De Brauw’s first solo outing ‘Uptown’ is a calm divergence from his primary group’s work

trevorIt’s pretty cool when a musician you think you know, at least from artistic output, throws something your way you don’t really see coming. I remember when Bruce Dickinson’s first solo record “Tattooed Millionaire” came out and being totally surprised by what I heard. It was so different from his work in Iron Maiden, but hearing this fresh thing come out of him was pretty enthralling.

Same goes for Trevor Shelley de Brauw, a man who has devastated us with his anthemic riffage with instrumental giant Pelican. His debut solo outing “Uptown” is something that might furrow the brows of anyone who is expected a record in the same line as his primary band. That’s not even close to what we get with these six tracks. The music is chilled out and leans ambient, and there’s very little here in the way of heaviness or smothering decibels. But that’s not a negative at all, as this record exists in its own plane and separate from Pelican. De Brauw shows here a different style of expression on these tracks that were recorded over a decade, and it follows the artist from his quieter times living on a remote tobacco farm to his return to the anxiety-inducing Uptown section of Chicago. That push and pull can be felt throughout this record, as the time passage and unfurling of emotions is rich and real.

TDB_LP_cover_final“A New Architecture” opens the record with fuzz and guitars holding in the air, as the sound stings and then circles into a halo of clouds. The song goes into a psychedelic dream sequence, marinating your mind, and then quiet acoustics arrive, immersing you in calm as the track fades. “Distinct Frequency” is ominous and dark at the start, as a spacey charge jolts you, and a hazy weather pattern situates itself, giving off fog and a light mist. “They Keep Bowing” has ringing drone leading into the body of the cut, and then guitars begin to agitate and catch fire, giving off some heat. The track gets dark and moody, as a doom storm slowly spreads itself out, as everything slowly washes away.

“You Were Sure” has noise threatening early, feeling like danger is on its way, but then the track heads into the shadows. De Brauw’s dark, raw singing adds another texture, as the acoustics poke at you, and the track drives toward cold, menacing end. “Turn Up for What” runs 8:28, and I think you’re meant to chuckle at the title. Noise blips churn, as the song turns into a cosmic spiritual. Drone blows through the middle of the track, causing quivers and stomach rumbles, as the path loops over and over and makes you fall into a vortex. The 11:43 closer “From the Black Soil Poetry and Song Sprang” starts morbidly, as drone stretches like a thick fog, making it seem like a blackout. But then calm blue sky melodies emerge, with keys glimmering and guitars cutting. Brightness makes you shield your eyes, but the melodies soothe and row you down a quiet tributary on your way to complete meditation. Nice finish.

De Brauw is going to surprise some people with this record, and hopefully more of that is going to be of the pleasant type. “Uptown” is not a Pelican record, nor should it be, as de Brauw certainly is capable of doing many things well. This is a great record for immersing yourself in the darkness, letting your mind unravel, and finding deeper understanding of what makes you who you are.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Ominous split teaming Palace of Worms with Ecferus reveals chaos, horror

pow-ecferus-coverEh, it’s the end of a bad week and I want to spit, so we might as well try to go out on a high note on this site at least. Hey, sorry about America, everyone. What a fucking dumpster fire. Anyway, that said, we have a really strong split release today from two great one-man bands that, combined, have an effort for you that will stoke any fires of frustration you’re feeling inside.

Coming to you via Crown & Throne Ltd. is a six-track split effort combining black metal project Palace of Worms and like-minded Ecferus, who both have put out some of the more interesting releases the sub-genre has seen the past decade. We’ve covered Palace of Worms quite a bit on these pages, and Ecferus is new to this site, but they’re definitely going to be a band we keep in our rotation moving forward based on this split and digging into their back catalog.

Balan

Balan

We last visited with the Balan-led Palace of Worms last year with excellent “The Ladder,” the third full-length in this project’s existence. As noted, we’re used to getting intelligent blasts of black metal from PoW, combined with classical elements, but the three tracks we meet on this split go in an entirely different direction. Paying homage to guttural old-school death metal, these three tracks take you on a neck-jerk jolt into territory we’re not used to Balan exploring. This material provides a violent bludgeoning that explores more horrific and otherworldly phenomenon, and as the songs go by, the heaviness and explosive fury keeps capitalizing. It’s a really refreshing dose of metallic mangling that many devoted listeners will not see coming.

PoW’s section starts off with “The Lost,” and right away you can hear the difference in tone with these songs, and things immediately go guttural. The pace is ugly and trudging, and though he’s taking a different corner here, Balan’s vocals remain steadfastly recognizable. The growls mow through you, while the smothering fury builds suffocating smoke and tears toward “Wendigo Sickness.” There, horrifying screams break out before a burly assault is launched. Vicious growls and a charred death offensive is launched, while the guitars boil over and produce immense heat, and the track comes to a piercing and abrupt end. “Rot From the Stars” begins with a reading from Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space,” which leads to slow-sludging crushing and wild yowls behind the growls. The track bleeds ominously, sending horrific chills, while Balan’s wails of, “Pray for deliverance!” mix with more Lovecraftian terrors, churning melodies, and a final reading before the song expires.

Alp

Alp

Ecferus is the brainchild of Indiana-based musician Alp, who is known for his experimental touch and steady commitment to putting out material on a prolific basis. The project’s exact birth isn’t easy to nail down, but Ecferus’ first full-length “Prehistory” landed in 2015, and he followed that up with “Pangaea” (out on I, Voidhanger) last year. Stuffed around that are a few EPs, as well as other splits with bands including Sea Witch and Jute Gyte, making him one of the busier musicians we’ve encountered lately. Here, Alp expands his vision, one that mixes really well with what PoW bring to the table, and if this is an introduction to any listeners out there, expect to find an artist who is bending and shifting black metal to fit his agenda.

The Ecferus portion starts with “Unveiled With Spears,” where Alp wastes no time showing you his uglier, more bizarre side to his music. The vocals are practically demonic, while the pace is blinding and unforgiving, unleashing unspeakable savagery. The guitars twist and contort, while the song comes to a mesmerizing end. “Transmigratory Astral Chatterings” starts with a clip from the 1993 film “Naked” before chant singing enters the mix and creates a hypnotic void. The song eventually opens up and spills blood, pushing its frenetic tempo and terrifying shrieks. Closer “Ritual Calamity” has guitars moaning all over the cosmos, making your head swim before the hammer is dropped. A ferocious assault is mounted, with chaos being poured in abundance, and then the song enters warp zone speeds. The final moments of the track have a tornadic feel, with the final sounds bleeding out into corrosion.

Palace of Worms and Ecferus are an ideally matched duo who wreak havoc on this release, and this split is an excellent way to end the week and let your blood reduce its boil. These two bands will counter any fury and frustration you feel while they help you dissolve into their chaos and see other hellish visions. It’s OK to step back from reality for a while and get swallowed whole by something that can bash you and crush you in a way that won’t permanently damage your mental health.

For more on Palace of Worms, go here: https://www.facebook.com/tattooedinworms/

For more on Ecferus, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ecferus/

To buy the album, go here: http://crownandthroneltd.bigcartel.com/product/palace-of-worms-ecferus-split-12

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

Belgian death-doom behemoth Gateway brings cavernous pain, misery with ‘Scriptures of Grief’

gatewayI have this weird fear of being trapped inside a cave or a cavern or some sort of dark, damp place where I might never get out. I’ve been inviting cave exploring before, and I have steadfastly refused to go, because I just know I’ll get caught inside a narrow tunnel, hopelessly stuck, and suffocate and die.

This all comes from me reflecting on “Scriptures of Grief,” the second effort from one-man Belgian doom monster Gateway, a smothering collection that feels like it’s weighing down on your chest. It’s so heavy and oppressive, it makes me think of being trapped in one of those narrow passageways inside a mysterious cave where, if you can’t dislodge yourself, you’re done. The three massive cuts that, combined, run nearly 30 minutes, completely clobber you and compromise your breathing. Each song put together by sole member Robin Van Oyen feels like a monstrous assault, one that creeps inside of you and slowly expands inside your veins. Originally released last year independently, Sentient Ruin is getting behind this bastard and releasing it on cassette and digital formats, pushing it to a broader underground audience. This record, a follow-up to Gateway’s self-titled debut effort (released by Hellthrasher), is a great, hefty serving of death-doom that is as heavy and oppressive at it comes.

Opener “I” is a real mammoth, 12:24 of smudging chaos, weird noises, and pained moans, which lead into slow-driving, massive doom that practically causes blood to bubble through the Earth’s surface. While the tempo crushes, the vocals get a little grimy, as the song unleashes a hellish furnace blast that’s impossible to confront face to face. The song trudges and stomps over the bodies it accumulated, with grisly pools of mud catching your boots, and torturous wails spreading over the song’s finish.

“II” lets fuzz push in, as the track rumbles as heavily as what preceded it, with monstrous growling and guttural scraping bruising your skin. Death grunts pelt at your flesh, while the song heads into pure ugliness, a section that has ill will and violence in mind that brings with it danger and snarling doom. All of this spills into the closing cut “III,” where a slow-moving menace rears its head, the vocals gurgle blood, and the pace starts to kick into a higher gear. Punishing soot and teeth-mashing playing push the song ahead, while the heat that comes off the thing will leave you gasping for breath and just a drop of cool air. The track then simmers in its own filth, with the song laying waste to your muscles and bones, and everything fading out in a scathing, corrosive noise bath.

Gateway might not actually suffocate you or trap you inside of a dark cavern, but you will have to battle against their will and might on “Scriptures of Grief.” This is sooty, unpolished, savage music that feels like it could pound its way through your skull and turn it into a pile of dust. This record puts the most guttural doom and filthiest death to the test, and the fact more people can hear this is a good thing that will compromise added folks’ senses of hearing.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/gateway-scriptures-of-grief

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

Canadian duo Tomb Mold put grossness, guttural fury into death on ‘Primordial Malignity’

Processed with VSCO with 1 presetThe filth and scum of death metal’s past, be it in North America or in Europe, has died down over time. Not that there hasn’t been a lot of really good death the past decade or so, but the polished, pristine stuff has set about launching air fresheners to lift the stench. That’s a shame. I can handle the gag now and again, and luckily, there remain bands willing to make this awful again.

Canadian duo Tomb Mold are working hard to make sure death metal remains repugnant and brutal. You can tell from the name alone that these guys—guitarist/bassist Derrick Vella and drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff—have their decaying hearts in the right place, and their debut full-length record “Primordial Malignity” is a powerful, heavy reminder that when death metal is really good, it can disease your entire body. The band first grabbed people’s attention on their well-respected demos “The Bottomless Perdition” and “The Moulting,” and they’ve aligned with the mighty Blood Harvest for the release of this new eight-track, 32-minute mauler. The press materials accompanying the record call the album a “love letter to ’90s Finnish death metal,” and I really can’t think of a better way to sum up what you’ll hear here. It’s a great listen, and it’s highly recommended.

tomb-mold-cover“Intro – Inside They Grow” gets things started with a strange noise haze, but that gets blown to bits not long afterward, as the band mauls forward with an assault that sounds designed to crush bones. Gurgling growls and thrashy guitar work form the backbone, while guitars spiral and things come to an abrupt end. “Coincidence of Opposites” has twisting riffs and a confounding pace, twisting your brain connections and veins. Grinding howls and clobbering playing up the ante, while the back end seems to gnaw at your festering wounds, with Klebanoff’s growls hurling insults. “Bereavement of Flesh” has some pretty tasty riffs out front, and there are parts of this thing that are actually catchy. Imagine that. The band keeps chugging away, letting everything bleed. The title cut is thrashy and menacing, bringing with it a cloud of ugliness that emerges and unleashes the darkening. A punchy groove adds more meat to the bones, while the growls are gurgly and ugly.

“Merciless Watcher” has riffs spiraling and causing vertigo, while the playing rolls ominously, and the bulk of this situated in bloody filth. Strong leads cut out from there, as you get the sense they’re dragging a dripping body toward a shallow grave. “Clockwise Metamorphosis” blasts open, as the tempo twitches, and the melodies roil. The vocals sound like they’re boiling in mucus, as soloing goes off the rails and brings the thing to a stabbing end. “Twisted Trail” is a dose of lurching death, though that later explodes and brings with it total destruction. The vocals sound like they’re trying to rip apart Klebanoff’s windpipe, while later the music trudges through mud, and the guitar ignite the torches. Closer “Vernal Grace – Outro” begins heavy as fuck, as the band unloads all their gruesome weapons. The guitars dominate, while the growls are ugly and smearing. The tempo is compelling and driving, bringing your blood pressure to head, but then it all disappears into a similar sound cloud that greeted us at the start of the album, as all semblance of consciousness fades away.

Tomb Mold seem on the cusp of becoming one of the bands standing at the front of the pack of keeping death metal crushing and true. They could be a name that rises rapidly to the top of the scum pool going forward if they keep making records as good as “Primordial Malignity.” Everything here is honest and disgusting, a heavy bashing that rubs your face in the dirt and forces you to take a deep breath of the accumulating molds. Nausea and panic are the side effects, but I’m thinking most people won’t mind.

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

To buy the album (CD), go here: http://shop.bloodharvest.se/?product=tomb-mold-primordial-malignity-cd

And here (vinyl edition): http://shop.bloodharvest.se/?product=tomb-mold-primordial-malignity-12lp

For more on the label, go here: http://www.bloodharvest.se/

Iron Reagan could not be more timely with serving of political thrash on ‘Crossover Ministry’

iron-reaganTiming really is everything. When they were in the writing process and then in the studio, no way Iron Reagan realized the reality that their third record “Crossover Ministry” would meet upon its release. Yet here we are, days into the Trump reign, and this record is landing at the absolute perfect moment.

The crossover thrashers always walked a thin line between political commentary and debauchery, which is what makes them so fun (and why they draw comparisons to bands such as D.R.I., Anthrax, S.O.D., and others), which continues on this record. This, their first since 2014’s “The Tyranny of Will,” just so happens to be entering a political climate not many of us could believe possible a year ago. A lot of people have noted that metal, punk, and hardcore could be entering a new golden era, what with the administration we’ve been dealt. But shit, those scenes were pretty damn strong already, and this record proves that true. Over 18 tracks and almost 29 minutes, the band blasts back against the modern political landscape (at least the one they faced when writing) as well as pumps out some fun jams that are irreverent and purposely cheeky. You have to have some humor wrapped into your reality, otherwise you’ll lose it.

iron-reagan-coverThe band itself launched five years ago, bringing together members of various noteworthy groups under a single banner. Comprised of vocalist Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste), guitarists Mark Bronzino (ANS) and Landphil Hall (Cannabis Corpse and Municipal Waste), bassist Rob Skotis (Hellbear and formerly of Occultist) and drummer Ryan Parrish (Deathcrown and formerly of Darkest Hour), the band dropped their first record “Worse Than Dead” on A389, pasting faces live and building their reputation. They followed that with a split with Exhumed and an EP before aforementioned “Tyranny” arrived. Now they have this crusher that flies by so fast, you won’t know what hit you.

OK, this is made up of 18 songs that blast by rapidly, so we’re not going to spend a ton of time with each one. “Dying World” starts with feedback and chaos, with a howl of, “Cannot save a dying world!” bringing a sobering awakening. “You Never Learn” is a huge blast with speed and spat-out words, which goes into “Grim Business” that is built on classic thrash and a nice dose of catchiness to help ease the hell down your throat. “Dead With My Friends” is hopeless but also humorous, with pianos dripping and the song bursting, as sarcastic shouts and a blazing solo let things burn viciously. “No Sell” is 14 seconds of shrapnel, followed by “Condition Evolution” and its rapid-fire vocals, with the poke of, “Quit holding onto your past!” “Fuck the Neighbors” is a little goofier, with some comedic dialog and the threat of messing up the complainants’ yards. Then it’s onto “Power of the Skull,” another strange one with gang vocals and a punishing pace. We then meet the title track, where things turn a little more serious, as the scathing assault and shouted vocals promise no mercy will be offered.

“More War” is a poke at what’s sure to be a focal point of the current administration, as the band pours cynicism into a hope for more death, and the tongue-in-cheek request of, “Let’s make more guns!” serves as a we-see-you audit of the right’s ridiculousness. “Blatant Violence” sounds like what its title indicates, as they blast through this one, trampling bodies and your remaining hearing. “Parents of Tomorrow” barely even exists, as it’s five seconds long with Foresta shouting, “Moms on the internet!” “Bleed the Fifth” is strong and lacerating, with punchy and rib-sticking thrash as well as vocals that rupture the skin. “Megachurch” has singing that reminds of Suicidal Tendencies’ Mike Muir (which is fitting), and it’s the most different song on the entire album. “Same Spiral” is massive and a little bit of a slower driver, while “Dogsnotgods” has vocals that practically splatter you with venom, with Foresta wailing, “If you need a friend, get a dog!” I wholeheartedly back this thought. “Eat or Be Eaten” is something of an interlude track, with electronic blips, before it rips open. Closer “Twist Your Fate” is the most traditionally metallic cut here, with classic guitars burning and eventually leading the way to massive punishment. The howls of, “The good news is we’re not going to last!” is a final burst before the track gets lost in a warped sound cloud and sucked into oblivion.

It’s going to be a long fucking four years, but as long as we have bands such as Iron Reagan around to piss all over the ridiculousness, at least we won’t be lulled to sleep. “Crossover Ministry” is the record you need right now, when your agitation is at its zenith and you can’t take another shit post online. Take a half hour and get your brain bashed by some thrashy goodness. You’ll feel much better when it’s done.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://relapse.com/iron-reagan-crossover-ministry/

Or here (digital): https://ironreagan.bandcamp.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Lovecraftian monsters the Great Old Ones lurch violently on dark ‘EOD…’

Photo by Valerie Cridelause

Photo by Valerie Cridelause

Lovecraftian lore, like many other dark elements, has become a vital component in heavy metal over the years. Songs and records have been based on H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of horrors, including a few tracks by Metallica, and it works just perfectly to create a sense of charnel wonder in the genre. There even are bands that base their entire existence around Lovecraft, and we have one of the better ones today.

French death and black metal squad The Great Old Ones, who take their name from the mysterious deities now at rest who once ruled the Earth (the vaunted Cthulhu is included in that group), are one of the more fascinating and crushing on the earth. They’re back with an excellent, mind-warping new record “EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy” that further unfurls Lovecraft’s creations and weaves them into their mesmerizing mix of black and death metal. EOD, of course, stands for Esoteric Order of Dagon, a fictional cult in the Cthulhu mythos, and the eight songs on here wrap their tentacles around you and pull you into an outer space hellscape. This, their first record for Season of Mist, might be the first opportunity many people have to hear the band, and if so, get ready for a heavy experience you can’t really relate to anything else. Your mind and body will go for a journey, likely ending right at the heart of Innsmouth.

the-great-old-ones-coverThe Great Old Ones first unfurled their mission to celebrate Lovecraft’s creations in 2009, putting out their first record “Al Azif” three years later in 2012. They started to gain momentum in 2014 on their excellent second album “Tekeli-li,” and since that time they’ve awakened Season of Mist to their massive wares. The band—guitarists/vocalists Benjamin Guerry and Jeff Grimal, guitarist Xavier Godart, bassist Sébastien Lalanne, and drummer Léo Isnard—put a strange, yet alluring touch to their music. What they do is heavy and brutal and can turn your bones to dust. But they also capture the imagination and transport you to these dark times, where unimaginable horrors await, things that would make you expire in your meat suit if you ever were to encounter them.

“Searching for R Olmstead (introduction)” is a quick beginning cut, 26 seconds with a narrator noting, “I’m finally here,” referring to Innsmouth, and then it’s into “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” a track that’s deadly right off the bat. Savage growls and a steamrolling pace launch, while melodies and atmosphere roll in the chaotic scene. The song continues to slither along, as the vocals scathe and the song finds another level of terror. Wrenching punishment swims with fiery playing, as air rushes into the room and sweeps away the horrors. “When the Stars Align” has a steady black metal-style riff, and that’s amplified by a blistering pace and vocals that rip apart any sense of serenity. Spacious playing adds more adventure, and even though the song goes calm for a stretch, that’s overrun by gruesome heaviness, chilling choral calls, and a final dose of bruising. “The Ritual” runs 9:31, with rhythmic drumming leading into the ceremony and sounds spilling over that. The song is torn apart eventually, with a storming fury mixed with moody playing, twisting up emotions. Later, a terrifying assault is carried out, again delving into black metal seas, while the back end rushes with vicious vocals and a thundering pace that’s eventually washed away.

“Wanderings” is another brief track, the breather at the center point, with our narrator saying, “My soul wanders into nothingness.” “In Screams and Flames” is a death eruption right away, with the band thrashing heavily and the leads cutting through stone. The melodies ride high but eventually wash into the background, almost as if they’re disappearing into a watery grave. Crushing drums awake the beast, as the song is ground into dust, and spacey madness spill out from the other side. “Mare Infinitum” is the longest track at 10:55, and its bed of eerie noises chills the flesh before the power ignites, and the band delivers a slow-driving thrashing. Everything later is pushed into a tornado of noise, causing hypnosis and panic, and out of that comes vicious crunch, more black metal-style guitars, and the final threads slowly falling to the ground. Closer “My Love for the Stars (Cthulu Fhtagn)” is a fittingly odd ending, with acoustic guitars, clean singing, and echoey, ghostly apparitions. Pianos drip in, smearing the lights, while wordless calls spread, organs give a gothic glow, and the track ends suddenly, almost as if swallowed whole by a great monster.

I was predisposed to pay attention to the Great Old Ones when I first learned of them several years back based simply on my adoration of Lovecraft tales, and it was a huge plus when it turned out their music is destructive and massive. “EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy” keeps the screws turning and continues to expose the late author’s horrific work in their twisted and cataclysmic music. The Great Old Ones are an entity that exists in a strange place where few others inhabit, and they’re the unquestioned rulers of that realm of existence.

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

To buy the album, go here (North American store): 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/

German black metal institution Horn fires back with compelling new adventure ‘Turm am Hang’

hornArtists that can make music feel like it jettisoned through a time warp and ended up in the modern era always intrigue me. Being able to capture an essence from a time that’s gone on and translating it into sound can’t be easy, but those who can pull it off (I’m thinking a band such as Obsequiae) tend to be really special ones.

Long-running German black metal project Horn is another of those acts, and over the course of 15 years, the band led by sole member Nerrath (Cross Vault, Shrine, Latitude Egress) has dug back into history and lore and come up with another compelling slab called “Turm am Hang,” the seventh record from this band overall. Focusing on myriad topics such as 17th century German folk song “Es ist ein Schnitter” (a poem that addresses the Reaper); lansquenets (15th and 16th century colorful German mercenary soldiers); wars of the past; tribalism; and the spirit of masculinity, and all that bleeds through on these eight cuts (well, nine, but one is a cover). Perhaps that’s part of what makes this music feel like it comes from another era. It doesn’t have a purposely vintage production nor does it try to seem from a bygone time. It simply achieves that time travel seamlessly and makes these songs interesting and exciting.

horn-coverThis new Horn album, the first since 2015’s killer “Feldpost,” is heavy, raucous, and melodic. In fact, it does sound a lot like “Feldpost,” or at least where Nerrath was coming from at that time, and it’s such a great, spirited listen. The album itself is such a mighty release that it is taking two labels—Northern Silence and Iron Bonehead—to give it the proper treatment it deserves. It’s destructive and spirited, a great slab of heavy metal and blackened drama that continues to unload with power that could help remind you why you fell in love with this style of music to begin with.

“Alles in einem Schnitt” starts the album with strings striking and the song blasting forward. Melodic guitar work and an undeniable catchiness sweeps over, while harsh barks mix with clean singing (something that repeats often on this album) and takes the song to its end. The title cut has a Primordial vibe at the start, with cleaner guitars sounding majestic and gigantic. The song breaks open, with grisly growls and bellowing singing (especially on the chorus), as the guitars get ready for another attack. A rousing singalong section breaks out, and that energy stands until the song fades away. “Verhallend in Landstrichen” begins with doom horns that sound like they came from an old black-and-white film, and then it’s into a rushing dose of punishment. Strong growls combine with thunder-and-lightning riffs, rolling heavily over everything and capturing whatever’s in its wake. The song rounds out with militaristic drumming and a strong sense of adventure. “Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz” is clean and murky to start, with strong calls of “oh-oh!” and waves of energy pushing. The music, like most of the record, is heavy and catchy before things end abruptly.

“Ä(h)renschnitter” unleashes dirty guitars and gravelly singing, as the pace ruptures and makes the earth quake, and the song suddenly hits the gas pedal. That bursts through the gates and sprays shrapnel, while the chorus feels rowdy as hell and the guitars raise their swords. “Totenräumer” erupts right away though it teases to go serene just moments into the track. Bells start to ring, seemingly signaling a battle will start, while unmistakable energy bleeds through, and fiery riffs lead the song to a smashing end. “Lanz und Spieß” is a quick interlude, with strange, psychedelic-filled guitars drizzling strange colors, and then it’s onto “Bastion, im Seegang Tauber Fels” and its classic metal start. The growls are gruff, and the lead guitars stoke the fires, carrying the song onto its boisterous assault. There’s a great sense of a journey with this one, as it should excite you and possibly want to follow along the same muddy path behind it. The album ends with a cover of When Bitter Spring Sleeps’ “The Sky Has Not Always Been This Way,” the only song sung in English, and a really cool take on the track from 2013’s “Coven of the Wolves.” It adds a nice touch to the back end of the record and gives you something a little different from what burned you over the first eight songs.

Horn’s accomplishments the past decade and a half are to be celebrated, and “Turm am Hang” is another spectacular chapter for Nerrath and his dusty storybook creations. The music is powerful and catchy, and it might have you going back into history to learn more about what’s going on here. If you’re just here for the music, then you’ll get a heaping serving of metal full of Medieval power and glory, with you practically feeling the foot soldiers approaching and taking aim at you.

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

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

Or here: http://shop.northern-silence.de/

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

And here: http://www.northern-silence.de/

Grand Rapids trio Dakhma bring black metal fury, crusty chaos on earthquaking LP ‘Suna Kulto’

dakhmaSurely, we’re all inundated with new bands every year, and it’s really hard to keep up with everything that’s going on out there. It’s even tougher from a writing standpoint to take note of it all and find really good music to feature that won’t be here today and gone tomorrow. But sometimes you know just from hearing the band’s music for the first time that something special is going on, and it’s worth paying attention to where things are headed.

It’s not like Dakhma is a brand-new band. The Grand Rapids-based trio have been grinding faces off for a least a few years now (their self-titled first EP was released in 2014), though their path has mostly been on the underground/DIY trajectory for the bulk of their run. The band—vocalist Claire, guitarist Derek, drummer Dylan—powers through mostly with a sooty black metal assault but also works in elements of hardcore, punk, and crust. They obviously got the attention of Halo of Flies, who are reissuing their 2016 effort “Suna Kulto” on vinyl, and damn it if it doesn’t deserve it. The collection is two massive tracks of chaos that stretch over 40 minutes, and while these epics do require your commitment in order to fully engage, what you get in return is more than worth the energy you spend. Plus, the music is a splattering blast of chaos that will topple your world and leave you heaving in a pit of dust. Trust me, it’s actually a good thing.

dakhma-cover“Coins” is the first cut, starting clean and calm but, before long, tearing open fully. There is a crazed passion in Claire’s screams, while the melodies are thick and charred, and the energy cascades over everything. There is so much energy and emotion—I can’t stress that enough, and it’s present in both cuts—while the band keeps destroying you and rolling out your bones. About halfway through the 20:37 cut, the path changes slightly, as the surge pulls back. But Claire disrupts any serenity simply by opening her mouth and unleashing her dragon cry, and from there, the band blazes forward fully. Great riffs roll down as the song lights up and pummels you. There’s a brief halt for clean trickling, but then the heart is ripped out again, blood splatters the floor, and the track ends in a storm of ferocity.

“East” is just a bit shorter at 19:27, and the band eases you into the song, with clean playing guiding you on your way. Then, an earth-tearing eruption arrives, as the guitar work sends compelling melodies flowing, and the spiraling playing can help hypnotize you. The drums crash even harder, as the band achieves raucous fury, and a short stretch of slower playing dives in, with some less-harsh calls entering the mix. Again, the song completely explodes, with screams that could peel the flesh from your face and the melodies pushing into a tornadic loop that eventually chews away and brings bruising. A slight pullback occurs, with warbled speaking swimming amid the floating shrapnel, and from there, the band brings one last assault, with your nervous system imploding from within, and the smothering sounds sizzling out, leaving a skeletal path of fire on the ground behind it.

Dakhma hopefully will reach more people now with Halo of Flies behind “Suna Kulto,” as their power and fury are tangible and can power your heart. Every moment of this effort ripples with chaos and blinding power, and I can only imagine the damage this band does live. This is the first fresh band that’s truly torn our eyes open in young 2017, and this trio is worth paying attention to as they blaze their trail into the future.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo97-dakhma-suna-kulto-lp/

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

Germany’s the Ruins of Beverast take strange, hypnotic turn on mesmerizing EP ‘Takitum Tootem!’

the-ruins-of-beverastWe all have those bands we like enough to do a pilgrimage to see live. In Pittsburgh, we get a lot of good shows, but many metal bands from overseas don’t always come here, preferring to hit bigger towns on their tours (which I get), so often we have to drive some miles to see these groups, which can be a fun and fulfilling experience.

Luckily, we’re close enough to Baltimore, so Maryland Deathfest is a destination we make just about every year. A few years ago, it was a necessary stop as the German black metal/doom warriors The Ruins of Beverast were making an appearance, and what were the chances of seeing them in my backyard? Actually, we came close last year, but their local date was canceled, as was their entire tour. But that MDF sojourn was so worth it, as they were a standout band, and were just unreal to witness. I already was a massive fan of the band, and they were touring on their great last record “Blood Vaults—The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer.” They were a nightmare even draped in midday sunlight, and each wave of terror lapped over the one before it, leaving the crowd in murk.

trob-takitum_tootem_van198The band is back now with one of their strangest releases yet, and that’s saying something for a group that often pushes boundaries. “Takitum Tootem!” is a two-track EP that has some of The Ruins of Beverast’s most intriguing music. One track is the first of a two-part series lamenting the downfall of humankind’s loss of the crown of creation, with the second part set to be delivered later this year. It adds a whole new perspective to the band’s DNA, and it will be intriguing to see if that spreads to their future music as well. If so, we’re in for one hell of a weird adventure. The other track is a warped-as-fuck cover of a classic that’s been done before by other metal bands, but not even close to how Ruins do it.

The title cut opens, that being the first part of a bipartite meditation that begins with woodwinds, warped chants, and a strange essence spreading itself. Guitars kick up and create a strange noise halo, while washed-out growls crawl inside of you and light fires. A strange robotic voice begins to sprawl, adding some weirdness, and then the music temporarily fades before tribal drumming begins to bubble, and a grinding pace takes over. Hypnotic tones and alien voices take over, as the music spirals, sending you into a trace, and then things slowly fade, with a sting of sound hanging in the air. The final track is a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which is one of the oddest but most enthralling takes on the classic cut ever. It maintains the same mentality as “Takitum” by feeling like a spiritual expanse that literally takes you on that trip into the star. Strange vocal effects, synth that swims in and brings with it the cosmos, and mesmerizing drums highlight this piece, giving a dose of psychedelic oddity even its initial creator likely could not imagine. The song then bleeds out with the same types of chants that opened the title cut.

The Ruins of Beverast remain operating on a level most bands only could dream of attaining, and the weird “Takitum Tootem!” keeps their creative energies alive. I’m really intrigued to hear how part two is going to sound, which probably will be something I can’t even dream as I write this. Whether this is a brief stopover in a different world, or if this is how Ruins will operate going forward, these two songs are enough to keep our interest high and bubbling over.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Ruins-Of-Beverast-116265971848680/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.van-records.de/product_info.php?products_id=3048

For more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/

PICK OF THE WEEK: The Flight of Sleipnir infuse dream-swelled atmosphere on riveting ‘Skadi’

tfos2016Bands come along now and then that I can’t believe more people aren’t into. Not that people aren’t necessarily sweet on said music, but these bands don’t carry with them the ridiculous word of mouth than can turn a group from nobody to the greatest thing on the planet in 24 hours.

For all their time as a band, The Flight of Sleipnir never have been a recipient of a massive furor pushing people to their records. That’s a shame, because for the past decade and over the course of six records, the Colorado-based band have done nothing but turn out good music. Their mix of doom, psychedelics, and black metal are blended so well, and with their unique personality, I find the band ridiculously listenable. Their latest album, the rushing “Skadi,” is another heavy dose of Norse-inspired lore (after all, the record is named after a Norse goddess and hunter who lives in the mountains where snow never ends, and she adorns the cover) and stirring music that not only should please those who have been along for this band’s raucous ride, but it should turn on newcomers who are down with groups such as Panopticon, Enslaved, Agalloch, Obsequiae, and others. FoS do not sound like those bands, but they operate in a similar headspace. So, there’s a good chance there will be serious crossover appeal. Or shit, just listen to the Flight of Sleipnir because they’re an awesome band that keeps getting better with the ages.

cover_1500_rgbThe Flight of Sleipnir started off as a duo and remained that way until just last year. David Csicsely (drums, vocals, guitars) and Clayton Cushman (guitars, vocals, bass, and keyboard) have been the driving force of the band for their entire run, but in 2016 Justin Siegler joined up on guitar, and David Borrusch took over bass duties. Both members have played as part of the live ensemble in the past, but now they’re a part of the solidified group. The band’s first full-length arrived just two years after they formed, with “Algiz + Berkanan” landing in 2009, and they’ve come back pretty regularly since then, with their last one, “V.,” coming three years ago on Napalm. They’ve moved to the steady Eisenwald for “Skadi,” a record as strong as anything in their catalog.

The adventure starts with 10:29 “Awaken” that opens slowly and immediately immerses itself in coldness. Moody guitars slide as shadows are cast over the land, and then spacious screams stretch while a strong, epic tempo unfurls. Clean, dream-inducing singing rushes in as the lead guitar work bathes in gaze, cosmic keys rise, and the song slowly fades away. “Tenebrous Haze” gets chunky right away with a static-filled bassline, doomy riffs, and harsh growls. The song has a sense of atmosphere, but it’s also heavy as hell, as grisly and melodic elements combine and swell before the band breaks down the song and thrashes away. Acoustics take over as spirited singing joins, and glorious guitars bubble up and soar, bringing the song to a riveting finish.

“Earthen Shroud” is dusty and folk-led at the start, with harmonized singing adding unexpected textures, and spacey, chilled playing raising goosebumps. Keys create a blur, while sounds whir in a halo around your head, and the guitars begin to heat up and thaw the ice. Harsh cries tear apart the serenity, but it’s only for a moment, and heartfelt singing returns, as guitars kick up to add a rushing sense to the final minutes. “Voices” is a dreamy instrumental with acoustic splashes, moody and haunting passages, and strings quivering, driving into your senses and preparing you for the 11:20 title track finale. There are taps and cymbal smashes that raise the curtain, while riffs begin to ramble, and the growled vocals wrench your muscles. There is a great deal of pounding balanced by another dose of harmonized singing, and then the guitar soloing takes on a classy, jazzy edge, not unlike Opeth’s earlier days. Harsh shrieks pierce the serenity, while the band trudges heavily, and a numb psychedelic wash works its way over you and takes you off to deep slumber full of vivid journeys.

If the metal gods, if those even exist, are just, the Flight of Sleipnir will find a healthy new audience with “Skadi.” The record is a fine rush of emotion, the metallic version of riding aboard Odin’s eight-legged steed into the sky. This is a band that’s operated under the radar for far too long, and this record is strong enough for them to capture as many hearts and minds as they so desire.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://records.eisenton.de/merch

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