Fiery Primitive Man, Hell unfurl killer, mind-splitting assault on soul-crushing new split record

There’s a big tag team wrestling tournament coming up this spring that revives the spirit of the old Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup by staging that same event in the modern era. This is part pro wrestling site, remember. So, shoosh. Anyway, I was thinking that if we could take metal bands, combine them into a singular person, and have them team up, who would be the most formidable force?

You’d be hard pressed to find a better, mightier union than the two bands we’re taking about today due to their hammering new split effort, that being Denver sludge beats Primitive Man and Portland, Ore., doom beast Hell, who have three new tracks among them to leave you totally defaced and whimpering. Primitive Man’s segment focuses on the decay of society, something we see going on around us every single day and their plight to immerse themselves in the pit of negativity, but in a way to help you lash back out yourself. As for Hell’s singular contribution, sole member MSW. Turned inward to face the everyday struggles with anxiety and depression but in a way to strengthen you from those battles. If might be the only way you can truly fight back against the corruption destroying this world, which is the true enemy anyway.

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

Primitive Man get started with “Oily Tears” that rolls in feedback before lurching like a crazed monster toward its pretty. Heavy howls from Ethan Lee McCarthy drive fists right into your chest as the track takes on the feel of slow, long torture designed to achieve submission. The track corrodes in total misery, bludgeoning and shoving your face in the mud before the track  out in a field of noise. “Pitiful & Loathsome” has noises shrieking while the pace slowly pummels, growls gurgle, and the track tears itself open. Your senses or clobbered completely as animalistic shrieks rain down, and nastiness is dealt in heaping servings. There’s not a hint of mercy through this whole thing, as the track ends abruptly, feeling like breath has been snatched from your lungs.

Photo by Dave Burke

As for Hell, M.S.W. said he was trying to get back to the sound of the first Hell album, grittier and meaner as opposed to 2017’s great other self-titled affair that has more swagger. M.S.W. wastes no time at all, dumping a bucket of feedback that sets off sparks, leading to sludgy riffing, a massive well of intensity, and shrieks that tear through the flesh. This is slow-driving doom fire, as the riffs spew oil, noise pierces your hearing, ands clobbering madness then heads into a psychedelic sheen. The song floats and chills for a stretch, letting warmth wash over your brain, before the guitars poke through, and everything rages back to life. As the track goes, things begin to feel slurry and drunken, leaving you clutching for the walls, before the track spirals out in echoes.

I don’t know what these bands’ finishing maneuver would be for conquering the Crockett Cup tournament (Doomsday device sounds quite fitting), but that’s a fantasy scenario anyway (I think!) What deserves our attention is the clubbing, fire-breathing music Primitive Man and Hell smear on this devastating split collection. These are two of the heavier (musically and philosophically) bands in all of underground metal, and taking either of them on individually is face-bruising enough. Now try facing them both at the same time!

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Vanum immerse black metal with atmosphere on destructive record ‘Ageless Fire’

Fire has the ability to both destroy and cleanse. It’s a force that we, as humans, have an incredibly difficult time trying to control, especially when it’s eating our vulnerable forests alive. There’s also internal fire that can act much in the same way, although it’s not going to decimate anything physical to ash. That said, it also can be enough to drive one to great heights or destructive lows.

Black metal force Vanum are issuing their second record “Ageless Fire” on their new label Profound Lore, and it’s a collection that feels like it combines both fiery chaos aiming to decimate worlds and bring about new change, as well as their personal passion that they pour into their music. The title also could bring to mind the band’s ability to bridge the infernal roots of black metal with their modern fingerprints all over this music, and the six tracks that blast over 41 minutes could get inside you and set your soul ablaze. The band has expanded from its initial two-member approach as joining K. Morgan (Ash Borer, Predatory Light, Superstition) and M. Rekevics (Yellow Eyes, Vilkacis, Vorde) are E. Priesner and L. Sheppard (also of Predatory and Superstition) who help beef up the sound and make the band a more well-rounded machine. This record is a huge step forward from their great debut album “Realm of Sacrifice” and catapult them further into the realm of some of this era’s more enthralling bands of any style of metal.

“War” starts the record, and despite it hinting at complete destruction with its title, it’s really not that. It’s an instrumental piece built with whipping winds, atmospheric pressure, and strong riffs that bring in the heat. The track hangs largely in space, and it fades out into doom bells, leading the way to “Jaws of Rapture” that tears the lid off the record. The guitars light up and begin the assault, as harsh growls strike, melodies barrel into you, and the drums crumble rock into ash. Soloing surges as the guitars punish and lash away, the leads cascade, and the track comes to an end amid the rumbling drums. “Eternity” is the longest cut on the record, a 10:13 beast that starts with an almost punk-style run that makes your blood rush as the leads pick up speed and the gruff shouts leave bruises. Great melodies flood, as the track gets more spacious, and then things calm, with a single guitar line acting as a torch. After a synth haze, the main section of the song returns as wild cries tear flesh, and the back end of the track is consumed by fire.

“Under the Banner of Death” rages over 9:02 but first starts in a haze before it splits open for mighty riffs to barrel through. The playing is powerful but also kind of frosty, and gravelly yells jab before an adventurous stretch leads to the track hitting the gas pedal. Passion pours like lava while the murk re-emerges and obscures sight, before the finish hits a full gallop that flattens everything in front of it. The title cut is eerie at first, as a bizarre fog drops before the power keg is activated and blown to bits. Smashing growls scrape at flesh as riffs encircle, making the room spin recklessly. The tempo changes up as the leads feel like they’re running a marathon, leading to a blinding fury. The vocals leave more welts, with the song ending in an icy explosion. “Erebus” is a brief instrumental close that boils in space gasses with the guitars striking up drone and the song coming to an uncomfortably serene finish.

Vanum’s reign in black metal circles might be in its infancy, but with more records as mighty and devastating as “Ageless Fire,” it won’t take them long to be looked at as masters. This album is a fire-breather, a melodic beast that gets inside your bloodstream and begins to slowly change you. By the time you’ve spent several trips with “Ageless Fire,” you’re going to find yourself demanding better of the metal on your record shelves, much of which Vanum make look kind of puny.

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Starless Domain set black metal path to mysterious cosmos with stirring, mesmerizing debut ‘EOS’

When I was a kid, I was both fascinated and terrified of what lurks in deep space. I would watch these documentaries that were voiced by people who were trying to sound mysterious, and my fear of UFO abduction only seemed to make these broadcasts even more harrowing. Yet, I always gazed at the night sky (still do to this day) to think about what’s out there, who might be hovering over us, and what we don’t and may never experience from worlds beyond our own.

The recent surge of bands who bask in the darkness of space have added to my interest and imagination (here’s where you can drop in your Darkspace reference, though there are so many others such as Mare Cognitum, Battle Dagorath, Hellebore, Archivist, etc.), and the exploration musically these bands unfurl has made it one of my favorite sub-sub-genres. This all comes back to mind with the release of “EOS” the debut record from Starless Domain, whose deep field black metal provides an enthralling, terrifying trip into the stars, into galaxies well beyond our own, where we and potentially any human within the next, what, millennium, will never see. Comprised of guitarist/drummer/vocalist AW, synth player/guitarist/vocalist AEF, and bassist/vocalist JR, the band stretches their vision over 58 harrowing minutes and 4 tracks, though it’s better to call them movements of a greater whole that is woven together front to back. The best experience with this album is full digestion from start to finish, as it’s the only true way to take this trip into the void.

“EOS I” starts the record with strange noises and overall eeriness that folds into a feeling of being lost in the stars and alien cries spiraling, which happens repeatedly over the entire record. The track opens in full and hammers, while the screeches keep slicing, the music twists and progresses, and the intensity keeps building. The track swims into a sense of ease before opening back up, with shrieks raining down, growls emerging and swallowing space, and the drums clobbering. The vocals slice and echo while it bleeds into “EOS II” and trickles with acoustics and synth chirps, the ones I remember from those old space docs. The track then rips itself apart, as savage punishment arrives, and immersive melodies enrapture, with guitars ringing back to acoustics. When the pace picks back up, it’s a frenetic assault before things get slurry, making it feel like you’re bleeding into a new realm, and this is your welcome. The shrieks then slash back with your head filling with cosmic energy, keys rush in, and the song pushes forward, with the chaos subsiding and melting into the next chapter.

“EOS III” has the keys rushing in like waves before the song punishes before a dreamy sequence takes over and captures your imagination. The track wafts psychedelically as acoustics rejoin and spark visions of alien terrain, leaving your mind numb. The track then bursts as death growls spit shrapnel, and the song lurches into the mud. The shrieks dive bomb, while the mauling, smothering final moments prepare you for entrance into finishing cut “EOS IV.” This final shift blisters right away as synth slides shades into the mix, and the shrieks echo as acoustics emerge. Cavernous growls settle behind the strange wall of keys, while synth gasps and monstrous fury become bigger factors. The drama wells up and hints at boiling over completely, with the keys zapping through like lasers, guitars droning out, and everything fading into a bizarre cloud of noise in the sky.

“EOS” is a strong, hypnotic listen that’ll lure you in with its repetition, mind-bending playing, and vocals that sound like they’ve been howled from eons away. Starless Domain’s contribution to outer space-inspired black metal is a significant one, a record that probably is best absorbed at night when you can have a better view of the cosmos. There’s no way of knowing what exactly is out there staring back at us, and this music won’t quell any of those psychological fears you hold inside.

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Icelandic duo Kaleikr tackle sadness, crashing into despair on punchy debut ‘Heart of Lead’

We pretty much know the ins and outs about sadness and despair on this site. When we’re not writing about metal and secretly trying to turn into a quasi-pro wrestling site, we’re immersing ourselves in outright darkness and thick rivers and dark emotions. It’s kind of what happens when you have a lifelong battle with mental illness.

That surfaces again now that we have “Heart of Lead,” the first record from Icelandic metal duo Kaleikr to discuss. The seven tracks on this fascinating, wholly progressive and perplexing (in a good way) album dig into sadness and follow that journey down its darkest tunnels into despair before everything devolves into total mental devastation. For anyone who ever has taken that awful journey probably will feel something in the pit of their chests right away as the mental imprint from that experience always pulls you back inside. It’s sort of an odd topic for a record that’s so fascinating and punishing, music that makes your mind do weird tricks and sends you on a trip that feels like it’s going somewhere other than pain. Nonetheless, that’s where we go, and if the lyrical content isn’t something with which you can relate, their spellbinding twist of black and death metal surely will. The band—Maximilian Klimko (guitars, bass, vocals, arrangements) and Kjartan Harðarson (drums and percussion)—grew out of the remnants of Draugsol, taking their music into even more daring corners.

“Behold at Sunrise” starts in a synth fog before the drums open up the song in earnest, and the growls roar and surge. The track rumbles the earth beneath you, while later on, the band adds some different colors in for texture, while you still can’t help but shake feeling the world is imploding. Deep roars crush as sounds well, with the track dissolving into noise. “The Descent” has a chunky, punchy start, feeling proggy while the drums demolish everything. The guitars mesmerize amid harsh growls, and the punishing fury later gives way for a jaunt into space. Out of that, the savagery returns, as the music slaughters the senses, and melody slips beneath the carnage and brings on a deadly finish. “Of Unbearable Longing” has a much different beginning, wallowing in somber, jazzy vibes before the song is shredded, and crazed devastation is afoot. Later on, stardust rains down and plays with the mind before the volcano erupts again, spewing hell and fire everywhere before finally coming to rest.

“Internal Contradiction” throws a curveball with its muddy pace and downtuned guitars before furious riffs arrive, and everything melts beneath you. Chunky crushing pushes in, as the music stomps and swirls, sounds float, and everything disappear into murky strings. “Neurodelirium” begins with guitars churning and lurching growls before it splits open melodically. The vocals remain monstrous, as psychedelic guitars give the track a different spirit, thrashing into a cosmic aura. Later on, the track takes on more of a rock feel, surging forcefully before coming to a strange ending. The title track delivers dizzying clean guitars and a trippy mood, as the bass rivets and the vocals are delivered in whispers. Later on, the violence arrives, as the growls corrode, the deathly push has a doomy belly, and the album burns closed. The album ends on “Eternal Stalemate and a Never-Ending Sunset” that begins with a calculated mauling, hulking into the scene and driving toward rock-style guitar work. The riffs cut and leave bruising while the vocals turn ugly in a hurry, and the final minute unleashes intense playing and a finish that ends in a vortex of whirring noise.

The first record from Kaleikr is one that makes the Icelandic scene even richer with strong material, and it’s one of the most intriguing to come out so far in this very young year. “Heart of Lead” also packs an emotional punch that digs at very human issues that affect so many of us and that often are hard to overcome. Luckily, the music is daring and exciting, which can help ease some of that heavy burden, and it’s a great first shot from a new band that should have an expansive future.

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Scottish black metal explorers Saor continue to expand vision, boundaries on ‘Forgotten Paths’

It’s incredible hearing a really gifted band and great musicians progress through their career, especially if they don’t abandon the roots they grew to get out there. Record by record, you hear the music coming into its own and becoming a new beast each time out, and that makes every new creation something to anticipate and which to dissect with great enthusiasm.

I say that today because we have “Forgotten Paths,” the excellent new opus from Scottish black metal band Saor to drink up. This band has been tremendous from the start, that being 2013 debut “Roots,” and continues to this day. Along the way, primary creator Andy Marshall has created music on par with Panopticon as far as thought-provoking, emotional work that draws you in, makes your heart surge, and leaves you completely fulfilled. This record is even a step up from 2016’s “Guardians,” itself a magnificent creation, but things have been amplified to even greater heights, as these four songs are some of the best work Marshall ever created. While Marshall is the driving force behind this music, he also had a nice fleet of supporting musicians to help flesh out the record and make it even more alive.

The title track kicks off the record with driving melodies, the leads soaring, and a strong folk essence that’s woven into the song. Keys drip as the harsh cries erupt, with the tempo picking up the intensity before heading into calm, gazey ambiance. Clean wordless calls come (courtesy of Neige from Alcest) before screams burst anew, whistles flutter, and things come to a crushing end. “Monadh” is foggy when it begins, mired in mystery, before the guitars awaken, keys rain down, and the strings stir. The track blows apart with crazed shouts hammering, trading off later with clean singing, with the track easing up and melting. After a stretch where the atmospheric wind is thick, the track ramps back up, strings sweep, and the emotional toll is heavy and true.

“Brón” has a chilling opening as the guitars begin to churn and the tempo is torn to shreds. Growls and shrieks mix together, feeling wintry and spacious, as Sophie Rogers’ singing adds a different element to the track. Spirited folk glory rises up as the song stretches out and explores its surroundings with strings sending chills before the heaviness returns. Harsh wails and bleeding emotion rush to the surface as the song’s giant chorus returns and swells your chest, Marshall’s and Rogers’ voices align, as the track subsides slowly and gently. “Exile” ends the song with chamber-style strings (Italian harpist Glorya Lyr had a massive hand in its creation), angelic and dreamy passages chilling your skin, and a Medieval sense of wonder unfurling. As the track nears its end, it feels like spring crawling out from under winter’s grasp, as warmth blooms, and waves crash to the shore.

Saor remain one of black metal’s more atmospheric and ever-evolving bands, which you can hear on their stunning “Forgotten Paths.” This feels like a natural progression not only from “Guardians” but even from the project’s infancy, as Marshall continues to add his own heart and emotions into his enthralling music. Hearing this band continue to grow into its own has been a great thing, and I’d imagine this isn’t the last stop in their creative growth.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: UK hardcore crushers Ithaca plaster heart over fiery ‘Language of Injury’

Letting another human being  get close to you is a risk many people take and end up paying for in the end. As many happy people as there are in romantic relationships and friendships, there are just as many suffering from the effects of a bad union, one that has grown dangerous and poisonous. It’s enough to make one want to stay away from others forever.

UK-based metallic hardcore band Ithaca dig right into the heart of that matter on their devastating debut album “The Language of Injury.” These 10 songs spread over 31 minutes dig into heartbreak and the deep emotional scarring one can sustain when putting your faith in someone only to have them dig the knife into your back or simply just turn from you and leave you in the dark. The pain and disappointment are conveyed into thunderous, emotionally punishing songs delivered by this awesome band. Out front is vocalist Djamilia Azzouz, whose forceful shouts and growls dig right into your heart and soul and make you feel every ounce of her suffering. Aside from what the band does on this record, Ithaca also have been one of the underground champions of gender issues, ethnic diversity, and sexual identity, giving us yet another crushing band whose hearts are in righteous places.

“New Covenant” begins with feedback awakening, drums crushing the walls, and the guitars taking very Kurt Ballou-style bends toward your face. Azzouz is a force right away, as her harsh wails plaster, at one point crying, “Where did we go?” before the music eases, as do her words, and the band drops the hammer down. “Impulse Crush” races away, with the guitars spiraling and the vocals absolutely shredding. Groups shouts color the chorus before the track leans into some sludgy bits, the riffs stab, and we’re off to a pit of chaos. “Secret Space” chugs hard before pulling back a bit as the guitar jab away. Azzouz’s cries smear soot over the song, while emotional melodies cascade, the guitars splatter, and we come to a fiery end. “Slow Negative Order” starts off tricky and mathy, with deep growls emitted, Azzouz singing clean in parts, and the track going for the jugular otherwise. The band keeps aiming to crush bones before reaching an agitated end. “(No Translation)” is a quick instrumental piece built with quiet, somber guitars, crowd noises murmuring, and a pall cast over the scene.

The title track follows, sweltering and pounding, with Azzouz’s vocals delivering the emotional toll. Clean guitars slide into the mix before devastation lands again, and pieces are sent hurtling. The song eases a bit from a heaviness standpoint, as clean singing shines over the din before the power returns, and the song comes to a crash landing. “CLSR.” begins on a calm note before that’s torn apart, and the band thrashes heavily. Melody intertwines with punishment, as Azzouz cries, “Get closer!”  before a smudgy breakdown sends the track into a trickling finish. “Youth vs. Wisdom” is fiery as hell as it kicks off, with the vocals sounding like they’re splitting Azzouz’s throat and disruptive hammering breaking bones. The vocals continue to peel paint from the walls, with the band ending everything in hardcore skullduggery. “Gilt” has guitars swelling, gruff howls from Azzouz, and even smoother singing over the harsh verses. “We put each other in the ground!” Azzouz wails as the track ends in a pile of dust. “Better Abuse” closes the album with an extended exploratory section that leads you into the fog before the track explodes, with punishing playing and scraping screams. The track then eases up the tempo, as strings and horns slide into the room, bringing your emotions to a burst. Then there’s a wrenching eruption, pouring all of themselves into a chasm, and a whipping wind picks up and swallows the track whole.

This first full blast from Ithaca more than lives up to our expectations that we had coming in, and “The Language of Injury” is going to be viewed as one of the more progressive and exciting hardcore records that arrive in 2019. Hopefully those who have been through similar circumstances can find a voice in Ithaca, who know where they’ve been and how to push forward. This is a record that revels in pain, but when it’s over, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away empowered and ready to face your wounds head on.

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