Suicide Forest’s bruising initial two EPs get churning new life on morbid ‘Descend Into Despair’

Not every record gets its just due upon initial release. There is so much music out there, and most of it runs underneath the surface, so it’s sensible that there is music that takes some time to make its mark. With a label such as Fólkvangr churning out regular releases of some of these albums, we’re bound to have dark discoveries pretty regularly.

Often concentrating on cassette versions of albums that had first life elsewhere, Fólkvangr has a strong new effort out this month that comes at you with utter depression and darkness. Suicide Forest, named after a deep wooded place in Japan known for numerous people taking their own life within its confines, will not make you feel good inside, and that’s pretty much by design. “Descend Into Despair” is a combination of the “Indifference” and “emptiness” EPs, both released last year, and this union of those two releases is a strong, albeit furiously depressing collection that’s all from the mind of sole creator A. Kruger. The songs are dark and grainy, almost like you’re hearing this thing second hand from someone who discovered an old suicide note committed to tape. That’s not a negative at all, as the cloudy sound and far-off ambiance add to the murk and authenticity of these emotions, which are raw and bleeding.

“A Declaration of Misanthropy” starts the collection with strange, ambient noise before settling into “The Embrace of Solitude,” a 10:11 challenger that has a clean start that eventually leads to the song breaking open like an egg. “Loneliness is my god!” Kruger wails, as the song crushes before going cold. The track keeps reaching as cries wrench and bruise, and then the music reveals its guts. The feeling of desolation never subsides, while clean guitars trickle, and the track bleeds way. “This Silence” has keys that feel cold and wintry, and the pace is slow and trudging. Guitars cut through, while grim growls make things uglier, and the misery is poured like generous syrup. The song feels like it’s coming to an end, but the guitars awaken and send echoes, while the vocals quiver, and melodic riffs send us to a conclusion. “A Sobering Reflection” is a shadowy interlude built with somber keys and dark melody.

“Not For a Lack of Trying…” starts the second half with stormy keys and a strange section of melody before heading into 8:52-long “Woods of Indifference” that has a clean open before heading into strong tidal wave of emotion. The pace kicks open as the drums follow, and an onslaught of synth melody gives the song a chamber feel. From there, guitars chug while harsh growls wail, and the song catapults toward a powerful ending that could floor you. “The Pain of Existence” has a crushing start, as the growls scrape, and the synth has an alien feel. The song slowly devastates, as clean and prog-fueled sections eventually give way to an elegant gust of synth that leads to one of the most unexpected moments of any metal song. A “Rick and Morty” clip from the “Rixty Minutes” episode?! It makes sense, weirdly, and then things come to a deadly end. “Sea of Glass” finishes the record with baroque-style melodies and keys bubbling, before the song comes to an end.

The band name Suicide Forest should tell you all you need, but putting on “Descend Into Despair” should only amplify those premonitions. I am not happy A. Kruger revels in such darkness, but the music he creates from that space is entrancing and something with which I can relate. Life isn’t exactly sunshine, and a band like this not only knows that but makes you live the torment through the music.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://folkvangrrecords.bandcamp.com/album/descend-into-despair

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

False unleash ‘Hunger’ EP that dices up their black metal epics but still remains awfully scary

It’s very rare that we devote a single entry to a 7” release. Not that we don’t find them worthy (though my 7-inchers often tend to be neglected in favor of full-lengths, because I’m a terrible person), but usually we like to get a bunch of them to display for you at once. It’s more economical or something?

But most bands aren’t in the league of Minnesota-based black metal squadron False, and our affection for them probably is borderline disgusting. Oh well. Get your own site. Anyway, the band is back with their two-track “Hunger” EP that is being presented by Gilead Media on 7” vinyl and digital, and it’s a curveball for those who have followed this band over the past decade. Typically, False songs are marathons, often hitting the 12-to-15-minute mark. They never fail to present compelling scenes either, with thunder-storming playing, break-neck curves, and utterly terrifying vocals. But this time, the band decided to pull back and try their hands at shorter cuts. These two songs combined are shorter than every selection on their untitled debut record, so that’s a pretty remarkable change. It turns out the band has a stranglehold on these lengths of songs as well, as this EP is devastating and panic-inducing, just in smaller doses. They sound as bloodthirsty and powerful as ever, and they can add these cuts to their unstoppable live set in between their normally time-challenging monsters.

“Anhedonia” has a murky start, with the synth crawling over black metal tentacles, and then the punishment begins in full. Rachel’s harrowing vocals, some of the scariest in the business, begin rolling out, meandering on purpose like a sickened animal out of control. Mournful melodies sneak under the darkness, giving the music a sort of ghostly feel, but then the carnage renews. The vocals pierce the flesh, while the intensity picks up, the guitar work shreds, and the song comes to an abrupt end. The title track storms hard from the start, with glacial keys that remind of Emperor’s frigidity that spill and ice over. Rachel’s snarls gasp over the guitar work, which smothers and crushes, and the band finds a raucous energy that sends fire-spreading sparks. The assault continues to surge, while the guitars loop and strangle, the drums are set to pulverize, and the throat-gnashing vocals dig away at fresh wounds, continuing until the pain finally fades away.

False remain one of the States’ (fuck it, the world’s) best, most refreshing black metal bands, and “Hunger” adds a deadly new aspect to their game. One must wonder if their following full-lengths also will contain shorter blasts like these, or if they’ll lean back on their epic approach. Either way, their future music is bound to be as combustible and punishing as ever, and “Hunger” has added sharp new tools to their repertoire.

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Execration’s death metal explodes toward cosmos on ‘Return to the Void’

Photo by Carsten Aniksdal

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about outer space around here, which is bizarre as it’s one of our favorite subjects. A lot of metal seems to be heading in that direction as well, as bands have been making more music seemingly set in the cosmos or at least on its way there for a journey. Any time the great beyond is the subject matter, I’m more than willing to listen.

That statement is compounded when the source of such music is Nordic death metal band Execration. Already known as one of the more inventive, imagination-bound bands out there, they’ve turned their ship right to the stars on their fourth record “Return to the Void.” You don’t have to immerse yourself in these nine cuts (seven full tracks and two interludes) for long to feel your mind drifting among far-off planets and strange stars. The music the band spreads over these 42 minutes is as mentally stimulating as it is heavy, as they dash their death metal with generous portions of mind-altering prog. The band—Christian Johansen (guitar/vocals) Jørgen Maristuen (guitar/vocals), Jonas Helgemo (bass), and Cato Syversrud (drums)—also set to trim down their serving size while not sacrificing any of their molten approach. The result is their shortest full-length to date, but one that proves it has just as much muscle and precise throttling as its predecessor “Morbid Dimensions” and anything else in their catalog. If anything, the record’s dosage is just right.

“Eternal Recurrence” opens the record with guitars slowly peaking over the horizon before we’re full bore into the meat of the song. The vocals scrape and sometimes hit scorching notes, especially later in the cut, while the song comes to a swirling, thrashy finish. “Hammers of Vulcan” has guitars blazing and heading into a psychedelic haze. “Blood will be shed!” is vowed, as the music hits a nasty swagger, and the vocals blast over a mesmerizing end. “Nekrocosm” has drums rolling into a pocket of burly riffs, while prog-fueled melodies drift in and change the DNA. The band hits a nasty bit of spacey aggression, while the guitars start to soar above the clouds. Later on, hyperdrive is achieved, and the whole thing ends very abruptly. “Cephalic Transmissions” is the longest song, at 7:45, and it starts in an eerie cavern that stretches itself out. From there, the pace is sliced open, and alien growls rupture the ambiance. Tricky and weird playing mix, further enhancing that idea that you’re gazing into the heart of the Milky Way, while soloing tears a hole in the universe, and the song comes to a hammering finish.

“Blood Moon Eclipse” is an interlude piece that is clean and spacious, and it heads right toward “Unicursal Horoscope.” The band launches into more imaginative playing that will spin your head, as harsh growls trudge hard, only to slip into a dream state that chills the flesh. Keys buzz while guitars open and sting, as wild howls return, pushing the back end of the song into a hellish vortex. “Through the Oculus” is the second interlude, and it simmers in warm guitars and melting melody. The title track has a spindly, dizzying beginning, but then the blast furnace doors open, and we’re on our way. The vocals are deadly and wild, while the band does its best to contort death metal into its weirdest form. A robotic recitation (in delivery, not in how the voice sounds) spreads out, and then the cut starts thrashing wildly again. The tempo hits a heavy gallop, as reverbed destruction pours out of every crevice. Closer “Det Uransakelige Dyp” (translated means “the inscrutable deep”) lets clean guitars drip, as a cool vibe is set up that feels a lot different. The song toughens up as it goes, with the band thrashing away, and more proggy weirdness spilling out and all over the place. The bass unloads, while the tempo smothers, and that rounds into a final burst that’s sludgy, immersed in space, and finally is swallowed whole by intergalactic whispers.

Execration are a great addition to Metal Blade, who are doing a really good job adding strong bands next to the ones that primarily move units, unlike some other labels (looking at you, Roadrunner…). “Return to the Void” is landing at a great place where it can get the exposure it deserves, and Execration help add another notch to the Blade’s incredible history of finding great bands. This record is a fascinating, devastating journey that should push these Nordic beasts higher into the death metal galaxy.

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

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

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

Japanese chameleons Boris go back toward drone, doom vein, create sonic open letter ‘Dear’

Photo by Miki Matsushima

Spend 25 years doing something, and you’re bound to repeat yourself from time to time. It’s only natural that it would happen that way, because it’s hard to remain fresh and motivated to try new things when you’re used to your ways, and they have brought you success. That’s why Boris always have been such a fascinating case.

Here we are, in their 25th year of existence, and the Japanese trio Boris are back with a new record “Dear” that is yet another offshoot for a band that never has retread their territories. Yes, they simmered and hovered over certain areas for times, but their records always stood apart from each other, which is baffling since they have put out so damn many of them. “Dear” is another ripple for Boris, one far different from their most recent works such as “New Album” and “Attention Please,” though they started to round back on lesser-known (at least here in the States) albums including “Urban Dance” and “Warpath.” This 10-track, 70-minute album, that was culled from three records’ worth of material, dips back into Boris’ doom and drone roots, stuff you’d hear on “Absolutego” or “Amplifier Worship,” but only in approach. You still get dreamy, psyche-gaze from the band—guitarist/vocalist Wata, bassist/guitarist/vocalist Takeshi Ohtani, drummer/vocalist Atsuo Mizuno—as well as plenty of other sounds that found their way into the Boris mix the last quarter century. But the reconnection with their droning fury is a welcome turn and makes this one of Boris’ heaviest records in a long time.

“DOWN-Domination of Waiting Noise” kicks off the record with the drums punching things open and the doom cloud dragging. Takeshi’s singing rises above the din, soaring and bursting over the music, while the noise bleeds away and stretches all the way to the end. “DEADSONG” drips with energy, as the drone scrapes, and whispery howls poke from behind. Sounds reverberate and the singing swells, as the noise spits poison. Doomy pounding returns, sounds zap, and the final minute feels like it’s off to the cosmos. “Absolutego,” named after their debut record, is a crusher and a lot of fun. Stoner-style riffs create the vibe, mauling away, while the singing adds even more character. This one is a monster, a totally engaging one that’s draped in wailing and harsh cries before heading out. “Beyond” has shadowy, echo-rich drums, mournful guitars, and Wata taking most of the singing, as she creates a dream state. The track is softer and reflective, though later the piece opens up, Takeshi’s singing joins, and the band finds an epic, emotional high that swells the heart. “Kagero” spills drone, as cymbals are crushed and higher-pitched singing slices through bones. The song feels like a formless cloud of energy, stinging from the first note to the last.

“Biotope” breaks open with singing swimming and trippy synth creating a psychedelic atmosphere. Keys blip and the sounds swirl with energy, while the vocals continue to lure you into dreamland with the drum beats keeping the pace. “The Power” runs 7:42 and has a noisy, bluesy feel on the front end. The track trudges and clobbers, doing bruising while it mesmerizes, and a steady riff snakes through the body of the song, acting as the spine that holds everything together before it slowly bleeds out. “Memento Mori” is an interesting one that’s built on more noise and bustling drums. The psyche storm returns and hovers over the thing, as the rest of the elements are pulled back a bit and allowed to disappear into the air. “Dystopia-Vanishing Point” is the longest cut at 11:52, and it fades in slowly with accordions humming and drums beginning to kick up dust. This largely is a dreamgaze piece for a long stretch, with your mind allowed to wander, and the signing hypnotizing. A long dose of calm is disrupted by some bursts and a blazing solo that reaches its longer fingers over the cut and squeezes out its blood. The back end is packed with renewed emotion and a heavy round of scorching. The closing title cut runs 9:24 and has a major stoner vibe at the start, like they’re channeling Sleep. The track has lurching vocals and sounds scraping at flesh, and later the singing swells deeper, as the drums crush souls. Noise hums, the band feels like they’re generating enough electricity to power the world, and the track ends in a pile of rubble, the result of Boris’ audio destruction.

Boris’ influence on heavy music and their amazing accomplishments are things of legends, and they’re still making eardrums throb with “Dear.” Whether this is the end of the road for the band or if this open letter merely is a new chapter, there’s no question that Boris have been one of the most unpredictable, creative bands of their time. The fact they’ve remained fresh and regenerating have kept them vital and alive, and their music still is turning people on their heads.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/boris

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

Vesicant unravel war horrors, torments of battlefield death on ‘Shadows of Cleansing Iron’

It’s perverse to think about how many supremely gifted people have poured their abilities into creating things that ultimately go to kill and maim. While also a deterrent, weapons of war have produced some of the most infamous means for killing other humans, from bombs to weaponized pathogens to blistering agents that cause hellish pain.

New Zealand death metal maulers Vesicant take their name from chemical weapons employed during World War I, specifically, and their debut record “Shadows of Cleansing Iron” zeroes in on the pain and suffering sustained by those who went to fight battles for their countries. They are insistent that their means are not to glorify war in any way, but to convey the torment and pain suffered and channel that into their music. They crush that nail right on the head on these seven songs, as the music is oppressive and violent, making you feel trapped on a battlefield from which you cannot escape. The band—Profanum (guitars/vocals), Mordance (drums/vocals)—also takes inspiration from many of the novels written about the WW 1 era, which mixes in ideals of heroism and immortality soldiers would feel amid battle, as well as the pure annihilation involved and the results of sacrifice.

“Blood Miller” opens the record with heavy crushing and monstrous growls, with nasty group shouts erupting and everything turning into a doom tunnel. A mesmerizing haze rolls over the scene, but then huge roars rolls out, and everything ends in smothering punishment. “Shadow of Death” has noise hanging in the air and guitars beginning to catch fire before the cut is served to a death furnace. Furious growls team up with a hammering pace, as screams jab behind the lead vocal lines. Later, the song slows to a dizzying pace before the song comes to a sickening end. “Dismal Oubliette” starts amid thunderstorming chaos, as hellish growls and splattering playing spit blood and bone. The punishment makes the room spin, and then the song starts to bore a giant hole in the earth before fading away.

“Uncoiled Desolator” has vocals that engorge on blood, while the drums destroy and turn everything to dust. The song utterly clobbers, coming to a fiery, sinister finish. “Enceladus” is the second-longest track at 7:01, and it goes from noise buzz to battering bodies in no time. The track is less concerned with speed and more reliant on calculated thrashing, which it serves generously. Later on, the intensity picks back up again, deranged growls spill, and the heat is turned up high enough to leave a mountain of ash. “Carnage Ascended” cascades fire before the band unleashes a savage beating. Infernal growls mix with pure devastation, as pain is injected, and the song settles into its piledriving pace. Doom clouds settle later, darkening skies as the song slips away. Closer “Excoriation” begins with the sounds of war and suffering before this 7:19-long cut truly catches fire. Furious growls and a tempo that grinds away let loose, with the band destroying everything in its wake. Soloing takes off and scorches flesh, while the band ramps up a final surge that devastates to the end.

Here in America, many people tend to celebrate war and its aftermath, but bands such as Vesicant deliver a sobering reminder of the actual toll paid by those who battled and died. “Shadows of Cleansing Iron” is a violent, thunderous record that will impact you mentally and physically and force you to look hell in the eyes. It’s a cycle humanity seems insistent on repeating over and over until it’s too late for anything to survive.

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

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

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

Totengott morbidly worship at altar of Celtic Frost on filthy, mean debut opus ‘Doppelgänger’

Imitation … sincerest form of flattery … we’ve all heard that one before. I guess there is some truth to it. You’re not going to try to copy the DNA of something you find unworthy, because what would be the point? So, if you’re trying to mirror something, it must be due to your admiration for the source.

That’s very much to point to the existence of Totengott, a Spanish trio that formed over their worship of everything in the Celtic Frost/Triptykon void. The band started as a CF cover band, and they’re very much credited with inspiring the Totengott’s sound, but there definitely is a lot of Triptykon sludge that oozed into the gears as well. Eventually, the band—guitarist/vocalist Chou Saavedra, bassist Nacho Void, and drummer Jose Mora—started writing their own songs, and the results can be heard on their debut 3-track, 43-minute album “Doppelgänger” that could not have been more appropriately named. Their bio materials drop other bands whose work they admire, such as Pink Floyd, Conan, and Voivod, but make no mistake: This record is pure, unabashed CF/Triptykon worship virtually from the first note to the last. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they do the sound very well. But I can see listeners wondering if they’re not better off going with the source material in the first place. There is merit to that thought, as I had those feelings quite a bit absorbing this one. But I don’t want to discredit their effort, which is there.

“Delusion of Negation” starts the record with doom horns like out of an old black-and-white movie and an angelic chorus before the door is kicked down. The track clubs slowly, with Saavedra’s throaty howls dishing out punishment and the guitars taking on that muddy Tom Warrior tone. The track is a thrasher, with a horrifying terror being described, along with shouts of, “I am in hell!” before everything comes to a mashing finish. “Satan Beside Me” is the most indicative of their Warrior discipleship, right down to Saavedra’s lyric style and vocal phrasing. The track reminds me a lot of “Os Abysmi vel Daath” from “Monotheist” (that record also houses the song from which the band took its name) in its structure, so much so that I went and listened to that song right after this 14:04 epic was through. The middle section of the song goes into some vast experimentation, as they operate within the same area of darkness, but more toward the outer edges, before they return to the same structure of the first few minutes. “You are no one to me!” Saavedra howls as the song powers down.

The title cut finishes the album, and it’s a 21:31 monster that pulverizes you during its mammoth run. Noise erupts, as mournful synth follows, and the track scrapes along as a funeral doom-style pace for the bulk of this. This one feels like it digs back into earlier Celtic Frost for influences, as the pain and suffering is palpable. Later on in the song, the whole thing is torn apart as the tempo destroys, and the band ups the intensity of their game. “I’ll see you in hell!” Saavedra vows, almost as if he’s reporting from that very place, right before eerie chants and enveloping darkness take hold. The track begins to spit fire again after that stretch of haze, as the band sound intent on taking off heads. For a period over the final few minutes, Tottengott rise above their influences and inject something a little different into the mix, especially Saavedra’s wild shrieks, before rounding back their normal sound as the record comes to a smearing end.

It will be interesting to hear how people react to Tottengott and their debut opus “Doppelgänger.” On one hand, it’s a very solid act of tribute to Celtic Frost and its progeny, and the music here is quite good. On the other, there are plenty of CF and Triptykon records out there for public consumption, that this band could get overlooked. It would be cool if, going forward, they retain their fandom in their hearts and music but also try to weave more of their own personality into their songs.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.xtreemmusic.com/shop/english.main.index.php

Or here: https://www.burningworldrecords.com/products/totengott-doppelganger-lp-vinyl-gold-white-black

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

And here: https://www.burningworldrecords.com/