High Spirits inject pure heavy metal power and passion into supercharged new ‘Motivator’

High SpiritsIt’s crazy how much people will fight about metal over the Internet. People or bands aren’t true or cult enough, they don’t take things seriously enough (or take it too seriously), and/or they either should be or should not be a part of the circle. Hey, guys, what happened to metal being a release?

There are some people who haven’t forgotten the power and infectious energy that metal can bring. One of those people is Chris Black, and he’s done that with his band High Spirits, as true an essence of this style of music as there is. Long before people were trading insults on Facebook, there were bands that worshipped the riff and didn’t focus all of their energy on making their music so serious. They took the music creation very seriously, but lyrically, things could be spreads out over fantasy elements, strengthening oneself, or even the power of the night. Black’s never forgotten that with High Spirits, and you can hear that in abundance on the band’s killer new record “Motivator.” Is that ever a fitting title as well, because after hearing this, you’re bound to be driven to leave the house and just go do something, anything, to make a difference. It’s pure metal through and through.

HIGH SPIRITS_lp-sleeve_4mm.inddBlack’s name has become well known within metal, and for good reason. He was the brains behind Nachtmystium’s best work, and his other band Dawnbringer also burns the fires for traditional metal, albeit in a different way than what he does with High Spirits. That’s not to mention his work elsewhere with band such as Pharaoh, Superchrist, and a few others. When the band expands to the live stage, Black is joined by guitarists Scott Hoffman and Mike Bushur, bassist Bob Scott, and drummer Ian Sugierski in order to bring these songs to the place where they were born to be heard.

The record opens with “Up and Overture,” a quick intro piece that leads into the burst of “Flying High,” as energetic a song as you probably will find anywhere. The riffs charge, and the whole thing is fairly simplistic but really fun. “Close your eyes and let your spirit rise,” Black urges, with the music hammering home his message. This is catchy and filled with hooks, and that blows into “This Is the Night,” another one that drives full bore into your chest. “We are the future,” Black wails, “There is no turning back!” The soloing is scorching and powerful, and this feels like a dose of 1980s glory jammed right into your heart. “Reach for the Sky” has power-packed guitars, a giant harmonized chorus, and Black packing his anthem with get-off-your-ass motivation, howling, “Go for the fortunes, whatever they are.” “Do You Wanna Be Famous?” sounds cheeseball from its title, but fuck it, like everything else on here, it’s coated in metal magic. This cut feels like something out of a decades-past slasher flick, something that would burst from the stereo of the main protagonist’s car.

“Haunted By Love” has a simple, driving drum beat, riffs unfurling, and Black on and on about a muse he relentlessly seeks with, “Like a ghost in the night, I’m haunted by a love that will never die.” “Down the Endless Road” is a prefect song for this record and this band, with one’s dusty travels taking the center view, a classic on-the-road storyteller that’s woven into metal’s fabric. This feels like a long-lost Headbangers Ball staple in the best possible way. “Take Me Home” blasts out of the gates, with all juices flowing, and another huge blast of power. Imagery of flying through the sky on another journey gets the blood going, while massive soloing brings the sense of heavy lightning to the track. Closer “Thank You” is about what you think it’s about. This is an overflowing brew tribute to the people who helped this band be what they are, with Black insisting, “You are the power, you know, that drives us down the road.” It’s the perfect finish to a record that’s energy is undeniable.

It’s fine to let shit go and shelf the animosity for five minutes to remember the glory of heavy metal that was born when the first seeds pushed through the Earth. High Spirits pay homage to that time and put their own stamp on it with “Motivator.” This is music to play in the car with the windows down, your adrenaline flowing, and you believing there is still magic in the nighttime. This music will help you go out and grab that.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.hrrshop.de/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.hrrecords.de/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Crowhurst mix industrial gaze and black metal damage on emotionally dark ‘II’

CrowhurstMetal, as a genre, is in really good shape and is in no danger of going anywhere anytime soon. There are a shit ton of bands, plenty of good records every year, and while there aren’t giant mainstream success stories past a few bands (most of which aren’t any good, quite frankly), everything is totally fine.

A lot of metal’s success and interest factor has to do with bands branching out and taking sounds to new places, people’s incessant bitching aside. Imagine if, as great as the band is, we never moved past Black Sabbath. Would there even be a genre? So it’s with bands and artists willing to take chances that heavy sounds will make it into the future, and a project such as Crowhurst should be one that helps it branch generations. That might sound hyperbolic to say that, but there’s a lot of truth to it as well. Jay Gambit is one of the artists who centers a lot of his music in the heaviest, darkest sections of extreme music, and his work with Crowhurst has produced some of the most interesting sounds in the underground the past several years. Under this banner, Gambit has released a ton of music, much of it based on noise, but with the release of “I” last year, things changed a lot. He delved even further toward black metal, though that was mixed with a lot of sounds in which he immersed himself the years before.

Crowhurst coverNow comes Crowhurst’s latest album “II,” one that takes the project to newer heights and brings to Gambit new collaborators to strengthen the music even more. Alongside Gambit on this record are Andy Curtis-Brignell, of the mighty Caïna, on bass, guitars, drums, and programming, and Matron Thron of the creepy Ævangelist, who handles guitar work. Laurence Taylor, also of Caïna, appears as a guest, adding his vocals to the track “Fractured Lung.” The work here is some of the deepest, darkest, and most impactful of Crowhurst’s diverse run, and while it’s hard to pick the best work from the project’s insanely deep catalog, this definitely is toward the top.

“Cold Sweat” enters to an electronic flood and doom guitars droning, with the drums rattling to an uncomfortable level, and a sound haze rising and wafting toward “Take This Pain Away.” There, foggy guitar work meets up with dark, sorrowful melodies that strike at the gut, making it seem like you’ll never escape the torment. Melodies snake their way through, as Gambit howls, “Don’t wait for me!” as he later dissolves into heaving cries. Dizzying, muddy streams surface, and they run until they reach their destination. “The End” sits on a strong, murky riff, with warbled, detached singing bleeding all over the place, and wild screams poking their way through as the song progresses. As the track goes on, it gets uglier and heavier, with psyche-stained guitars gushing, the mood chewing at your psyche, and Gambit vowing, “I’m not coming home,” as the song bleeds away with him.

“No Saviors” immediately drags you into an industrial wasteland, with guitars bending, the singing quivering, and a sense of Atriarch-like morbidity in the air. The singing turns to anguished screams later, as the music itself gets grittier, with warped melodies, a storm of riffs, and the whole thing ending in corrosion. “Fractured Lung” is unhinged from the start, with screams aiming to puncture lungs, and more strange singing designed to slash at your equilibrium. Crushing doom melodies arrive later, as the scathing vocals and eviscerating beats create a cool, strange finish. Closing epic “Dried Blood of Old Earth” runs 13:28, and it slips into a strange simmer and intergalactic exploration, with noise hanging in the air ready to sting at any moment. Guitars begin to stab into the metallic cloud, creating something that turns into a dreamy sequence that lets your brain be mesmerized. As the band moves into the closing minutes, the noises begin to boil and give off steam, sounds zap in the air around you, and everything blends into a hypnotic fog that slowly makes its way into the reaches of outer space.

Folks such as Gambit always will be out there to make sure metal keeps growing and evolving, and because of that, heavy sounds will continue to be made well into the future. “II” is a really strong record that gets under your skin and forces you to experience every ounce of tumult. It’s some of Gambit’s best work ever under this project, and he and his collaborators have crafted a record that will stick with you and haunt you well past the time the needle lifts at the end of the record.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://brokenlimbsrecordings.net/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/DullestRecords

Swedes Astrophobos smother black metal with violence, dark chaos on EP ‘Enthroned in Flesh’

AstrophobosNearing the end of the week, it’s getting exhausting taking on all of the stuff we have going on. Getting to the point seems like a really good idea, and the new EP from Swedish black metal horse Astrophobos does exactly that.

Following up their great 2014 debut album “Remnants of Forgotten Horrors,” they lace into these four tracks on “Enthroned in Flesh” with reckless abandon, sharpened teeth exposed, and them looking to set the battlefield for permanent massacre. What they do isn’t terribly flashy, though it’s very well played, and they don’t piss around noodling and stretching songs well past where they should go. This is lean and mean, heavy and dangerous, and really great sounding black metal. There aren’t new rules written for the genre or anything, and it’s not going to pull black metal into a new direction, but there’s no reason Astrophobos need to do that. Instead, the band—vocalist/bassist Mikael Broman, guitarists Jonas Ehlin and Martin Andersson (session drummer Fredrik Widigs from Marduk handled duties on the recording)—keeps things bloody and raw, following similar paths as bands such as Dissection and the earlier years of Watain.

Astrophobos coverThe title track tears the lid off this thing, with riffs spiraling and monstrous growls pounding you. The pace absolutely crushes, though a nice dose of melody is intertwined, as Broman howls, “A world that falls to plunder, and death will come alive.” It’s a fairly quick cut, but one that does ample damage while it hangs around. “Tabula Rasa” has guitars cutting through and creakier growls, leading into a speedy, thrashy arrangement that gets the juices flowing. Humid guitars eventually set in and make breathing a little thicker, while Broman wails, “Burn all life to cinder dust,” as the track bleeds out in a wave of feedback. “Blood Libation” gets off to a thunderous start, with the riffs charging and Broman’s words practically being barked. It bends into added crunchy thrash terrain, while the leads burn brightly enough to make you shield your eyes, and the crushing assault keeps hammering at you right up until the abrupt end. Closer “The Cadaver Monarch” runs 8:21, and it’s the one that earns the Watain comparisons, as they push out a horrifying storyteller that reeks of bloodshed and flesh. As the song goes on, the pace kicks into high gear, with the words flying out of Broman’s mouth in menacing style and the playing clubbing. Melodies again are a fixture, mixing themselves into the chaos, while the growls sometimes take on a talky tone, likely to hammer home to plot that much better. Then, a final wave of guitars melts everything in front of it, sending a poisonous tributary of filth to poison whatever waters it contacts.

Astrophobos sound vicious and alive on “Enthroned in Flesh,” a release that’s certainly tiding us over until they smash our fingers again with record two. This is raw, yet melodic black metal that never pretends to be anything it isn’t and always sounds like it’s crushing the Earth’s crust. Anyone looking for something tried and true that chokes black metal exhaust certainly will find a lot of like on these four smashers.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.triumviraterecords.com/releases.html

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

Helms Alee add versatility to jaw-breaking, filthy sound on piledriving record ‘Stillicide’

Photo by James Rexroad

Photo by James Rexroad

Versatility is an interesting aspect in music, especially in metal and heavy music. When you stretch too far beyond yourself, it can lose people. Witness Opeth. But when that dexterity pushes you beyond your borders into exciting new terrain, that ability to change at a moment’s notice can be a big advantage.

Seattle-based band Helms Alee use their versatility to an insane level, never more obvious than on their great fourth record “Stillicide,” that could be the one that breaks them through to a wider audience. It’s the most accessible album in the band’s run, and that shouldn’t be taken as a negative. I know among heavy music that people get pissed when bands stretch their sound past extreme borders, but Helms Alee have had the ability to do this all along. They’re a raucous, fun band, and now they’re delving past sludge and grime and getting into terrain normally trampled in the early 1990s, when the term “alternative rock” actually meant something and pushed back against the norm. Helms Alee have that Pixies/Breeders thing going on, but they mix it with the Jesus Lizard intensity that smears insanity with artistic vision. This is a record that might be easier to listen to, but that doesn’t mean their sound has been stripped of attitude. They still can bash your face in, and they do that often on this record.

Helms Alee coverThe band hinted heading in this direction on their super last album “Sleepwalking Sailors,” where they pulled their sound a little past what they established on their first two records “Night Terror” and “Weatherhead” (both released by the late, great Hydra Head). The band—guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen, bassist/vocalist Dana James, drummer/vocalist Hozoji Margullis—sound supremely confident and smooth on “Stillicide,” a well-oiled machine that’s really coming into its own. They remain that oddball band that can tour with punk, hardcore, or metal bands (they’re currently out with Melvins), and they might even be able to go beyond that with this record.

“More Weight” is a quick introductory cut that has pianos scrambling and finding their way to “Untoxicated,” a crunchy dose of sludge that has singing leading the way and giving off a burlier Breeders feel. Warm psychedelic guitars enter toward the end and punch away to the finish. “Tit to Toe” charges up with an off-kilter riff, a really strong chorus, and dark moodiness that sends you on your way to “Meats and Milks,” which is fuzzed up and hazy at the start. Noirish guitars feed into the post-punk vibe, while the band members’ voices blend together nicely. Heaviness kicks a dent in your head, with Verellen wailing away, stirring soloing flooding, and a heartfelt burst of melody making the finish shine. The title cut is heavy as fuck in its opening minutes, with a thick bassline cutting down the middle. It later goes dreamy, with trippy playing adding a heavy glaze, and massive howling ravaging up to the song’s abrupt end. “Galloping Mind Fuk” is just that, with guitars churning, the vocals giving off heat, and an out-of-nowhere section where James and Margullis practically rap with fire and attitude. The song chews and smears, with the track ground up in grit.

“Creeping You Company” is slower and cleaner, something that could be a breakout hit for them, as Verellen handles the bulk of the singing. The track is cool and airy, something that would sound great at night, as you drive with the windows open and drink in the shadows. “Dream Long” lets guitars moan before they erupt. The vocals are washed out and weird, with yowled outbursts bruising and chunky mud smothering you. “Bullygoat” isn’t quite as mean as its title indicates, but it’s a really strong one. The guitars are jerky in spots, and the singing comes from all over, with harsh shouts at the tail end, and the song bleeding away. “Andromenous” lets drums kick in, with dreamy singing, jangling strangeness that coats your brain, and stimulating melodies. The bass starts to gnaw, while the song gains intensity and power, and the level of aggravation heightens. Closer “Worth Your Wild” spirals and stymies, with everyone’s singing colliding into each other’s and then mixing together. The tempo soars, as the track picks up heaviness, and the guitars begin to spit fire. The band hits on a loop, going back and making the room spin, while everything hits a crushing crescendo and a noise wave strikes and then fades away.

Helms Alee are kind of hard to describe for the uninitiated, so it’s always better to just put on the music and let their energy and power show the way. “Stillicide” is a raucous, fun record, one that has the band stretching their limbs further than they ever have before, resulting in 11 impactful, often atmosphere-rich tracks. This is a much different band than the one we got to know on their debut, and their next record might have them changing their spots yet again.

For more on the band, go here: http://helmsalee.net/

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

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

Imperium Dekadenz add chilling essence back to their epic black metal with riveting ‘Dis Manibvs’

Imperium DekadenzWe’re still months away from the wintry assault that comes with winter, and it feels strange to be writing this with windows open, warm breezes relaxing, and the temperature in the 80s. But music is released when it is, so sometimes you get music to digest that doesn’t really click with the weather.

Nothing wrong with that, really, because eventually the snow will be here in sheets, and that might be the optimum period to heavily indulge in “Dis Manibvs,” the excellent new record from Imperium Dekadenz. Funny enough, the band’s 2013 record “Meadows of Nostalgia” made me think more of the spring thaw, when streams start flowing anew, and life is getting ready to bloom again. But on “Dis Manibvs,” the band is back to the terrain they trudged on 2010’s “Procella Vandens,” making gigantic, frosty black metal that could freeze your blood in the veins. This record feels like staring down a mountain you can’t conquer but trying to go for it anyway. It sends chilled oxygen down your throat and into your lungs, leaving you heaving and disoriented. And as much as this doesn’t fit the scenario, I’m going to be listening to this all week on the beach next week because it’s so damn epic.

Imperium Dekadenz coverImperium Dekadenz’s entrance into the world took place about 12 years ago, with guitarist, keyboardist, ands vocalist Horaz and guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboard player Vespasian forming the core of the group (they expand to more members in a live setting). Their first record arrived two years later with “…und die Welt ward kalt und leer,” which they followed a year later with “Dammerung der Szenarian,” the power of which led them to Season of Mist, who released “Procella.” The German band always has had a knack for the dramatic, mixing their darkness with sweeping playing and elements that could transform your surroundings and make you feel like you’re knee deep in snow. Even in August.

The record begins with instrumental “In Todesbanden” that has acoustics flooding in, guitars starting to charge, and a moody atmosphere that blends into “Only Fragments of Light.” There, the melodic onslaught begins, with throaty growls adding thorns, and the cut entering into total spaciousness. Folkish choral chants arrive, guitars wail, and the track fades into the night. “Still I Rise” has an infectious energy, pushing hard, with a great chorus to boot. Everything here positively swells, releasing a sweeping chasm of sound, riffs churning, and the song disappearing into angelic choral singing. The title track has a dark, smoldering start before giving way to an incredibly emotional caterwaul. “All of these memories will never fade,” Horaz howls, as sadness spirals, dwelling on great loss and life experiences that change you forever. The track is heavy and heartfelt, and it’s one of the shining moment on this record. “Pantheon Spells” is another quick cut, with organs swelling, whispers dizzying, and a spacy eeriness making its presence felt.

“Vae Victis” storms open, with speedier playing leading the way and the growling creakier and more monstrous than before. The guitars unload their assault, while the tempo causes bruises to surface, and the whole thing ends abruptly. “Volcano” is a crushing storyteller that coats everything in doomed sentiment. Choral parts are woven into the fabric and increase the tension, while the verses rage with color, causing everything to crumble into decay. “The great snow falls!” Horaz yells, with the riffs overwhelming, bringing everything with it and its tornadic chaos. “Somnia” is the final of three interludes, this one containing acoustic guitars rumbling and angelic singing making the cut feel otherworldly. “Pure Nocturnal Rome” begins calmly before energetic riffs explode and a thunderous pace gets under way. Again, there is a great dose of emotion injected into the song, with growls piercing and the thunderous madness eventually disappearing into a fog. Closer “Seikilos” starts in a sound woosh, with strings plucked before the cut completely tears open. An awesome, classic metal-style riff runs roughshod, with folk-laced chanting of, “Death is certain, life is not,” looping its way through the entire track. In the final moments, the atmosphere begins to settle while soundscapes blend in and New Age-style guitars push to the finish.

Imperium Dekadenz’s impressive run cannot be denied, and “Dis Manibvs” is another great record from this blistering duo. They play huge, cinematic black metal that, while heavy, isn’t bogged down in brutality. Their icy world is massive and foreboding, and it’ll help nearly freeze your bones.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): http://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: SubRosa’s grim dystopian story ‘…Battle of Ages’ overflows with heavy emotion

Photo by Chris Martindale

Photo by Chris Martindale

There are those bands that always know a way to reach deep down inside of you and bruise everything contained within your body. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, there is no way to escape their grasp or shake their influence. You’re devastated, and trying to pick up the pieces left behind is your only option.

Salt Lake City doom quintet SubRosa are one of those bands for me. With each new release, they dig within themselves and pour out a doom-bloodied collection of ballads that quake the Earth and bring my heart nearly to a stop. Neurosis have that same impact on me, and I realized with SubRosa’s new, fourth record “For This We Fought the Battle of Ages,” that this band is in that same hallowed ground. Each new record is an event, a collection that must be absorbed multiple times to be totally understood and that consumes my time. I have listened to this record easily in double digits since receiving the music, and every trip is a rush of emotion, a grasp at my chest. This album has SubRosa using Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1921 novel We (it was translated into English in 1924) as their inspiration, a tale of a future dystopian society where dreams are thought to be a product of mental illness, and mind-altering substances and sex for pleasure are deemed illegal in the society of One State. People live in glass apartments, allowing for strict state surveillance, and protagonist D-503 documents his day-to-day struggles in a journal he hopes to have placed in a spaceship being used to invade other planets. It’s a story that’s as terrifying today (Green Wall, anyone?), not to mention sobering, when applied to what is going on around us.

SubRosa coverTackling this story, as well as the longer, more complex compositions SubRosa unfurl on this record, is by design as the five members—guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinists Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack, bassist Levi Hanna, and drummer Andy Patterson—sought to push themselves to new heights and determine just what this band was capable of accomplishing. As a result, we find songs that feel more like epics than regular tracks, and as much as two 15-minute-plus tracks and one that approaches 14 minutes might seem to be asking a lot, they never do. They flow beautifully, compellingly, with the conviction of the story flowing (sometimes spitting) from Vernon’s mouth, the dual violins nearly drawing tears, and the rhythm section adding the proper amount of grit to deal supreme heaviness.

“Despair Is a Siren,” the 15:25 opener, details what’s happening in We, and it’s a sweeping, jarring cut that begins with violins whirring in like sirens, and the track trickling open. “I know there’s another world,” Vernon sings, poking at new awareness and expanded realities, as the track begins to tear apart. “My skin doesn’t fit anymore,” Vernon writhes as the track keeps flowing, taking on tumult and simmering power that gains momentum. The song gets heavier as it goes, with the strings swarming and shocking, the guitars trudging, and Vernon defiantly singing, “I’m not sleeping in glass chambers, who’s the dead one now?” as the cut bleeds to its finish. “Wound of the Warden” is a hefty 13:28, and it kicks off with a solid, sooty bassline and the track unloading crunch, with Vernon vowing, “One day they’ll be grateful,” pointing at sacrifices ahead. The tempo becomes reflective and even tender at a point before the music and the darkness return. “Laughter ceases at the gates,” Vernon wails, before warning, “Not one misstep, not one mistake,” as the foreboding feelings meet up with the swirling conclusion.

“Black Majesty” opens with strings humming and Vernon singing nakedly and vulnerably over top, before the power kicks in with her practically howling, “Isn’t it beautiful?” That sentiment is all over this song and revisits us later. The song swells into a deluge, with the hammers dropped hard and the band digging deep within. Relentless hammering arrives, loosening teeth, while Vernon prods, “Isn’t it beautiful to live and die alone?” The crunch continues but eventually gives way as the song trickles out with Vernon noting a silence so profound it’s painful. “Il Cappio,” which is noose in Italian, is a quick, stirring interlude, leading into “Killing Rapture” that settles in with cascading strings and even some pedal guitar to add sorrowful texture.  The pace is moody and shadowy, with verses pulling at your heart and conviction cutting into your skin. The momentum gains steam as the volume rises, with the strings sinking their teeth, the storm bearing down, as the band unloads hard. It feels like the walls are collapsing all around, with Vernon noting a society “where everything’s been decided for us,” as each element falls away. Closer “Troubled Cells” is a crusher for sure, a track full of sadness, despair, and raw anger. It starts with a psyche wash that reminds of “No Quarter,” and the song takes a slow, heaving tempo. As things break open, Vernon laments, “If there’s no way through for you, there’s no way through for me,” leading into the emotions hitting a crescendo, first with the insistence of, “There is no greater good,” and later with the fiery declaration, “Paradise is a lie if we have to burn you at the stake to get inside.” Souls quiver and the curtain falls, as the song fades out, swallowed by a glimmering cloud.

It’s not going out on a limb to say SubRosa are one of the modern era’s best, most unique heavy metal bands, and they deliver enough emotion, tumult, and drama to fill an ocean. “For This We Fought the Battle of Ages” is another incredible triumph for the band, and incredible step ahead that seemed impossible after their past work, yet they pulled it off anyway. This is special event music, a record that can make you stop dead in your tracks, make you forget everything you’re doing, and get you involved heart and soul in an album and a story as relevant and powerful as anything else today.

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

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

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

Mare Cognitum, Aureole reach to cosmos for chaotic rebirth story ‘Resonance: Crimson Void’

Mare Aureole artAn epic space saga sounds like a pretty good thing right now. This has been a week of relentless garbage, with each day seemingly trying to outdo the one before it in bringing annoyances and stress that I wouldn’t care to measure. That’s a huge reason why jettisoning beyond our planet and toward others, if even on a fantasy scale, would be most welcome at the moment.

Luckily, an interesting and ambitious new split from Mare Cognitum and Aureole has landed courtesy of Fallen Empire. But this isn’t your everyday shared recording where each band gets a chance to show what they can do. Instead, this is a cosmic story that you might have to listen to a completely different album to grasp in full. “Resonance: Crimson Void” contains events that take place before Aureole’s debut album “Alunar” (great, weird album that I highly recommend). So it’s a prequel of sorts. Aureole crafted the story, but Mare Cognitum share with the telling, as each group contributes two tracks that spreads the thematic elements. The story centers around the Citadel Alunar, its bell tower, and a civilization that is in collapse as its inhabitants reach to the stars for answers. The citadel eventually encounters and is engulfed by the Rosette Nebula (see the amazing cover art), causing chaos, a great struggle, and the suffocation of life by hands emerging from the bell, until the bell tower finally collapses. Yet, the citadel lives, and from this, it emerges with newfound knowledge and must rebuild itself. That’s a rudimentary summary, but the lyrics (found on the bandcamp site https://marecognitum.bandcamp.com/album/resonance-crimson-void-2) can guide you even further.

Mare Cognitum is a project that’s no secret to our readers, as we’ve talked about the Jacob Buczarski-led force quite often. In fact, we’re going to travel into his atmospheric black realms again in a couple weeks when the new Mare Cognitum full-length drops in our laps. As for Aureole, it is helmed by Ukrainian musician M.S., and the “Alunar” album was our first real introduction into his musical world, a place that can feel intergalactic and medieval at the same time. This pairing makes a lot of sense musically, and their work blends together nicely. The fact they both could work on such a complicated story together and send into new dark corners is stunning.

Mare Cognitum start with “Crimson Abyss: NGC 2237,” a 13:44-long track that washes in from nowhere and brings with it intoxicating star dust. Fittingly, bells begin to chime, with tempos shifting, the light and dark clashing, and the vocals being emitted as shrieks and growls. “Hold the flame aloft, into the black abyss,” Buczarski wails, as the song continues its fluid pace before going on a mesmerizing twist. Howls erupt anew, swimming through orbit, as the speed kicks up, sounds glaze and rain down, and the track ends with a stirring surge and more bells ringing out. “Crimson Abyss: NGC 2238” is a shorter one at 5:20, and it wastes no time, clobbering out of the gate, curdling your blood. Melodies crush as they mix with fury, as strong riffs peel flesh, and the intensity burns brightly. “Ghastly fingers run like daggers across the skin to tear asunder fading blood within,” Buczarski unleashes, as great soloing blinds your eyes, and the cut comes to an abrupt, dramatic finish.

Aureole get going on “Void Obsidian: NGC 2244” that basks in planetary soundscapes before charging up into a thick drone fog. Ugly, gritty guitars join the fray, as M.S. cries, “The towers swallowed, the amalgamation cast, yet the bell ever tolls,” as it heads into a pocket of melody. The track splits open again later as a volcanic push drives the power, blowing heat and causing your skin to flood with perspiration. Late guitars pick up and pull the song to its finish, bleeding out and opening the gate for “Void Obsidian: NGC 2246.” There, a violent outburst reaches out to strangle, with weird, echoed cries that make your muscles quiver, and a hypnotic fog settles in. Things are burly and weird through the bulk of the run, with whispery growls swirling overhead, and drone mixing into electrified pooling. Massive guitar work takes over the brunt, churning and spinning, heading into a chiming hypnosis, and sending Alunar onto the next phase of its volatile existence, a chapter Aureole already has written.

Splits are nice, and we cover a ton of them, but it’s even better when you have a piece in front of you like “Resonance: Crimson Void” that is more than just a collection of songs. Mare Cognitum and Aureole taking this story and stretching it out creatively and sonically gives you something a little extra, a destructive plot line that’s both exciting and terrifying. Both of these bands push the limits of what they can achieve on their own, so it only made sense they’d find explosive new ways to challenge your mind in the same creative space.

For more on Mare Cognitum, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic/

For more on Aureole, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AureoleBM

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

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

Lesbian imagine fungal assault on the Earth, marring existence on weird new ‘Hallucinogenesis’

LesbianMetal is prime territory for the concept album, and over the past four decades, we’ve had our share of them from bands as huge as Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche (R.I.P. I know they’re still a band. R.I.P.). Just this year, we had Vektor’s great, must-hear “Terminal Redux,” and this week we kicked off the week with one from Morrow, tomorrow we have yet another, and Friday another!

So there’s a ton of storytelling going on in metal, but perhaps none as weird and, uh, fungal as what Lesbian pulled off on their new album “Hallucinogenesis.” I probably could just put the title out there, and that would be plenty to let you guess what transpires on this record. But, what the hell, they put a lot of time into this, so let’s dig into the story. On this record, we follow the story of Earth after it’s hit with a spore-filled asteroid that goes on to transform the planet into a new dawn of creation called “Pyramidal Extistinctualism.” The process continues over and over on the backs of meteorites pulled toward the sun, with few survivors, with the Kosmoceratops among them. It’s crazy as shit, and yeah, it seems pretty damn druggy (not a surprise considering the band’s past work), but it’s also a damn fun burst of energy. It’s clear the band takes their chops deathly seriously, but it’s nice that they’re so loose and creative with their mission.

ATOZ_JKTLesbian have been around for more than a decade now, putting together what they refer to as “the final wave of prehistoric phantasy thrash.” That strange description is slapped over a frenetic sound that mixes death metal, sludge, and, sure, some thrash into a mysterious concoction that’s equally brutal and nerve crunching. The band’s first record “Power Hor” landed in 2007, followed by “Stratospheria Cubensis” in 2010, and their eye-opening, single-cut “Forestelevision” in 2013. The band responsible for “Hallucinogenesis”—new vocalist Brad “B.R.A.D.” Mowen (formerly of Burning Witch, Asva, the Accüsed), guitarists Arran McInnis and Daniel La Rochelle, bassist/vocalist Dorando Hodous, drummer Benjamin Thomas-Kennedy—sound tight and on fire, rolling out this insane storyline and filling your head with punishing madness.

“Pyramidal Existinctualism,” a wordful of a title, starts the record with riffs tearing open, mind-altering singing, and a dramatic bit of playing. The singing turns to tortured wails and creaky speaking, as the song tears its way through the cosmos and zaps into plenty of weird progressions. Things get bubbly and colorful not long after, almost as if the spores have entered your bloodstream, and later the mania is just off the charts. Space fire is spat, while the guitars charge up again as riffs emit power and energy, with hefty vocals bruising as the track comes to its end. “Labrea Borealis” is the longest track at 14:31, and it starts cleanly and smoothly, making things feel oddly serene. Then guitars erupt, with the vocals going from crazed shouts to shrieks to desperate howls. The music itself digs into the dirt and brings raucous madness, with the band chanting away, as if summoning a force from far away, and then the repeated lines of, “Levitate, circulate, populate!” detail the meteorites’ creation process and what leads to this fungal new existence. From there, a cavernous solo arrives, with the music feeling spacious and huge, with a numbing sequence bleeding toward the cut’s final thick glaze.

“Kosmoceratops” follows one of the last remaining species after the events described on the record, and fuck, if this thing isn’t mean as hell. The music implies as much, stampeding and raging with a full steam, with the warning, “Bow your head as it takes your life.” The assault dies down for a little bit as the music stretches out and get proggier, but all the while, the threat is in the air. Psychedelic shades and pained wails push the plot, as mass killings ensuing and parasites falling from moonlight are detailed. Finally, in the song’s final stretch, the bloodshed reaches its apex, as cries of, “Cold-blooded killer hunting me!” leaves a streak of plasma across the ground. Closer “Aqualibrium” gets off to a hammering start, as the 11:46-long mauler lets loose with scathing screams and later warbling singing to go along with the settling pace. From there, things get odd, especially with the deranged singing, while death chugs emerge and start the blackening. The pace again goes for dream mode, with higher singing pushing things into the stratosphere, and then some near-King Diamond banshee cries destroying everything. As the track nears its end, the drama is ramped up, emotions hit a crescendo, and the band sends you off with a crunchy, thrashy final beating.

Your mind doesn’t have to be altered to accept what you’re hearing on “Hallucinogenesis,” but I’m guessing it might help see all of the weirdness going on here. Lesbian’s journey has been a unique one that’s been fun to follow, and with each new dose of madness from them, they push you even further into the beyond. Not sure we’ll ever have the psychedelic experience these guys are on about here, but it’s pretty fun to at least imagine it.

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

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

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

Morrow imagine future world left to pick up humanity’s pieces on crushing ‘Covenant of Teeth’

MorrowIt feels like we live in a brutalized, fractured society, at least here in America. I can’t really speak for the rest of the world, but going out in public, amid people with nary a filter, you practically can chew on the animosity and hatred toward others. People are growing more evil, and that isn’t a boulder easily stopped from raging down the hillside.

I’m not sure that even was something thought about when Morrow went about writing “Covenant of Teeth,” their cataclysmic new record, but it seems like you can run your fingers across those grains during the music. The album itself is a concept piece that imagines cultures on a future version of the Earth, one spawned following the destruction, be it physical, mental, or both, that humankind exacted on the world. The record follows the Norr, a group whose existence is comprised of the use of various languages and whose lives are formed from a mix of cultural experiences. It’s the way our world could be now, if more people had a modicum of understanding and weren’t so pig-headed about their worldview being the only one that should matter. In fact, on the record, you can hear various languages being used, tying together the concept and giving you a bigger glimpse into this future society.

Morrow coverThe band’s sound is hard to pin down, but Apocalyptic expression works pretty nicely. There are elements of doom, crust, hardcore, and so much more on here, and the way these songs build and come crashing down on you requires some deep breaths and a place to steady yourself. As for the band itself, it comprises member of bands as varied as Archivist, Light Bearer, and Carnist, with Alex on vocals, art, and narrative; David on guitar, bass, and drums; and Nicole on cello. Along with the main core come contributions from a whole slew of guests from bands including Anopheli, Wild Speaker, Monachus, the Nepalese Temple Ball, Knifedoutofexistence, and Masakari, not to mention the voice talent. You can feel the weight of all of those contributors in the best way possible, and this record is a mammoth made up of four lumbering cuts.

The album opens with the 11:44-long “Fathom,” a cut that starts with winds and cracking fires, footsteps cutting into the wilderness, and eventually gentle singing accompanied by pianos and lush strings. The piece then opens further, buzzing away and injecting a sense of morose doom, and then gazey melodies sweeping and carrying with them deep, wrenching growls. Muddy chugging joins the fray, as the song spills into melodic, yet gruff territory, with shrieks joining the guttural grunts, the track smothering with power, and the tempo easing up with cellos swelling and bleeding away. “The Norr” starts again with fires, with conversations swirling about, and then a gut-busting display rushing with strings crying and the dam being crushed by the flood. Husky growls spit out the plot, while wild cries join and add another element of chaos. Sounds conjure a heavy gaze, while the pace chugs, then takes on a violent assault, and the surging finish is hammered home with a howl of, “We are nothing but the iceberg!”

“Forgiving Grin” has a punchy rupture at the front end before it goes cold. The cello stretches out and hints at serenity, but that’s torn to shreds by the band mauling, and vicious shrieks mixing in with the growls. The song starts to stomp hard, leaning heavily into hardcore might, with the music feeling like it’s twisting your internal organs. A brief halt arrives, with additional speaking pushing in, and then it tears apart again and leads a ferocious stampede toward the finish. The 10:40-long closer “Cleaved Fang” trickles to a start, with each element slowly joining the mix until the bottom drops out unmercifully. The growls lacerate the senses, with gazey cascading soaking the ground, raspy wails cursing you, and another section of speaking settling in. Out of that, the cut thrashes wildly, with the blows being dealt in a calculated fashion, the atmosphere feeling emotionally overwhelming, and the song rumbling to its final destination.

Morrow’s vision into the future could be pretty accurate if our world keeps going the way it has the past decade or so. A dose of understanding and immersion into other people’s worlds could soothe a lot of what ails us, and that’s a point at which Morrow hit on “Covenant of Teeth.” Perhaps we don’t have to wait for the Norr to pick up our slack, and we can start patching together these gaping holes ourselves.

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

To buy the album, go here (U.S.): http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/

Here (Canada): http://www.chaosruralrecords.com/store/index.php?route=product/category&path=62

Or here (Germany): http://www.doomrock.com/

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

And here: http://www.chaosruralrecords.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/Alerta-Antifascista-Records-official-128382047223480

PICK OF THE WEEK: Cosmic terror swirls over Blood Incantation’s insane debut album ‘Starspawn’

Blood IncantationEvery form of artwork needs to evolve in some way in order to stay vital and relevant. You’re seeing that now with network television, where an absolute void of creativity and willingness to make changes is causing their viewership to erode to subscription channels with far better content. Adapt or die.

The same can be said for death metal, a style of music that has a portion of its audience that wants it one way and one way only. We have plenty of guttural brutal bands, as well as those that pay homage to the style’s roots, be that in the swamps or the Scandinavian regions. But the way death metal will persevere is through artists with fresh approaches that also keep the heart of the music true. One of the bands doing that in a major way is Blood Incantation, whose debut record “Starspawn” is about to drop in our laps. This record is being met with much anticipation mainly based on the group’s excellent, eye-opening 2015 EP “Interdimensional Extinction” and split with Spectral Voice (with whom they share members), and the five songs they present on this amazing debut not only will satisfy those who were waiting impatiently for its arrival, but also for those who want a new dose of creativity from their death metal. Package delivered.

Blood Incantation coverBlood Incantation do everything right to give birth to a new dawn of death metal while also keeping the main elements of this style of music bloody and sticky. “Starspawn” is plenty brutal, but it’s also mind-altering, cosmically volatile, and a collection that even could pull in those who hunger for technical prowess. It all works so well, and the added bonus of the music’s strangeness makes what they do here even more alluring. The band is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Paul Riedel (Spectral Voice, Abysmal Dimensions), guitarist Morris Kolontyrsky (Spectral Voice, Stillborn Fawn), bassist Jeff Barrett (Spectral Voice, ex-Velnias), and drummer Isaac Faulk (Wayfarer, Abysmal Dimensions), and they create as vortex of madness that rushes you into space and applies enough pressure to pop your eyes from your skull.

Opener “Vitrification of Blood (Part 1)” is the 13:08-long opener, erupting right away into a patch of spacey muck and strangeness, with the guitar work immediately going to work on your mind. The harsh growls make their first appearance, thrashing away at you, with spacious melodies swimming all through the mire. The track then starts to trudge violently as it continues to explore what lies far beyond our planet, before the band blasts into hyperdrive. A nice stretch of soloing gets the heart racing before things go clean and fluid right before a thrashy ending. “Chaoplasm” has an ugly, brutal start with gurgly growls unloading filth and the tempo going off the rails. Echoes prod and psychedelic glaze is poured over the violence, with the vocals seething and the guitar work twisting your brain. There is a final detonation of power before the track is swallowed into a noise cloud.

“Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Part 2)” pounds away from the start, with the vocals ripping gigantic holes and the music stymying and the haze thickening. Later, we soar back into space, with guitar work simmering in mud, and even some cleaner calls arriving to hint at serenity. That pushes toward a dreamy sequence that borders on hypnotic, only to have guitars blaze out of that, ending in a weird dose of punishment. “Meticulous Soul Devourment” is an interdimensional instrumental beginning with noise hovering and guitars zapping, with the melodies becoming mysterious and eerie, and the body of the track melting into the stars. The closing title track is clubbing and relentless from the start, with the band chugging and chewing up ground, and the growls spat out at a blinding clip. Much of the playing is rubbery and sinewy, with the soloing beaming into the universe, the track beginning to combust, and the final growls landing the odd, monolithic exclamation point.

Blood Incantation are one of the most promising new death metal bands anywhere, and the arrival of “Starspawn” could be looked back at years from now as the dawning of a new era for this style of music. This is brutally creative, intergalactically challenging music that proves there is far more to explore not only with death but for metal in general. It’s now up to everyone else to catch up to these guys.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Blood-incantation-508899805936788

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

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