PICK OF THE WEEK: Void Rot smear more darkness to grim times on ashen debut ‘Descending Pillars’

We live in miserable times, a thing I’m so tired of writing about, but what do you do when everything is the same? The walls don’t change, nor do the circumstances, and the only thing that feels genuine is the pain, rage, and fear that now drink deeply from our daily lives. The pain in our bones and veins is real, and having an outlet that won’t harm us further is a necessity.

Almost as if on cue slither in Void Rot, the Minnesota-based death/doom beast rising with their debut full-length record “Descending Pillars.” It’s a menacing, yet atmospheric album, yet beneath all of that there is dread and anguish that’s hard to even put a name on, which is likely why it matches our current way of life so perfectly. Not even together three years yet, the band has an EP and split offering to their name before this seven-track, nearly 38-minute record that digs its teeth into your bones deep enough but never overstays its welcome. The band—vocalist/guitarist John Hancock, guitarist Kent Sklarow, bassist Craig Clemons, drummer Will Bell—has a way of letting the darkness expand its horrible wings and dig in their claws to the point of copious bloodshed.

The title track opens the proceedings by slowly building as noise spreads, with the guitars then creaking open the gates. Growls slowly rot as the pace gets dizzying, the music freezes in time, and then the drums unload, as agony melts into blood. Guitars rush while the growls boil, burning to a stirring end. “Upheaval” has drums crushing as if the world is toppling down while the guitars charge up, unloading deadly doom that laps over you like black waves. Guitars glimmer while the acid pours aggressively as everything fades. “Liminal Forms” has guitars lighting up and going moody and churning, while vicious growls make their way in and open up guts. Riffs create a fury that encircles your psyche, unleashing guttural, grimy hell, heading into slow and ominous territory. Drums hammer as the pace picks up steam, and the track fades off into hell.

“Delusions of Flesh” begins as a slow burn before the playing bursts through the surface, while the guitar work boils hellishly. The growls slither as the music smears soot on the ground, mashing riffs into your face as dark, plodding playing lathers into a hypnotic slide that pushes to the end. “Inversion” has riffs encircling like a tornado as the growls deliver grim tidings, while melodies pour down hard and saturate the earth. The track trudges while the growls scrape against the earth, picking up sediment, before the final moments melt back into the ground. “The Weight of a Thousand Suns” is a quick instrumental track that revels in mystery as clean guitars gleam, sending off strange shimmers that flow right into closer “Monolith (Descending Pillars Pt. II)” that works right into nauseous punishment. The playing crushes slowly as the leads spiral down, and the growls gurgle violently. That pace merges into psychosis while the guitars take on a gazey outpouring, setting the stage for the end. The tempo blisters, wills are beaten into submission, and a noise pocket overtakes everything and washes the track away.

Void Rot’s calculated approach and devastating tendencies are on full display on “Descending Pillars,” a record that was on my personal list of most anticipated releases of the summer. It has weight and tenacity that should excite anyone with a hunger for death-smeared doom metal as they deliver in spades. This album is arriving at a time when things have never seemed more bleak, as it shines a light on the grime and the disgust that haunt us all.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/void-rot-descending-pillars

Or here: https://everlastingspew.com/21-everlasting-spew

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

And here: https://everlastingspew.com/

Persekutor’s raw, frozen metal brings violence, burly chaos on rowdy debut ‘Permanent Winter’

It’s like 90 degrees as I write this, but winter apparently is on its way at some point, though with 2020 being what it is, I’m not expecting any guarantees. Yet, in a few months, these hot days will subside, the sun will stick around for far less time, and we’ll be thrown back into colder temperatures and icy woe, that is if winter makes it to the East Coast this year. It’s been a while.

All of this sloppily sets the stage for “Permanent Winter,” the debut full-length record from Persekutor, a band that has its roots in Romania but is operating out of Los Angeles at the moment. The band is led by Vladislav Bârladeanu (or Vlad the Inhaler, as he’s known here) and creates what he calls Romanian ice metal, which is a romanticized term for gruff, blood-and-guts black metal like what was being churned out in the years before the Second Wave. On this nine-track, 29-minute offering, Vlad and his mates—guitarist Inverted Chris Velez (Lightning Swords of Death), bassist Adam Murray (Deth Crux/Ides of Gemini), and drummer Scott Batiste (Saviours/Ides of Gemini)—rip through the ice and deliver a violent, rousing assault that smashes you and leaves you to fend for yourself in the frigid terrain.

“Babylon of the Snows” opens with a surge as the drums begin to pound as Vlad’s vocals creak along, feeling raw and bloody. Visions of storming city walls with violence spews as Vlad wails, “We fought them all!” as their victory rages into hell. “Can You Feel the Frost of Dawn” is an energetic gush at the front, with Vlad wailing about “40,000 years buried in the fucking snow.” Fuck and all its forms are used quite liberally in the lyrics, which does add to the charm of the album. The pace gallops hard, getting meaty and catchy as guitars fire up and burn away. “Winter’s Meat” is over before you know it as the riffs swagger, primitive howls blast, and Vlad’s choked-out “oohs” drive the course, feeling gravelly and drunkenly violent. “Chained to the Tundra” starts with a flurry of leads and Vlad’s cryptic storytelling, as the chorus reminds, “Hell on earth is here alright.” Guitars ramp up over the verses while the soloing basks in heat and leaves ash behind.

“Arctic Cross” has the guitars leading with the vocals erupting as Vlad insists on the chorus, “Arctic frost is here to stay.” I mean, science says otherwise, but hopefully he’s right… Anyway, the leads smother as the chorus rounds back, coming to a gnarly end. “Ice Wars” has punchy riffs, and there’s more bloodshed in the snow with Vlad warning about the dire consequences as he wails, “It’s a long way down.” The playing gets even more aggressive, with Vlad warning the enemies will “drag your fucking corpse away.” Grim. The title cut brings another helping of catchy riffs while the verses speed along, and the chorus is simply structured but effective. Soloing tears holes in the ice as the whispers of “winter, winter” pummel to the end. “Frostquake” bring lathering guitars as the pace chugs heavily, as Vlad warns the weather phenomenon is “slicing and dicing the earth.” Things get dizzy and weird from there as the track comes to a grisly end. Closer “Black Death Punk Skins” is the only track that isn’t locked into a frozen tundra, as the band celebrates death and black metal, punk, and … people not wearing shirts. It’s a fun song but pretty fucking silly, as Vlad insists, “It’s just rock n roll,” over the chorus.

Winter is a spotty proposition around here anymore, what with climates shifting the way they have, and a good heavy snow in when you’re locked away with nothing but alcohol and heathenism (even if only in your head) definitely is a welcome prospect. Persekutor have a stranglehold on those visions with “Permanent Winter,” a record that’s an old-style slab of metallic punishment with a side of fun just for the hell of it. Granted, the record sounds pretty good here in the summer, but it’ll go down even better in a few months when we’re buried in ice and snow.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/persekutor-permanent-winter/

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

Sumokem spark enlightenment, explode with charging energy on exhilarating ‘Prajnaparadha’

Photo by Grayson Shelton

There are tons of things we should and should not do every day of our lives, and likely most of our track records are not terribly stellar when it comes to making the right call. I’m definitely not alone on this one as I often decide to stay up longer than my body wants, thus robbing myself or rest, or indulging in that extra beer (or some would say any beer at all) when it might not be great for me.

The idea of working against what we understand is right is known in Sanskrit as “Prajnaparadha,” which means a crime against wisdom, something that prevents us from achieving enlightenment. It also happens to be the name of imminently arriving album three from Sumokem, which is their best work to date. Over this collection, most of which bathes in sprawling doom, stoner gaze, and progressive ambition, the band—vocalist/guitarist Jacob Sawrie, guitarist Tyler Weaver, bassist Dustin Weddle, drummer Drew Skarda—examines that path toward making decisions that are fruitful to one’s journey on a concept record that’s immersive, exciting, and really goddamn fiery as we travel six tracks in about 53 minutes, with every bit grabbing your attention in a stranglehold.

“Prologue” is an opening piece that feels eerie and in the midst of fog when it starts before the music and the drama increase, giving off a gothy vibe and working into the mist toward “Nihang” that absolutely soars open. Guitars beam as a psychedelic edge is achieved, and Sawrie’s powerful vocals, which deserve recognition for how strong they are, lead the way. The mood then darkens and gruff growls arrive, hammers are dropped, and guitars go ablaze into a churning pace, with metal slowly liquifying. Twin guitars meld as the vocals take off, and the body of the song burns off into the night. “Parak-Dar” runs a healthy 11:06 and emerges with awakening guitars and vocals taking off. Humidity is thick as sun-scorched playing works into a thick psychedelic cloud that warps your mind, surging just as the vocals begin pelting your chest. Syrupy slide guitars mesmerize as the growls scrape along before utterly crushing souls as punchy sludge chokes the pipes, trudging to the end.

“Sadhu” is the longest track, running 12:11 and opening the curtain into mysticism, with Sawrie noting, “The planets align with the earth.” Vicious growls and smothering riffs bring on savagery that pokes through the surface, while leads bleed into sludgy earth before cool breezes reign, reawakening as the vocals push toward the sky. Mud gets into the gears and drives the track into filth while psychosis melts into the waters, as bluesy playing stretches, keys glimmer, and the darkness swallows everything whole.
“Fakir” slowly drips in and delivers strangeness that spreads, while the melodies hit hard, and the vocals punish. The growls twist bones only for Sawrie’s clean singing to return and branch out, simmering in richness. The pace then starts to bash away as the growls return and menace, slipping into a cosmic void that slips into the darkness. “Khizer” ends the record and immediately makes your head swim before the thorns are unleashed. That makes your mind dissolve and drip through your consciousness before riffs tear at the wall again, and the whole thing spirals. Singing bellows and reverberates in your chest as the final moments are torched and left to dissolve into madness.

This is Sumokem’s finest hour, a record that truly pays off the promise this band has held all along in a majestic way. “Prajnaparadha” is exhilarating and soul-scorching from moment one, a record that knocks you for a loop without you even realizing it, and suddenly you’re sitting there later not knowing what happened. This is tremendous work, and hopefully this record gets into enough ears to make a major difference for this band.

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

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

Eave’s emotion-rich black metal rushes with energy, rustic jolts on ‘Phantoms Made Permanent’

It’s not terribly far off now, the autumn, and I’m looking forward to long walks in slightly colder weather with music that helps match that environment. Look, I have a nice backlog of records and bands that make the grade when it comes to this type of thing, but it’s always nice to add new and exciting things to the mix.

Bindrune Recordings has a knack for finding records that match their aesthetic, and they’ve nailed that again with Eave, whose new record “Phantoms Made Permanent” comes your way at the start of next month, and it’s definitely something you want to grab if atmospheric black metal with a side of rawness is your thing. In a weird way, Eave fill the gap left by Falls of Rauros, and what’s great is the band is good now, but they also have room to grow into their world. It feels like nature is front and center, the music flows with chaos and energy, and it just impactful rolling over you. The band—vocalist/bassist Brian Tenison, guitarist Gabe Shara, guitarist/keyboard player Ian Stoller, drummer Caleb Porter—makes me excited just based on their music alone, but the vibe here grabs you and owns you, and if you’re into this path, you’ll be infected too.

“A Godless Frame” starts the record by gushing open as the vocals rush, and melodic leads explode. Black metal waves flood the grounds while a raw atmosphere is established, and that settles into a brief calm. That corner stretches into a reignition, hammering away as riffs splatter the ground, while wild roars and the final assault bleed away. “Funereal Burn” opens with guitars jarring hard as wild howls pierce, and fiercely melodic playing dominates the attack. The track wrenches guts and rambles heartily, flush with emotion and fire, rambling toward the gates as it comes to a blinding end. The title track starts with shrieks scraping and spacey guitars glazing, while the washed-out feel gives off the sense of being blissfully detached from your body. As the pace picks up, shrieks peel pain from the walls while melodies continue to amplify, with the pace bruising your ribcage. The shrieks bring another battery of punishment, filling the senses as the back end crushes.

“Gait of the Ghost” starts in a bath of acoustics before the powder keg blows, and the playing mangles the senses. The track travels into a cold echo before the sparks fly again and rip into flesh, blasting back up through the surface. The music cascades and catapults, bashing you over the head as the shrieks return to do damage, the leads smear, and an energetic underbelly gives the song a sweeping end. “Mana Descending” rans down with force, bringing an incredible quaking as the guitars wash down, later melting into serenity. Drums tap as the waters trickle while the playing explodes again, and the end is absolutely pummeling. “Ablaze and Unyielding” lets guitars light up and blind your eyes with its majesty as things turn ugly in a hurry, with the vocals chewing into flesh. Death growls churn as black metal-rich leads destroy as the trail is torched, with smoke rising and choking, stirring with intensity. “Visage” closes the album and leads in with guitars washing the scenery, dizzying and leaving you susceptible to punishment. The track speeds and echoes in spots, slips into calm streams, while acoustic winds gust before the playing erupts a last time. The leads glisten, the thick bass folds in, and everything comes to a raucous, shimmering conclusion.

Eave is another great find for Bindrune, one that seems custom made for their roster and musical and philosophical atmosphere. “Phantoms Made Permanent” is a rich, rewarding listen that shows the band fitting into their authentic and emotional undercurrent, hinting at great promise ahead while building a sturdy foundation with records like these. This is a really strong album that would make for a great companion while taking a long sojourn outdoors in any weather.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Necrot’s death remains at a top level on brutal, devastating offering ‘Mortals’

Photo by Chris Johnston

Death metal is an ever-changing world, like so many of metal’s many sub-genres, and you can’t really predict how things are going to look and sound in a few years due to rapid-fire innovations among the people who play it. That said, it’s still just as satisfying to sit down with a tried-and-true death metal record that’s not trying to be anything but a piledriver to the cement.

That brings us to Necrot, the Bay Area death squad whose second record “Mortal” is one of the year’s most anticipated releases, one that might have gotten to us a little sooner had it not be for the goddamn COVID. Following up their killer debut full-length offering “Blood Offerings” comes this seven-track, 38-minute pounder that is right in the same wheelhouse as that 2017 album but a little bloodier and a lot more morbid. After all, these guys—vocalist/bassist Luca Indrio, guitarist Sonny Reinhardt, drummer Chad Gailey—spent some time reflecting on our wrecked society, our role is making it that way, and the realities of everyone’s demise when putting together these songs, and the result is a record that was worth all the nervous pace and nail chewing for its arrival, because it delivers everything and more.

“Your Hell” churn open and begins pounding away heavily, as Indrio’s growl’s open lacerations, and the drums mash your life into pieces. “I bring death,” Indrio wails, “my hate to you, my hell will be yours,” as filth wells up. The band hits its high spots, delivering a rowdy pace, guitars burning, and a finish that’ll flatten you. “Dying Life” thrashes away as the growls lean in and start bruising, and the guitar work takes off and leads to rapid-fire dizziness. Vicious mauling twists muscles while the riffs hammer away, and the leads erupt in fire. All of that builds its intensity, melting with grim growls to bring about the end. “Stench of Decay” blisters from the start, mangling bodies in its gears as Indrio potentially prophetically growls, “People to be destroyed, future to be erased, no one will see the end of the war against ourselves.” Animalistic rage and deep crushing combine as the soloing heats up, and madness races to each corner before a sudden end.

“Asleep Forever” starts in a vicious spiral as the guitars encircle, and gruff growls up the ante on the sickness. Guitars light up and rip out guts along with the chorus where Indrio howls, “Everything leads to the end when we’ll be asleep forever.” Soloing takes off and quakes the earth before swinging back and delivering the final blows. “Sinister Will” has a killer riff out front that opens wounds while the track trudges hard, and the chorus swelters with fiery guitar work. Soloing arrives and lathers the song in soot while the pace thrashes harder into a calculated, maniacal cycle that ends in chaos. “Malevolent Intentions” lights up, met with bloody growls and a smooshing fury that feels like it’s squashing your guts. The drums are absolutely assaulted as raspy growls hammer home everything. The record ends with the 8:33-long title track that explodes from the gates with riffs menacing and raw growls choking. “Mortal dies, lost, carried away, mortal dies, everything fades away,” Indrio levels over the pummeling chorus, meanwhile, the band feels like it’s trying to rush your own demise. Skulls are bashed, the soloing brings heat that could melt your face, and the track ends in an inferno that swallows you whole.

There’s a reason Necrot have been hailed as one of the best new death metal bands of the past few years—because they’re really fucking good. “Mortal” may only be their second full-length, but they’re already amassing a resume that is to be reckoned with by just about anyone else out there, with this record as a major high point. It’s too bad everything in the world is pretty much shut down right now, because it would be morbidly satisfying to hear these new songs in a live setting, where they could really rip the head off your body.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/?

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

Ulver’s seductive shadows lead to violent ends, coldly strange happenings on ‘Flowers of Evil’

Photo by Ingrid Aas

There’s a darkness that has enveloped us as humans, and no, I don’t mean the virus that’s raging out of control because we can’t be bothered with mildly inconveniencing ourselves. It started way before that, likely before any of us were even here, as humankind’s grip on our place on this earth slipped away, and we fell further into shame and, in some cases, apathy.

Long-running Norwegian band Ulver have tapped that vein for years and years, dating back to their origins in black metal but truly bubbling to the surface the past few years. “Flowers of Evil” is their latest and 14th, and it’s another dark, violent journey into the seamy underbelly of humanity, where death and darkness loom and our fall into further disgrace remains in progress. It’s also another incredible document from a band that has continued to do the unthinkable—completely bury their original sound and continue to grow in strangeness and appeal, so much so that their origins are almost unrecognizable. Almost. You can hear the seeds in that early work, but the band—vocalist/programmer Kristoffer Rygg, keyboardist/programmer Tore Ylwizaker, multi-instrumentalist Jørn H. Sværen, and gOle Alexander Halstensgaard—continue to open dark portals into electronic rock waves, some of it so catchy and danceable you might forget you’re hearing about a fiery cult death or someone left to suffocate. On top of this album, there’s also a book on Ulver’s history that’s being released, which you can find at the purchase links below.

“One Last Dance” kicks off the record, slowly merging into the scene as Rygg calls, “We have seen the burden god has put on the human race,” as the tempo kicks in. “We are wolves under the moon,” he reminds as the synth pushes back, the beats punch, and guitars warm up and call out into the night. “Russian Doll” is one of tragedy, a song about a girl born in 1989 who gets caught up in a love affair that turns deadly for her. “Two of hearts, one inside the other,” Rygg calls (is she pregnant?), but that isn’t as warm as it sounds as she’s found in the trunk of a car, capping off a darkly alluring song. “Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers” has synth strikes that feel like they come from the dead of night, sending strange chills that disassociate you from your body. Later on, a female voice calls out as the playing works into interesting textures and darkness. “Hour of the Wolf” stirs in thick murkiness as the keys plink, and the singing haunts. Rygg sings about “nights of broken glass,” which delves into themes of the 1968 Ingmar Bergman film that shares the name of the song title, complete with psychological turns and death in the night. It’s stirring and disturbing and could keep you awake.

“Apocalypse 1993” unearths David Koresh and the Brand Davidians amid synth jabs and references to the Book of Ezekiel. “Who is this man they follow?” Rygg wonders as he sees followers “dying for what they believe in,” a story the band lathers in dark synth and chilling melodies that push to the end. “Little Boy” lets steam roll in and melodies stir, as Rygg conjures visions of “Saint John the Baptist, his head on a plate.” Dark waves rush in as strangeness spreads, guitars cry out, and the track melts into fever dreams.  “Nostalgia” is a killer, a callback to the band’s origins in a world in which they don’t dabble any longer. “Norway, 35 years ago,” Rygg calls out, as the driving synth melody gets caught in your head. You can smell the chaos in the air as Rygg realizes the influence he and his contemporaries created, singing, “Those old records spinning over and over and over.” The playing shimmers in a moody haze, as the guitars agitate before a sudden end. “A Thousand Cuts” ends the record, an emotional final statement that starts quietly, as Rygg’s hushed vocals follow along the path he’s creating. “Sex and death by a thousand cuts,” he observes as horrors are all around, including a headless man holding scissors and a woman leaping to her death from a window. “The power of excess,” Rygg notes as tragedy befalls every ounce of this song before it washes into the night.

Ulver’s path through their career is unlike almost anyone else in this world, and here they are,  nearly three decades after their formation and still putting out fascinating records such as “Flowers of Evil.” This album is haunting, seductive, and disarmingly dark, which should not be a surprise to anyone who has grown accustomed to their rapidly changing world. This is another gem in a catalog that is one of the most diverse and mysterious in all of music.

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

To buy the album and/or the book, go here: https://store.houseofmythology.com/

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

Cavern continue changing path, create atmospheric energy that stimulates bones on ‘Powdered’

Photo by Karlo Gesner

Making significant changes when you are in a metal or heavy music band generally tends to be met with heavy skepticism because why can’t you just keep making the same record 15 times so listeners will be happy, even if the artists are not? Granted, not every time a band tweaks or radically alters something does it come off successfully, but you don’t learn if you don’t take chances.

Morgantown, WV, band Cavern have built their career on shaking up their foundations, having released a catalog of music that is constantly in flux as they try to find their voice. Their start as a duo—guitarist Zach Harkins and drummer Stephen Schrock—sounds and feel nothing like it does now on their new record “Powdered.” The biggest change is the addition of vocalist/bassist Rose Heater, who brings an entirely different element to a band that’s toggled between music with harsher vocals and an instrumental piece. Here, her voice brings a calming, driving vibe to the band, while Harkins and Schrock find new life, layering their post-rock-style atmospherics with enough barbs to mix heaviness within the dreaminess. It’s also a record that may take some time to sink in, but once it does, the music refuses to leave your bones.

“River” starts abruptly, and suddenly you’re right in the middle of everything, with the band leading the way. “Take your space, make it your own,” Heater urges as the band punches back and adds more muscle. “You may know my face, my name remains unknown,” Heater calls mysteriously before the guitars light up and burn off. “Grey” trickles in as the singing flows with the pace, and the chorus lights up with power. The track begins to soar while spacey keys zap as Heater admits being “uninspired by this place” before noting, “You’re confusing night with day.” The track then hits its high point before melting back to the surface. The title track is a powerful one, feeling both catchy and ominous. The track seems structured simply enough, but it hits back hard with guitars chugging hard, and the final moments leaving ample bruising.

“Red Moon” has guitars glimmering and sparks flying as the verses pulsates, and the chorus drives home the stakes. The guitars encircle while the playing dusts up, with Heater calling, “Tell me that you’re real just to keep me here,” as the song comes to a stirring end. “Dove” flutters before the power kicks in, and Heater delivers another killer vocal performance. “Static prison, the damage done,” she jabs as the synth storm brings warmth, and the track comes to a forceful, sudden end. “Fade Before the Flood” closes the album and slowly bleeds into the picture, setting up its structure. “Wait. Go. Listen,” Heater urges as darker waves lap onto the shore, and strange psyche keys chill your mind. The final moments swim in rocky dreams before the guitars awaken and sprint toward the finish line.

Cavern had a pretty good thing going for themselves as it was, but adding Heater to the band was a great call, as her voice brings more emotion and added oomph to the music. “Powdered” has its jagged edges and power surges for sure, but its immersion in melody makes the songs even more engaging, and this record is one that’ll grow on you with each listen. This is really great stuff, music that can help you escape from whatever this reality is into a place that cools your bones.

For more on the band, go here: http://cavernband.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://cavernmd.bandcamp.com/music

Cultus Profano bring hellfire, furious but melodic black metal on vicious ‘Accursed Possession’

It’s time to burn the old ways, the actions that have caused people to be enslaved by an ideology thousands of years old that has done nothing but hurt people as of late, meaning the last couple thousand years. That’s not to say people’s faiths are always poisonous, because not everyone is that way. But we need to peel back religious influence on the way society operates.

LA-based duo Cultus Profano aren’t necessarily here to free the world of the chains that bind, but if they can send a sacrilegious jolt through modern society, it seems they’re totally up to it. Their second record “Accursed Possession” is here to burn the structures that have become ingrained in people’s lives and smear blood and chaos over the norms. This seven-track, 47-minute crusher pays homage to the seeds of black metal, but it also infuses great doses of melody and atmosphere into their structure to create what the band—vocalist/guitarist Strzyga, drummer/vocalist Advorsus—built into their foundation. This is a striking, deadly record, and it may take a few listens before the claws truly sink into your flesh.

“Cursed in Sin, Op. 25” starts with bells ringing and pastoral-style chants as the song cuts open, exposing its guts. Melody rushes amid the horrifying shrieks as the playing splatters with disgust, and the snarls pierce as the track hammers away, blazing to a huge end. “Devoted to the Black Horns, Op. 16” is dark and foreboding, the vocals drilling into your chest as the shrieks later echo with rage. The track smashes into horrifying swirls as ugly chaos rushes hard, and a flurry erupts that causes the music to forcefully rush over you. Everything bleeds as the vocals mash, the playing races, and an echo chamber swallows this whole. “Upon a Tomb of Sacrilege, Op. 24” has guitars burning and the track tearing out veins as the pace goes nuts and blisters the senses. Shrieks peel flesh as savage fires collect, letting the guitars ring out and stab your ears, while the drums re-engage the chaos that bleeds into a thick fog.

“Towards the Temple of Darkened Fates, Op. 19” pummels as it starts with the shrieks raining down like razors, and the track smashing into a sudden silence. Out of that comes a slow-driving march that crushes bones while the drums open up slaughter, and the playing merges into the center before crumbling into a cavern. “Within a Coven of Shadows, Op. 21” punches your heart as raspy growls arrive, and strong melodies mix with a feral atmosphere. The track penetrates and rushes you, with the growls sprawling, and the guitars bathing in acid. Steam rises as the track hits the gas pedal with the cries returning into a blood-splashed horror that dissolves into hell. “Tenebris Venit, Op. 23” is humid and calculated as it creeps along, with the vocals poking wounds and warm guitars beginning to lap. The playing lights up and gushes with atmosphere, ending up in the center of a wind vortex. “Crown of Hellfire, Op. 11” closes the album with the violent gallop, sending speed and decimation. Melodies boil amid the lurching growls while the guitars send off tornadic winds, the shrieks crush, and the track ends in a relentless pit of hell.

This unholy duo Cultus Profano continue to ply their deadly mission on “Accursed Possession,” a record that’s utterly relentless, though it trades off ferocity with an alluring sense of melody. Their sacrilegious wares dig deep into you and expose you to the darken elements in the universe that will crawl all over you. Perhaps that’s a trip you need after all, because channeling those shadows can be advantageous when you really need them.

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

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Atramentus’ frigid touch on funeral doom blasts blizzard-borne ‘Stygian’

Sitting here in almost-middle August, a day when it’s a legitimate 92,000 degrees outside, it’s really hard to even think about winter, a season I’m sometimes convinced doesn’t really exist here on the East Coast anymore since it never really comes. But arrive it will, in whatever form it takes this year, and who knows, it might even snow a few times so that I can use the bag of rock salt I bought last year.

A much closer glimpse into the coldest season of the year is closer to you than you think in the form of “Stygian,” the stunning debut record from Quebecois funeral doom unit Atramentus. As much as we love that style of the sub-genre over here, it’s not like it’s easy to produce, as a lot of bands try their hands and fail, forgetting that you must weave in something memorable while you’re playing S-L-O-W-L-Y. Atramentus didn’t leave this part behind, as on this three-track, 45-minute ops they pack the thing with majesty, drama, and cold darkness, following the tale of a nameless knight granted immortality through the gift of God’s sword, only to watch the world die all around him, leaving him to wander, unable to perish, in a world of cold and unforgiving blizzards. The band—vocalist/guitarist Phil Tougas, guitarist Claude Leduc, bassist Antoine Daigneault, keyboardist/dark element conjurer François Bilodeau, drummer Xavier Berthiaume—ply their trades in other groups such as Chthe’ilist, Funebrarum, and Gevurah, though the madness in which they indulge here is different than what they achieved elsewhere.

“Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth the Ceaseless Darkness)” opens the record and runs a healthy 16:28, starting with keys chiming and Tougas’ lurching growls boiling over. Guitars drain into a freezing funereal pace as glorious leads flood with light, while deep croons slither into another section of bubbling growls, and keys glimmer and cause you to shield your eyes. The pace slowly melts into a cloudy storm that dominates the horizon as the growls scrape, and blood drains from your face. Synth winds blow as strange words are spoken in the distance, letting the drums pound into “Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace of the Howling Black Winds),” a bridging ambient piece where sounds shuffle and float into darkness. Keys create a wall of sound while voices quiver, and the dark ambiance leads us to our final chapter.

“Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)” ends the album, a 23:17-long finale that feels like it drips in slowly from the atmosphere, as Tougas’ voice creaks, and strangeness is in the air. Guitars give off a classic psyche haze while deep growls shove along, meeting with an elegant, alien ambiance that takes over, ushering in moody guitars and beams of light that caress the frosty terrain. The pace floats slowly into a mystical fog, bathing in synth and gothy tidings, opening the door for the growls to live again. It feels like the track is going to succumb to the ice, but then then the tempo is shredded, the drums crush, and a speedy fury forges ahead, burying the track in a fiery grave that later is extinguished by wintry winds.

It might be swelteringly hot where a lot of us live right now, but Atramentus’ incredible debut offering “Stygian” might help you get lost in an icy world of never-ending torment that’s at least different from the one in which you’re trapped. On top of that, this is top-shelf epic funeral doom, the type that really doesn’t come along that often, so you embrace it while you can. This record was highly anticipated over here, and every moment of this three-track opus totally delivers.

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

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

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

Drainbow’s manic inventiveness, indescribable metallic storming color fiery ‘The Tower of Flints’

Nicholas Sarcophagus

It’s not often I start off one of these things and I don’t really know what to say. Today it’s not because the content isn’t rich enough. It sure as shit is. In fact, there’s so much here, and it is so involved that there’s no real way for me to be concise or cohesive without falling into some weird turn that won’t make any sense and will require me to rewrite the intro a ton of times. Where am I going with this?

OK, Drainbow is helmed by creator/composer Nicholas Sarcophagus who currently resides in Austin, Texas, and whose imagination is so insanely off the charts, it’s what led me to have no real way to set up this record properly. That record is his debut full-length offering “The Tower of Flints,” a seven-track effort released last Friday on Bandcamp and that has twisted my brains into knots ever since then. You can get lost in the events of each song if you follow along with the manic, completely alluring lyrics, and musically, it moves all over the metallic spectrum in such a delightfully chaotic way, you won’t even realize how frightened you’ve become. It’s truly an album that is impossible to set up for someone new to the experience, so you’re better off locking that person up (with their consent, of course) with the music to see what happens. It’s a tremendous adventure, one that should be the enemy of my anxiety but somehow isn’t.

“Funeral for an Imaginary Rabbit” gets this insane beast off to a fitting start with manic laughing that’s met with a synth haze and Sarcophagus’ tremendous singing which is stirring, as he calls, “Do you have any final words before the last handful of dirt?” Guitars fire up as the synth barrels in, feeling like a horror house that rips back into the weirdness as keys zap, and the track races to the end. “Lair of the Night Gaunt” feels eerie as the singing swelters, and the growls churn. The bass work is just awesome as the guitars liquify, and savagery is mixed with mysticism. Guitars go insane as the pace is zany as hell, and the track comes to ambitious end. “The Inevitable Tautology of Defeat” pokes open as fierce growls rip off flesh, and proggy strangeness stomps through. “Dust off your halo, plastic crown of thorns, your eyes are pained,” he calls as the guitars speed along, and wills are crushed. Leads heat up as the soloing slathers, and growls rumble to the abrupt end.

“Fourth Rider” has a cold, cosmic vibe before the guts are kicked in, and the guitars slide and soar, feeling like filthy noir where everyone dies. There’s a strong southern rock rumble that’s tasty as fuck, leading toward 7:59-long “The Death Owl in the Tower of Flints” that starts with birds chirping and the guitars welling in a channel. A poetic recitation opens the tale as the song takes on a jazzy vibe, giving off some Steely Dan smoke, which is a huge plus. The song starts to destroy with cool singing, breezy terror, and a tremendous prog burst that leans into frantic madness. “This is my hour, the hour of my reincarnation,” Sarcophagus calls, barking and snarling as the guitars and synth blaze, and a second recitation brings everything to its end. “Callipygian Hunger” is the longest song, running 11:17 and beginning with keys dripping in and the string glazing, with Sarcophagus deeply singing, “Each night as I lay dreaming down, I dream of offerings on the burial mound.” The pace goes nuts and even takes on some black metal majesty while the pace shifts to more theatrical, and prog-fueled humidity coats your face with heat. Warbled singing and shimmering keys combine as leads bustle and melt, guitars spit fire, and the track works into the stars. “Worm Invasion” is a bonus cut and man alive, is it gross. It’s insanity wall to wall as death growls and smoldering guitars pace the fury, and Sarcophagus shouts, “Wash your hands, motherfucker,” a piece of advice as old as time. Everything is utterly disruptive before the track comes to a neck-jerking end.

I cannot put into human words just how goddamn crazy “The Tower of Flints” really is, yet another spellbinding building block for Sarcophagus and his Drainbow project. This is a record that, if you’re easily pushed to anxiety by music that eats away at your psyche, this might push you over the edge for good. If you’re down with a blood-soaked, parasite-infested journey that’s relentless and insanely fun from front to back, you’re not going to find anything quite like this record and band.

For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://drainbow1.bandcamp.com/