Fellwarden’s black metal pays homage to Northern England on rousing debut ‘Oathbearer’

Paying attention to world politics, especially what’s going on here in America, can be a little bit hard on the nerves, especially the ones in the stomach. But I’ll try to put a bit of a positive spin on that. We are seeing people who love their countries vociferously trying to put forth ideas they think will make their country better because they love their homeland. The non-racists, that is.

The inspiration behind “Oathbearer,” the debut record from English black metal band Fellwarden, pays homage to the history of Northern England and the stories and struggles that built that region. Put together by two members of the great Fen, The Watcher (vocals, all stringed instruments, keys) and Havenless (drums), the duo weaves music not terribly different from their primary project but pointed toward different philosophical content. The music is just enrapturing, swelling all around you and even lifting your spirits. The music and the band’s ideas might be welled in blood and strife from over the years, but there’s also an admiration for the land and their surroundings. Hell, the promo shots that come with the album’s data files contain no images of the band members but plenty of the land’s terrain. It’s a record made for their nation. Not one blind with patriotism thus closing their focus to the warts. But one that swells with pride despite all of that for a land still standing.

“Guardian Unbound” is the 8:22 opener that starts lush and even a little gothic before the track bursts to life. The tempo starts crushing, as synth rains down, and a foggy serving of black metal comes into focus. The leads bleed with color as the melodies spiral, and synth spills right into the engorged growls. The final minutes are gazey, with heartful singing adding more texture. “Sun of Ending” maintains its ambiance through the bulk of the song, as it slowly surges at the start before ripping apart. Fiery growls hammer, as harshness and spellbinding playing combine and take the song to its foggy end. “In Death, Valiant” starts in an acoustic bed, as clean singing pierces the calm, and the song heads into a slow-driving, thorny pace. The song starts storming harder, as folk-laden strings head into the mix, rousing singing returns, and savagery and drama splatter over the conclusion.

“Wayfarer Eternal” is the second-longest song on the record at 10:14, and it starts in a synth haze that spreads into a trudging pace that breaks bones. A cleanly sung section spreads its wings, while sounds lather, and beauty and chaos meld and exist as one. Clean guitars give way to a slowly grinding pressure, while vicious vocals emerge, singing spills onto the madness, and the track floods at the end. “A Cairn-Keeper’s Lament” is the shortest track, a 4:52 instrumental built by rustic acoustics, bleeding synth, and a moody, misty finish. Closer “Sorrowborn” is the longest cut at 12:44, bursting open with vocals scraping along and synth creating more steam. The Watcher sorrowfully calls, “I am the last of my line,” as the guitars cascade and the momentum builds. The track continues doling out punishment, while the drumming decimates and a choral section rises. The fury halts, keys bubble up again and reflective guitars make the final stand before trickling away.

Fellwarden’s music does their homeland well, and there are ways that anyone living anywhere can take parts of “Oathbearer” and apply to their own surroundings. There’s no saying where this project will go from here, with Fen being such a huge part of their lives. But having this fine record in our hands is a treasure and one that should have a big impact on anyone immersed in atmospheric black metal.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.eisenton.de/en/

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

Death metal maulers Necrot dig back into gory violence, filth on mauling debut ‘Blood Offerings’

Photo by Peyote Gutierrez

Death metal should appeal to the most animalistic, primal inhibitions, and so when the music is done raw and violently, it always works the best. Nothing necessarily against bands that have added tons of melody and spit shine to their work over the years, but the artists that remain scraping filth from the gutters are the ones that end up being the most satisfying.

That takes us to Oakland death trio Necrot, who finally are delivering their debut full-length “Blood Offerings” after six years together as a band. This unit revels in pure death metal, staying true to the sub-genre’s roots, and wringing every ounce of blood from them. Their approach is riff-filled and guttural, and it’s easy to tell from these eight songs how much the band has improved their game when compared to their three demo offerings. Not that those were bad recordings, because they definitely were not. But “Blood Offerings” is the band at its most channeled and violent, delivering fodder for your darkest inhibitions. The band—guitarist/bassist/vocalist Luca Indrio (Acephalix, Vastum), guitarist Sonny Reinhardt (Saviours, Watch Them Die), drummer Chad Gailey (Atrament, Disinhibition)—pulls together their wealth of experience making devastating noises elsewhere and delivers a death metal serving complete with danger and devastation.

“The Blade” gets things going with a blast of putrid death and nasty growls from Indrio that pace this horrifying machine. Vicious pounding and stellar riffs mix, as the shout of, “Chaos in my mind!” delivers madness that is ushered out by a blazing solo. “Rather Be Dead” is thrashy and punishing, with raspy growls firing, and the band unleashing a devastating assault. The track packs as much pain as possible into its DNA before spiraling out ferociously at the end. “Shadows & Light” has guitars dominating and the vocals thundering, as the pace chugs forward, paced by drums that sound like they’re bringing war. Vicious growls and a clobbering pace bubble up, with Indrio wailing, “We are dead!” The title track is built on savage howls, trudging riffs, and the vocals just battering everything. Midway through, the pace shifts suddenly, with hazy soloing crying, and siren-like guitar work lighting up the back end.

“Empty Hands” is fiery and destructive right from the start, as the pace could break necks, and riffs scorch over the chorus. The leads charge hard, smearing and suffocating until the song reaches its end. “Beneath” is oppressively heavy, with the growls sounding grim and the pace flattening. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Indrio howls, as the final minute of the song slows, but never gives up an ounce of its heaviness. “Breathing Machine” is chaotic and wild, with noxious growls pelting with such lovely sentiments as, “You must die!” Riffs spiral as the pace steamrolls into the mouth of fire. Closer “Layers of Darkness” hints that your mercy is near, but not until you face this bastard. Killer riffing and throaty growls amplify the viciousness, while the simple, but effective, chorus jabs like a dagger. The guitar work has a classic death fluidity to them, while the song keeps the blazes going wildly until the track fades.

“Blood Offerings” is a record pure death metal fans are going to devour, and Necrot have made the most of the time they poured into these songs. The band is known to slay live, and once they show up with these crushers, no one’s neck or fists at their shows may ever be the same again. This is an awesome first step for a band that’s ensuring death metal remains ugly and violent forever.

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

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

Or here: https://sentientruin.bandcamp.com/merch

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

And here: http://sentientruin.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Völur switch focus to masculine characters on second journey ‘Ancestors’

Storytelling through music and words can transform an album experience from a collection of songs to a narrative you must follow from front to back. Even if the piece is not a true linear concept record, loosely aligned songs can take a listener from the front door, through each tale housed within the album’s doors, and back out again, as you leave with an adventure in your back pocket.

Toronto-based doom band Völur have a nice grip on this very thing, as they’ve reached back into the Germanic spiritual world and created opuses that visit stories from the past that jettison to the modern era. Their excellent second record “Ancestors,” the follow-up to their debut “Disir,” is the latest helping of what they view as a four-album piece spotlighting their source material muse. However, where “Disir” focused on female characters—mothers, daughters, lovers, murderers, widows, and explorers—these four new tracks center on their male counterparts. As for the music, yes, it’s steeped in doom, but it also lends itself to prog, black metal, and even English-style folk rock that adds a nice rustic texture to the music. Fans of bands such as SubRosa and Giant Squid could find a lot to like here, and the band—bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke (Blood Ceremony), violinist/vocalist Laura C. Bates (Fresh Snow), and drummer James Payment (Do Make Say Think)—puts on a compelling, riveting performance over these four, involved epics.

“Breaker of Silence” is the 15:07-long opener that comes in with chimes and choral calls. A long mystical section is broken up by bass poking in, female-driven wordless calls, and haunting strings sweeping into the scene. As it goes on, the pace lights up, the song gets noisier, and a chamber-style fury is roused, as wild howls send power. From there, the strings quake, and melodies swell taking the song to its end. “Breaker of Skulls” is punchy and doom-infested, with hypnotic playing, gurgly growls, and a dark, thorny ambiance. The track settles into psyche waters, letting your mind wander and examine the terrain, while the strings stir and glide, and guitars go from a buzz to a glimmer. Harsh growls and gut-wrenching cries meet, while the song slowly burns away.

“Breaker of Oaths” is lush and delicate at the start, with whispers swirling and a dreamy fog settling in. But then the peace is ruptured, and the song tears itself apart. Soulful singing hits hard and deep, while the strings swelter amid the song’s deliberate pace. As things start to even out, wordless calling emerges and shakes your insides, while lurching growls and all elements begin blazing to provide a crunchy, sooty end. Closer “Breaker of Famine” is the longest song at 16:57, but also the most sonically varied. Morose strings start the cut on its path, while the drama builds delicately and slowly, finally erupting with massive howls and our first real dose of speed. The track absolutely crushes, with strains of black metal woven in for good measure, but then the temperature get proggy and soaks in folk marshes. Strong singing and a collaborative jarring of the senses make the section feel like a darker Decemberists, while the album’s emotional high point crescendos, and thick, weepy strings lead the song to its finish.

Two records in, Völur already are proving to be one of metal’s more interesting bands, one that finds its own ways and bends sound to suit their needs. “Ancestors” is a massive record, one that is most effective when it is consumed front to back in a single sitting. You’ll run the gamut of emotions and styles, and when the music is over, you’ll probably be heaving on the edge of your seat, waiting to see where this band goes with their next adventure.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/pre-order-bundles/

For more on the label, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/

Nightmare noisemakers Endon return with added madness on terrifying ‘Through the Mirror’

Music generally is designed to make you feel something, be that anger or joy or sadness or any number of emotions. Unless we’re talking about pop country. I don’t think you’re supposed to feel anything when that stuff is on. Oh, but back to real music. Let’s also not forget discomfort and outright fear, where only the best can truly conjure in one’s soul.

Japanese noise nightmares Endon could scar a child for life. They might even have the same effect on an adult. The band’s self-coined “catastrophic noise-metal” easily could eat away at your mind or even your patience. Over the course of their time together, they have made some of the most uncomfortable, inhumane sounds known to humankind, and they’ve returned with “Through the Mirror,” a record that won’t be easy for anyone to digest, no matter how amendable your psyche is to this kind of sound. The band—Etsuo Nagura, Koki Miyabe, Shin Yokota, Taichi Nagura, Taro Aiko—made their mark with unreal 2014 debut “Mama,” and their terrifying live shows (including Taichi scaring the living shit out of audience members) became something to behold. On this new record, we get eight cuts that are grimy, bizarre, abrasive, and psychologically scarring. It also should be noted this record is being released by Hydra Head, the legendary, recently reactivated label whose first fresh release back was the insane new Oxbow album. Pretty damn great 1-2 punch.

The record begins with “Nerve Rain,” a hazy, disorienting track where fuzz and sound blitz the entire time. The pace and the buried melody change here and there, but for the most part, it’s an all-out assault on the senses that feels like you’re stuck in the middle on an old television that constantly broadcasts snow. “Your Ghost Is Dead” really picks up on the nerve-gnawing end of things. The track rumbles open, while Taichi crazily wails and sometimes inconsolably whimpers through the chaos. There are sections that feel like damaged hardcore, as the pained wails shower the ground, while everything keeps piling up, leading to a teeth-grinding finish. “Born in Limbo” has an industrial storm ripping apart, while whispers turn into frenzied shrieks and, later, unnerving laughter. Heavy breathing and noise-drenched fury sprawls, while some classic-style guitar work blazes and adds a different element. “Pensum” splits your head open, as savage growls and bloody shrieks combine, and complete sonic overload takes place, pushing you face-first into a panic attack.

“Postsex” has sounds hanging in the air, when suddenly, the track launches into cartoon-style violence. Gruff growls and a drubbing pace do their damage, while the back end of the song deals some sludge, with noise spitting as the cut’s conclusion. “Perversion Til Death” is a 10:04 physical and mental challenge, dragging you through weird, dizzying playing, an ample serving of vocals styles, from screams to howls, and a doom-infested mud that serves most of the bodily harm. The track crawls and hulks along, instilling fear into every cell, and pushing your prone body toward utter decimation. The title track unloads feedback, but then a proggy display that feels out of sorts. Melodies bubble up and threaten to burst, while the scraping noise pounds away, space keys blare, and screams and hyperventilation-style gasps meet up with warped passages. Closer “Torch Your House” actually has a chilling start before the blaze is set. An outright assault paces most of this 8:52 run time. The cut also is flooded with emotions—name one, and you’ll find it here—while later, the music goes into a dream state, numbing your body with cool breeze. But that’s not for long as the tempo ignites again, and the band finishes off this display with scorching thrashing that powders any bones it left unbroken.

“Through the Mirror” is a complete nightmare of a record, which really should be expected from Endon. There are very few musicians who can get under your skin and scrape out your blood quite the way they do, and anyone not expecting such carnage is bound to be left a heaping, heaving mess. You’ve been warned, so when this record turns your stomach and your sanity, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://hydrahead.merchtable.com

Or here (Europe): http://eu.kingsroadmerch.com/hydra-head-records/

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

Wode’s death metal assault hits bloody new heights on violent second album ‘…Countercosmos’

The other night, I went to see some friends’ band play live, and about halfway through their set, I was super excited over how much they’ve progressed over the past year or so. That’s the goal, right? To get better and continue to smooth the rough edges. I know it’s not kvlt tr00 to be happy when a band keeps working on their craft and sounding better by the day, but it’s actually pretty exciting.

That brings me to “Servants of the Countercosmos,” the second record from UK death unit Wode, and one I was really surprised to see so soon considering their self-titled debut just landed in our laps 13 months ago. But here it is, a new slab of six songs that show such ridiculous improvement in the band, it’s scary. Let me be clear, though: Their debut was an awesome record. It’s still in regular rotation in the MMM offices (you know, my tiny office filled with toys), so having a new serving made me happy before I even heard it. Then I unleashed this beast and was blown the fuck away. The level of play, the savagery, and the songwriting are huge steps up, and this could signal that these guys are ready to take the death metal underground throne sooner rather than later. The band—guitarist/vocalist M.C., guitarist K.S., bassist E.T., drummer T.H.—are channeled and furious on this record, with sharper teeth and an even greater thirst for blood than before.

“Crypt of Creation” gets things going with noise sweltering before guitars begin to chime, and a steady, fluid stream of death metal fury comes barreling through. Raspy growls mix with powerful melodies, while the guitars chug away hard, and a dose of speed crushes everything. The track hits the gas pedal again, as the track goes out in a crushing fit. “Celestial Dagger” has noise rushing in and a sludgy melody that thickens the pot. The riffs then kick into as rock-n-roll high gear, putting them in Entombed territory, and then the intensity gets nastier and bloodier. The track then erupts and begins to rip worlds apart, while the pace charges, the vocals gurgle, and everything comes to a smothering end. “Temple Internment” has a thrashy riffs that just devastates, while animalistic growls and an obliterating tempo begin to take care of business. Insane riffs arrive, while the blood starts to boil, and the track comes to a savage finish.

The title track just goes off, with the vocals unfurling and the bass massively rollicking beneath the chaos. “The sands of time shifting,” is wailed while the guitars rule and the track dissolves into a hammering assault. “Chaosspell” is the longest track at 9:14, dizzying at the beginning before melting into a strange liquid and flowing over the body of the song. The song feels like a heavy thunderstorm, as muscular melodies work into the mix, ruling until the body goes cold. The pace rains down hammers, chewing the muscle of everything in its wake, and as the song goes on, it just keeps getting more insane. In a great way. The soloing is furious and incredibly engaging, while the vocals charge back in and leave welts, with the song going from an insane assault into a lovely, unnerving wave of acoustics that move into the final song, the instrumental “Undoing.” This final 2:09 piece is the comedown, the music you’d hear while lying wounded, watching the land burn away, knowing there is no way you can battle any longer but are still conscious enough the absorb the pain.

Wode’s path to death metal greatness is well under way, and “Servants of the Countercosmos” is an impressive step toward their quest for domination. The punishment and fire on this record are overwhelming, and the journey that is this record is devastating, but also captivating. We’re witnessing a future death metal giant grow before our eyes and ears, and before long, they might be the masters.

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

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

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

Time Lurker’s atmospheric first record takes journey through humankind’s anxieties and pain

The self-titled debut record from French one-man black metal band Time Lurker could be a tale about any one of us. Also, could I pour more descriptors into that opening sentence? Anyway, having a universal theme for your music is good, especially if you want people to connect, and what Time Lurker has going on is an adventure we all are on.

From the start, Time Lurker creator Mick has viewed this project as one that examines the human journey for meaning, battling one’s demons along the way, as well as anxieties and fears. That’s a pretty simplistic way of explaining the story, but digging into the man’s music helps flesh out the concept. His atmospheric blend of black metal could have you reaching into the stars wondering if some of your own life’s fibers could be floating somewhere for you to collect. The music is undoubtedly heavy and emotional, and even if the words don’t resonate, the music surely will. These seven cuts that stretch over 47:37 envelop you from the opening moments, help you experience and process Mick’s transformation, and spits you back out with, hopefully, a little more meaning for yourself.

Opener “Rupture” is the longest cut at 11:27, and it lets space chaos woosh in through the door for instant infection. Guitars trickle before the whole thing bursts, as vicious growls and a storming pace push through. The growls continue to be savage, as a gazey wind builds behind everything before the thing goes cold. Out of that, the intensity returns, shrieks rain down, and the noise bleeds away. “Judgment” greets with sheets of feedback as harsh howls rip a hole in any sense of calm, and the gurgling growls sound like strangulation. Melody wells and overwhelms, while the pace catches fire, wild shrieks punish, and the power peaks before giving way. “Ethereal Hands” burns as it starts, with terrifying cries, incoherent wails, and melodies crashing down hard. More gazey power emerges, while a dark, thunderous assault hits the ground and devastates. Wild cries land, as does the sense of morbid anxiety that blackens this and leaves a choke of ash.

“Reborn” is a quicker song, mostly an instrumental cut that has noise hanging in the air, guitars giving off steam, and a weird synth glow that makes the thing feel like an alien transmission. That flows into “No Way Out From Mankind” that’s a crusher right away. Crazed growls and blinding playing totally overwhelm, while the darkness and heaviness begin to feel intrusive. The playing is dense and noise-infested, while the final moments are pulled together by a strong guitar attack. “Passage” is almost literally that, an interlude-style song with space zaps, clean guitars, and wordless cries comprising the body. This dose of eeriness sets the path toward finale “Whispering From Space,” an 8:36 track that feels like it’s doing exactly that. Sounds rumble before the song erupts, as fiery screams and a dangerous pace deliver the punishment. The melodies cascade over monstrous howls, while a scary bit of noise and threatening strings stare you down. Finally, the chaos bubbles over, as massive shrieks and the final bits of noise spit fire and finally subside.

Time Lurker’s debut is an impressive piece, a record that forces you to confront things that might be a little uncomfortable but should help you gain a little more meaning. This is a record that should find favor among those whose playlists contain nothing but spacious black metal and fit in nicely. It also will be interesting to hear where Mick takes this project from here and what focus that brings him.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.lesacteursdelombre.net/productions/v2/shop-3/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.lesacteursdelombre.net/productions/v2/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Suffering Hour make death, black metal fit their mission on ‘In Passing Ascension’

It’s been exciting hearing bands take death and black metal and push it beyond earthly boundaries. It’s always great when music stays traditional, and we love a ton of groups that do that. But injecting some imagination and otherworldly terror into the music can make it something with no limits that could take any form imaginable.

Another band going that strange route in Minneapolis-based trio Suffering Hour, whose excellent debut record “In Passing Ascension” is headed your way via the always reliable Blood Harvest. Their style isn’t just there to scramble your brains and dump them on a hot pan. Their music is brutal and fluid, very strong pieces that have a certain flight pattern but always find time to spiral and spin through corners you never expect. The eight songs found on this record are steeped in classic death, for sure, but they are anything but formulaic and predictable. The guitar work can send your mind into a vortex, while the vocals are smothering and alien, chewing away at your nerve endings while brutalizing your hearing. The band—bassist/vocalist DgS (also of Pestifere), guitarist/vocalist YhA, and drummer/vocalist IsN— that formerly was known as Compassion Die is a hammering unit, and over and over on this smothering album they crush you with their power.

“Insufferable Scorn” is an introduction of sorts, as weirdness and doom settle in, grim growls scrape, and the sense of spacey light headedness take us into “For the Putridity of Man” that rips open and boils like mad from the start. Gurgly growls spill, while the riffs begin stabbing with fiery blades. The guitars lean into psychedelics, while the bulk of the song swims in chaos before an unforgivingly crushing end. “Devouring Shapeless Void” is speedy and weird, with crazed, maniacal shouts jarring all your anxiety triggers and the playing just going off. Prog trudging and black metal majesty then meet as the cut blazes to an end. “The Abrasive Black Dust” simmers in noise before the guitars start to slur, and the cosmos rips into the room. The cut lurches and goes hypnotic, while a nightmarish dialogue sprawls over top, and the first growls strike toward the end of the song. From there, the riffs get unhinged, and the final moments dissolve into fog.

“Withering Microcosmos” has strange guitars and another dose of space prog, while the bulk of this instrumental cut soaks in atmosphere before trickling into “Through the Vessels of Arcane Power” and its unfurling eeriness. The guitars bubble while the pace tramples, and the growls go from blood curdling to manic yelps. The pace speeds up, while the music grinds away, and the last stretch is made up of authoritative riffs and blood-poisoning howls. “Procession to Obscure Infinity” is the longest cut at 8:45, and it has guitars scorching right away as the music prepares to open itself fully. From there, things get monstrous, with mystical slashing, animalistic shouts, and dizzying guitars rolling in and causing confusion. From there, the riffs blaze with melody, and a deathly march takes us to the gates. Closer “Empty Avowls” smashes from the word go, as the guitars swelter, and vicious growls carve a pathway to your central nervous system. Ridiculous riffs well up into dissonance, while a tech-minded serving of prog and spiraling guitars make the world around you spin and your path to the stars end abruptly.

Suffering Hour show both a ton of promise and muscular poise on “In Passing Ascension,” as impressive a debut record as we’ve heard this year. The band already has a firm grip on what they do well, and their prowess hints at even greater heights that can be achieved in the future. This is a record that proves death metal is in good hands as long as creative people with no intention on settling carry the genre on their broad, able shoulders.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.bloodharvest.se/

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


Icelandic chameleons Solstafir push deeper into psyche skies on dreamy new opus ‘Berdreyminn’

Photo by Steinunn Lilja Draumland

Progression for a band can be good and bad, depending on where the music lands and if people accept what you’ve done. Ulver is practically unrecognizable musically from their original form, though many have embraced their radical turns away from their roots. Whereas, say, Mastodon doesn’t resemble their earlier records, and though they gained massive popularity, many of the people who were there for the start have been turned off by their musical journey.

Icelandic band Solstafir largely are travelling the Ulver route. While their initial sound soaked deeply in black metal and Viking waters, they’ve progressed into something altogether different over the years.  If you wanted to argue Solstafir aren’t exactly a metal band anymore, I wouldn’t challenge you. They might not either as the group—Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (guitar, vocals), Svavar Austmann (bass), Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson (guitar), Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson (drums, backing vocals)—let that ship sail long ago as they moved more into atmospheric post-rock realms, which hit its peak on 2014’s amazing “Otta.” The record got them in with a larger audience, and now with their new opus “Berdreyminn” ready to land, their expanse should only stretch further. They did hit a rough patch a couple years back with the dismissal of longtime drummer Guðmundur Óli “Gummi” Pálmason, which was a fairly controversial topic for a while. Nonetheless, the band pushed on, and what you hear is an even larger base of sound, albeit one not as immediately gripping as “Otta.”

“Silfur-Refur” begins with noises blaring and guitars dripping, as the darkness starts to spread. Finally, the song tears open and charges, with passionate singing from Tryggvason, and the soloing burning away. Things calm before another late push, before a smooth finish glides away. “Ísafold” has murky synth and burning guitars churning through their vintage tube amps. It’s such a genuine feeling coming from them, with powerful vocals, bass romping through, and an epic, foggy finish. “Hula” is the first of a run of songs that topple seven minutes, a streak that goes through to the end of the album. The music buzzes into a psyche dream land, as keys drizzle over the singing, and an orchestral section meets up with pianos and hearty vocals, with everything fades into the horizon. “Nárós” has head-swimming guitars, with the singing pulled back, and the music glimmering. Later, the band kicks into high gear out of a haze, while things get grittier and more muscular, with the track having a surreal finish.

“Hvít Sæng” brings back the piano slithering, with the singing (it’s in Icelandic, so this is a guess) taking on a storyteller mode. As the track opens deeper, the melodies and intensity pick up, and a driving, spacious pace goes into swirling madness. “Dýrafjörður” starts amid thick strings, hypnotic keys, and a psychedelic thunder that brings with it an eerie nostalgia. The intensity bubbles and drives the song, while the singing enraptures, and the synth makes your head spin. “Ambátt” has disarming vocal harmonies at the start as keys plink, and a nighttime feel takes over the senses. The playing is calculated, while the bass rumbles, and a tornadic loop brings the song to an end. Closer “Bláfjall” has a heavy church organ standing tall, as everything eventually ramps up into power. There are teases of speed and heaviness, as the synth shines, the guitars chug, and some slide playing adds another level of texture. The organs spill back into the scene, as the song comes to a raucous, punishing finish.

Solstafir, amid chaos and their own creative fires, have another strong document in “Berdreyminn” that should help them build on the masses who follow them. It’s a far cry from the fire of their early days, but that’s only from a volume standpoint. They continue to draw from their hearts and ever-changing passions, which keeps paying off for this band and pushing their possibilities into the stars.

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

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

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

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

Swedish doom warriors Below smear glory and fire back into metal with ‘Upon a Pale Horse’

There was a time when a great deal of metal, no matter the style, could be described as glorious. Huge melodies, vocals scaling mountain peaks, and rushes of energy were not uncommon. That’s been tempered a great deal over the past decades with the emergence of death and black metal, as well as cynicism and ill feelings creeping their way deeper into this music.

But every now and again, you get a band such as Below that creeps into the scene and reminds that you can spread darkness but fill the body and blood with energy while doing so. The band’s excellent second record “Upon a Pale Horse” is here, and for an album that centers on the arrival of death, you’ll be hard pressed not to be blown the fuck down by the band’s enormous sound and power. This Swedish band’s epic doom should remind people of banner creators Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus, as well as contemporary groups such as Crypt Sermon. The music is heavy and bellowing, and the passionate, soaring vocal performance from Zeb stands up there as some of the finest singing heard on a heavy record so far in 2017. The rest of the band—guitarists Paud and Berg, bassist Hedman, and drummer Doc—certainly holds up their end, delivering a performance that also should ignite fires within the hearts of those who hold Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Primordial dear. It’s just a gigantic, great-sounding metal record, one that doesn’t come around nearly often enough.

“The Plague Within” is a quick, synthy dirge that acts as an introductory piece and leads to “Disappearing Into Nothing,” which starts with sludgy doom and soaring vocals. The chorus floods the senses, as over that stretch Zeb wails, “My soul, it fades away!” as if he can see death on the horizon. The playing is powerful, as it is everywhere, leaving an indelible impression. “The Coven” dips into clean playing and grittier singing, as Zeb cries, “I’m under a spell,” before the pace charges up, and the lead guitar work glows. “Give into darkness and let go,” Zeb calls, as the soloing rivets, and the track bleeds to its finish. The 9:40-long title cut is the lengthiest song on the collection and a barnburner at that. Fire crackles as Primordial’s Alan Averill delivers a stirring speech before militaristic-style drumming and powerful doom riffs push their way through. Group vocals surge over the chorus, as the arrival of death sweeps over everything. Acoustics wash in before the song heats up again, the soloing fires hard, and another huge chorus lands before the song marches away.

“Suffer in Silence” is a mirror into the pain people often feel inside without letting anyone know. Crunchy riffs and a very 1980s-style barrage of guitars sprawl forth, putting a fiery touch on this song. “End this pain, end this agony,” sweeps from Zeb’s mouth, hitting hard inside, as the track charges hard, and acoustics fade away. “Hours of Darkness” has a rich acoustic open before the driving pace arrives and sends this into high gear. “Mankind will suffer for our deeds,” Zeb declares, while the soloing takes over, and the emotion comes to a flood state. The final moments are slow and fiery, letting the darkness seep in and assume control. “1000 Broken Bones” begins with a strong riff and nastier vocals, with more group singing adding to the hugeness, and Zeb’s vocals coming in high as fuck. The track is dark and heavy, leading toward closer “We Are All Slaves,” the second-longest track at 8:20. Clean guitars start before the singing blasts in, unfurling with the song and telling the tale of control that’s been a sad testament of all times. “I was born to be controlled,” Zeb wails, as the slowly punching song, reigning guitars, and morose ambiance spill over and eventually fade away.

Below have the mighty Metal Blade behind them and a crushing new record in “Upon a Pale Horse” that is one of the finest things that storied label has put out (and perhaps will put out) this year. It’s a call back to metal’s glory years when the riff and the raised fist were not clichés but necessary ingredients to making a great metal record. These guys have their shit together and eight powerful cuts that should topple the world.

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

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

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

Desekryptor unleash violent death metal that goes for the jugular on ‘Chasm of Rot’ demo

There are many ways to appreciate music, whether it’s for feel, technical prowess, or something else. Point is, a lot of times it’s really something inside of us that’s triggered when we hear a new band and decide that their direction makes sense and captures our imagination. That’s a nice, flowery way to introduce a new demo from one of the nastiest budding death metal bands.

Desekryptor are a trio hailing from Indiana, and their crushing new “Chasm of Rot” nicely fills that gaping wound inside hoping for death that sounds dangerous, ugly, and not the least bit concerned with widespread acceptance. This style of music is supposed to serve a niche of folks who are equally disillusioned with the art they’re served in mainstream helpings and seek music that would scare the motherfuck out of what the masses are consuming. Desekryptor deliver that on this five-track, 18-minute display follows their “Demo 2016” that actually arrived early this year. The band—P.A. (vocals, guitars, bass), E.S. (guitars, bass), T.S. (drums)—smothers you with devastating, hellish death metal that isn’t trying to be anything other than hard-hitting, guttural, and evil. They provide that in ample portions here, and it’s the sign of a very promising band with a bloody future.

“Serpentine Scourge” starts with guitars cutting in like a chainsaw, and the guts of the thing mangled and torn apart. Gurgly growls and boiling leads increase the heat, while the final moments are utterly devastating. “Blood Tipped Scythe” is gruesome right off the bat, with the band delivering a furious beating that scoffs at any hint of mercy. The growls snarl fiercely, while the band finds a nasty death groove in which to trap you. When that hits, if you’re not inclined to throw a lamp across the room, maybe this isn’t for you? The pace is drubbing and mean, while the lead guitars kill, the growls maul, and everything is ground into dust.

The title cut is savage and filled with smoking riffs. Parts of this also soak in doom mud for a spell, while the track later tears apart and releases toxins. The music delivers a consistent flattening, while the vocals rumble in filth before the soloing takes off. The guitars only serve to aggravate the fires, while the growls become grotesque, and the final moments thrash away. “Organismacide” certainly hints hard at their lack of concern for all beings, with no one left off the list. A swirl of voices causes hypnosis, while the music lands direct punches, and the pain is meted out in calculated manner. The pace goes from hulking to obliterating, with furious growls, soloing that tears off the rails, and an ending that comes abruptly. Closer “Apocalyptic Funeral Trance” won’t have you gazing into the void as you might think. Instead, you’re treated to a thrash-fisted assault complete with lurching growls, relentless pounding, and vocals that make it sound like P.A. is drowning in his own blood.

Desekryptor make a lot of devastating headway on “Chasm of Rot,” a collection that sounds exactly like what its title promises. These three maniacs have a stranglehold over what they do well, and by sticking to this disgusting formula, it should mean a really punishing full-length effort once they get to that. Until then, if they keep the fires burning and the torture flowing, they’re going to be a band with which to reckon well into the future.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.bloodharvest.se/

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