UK black metal force Fen revisit ‘Stone and Sea’ recharge EP that receives deserved vinyl reissue

Many of us have lives that fall into the constant eat-sleep-work-repeat mode. That’s just how it is, and unless you want to blow up your own grid, it’s an existence that sometimes feels utterly monotonous as you relive it over and over again. Same thing can affect someone when creating music, as bands fall into the write-record-tour process for years and years, if they’re lucky.

Acknowledging that their creative cycle had hit a sort of expected pattern, UK black metal power Fen sought to throw a wrench into their own plan and get back to making music for themselves, the way they started creating in the first place. This was back in 2015, and we’ve had their 2017 full-length “Winter” since then, but at the time, they sought to break from their cycle and record a quick three-track EP that gets back to their roots called “Stone and Sea.” The music originally saw the light of day on a 2016 split with Sleepwalker, but that trio is now being released on its own by Eisenwald on 180-gram limited edition vinyl with new artwork. The collection does restoke their earlier fires when they were more feral, though it lives nicely alongside their more recent work where they’ve grown more atmospheric. The band at the time—vocalist/guitarist The Watcher, bassist/bodhran player/vocalist
Grungyn, and drummer/percussionist Derwydd (he’s since been succeeded by Havenless)—captured their true spirit and ripped out these three cuts that feel like a storm blazing through a forest.

“Tides of Glass” gets things started with a wash of clean guitars before the track delivers some gut punches, and clean singing floats over until growls arrive to deliver the bloody edge. The chorus allows for some dreamy singing to immerse itself, adding a surreal feel, before we’re back to animalistic drive and bruising, with the guitars ramping up the drama. After that push, we’re back to calming winds, as a folkish feel slides in, with group “ah-ah” singing before vicious howls spew and push into the title cut that has a breezy introduction and calming atmospherics. Shakers numb the mind, with guitars strummed and things feeling like a mid-afternoon storm hanging overhead, with an intensity building to closer “The Last Gravestone” that starts with clean calls before guitars send jolts. The song catches fire , with wild howls mowing down what lies in front of it and the pace starting to bludgeon. Emotional growls and forceful singing align (one voice sitting higher while the other delivers huskier notes), while the guitars kick up the power, the cries scorch, and a disarming wash of sounds switch from ear to ear (listen on headphones for the near-seizure-inducing effect as the track ends in spiritual confusion.

Fen’s listeners probably didn’t think the band needed a re-charge four years ago, but its members did, and that’s how we ended up with this really strong EP “Stone and Sea.” Granted, the music has been out there a while, but this vinyl version of these tracks is a must-have for the band’s fans and also could work as a nice introduction to Fen for anyone late to their journey. This is primal, yet spacious black metal that delivers chaos and magic with each listen.

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German doom patrol Eremit deliver brutally challenging debut effort ‘Carrier of Weight’

Doom metal wasn’t meant to be a quick and easy journey into the dark deep where you get in, get out, and go back to your life. There’s a price to be paid, and there are endless battles that often result in submission before the music truly becomes a part of you. So, three-minute jams just won’t cut it. It’s fully immersion or nothing.

That’s sort of a warning as we jump into “Carrier of Weight,” the debut from German doom crushers Eremit that will challenge you body and mind over it’s quaking existence. A mere three songs push over an expansive 68 minutes, though there’s hardly a section where things aren’t utterly compelling. Originally released independently in the fall of 2018, it’s been picked up by Transcending Obscurity and given the deeper push it deserves so it can entrance even more people. The obvious comparison points are there—Bell Witch, Mournful Congregation, Thergothon—though Eremit manage to do their own thing while still checking off the similarities one might expect from music of this nature. You definitely must give yourself over to these songs, the shortest of which is more than 11 minutes long, as they are adventures that must be undertaken in order to fully experience what they offer on this stunning record. The band—vocalist/guitarist Moritz Fabian, guitarist Pascal Sommer (who is no longer with the group), and drummer Marco Backer—deliver a hammering that lets you breathe and recover now and again before taking back to the ground for yet another pounding.

“Dry Land” opens the record, a 23:29-long mammoth that isn’t even the longest track on here. So, like, strap in. Keys simmer while the initial vocals creak, and a mesmerizing cloud hangs over everything. The track bursts as a whole about four minutes in as screams register, and burly riffs help with the heavy battering. A calm sequence settles in, playing games with your mind before the track kicks up the pace, and the vocals slice all over. The back end of the track feels grim and rotting, as shrieks strike, and everything ends in a torturous bath in hell. “Froth Is Beckoning” is the shortest of the bunch and still runs 11:23, beginning with punchy riffs and beefier growls. The riffs kill anew, leading the way for a tempo that lays waste, with the shout of “I’d rather be dead!” driving the dagger. The screams later snarl while the pressure is applied, as the track trudges through mud and congealing pools of blood. As the song nears its end, the playing gets a little faster, the menace is multiplied, and it all ends in noise.

“Cocoon of the Soul” is the album finale, a 33:22 beast that begins with sounds rising to the surface, guitars trembling, and things taking its time to thaw, which it finally does about seven minutes into the song. The band lands heavy blows while cries pierce, and a calculated assault begins to unfurl. The track is gut splitting in its delivery, peaking at about 11 minutes in with spacious leads and harsh growls driving with the command, “Awake me before dawn!” Guitars begin to spread into space, though they remain bludgeoning, with buzzing noise chewing away, and gazey melodies falling from the skies. Things then get more aggressive, as the track drops bricks and shrapnel before returning to its more deliberate pace. The song crunches into a cold section that leaves frost on your breath before everything erupts entirely, with the band ripping you to shreds before the violence is enveloped in fog, drawing it to its final resting place.

Records such as “Carrier of Weight” certainly fall into the “not for everyone” category simply based on how goddamn long these songs are, but that just means those folks aren’t going to experience fully the majesty that is Eremit. Equal parts might and adventure, these tracks test your strength and will in a way few bands ever dare, and if this music aligns with you, you’re bound to really love this record. This is doom for the true disciples who would follow this band into whatever darkened cave they’re led.

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‘Lords of Chaos’ is a flawed journey into the heart of the Norwegian black metal scene

Black metal is a huge part of what we do here, and had it not been for the bands that pioneered the sound nearly 30 years ago (THIRTY YEARS!), who knows where we’d be and what we’d be talking about. There is plenty of good and really, really bad that goes with the Norwegian black metal scene, and that’s the focal point of the film Lords of Chaos that just hit streaming services this week.

So, it was Saturday night, and I guess that makes it alright to dig into the film by Jonas Åkerlund (he was a founding member of Bathory who’s also made videos for prominent bands such as Metallica, Rammstein, and Candlemass). It has has angered people all over the world because black metal is never satisfied with anything at all. Based on the book of the same name (as suspect source material as one can find), the movie works to explain the creation of black metal legends Mayhem and the formation of the Norwegian black metal scene. Kind of. Look, there are artistic liberties taken with the story. Some are pretty out there such as Varg Vikernes (played by Emory Cohen, a Jewish actor who, I hope, was supposed to be a dagger in Varg’s cowardly ribs) being some scene kid who worshipped Euronymous (Rory Culkin, whose blatantly American accent is hard to handle at times) and was chided for his Scorpions patch. Actually, everyone has an American accent. Also, fuck you if you ever trash the Scorpions. But that gets things off to a weird start. Dead (played by Jack Kilmer, son of Batman) being the band’s first vocalist also is a lot to handle since it’s insanely not true (sorry, Maniac and Messiah!). OK, but if you’re not into the scene and are coming at this with no knowledge, I guess you won’t care about this.

Culkin as Euronymous also narrates the film, which is fine but not all that well done. The good part of the movie is that the visuals are stunning. The violence is so brutal at times it’s hard to watch. Faust (Emperor drummer and homophobic asshole) murders a gay man in Lillehammer who comes onto him,  and the scene is so violent, it’s difficult to sit through (as it should be). It’s also troubling the gay man is portrayed as a sleaze. Same with Varg murdering Euronymous at the film’s end (SPOILERSSSSS), which feels like it goes on and on and on, but I don’t mean that negatively. It does hammer home the fractured friendship, Varg’s utter paranoia, and the horrible final death blow to the scene’s heart. They even work in the final gasp of air once Varg slams the knife into Euronymous’ skull, which is right from Varg’s own account. Which is troublesome.

Jack Kilmer, Anthony De La Torre, Rory Culkin, and Jonathan Barnwell in Lords of Chaos

Obviously, I’m not recounting the whole story. You probably all know it. But I want to talk about a few things. First, the, live stuff is really well done. Whether it’s historically accurate or not, I don’t know. But fuck, it’s really good. Second, the studio scene of Mayhem recording “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is fun to watch, mostly to see Attila Csihar’s son Arion plays him to a T. Third, Varg is done totally wrong and is not nearly enough of a total fucking piece of shit asshole, which is why the source material is faulty. Yeah, he gets more annoying as the film goes on and he treats women like trash, but his Nazi antics are very downplayed. He’s garbage. But he’s almost made somewhat sympathetic. Oh, speaking of women, they’re used as trash piles, expect for Euronymous’ possibly imagined girlfriend Ann-Marit (Shy Ferreira, who does a great job with her swagger and emotion). Finally, and sorry to the goddamn edgelord assholes, but Euronymous mourning Dead is legitimately sad. It’s a heavy moment that’s treated with tenderness. It got me. By the way, Euronymous has falafel and Coke so many time it’s like, OK, we get the joke!

At the end of it all, the movie is fine. It’s totally flawed. No question. But the overall picture gets it kind of right, depending on emotion and visuals (oh my, the church burnings are gloriously done) and a curbing of the truth, which Åkerlund admitted he did from the start. End of the day, the movie should help celebrate the seeds of Norwegian black metal which, problems aside, it does. Yeah, bigger things happen after the movie ends, and a volume two could help flesh out the whole story. If you’re fretting black metal got commercialized, I’ve got some news for you. That happened a long time ago. It’s not perfect at all, and I’ve got a ton of issues, but the movie was way better than I expected. Doesn’t mean it’s great. It means we should celebrate black metal for what it is and what is gave us. Remember, black metal is a damaged thing, an artform that perhaps should be rejected on the archaic ideals it celebrates, but also be remembered for the artists who pushed it forward and expanded its sense of acceptance.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Bergraven put focus on memories, darkness on chilling ‘Det framlidna minnet’

Our memories are almost as much as part of us as our flesh and bones. From the first time we have an experience that makes an indelible mark on our brains and stays with us all our days to crucial things that have happened recently, they help guide and shape our paths through our lives, whether that’s for better or for worse.

That idea flows through “Det framlidna minnet,” the adventurous and long-awaited new album from Bergraven, one of the most creative and shape-shifting bands in all of metal. It’s been 10 long years since the band’s last record “Till Makabert Väsen” (its members put focus into their other band Stilla for that stretch), and in that time, this band hasn’t lost an ounce of their ingenuity. In fact, the foundations they laid on “Till” and their landmark second record “Dödsvisioner” remain, but they delve even further past their own boundaries into areas even more immersive in the minds. The album’s title translates to “The Deceased Memory,” and over the course of their eight-track, 54-minute record, the band runs the gamut of emotions and sounds, never smoothing the edges of their progressive black metal but always adding textures and colors far different than their past. The band—guitarist/vocalist Pär Stille, bassist Andreas Johansson, and drummer J. Marklund—brings deeper elements of the cosmos to this album, as well as some loungey, dreamy jazz that makes their barbs even sharper when they strike.

“Minnesgåva” is an introductory track built on psyche guitar wash, strangeness, and drums encircling, opening the gates for “Allt” with its guitars dripping color and strange feelings being spread generously. Stille’s growls echo and roar, while the pace kicks in and brings aggression, a thunderous but strange path is laid out before you, and then it hits a mind warp complete with jazzy atmosphere, hypnotic punches, and a tornadic end. “Den följsamma plågan” comes in with charring horns, a proggy push, and clean singing before the gas pedal is struck and things get warped. There’s a total switch-up into psychedelic chaos as the storms speed ahead, and the growls scrape pavement from the ground. That might make your head swim, and it’s not long until that vibe melts int a strange pool of keys and odd dreams. “Minnets melankoli” has cosmic riffs chewing away at muscle, the growls bringing menace, and keys swooping in with mystery. Classical guitar lines are buried underneath carnage, opening up into an imaginative world where colors turn into all-new shades. Out of that, the track regains its sinew and might, crunching away while the growls deliver pain and majesty all at once.

“Leendet av hans verk” starts with a sax smear that hangs in the air, then the piano drips, whispers flutter in, and acoustics provide a sturdy bed. The track then blasts open, bringing on speed and fury, while the growls strike hard, and the tempo keeps burning into another strange section. Acoustics return, while clean singing emerges, and from there, all the elements pile on top of each other. “Den dödes stigar” is spacious and full of wonder as it gets off the ground, as melodies and sleepy guitars merge before growls rupture the scene. The guitars explore as moody darkness spills in, trickling quietly and gently as it lifts into the stars. Melody then comes back in, sweeping and cascading before the track burns out. “Till priset av vårt liv” enters with horns squawking as elegant leads provide a foundation, and vicious growls run headlong into psychedelic keys. Cold guitars drizzle before the leads cut through and warm the ground as the dark, ominous clouds return. Guitars enthrall as grisly growls lay waste, and then things get even more imaginative as strings flow in, and slow, warbled cries slither to the finish. Outro cut “Eftermäle” returns to the brain-confounding strains that started the record, as drums crumble, hallucinogenic playing stings the psyche, and the track lands in a cloud of star dust.

One’s memories can be a warm friend or an enemy that continues to bog one down with misery, pain, and guilt, destroying one from the inside out. Bergraven travel all of that ground on “Det framlidna minnet,” a welcome return from a band who we’ve admired before this site ever existed. Whether basking in light or hiding in shadows, the music on this great record confronts life stories, as well as high and low points that either help us rise up or crumble to the ground in defeat.

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Ruin Lust make sooty comeback, return savagery to death, black metal on devastating ‘Sacrifice’

The violent tendencies that bleed forth from death and black metal are a major parts of the sounds’ appeal. There can be some good that comes out of that for a listener, as the music can help you relate to the tension and madness you’re hearing blast from speakers or headphones. It’s a major reason why we’re here, eh.

Any time you dip your fingers into the furious waters created by New York-based black/death metal hybrid Ruin Lust, you have to understand you’re in for a savage beating. You’re going to be swallowed under the waves and have your body ground against the rock, and if you do surface again, it’s going to come complete with bloody wounds and a damaged psyche. All of that is poured into “Sacrifice,” their first record since 2013’s self-titled debut, an offering that made a nice dent in the underground scene before the band disappeared into the void. Now with a seven-track, 26-minute blast furnace in tow, the band—guitarist/vocalist J. Wilson, guitarist S. Bennett, vocalist/drummer M. Rekevics (also of Fell Voices, Yellow Eyes, Vorde, Vanum, etc.)—brings a hellacious assault that never relents over the entire body of the album.

“Summoner” is a drone-filled blast that begins the record, as chaos and noise combine to create a monstrous force, with riffs smearing soot, the terror building, and crazed howls sending chills, heading right into “Magus” and its explosion of pure brutality. The screams echo, while the burly riffs gurgle blood, and the band utterly clobbers you. The assault smothers you, leading you into metallic damnation before things come to a bloody end. The title track delivers deep, menacing growls as the guitars spiral away, creating a wave of confusion. The pace detonates, coming to a thrashy, chugging charge, crushing the bones of everyone in front of them as they leave a trail of death behind.

“Death” lights up right away and sends you leaping back from a flash of fire. The growls erupt, with the pace bringing slaughter and pain, the drummers hammering away, and the sounds feeling cavernous, as evil spirits spread and unleash horror. “Seer” is a quick interlude patched together with droning chants and the noise building, leading toward “Mirrors of Broken Blood” that gets off to a shocking, thunderous start. The pace trudges and chars, with the pace reminding you’re in the midst of battle, the growls devouring, and the thrashing doing optimal damage. The track has a stunning final stretch, with the panic rising at alarming levels before the track fades into the underworld. “言語っていう病気” finishes the album with riffs smashing, ripping apart sanity, while the growls destroy, and the pace twists and mars the nerves. Total chaos is achieved, with the playing splashing and strangling, bringing annihilation right up to the very end.

Ruin Lust’s relentless destruction is on full display on “Sacrifice,” one of the most unforgiving records of this still-young year. It’s a collection that’s not for those looking for comfort or solace, as each ounce of this thing drips with the blood of battle and the tears of regret. It’s been a long time coming since we got another blast from this band, and now we have the blinding blades of hell with which to contend.

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Pissgrave continue campaign to splash filth, vile punishment on gross ‘Posthumous Humiliation’

To the untrained ear, death metal probably sounds like the foulest, most deranged form of music ever dreamed by human beings. Depending on who that person is exposed to, that’s not necessarily the wrong way of looking at things. But those of us who practically bathe in death metal’s blood know that’s just not true, which is no knock on the style.

But now and again, you do get a band that makes even the hardest, grimiest listener take cover, which is always the case with Philly manglers Pissgrave. You know everything you need simply from their name, as they pay off with gore, blood, puss, and other fluids smeared all over the surface of their music. They’ve made a horrifying return with “Posthumous Humiliation,” the band’s second record that comes four years after their debut “Suicide Euphoria,” which easily has one of the grossest album covers you’ll find. Not that the one adorning the front of “Posthumous” will do any great tricks for stimulating your appetite either, and the music you confront on these nine tracks really won’t make you feel any better. The band—guitarists/vocalists Demian Fenton and Tim Mellon, bassist Brad D., and drummer Matt Mellon—ply/have plied their trades in other bands such as Oak, Serpent Throne, and Abhomine, but what they do here snuffs them all out in sheer shocking violence and smothering misery.

Things get started with “Euthanasia” and its utter death chaos, with growls so marred in noise they almost sound inhuman. That continues through the entire record, by the way. The riffs drive you insane, though melodies swim in and cause confusion, as the band dive bombs you, and feral chaos brings the song to its end. “Canticle of Ripping Flesh” has riffs crushing before a blast furnace of blood gushes right at your face. Hellish vocals and playing that twists muscle arrive while riffs cascade, the pace thrashes, and the soloing blinds before the track ends in a hell storm. “Funereal Inversion” has melodic guitars that barrel into a cavernous assault before the growls are unleashed. Sinister riffs and a blast of noise rush in, with the fires raging, speed maiming, and the track being devoured by acid. “Catacombs of Putrid Chambers” has dissonant riffs and gurgling growls, feeling as if the song comes from another dimension. Riffs encircle while beastly growls spit skin and bone, and the track continues to build its momentum before the track comes to a blurring end.

“Into the Deceased” explodes with rage with wild howls scraping and the music practically twisting your guts. The guitars sprawl all over with furious huffs, marring riffs, and the track bleeding to death. The title track arrives in a drone cloud, with guitars charging the atmosphere and the growls slaughtering. The track seems designed to bring insanity, as the guitars drill and the fires consume all. “Emaciated” is audio torture with the playing blistering and the growls boiling and sending off steam. The track hits the gas pedal and gets lightning fast, with the song stabbing away and you writhing in endless hell. “Celebratory Defilement” is tricky and violent right out of the gate with the vocals muffled like they’re being smothered and the music getting tornadic. The track then trucks and stomps harder than ever, with complete annihilation delivering nightmarish effects. “Rusted Wind” closes the album with a clobbering assault, the music charring, and the vocals sounding like they’re belched through acid and plasma. A rapid-fire beating makes the bruising even worse, while the roars attack, dreary leads give off thick smoke, and the track ends in a heinous noise bath.

Pissgrave is not an easy band to get to know, and they don’t make their welcome very warm and cuddly on “Posthumous Humiliation,” a record that’ll be hard to top when measuring the vilest and most disgusting of the year. But if you’re into that thing, you’re going to find ton to comb through with these nine gut-shredding tracks that will make you feel filthy once you’re done with them. This is death metal with a tangible stench that isn’t here to make friends and only wants to leave trails of blood and, well, piss behind.

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Ewigkeit dig into UFO conspiracy, seek obscured truth in shadows on doom-glazed, grimy ‘DISClose’

When I was a kid, I was up late on a Saturday night, watching things on television I was not supposed to be seeing. It isn’t as salacious as it sounds. That usually meant pro wrestling on the old WWOR channel, which one night bled into a documentary called “Overlords of the UFO,” a film made in 1976 that scared the absolute shit out of me and haunted me for years.

UFOs and alien beings have long since fascinated me, which is a reason “DISClose,” the new record from UK-based experimental black metal/doom vets Ewigkeit grabbed my interest right away. Granted, I’ve always really enjoyed their stuff as, even though it’s super out there, it always feels genuine and fun to hear. That and Mr. Fog James Fogarty (who also heads up In the Woods…) is the sole creator here and really has poured a lot of himself into this record that digs deep into the Roswell, NM, conspiracy from 1947, where it is believed an alien spacecraft crashed to the Earth and was hidden from public knowledge. OK, yeah, I know they claim it was a weather balloon that fell, but come on now. First, that’s not fun to believe in at all. Second, no way would people be ready to handle that at the time, right after the end of World War II. Ewigkeit digs into all of that stuff, which makes this a record that’s a blast to hear and definitely will have you Googling shit left and right.

“1947” opens the album with a recording running back the events of July 8 of that year before a melodic run complete with harsh screams and a soaring chorus where Fogarty calls, “Angels fell from heaven to change the course of history.” The track chugs from there, with urges to break the secrecy and reveal truth. “Disclosure” starts with gothy synth before punches are landed, vicious growls explode, and the chorus soars. Fogarty opines about the creation of civilization, surely pointing to alien origins, before chant-style singing spills in, and the track ends in murk, acoustics, and strange keys. “Oppenheimer’s Lament” covers J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the father of the atomic bomb, as the song starts with a clip about the devastating weapon. Grimy verses and a clean chorus mix in as guitars spread, the leads swell, and powerful singing pushes the song into a well of mystical keys.

“Guardians of the High Frontier” has trudging riffs and sinister doom-style singing, with Fogarty wondering, “Are you waiting for my return?” Guttural yelps last from there as keys send a thick fog, an old Ronald Reagan clip runs about facing alien beings, and forceful woah-oh calls power the track to its burn-out finish. “Resonance” also thickens dark doom waters, with slower verses and harsh cries scarring and the keys swirling and mesmerizing. The screams then aim to peel paint from the walls, as melodies rain down, thick growls punish, and the track comes to a hypnotic end. “Krill” has thick basslines buzzing, the song marching through the mud, and melodies snaking through the chaos. Guitars swing through, bringing sweltering madness before things fade away. “Moon Monolith” closes the record with a sorrowful pall, as Fogarty’s harsh screams smear, and a proggy storm gathers overhead. Clean singing enters and frosts over the track, as Fogarty mourns the fallen pilots, urging people to wake up to government secrecy. Jagged riffs open wounds, the singing causes mists to cover, and the track ends its mission headed into the stars.

“DISClose” is a blast of a record, a dose of strange black metal that’ll have your mind warped and you gazing at the skies, wondering what mysteries have been held from us. Ewigkeit also remains a vital, fluid project nine records into their run, and Mr. Fog sounds like he’s hardly running out of fuel and still has a ton on his mind. That’s a win for all of us, especially those who’ve long wondered what’s going on in other worlds and how much of that has crossed over to our plane.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Candlemass on path to the future with piece of past on smashing ‘Door to Doom’

Being in a legendary band worshipped by many likely means you’ve been doing your thing for a long time, and the scourge of lineup changes has impacted your music way more than one time. The greats always find a way to push through and keep doing relevant work—Maiden, Priest, Sabbath—which keeps them a pillar of their musical community for years to come.

Classic Swedish doom metal band Candlemass has hardly avoided chaos over the years, and from the time their last album “Psalms for the Dead” arrived seven long years ago in 2012, changes have struck the group all over again. Except this time, their new frontman is a familiar face from the past—Johan Längqvist, who performed vocals as a session singer on the band’s incredible debut album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.” It was a welcome surprise to longtime fans to hear he was returning to the fold, but the proof of their might would be in the music they made, which we now have with their 12th album “The Door to Doom,” as ideal a title as you’re going to find. This eight track, nearly 49-miniute record sure as hell delivers, over and over again, bringing doom magic like these guys have been making for years. The band—rounded out by guitarists Mats Bjorkman and Lars Johansson, bassist Leif Edling, and drummer Jan Lindh—sounds channeled and alive, as if they’re breathing dank new life again after renewing their mission to drub you and scorch you to hell.

“Splendor Demon Majesty” starts off the record perfectly, bristling in its presence of satanic powers. The track punches right away, with Längqvist wondering, “Will this be a new beginning or orchestrate the end?” The chorus is powerful, with the command to “hear the doomsday bell” (which you do hear), while guitars spread out, and Längqvist burns to the “sounds of 666.” “Under the Ocean” starts acoustic and trippy with hushed vocals before the track is torn open. The singing is in full command, while the soloing catches fire and scorches, leading to a cooling, mystical area. The chorus bursts out of that before things end in a psyche haze. “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” sounds like a batshit idea on the surface, but it fucking rules. Slow drumming paves the way for pulverizing riffs, verses that boil, and Längqvist wailing over the chorus, “There’s a mountain of skulls, you swallow the earth.” If this song wasn’t killer enough, Tony Iommi (of some band whose name is on the tip of my tongue) rips away, adding a bluesy fury in his own awesome way, with the band smashing and sweltering from there. “Bridge of the Blind” pulls things back, as it’s a haunting doom ballad led by colder guitars, soulful singing, and a classic metal feel. “Will you be waiting on the other side?” Längqvist calls before the song melts away.

“Death’s Wheel” begins to chew away as the riffs start to kill, and the vocals just soar over the verses. The guitars burn flesh later as the soloing sinks in, but then they buzz away, grinding away at rock. The tempo rounds back in later, with Längqvist howling, “The wheel is spinning round and round,” before the track bleeds away. “Black Trinity” is a strange one, a little darker than what preceded it, and one that feels sludgy at the start. A strange section that sounds like the exhaust from a machine kicks in before the solo blasts, and the chorus heads back for one more shot. The title cut fittingly opens with rain and thunder before the band hits on a faster pace. The chorus is simple but satisfying, with Längqvist welcoming you to the door to doom, while organs swell, and the horror gets thicker. Then the pace changes up, with a thick, Sabbath-style solo blistering as the track slips into the mud. “The Omega Circle” closes the album, letting off mystical fog that the guitars slice right through. The chorus is a change of pace, and then we’re back to strangeness, as Längqvist calls, “In the midnight hour and the souls devoured.” The track stomps and hulks, seemingly fading away, before a guitar-led charge heads in for a redux, sending thick plumes of smoke into the night sky.

Candlemass have been making some of the finest doom—hell, any style of metal—ever since their inception in 1984, and here we are, 35 years later, and they’re still cracking skulls on “The Door to Doom.” Having Längqvist back in the fold is a welcome return, and the rest of the band sounds as fresh as they ever have on this record. Candlemass have been creating great music and influencing legions of followers for decades, and that’s something that’s nowhere near ending.

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Outer edges: Italian post-rock trio Be Forest spread darkness, murk on fog-filled ‘Knocturne’

Now and again, we like to navigate away from the land of pure metal and explore what’s surrounding it. There are sounds that might not be metallic and—god forbid!—brutal, but the music easily could stimulate those of us who are not chained to a particular style and can find enjoyment elsewhere. That brings us to Italian post-rock trio Be Forest.

The band released their first record “Cold” in 2011, making quiet waves underneath the surface as they honed their craft. The band just released their spellbinding third record “Knocturne,” an album that plays much like multiple movements of a greater whole and can bring you into territories that are home to bands such the XX, Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, and Zola Jesus. It’s a dark, stormy record that’s ideal for listening when trying to shield yourself from driving storms that soak you, no matter how hard you protect yourself. The band—bassist/vocalist Costanza Delle Rose, guitarist Nicola Lampredi, drummer/synth player/vocalist Erica Terenzi—conjures a haunting feeling, as even after multiple listens, it still gets into my chest and makes me think of some of the turmoil and chaos I’ve faced in my own life, and how confronting those has brought my psyche into better balance, as this music helps me sink underneath everything.

“Atto I” starts the record, a bubbling, foggy instrumental passage that digs deep under cold waters and comes out on the other side at “Empty Space,” where guitars pulsate and send shivers. The track feels misty and numbing, as the soft vocals pass over, sounds swim in shadows, and dreamy transmissions flood your senses before melting right into “Gemini” that gets a kick start with the drumming before entering a dreary space. This is ideal music for when it’s raining and chilly outside, as the vocals flutter, the melodies bask in the murk, and then the track reverberates into “K,” bringing things to life. The track bounces along in ashy colors, as the precipitation soaks the ground, the darkness strengthens its hold, and the singing soothes before fading into atmospheric haze.

“Sigfrido” has the drums rupturing, gothy guitars driving, and a thick bassline driving, amplifying the sense of moodiness, though some different colors are allowed to rush in. The singing comes in practical whispers, as things breeze toward “Atto II,” another instrumental that has guitars dripping and the fog rising. “Bengala” has guitars cascading, the singing coming across more boisterously, and the melodies bouncing off musical waves. The leads then take over, leading the charge before dissolving into the night. “Fragment” immerses itself in charcoal waters, with the singing hovering like a spirit, and some cool chord progressions charging cells. The track is emotional and frosty, bleeding away and leading toward finisher “You, Nothing.”  There, the guitars well up as everything pushes down the hill, with a chorus built on repetition and drone, leaving your head swimming. The leads stretch over top, with the song haunting your bones before bowing out.

Be Forest isn’t the heaviest thing you’ll hear musically in 2019, but it’s definitely weighty from an emotional and psychological standpoint. “Knocturne” deserves to find the larger audience this band always richly deserved, and this immersive, mesmerizing piece is an ideal one for people to hear now, especially as things are so bleak in too many ways. If you relish music that chews at your vulnerabilities and takes you to gloomy places, this record will overly deliver.

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Trad metal warriors Sanhedrin inject power, melodic strength into blood-jolting ‘The Poisoner’

The spirit of true heavy metal never will die. It can’t. It’s too strong. It has survived just about everything, including its pronounced death in the 1990s when grunge owned the world, only to flick that style’s young corpse back into the swamp from whence it came. No matter what, despite all the offshoots of the style that get heavier and mangier, true metal always will have a broad sword.

Part of the reason for this is new bands keep popping up that pay homage to the sound mightily and effectively, and one of those is Brooklyn-based trad warriors Sanhedrin. In not even a handful of years, the trio has plied their trade and proved their wares on a couple of full-length records, the latest being “The Poisoner.” There really isn’t a true center point for this group—comprised of vocalist/bassist Erica Stoltz (formerly of Amber Asylum), guitarist Jeremy Sosville (of Black Anvil), and drummer Nathan Honor (late of crossover thrashers Vermefüg)—as the three immerse themselves in epic and power metal in spots but also tread the sounds that would have made them MTV fodder had they been around 30 years ago when all kinds of bands like this got Headbanger’s Ball airtime regularly. For me, who grew up on this type of thing, it’s a welcome feeling that does make me feel nostalgic but that’s not all the music has. There’s a definite modern touch and a precision to what they do that makes this eight-track, nearly 42-minute record feel so exciting.

“Meditation (All My Gods are Gone)” starts the record with heavy hitting from all sides, with Stoltz wailing, “Sometimes you are the hunter, sometimes you are the prey,” as the band keeps things rolling. The chorus rises up and is easy to repeat even after the song is over, and the soloing scorches with soulful flair. “Wind on the Storm” has strong riffs, with the vocals powering, and the track sending jolts. “Brace yourself, your head between your knees,” Stoltz calls as a fiery solo tears through, and the track ends with the chorus rounding back for more. “Blood From a Stone” has the guitars striking and the band hitting a power metal surge that cuts to the bone. Later on, the song thrashes a little harder, the soloing ignites, and everything ends in a cloud of dust. The title track is really strong, arguably the best on the record, and it features Stoltz’s former Amber Asylum bandmate Kris Force on violin, adding a chilling element to the song. “We are like Judas, we are doomed for all time,” Stoltz sings as the song rises and falls, exploring anger, disappointment, and disgust all at once, especially when she accuses her subject matter of “twisting words into poison.” Later on, the rage boils over, the strings amp up the emotion, and the track ends with a defiant stand.

“The Getaway” gets going with the drums smashing the surface and the vocals following a similar pattern as “Runaway” by Bon Jovi (this is the first ever Bon Jovi reference on this site … treat yourself to a doughnut or something). The chorus is great and super catchy as Stoltz sings about someone quickly losing control warning, “You’ll be dead before the light.” “For the Wicked” has a fast start with gruffer vocals and a total traditional approach to the music. The soloing kicks in and scorches, while the song has a blistering, fun finish. “Saints and Sinners” lets the punches fly with crunchy verses and Stoltz howling, “It’s the killer in me recognizing the killer in you.” Some psychedelic soloing is unleashed while the drums take over and the track lands body blows. “In From the Outside” ends the record, getting mesmerizing out front with the verses pulled back some and Stoltz’s singing coming in raspier. “Snake in the grass, crawling in the weeds,” she observes, while the guitars ring out and remind of classic Maiden. The riffs round back, as does the chorus, and the track comes to a trippy, trickling end.

Sanhedrin make enthralling music that works on two levels, in that you can take the music and words together and get the full picture, or you can just listen to the album and fill yourself with true metal magic. I recommend the former, as there’s obviously a lot beneath the surface that deserves your undivided attention, and it will make “The Poisoner” a meatier, more aggressive listen. As long as we have bands such as Sanhedrin around and creating great music, the lifeblood will flow through metal’s roots forever and ever.

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