BEST OF 2020: Splits and EPs

KHEMMIS, “Doomed Heavy Metal” (20 Buck Spin): You’ve got to be a real son of a bitch to cover Dio’s all-time classic “Rainbow in the Dark” and think you’re going to do it justice, but damnit if Khemmis didn’t pull it off expertly. That’s just the opening track on their Record Store Day release “Doomed Heavy Metal” (which was pushed back due to you know what), and elsewhere they add their own glorious fingertips to “A Conversation With Death” and include their Decibel flexi single “Empty Throne” as well as three great live cuts on their 20 Buck Spin swan song. (April 17)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/doomed-heavy-metal

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

ANHEDONIST/SPECTRAL VOICE, split (Dark Descent): Combining a band we lost too soon with one of the best death metal bands on the planet, this split brought together sinister power and unrelenting darkness. Anhedonist bowed out in 2014 after one record, and sadly, guitarist Kim Harrington passed away this year, but they left us “Abject Darkness” that reminded of their coal-black power. Spectral Voice take you right into the heart of cosmic violence on “Ineffable Winds,” a reminder that they remain one of the sub-genre’s heaviest hitters. (Feb. 12)

For more on Anhedonist, go here: https://anhedonist.blogspot.com/

For more on Spectral Voice, go here:  https://www.facebook.com/Necroticdoom/

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

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

VULGARITE, “Fear Not the Dark Nor the Sun’s Return” (self-released): Margaret Killjoy had quite the productive year, first with this pitch-black nightmare “Fear Not the Dark…,” as well as her work with Feminazgul, who we’ll visit again in a few days. But this EP that struck at the turn of the year actually ideally encapsulated the hell we were about to endure with tracks such as ghostly opener “What Curse Comes This Way,” the strange miasma of “His Words Are a Void,” and atmospheric closer “A Decade, a Prophecy” that’ll chill you to the bone. (Jan. 6)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vulgaarite/ To buy the album, go here: https://vulgarite.bandcamp.com/releases

MORTIFERUM/HYPERDONTIA, split (Carbonized Records/Me Saco Un Ojo): This destroyer is still fresh in our memories as we just talked about this devastating split pitting Washington’s Mortiferum against international destroyers Hyperdontia. The bands bring their best, splattering you with relentless death that simmers in doomy waters as far as Mortiferum is concerned and absolute hell when it comes to Hyperdontia. Two tracks and a little more than 13 minutes are all you need to have your face bruised and your psyche permanently scarred. (Dec. 7)

For more on Hyperdontia, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hyperdontia

For more on Mortiferum, go here: https://mortiferum.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://carbonizedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mortiferum-hyperdontia

Or here: https://mesacounojo.bandcamp.com/album/split-7-3

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

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

LYCHGATE, “Also Sprach Futura” (Debemur Morti): Taking breaks between full-length efforts, the strange and enigmatic Lychgate pulled into Debemur Morti’s shores and delivered this spellbinding four-track EP that’s equal mix black metal horror and organ-driven insanity. Nothing this band does ever comes free of musical drama, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. They chill and splatter on imaginative songs such as deadly opener “Incarnate,” mind-bending “Simulacrum,” and rushing closer “Vanity Ablaze” that might as well soundtrack a real-life haunted house. (March 13)

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

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/en/

Other EPs and splits we loved: Auroch, “Stolen Angelic Tongues”; Body Void/Keeper split; Carcass, “Despicable”; High Command, “Everlasting Torment”; Old Nick, “Witch of the Northern Vill” and “No Solace in Sunlight”; Putrescine, “Devourer of Gods” and “Reek of Putrescine”; Throane, “Une Balle Dans le Pied”

Best of 2020: Non-metal releases

We’ve said it from the start that though this is a site dedicated to heavy metal, to only immerse yourself in that type of music would be incredibly boring. There’s a lot going on outside of that massive realm, and we wanted to highlight some of the records we really loved this year that deserve praise. There are a few albums I want to mention that we didn’t write up below—Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” Waxahatchee’s “Saint Cloud,” Phoebe Bridgers’ “Punisher”—that we just adored, but they’ve been written about in pretty much every publications’ lists. So, yes, we love and own them, but let’s look at 10 other records that are absolute must haves as well. These are listed alphabetically.

MOANING, “Uneasy Laughter” (Sub Pop): The icy, synthy, sometimes claustrophobic music made by this LA-based trio really peaked on “Uneasy Laughter,” their great second record. The music also is driving and impossibly catchy quite often as songs such as “Ego,” “Fall in Love,” and “Connect the Dots” can attest. You get the feeling a lot is going on in their psyches, much of it dark, and it came across brilliantly on this album. (March 20)  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://megamart.subpop.com/

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

MIDWIFE, “Forever” (Flenser Records): Madeline Johnson terms her music as “heaven metal,” and while it’s not particularly loud, it can definitely make you feel like you’re existing on a different plane. This record, her second under the Midwife banner, was written in remembrance of her friend and creative partner Colin Ward, and it’s gripping, emotional, and devastating front to back. (April 10)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Midwife-1544620965823272/

To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/flenser-releases

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

MRS PISS, “Self-Surgery” (Sargent House): It’s not like Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie make easy-to-digest music for the most part, but their alliance here on noise-mashed “Self-Surgery” is the most abrasive work of either of their careers. It could have been at home on the metal list, but we felt it belonged better here. It’s a blast that’s over fast, but you pay the price over and over again on “Downer Surrounded by Uppers,” “Knelt,” and the title cut. (May 29)

For more on the band, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/mrs-piss

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/sargent-house

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

MARGO PRICE, “That’s How Rumors Get Started” (Loma Vista): Whatever the fuck most people call country music is about the worst shit ever, but there are great artists operating away from the influence of the CMA who are making fantastic art. Margo Price is one of them, and her awesome third record is the portrait of a bad-ass woman battling broken heart, pain, assholes, and misunderstandings, coming out of it bruised but tougher than ever. (July 10)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://bodega.lomavistarecordings.com/collections/margo-price

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

PURITY RING, “Womb” (4AD): I admittedly was kind of worried about Canadian electro pop duo Purity Ring after their second record “Another Eternity” fell really flat for me five years ago. “Womb” is more of the alien fog weirdness and psychedelic sugar they introduced on “Shrines” but worlds apart, as they just shine on “rubyinsides,” “peacefall,” “silkspun,” and “stardew,” one of the best album closers of the year. Also, Megan James could sing the back of a cereal box and be absolutely otherworldly. (April 3):

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

To buy the album, go here: https://4ad.com/store

For more on the label, go here: https://4ad.com/

ULVER, “Flowers of Evil” (House of Mythology): It’s still funny putting Ulver on a non-metal list, but the days of their black metal trilogy are way behind us, and we’re solidly entrenched in their synth-driven rock, which again just nails it on “Flowers of Evil.” There is darkness, death, cults, and even a dream into their past on this incredibly infectious record, peaking on “Russian Doll,” “Hour of the Wolf,” “Apocalypse 1993,” and pain-drenched closer “A Thousand Cuts.” (Aug. 28)

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

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

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

US GIRLS, “Heavy Light” (4AD): Meg Remy has that rare gift of being able to put out an entire album of songs that all have distinct personalities and sound nothing like each other, yet they work so perfectly as a whole. This is her finest moment yet, and “4 America Dollars” is in the conversation for one of the best songs of the entire year. But there’s plenty of good stuff here including hot “Overtime,” “Born to Lose,” and “The Quiver to the Bomb” that’ll get you moving and then gut you. (March 6):

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

To buy the album, go here: https://4ad.com/store

For more on the label, go here: https://4ad.com/

KATIE VON SCHLEICHER, “Consummation” (Ba Da Bing): Immersing yourself in Katie Von Schleicher’s world demands a commitment to her psychedelic darkness and allowing yourself to be washed away by her alluring voice and wonderfully dreamy music. “Consummation” is loosely based on an alternative version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and it has so many arresting moments including “You Remind Me,” “Loud,” “Brutality,” and “Nowhere,” which is one of my favorite songs of the entire year. (May 22)

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.badabingrecords.com/store

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

WAILING STORMS, “Rattle” (Gilead Media): This band is here to shake your cages, which “Rattle” does over and over again. In fact, if the title track doesn’t grab you and hold you under, then I wonder about your ability to feel emotion because it’s a pounder. The band claims they jammed grunge, doom, rock, and blues into their mix, and you can hear that on every bursting edge of “Rope,” “Grass,” “Teeth,” and “Crow.” This is a record you’re required to play on whatever top volume you can achieve, other people’s feelings be damned. (May 15)

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

JESS WILLIAMSON, “Sorceress” (Mexican Summer): Jess Williamson’s great fourth record “Sorceress” was a revelation to me. I didn’t know much about her before this album came out, and I was pulled right in by the woodsy title track, complete with her pantomiming whip sounds and ending with an exhilarated “wooo!” Elsewhere, there are country-flavored folk tracks such as “Wind on Tin,” “How Ya Lonesome,” breezy “As the Birds Are,” and “Smoke,” where she drops, “Every couple months, I like to be bad,” as she saunters off to break you. (May 15)

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Cardinal Wyrm add strange charisma to doomy stories on bizarre ‘Devotionals’

Photo by Amy Oshit

We’ve come to the end of what has been an utterly miserable, terrifying, infuriating, and crushing year, and this is our final review of 2020, as well as the last Pick of the Week for these awful 12 months. May this year rot in disease and filth and be burned in the annals of time. But we still have a bit more business to conduct, so let’s end this shit with one hell of a bizarre record.

“Devotionals” is the fourth record from Oakland-based doom story weavers Cardinal Wyrm, and this collection might be their most mind-numbing yet. You’re never going to get conventional from this band, and we’re forever thankful for that, but this one took me a few trips before I fully wrapped my arms around it. But it finally sunk in, something that matches the effects of their previous albums, and I was completely engulfed in the madness they create on this eight-track, 50-minute opus. The band—vocalist/drummer Pranjal Tiwari, guitarist/vocalist Nathan A. Verrill, bassist/vocalist Leila Abdul-Rauf—takes each track and sets up an entirely different world for each, feeling like they’re drawing from stories and lessons of ages past that remains applicable in today’s fragile society. Yet it all works together as a whole, as wonderfully maddening as it can be at times.

“Gannet” starts the record on a zany path, making you question your decisions, as Tiwari howls, “Something else is here with me, in the dark I feel its weight,” as the track wrenches. Cool soloing lights up the horizons and makes you wonder if you’re about to be swallowed by a beast before gnarly vocals strike, and everything comes to a fittingly weird end. “Mrityunjaya” strikes with trudging power, chanted yells, and warm soloing that hovers in the air. “Hex upon the weakened!” Tiwari repeats with deranged power as the bass thickens, and the psychedelic clouds get so close, you can taste them. The vocals then sprawl, the pace slurs, and we brawl to a finish. “Imposter” starts clean with higher-register vocals and an uncomfortable vibe that’s both dizzying and violent. The drunken playing melts away and gets kind of jazzy, with the bass slithering dangerously before a strong solo burns brightly. The track bustles as clean calls spark, and everything crawls to an eerie end. “Selimesh” is just a mind fuck in the best way with riffs confounding and the playing scrambling your brains. The wild yelps of, “In gog magog!” are impossible to get out of your head and revel in Biblical barbarism while Abdul-Rauf’s vocals add more texture and keep the song sweltering. Things pile up, the guitars scorch flesh, and the track ends in a trail of its own ash.

“Canticle” brings churning guitars and an essence of coolness that shows a different side to this madness. The chorus is another killer with Tiwari calling, “And when you are lost, I’ll be the star you see, so many have found their way to the grave with me.” The guitars then explore before unleashing devastating soloing, leaving one more strike for the chorus before mauling to the end. “Abbess” is another standout, crunching and spiraling into weirdness as the verses warble. “And when she’s dancing on our graves, drunk upon the world she’s made, we’ll know this game was rigged to lose,” Tiwari warns as weird bellowing strikes, and burly power pushes through. The leads lather as the verses add to the intrigue, and Abdul-Rauf viciously growling the track’s title as the song rushes out. “Nightmarchers” cuts in with a classic power metal-style riff that darkens with the barked words. Weighty sludge and speak-like vocals mix with the heavy crunch, adding muscle and glimmering wonder before the door is slammed shut. “Do We Have Another Battle Left in Us” is your closer, and it melts in with chilling bass and a psychological edge, merging into Pink Floyd-style flesh crawling. “But do we have another round? Do we have, our spirits getting thinner, do we have, this fading town, do we have, a place among the sinners?” Tiwari wonders with anxiety as harder punches are thrown, and things continue barreling out of control. The lyrics are lengthy and involved and too much to fully cover here, but at the end, Tiwari calls, “So damn them all, we’ll find escape, with clouds of green and walls of ice, a final place beyond this world, for this we’ll make our sacrifice,” hoping for some kind of salvation as the track ends in illuminated, heated embers.  

It’s fitting we end a tumultuous, chaotic year with this record, Cardinal Wyrm’s deliriously bizarre, dramatic doom throwback “Devotionals,” the most aggressive and ambitious of their four albums. This record won’t be for everyone, and I’m sure they know that, but for those who connect, they likely will hard and with force. This is a captivating, peculiar record that injects some fun back into metal but also leaves you psychologically flattened, which you might find yourself deviously enjoying.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Cardinal-Wyrm-157603967620024/

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

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

Australian black metal ghouls EOS blast brains, horrify senses with debut ‘The Great Ascension’

The element of mystery is something that’s largely gone in the world of heavy metal as social media has stripped away a lot of the puzzle (remember when we didn’t know who was in Ghost?), and therefore we get to know more about the individuals behind the music and what makes them tick. It’s a nice quality, but it’s also alluring when we can’t see behind the curtain.

Australian black metal force EOS are like phantoms in the night, albeit really loud and terrifying ones, and their debut record “The Great Ascension” is horrifying and nightmarish. In fact, if you look at the band photo, they kind of look like they’re about to drop a rap album, but don’t let that fool you. These three masked figures have been working on their great opus for several years now, and it is a savage, yet thought-provoking work, something that mars your psyche and drags you on a strange journey through the excesses, tragedies, and evils of humankind that have their hooks in all of us.

The title track hammers open, splattering the walls with blood as the vocals gurgle, and grisly playing increases the pressure. The playing allows trickles of melody into the DNA as maniacal howls devastate, and group wails sicken as the song blazes out. “Valkyrie” has gruff vocals and the drums utterly pummeling as melody spills into the darkness. Vicious howls destroy while guitars flood the senses with gigantic ruffs, wrenching hell heats up dangerously, and everything ends in brute force. “Amour Propre” opens in grinding chaos as insane howls spit shrapnel, and black metal-level melodies darken the skies. Detached calls open a trance as shadows thicken, and everything burns to ash.

“Draugar” simmers in its juices as the vocals tears open flesh, and the relentless pace puts you in imminent danger. Heavy and slurry, the track turns you inside out, leaving battered limbs behind as the roars push and the leads heat up, stabbing toward an abrupt end. “Memento Mori” heats up as glorious riffs glimmer, and then shit just rams open the castle walls. Drums hammer as the vocals are delivered through gritted teeth, and then the playing loses its mind and swings sharpened blades. Leads spiral, making the room spin, while everything barrels toward a vicious end. “Black Winter Bloodbath” brings choked riffs and drums drubbing hard while the growls creak out as if from a dusty crypt. The ferocity then multiplies as the melody rushes in waves, the playing stampedes, and everything ends in a pile of muscle and sinew. “Illumination and Will” ends the record and delivers a sprawling assault that causes disorientation. The vocals unleash hell while the black metal streaks smear grease, bringing a grittier pace as throaty vocal snarls poke wounds. The heat continues to increase while the pace takes apart skeletal structures, ripping out its own guts and blasting to the end.

EOS’s mysterious guise and relentless black metal make “The Great Ascension” a perplexing but rewarding listen. It took me a few visits to really explore the peaks and valleys these Aussie freaks have woven into this creation, and ultimately that amplified my enjoyment level. Black metal has been at oversaturation for quite some time now, but EOS prove that it’s still possible to make morbid waves in this subgenre and create something creepy and memorable.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/eos.black.metal

To buy the album, go here: https://brilliantemperor.bigcartel.com/product/eos-the-great-ascension-lp

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

Kavyk combine death, doom with bizarre cosmic dust on charred, pulverizing debut ‘Radiant Abyss’

Forgive the brutal assault on the dead horse, but December is not a dead zone for music, and a major reason why I don’t rush my final top 40 of the year is I wait until I have properly processed everything I need to hear. I’m lucky in that way in that this is a site and not a print publication with a long lead time on getting lists done, so I can fully appreciate everything that comes deep in the year.

One of those records that definitely should not be allowed to fly under the radar is “Radiant Abyss,” the debut from New Orleans-based maulers Kavyk who pile doom, death, and strange atmospherics into their five-track, 42-minute assault. Formed with members of Barghest, the band—vocalist/guitarist Troy Bennett, guitarist Max Kimmons, bassist Brian Eiermann, drummer AJ Martinez—combines similar elements of filth and chaos you find with that project, but there’s such a heavy cosmic vibe to all of this that it manages to capture the imagination while also delivering heavy bludgeoning. That makes this crusher a pretty damn great time, and a smothering one at that.

“Radiant Abyss” opens with a drubbing rumble and vicious death growls ripping from Bennett’s bowels. The track then adds a heavy dose of space dust, one of the factors that makes this record as fun as it is vicious, as a huge charge comes from the stars. The drums crumble wills as the vocals ramp up, and melody combines with a feral surge to add an exclamation point at the end. “Cathartic Voices” runs a healthy 9:40 and starts with warmth before the tempo is torn to shreds, and chaos begins to reign. Vicious growls and a trucking pace lead into muck pockets and then a psychedelic fog, and out of that, things heat up in a hurry, the playing trudges, and everything hurtles toward a hungry black hole.  

“Civilized” is a beefy 8:58, and it rips through the atmosphere, bringing menace and trudging haymakers. The playing pounds away and promises bruising while that washes over planetary force, jarring you awake with the drums clobbering. Bennett’s shrieks mar time, leveling into atmospheric pressure, sweltering guitars, and a mangling finish. “For Those Who Long to Die” combines doom and progressive winds at the start, and that slowly loosens rock and sediment as the growls gut you. Both mystifying and troubling, the track adds intensity as it weaves its way toward a sound vortex. Closer “Comatose Simplicity” is the longest track here, running 10:41, and it totally explodes, blasting into calculated heaviness. The vocals rip through rocky paths as the storming envelopes, and the playing plasters. Proggy weirdness works its way in before things are surrounded by alien strangeness that surges and finally finishes off with trance-inducing violence.

It’s great that the end of the year no longer is a burying grounds for records that didn’t cut it, and Kavyk’s monstrous debut “Radiant Abyss” is an album on which you definitely should not sleep. Cosmic death and doom are all over this five-track beast, and every single inch of this thing will leave you bruised and battered. This is a titanic debut that brings brute force and entrancing creativity in equal, twisted doses.     

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

To buy the album, go here: https://caustichollowrecords.bandcamp.com/album/radiant-abyss

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

Verlust channel black metal rage on religious atrocities on gruff, heavily melodic debut ‘II’

I’ve never been to Hawaii before, and I’m just going to guess I never will be because I don’t want to fly, and that sounds like a long time to be in the air. Oh well! But I’d imagine it’s amazing there, a place that just takes your breath away, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean that makes it hard to get there and difficult to leave.

Yet, there’s a darkness in what seems like paradise, and that bubbles to the surface on “II,” the first full-length release from Verlust. Helmed by single musician J, the music on this effort does pay homage to the artist’s home in these isolated islands, including the rich nature surrounding everything there. There also is a history of religious persecution and violence done over the ages by missionaries (a topic we also broached last week with Heretical Sect), so J’s anger and violent lash back against Christianity based on that history also is woven in with blood into the music. This release is filled with second-wave black metal power, with a nice dash of melody for good measure, and the fury and ill intent that fuels the music is apparent and striking from the moment the initial sparks feed the fire.    

“Introduction” starts with birds chirping and nature unfurling as guitars slowly awaken, and the world comes alive as it heads toward “Vision of a Mighty Serpent” that rushes to life with as flood of melody. The drums crush as J’s savage growls eviscerate, while the pace stomps guts before settling into calm. The music trickles along before a new gust bursts and delivers rage and power, with J wailing, “The serpent crept forth, transformed to a new entity, androgynous and baphometic, goat and serpent, man and woman.” “Mountains” gasps open as great riffs encircle, and vile cries go hand in hand with the raucous blasting. The playing tumbles violently toward earth as the track turns relentless, jarring to the very end. “Promethean Fate” has raw melody jolting and growls tearing away. The drums rumble out of a brief respite with an explosive burst and J howling, “The mountains echo our insignificance, silent monoliths of eternity,” as the track comes to a fiery end.

“A Sword Turned Towards Heaven” punches in and crushes right away, drilling through rock and unleashing spellbinding guitars that leave you dizzy. That enrapturing tempo keeps building as the war is raged with great gusto, with J declaring, “Spew forth blasphemy! Ye are the true traitors! We destroy your sacred spaces, desecrating the remains, as we build monuments to your demise.” The force is storming and driven while assault continues its push until it crushes through the front gates. “Deep Dark Waters” wrenches with raw menace and a hammering approach that keeps wielding violent tools. The track slows a bit but remains impossibly heavy, though speed is a factor again later, the drums power the ship, and gears continues to spin until the smoke collects and chokes out everything. “A Door into Emptiness” tears open as guitars stir and the vocals scrape, while black metal majesty spirals into a volcanic attack. The pace is sweltering as the guitars play tricks with your mind, and the fury is complete madness, dismantling systems and heading into monster riffs. The track eventually begins to relent but only after earth and flesh are scorched, leading toward closing track “Outro (Farewell).” The instrumental piece has waters rushing, guitars trickling, and the force of nature at the forefront again.

J packs a lot of emotion, disgust, and homage into the eight tracks on “II,” an album that sharpens its blades and heads right into the heart of war. For a first record under the Verlust banner, this establishes them as another strong foot solider in the battle against oppressive faith and those who seek to continue harming the earth. Verlust see you as the enemy, and the only acceptable outcome is your total and unquestioned demise.   

For more on the band, go here: https://verlust.bandcamp.com/

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Folterkammer’s alchemic chaos destroys power, religion with ‘Die Lederpredigt’

It took almost the entire year, but we finally have a record that completely defies logic, explanation, and reason to a degree where I just sat there the first time this record ended and wondered what had just happened to me. Sure, there have been other records that stand out creatively and challenge mentally in 2020, but I don’t know there’s anything anywhere that could match Folterkammer.

The Swiss/American black metal band (and that’s a very rigid description for a beast so wild) delivers “Die Lederpredigt,” which translates to “The Leather Sermon,” a seven-track adventure that mixes dark theatricality, operatic fury, and metallic ferocity in such a strange way, it’s hard to even describe. A lot of that is because of ridiculously savage and flexible vocalist Andromeda Anarchia, whose voice needs to be heard to be comprehended, and I won’t do her justice here at all, hard as I’ll try. She’s such a force, a tornadic wave of insanity and dramatic terror that you cannot take your attention from her, and you’ll only understand her words if you speak German. She’s joined by guitarist Zachary Ezrin (of Imperial Triumphant, who also are no strangers to challenging, mind-defying music), bassist Darren Hanson, and drummer Brendan McGowan on a record that conjures the evil spirits of black metal, exposes the abusive nature of religion and authoritative power, and comes from the perspective of a scorned goddess looking to shed blood.

“Die Nänie” dawns with organs swelling and Anarchia’s hushed singing before she goes operatic and tears paint from the walls. Her shrieks cause muscle spasms as the pace goes nuclear, delivering spellbinding madness as the chorus wooshes back for more, and the track ends in a sticky pool. “Die Hymne” arrives with Anarchia going for the stratosphere vocally, as the playing lands heavy punches, and her shrieks are nuanced by her theatrical hacking and splintering, which is just a morbid joy. The pace hammers away as the track gets vexing as hell, with some outright extraordinary singing pumping blood, and the final moments gurgling out. “Die Elegie” is gently psychedelic as it gets started, with the words coming in ghostly speaking as the foundation explodes. Her growls mar while choral backing sends chills to your soul, as everything that comes from Anarchia’s mouth, even if you don’t understand the words, displays her alien range. The playing unravels further while also soaking up a pastoral vibe before disappearing into darkness.

“Das Gebet” enters the room frantically as Anarchia mixes operatic singing with vile speak-like growl bursts that crawl up your spine. It’s madness. As the song progresses, it actually turns a really catchy, almost pop-like display that explodes like sugar in your blood, and Anarchia’s playful, manic gush of words is both utterly charming and completely terrifying, calling out for dark forces that likely cannot be controlled. “Das Magnificat” has riffs sweeping and creaky growls crawling through blood before the singing gets more breathtaking (if that can be believed). The playing thrashes as evil is allowed to operate without constraint, with wild shrieks crushing glass, and the whole thing storming to a gut-wrenching finish. “Das Sinngedicht” starts mystically and has a chamber music feel, while the singing surges, and the fog thickens. The guitars charge up as Anarchia hisses in dark tongue, sprawling into wild fury and twisted organs. The guitars jolt as the singing dares the gods, blasting shut and canceling the light. “Das Zeugnis” closes this experience with organs signaling doom, and slow, dark tidings bleeding ever so slowly. The singing pushes, starting with a glimmer of hope before turning ugly, and the song unloads with ill will, bringing with it pumps of Gothic soot and black waves of horror. Anarchia’s singing flutters before turning into growls of rage, crushing throats and adding to the claustrophobic suffocation of the album’s final moments.

With mere weeks left to go in the year, 2020 dropped one final destroyer in “Die Lederpredigt,” a record that has no equal when it comes to ambition, metallic ingenuity, and hellish character. Folterkammer deliver something completely different from anything else you heard this year and likely will for a while, and it’s an incredible experience. This record lashes back against power structures, does so with horrifying and gorgeous horror, and it’s something that you won’t be able to get out of your head well after the music ends.

For more on the band, go here: facebook.com/folterkammer.music

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/products/folterkammer-die-lederpredigt-lp

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

Grayceon’s prog doom shines light on our role as protector on ‘Mothers Weavers Vultures’

Photo by Rohini Moradi Sweeney

Our roles as stewards of nature and the entire world around us is a bloodied ballad that’s been suffocated by certain members of the United States government, treating our woes as a hoax, while others continue to fight to save the place we live so that it’s here for generations beyond us. There are some signs of hope moving forward, but the struggle against science deniers looks unending.

And it’s not just them. We all have a role in how healthy the environment is, and all of us fail in some way. But having a caring, nurturing attitude toward our world could play a major role in keeping it inhabitable. We are caregivers for this planet, a major theme on “Mothers Weavers Vultures,” the excellent new record from Grayceon, one their most sobering and vital to date. Musically, the band’s progressive doom sounds as rich and powerful as ever five records into their run. Their words always held a lot of weight, but what Grayceon—vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz, guitarist Max Doyle, drummer Zack Farwell—bring on this record involves us all and serves as a reminder that even as many of us try to do our best for our surroundings, we also can be destroyers if we drop our guard.

“Diablo Wind” dawns with Gratz’s cello scraping as guitars open up, and the energy kicks in. “The fire winds are coming strong, the future is dark, future is dark,” she warns ominously before the track sweeps, and Gratz’s vocals go from ethereal singing to piercing shrieks. The playing jolts and loosens foundations while sludge enters the mix and muddies the waters, and wordless calls soar and pull closed the doors. “The Lucky Ones” bursts through the gates with Gratz calling, “If you want the moon don’t hide from the night, if you want the rose don’t hide from its thorns.” The track plays with light and dark, softness and heaviness as the riffs darken, and the cello pours the drama generously. “Open your eyes,” Gratz prods repeatedly as harsh shrieks rain down, and the cello swelters, sparking an aggressive burst of playing. Doom drives, the playing gets heavier, and the track rips again before resting easily.

“This Bed” is punchy and agitated, and it has a strange Alice in Chains vibe, or at least that’s how it strikes me. “Yesterday is gone, is it too late to say sorry?” Gratz wonders as trouble is battled, regrets and pain confronted. The strings feel dusky later, taking on a classical vibe while the singing floats amid darker progressions, as Gratz calls, “Let us fade away in this bed we’ve made.” “And Shine On” is burly and punchy, as Gratz demands, “Don’t let them break you down.” The melody stirs as the playing carves away, muddy riffs add muscle, and everything is shaken and stirred before dissolving into mystery. “Rock Steady” is your closer, and it’s a heartfelt love letter as cello adds blankets of sound, the playing is slower and solemn, and Gratz lures, “Somewhere under the rainbow, that’s where you’ll find me.” The track then is shredded at the seams about four minutes into this seven-minute cut as shrieks devastate, and the guitars storm. “We won’t be together forever, but I’ll love you until my days are done,” Gratz vows as waves lap, the earth quakes, and a warm glaze bleeds over the track’s last moments.

Grayceon spend their riveting “Mothers Weavers Vultures” reminding us we are the protectors of the place in which we live, and too often we let our responsibilities dissolve into nothing. The line, “We are all mothers of this place we call home,” is that urgent message on “The Lucky Ones,” and as you visit these songs and the words, it turns into a needed warning that might be too late to answer. Powerful music and environmentally urgent messaging long have been a part of Grayceon’s creativity, and never have those been more important and needed than right here, right now.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/mothers-weavers-vultures?_pos=1&_sid=f9f2505bb&_ss=r

Or here (digital order proceeds will be donated to Defenders of Wildlife and the Wildlife Conservation Society): https://grayceon.bandcamp.com/

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

Southwest’s Heretical Sect put light on region’s bloody history on ‘Rapturous Flesh Consumed’

Photo by Brandon Soder

That dumb clown fuck that just lost the election and keeps getting beaten like a drum in baseless court challenges pushed forward an idea about patriotic learning curriculum he wanted forced through that would serve to whitewash this country’s horrifying moments from history and basically stand in as an America fuck yeah woo retelling of shit that always gave this nation a really foul reputation.

People who want knowledge always will be able to find it no matter what kids are taught (man, was my historical education slanted as fuck), because the bloody paths left behind are what help us learn and hopefully prevent those things from happening again. American Southwest-based black metal force Heretical Sect are seeing to it that atrocities in their region never are swept under the carpet, and their massive debut “Rapturous Flesh Consumed” tells the story of Salvador de Guerra, a Catholic padre who is responsible for vast amounts of death and torture of the Hopi tribe in New Mexico in the 17th century, all fueled by his visions of Christianity. By the way, it’s not an easy Google search to find information on what happened, but dig deeply and you can learn the horrifying details. The band—vocalist/drummer Death Warg, guitarists Coffin Beast and Crypt Hammer, bassist Demonic Haze—eschews revealing their identities (though members play in other bands such as Superstition and Predatory Light), with the goal of getting people to concentrate on the music and the madness they retell rather than who they are. Even had they stepped out of the shadows, there’s no way you can take your mind off their violent mission and path of destruction.

“Rising Light of Lunacy” opens pounding away as growls entangle, growing utterly filthy as they crawl through the dust. The riffs then kill with stunning precision, the bass recoils, and the drums destroy, ending the track with a warped assault. “Baptismal Rot and Ash” runs a healthy 10:34, the longest track on the record, and it opens in sooty fury and doomy slurring, with strange growls breathing down your neck. The track then paralyzes with brutal growls and dark emissions flowing through spiraling guitars and animalistic attacking. The track turns darker and burly as snarled dialog pushes into a strange sound cloud that eventually dissipates. “The Depths of Weeping Infinity” starts with the drums making paste of your bones and growls rumbling through a mauling pace. Hypnotic guitars cause strange feelings as growls simmers, the pace destroys, and confounding melodies slam shut the door.

“Degradation Temple” runs a meaty 7:08 and has guitars rising before burning off fuel. Detached vocals swim in the ether, and the intensity then gives way to a slower, though no less heavy, pace. Bizarre calls twist your brain as speak-like growls stomp, and the riffs catch fire again. Another dose of alien oddity sends pulses as guitars tangle, and the track blasts out. “Resurrection Sky” is a quick one, running 2:27 and leaving you mentally steamrolled. Synth fog rises, deep growls cut into your guts, and the noise blares to its finish, spilling into closer “Ritual Inversion” that sends chills before the guitars blast to life. Cosmic impulses hammer while the vocals sprawl, with the manic pace continuing to confuse and crush. The playing then torpedoes as the drums go for throats, the intent is vicious and bloodthirsty, and the final moments melt into a dream haze.

Heretical Sect’s demonic haze of southwestern-inspired death and black metal rages with blood and fire on “Rapturous Flesh Consumed,” their great debut record that refuses to bury the region’s blood-soaked history. This is 36 minutes of relentless power, a record that’ll grind you down to your basic essence and erode you into the earth. This end-of-year destroyer jars you out of your autumnal slumber and reminds you there remains deadly metal left to arrive in cursed 2020, and this sure as fuck is some of it.

For more on the band, go here: https://hereticalsect.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/products/heretical-sect-rapturous-flesh-consumed-lp

Or here: https://heretical-sect.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

And here: http://www.redefiningdarkness.com/

Obscurae’s frighteningly frozen black metal bows down to night on ‘To Walk the Path of Sorrows’

The night can be mysterious and frightening to many people, as I recall times spent as a kid cowering under my covers, wondering what strange noises outside were, always worrying there was a strange face peering back at me in black corners of my room. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown friendly with the night, a time when I feel most at home with my own psychosis and unsteady thoughts.

Chad Davis, veteran of many, many bands of the metallic realms from Hour of 13 to the Sabbathian to the Ritualist to tons more, used the night as the ultimate inspiration for “To Walk the Path of Sorrows,” his harsh but atmospheric black metal project Obscurae. This record, his second full-length effort under this banner, is a true revelation this time of year when daylight is at a minimum and the nights are darker and colder than what we just witnessed with spring and summer. This music feels like it hisses beneath the earth’s crust that also happens to be covered by inches of snow and ice, and is a gruff, noise-infested creation that might sound foreign to people who have grown more accustomed to polished sounds. But Davis never holds back on the melody or majesty; you just have to work through each morbid layer to find the sweet spots driven so low beneath your feet. It’s worth doing to work.    

“Upon the Shadowthrone of Night” begins sending phantasmal impulses to your central nervous system as keys rush and then the hammers fall. Davis’ shrieks tear into flesh, ripping viciously even as they’re buried under several feet of snow and ice, jackhammering as the synth adds layers of frost. The chaos continues to gain intensity while the riffs cripple, and everything disappears into the night. “Amidst the Blackfrost Towers” unloads a beastly assault while the vocals lurk in the shadows, and the guitar work confounds. The drumming clobbers as the pace grows hypnotic and disorienting, adding generous amounts of murk as the track devastates to the end. “Into Fullmoon Descent” spills opens with Davis’ shrieks splattering and savage punishment leading the way. The melodies feel like they’ve been warped by moonlight as an awesome sprawl leads to the fog collecting, and shrieks are obscured by noise. Things continue to get more violent from there, finally subsiding by being guided into the sky.

The title track then emerges with an eruption as sorrowful heaviness brings an avalanche, and the vocals lay waste to everything. Majestic firing continues to collect and bring added pressure, while stunning power does a number on your muscles, and the riffs encircle you, filling each pore with the mysterious essence of the nighttime air. “Eerie Freezing Winds” is pulverizing as is starts as the vocals blind, scraping your soul of all its blackness. Synth manages to add chill to the fires as the track keeps pounding away, letting new bursts spit chaos. The track explodes violently as majestic storming adds more nocturnal power, bringing the track to a bruising end. “Stillheten” is the closer on the physical editions of the album, an instrumental that slowly bring a thaw to the freezing branches and waterways, haunting and giving the sense of despair and loneliness that slips into the forest and amplifies your sense of terrifying solitude. The digital version contains two instrumental bonus tracks, the first being “Ensomhet,” which was the title track on Obscurae’s 2016 full-length debut, and “Nocturne,” a shorter cut that bring synth vibrations, glowing ambiance, and mysterious spirits leaving tracks in the snow.

Davis already was a grizzled veteran before launching Obscurae, and “To Walk the Path of Sorrows” is a powerful step forward for this project that’s eternally shrouded in darkness and ghostly apparition. The honor pledged to the night on this record practically can be tasted and digested, as every visit with this music, no matter the time of day, has the left the feeling of absolute absence of light. This is perfect for when the final hours of one day bleed into the next, and your own inebriation gives you a gateway to explore ideas that might terrify you otherwise.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://americandeclinerecords.bandcamp.com/music