars spread out over the track, with the intensity building, the band trudging hard, and guttural roars disappearing with the rest of the song into a pool of searing reverb.

The more I hear “Divination,” the more I am excited about the music itself and Vukari in general. The plot of the album is sobering and a little terrifying when placed against modern times, and the music builds expertly from the tale’s seeds being planted to the cataclysmic ending. This is one of a handful of really great, eye-opening black metal albums that have come out this year, and it’s well worth your time to immerse yourself in this body, mind, and spirit. And you might even get a step ahead of so many other people by actually learning a little something from history.

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

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

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

Temple Nightside’s hellish death gets doomier, scarier on morbid second offering ‘The Hecatomb’

Temple NightsideWhen I was a kid and, therefore, really stupid, I thought the bottom of the earth contained the land masses closest to hell. You see, I also was raised Catholic and had zany ideas about hell, and for some reason I assumed it was at the bottom of the planet. Sorry, South Pole. Now I’m older and know better (mostly), but for some reason I keep rethinking this theory as it pertains to metal.

Australia is toward the bottom of the planet, and considering the infernal death and black metal that has poured like tire fire smoke from that continent in the past decade, my child brain may have been onto something. Bands such as Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Mournful Congregation, Grave Upheaval, and Ill Omen all call that place home, and two of those bands boast members of Temple Nightside, whose terror-inducing new slab “The Hecatomb” is about to burst and cover everything you own in soot. Their brand of ashen death metal rumbles deep within the guts of the Earth, feeling like a bizarre, mysterious force snaking through the ground, coming to the surface every now and again to swallow bodies whole.

Temple Nightside Cover“The Hecatomb” follows the band’s 2013 debut full-length “Condemnation,” released by Nuclear Winter Records, though now the band is on the stellar and terrifying roster of Iron Bonehead. The band—guitarist/bassist/vocalist IV (Ill Omen, Nazxul), guitarist BR (Grave Upheaval), bassist V. Kusabs (Terror Oath, Vassafor), and drummer Mordance (Paroxysmal Descent, Vesicant)—increased in membership from two to four since their last effort, and now they’re here scraping the Earth with their sharpened scythes, looking for anything ahead of it capable of bleeding. At the same time, there is an eerie chill to the sound, as their work rattles like a coiled snake hissing in a corner, threatening to strike at any moment with zero warning. This stuff is ugly, savage, and the epitome of a suffocating nightmare from which you can’t wake yourself.

“Graven” kicks off the record described as a “slow descent into hell” with morbid guitar work that sounds exactly like that description. The growls settle in, and as they are during most of the record, they’re delivered in a whispery haze. The song is ugly and grimy, disorienting at times, especially with some of the riffs and warbled lines, and at the end of the track, we have a spiral of dizzying guitars. “Adrift in Sepulchral Entropy” is fast and filthy, with creaked growls, soloing going off, and dark creepiness. At the final minute, drums rumble hard, and ghostly vocals chill the bones. “Ossuary (Commune 3.1)” is the first of three interlude cuts, this one built on ambiance, and then it’s into “Fortress of Burden and Distress” that has a soupy, doomy start. The pace trudges at mid-tempo, while buried growls terrify, and hellish chaos is achieved. Detached singing floats, while the pace slithers along, and the track is pulled into a vortex.

“The Murderous Victor (Commune 3.2)” is the longest of the interlude tracks, this time with drums rolling over the land, spacey chants spilling, and ghoulish transmissions such as, “I am the great destroyer,” poking into your flesh. “Within the Arms of Nothingness” churns slowly, with pained moans emanating, and the pace grinding along. Weird speaking gets into your bloodstream, while harsh growls follow, the smudgy pace smears dirt, and a burst of ugliness pushes to the end. “Tempest” lets loose flesh-mangling guitars, as whispers and gasps inject a sense of anxiety, and then the song opens in earnest. The vocals terrify, while the band pounds away heavily, guitars catch fire, and wails push the track into the distance. “Burial Adoration (Commune 3.3)” is the final interlude, a brief burst of haunting noise that paves the way for 9:16 closer “Charnel Winds.” Growls tear a hole in the thing, with the guitars burning, and a torturous tempo causing vertigo. The track slows its assault, slowly meting out punishment, feeling like a melodic funeral doom dirge. Devastating slowness dominates, with the cut finally fading into a pool of misery.

Temple Nightside’s fury and scariness is as thick and powerful as ever before, and they take a bloody step into the gooey earth on “The Hecatomb.” They feel like they’re dragging you into eternal damnation, forcing you to see every terrifying sight along the way, ruthlessly bouncing your flesh and bones across the ground. They’re a deadly unit, one that’s larger and more formidable now, and their mighty bloodthirst is one that doesn’t sound like it’ll soon be quenched.

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

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

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

Irish death crushers Coscradh push fiery, chaotic punishment on hellacious self-titled demo

CoscradhThe first jolts of chaos from a band could be indicative of massive fires to be flamed in the future. It’s the rawest form in which a band can reveal itself, those first recordings, and often these are the pieces looked back years later as the formative period in which so many lavish praise. Sometimes people even go too far, dismissing so much of what followed those initial songs that scarred our ears. But we’ll worry about that one later.

Irish death metal heathens Coscradh are unleashing their new four-song demo into the world, and if this piece of work is any indication of their future, we’re merely peering into the cauldron of hell that this band has inside of it. This thing feels like opening the door to a blast furnace, taking in the massive waves that char your arm hair and makes you gasp where you stand. The filthy infernal death spread over these tracks is massive and quite tangible, and it seems like this first offering is a mere hint at what’s ahead for the band. Along with the violent impression is some impressive playing. It’s not flashy or technical, but it cuts right to the bone, with guitars leading the assault and the drums absolutely pummeled into oblivion.

Coscradh coverCoscradh’s name is Gaelic for “to slaughter or massacre,” and they prepare the field for that very thing from the moment this thing starts playing. They do so under a shroud of mystery, as their online profile is presented sans responsible parties, and even their Metal Archives profile is devoid of much information beyond the basics. But no matter. The fury on this smothering, nearly 25-minute demo is all that really matters, and Invictus Productions stepping up to release this music on a limited number of cassettes (300, so stop stalling) shows they, too, recognize this massive force and are getting in on the ground floor. Wise choice from one of underground metal’s more reliable labels. Also, one of the band’s first shows was an opening slot last year for Tribulation, so that goes to show antennas are up.

The first three songs all take the past tense of a verb that brings torment. “Buried” starts with ominous riffs and a doomy fury, rumbling along in a haze of black noise that stretches its way through most of the song before the hellish growls are unleashes. From there, the pace dizzies, leads spit sparks, and a delirious pace brings this to an end. “Lynch” gets riled up and bursts out of the gates with speed. The growls are smeared with echo, with the drums taking a rattling beating, and the guitars chugging heavily. Soloing catches fire and unloads, with the song disappearing into a noise vortex. “Drowned” runs 7:06 and has riffs pounding and a dank basement feel. The growls are monstrous and mean, with the guitars boiling over and spilling lava, and a sudden sense of calm settling. But that’s short lived as the noise scrapes, the growls deface, and a sound pocket is situated in eeriness. Closer “Coscartac” goes 7:49 and simmers in doom blackness, setting off a mid-paced assault. The pace trudges and thrashes, with fast blasts of aggression striking, and cavernous growls echoing off the walls. Sabbath-style swagger emerges from the guitars, with a haunting swath of sound hovering over and extinguishing everything.

Coscradh show a ton of promise to bring filthy and menacing chaos to underground death metal, and this self-titled demo is a bruising behemoth. This is 25 minutes of pure death metal torture, the type that should scare the hell out of the uninitiated and please those who embrace sounds from the gutter. Hopefully up next, they spread their power across a full-length release.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.invictusproductions.net/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.invictusproductions.net/

Swedish death killers Vanhelgd unleash doom-encrusted, ugly death on new ‘Temple of Phobos’

VanhelgdWrath and disgust and complete lack of anything redeemable all are wrapped into what makes so much death metal feel so right. Missing those elements means you likely are creating hollow art, because there is a heartlessness to so much modern death metal. But when a band gets it right, it makes the juices flow and the anger and fury rage inside.

Swedish death unit Vanhelgd have been making horrifying art for nearly a decade now, and now that they’re four albums in, the latest being “Temple of Phobos,” it’s safe to say we can rely on anything this band commits to wax, for they know the ways of chaos. That might sound like a silly thing to say on the surface, but shit, I get a lot of really bad death metal promos. They’re easy to dismiss with a single listen (or just a few songs), but when something like Vanhelgd comes along, you abandon everything else and immerse yourself in their dark ways. This is one of those bands that, if someone asks me for good modern death metal bands to check out, I’m nearly 100 percent certain to name drop. This new record “Temple of Phobos” just solidifies that thinking as it is furious and smoke filled, choking everything in their path every step of the way.

vanhelgd ToP LP.inddVanhelgd have a firm grasp on the death metal that filled so many lives with morbid joy decades ago, smearing a nice dose of doom into their proceedings and coating your lungs with soot. The group—guitarist/vocalist Matthias “Flesh” Frisk, guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Johansson, bassist Jonas Albrektsson, and drummer Bjorn Andersson—began clawing their way through death metal’s filthy underground with their 2008 debut “Cult of Lazarus,” later unleashing more torment on 2011’s “Church of Death” and 2014’s eye-opening “Relics of Sulfur Salvation,” an album jointly released by Pulverised and U.S.-based label 20 Buck Spin. “Phobos” is another album that’s getting pushed from multiple labels as Pulverised again will handle duties in Europe, while Dark Descent brings it to North American audiences. It’s a devastating, relentless crusher that again proves death metal is virulent when in the right hands.

“Lamentations of the Mortals” is the burly opener, with guttural growls and guitars churning to bring you into the mouth of hell. The track is vicious as it scrapes along, doing horrible damage, leading into tar pits of miserable doom that chugs to the finish. “Religion of the Iniquitous” has leads chewing flesh and then breathing fire, with mean and sooty playing and horrifying growling. The vocals later unleash sprays of venom, with the band hitting the gas pedal and launching speed, with everything coming to an abrupt end. “Den Klentrogenes Klagan” spills doom blood, with eerie choral parts adding an extra dose of haunting misery, and the verses positively scathing. Chants emerge, as if a death cult has arrived and is preparing to haul off the bodies, and the band launches calculating bashing to bring this to a close. The title cut trudges furiously, with leads spiraling, the music boiling, and the growls bruising. The track is animalistic and bloodthirsty, with the band setting up a mechanical, clubbing ending.

“Gravens Lovsna ng” has lead guitar work that burns monstrously, with slow, doomy pounding dropping cement blocks, and a chugging pace raining down black death. Later, the soloing arrives and chars flesh, but then some melody slips its way in, something that isn’t a constant with this band. But hey, they can be mildly accessible from time to time, before they turn on the furnace again and push the devastation into the darkness. “Rejoice in Apathy” unleashes the hammers and enters guttural realms, with the music slicing up arteries and the doom clogging throats, as the wails of, “Rejoice in apathy!” bruise your eyes. Closer “Allt hopp är förbi” starts with guitars buzzing, with a gravelly, heavy assault, and darkly melodic tributaries being carved. A female voice enters the fray, infusing a sense of frightening beauty to the song, and then the slowly mangling tempo crushes your face into the ground and fills your throat with cinders. But don’t turn off the record! Minutes later, a mystery track bubbles up, pushing several more minutes of terror into your face.

Vanhelgd aren’t going to win any awards for polish or beauty. Fuck it, leave that shit to the pretenders blocking up what’s left of big-box CD shelves. This band is here to maim and terrify, and they do that during the entire running time of “Temple of Phobos.” This band only has eyes for shedding blood and eviscerating morals, and they’ll be damned if they stop before they poison every soul.

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

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

Or here: http://pulverised.bigcartel.com/

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

And here: http://www.pulverised.net/

Harakiri for the Sky offer dose of furious darkness, crippling depression on bleak ‘III: Trauma’

HarakiriSadness and depression are heavy subject matters. Anyone who suffers from these, one or the other or both, knows the enormous pressure and crushing emotion that goers with these things, and they can’t be topped easily, if at all. It only makes sense that these best can be dealt with in the realms of heavy music, where the weight of the world can be transferred to your art.

Austrian band Harakiri for the Sky have been doing an excellent job embodying these harsh emotions and their consequences for half a decade now, and there’s no way to immerse yourself in their work and not feel every ounce of chaos they smear into it. Their latest record “III: Trauma” is more from that same well, post-black metal mixed with melodic doom that wrenches every last drop of blood from its mangled heart. Obviously just using the term harakiri, a form of ritual suicide based on disembowelment (watch the first season of “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon to get a constant dose of what this entails), pretty much has them setting their cards on the table from the outset. Tough to imagine you’re going to be served uplifting material, you know? But their music also can be consoling in a sense, as people who suffer along with them can find like-minded souls also looking for way to survive. Or just find relief, no matter the source.

Harakiri coverHarakiri, as noted, formed in 2011, and their first, self-titled record would arrive a year later. That record was a mere gash at the veins considering what would follow, namely their 2014 album “Aokigahara” (named after Japan’s noted and haunting suicide forest), and now they’ve followed with another volatile collection, this eight-track, 75-minute behemoth “Trauma” that’s quite a bit to chew on. The duo—vocalist/lyricist J.J. and multi-instrumentalist/songwriter M.S.—have created a piece that might be better digested in halves. The songs run the gamut of emotions, and once you get through a good chunk of this, some breathing space might help you better digest. Or, if you’re a masochist, dive in and take in the entire record at once, as it washes over you with thick, unavoidable darkness.

“Calling the Rain” is the devastating 11:28-long opener, a track that tears apart and spills in the blackness. Harsh vocals pelt at you, while keys drip, giving the track a sense of gothic majesty, and the song keeps gushing as it slithers along slowly. The sentiment of torment and loss is impossible to shake, with J.J. wailing, “This was the year of the great depression,” sending the tidal wave over your head as you’re washed out to sea. “Funeral Dreams” is rich and dank, with J.J. warning, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” The music crunches and pushes down on you, as sorrow and fury collide and form a dark umbrella over the song, ending the track in cinematic heaviness. “Thanatos” starts with clean guitars before it unleashes its force. Later, a feeling of calm arrives, as clean singing adds a different element, only to ignite into flames and burn toward the furious ending. “This Life Is a Dagger” delivers what its title indicates, with cold, shadowy playing, melody unfurling, and the vocals scarring along the song’s mid-pace. There are a pocket of tempo shifts, with it all ending in dreary darkness.

“The Traces We Leave” has a delicate first few moments, beginning to trickle cleanly and gently before drums open up and launch devastation, and the pace itself hits higher gear. The melodies plink away like a driving ice storm, and then the thing hits full force, with anguish charging from every one of J.J.’s words, and the melodies wrapping around and causing disorienting feelings. “Viaticum” punches bluntly, though some of this feels disarmingly upbeat musically. Energy bursts, with J.J.’s growls scraping as he pokes, “Time means nothing.” Elements cascade, while guitars hit a gazey high, and the final minutes are forceful and emotionally bruising. “Dry the River” is a particularly effective one, with watery guitars arriving before the pounding gets under way. Much of this is slow-driving and menacing, going back and forth between ugly and soothing, with the bottom torn out near the song’s conclusion. There, the drums erupt, the guitars frazzle, and the whole thing ends with a heart-stopping gun shot. Closer “Bury Me” hits a charge at the stop before mixing into atmospheric playing and roared growls. Strong riffs arrive and provide a rush of power, as every other piece of the song comes in punishing pulses, providing more force and sadness as J.J. laments, “I must have passed the point of no return.”

Harakiri for the Sky’s music chews at your essence and makes you confront the dark forces within you that are bringing you to your knees. “III: Trauma” is a record that might make you more aware of these things and even could spark a bit of panic. But in the end, it’s a passionate, emotionally destructive record that can strike the pain within you and perhaps help you see it in a different light.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.art-of-propaganda.de/shop/index.php

For more on the label, go here: http://www.art-of-propaganda.de/

PICK OF THE WEEK: After five long years, Hammers of Misfortune fire back with ‘Dead Revolution’

hammers-of-misfortuneWe’ve talked a lot this week about the glory of the riff and the power of heavy metal to help you escape from what’s going on around you. That’s part of what sucked me into this style of music to begin with because, as a loser dork kid in a high school around a lot of kids who didn’t understand me, it’s one of the things that helped me push above that.

That’s a major reason I’ve always had a sloppy soft spot in my heart for Bay Area traditionalists Hammers of Misfortune. Their style shoots you way back to the ’70s and ’80s, when heavy metal really was starting to understand what it could be, and the art form was beginning to branch off into different territories. Hammers have that vibe that could make you think of Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol, the Scorpions before the radio hits, Deep Purple, Queen, and bands of that ilk, but they have a very modern touch smeared on top of that. Not that they sound like any of those groups necessarily, but the essence is there. And for someone old enough to remember the latter end of the era of which I speak, it certainly takes me back to my formative years in metal when the riff carved its way into my soul.

Hammer of Misfortune coverHammers are back with their killer sixth record “Dead Revolution,” the band’s first since 2011’s great “17th Street.” So, obviously, it’s been a long wait between albums, and there’s good reason for that. Vocalist Joe Hutton was injured in a serious motorcycle accident, so we’re pretty lucky he and his powerful pipes are here blazing through this record. For the other members, work and life got in the way. Band mastermind John Cobbett and keyboard player Sigrid Sheie welcomed a child into the world and also made some nasty noise with supergroup Vhöl, while Sheie put an album out with Amber Asylum. Guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf unleashed hell with awesome death metal band Vastum and also immersed herself in solo work. Bassist Paul Waller also was busy with the Worship of Silence, and the band added new drummer Will Carroll (Death Angel), so there’s been a lot going on here. But no matter, five years after their last album, they offer “Dead Revolution,” one of their most varied, edgy, and exciting records that will reveal new layers every time you listen.

The record kicks off with “The Velvet Inquisition,” a song that opens with riffs and organs splitting the seal, and each element taking its time to build into a fervor. Hutton eases his way into the song purposely, first delivering his lines smoothly and calmly before eventually building to a crescendo, wailing, “When you find that you’ve been wasting all your time, you’ll run to me!”  The back end has prog fury, strong lead guitar work, and a fiery finish. The title cut feels like it’s driving down the open road with reckless abandon. The singing is strong and gritty, with the keys especially giving this a Deep Purple vibe in spots. “Every tear drop feels like Moses coming down from the mountain,” Hutton howls, as the pace (mostly cowbell driven in the most understated manner) trudges and flashy guitar work punches to the finish. “Sea of Heroes” is charged up, with the singing reaching a little higher, and the guitars and keys in lock with one another. There is some tasty guitar work later that feels like heyday Brian May, and the final moments bleed out into a fog. “The Precipice (Waiting for the Crash…)” is my favorite cut, running a perfectly timed 8:14, with the drums rallying and riffs chewing. The verses punch along, feeling both forceful and fun, with Hutton later soaring, noting, “And all you see is sky!” The chorus is surging, with the keys unloading and the track coming to a smoking end.

“Here Comes the Sky” is both psychedelic and sunburnt, like it hurtled out of space and landed in the Wild West. Acoustics and piano blend together before the tempo kicks into high gear. There is dusty guitar work, especially the doses of slide fire, and everything feels drenched in whiskey, with Hutton leading as your storyteller. Later in the song, trumpets play out like they’re signaling the end of a duel, with the song disappearing into the dirty streets. “Flying Alone” is one of the most aggressive songs on the record, with the guitars landing heavy blows, organs providing an ’80s-style prog feel, and the band dealing metallic punishment that causes a shitload of bruising to wherever it is they landed their punches. Closer “Days of ’49” is one of the most interesting in the band’s entire catalog, a charging, heavy-as-fuck take on the traditional folk song that originated from Joaquin Miller’s poem about the gold rush of 1849 (Bob Dylan also covered the song on his 1970 album “Self Portrait”). Quite a fitting song for a band from San Francisco. Anyway, they knock this thing out of the park, with the folk elements coming through amid the blazing power, and Hutton does an excellent job not only pushing the plot about old Tom Moore but also adding his signature passion to the cut. Great way to end the record, as this is a really fun surprise.

Hammers of Misfortune are a true gift to pure heavy metal fans, and the five-year wait certainly has been satisfied with “Dead Revolution.” The band is still taking chances, continually breathing fire, and offering another scorching chapter in their storied run. Metal always is better off when Hammers of Misfortune are active, and their thunderous, glorious sound is as alive and healthy as it’s even been.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

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