Multi-national beast Calligram inject humanity, love into chaos with ‘The Eye Is the First Circle’

Love isn’t a subject that gets a whole lot of time around here, mainly because the bands we tend to write about don’t really delve, if you know what I mean. For a lot of people, showing compassion or vulnerability in metal is a negative, which is utter cowardly bullshit, so we don’t get a lot of bands writing about love, but that’s about to change a little bit today.

Multi-national quintet Calligram dive headfirst into what love and compassion means to the world, and they do it on a savage new record “The Eye Is the First Circle” in an effort to put the idea of love being taboo subject matter in metal to the test. The record’s title is inspired by the Ralph Waldo Emerson essay “Circles,” and the band uses their music to act as a counter to all of the negativity that exists in the world by remembering that love for oneself and others can will us through even the worst of times. Holy shit, could this record ever be arriving at a more opportune time. Made up of members from Brazil, France, Italy, and the UK, the band—vocalist Matteo Rizzardo, guitarists Bruno Polotto and Tim Desbos, bassist Smittens, drummer Ardo Cotones—ply black metal with punk and D-beat hammering with the words sung in Italian on a record that’s decimating from how it’s played.

“Carne” gets the record off to a pummeling start as growls scar and the dizzying playing gets your head spinning. The track overwhelms as black curtains fall, and a storming nightmare spreads into a total mindfuck, bleeding out into the void. “Serpe” has the drums going off as the riffs clobber and manic growls unleash insanity. The playing is hard and vicious as darker waves lap up before smashing chaos destroys as the beastly attack finally lets go. “Vivido Perire” has a devastating pace, splattering all over as the drumming powders bones. The playing comes unglued as the low end blasts, the blood is smeared, and the final moments blast into “La Cura” where the drumming and guitar work explode. Riffs swirl as the shrieks penetrate while gruffer vocals strike, and the guitars hang in the air. A final explosion strikes, sending the track off to an ashy grave.

“Kenosis” absolutely pounds away, laying waste to your senses before getting slow and sludgy, with the tires spinning in mud. The filth then collects as the riffs entangle you, and everything comes to a smothering finish. “Anedonia” starts calmly enough with speaking streaming over the first moments, letting the song establish an ambiance and a thick atmosphere. About three minutes in, grim growls unload while the playing waylays and loosens screws. The band then begins to crush wills, blackening eyes along the way as everything ends abruptly. “Pensiero Debole” is a quick instrumental made from cold trickling and numbing agents, preparing the way for finale “Un dramma vuoto e insanabile” that starts with a tempered pace. Things eventually punch open as fluid guitars and maniacal vocals team up to create a wild tempo. Sanity is shredded as the song trudges over chewed-up terrain with the growls peeling flesh and the last moments crushing worlds.

We’re more than happy to welcome Calligram into our awareness, and their debut “The Eyes Is the First Circle” is a record we need right now both from a philosophical and decibolic standpoint. For a bunch of people spread out over many lands, there is a strength and cohesiveness to the music that’s super tight, and they’re only bound to get better from here. Plus, they remind of a great lesson that when times are shit, which they are now, we can get through that by being good humans to each other, a lesson metal needs to take more seriously.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.prostheticrecords.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Aara’s effusive melodies color black metal with smashing burst on ‘En Ergô Einai’

While it’s not illegal or frowned upon to feel energy or a semblance of good spirits during these times, it’s not the easiest shit to come by. We cover dark music, we feel inner turmoil based on so many things, and it’s just kind of easy to go negative because that’s so often the feeling of the day.

Not to take a total neck-jerk turn, but today’s a little different as we bring you “En Ergô Einai,” the stunning second record from Swiss black metal duo Aara, an album that will not let you wallow in your own shadows because it will rescue you from that by sheer force. Dumping an ocean liner full of melody into their atmospheric black metal, Aara deliver five tracks in about 33 minutes and add a sense of effusive power into what’s otherwise a sub-genre that revels in utter negativity. Not that the band—vocalist Fluss, multi-instrumentalist Berg (J played drums, while Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval also contributes guitar)—isn’t prone to playing in some heavy shadows from time to time, but it always feels like after the storm, the sun comes out, the grounds dries, and there is some sense of warmth in what’s an otherwise fairly heartless world. The band is inspired by the Age of Enlightenment and see this record as homage to humankind’s striving for perfection and ultimate failure in that pursuit, but it doesn’t seem to revel in the loss. It’s a worthy successor to their great debut, 2019’s “So Fallen Alle Tempel” and it takes their visions even further.

“Arkanum” slowly unfurls into a dreamy haze, calming your brain before the track takes flight. Melody sweeps everything away while Fluss’ harsh shrieks rain down, letting emotion surge. The music rages like a storm coming to take control as the playing hammers away, the shrieks leave welting, and the power doubles down, bringing the song to a triumphant burst of a finish. “Stein Auf Stein” has a power metal feel out front, especially with the guitars carrying on like conquering warriors. The scene darkens some as the mid-section of the song strikes hard, and guitars ring out, simmering in their own chemicals. A daring melodic charge is then mounted as everything speeds ahead, hammers are dropped, and classical-style metallic fire is spat across the land.

“Aargesang (Aare Li)” has bells chiming and a storm threatening overhead while synth fog creates the illusion of dreams, lulling you into a sense of calm that’s shredded about three minutes into the body. Fluss’ vocals ignite and char while the band spills colors throughout the song, the leads lap up whatever juices remain, and the track washes away. “Entelechie” has a huge start as shrieks smash boundaries and the guitars flex their muscles. The song spirals its way into your mind, exploring feverishly as the tempo is charged up. Fluss’ shrieks again register seismically, sounding like she’s spitting cinders, while final aggressive strikes allow the song to end in fireworks. Closer “Telôs” jars open with synth adding bright textures and the playing hitting high gear early on. Fluss’ shrieks drive as the blistering attack zaps all over the place, surging and pouncing before you. Leads flutter with power while the melodies explode gloriously, with the riffs continually coming back for more. A mix of angelic chorals and synth makes it feel like you’re transcending as chants and final smashing mix with an eerie last gasp.

It’s not a great time for anyone, and high points are hard to come by, but we definitely have one with “En Ergô Einai.” Aara’s music feels celebratory and devastating at the same time as this band looks back at a time when ambition was high, and efforts sometimes had to go down in flames in the name of progression. Aara mark that attitude of trying to crash through the ceiling of potential on a record that should stay in the minds and hearts of listeners for a long time to come.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Aara-941630312665011/

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

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

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

Candlemass’ ‘The Pendulum’ EP digs some new ground, revisits ideas, songs floating in ether

It’s been another long, trying week, and we’re all still stressed to death, but what are you going to do? We’re settling into whatever a new normal is for this week anyway, so we’re going to ease into a smaller release today, though it’s from a gargantuan band that’s lasted the test of time, and I’ll shut up now and talk about it.

It’s clear Candlemass have created some of the world’s most important metal, not just doom. They’ve been heavily influential, they’ve survived many eras with myriad lineup changes, and yet here they are in 2020, still pushing along 36 years later. Last year, the band dropped the mammoth “The Door to Doom” that brought vocalist Johan Langquist back into the fold, who originally was a session hand on their landmark debut “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.” It was yet another breath of new life into the machine, and it has spawned a new EP “The Pendulum” that lands imminently. The six-track collection consists of the title cut and five demo pieces, three of which are quick instrumental songs that were left around after “The Door” sessions. It might not be must-have material for most, though Candlemass completists will want it, but really, you’re definitely not going to be wasting your time and money if you invest in this.

“The Pendulum” obviously is the new track here, and it’s a crusher as it trudges open and unfurls full doom glory. Langquist’s voice booms as we’re used to, wailing over the chorus, “Oh, the pendulum it turns, it twists and it churns, it burns,” which easily will roll through your head. Keys haunt as the strong chorus kicks down the door, living to rouse again, and the track burns away in a power surge. “Snakes of Goliath” is slow driving and sinister, chewing at the veins of classic Sabbath as the chorus washes in and darkens the room. The soloing rings in your ears, charging your nerves, while a smeary, psychedelic push comes on, ending things with the sharp chorus. “Sub Zero” is a quick acoustic track that makes it feel like the dead of winter, when warmth is at its lowest. Then we’re into “Aftershock,” a brief piece that has bass rumbling and droning, feeling threatening and dark, almost like it’s a portion of something that would have fit in a larger composition. “Porcelain Skull” is a cover of a 2019 Avatarium track, and the band delivers a grim, gruff version of the song, where Langquist sounds raspy but powerful, and the guitars have a blunt edge to them. The soloing eats through bone later in the song, while a muddier path is beaten down as the track ends in fire. “The Cold Room” closes the EP as acoustic guitars and pianos slowly tread and synth waves layer in, letting the track bleed away.

Even a quick odds and ends release from Candlemass still holds a ton of weight from a creative standpoint, and “The Pendulum” EP is another fine burst of classic doom that works ideally in a modern world. Especially now. This is a nice, digestible 20-minute dose that will be an appetizer for long-time fans and perhaps a first taste for someone who hasn’t indulged yet and just wants a glimpse into what these legends bring to the table.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/store/

Or here (Europe): https://napalmrecords.com/

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

Velnias’ mountain-scaled black metal offers cavernous chance to escape with ‘Scion of Aether’

Taking just a quick break from the everything sucks-a-thon, what have you been doing to keep yourself distracted or entertained or at least off the brink of losing your mind? I’ve been getting lost in some sci-fi TV shows and listening to music, and it’s been a really nice time to get lost inside a record and take myself out of reality for a little bit.

Colorado-based atmospheric black metal band Velnias always has been one that presented music meant to conjure a mood or a mental adventure, and they follow up with passages that feel like journeys that would take you out of time for a bit. Their new record “Scion of Aether,” their first new album in eight years, drops at an opportune time, as having something to allow an escape is definitely something a lot of us need right now. In fact, my most recent listen was on the couch in early evening on a weekend day, and when the thing was over, I was surprised to look at my windows and realize it was dark. It just seemed to happen without me knowing because I was lost inside “Scion” and its utter vastness. The band—guitarist/vocalist P.J.V., guitarist D.M.J., bassist A.A.W., drummer AJ.S.—manage to use six tracks and almost 50 minutes to create music with the majesty of their natural surroundings and take their time to set up ambiance and spirits that live in the heart and DNA of their music.

“Fissures Within the Construct” starts building up as the guitars increase the drama, coming to life as a noise like a ticking clock taps as it leads into “Pariah of the Infinite” that runs 11:03 and immediately delivers dark tidings. The song takes its time to build as the skies increasingly darken, and the playing bursts open. As the spirit forms, guitars add texture as the vocals roar and the land quakes. The tempo brings chaos, while the track slowly ramps down and burns off. “Aurora Rune” stomps in heavily as the track gets aggressive and monstrous, with clean calls mixing with the beastly roars. The track turns into progressive waters while the growls gut, and the guitars blaze trails. Guitars liquify and rain down, thunderous feedback rings, and the track comes to an immersive end.

“Confluence of Entropic Umbra” is a quick, yet contemplative instrumental piece that brings solemnity and calm, leading into “Supernal Emergent” that trickles into the scene before it takes off, and charges explode along with massive growls and piercing yells. The bass coils as the band mashes away, and then a prog fury is unleashed while wild howls open fresh wounds. Group calls fill chests while the song barrels away, ending in a clean stream. “Oblivion Horizon – Null Terminus” is your 15:11-long closer that starts with guitars exploring surroundings, setting the stage for a sinister turn. Everything darkens as the hearty yells unload, and the pace builds dangerously, getting propulsive and downright nasty. The track keeps tending to the fire, letting it rise to the  of losing control, and then everything disappears into a strange haze that eats up the final third of the song, ending things in sweeping winds and swelling noise.

We all could use a distraction, something to take us out of the constant news cycle, the fear, and the panic, which are pretty normal reactions. Velnias have a master class in adventurous black metal with “Scion of Aether” to create that diversion from the outside world, one that contemplates each move and makes every moment count. It’s been a long road from their last record to this one, but it sure sounds like the steps they made along the way were worth every motion.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.eisenton.de/en/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/

Death crushers Live Burial put thrashy finish on mashing fury on punishing ‘Unending Futility’

The times are grim. I’m looking forward to when I don’t have to keep opening stories that way, but what can you do right now? Dank and foreboding sounds always are welcome around here, but it feels so much darker now, and the shadows appear that much more tangible.

UK death metal squadron Live Burial could not have picked a more fitting time to return with their second record “Unending Futility,” itself a morbid on-the-nose title there’s no way they could have realized would carry this much weight. But putting aside all of the vibes of pestilence and misery for a second, this record sounds like a million bucks, as the band carves through seven songs in 41 minutes, making good use of their razor-sharp playing and penchant for bashing you. The band –vocalist Jamie Brown, guitarists Rob Hindmarsh and Richard Codling, bassist Lee Anderson, drummer Matthew Henderson—follows up 2016’s “Forced Back to Life” by unloading thrashier moments and some ridiculous bass work onto a record that brings strains of bands such as Asphyx, but don’t discount the times where they seem to be trying to take what Death did to the next level. It’s an impressive album.

“Seeping into the Earth” gets off to a doomy start before death arrives and begins mauling as screamed howls send charges. The weight and fury of the track begin to push back as a solo tears through the void, ripping things apart. That’s followed by decimating drumming and insane bass loops before the track bows out. “Condemned to the Boats” is gut ripping and speedy at the front, while howled vocals destroy, and the guitars hammer away. The bass playing again sets up like an alien looking for blood while a powerful solo explodes, and guttural growls help feed a fire that grows out of control. “Swing of the Pendulum” unleashes smeary riffs and vocals that cut through bone, and then speed strikes and jars away anything hanging by a thread. Doom again becomes part of the picture while the guitars let loose and crush, followed by sharp vocals. Pain rains down generously as the track comes to a mashing end.

“The Crypt of Slumbering Madness” slowly enters the room and sends chills, letting the momentum gain steam and the bass set up shop. The band starts to throw hammer shots as fires rage out of control, and shrieky vocals makes their way toward your veins. The drums are outright assaulted, and smothering hell leads the track to its end. “Rotting on the Rope” unfurls riffs and heavy storming, leading to a punishing assault that tangles your brain cables. Ferocious vocals add their fingerprints, pushing pain and madness into the scene where it rains down hard and utterly soaks the ground. “Winds of Solace” is a quick instrumental piece that combines acoustic guitars and echoed drums, setting the stage for mammoth closer “Cemetery Fog” that starts in slow-driving mode before the attack begins. The music rages hard as vocals punch you in the gut, and the band lurches into the mud. The soloing takes off toward the stars, returning in the midst of barbaric hell that clobbers wholly. The final growls chew at your nerves, the band puts boots to throats, and the strange bass playing sends final coils of pain.

Now’s the time for suffocating, riveting death metal, and Live Burial deliver that in spades on “Unending Futility.” We’re in a very rich period when it comes to having access to a lot of great death, and this band and record only serve to amplify that. Now’s the time to feel bad, wallow, and let misery have its way with you, which will be even more enjoyable while “Unending Futility” is destroying your hearing.

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

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Solothus mash ache, misery into crushing doom on ashy ‘Realm of Ash and Blood’

What an utterly perfect time for doom. Normally at this time of the year, the sun is coming back, the leaves are starting to bud, and new life is on the horizon. But these are not normal times, they may not be again for a long time, and threatening shadows seem intent on canceling all of our hopes.

So, it is fitting we welcome back Finnish doom warriors Solothus, who are back with their third record “Realm of Ash and Blood.” This seven-track, nearly 43-minute opus follows 2016 offering “No King Reigns Eternal” and falls right in line with what their country (Skepticism, Thergothon for example) has contributed to the sub-genre for years. The band—vocalist Kari Kankaanpää, guitarists Veli-Matti Karjalainen and Aleksi Luukka, bassist Tami Luukkonen, drummer Juha Karjalainen—has been at it for 13 years now, so it’s not like they’re newcomers to this sound, but with the band now locked in with 20 Buck Spin, this record should get the band the most exposure they’ve had so far in North America, something they absolutely deserve. Not to mention this music sinks into your blood and affects your mood at a time when we’re all struggling, so look at this as a way to know you don’t suffer alone.

“Father Of Sickness” opens the record in a dour manner as riffs carve through, the growls gurgle, and a deathly pall darkens the skies even more. Leads lap and swim, the playing boils and bleeds, and misery dominates as the track drains out. “The Watcher” is punchy as hell as the music burns and howls, while the growls splatter blood all over. Gothy guitars rise up and cast a heavy shadow as the music rains down and floods the earth, and then the track begins trucking hard. The music smears darkness, soloing spills over, and the cut is hammered closed. “The Gallows’ Promise” drips in ominously as a sludgy beast kicks through the doors, and the growls unfurl. The track slowly hammers with pain as the playing chugs hard, while elegant leads rise up and begin to glimmer. The song quakes and releases molten lava, the growls hammer the earth, and the track swims into “Last Breath,” a quick instrumental that’s solemn with clean playing slowly trickling like blood down a snowy mountain, pooling at the bottom.

“Below Black Waters” smears and crumbles while it starts as the growls press down, and melody lets some liquid leak into the tar. Blackness then pools generously as the playing crashes down morbidly, and sorrowful leads carry it home. “Chasm of Shattered Bones” tramples down a darkened path as the track gets crunchy and fearsome, and growls slither, bringing with them terrible punishment. Things pick up when the guitars get meatier, and filthy riffs do physical and mental damage with growls cascading and the end burning out. “A Rain of Ash” is the 10:03-long closer and opens by penetrating your senses, battering your mind as growls hulk along, and then the pace starts moving faster. Brutal playing seeks to scorch flesh while a strong solo emerges, sending blinding light, and the growls drag you into a blood-caked tunnel. The track lurches along while Kankaanpää’s vocals scar, the tempo wrings every last drop from your veins, and the track buries itself in misery and echoes.

Awful times often call for music that conjures the most depressing and sullen of moods, and Solothus nail that on “Realm of Ash and Blood.” We are in unprecedented times for most of us, and while some may be trying to live positively—and good for them—others might need a sobering trip to the other side, where only the worst awaits. On top of all that, Solothus continue to add to their homeland’s stellar cast of doom warriors at a time where some people need them more than ever.

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

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

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

Uncertain times bring emotional bloodletting from Feminazgûl, chaotic force from Slaves BC

How’s everything with you? You OK? Kind of hiding out and waiting for this whole thing to blow over? Yeah, we’re going to be waiting a while, and in our realm, it’s been tough getting to new music because real life has overtaken everything that’s going on. But we got to hear two brand new things we’d like to tell you about, both stellar, both worth your time.

We start off with “No Dawn for Men,” the ripping debut full-length from Feminazgûl that dropped in our lap by surprise this week at a pay-what-you-want offering on Bandcamp (the suggested price is $6.66, naturally, but they also make it clear they know people are suffering financially and want to make their art available). They could have sat on this music and did the normal promotional cycle, but instead, they revealed what they created to celebrate the art rather than a product. The trio of lead vocalist Laura Beach, multi-instrumentalist Margaret Killjoy (we just visited her new Vulgarite album), and violinist/theremin player/vocalist Meredith Yayanos packs savagery, sorrow, and ridiculous amounts of melody into their ashy black metal, and there’s something about their music that feels both apocalyptic, vulnerable, and outright vengeful. I can’t recommend this enough. By the way, artwork by the great Trez Laforge (one member of fiery duo Mares of Thrace).

“Illa, Mother of Death” starts the record calmly with bird chirps and accordion moving through before hammering guitars begin raining down, and Beach’s howls echoing in the night, as sinister intent is in the air. “I Pity the Immortal” has guitars crashing and drums devastating while melody twists through with ferocity and power; “The Rot in the Field Is Holy” is full of angelic calls and atmospheric playing that haunts and later overwhelms when the chaos is allowed to reign. Hell storms the earth and the final battle of humanity feels like it rages before us, ending in a bed of strings as all bodies expired. “Bury the Antler With the Stag” starts with keys dripping and strings aching as Leach howls the song’s title, and from there a dramatic and deadly sweep takes place, punishing and stomping out into the night. “Forgiver, I Am Not Yours” opens with an emotional pall, a sheet of noise, and keys raining as gut-wrenching pain is delivered later. Bleeding punishment ruptures as the stratosphere bursts and Breach calls, “I was not made to be gracious, I will carry this hatred, I will carry this hatred to my grave.” “Look Not to Erebor” is an instrumental that crashes through whirring space, peaking the emotion before crumbling away. The final two cuts are “No Dawn” versions of tracks from their “The Age of Men Is Over” EP in the form of “To the Throat” and “In the Shadow of Dead Ghosts” that put the perfect exclamation point on this tremendous record that makes these dark times even thicker with dread.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://feminazgul.bandcamp.com/album/no-dawn-for-men

Pittsburgh-based Slaves BC are good people, and they’re no strangers to trying to make the world a better place and lift up those who need it. Their 2019 EP “300 Dead Rapist Priests Floating at the Bottom of the Ocean” was a benefit for those hurt by the Catholic church, with money donated to RAINN. Now, the band is reaching out to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who need help right now. “Third Temple” is a single track whose proceeds will be donated to people close to them who are struggling, and as expected, the track is a monster. Over 4:51, the band shapeshifts constantly, starting off gloomy and doomy before trippy riffs lead to thrash destruction, and Josh Thieler’s vocals wreak absolute havoc. The track shreds sanity as fiery hell builds up behind them, doomy muck finds its way into the waterways, and total insanity echoes out, leaving your mind destroyed. This violent display is one hell of a great way to help those who are in a bad situation as uncertainty faces us. Let us battle together.

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

To buy the music, go here: https://slavesbc.bandcamp.com/track/third-temple