Irish death crew Vircolac put ax to showing false presentations on punchy debut album ‘Masque’

None of us are truly who we say we are. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all humankind is deceitful (well, it kind of is), but often times we show parts of ourselves that tend to be more positive or accepting for any numbers of reasons—making friends, finding lovers, getting jobs. There are masks that we wear, and no matter what we do, we’re often always wearing one.

That isn’t lost on Irish death crew Vircolac, whose tremendous debut album “Masque” examines those false faces we put on and the erosion of self that can occur if we do not free our faces from those misleading layers now and again. Their seven-track, 36-minute debut is an ideally portioned offering that’s crushing, exciting, and inventive, all the while examining the darkness within us or at least our insecurities that keep our true beings at arm’s length. The band’s name means werewolf in Romanian (it also reminds me of, like, an ED or hair loss drug name, but I’m an idiot), and they prowl through these songs that’ll definitely keep you at attention. The group is comprised of vocalist Laoghaire, guitarist BMC, bassist JK, and drummer NH, and they’re definitely going to have people buzzing once this music hits more ears, it’s that explosive and captivating. We need more bands like this.

“Titan” starts the record and gives a bit of a fantasy vibe, but in as brutal a means possible. The track gets off to a hammering start with gnarly growls and a splattering vibe. “Wield the ax, kneel before the titan!” Laoghaire howls as the soloing goes off, leading to brief calm and glowing keys, before the track comes to a speedy, crushing end. “Tether and Wane” has a channeled path as the bass churns and Laoghaire wails, “Soon the blood will run!” Dual guitars join up and cut, leading to a proggy section where the playing feels like it pays homage to space metal gods Voivod. That spirals into more weirdness that brings the track to a bizarre finish. “So I Hang From the Wretched Tree” has strange guitars and a humid pace before the song begins to lay waste. A mystical haze then arises, hurtling the track into psychosis before everything boils and goes out in a thick steam.

The title track begins with drums rumbling and an eerie sense of strangeness, as the growls tell the story, splattering, “The masque betrays,” as the point is jabbed home. The pace sprawls into hideous carnage, drubbing and drawing blood every step of the way. “Snake Among Man” has guitars taunting and the track charging ahead while the soloing melts faces. The track cakes mud but also settles into a more rock n roll feel, giving it some looseness, with the song ending abruptly. “The Long Trail” has a smashing start, racing and delivering savage howls and mounting a blazing attack. The vocals creak over a strange storm with guitars rushing while colorful melodies spill different textures, and the earth breaks apart from the pressure. “End of a Beginning” is a quick instrumental that wraps the bow tightly with spiraling post-rock playing, keys dripping, and the track being swallowed into deep space.

As long as we all shall live, we’re bound to continually try on new masks, discard old ones, or even revisit past faces just to make our journey through life seemingly easier. And Vircolac, who don’t deny these behavior of themselves, will be behind us, noting these moves and questioning our motives. “Masque” could be a helpful companion as we stomp our own personal paths and perhaps a reminder to show our real face every now and again, if only to prevent its decay.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

Or here:

For more on the label go here:

And here:

PICK OF THE WEEK: Venom Prison switch focus inward, intensify death metal chaos on ‘Samsara’

Life is chaos. For many people, things are not good, and they’re only getting worse. Every time my eyes open in the morning, I expect to see headlines about how the news has gotten shittier, world leaders more deranged, and some fragments of society have no idea how to treat other human beings and don’t really give a fuck about it.

“Samsara” is the name of Venom Prison’s destructive second record, and it also happens to be a Buddhist concept of being reborn into an endless cycle of punishment and pain. For people who constantly have to fear who they are, face unnecessary hurdles in life, or simply struggle for the betterment of society, life can be samsara every single day. It’s a pattern that not only never relents but also never ends. Venom Prison have taken up for the those suffering in society and especially for women who are in a non-stop battle for respect and equality. This time around, the songs have turned more inward, while also keeping in mind the battles that remain, and musically, the band has heavily amped up the hellish death metal proponents of their music. The band—vocalist Larissa Stupar, guitarists Ash Gray and Ben Thomas, bassist Mike Jefferies, drummer Joe Bills—has gone from aggressive to war-torn, and the 10 tracks blasted over 41 minutes are harsh, deadly, and a goddamn, outright assault.

“Matriphagy” opens the record with wails that collide with a death crunch, vicious cries and growls from Stupar, and an assault that’s skull-dragging. The track settles some for a moment before screams rip over the top, and things comes to a fiery end. “Megillus & Leana” has shrieks and growls trading off as a death-thrash pace unleashes and overwhelms whatever is in front of it. The shrieks hammer while guitars glimmer before the drums outright piledrive (the drumming is super stellar throughout), the band hits a sludgy breakdown, and the savagery turns bones to powder. “Uterine Industrialisation” is mashing and fast, a total death smear that confronts guitars slicing through its gates. Heat accumulates as the growls strike fear, and the track comes to a brutal, smothering end. “Self-Inflicted Violence” has drums pounding relentlessly, Stupar’s growls turning raspier, and the pace driving terror into the hearts of the oppressors. Guitars circle with menace, bringing annihilation, while weird guitar tones bring vertigo, and the track ends in psyche hallways. “Deva’s Enemy” is a brief instrumental piece with synth waves, cavernous noise, and the intensity feeling like it’s about to burst all over again.

Then that happens exactly on “Asura’s Realm,” where cool guitars set up a complete launch, with bloodthirsty madness stretching its fingers. The guitars splatter while the tempo races, while bone-crunching playing and Stupar’s authoritative howls send shivers. “Sadistic Rituals” is punchy as hell as the drums spill pain, the pace swelters, and the track speeds up before leaning back into the heat. The playing bleeds heavily, with Stupar’s vocals chewing on your veins and bruising your eyes, and the track bleeding out after driving up a body count. “Implementing the Metaphysics of Morals” has stabbing vocals and Stupar howling, “Your system’s failing,” as the band directs its rage. The track is made up of speedy slashing and rumbling rhythm, while the clubbing display is colored a deep red by screams that pierce flesh and a noise cloud that hangs over the end. “Dukkha” has a bizarre haze at first before the playing mashes and the growls incinerate. The guitars swim through chaos while the shrieks instill a greater sense of terror inflicted in their enemies, the guitars boil over, and the heat damages flesh. “Naraka” ends the record with gazey guitars that hypnotize before the hammers drop, and the band takes on a hardcore edge. The earth thunders while the band stands strong, as Stupar’s vocals slice and dice, and then things go into sci-fi-style strangeness. Heads spin as the playing refuses to relent, Stupar blasts you in the chest, and the track burns out in a cloud of charred ash.

Venom Prison have waged war against societal woes looking to keep people under the boots of control, and now they’ve applied that to a more personal standpoint on “Samsara.” The band delivers a smothering beating that’s intense and monstrous, like the music is trying to tear out the insides of the machine. This is a band taking a bloody, devastating step forward and doing it with poise, razor-sharp violence, piss, and vinegar.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

Elizabeth Colour Wheel splash post-rock, shoegaze, and morbid psychedelic chaos into ‘Nocebo’

It’s really not going out on a limb to say that there aren’t as ton of inventive and fresh things going on with heavy music lately. Plenty of goods bands, lots of strong records, but it’s not really every day (or week or month) that we hear something that really stands out from everything else and invites like-minded creators to think outside their normal realms and try to push boundaries until they disappear.

The five members of Boston-based Elizabeth Colour Wheel decided to do just that when they formed five years ago, and now we have ready to land in our laps “Nocebo,” their first full-length that finds the perfect home on equally free-thinking The Flenser. This is not a metal record, at least not necessarily. There are a ton of shoegazey elements, post-rock, and noise, but there are dashes of black metal and doom involved that keep this on the heavy side. More than that, the music is mentally intoxicating, a gateway into exploring other sounds that don’t thrash and draw blood in the traditional way and instead make you consider the possibilities of what heavy music can offer. The band—vocalist Lane Shi (she is an utter revelation whose work can’t really be justified in writing), guitarists Alice Jackson and Emmett Palaima, bassist Bill Cunningham, and drummer Connor Devito—named their record after something that has a detrimental effect on health produced by psychological or psychosomatic factors such as negative expectations of treatment or prognosis, itself a terrifying subject, one that might poke at your brain wiring as you work your way through these eight songs.

“Pink Palm” starts the record in a calm, chilled ambiance before Shi’s singing floats as she calls, “Hide in your shallow,” as the tempo kicks up and gets more aggressive. The song rattles and surges, with the drums blistering, the vocals stretching out, and the vibes easing while Shi wails away. “Somnambulist” is a breezy instrumental cut built with tranquil winds and noise, giving off a dreamy feel that falls into “23” that lets guitars chug and kick up dust. “Wake up light a cigarette, restart all over, it’s all over,” Shi calls, accentuating her great vocal delivery. She’s a voice to which you always pay attention. Soulful guitars add a new twist, while the pace ruptures, the volume pierces, and the main melody returns before the song spills out. “Life of a Flower” trickles in with whispery singing, with Shi pushing, “Might not be pretty, might not be seen, might not be hold, but it last.” The track heats up and gets heavier as strings gasp, the sound pounds, and Shi’s shrieks meld ideally with the fluttering end.

“Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” has a total 90s college rock vibe, which gives me the nostalgia, though it later calms and sounds drip. The singing slowly drizzles over the song before Shi’s words turn to stabbing screams, and the song disappears into the cold. “Bed Rest” is an instrumental piece that makes it feel like you’re floating into a unconscious realm willingly and hungrily. The guitars are solemn and quivering, making your head buzz before the track takes you underneath, rumbling before it fades out. “34th” rips open with a rage unheard so far as Lane lets the words bleed from her mouth. This eases into more of a rock-style approach, with guitars punching and kicking, chilled moans slipping into the bloodstream, and Shi calling, “You get what you want, you get what you get.” “Head Home” ends the record with noise spiraling and a moody, dark adventure being unfurled before you. The track gets grittier later with calculated pounding and Shi singing, “See birds fly, see the sky rise on a tide over my hope.” Static emerges and spills confusion, with the band delivering their last shots before the vocals sear, and the track shreds its last fibers.

I’ve spent numerous visits with “Nocebo,” and I’ve been fascinated by Elizabeth Colour Wheel before I even had the full-length record in my grasp. This is a spell-casting, almost esoteric experience you will have with these songs, if you fully engage, and while you may never find the right evidence you seek, you’ll discover enough in this music to keep you stimulated. This is one of those records I know is going to remain with me all the way through the warm months and back into the snow, and I’m probably still going to be looking for the answers buried deep within this music.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

Body Void smear sludge doom into an assault on hatred with heavy ‘You Will Know the Fear…’

So, I live a pretty easy life as a straight while male. Honestly, what societal worries do I have? I never go anywhere and fear for my life, I never have anyone screaming in my face or on my social media about my personal life and my sexual orientation, and I can go anywhere and to whatever show I want and remain anonymous and unscathed. None of this is lost on me.

But I’m wholly aware this is not the case for many people—women, people of different races, the LGBTQIA community—and it’s a great reason why my leftist political mind-set has been set ablaze watching people be attacked for no good reason other than they differ from what another human thinks, does, and believes. But again, I’m not a victim in this. Instead, let’s shift to the amazing San Francisco-based sludge doom band Body Void, who have tackled issues such as depression, societal pressures, and gender identity in their relatively short time as a band. We have a new two-song EP from the band called “You Will Know the Fear You Forced Upon Us,” a title that should be readily obvious in its intent. Guitarist/vocalist Will Ryan is queer, non-binary, and they made that no secret, nor did they hide the fact that there are daily pressures and scaring experiences that go along with that. That is all packed into the two tracks that each run about 20 minutes in length (a Body Void EP is longer than some bands’ LPs!) and vary some from last year’s excellent “I Live Inside a Burning House” while also remaining close enough to that for familial effect.

“Die Off” runs 19:43 and begins the record already in the midst of pulverizing tones, terrifying screams, and a smothering heaviness that’ll make you see stars. It’s ungodly heavy, pushing and punishing slowly, making you feel each strike, laying waste to whatever is in its aim. Noise sizzles as the low-end rumbles thanks to Parker Ryan’s bass and Eddy Holgerdon’s punishing drumming. The smashing chaos calms some, while the bass echoes, and the band bashes in heads. As the song winds toward its final minutes, the pace suddenly gets pushed hard, feeling almost like a hardcore song before it erodes into a slow buzz that gets swallowed by a fog.

Closer “Fascist Cancer” lasts a neat 19 minutes and opens with a purpose, letting the intensity boil to the surface before the song settles into a calculated assault that bends muscle. Scathing cries can curdle the blood in your veins, while the pounding slips into a fuzzy nightmare that still manages to leave bruising. Drone riffs arrive like a crippling storm, hanging overhead and pushing you to madness and suffocation. The track slows again and drags you across the surface, with screams reigning, the earth seemingly splitting open, and hell bubbling to the surface. Noises pierce while the band hammers away at its enemies, while a new burst of speedy chaos ripples through and leaves everything choking in black dust.

The day when we look back on the bullshit everyone who isn’t a cis white male had to face as a bad time we passed by might be further in the future, but bands such as Body Void are fighting the valiant battle now to help other people who are suffering. “You Will Know the Fear You Forced Upon Us” is a damaged and furious burst that refuses to lie down and accept the pain and instead vows to make those who create fear have an even larger helping of it for themselves. Body Void are a band that has their hands reached out to others as we fight back against fascism and oppressive viewpoints that deserve to die.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (CD version), go here:

Or here (U.S.):

Or here (Europe):

For more on the label, go here:

And here:

And here:

Oozing Wound deliver another pulverizing helping of thrash, noise on smashing ‘High Anxiety’

Photo by Evan Jenkins

When this site isn’t a metal site and isn’t a metal site pretending not to also be a pro wrestling site, it is a site that revels in mental illness and the effects of crippling anxiety. I’m a life-long sufferer, am medicated, do go to therapy, so any time I see the word anxiety being mixed into something in the metal world, I feel like I’m instantly going to be able to connect.

That was the case with Chicago bruisers Oozing Wound’s new record “High Anxiety,” their fourth full-length overall and easily their most destructive. The anxiety in this case, though, isn’t one that cripples and instead is one that fuels anger and disgust toward those things and people who chew on the nerve endings incessantly. One of the main targets on this new album is the music industry and its tendency to churn out new fads and sub-cultures, only to burn them out and leave them behind. Metal’s not innocent by any means when it comes to this type of thing, and there are so many here-today, gone-later-today movements that really good bands get mangled in the gears. Even Oozing Wound—vocalist/guitarist Zack Weil, bassist Kevin Cribbin, drummer Kyle Reynolds—have been subject to the bullshit “are they metal?” crap because they’re not decked out in all black and their songs can be humorous. Did those people miss the entire thrash wave in the 1980s? Anyway, who cares about that, as Oozing Wound has another absolute ripper on their hands with “High Anxiety.”

“Surrounding By Fucking Idiots” starts the record and sets the tone early with noise spilling into the assault, abrasive vocals mangling, and the guitars heating up set to melt flesh. The back end gets aggravated and chunky, leading to a finish that blasts off the doors. “Filth Chisel” has a sound cloud hovering overhead before the track hit the gas pedal and hits the ground speeding. Maniacal vocals and a mashing, yet catchy assault trudge forward, while weirdness spreads into the mix, with the band beating you savagely over the track’s final minutes. “Tween Shitbag” is full of vitriol, with the intensity smashing and Weil sarcastically wailing, “Oh man, I really love your band, at least I did.” The song continues to pound away, as Weil calls out, “You live a lie every night, you’re always right,” with fist cocked behind his back as the track burns out its final drops of fuel.

“Die on Mars” has cool riffs, winds that whip in, and then an explosive gusts that sends everything flying. “I’m not paranoid!” Weil insists, while a strong solo pushes in that has slight psyche elements before the song thrashes away again and scrapes closed. “Birth of a Flat Earther” is particularly newsworthy right now, as it pokes these people right in the eyeballs. A weird layer of guitar noise slathers, with the pace getting slurry and mind-warping and the drums beginning a slow demolition. Shit then kicks into next gear, totally elevating the song and your emotion with smothering riffs and Weil howling, “It can’t exist if I’m not there to witness.” The track remains strange and monstrous, sprawling into a space vortex forever. “Riding the Universe” has guitars folding, the track pulverizing, and the vocals opening wounds. Guitars spiral and execute ground and pound, only to have the song get psychedelic with trippy sound clips and a gateway into closer “Vein Ripper” that trucks right through the gates. The track trudges and destroys, building up tension only to pay that off with more hammer blows. Sounds waft into poisonous clouds, harsh wails strike, and the track bleeds away its last.

Having grown up as a massive thrash metal fan, Oozing Wound has scratched that itch for four records now, with their most deadly easily being “High Anxiety.” There are so many things going on right now to get up your blood pressure, that having a band such as Oozing Wound there to turn into pure metal those very reactions to said annoyances is cathartic for both artists and listeners. This band keeps getting better and gnarlier every step of the way, and this record will dislocate your jaw and throw you into a pile of trash if you’re on their hit list.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

Meat Mead Metal: Best of February 2019

February was a pretty decent month for metal. Weather? Eh. It’s winter, man. When it comes to metal, there was a lot of good stuff in which to immerse oneself and a lot of different styles of heaviness in which to partake. Oh, shit, and WWE had a pretty good PPV with the Elimination Chamber thing, and we have anew IWGP champ! That’s a lot of stuff to absorb, and we’re into Wrestlemania season, so get ready for more wrestling shit. So, here we go with the best of February mix. There were a few songs we wanted to include that Spotify doesn’t house, but I think this is a pretty punishing collection. Listen to it while you’re lying motionless on the ground.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Misery Index dig for truth in deceit on crushing, bone-blasting ‘Rituals of Power’

The truth never has meant less than it does now. No matter how much evidence one can amass, now matter how many theories can be proven, no matter how many questions can be answered accurately, there are people out there dying to reject all of that because it doesn’t fit their narrative. Don’t even try to argue or persuade; nothing you say or do will ever work to break the spell.

Baltimore-based death/grind crushers Misery Index have been battling back against political corruption and societal oppression their entire nearly two-decade run, and now’s probably as necessary a time for a band like this to exist and be delivering devastating music. That takes us to “Rituals of Power,” the band’s sixth record and first since 2014’s enthusiastically received “The Killing Gods.” On this nine track, 36-minute record, the band focuses its vitriol on what’s increasingly become, as they put it, a “post-truth society,” where control and your party winning means more than justice and finding what’s right. The record is destructive and channeled, as the band works their way through these fire-breathing cuts with precision and power. Misery Index’s music has become more immersive and interesting as they’ve gone on, as well, without cutting back their deadly assault even a bit. The band—vocalist/bassist Jason Netherton, guitarist/vocalist Mark Kloeppel, lead guitarist Darin Morris, drummer Adam Jarvis—has congealed into a fiery, clobbering band that puts even more force behind their striking words.

“Universal Untruths” begin the record with a punchy open and Netherton blasting, “This is a code red!” The growls crush along with the tempo that goes for the throat, while Netherton calls, “And we decline, into the black of unreality,” as the song comes to a vicious end. “Decline and Fall” greets with speed and fury, as the playing is thrashy as hell, the verses cut to the bone, and the group-howled chorus blasts you in the chest. The solo burns while the tempo trucks, with the track coming to a brutal end. “The Choir Invisible” unleashes death chugs as Netherton warns, “We are disposable!” A doomy storm settles into the chaos as the track keeps landing blows, the leads go off into a sci-fi fog, and things boil and give off steam as it reaches its end. “New Salem” strikes right away with an unforgiving attack as the verses shred flesh, and a simple chorus where the title is shouted repeatedly hits its mark before everything ends abruptly.

“Hammering the Nails” is sludgy and massive with group howls, the verses punishing, and Netherton’s cries coming out raspy and scarred. A strong solo blares before the chorus tears back in, and forceful vocals power the assault. The title cut has a calculated start before the gas pedal is jammed through the floor, with a chorus that absolutely crushes. “No one cares who lives or dies, no empathy, no compromise,” Netherton accuses before the song burns out suddenly. “They Always Come Back” is thrashy but also isn’t in a hurry to lay waste, meaning the beating is sustained. The growls are filled with menace, the chorus shouted back, which should be fun live, and strong soloing. Guitars carve back in, bringing blood to the surface and a wave of panic for the enemy. “I Disavow” is a smasher from the start, with savage growls and Netherton howling, “No rest for the ignorant who cry wolf who cry wolf as they’re dragged from the womb,” as the track’s straight-forward chorus makes its mark easily. The uprising storms hard from there, with everything ending in a blaze. Closer “Naysayer” begins with Jarvis’ drums exploding as the pace takes on a grindy feel, with the vocals dashed like blood spatter. Guitars take off, as the song gets thrashy and nasty, and Netherton vows, “You are the one that history will soon forget,” as the song ends in a pile of ash.

Hopefully we get our shit together as a society and start trying to dig to find our own truth instead of just aping what we hear uneducated people say on Twitter or on TV. Misery Index already have delved deep into the pit of deceit in which we live on “Rituals of Power,” and they come out with knives drawn, ready to take on those who try to oppose what’s right. This band always has worn their bleeding hearts on the outside of them, striving for what they feel is right and striking back against oppression and pain.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (North America), go here:

Or here (International):

For more on the label, go here: