PICK OF THE WEEK: Squalus team up with Shadow Limb for sludgy terror on split ‘Mass and Power’

Squalus

Here on the East Coast, where we’re basically locked into early winter, the beaches seem to be the furthest thing from our minds. Yet, here come Squalus and Shadow Limb to remind you of aquatic adventures, sea creatures out for blood, and general madness. And fun. Remember that? When you could put on a record and just enjoy what you were hearing without worrying about scene bullshit? That’s exactly what you get today, and it’s a total blast.

“Mass and Power” is a split release pairing Northern California progressive metal band Squalus and Chino, Calif., sludge pounders Shadow King on a seven-track effort that isn’t entirely a call from the oceans, but it might as well be. This is one of the better, more interesting split records to come our way this year, and the fact that it won’t drop until halfway through December is concerning in that people might miss it. That’s why we’re striking early.

“The Great Fish…” is the 2017 debut record from Squalus, a retelling musically of the classic 1976 film “Jaws,” which is just an awesome idea. I mean, considering singer/guitarist Aaron John Gregory’s penchant for aquatic beasts (need I remind anyone of the late, great Giant Squid?), this is right up his alley. However, he and his bandmates—bassist Bryan Beeson, keyboardist Andrew Southard, and drummer Zach Farwell—couldn’t get everything they composed for their debut on the record, so we get one of those tracks here for the first time, as well as two swelling new cuts that will smear you.

Squalus’ portion kicks off with “Fourth of July,” the track that was left off of “The Great Fish…” that retells the conversation between Mayor Vaughn and Sheriff Brody as they talk about shutting down the beaches, which put the struggle of safety vs economy into focus. The track is fittingly watery at first, with Gregory’s singing pushing in and the key haze brightening. As the tale goes on, and the tension of the story builds, things get heavier, as synth zaps, the warning of sharks goes out, and things come to a blistering end. “Swim Charlie Swim” is a carryover from “The Great Fish…” a track that balances sludgy punishment with dripping piano and pattering drums. “Violent Climax” is part synthwave, with deeper singing from Gregory at first, as the track moves its way along. “From his voice came a gurgling whine,” Gregory wails, as the track disappears into inky blackness. “Mass and Power” closes out the Squalus portion, starting calmly, with lurching croons that eventually go deranged, and an off-kilter pattern that can make you uneasy. The track then comes alive and pumps energy, as fiery chaos meets up with bubbling synth, thick doom riffs, and a psyche bath. That intensifies until everything melts into a sea of guitars and keys, with everything rustling once more before fading.

Shadow Limb

Shadow Limb released their debut offering “The King Is Dead” last year after the band formed out of the time they shared in instrumental unit La Fin du Monde. Here, they’ve added vocals to the mix, but they remain headed down paths that, while rocky as hell, also have a sense of dreaminess and adventure. The band—guitarists/vocalists Chris Roberts and Adam Scarborough, bassist Mike Crew, drummer Dan Elsen—deliver a trio of songs that are heavy on riffs, provide different perspectives on vocals (they can be grisly but also smooth), and add a smothering assault.

Shadow Limb launch into ridiculously named but awesome “Lobstrocities” (their version of the cover has a creature that happens to be “Masters of the Universe” heel Clawful), which is grimy and burly when it starts. Wailed cries eventually turn into swaggering singing, while the track heads into cold, fittingly nautical territories before coming out of that and burning shit to the ground. “Pop Song” has a touch of Torche sludge goodness, as there are some disarming melodies lurking beneath the filth. As the song moves on, calm singing emerges, leading to a power surge that turns everything toward violence. From there, the band begins to crush you with heavy waves, animalistic growls are unleashed, though there’s still a sugary basis that makes it go down smoothly. “Dark Sigil” is their final cut, beginning jazzy before landing punches and spiraling into heavy sludge. The track then picks up, sending fists toward faces, as growls punish amid killer leads before the pace calms down. Gothy singing swims into the murk before the power returns, trudging hell is turned out, and everything ends in a halo of noise.

If you can listen to this pairing of Squalus and Shadow Limb and not have a blast, then fuck you, you’re taking yourself way too seriously. On top of that, these are two killer bands that have some commonalities but definitely approach heavy music from a different perspective. “Mass and Power” is a blast of metallic goodness to cap off your year, and it’s a reminder than when the warm weather returns, you better watch your ass if you decide to go into the water.

For more on Squalus, go here: https://www.facebook.com/squalus.band/

For more on Shadow Limb, go here: https://www.facebook.com/shadowlimb/

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

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

Rauhnåcht indulge in freezing chaos, unleash folkish black metal on ‘Unterm Gipfelthron’

I’m fortunate enough that every day at my regular job, I have large, expansive windows in front of me, where I can gaze into the thick woods, see creatures I won’t encounter in my suburban life, and be at the heart of nature. This past week, we got an early preview of winter, as snow packed down, turning outside into a picturesque wonderland, and the branches of the trees took on ice and white coatings that made it feel like the cover of a greeting card. Weird way to kick into a black metal album.

You’re likely familiar with Austrian musician Stefan Traunmüller from his work in bands as varied as Wallachia, The Negative Dawn, a Portrait of Flesh and Blood, and Rauhnåcht, the band we’re discussing today. His new album under that banner is “Unterm Gipfelthron” (that roughly translates in “Bottom Summit Throne”), a five-track collection of pagan-style black metal that will make you think of being deep out in the elements. I get winter from this thing, but maybe your mind will wander elsewhere. Nevertheless, Traunmüller creates another fascinating opus (his third full-length under this project and first since 2014’s “Urtzeitgeist”) here he helms the creation of these songs, with help from a steady team of supporting players who help breathe life into this stunning collection.

“Zwischen den Jahren” opens the album with a rousing folkish start, as woodwinds call and whip up a breeze before the track gets harsh and driving in a hurry. Harsh growls pound away while melodies are unfurled, and then the track unleashes raw thrashing. The assault is glorious, and it’s capped off by keys and horns colliding, and the track ending abruptly. The title cut follows, leading you down a clean path before running into burly black metal. There’s a rich, spirited chorus that contains a fleet of voices and gets inside your blood before the song gets gentle again, giving you solace before the next burst. That arrives with militaristic drumming and a pace that rumbles the earth before seeping into a calculated nautical-style section before the chorus’ rushing return.

“Gebirgsbachreise” is an instrumental cut with acoustic plucks, the music flowing serenely, and a cosmic chill floating overhead. Sounds build, colors grow, and group “oh-oh” chants add a rustic sense to the song. “Ein Raunen aus vergess’ner Zeit” is the second-longest track, sprawling over 10:31 after a eerie start that blends into a storm. Keys lean in, while the singing is hearty, and then the growls explode and leave you trembling. Just then, we’re into a dreamy section that quivers and aches before the intensity whips up again, a fiery chorus arrives, and the track tears apart with rage, crushing to its end. Closer “Winter zieht übers Land” is the longest cut, running 11:17 and beginning with an exuberant riff that gets the blood flowing. Growls lash as your flesh, punishing as the song winds and jerks, moving into a grisly, yet chilly corner. The storm picks up again after a brief calm, with choral sections bustling, the melodies pouring in waves, and the track pushing hard, bleeding out in keys.

While it has its devastating, destructive angles, “Unterm Gipfelthron” also is an imaginative record that could help you worship at nature’s altar unflinchingly. That seems to be Traunmüller’s intent here with Rauhnåcht, and those sentiments ripped through me every time I listened to the record (especially when gazing out my work windows). It’s a record full of energy, chaos, and adventure, and it’s one that could attach itself to you as you work your way through the cold season.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

Esben and the Witch weave dark drama into catastrophic sounds on molten adventure ‘Nowhere’

Photo by Christina Wenig

There are many different ways to be heavy in extreme music, though most of that usually falls within the volume at which a band plays or the bludgeoning force of the music. But that’s not the only way to make something weighty, and you don’t even need to be the most savage band in the world to achieve that. If your music can be forceful and pack in relentless drama, your heaviness cannot be questioned.

German post-rock trio Esben and the Witch record for a metal-centric label, but they themselves are not actually a metal band. But they’re heavy as hell, and just a simple excursion with one of their records will tell you that for certain. Immerse yourself in the band’s devastating fifth record “Nowhere,” and you’re immediately sent into the darkness, seeing dream sequences, tornadic nightmares, and rushing emotions. The band—vocalist/bassist Rachel Davies, guitarist Thomas Fisher, and drummer Daniel Copeman—certainly can push the intensity and the force of their music, and there are times on “Nowhere” that batter your senses. But that’s not their only game. They weave cinematic fury and a storming intensity into their music, led by Davies stunning calls that bring you right into the drama.

The record opens with “A Desire for Light” that unfurls slowly and sends the scent of ash in the air before Davies’ singing blends in, and the tempo and emotion take an upswing. The track gets heavier and louder as it develops, surging and giving off steam, with cold guitars raining down, and the track fading out. “Dull Gret” has bass slinking in like a ghost and Davies warning, “I will take what’s mine, for the hour has come, and now this is our time.” It’s cold and trickling later on before the track opens up and begins pounding hard, rumbling and building, with the tension thick as hell. The track smokes, with the band yelling, “Hey!” as the track chars and slips away. “Golden Purifier” has clean guitars, with vocals trading off and Davies leading as always. The track feels ominous, with a delicate path following, spacey keys spilling in, and moody sentiments poking through the clouds. But before things end, another power surge strikes before the track ends in a dose of calm.

“The Unspoiled” begins with sounds crashing down, feeling utterly doomy and scary. The drums echo as Davies sings about being surrounded by gardens, as Davies cries, “I sink slowly, give me a rope, don’t let me go.” Sounds swirl and collide, as the vocals soar into the stratosphere, before Davies once again pleads to be saved. “Seclusion” has drums tapping, the guitars bleeding in, and the vocals grabbing you by the chest. The tempo is plodding on purpose, as gentle and dreamy sequences ice your brain, and as we go, the music drips like a steady rain, bleeding out gently for good. “Darkness (I Too Am Here)” ends the album with a rousing intro, as the song gets louder and more aggressive, with the band pounding you. Davies’ singing is even more forceful, as the heat intensifies and the doom static crackles. The track sludges, with the song hitting a cathartic burst, crushing like thunder before comfort arrives. It all melts while the singing overwhelms, with Davies admitting, “I am tied to you,” as the track comes to a mesmerizing end.

Over a decade and five full-length releases, Esben and the Witch have proved to be an alluring, powerful act that’s heavier as a whole than many bands that rely on brute strength alone. “Nowhere” is more proof of that, and if you’re caught off guard by the band, your psyche can be permanently mangled. They’ve been one of our favorite bands ever since their early days on Matador, and since that era, they’ve become a consistent force for suspenseful power that can leave you in tatters.

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

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/

Pittsburgh’s Horehound inject more grit, swaggering attitude on killer new album ‘Holocene’

My humble hometown of Pittsburgh has an embarrassing amount of good metal bands circulating in the underground scene, and there are reliable groups you can see with some regularity as they grow and morph into new beasts. Oh, someone let our local scribes know that. They seem lost. Anyway, one of those is Horehound, whose new record “Holocene” is a late-year crusher.

If you’re a local, are into heavy music and haven’t seen Horehound, then you’re not trying hard enough. And I say that as someone who doesn’t try hard enough. You can fix this over the weekend, by the way. Details below. They’re a fixture here and have been steadily increasing their profile, playing a live set for local radio station 105.9 the X, who finally played some good music when they were on, as well as being one of the notable acts on this past year’s Descendants of Crom fest, the brainchild of Horehound vocalist Shy Kennedy. Earlier this year, their crushing 2016 self-titled debut was reissued on vinyl, which was a precursor to the world-toppling “Holocene,” which is the band’s finest hour (well, 44 minutes). Kennedy, a barnstormer of a singer, and her equally as smoldering bandmates Brendan Parrish (guitars), Nick Kopco (bass), and JD Dauer (drums) unload a grittier, heavier, more scathing record than their debut, and they infuse even more blues, psychedelic power, and face-bruising attitude than ever before. It’s one hell of a record, one that should get them even more attention beyond city limits, which they undoubtedly deserve.

“The Kind” opens the record hinting at delicacy with its acoustic strains, but then the bottom drops, Kennedy growls pierce, eventually wailing, “We take and give nothing,” as everything pummels around her. Later on, the bass slinks, leading into another nasty riff, which growls catch fire again, clean calling follows, and the track comes to a smoking end. “Dier’s Dirge” is punchy and has a proggy edge before going clean with softer singing. Then the hammers drop, as the band delivers heavy punishment, and Kennedy calls, “What we’ve done can’t be undone.” The track haunts before turning thrashy, with growls scathing, and the song boiling away. “L’appel du Vide” has weird guitars effects at first before turning bluesy, as riffs snake, and psychedelic playing causing dizziness. The track then ambushes, with the singing coming through a watery guise, and haunting speaking coming afterward. The drums hit back hard, and the growls return before Kennedy warns, “There’s nothing left here.”

“Sloth” has mind-altering guitar work, with Kennedy luring, “Come a little closer,” as the ambiance of the track feels chilling. Soloing spreads out before the track chars with calculated approach, with the track bleeding out into a pit of smoke. “Anastatica” delivers a tasty bluesy riff along with echoing vocals, and an assault packed with swagger. The guitars blind later on, with the soloing turning beastly, hammering heavily and confidently. “Won’t let you into my mind,” Kennedy vows, while the track comes to a sweltering finish. “Highball” barrels in, looking to do damage, with the riffs swinging away unconcerned of who and what they mow down. “You can’t see me,” Kennedy taunts, while the bass trudges and the guitars hang ominously. A psychedelic swirl arrives, with the playing melting faces and ending in fire. A brief hidden track that comes out of nowhere is packed with Kennedy unleashing demonic howls, as if she’s trying to scare the shit out of the entire black metal community that think they’re so evil. You’ve been served, kids.

Horehound is another huge credit to the Pittsburgh heavy music scene, and it’s about time the rest of the world takes notice. “Holocene” is a tremendous, eye-opening album that is a huge building block from their first record and shows their undeniable power and attitude. Undeniably this is a doom record, but it’s one that should pull in followers of all types of heavy music who just want to be bludgeoned as they’re taken to another plane of existence.

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

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

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

Horehound play their record release party Saturday at 9 p.m. at Brillobox. Progressive sludge monsters Pyrithe (they added a goddamn theremin) and power metal warriors Lady Beast open what’s going to be a destructive night of local metal.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Morbid heights reached by Chapel of Disease on ‘…And as We Have Seen the Storm’

The saying “jack of all trades, master of none” is meant to imply that its subject, while proficient at many number of tasks, isn’t an expert in any one field because their abilities are stretched too thin. It does make some sense, but doesn’t it also suggest that displaying strong work in a number of areas is a waste if you can’t be a leader in one? Can’t the collection of skills make the person even better as a whole?

I thought about that during one of my many visits with “…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye,” the wondrous third record from German metallic machine Chapel of Disease. It’s impossible to put a label on the band because, as the intro suggests, they explore all kinds of extreme sounds and blend them all together in their brutal, yet fascinating music. The band has been at it for a decade now, initially arriving with an assault of tried-and-true death metal (their name is a blend of two Morbid Angel songs, after all) on their debut “Summoning Black Gods” before branching out their sound on “The Mysterious Ways of Repetitive Art,” as that was a jumping off point to where we are now. The band mixes death metal, black metal, psychedelics, traditional rock n roll, and so many other elements, creating a sound that has been morphing and likely isn’t close to its final destination. The band—vocalist/guitarist Laurent Teubl, guitarist Cedric Teubl, bassist Christian Krieger, and drummer David Dankert—follows a path not unlike Tribulation, though Chapel of Disease are heavier and deadlier, as they create a sound that might bring in more people than your average death metal record, but it’s still full of fire-breathing intensity.

“Void of Words” opens the record with a glorious riff before the band hits a full gallop, and fiery punishment is unleashed. Classic metal guitar licks charge, while the raw growls open wounds, great soloing smothers, and then atmospheric breezes cool off the scene. The band eases back into traditional metal push, with a long instrumental rush taking the track to a finish. “Oblivious – Obnoxious – Defiant” has riffs reigning, beastly growls, and a simple chorus where Laurent wails, “We are oblivious! Obnoxious! Defiant!” The guitars keep rolling, showing a rock n roll-style edge, while the music later explores its surroundings, as ferocious growls topple, and the song steamrolls. “Song of the Gods” has a cavernous start before the guitars trickle like a steady rain, and the power fully kicks in and gets the blood flowing. Riffs rampage hard over the chorus, as the music thunders, and everything bleeds out.

“Null” runs 9:21, the second-longest song on the record, and it has a riveting start with a storming pace, grinding growls over the rousing verses, and a bloody sense of melody. Some bluesy guitar work swaggers into the picture before the violence rips back into the song, and a sequence of mind-melting playing leaves your mind wandering. Everything heads into a dark vortex where great soloing emerges, melting your senses, as the track comes to a devastating end. “1,000 Different Paths” has a delicate start and turns into a very different type of song. It’s slow, moody, and even goth-like, especially with the deep clean singing. As we go, the guitars light up and burn brightly, once again bringing with it vintage tastes, continuing to sprawl and drizzle to the end. Closer “The Sound of Shallow Grey” is the longest track, running 9:49, and it wastes no time getting going, with vicious growls, a rupturing pace, and great leads, which should come as no surprise. Weird synth blends in and gives the song a cosmic edge, while the guitars keep stretching into new territory. The final minutes provide the final blasts of harsh growls, melodies that keep you off balance, and keys swirling in the air as you drift off into the unknown.

Chapel of Disease are a perfect exhibit toward proving one still can be a master, even if one’s skills are spread out all over the place. “…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye” is one of the most intense, interesting metal records of the entire year, and the twists and turns that make up this journey will confound and punish you. This is an album that hopefully reaches a ton of new ears because, if it does, Chapel of Disease is bound to be one of those bands that outgrows its boundaries in very short order.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/

In the Woods… get through more chaos, delve into doom, prog on immersive drama ‘Cease the Day’

Photo by Mina Wallace

Metal is an art form that bathes in chaos. It’s all around you, impossible to avoid, and bubbling in the music’s DNA. Therefore, there are many bands that can’t make it from the first step to last without upheaval, and that’s part of what makes the machine go. One band that’s been no stranger to shuffling within its ranks is legendary Nordic dreamers In the Woods…

Starting out a black metal band with heavy imagination, In the Woods… initially existed from 1991-2000, releasing three full-lengths before they called it quits. They re-emerged 14 years later, which was a pleasant surprise to many listeners, though their 2016 comeback album “Pure” was quite different from their earlier work and contained a different lineup. It felt like a fresh beginning for the band, yet chaos struck, and the band nearly was torn apart all over again, slamming shut the door on this tale. Instead, longtime drummer Anders Kobro and vocalist/guitarist/keyboard player James Fogarty (who debuted on “Pure”) forged ahead and put together the band’s fifth record “Cease the Day,” an album that stretches even further from their roots and takes them into deeper connections with doom, progressive metal, and death, stretching their new focus over eight songs and more than 53 minutes. It might take a few listens to get familiar with the material, but those visits will pay off, revealing a fascinating record that revels in heaviness, anger, and melancholia as they chronicle that band’s rocky past couple years.

“Empty Streets” feels like a woodsy folk song from the start, with Fogarty ruminating about “life’s embers floating in the breeze” before it opens up in whole. The track feels dark and stormy, while the singing soars, as it does so often on this collection, before the growls come in and tear everything to shreds. The pace shifts back and forth before a calm end where Fogarty urges, “Leave the winter far behind.” “Substance Vortex” churns as guitars roll in waves, and Fogarty calls, “You’re in there somewhere, the shell you’ve become.” The vocals are washed out before savagery arrives, as shrieks and fiery playing leave the ground torched. The track thrashes, while the music disorients, with slide guitar setting a rustic mood, and the vibe feeling like a chilly evening. Out of that, the track blazes again, landing punches and ending in shambles. “Respect My Solitude” trades off acoustic flushes and black metal-style melodies, and once the song gets going, it reminds of Amorphis‘ more emotional work. Organs flush as the storm arrives, with shrieks and growls rumbling, and then we’re back to cleaner waters, where the song releases you into an infectious storm.

“Cloud Seeder” has keys dripping and the singing drizzling, with Fogarty wailing, “I’m waiting for you to arrive!” Bluesy licks kick in as the track begins to trudge, shrieks peel flesh, and the band stomps through the mud. Leads merge, the keys return, and a heavy rainfall gives this a goth-friendly finish. “Still Yearning” (a call back to “Heart of Ages” opener “Yearning in the Seeds of a New Dimension”) is punchy as it breaks open, as Fogarty’s singing hovers over strangely calm waters. It’s not long until gut-wrenching screams emerge, adding grit before the singing reaches upper atmosphere again. “Still yearning!” Fogarty cries, while the song mashes away, and it all ends in a fit of noise. “Strike Up With the Dawn” has guitars echoing and plunging, the vocals swimming below that, and a gust of strings adding more drama. Later on, guitars take over, as strong soloing adds a heavy dose of muscle, and strings and keys intertwine and confound before bleeding out. “Transcending Yesterdays” is meant to sound like a live track. No idea why, as it really doesn’t add to the track. It’s also one of the heavier, more punishing songs on here. The chorus is powerful and should cause your adrenaline to flow, especially when Fogarty howls, “Prepare to fly again!” The song gets heavier and more aggressive as it closes, leaving behind a cloud of dust. The title track closes the record and is a short track that reprises the main melody from “Empty Streets” and acts as a bookend to bring this tumultuous adventure to an end.

Things certainly have not been easy for In the Woods… during their entire run, and once again since their last opus “Pure.” But the new core of the band held things together and turned out “Cease the Day,” a new chapter for the group from a personal and artistic perspective. This is a rewarding, powerful record that restarts the band’s path and has it going down a road on which I wouldn’t mind following them well into the future.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more o the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

Finnish black metal destroyers Kryptamok unleash hell, chaos, eerie strangeness on ‘Profaani’

We don’t do a ton of stuff on demo recordings around here, which I’ve mentioned before, and it’s no disrespect intended toward those releases. I sometimes don’t have enough time in a week to get to the records I cover now, so scouring the earth for bands and releases that are operating so heavily in the underground just isn’t something that’s manageable.

Therefore, I rely on friends and social media to find hidden gems, or sometimes labels written about regularly on this site will unearth them for me, like Helter Skelter Productions is doing with their reissue of Kryptamok’s demo “Profaani,” initially regurgitated into the world earlier this year. This project helmed solely by Hex Inferi (Musta Messias, Necromonastery) is raw and unflinching black metal that scars and punishes physically but mostly psychologically. These four tracks are not just heavy and bloody but also haunting and sweltering with fear, injecting you with a sense of otherworldly terror seeping into the music and shaking you violently. There’s really not much more to say than that, as this crushing, bludgeoning music does the talking, so why waste time? Let’s get into it.

“Vala” rips the lid off this thing in no time, with fiery growls, echoes scrambling your brain, and a punishing assault barreling out of control. Synth mixes into the madness, with strong riffing storming out of that, drums blistering, and the vocals bringing corrosion with the track bleeding into weird chants. “Varjoista Kutsuttu” is a fiery flurry at the start, with the vocals crushing, melodies raining down, and the keys smearing colors. The leads burn savagely, giving off a classic metal vibe, as the track stomps angrily, ending in a sooty fury. “Kuoleman Katarsis” has noise carrying over like a poisonous cloud before cavernous hell breaks loose, making for a horror house feel that intends to terrify for real. The music has a ghostly aura, feeling eerie and chilling, with the leads flowing through and different shades than black being applied. The final minutes are moody and mashing, leading you into a disorienting haze that dissolves into the night sky. Closer “Kirous” has the bass unloading and flexing its muscles before the pace destroys and takes on a punk feel due to its speed and melody. The vocals are spat out with disgust, while guitar lines intertwine, pandemonium erupts, and the track blasts to its end.

Kryptamok’s first foray into the world “Profaani” is getting its just due with Helter Skelter’s involvement, and hopefully it smartens up more people than just me as to what this one-man destruction machine is doing so well. This is a blood-curdling, devastating collection that hints at what Inferi might do in the future with a fuller release. If that pays off, and there’s no reason to expect it won’t, that’ll add another barbarian-style band into black metal’s overflowing coffers.

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.helterskelterproductions.se/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Wintry homage fuels Cantique Lépreux’s frozen blackness on ‘Paysages Polaires’

One of my favorite things to do on a wintry Saturday evening is to let the sun drain from the sky, keep the lights off, and enjoy the frosty outdoors while listening to freezing brands of black metal. It’s the perfect way to spend that time, looking out on the ice and snow, appreciating my warmth from the elements, and letting the sounds of whatever band is on tap wash over me.

A great choice for such an experience would be Quebecois black metal band Cantique Lépreux, who are returning with their stunning second album “Paysages Polaires,” which translates to “polar landscapes.” And the music on this seven-track, 45-minute record will make you feel like you’re ensconced in such territory, with the winds whipping, your nose dripping, and the corners of your mouth cracking. It also makes it easy to envision a wind-swept, breath-taking frozen tundra, similar to those in the band’s homeland to which they pay homage. The band—Blanc Feu (vocals, guitars), Matrak (bass), and Cadavre (drums)—add even more substance to a Quebec black metal scene that has barnstormed metal listeners of late, and this record will push you to your emotional boundaries.

“Le feu secret” opens the record with riffs tearing through your senses and the pace reaching full gallop. The growls char as melodic riffs well, bringing the song storming over the horizon. Harsh cries erupt, while the bass buzzes underneath wintry coverage that acts like a storm hanging in place in the air. The pace progresses while clean calls and wails combine, taking the song to its end. “Les étoiles endeuillées” has guitars simmering as the track is slower and more channeled, taking its time to blast you. The growls scrape while the song powers up, with dizzying leads charging before things pull up and a hypnotic glaze takes us out. That takes us into the centerpiece triptych that starts with “Paysages polaires I” that has riveting riffs that fire up, the track heads over the top, and the speed pedal is jammed to the floor. Clobbering growls arrive, while guitars quiver, melodic riffs wrap around the chaos, and majestic savagery crushes and bleeds away.

We move to “Paysages polaires II” that begins with crazed shrieks, storming ahead violently, as bass swelters and the riffs are charged up. Vocals shrieks and shake, while the guitars gush heavily, the low-end rumbles, and the punishment blasts out. “Paysages polaires III” finishes the three-part set with guitars barreling into the darkness, feeling like a scene out of that dark winter night detailed above. The melodies spill into a drubbing assault, while the tempo takes off, the guitars gets fluid, and the final moments give off a frosty ambiance, the ideal ending to this Rene Chopin-written piece. “Hélas…” punches through with harsh growls and a pace that is relentless, with dramatic swings pulling you back and forth and the leads blistering. Some of the guitar work has a classic metal edge, that gives off a wave of nostalgia that brings you to the track’s end. Closer “Le fléau” is the longest song, running 8:14, and it begins with a chilling section that stretches and stings, ripped awake by harsh wails and flushing guitars. The approach is more even tempered, as dark, somber winds causes massive body shivers, and whispers push into another dose of chaos. The leads flood as the song builds to its final stage, while hypnotic playing blends into airy acoustics, and scorching distortion burns itself out in a deep freeze.

Cantique Lépreux’s worship at the altar of total winter is amplified and true on “Paysages Polaires,” a record that is landing at just the right time. The band’s music is made for these times, when the temperatures are soon to be nearing freezing, and your mental and physical limits will be tested. But it’s not all bad. It’s also a great time to stoke fires, enjoy dark beverages, and appreciate the majesty unfurled in front of you.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Cantique-L%C3%A9preux-1508635429464649

To buy the album, go here: https://store.eisenton.de/en/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/

Mysterious black metal horde Misotheist bring virulent rage, atmosphere on self-titled opus

So many people living in this world have their hearts, minds, and faiths tied to a god figure. Many people are brought up from birth to believe in a god that has created the world, one that is full of good and love for all mankind and who only has our best interests at heart. If that’s the case, why do we have famine, war, disease, natural disasters? Doesn’t that level of suffering make a god seem rather foul?

There are those who hold true to that thinking—and it makes a lot of sense balancing what we’re taught vs. what’s in our senses when examining all the evil in the world—and that leads some to not only lose faith in god or gods but top hate them outright. Nordic black metal band Misotheist took on the name of people who exercise outright hatred toward the gods, and their first release (at least we think so, as there is just about no information about them out there), a self-titled affair, pays off the fury and rage one could feel toward a higher power. The band is not forthright with identities, past accomplishments or bands, or even their own personal feelings about their feelings toward the gods, so we’re left to wonder. What we do know is this three-track, 33-plus-minute opus swims in chaos and dissonance, weaving you in and out of the flames and creaking caverns that make up the mental space they operate, keeping the journey dangerous but challenging.

Opener “Carriers of Captivity” is the shortest song on the record, and it’s 10:18 long. Noise hovers before the song bursts, and mind-bending playing is launched and brings confusion. Atmosphere arrives, while the song storms heavily, as the growls crush, and then we meander into bizarre territory. Growls swarm while the song disorients, and then the track tears open again, with the pace erupting, guitars spilling blood and charging forward, and the growls rumbling before an elegant sheen is applied, and the track bleeds out in a fury.

“Breast and Soil” runs 11:06, and it starts with an eerie Middle Ages vibe before the track lets loose and crushes bones. The riffs swirls while the vocals punish, bringing a thunderous, sweltering assault, dragging you exposed over crags and crevices, with your skin aching and bleeding. Riffs spit blood before the mood turns somber, spreading its cloud cover before the top is torn off, melodies bubble, and the track blazes to a finish. “Blood of Rats” is the 12-minute closer that’s shadowy and sorrowful at the start, with guitars stinging and the growls feeling raw. Guitars cut into the flesh dramatically, as the growls turn into a hiss, before the track goes hypnotic. Growls slithers, the riffs encircle, and the song becomes fast and numbing, splattering over a several-minute stretch that’s hellish and adventurous. The band then turns on the jets, stampedes forcefully, and drive the track to its burnout finish.

Misotheist make you wonder about their hatred and violent tendencies toward the gods, but the music on their self-titled debut really doesn’t shows its hand explicitly, leaving you to work your way through the darkness. The music is fiery and devastating, but it’s also wondrous in spots and pushes your mind creatively. There’s no way of knowing the band’s true intent, so all we have left is a record of spellbinding black metal in which to immerse ourselves.

To buy the album, go here: https://www.van-records.de/index.php?language=en&cPath=23

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

Fins Corpsessed stare ending of existence in the face, push back with mangling ‘Impetus of Death’

Death is all around us, a fact that is uncomfortably too much to handle sometimes. We see it on the news, we experience it when we lose loved ones, and one day all of us will have of own unsuccessful battle with the reaper. It is a fabric of our existence, even though it’s the thing that is going to be the unquestioned end of our cycle on Earth.

Finnish death crushers Corpsessed apparently have spent the past several years with that thought in mind, as it is the creative driver behind their long-awaited second record “Impetus of Death.” We hadn’t heard from the band in four years since their full-length debut “Abysmal Thresholds,” itself a relentless slab of death violence, and in that time, they’ve managed to become a more devastating, unflinching group of musicians that only have the worst of intentions as far as your psyche is concerned. On this new eight-track behemoth of an album, the band brings a hellacious beating that ravages your senses over a healthy 45:52. The band—Niko Matilainen (vocals), Matti Mäkelä (guitars, vocals), Jyri Lustig (guitars), Tuomas Kulmala (bass), and Jussi-Pekka Manner (drums)—approach the subject of death on two fronts: the idea that it is feared and the end of all, but also positively in that it gives your life meaning and you should push to accomplish what you must, because time is not infinite.

The title track kicks off this beast, as strange noises are afoot before guitars carve their paths, and the song gets into burly, muddy death. Matilainen’s growls rumble, while the pace gets ugly and torturous, with the soloing burning away at the surface and leaving toxic fumes. “Sortilege” also trudges in the muck, with a grinding fury gnawing away, growls sounding like they’re choking on oil, and the guitars bringing light to an otherwise dank territory. The riffs power, the growls lacerate, and it all comes to a smashing end. “Endless Planes of Dust” totally erupts, destroying and blinding, shaking the ground beneath you. The chaotic fury hits a doomy patch, while the leads glimmer, the growls gurgle, and the band puts on its submission finisher from which you can’t escape. “Graveborne” makes traveling impossible again, as the tires spin, and there’s no catching any footing. The drums unload, while the band serves up a bleeding, splattering assault, blistering and refusing to let up until the track comes to a guttural end.

“Paroxysmal” has gross growls, warped guitars going unhinged, and terror bells ringing out, bringing with them a funereal essence. Riffs encircle while the pace picks up, as the guitars gash the skin, and heavy growls punish right to the bitter end. “Forlorn Burial,” which is a great song name, burns slowly, while the guitars simmer and the growls mar. The pace isn’t as fast, but it’s just as heavy as anything else on here, smashing forward, bringing dizzying guitars, and unleashing hell before it sprawls away. “Begetter of Doom” sits in a sound scape at first before the track gets thrashy, and the band brings annihilation. Growls and shrieks mix to form a deadly tandem, while the playing does deep psychological scarring, and the track boils away in a cauldron of noise. Closer “Starless Event Horizon” is the longest track, stretching over 10:25, and it starts with eerie noises and the guitars bringing hypnosis. Everything is torn apart, crushing and sharing pain, as the guitars sound outright evil at points. Slurry riffs take us into doom, while the song stretches out into the unknown, dropping vicious riffs and corrosive growls that drag the sound to its punishing conclusion.

Death never is a comfortable subject, even amid all of the horrific metal we cover, because it can be utterly terrifying. Where Corpsessed divert the path on “Impetus of Death” is that it’s also a reminder not to fuck around and put off what you can get done, because what if you get your head taken off by a helicopter propeller tomorrow? Yes, this record is heavy and scary, but it comes with that extra motivation to get off your ass before it’s too late for you.

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

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

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