PICK OF THE WEEK: Former Worlds unleash immersive, devastating debut album ‘Iterations of Time’

Finding music that you can climb inside of and practically live there mentally doesn’t happen every day. In fact, it may only happen a few times a year for me. Being fortunate enough to hear just about every heavy music release that comes out each year also erodes the chance of developing a relationship with a lot of music, but sure enough, now and again it still happens.

A few weeks back, Former Worlds’ debut album “Iterations of Time” was taunting me from my inbox, tempting me to download it immediately despite whatever else I was doing. I was already a fan of their debut EP, 2017’s “Photos of Eve IX-XVI,” a single-track, nearly 18-minute opus that left me, and I’m sure others, curious as to what they could do with a full release. Now that their four-track first LP is here, we know the answer, and the wait was absolutely worth it. Fronted by Erin Severson and rounded out by bassist Mike Britson and drummer Eric Anderson, the band actually went through upheaval during the album’s creation when vocalist/noise specialist Boone Julius and drummer J.J. Anselmi amicably departed the band. It was up to Severson, Britson and Anderson to finish this tremendous work (a session vocalist was brought in for the vocal tradeoffs), and the results are, as I hinted earlier, music that you can get inside of psychologically and take the emotional journey along with the band. I’ve listened to this in light and dark, and there’s something about it that fits both moods.

“Spectre” slithers into the room as Severson’s howls strike your chest, letting you in for your first taste of what’s ahead. She trades off dueling vocals here as the track pounds away before heading into a dreamy haze. That settles into your brain for a while before the band jars you awake, keys whir, and harsh yells deal blows. The drums burst as a cosmic vortex opens its mouth and savagely digests its remains. “Variations on a Cave” buzzes and crunches as it starts, while Severson’s clean singing reverberates through the atmosphere, feeling cleansing. Growls simmer under the noise before Severson’s wild wails return, leaving bruising on your psyche as the weights bears down. “Turn your back, ands they’ll break you,” Severson warns forcefully as the band hammers away, and the trade-off vocals sting before the song fades in noise.

“Palimpsest” runs 10:29, with Severson wailing, “We are the king of kings,” as the track takes on a punishing, deliberate pace. The vocals roar while the music hangs in the air, threatening, before the song opens up fully and delivers punishment, and then shrieks rain down like shards of glass. The song settles into ash as space static sends transmissions, leading toward moody playing that taps into your brain. The playing pulsates as a hypnotic haze spreads, growls enter the mix, and the track melts into the sky. “Widow Moon” is the 14:31 closer, opening with a bluesy swagger that enters a sludge pit, as Severson’s vocals mix with swirling doom. The pace goes from dangerous to serene while the drums echo, and Severson’s singing haunts and leaves you in chills. The whole thing feels surreal and awash in emotion as the track rips open again, roars shake your core, and the charge cuts into you. “Keep them safe, I will sing it to the sky,” Severson calls as the tempo pulls back and forth, making its final marks before everything burns into the ground.

There was a lot of anticipation around Former Worlds’ debut full-length, and “Iterations of Time” pays off richly on all of those hopes. Having the band change form in the middle of recording could not have been easy, but Severson and Britson stuck to their ambitions, reshaped the group, and delivered an experience that’s heavy, immersive, and heart wrenching. This is the first major step for a band that seems to have all of their momentum and hopes ahead of them, and it’s one we know we’ll be revisiting throughout this year and beyond.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://initrecords.corecommerce.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.initrecords.net/

Yatra follow up strong debut just a year later with smoking, devastating ‘Blood of the Night’

A year isn’t that much time when you really think about it. We start projects that take longer than that (I’m working on one now!), and though it would seem four seasons would be ample amount of time to do anything, that doesn’t always work out. Though for some, a stretch of 12 months can make all the difference in the world.

It was about a year ago that we wrote up “Death Ritual,” doom trio Yatra’s debut record, a collection we really liked and visited a good bit in 2019. Now here we are, just a little more than a year later, and they’ve raged back with their monstrous second album “Blood of the Night,” an eight-track effort that feels like a completely different band. That’s not damnation of their debut at all but rather a massive heap of praise for a band that has gotten dramatically more savage in the past year than anyone could have expected. The band—guitarist/vocalist Dana Helmuth, bassist Maria Geisbert, drummer Sean Lafferty—put in the time on the road and strengthened their machine, which pays off on this devastating album. It’s a punishing display that serves to add buckets of broken glass and into their sludgy doom, which was pretty deadly to begin with.

“Sorcerer” kicks off the record with noise building and sinister riffs ramming in before Helmuth’s vicious growls hulk and flex their muscles. The playing is thrashy and thorny, shifting to a killer solo that blazes as Helmuth wails, “Forsaken by nightfall!” before the track ends. “Carrion” unleashes doom waves early as the grisly vocals and smoking riffs form a great beast. The body of the track is torn apart while the tempo gets heftier, and killer leads tear through, knives out. The track pounds and burns from there with the sound hanging in the air, stinging your skin. “The Howling” kicks off with bluesy leads that pave the way for crushing riffs that try to break bones. The guitars erupt and blaze, adding more fuel to a track that’s grimy and catchy, which could make this a gateway cut for the band. “After the Ravens” has an ominous beginning as it unfurls and spreads, as Helmuth howls, “Ravens cry in the morning for blood!” Guitars loop and mesmerize before it kicks into higher gear, punishing heavily as all elements rumble, crashing down upon you, leaving you trapped.

“Blood Will Flow” starts off with a cool riff as Helmuth calls, “Feel the nighttime, breathe.” The track then bashes you over the head as the guitars ramp up, noises buzz, and your head begins to spin. The main riff then returns, ripping through the madness and ending with vicious growls. “Three Moons” has guitars snaking through the waters, driving slowly as Helmuth wails, “Raise your torches higher,” as soloing bubbles, bringing heat. Hypnotic tones send shockwaves, as grimness arrives and darkens skies, circling its way into the earth. “Burning Vision” starts with guitars ringing out, pummeling heavily and smashing through boundaries. Soloing unleashes sparks, increasing the heat that continues to build, as the track finishes up laying waste. “Surrender” is your closer, pushing a sludgy, bluesy assault forward as the playing gets heavier while it goes. The band heads onward into battle, wielding their brand of boiling violence, spilling torrentially, bringing the record to a mauling conclusion.

It didn’t take long for Yatra to become one of the mightier bands in doom metal, and in just over a year’s time, they’ve responded with a sophomore album that absolutely demands your attention. “Blood of the Night” is an absolute eye opener of a record, eight songs that blacken your eyes and bloody your lips as you try to put up a defense. This is a band that’s beginning to build a momentous ball of fury, and a year from now, they’re likely to be even mightier as they rule with an iron fist.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/album/blood-of-the-night

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/

Vulgarite challenge barriers between humanity, divinity on smothering ‘Fear Not the Dark…’

The world is pretty much overrun by religion. For something that centers around a being that cannot be categorically proven to even be real by any means whatsoever, it sure as shit powers our wars, our hatred, our prejudices, and our exertion of power over others. Yeah, some people use it for good, but those aren’t the ones trying to maintain a stranglehold on power all over the globe.

I say all of this in preparation of discussing “Fear Not the Dark Nor the Sun’s Return,” the debut EP by Vulgarite, a one-woman project helmed by Margaret Killjoy (also of Feminazgûl). The music in this four-track collection immerses itself in black atmospheric doom as the songs examine heretics and are influenced by the works of William Blake (a painting of his adorns the cover). Considering Blake considered religion to be a form of slavery (especially mentally) and took issue with whether the biblical god was even a force of good, it makes for fertile content for Killjoy to mine. Not only is the lyrical pushing and challenging, but the music itself quakes your psyche. Killjoy does point out, however, that Vulgarite is not here with a theistic or atheistic agenda. Instead, listeners are supposed to consume the material and decide for themselves. For me, the first visit with these songs was right up my alley and so easy with which to identify. Subsequent listens have felt even stronger as every bit of this drips with fury and disappointment, fueling the massive strikes behind these songs.

We get started with “What Curse Comes This Way” that has eerie doom bells spitting static and wild howls that are washed into the background as Killjoy howls, “Death come kind, lay no curse on me!” as the song’s path consumes. The vibe is a bit Xasthur-like in spots, causing you to shiver in cold, while the back end re-erupts, and the storming murk ends as the funeral bells ring again. “His Words Are a Void” simmers in pastoral organs before the tempo opens and buzzes through the middle. Growls swirl with mournful melodies as Killjoy calls, “That stony law I stamp to dust and scatter religion abroad.” Organs return and swim in the skies overhead while the track drives downward, splitting into agony as the song slowly decays and falls to dust. “They Will Fall” begins with hypnotic chimes before everything blows up, and the grim fury collects in your brain. Serenity flows back in for a stretch before the walls are torn down, and the vocals smother. “In our hearts, in our blood, the only kingdom,” Killjoy cries as her words mesmerize, and the music crumbles and overwhelms, testing your will to survive. “A Decade, a Prophecy” closes the album with elegant keys winding before a trippy fury is achieved that leads to a wholly strange transmission. The shrieks return alongside sounds swelling and even some clean singing from Killjoy, while the song slowly ramps down and ends in a dark halo of chaos.

The shackles of religion aren’t likely to be removed any time soon, so it takes artists such as Killjoy to be raising questions and lighting torches against the oppression. Sure, “Fear Not the Dark Nor the Sun’s Return” probably won’t free the world, but if it can make people take a few moments to think and put aside what we’ve been programmed to believe, then it can have an impact. It’s also a massive, punishing journey through the fog, where the only way to travel is to feel around with your hands and hope you don’t fall off a cliff.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://vulgarite.bandcamp.com/releases

Pittsburgh ghosts Deathwhite continue to spread doom and gloom on shadowy ‘Grave Image’

Photo by Dean M. Beattie

Pittsburgh can be a pretty gloomy place, especially in the winter, but I’d imagine there are a lot of places that feel the same way right now. There’s no way to avoid the negativity that’s been in the air for the past few years, and the more time you spend online or around other people, you know that even if we don’t fuck up the 2020 election, it’s a virus that will not have been stamped out.

I cite Pittsburgh because that’s where Deathwhite hail, but I mention the nationwide and even global toxicity because it’s cited in the bio material for their great second record “Grave Image.” Truth is something that barely exists in its true form anymore, as so many people have been hypnotized into believing bullshit and aggressively attacking those who don’t fall for the same scheme. On top of that, there’s serious questions about the survival of our planet, a topic those same people will tell you is a lie and a fraud no matter there being absolutely no sensible reason why anyone would make this up. So, it is with this second record, the follow up to 2017’s “For a Black Tomorrow,” that this shrouded band (they exist in anonymity and protect their identities very tightly) returns, sounding downright dark and morbidly gothic. The singing is even murkier than before, which suits the new material quite well, and the entire band seems to be in mourning for a tomorrow that isn’t realty guaranteed.

“Funeral Ground” starts the album slowly fading in and, once it sets up, gushing all over. The powerful singing pushes through with the call of, “Breathe! Try to reach out,” over the chorus before the song trickles away. “In Eclipse” has guitars stirring and whispery stabs, and singing that borders on crooning, which we mean in a nice way. The track darkens and lets ice form while the chorus trikes back, and the track ends abruptly. “Further from Salvation” unveils shadowy guitars and riffs that drive harder, as the call of, “The shame, it’s too much to bear,” hits a little too close to home. The pace chugs while the drums explore, as the admission, “Salvation is now even farther from me,” brings the song to a sobering end. The title track has guitars liquifying before a power surge strikes, sparking electricity. “No illusion in front of me, this gray image of pestilence,” creates a sorrowful setting as soloing burns hard, leading into cold, unforgiving rains. “Among Us” explodes from the gates with moody singing and chunky playing that leaves bruising. The song plays with light and dark with a strong chorus powering the way and the final moments bleeding into silence.

“Words of Dead Men” has a clean open with the admission, “The darkness is closing in,” before the track turns ashen. The playing is quaking and emotional, feeling solemn as the soloing creates more texture, and the call of, “I have nothing else to cure me now,” ends the song in hopelessness. “No Horizon” rains gently from above, working its way into the mists, and then things start to get a bit more jagged. The tones feel largely morose and slurry as gothy playing dominates before the guitars chew nails again and end the song on a more aggressive note. “Plague of Virtue” is trudging as it establishes an atmospheric ambiance, and the invitation, “Join me to watch the end,” is as much an admission of bleakness as anything on here. The playing kicks up and does damage again as the song ends in a flame that consumes it from the inside. “A Servant” bashes away as it begins, bloodying lips with the declaration, “Harsh light upon me, but I still see.” The guitars really stir, while the vocals are a little grittier here, giving a rougher edge to this cry of desperation. “Return to Silence” concludes the album, starting with a strange passage and hushes singing. The song kicks into gear with a particularly jarring chorus and the admission, “Mercy is now dissolved.” The demeanor softens as the song reaches its end, working its way through mystical haze before fading for good.

No idea if the world and our country can wake up in enough time to inject some sense back into our lives, but if not, Deathwhite have crafted the perfect funeral soundtrack for our demise. “Grave Image” is a powerful statement, a record that should have them in the conversation regarding who is making the dreariest doom metal on this planet, and I mean that as a compliment. Things aren’t over yet, but music like this serves as a reminder that our situation is delicate, and we don’t seem to give a fuck.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here: https://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: After seven years, Obsidian Tongue return with dark, swelling ‘Volume III’

Bookending the week with Rush talk, I sort of realized it had been seven years since I last saw Rush. It felt like it was not that long ago. Maybe a few years. At the same time, so much has happened during that time from jobs changing, to new friends both human and animal coming into our lives, to moving homes. It feels like such a long time and such a short time.

It also had been seven years since we last heard from Maine-based dark metal band Obsidian Tongue, that being 2013’s “A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time,” a record that feels like it came out ages ago. But a lot has gone on within the band itself, especially as it comes to Brendan Hayter, the guitarist/vocalist whose run with the band dates back to their 2009 inception. Personal and professional changes can make the time go flying by as you deal with those issues, yet here he is back with drummer Raymond Capizzo (also of Falls of Rauros) for third album “Volume III,” a five-track, 43-minute opus that mixes light and dark, heavy and serene on a collection that captures you and takes you for a ride with the band as they traverse pain and triumph on a record that is nicely portioned and properly quaking through its run.

“Anatkh” is the 14:45-long opener, and it’s the lengthiest track on here, beginning with the music melting in and rich singing from Hayter spreading as an atmosphere is formed. Guitars float amid words that are almost whispery before the song ignites, and the singing turns to wrenching cries. Harsh and light continue to mix as the tempo swells, and Hayter’s vocals switch toggle as the drama builds, and then acoustics are folded into the mix. That swirls around before savage hammering emerges again, soaring in through dreams and coming out ablaze on the other side before gloom disappears in a fiery haze. “Poison Green Dream” has a proggy start that boils before the track opens up, and shrieks escape into the wild. Strong singing bursts over the chorus, driving into creaky speaking and a mystery set before the inevitable eruption that lets guitar melodies sweep. Shrieked cries pummel as the chaos ends in total destruction.

“Return to the Fields of Violet” has guitars stirring and ramping up, shrieks crushing, then clean calls working their way toward the stream. Guitars liquify as pain drips, patterns shift, and Hayter wails, “We’ll cross the threshold as one,” as strong leads cut through, and the track comes to a thundering finish. “Empath” is quiet and solemn while Hayter’s singing spills out, and the music flows elegantly. That peace is short lived as the song rages to life while shrieks sizzle, and the drumming absolutely pummels the senses. The song blisters ahead even as colder waters flow, failing to give relief. The ground freezes over as the power kicks back in, with the playing feeling hearty and emotional, while keys slither and a female voice speaks over the growing tide. Hayter’s shrieks return and leave scars while the track switches from a chilly ambiance to unforgiving fire, leading the track comes to its massive finish. “Coda – Child in Ice” ends the record peacefully, a quick outro instrumental built with soft keys, gentle echoes, and your heart being impacted as the music drains to its resting place.

We waited seven long years before we heard from Obsidian Tongue again, but it was worth it considering the impactful return that is “Volume III.” Hayter and Capizzo manage to crawl inside your psyche and leave you heaving and emotionally exhausted after spending time with this creation. This band’s presence is a vital one for all of those who appreciate music they practically can live inside of, and Obsidian Tongue always have the welcome mat rolled out in their part of the woods, ready to let you take the harrowing journey along with them.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/

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

Doom devastators Body Void, returning Keeper team up for destruction on crushing split

I grew up watching old Godzilla movies when I was a kid on a local channel that played weird movies in the afternoon on weekends. I was instantly drawn in by our gigantic hero doing battle with other monsters just as massive as they laid waste to the cities and bodies of water in which they tangled. How could you take your eyes off the screen?

Those old films went through my head as I took on the new split effort pitting Body Void and Keeper against each other on a three-track release you can grab in a few different forms. OK, so they’re not really fighting one another, but the music each band unleashes on this collection feels like there are titanic clashes going on, and the winner is you, the listener. We’ve visited with Body Void before, the Bay Area trio—Will Ryan (guitars/vocals), Parker Ryan (bass), Eddy Holgerson (drums)—that we heard from last year on thunderous, sobering EP “You Will Know the Fear You Forced Upon Us.” Oh, and if you get a chance, see them live. They’re devastating. While California’s Keeper returns with their first new music in five years. The last time we heard from them, it was on another split in 2015, that time with Old Witch, and they’re now operating as a duo—Jacob Lee (guitar, bass vocals) and Penny Keats (guitars, drums, vocals)—sounding as formidable as ever.

“Androgyne” begins Body Void’s section with drums marching solidly and feedback beginning to sprawl before the hellish pounding begins to take off. It’s insane to say this about a heavy metal band, but this band is earthquaking as fuck all the time, and this track doesn’t skimp on the ferocity. Will Ryan’s harsh wails strike as the music sludges along forcefully, feeling like smothering torture, as the music scrapes wounds, and aggressive pounding continues to unload. The shrieks go off and peel paint off the walls as muddy turbulence shakes guts, and the band completely destroys everything in front of it, slowing into a death march. The terrifying cries pummel again as the band unloads a final battering that leaves a gigantic crater in the earth.

“Trial and Error” kicks off Keeper’s contributions with horrifying howls and a black metal feel before the pace utterly smears, pummeling everything in place. Growls poke at open wounds while misery spills in buckets, as the tempo drubs, and the vocals continue to lay waste. Gloom rises and pummels before misery spreads, and you’re mentally defaced before the song bleeds into “Twenty” that simmers in feedback as the morose storming keeps darkening the scene. “Praise be to paradise,” is wailed amid a soup of severe doom and shrieks that mar skin, while the panic continues to increase. “Praise be to the misguiding path leading onward,” as thick black waves lap the shore, and the feedback erodes the track’s bones.

These two bands are nicely matched and deliver a split effort that batters you from the first moment to the last. Every second of this is punishing and does damage both physically and mentally, which you won’t mind sustaining once this thing’s over. It’s great to hear Body Void still destroying planets, and having Keeper back in our lives is a very welcome thing.

For more on Body Void, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bodyvoid

For more on Keeper, go here: https://www.facebook.com/keeperdoom/

To buy the album, go here: https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/body-void-keeper-split

Or here: https://romannumeralrecords.bandcamp.com/album/body-void-keeper-split-lp

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

And here: https://www.romannumeralrecords.com/

Turkish black metal trio Zifir unleash assault on religious torment with ‘Demoniac Ethics’

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but organized religion kind of sucks and has led to a lot of death, misery, abuse, psychological scars, and pain. Yet, people go to a building each week, give their money, sing their songs, then walk out and are complete assholes to each other and support ideas that strip freedoms from other people. It can’t end soon enough!

When I was growing up locked into my own Catholic mental prison, warming up to bands that set fire to religious dogma always made me fear for my eternal soul. Now, I’m pretty much inviting that shit. So, it is with Istanbul-based black metal band Zifir’s new album “Demoniac Ethics,” their fourth, that I settled in for another assault on organized religion from a band tired of watching its ill effects on humanity. Yeah, I know this doesn’t mean every person who practices their faith is a fool and a miscreant. Hardly. It’s the institution of so many that are under fire, and Zifir unload with some gothically inspired, creatively immersive music that can leaves chills even after your skin is scorched. It’s the first in three years for the band—OnurÖnok (vocals, guitar, bass), Ilgar (bass), Nursuz (drums)—that loads their art with a tidal wave of emotion and turmoil.

“Sûr” is a quick intro piece where the music begins to bubble, and strange voices emerge, leading into “Chants for Execution” that lets loose melody that smooshes you and leaves a blood stain behind. Vicious growls and hypnotic group singing push their way in, grappling in the fog before the track bursts and unleashes death. The track then sends shrapnel flying, ending with a crushing salvo. “Still Reigning” has warbled singing and a thick gothy feel, while strange reverberations float, and you’re led into a mist, where you’re pounded. Coldness then sinks in as the track finds its way to a mind-altering end. “Empire of Worms” churns as the music rains down in sheets, rupturing and going for the lungs. At times, your head can feel locked in the atmosphere while the band starts fires around you, as creaky voices cry out, monstrous growls reign, and the track ends in a furious storm. “Gökyüzü Karanlık” is the first of two interludes back to back, as this passage has garbled words, numbing music, and voices that sound like they’re leading you into the woods.

“An Eerie Moment” is the second as guitars trip, strange speaking emerges, and weirdness takes us right into “Chaos Clouds” where things change back to utter blackness in a hurry. A channeled pace and bizarre voices start you feeling like something isn’t right, and before you can get a grip, the song grabs you in its clutches, building an ominous fire that isn’t extinguished until you’re forced to face it. “Spirit of Goats” has guitars launching into the skies as howled growls do their damage, and the leads splinter. The music gets a few added doses of color, as the band defies convention, leading to a spiraling finish. “A Bleak Portrait” starts with winds blowing and more chants crawling toward you before eerie tones take over, and things swell into a panic. The pace calms itself a bit before echoed calls fire away at you, and the track fades into the horizon. “Ephemeral Idols” gets off to a speedy start with growls hammering away and the track looping boundlessly. The playing sheds more blood as the drumming punishes, then a black path is carved into your soul as the final moments melt steel. “Insects as Messengers” ends the record as guitars rise up, and an eerie blackness moves like a dark cloud full of pestilence. The growls lurch, bringing acid from the stomach, while the pace is torn open, exposing the guts, and the final elements of filth are burned away for good.

Zifir’s anger and disgust with religious superpowers are easy to understand when we see the hell people have gone through at the clutches of these massive entities. “Demoniac Ethics” works to fire back against all of that, offering a torch in the night and war hammer at their side. On top of that, the music is stirring and compelling, a black metal release that manages to create its own spirit and not bow down to whatever everyone else is doing.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://duplicaterecords.bandcamp.com/album/demoniac-ethics

For more on the label, go here: http://www.duplicate-records.com/