PICK OF THE WEEK: Conan’s doom takes on speedy bursts, cosmic ire on ‘Existential Void Guardian’

Conan (Photo by Matt Negus)

There you are, face to face with a behemoth with no mercy, with saliva dripping from his rotting mouth, blood marking his battle club that’s even larger than you are. You have a switch, and somehow, you’re supposed to make this some kind of fight. Guess what? You’re not going to win, this doesn’t have a miraculous finish, and it never could because the beast always prevails.

This is what it’s like taking on a new record from UK doom battalion Conan, who are back with more artillery on their fourth platter “Existential Void Guardian.” Over the past half-decade or so, this band has been one of the top delivery machines of clubbing, caveman-like doom metal. It comes slow, calculated, and bludgeoning, and no one who stands in their way survives. If you catch them live, it’s an even bigger task, as they blow out your goddamn hearing by barely even thinking about it. They plug in, and it’s doom for your eardrums. This new effort is a tight and tidy seven-track, 35-minute effort (expanded versions come with four killer live cuts) of blood-caked new Conan fodder, and anyone who has been along for this ride joyously since their 2012 debut full-length “Monnos,” you won’t be asking off anytime soon. Guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist Chris Fielding, and new drummer Johnny King (Dread Sovereign, Malthusian) sound as sharp and channeled as ever, sometimes even speeding things up, and once you’re done with this thing, you should be emotionally and physically spent.

“Prosper on the Path” starts the record, and it’s a ripper, as their brand of doom mauls you with reckless abandon, Davis’ trademark wailed roar launches, and we’re head-first toward the killing machine. The track kicks up the pace later, as the vocals intensify, with gang shouts splattering all over the song’s end. It’s a motherfucker. “Eye to Eye to Eye” revels in static before the burly riffs kick in, and meaty roars get blood surging. “Bow before the altar!” Davis commands, while the guitars swirl and sicken. The tempo is faster in spots than your typical Conan jam, with the back end bringing hammering fury and spurts of mud. “Paincantation” is the most unexpected Conan songs ever, as it’s a 54-second explosion of grind and death terror, with pure chaos and vicious growls making up its body. “Amidst the Infinite” melts slowly, though it drives hard. Davis wails about “the dying king we all adore,” as warmer tones arrive,  the leads bleed over the top, and noise buries the cut forever.

“Volt Thrower” is aggressive, as one might expect from the title alone, and the pace is punchier and crunchier than usual. The riffs swelter as the band digs in and aggressively wrestles you to the ground, with Davis’ final declaration of, “All hail, volt thrower!” the last thing you hear before expiring. “Vexxagon” starts with Davis wondering, “Is this the end of days?” before the band settles into a track that soaks in their classic sound. It’s sludgy and ugly, with guitars chugging and drawing blood, and Davis’ wails mixing with Fielding’s death growls that actually take over at one point. A cosmic whir smears the battle, as the track hammers over the final minutes. Closer “Eternal Slant Legend” starts with drums kicking in, the bass buzzing, and the song locking into place. This one also delves into outer space but mostly stays there, giving the song a heavy fuzz treatment. The band shoves into weighty, crushing terrain, though there are spacious melodies, atmosphere, and eventually a dissolution into static.

Conan’s force in the doom metal world is unquestioned, and “Existential Void Guardian” is another mammoth release from a band that has yet to leave us lacking in violent chaos. This massive trio knows how to get their battle plans ready, mobilize their force, and come at you with blades whipping. There’s a reason Conan are revered the way they are, and albums like this are all the evidence you need as to why.

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

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

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

Pig Destroyer’s expanding grind takes on thrashy, deathy tones on face-melting new ‘Head Cage’

It’s alarming how much our society in America has changed in the past few years. And mostly not in a good way. The bullshit quotient is an alarmingly high level, and there is so much noise out there that it’s nearly impossible to concentrate or even calm down for a second because everything is burning.

Here to drop a tanker full of fuel on the fire come grind masters Pig Destroyer and their long-awaited sixth record “Head Cage,” an album that comes six years after their last release “Book Burner” and thrusts them into a volatile world that practically matches their sonic vitriol. It’s actually a relief to have this band back in our grasp now, during these times, though this record isn’t some sort of reaction to that necessarily. Well, parts are. It’s just that their jackhammering sound feels about as right as ever, as they continue to expand their grind base toward thrash, death, and noise, something they hinted at last time around but really nail on this 12-track, 33-minute beast. The band—vocalist/lyricist JR Hayes, guitarist Scott Hull, bassist/vocalist John Jarvis, noise/sample master Blake Harrison, and drummer Adam Jarvis—sound more at home as their borders expand, and while it took me a few stabs to fully get this record, it’s become one that has really resonated. Plus, it just full-on bulldozes.

“The Tunnel Under the Track” is a quick intro cut that sets old-timey music with warnings about the dangerous noises you’re about to hear, like something right out of “Fallout,” and then we’re into “Dark Train” and its storming assault. It’s total grind ferocity, which will make long-time fans happy, and then it’s into “Army of Cops,” featuring vocals from “The Grindfather” Richard Johnson of Agoraphobic Nosebleed. This is a pointed, molten assault lyrically, digging partially back into issues that inspired the band’s name in the first place. “Tell me, where does it stop? This tower of law, this army of cops?” Johnson wails before delivering the dagger of, “Why would god create something so weak unless he wanted us to suffer?” “Circle River” has electro-charged guitars chewing away, as the pace chugs and batters, the vocals shred, and everything drowns out in noise. “The Torture Fields” is a healthy burst of grind terror, with the delivery a blinding fury, and the band thrashing away, leaving no bones unbroken. “Terminal Itch” is a fucking jackhammer, with the vocals spat out (Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Kat Katz wails away on this one), riffs swirling, and you getting entangled in the gears and wholly crushed.

“Concrete Beast” has riffs swaggering, Kat lighting everything on fire with her savage wails, and the pace playing games with your mind. Later on, raw shouts and a thrashing assault brings the song to its end. “The Adventures of Jason and JR” is sung partially by band friend Jason Hodges and contains a narrative that is absolutely ridiculous, which is why it’s fun. I guess we don’t often call Pig Destroyer songs fun. Anyway, this one is (Hayes terms it his stoner comedy), but it’s also a death stomp the entire time, with the track ending in blistering chaos. Then we’re back to the blackness with “Mt. Skull,” a furious, speedy cut that has Hayes looking back on the place he grew up and realizing everyone is gone. “Everyone on Mt. Skull is dead, everyone I love,” Hayes cries as the song breathes its last. “Trap Door Man” blasts by in no time, with the band unloading chaos, as raspy howls and mangling playing shred up muscles and veins. “The Last Song” gets back to groove and sludge, as thick bass lines, spacey noise (Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker guests here), and junkyard barks comprise this bruiser that deals a sweltering dose of violence. Closer “House of Snakes” is the longest track, clocking in at 7:08, and its guitar bleed in reminds of the opening strains of Metallica’s “Blackened.” Voice samples strike as the song takes on a humid, swampy feel, with Hayes’ cries piercing any sense of calm. The track has a few pace changes that continue to give the song a new face while, later on, the band steers forcefully into hardcore-style terrain, outright crushing you, pushing every last drop of breath from your lungs. The assault continues to deliver as a stinging noise bed rises up and sweeps the song to its grave.

Pig Destroyer were made for these times, and “Head Cage” smothers fully and provides no chance at clean air or submission. It’s a beating that lasts until every fragment of its target is obliterated, making for a really satisfying, yet bruising experience. This is a heavy, uncompromising record that might take some time to sink in, but once it does, you’re finished.

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

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

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

Infera Bruo delve into cosmos as their black metal gets more dramatic, daring on ‘Cerement’

In the midst of a long drive over the weekend, I was treated to these billboards from some kind of Christian sect basically taking a shit on things most sane people have come to accept and respect (such as science!), along with some batshit phone number to call. One of them def insinuates evolution is a lie (fuck you, science!), which always makes me laugh.

Evolving is a purely natural phenomenon, and all of us are a part of it in one way or another. Some people change in their way of societal or political thought. Some find their career aspects shape shift as they gain more experience. Some people go from asshole to open-minded thinker. The opposite also happens, but that’s more de-evolution. Some of the more interesting bands in the world also evolve, and one that has done that dramatically is Infera Bruo. The Boston-based band that includes members of other notable acts such as Trap Them, Cul de Sac, and Pillory has returned with a thunderous, daring third full-length record “Cerement,” their first for Prosthetic Records after releasing their last album “In Conjuration” on Bindrune Recordings. We loved that one. This one also is a crusher. Their black metal has changed a lot and taken on more progressive and spacey elements, something that matches the personalities of these songs quite well. The band—Galen (guitars, lead vocals), Neutrino (bass, vocals), Germanicus (synth and effects), and Ardroth (drums, vocals)—has progressed nicely the past few years, and this record is bound to be one that takes some time to fully settle but also will shake psyches.

“Poison Waters” is a quick intro cut with eerie strangeness, winds picking up, and dusty acoustics, leading into “Shroud Enigma” and its massive melodies and driving guitars. The vocals are shrieky, while a proggy collection of clouds gathers, and psychedelic noises cut in and bring death. We then are sucked into the stars, as the vocals pierce, the tempo remains fired up, and we’re off to a blistering end. “Effigy of Reason” is a quick instrumental built on strange, spacey wooshes, acoustics, and a solar storm that begins to warm your face. “End Notes” kicks off with guitars charging, as the pace is enthralling, and the shrieks arrive to bloody lips. Clean singing emerges to add a different element before harsh wails return and rain down, the riffs get speedy and urgent, and synth and guitars burst, leading to a furious ending.

“The Lunar Pass” opens in a bath of proggy keys, as riffs begin to churn, and the pace tears apart sanity. Harsh growls and droning fire combine, as clean singing returns along with strange sci-fi keys that should chill your flesh. Guitars meander through stardust, while the storm kicks up again for one last explosion before all fades into the night. “Draped in Sky” has a calculated starts that slowly does damage, as spindly guitars work their way into the scene, and the growls begin to engorge. The track gets creaky but spacious, while clean singing brings in cooler breezes, and the song goes from fluid wonder into prog-infused hell. Weird noises spread, the guitars charge hard, and the track twists and slices to its finish. “Scorne” has guitars jarring before a huge black metal surge arrives and covers the earth in molten lava. Savage growls erupt as the band drives dangerously to the brink, stomping and clobbering until only ash is left. Closer “Temporial” is an instrumental closer that feels similar in sense to the other tracks like this that came before it, almost as if it’s closing the book on that triptych with strange sounds, acoustic washes, and calming, buzzing passages that feel from an alien world.

Infera Bruo not only should have their profile raised with Prosthetic behind them but also should find a hungrier audience of open-minded listeners with the thunderstorm that is “Cerement.” It’s the portrait of a band growing and evolving, embracing every new aspect along the way. The cosmic wonders and atmospheric drama woven into this record makes the album equally fascinating and devastating.

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

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

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

Malthusian mix black and death metals, create horrifying beast of madness with ‘Across Deaths’

Autumn is not here yet, but its cold, deadly clutches are not far away. The time of the year when all nature meets decay and death is the ideal time for dark, heavy music, because it very much reflects the imminent absence of life that in the offing. These will be grim times.

So, it is fitting that the debut full-length from Irish black/death metal crushers Malthusian soon will be in our laps. “Across Deaths,” their five-track, nearly 41-minute first offering is a poisonous amalgamation of horrifying death metal and mind-warping black metal, put together in such a way where it creates a kind of beast we really haven’t seen before. It’s not that they’re rewriting the book on death and black metals, but they are doing their best to rewire the brains of both. Every moment of this record is harrowing and violent, pouring heinous power and ill intent into their music, which is the embodiment of mental duress. The band—vocalist/guitarist AC, vocalist/guitarist MB, bassist/vocalist PG, and drummer JK—lays waste from moment one, and over the next 40 minutes, the pummeling you take is thorough and mean, but it’s one you’ll find you enjoy. Not in that way! Perv.

“Remnant Fauna” is an infernal assault right off the bat, as savage pounding and warped growling enter into the tornado and create nausea. The drums splatter while the pace thickens, and eventually things get disorienting, like the room is spinning wildly. Multiple voices swirl together, as the pace decimates, and a savage beating spills out to the ending. “Across the Expanse of Nothing” has guitars firing up and the song being shoved into a blender, Portal style. It’s an ugly, menacing thing that keeps having layers of filth applied over top of it, nearly to the brink of suffocation. The pace stumbles into hell, with guitars cutting veins, wildness pouring out of every crevice, and a damaged aura gurgling on its last drops of blood “Sublunar Hex” sends shrapnel flying everywhere, with devastating growls, tricky riffs, and dizzying playing. Warped screams lash out, while the song continues to corrode and leaves behind trails of rust. The track then gets slurry and gritty, ending in a pit of chaos.

“Primal Attunement – The Gloom Epoch” is the longest track, clocking in at 12:57, and it is outright fucked up from the start. It begins sludgy and brutal, grinding through warped tunnels, with maniacal growling landing blows and black metal melodies raining down. The track turns into slow-driving, deliberately delivered death, as things are swallowed into a sarlacc-style pit, while the guitars begin chugging and producing smoke. The vocals sound like squeals delivered from deep inside a cavern, while deranged howls meet up with them and generate havoc. The band then enters into what sounds like freeform punishment, as strings strikes, and everything fades into darkness. Closing cut “Telluric Tongues (Roaring Into the Earth)” starts with drums disrupting the calm, punchy guitars drawing blood, and engorged growls belching out panic. The pace flattens as heavy death draws near, and guttural growls add ample bruising to the beating that’s long been under way. The band actually finds a way to be more damaging in the final minutes, with the last thing you hear being echoed screams that indicate the fate of all is not going to be pretty.

Malthusian’s debut has been highly anticipated ever since their 2013 demo and 2015 EP “Below the Hengiform,” and lucky for us, “Across Deaths” answers the bell over and over again. Its sick blend of death and black metals is treated with a warped sense of madness, and dark sickness forms from the air around it and spreads its vicious wings. This is a beast of a record, one that will go down as one of the more memorable debuts of a very rich 2018.

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

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

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

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

And here: https://invictusproductions.net/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Thou continue to defy expectations, turn view inward on stirring opus ‘Magus’

Um … Thou (Photo by Craig Mulcahy)

There are bands whose records you cannot just put on and let the music play in the background while you remain emotionally unaffected. There is nothing wrong with bands like that at all, as there is something valuable in putting music on and zoning out. But there arguably is more value in music that almost literally climbs inside of you, operates your heart and mind, and leaves you a different person. Thou, at least for me, always have been one of the bands that do that every time out.

This year has been a hell of a year for any Thou fan, as they delivered four incredibly varying releases that show different sides of their personalities and musical DNA. Now comes the big one, “Magus,” their fifth full-length effort and first for Sacred Bones. This 11-track, 75-minute excursion is a mammoth, a record you never will unpack in one or even five listens, and another volcano of an emotional experience from a band that doesn’t give a single fuck about your metal aesthetic. This record isn’t a huge departure from 2014’s “Heathen,” our album of the year that year, but it’s not a repeat or a reworking of ideas. It’s an album that moves the earth with themes of alienation, boredom, futility, decay, the awfulness of history, agony, pain, and personal introspection at a time when so many people are fast to point fingers. A lot of these themes are woven throughout their monstrous catalog, and this feels like their natural evolution in the Thou story. The band—vocalist Bryan Funck, guitarists Andy Gibbs and Matthew Thudium, bassist Mitch Wells, and drummer Josh Nee—delivers this cataclysmic conclusion to their latest body of work that also includes noisy “The House Primordial,” lush and quiet “Inconsolable,” and grungy and awesome “Rhea Sylvia,” and they do so in a way that will level you.

“Inward” starts like a swirling storm you can hear in the distance when, all of a sudden, it breaks. The music, while traditionally doomy in the Thou sense, also swims in atmosphere, as Funck’s wild wails spit nails. The guitars cut through the heart, while things get heavier and muddier toward the end, bleeding into a bath of light and interlude track “My Brother Caliban” that’s situated in buried shrieks and fuzzy sound. “Transcending Dualities” has guitars churning and a calculated melody emerging. The pace sounds like it’s hunting prey, while Funck wails about “shapeshifting through life,” as the melodies bleed, and the tumult rises and falls. “The Changeling Prince” has leads barreling in, while the song then openly clubs you, with growls lurching and even some lighter tones spreading later on. Funck’s vocals stab at a “haunted fractured reality,” as things barrel toward a climactic finish, where Funck repeatedly howls, “Behind the mask, another mask,” while he digs for his subject’s true essence. “Sovereign Self” starts solemnly, with Emily McWilliams lending her haunting voice, and the track bursting with emotion. The vocals rip things apart, while burly riffs send shockwaves through the earth, causing pavement to ripple. The pace applies devastating pressure, with melodies raining, the drums rumbling out, and focus heading toward “Divine Will,” where an angelic chorus calls back, “We are the sages reincarnated, up to our old tricks again.”

“In the Kingdom of Meaning” has airy guitars that hint at calm before the track slowly breaks open, and Funck’s vocals delivering bruising. The playing here, while filthy and mashing, also is daring and exciting, as the guitars carve new paths, extending Thou’s kingdom. Later on, the track gets slower and liquidy, as the band looks to carve into hearts, and McWilliams returns to add a ghostly touch to a song that burns itself into the air. “Greater Invocation of Disgust” threatens from the start, as growls explode, and fluid melodies pour from the track’s mouth. “We’ve got nothing but hatred,” Funck cries, more as an observation than a comment on self-state, and great leads and a muddy path make this song tougher and meaner. “Elimination Rhetoric” starts with harsh cries, slow-driving menace, and a riff that feels gothic and dark. Acoustics wash under the madness, with the leads adding warmth, emotional, moody melodies spreading, and the vocals scorching the earth. “I can help myself, don’t talk to me,” Funck repeats, with thing coming to a hammering end. “The Law Which Compels” is the final interlude track, built by noise, smothered growls, and guitars bubbling, heading toward the 10:54 closer “Supremacy” that launches into slow-grinding pounding, even with some cleaner lines woven within the soot. “Consumed by inner fires!” Funck howls, as beauty and carnage twist together, weird melodies rewire your brain, and noise simmers, threatening overflow. The band then bludgeons over and over and over again, thrashing your head, leaving you clinging to metallic sound clouds that eventually dissolve into mystery and leave a vapor spray on steel.

Thou remain one of metal’s most important, genuine bands, even if the group itself eschews labeling itself that type of force in the first place. “Magus” is another landmark achievement from the band, a record you will remember where you were and what you were doing the first time you heard it and the first time it truly struck a nerve. There is no one else out their making music quite like Thou, and even though they don’t put themselves above anyone, we’re all still looking back up at them anyway.

For more on the band, go here: http://noladiy.org/thou/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/products/sbr205-thou-magus

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

Nachtlieder’s fiery black metal pays homage to wild spirits, keen hunter on skin-shredding ‘Lynx’

Photo by I Breathe Needles

Metal is filled with wolves. They’re in band names, album titles, song lyrics, merch, you name it. Same goes for a lot of other animals, both fictional and real, as bands use imagery and the creatures’ traits to color in their own characteristics and personalities. One animal we don’t hear from in the metal world nearly enough is the lynx, that silent predator can be on top of you before you know it.

Luckily for those carnivorous cats, Swedish black metal spirit Nachtlieder is paying tribute with their new, second album “Lynx.” Not only are these animals, some of which are highly endangered, known and feared for their stalk-and-ambush hunting approach, they also are given credit for their ability to see the unseen, something that’s been carved into mythology as these animals having the gift of knowledge and clairvoyance. On Nachtlieder’s third record, an eight-track effort that’s arriving imminently, Dagny Susanne, who handles all aspect of the record but drums (Martrum once again performs those duties), delivers carnage and fury on a record that focuses on death and isolation. You can feel the assault coming, smell the blood on Susanne’s teeth, and feel the fury of her work as this record tramples you underfoot.

“Claws and Bone” gets the record off to a stormy start, as fog envelops, riffs swirl, and Susanne’s harsh growls grab you by the throat. Black metal melodies wash through like a blackened stream, while the back end disappears into pure chaos. The title cut has guitars encircling its prey, while sinister growls rip through, and outright hell erupts. “Come predators, come hunters, I turn my gaze to the skyline, and the night belongs to me,” Susanne howls, as the song goes on a fire-breathing tear, ending at the bloody corpse of its enemy. “Song of Nova” unleashes powerful melodies, as the growls go for the guts, and the drums begin to destroy. “There is no escape!” Susanne wails, while a deathly black mix floods to the surface, and the finish is decimating. “Nameless, Faceless” has guitars that fire up, with Susanne’s creaky growls getting under your skin, and melodies cascading. Gritty riffs and crushing cries join together and wash out into madness.

“Law of Decay” tears calm apart from the start, as blistering chaos and ferocious growls pile up and head toward your chest. Guitars swim through the filth, while deadly mashing ends the song on a heap of bones. “Dark Matters” has a fluid start, with weird keys whirring behind and growls scraping the surface of the earth. Black metal melodies wash up on shore, as a thick bassline picks up the path, and the track disappears into an oncoming storm. “Eyes Ablaze” is smothering at the start, with growls tearing through, and brutal, fiery riffs setting fires. The terrifying riffs add more levels of damage, with Susanne’s hellish cries landing before an abrupt end. Closer “Moksha” splits open faces when it starts, as guitars light up the night sky, and fiery vocals roast flesh. “Forlorn travel of the forsaken, for the lonely mortal, the spirit moves only in circles,” Susanne cries, as the pace swelters, making you feel dizzy, before speed emerges and ramps up the danger. From there, the vocals shred the senses, the guitars ring out, and the track disappears into a cavern of sound that swallows you whole.

This is the most savage, unrelenting record of Nachtlieder’s run so far, as “Lynx” reflects its subject matter’s sudden and ferocious assault tactics. The music is full of torment and fury, and Susanne’s violent vocals add that much more bloodshed to her compositions. It’s about time the lynx got some love in the destructive metal world, a place that could use a few more hungry predators among its ranks.

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

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: http://www.nigredorecords.org/

Faustcoven return with vile, doom-infested blackness on ashy ‘In the Shadow of Doom’

There are productive, healthy reasons to disappear into darkness and surround yourself with something that’s thickened with ill intent and chilling horrors. It’s a way to sink into the shadows and let negative energies into your system while you deal with what’s really surrounding you. It’s also a way to identify with something dark and dangerous.

The arrival of a new record from Nordic black metal/doom cult Faustcoven could not have come at a better time. “In the Shadow of Doom,” the band’s first record in six years, is filled with what we’ve come to expect from Faustcoven: Horrors, satanic powers, death, misery, you name it, as all those things remain a part of what this Gunnar Hansen-led project has delivered ever since the project’s inception more than 15 years ago. On this new record, comprised of eight tracks spread over an economical 43 minutes, Hansen and drummer Johnny Tombthrasher unravel warping melodies, terrifying trauma, and doomy hellishness. The album feels like a heavy storm building along with an infantry of bloodthirsty soldiers with blunt swords and torture devices set to scramble your guts. Or something like that.

“The Wicked Dead” kicks off the record with dizzying riffs, gruff growls, and a grimy, filthy film that blocks your veins. The pace continues to mete out punishment, as cavernous, creaky growls strike, and then a line from “The Devil Notebooks” thickens the shroud of terror before a thrashy, calculated ending. “The Devil’s Share” has a dirty, bluesy start before doomy clubbing arrives, and Hansen’s scraping yells claim flesh. Dark, poetic wails meet with thick clouds shaded in deep gray before things come to a clubbing end. “Yet He Walks” has humid guitars and leads that go off the rails before the pace offers a trudging assault. The bulk of the song is ugly and heavy, as every element builds its threat that feels like it’s breathing down your neck. “Marching in the Shadow” has crunching riffs and a slow-driving pace before the song has its belly opened, spilling intestines everywhere. Growls gurgle as doom-infested guitars get fired up, with the track washing out with a driving rain.

“Sign of Satanic Victory” has guitars lighting up, blinding, and setting a classic metal tone as it rumbles from its gates. The growls do ample damage, as Hansen wails the song’s title over and over to hammer home the point before guitars drown out the heat. “Lair of Rats” has cymbals being crushed before thrashy meat is served up, and soloing makes things even nastier. A torturous pace develops in a bit of dirt, while the playing grinds out, and guitars send final shockwaves. “As White As She Was Pale” brings even more doomy riffs, as Hansen’s growls gurgle blood, and the lead guitars rivet. There a sense of swaggering bravado, as echoey growls haunt, a pained harmonica aches, and the track ends in bluesy licks. Closer “Quis Este Iste Qui Venit” is comprised of haunting winds blowing before guitars begin a slow charge, and scary, reverb-washed growls infect your blood. Killer riffs cut in and ensure scarring, while we head into a funereal march while the track blasts the earth again, winds and waves chill the flesh, and a pocket of chants brings the song underneath the earth to rest for good.

It’s been a long time since Faustcoven delivered “Hellfire and Funeral Bells” in 2012, but having “In the Shadow of Doom” certainly satisfies any hunger that’s built up since that time. Hansen remains as trustworthy a performer we have in metal, and this record definitely scratches that itch you haven’t been able to get to the last six years. It also provides a chasm of darkness that helps you align with the madness in society that seems as evil as any force there’s ever been.

For more on the band, go here: https://faustcoven.bandcamp.com/music

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

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

KEN mode’s blunt destruction takes on harsh twists, warped sounds on psyche-killed ‘Loved’

Photo by Brenna Faris

One of the worst feelings in the world is being strung along without someone just dealing with you honestly and, no matter how it may hurt, laying the truth on the line. Just tear off the bandage, no matter how much is stings, because knowing what’s genuine and what’s not provides you with real freedom and the chance to move on.

Canadian destroyers KEN mode never ever have been known for holding back their true feelings. Over the course of six records, these guys have bludgeoned audiences with their hybrid of hardcore, noise, and post-rock that are woven into songs that grab you by the throat and deliver truth. None of that changes on their molten seventh record “Loved,” one of the best of their career, and one that finds them taking even more chances. At this point, these guys could show up, whip out nine songs, and be done with it, and it would probably be pretty great. They don’t operate that way. Instead, we get panicked sax, different vocals approaches, and raw atmosphere that makes for a gripping, thunderous display. The band—the Matthewson brothers Jesse (vocals, guitars) and Shane (drums), along with bassist Skot Hamilton—just beats the shit out of you over and over, leaving raw nerves and hurt.

“Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should” opens the record with noise blurring before the hammer drops, and we are properly under way. Riffs race and spiral, like a plane engine out of control, while the burly, crushing assault does its damage. “The Illusion of Dignity” has guitars jarring and madness spreading, with Jesse wailing, “I don’t want to feel safe, I’ll never learn that way!” Things gets sludgy and pummeling, as the growls corrode, sax blurts in, and the ending sizzles in sound. “Feathers & Lips” is doomy and destructive, with muddy punching and shouts that poke and prod. Things remain utterly savage before the song ends bluntly. “Learning to Be Too Cold” is chunky and acidic, as the pace lays into you and leaves ample welts. “Life as a sick romance, lust has no mercy!” Jesse cries, as riffs tangle and then hit a downward spiral, leaving you in a dizzying hellscape.

“Not Soulmates” has a thrashy start, and then things get trickier, as Jesse warns himself, “This is not a good place, I need to escape.” Hardcore-style defiance bubbles to the surface, with the back end trying to take off your head at the neck. “Very Small Men” is really speedy but also has hints of playfulness. The shouts blurt poison, while the band heads into a punishing breakdown that should scramble your brains. “This Is a Love Test” has a thick bassline slithering, while the sax strikes again, rocking you awake. Jesse’s vocals are more spoken for the most part, as damaging shouts later make their way into the mix, and the tempo knifes through your chest and into your heart. “Fractures in Adults” has guitars and bass clashing at the gates, while Jesse howls, “How many times must I fade away?” The song it utterly aggressive and pissed off, as painful shouts and bloodshed playing bring the track to an end. Closer “No Gentle Art” is the big eye-opener of the record, as noise pummels, the guitars harshly carve a path with a rusty knife, and Jesse deliver this diatribe in speak-singing, repeatedly insisting, “Stop giving me hope!” like a stalking lover looking for any glimmer of light. The track gets more unhinged as it goes on, as the vocals get scarier, sax swirls into the mix, and psychotic detachment grows thicker. The end bathes in noise, coming off the hinges, smearing rust, and Jesse, one more time pleading, “Stop giving me hope,” as things dissolve in tears and blood.

“Loved” is a manic, brutal assault by KEN mode, and it feels like the band is revitalized with their new creations and increasing palette of sounds. This band always has been one on which you could rely sonically and from their lyrical approach, and they’ve never pulled a punch in their lives. This is a fire-breather for the end of summer, a record that can stick with you long into nature’s imminent decay.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.ken-mode.com/

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Swedish killers Crawl mix death metal, crust on damaging debut record ‘Rituals’

It’s been a long week, a miserable month, and every single day the news gets even shittier and more impossible to comprehend what’s wrong with some people. The cycle never seems to end, so when things are at their most ridiculous, a huge slab of filthy death metal always does the trick.

Swedish beasts Crawl answer the bell with their killer debut record “Rituals,” a nine-track, 25-minute mauler that burns the wick on both ends, violently so, as they rip out sooty, grimy death metal packed with noise and some hardcore and crusty meanness. If you’re new to the band but have records from Entombed, Dismember, Converge, Trap Them, and Gatecreeper taking up room on your shelf, chances are Crawl’s first foray into the world surely can find some space. The band wastes no time getting things going and boiling heavily, and as that short run time indicates, they deliver just the right amount of nourishment before they get out, leaving you bruised and bloodied. The band— vocalist Joachim Lyngfelt (Dråp, ex-Decomposed), guitarist/bassist Martin Sjögren (ex-Discarnate), and drummer Amir Batar (ex-Demonical, ex-Tormention)—only has been together about four years, but they already have this impressive record on their resume, which should be the start of something bloody.

“Reject the Cross” rips the record right open with chunky death metal and gruff growls from Lyngfelt. The hardcore fumes pour out of this thing, with the track getting gritty and furious, and the title wailed over and over. “Breathing Violence” has a hammering pace, as the band mashes bones, the growls punish, and the assault is super chugging before giving way. “The Stench” has guitars welling up and flooding, before the track hits the brakes and delivers a slower paced, but ultra-heavy beating. Feedback scorches, while the song powers into the mud, and a beastly assault hammers home the exclamation point. “Black Ritual” unloads flattening riffs and harsh growls, while the pace spits nails. A thick bassline emerges, as Lyngfelt howls the song’s title amid a thick cloud of smoke.

“Trail of Traitors” simmers in a pit of mud, as bludgeoning thrashing tears through the seams, and harsh cries blast panic before the song’s abrupt end. “Sentenced to Rot” gets powered up right away, as the pace stomps hard, and the playing is fast and ferocious. That killer assault strangles you and robs you of your air, paving the way toward “Cowards,” which is utterly decimating. The guitars smother, with ferocious cries dealing heavy blows, the guitars twisting muscle and flesh, and the lightning-fast tempo making short work of this killer. “Suffer” stampedes toward the gates, with the guitars giving off a Slayer vibe, and the violence being served up generously. Growls continue to pelt, as some nasty riffs bring this thing to an end. Closer “Coven of Servants” is the longest track at 4:41, and riffs spiral and flatten everything in front of it. A mix of yells and shrieks is splattered together, while the band puts the finishing touched on the song by employing meaty riffs  and noise ringing out, almost like a flatline.

Despite their name, Crawl hardly are on their hands and knees sneaking up on anyone, as their thunderous debut “Rituals” is far too destructive and noisy. This is a really promising first step for this Swedish band, and if this is just the start, who knows where these guys go from here? This is crusty, creeping, sooty death, and it’s the ideal antidote for lashing back at an unfair world.

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

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

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

The Secret bring violent end to their silence with black noise, volcanic ash on EP ‘Lux Tenebris’

Photo by David Robinson

I need to get the hell out of where I am right now. Mentally and physically. There are people with far greater problems, but the past month has been an emotional toll, and the only thing that’s going to give any relief is to get away from all of this, go somewhere else, and forget about everything else for an extended period of time. Make no mistake: There is great benefit to just getting the fuck out.

Not sure if that was the same train of thought barreling through the heads of Italian metallic beast The Secret, but following actions that proceeded their 2012 album “Agnus Dei,” the members of the band didn’t even speak to each other for three years. That’s a pretty extreme step for cleaning the palette and getting life, and in their case, their art, refocused. They’ve returned with a stunning, damaging new EP “Lux Tenebris” that keeps intact their blackened hardcore sound and injects it with more atmosphere, texture, and outright violence. This is a scarier, stormier situation now, and the band—Marco Cosmovich, guitarist/synth player Michael Bertoldini, bassist Lorenzo Gulminelli, and drummer Tommaso Corte—spend just 20 minutes exposing their new nightmarish vision that breathes new life into the Secret.

“Vertigo” starts the record with swirling noises and the guitars cutting into the belly of the song. The bulk of this thing is smothered with noise and interference, as the riffs swirls, and black chaos roils underneath the belly of the monster. The growls are buried in the muck, as darkness continues to envelop, the song buckles, and everything bleeds into “The Sorrowful Void,” where the storm wells up dangerously. The track then rips apart, thundering and coming for blood, as the growls are more pronounced and terrifying, and the fires keep raging harder. Filthy riffs smear soot, while the growls chew into bone, and black metal-style melodies cascade. “Cuppio Dissolvi” is your 7:12-long closer that begins viciously and brings with it a hellish assault. The pace is jackhammering, while sinister guitar work bleeds all over, and disorienting playing unleashes tricks that fry your mind. The band continues to deliver mesmerizing violence, with the music stinging the flesh before mercifully fading away.

Stepping away from something isn’t always easy, but the Secret found that detachment is the best way to continue their volcanic campaign, which increases with intensity on “Lux Tenebris.” The band remains as punishing and uncompromising as ever, but with an apocalyptic shadow that promises destruction is behind it. These three songs provide just a glimpse into the Secret’s redesigned blackness, making the future seem awfully foreboding.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/the.secret.lux.tenebris/

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

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