Myopic’s self-titled debut has progressive, enthralling edges that leave psychological scars

Photo by Ben Price

Metal’s amazing survival through the years has a lot to do with the sound’s willingness to change and adapt. It’s always nice to have the proteins-and-potatoes-style of bands that keep things traditional, but it’s been fascinating to hear groups that aren’t satisfied with the norm and push the boundaries as far as they’ll go without breaking.

Washington, D.C., progressive metal band Myopic are delivering their first full-length, a self-titled affair, and it shows an incredible amount of growth both for the band and for extreme music as a whole. Sure, it sounds odd to say a band on their first record have progressed, but it’s not like this is their first rodeo. The band has two EPs and a split (with the mighty Torrid Husk) and have displayed their force in the live setting, so this first album is more the culmination of the efforts that have preceded it. These eight songs spread over a generous 55 minutes are adventurous and exciting, a mix of death metal and sludgy doom, with the band showing their musical dexterity over the bulk of the album. It’s technically dazzling, but not in the robotic sense, as the band—guitarist/vocalist Sean Simmons, bassist/vocalist Nick Leonard, drummer Michael Brown—inject heart and soul into the music, ensuring their work is splashed with humanity.

“Intro” is a strange start, a quick instrumental intro that lets noise bleed and stream rise before working into “Earth’s Mantle” that has a proggy bend right off the bat. The bass plods, as the song has an airy crunch, and clean calls sit behind the violence. The intensity ramps up as the melodies charge, and the band sets a daring path they follow with gusto. Harsh growls rip, as the melodies rivet, and as the track reaches its end, the playing spills into noise. “Onward” strikes and trudges, with the growls intertwining with clean singing and the riffs roaring. Growls attack anew, as the track charges, noise emerges, and the track blisters to a close. “Husk of a Man” lights things up, with the bass rollicking, and proggy strangeness making its presence known. There are parts of this song that remind me of vintage Voivod, with strange singing, rubbery playing, and even some strains that feel Floydian. The pace rumbles, the synth cloud thickens, and it all ends in a sound surge.

“In Exile” is a 12:55-long pounder, the longest track on here, and it starts aggressively, with guitars lighting up, and the drums awakening. Riffs start to charge as the pace gets started, and the music begins to float into the air. Singing pushes through before the track gets uglier and growls emerge. The band spirals into a long section of playing where they stretch their creativity, later getting moody before the speed ignites, gets gritty, and roars spill over a panicked pace. “Pillars of Time” is slow driving as it starts. Rumbling with scathing growls pours into a vile, horrifying stretch, though the chorus lightens up and brings a spirited sense to the din. Guitars take over as soloing bubbles, with the track disappearing in a swarm of noise and chirps. “Swallowing Depths” is aggressive at the start, with guitars circling and smothering power being applied. The track gets adventurous, temporarily calming down before the guitars take over, growls rain down, and the punishment fades into ghostly apparitions. “Resting Place” closes the album with sorrowful guitars spreading and a shadowy tempo opening up, making way for horrifying growls and a steamrolling chaos. The track continues to gain steam, gets psychedelic, and then kicks back into the madness, carving straight to the heart, and bowing out in distortion.

It may have taken some time and effort for Myopic to get their first record out into the world, but we now have their self-titled affair in our grasp, and it was well worth the wait. These guys mix musical ingenuity and brutality as well as anyone, and this record is a smasher from beginning to end. Records and bands like these are what’s going to keep metal a vital force well into the future.

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Sylvaine expertly mixes chaos, beauty on stirring third album ‘Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone’

For all the hideous qualities of black metal, inside even the most deprived and heinous can be streams of beauty. Sorry if that hurts your feelings. Name just about any black metal band—Emperor, FALSE, Krallice, whoever—and you’re going to find parts of their music that takes a step back from the brutality and lets you immerse yourself in imagination and delicacy. It’s that duality that makes it work.

Norwegian artist Sylvaine is a perfect example of this. Her music tends to lean more on the atmospheric side than most, but when she pulls back and opens up the furnace, your flesh will feel scorched and painful. Her music has been a favorite of mine the past few years, and the work she does reminds me a bit of Myrkur, making it feel like something that operates on the periphery of consciousness. “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” is her third record and second for Season of Mist, and it shows even more progression for this great artist (she plays everything, save for the drumming) and one of the more visceral records of the entire year. There is plenty of drama and a foggy, yet electric ambiance that goes back and forth between utter savagery and musical beauty, capturing your imagination and keeping it until the final moments tick away.

“Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” is dark and plodding at the start, with Sylvaine’s singing floating over top the scene before the track rips open. Her singing soars as the track becomes slow driving and calculated, with the bass slithering, plotting the course. The track boils, while the vocals tear apart serenity, with the music gushing, the song hitting crescendo, and everything fading. “Mørklagt” has guitars charging hard, as the singing swims through the murk, and the riffs take on an ashy feel as things work their way into the fog. The track then erupts, with black metal terror striking, as the storm builds and pushes forward, and maniacal screams haunt dreams, with the track ending in a stream of atmosphere. “Abeyance” has guitars trickling, with Sylvaine’s singing reminding a bit of Bjork. Her vocals are strong, as usual, with guitars breaking apart the ground, guitars lathering into a fury, and a gazey fog coming behind it before things burn away dangerously.

“Worlds Collide” is clean at the start, with the music trickling gently, and softer singing emerging. It’s a dark ballad, this one, as more serene tones take over, letting delicacy and vulnerability reign before disappearing into the clearing. “Severance” has guitars ringing out and stinging your senses, with punchy melodies establishing the tone, and the singing just swelling. Just then, the track explodes, as Sylvaine’s shrieks start doing damage, shredding muscle and bone, and as a deluge of sound floods the scene, her singing bellows and shakes the ground, as the track soars off into space. Closer “L’Appel du Vide” begins clean, with a frost rising and coating all plant life, and softer vocals emerging like clouds of steam. The music drizzles and delicately crawls over the ground on its knees, before the guitars rush in and well up, and a burst of emotion explodes. The intensity rises and falls, as the music turns into a trickle, and the ghost of this one becomes one with the mist.

Sylvaine is a unique, gifted artist, one who has put a different aura on black metal and hasn’t shied from pushing what this kind of music means. “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” is another huge step ahead for Sylvaine, and it’s the most impressive album of her entire run. If you have a chance to get your hands on this record—and what’s stopping you?—plan to pull yourself away from everything, darken the lights, and immerse yourself in every raindrop and blood streak of this adventure.

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Devouring Star’s scary deluge of black metal scrapes sin with violence on ‘Arteries of Heresy’

So many people are obsessed with the idea of getting to heaven, whatever that happens to be. In fact, some are so hellbent (weird choice of word, sure) to get there, that they’ll use forms of hatred against other people to ensure that’s their destination. I know that sounds perverse. It is. I can’t imagine trying to explain that to someone from another planet with no concept of a god.

The strangeness of that concept, and humankind’s devotion to sin, are topics that permeate “The Arteries of Heresy,” the second album from Finnish one-man project Devouring Star. His examination of what it means to be human and the intrinsic inhibitions involved in that, especially the tendency toward sin, make up the bulk of this hellish, cavernous record that sounds and is huge. Artist JL has spread his chaos over the past several years, including the band’s 2015 debut “Through Lung and Heart,” and has established this group as one of the more thunderous, dissonant in all of metal. Each record, especially “The Arteries of Heresy,” twist and turn, pushing their way through the darkness into areas that terrify most people and even other bands. That’s a warning, by the way.

“Consummation” opens the record with noise building before the music starts slithering, and the growls hammer at your senses. The drums rumble, while the song goes into a hulking fury, obliterating everything in its wake, with a trail of dust behind. It keeps rupturing as melody rains down, the storm spreads dangerously, and everything bleeds out with creaking growls. “Procreation of Blood” opens with sounds falling as if through a vortex before the track tears open with horror, and the drums just erupt. Black metal melodies saturate the earth, while a hellish cloud builds up behind that and rages, burning dangerously before everything ends in a sound haze.

“Sin Assimilation” has a raucous start, with the drums mauling, and the music carving a destructive path. Total havoc is achieved, with the savagery coming to a boiling point, the madness stirring, and the track coming to a stabbing finish. “Scar Inscriptions” jangles at the start before the melodies get hypnotic and weird. The track clobbers, while raw growls push their way in and open up flesh. Things continue to spin, creating a vortex, while the melodies swelter, with the pace repeating and chewing away. From there, the music bashes away before bleeding out. “Her Divine Arteries” closes the album with guitars sweeping and growls smothering before the riffs ignite and scorch you. Punishing horror smears the ground, with hellish power and the melodies simmering. A black fury arrives from there, as the music spits nails, with the track coming to a blackened end.

There aren’t many artists out there quite like Devouring Star, who get into your bloodstream and darken your very inhibitions. “The Arteries of Heresy” is a record that’ll make you do some deep thinking along the way, though if that’s not your thing, you still can stop by for a psychological drubbing. This is another powerful building block for Devouring Star, one of the most fascinating bands in black metal.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Ulthar reveal tales of supernatural horrors on crushing debut ‘Cosmovore’

Photo by Aloysius V. Cummings

The darkest days of the year are ahead, and the time most of us spend reveling on blood, horror, and death is upon us. All the strangest, most bizarre situations one can imagine likely are playing across TV screens flashing over darkened rooms, as people let their fears get the best of them. Yet, the scariest of situations are things most human minds likely cannot imagine.

Festering on “Cosmovore,” the debut record from Bay Area death horde Ulthar, are stories of supernatural horrors, the type that keep people with overly active imaginations up at night. The band’s hammering yet surreal brand of death metal mixes the best of brutality and chilling fantasy. Over the course of six tracks and about 40 minutes, the band unleashes a heavy, yet mesmerizing onslaught of sound that does an excellent job keeping your ears blistered for its entire run time but also lets your mind wander into planes beyond, where the bloodshed and terror are unlike anything you witness in ordinary life. Along the way, the band—guitarist/vocalist/sample specialist Shelby Lermo (Extremity, Vastum), bassist/vocalist Steve Peacock (Mastery, Pale Chalice, and Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, with whom we visited yesterday), and drummer Justin Ennis (Ruine, Void Omnia)—keeps its assault relentless, and even when you’re heading into the beyond, there’s never sense of calm. It’s always fear.

The title track opens the record by tearing right into flesh, as sick wails and death growls mix, and the band thrashes away heavily. The pace starts to steamroll, as the band swims into doomy death, and the riffs catch fire. Horrifying growls erupt, while the track extends the hell, and it all ends in a pit of cosmic synth. “Solitarian” is an instant explosion, with belchy growls barreling and the riffs slicing away. The tempo grows more compelling as it goes, as the band delivers devastation and sinewy guitars. Out of that is a burst of rage, which blinds you and keeps smothering until the end. “Infinite Cold Distance” has chilly, spindling riffs, with the drums thundering away. The growls scrape, feeling like they’re aiming to shred vocal cords, while the guitars speed along and leave you dizzy. Deep growls and fierce shrieks team up, while the cut comes to a punishing end.

“Entropy-Atrophy” has tricky guitar work that makes the mind spin before the song quakes, and savage growls tear away at the flesh. The song bleeds into black metal-style melodies, as the vocals pierce and punish, and the pace goes catapulting off a cliff. The distortion bleeds and scathes before the track goes into a horror scope of synthesizers. “Asymmetric Warfare” heads into infernal mode right away, as scathing shrieks pound away, and the pace is hammering and relentless. The drumming pulverizes, while nastiness spreads like a plague, and then, everything goes into full delirium with guitars ringing out, and the track coming to a crushing end. “Dunwich Whore” closes the record, and it’s the longest track here, clocking in at 13:26. The opening is strange and takes some time to set up an atmosphere, and once it does, the band hits a doomy boil or disorienting sludge. As it progresses, more black metal power is launched, as shrieks and growls work in tandem again, and the tempo grows volatile. Hoarse growls deliver fury, while the song speeds ahead dangerously, stampeding over everything in front of it. What’s left is torn flesh and broken bones, while the song dissolves into a cosmic cloud of synth that rises above the earth and fades away.

Ulthar’s punishing, horrific debut record “Cosmovore” should do death metal listeners well as the spookiest stretch of our year arrives and we look to up the ante of terror. The chaos is spread thick on these tracks, and the sense of dread is impossible to shake. This has been a banner year for death metal, and Ulthar are making their case for being one of the bloodiest new entrants into the skull-destroying terrain.

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Pandiscordian Necrogenesis has Domignostika rattling bones all alone on fierce ‘Outer Supernal’

People do some crazy, bizarre shit in the metal world that kind of defies logic. Artists jam in weird influences, write songs about all kinds of ideas that would scare the hell out of the general public, and even find new ways of expressing the music. For Ephemeral Domignostika, veteran of many bands, his most daring work has come in his one-man project Pandiscordian Necrogenesis.

Yes, Domignostika has destroyed our minds and hearing with bands including Pale Chalice, Mastery, Apprentice Destroyer, and Ulthar (from which we’re going to hear soon), but the work he does here truly stands out because he does everything himself. All at once. With no set plan. Domignostika composes all of the music with guitar, vocals, and drums (there is synth used in the instrumental cuts), and everything is put together in improvisational fashion. Sound insane? Over the course of the last decade, Domignostika has carved out his unique brand of black metal on 2010 full-length debut “Cerebral Quasaric Lacerations,” a couple demos, and now “Outer Supernal.” This 11-track album that’s being released by Gilead Media is a baffling, punishing, weird display that sounds raw yet pure. Each moment of this album is compelling, even more so when you realize this is all being done at the same time by the same person. It’s one hell of a display, and it’s bleeding with ingenuity.

“Gate of Shields” is a quick intro cut that lets go weird zaps and keys before feeding into the title track, which has riffs compounding and the drums rattling away. Domignostika’s howls penetrate and tear, sounding demonic and monstrous, while the melodies storm, and dark chaos erupts. The riffs then get more deranged, as the song gets sicker, with the madness eventually winding down and showing mercy. “Void Supernal” is speedy and chaotic, with the vocals smeared and the drumming unleashing a burst. The track sounds unhinged and gains power, punishing as the track ends in a mass of gurgled growls. “Hidden Supernal” is doomy and dark, with dizzying weirdness surfacing and Domignostika’s creaky growls sounding feverish. The pace injects infection, while the vocals crackle and gargle blood, and everything ends up in a disorienting chasm that slowly melts away. “End Supernal” has drums rupturing, a killer riff emerging, and the melodies scrambling and splattering. The riffs get even faster, while the pace clobbers, as the track takes on a punk-like vibe that dents your head.

“Gate of Uncreation” is a synth-based instrumental that feeds into the record’s second half, and it gives off a chilly sci-fi vibe that’s intoxicating. “Blood Ascension” strikes with savage riffs that look to kill, while a blinding fury rips you from one end of the song to the next. The drumming really drives the pace, while the guitars light up later on and brings a hell storm, continuing that intensity until the song reaches its end. “Throne Ascension” has dark riffs and a frosty ambiance, as the song takes on a wintry black metal feel, with the vocals carving away. The track later catches fire and lets the blaze spread, fading out into chaos. “Rift Ascension” brings steady drumming and intertwining riffs, with wild shrieks pounding away and the tempo hitting the gas pedal. The growls bathe in acid, as the song hits a tornadic high before passing out. “Depth Ascension” simmers in doom and a slower, murkier pace before growls begin to roar, and we’re into a dizzying haze. The pace of the song jars back and forth, making you feel swollen and vulnerable, before it takes on a throbbing tempo before heading out the door. Finally, “Gate of Vexations” ends the record with sky-bound synth, headed toward the stars and beyond before disappearing out of sight.

As many chances as people take in metal, few are as willing to put themselves out there quite like Domignostika. This literal one-man-band proves that with time and effort, you can create evil, spellbinding shit all by yourself, which we learn on “Outer Supernal.” Pandiscordian Necrogenesis is like no other band out there, quite literally, and this album is one that’ll make an indelible impression for any number of reasons. Most of them brutal.

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The Ocean Collective hammer home that all nature repeats on devastating ‘Phanerozoic I’

It’s impossible to predict our future, which can be both unsettling and kind of comforting. Do you really want to know when you’re going to die? Or when the planet is going to die (even though we kind of got some info recently detailing the possibilities)? Would it be better to know if a comet is going to blast into the earth tomorrow morning or to just witness the destruction with no prior warning?

Whatever your choice, it’s inevitable both good and bad things will happen in your life that you cannot control. It’s been that way since the beginning of time, as we witness an existence that is a constant repeat of events that preceded it. That’s the basis behind “Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic,” the eighth studio effort from German progressive metal band The Ocean and their first effort in five long years (it’s also the first of a two-album arc, the second of which arrives in 2020). As one might expect from this band, it’s quite the involved listen, as they examine the idea that events that take place during the lifetime of a planet happen over and over again (continental shifts, extinction events), and there’s nothing we can do other than live our lives and study the patterns. The record takes its name from the first stage of the current Phanerozoic period, which began some 541 million years ago (those of you who think the planet is like 1,000 years old, just follow along), the time of ancient life when the first plant and animal forms began to show up. The album is not too far a stone’s throw from the band’s previous work, which is a plus, though there are elements of creative evolution we’ve come to expect from the group—its main members include guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Robin Staps, vocalist Loic Rossetti, bassist Matthias Hagerstrand, and drummer Paul Seidel.

“The Cambrian Explosion” begins the record with strange noises, like life first bubbling to the surface, while cosmic rays beam, and we’re headed into “Cambrian II: Eternal Recurrence” that punches right off the bat. Keys leave a glaze, while the vocals are wrenching and vicious, with clean singing swimming behind to add another texture. The crunch leads to a clean passage that glimmers, giving off a cool elegance, and as keys drip from the heavens, the song rounds into its crescendo and ends on a gigantic note. “Ordovicium: The Glaciation of Gondwana” slips into sludgy chaos and harsh growls, as the song pushes it way across the surface. Savagery and melody collide, while heavy chugging erupts, and Rossetti’s call of, “I turn the tables on you,” leads to a fit of rage. Anger and frustration bubble to the surface, giving off steam that’ll redden your flesh. “Silurian: Age of Sea Scorpions” has riffs burning, strong singing that melds with guitars soaring, and later calm trickles in, which strings scrape over. The song is allowed to float for a while before the volatility emerges. The music bruises, while the growls send shockwaves, but then we find serenity again, as strings and plinking keys take us out.

“Devonian: Nascent” is the longest track here, running a healthy 11:05, and things begin gently, as strings emerge, and gazey melodies stretch over the song. Passionate, clean singing highlights the bulk of the song (Katatonia vocalist Jonas Renkse is featured on the track), with the line, “Send me back to the time before our very first day,” reaching over the eons. Eventually, the track erupts, with growls arriving and tearing everything apart, and the band following suit with a thunderous display. Volcanic ash is vaulted into the sky, as the band kicks sizable dents into the final moments of this stunning track. “The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse” is a compelling, colorful instrumental track with strong leads and a pace that increases in intensity as it goes. The track feels like it’s aiming to scoop up stardust before leading into the finale “Permian: The Great Dying,” recalling a mass extinction event that preceded the birth of the Triassic period. The track surges ahead, with forceful growls and punishment that eventually makes way for strange calm. “Let’s wait until we freeze together and rest like this forever,” is a line that punches you right in the fucking heart, as things quake the earth, as Rossetti calls, “Long time to recover, 30 million years,” hammers home the expanse and the incredibly tiny speck of dust our existences encompass.

The Ocean’s aggressive and progressive music and views are on full view with “Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic,” a record that’s both a retelling of the past and a warning about the future, which might be closer than we realize. The band remains one of the most fascinating and evolutionary in heavy music, and even eight records in, they still find ways to surprise. I guess it shouldn’t be too shocking to expect consistency from the band because, after all, it’s an event that has repeated itself over and over again.

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Polish powerhouse Outre smash black, death metal with chaotic, violent haze on ‘Hollow Earth’

Trying to find a band with as fresh perspective on death and black metal isn’t the easiest thing of all time. It’s not necessarily super important either, but every now and again when a band comes along and makes you reconsider your perspective on the genre, it makes it that much more exciting for the listener and for me, as a writer, who listens to a lot of this stuff every year.

Polish black metal troupe Outre immediately made an imprint on me when tackling their impressive 2015 debut album “Ghost Chants,” as it was clear they were aiming for something a littler different than some run-of-the-mill artist just trying to make creepy sounds. There was a heaviness for sure, but there was a little more imagination and atmosphere to their art, and it made that first album a sure-fire keeper. They’ve returned three years later with the sophomore effort “Hollow Earth,” and it keeps in tact that promise we heard on the first album, with a little extra strangeness and chaos. They continue to meld black metal and death metal together in a creepy, nightmarish way, but the band—vocalist Mateusz Zborowski, guitarists Krzysztof Sojda and Damian Igielski, bassist Marcin Radecki, and drummer Maciej Pelczar—keeps thing interesting and dissonant, with you left guessing at each turn but ultimately satisfied with every corner they explore.

“Spheres Within” starts the record with noises and growls rumbling, as synth pulsates over this brief opener and transitions right into “The Order of Abhorrence” that splits open and begins immediately destroying you. Zborowski’s growls encircle you in the atmosphere above, while the guitars boil, and the band works into an eruption of madness. The fury builds, as does the pace of the song, moving into murky black metal terrain and then washing away into a dark corner of hell. “Combustion” lets noise hang dangerously overhead before a storm begins to saturate the ground. The drums rattle while guitars sting, and Zborowski’s vocals feel positively cavernous as they echo off walls. The pace gets dizzy while the drums decimate, leaving the music swirling and ending in a pit of disorientation. “Let the Earth Be Silent” has guitars sprawling and growls crawling over them like a demon. The band wails away dangerously, while growls and yells intertwine, and the drumming feels like machine gun blasts. There’s no letup in the plastering you take, as growls corrode, and clean calls lead you into mystery.

“Distant Daylight” has dissonant guitars swelling before the song tears out its own guts and pushes into an intense thunderstorm. Guitars stab away, going for each inch of flesh they can find, while the temperature is sweltering, and the music ends as savagely as possible. “Aberrations” has a flood of guitars before black metal-style tyranny reigns, making the track feel increasingly more volatile. The music then scales back just a bit, as the vocals arrive in strange warbling, making the feeling even more unsettling. The track then bursts anew, ending in a terrifying display of power. The closing title track is the longest cut, stretching over 8:48 which is spent wisely and cunningly. Noise drones while the sound of multiple doors being closed echoes, and then the walls are punched again, and the dust up begins. Riffs sting while gurgly growls emit nausea, with the band driving insanely hard as if threatening to barrel right through castle walls. The music sprawls from there, extending its black reach, while the growls slither, and everything ends in bloody horror.

Whether you seek a heavy bludgeoning or a strange sojourn into your psyche, Outre offer both of that and more on the tremendous “Hollow Earth.” I’m not asking bands to reinvent the wheel, which would be a bad idea anyway, but a little ingenuity here and there isn’t too much to expect. Outre continue to make death and black metal that’s rewarding and ever changing, and isn’t that all we really ask anyway?

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