Wild Hunt honor fallen friend with mind-splitting adventure on ‘Afterdream of the Reveller’

Not every band is a family. It’s funny sometimes to hear about groups that can’t even be in the same room together without coming to blows. Classic bands such as Van Halen and Dokken amassed tons of fans over the years despite their complete lack of personal functionality. So, when a band that does operate like a group of people who genuinely like each, it makes it that much harder when a member is lost.

We haven’t heard from wondrous metallic weirdos Wild Hunt in six years, and there are good reasons for that. Not only must it take some time to create their incredibly expansive creations, they also had to do so without guitarist Drew Cook, who passed away in 2015. That loss had a profound effect on the band, and that darkness spills into their mind-warping second album “Afterdream of the Reveller.” The band insists the album is not conceptual, but the effects of Cook’s passing, as well as depression and personal darkness, descent into madness, and the effect of personal loss are heavy themes on these thunderous eight songs. The creativity and manic aggression the band put into these songs is thick and ever-present, and as you travel though these adventures, you experience a taste of the madness that has warped the group the past few years. The music mostly was constructed by drummer/lead vocalist Harland Burkhardt and guitarist Greg Brace, though Cook contributed writing and some of his work is on four songs, so he’s even more woven into the record. Rounding out the lineup are guitarist/vocalist Jameson Kester (also of Void Omnia) and bassist Avinash Mittur, making for a whole new Wild Hunt that is here to rewrite their future.

“At Once the Vision and the Seer” opens the record with keys dripping, weirdness arriving, and dialog warbling before the thing opens in a death assault. The track is tricky and crushing, with prog fury sprinkled liberally, and shredding guitars tearing apart muscles. The back end is batshit crazy before it ends in as beastly a manner possible. “Odious Gamble” is up next and contains one of Cook’s final riffs. Guitars light up, as cool guitars emerge, and strangulated vocals make the track feel that much rougher. The track gets strange, as the playing reminds of early Mastodon, but then monstrous growling, smearing playing, a goddamn doom bell, and noise cloud end the display. “The Last Saeculum” has an acoustic start, adding calm, before the song gets a spacious push, and mysterious vocals punch you. The cosmic mysteriousness becomes overwhelming, as black chaos swarms, wild cries lead to a warped stretch, and a blinding solo works into the acoustic outro. “Choir of a Greater Sea” is my favorite song here, and it has a swelling, fast start, with a chorus rushing, the lead guitars jarring, and a black metal feel to the vocals. The growls get maniacal, while the pace dizzies, and then prog fires are agitated again. A weird ambiance envelopes all, while the sounds mystify, and it’s all washed away.

“Desiderium” is a quick, eerie interlude with creaky speaking and warbled singing, and it makes its way toward the title track that has a delirious, melodic burst out of the gates. Gurgly growls and rough-edged singing unite, as the base of the song is a heavy, emotional storm. The track blasts and lands punches, keeping your insides washing back and forth until a strikingly atmospheric end. “Nest of Flames” has noise rustling and spacey synth spreading, as creaky growls pelt the flesh, and a robotic-style transmission keeps your imagination working in overdrive. The guitars amp up the intensity about halfway through the track, sending the songs into air pockets, thick clouds, and a dreamy haze that pulls the song to its end. Closer “Palingenesia” is an immediate explosion, as savage energy and bludgeoning playing crumble your bones. The band heads into a heady, proggy section that becomes a strange, humid trip that eventually tears everything to shreds. The guitars explore, all kinds of colors splash into the mix, and the final dose of madness mixes into cosmic noise, with everything fading among the stars.

Wild Hunt’s incredible work continues with “Afterdream of the Reveller,” a record that unfortunately took a huge amount of personal pain in order to complete. It’s a great tribute to Cook and what he meant to his friends, and it’s an astonishing piece of work that sounds like nothing else out there. Take time, listen without distraction, and let this record lay waste to your mind.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://vendetta-records.bandcamp.com/album/afterdream-of-the-reveller

For more on the label, go here: https://vendetta-records.bandcamp.com/

Finnish death ghouls Ghastly inject weirdness, cosmic grit into captivating ‘Death Velour’

Photo by Saara Kujansuu

Finnish death metal is fairly legendary, right? Lots of huge bands you can rip right off your tongue from Demilich, Convulsed, Sentenced, and so many others have helped shape not only the scene in their country but the sub-genre around the world. The Nordic nation still has plenty to offer despite their already flowing well of riches, and Ghastly are one of the latest.

Now, with Ghastly, you’re not to expect straight-up death brutality. That’s certainly laced into the mix, but you also get some cosmic weirdness and psychedelic trauma to enhance their sound, which they further mold on their captivating second record “Death Velour.” These guys are committed to expanding the death formula beyond our terrain, pushing the imagination and the possibilities of what this sound can be. The songs are gnarly and alien sounding, and the seven tracks they offer up here continue to surprise over the record’s nicely served 37-minute run time. The band—vocalist Gassy Sam, guitarist/vocalist Jonny Urnripper, and multi-instrumentalist Ian J. D’Waters—can draw loose comparisons to artists such as the tragically fallen Morbus Chron, Execration, Horrendous, and even Voivod, but what they do here is totally their own and something fresh and invigorating.

“The Awakening” is ideally named as it feels like just that, a quick introductory instrumental constructed of keys, drums echoing, and strangeness that heads into “Death By Meditation” where riffs bend, and a blistering pace ignites. The vocals scrape while cool melodies wash over everything, turning the ambiance into a mesmerizing haze that holds on strong until the final notes drop. “Whispers Through the Aether” trudges and stomps, the harsh growls poke bloody holes, and the guitars catch fire. From there, the pace accelerates, with the growls doing cosmetic damage, and the band hitting a sci-fi-styled assault that keeps your head spinning and you gasping for air amid alien tentacles. The track ends in a final pit of metallic destruction. “The Magic of Severed Limbs” has a punishing, savage start, as the band aims to maim life and limb, and the growls threaten madness. Weird riffs swirl, while psychotic laughs barrel into the night, and then the guitars begin the tear at flesh again. The music bubbles, howls and bizarre shouts trick your mind, and the song spirals into hell.

“Velvet Blue” is punchy right from the start, with guitars caught on tornadic speed, and the band unleashing their most violent outburst of the entire record. The track is trudging and again does battle amid the stars before the track comes to a fire-breathing finish. “Violence for the Hell of It” is one of the best song titles of the year, and it delivers on its promise by landing blows and loosening teeth. The vocals crush bones, yet the guitars give off infectious atmosphere before everything shifts. The growls are gritty, synth creates a poisonous cloud, and the final minutes feel like an intergalactic battle fought galaxies away. Closer “Scarlet Woman” is the longest track at 9:14, and it takes its time setting the scene and feel. The initial flow is calm, as guitars drip, and the call of, “I saw her standing there,” pays off a visit from an apparition. The leads float before breaking apart, with drums getting menacing and thunderous, and melodies intertwining and gasping. Smothering crunching and gang wails follow, as the music boils, the guitars combine into a singular force, and the track seems to bleed blues and purples into the very river depicted in the stunning album art.

Bands such as Ghastly are keeping death metal exciting and pumping with interesting new colors of blood, and “Death Velour” is a strange, blistering trip into deep space. They’re heavy enough to satisfy those who require brutality, but they’re manic enough to draw those who want something challenging in their music to keep them invested. Ghastly do good by their country’s long tradition of death greatness as well as the overall sound they’re helping to grow into something weirder.

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

To buy the album, go here (LP): https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/new-items-1/products/ghastly-death-velour-lp

Or here (CD): https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/new-items-1/products/ghastly-death-velour-cd

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Grave Upheaval unleash second record that is a deranged portal into the abyss

Putting on a record that repays you with what feels like audio psychological torture might not seem like the most appealing thing to all people. But those who wish to dig as deeply as possible into death metal’s decaying corpse tend to like things on the deranged, damaged end, and there’s no such thing as music that is too sick and mangled.

Australian death metal shadows Grave Upheaval make the type of music that could conjure nightmares and strange spirits, and they dump more of their strangulated violence on a new sophomore record that, just like their 2013 debut, comes with no actual title. Over eight tracks dubbed with simple Roman numerals, the band—both members take just a dash as a name, though they play in other noteworthy groups including Portal, Impetuous Ritual, and Temple Nightside—twists your psyche and practically forces you to investigate a vision of real, actual hell, where souls are tortured, devoured, and digested for good. Their slowly sprawling, utterly drubbing brand of death metal has a tendency to bore its way into your mind and dig strange tributaries. Often, it feels like you’re being lulled into a trance, but giving into that mental state means you’re submitting to their deranged ways.

“II-I” starts the mission with noise rumbling lightly and the track taking its time to let the demons out of the basement. Eventually, raw growls emerge, while the ambiance feels grim and hopeless. The band overwhelms with its penetrating power, leading into the mouth of “II-II” and its burly riffs that aim to choke you. The drums demolish, and the scene feels like a never-ending tire fire, with smoke blanketing everything. Weird howls and unsettling whispers prick your skin, while the riffs pile on and take the track to its end. “II-III” is punishing from the start, with the band drubbing and deranged howls raining down. What sounds like a pained baby cries out into the night, as an intimidating blanket of drone is laid out, while the song crunches away. Cavernous growls echo, the drums splatter, and the song ends in a mud pit. “II-IV” begins with guitars melting and a trance bubbling up, while the growls stretch and slither, and haunting moans hint at nausea. The final moments clobber you into a weeping mess.

“II-V” has guitars churning and a relentless pace that add pressure to your chest. The track slows down and dumps malice, as the steam rises and wilts everything, and the words are delivered with pain. The track hisses and mauls, sickening your stomach and floating out after a final dose of speed. “II-VI” begins breaking bones while weird growls make your skin crawl. The band hits demolition mode, as the drums bash skulks, fucked-up wails bring a deep sense of unease, and final blasts do the last bit of damage. “II-VII” has guitars grinding as the pace pounds away, and the vocals bring another storm of eeriness. The droning death spreads its wings, while the growls get mean and nasty, the guitars chug in place over and over, and things eventually dissolve into mist. Closer “II-VIII” lets out a swarm of riffs that confound before the driving playing slowly chews at your nerves. The suffocating smoke builds all over before madness is unleashed in full, and the riffs smother everything in its way. The growls gurgle, every element pushes toward the ground, and the track eventually fades into the darkness.

Nothing in Grave Upheaval’s arsenal is ordinary or normal at all, and that lesson is learned over and over on their crushing second record. The entire run of this album feels like you’re being pushed to the test mentally, and breaking is to be expected. This isn’t a record to blare from your stupid truck windows or to give you a boost of adrenaline. It’s for examining your darkest pathways and accepting that terror and chaos is all around you.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grave-Upheaval/131857073578133

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

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

Skeletal Remains unleash burst of traditional death metal with punishing ‘Devouring Mortality’

We try to open these pieces with introductory comparisons to life or politics or something that relates to the music in question we’re about to discuss. It gets tiring. I sat here for minutes before trying to think of a way to begin what I wanted to say. There are times when just jabbing at the heart of the matter works best, and so let’s do that.

There’s something great about a tried-and-true death metal record that doesn’t try to be something it’s not, doesn’t aim to start any new trends, and just wants to deliver the goods. That’s exactly what you get with “Devouring Mortality,” the punishing third record from California death metal crew Skeletal Remains. Reeking of the stench of the early ’90s (in a good way!), this trio rips out 11 songs packed into a perfectly portioned 44 minutes that scratch that deep itch for a really good, honest death metal display. That doesn’t mean it’s run of the mill by any means. It’s wickedly executed, mashing power generated by these three guys—vocalist/guitarist Chris Monroy, guitarist Adrian Obregon, bassist Adrius Marquez—who pour every ounce of precision and violence into this thing.

“Ripperology” starts the record thrashing away, with gnarly vocals chewing your skin, and the leads spraying. Atmosphere is injected, and eerie bells bring fear, while everything ends on manic cries and a blistering outburst. “Seismic Abyss” has a flurry of guitars and death chugging, as the howls are spat out, and the track delivers pain. The pace changes later, smearing its fury, while a blinding solo gets us to our blistering finish. “Catastrophic Retribution” is punchy and really has that ’90s sense to it. The vocals crush while the leads send blinding lights before things slow down and take on doomy sentiments. Then, of course, it speeds up and breaks necks over its final minutes. The title cut bursts with speed, with the vocals scraping and the leads having a nice vintage feel to them. “Torture Labyrinth” has a cool intro with alien guitars abound, and then the band starts delivering pain. The vocals are comprised of shrieks while the drums blister, and the guitars go off on an exploratory mission. “Grotesque Creation” opens with a great riff, the drums rumbling, and the tempo sprawling back and forth. The music swims through the madness, hitting some interesting curves before fading away.

“Parasitic Horrors” has vocals that come at you like shrapnel while the guitars twist your brain, and the tempo leaves bruising. The soloing is fluid and swelling, and then everything bursts, sending guts and bones everywhere. “Mortal Decimation” goes off the rails from the start, sending you into a panic attack as the swings start coming. Growls and piercing yells combine, while the playing then leaves you dizzy and reaching for walls to balance. The soloing then splatters, as an echo effect intensifies your confusion. “Lifeless Manifestation” provides a brief pull back, as it’s a short instrumental cut with demonic howls in the background, and it all spills into “Reanimating Pathogen.” There, confounding melodies arrive and twist your senses, while the vocals shred, and the guitars take over. Some interesting colors are added to the mix before the band rips away, dual leads glow, and we come to a crunchy crash landing. Closer “Internal Detestation” has a strong, riveting start while wildly howled vocals attack, and some insane solo work arrives. The guitars then intertwine, sending fire, and the track begins mashing before coming to a searing end.

You’ll find more futuristic stuff with other bands, but I doubt that bothers Skeletal Remains. This band does what it does very well, evidence of which can be found on “Devouring Mortality.” This is no-nonsense death played with some exploratory flourishes that always gives back ample amounts of power. There’s something to be said for consistency, and Skeletal Remains are packed with that.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store

Or here: https://www.cmdistro.de/

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

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

Our Place of Worship Is Silence unleash terrifying violence on fiery ‘With Inexorable Suffering’

One would think any amalgamation of death and black metal should sound mentally unstable and absolutely savage. The beastly ambiance and complete disregard for one’s safety should be at the forefront, and anything polished and shiny should be tossed to the trash.

One dip into Our Place of Worship Is Silence’s new record “With Inexorable Suffering” will have you reeling in pain. It’s a pit of torment and punishment that, for some weird reason, you’ll feel like you rightfully deserve. So often, I get records that claim the death metal or black metal label, and don’t get me wrong, many are very good. Not often do I hear one that feels like I’m being chewed alive by a goddamn demon, but “With Inexorable Suffering” is one of them, and it feels like that every time I visit. The band—drummer/vocalist Tim, guitarist/bassist/vocalist Eric (and no, your Tim and Eric jokes aren’t funny)—bring unexplainable darkness on this album. These songs are urgent and in immeasurable danger, and each drop of this second album from this devastating duo feels like a punch in the gut, hammer to the temple. I want more death and black metal to feel this way. I laugh when people defend the assholes of the genre for making OK music with shock-tactic actions. Make me feel this in danger, and I’ll be willing to listen. This is scary.

“Artificial Purgatory” starts this black mass with riffs swirling, the track trudging violently, and gurgled yelling capping the ungodly transmission and pushing into “Chronicles of Annihilation.” There, the blunt assault gets under way right away, with maddening vocals that sound like they’re delivered from the mouth of hell. In fact, the vocals are the scariest part of this entire record. The track hits muck and insanity, as bestial growls erupt, and everything fades following a last bludgeoning. “The Blind Chimera and Its Death” splatters bodies, as the growls sicken, dense riffs bring on dizzying chaos, and an utterly terrifying display is laid out before you. The vocals turn demonic down the home stretch, while some melody manages to make singular bloody tributaries in thick pools of mud. “Labyrinth Disorientation” punches open and trucks toward you with plasma-soaked wheels. Deranged howls strike, while the soloing screams out and sends shivers. Mangled and crazed guitars rearrange your mental structure, while the back end feels like you’re watching someone get their guts ripped out alive.

“Defiance and Upheaval” lives up to its name, as a mucky assault breaks out, followed by guitars tearing your world apart, a nightmarish ambiance, and a murderous pace. Ferocious growls mix with animalistic shrieks, and all that barrels into “The Decay Maxim” that’s packed with devastation. Manic shrieks and twisted danger crash land into a mud pit, while gritty riffs and unhinged horrors drag the track to its gory finish. Closer “Lawlessness Will Abound” has guitars bending and a serious dose of weirdness as it begins. Your mind is driven to its limit, while the band pounds away with more and more layers of filth. A huge burst comes out of that (it startled me, as I wasn’t expecting it), with the playing confounding, crazed yells teaming with rabid growls, and the song slowly bleeding its last.

Our Place of Worship have crafted a record that doesn’t feel good, won’t elevate your useless testosterone, and won’t cradle your feelings. “With Inexorable Suffering” is a record that blasts your mind and soul and leaves you bleeding furiously. This is the danger and fire you’re supposed to feel dining on death and black metal. This is delivered in full-blazing panic and devastation.

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

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

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

Delaware death squad Scorched unload pair of mauling demos in advance of incoming new album

Like most kids my age, I spent a lot of my teen years watching old horror movies that I’d find at my local video stores. I went through the essentials such as the “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, but I always found extra joy in the weird hidden gems on the shelf that looked like they were made for $100. A plus was the weird, synthy soundtracks that accompanied them and made what I was seeing feel that much spookier.

That chilling ambiance is what makes Delaware-based death mongers Scorched so fun for me. Not only do they splatter you with horrific tales and guttural death metal, but they surround them with quick interludes of frosty keyboards that makes the hair on your arms rise with fear. Their second full-length effort is due out later this year on 20 Buck Spin, but in the meantime, the label is refreshing two of their shorter works into “Excavation for Evisceration,” a single vinyl and digital display to give anyone new to the party an advance taste of the sickness. These 11 tracks and nearly 27 minutes of punishment are culled from their 2015 self-titled demo and their 2017 “Hymns From the Cellar” demo, and it packs these like-minded slabs into one convenient killing spree. The band—vocalist Matt Kapa, guitarists Steve Fuchs and Federico Dimarco (he just joined this year and didn’t play on these releases), bassist Andrew Benenati, and drummer Matt Izzi—pack their sound with smothering, driving death on tracks that don’t waste time getting to the point and leave you bruised and bleeding.

Side A kicks off with the “Hymns” demo, as “Enter the Cellar” greets you with noise and weird synth transmissions rising before we’re headlong into “Existence Dissolved.” Keys also drip in at first before burly death riffs crush souls, and the gurgling growls from Kapa pack more pain. The playing is grim and hammering before soloing catches fire and takes the song home. “Gruesome Procedure” is another interlude designed to turn your bloodstream into ice crystals, pushing you into “Altar of Desecration,” where riffs tangle and cut off your air supply. The pace is crunchy, and the growls are menacing, as we push into thrash and gloomy doom territory. Weird moans spill, as the track bleeds out.

The second side contains the self-titled 2015 demo and starts with “Emerging Decay” that lets the gates creak open toward “Fevered Souls” and its punishing leads and destructive power. The guitars ignite into utter fury, while shrieks and growls mix, the band smashes your bones, and wild howls spiral out in horror. “Caverns of Catharsis” blisters and chugs, as the growls bubble and flesh is ground in the gears. The track gets thrashy as hell, while the soloing explodes and brings the song to an abrupt end. “Tools of Murder” ensconces you in a synth fog and crawls toward “Fields of Famine” that grinds out its chaos slowly. The tempo then kicks into gear and mashes feelings, as the band punches in doors and unloads a mangling back end. “Fire Burial” is the final bizarre interlude before the final track “Scorched,” another in a long line of great tunes named after the band itself. Seething screams and meaty playing set the stage, while the whole thing splatters blood. Muddy growls face off with buzzing moans, spreading pestilence until the whole thing blows away.

If you’re heading to Migration Fest this summer, you’ll get a chance to see these guys on a larger stage, where they surely are going to bring some the tracks from “Excavation for Evisceration.” The band’s nasty, gnarly sound should please anyone who wants their death metal rotting and disease infested. This and what was on their 2016 debut full-length “Echoes of Dismemberment” should provide excellent hints at the annihilation that awaits us later this year.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/front/products/scorched-excavated-for-evisceration-lp

Or here: http://listen.20buckspin.com/album/excavated-for-evisceration

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