PICK OF THE WEEK: Spirit Adrift expand lineup, crushing doom sound on ‘Curse of Conception’

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

If you’re a regular apostle of metal—and you’re not reading this site if you’re not—we’re at an amazing time when it comes to new artists. The past half-decade or so have brought us a spoil of riches, ranging across many metallic sub-genres, and the result has been a stress on the wallet but a serious kick in the ass when it comes to finding music that sounds good.

One band we’ve been particularly excited about is Spirit Adrift, whose 2016 album “Chained to Oblivion” was our No. 3 record of the year. And that album remains in heavy rotation around here, along with recent releases by other awesome newer acts such as Blood Incantation and Khemmis. But here we are, a year later, and the band already has returned with record 2, “Curse of Conception,” out on 20 Buck Spin. We can say “band” now, because the group has expanded beyond original creator/guitarist/vocalist Nate Garrett (also of Gatecreeper) and added a full lineup including guitarist Jeff Owens, bassist Chase Mason, and drummer Marcus Bryant. This eight-track, nearly 47-minute album also is a massive step ahead for the band, as the sound expands past doom and into classic heavy metal glory, and Garrett’s singing gets even stronger and more varied. This is a group maturing before our eyes and ears, and this is one of the finest metal collections of the entire year.

“Earthbound” starts us off, as acoustics sweep across the scene, and then riffs kick open and let the power bleed. Garrett’s singing soars above the verses, which are filled with energy, and over the chorus when he calls, “We’re bound to the earth, enslaved by life,” you get the pain of existence’s relentless grip on us. As the song reaches its final part, the soloing lights and sets blazes, as the refrain is revisited before the curtain drops. The title track has riffs tangling, as Garrett takes on an Ozzy-style vibe to his singing, which is only fitting. “You shape reality so you can feel sane,” Garrett cuts, as the stresses and horrors of everyday life again come to roost. The chorus is powerful and infectious, sticking in your mind, and later, the vibe chills a bit and adds new texture. The guitars shake with life, as the leads soar and swelter, giving the song an elegant and punishing end. “To Fly on Broken Wings” starts quietly before glorious guitar work unfurls royally. The verses chug and, as we’ve come to expect, the chorus has major impact. Later when the pace shifts, only to ramp up the intensity again, Garrett calls, “I was born with a fire and yearn to fly higher,” putting a blood-jolting finish on this killer track. “Starless Age (Enshrined)” begins like a doom ballad, with guitars dripping blood and exposing vulnerabilities. “Suffocating in this emptiness, enshrined beyond the stars,” Garrett wails, as the track starts to reveal its thorns. The band comes to life, as the tempo gallops hard, and Garrett sings, “It crashes in a wave, this planet is a grave,” with the guitars bringing the song to a fiery finish.

“Graveside Invocation” thrashes heavily, recalling heyday Metallica. “Dismal verses disobeyed, betrayal in eternity!” Garrett wails before launching into a tasty, classic-style chorus that deserves roared back. After the guitars wage war, we head into grimy terrain, as guitars slink, the pace slithers through tar, and the track heads out into strange space blips. “Spectral Savior” pours doom thick as cement, as riffs bash away, and the band even shows a little swagger in their playing. “You spoke to me of death when we were dreaming,” Garrett wails, before the song gets chilly and delves into immersive eeriness. Strange keys release dreamlike emissions, as Garrett repeatedly calls out, “Who will save me?” with equal parts sadness and conviction before the song bleeds away. “Wakien” is an instrumental piece that’s rustic at the front end, with mandolins fading in and the band taking a folkish path. Acoustics pave the way for the guitars to muscle up and thicken, with the whole thing traveling through a psychedelic lens to the other side. Closer “Onward, Inward” is a battering ram once it gets started, as the band delivers their most devastating assault yet. Filthy trudging leaves boot prints on flesh, while Garrett unleashes some grittier singing that reminds of James Hetfield at his barking finest. The track eventually finds a hint of tranquility, as keys plink, a deep haze covers the land, and sunburst vocals harmonies add a late-evening vibe to this song that fades with the final remnants of daylight.

Spirit Adrift have become one of the most vital young bands in metal in a very short time, and “Curse of Conception” is a powerful document that is emotionally rich and will obliterate your senses. Every check box you can tick when it comes to a great album is marked, and this is one you won’t help but visit repeatedly. This project has come very far in not very much time, and as good as their work is here, their best days likely are still ahead of them.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/20bs-vinyl

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

Dreadnought creatively blend drama with channeled chaos on stirring ‘A Wake in Sacred Waves’

The way metal is presented has been growing for years, often to the moans and wails of those who would see it remain static. But like any form of art that has any hope of surviving, there must be evolution, new ideas, and means of expressions we haven’t seen before. If we don’t, it dies.

That’s why we all should be thankful for bands such as Colorado’s Dreadnought. Their approach to metal is difficult to explain and likely won’t be embraced by meat-headed war bros who still haven’t figured out how to operate within society (or outside of their parents’ basements). Their music has elements of Wolves in the Throne Room and FALSE, but also Queen, Kate Bush, and even indie rock band Eisley (who I’ve listened to a lot the last decade). They have sharp metallic elements, but they also add plenty of theatrics and progressive waves that could lure a Yes fan. Here on their third record “A Wake in Sacred Waves,” the band members turn their heads toward another earthly element, this time water, on this four-track collection, as they imagine the life cycle of a sea monster that rises to dominant status only to fade as life disappears forever. Here, you have sonic adventures and not just songs. The band—Kelly Schilling (clean and harsh vocals, guitar, flute), Lauren Vieira (keys, clean vocals), Jordan Clancy (drums, saxophone), and Kevin Handlon (bass, mandolin, lyrics)—pours so many different sounds and curves into these songs, that taking just one listen won’t allow you to absorb it all. Every visit unravels new layers, letting you experience this in full.

“Vacant Sea” begins the tale, and it’s a 17:22 epic that is the longest song on the record. We begin a capella, as Schilling opens the story, and then each member joins gradually, bringing a giant epicness. Pianos drip before the song tears open, and the first demonic growls are unleashed. Behind that savagery is a prog weirdness that is infectious, and from there, the pace rises and falls, threatens and soothes. Psyche-drenched synth floats through the air, while Schilling calls, “I lie in wait!” The music gets tricky again before hard shrieks rips open flesh, the leads burn, and serenity returns as flutes carry us away. “Within Chanting Waters” has a burly first few moments, with singing stretching over top, and the drums bustling. The guitars create a haze as the pace picks up, and the vocals scrape along the ground, leaving flesh. A trance-inducing section rolls in, while sax and flute align and add a New Age feel, and keys join to increase the hypnosis. Gut-wrenching shrieks are leveled, as the song gets loud and more urgent, but in the final minutes, keys trickle, and serenity floats away.

“Luminous Scale” is the shortest track, still running a robust 10:33. The song bubbles up, heading toward the arms of tranquility, before guitars catch fire, and we’re right back into explosive territory. The singing is forceful and compelling as Schilling observes something “teeming with aggression” before she lets growls rip out. Again, we battle light and dark, as the vocals are a vicious snarl in spots, but then we have lush harmonizing between Schilling and Vieira before the song drifts into the water. Closer “A Drifting Reign” ruptures like a rain storm, as keys and a progressive push move forward. The singing floats while the music brims with emotion, and a period of lush vocals heads right into a caterwaul that gushes with power. That energy sinks into drama and melody, as both Schilling and Vieira meld together vocally, and the track heads into shadowy coldness. Gargantuan shrieks punish, the keys bring showers, the elements cascade, and the song disappears into a capella singing, the same way the record began.

Dreadnought is one of the bands redefining how we think of metal, and “A Wake in Sacred Waves” is an exhilarating experience that grips from first moment to last. This is like listening to a bunch of seemingly different soundwaves coming together as one and making a cohesive whole. This band has been making inventive music for years, and it’s about time the rest of the metal world caught onto them.

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

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

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

Omotai’s mind-altering sludge unleashes violence and loss with tragic story ‘A Ruined Oak’

Photo by Angela Lee

Metal often is seen as containing power and strength, a place where vulnerability has no place. What a bunch of bullshit. Metal is here to express all types of emotions, even those that don’t come from a place of absolute strength. There is room for sadness and disillusionment, where we scurry to find some meaning in the dark portions of our lives.

Houston’s Omotai are not concerned with how they’re perceived when addressing sadness and pain. Their third record “A Ruined Oak” focuses on the lost colony of the Roanoke, and with that comes feelings of abandonment caused by violence and loss. It’s heavy subject matter, and it’s hard to confront when you consider history and where we stand right now as a country. To examine that strain is painful and sorrowful, something that forces people to address the nation’s past and where we stand today. The record is a real challenge, a 12-track, double LP that sprawls, mauls, and crushes, as this collection forces you to feel true feelings, even if that makes some people confront something uncomfortable. The band—guitarist/vocalist Sam Waters, bassist/vocalist Melissa Lomchambon Ryan, guitarist Jaime Ross, drummer Danny Mee—have been making these mucky, sludgy sounds since 2009, but this is their most impactful record so far.

“Welcome to The Adders’ Land” starts the tale ripping the lid off with a pummeling pace, raspy growls, and the wails of, “Don’t look back!” That intensity continues until the drums rupture veins at the end. The title track is right behind it, piling on more meaty riffs, back and forth yells over the chaos, and guitars spitting fire. All the elements fall together, as the song ends in gravel-mouthed shouts and vicious thrashing. “Last of The Green Vial” has guitars trucking, as Waters and Ryan trade shouts. Burly punching and bloody guitars mix, bringing a compelling dose of fire. “Arms That Flood” slowly chews away, rumbling and claiming bones before the tempo is kicked into gear. The yells are massive and dirty, while the drums are calculated and mangy. Atmospheric leads bring a mystical wonder to the song, while the track slithers away. “Blackjaw” is a total ass-kicker, with Ryan on lead vocals, and the music leaving bruised eyes. The chorus is infectious, while the pace is galloping and spirited. “Back to The Drifting Satellite” has guitars chugging, speaking underneath that, and Ryan delivering compelling singing that mixes with demonic growls. Waters’ voice then joins the fray, while the song goes back and forth from chilled to thickly humid.

“A Cruel Weight, Thy Wound” is one of the longest songs, an 8:08 smasher that opens quietly before landing heavy body blows. Crushing growls and dream-state singing mix, and the delivery feels particularly heartfelt and emotional, as the two vocalists swap lines later, and the song bleeds out. “Fire Is a Whore” is tricky and prog-fueled at the start, as the band proves they have some unexpected tricks up their sleeves. Ryan’s singing over the chorus gives off a cool L7 vibe, while the band clubs away, and a final burst of speed takes away your breath. “A Maiden Nerve” has the drums and bass thickening and leading the march, as the track gets speedy and shrieky, and a hardcore-flavored edge even comes into play. The cut keeps bashing skulls before it melts into noise. “The Savage Sky” has riffs scattering fast, while the playing flattens bodies, and the growls sound gnarly as hell. The devastating path takes a jerk toward more prog, giving the track a creative finish. “Augustina” has an ominous opening that sends chills, as Ryan’s haunting singing gets inside your bloodstream and takes you somewhere else. Later, the mud thickens, and blisters are left all over the surface. “Tusk Aurora” is the 9:15 closer that destroys right away and keeps applying that pressure. Throaty growls and fiery soloing unleash lava, as the song bubbles up, releasing steam. The final minutes are immersed in blues-smoked, fiery guitars, and the song keeps giving off psyche lighting right up until it finally fades.

Omotai’s force is without question, and the tough subject matter they confront on “A Ruined Oak” is a punishing display of history and human emotion. These 12 songs, stripped of meaning, would make for a heavy-as-fuck record that would register on the seismic scale. You add in the intent from their hearts, and it’s a heavier document than you could imagine. It’s a killer.

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

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

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

Swiss destroyers Antiversum put mysterious touch on black metal with ‘Cosmos Comedenti’

Strange surroundings can cause one to feel panic and unease, a sense that nothing is within his or her control, and anything could happen at any time. That fear and sense of dread could cause those with weaker constitutions to hide in a corner or a safe place to remain undetected. Those with bolder hearts might find an opportunity to explore and overcome.

I felt both sides of that when taking on “Cosmos Comedenti,” the debut full-length from Swiss monsters Antiversum. With very little on their resume and not much revealed about the shadow figures behind this project, this record is like that dark, strange place where you have no idea how to react. It never feels like any positive forces are around, and you can’t help but feel utterly haunted when taking on these four tracks and 38 minutes. The band’s immersive, mysterious mix of black and death metal is thick and foreboding, and as you navigate these murky waters, you do so with great apprehension because you don’t know what surrounds you. But still, it’s an exciting, enveloping aura you can’t help but explore thoroughly, for you never have been here before.

“Antinova” gets the record started with sizzling noise and a doomy soup of death and madness. Riffs spiral and chew into the ground, tunneling its way to hell, while hisses open, rumbling growls shake the ground, and we’re into a sticky, mucky assault. The track clobbers with a purpose, while the vocals sicken, sounds bubble to the surface, and the song burns away. “Chao E Orta Est” has drums rupturing, while guitars hang in the air like a swollen storm. The pace slowly punishes, while the growls gurgle plasma, and punishing blows are dealt over and over, as you beg for submission. Noise spits, while the track goes into a gory end, and while the cut seems to bring serenity, that stops abruptly with guitars boring into bone and the fires of fear raging with blinding light.

The title track revels in dissonant power that cuts through everything, and the growls begin to crush. The guitars go mystical and add a heavy dose of mystery, while the growls bruise the throat, and the drums destroy. The track rips apart all over again later, as the guitars launch themselves into the cosmos, and the tracks dissolves into a black hole of sound. Closer “Nihil Ad Probandum” spreads over 13:23, making it the longest track, and it unravels and soaks in weirdness. The track grinds away as the growls add a gravelly finish, while the track takes on an unforgiving, tyrannical pace. The riffs continue to piledrive, beating you within an inch of submission. But then the terror begins to liquify and drain, and a heavy storm of spacey strangeness bleeds in and takes the song to its bizarre conclusion.

Antiversum bring chaos and madness combined on their stunning debut “Cosmos Comedenti,” and these 38 minutes may prove to be some of the most perplexing experiences with metal this year. Their shroud of mystery only enhances the sense of dread floating around here, and the longer you drink deeply, the more it infects your bloodstream. These are strange times, and bands such as Antiversum are going to be here to take us by the hand into the void.

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

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

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

Acephalix’s thunderous return from death splatters chaos and violence on punchy ‘Decreation’

Death metal doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s cool when it is, so don’t take that the wrong way. I love having my brain parts tangled and tested. But a good demolition can be just as satisfying and can go a long way toward treating what ails you.

Bay Area bruisers Acephalix don’t seem all that interested in tricks and magic and creating mathematical equations with their music. Over the course of their decade together, the band has made devastation and clouds of smoke their trademark. That carries over to their long overdue third record “Decreation,” their first since 2012’s “Deathless Master” and first with 20 Buck Spin after a stay with Southern Lord. These guys haven’t forgotten how to get the job done. Over these seven tracks that run a little more than 39 minutes, the band—vocalist Daniel Butler (also of Vastum), guitarist Kyle House (Serpents of Dawn), bassist Luca (Necrot, and also of Vastum), and drummer Dave Benson (Depressor)—smashes fingertips and tears down the gates, blasting you with guttural, vicious death metal that takes no breaks and has only destruction in mind.

“Upon This Altar” is the band’s return into this world, a track that rips the bandage right off and heads into guitars wailing, a nasty gallop, and death growls that go for the throat. Halfway through, the tempo pulls up, but that’s to make way for a foreboding storm, grim growls that sound like Butler is gurgling blood, and wicked riffs ruling the rest of the way. “Suffer (Life in Fragments)” is as agitated as the title indicates, as the guitar assaults, the growls scrape by, and the pace chugs hard. As the song rolls along, the growls get rawer still, while the back end of the track smothers you alive. “Mnemonic Death” has riffs burning everything in its path, killer vocals, and the band going thrashy as fuck. The chorus is simple but effective (it also sticks to your ribs), while the band revels in filth, rolling all over in mucky damage.

“God Is Laughing” brings both chaos and black humor, as the song trudges along, built on rock-solid riffs. The chorus is brutal and to the point, with Butler howling, “God is laughing!” while cackles ring out from behind and, of course, on high. “Excremental Offerings” has thick riffs and the drums immediately breaking the skin. The song has a cool feel to it, as the vocals on the verses torture before Butler brings even heavier misery during the chorus. The band mauls every step of the way, with sharp soloing slicing its way in, and a tasty, thrashy final minute jabbing down the exclamation point. “Egoic Skin” is punishing with monstrous growls and the band dumping trucks full of mud. The drum work is particularly venomous, as the end of the track blackens eyes. The title track is up last, with more elements that make the songs before it so powerful. Riffs, soloing, and gripping vocals lead the way, though some of the guitar work has a warmer feel to it, almost like blood is pooling from a chest wound. Some off-kilter leads cause disorientation, leading to everything spiraling into hell.

While a half-decade wait in asking a lot from Acephalix fans, any frustration is sure to fall by the wayside when “Decreation” meets their hungry ears. This band is as savage as ever, if not more so, and their agenda of pain remains front and center in their mission. Their reanimation could not have come at a better time, as the haunting season is here, tensions are high, and we could use a flat-out ass kicking to get us through the day.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ACEPHALIX-116269338417902

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/20bs-vinyl/products/acephalix-decreation-lp

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Wolfe pushes her sound further with sludgy, crushing new record ‘Hiss Spun’

Photo by Nick Fancher

Chris Jericho is a pro wrestler who is known for always returning with a different edge to his gimmick, no matter how long he’s been away. Come on. You know this is a quasi-wrestling blog. Anyhow, that new approach every time keeps him fresh and allows him to try new things character-wise that might not have worked in other incarnations of his persona.

I can make a similar comparison to Chelsea Wolfe, although she doesn’t compete in pre-determined fights. That I know of. Instead, with each new release she brings to the world, you get a completely different side of the artist and music that follows suit. Her latest album “Hiss Spun,” her sixth release overall, continues that constant evolution that’s marked her career from day one. It’s not that if you put on this 12-track, 49-minute release that you won’t know it’s her. She never compromises her identity. Rather, the music is markedly different than what we heard on 2015’s “Abyss” or 2013’s “Pain Is Beauty.” On this record, Wolfe is heavier, sludgier, coming as close to being classified as metal as she ever has in her career (that Burzum cover aside). Here, Wolfe embraces the darkness of the world, the veritable running mouth of shit that assaults us in the media each day with the worst news possible (at least for that day). But she digs deeper and tries to find a glimmering light beneath her, some beacon of positivity in her being that causes her to not just survive the onslaught, but thrive. Along with bandmates Ben Chisholm (synth, bass, electronics), Bryan Tulao (guitars), and Jess Gowrie (drums), they align with other creative forces including Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, Failure) and Aaron Turner (Sumac, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer) to create the grimiest work of her career.

The album starts with “Spun,” a noisy, sludgy piece that settles into a groove, a fairly simple but effective chorus, with Wolfe wailing, “You leave me restless, you leave me hung.” All elements boil to the surface, as sounds clash, she warbles under the chaos, and it all ends in a moan. “16 Psyche” is a pounder, one that’ll be huge live, especially with its surging chorus. Before that, the verses slink dangerously, as strong guitar work tends to the fires. Later, her voice reaches higher, while that crushing chorus crashes at the end. “Vex” has guitars simmering and her breathy singing, moving into gazey melodies and a dream state. Then, Turner’s unmistakable lion roar joins her voice, as the song rings out. “Strain” is an interlude that couldn’t come at a better time, as your heart needs a rest, and then it’s into “The Culling,” a slower, shadowy song built by a ghostly pace, echoing drums, and Wolfe calling, “My tongue on your pulse, my finger in your wound.” The noise gets weird, as the chorus sweeps, as the final moments trickle off. “Particle Flux” is another killer, with Wolfe lashing, “Though you try to swallow me whole, I succumb to nothing” amid agitated guitars and an intensity that picks up and delivers pain.

“Twin Fawn” begins as a gentle hush, with guitars spilling in and the pace feeling like it’s lulling you into a dream. But then it rips open, with Wolfe howling, “You cut me open,you lived inside!” and from there, things surge into dangerous terrain. The quiet does return for a stretch, but that burst lurks on the horizon, bringing a devastating end. “Offering” sits in a synth haze and is a nice change of pace, melting into the mists, as beats tap, and the song takes on a gothy, foggy ambiance. “Static Hum” has guitars stinging, as Wolfe’s voice floats over the power. The song kicks up and gets mean and gritty, as the verses haunt, the chorus easily inserts itself into your head, and the track hits a doom-infested finish. “Welt” is an interlude with cosmic wooshes and zaps, drizzling piano, and soft singing. “Two Spirit” starts in a bed of acoustics, as Wolfe pushes her voice higher, and the ambiance feels smoky and delicate. The pace then switches up, feeling rustic and windy, as Wolfe vulnerably calls, “Show me your bruises,” as if she is comparing notes. Guitars threaten from behind, but the bulk of the track stays pulled back. Closer “Scrape” pulls the bandage away hard, as noise sizzles, her voice slithers, and the storm builds. The singing then switches to panicked and urgent, while the drums penetrate, a noise squall rises, and Wolfe’s final words hit like a jagged edge to the chest.

It’s hard to imagine a time when Wolfe isn’t reinventing herself, which is why a new record from her always is an exhilarating, even mysterious experience. “Hiss Spun” may take some visits for total absorption (I needed them just because of my overindulgence in “Abyss”), but once it settles into your blood, there’s no removing its effect. These are 12 infectious, powerful, heavy songs that batter and enrapture all at the same time.

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

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

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

Black metal destroyers Oculus inject darkness, torment across universe with ‘Apostate of Light’

I’ve got this awful sinus pressure thing going on right now where every time I swallow anything, it feels like shards of glass are ripping down my throat. My head is draining at an alarming clip, and my voice is beginning to take on an unflattering deepness. The only good part is the medicine that, after a while, makes it feel like I’m floating in an ashy cloud.

That’s also what it feels like if you take on “The Apostate of Light,” the debut record from black metal beasts Oculus, a band whose members are spread across the globe. Over the course of six monster tracks, the band drags you through the murk and into bizarre planes of existence, all the while paying devout spirituality to the darkness. It’s not like this is the first band in this sub-genre to espouse anti-Christian sentiments, but they do so in a way that’s so chilling and nightmarish, that their messages are that much more impactful. This band—Nero (guitars), Kozenljnik (vocals, guitars), and Ormenos (drums, bass, keys)—whose members hail from North America and Europe, formed their shadowy chaos together in the hopes of not only expressing their own enlightenment in the abyss, but also to envelop listeners with a strange, sometimes dissonant form of black metal that’s devastating and haunting.

“The Sour Waters of Life” begins with noises rising and creating a tornadic effect before the song tears open, and it obliterates over its 10:05. Black metal chaos is unleashed, while the crazed growls sound wrapped in layers of echo, giving it a deranged feel. Mournful melodies lather, while desperate howls reach out, a dark rain drops, and the song burns out in static. “Salt for the Healer” has burly riffs that flex muscles before the song heads down an eerie tunnel. The guitars begin to chew, while the vocals lay waste, and the song assaults until everything feels like it’s falling in on itself. Trancey playing causes you to question your mind, while the wail of, “There is no water to wash away the sin,” accompanies a grinding hole that’s being driven into the earth. That grimness remains and pounds right up to the end. “A Visage of Dark Remembrance” has guitars drizzling and throaty growls, while the humidity builds. “I destroy!” is howled over and over throughout the song, while the tempo makes it feel like a heavy fever is settling into your bones. Later on, the vocals have a terrifying narration feel to them, while guitars sting flesh as they close out this chapter.

“Axiom of the Plague” (NOTE: I feel like I’m living there right now) has drums rupturing and causing seismic chaos before gruff growls rush in and spit shrapnel. There is a thick film of weirdness, as the cry, “Blessed be the eyes of the serpent!” makes your ears ring. The band slips into tricky playing, while spiritual wails drive this thing into the void. The title track opens and churns, while strange growls slither and swallow scenery, as the threat, “I am the opposite of light, I am the one who hunts the world!” instills fear. The madness creates a blackhole-style vortex, practically causing vertigo to set in while the song rips into the cosmos. Closer “Storms of Havoc” unleashes terror right away, as nasty playing and furious growls unleash pain. The vocals hiss fire, while the tempo entangles and drives water and blood to the ground. The music begins to dissolve and move into a strange mist, while the noises bleed out and leave only bruising behind.

Oculus’ slithering, mysterious black metal sounds like it could have come from a far-off, cursed planet, or even from a particularly strange section of hell, and what you’ll hear on “The Apostate of Light” should frighten and enlighten equally. Their agenda is clear, and it’s not terribly different than many other bands of their ilk, but their presentation is so much more interesting. This band’s beginning may only be their roots, but they should continue to sicken as they move into well down their darkened path.

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

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

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

Chilean bruisers Occasvs maul metal standards with drama on ‘Nocturnal Majestic Mysteria’

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, like, this week. But there’s a lot of metal out there, much of it very good. I’ve spent nine months discussing all the stuff that’s made an impact on me in 2017, and it’s still tough to keep all those records from getting all tangled up like a pair of abandoned earbuds that somehow tied themselves into a figure four leglock.

That’s definitely not going to be the case with Chilean bruisers Occasvs, whose debut record “Nocturnal Majestic Mysteria” is here to knock those with their guard down into the goddamn dirt. How to classify this band? Well, you get heaps of death and black metal on this seven-track opus, but there’s also orchestral drama and doses of strangeness that keep coming back and stinging you. This band—their Facebook profile lists Nolvz with invocations and storms; Ülmontem as seismic pulse; and Sinn Hayek on ritual drums—isn’t all about convention and coloring within lines. Pretty much from the start, the band smashes any preconceived notions and premonitions made before tackling the record. While heaviness and brutality are served in generous portions, the stuff they do outside the box really is what separates them from most. It’s also possible those elements might keep some people away, but anyone with a sense of open mindedness won’t have an issue.

If you only sample opener “Andante Nocturno Op.7,” then you’re going to get the wrong idea about this band. This 8:48-long cut is basically an extended intro, a track filled with rains falling, sweeping synth, and dramatic orchestration that sounds like it could open a great big fantasy battle scene. it doesn’t scream extreme metal, but it doesn’t need to. Still, it’s a weird way to start. “Triumphal Defeat” then tears the lid off the thing properly, as strong riffs well up and assault, and vicious growls thicken the mud. The guitars whip up a frenzy, while clean calls ring out behind the dust clouds, and the pace mauls. Bellowing vocals, which are a staple for this record, erupt, while guitars rush, and the track fades into night. “Under Human Eyes” is thunderous from the start, as guitars sprawl out, and a chaotic ambiance can be felt underneath your feet. More hearty singing evens out the harshness, and then the band hits a lighting pace that makes it feel like death and classic metal riding high together. From there, the violence only increases, as the song disappears down a hole of wild thrashing. “Psychic Burial” is a quick interlude track that has strange chants, strings bringing eeriness, and unidentified sounds rumbling.

“Ritual Death” blasts from the gates, as the deep singing unloads, and the guitar work starts to lather. The intensity cuts through the song and leaves scars, while the band hits the gas pedal hard, and the riffs scorch flesh. The hefty signing comes back again, rousing the spirits, while destruction is meted out, and the guitars rule the song’s final moments. “Seer” also is violent at the front, pummeling away as monstrous growls peel skin from bone. The pace gets speedy and challenging, but then it slowly brings things to a slower clip, albeit one that’s just as heavy as it was. Acoustics wash in and bring calm, but then things gets started again with throaty growls, a stomping pace, and a crushing conclusion. Closer “Union” begins with horns and bells, sounding like it’s going to be the bookend to the opener. But then the heaviness comes, with waves of Maiden-like melodies swimming beneath the fire, and the vocals pushing forcefully. The guitars run wild and scorch, with the band dealing a clobbering, the melodies boiling, and the track dissolving into a mysteriously dripping haze.

Occasvs metallic world doesn’t look like anyone else’s, which makes their music refreshing and really strange. “Nocturnal Majestic Mysteria” is a record that’s likely going to be a love-it-or-hate-it proposition for a lot of people, but whatever side you land, you must give them credit for their genuine approach and creativity. I know when I’m summing up the year that was 2017, this record is going to stand out as one that tried to take its base elements and turn them into something even bigger.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Occasvs-33204253964/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase/

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

Vacivus’ crushing death metal pushes chaos into darkness on grim, ugly ‘Temple of the Abyss’

The idea of total emptiness is a terrifying thought, if you sit down and give it even a few minutes of your time. The idea of a total void that’s not just an empty room or piece of land but the actual lack of any substance whatsoever is a mind eraser. How can that even be a thing? I’m getting a little upset just thinking of that right now, but that could be some anxiety/OCD combo thing.

UK death metal upstarts Vacivus must have been dwelling on that very thing, seeing as that they chose the Latin form of the word “void” to represent their band. Right away, you’re starting off on a scary level, knowing the band must have their minds elsewhere in that terrible vacuum where all existence ceases to be a thing. Their scathing second record “Temple of the Abyss” is another smart pickup by Profound Lore, who have released music from like-minded bands such as Cruciamentum and Grave Miasma and are keeping the dangerous fires burning madly with this group. The band—vocalist Nick Craggs, guitarists Ross Oliver and Dan Rochester (of aforementioned Cruciamentum), bassist Dan Jones, and drummer Ian Finley—use what they established on their 2014 debut “Dawn of Chaos” and further blacken and scar that foundation, making this a sootier, more aggressive record.

“Premonitions” is a quick introductory cut built by weird sounds, gasps, and whispers, with the warning, “The nothingness has come,” swooping in at the tail end. “Towards Infinite Chasms” bleeds open as guitars spiral, and the tempo is shredded. Growls tear at the flesh, while the playing is violent and sinewy, smothering muscle to bone. The band grinds away, with lead guitars blazing, and the grim tidings fading into time. “Oubliette” has a punishing open, as the band’s death grip tightens, and the growls lurch in the dirt. The guitars get tricky and then go off, as the back end smashes everything in its path. “Summoning Apophis” is slow driving and ugly before bursting open and flooding the room with blood. The riffs turn stomachs, while the tempo is grounded in menacing fury, and the guitars unleash a path of craziness that stretches right up to its end.

“Cosmological Necroticism” has burly guitars and a pace that bashes you right across the face. The growls ache, while the drums smash everything into oblivion, and a mystical weirdness overtakes the guitar work. The growls turn guttural, while the pace slithers painfully, and the soreness extends itself right up to the song’s end. “Black Flame Serpent” starts with acoustics before weird chants arrive, and the guitar work conjures even more evil spirits. Sick moans barrel from Craggs’ mouth, while the song drives into thick black tar that weighs down on the madness. The chants return over dark shades of death, while the guitars envelop, and soloing burns it all to ash. “Filii Inferos” punches, rumbles, and thrashes, as monstrous riffs crash the party, and the playing creates vertigo. A slow, mucky doom crawl starts, while the band unloads with heaviness. The growls intensify as the pace picks of suddenly, resulting in disgusting strikes. The closing title cut starts clean before completely destroying. The tempo rips heads clean from necks, while chants add a terrifying element, and the soloing lights up. Craggs digs deeply again for more horrifying growls, while the band loses their respective minds, and the track bleeds away into tributaries of terror.

Vacivus generate terror and chaos on “Temple of the Abyss,” a record that should inhibit fear in the hearts of those who encounter the music. Their push into the depths of nothingness could chill your blood and have your heart racing with anxiety as you face the complete annihilation of all physical matter. Or, you could simply dwell on this band being another strong entry into underground death metal’s bustling worldwide scene, one in which they should see their profile increase as they sicken more listeners.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: BIG | BRAVE defy description as their drone-rich, agitated sound blazes up ‘Ardor’

It’s never easy coming here and admitting that I’m having a difficult time describing how a band sounds. After all, this site is here to tell you what music or bands you may not have heard are like so you can decide if this is music you’d like to pursue. But it isn’t always a breeze to do that, as it isn’t today.

I first heard BIG | BRAVE a few years ago when the promo for their amazing second record “Au De La” was delivered to my inbox via their label Southern Lord. The past few years, the Lord has been in a strange phase of talent discovery, bringing us things we might not expect from them, and this band certainly was one of those. I spent hours and hours with that record (and I still do) attempting to wrap by brain around their sound (noise rock? experimental drone? doom noise drone? All of that?!) and making heads or tails of what I was hearing. But no doubt I was drawn right into their trap. Their third record “Ardor” now is on the horizon (if you caught them over the spring supporting Sunn 0))) then much of this will feel familiar), and like their other collections, it’s a ride that takes some time and repeated visits to fully digest. Their purposely slow-driving, percussion-pounding music is delivered in dream clouds, with lightning licking and striking from cloud edges, and their work on these three tracks freeze you in your spot as you rise and fall with each wave. The band—vocalist/guitarist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball, drummer/vocalist Louis-Alexandre Beauregard—sounds like no other I can think of, and on this record, it’s a drive deeper into the dark cavern they’ve been building since 2012.

“Sounds” opens the record, an 11:36 track that begins with noise spreading and the drums coming to life. Start-stop melodies jar, as Wattie’s singing pokes, sometimes floating, sometimes stabbing. Beauregard’s voice joins with hers as they clash in harmonies, while the drone charges up, and the song vibrates your insides ever so slowly. The drums then begin to hit harder and split your senses, and that clubbing continues and builds in intensity as the song reaches its drubbing conclusion. “Lull” runs 13:06, and it’s spread over two tracks on the vinyl version of the record. We’ll spread it over two graphs because we’re just that creative. The song buzzes, while Wattie calls out, “So I miss you, it’s all I can say, you were my best friend.” The track swims in noise, while the pace numbs you with its purposely repetitive melodies. Both Wattie and Beauregard mix together again, wailing over the din, before slow-jarring brakes delay forward progression.

Jessica Moss’ violin scrapes through the body’s center, as guitars convulse with power and cry out, piercing the serenity. The tempo penetrates, the singing pushes hard, and guitars glimmer in doom, with all elements swelling, and everything ending abruptly. Closer “Borer” is the longest track at 14:42, and its spacey sound swirl immediately captures you. The band starts to light you up, with Wattie stabbing, “Calling you out every goddamn time!” The guitars are agitated and lash out, as the strings stretch, and the intensity of everything gets to a dangerous level. Strings blaze and then sting, while Wattie continuously declares, “I am immune, and I am protected,” almost as if it’s a life mantra she wants you to commit to memory. Later, her voice shrieks, while the song slowly bleeds way, giving way to drums tapping out and the driving noises finally fading.

BIG | BRAVE are a band that must be witnessed (live or on recording, it’s your choice) to fully comprehend, and “Ardor” is a great destination point if you want to begin absorbing their infectious noise. The band generates so much power and emotion in their playing, and each inch of this album reverberates with energy and electricity. This isn’t an easy band to describe with words, which is fitting, as they only can be truly defined by their sound.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.bigbrave.ca/

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

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