Thrawsunblat dig into spirit of homeland, reveal folkier sound with ‘IV: Great Brunswick Forest’

This site talks a lot about records and bands that take you on journeys somewhere and aren’t just a collection of news song. It’s a sort of escape, and not every band and/or record does that, nor do they all intend to do that. The ones that do happen to have a different feeling and relationship with me than ones that are just here to be brutal, man.

Canadian black metal band Thrawsunblat is one that always had a way of transforming their music from something you’re simply meant to hear to one that conjures dramatic imagery and sets you on the pathway to somewhere different. On their fourth release “Thrawsunblat IV: Great Brunswick Forest,” the band quite literally is trying to transport you to vocalist/guitarist Joel Violette’s home in the province of New Brunswick. He attempted to write songs that let his listeners visit, in their minds, his home on the Canadian Atlantic coast, and the music very quickly takes you there, into woodsy terrain where you can practically hear damp sticks and leaves break beneath your feet. But there’s something else about this record that makes it noteworthy, and it might cause some longtime followers to tremble. This is not an extreme metal record. Not even close. Instead, Violette and the rest of the band—drummer Rae Amitay (Immortal Bird) and fiddle player Keegan MC—craft songs that are rooted in rustic acoustic and folk music as well as dashes of dark rock for an eight-track effort that is rousing and thoroughly from the heart. It’s also the first time the band recorded together in the same place (the photo above illustrates that), and it does have a live, emotional bend that is palpable.

“Green Man of East Canada” starts the record with acoustic guitars rushing and Violette’s deep clean singing, which fits the mood of this and the other songs pretty well. The track has a bit of a 1980s feel to it, and the track ends with Violette imploring, “Strange man, can you teach us of your ways?” “Here I Am a Fortress” is spirited and pushy, a catchy track that gets in your blood in short order. The build to the chorus is powerful, and while it’s fairly simple, a recitation of the song title, it’s effective as hell. “Against the weight, I chose to carry,” Violette calls, while the final moments of the song are delivered in a capella. “Via Canadensis” has picked guitars, an infectious pace, and even some moments of calm. There are repeated cries of, “On we go!” you might find yourself calling back, while the track gains momentum and has a huge ending. “Song of the Summit” has some electric guitars buzzing into the woodsy atmosphere, and there even are heavier moments that get things moving. Strong melodies and heartfelt expression work to make this song instantly memorable and one of the strongest cuts here.

“Thus Spoke the Wind” is darker and more foreboding, though the tempo still kicks up with energy, and the fiddle quivers and sends jolts. That, along with the acoustic jangling sets fire to the track, roaring and gushing deep into the night. The title track has a heavy folk start, as the vocals are treated with heavy echo, with Violette vowing, “We will withstand time and the immortal wind.” The fiddle playing jars your spinal column, sending scraping waves over the top and giving the song a chilly ambiance that reminds of deep fall. “Singer of Ageless Times” feels like a track that should play when you’re downing a mead, as Violette’s singing bellows and echoes, and after an acoustic-driven first half, the electric elements come alive and start to bury you. The energy is drunken and surging, the fiddle dances off, and Violette wails, “Let me bring you tides from the Maritimes.” “Dark Sky Sanctuary” closes the album starting off with ominous tones, as the acoustics trickle, and then everything gets a big push. The chorus is punchy and catchy, while the band throws all of its energy into making this track a grand finale that ends the album on a vivacious note.

This record might take some adjustment for listeners who have been along for the entire ride, but there’s not an ounce of “Thrawsunblat IV: Great Brunswick Forest” that isn’t dripping with heart and genuine storytelling. I don’t know if this new approach is permanent or just something that moved them for this album, but it wouldn’t be unwelcomed to hear more of this in the future, even if further woven into their chaotic metal. This is an ideal album for the finally arrived autumn, as forays into forests all over the United States and Canada reveal a kaleidoscope of earthy colors and chilled adventures.

For more on the band, go here: https://thrawsunblat.ca/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Miserable’s EP ‘Loverboy’ takes bloody aim at disrespect, body objectification

A personal glitch I have, which I’m not super proud of, is my inability to deal with unexpected problems and changes. Like, OK, let’s say I get three graphs of this story written, I forget to hit save, the battery dies, and I lose everything. I’m not one to just rip back open the laptop, get in the same headspace, and go at it all over again. Come to think of it, let me just hit save on this.

Issues far more frustrating got in Kristina Esfandiari’s way when writing new music for her solo project Miserable, namely the material got torched when her hard drive caught on fire. That would be enough to discourage most people after they got all of these songs saved and seemingly secure, but that didn’t deter Esfandiari. The material she created during her residency in Brooklyn flowed from her mysteriously and generously, as she put together the four songs that make up her new EP “Loverboy,” that’s also packaged with a reissue of her hard-to-find 2014 EP “Dog Days.” The music on “Loverboy” is dark, cathartic, and pained, even amid the sometimes bright sheen of these songs that always seem to eventually spill into the shadows. It’s about the frustration of women being objectified and disrespected in society, a punch back to the faces of those who aim to keep them in that position. This paired with “Dog Days” shows a strange contrast from where she was a few years ago with Miserable (those were her first stab at pop songs and have a dark haze like Beach House, Slowdive, and Best Coast) and where she is now (where the songs are more in your face, blunt, and bloody). It also stands far apart from the work Esfandiari does fronting King Woman, so if you’re new to Miserable (they do have four EPs and an LP), you’ll need to adjust.

The title track kicks off the collection, a murky, breathy song that digs its claws right into its prey. “You make me sick, let’s call it what it is, a disappointment,” Esfandiari jabs over the chorus, making her feelings abundantly clear while the song bubbles down dark tributaries, ending with her ensuring you know, “I am not a toy.” “Gasoline” travels over a damaged relationship, though it sparkles and gives off a misleading exuberance.  “Oh, I love you, and you love me too, what are we gonna do?” she posits over the chorus, as the song rumbles into the shadows, letting off chills and coming to a rush at the end. This is my personal favorite of the collection. “Cheap Ring” has guitars churning in the shadows, as the sounds rumble in the dark, the drums kick in, and Esfandiari opens up with, “Hard headed, difficult person, I’m sought after I guess, couldn’t care less.” The song keeps rushing and trembling, as Esfandiari pushes past undesirable people, leaving them marked as they should be. “Pain Farm” is one of her bloodiest and, considering we just put a potential sexual assaulter on SCOTUS, most painfully relevant. Starting in a post-punk haze, Esfandiari blasts, “Remember that one time? You felt so inclined, invite yourself to stay the night, with someone who’s blackout drunk, I guess I’ve got all the luck, say I’m pretty when I puke, I can’t even stand up.” The chorus rushes while Esfandiari’s voice quivers and stabs, later wailing out in the haze, bruised but defiant, wishing she could forget what a vile individual did to her.

The “Dog Days” material starts with “Hotel” that is moody and hazy, feeling like you’re trying to see through glazy morning eyes. Guitars swim in dark shadows, as Esfandiari confesses, “Staring at your perfect mouth, oh how closed off I’ve become, I can’t look you in the eyes.” “Fever” is immersed in pop murk, with a dreamy haze wafting, softer singing, and a numbing but rumbling vibe. The track settles into the darkness, as Esfandiari’s singing takes a jazzy turn as the song bleeds away. “High” feels a little more upbeat, yet it’s noise marred as well, with the singing cutting underneath the surface. “Swallow me alive, I’m so high,” she calls, while the music turns into a vortex before getting iced off. Closer “Kiss” drives into noiry territory, as the song takes on the vibe of a numbing torch bearer. “Need to touch you, oh I wanna feel the warm, could this be for real, are you just make believe?” Esfandiari sings, as everything delivers a strange nostalgic vibe. Deep clouds and rain swell, as the keys smear, the ambiance delivers shadows, and the music trickles away into the unknown.

Esfandiari is a unique human whose voice instantly is recognizable and whose slurry haze never fails to capture you in a murky daydream. “Loverboy” may sound exuberant at times, but the music bleeds pain and disappointment, which Esfandiari conveys so perfectly. This along with “Dog Days” make for an intoxicating eight-track listen that demonstrates different sides of this compelling artist.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/miserable

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

Ragana, Thou smash together like-minded ideals, smother you on ‘Let Our Names Be Forgotten’

It’s an important time for music that carries messages that are here to push up those in society who aren’t, and never have been, treated the way they should. It’s all well and good to have escapism in metal or shit about everyday anger and war, and whatnot, but it’s a high time for fighting back against the oppressors, those who would bury our hopes at every turn.

It’s also fitting two like-minded bands would come together for a split effort “Let Our Names Be Forgotten” that’s one of the most intense and timely of the entire year. In one corner, you have the awesome Ragana, a trio that hails from Olympia, Wash., and have spent the past several years touring and making music that fights back against bullshit societal forces that hold people down. They’re wildly and proudly feminist and anarchist, also taking up arms on LGBTQ issues and railing against racism (the label putting this out, An Out Recordings, also proudly stands up for these beliefs). On the other side is Thou, a band we’ve long written about, one of the great units in heavy music who also have used their platform to rail against capitalism and support those with different sexual identities, among other things. There couldn’t be a more perfect union in all of heavy music, and this record is a triumph and galvanizing point for those who also are under the boot of oppression and for those who are helping in the fight. If you’re not fired up as fuck when these five songs are over, you may need to reconsider where you stand.

Ragana

Ragana’s side begins with “Inviolate,” as things get off to a clean start before Maria’s singing wafts over the noise, and the track takes on an indie rock feel that digs its teeth into the ’90s and ’00s sections of your brain. Harsh cries break the calm before the track rolls back to cleaner tones, and then the gateway breaks as fierce shrieks mix with shoegazey sounds. A disorienting sheen is dashed over the song as it hangs in the air and then fades. “The Void” is somber and slowly storming, coming off like a scuffed-up blues song as Maria repeats each verse line four times before a chorus that draws blood. “I hear your voice, and I know you want to follow me,” Maria starts, as the track dips into grungy waters, drawing filth and gaining heaviness. The track wells up intensity, as guitars build, Nicole’s drums pound, and Maria wails, “I know you’ll spend your whole life staring back at me!” By the way, I know Maria and Nicole switch off roles, so if I attributed stuff to the wrong member, comment and yell at me.  “The Sun” ends Ragana’s portion as guitars trickle and a buzzing builds before harsh shrieks tear down the walls, and the emotion blasts you in the chest. “We die together!” Maria howls, while the track gains speed, the channeled burning keeps you off balance, and the track ends in a pile of ash. Just an awesome display.

Photo by Craig Mulcahy

Thou’s end opens with “The Fool Who Thought He Was King,” which is apropos of right fucking now. It starts clean and calm before Bryan Funck’s vocals take hold, with guitarist Matthew Thudium’s clean singing hanging behind the cloud of noise. Sorrowful leads slither and bring pain, and about halfway through, everything seems to come to a head, with the music ringing out and stinging your ears. The leads then begin to twist, gashing your heart for every feeling, as sadness envelops the land, darkness falls, and it all ends harshly. Closer “Death to the King and All His Loyal Subjects” (again, just a cosmic title there) mashes your senses, as the vocals march, and the music laps in thick waves. The track is devastating and, in true Thou fashion, utterly blunt, unloading sooty torture, as Funck accuses, “Oh you treacherous swine, self-entitled scum,” before following with the nail in the coffin, “We are so very worthless, everything we do is meaningless,” that jams a dagger into your heart and hopes.

“Let Our Names Be Forgotten” is noteworthy and special for two reasons: First, we get more music from Thou, who have been quite prolific this year, and the awesome Ragana hopefully will find their way to more ears and minds. These are two very well paired bands philosophically, and sonically, they could not be more different yet still fit. This is a tremendous record you should snag while physical copies last.

For more on Ragana, go here: https://www.facebook.com/raganaband

For more on Thou, go here: http://noladiy.org/thou.html

To buy the album, go here: http://anout.storenvy.com/

For more on the label (or for a digital version), go here: https://anout.bandcamp.com/

Vancouver bruisers Erosion rip into humanity, turn ax toward world with ‘Maximum Suffering’

Photo by Taylor Ferguson

It always amazes me how many really great metal bands we have here in Pittsburgh that so many people around the world never have heard about before. Yes, bands such as Lady Beast, Heartless, Deathwhite, and Complete Failure have released well-received and crushing records on a worldwide level, but there is so much more underneath the surface.

This is not a story about Pittsburgh. Instead, I use my hometown as an example of how a city can have a treasure trove of good metal bands that people don’t know about, but it happens everywhere. Take, for example, Vancouver-based crushers Erosion that boasts members of noteworthy groups such as Baptists, 3 Inches of Blood, Tobeatic, and Hard Rippers, a band that’s been around for several years now, but outside their native stomping grounds, they haven’t made much headway. That should change with the release of their molten debut full-length “Maximum Suffering” on the recently revived Hydra Head, a label I have missed with all missed with all my heart and soul during their absence. This record is hard to classify, as there are elements of noise, punk, metal, sludge, you name it, as they combine every element they can find to make this raucous shit. The band—vocalist Jamie Hooper, guitarists Nick Yacyshyn and Rick O’Dell, bassist Andrew Drury, and drummer Danny Marshall—brings the noise and vitriol for the rest of humankind and dumps it into this thunderous 13-track assault.

“Maximum Suffering” is the longest track on the record at 5:40, and it arrives bleeding in before the bludgeoning occurs. Guitars scrape as the riffs rumble hard, and wild growls hammer your face. Sinewy guitars take it from there, as the pace gallops, the song fades for a second, and then drums storm again to the finish. “Everything Is Fucked,” which is true, starts the barnstorming, as the songs fly by in a hurry. This is steamrolling chaos that bruises and delivers hellish growls. “Need for Death” is sludgy, heavy, and crushing, a short blast that levels you. “Human Error” is pummeling as the guitars corrode, with the pace speeding up before a chunky, deranged dose of thrashing, going out with noise hanging in the air. “Serpent Lust” is speedy and violent, with Hooper wailing, “You had it all, but now it’s gone!” The track keeps going for the throat, delivering a monstrous finish and moving into “The Crone” that has a smothering groove with gurgling growls and huge blasts. “Deep in Hell” is crunchy and ugly, as its intensity builds and threatens. The guitars go off and burn, while the track comes to a clubbing close.

“We Have Failed Us,” which we have, is speedy and clobbering, going full on to decimate everything in front of it. The guitars steamroll, with the track getting even more vicious, as Hooper howls, “We! Have! Failed! Us!” “Scorched Earth” is both punishing and cavernous, as the vocals come in roared growls, the riffs shift, and the back end of the track is a total ass kicking. “Black Waves” charges up, as the guitars take on a black metal sheen in spots, and then we’re headed into a blinding mashing, where you’re forced to duck wild haymakers. “Storm of Steel” has a punk feel to it, getting melodic and sludgy as it goes on, with Hooper’s throaty growls digging away. The track has a super heavy underbelly, with the final moments blasting out. “Dusted” is a quick one, delivering murky bass, slow grinding, gross vocals, and a smudgy finish. “Consumed” closes shop, immediately going lightning fast and smashing fingers, with the vocals getting ultra-violent. The track goes into sweltering doom, with the vocals charring, the band slowly mauling, and the record burning out.

Maybe people didn’t know much about Erosion before now, but let’s smarten you up. “Maximum Suffering” is a record that fits nicely in Hydra Head’s pleasingly noisy catalog and also offers an ample beating for anyone who has been lulled to sleep. This band isn’t about to embrace and coddle you. You’re part of the problem, and they’re here to eliminate you.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/EROSION-518582734847757/

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

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

To End It All add enraged voice to inequality, abuse, violence on devastating ‘Scourge of Woman’

Photo by Ambrosia Bardos

I cannot imagine what the past week was like for women in America. I mean, fuck, it’s not like women ever get a fair shake in this country, and in so many others, while they’re expected to accept less at just about every turn despite how hard they work. And when they try to have a voice, when they try to say no, when they attempt to work their way up the ladder, they’re just stomped back to earth by someone whose abuse of power enables them to do that without consequences.

Last week’s joke of an FBI investigation of a man up for the Supreme Court who likely will have a lot of say and decide about women’s rights in the future was jammed through, against people’s will, which is tragically poetic. Yet another woman who faced abuse had her story doubted and mocked by some of the most powerful men (and, actually, a woman) in the world. As a run-of-the-mill white cis male, it infuriated me, and I saw how it burned inside of women everywhere. It made it all the more fitting that we take a look at “Scourge of Woman,” the debut full-length from industrial-death-noise duo To End It All. This union of Joy Von Spain and Maasaki Masao, who also work together in the band Eye of Nix, put together nine terrifying tracks that sound like Von Spain’s spiritual bloodletting, as her words are delivered with a ferocity and power that’s impossible to avoid. This music is the voice of women abandoned, and she and Masao aren’t going to sit idly by and watch it happen.

“Lure” opens the record, and it’s immediately a call to action, as Von Spin speaks over the din to “be ablaze, conflagrate, cauterize,” as she coldly calls out these words before riffs strike, and her voice turns to savage growls. Doomy guitars lurch while shrieks and drone mop up, and we end in a pit of chaos. “No Hero’s Death” lets noise lurch as Von Spin songs over top, setting the tone of somber punishment, a horrible death and castration where the madness ends in a capella calls. “Beast Filth” has sounds buried in war, while death and destruction lurk, noises zap as if from another dimension, and the track takes on the tone of metallic machines at battle for survival, voiced through death growls, rhythmic screams, and absolute horror. “Mouths Searching for the Breast” has noise chugging and landing blows, as Von Spain’s operatic vocals strike and then hang over the scene like a ghoul seeking decayed souls.

“Instinctual Force” is a quicker track with sounds eroding and ringing out, stinging the flesh and leaving bruising. “Cages Bleed Shiver and Shake” is a vinyl-only track that unloads industrial heat, with inhuman machinations, and Von Spain screaming, “You’re just a waste of time.” Growls and pained wails follow, noises twist and crunch, and machine-like pressure is pushing down, almost as if you’re stuck underneath a massive hydraulic press. “Future Aborted” has beats echoing amid mechanical yawns, while Von Spain sings over the fury, “Hand effect, bound, mouths symbol, gagged.” Guitars charge up, while the heat rises before everything fades. “In Cases of Rape and Incest” cuts right to the heart, as noise quivers, and Von Spain’s deep singing goes right for the guts. “I sinned, I violated my own mother,” she calls, and she changes out mother for sister and daughter as she repeats the line, each time digging even deeper. It’s completely sobering and pained. Closer “Burning Rapists” sounds exactly what its title indicates. It’s several minutes of furnaces roaring, torture rumbling, and the intensity building to roars and hisses before the flames finally subside, leaving only a waste of ash.

Things aren’t likely to improve any time soon in this country as far as women’s rights and their plight for equality is concerned, and that’s downright blood boiling. The End It All is that voice, that explosion of pure anger and frustration, and it’s smeared all over “Scourge of Woman.” That people have come together over these matters is heartening, but To End It All is that reminder that the anger cannot be permitted to go to simmer and must stay boiling over until every person responsible is scorched.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.scryrecordings.com/posts/discography/scourge-of-woman/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Deadbird soar back with transcendent doom on ‘III: The Forest Within the Tree’

Photo by Adam Peterson

When the lineup was announced for this past July’s Migration Fest, it contained your expected hard hitters that dot the Gilead Media and 20 Buck Spin rosters, as well as the curveball picks that really could not have been anticipated and added even more excitement to the festivities. One of those bands was Deadbird, a group many likely thought was gone and buried.

It was a surprise because it has been a decade since their last record, their sophomore effort “Twilight Ritual,” and it was great to know the band would be unearthing those southern-friend doom jams that had influenced many other musicians and always sounded welcome in just about any setting. But the big surprise dropped right before the festival when 20 Buck Spin announced they would be releasing the band’s long-awaited third record “III: The Forest Within the Tree,” an album that we’re just a week away from having in our hands. Those who have followed the band over their decade-and-a-half existence are bound to have their hearts filled with joy, as Deadbird once again soars amid the hazy doom for which they’re known. The band—Alan Short (guitar/vocals), Chuck Schaaf (guitar/vocals) Jeff Morgan (bass/vocals), Reid Raley (bass/vocals), Chris Terry (synth/samples/vocals), and Phillip Schaaf (drums)— is comprised of members of other noted groups including Rwake, Ash of Cedars, Story of the Eye, Seahag, and more, and they sound as alive and transcendent as ever before.

“The Singularity” opens the record and lets you ease in a bit, as spacey wooshes and acoustics meet, and the line, “It’s taken some time to climb out the other side,” almost seems like the explanation for their long time away. “Luciferous Heart” then arrives and makes the blood drive through your veins, as riffs rush, the track blasts emotionally, and gruff singing paves the way toward your soul. Things ease and enter the cosmos before the track hits a sludgy high, as the band thrashes away, wild cries reach out, and things come to a bubbling close. “Heyday” picks up the intensity from there, bursting through the clouds as guitars chug, the vocals glide through smoke and fires, and the humidity thickens. Acoustic passages bring cool air, injecting a sense of ease before the guitars light up again, going ablaze, while the back end is a calculated push into the unknown. “Alexandria” follows with guitars buzzing, throaty growls, and cries of, “Where corruption calls!” that stretch over a great chorus. From there, the cut churns and burn, leaving its soot behind.

“11:34” is an instrumental cut that has ominous bass at the front before noise simmers and woodsy noises color in the background. Birds chirp as we hit the swamps, leaving the song there to ring out into the dusk. “Brought Low” buzzes and plods, giving off an Alice in Chains feel from their acoustic packages. The cut then rips up and gets harsh, with a wailing, blistering chorus that rages with emotions. The pace halts later, letting some steam from the room, before everything picks up again and comes to a volatile end. “Bone and Ash” has gritty, chewy riffs and harsh cries, as the atmosphere is cavernous and heavy, and cool southern licks arrive for added seasoning. The song then begins to obliterate everything around it, as the band thrashes, the low-end rumbles hard, and yowled growls and shrieks rain down over the smothering ending. Closer “Ending” is an instrumental exit that’s frosty and has strange tones calling out, as guitars loop before its essence fades away.

I guess maybe it’s not all that metal to say you’re utterly joyous in midst of a band’s music, but even in their darkest, Deadbird always have been a band that took me to another emotional level. “III: The Forest Within the Tree” is a triumphant return for a band we haven’t heard from in quite some time, and their presence adds a refreshing element to heavy music we don’t get too often. Hopefully this record is widely embraced in the way it should and opens up this great band to more and more ears.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Deadbird1332

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/search?type=product&q=deadbird

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

Atrament take aim at humanity’s decaying decency, embrace total downfall on brutal ‘Scum Sect’

There are times when I’m convinced humanity has run its course. Yes, look, there are many good people among us who mean well and try to help others. They aren’t the ones with voices or power. The people who make decisions, who decide what types of people are desirable or not, and who can punish at will because of their tiny, puny minds is overwhelming, and perhaps total destruction is the only answer.

Obviously, that’s a little over the top, but not when it comes to Bay Area crushers Atrament and their brutal new record “Scum Sect.” For them, seeing the best in people and hoping good prevails is so way back on the burners, it burnt and crusted over long ago. Now is the time for nihilism, pestilence, and destruction as a way to erode the scourge of humankind hellbent on wrecking this planet and giving way to the lowly scum and bacteria that inhabited this place long before we did. On this 10-track, 30-minute explosion of carnage, the band takes no prisoners and turns their vitriol toward those who use their own power to destroy those weaker than them. This is the band’s second record and follow-up to 2016’s killer “Eternal Downfall” which put Atrament—vocalist Mattia Alagna (Abstracter), guitarist James Meyer (Abstracter), bassist Sam Carr-Prindle, and drummer Chad Galey (Necrot, Mortuous)—in more ears and faces, leaving those people forever bruised.

“Plague Upheaval” gets the machine started with blackened hell and full demolition, powering into hardcore-style rumbling, with Alagna’s growls smearing everything with dirt. “Chains of Terror” erupts into D-beat tension, as roared vocals mix with black metal-style melodies to paint a bleak picture. The pace is utterly steamrolling, heading right into “Harbinger” that fires up immediately. The drums draw and spray blood, while the track heads into muddy, violence turbulence, as the leads terrify, and everything ends in pain. “War Seed” unleashes fiery guitars as Galey’s drums gain momentum, and chunky thrashing deals out more punishment. The growls are lacerating, as the guitars speed ahead and bring everything to a riotous end. “Boiling Blood” bashes and stampedes, giving off the heat its title implies and pushing the pace to speedy, dangerous levels before bleeding its way out.

“Spit on Mankind” is driven by a galloping bassline and thick, abrasive riffs, which make the conditions ideal for Alagna’s monstrous growls. The pace grows frantic, as do the vocals, while the riffs wage a battle amid a bone-splitting assault. “Odium” is another where Galey’s drums take over and set the pace, as rage-splashed vocals seek retribution, and the violent pace aims to destroy all. “Malignant” lets the guitars take charge, as the song gets rougher as it goes on, and Alagna’s growls sound like they’re doing permanent damage to his throat. Things only get more intense from there, with the song ending on a volatile note. “Craven” keeps up its end of the deal, as the vocals sound like they’re gurgling thick blood, and the band finds a tempo that’s somehow even more vicious before coming to a smashing end. Closer “The Night Shall See No End” is ominous from the start, letting you feel the palpable unease and refusing to give you calm. The track opens up and declares warfare, as Alagna’s cries shred skin, the drums split congealing wounds, and everything some to a sudden, shocking end.

Abstracter’s vitriol is so thick on “Scum Sect,” you practically can taste the dirt in your teeth and under your tongue after this record is finished. This is a mean, nasty album that has ill intentions, and it’s really hard to disagree with them considering the world we’re in now. Perhaps we’re better off living alongside vermin, but then again, that might be a little insulting to the vermin.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/abstracter-cinereous-incarnate

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

Or here: http://shop.bloodharvest.se/

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

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

And here: http://www.bloodharvest.se/

Vanhelgd deliver devastating dose of doom-smeared death with gory ‘Deimos Sanktuarium’

Right now, as I write this, a storm is brewing. My TV reception keeps going out because my dish is getting confused, and at any moment, the power is sure to get zapped, leaving me with the glow of a laptop before that, too, expires. It feels like Armageddon, which is weird in this part of the country in October, but shit’s changing, and the environment is striking back.

This also is the ideal time to dig into some murky, doomy death metal, the kind that Swedish ghouls Vanhelgd have made so well ever since their 2008 debut “Cult of Lazarus.” Here we are, a decade later, and the band is back with “Deimos Sanktuarium,” their fifth helping of fiery terror and one that adds a gigantic building block to the temple of madness they’ve been building. Over seven songs spread over 44 minutes, the band gets you in their grasp and grinds away at you. Their brand of death isn’t slick and polished. Instead, it shows its guts and spills its own blood, letting it grow sticky gross, just like their music. The band—guitarists/vocalists Jimmy Johansson and Matthias Frisk, bassist Jonas Albrektsson, and drummer Matthias Westman—continues to make their sound uglier as they go on, and this record is as foul and smothering as anything they’ve released.

“A Plea for Divine Necromancy” greets you as a blast of grinding death, with horrifying growls, vicious playing, and you immersed in absolute chaos. The guitars roll over you, while the pace mangles, and it all ends in a driving show of force. “Så förgås världens härlighet” has nasty growls and riffs pummeling, as the band creates a thick, foreboding smoke that aims to strangle you. The track later takes on a barbaric feel, as melody and savagery tangle for supremacy before wild howls and a tornadic burst takes the song out. “Vi föddes i samma grav” unleashes creepy pastoral chants before the song blows up, and raspy, deadly growls are emitted. The song boils and sends off steam, while a mesmerizing pace captures your mind before driving it mercilessly into the ground.

“Profaned Is the Blood of the Covenant” chills at first as bells chime, creating a mystical haze that is ripped to pieces by devastating chugging. The howl of, “A martyr designed as a god,” leaves welts on your face as the band digs deeper, with ominous tones and a shout of, “A stillborn raised by the wolves!” The song burns dangerously from there, ending quietly in funereal chimes. “The Ashes of Our Defeat” is slow driving and doomy, as the howl of, “Swallow the stars, swallow the night,” arrives like a firm command. The track slowly burns, while the guitars are dizzy and intoxicating before slipping into sludgy violence and a ferocious end. “The Silent Observer” is an interesting one as the drums punch, the song fades in, and the band crushes methodically. Black metal-style melodies wash in, as horrifying group yells strike, guitars squirm and swirl, and death-defying shrieks peel your skin back before everything ends in a wash of hellish chants. “Här finns ingen nåd” hammers the final nail with wild screams, a delirious pace, and heavy riffs laying waste. More deadly growls and shrieks sound like demonic transmissions, while strange chants add an alien feel, the band blisters you, and everything drowns out into hell.

Five records in, and Vanhelgd continue to build vicious layers on top of their already bloody, decaying resume. “Deimos Sanktuarium” is a scathing, devastating record that’s par for the course for this band (that’s a good thing, by the way) and should scare the shit out their contemporaries to step up their games. Deep diving into another smothering pile of putrid death from this band might sound unpleasant to the uninhibited, but it’s exactly what those who dine at this band’s table are hungry to find.

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

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

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

Exploding Eyes Orchestra draw closed their run with alluring psychedelic dreams on strong ‘II’

I am a huge believer in the power of therapy or finding an outlet to release some aggression or pent-up frustration, as long as it’s in a helpful, positive setting. We can’t be expected to handle everything perfectly all the time, so finding something productive to address that madness can go a long way toward keeping up and our endeavors healthy.

For Thomas Corpse, guitarist and songwriter for Jess and the Ancient Ones, his form of dealing with frustrations with his main band was to create another outlet The Exploding Eyes Orchestra for him to sink in the creativity welling up inside of him. And wouldn’t you know it, he invited his JATAO members to play in his new project, which resulted in 14 songs broken up over two really good, really different records. The second portion “II” is about to land in our hands, and it’s another killer collection, with the band not veering too far from their normal path in JATAO but doing so a little less flamboyantly and sounding a little more grounded. This is decidedly NOT a JATAO record, even if the band members sound familiar (especially singer Jess, who has some of the most powerful pipes in all heavy music), as they explore other aspects of their strange personalities.

“Those of Us Left” opens with feedback and synth waves before keys blip, and a solemn dose of rock is unleashed. Jess’ singing is a little raspier and deeper, and she commands on the chorus, calling, “Never let the white boat sail.” The track gets moodier, as sax streams in, and then it just fades away. “Belladonna” is tremendous, as it pushes into the shadows with dark organs and Jess wondering, “Are you the one that dies with me?” The chorus is swelling and hearty, and it’s buried in a bed of organs. “Harmain” has a sea chanty feel as mandolin is plucked, and Jess sings in another language. The track is folkish with beautiful orchestration, and it dissolves into the air on the waves of clean guitar lines. “The Things You Do” unleashes keys, with a faster groove, horns pumping, and the band getting about as close to JATAO terrain as they do on either volumes. “You will never leave here, you can never turn back,” Jess warns amid fiery play and a raucous finish.

“The Birch and the Sparrow” washes in, feeling sorrowful, as Jess sings, “I lost my way somehow.” The pain is palpable and builds along with the song, as the ballad puts a stranglehold on your emotions, swelling later when Jess vows, “I’ll fly to you when this night is through.” “Go Go Johnny Do” sounds like it might be upbeat from its title, but it’s a dark, warm rocker about violence and revenge. “Come on, kill them all, let the bullets rain,” Jess commands, as she’s backed by jangly guitars and a noirish atmosphere that’s intoxicating. “Love Eternal” draws the record closed, a 10:16 epic that stirs with strings and keys, as an angelic haze is created that hangs over the entire song. The track is dream-inducing and numbing, as Jess’ words sink into your bloodstream, and the song rests in the clouds, soaring and washing away.

So, this is the end of the road for The Exploding Eyes Orchestra as JATAO powers on into the future, the total focus of Corpse and his fellow bandmates. That’s great to hear, as they’re an absolute favorite of mine, but I’m also a little sad to see this band go. “II” is a great parting gift, a powerful, charming collection of psychedelic heaviness that grows on you every time you go for a journey within it.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Exploding-Eyes-Orchestra-1375153479399278/

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

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