BEST OF 2019: 10-6

10. VASTUM, “Orificial Purge” (20 Buck Spin): Vastum’s death metal consistently has been centered on sex, but not in a sleazy way. Instead, they’ve always centered on the psychological angles, the damage many people face, and the perversion, and that obviously resurfaces all over on their fourth LP “Orificial Purge.” You could simply put this album on, forget the words you’re hearing, and enjoy it for a vicious, pounding slab of dark death metal it is. But spend time with the words, and you might not sleep at night. Not because of some boogeyman or monster tale, but because of the acts and ideas you hear conveyed in their lyrics. They’re real. They happen.

“Dispossessed in Rapture (First Wound)” kicks off the record with strange, pained moans in the background before things comes to, um, life. Riffs pummel while the dual vocals work from Daniel Butler and Leila Abdul-Rauf act as a vicious tag team to batter you around. “I on the Knife (Second Wound)” is bloody and devastating, as the words describe endless self-inflicted injuries with a blade, as the instructional lyrics practically taunt to derive obedience. “This wound is your life, knowing, cutting, sever your head, now you sit on the knife, burning pleasure, unknowing death,” is a horrifying wake-up call. “Reveries in Autophagia” has growls menacing, while the words come at you directly and in sobering tone, while the band causes your bones to crumble. “Whittling down my flesh to the most vile of excretions, dining on my psychesoma, I serve up another limb,” is enough to make anyone shudder with dread. “His Sapphic Longing” mercifully ends the record as strings moan, riffs slowly fold in, and then the animal is on two feet, walking upright toward hell. The vocals trade off, describing unfathomable situations, ending with, “Reach beneath the cloth (slip inside me), nobody will save you (from this rapture), his sapphic longings gagged and bound, inside the phallic tomb his father gave unto him.” Yeah. It’s upsetting shit, and Vastum remain one of death metal’s most provocative forces. (Oct. 25)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vastum/440192535391

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

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

9. FALSE, “Portent” (Gilead Media): If Minnesota-based black metal crusher FALSE release a record sometime during a calendar year, there’s an excellent chance it’s ending up high on our year-end list. Not because we pre-ordain their music. It’s because anything they put out won’t reach people’s ears until the six lights making up this band are wholly satisfied it suits their vision like their massive second LP “Portent.” Once again, the band poured everything they have into their record, with Rachel’s snarling growls even taking on a new dimension.

“A Victual to Our Dead Selves” begins the record with a haze settling, creating a sound well, and a tension you just know is about to burst. Then it does as the song begins to clobber, albeit with an atmospheric glow, as Rachel’s snarls begin to bite as she wails, “Have you ever felt the pain of possession, of self-worthless obsession? Of your heart being siphoned through the mouth of Beleth at his best, white horse and trumpets blaring and all?” “Rime on the Song of Returning” tears open as harshness spreads and Rachel’s vocals rip through a chasm of mystical chaos. Guitars soar and surge, as Rachel snarls, “Your ego dripping around my thighs, send the darkness, eyes smelling the wooded path, hands slipping in and out, feet boiling with blisters in the rain, if only the rain would wash away your sin, you are sin.” Synth melody emerges and embraces the shadows while the drums begin an assault, and everything else goes for broke. “The Serpent Sting, the Smell of Goat” slowly reveals itself, as the music uncurls, letting proggy beams into the room as the playing begins to boil. The guitars go on an exciting run, ferocity spreads, and the scathing violence extends its reach. Guitars crush through the crust, chugging hard, with synth mixing in and the vocals leaving welts. “Postlude” is a keys-driven conclusion to a record that strengthens the band’s union and their dark powers, making them unlike any other black metal force in existence. (July 1)

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

To buy the album or more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

8. CRYPT SERMON, “The Ruins of Fading Light” (Dark Descent): Crypt Sermon’s epic doom falls into the league of bands such as Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, and even Dio-era Black Sabbath and Fates Warning (I know they’re not a doom band…), and their Biblically influenced storytelling centered on life, loss, and limits of faith as well as their absolute command of their style are astonishing. It also should be noted that singer Brooks Wilson is an absolute revelation here. As good as he was on their debut, he’s absolute world league here, one of the best voices in metal now and one of the record’s main events. The rest of the band—guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski, bassist Frank Chin, and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga—are stellar as fuck as well.

“The Ninth Templar (Black Candle Flame)” starts with eerie sounds and hoofs pounding the ground before the song opens in full, trudging away. “For every kink in our armor there is a notch in my hilt,” Wilson declares, before going into a simple chorus that’s easy to call back and is infectious. A huge solo kicks out as Wilson wails, “Burn!” with the track coming to a rousing end. “Key of Solomon” has a great riff and a pace that chews bone with Wilson in command, calling about “signs and sigils painted on the floor.” Another great chorus strikes, which is another that gets into your chest, as the guitars go off and spill into chaos, bringing the track to a burning end. “Christ is Dead” is a stone-cold classic. Everything about the song is massive, from the guitars to the singing to the drama, and the chorus absolutely puts it over the top. Closer “The Ruins of Fading Light” is a disarming ballad that plays like a warning to life’s dangerous twists and turns. “Life is a foolish game we play, o, child,” Wilson warns, as the track delves deeper into life, loss, and failure. Amazing work from a band that’ll never forget their roots. (Sept. 13)

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

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

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

7. IMMORTAL BIRD, “Thrive on Neglect” (20 Buck Spin): You know how sometimes you put on a record and it feels like you practically experienced the pain and anger, it’s that well conveyed? Immortal Bird’s second long player “Thrive on Neglect” is one of those, as it’s apparent pretty much from the get-go that you aren’t going to be comfortable, things are not going to be sugar coated, and you’re going be left to wither in the ruins along with them. On top of that, the music just crushes, as this record is one that took them from a band with a world of promise to one calling their shots and delivering death blows with insane precision.

“Anger Breeds Contempt” kicks off the record and drills you intensely, with the bass thickening, and Rae Amitay’s vocals scraping old wounds. “I, I am, I am not, lost, I am, not a lost, cause,” she phrases deliberately and ferociously. Guitars stream clean for a stretch, even getting jazzy, before the blows land again. “House of Anhedonia” begins with Amitay declaring, “We are cursed!” before guitars loop around and bring disorientation, the band pushes back with gale force, and the drums splatter the senses. “Avolition” is a firestarter that gets off to a calculated start before it begins tearing down walls. Riffs pile on as the intensity builds, with the vocals absolutely crushing bodies, the music cutting you down, and Amitay calling, “You will assume I let you go, but I jumped right after you fell.” “Stumbling Toward Catharsis” finishes the album by fading in before the savagery erupts and mixes with ethereal dreams. The track begins to thrash you alive, with Amitay admitting, “I saw my years without you as ruined hollow shells,” before the track kicks speed into high gear. The playing gets impossibly heavy, destroying what’s in front of it. This is their finest hour, a record that’ll etch out their future and swell further their base of followers. (July 5)

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

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

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

6. OBSEQUIAE, “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” (20 Buck Spin): Not many records make think of ripping out my old Masters of the Universe action figures and creating bizarre battles for Castle Grayskull, but Obsequiae’s third record “The Psalms of Sorrowed Kings” sure got me close. Silly as that sounds, it’s a huge compliment, as the band again unleashes their Medieval-style black metal for another round with castle-storming goodness that sounds like no other band out there. Or that ever walked the earth. I’m getting fired up just writing this.

The album has harp passages performed by Vicente la Camera Mariño woven throughout, and one of those, “L’autrier M’en Aloie,” opens the record. “Ceres in Emerald Streams” brings glorious leads that emerge from the mists, while melodic shrieks set the tone, and the intensity is multiplied. Leads burn and sprawl, unleashing a chugging fury that ends in a fiery burst. “In the Garden of Hyacinths” comes out of a smokescreen while cool riffs and bustling drums team up and begin the march. The pace is punchy for the most part, while the chorus is swelling and energetic, bleeding into rushing terrain. Shrieks compound while the soling goes off, leaving a trail of ash behind. “Morrígan” begins with birds chirping before the riffs awaken, bringing burly playing and gruff shrieks. The leads feel like they soar over the mountaintops, with savagery cutting in and a glorious haze putting over the final attack that makes up the  finish. “Lone Isle” blasts open as the guitars flow like lava. Shrieks rain down as the molten playing keeps raging forward, as the drums take their turn dealing shots. The playing just surges from there, bringing the track to a smoldering end. “Asleep in the Bracken” reveals gothy synth sheets, intricate leads, and a folkish vibe amid a pool of heaviness. “Emanations Before the Pythia” slowly dawns as a dialog begins to show itself, feeling dreamlike, before a burly riffs flexes and shrieks scrape your skin. The track is both melodic and aggressive, fiery and combustible. Get your sword, baby. We’re storming the gates, and only the good guys will come out alive. (Nov. 22)

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

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

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