PICK OF THE WEEK: Wolvhammer’s murky black metal slices veins on ‘Monuments of Bone and Ash’

Photo by Margaret Lord

While trying to prepare for this summer’s Migration Fest in my lovely hometown of Pittsburgh, it made me realize just how much has taken place in metal in the past four years since my last sojourn to a previous incarnation of that event. Metal has come such a long way in that period, and the underground scene is about as active as you can imagine, as it feels like there are killer shows locally all the time.

Another callback to that summer of 2014, which feels like 100 years ago, is it was the last time we heard from Wolvhammer on the strength of their third full-length “Clawing Into Black Sun.” That long break caused a lot of things to grow up and around where Wolvhammer initially set their foundation, yet they sound vital and refreshed on their killer new album “The Monuments of Ash and Bone,” their first release for Blood Music, a label that’s become a major force in those same past few years. The lineup has changed some, but their ferocity certainly hasn’t. Along with their blunt force black metal assault that remains as volatile as ever, the band also leans into different shades and tempos, and there are some truly different angles the guys take on these seven songs. It has the band—vocalist Adam Clemans (Skeletonwitch), guitarist/synth player Jeff Wilson (Abigail Williams), guitarist/bassist John Porada (Negative Mantra), bassist Andrew Garrity, and drummer Garry Naples (Novembers Doom)—spouting deadly new blood and keeps their teeth as sharp as they’ve ever been.

“Eternal Rotting Misery” starts in a synth haze before the ground erupts, and Clemans’ devastating growls make their way to the front. Fiery chugging and a punishing pace set the song into gear, while searing black metal melodies melt the surface. The track picks up an even faster clip toward the end, with the song coming to a swirling, nasty finish. “Call Me Death” demolishes right away, with growls bubbling under the surface, and the riffs bringing ominous tones. The soloing is volcanic, and Clemans’ dark singing enters the fray, adding different textures to this mauler. Things remain murky, as the song heads out on a cosmic synth cloud. “Law of the Rope” is a monster, as tar-thick riffs and nasty growls pummel, and a brief halt in the action paves the way for a series of piledrivers. The band hits a thrashy groove while the soloing bursts, and the song decimates your mind and soul.

“Bathed in Moonblood and Wolflight” is charging and dizzying out of the gates, with an animalistic pace that brings danger, and the screams scraping at the earth. Burly basslines pop in and bruise eyeballs, while the riffs cut through the muscle and stomp in your guts. “The Failure King” is one of the catchier songs on here, with muddy riffs adding grit. “I have become the failure king!” Clemans howls, as the band hammers away, and the guitars enter tornado alley. All the madness gets sucked up into the starts, and that leads into “Dead Rat Rotting Raven” that begins with a hovering noise storm. The track kicks in and feels punk driven and full of attitude, as Clemans wails, “Fuck your insignificant life!” The riffs speed up from there and blast toward the abrupt finish. Closer “Solar Eclipsed” is the biggest curveball, as it’s a slower-paced 8:22-long wanderer that’s one of the most interesting things in their catalog. Again, Clemans sings, digging deep into his guts, while he’s surrounded by shadowy playing, foreboding keys, and the feeling that all is being washed away by black waters. Power does charge here and there, as growls and driving guitars incite violence, but all of it ends in a splash of synth and strings, letting you down on a somber note.

The metal world might be a more heavily populated, diverse world since Wolvhammer last stalked listeners, but “The Monuments of Bone and Ash” is this quintet firing back and reminding they remain a force with which to contend. The songs hit hard, expose you to morbid darkness, and even leave you swimming in dank, gothy waters. Now that these guys are reanimated, their reign of power is bound to leave trails of blood wherever they go.

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

To buy the album (U.S./Canada), go here: https://www.blood-music.com/store-us/

Or here (rest of the world): https://www.blood-music.com/store-eu/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/

Weedian warriors Sleep return with haze-filled, long-awaited metallic journey ‘The Sciences’

There’s not a lot of surprise packed into the annual 4/20 high holiday. People are going to smoke a lot of pot. Social media is going to be bombarded with pot leaves and various imagery from that culture. People are probably going to drop out of life and watch “Pineapple Express” and other movies of that ilk as they zone away. But, weirdly, last Friday did come with a colossal surprise.

Granted, word leaked a day early that April 20 would bring with it—finally!—“The Sciences,” a new full-length record from marijuana enthusiasts Sleep, the three-headed beast best known for their massive single-track epic “Dopesmoker,” the last complete effort from the band since 2003. And considering “Dopesmoker” was a reworking of 1998’s “Jerusalem,” it had been even longer since we got a fresh new full-length from this legendary band. Luckily, “The Sciences” is well worth the wait, a pummeling six-track, 53-minute serving of stoner-style doom metal that is packed to the top with riffs. Another surprise is that the band is now on Third Man Records, Jack White’s label that has an eclectic roster, with this being one of their rare forays into metal. So, that’s pretty weird. But everything about this record fits perfectly, from the bizarre, cosmic adventures into pot immersion, to the fiery guitar work, to the total demolition you’ll experience. These guys—vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros (also of OM), guitarist Matt Pike (High on Fire), and drummer Jason Roeder (Neurosis)—deliver over and over on a record that’s destructively heavy but also a shitload of fun.

The title track opens the proceedings, a piece that acts as the first of an instrumental bookend. It lets feedback swirl, guitars jab and begin aggravation, and it puts your mind among the stars before that big, bubbling bong hit rips you from that scene and right into “Marijuanat’s Theme.” Burly riffs and Cisneros’ purposely monotone singing drive you into the song, giving you an instant and prolonged intergalactic high. Smoking soloing releases psychedelic fire, while the back end of the track pummels before ending abruptly. “Sonic Titan” is a 12:26 brawler that opens with a killer riff before pulling back the pace and delivering the pounding in a calculated manner. The track continues to build monoliths to the sky before tearing them down again, as the lead guitars scorch, and the beefy basslines buzz in your ears. “Look onto Zion, though it can’t be seen,” Cisneros wails. “Man on the moon cannot help me see.” What does that mean? Who the fuck knows? What we can say is the music blisters, sending fire-breathing guitar work into the heavens and back and leaving you a pummeled mess.

“Antarcticans Thawed” is the longest cut at 14:23, and immediately a haze situates itself over everything. The riffs hypnotize, while the grimy singing scrapes tracks across the frozen tundra. The track is slowly beastly, with the guitars feeling druggy and woozy, but also heavy as hell. In the track’s final quarter, Pike just explodes to life, as his guitar work raises your hairs and mows down what’s in its path. That intensity eventually dissipates into a slow burn, where the drumming taps way, a fog blanket emerges, and the song bleeds out in noise. “Giza Butler” is, obviously, complete homage to Black Sabbath, the original weedians, and is named after their legendary bassist Geezer Butler. The track is packed with Sabbath references, from signaling the Iommic Pentecost to heralding the Sabbath Day. There are goddamn “Dune” references, as well as the greatest lyric of this year to date: “The pterodactyl flies again.” The track itself starts slowly and ominously, adding layers of intensity, and eventually we are at full Sabbath worship, as riffs clobber the senses in full tribute to metal’s godfathers. The record ends with “The Botanist,” the back part of the instrumental bookend that simmers in brighter lights, some somber moments, and eventually blinding green glory as the song ends in a smoky cloud.

Sleep’s return to releasing new music is a blaze of infectious power with “The Sciences,” a record that powerfully checks every box one would hope from this band. Get ready for plenty of strange marijuana references and the feeling that you’re ensconced in the middle of a battle in space. There’s a reason this band is held in such high regard—and not just because they’re perpetually high—as they deliver music that leaves you with bruises despite all the magic your brain experienced for the previous hour.

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

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

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

Scottish doom duo Ommadon smear devastating touches on massive single-cut ‘End Times’

The fact that we focus on heavy music is super not necessary to point out. That said, not everything we touch feels like it can shake the earth to its very core, sending us all hurtling toward outer space and instant death. But we do have the chance to tackle something incredible devastating now and again, and today we’re going to expose you to something that’s aiming rip your goddamn house down.

Scottish duo Ommadon has been crushing chest cavities for the past decade, and over the course of their previous five full-lengths, the band has proved its penchant toward making music designed to turn rock into lava. They do that thing again on their massive sixth record “End Times,” an aptly named record that sounds like all life coming to an end all at once. The band—Ewan Mackenzie (drums, keyboards, noise) and David Tobin (guitars, noise)—creates a two-track effort that feels like it’s signaling nuclear holocaust. OK, it’s sort of two tracks. It’s one movement broken up over two sides of vinyl, but it’s designed to be heard and absorbed as a single piece. This album quakes massively, and as punishing as their back catalog is, this is something even more massive. It takes some time to adjust to this environment, as there is a level of sameness that can be drubbing. But make no mistake. They’re building a foundation set to scorch and punish, and this album is one that’ll smash your bones. Oh, this thing is out on like 91 labels, so we’ll give you all those links at the end.

The A side begins with drone spitting, guitars chugging, and the lead line charging and bleeding. It’s a long set-up phase, definitely on purpose, as they let the noise drag out and the storm ambiance collect above your head as you’re drubbed violently. At about the seven-minute mark, the pace changes, and the drums start splitting fingertips. The band unloads with devastating, smothering playing delivered in a slow, agonizing fashion, with guttural growls piercing the surface about 14 minutes into the cut. The tempo turns even more funereal, coming off as solemn but dangerous, tearing monstrously slowly before fading out the 20-minute first half.

The B side has static flooding and the pace picking up where it left off. Leads light up, sending strange beams of power, and the heavy pounding continues and adds more bruising. The band smashes you about the head and torso, with primal screams erupting at about the 15-minute mark of this 22:52-long mastodon. The band grinds your face into the gravel, as you might find yourself slowly, darkly nodding along to this track, almost expecting pallbearers to arrive to take you to your final resting place. Feral growls sound utterly inhuman, while the band scrapes at the floor of hell to come up with filth and charred body ash. The track begins its long, nightmarish fade, as a smokescreen collects blinding your sight, and the chaos finally bleeds out.

Ommadon’s might and gravity are apparent as ever, as they unleash inhumane amounts of pain on “End Times.” As this band continues to grow and develop their mission, their music continually gets darker and more abysmal with every step. Of course, we’re talking the end of all things, so why wouldn’t Ommadon make this track as deadly and foreboding as possible?

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.drycoughrecords.com/products

Or here: http://www.atwarwithfalsenoise.com/releases.html

Or here: http://medusacrushrecs.storenvy.com/

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

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

And here: https://dgrecords.bandcamp.com/

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

Death. Void. Terror. conjure all devastation, hypnotic hell with debut ‘To the Great Monolith I’

One of my favorite complaints from people who can’t tackle difficult music is when they ask, “Where’s the hook?” Like there’s only one way to play music. Fact is, there are many different approaches, and just because one style of music doesn’t resonate with you, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. However, if you’re beholden to the verse-chorus-hook structure, today might not be your way.

Death. Void. Terror. is an unconventional name for as pretty bizarre band. There is no origin story. There is no lineup that I’ve been able to find. There is no adherence to song structure or that necessary hook so many people demand for some reason. Instead, their debut “To the Great Monolith I” practically begs you to want to get the fuck off the ride. This album immerses itself in negativity and pushes you, the listener, as far out of its circle as possible. This two-track album strives for an organic, non-rehearsed approach to their music, and they want this thing to feel ritualistic. Spending your time with this album definitely will challenge your thought processes and patience. But those who stay around are rewarded with a bludgeoning performance that is unsettling and pulverizing.

The first track “(——–)” runs a brutal 24:16 and begins with a storm of feedback and noise, as washed-out cries attempt their attack, and desolate sorrow swallows your soul. The terrifying screams sound like they emanate from a killer’s secret basement, as sounds flood the senses, and the chaos washes over everything. At one point, your head is allowed to be flooded in madness, as swirling devastation strikes, and the death rattle begins. The track is sucked into a void and torn out of the other end, as the riffs bubble and burn. The song swings into sleepy black metal similar to Xasthur where you’re blistered by the playing, and then crazed howls and cackles arrive while panic erupts again. The tempo begins battering all over again, leaving you shaking and bleeding, left to fade in an echo chamber.

“(—-)” is a generous 16:46, as noise quivers and aches, and the screams blister your psyche. You might find your eyes growing heavy as the band lulls you into hypnosis, but then vicious growls and utter strangeness jar you back, and a new numbing assault begins. The track is caught in a cyclone of noise, making the room and the world spin around you to the point of nausea, and then the thing bursts all over again, opening wounds that had just congealed. The track gets grimy and filthy, as the penetrating horror spills like plasma, and soon it’s apparent you’ll be shown no mercy. Noises rise and threaten, the tidal wave eventually recedes, and we’re left bathing in a death cloud of voices crying out in agony.

Death. Void. Terror. likely won’t pop up on any huge metal festivals or underground tour packages, but that’s totally by design. “To the Great Monolith I” is more like music that exists to see how many people it can scare way, so that it can embrace and sicken those who stick around for the full beating. Those people likely are as depraved as the creators here, so you probably belong together in a twisted, blood-soaked hellscape.

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Aura Noir keep vintage edge on virulent black thrash with brutal ‘Aura Noire’

There has been a ton of sophistication and advancements in the playing of heavy metal. Sub-genres have spawned their own mini-sub-genres, there are sounds and methods the originators of the style never could have comprehended, and most of this has led people to fight about what’s genuine and what should be tossed from metal’s circles.

All of that is super fun and has helped metal grow, but raw, no-nonsense expressions still have a place within the sound’s mighty halls, and Norwegian thrashers Aura Noir are ensuring the roots and the original fires never are forgotten. For the past 25 years, this band has delivered violent, menacing records that get right to the point, and on “Aura Noire,” the group’s sixth album, they unload nine songs in just under 33 minutes that don’t fuck around and go right for the throat. They’ve always dwelled in the same bloody waters that once nourished Venom, Celtic Frost, Voivod, and Nifelheim, and that hasn’t changed at all on this splattering record. But just because the band hasn’t really changed their formula much doesn’t mean this is as lot of the same old stuff. The band—bassist/vocalist Aggressor, guitarist Blasphemer, and drummer/vocalist Apollyon—maintains their brash, jagged edges, and these songs sound as vital and punishing as anything in their stellar catalog.

“Dark Lung of the Storm” begins raw as a scraped knee with a chugging tempo and riffs spiraling. The vocals burst and are coated with soot, as Aggressor howls, “The hillsides are in flames!” as he stares down the ghosts of war. The track comes to a fast, fiery end, barreling into “Grave Dweller” that crushes and has an odd feel to it. The playing is rupturing and punishing, while the band races into full speed, taking everything down with them to the blasting finish. “Hell’s Lost Chambers” pulls back the pace just a bit, but it’s still heavy as hell. Virulent cries and a clobbering base lead the way, then the song nearly fades, save for a single guitar relighting the blaze. The track reopens, regains its assault stance, and punches out your lights. “The Obscuration” is fast as hell from the start, with riffs firing away, the vocals spat speedily, and complete chaos devouring everything. The track flies by, leaving you a heaping mess.

“Demoniac Flow” also shows off its space and classic-style guitar work, as the melodies twist and turn, and misery-inducing growls lead a trail of carved flesh and shattered bones. “Shades Ablaze” have the riffs chewing the earth beneath it, raspy growls adding salt to your wounds, and the pace later trudging over tar pits. The band goes off an attack that should leave you dizzy and bewildered before things end suddenly. “Mordant Wind” might as well have originated in 1985, as it sounds fresh from a dusty tape deck, with its raucous, yet simple chorus designed to shout back, and the sci-fi-splashed guitar work. The vocals are delivered like a message yelled right in your face, while some tremendous, old-style soloing caves in your chest, and the track comes to a massive end. “Cold Bone Grasp” hits the gas pedal all over, with the guitars splattering everywhere, violent crunching promising further bodily harm, and Aggressor wailing the title repeatedly as the song burns and leaves ash. The closing “Outro” is a last burst, with a thrashy riff intertwining with strange, mesmerizing melodies that slither to a sticky, sore end.

From their “Black Thrash Attack” debut through the entire run, Aura Noir have made black thrash and hellish noise that maintain a vintage edge and a bloody smear. “Aura Noire” is another dangerous adventure with a band that always delivers the goods and does again on this 33-minute mauler. Metal can keep pushing its boundaries, but we need bands such as Aura Noir to remind that the roots remain bloody good as well.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.indierecordings.no/collections/preorders

For more on the label, go here: www.indierecordings.no

Dylan Carlson visits Western motifs, storytelling on dusky solo offering ‘Conquistador’

Photo by Holly Carlson

There are those artists that need no introduction. If you don’t know them—and I mean this in the least shitty way possible—you need to educate yourself. Metal and heavy music has its share of unquestionable, world-toppling influential artists, and Dylan Carlson is one of those.

If you’ve never heard his drone-doom-Americana band Earth, stop what you’re doing and listen to their entire discography. Seriously, this story will still be there until the Russians fuck up the Internet. He’s a god in flesh to many people, and his work has spawned a ton of disciples that follow his every movement. A mere 50 years into his life, after being a major guiding force for artists including Kurt Cobain and Sunn 0))), Carlson finally is offering up his first solo work under his own name in the form of “Conquistador,” a record that really won’t be a stranger to anyone who drinks from the heavy pool of Earth’s second half that’s immersed in Americana and the American west. This record is an imaginary Western, Carlson says, about a conquistador and his servant as they travel from former Mexican territories (now U.S. states) and the adventures they have. And damn it if you don’t get sucked right in. On top of that, Carlson collaborated here with one of our favorite artists Emma Ruth Rundle (literally wearing one of her T-shirts as I write this), as well as his wife Holly Carlson (who adorns the cover), and it turns into an essential block in the artist’s steady foundation, a record only he could create.

Fittingly, the 13:31-long title track begins the record, and in very un-Earth-like fashion, this is the only epic of the bunch. But this is a different world and experience for Carlson, even though we’re immersed instantly into a Western-style haze that loops and repeats for the duration of its run time. It’s a nice drunken feel the song gives off, as Rundle’s slide guitar splashes echoing ambiance, and the body of the track is moody and steely. Understated melodies mix in during the last quarter, as electric pulses rise, tensions build, and the track spirals off into the orange-purple sky. “When the Horses Were Shorn of Their Hooves” chugs harder at first, with the guitars coming in harsher, and the leads charging its way forward. Melodies bubble over while the guitar work gains steam, and all of that dissipates and bleeds into the reddish soil.

“And Then the Crows Descended” has strange acoustics scraping, sharp noises carving into your psyche, and piercing sounds that give way to a fluttery gasp of chimes. “Scorpions in Their Mouths” is the heaviest track, unloading with a thick drone cloud of static, killer steely riffs, and a pace that keeps rolling through the shadows and into the deep dusk. The lead lines get metallic but also glimmering, and that results in a dizzying trip that slips back into the penetrating drone that started the song. “Reaching for the Gulf” ends our tale with a dreamy pace, as the late afternoon’s transition into evening is complete, and drowsy, sunburned guitars draw in the heat. The song has a mid-summer, after-dark finality to it, as the melodies sleep, guitars snake and slither in the dark, and the whole thing ends in stimulating chimes and sizzling noise.

Carlson’s work is a gift to all who ever encountered his music, and “Conquistador” is another strong entry into an unquestionable resume of amazing creations. The music easily can get you lost in his narrative, as you imagine your own adventures or just take up with the characters here. Carlson is a legend for a good reason. He makes music that is authentic and emotional, and as long as we have him around, we’re going to bask in his incredible light.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/products/dylan-carlson-conquistador-12-vinyl

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

Deiquisitor bask in conspiracies, aliens as they bash in our heads on ‘Downfall of the Apostates’

It’s weirdly fitting and totally not planned that we would be tackling the new record from Danish death mongers Deiquisitor mere days after the passage of legendary radio host Art Bell. His show became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, Bigfoot hunts, and alien encounters and often kept lonely souls captivated long after the sun fell with these bizarre stories.

Now, Deiquisitor have returned with “Downfall of the Apostates,” a meaty, punishing second slab of death metal that focuses lyrically on occult sciences, conspiracies, and extraterrestrials, practically begging for members of Bell’s huge audience to pore over each ounce of this thing. For those only here to get their hearing further destroyed, fear not. The band—guitarist/vocalist Thomas FJ, bassist/backing vocalist Daniel A, drummer Henrik BC—devastates and punishes liberally over these nine tracks and just over 36 minutes of violence. The weirdness is just a bonus to what’s a pretty stellar collection of songs, and if you’re like me, you’ll be stunned by just how fast this thing blasts by. The band’s members have plied their trade with other notable groups such Blodfest, Offerkult, Wolfslair, Luciation, and a ton others, so they pretty well know what the fuck they’re doing. They prove it on this monster.

“Atom Synthesis” gets us started with a blistering charge that trudges and marches into the mud. Gurgly growls spread grossness while the band hits a thrashy bit that’s overwhelming physically, laying in shots until it ends abruptly. The title track arrives with riffs out to destroy everything in its wake, and that beastly assault continues its damage with growls crushing and a pace that breaks bones. Oddly, this brutal push is joined by an elegant melody that snakes just underneath before it’s swallowed up by chaos and pools of blood. “Faint Distorted Images” is violent off the bat, as the growls peels away the flesh, and the guitars light up, practically blinding you. The vocals are ugly and guttural, while the band settles into start/stop crushing that applies pressure right up to the end. “Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses” has blood-thick growls, delirious, dizzying guitar work, and drums that quake the earth. Your senses are just beaten in the entire time, with fiery soloing closing the door. “The Order of Pegasus Light” rips way, with growls hammering, and weird robotic glazes applied to other sections of the vocals. Again, the band feels like they’re trying to tear at your brain cables and drive you to absolute insanity.

“Metatron” works to crush the ground beneath it from the start, as the destruction will leave you grabbing the walls for support, and the crazed riffs just keep raining down with no end in sight. The guitars charge, while your brain’s impulses are rewired right down to the charging finish. “The Magnificence of” has a tempered start that lets the band develop the ambiance, and then it’s off to the fucking races. The vocals are grisly, while the riffs swagger with attitude, but then the final moments float off and explore space. “Planetary Devastation” has bizarre riffs that kind of reflect the carnage that preceded it, giving it something of a conceptual feel, and then the growls just get ugly. The song is volatile and keeps jarring your insides back and forth, and things finally end with a splitting attack that brings shivers. Closer “War on the Gods” feels like just that, as the song blasts, the growls swallow you whole, and disarming melodies arrive to try to add some class to the joint. The pace gets heavy and intoxicating, as things begin to shift and transform. The final minutes are situated in alien noise fields that stretch over everything, trying to erase your mind so you can’t grasp the uncovered truths you were allowed to witness. You’re left wondering how you get where you are right now. Strange.

As a longtime admirer of anything strange and alien, I was attracted to this record simply by the lyrical content alone. But digging into the musical substance of Deiquisitor’s massive second record “Downfall of the Apostates” revealed a world that was even more powerful than strange conspiracies. This record is a damn fine collection of classic death metal that just so happens to contain content that keeps most people up at night, either over fear or excitement.

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

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

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

Serum Dreg’s black, death mix bubbles with sex worship, hate on mauling ‘Lustful Vengeance’

There aren’t a ton of death or black metal records focused on sex. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone. The genres don’t really lend themselves that much to many areas of sexual behavior especially considering we’re usually immersed in darkness and pain (apart from childish misogynistic shit). But sex itself being a center point isn’t very common.

The bio materials accompanying Serum Dreg’s diabolical debut record “Lustful Vengeance” contain the motto “FORNICATE. ASPHYX. DEATH TO TRINITY.” That holds a potential hornet’s nest of meaning, but the music here focuses on the worship of sex, hedonism, and ritualistic insanity executed through traditional means. It’s fucking with a darker, more twisted purpose. This record is, as they also charge, blasphemic and grounded in hatred, music that warps and burns the psyche as well as the creators’ own selves. This is noise-marred madness, bleeding in and out of death and black metal pools and becoming one of the most bizarre metallic expressions in some time. Its members—Ad Infinitum (guitars, bass, keys, vocals) and Conjure of Plague (drums, vocals)—we know from other bands such as Ash Borer, Triumvir Foul, Urzeit, Adzalaan, Dagger Lust and others, and they’re firmly ensconced in the Vrasubatlat union of artists that all intermingle with each other and always find new ways to spew vile blackness. But Serum Dreg may be the most fucked up of all of them. Think about that for a second.

“Rotten Pillar/Lustful Vengeance” is the first of these six pieces of horror and sizzles in acid, while the militaristic drumming sets the pace, and weird howls float. Riffs arrive and devastate, while the howl of, “The time has come for you to die,” sends chills. The song then ignites and stampedes into hell, with wild cackles and clobbering leading toward “Edifice of Hatred,” which bludgeons right off the bat. The track is beastly horror, with thrashing sensibilities and raw growls. “Holy Disease” kicks off with a Celtic Frost-style riff and then a pace that aims to wreck lives. The riffs cause dizziness, while the vocals bathe in blood and other bodily fluids, and animalistic howls drape the cover over this bloody carcass.

“Death Ritual” is speedy as fuck and the shortest cut here at 1:56. The title is wailed repeatedly, almost ritualistically, while the skin-scraping screams and violent playing are relentless and evil. “Impure Ceremony” jackhammers you body and mind, while the vocals scrape and drag bruised flesh across rocks, and the tempo chugs and splatters. The track finally comes to a merciful end with a collection of riffs that try to take off your head. Closer “Blasphemic Black Death Noise” might as well stand as a band anthem as the riffs blister and growls decimate. The pace trudges hard, and then the band launches into a raw punk-informed explosion of riffs that bring unrest. The terror spills over into the final lap, where cosmic keys blend in and take over, dragging the song into defilement amid the stars.

Serum Dreg’s bloody, blistering sexual world is a place where you’re not going to find traditional means of pleasure and likely won’t escape without ample scarring both physically and mentally. “Lustful Vengeance” is a tough record to warm up to, and even after multiple visits, it remains a beast that tries to push you out of its circle. This is a dangerous, misery-inducing record, the most depraved 22:30 of metal you’re likely to hear all year.

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

Or here: https://vrasubatlat.bandcamp.com/album/vt-xviii-lustful-vengeance

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

And here: https://vrasubatlat.bandcamp.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Crucial Ludicra members form Ails, who destroy souls on debut ‘The Unraveling’

You know when you haven’t heard a person’s voice in a long time, and when you do again the feels you have all over the place? That’s how I felt when I heard the first words drop from Laurie Shanaman’s mouth the first time I tackled “The Unraveling,” the debut album from Ails.

For those unaware, Shanaman was the lead howler for legendary Bay Area black metal band Ludicra, who are one of the most influential groups of that style hailing from the United States. Their dissolution in 2011 after the release of their mighty final record “The Tenant” was a major blow to metal fans everywhere. Yet four years later, Shanaman and former Ludicra guitarist/vocalist Christy Cather decided they wanted to play music together again, and from that decision, Ails was born. Rounded out by guitarist Sam Abend (Abrupt, Desolation), bassist Jason Miller (Aequorea, 2084, One in the Chamber), and drummer Colby Byrn (Phantom Limbs), the band recorded this magnificent six-track effort that certainly has the Ludicra spirit but definitely stands on its own as something fresh and new. These songs cover topics ranging from heartache, despair, inner torment, and psychological and physical suffering, ensuring it’s not just the metallic elements that make this so heavy. The songs are devastating but also have melody that wraps around you heart (musically and vocally), and each of these chapters makes a lasting impression that sticks with you long after the music has stopped.

The record starts with “The Echoes Waned” that has guitars firing up right off the bat, and melodic singing leading into the heart of the track. Wrenching cries emerge, paired with fury and melody, though that later gives way to calm and acoustic passages, providing some breeze. Then the power kicks back in, taking us back to the verse structure that greeted us, with everything ending in serenity. “Dead Metaphors” runs 8:20 and has guitars stretching their reach and clean calls before the riffs begin to twist into a stormfront. The growls scars while the music thrashes away, and that cuts to bone, where the vocals go from clean to pained cries. A mesmerizing stretch resets your mind, while the back end mixes dark and light, with Shanaman shrieking over a bloodletting charge that fades before trickling into “A Spark of Life,” which has a jolting awakening. The riffs are dark and foreboding, while the growls shred muscle even as melodic waves are lapping. Carnage is achieved, as wild howls pave the way, and the melodies crash to earth, simmering in the song’s airy, key-dripping finish.

“Mare Weighs Down” chugs hard, with the leads drizzling, and harsh growls exploding out of that. Then, the band finds another level of devastation, as the shrieks get even harsher, the riffs swelter and burst, and the whole pace is an eruption. The final moments have riffs creating a tornado effect, while Shanaman’s voice reaches painfully into the night. “The Ruin” is the shortest track at 2:49, and it wastes zero time getting its point across. Thunderous drums spit splinters, while the guitars tangle, and the growls land like haymakers. That punishment never once laments, letting fresh bruises form as we move into the 9:36-long closer “Bitter Past.” Wouldn’t you know it, they saved their best riffs for last as this thing rips from its stance and seeks to maim everything in its path. The vocals are even more intimidating and punishing here, with the ambiance of the song getting uglier and your senses completely dominated. The pattern changes a bit, as singing and growling stampede together, and the final moments give the band a last chance to blow off all their fiery emotion, as the track burns out and leaves a trail of ash.

It’s great to have these two crucial members of Ludicra back in our lives, as well as the rest of Ails, who have made a monumental impact with their first record “The Unraveling.” The album already is one I’m tabbing for early best album honors at the end of the year, because as many times as I visit, I find new ways to be invigorated. This is a force metal needs right now, both musically and thematically, and it’s exciting to think about where they’ll go beyond this killer debut.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Ails-1480944935537950/

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

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

Dagger Lust, Adzalaan set blaze to idea of metallic accessibility with storm of death, blackness

Dagger Lust

This is a site where we try to explain to people how certain metal albums and bands sound, and for the most part, we’re able to get that job done. You can decide if we’re any good at it. But there are those creations that can’t completely be conveyed with words because the mission is foolish and mostly impossible. Yet, here we go.

The Vrasubatlat family of bands make up an intertwined bunch, providing a voice for a community of like-minded musicians who need to release their various forms of depravity. Each band on the roster, be it Triumvir Foul, Utzala, Pissblood, or the two groups we address today unveil their own psychological and physiological unraveling in their art which, to put it gently, can keep many listeners at an arm’s length. This isn’t easy stuff to tackle, even for the gravest of ears, but those who do relate with the utter blackness still probably need time to adjust to what’s going on here.

We’ll start with Dagger Lust, a three-headed beast spearheaded by members of Ash Borer, Serum Dreg, Torture Rack, Witch Vomit, and others who combine for one of the most hideous visions of metal you’re bound to find. On their vile debut full-length “Siege Bondage Adverse to the Godhead,” the band creates utter filth, metal that sounds like it was bathed in an acid bath until only the bones remained, and then everything was violently put back together with slime and muck. Their punishing ways and complete lack of concern for anyone’s well-being is duly noted, and the corrosive fury splashed over these eight cuts and 24 minutes of insanity shows that these maulers—noisemaker/vocalist SVN, bassist/vocalist R, drummer/vocalist T—have nothing but ill will for any sense of sanctity and decency.

“Augury” starts the record as a short burst with demented noise and beastly growls before barreling into “Corroded Vein” and its noise-coated hell. Growls and choking howls mix with wasp nest-style guitars before everything ends in strangulated pain. “Black Blood in Mockery” is thrashy and marred, with warped guitars cutting strange paths and screams melting over a baffling noise field. A total assault on the senses comes from there, and it’s massive, with black soot jolting, and belchy growls sickening. “Perverse Divine” has noise echoing and weird hissing before a pained, bizarre assault arrives, and noise squalls build thick walls of interference. The track keeps grinding before coming to a machine-like end. “Capitulation” is a quick, but utterly brutal one built with deranged menace, destructive playing, and an off-kilter, blistering assault. “Antediluvian Battery” rains down drone filth, as barbaric shouts and growls add to the bloodshed, and the pace boils heavily. The track is smothering and adds tons of pressure to your chest, almost like you’re trapped beneath a planet. The title track closes with a hammering assault and monstrous torment, with a slow-mauling tempo and vomitus retching. Cosmic noise swelters and penetrates, as the song releases its clutches. This is a damaging experience that will crush your soul.

Adzalaan’s R

That leads us into Adzalaan, the black/death metal vessel of sole member R (yes, the same R from Dagger Lust) who certainly bathes in absolute hell and darkness but does so in more of a progressive manner as opposed to his other project we just discussed. On the banner’s debut full-length “Into Vermilion Mirrors, this eight-track, nearly 28-minute effort shows another side to R’s creativity, though you’re going to be disoriented and frightened if you go into this not expecting to be concussed by decibels and chaos. Multiple visits with this record are required just to explore each crevice and for your body and mind to be able to fully absorb what’s going on. Your mind may wander into dimensions beyond while experiencing this record, but you always be brought to center by the hammering power of this document.

“Haven to Flush” is an introductory track with a strange aura and even a movie-like start before noise spirals into “Succumb and Vanquish” and its strangely warm guitars that truck into ultra-violence and jackhammering riffs. Raspy growls stampede as the guitars swirl and confound, and the dark, bloody transmission cuts its way into bone. “False Cleansing” has strong, furious riffs that storm, and massive growls and hellish yells that mix to deliver the heinous message. The track then detonates and sends shrapnel flying, as the playing bruises your mind, and the flooding noise fades away. “Haven in Blood” is an interlude cut that has guitars soaring and oddly glimmering before the sounds wash away and make way for “Wretched Oaths Fall From the Wicked Tongues” and its dizzying, disorienting playing. The guitars slice while the growls shred, cool riffs leave frost, and misery-inducing growls rip away and leave bleeding holes. “Paralysis Euphoria” has haunting riffs and furnace-style growls that breathe fire. The track chugs and thrash as the soloing goes batshit wild, with the trudging smashing the earth, and a furious finish leaving bones powdered. Closer “Vermilion in Abstentia” has a speedy, reckless start that gnaws on flesh. Mangling violence and a massive pace crushes, while harsh growls bleed, the guitars send lightning bolts into hell, and a noise bed is where it all rests.

These two bands and records are not for those who require even a modicum of slickness to their music or tiny avenue toward accessibility. Dagger Lust and Adzalaan do not provide that, nor do these albums. This is profane, disgusting, damaging music that will leave your insides coated with acid and your comfort level permanently destroyed.

To buy either album, go here: http://vrasubatlat.bigcartel.com/

Or here: https://invictusproductions.net/shop/

Or here: http://store.fallenempirerecords.com/

For more on the label or either band, go here: https://vrasubatlat.bandcamp.com/

And here: https://invictusproductions.net/

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