Doom pioneers Earth swagger back with leaner, dusky spirits on ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’

Photo by Holly Carlson

Stripping things back to basics can be a cathartic way to cut out the clutter, expunge anything that’s been building up that needs to be cleared away. Earth’s core duo of guitarist Dylan Carlson and drummer Adrienne Davies felt that was something they needed to do when approaching their new record “Full Upon Her Burning Lips,” which is just about in our laps.

We haven’t gotten a new full-length from the legendary Earth since 2014’s “Primitive and Deadly,” and in that time, Carlson and Davies decided to pull back the reins, lift up the layers of sound they’ve applied to their music (quite successfully, obviously), and go back to basics. “Fall Upon Her Burning Lips” definitely sounds leaner and more back-to-roots than records such as the dual “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light” or even “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull,” though you definitely can hear strains of what went into those pieces of work. But here, there’s more concentration on the slow-dripping riffs that encircle and encompass these songs, and Davies playing is a lot more prominent, as she guides these tracks from start to finish, becoming a great, backbone-like presence. The record almost works like two halves, each started by mammoth songs, and then followed by tracks shorter than what’s we’ve come to expect from Earth the past decade or so but that also given plenty of space to become fuller beings. It’s a hearty record, one that feels familiar pretty much right away.

“Datura’s Crimson Veils” is the 12:16 opener that has guitars jolting and buzzing, with the melody slinking through, meeting up with Davies’ driving beat. The track takes on a dark, yet sunburnt feel, with the main riff rolling back around again and again, cutting through the haze. The track begins to buzz and flutter late, with psyche vibes arriving and the track pulsating out. “Exaltation of Larks” is a quick one, running 3:20, feeling almost like an interlude. Warm trickling wets the dirt, and then guitars seem to surge into the night sky, turning toward “Cats on the Briar” that simmers at the front end. A nice, calming melody expands its presence, as winds blow into the scene, and the track mystifies as it eases along. Feeling psychedelic and dusty, the track bends some, rings out, and then bleeds into the dark. “The Colour Of Poison” has a start-stop pace, with Davies snapping her kit over Carlson’s witchy guitar work. A dirty riff then sinks in its teeth, as the drums steady the pace, and then things seem to end abruptly, only to have the guitars re-emerge, slicing through steel on its way out. “Descending Belladonna” feels trippy right away, with the bass sliding, and a dreamy, nostalgic feel to the music. The playing sends odd jolts, while Davis clangs and wrecks your balance, the body and mind is numbed, and the track quivers into the dark.

“She Rides an Air of Malevolence” pops open the second half, a 11:28-long dirge that reverberates with percussion strikes and the guitars setting an ominous tone. The riffs then heat up and melt stone, while a serenity also is achieved as the heat intensifies. Feedback rises as the riffs float, while noise spits behind the main melody line as the track breathes its last. “Maidens Catafalque” also is interlude-esque, running 2:49 and gently flowing, creating a strange ambiance, as guitars sneak, and the drums and cymbals crash in unison. “An Unnatural Carousel” is moody at first, but then it feels like everything is basking in afternoon sunshine, albeit in the middle of the desert. Cool air finally arrives, while leathery riffs work their way in, leaving rough trails as it backs out of the room. “The Mandrake’s Hymn” has riffs slinking and a cool, calculated stomp through the evening, as the music crawls through the shadows. The drumming pops and keeps everything humming, while the track burns its last exhaust in steely glory. “A Wretched Country Of Dusk” ends the record with sorrow bleeding out and a surreal visionscape unfurling in front of you. The guitars manage to char rubber, as the riffs round through, the sounds smear blood and oil, and everything ends in a trance-like state.

Over three decades, Earth have dipped into thick drone, delved into Americana, and have become a dusty trailblazer telling stories strictly through their instruments. On “Fall Upon Her Burning Lips,” the band delivers one of its most intimate, swaggering records in their catalog, and it doesn’t take long until these songs start growing inside you. It’s great to hear Earth alive, well, and still delivering powerful music that no artists have ever been able to duplicate.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/earth

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

Finnish crushers Mireplaner put aching on body, mind with debut opus ‘Mountain of Saola Hooves’

There are tons of different ways that new music finds us. Lots of it comes from labels and publicists who are cool enough to trust us with new music well in advance so we can be well informed when writing about it. Other times, artists come to us with their work that perhaps isn’t on a major platform yet or hasn’t been released to many people, which always flatters us. We need to do more with that.

We’re doing that today as we discuss “A Mountain of Saola Hooves,” the debut full-length offering from thunderous Finnish post-metal-style band Mireplaner, who dropped us their record a few weeks back. To say we’ve been having our foundations devastated by what’s contained would be a massive understatement, and hopefully we can help a bit into getting this massively heavy band’s music into more people’s ears. Combining doom, sludge, hardcore, and plenty other crushing sounds, the band sets up shop and waylays you with these seven tracks that feel like they can knock the planet off its axis. People into bands such as Neurosis, Amenra, Celeste, and even Oathbreaker could find a ton to like on this record, as the music falls into that same terrain though definitely carves out its own identity. The band is comprised of Eeli Helin (vocals, guitars, noise), Eero Vilppula (bass), and Markus Karppinen (drums), and they already have a stranglehold on their sound and can cave in your head without even thinking about it. That line is not as hyperbolic as you might think. Try them on.

Finnish“Deadweights” starts the record with noise hovering before things erupt into sludgy hell as the growls strike and boil, and a cold, foggy front pushes overhead. The track crushes again before synth mixes in and sickens, the playing smothers, and then again, the storm situates, leading in moody guitars and shadowy melodies. Guitars chug, the teeth of the song smash the earth, and roars amass as things pound away. “The Elkhorn Coral” bludgeons with hardcore-style shouts and then whispery murk. Muddy power flows and meets up with thunderous chaos, growls splatter teeth and skin, and the track ends in a pit of panic. “Parched Throats” hammers savagely before the growls punish, and the playing burns the senses. Suddenly, a calming rain begins to fall, spilling into an electronic haze, guitars gush out, and then monstrous hell returns. The vocals scorch as a new wave of crushing sets foot, a chill briefly hits the air, and noise scrapes before decimating the land.

“Morass” is the longest track, chewing up 9:35 and imposing its will right from the start. Cavernous playing makes the room shake before echoes generate confusion, and then the hammers are dropped. Howls blister as the playing smears, and monstrous growls leave ample bruising before serenity sets in. That calm is only temporary before weird, down-tuned smashing opens veins, howls soar, and sludgy crunching powders stone as clean guitars coat the ground with drizzling rain. “Light Departure” begins with clean tones as sounds lurk in the corner, and a strange cosmic haze bursts through the darkness. Vicious howls begin to destroy as the words come out raspy and nasty, rolling into spacey keys that numb the mind. Noise stretches out of that, screams pick up, and everything ends in echo. “Knees Cicatrised” reverberates as slow buzzing chews, and contemplative tones burst into punishing crashing, as the vocals leave welts, and hardcore-style playing sinks in the blade. The track gets muddy and messy, spewing blood and mud before the song exits into the stars. “Saturation of the Bleeding Maw” closes the record with a moody, slowly unfurling push, and then the track explodes suddenly and violently as the howls tear into flesh, and the ground beneath you quakes. The track feels like it is imploding a city whole, as the walls crash in, holes in pavement devour bodies, and smoke rises from open blazes while funereal chimes help the chaos disappear into a haze.

I’m excited that Mireplaner found their way into our world, as “A Mountain of Saola Hooves” is a thunderous record that I’m certain is going to stick with me all year and beyond. This is an album that’ll devastate your senses but also keep you mentally captivated through its entire run, which is really all you can ask from a band. This is a great chance to get in on the ground floor of a sweltering force that is still lurking in the shadows, waiting to decimate your body and soul.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://mireplaner.bandcamp.com/album/a-mountain-of-saola-hooves

UK monsters Lvcifyre blaze back from their eerie silence, unload hellish chaos on EP ‘Sacrament’

Photo by Artur Tarczewski

It was just last week that we were talking about bands that stretch their sounds into new terrains to expand upon what people think is possible in metal. But let’s not forget the ones that keep the fires burning with the hatred and violence that brought so many people to the dance in the first place and keep them facing the flames.

UK-based blackened death crushers Lvcifyre have kept their aggressive, devastating sound razor sharp over their 12 years together, and they’re finally back after a five-year wait with a flesh-scorching new EP “Sacrament” that is 23 minutes of molten hell we’ve not gotten a taste of since 2014’s molten “Svn Eater.” The band wastes no time rekindling the horrific spirits they conjured over their two full-lengths and their time ravaging live crowds, as they sound as bloodthirsty and channeled as ever before. This new release offers five tracks (one is a cover of a classic cut from Polish maulers Kat) that stings, stymies, and strangles, a perfectly portioned EP that should leave you craving that third full-length once it’s over. The band—vocalist/guitarist T. Kaos, bassist Cvltvs, drummer Menthor—ravage you mind and body, leaving exposed wounds untreated and psychological scars that won’t soon heal.

“The Greater Curse” starts the record with strange noises, animalistic growls, and the song slowly beginning to agitate. Then death erupts and the band pummels without relent, a beastly fury sprawls, and the track trudges and thrashes madly. Vicious growls mix with dizzying guitar work, while the track hammers, mixes into a strange sound bath, and churns out into the dark. “Death’s Head in Crown” has the bass slowly hulking and warped vocals sending chills, while things turn toward muddy death. The riffs slay, slurry pain is delivered, and the cries echo out before the song succumbs to echo and fades.

“Shadowy Wing” is a quick 1:29 burst that has guitar hypnotizing, weird wails, and a total death assault bursting and spurting blood. The title cut dumps black misery before a hellish attack is mounted, and the Earth buckles beneath its weight. The ferocity destroys everything in front of it, as the death swallows everything whole, the drumming bashes in skulls, and a killer riff arrives toward the back end and clobbers you before you have a chance to catch your grip. The EP ends with their cover of “Morderca,” which was on Kat’s 1986 album, “666,” and that the band gives a punishing treatment. You still get a sense of the original’s heathen glory, but with a modern dose of hellfire dumped all over its corpse.

Lvcifyre practice the art of savagery as well as anyone, and “Sacrament” is a twisted reminder of what this band does that twists our brain tentacles. This is a psychotic, warped display of power that never relents, and its power is obvious and unavoidable once it starts barreling down the hill toward you. This is the definition of hellish art, music that’ll corrupt the mind and body, leaving you hurtling toward physical and mental damnation.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Aseethe focus on wrath, twist fiery doom on hammering, unforgiving ‘Throes’

Photo by Zakery Neumann

It sometimes feels like we live in a warzone. Not a physical one where bombs are dropping and guns are firing past out heads, but one where trying to operate within a society without taking on psychological damage in nearly impossible. Compassion for other humans appears to be at an all-time low, while the strive for near-dictatorial power is embraced by many people, unblinking.

Iowa City-based doom metal band Aseethe have returned with “Throes,” a five-track new record that’s a response to what’s going on in politics and society, and how we approach our lives, and it’s also the most diverse thing they’ve ever delivered. Don’t take that to mean they’ve gone off track from their smothering, unforgiving doom that met us on their first two full-lengths and their hefty collection of smaller releases. That all remains in place, though they branch out a little past there and make their sound more flexible and colorful. Here, the band—vocalist/guitarist Brian Barr, bassist/vocalist Noah Koester, drummer Eric Dierks—focus on wrath and the feelings and actions that result from the disintegrating political landscape and environmental issues, as well as the friction and bloodshed caused by fascists and others who seek to capitalize on people’s pain. The music sinks you into the darkness right away, and over the course of this monster of an album, you take on the sonic punishment the band seeks to dish to those who deserve it the most.

The title track opens the record with heavy trudging, feedback stinging, and monstrous growls that wrap around the hellish playing. “Cast far into violent motives, struggle, extinction, seething root, wrenching,” is delivered in a calculated manner while growls and shrieks combine to smear the madness. Atmospheric riffs later bring an infusion of oxygen before factory-heavy riffs drop bombs, clobbering as a slow-driving menace. The mammoth assault continues amid growls and relentless pounding that finally brings mercy. “To Victory” has a cold start that trickles in like cold rain, taking its time to develop an ambiance before the gates are crushed about two and a half minutes in. From there, the dual vocals clash and spear bone, while the hulking pace also has a sense of thrashiness that makes it more dangerous. Melody slips in like a stranger while the ground begins to quake again, leaving bruises and eventually melting back into the soil.

“Suffocating Burden” is an instrumental track that has sounds shaking, a strange cloud hovering overhead, and the mouth of the song enveloping, allowing “No Realm” into the room to shock the system. This track feels more like a post-hardcore bloodletting as it starts, with the guitars stabbing, the vocals barked with urgency, and massive doom eventually helping to counter the mood. The verses are frenetic with shouts of, “Infinite circles, direct propaganda, rendering violence, narcissists parade,” while the sounds send lava jolts, blistering the skin and coming to a splitting end. “Our Worth Is the New Measure” ends the record on a mystical note at first, as fog gathers and mist coats your face. Out of the eeriness comes a spurt of growls and shrieks utterly pummeling your mind, while misery-inducing sludging makes it hard to find balance, and the massive blasting knocks you to the ground. The playing bursts in your chest, the slow pounding mixes with splintering noise, and the track bludgeons without relent, sending consciousness hurtling toward total devastation.

We’re not bound to live in a harmonious society any time soon, as there are too many barriers to climb, too many wounds to heal, too many blows that can’t be taken back. Aseethe wallow in that torment on “Throes,” and while there are some exciting new twists and turns on the record, that doesn’t alleviate the hell in which we’re all immersed. This music won’t bring solace to those who battle every day, but it might help as an outlet to release that frustration in a productive way.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/products

For more on the label, go here: http://thrilljockey.com

Occult metal force Doomstress display vintage power, swagger on debut ‘Sleep Among the Dead’

Despite all of the things that have changed with metal and music in general, hard work is something that still is necessary to get where you want to go. Sitting on your ass and hoping things will work out likely never has worked for anyone, but putting in the time, effort, sweat, and blood still is the answer to making your band and your music as powerful as possible.

That surely seems like as obvious an intro to a story that we’ve ever done. But when it comes to Texas-based Occult doom band Doomstress, that emphasis on hard work was their clear path to developing an audience and amassing people to come to their explosive shows. All of that travel they did, all the miles they put in and the shows they played all culminate in their debut offering “Sleep Among the Dead,” a seven-track barn-stormer that’s tight as fuck and spews with classic metal glory. I had a chance to see the band at last autumn’s Descendants of Crom festival, and they blew away the goddamn room, and that energy and power carries over to this record that quivers and quakes with glory. The band—bassist/vocalist “Doomstress” Alexa Hollada, guitarists Brandon Johnson and Matt Taylor, and drummer Tomasz Scull—lays waste from moment one, leaving a fiery path in their wake, all the while getting the juices pumping through your heart the entire length of this thunderous record.

“Bitter Plea” gets things moving with punchy, cool riffs and crushing vocals delivered by Hollada, who is in utter command the entire record. The chorus hits a little darker, but that is torn to shreds by laser-sharp soloing and Hollada wailing, “I know I’ll burn in the end,” as the song comes to a raucous finish. “Burning Lotus” has tasty old-school guitar work, echoing singing, and a nice ’70s vibe. “Blackest night and the flower blooms,” Hollada calls, while the music gets a little sultry, steering into added heaviness. The soloing catches fire while the chorus rounds back for another burst, ending the track in a blast of flames. “Dreaming Spider” begins as a dark, reflective song before the riffs kick in, and dual guitar work slices bones. “Sleep now, infinity, your dreams are doomed,” Hollada warns, as strong leads take it from there, and the command, “Awaken from your silken tombs,” rouses the beast from its slumber. “Your God Is Blind” is scathing, arriving with blackened guitars conjuring flames, with Hollada insisting, “You’ve been deceived.” The chorus is a pounder, though sorrow follows close behind as the sentiment sinks in, and your shadows grow deeper. “The stain on your soul never washes away,” Hollada wails, before the band hits a nasty swagger, hammering home the song’s punishing point.

“Bones and Rust” starts with fuzzy bass work before a mystical aura surrounds, with Hollada noting, “The past is lost beneath the churning wheel.” The track then unleashes a sinister attitude, dual leads flash their blades and draw blood, and the chorus hammers back again to leave its imprints. “Apathetic Existence” is the longest track here, running 7:54, and it starts with a Sabbathy storm drizzling overhead and soaking the ground, while the eerie feelings spread over everything, leaving chills. The vocals go from breathy and gritty to damn near Geddy Lee-style highs that make your adrenaline soar, and the track keeps smothering and driving slowly, adding more pressure as they go. A wild cackle rings out, while the pace hits high gear, galloping through blood and dust as it tramples to its fiery end. The title track, which they’ve presented before on other recordings, finishes the album starting with the bass quivering and muddy trudging, with Hollada calling, “All your tomorrows are born tonight.” The muscular chorus flexes, as the group calls back the second part of each line of the chorus, leading to the song laying waste. “Through the stars you ascend when you sleep among the dead,” Hollada wails as the guitars catch fire and crush teeth, with the song ending in a pile of ash.

Not only is “Sleep Among the Dead” a great heavy metal record, it’s one that’ll easily allow you to immerse yourself in its vintage glory and smoking doom grounds. No doubt Doomstress have worked their asses off for this album, and it’s clear from the final product that every drop of effort they put into the album paid off greatly. Now that their followers have this full-length debut in which to disappear, it’s bound to make the band’s smothering live shows an even more familiar event as the entire room celebrates these killer songs.

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

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

Or here: https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.ripple-music.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/

Haunt unleash another heaping dose of classic heavy metal fire, flashes with ‘If Icarus Could Fly’

Summer is coming, and there’s never a  better time to indulge in classic heavy metal than during these times. That probably sounds cliched and lame, and I can see where you’re coming from. But my formative years listening to metal came during that time (listening to “Somewhere in Time” in a stifling hot room was a highlight), so anything from that era or speaks to it always sounds best when it’s hot.

I also have a tough time truly embracing newer bands that dig back to the roots, only because so many of them try and strike out, but when one really hits the nail on the head, it’s a revelatory experience. I felt that way first time I heard Haunt’s amazing debut “Burst Into Flames,” an album that landed not even a year ago, and it carries over to their sophomore effort “If Icarus Could Fly,” an eight-track, 30-minute album that flies by in no time and is an absolute blast to hear. It’s pure heavy metal power, the type of album that would have been legendary with masses of people three decades ago when this stuff was at its apex. This project that started as a solo jaunt for Beastmaker’s Trevor William Church has branched out into a four-headed beast that also contains guitarist John Tucker, bassist Taylor Hollman, and drummer Daniel “Wolfy” Wilson, and it is crushing on all cylinders here. These tracks are paced and timed just right, and the amount of power contained within is utterly infectious.

“Run and Hide” gets the record going, and it kicks ass right away, with strong guitars blazing and Church vowing, “We’re not afraid, we’ll take the chances.” Super catchy shit that goes into the blazing solo, with Church wailing, “Stand up! And fight!” as the track marches out. “It’s in My Hands” has a glorious opening riff that powers the track, and Church declares, “I’m the holder of the key.” The chorus is pretty sticky, while the laser-sharp guitars and killer vocal melodies make this a keeper. “Cosmic Kiss” is another that should win favor with anyone looking to have a blast, but there’s also something weird here. The vocal melody over the verses is basically the same from Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.” Oops. Anyhow, the track is still a strong one as Church calls, “Our love can make it across the galaxy.” “Ghosts” kicks in and pulls things back a bit, especially the vocals. Restraint works here, letting in some introspection, while the guitars glimmer, and things end abruptly.

“Clarion” has guitars fluttering before a faster pace takes charge, and the verses chew and chug. “I look for you when I’m asleep to meet you in my dreams,” Church wails, while the soloing erupts, and the track ends on a fiery note. “Winds of Destiny” has a punchy start with a tastefully vintage sound as the playing sets fire to the night, leaving a blazing, blinding path. The title track follows, and it’s the retelling of the classic story that, of course, warns about flying too close to the sun, especially with wax wings. Guitars spiral while the verses deliver punches, as Church takes on the character, wailing, “Now it’s too late, this is my fate.” Soloing hammers away, with dual guitar tones sending a wave of nostalgia down the spine. “Defender” closes the album, opening with a massive burst and then setting up a classic metal tale about a warrior there to help you face your fears, insisting, “He is the seer of your life.” You know the rest, right? Killer soloing, classic leads as the goddamn cherry on top of the whole thing.

Haunt remain in firm control of their magic conjured from the roots of heavy metal, and “If Icarus Could Fly” is another step ahead for this band that feels like it’s truly understanding its powers. These are eight songs that you can fire up when the sun is bright overhead, the breeze is yawning, and perhaps you’ve just cracked open an icy adult beverage of respectable ABV. This is a record that’s a blast to hear every time you visit and can only fill you with the majesty of true heavy metal.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/haunt-united-states.asp

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

Full of Hell splatter insanity, more destructive powers into mind-smashing ‘Weeping Choir’

I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, and the height of that (so far!) has been a really fun panic attack while watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” right during the scene where (SPOILERS!) Han Solo dies. It was my second time seeing it, so it’s cool. Anyway, sometimes music that makes me feel the same sensations that occurred then make me back away, for that wasn’t a comfortable time.

Grind/noise/industrial terrorists Full of Hell always have had that same effect on me, yet I always find myself sticking with their music because it’s just so goddamn destructive and fascinating. They tend to do something totally different each time out, they do crazy collaborations (their unions with The Body have made for some aggressive listens), and they set a path that they only slightly commit to before they blow the whole thing up again. The panic-inducers have returned with another explosive record “Weeping Choir,” their full-length Relapse debut, and once again, their power-violent, death-and-grind, doom-laced slaughtering has hit another level. Pulling in plenty of elements that have dotted their other recordings, as well as some new twists and turns, this 11-track, nearly 25-minute record (practically a double album for them) blazes new ground yet again. The band—Dylan Walker (vocals, electronics), Spencer Hazard (guitars, noise), Sam DiGristine (bass, vocals), Dave Bland (drums)—delivers urgent, violent, chaotic fury that definitely will chew on your brain wiring and make you feel like you’re about to lose control.

“Burning Myrrh” ignites right away, with shrieks and growls mixing together to form chaotic fusion (Walker and DiGristine’s tangling vocals are one of the powering elements of this band), while delirious riffs melt into a sludge pile that warps and sets up the animalistic finish. “Haunted Arches” again has the vocals trading off, the track going fast and smeary, and a mathy burst coloring the back end of the song. “Thundering Hammers” begins situated in doomy mud while grim growls lurch, only to be tackled by black metal-style screeches. The riffs clobber and bludgeon, bringing the song to a smothering end. “Rainbow Coil” has industrial charges and noise jolts with vile growls slithering over the panic, and everything achieving an avant-garde fury. The track sounds like being locked into the gears of a machine, which spills over into “Aria of Jeweled Tears” that explodes out of the gates. The vocals punish as the track lathers itself into an agitated assault, while the thick black smoke of industry first waters your eyes and then chokes you out in full.

“Downward” has riffs spiraling out, the vocals shredding, and weird noise welling up before an insane assault unfurls, mashing your brain as it speeds headlong into a death swarm. “Armory of Obsidian Glass” is the longest track by far, ticking in at 6:56, and it simmers in grimy drone, sinewy riffs, and damaging, slow-driving destruction. Misery-inducing doom follows, as the pace disorients and sends numbing vibes, marching into an unexpected clean section. A choral section unleashes majesty before the guts are ripped out, black screeches tear holes, and everything ends in a corrosive bath. “Silmaril” is heavy and gross as growls gurgle and the track steps on your throat, while “Angels Gather Here” dumps noise interference in your lap, acting as a heavy menace before sizzling to death in its own noise. “Ygramul the Many” suffocates, with a fierce heavy toll being paid and sax tearing into the picture to play tricks with your mind. That confusion moves like a cloud to the next thrashy burst, which blows open a hole for closer “Cellar of Doors.” There, doomy death swings like a reaper, the shrieks unload insanity, and the track comes to a smashing finish.

Full of Hell’s music might sound like a full-blown psychological breakdown, but it’s pretty clear from “Weeping Choir” that they’re in complete control, which is pretty scary. They continue to add to their ridiculously prolific resume with this massive fourth record that has no interest in mercy or restraint. This is a band that will leave you a crumbling, heaving pile on the floor, and it’s up to you to try to put your own pieces back together again.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Spirit Adrift’s path veers toward classic metal on smoking ‘Divided By Darkness’

Photo by Joey Maddon

This has been a rare week where grappling to figure out what to place in the Pick of the Week spot was like fucking Wrestlemania. Um, a good Wrestlemania. It’s a great problem to have when you need to write about four of your favorite records of the year in a single week, but that’s what we have here, and what we decided on was a no-brainer regardless of how strong the content was this week.

We’ve been following the path of Spirit Adrift for a few years now, and it was clear from the band’s 2016 debut “Chained to Oblivion” that something really special was going on here, and when vocalist/guitarist Nate Garrett assembled a full band and returned a year later with “Curse of Conception,” that the vision was coming into focus. Now, three years after their debut comes “Divided By Darkness,” another impressive display by this band and one that pulls them mostly out of doom metal waters and safely lands them in classic metal territory, the place it always seemed they were headed. At eight tracks and 41 minutes, it’s the leanest Spirit Adrift record yet, but it’s also the one that’s bound to break them to more people. Garrett’s singing has gotten even stronger and more nuanced, while the rest of the band—rounded out by Jeff Owens, Chase Mason, and Marcus Bryant, though Garrett handles all instrumentation (except drums) and vocals on the record—stands ready to roll out this metallic mission live, armed with a fucking great record.

“We Will Not Die” gets the record off to a ripping start as the track builds up majestically, with drums erupting and the fire beginning to rage. Things finally kick into high gear and we’re off, and the chorus just swells with Garrett wailing, “Shatter reality, sever our ties, invisible war being waged in our minds.” Great soloing fires up, and then we’re back to the chorus, with the declaration of, “They cannot live, we will not die,” blazing the way. The title track pushes in as a burly beast, trudging with filthy riffs and a slow driving, heavy tempo. “Must reconnect with our divine,” Garret urges, “explore dimensions with senses beyond sight,” as guitars lather and we come to a clean end. “Born Into Fire” has muscular riffs flexing and a thrashy feel to everything to get the juices going. “I am the serpent intertwined, I am the wolf prepared to strike,” Garrett warns amid blistering playing that eventually cools a bit and gets gazey. After some reflection, the track relaunches, sets off fireworks, and finally gives way to calm. “Angel and Abyss” is a goddamn treat. It’s a soft-loud ballad that pulls on metal’s roots, while the verses are icier and the chorus thunders up. “Losing sight of what I’m searching for, is this the end or the beginning?” Garrett calls, as the emotions run high. Later, the track goes off, the guitars chug like a monster, and an echoed cackle that just reeks of Ozzy (in the best way possible) sends a chill up your spine before stampeding out.

“Tortured By Time” has solid singing, riffs that spiral, and an approach that sets you up for being trampled. Garrett reflects on the passage of time and the long stretch of the past, as the soloing scorches, and the track takes on the adventurous nature that mirrors our existences. “Hear Her” unloads an awesome riff, and it’s one of the catchiest songs in the band’s catalog. There track is eerie and punchy in spots, with Garrett urging, “Hear her voice and live again, risen from the dead.” Its mystical nature continues with leads erupting and the undercurrent being crunchy as hell, with it breathing fire all the way up to the end. “Living Light” wastes no time getting going as aggressive riffs blast their way in, and the verses swelling and leaving bruising. “Fulfillment of totality, it is watching as it must,” Garrett calls over the chorus, while things go into a  psyche haze. Out of that, doomier waters collect, breezier singing adds color to the edge, and guitars and organ swell meet up and fight toward the finish. “The Way of Return” is a spacey instrumental that ends the record, built by cosmic keys, guitars that light up the night sky, and an ascension into the stratosphere closing the album on a breath-taking note.

It’s been a pleasure listening to Spirit Adrift grow and develop over the past year years, and one of my top live show moments of last year was hearing these guys slay at Migration Fest. With “Divided By Darkness,” the music that truly should catapult this band into the upper echelon has arrived, and it gets more infectious with each listen. This band is one of metal’s handful of true great bands that should help carry the torches for the next 10+ years, and with more records like “Divided By Darkness,” Spirit Adrift will continue to cement a resume that no one alive could question.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

BIG|BRAVE continue minimalist take on heaviness, drone with immersive ‘A Gaze Among Them’

Photo by Rachel Cheng

A lot of heavy music is based on more, heavier, fuller. You’re bombarded with sound and riffs, and the whole idea is to make the music sound as devastating as possible. Often that takes a lot of elements to make that come to fruition, but sometimes it’s even more impressive when a band does the opposite.

Canadian trio BIG|BRAVE have made more with less for nearly a decade now, and even since landing with Southern Lord three albums ago, the band has developed a wider audience among many different pockets of folks who like heavy music. They opened a lot of eyes and ears with 2015’s great sophomore record “Au De La” and stellar follow-up in 2017’s “Ardor,” and now they’re back with “A Gaze Among Them,” a five-track album that resets what you expect when you sit down with a heavier record. The band mixes post-rock, drone, and atmospheric doom, and on this album, they let things breathe more and the oxygen envelop their creation. The band—guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball (both use a variety of guitar and bass amps), and drummer Loel Campbell—takes a more minimalist approach to these creations, and in doing so, they manage to make this music sound like it developed in the heavens and poured down in black storms that saturate the earth and your body.

“Muted Shifting of Space” opens the record with slow drumming, guitars awakening, and everything building into the mix. The track conjures a dream state, as Wattie’s singing bounces over top the din, and the track gets numbing, with her vowing, “You don’t get to continue,” and later more forcefully declaring, “You don’t get to do this.” The pace is calculated, with noises crashing, and the track easing off. “Holding Pattern” has drone ringing in, Wattie’s voice piercing, and the drums picking up, adding to the rumble. “They took the names, all!” Wattie delivers purposefully, while the intensity and volume expand from there. The noise quivers and breaks before drums bask anew, and Wattie yells, “Body and blood!” repeatedly as the track keeps unloading, with the guitars finally stabbing their last.

“Body Individual” hums and foams, with the sounds building a fog wall and the vocals calling out into the mystery. Guitars jolt like lighting through a heavy storm, while the drums flatten the path, and the music lathers. Feedback meets echoed singing, as your eardrums are tested, and then the volume slowly picks up as the vocals push back, and the song slowly disintegrates. “The Deafening Verity” is the shortest song here at 2:56 (nothing else is shorter than 7 minutes), with spacey noises spreading, alien vibes being set, and Wattie’s singing hovering over ghostly, buzzing drone. “Sibling” closes the record as sounds soar and sting, whipping back at you, and burly waves continue to crash down and over the band during the entire song. That’s done while the vocals have a deliberate vibe, the playing keeps pumping, and your senses are beaten and driven into hypnosis while the song gently fades away.

There are many different settings that are perfect for BIG|BRAVE’s music, thought I prefer isolation in dark reflection, letting emotions splash over me and soothing the senses. “A Gaze Among Them” is another strong record from this band that’s been on a steady creative bend, always coming back with something different from the time before. If you haven’t seen this band live yet, definitely change that first chance you get, as the experience is even more immersive. Until then, let this album destroy your expectations of what immersive, emotionally crushing music can be.

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

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

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

Possessed, Becerra return from pain, turmoil, deliver fiery new record ‘Revelations of Oblivion’

If I was to ask you to name classic metal albums off the top of your head, you’d likely come up with any number of choices. You could come up with tons of different options, ranging from great works from Maiden or Priest or Mercyful Fate or Death or Morbid Angel or whatever. We could be here all day, and what they’d all have in common is they were steppingstones for the genre and those bands.

One record that definitely belongs in that category is the 1985 barnstormer that is “Seven Churches” by Possessed. Not only is that record a foundational brick for death metal as a genre, but it has influenced thousands and thousands of other people to follow in its steps. But what makes it different from other classics is it never really got to live its full life, nor did Possessed. OK, sure, “Beyond the Gates” followed in 1986, and it’s actually a fine album, but “Seven Churches” and the band’s chance to shine faded when frontman/bassist Jeff Becerra was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot in a robbery shortly after “The Eyes of Horror” EP was released in 1987, and the band never really got a chance to capitalize on what they started. Yet Becerra, despite his physical limitations, long period of addiction, and battles with death, refused to let go. He restarted the band in 2007, and over the years, he’s put together a new version of the group that fucking kills. And now they’re back with “Revelations of Oblivion,” their first record in 33 longs years, and holy shit is it a good one. Just having any Possessed record would be a triumph, but the fact this 12-cut, nearly 54-minute album rules as hard as it does is just a gift from below. Becerra surrounded himself with great talent—guitarists Daniel Gonzalez and Claudeous Creamer, bassist Robert Cardenas, drummer Emilio Marquez—and he sounds in tremendous voice and charisma as he brings more evil and hell to a metal scene that severely lacks what he has.

“Chant of Oblivion” starts the record with bells, weird chants, and the feeling of a horror score, not unlike the opening moments from “The Exorcist” on “Seven Churches.” Then “No More Room in Hell” steamrolls into the room, with thrashy hell and Becerra raspily waling about “when churches burn to dust, and the demons rise again.” Becerra’s voice is a little clearer but still savage, especially when he vows, “I’ll bring you pain, fire, and hell,” as guitars go off and deliver destruction. “Dominion” is a damn good one, too, as the song charges and Becerra threatens, “Pray to your god above, bow to your sin down below.” The track is thrashing and crushing, with the vocals buzzing and everything crashing down around you. “Damned” smashes through the gates, with Becerra sounding like an evil Lemmy at times, the guitar work spidering all over, and devastation being spread like dust. “Demon” starts with a killer riff, and from there, the track delves into filth, the tempo blows up, and even some groove is achieved. The chorus decimates your mind while a violent burst arrives, the bass playing bloodies the waters, and a weird sci-fi-style solo chills blood. “Abandoned” ignites with a furious pace as Becerra howls, “Satan’s legions rising up from the pit of hell.” The track blasts hard, and it all ends with Becerra frantically yelling, “Abandoned!”

“Shadowcult” is another standout track that opens with weird voices circling before the crunch lands hard, riffs entangle, and the song gets tricky and devious. The chorus is simple but memorable, and rock-solid soloing ties up the back end before trudging home. “Omen” is pretty different from the rest, starting with eerie gothic keys before things pick up and stampede. The vocals are gravelly as Becerra calls upon the old gods and brings more visions of hell. The guitar work feels like classic metal, which is a nice touch, and there are moments where this is even catchy and not just bloodthirsty. Becerra’s repeating cries of “Omen!” over and over at the end just compounds the psychological terrors. “Ritual” gets off to a fast start as blasts destroy, the guitars chew up the scene, and Becerra howls, “We are damned, it is our fate,” amid the scene of Lucifer rising to claim souls. “The Word” has guitars rampaging, the pace galloping, and grimy vocals leading the way, leaving behind trails of blood as the song ends in power metal-style glory. “Graven” has insects buzzing as if feeding on a corpse, and Becerra’s words are spat out as he howls about, “666 on the head and the wrist.” The track is a forest fire of madness that only subsides once its host is devoured. “Temple of Samael” is a quick outro piece with strange noises, clean guitars, and the sense that your damnation is pretty much assured.

Possessed finally are getting to tell their next chapter with “Revelations of Oblivion,” an album that’s on par with “Surgical Steel” as a comeback record that doesn’t just measure up, it destroys the senses. The fact Becerra has survived all he’s been through and refused to return until he had a record worthy of the Possessed name is a testament to his strength and courage. This is a triumph on every level, one of the better metal records you’re bound to hear this year, no matter the genre.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://media.nuclearblast.de/shoplanding/2019/Possessed/revelations.html

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