Doom beasts Subterraen smash the earth with crushing sludge on vile ‘Rotting Human Kingdom’

I’ve never been through a massive earthquake (yet!), but I’ve experienced some minor ones. This is not a complaint, by the way. But I’d imagine if I ever was in one that was tearing the earth apart, it might remind me of how I felt the first time I experienced French beasts Subterraen, who feel like a seismically vital addition to the annals of doom.

“Rotting Human Kingdom” is their entrance into my consciousness, and holy shit, if this four-track, nearly 49-minute crusher didn’t crush me, at least metaphorically. Really, it’s three mammoth cuts and one interlude, so it should be clear that they set up shop and stay a while, with you as their willing victim. In all seriousness, this is prime sludge-splashed doom, a record that feels ugly and weighty, and filthy at the same time, and if you love this style like I do, it’ll be a revelation to you. The band—vocalist/guitarist Clem Helvete, guitarist Chris KKP, drummer Milvus—provides no mercy as the record is gargantuan and makes it feel like what a full-fledged earthquake might be like.

“Blood for the Blood Gods” slowly emerges over the horizon like a beast of destruction as the playing swirls and sickens, growing larger before the doom drops. The track pounds away with precision as the low end chews, noise rises, and a violent eruption spews earth into the sky. The shrieks send icy shivers as the playing grows cold and hazy, bathing in a thick fog you practically can taste before the track gushes again. Melodies deliver dour hell while the vocals rip apart guts, and burly pain gathers before the track finally relents. “For a Fistful of Silver” lathers in steam before the chaos arrives, as the band stomps over the earth. Vocals pierce the skin as noise hangs in the air, and the drums rumble heavily, ushering in waves of anguish. From there, the playing gallops heavily, agitating fires and moving into pulverizing feedback as the pressure mounts. Clobbering force breaks through as everything goes cold, and nighttime swallows the daylight forever.

“Oceans are Rising” is a quick instrumental that swims in frigid waters as the guitars lightly coat your face with mist, draining away into a strange pocket. “Wrath of a Downtrodden Planet” is the closer and the longest track here, clocking in at 18:20. Doom just levels everything as the growls follow and destroy, letting hellish cries creep up on you. The bass buzzes as the bottom drops out, and fiery hell makes its way across the earth and leaves blackened soil behind. The track bruises slowly, making you feel each drop of lava, while the track cuts into bone. The leads begin to glimmer, setting off blinding light, while vile growls spread, and doom waylays, leaving you buried face first in the ground.

Doom is not meant to be pretty, and Subterraen have no intentions of changing that idea on “Rotting Human Kingdom,” a record that basks in relentless heaviness. Everything here feels like you’re going through a battle in a heat-soaked terrain where the sun is just as big an enemy as your combatants, and it feels like your body is going through the ringer physically. This is a powerful record from a band that only has its worst intentions at heart and just might tear the world in two.     

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Fins Lie in Ruins unleash precise, relentless death metal assault on ‘Floating in Timeless Streams’

For the first time in a long time, things are looking up around here, and even though the next two months are going to be utter bullshit, there’s a slight light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this, right? Anyway, you’d think the need for brutal, devastating music might be on the back burner, but I didn’t realize how good it would feel when things were actually better.

Basically that means that vile and disgusting death metal can be just as menacing when our mood isn’t in the fucking toilet, which we found out in smashing precision with “Floating in Timeless Streams,” the excellent new record from Finnish force Lie in Ruins. The band might sour on me aligning their corrosive assault with being in a good mood, so don’t get me wrong. This record is awash in madness, it cuts right for your throat, and you will feel like you endured the losing end of a Texas death match once you’re done with these 10 tracks and about 41 minutes. If you’re familiar with the band—vocalist/bassist Roni Sahari, guitarists Roni Ärling and Tuomas Kulmala (also credited with vocals), and drummer Jussi-Pekka Manner—you’d realize 41 minutes is their shortest record to date (2014’s “Toward Divine Death” clocked in at 71 minutes), but it’s also explosively punishing and an ideal serving for their mission.

“Earth Shall Mourn” opens with drums rumbling and the pace clobbering while devastating growls begin to tear down walls. Filth spreads as melodies stir, growls reopen wounds, and the track comes to a furious finish. “Spectral Realms of Fornication” has riffs swirling in a storm as the growls engorge, and everything bleeds with a fury. The leads spark as hypnotic playing arrives, making your head spin before the pace explodes, and the playing electrifies before we’re back to the soot, black growls, and into a tunnel toward “Interlude I.” Quiet guitars lurk amid eerie sounds, and then it’s on to “(Becoming) One With the Aether” that delivers a piledriver to the cement as it kicks off. The senses are smashed as animalistic growls attack, and the speed rages toward ugly hell. Punishing trampling eventually gives way to a noxious fog, and out of that, the playing mangles, tearing off flesh as we head into “Drowned” that’s an outright assault. Mauling growls chew up muscle while the leads pick up and burn, leaving off fumes. The heat intensifies as morbid destruction spills over like a horrifying stew, and the drums snap necks, leaving behind scary echoes.

“The Path” gets off to a slower pace, feeling nightmarish and like something that slipped out of your dreams into real life. The track trudges hard, offering crunch and terror as dirty tones leave mud. The growls crush as the muck builds, and the doom floods your lungs. “Descending Further” unleashes sweltering riffs and deep growls that scrape the guts, with speed erupting out of the madness. The track settles into ugly gnashing while the guitars ignite, destroying again as the walls crumble down. “Suffocating Darkness” rips into the picture with guitars ringing out, blasting apart as the band thrashes heavily. Leads dominate as the growls corrode, feeling vile and dangerous. The guitars explode again, jolting your body as everything ends up in a shallow grave. “Interlude II” slips in with organs swelling and keys dripping, draining into closer “Where Mountains Sleep,” as riffs reign and spatter the walls with blood. Growls maul as the pace gets rowdier, while doom bells strike, and the guitar work opens and gains momentum. Barbaric hell reigns as heavy doom clouds choke the sun, while dreary misery flows like a diseased river, and storm winds carry the stench into the night.

Slimmer and trimmer than their last record, Lie in Ruins make excellent use of the more compact run time on “Floating in Timeless Streams,” their most muscular effort yet. This band delivers death metal with a worm-infested heart, always reveling in ugliness and making you experience every inch. This is a killer effort from a band that seems ready to tear off some heads.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Völur unearth old rituals with dramatic doom on soul-shattering ‘Death Cult’

Photo by Whitney South

We’re at a volatile standpoint when it comes to the health of our world, but 68 million people this week decided that wasn’t dealbreaker enough not to vote for someone standing in complete opposition of that idea. But if you listen to scientists, you’d know we’re making a devastating impact on the world in which we live, and we don’t have much time to react.

That all comes to mind when talking about “Death Cult,” the new record from Canadian trio Völur, and one of the best recordings of their run. The record was partially inspired by Germanic tribes near the Baltic Sea in the earliest days of A.D. sacrificing slaves via drowning to their goddess Nertha. That whole idea conceptually is something we’ve never shed. You know, the whole “God will save us” idea instead of humans banding together to take actions to affect change. The band—vocalist/electric violin player Laura C. Bates, bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke, drummer Justin Ruppel—realized it was a trap that’s followed us through time and led to things like our world decaying, people denying viruses are real things that need to be battled, and faith put into bad leaders only here to milk a buck out of their followers. So, yeah, it’s something of a political album but one that tackles issues in a completely different manner, dressed in their classical, free jazz-influenced doom that will shake your foundation.

“Inviolate Grove” begins with Bates’ strings sweltering as the playing begins to pump, and melodies enrapture. Both Bates and Gadke sing as the violin makes inroads into your soul. Ominous tones float as the singing feels haunting while the track lights up, and Gadke’s growls break through barriers. The track erupts and bleeds as the violin lathers up and hypnotizes, while the vocals explode, the drama spreads, and the path burns right to “Dead Moon” that simmers in eerie choral circles and a bed of strings. The first portion is rather calming, with the violin quietly shuffling like a ghost before they begin to soar and ache. Bates’ shrieks then strike and tear through flesh as the playing is utterly gut wrenching, continuing to add power as the strings sweep, and the main melody line flows through again. A heavy haze settles over everything as the growls punish, and a huge deluge brings the track to its end.

“Freyjan Death Cult” runs 11:20 and begins mysteriously as woodwinds send chills through the trees, while the strings scrape, melting into a bluesy sequence where Bates sings and Gadke bellows behind her ritualistically. She then unleashes growls as the pace picks up, later switching back to clean vocals, while Gadke’s bass adds steam and tramples through the madness, as a psychedelic edge sinks in its teeth. Noise spits and rumbles while the growls sprawl, and a furious uprising increases the heat. Explosive rage hammers as the shrieks cut to bone, the playing floods dangerously, and the final moments disappear into the fog. “Reverend Queen” is your closer, bathing in feedback before the strings loop in, and a choral section opens its jaws. Things turn ugly as the growls hammer, melodies stir, and Bates’ violin strikes back and blares with agitation. But then things pull back, a solitary violin creates a horizon line, and the final moments bask in heavy sorrow that leads you into what lies in shadows.

Völur remain one of heavy music’s most unique bands, and by the way, if you ever have a chance to see them live (I know, I know), definitely make that happen for yourself. I’d be excited to hear how the tracks from “Death Cult” sound with this trio at the helm, breathing their Neoclassical, metallic fire into each piece. This is an arresting, adventurous record that contains some of the finest work of Völur’s career, and they’ve yet to unleash anything on us that isn’t exhilarating.

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Ceremonial Bloodshed destroy senses, blaze path of death on devastating ‘The Tides of Blood’

I said this once already this week that having the stench of death metal hanging in the air has helped me handle the chaos we’re experiencing in America. We still don’t know who won the presidential election, and despite people demanding we have hope, it’s easy to lean back into negativity and outright loathing. For just a little while, we’ll do just that.

Actually, “outright loathing” perfectly sums up “The Tides of Blood,” the debut full-length album from Canadian destroyers Ceremonial Bloodshed, a display of filth-ridden death that feels like it was eaten and then regurgitated by a machine. Everything here is pitch black and horrifying, and anyone who’s stopping by for infectious melodies and hooks probably should move on to something else. Instead what this band—vocalist/guitarist D.M., guitarist G.C., bassist Adam Sorry, drummer A.C.—does is create nightmarish storms that eat their way into your brain and create new fear mechanisms that increase your anxiety thousandfold. Though I feel like my anxiety is so off the charts this week that this album is helping quell the nerves by creating visions that somehow are more horrifying that modern reality.

“Command Sacrifice” is an eerie intro cut that swirls in noise echo, feeling like a demented dream as “Primitive” gets moving. The track blasts as the vocals blur the lines of death, and the playing is devastating. Annihilation spreads its wings, slowly driving holes into your soul as blinding hell is unleashed. The drums destroy everything in its wake, smothering and pummeling to the end. “Book of Black Blessings” is living hell as it gets going. Blasting hard through storming chaos and riffs sinking their teeth into sinew. A snarling groove strikes oddly, cutting through guts, while the playing lashes back and leaves blood at the back of your throat. That playing then chars, unloading and blasting into “The Throat of Belial” that has a maniacal pace as the drums just slaughter. The vocals shred the mind as raspy howls strike, and the thrashing blackens eyes. “Hordes of Demons Feeding” has guitars unfurling as a calculated pace does damage before the explosions create havoc. The guitars feel like they’re spraying blood and innards, some of it getting into your mouth, as a steam bath makes you feel lightheaded, giving the guitar work a chance to level you. Violence and terror sprawl as hypnosis sets in, and your brain starts to melt from your ears.

“The Void Staring Back” is strange as hell as synth clouds surround you, and a sheep bleating in the background dissolves into “Hammer Throne” that burns and stomps from its introduction. Furnace-like filth coats your lungs, leaving you gasping, as the guitars smoke through as the riffs flex defiantly. The growls feel like they’re gashing DM’s throat as the drums kill again, and the track tears into a death chasm. “Seven Wells” runs a healthy 8:08 and enters in a gloomy yawn as the guitars work begins to spiral. The senses are totally squashed as disorienting, tornadic riffs blast toward you, maiming and strangling their way into a sludgier attack that is mounted that delivers menace. Growls carve away as bones are stomped, detonating into a delirious front that destroys to the end. “Ceremonial Bloodbath” is the longest track, killing over 8:26 and delivering relentless doom. The carnage floods, sending off disorienting jolts that leave you grabbing the wall for support. The track turns into a nasty syrup, warping its way down rock before a war-torn tempo brings you back to alert. The growls smash through your rib cage, as the playing remains steady and heavy, raging with flame toward ending sequence “In the Depths” that is a strange chasm with penetrating voices gnawing at you, haunting before the end comes suddenly.

As vile as they come, Ceremonial Bloodshed hack and grind through penetrating, filthy death metal that feels like it’s only here to see to it you suffer as much as possible. This is becoming a strain of death metal that is finding my sicker sweet spots, and the madness and insanity feels like it dials up all that’s meant to make one feel dead inside. This is relentless and bloodthirsty, the ideal death metal record for when you’re at your lowest, and the only answer is unfiltered morbidity.

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French death squad Sépulcre grind guts, lather in filth on demo ‘… Morbid Transcendence’

With the luxury of having written this a few days ago, I have no idea what happened in the election, and really, by the time this runs, I still may not know. But for some head-clearing therapy, death metal has been an ideal antidote to calm the nerves, perverse as that sounds, and the feeling is we’re going to need ever more of it as the next few days transpire.

Likely sitting over in France and laughing as our farcical political theater are Sépulcre, a death metal force offering up their debut demo “Ascent Through Morbid Transcendence” that is being released in physical form by Invictus Productions. This band—vocalist/guitarist/bassist KD, guitarist HW, drummer JW—digs deep down into the filth and guts with their style, reveling in ugliness and chaos, and over these four tracks and about 15 minutes of run time, they leave no question as to how hard they’ll turn the screws, taking no real interest in alleviating your levels of pain.

“Intro-Sepulcrascent” simmers in noises that stew in their own juices, feeling cavernous and weird as the pathway opens to “Invocation of Plague Ridden Entit” that immediately begins with sidewinding riffs. The growls gurgle as the speed picks up and rampages, ripping through you with total chaos. The tempo stampedes heavily as guitars wail, and hypnotic tones bleed out and make your head spin dangerously. Drums engulf and spits chards of bone as the assault works its way toward “Morbid Transcendence” where guitars hang and sting before sinking the knife. Harsh growls reign as the pace explodes, and the playing smashes through the violent verses. Growls mash as the playing snarls, ripping out of the guts of a doom haze. “Drowned in Impure Semen” not only ends the record, but it’s the best song title of the week. Riffs club as the growls push through, and then the music encircles as the band keeps hitting harder. The pace is ugly and smashing, heading into humid dizziness as the guitars stream with rivers of blood, smothering violence crawls, and the growls deliver the final wounds.

“Ascend Through Morbid Transcendence” is an absolutely disgusting demo by this promising band Sépulcre, and though it’s four tracks and 15 minutes long, it’s enough to scar your psyche. This is a devastating display of massive, grinding death metal that isn’t trying to win style points and instead is here to maim. That mission is accomplished over and over on this beast, and it’s only a demo!

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Metal can wait another day. It’s time to rise up and vote.

Sacrilegious as this may sound, there are things more important than metal. Today brings one of those moments for us here in the United States as we get ready to hold our 59th presidential election, this one potentially the most terrifying of most of our lives. So, we are pausing our normal coverage on Tuesday to put all our strengths there and hoping the outcome gives us hope for 2021 and beyond.

That doesn’t mean we’re breaking from metal today, because there is just too much good stuff out there to bring you the rest of the week, and don’t forget, this genre has given us a nice share of content that is in reaction to politics and society at large. Metallica’s entire “…And Justice for All” album. Rage Against the Machine’s entire catalog. Lamb of God’s landmark “As the Palaces Burn” record. Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze’s incredible “Offerings of Flesh and Gold.” Anything from Ragana or Thou or Redbait or Closet Witch or Woe. That’s just off the top of my head. Let it sink in and fuel your actions.

This also serves as a reminder that this site is a friend and defender of anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+, people of color, those who battle for women’s rights, those who are trying to ensure police stop killing people (especially minorities), and basic human rights and decency for all people. We stand steadfast against racists, fascists, abusers, sexual abusers, and power structures designed to hold people down. We end this by saying fuck Donald Trump and what he’s done to this country, and may he be humiliated and destroyed and spend his days in a prison cell.