PICK OF THE WEEK: Blut Aus Nord wrap strange tentacles around the cosmos with ‘Hallucinogen’

I’ve probably talked way too much about the idea of bands changing and the fact that it’s OK to do so. I’ve likely opened 50 stories saying that, but it’s a theme that keeps coming back with artists as they grow further into the careers and their artistic ambitions get more defined. No, it doesn’t always work, but having that freedom also can result in adventurous works we wouldn’t have otherwise.

French black metal extraterrestrials Blut Aus Nord have been defying convention and expectations for years now. They’ve been one of the leaders in helping their chosen sub-genre grow past knuckle-dragging violence into worlds we’ve not even thought of exploring yet. On their new, 13th record “Hallucinogen,” their minds expand again into strangeness and mental and physical exploration with seven new tracks that are unlike anything the band has created before. It’ll be clear that it’s Blut Aus Nord, as their guitar phrasing and creative DNA are a definitive part of this. But it’s also evident they have advanced yet again from where they were on past recordings, even 2017’s “Deus Salutis Meae,” to a plane even more bizarre for the band—guitarist/vocalist Vindsval, bassist GhÖst, electronic/keyboard master WD Feld, drummer Thorns—where I’m not even sure they’re a part of us anymore. They’ve become different beings, and that band photo might be more realistic than we know.

“Nomos Nebuleam” kicks off this spiraling record that often feels like new regenerations of itself, but don’t take that to mean repetitive. It just sounds of a similar alien body that keeps sending more warped transmissions. Here, the sounds rush in as cool melodies surface and begin a stormfront, followed by a ghostly haze that swallows the detached vocals and deliver them like a dream message. It’s easy to fall into hypnosis as calm arrives, thawing your cells, and disappearing into the void. “Nebeleste” is a manic, twisted fury right off the bat, as black metal entanglement arrives, and vocals not of this world deliver the message. A reflective haze is filtered through strange fluids while colors explode out of that, with the growls buried under its pressure. From there, the leads churn, ending everything in a total assault. “Sybelius” has riffs spreading as the drumming crumbles, while melodies squeeze through a wormhole. Vocals are bellowed and strike the chest, while we’re off to the stratosphere, with the trip interrupted by a changing guitar line. The back end is filled out by echoed drums and chant-like vocals calling.

“Anthosmos” is a frosty giant as it arrives, but then it trickles warmly as guitars rain down, and the vocals penetrate the surface like icy spikes. Thunderous fury is later undercut by solace and cleaner melodies, which gives off some brightness. They keep blinding as the drums push through, bringing everything to an elegant, glowing conclusion. “Mahagma” has utterly glorious lead guitars pushing through the clouds as the ground quakes, and pastoral chants swim up your spine. Later on, the playing is downright euphoric, making your brain chemicals skip a beat, while more chants haunt, and final crunch gives way to a never-ending trance. “Haallucinählia” punches open before strange barks jar you awake, and the guitars gut and swim through the spilling innards. The track feels ghoulish in spots but also jarringly violent before slipping into a strange fog that is a tunnel for the track’s fiery ending once it re-awakens. “Cosma Procyiris” ends the journey by soaring through ether, trudging into view, and then easing for a stretch. Then, a numbing assault arrives, pushing your body all around, blasting past the stars and into strange passageways never before explored. The pace then chugs again, spewing rock and dust, bringing about a dose of mystical chaos before the track comes to a smearing, abrupt end.

Blut Aus Nord’s journey never goes where you expect it to, and the music on “Hallucinogen” is a product of species operating above our understanding. Even after 25 years together, where you’d think they’d exhausted their creative energies, they prove that their tank is limitless, and there are plenty more corners of the universe for them to inhabit. The fact this record is so stimulating and spellbinding hints that perhaps this is just the first step toward an insanely dark beyond.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/band/blut-aus-nord

Or here (International): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/32-blut-aus-nord-shop

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

Magmakammer, Sangue smoosh own concoctions of shadowy doom on bewitching new split

Last weekend, my hometown was inundated by a slew of great and varied doom metal bands with the third annual Descendants of Crom festival. This is the ideal time of the year for the dark and gloomy stuff anyway, and this music always sounds best when the temperatures drop, and the darkness creeps even further into our days. Never mind it’ll be 90 here next week

On that note, Riff Merchant and Fuzzy Cracklins Presents have teamed up for a split pairing two massive European doom bands that perhaps have flown under a bunch of people’s radars to this point, though this seven-track monster should help alleviate some of this (albeit the album is a limited run of 150). On this release, you’ll find three tracks from Nordic trio Magmakammer and four cuts from Italian mashers Sangue that work really well together but don’t really sound much like each other, which gives a huge smoke cloud of variety. The Magmakammer songs come from their psyche-tinged May EP “Bloody Diamond,” and these work really well as spooky, super-charged blasts that might remind some of the eerie Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. Sangue’s contributions come from their April self-titled full-length, and the band plays with sounds that sometimes feel like they’d originate from the American southwest, all the while burying you in devastating power and strong clean singing that makes them mysterious.

Magmakammer (with friend)

“With Devilish Lust” starts with eerie synth and a storm brewing before ominous guitars set in and chew up the terrain. Fuzzy high vocals give off that Uncle Acid vibe, while the cool, alluring chorus has Ulrik Jacobsen wailing, “They’re calling for you now.” Chilling. The solo then bubbles and smokes before fading off into the fog. “Bloody Diamond” has riffs trudging and breaking through rock as punchy melodies and fuzzed-out singing chew at your flesh. The chorus is another rouser, while the soloing has a vintage finish that burns through your senses. The back end is sweltering and fun, coming to a fiery crash of an ending. “Acid Delusions” brings the mood down on purpose and into the shadows with acoustics haunting and shakers numbing, as Jacobsen warns, “Run for your life and save your soul.” The track remains in the dark, picking up echo and going over “time after time, lies after lies” as the track fades into oblivion.


“Mharles Canson” kicks off Sangue’s section, and it is a bluesy, rumbling, heavy instrumental that features random clips of … you guess it … A.C. Cowlings. Just kidding. It’s Charles Manson. That groove slices in, ending with Manson’s weird boast of, “I don’t need to kill anyone.” “Monday Song” is murky and jolting with howled singing and scorching leads that leave burn marks behind. The flames keep rising, choking you out, filling your lungs, as a stop-start assault leads to a jerking finish. “In the Cave” is the longest track, running a healthy 11:03 as the bass slides and plods into the system before the menace is unleashed in full. The track melts into desert echo, as calls of, “We come in peace and war,” prod with heavily accented voice, which sounds super cool. The track continues to bend and split through danger, bursting and splattering fluids and later pounding with authority. The soloing catches on and spreads its heat as the song goes out into the sunset. “Hell You” ends the Sangue selection by entering with a cool gait, mixing bluesy and lava-based guitars before the bottom drops and destroys. A killer, energetic chorus adds more power, raspy vocals leave their marks, and the track ends in a pile of cinders and ash.

I’ve said many times that I love a split recording that can expose people to new artists, and truth be told, I didn’t know a lot about either band until Riff Merchant sent this my way. Both Magmakammer and Sangue are powerful entities that have a similar doom core but branch out in different directions, which makes each side of this a wondrous discovery. It’s also cool to have two new dark entities in my sphere of influence as I dig deeper into their past works and look forward to their futures.

For more on Magakammer, go here: https://www.facebook.com/magmakammer

For more on Sangue, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sangue03/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.riffmerchant.com/product/magmakammer-vs-sangue-split

Arizona destroyers Gatecreeper rip massive hole in death metal’s fabric on face-melting ‘Deserted’

It’s strange to say this since it’s still warm outside (at least where I am) and the leaves haven’t yet started their two-week decay in mid-November once summer actually ends, but we’re in the last gasp of major metal releases for 2019, and where the fuck has this year gone? But time is ticking away, and those last records we’ve been anticipating with pins and needles finally are sliding into our inbox.

One of those is “Deserted,” the heavily anticipated new platter of death from Gatecreeper, a band whose stock has skyrocketed in the past couple years (hey there, Decibel magazine cover boys). That’s with good reason, as their second album pays off huge on the promise shown on their debut record “Sonoran Deprivation,” and if a disgusting stew of Florida death and Swedish grit is what you desire, get ready to dine until your buttons burst. This Arizona-based crew obviously put their own imprint on the thing, and they also slather enough melody and fun that this album might even be a crossover release for those who have wanted to test more extreme waters but haven’t found the right vessel. This just may be it as the band—vocalist Chase H. Mason, guitarists Nate Garrett and Jack Maniacky, bassist Sean Mears, drummer Metal Matt (his given name)—delivers the goods that should keep their audience excited but make way for new folks who want to be decimated.

The title cut kicks off the record by pounding away, setting the stage for the carnage ahead as things burn, and Mason’s grisly growls kick their way through the gates. The pace is super strong, punchy, and guttural at times, as melody buzzes, and the soloing dominates to the finish. “Puncture Wounds” has nasty guitars and powerful riffs, which this record has in massive amounts. Growls scrape the ground as the leads intertwine, leading to a fire-breathing ending. “From the Ashes” is mashing with a steady pace as gravelly growls set in, and the guitars burn brightly over the top. Things rise from piles of flesh later as punches are thrown and landed, and the last moments are devastating. “Everlasting” is sinewy and muscular as it starts with deep growls and drums laying waste. Wild shrieks detonate as double-kick drums make the ground shake, adding to the thick humidity before it fades into the mist.

“Barbaric Pleasures” has the guitars making deep cuts in flesh before punishing growls join up with killer guitar work that fucks with your head. The track is a little shorter but no less effective, as it makes the most of its time and does ample damage. “Sweltering Madness” is thrashy with a doomy underbelly, as the roars makes your guts boil. The pace plays with you a bit but always goes back to breaking your bones, as the final minutes create deep muscle bruising and continually make you question your sanity. “Boiled Over” has a calculated pace to begin, as snarled growls push in, with Mason wailing, “The sky is boiling over!” I can imagine it must feel that way in the Arizona desert sometimes. Things get more heated from there as the guitars become buzz saws, sinking in their teeth as the growls join them for a few final blasts to the face. “In Chains” delivers meaty riffs that dine on speed and continue to add vicious grit the entire way. The band creates a spiraling aura of hell, as the guitar work begins to melt faces, spilling over the sides and congealing with a slight doom soup. “Absence of Light” ends the album by taking its time to set up, but once it does, the bottom drops out, and nothing but muck comes to the surface. Fluid leads again reach out while Mason’s growls deface, and a barrage of start-stop mauling and searing leads leave charred tracks on the ground on which is just raced.

There’s really good reason why “Deserted” is one of this year’s most anticipated record in any sub-genre of metal, and Gatecreeper certain answered the bell on this massive second offering. This is strong stuff the entire way through, a consistently giving listen that’ll leave you looking like you tangled with miles of barbed wire, at least mentally. In a world where we have an embarrassing riches of really good death metal, we all just got a lot wealthier with Gatecreeper’s second serving of grime.

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

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

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

Exhumed emerge from orgy of slasher bloodshed, create their own terror on furious ‘Horror’

Photo by by Orion Landau

It’s almost time to watch slasher films again. OK, let me clarify that. It’s always time to watch slasher films, but it’s also almost time to watch them fashionably again since the Halloween and decay are lurking. My one tree in the backyard has almost shed all of its leaves, and as I write this, it’s still the dying days of summer. Let the blood flow.

Timed just perfectly, long-running death-grind miscreants Exhumed have pulled their body out of the sticky goo with their new full-length “Horror,” which could not have been titled better. The cover looks like an old B-movie cover (the ones I salivated over in old video stores when I was a kid … and yes, there’s a limited edition VHS version of this record because obviously there is), and the panic and violence over these 15 tracks and 26 minutes is soaked with plasma and a total mindfuck to take on in any state of mind. This, their eighth record (I’m not counting the 2015 “Gore Metal” re-recording in that number), finds them sounding as savage and monstrous as ever as the band—guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey, bassist/vocalist Ross Sewage, bassist Sebastian Phillips, drummer Mike Hamilton—remains bluntly to the point and savagely efficient, as these tracks blast by before you can get a grip. You can tell how fast the record is just by looking at my notes that seem hastily and very haphazardly written. It’s that tough to keep up with these ghouls.

“Unsound” opens with a smashing fury as the spat-out vocals and grunts deal damage, the leads go off, and their brand of mangling death grind grabs you by the throat and lets you bathe in their bloodshed. “Ravenous Cadavers” is thrashy and massive, with shouts of, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” over the chorus, and the guitar work grinding meat. “Scream Out in Fright” thrashes and establishes a vicious pace as the screams devastate and the death growls churn. The frightening hammering mauls ferociously before the fire is extinguished suddenly. “The Red Death” smothers and wails away as the playing chews at veins, and a punishing chorus leaves plenty of welting. The track is also pretty catchy while it’s killing, with yells of, “No escaping! No delaying!” before everything is ground into the dirt. “Utter Mutilation of Your Corpse” is seven seconds long, like a beefier version of “You Suffer,” and then it’s on to “Slaughter Maniac” and its nasty guitar work and bruising devastation. The world crumbles as speed and panic launches, blending out into a noise cloud that shoves into “Ripping Death.” The drums murder while the vocals trade off lines, as things get vicious and relentless. The chorus is raging fire, ending with a killer shout of “Ripping fucking death!” for good measure.

“Clawing” is thunderous and just pounds away at you, while the guitars go off and give a good scorching, and vile shouts and gurgles mix together to create nausea. “Naked, Screaming and Covered In Blood” is blasting and totally rapid firing, with the guitars bleeding, the title shouted over the chorus, and gut-ripping screams ending the fury. “Playing With Fear” trudges before everything comes unglued. The drums turn bones to dust as pure death metal hell is unleashed, and the chorus leans on your sore body that’s already suffered enough. “Dead Meat” is a 34-second monster with growls and shrieks combining, and the simple chorus pelting over and over. “Rabid” crunches from the start, with molten soloing erupting and smoking carnage being created. The growls cause added chaos as the tempo slams bodies, with the track coming to a neck-jerking end. “In the Mouth of Hell” has morbid riffs and playing that smashes your senses to bits, followed by deep, lurching growls that sound sickening and blaring soloing that concludes the track is a disgusting manner. “Shattered Sanity” speeds from the gates as the guitar work tangles your brain, double-kick drums destroy, and then the plasma flows into closer “Re-Animated” that nails the gas pedal to the floor. The vocals are spattered like blood while the pace pelts, and the track ends in a flood of violence.

Decay is in the air, the days are getting morbid, and it’s again time to wash yourself in the guts of other victims, at least while it’s seasonally appropriate to do so. In that case, Exhumed’s “Horror” is arriving at the right time, when you might walk away feeling a little less depraved having enjoyed this filth so thoroughly. Actually, Exhumed’s music is truly for any season; it just feels nastier and more sinister doing so when we’re celebrating violence of all kinds again.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://relapse.com/exhumed-horror/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pencey Sloe’s shadowy gaze brings chills on misty ‘Don’t Believe, Watch Out’

Photo by Lou Beauchard

As much as I have grown to appreciate summer, this stretch of year when autumn is right over the horizon is my favorite time. It won’t be long until cold rains fall, fogs rise in the morning, the bones are chilled inside damp clothing, and darker music becomes even more welcoming. I’m getting a little excited in the stomach just thinking about it.

A month or so ago, I dug into “Don’t Believe, Watch Out,” the immersive debut record from French trio Pencey Sloe. Right away I dreamt of colder winds and decaying leaves, even though I was a couple months from it, and now that we’re closer than ever, this music feels like it’s tightening its dark embrace. The band’s doomy shoegaze mixes elements of groups such as The xx, Daughter, True Widow, and even countrymates Alcest. The music operates in the shadows and sneaks up on you, with the choruses to their songs tackling you from behind and making your heart race. The band—guitarist, singer, main composer Diane Pellotieri, lead guitarist Valentin Beaucourt, drummer Clément Aulnois—aren’t metallic heavy from a volume standpoint, but they’re mighty from an emotional pull and easily made a disciple out of me with my first listen. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been back.

“Lust of the Dead” starts the record in murk, with Pellotieri’s voice floating, and don’t be surprised if you’re immediately arrested by her singing. “Can’t find the answer, did they ever live? Can’t find the answer, don’t you see?” she calls before a great chorus that rouses, and the track ends with your head in the clouds. “Buried Them All” is rugged and doomy as it starts, as the verses tread steady waters, and the choruses wash you with mist. The pace later swaggers a bit before sweeping into dreamy clouds and churning into the air. “All OK” bleeds in before the tempo kicks up and a gazey thunder rumbles. Like most of the songs on here, the chorus is tremendous with Pellotieri calling, “It’s all right, it’s all OK, and now you stay for me, I’m falling for you.” The track gives off a chilly ambiance as guitars caterwaul, and the volume stings on its way out. The title track is ominous and ghostly when it first appears, swelling and gaining storm clouds as lush singing pushes its way ahead. The bends are softer and emotional before the intensity picks up for a bit, while the song has a gentle landing. “Gold and Souls” has the drums driving and the gloom thickening, while the singing is alluring as always, with Pellotieri wailing over the chorus, “I’m on my knees, on my broken bones, I’m on my knees, and it kills my soul.” Later on, the song gets smokier as the strong chorus returns and powers to the end.

“Sins” has the guitars arriving in a mucky cloud as a cold wave emerges, voices echo, and the chorus swells with power. The band buries dreams in the words and music as things surge, suffocate, and create an elegant, frosty finish. “Empty Mind” is the longest track at 6:52, and space debris flies into the skies, while a strange ambiance is created. The bulk of the pace stays within the same headspace, which allows you to lock in and float with them, and then the sounds explode before the lava cracks through the surface. This continues to gather heat and power before the song breathes its last. “It Follows” is an introspective track built by acoustic flourishes and static-filled loops, while the singing is pulled back and more delicate. The song keeps hovering overhead, darkening the ground and spreading the sadness. “Bright Water” has a mellow character, easily breaking open and plodding along before gazey fires are stoked and rage. The chorus is pulverizing, with Pellotieri wailing, “Cause you fight with the water, till the light, and you shine by the fire, you’re drowning your lies,” as guitars pick up and simmer in a sound bath. “17 Springs” closes the record by starting delicately and echoing in the air before it slowly comes to life. Pellotieri sings of longing, especially on the chorus where she calls, “On the edge of the world, I’ll be thinking about us, on the edge of the reason, I’ll be thinking, thinking about us.” The song trickles and shows vulnerability, as the cut tracks back to the chorus again, letting hearts pump blood before it tapers off into the horizon.

Pencey Sloe are arriving at a perfect time when temperatures are about the drop, and cold mists will envelop us all here in the States. Their debut full-length “Don’t Believe, Watch Out” is mesmerizing and chilling, a record that works its way into your bloodstream and refuses to leave until you are fully infected. That partially explains the shivers you’re bound to experience listening to this great record, with the band’s haunting presence making up the second half of that sensation.

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

To  buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://us.prophecy.de/prophecy-prophecy-1/pencey-sloe-don-t-believe-watch-out.html

Or here (International): https://en.prophecy.de/prophecy/pencey-sloe-don-t-believe-watch-out.html

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

Descendants of Crom crushes Pittsburgh for third time with the Obsessed, Brown Angel, etc.

Summer’s dying, the leaves will change in two months once it cools off, and there’s an ominous vibe in the air, which must mean it’s time for the annual, mighty Descendants of Crom. But things were not without worry just a few days ago.

Last weekend, A.S.G., one of the main bands set for the third edition of Descendants of Crom, had to drop off the festival with about seven days’ notice. Things happen, right? But that’s a terrible hole to be in with a week to spare, but yet the dark gods moved heaven and earth, and an even more massive band stepped in to take their place.

Yeah, in A.S.G.’s place? Goddamn doom legends The Obsessed who, no offense on the group they’re replacing, actually made the entire weekend even more massive. That’s like replacing a reliable player on a sports team with one of the best players ever. Perhaps fest organizer Shy Kennedy has a little bit of goodwill with those aforementioned deities to pull that one off, but she’s also been bringing killer bands to town for years now, even when she’s not hosting DoC. This year, the fest shifts a bit as it starts with the pre-show gala tonight (it usually kicks off on Thursday), with two full days at Cattivo Saturday and Sunday. I’ve said this before, but this is one of the most fun, well organized, arms-open events you’re bound to find in heavy music, and even if you don’t know some of the bands, chances are you’ll find something you really like (like I’ve done with Horseburner and Doctor Smoke) the past couple years. Below is the lineup for the event. There literally is something for every heavy music fan, as well as the debut of the fest’s official beer, Doom or Death whipped up by North Country Brewing.

Friday, 8 p.m., Howler’s

Motometer (8:15): Pittsburgh-based proggy adventurers.

Fox 45 (8:55): Grimy, punchy psyche metal that’ll level you.

Void King (9:40): Foggy, stoner doom rock n roll.

Submachine (10:25): Legendary Pittsburgh-based hardcore punk band.

Enhailer (11:10): Akron-based doom tanglers.

Icarus Witch (12:05): Pittsburgh long-running epic metal band that just put out their best records “Goodbye, Cruel World.”

Saturday, 4 p.m., Cattivo

Old Dream (4:00): Experimental project that’s half written, half improvised, always inventive.

Coma (4:25): Pittsburgh stoner doom trio.

Action Camp (4:55): Pittsburgh-based trio combining doom, art rock, and post-punk.

Night Vapor (5:25): Pittsburgh noise rock that’ll fuck up your whole day.

Pillars (6:00): Sludgy, thrashy maulers from Cleveland.

Tines (6:35): Heavy progressive rock band from Buffalo.

Witchkiss (7:10): New York-based sludge doom trio.

Potslammer (7:45): Indiana doom trio that occasionally sings about the marijuana.

Sun Voyager (8:20): Psychedelic desert doom conjured in New York.

Kingsnake (8:55): Philly-based rockers that feed from rock’s and doom’s roots.

Foghound (9:30): Baltimore stoner pounders.

Argus (10:05): Pennsylvania-based epic doom metal band. Glorious shit.

Irata (10:45): Loud stoner bashers from Greensboro, N.C.

Valkyrie (11:25): Heavy doom superpower featuring former members of Baroness and Earthling.

The Obsessed (12:10): Doom legends featuring Wino Weinrich that reunited in 2016 for comeback record “Sacred.”

Sunday, 4 p.m., Cattivo

White Alice (4:00): Bizarre drone instrumental solo project from a pretty OK guy.

Riparian (4:25): Pittsburgh death metal warriors whose debut came out on Grimoire Records.

Pale Grey Lore (4:55): Columbus psyche doom metal adventurers.

Killer of Sheep (5:25): Pittsburgh hardcore punishers who will leave you bruised.

Lightning Born (6:00): Throwback doom conjurers containing members of C.O.C and Hour of 13.

Spacelord (6:35): Buffalo-based stoner rock.

Leather Lung (7:10): Boston-bred stoner metal cult.

Frayle (7:45): Heavy, rumbling, mysterious doom machine powered by Gwyn Strang’s vocals.

Brimstone Coven (8:20): Classic hard rock revivalists from Wheeling, W,V.

Backwoods Payback (9:05): Pennsylvania-based stoner doo trio with legitimately spooky name.

Solace (9:50): Long-tenured Jersey stoner doom band.

Brown Angel (10:35): Pittsburgh’s hallowed doom drone harsh noise warriors. Bask in their greatness.

For more on the festival, go here: https://www.facebook.com/DescendantsOfCrom

To buy tickets, go here: http://www.descendantsofcrom.com/Tickets.php

Nightfell soundtrack modern hell with devastating violence on crushing ‘A Sanity Deranged’

It’s hard to argue against the idea that we’re living in the worst possible timeline of our decaying existences. I’m sure things probably have been worse, but when? Leadership is a joke, the government is operating against our will right in front of our faces, and if you believe people who devote their lives to science, this earth may not have that much time left before we’re swallowed whole.

There’s not a lot to feel good about, and Nightfell’s bludgeoning third record “A Sanity Deranged” only too gleefully hammers home that point. This unholy union of guitarist/vocalist Todd Burdette (His Hero Is Gone, Tragedy) and drummer Tim Call (Mournful Congregation, Sempiternal Dusk) created a soundtrack morbidly tailored for modern life and the bullshit constantly choking it. That they treat these times with generous helpings of black metal, death metal, and sooty doom only proves just how plugged in these guys are to the outright horrifying realities of being alive and paying a modicum of attention. All of that is grim, but it also helps to have music like this right now, when you need something to tap into your eroded emotions and constant frustration. Will you feel better afterward? I don’t know. Sometimes a release is good, and the music on this mangler definitely will relate to your own blackness.

“No Life Leaves Here” begins with eerie noises poking through before a bludgeoning rises with heavy riffs and growls decimating. Massive wails pound through, marring your brain, leading to the fires building before being cutting off by solo drumming pounding. Beastly thrashing comes out of that as a mean pace poisons and drags you to the end. “(As Now) We Must Succumb” has doomy riffs bathing in a  noise haze with the growls smearing and the playing leveling buildings. Black metal-style leads rampage before things cool down a bit, as a rush of keys brings spacey soothing. Humidity hangs thick before melodic gushing erupts, followed by vicious roars and a movement into the shadows. The vocals get raspy, promising sore throats, while the tempo delivers a final assault that jams a dagger at the end of this killer track. “To The Flame” is slow driving and caked with muck, as cavernous growls and face-splitting playing let the blood spatter. The price is paid in emotional hell as dark shadows haunt, the roars leave gaping wounds, and the track ends in a dank smothering of synth.

“The Swallowing Of Flies” starts with slow-mauling doom pummeling, as the growls slither along the ground, leaving behind a film, and everything is coated by thick ash. Infernal soot continues to gather as the band burns down walls, hulking back to the main riff that greeted us in hell. Molten grinding chews at the nerves while beastly chanting moves the ground, rounding toward a conclusion that leaves bodies crushed in its wake.  “(Holiness Digested)” is a quick instrumental that sounds like it emanates from a furnace, where sweat and blood coat the floors, whispered chants poke, and everything blends into closer “Sanity Deranged.” The track gets started by boiling slowly before it gets on its legs and lurches across the land. Sorrowful leads cast a pall before melody floods into the scene, and the roaring devastates. The music finds its way toward a stormy deluge where it unloads its nastiest moments, as total demolition is the goal, and the growls hammer away. The leads continue to rain down, creating a miserable mudslide that ravages everything in front of it and creates a mass of unmarked graves.

Everything is awful, and there is no good reason to wake up each morning with a swell of hope in your chest. Sorry. But Nightfell realize this, and the horrifying punishment they deliver on “A Sanity Deranged” proves just as scowling and bloodthirsty as the people ruining out very existences. This is music for the end times, a companion for us as we search blindly in the darkness for a glimmer of hope that is very much deceased.

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

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

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

Swiss trio E-L-R use doom, hazy transcendent sounds to weave dream world on debut ‘Mænad’

Every now and again, I have these dreams where there’s really nothing happening, no set events unraveling, and everything is swept up in a sort of fog. The dreams tend to be a little longer than usual, as I travel into the void, not even sure if my body is going with me as fascination and adventure take over, and I let my brain do the driving.

Those dreams immediately came to mind the first time I heard “Mænad,” the debut record from Swiss trio E-L-R. Their songs are more soundscapes than anything, as they conjure smoke and illusions as their music washes its way over you. The six tracks here, only one clocking in at less than six minutes, are vessels for your exploration. This weekend, I was driving home late at night on the highway, and I turned to this record because I needed something to keep me stimulated but I didn’t want to be bludgeoned necessarily. Not that there aren’t heavy moments here, because there are plenty, but that’s not the entire point of this album. The band—bassist/vocalist I.R., guitarist/vocalist S.M., drummer M.K.—weaves in their interpretation of artistic works as well as their own emotions and everyday happenings in their lives, which makes this record a pretty diverse collection of senses. The vocals themselves are buried beneath the waters, so they don’t make themselves terribly apparent, but they’re just here to play a certain role in the DNA of these compositions.

“Glancing Limbs” starts as sounds drone and build, footsteps crunch, and the music operates within a mist that coats your face. Drums start to drive as the guitars rain down, with silver streaks of doom swimming through, letting clean calls flicker through the environment. The track then hammers away as calls drive over the pounding pace, letting gazey gloom drizzle over the finish. “Devotee” is gloomy when it opens before the playing starts striking, sanding the surface as ghostly vocals echo. A power surge arrives and pushes through while melodic vocals entangle with bubbling guitars that threaten safety. That works into a calm storm, as rain falls down while fires crackle. “Above The Mountains There Is Light” starts with noises reverberating as the guitars open up, and the basin begins to flood. The track lurks into shadows as the vocals spill in, as hushed tones then meets up with an explosion of might. Strong singing sinks in its teeth while another burst moves in, blasting and charging before fading out.

“Ambrosia” starts as a bruiser as it’s heavy and dank, with the shadows dropping mightily. The vocals bleed all over with some of the most forceful singing yet on the record as heads are crushed, and wills are challenged. All of that builds to a final cascade of noise that has sparks showering the ground. “Lunar Nights” opens by driving calmly but assuredly, as speaking is sprinkled over the build before a gazey detonation illuminates everything. The track churns and burns, unleashing fire before a sense of serenity takes over, and easier voices soothe. That’s before the earth’s crust is ruptured anew, sending emotions and tiny bits of your heart hurtling toward the sun. “The Wild Shore” ends the album by gently entering the room, taking account of everything lingering in the atmosphere before a volcanic charge tears things apart. The song goes back and forth between dreamy sequences and ashen doom, toppling psyches and later treating wounds. Once the chaos settles, sticks are tapped, water laps the shore, and you awaken to reality, again aware of your mind and body.

E-L-R are one of those revelatory bands that come along, seemingly from out of nowhere, and make an indelible mark on your psyche. “Mænad” is the perfect companion to my strange dreams, as their work would sound ideal as my brain is streaming through bizarre atmospheres on my way to no set destination. This is not going to leave your body bruised and bloody, but it will challenge you mentally and spiritually, which sometimes is an even larger mountain to climb.

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

To buy the album, go here (U.S.): https://us.prophecy.de/prophecy-prophecy-1/e-l-r-maenad.html

Or here (International): https://en.prophecy.de/artists/e-l-r/e-l-r-maenad.html

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

Ripper smash cosmic chemistry into crushing thrash metal on battering ‘Sensory Stagnation’

I know I’ve said this before, but thrash metal is very close to my heart, and I tend to be fairly protective of it when it comes to new bands trying their hands. This style of music is what took me from the weaker class of metal bands to more extreme sounds, and I’ve always been thankful for that and for getting me through high school.

When I find a good thrash band doing stuff that makes me think of my own formative years, I tend to embrace it, and Chile’s Ripper check all the boxes. They’re not exactly a new band, as their run has gone on for a little more than a decade, but it still seems like they’re developing an audience on this side of the world, which hopefully they can do a little further with their tasty new EP “Sensory Stagnation.” That’s not a very good description of the music, by the way, as an apt title could have been “Sensory Overload,” and your brain gets stretched and mashed by these five tracks that also swing heavily toward progressive waters. One of the elements that’s increasingly become thicker in Ripper’s sound is the alien bass work that stretches and lobs weird chemicals at you, which makes these songs even more fun to hear. The band—guitarist/vocalist Venus Torment, guitarist Daniel Poblete, bassist Pablo Cortez, drummer Nicolas Villenueva—serves this up as sort of a tide-me-over between their next full-length and 2016’s “Experiment of Existence,” and goddamn if it won’t fill you up nicely.

“Dissociation” starts the record, a brief instrumental cut that has guitars knifing, the bass bubbling for the first time, and some hefty thrashing before “The Unreal” takes over. Riffs smoke while the bass continues to command, as maniacal growls cut into the chest, and spacious playing feels like it’s headed to the stars. Strong soloing explores before the playing gets loopy again, and a final serving of violence brings the track to an end. The title track then arrives and bursts from the gates while the bass starts wrapping its tentacles. The band deals serious blows, trudging and chewing, while the guitars head out into the darkest stretches of the universe, and the vocals shred flesh. The track then gets speedy and mean as the vocals are snarled in vile manner, and the track comes to a bloody end. “Like a Sacrilege” has typically strong riffs as the track mashes fingers, and the mangling vocals add even more to the attack. The guitars again try to space things before the track trickles into calm before it’s off to the races. Wild howls and storming guitars then team up, while the bass blows a hole in everything as the track fades. “Terror Streets” destroys right off the bat as the drums pulverize and the vocals chew glass. Punchy thrashing and hideous growls smear as the soloing explodes, as the song comes to a fiery finish.

Band such as Ripper are keeping the true thrash spirit alive, and this killer new EP “Sensory Stagnation” will bash you around and leave you with a stinging headache. The band gets just proggy enough to make this feel like it’s dripping in cosmic goo but never leaves behind its heart. This fun, stop-gap effort might be kind of short at 20 minutes, but it will leave you feeling like you went five rounds in the Octagon in a fight in which you never had a chance.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: White Ward mix cold jazzy sentiment with black metal on ‘Love Exchange Failure’

Compassion and concern for one another aren’t really things you find on most metal records. Especially ones that are heavy as hell. But it’s worth examining because we live in an era where we are busy and distracted and not terribly open to other people. Stress and mental wounds are rarely healing, and that can affect the way we treat one another.

These things were rolling around the brains of Ukrainian black metal band White Ward as they approached their second record “Love Exchange Failure,” their second overall. They thought about how involved our lives have become, how many people have lost the ability to love (not sexually, necessarily) other people, and how that affects us mentally. It’s a heavy thing to mull, and when you think of how our lives have devolved, especially socially, the idea is worth considering because we’re likely all guilty. That is why the band named the record “Love Exchange Failure” because it observes people using more hatred than love when dealing with other people. Using this record, that is a seven track, 67-minute epic, lets the band also apply different sounds and textures to their atmospheric black metal, another way in which the band—vocalist Andrii Mai, guitarists Yuriy Kazaryan and Mykola Jack, bassist Andrey Pechatkin, drummer Yevhenii Karamushko—digs into your mind and makes you think of things in ways you maybe haven’t before. They’re joined by assorted special guests to unfurl this album that is sobering and deeply emotional, and it might take a few listens to fully absorb all that’s here.

The title track starts the album with the sounds of urban life as sirens cry in the distance before keys and sax meet up to add to the ambiance. Three minutes in, the song explodes as Mai’s vocals rip out, and emotional trauma is spread heavily. Calm later returns as the music breezes and keys drop, and then the fires ignite anew, with wrenching vocals and pulsing drums. The track continues to punish as guitars and drums charge, but then things are swallowed into a jazzy mist as the song fades into the night. “Poisonous Flowers of Violence” has gazey dripping that’s sets the mood before things fully erupt. Melodic riffs and spiraling playing join with Mai’s harsh cries, with the song utterly waylaying with power. Gruff growls give off a guttural jolt before rain picks up, and the soft sax arrives again. Guitars return to inject some electricity again, while the back end of the song mixes keys, sax, and woodwinds, ending in serenity. “Dead Heart Confession” has dark guitars trickling, as quotes from Jeffrey Dahmer slip behind, sending chills, before everything is wrecked. Growls decimate as the classic metal backing brings a weird sense of nostalgia, while the leads rush through a thunderstorm. The seas calm while sax reverberates, the bass bends, and the song ruptures all over. From there, the playing swells again, growls split the senses, and the song floats away into the arms of shadows.

“Shelter” is an instrumental track and one of the shortest here, clocking in at 5:41. Keys and whispers unite before the body crumbles and noise begins to spread, making everything beneath it burst. Later on, chimes ring on as the music hovers, and then it’s into “No Cure For Pain” that stays with the delicacy. The track takes time to get moving as a mood is established, and at about 3:35, the playing get shredded with growls smashing and the tempo destroying. Sounds mash into an epic solo that again brings back the feelings of metal’s glory years before the hammers drop all over again, and the vocals pelt the flesh. Sax playing mixes in with the thrashing as the group joins up in rousing “ah-ah” calls, and deep crooning from Vitality Gavrilenko goes for the chest before the shrapnel is spewed all over again. “Surfaces and Depths” is very different but really rewarding, a true example of the band’s flexibility. Keys set the tone, as things head into jazzy waters again, and Renata Kazhan lends her smoky voice to the track, making it really stand out. “We are all doomed, so ease your prayers,” she urges, as the song pushes into the lonesome night. Sax swims through before a mighty deluge strikes at the end, taking the song into its resting place. Closer “Uncanny Delusions” also brings different winds, as clean guitars flow generously, and vocals from Ivan Kozakevych (with his thick Ukrainian accent) add a brassy, elegant feel to the song. Eventually things blow apart, and the metallic attack arrives, complete with Mai’s wrenching screams. The meaty mashing always melds back with shadowy playing, feeling like a fog is taking you to a haunted place. All of that disappears like a spirit into a strange stretch of old-timey music and disarming crying that leaves you chilled to the bone.

White Ward is a band like few others who combine savage blackness with smooth waters, mixing so many moods and emotions that you never can get too comfortable. “Love Exchange System” also is a record that, thematically, sets itself apart from so many other extreme music albums and the bands that play them. This is a human record centered on concern and compassion, and the music will stay with me into the colder months and the years beyond. It’s that impactful.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/