Dreadnought’s progressive ire rages with atmosphere, doom on spellbinding, ashen ‘Emergence’

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

It should be no secret to anyone who has visited this site with any regularity that we love heavy bands that take things in a completely different direction than everyone else. Fresh ideas and new perspectives are what keeps the blood in the machine vibrant, and going against the script should be encouraged as long as the artists have the capability to pull of their vision.

I instantly became a fan of Colorado-based progressive metal machine Dreadnought when I heard “Bridging Realms” a little after it came out in 2015, and it instantly drew me into its center. Progressive metal is a messy, often misused and misunderstand term that makes it sound like a bunch of people getting together to noodle and disappear up their backsides. Dreadnought never have been that way. Their music—as indebted to Kansas and Yes and anything metallic—have done an amazing job bridging the gap between atmospheric and surreal with savagery. That continues on their great fourth record “Emergence,” their first for Profound Lore and another unfurling journey into fiery destruction of the earth’s life cycle. This is the final movement of their four records focusing on each element, and the fire record envisions charring what’s here only to create a path for rebirth. The band—Kelly Schilling (guitars, flute, vocals), Kevin Handlon (bass), Lauren Vieira (keys, vocals), Jordan Clancy (drums, sax)—uses these five cuts to tell their story but also to envelop you in a metallic world maybe you didn’t think possible.

“Besieged” starts the record with charges and an deluge of sound as breezy singing works its way in, and elegant keys drip like rain. The track then calmly floats, with tension bubbling to the surface, shifty riffs, and Schilling’s shrieks tearing a hole in the night. Clean calls then soar while keys splatter, guitars subside, and everything disappears into calm. “Still” is a quicker cut with spacey essence, horns echoing, and a warm, jazzy stream trickling as the result of a light storm. Softer singing and airy sounds then push into “Pestilent” that has aggressive guitars and strong singing making an early dent. Shrieks blow though while proggy keys emerge, and flutes bring a calming texture that soothes before the doom tar pours briefly. Harmonized singing and lush melody become front and center until heavy growls return, keys add more drama, and sweeping singing mix with steely guitars to bring a rusty edge. The track then feels like Western dusk, with the skies mixing orange into purple, as the band brings the song to a destructive, vicious ending.

“Tempered” runs a healthy 10:31 as melodies break through the surface, a sharp progressive angle is achieved, and propulsive singing adds heart and even more emotion before organs start to swell. Growls then land some unexpected blows, blasts send shrapnel, and the leads open up and gallop over the land. The bass trudges, while Schilling’s horrifying shrieks make flesh crawl, and synth zaps like beams from another world before things end in a mystical fog. “The Waking Realm” closes the album by working itself in quietly, unassumingly as the ambiance is established, and sax blows in like a star falling through the sky. There’s a psychedelic edge that stares you down at first, and as we move ahead in this 13:52-long epic, the track bursts with fire, driving forcefully, with the guitars cutting pathways. The singing entrances, melting into the mixing colors, before the storm catches again and threatens safety. Shrieks makes your teeth chatter while the keys glimmer, and the track combusts and hints at the promised end. Schilling’s growls blast trough skin and bone, doomy exhaust leaves a curtain of blackness, and the track slowly fades, with rebirth promised on the other side.

Dreadnought’s adventurous, mind-teasing compositions make “Emergence” anything but an average metal release on the weekly schedule. This is one that stands out, as all of their records do, because they’ve taken heavy music as an idea and fearlessly pushed it into other worlds. Bands such as Dreadnought are going to be the ones remembered a decade from now in helping inform where heavy metal was able to travel, and “Emergence” is likely to be one of those touchstone albums.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Sunn O))) reveal lighter elements, maintain thick drone darkness with ‘Life Metal’

There are endless reasons people listen to music. It can be used as stimulation. It can calm one down after a period of tumult. It can get one’s excitement level up for an activity or a task or a mission or what have you. It’s literally there for every reason one could possibly imagine, and one of those means are wholly right or wholly wrong for anyone.

Then there’s the element of sound worship, albeit one of the weirder, at-arms-length causes for musical enjoyment for people, and the members of that group tend to stand out a bit from the rest. Same goes for those who make music that’s meant to be absorbed into your pores and driven though your central nervous system, and if you guessed it’s time to talk the latest creation from drone lords Sunn 0))), you’re right on the money. “Life Metal” is the band’s eighth full-length record, following 2015’s “Kannon,” and it also marks the band’s 20th anniversary together under this moniker—the Sunn 0))) name took shape in 1998 after the band spent two years as Mars. Its primary creators Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley have created some of the densest, loudest, most fearsome heavy music known to humankind, and it’s literally the definition of “not for everyone” when it comes to appeal. For those who worship at their massive walls of amps, there’s nothing like this band, and there’s truly nothing in the band’s catalog quite like “Life Metal.” Recorded over two weeks with producer Steve Albini, these four tracks maintain the group’s dense black backbone, but there also are some of their most vibrant, even positive sounds ever captured before. The duo (they’re joined by a small group of other players on this record, though Attila Csihar is absent from the proceedings this time around) also took time to celebrate their two decades together and create something truly special, music that creeps inside the soul and stays.

“Between Sleipnir’s Breaths” begins with a wild horse whinnying before the drone curtain drops heavily, and the riffs begin to scrape away at the earth. Weird rays of light poke through the thick surface, as Hildur Guðnadóttir’s voice settles in, singing verses culled from ancient poetry, giving the track an added dose of haunting secrecy. Hints of melody break through in tiny streams through the enormous dam of sound, and an illuminated section of playing is met with more singing from Guðnadóttir, as sounds sting and cause imbalance, fog blankets, and that horse returns to call out again. “Troubled Air” trembles in light, chimes ring at perfectly spaced intervals, and melody rises above the murk. Noises act like lasers, slicing the thick noise cloud in sections while the void continues to add mass, and a heat ray makes living nearly impossible. Composer Anthony Pateras adds organs and other sounds to thicken the fear, while the track continues to swell, the atmospheric pressure topples, and the engine bristles to the very end.

“Aurora” runs a healthy 19 minutes and opens with deranged moans that give way to the guitars entering and centering the body. The riffs apply abrasion and add to the grimy boil that’s slowly collecting, while the doom laps in waves, noises pierce the flesh, and impossible weight gathers on your chest, making breathing an anxiety-ridden chore. Guitars then sound like they’re steel swords clashing, the sounds tangle, and eardrums shake, no matter your headphone volume. Monstrous 25:22 “Novae” closes the proceedings as the ignition charges and Tim Midyett’s bass coils and strikes, lurching underneath the punishment. Riffs then lap and threaten safety as the weather system gets gnarlier, and a black storm rains down with merciless fury. Another fog, this one pitch black, envelops, and then things subside, letting Guðnadóttir’s scratch out the next few minutes, establishing a rustic, yet also timeless quiver. The sound builds itself back up again slowly, buzzing and adding heat, riffs moving mountains, the noises making your head swell as the sun spits red before the track releases its hold.

Sunn 0)))’s impact and effect on heavy music cannot be overstated, and the work they put into “Life Metal” gives the band rays of positivity you don’t often get from their music. If you’ve never seen the band in a live setting, definitely change that, and be prepared for your entire body to vibrate and pulsate as their might and volume crush your organs (I’m only slightly exaggerating). These four songs are revelations that unveil new pathways, added beams of light that help you understand Sunn 0))) in a way you probably never considered before.

For more on the band, go here: https://sunn.southernlord.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/store/life-metal/

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

Green metal creature Botanist unearths ‘Hammer of Botany’ EP with monster new ending track

It felt like it was just yesterday that we were talking about how apocalyptic themes seem to take up a lot of time on this site. That’s because it was yesterday, and here we are, 24 hours later, and that point is being cemented home again. Though this is not the same kind of end, a totally different means to bringing humankind to an end.

It’s been a little while since we’ve visited with the Verdant Realm, home of the Botanist, the main character of dulcimer-hammered green metal band Botanist, one of the most interesting and consistently bizarre bands in all extreme music. Botanist now have signed up with Aural Music, a place that seems as good a home as any for them since musically they align. As a part of that, Botanist (led by creator Otrebor, though he’s flesh out the lineup over time) are looking a new full-length efforts and a series of reissues, the first of which is 2015’s “Hammer of Botany” that got a limited release and now is being rolled out to a larger audience with a mammoth new song tacked on at the end. For those who don’t know, the epic of Botanist’s music revolves around the Botanist, a crazed man of science who isolated himself in the Verdant Realm, away from the toxic machinations of mankind as he awaited the end. Demon Azalea is portrayed as the entity that speaks to the Botanist (the whispered vocals) and directs him on how to help bring about the fall of mankind and the rise of the Plantae Kingdom.

“The Footsteps of Spring” has drums rattling, whisper-based growling, and a haunting aura as the voices spread, and the melodies turn mind-numbing in a good way. The vocals creak while the miasma of colors unfolds before the song fades away. “Flame of the Forest” has a rapid heartbeat to start, with wild shrieks scraping, rhythmic drums ticking away, and whispers then mixing in with the brutality. The track delivers heavy drama, as darkness unfolds and envelops the region, an ominous spirit tracks its way, and the track blasts back out again and sends reverberations. “Upon the Petals of Flowers” is a quick track but effective while it lasts. The track erupts, letting the drums smother, whispered vocals haunting and growing inside the Botanist’s head, and everything ending vibrantly but abruptly.

“Stachys Olympica” begins with sticks cracking and a moody setting pulling over everything, as a choral treatment treads lightly underneath the waves, and warbled vocals generate confusion. Then the song gets a little brighter and about as poppy as a Botanist song is bound to get, bouncing along its path gloriously while it rises and falls. “Pelargonium Triste” had drums pummeling, the dulcimer lines glimmering, and a cold, freezing vibe that makes your skin burn. The pace buzzes amid spoken-style growls, while the track ignites again toward the end before the track rolls out. New track “Oplopanax Horridus” runs 12:50 and is Otrebor alone, and things gets started with growls and strange choral parts intermingling as a weird, Medieval feel makes this feel like something from the Middle Ages. The track morphs and alters itself, spilling into drama and elegance, with the song getting darker and damper as it goes. Cries reach out as the drums crumble, and the song hits a faster, crazier pace that sounds like it’s sound tracking a train robbery or big escape in an old black and white silent movie. Weird way to describe music about a botanical uprising, but it’s meant from a good place.

Having a wider range for “Hammer of Botany” allows it to find more people, spread its message, and find like-minded listeners intoxicated by these strange sounds. These six cuts comprise an interesting turn in the Botanist’s story, one that demonstrates the richer texture the music has gained over the years. This is the start of a new Botanist journey, one bound to take us deeper into our natural fate.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.botanist.nu/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.auralwebstore.com/shop/index.php

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

Swedish black metal duo Murg wrap apocalyptic triptych with stormy, hugely melodic ‘Strävan’

It’s another day, another world-ending scenario here at Meat Mead Metal, a place that has become synonymous with music about the cessation of humankind. So often, that music sounds utterly bleak and hellish, which makes total sense considering we are talking world extermination, a thing that hardly needs to sound accessible.

What if I was to tell you not all extinction-level metal had to sound dark and bleak, and that there’s a chance it can be catchy as fuck? After all, we’re dying. Why not have some fun and dine on some fucking riffs. That’s where two-headed Murg are coming from on their third record “Strävan,” which stands for “striving” or “endeavor.” It’s also the culmination of a triptych of albums that have been telling the story of the fall of humankind and the utter domination of cosmic forces seeking to choke out our kind for good. Here, the mysterious team—bassist/guitarist/vocalist Vargher, guitarist Urzul—envision of race of beasts that rise up once all humans have been eradicated, with their sole goal to sacrifice themselves to end the entire universe. It’s dark and morose, right? Yet, this band does it with so much color, emotion, and melody, it’s easy to forget you’re considering a scenario where we’d all be long dead, and the universe would consume all. Not that the band doesn’t also enshroud you in darkness; it’s just easy to be misled by the riffs that you don’t even see the mouth of hell in front of you.

“Ur Myren” trickles open, letting the first stream make way before it bursts through like a gigantic wave with growls lacerating and glorious melodies creating a huge atmosphere. Strong black charges quake the ground before the song comes to a crushing, abrupt end. The title track follows and rains down, soaking the soil before gazey playing envelops like a fog. Spacious clean sounds brighten the picture as the sound hangs, and then a giant deluge breaks down the walls. The growls crush, the song drops the hammers, and the track is rocked in the midst of a storm before settling in ash. “Berget” is glorious right away, with huge riffs pounding and a spirited assault adding dashing bright charges that cause you to shield your eyes. Things fade for a time before the track kicks back into gear, bursts and surges, and electrifies with power. That brings calmer winds that stick around until the sounds bleed away. “Renhet” is heavy as hell as the growls penetrate and catchy rhythms push into rumbling guitars and noises that swim in your head. The growls tear through the background as fiery playing ignites the torches, birds call out, and the energy fades.

“Korpen” has darker riffs and ominous tones instilling a sense of fear and danger which, as we know, definitely lurks here. The pace is relentless, storming heavily over all, creating an emotional tumult that boils and leaves a path of devastation smoking and choking out the air. “Tre Stenar” has a boatload more colorful riffs to add to the picture, with the pace staying more calculated. Growls scrape while the music keeps tunneling, as ferocity stings the air, and the music spirals into the cosmos. “Altaret” has great guitar work that sweeps you away from the start, as the body of the cut is melodic as hell, washing over and leaving you numb. The vocals fire up in the form of vicious howls as wills are destroyed, a maniacal haze stretches over the world, and animalistic howls fire up the final moments of the track before it’s consumed. “Stjärnan” ends the record by beginning in a noise sizzle and then setting the way for a hypnotic tempo that makes the room spin before a thrashy assault murders everything. Huge backing melodies give a grandiose feel while the pace chews and spits out everything in its path, building to a gigantic crescendo that sends space matter, blood, and bones sprawling into the relentless gears of total nothingness.

Murg long have championed the idea that humans are an intolerant, destructive race that deserves to be wholly destroyed by nature, and “Strävan” is their final attempt to nail the bloody nails in the coffin lid forever. This is a great-sounding record, pure black metal that pushes for the end of everything, the ushering in of the void where our meaningless existences disappear forever. We haven’t been great stewards of this earth, and Murg’s vision has us paying a dear, well-deserved price in the end.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://nordvis.com/en/murg-a-11

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

Vaura’s frosty darkness blends into cold winds, damp storms on atmospheric, mysterious ‘Sables’

If there’s one annoying part of being a metal fan and having people around you know that, it’s that it’s always assumed that you don’t listen to any other music. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to yell, “I listen to other things!” when people bring up other forms of music, and my participation is waved off because what could I know about it? I don’t know. I was only a pop music critic for years and years.

I don’t know if the members of Vaura have experienced the same things. Among them, they count membership in bands including Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Kayo Dot, and Tombs, yet their music here could not be any more opposed to what they do in their other camps. Especially on “Sables,” their new record and first in six years that totally corrodes away any hint of their metallic allegiances elsewhere. Yeah, the music is dark, but not in the same vein. The band exudes darkwave gothiness, a distinctly Euro-forged sound that makes me think back to my formative years listening to New Wave in the 1980s before metal really reached its way into my life. On these eight tracks, you get a rainy urban vibe, like watching the window get plastered on a gray, miserable afternoon, where this record works the best. Its members—vocalist/guitarist/synth player Josh Strawn, guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Toby Driver, and drummer Charlie Schmid—create ear worms that creep into your psyche and make you feel the damp chill. This also is a great-sounding record as it’s dynamic and pops with life even while projecting the heaviest of morose shadows.

The record cracks open with “Espionage” as beats snap, and a synth cloud develops overhead. “A fatal desire, a union of all that was separate and strange,” Strawn calls amid a cool solo with a silvery vibe and a dash of water that sends chills. “Zwischen” has sheets of synth and a mechanical mode that develops a strange aura. The music bubbles with panic sending cold jolts of nostalgia, and then the bass drives the song into a tunnel lit up by warm guitar leads. “Lightless Ones” has beats rattling, the keys spreading out, and the chorus here is really strong and sticks in your brain, as Strawn sings, “Zones of shadows turn to passageways.” It’s easy to have this one rolling in your mind for hours after you hear it. “The Ruins (Hymne)” has cosmic keys zapping and soaking guitars, with Strawn calling, “Can you feel the road that’s on the way?” I may have that line wrong, as I don’t have a lyric sheet. Anyhow, pits of sci-fi calm soothe in spots, while the track ends up in a mystic vapor.

“No Guardians” leads in with rock-solid drumming, a killer synth riff, and some acoustics sending breezes underneath the din. Strawn sings of “calling from the underground to remember who we are,” as guitars soar into the inky horizon. “Eidon” is a cold, but steady wind, an emotional song that has soloing ripping out and an overcast essence all the way. The guitars smear colors later on, and the simple chorus—the title repeated in rhythmic pattern—keeps your brain cells tingling while the story reaches its end. “Balisick (The Infinite Corpse)” has knocks tapping away, and a strange feeling is cast over all, while the track goes purposely robotic, with voices following suit. The track is murky and mysterious as fog develops, and your flesh is left cold and damp. The closing title track has an ominous sound, as Strawn sings that “the circular mirror never breaks.” Later on, the song lands some heavier punches, as the chorus rounds again, your BPM increases, and the track heads down the drain.

Anyone accusing the members of Vaura of not knowing what’s going on beyond their heavier bands are in for a rude awakening when they take on “Sables.” This third record sounds like the band finding its true footing and digging into the soil with full dedication and a fiery purpose. It doesn’t have to be raining and cold for this music to work, but it helps when the weather matches your and their inner turmoil that bubbles over the surface and crusts on the ground.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Fins Chevalier inject warrior spirit into speed metal on bloody ‘Destiny Calls’

People fall in love with and follow heavy metal for many different reasons. For me, it was an escape into a different world, a way to retreat from the things that bothered me and find a way to gain some sort of power, no matter if that was just in my head. As a result, bands that make me feel that way again often are the ones to which I gravitate because my reason for loving this genre never went away.

That takes us right to Finnish power/speed metal warriors Chevalier, whose debut full-length “Destiny Calls” delivers all the ammunition one needs to feel alive inside the realms of metal. Having dealt two EPs and a split effort ever since their formation in 2016, the band is mining the fields planted before by very early Helloween, Warlock, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and bands of that ilk, but in their own way. They don’t regurgitate what those bands did at all; instead, they display their inspiration with a raw power that feels like they recorded these tracks in a cold basement surrounded by meat hooks. The band—vocalist Emma Grönqvist, the guitarists Tommi and Mikko, bassist Sebastian Bergman, drummer Joel—keep things fired up and bloody the entire time, making it feel like they’re sound-tracking a group of warriors honing their skills and getting ready to head into life-or-death battle. This record and band let the blood charge, and there’s not a moment here where they don’t go for the throat, with total dominance in mind.

The record starts with “Introduction,” a strange little thing built with synth and guitars poking their way in, all making for the grand opening for “The Immurement” that has a huge start. It’s chaotic and drenched in echo, with Grönqvist belting out her commands in a way that’ll never make you think of turning your head away. This track feels like pre-Kiske Helloween in spots as it’s raw, punchy, and delivers soloing that’ll burn your goddamn face off. “The Curse of the Dead Star” has guitars calling out, a strange voice speaking over top (that element returns again and again like a narrator from a long-lost epic) and then things rip to life. The song gallops as Grönqvist’s vocals tear through flesh, the soloing blinds eyes, and the track totally stampedes through everything in its wake. Crazed banshee wails cut through veins, with the song bashing skulls to its end. “Road of Light” begins with dialog before the track hits on a vintage Maiden path, with Grönqvist wailing, “We shall never yield!” The track takes you into the heart of battle as guitars make their rounds, the pace plays games, and the back-end blazes with intensity that demands everything of you. “As the Clouds Gather” is a quick interlude piece that combines dark guitars and heavy rains, leading into what comes next.

That would be “Stormbringer” that delivers thunderclaps, a driving bass, and a push into confrontation. “Hear the thunder roar!” Grönqvist cries as guitars take their lead, the killer chorus rounds back, and savage screams ring out into the night. “In the Grip of the Night” follows, as the drums launch an assault that leaves you reeling, and the band wastes no time getting you actively involved. “The spell was cast upon me, there’s nowhere out of this nightmare,” Grönqvist calls, as speed begins to reign, the bass clobbers, and then we’re into calm. Murk rises and develops a fog that’s later ambushed by a punishing assault, keys smearing over top, and everything making one last stand to crush foes. “Prelude to the End” is a quick instrumental with guitars steadying the pace, leading into “A Warrior’s Lament,” a chugging, heavy cut that tells the story of battle and fate. Grönqvist sings of “my quest for glory or death” as the song punishes, torches are lit, and blood is spattered. The track sinks into a dream sequence, with the deep, warped narrator voice returning, before a ferocious guitar assault is unleashed. “Unraveled are the secrets of time,” Grönqvist cries, as the band gets ready for one final blast that knocks down the castle walls. A brief “Outro” allows time for everything to sink in, as guitars stagger and melt away.

Chevalier’s speed and power metal assault reminds of a simpler time, when we just called this “metal” and didn’t assign genre tags. “Destiny Calls” feels like one of those albums that would have tracks being featured late into Headbanger’s Ball’s run time, when they’d take more chances and play bands that were making serious waves in the underground. This band is dangerous and fun at the same time, and this is music that feels like you’re wielding the sword, waiting to make contact with any prone section that your adversary foolishly leaves prone.

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

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

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

Helms Alee’s wild progression turns into a spewing beast on diverse, exciting new ‘Noctiluca’

It’s not easy for bands not avoid tethering themselves to a particular sound. They have an idea for how they want to operate going in, often times, and as their careers go on, usually the members stick to a certain path and only veer off here and there. Then there are those who have no particular journey in mind and let the music take them wherever the hell it will.

Puget Sound-based trio Helms Alee are the classic unidentifiable band sound wise, because they change what they do not just from song to song but from section to section. Typically sludgy and agitated, the band is heavy enough to lean into the metal world but, for the most part, they operate on the edges and dump in anything that works for them. A bastard creation of the Melvins and the Breeders (that’s kind of close, right?) is the best way I can think of a way to describe them, and that’s only tangentially. They again prove the perfect chameleons on their great fifth record “Noctiluca,” named after bioluminescent marine algae that glows when excited. That’s likely how you’ll feel when taking on these 10 beasts that all have different personalities and DNA, created by the masters of disguise—bassist Dana James, guitarist Ben Verellen, drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis (they all do vocals)—who have guided this band through the past 12 years and kept their sound dynamic and unpredictable.

Interachnid” kicks off the record with a surge and a howl of, “You can’t stop what you can’t move,” before the track gets into a weird trippy section before spiraling out of control. “Beat Up” is sludgy and punchy as Verellen roars away as James and Mathseson-Margullis add their own colors to the mix while the guitars stretch out. The music may make you feel a little light headed as wild howls rumble, and a muddy psyche jam brings the song to a close. “Play Dead” buzzes and pounds, as they all take turns on vocals, with the cut feeling poppy and fun, and the demand of, “True friends don’t let friends play dead,” repeating before everything bleeds away. “Be Rad Tomorrow” has a cool riff and a mid-tempo push, with the singing soaring and reminding of Veruca Salt. Verellen’s howls rejoin the mix as sounds fall, the drums circle, and the cut comes to a chilling end. “Lay Waste, Child” has drums opening fresh wounds, as all of the voices meld together over a calculated, rhythmic pace. The vibe remains steady while the singing mesmerizes as the song melts into the ground.

“Illegal Guardian” also spills psychedelic colors as it builds slowly with an icy texture and the singing freezing blood cells. Guitars sting while the growls start to punish, and the call of, “If you kill it, you have to eat it, wear its skin, know its secrets,” delivers bruising before chaos erupts and consumes everything whole. “Spider Jar” has killer drumming leading forward, guitars trickling, and harmonized singing that leads the way to an awesome chorus that kicks up dust and makes your skin crawl. “Pleasure Torture” has the bass swirling as James and Mathseson-Margullis command with their voices, heads swim in the atmosphere, and then the guitars set fire and torch the place. The track explodes with power as Verellen howls savagely and blasts the door shut. “Pandemic” has guitars smearing, psyche-rich singing, and a sun-drenched ambiance warming up your body. Breezy vocals push into the mix, jamming and pulling before bleeding into closer “Word Problems” that instantly bashes in heads. The pace is faster, the vocals nastier, and the intensity hotter as the band brings everything to a proper, raucous conclusion.

Helms Alee continue barreling wherever their swashbuckling hearts take them, and “Nocticula” is another stuffed serving that’s paced just right and is a blast to take on from front to back. It’s the something-for-everyone style of heavy music album that could find followers in any corner of a room, which is a testament to the group’s creativity and daring passions. This collection will blister you during its duration, and you’ll feel like you’ve gone on a smashing adventure when you reach the end.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/helms-alee

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

Mouth of Satan calls again in sticky project Molasses that travels new paths on debut EP

Photo by Esther Van Waalwijk

It’s always sad when something passes before its time truly comes. I’ve felt that way about The Devil’s Blood ever since their creator and guitarist Selim Lemouchi took his life in 2014. That put an end to the band, quite obviously, and it seemed they were just blossoming into something great that would create astonishing music well into the future.

But the Dutch occult spirits were not only catapulted by Selim. His sister Farida, known as the Mouth of Satan, was just as impactful to their music, as her compelling, almost operatic vocals sparked the message behind the mission. In fact, it was her voice that grabbed my attention on their debut EP “Come Reap,” and it is what led me to become devoted to their three full-length records (yeah, “III: Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars” is spotty, but there’s very good reason or that), and it was Farida’s performance that kept me entranced during the single time I got to see the band live. So, her disappearing into fog also felt devastating. Until recently. News broke that Farida would make her return at this year’s Roadburn to perform with a new band Molasses, and on Friday, their two-track EP “Mourning Haze/Drops of Sunlight” landed. Let’s get this out of the way: Don’t expect the Devil’s Blood. The music does not try to resurrect what was and instead goes down a different path, albeit in the same darkened woods. Farida is as powerful as ever, and she’s joined by former DB members Oeds Beydals (guitars), Job van de Zande (bass), and Ron van Herpen (guitars) along with new players Marcel van de Vondervoort, Bob Hogenelst, and Matthijs Stonks to round out this exciting new venture.

“Mourning Haze” trickles in and opens up some proggy psyche rock that feels like it was conjured decades ago and only showed its face now. Keys drizzle, while Farida’s singing swells and then pulls back to softer tones later. The track lets in some jazzy ghosts, and then a spirited vibe creates insane colors before the reins are held back, and the track melts in with the horizon. “Drops of Sunlight” is the longer cut of the two at 9:19, and it starts with quiet chimes before guitars bloom and the gallop is launched. “Loosen the veil and let the blood flow,” Farida commands, while the pace is calculated for a stretch as if it’s hunting. Mesmerizing melodies loop and soothe, while Farida wails, “Just when I thought there could be no more confusion, you wander back.” The track spirals and strengthens its connective tissue, while the song makes it final burst with elegant playing and a jolt that rumbles the ground.

It’s but two tracks, but the first strains of Molasses are promising and an absolute spirit lifter for all the dark energies in our hearts. It’s not the Devil’s Blood 2, nor should it be as those tales already have been told. This is a new start for Farida Lemouchi, her former cohorts, and the new members they picked up along the way who will cast an ominous shadow far different than the one you knew before.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.van-records.de/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=molasses&x=0&y=0

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: ‘Elegy’ closes Dead to a Dying World’s triptych tackling extinction, loss, misery

Photo by Kathleen Kennedy

We probably talk about end-of-world events just about as much as any other topic around here, which isn’t a big surprise. First, we’ve been in a horror the past couple years watching world events (especially here in Dumb America), so it always feels like the ax is about to drop. Second, we cover a lot of dark, shadowy music, so the subject comes up a lot, mainly because artists also are reading the tea leaves.

Dallas, Texas, apocalyptic metal band Dead to a Dying World hardly are new to the party when it comes to imagining and maybe predicting the horrors that are ahead. In 2011, they delivered their self-titled debut record that began a planned triptych of albums that would cover the sixth extinction of the Anthropocene, the one that would claim all of us. That continued to 2015’s “Litany” and now culminates on their expansive, breath-taking new record “Elegy” that is the perfect end-of-tale exclamation point on a tale that doesn’t end well for humankind. On this album, we see a post-human world and a story that revolves around loss and grief as a new ecological system takes form and life begins again. It’s another compelling chapter from this group—vocalists Mike Yeager and Heidi Moore, viola player Eva Vonne, guitarists Sean Mehl and James Magruder, bassist John Schiller, drummer Josh Dawkins—as they stretch out their atmospheric doom with strains of western American sounds, progressive rock, and metallic sludge that never sounded as good as it does here. In addition, there are key guest performances from Thor Harris (ex-Swans, Thor & Friends), Jarboe (ex-Swans), Dylan Desmond (Bell Witch), Emil Rapstine (The Angelus), Pablo C. Urusson (Sangre de Muerdago), and Tim Duffield (ex-Sans Soleil) to help flesh out these cinematic pieces.

“Syzygy” opens the record like a desert-dry tale, with guitars crawling along and Yeager’s deep crooning feeling dusty as well. “Let the cool, clear water cleanse my spirit,” he urges, as harmonies swirl behind him, bringing desolation to mind as he ends with, “To the firmament, return to dust.” “The Seer’s Embrace” then bursts out of that with growls and shrieks melding, strings scraping, and the tempo flowing across the land. The atmosphere is gazey, while clean singing emerges, elegant guitars glimmer, and then shrieks return for more. After some quick bursts, the tempo is pulled back while more vocal harmonizing floats overhead, savage wails strike, and the track surges into space. “Vernal Equinox” is quiet at first with a desert vibe as Jarboe’s powerful singing takes the lead, and then sludgier notes pound away. As the song goes, the drama kicks into higher gear, the intensity strikes, and the track melts into the night.

“Empty Hands, Hollow Hymns” starts with an intro by Urusson, as acoustics dance, crashing into echoes before the song fully opens up. Growls rain down as the band digs into a thrashy sequence, and from out of that comes a nasty progressive bend that should light up your heart. Growls and shrieks again team up while strings get roused before a dose of calm is delivered. The drums rumble while the song is torn apart, and the final strains burn out into dust. “Hewn From Falling Water” has freezing guitars that work alongside a wall of singing that feels ghostly, while strings slice, and the end gives you some rest to prepare you for 14:36-long closer “Of Moss and Stone” that simmers in quiet while chimes ring out, and gazey thunder strikes. Then, the storm begins to rage, vicious shrieks send jolts, and compelling melodies lie prone in the beating sun, letting their surface burn. Jarboe moves in and takes control of the plot, mesmerizing before the next eruption bursts, and the emotions smother. Growls punish, the band deals its final shots, and the song is devoured by a noise cloud that mars sanity as the track screeches away for good.

The events depicted on “Elegy,” as well as those on the other Dead to a Dying World albums, may seem a great distance in the future, but its seeds have long been planted, and potentially are coming to harvest as we take each breath. That adds even more power behind this amazing six-track, 49-minute album that never lacks for drama, heart, and wrenching emotion. It seems silly to call this band forward-thinking since they’ve been at it for nearly a decade, but considering hardly anyone has caught up to them, perhaps we really are all behind the frontline of this band’s enthralling vision.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.deadtoadyingworld.org/

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

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

Chalice of Suffering bring dark sentiment, sorrowful storming on pain-riddled ‘Lost Eternally’

Life is beginning to burst again. It’s spring, leaves are budding on trees, and people seem to be in a better mood after pushing through what’s been a pretty weird winter. But that doesn’t mean pain and suffering just goes away. Often, it gets masked by the nice breezes and warmer temperatures, but nothing can really bury the blackness many of us feel inside at pretty much any interval.

That thought hit home when taking on “Lost Eternally,” the second record from doom maulers Chalice of Suffering, and you will feel like you’re taking deep drinks of sorrow during the entire run of this album. Over seven tracks and 62 minutes, we get a full serving of depressing, shadowy doom that displays shards of bone from groups such as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Evoken, and Swallow the Sun, coming in with a big sound but also letting you wallow alongside of them in the sadness and hopelessness. On this, the follow-up to the debut Chalice record “For You I Die” in 2016, the band—vocalist John McGovern, guitarist/keyboard player Will Maravelas, guitarist/keyboard player/drummer Nikoley Velev, bassist Neal Pruett, drummer Aaron Lanik, and bagpipe player Kevin Murphy—are joined by guests from Woebegone Obscured, Demonic Resurrection, Somnent, and Wilvernguard to create a full-bodied, completely miserable experience that should darken your heart forever.

“In the Mist of Once Was” begins with guitars dripping in and causing an instant fog, as McGovern speaks, warbling, “I hear the echoes of the past,” before growls unload, and slow-driving tempos scar. Murphy’s bagpipes work their way in as the pace lurches and bruises before the track hits the atmosphere. “I am a prisoner, all alone in my head,” McGovern confesses soberingly as the music gushes toward its conclusion. “Emancipation of Pain” slowly unfurls as doom scrapes the ground, harsh growls punish, and choral sections add beauty to the darkness. The singing spreads, going slowly and drearily into the dark, as guitars are unleashed, ugly growls open wounds, and clean bellows push us into charred hell. Sadness and pain combine as the song reaches its final resting place. “Forever Winter” is eerie and spacey, as sounds echo, keys arrive in waves, and smudgy playing punishes. “The shadows will continue to haunt me, to torture me, until my last breath” McGovern levels, as drone rises and collects before the power bursts, a sinister riffs cuts bone, and the track comes to a devastating conclusion.

“Lost Eternally” has a morbid pace with leads dripping wax, harsh growls crunching, and keys plinking like a freezing rain. The music seems to drain into an abyss before the intensity begins to rise again while McGovern wails, “No more tears, no more pain,” before the song ends suddenly. “The Hurt” opens with cavernous growls and atmospheric synth as guitars begin to rain down, and the pace trudges through the mud. The growls are painful as synth tracks behind and the drama increases. The song is delivered in a torturous clip as the pain develops slowly, while the keys well up and the track slowly fades into time. “Miss Me, But Let Me Go” is solemn with the bass burning a trail and the music gushing elegance. Monstrous growls slip under a deathrock-style approach, while the guitars stoke the fires, noise sizzles, and the track bleeds into an abyss. Closer “Whispers of Madness” has dark guitars and creaky speaking while the synth creates an intoxicating mist. The slow-paced thrashing adds bruising, while McGovern admits, “The voices make me want to die,” before the track ends in a chasm of despair.

Chalice of Suffering are aptly named as if feels like you’re put through the emotional ringer on “Lost Eternally,” a record that tells you all you need to know from its title. Brighter days may be ahead for some, but with this band, it’s eternally winter as hearts freeze over forever, with no hope in sight. It might not be perfect spring fodder, but it’s a harsh callback when you need to remember that pain and misery always lurk beneath the surface.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Or here (International): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.de/shop-en

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