PICK OF THE WEEK: Darkness lurks as Ruins of Beverast bring forth destruction on ‘Thule Grimoires’

Humanity is under siege by a virus out of control, potentially a fitting fate for us all considering the way we’ve treated the planet and the way so many people have downplayed an illness that has killed way too many people. That might be out comeuppance, and anyone watching from worlds and planes away might nod their head in approval as the knives are turned on us.

German artist Alexander von Meilenwald, sole creator and force behind The Ruins of Beverast, tackles that concept, though not exactly specifically, on the project’s great new record “The Thule Grimoires,” the sixth album under this banner and first since 2017’s “Exuvia.” It’s always been hard to pinpoint the Beverast sound, though much of it swam violently in black metal and doom waters, but things have expanded even further here. On this seven-track, 69-minute beast, von Meilenwald imagines inhuman forces teaming up with nature to take on humanity run amok, those answering to no one for their transgressions until this battle that could be the final of our kind. So, it’s not exactly documenting a ravaging virus per se, but the idea is similar, so if you’re already feeling uncomfortable, the music might hammer home those points even further. We’re not the heroes here. We’re under attack, and the forces fighting against us are aiming to cleanse the world of a force that has become too destructive.

“Ropes Into Eden” begins strangely as the guitars echo and the drums mash. Harsh growls from von Meilenwald blister as weird basslines wrap around the track like a snake, noise pockets envelope, and a strange sci-fi bend ruptures with a robotic sounding voice seemingly issuing a warning about bringing fire, which spills into goth fog. Things get murkier as von Meilenwald delivers warbled signing before growls wrench and pull the track into a blazing end. “The Tundra Shines” opens as noises aching before the song pumps majestically as chants enrapture, and the growls crush. Strange singing slips in, feeling detached and weird, while the playing continues to pound away and warp your mind. Leads cut through as the playing gets more immersive, the growls scrape, and the track buzzes to its conclusion. “Kromlec’h Knell” begins in a murky haze as the growls spread and the noise prods. Chant-like calls work into a moody guitar glaze with clean singing and glimmering leads teaming up to mesmerize. The playing creeps through mystery as things heat up, creaky singing dissolves into chanting, and the final moments take on a cult-like trance.

“Mammothpolis” enters with weird whispering and heavy murk as a warbling voice keeps clawing away. Morbid winds and disarming guitars tread and punch open as clean singing haunts, and the track melts into dreamy darkness. “Anchoress in Furs” has a female voice calling over top, drawing you onto the shore and into the rocks before the growls scrape away, and gothy heaviness increases its presence. Heavy grime begins to reign as the growls punish, the moodiness increases, and a strange mist makes vision tough as things come to a chilling, surreal end. “Polar Hiss Hysteria” leans in with the bass trudging, riffs taking aim, and muddy wailing leaving your flesh raw and chapped. Weird singing plays games with your psyche, which should be no surprise, and then savagery and atmospherics meet and tear a hole in time and space. Wild shrieks rain down, the music liquifies, and the track bleeds out into strange sounds. “Deserts to Bind and Defeat” is the 14:07 closer that has an unsettling start that makes it feel like restless spirits are in the room, as von Meilenwald calls, “Isolate me from my kind.” Then the track tears open its guts, getting fierce and heavy, punishing until the sounds are swallowed into a space pocket, as drilling guitars cut through. Murky energy begins to spread as the shrieks chew away, and then creaky narration then takes over, with the character feeling like a doomsday preacher. The track has a bizarre, wrenching close that leaves you gasping, wondering if your psyche is damaged for good.

The Ruins of Beverast, a band I once watched in broad daylight outside, continue to get stranger and more expansive, with “The Thule Grimoires,” one of the most inventive and weird records in this project’s history. The spiritual forces at war with humanity on these songs sound like they are being exorcised by von Meilenwald, even as he seems to admit their power and mental savagery. This record is an imaginative serving of darkness, one that keeps the Ruins of Beverast sound evolving and growing more infectious as von Meilenwald’s vision shapes and shifts.  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Ruins-Of-Beverast-116265971848680

To buy the album, go here: https://van-records.com/Preorder_1

For more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.com/

Cult of Luna pack hammering EP ‘The Raging River’ with enough quaking power for a full album

It feels like it’s been years and years since I was at a live show, when in reality it was only 10 months ago. That still feels like a lifetime based on how many shows I go to per year, and it seems like a part of my life that was so far off, I can’t even remember what that part of reality was like. Luckily for me, the last show I saw before everything shut down was a great one.

Feb. 29, Leap Day no less, it was at Baltimore Soundstage with headliner Cult of Luna, Swedish masters of atmospheric hypnosis who delivered the Apocalyptic performance I expected, not realizing what hell was ahead. Emma Ruth Rundle and Intronaut rounded out the bill, so yeah, couldn’t ask for a better last show. Here we are, less than a year later, and Cult of Luna already have new music for us in the form of “The Raging River” EP, their first for Red Creek Recordings, their own imprint, though Metal Blade (U.S.) and Season of Mist (Europe) will handle distribution. Funny enough, even an EP for Cult of Luna is mightier and more massive than most as these five tracks clock in at about 39 minutes, so it’s not like this is going to feel like an appetizer. The band—vocalist/guitarist Johannes Persson, guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Kihlberg, keyboardist/vocalist Kristian Karlsson, bassist Andreas Johansson, drummer/percussionist Thomas Hedlund, drummer/studio engineer Magnus Lindberg—digs in deep, giving you an immersive, punishing performance that also has one hell of great guest spot.

“Three Bridges” trickles open as the band sets up a weird vibe that feels like strange waves rolling toward you. Then guts are ripped out as Persson’s roars burst, the synth fog gets heavier and thicker, and things chug hard, bruising before the vibe get more atmospheric. The playing keeps flexing its muscles, allowing some shimmery strangeness into the scene before the rage explodes anew. The melody bleeds from there, the band pounds away, and the track ends in a hulking pile. “What I Leave Behind” burns open as a thick bassline slithers through, the vocals bludgeon, and a penetrating synth storm settles overhead. The track heads into murk as the storming gets heavier, cosmic beams head toward the earth, and a final assault rips into your midsection, leaving you convulsing.

“Inside of a Dream” is a sort of bridge track between the first and second half of the EP, and it features Mark Lanegan, easily one of the planet’s greatest singers, taking lead. The playing is reflective and chilling, setting up an elegant gaze for Lanegan to use as a background as he works his way through mystery, stuck in a dream. “I Remember” brings a strong deluge and vocals that register seismically, with the music feeling like waves lapping over you. The music moves like a ghoul, chilling your blood as punchy, dark playing eats away at vulnerable psyches. The momentum builds as the tension begins to boil, the fires are aggravated, and the track bleeds into time. “Wave After Wave” is the 12:22 closer, spilling in and swimming through, with the synth feeling like it’s adding a red haze to the music. The beat pulsates in your chest as Persson’s roars hammer away, and strange guitars make it feel like eternal dusk. The scene is mesmerizing as the keys drip, the emotion builds, and the vocals pile on. Finally, the track begins to slow, the fog gets thicker and impenetrable, and the spirit bleeds out into the ground.

Cult of Luna are one of those rare bands where even their EPs can be considered a full-length based on girth, and we are not complaining one bit about that because “The Raging River” is a beast of an effort here to keep us satiated until the next album. The music is intense, immersive, emotional, and utterly heavy, a testament to the band’s steady output and volcanic musical personality. It was an honor to have them be the last band I saw before the virus exploded, and this EP will keep me dreaming until the next time I can be slain in their presence.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

Or here: https://red-crk.com/collections/vinyl/products/cult-of-luna-the-raging-river-aside-bside-clear-and-red-new-pressing

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

And here: https://red-crk.com/

Veteran Dutch blasters Asphyx return with more vicious doom, death on crushing ‘Necroceros’

There’s a new Asphyx album, and if you’re already a fan of the band, you should be excited. It sounds just like an Asphyx record. There is something to be said for reliability, and for more than three decades now, the Dutch destroyers have been the portrait of consistency, pretty much ensuring listeners they know exactly what they’re getting, and it’s always quality.

“Necroceros” is their 10th full-length album, their first since 2016’s “Incoming Death,” and they sound as savage and hungry as ever, ripping through 10 tracks in 50 minutes. It’s doomy, it’s deadly, and they very much understand what the Asphyx model is, and it’s always awesome to have a fresh dose of their astonishing power. The band—vocalist Martin van Drunen, guitarist Paul Baayens, bassist Alwin Zuur, drummer Stefan Huskens—unloads from the start, piling on war-torn punishment that thrashes hard and feels vital and dangerous. Not sure when shows will be back, but this stuff is going to sound great live, which is yet another thing to look forward to once this shit ends.

“The Sole Cure Is Death” kicks off the record with punches being thrown, van Drunen’s trademark snarl wrapped all over this thing, and a blistering pace that’ll have you diving for the ice packs. Things slow down momentarily before the intensity is dialed back up, and everything ends maniacally. “Molten Black Earth” burns open as menace stomps the earth, van Drunen’s vocals rip flesh from bone, and hammering riffs stampede. The chorus is simple but effective, and the guitar work sticks to your ribs and then breaks them. “Mount Skull” brings doom chugging hard in the way only Asphyx can do, with raspy growls, trudging fury, and a drubbing pace that eats at your injured muscles. Heaviness and relentless speed suddenly arrive as the soloing goes off and scorches, and the back end burns into a pile of ash. “Knights Templar Stand” charges up as van Drunen’s growls scrape a steady storyline, and catchy riffs add muscle to the proceedings. Power bursts keep things wildly aggressive as the drums penetrate, and heavy blasts bury the song in rubble. “Three Years of Famine” begins pouring liquid doom as the growls pull at your eyes, and infectious riffs line up with the bone-crunching heaviness. The track balances moody playing with gnarly mauling, adding a heavy dose of emotion that digs in deep. Powerful leads pick up, blood runs with force, and the track comes to a huge bursting finish.

“Botox Implosion” rips through you with maniacal cackles and outright demolition that powders bones. Wild howls lead the charge as the band keeps adding fuel to the fire, relentlessly beating you into a strange paste. “In Blazing Oceans” chugs early and then achieves a tempered pace, with the verses going for the throat. The leads are atmospheric while van Drunen’s vocals quake the ground, feeling gruff and catchy before it ends in a pile of rubble. “The Nameless Elite” has brutal riffs and vocals that come for your physical health, as the band tears back into World War II madness that is trusted and true subject matter for them. The track is fluid and violent, creating hellish images in your mind and letting you be front seat for the bloodshed. “Yield or Die” trudges open and picks up a great melody along the way as van Drunen’s monstrous vocals keep firing hammers. If your blood isn’t pumping during this one, you should breathe into a mirror to see if you’re still there, meanwhile the band brings heavy blasts of energy, paying off the bloodshed packed into this song. The title track ends things, a 7:19-long scorcher that starts in eerie shadows, taking on a calculated tempo. The vocals peel flesh as the band mashes hard, steadily pounding away as van Drunen warns, “Resistance is futile!” Guitars stretch their wings, the steam continues to rise, and the track disappears into strange winds.

Not to be overly simplistic, but it’s an Asphyx record, and they always bring quality doom-laced death. For more than three decades now, the band has unleashed hell over and over again, with “Necroceros” another destructive example of how deadly these veterans remain. This record is an absolute crusher, another jolt of Asphyx greatness they have shown for years and years now.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://asphyx.lnk.to/NecrocerosPR

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

Fins Revulsion have much to live up to, but they hit the mark with deadly precision on killer debut

Finnish metal has a rich, illustrious life, as there are so many different sounds the land is known for, and all of it is top notch. From abysmal funeral doom to flashy death and black metal (RIP Alexi Laiho) to gut-crushing death metal that feels like it could corrode, uh, metal, there’s a ton of content. There are expectations, right or wrong, when a band comes from these parts, but that’s what success breeds.

For Revulsion, their entrance into most people’s consciousness comes with their self-titled debut record, their first complete album after spending a decade and a half together. Yeah, one certainly could gleam Finnish fingerprints on their music, but the band also works outside those boundaries and makes death metal that is more akin to their personalities than from where they hail. The band—vocalist Aleksi Huhta, guitarists Jari Toppinen and Jarkko Viitasalo, bassist Tuomas Alatalo, and drummer Atte Karppinen—lays out 10 tracks in 37 minutes, giving you a very meaty serving of what they do best and also keeping things economical so that the music goes down that much better. It’s a really rosing debut record that should have any death metal fan salivating over the possibilities.

“Last Echoes of Life” rumbles into being with a wave of death and deeper growls lurching forward. Crunchy mashing goes into filth and bleeding morbidity, splattering and knifing toward a violent end. “Pyre” delivers riff and rampages through the mud, with growls marring and animalistic power bursting from the seams. The music gets nastier and chunkier, bringing everything to a merciless finish. “Walls” smothers as the band lays waste to your psyche, with the growls crushing, and the chorus creaking into your bloodstream. Again, the dirt gathers and clogs your lungs, bringing mauling tendencies to threaten your safety. “Mustaa Hiiltä” is tempered at first as a thick bassline carves a path, with the pace burning ahead of it. The steady pace also works to scorch flesh as the guitars continue to add to the pressure, and your flesh is left stinging. “Lihaan Sidottu Kirja” launches immediately into a death stomp, pulling things apart as they bring destruction. Heat rises as things get heavy and dangerous, as the track comes to a splattering end.

“Wastelands” has riffs looping in before brutal fury sends rock and lava into the air, and a massive assault comes barreling down. Gut-wrenching playing and equally gross growls chew guts while the track ends abruptly. “Unravel” blends guitars into the burgeoning chaos while the growls sludge, and the track gets thornier. The playing gets numbing and humid as the warmth build and hammers in the final nails. “Silence” brings anything but as the playing is savage as the growls unfurl, and the drumming seeks to blast holes into your skull. The playing tears through your guts as the playing is thrashy, menacing, and raw. “Pawns” explodes from the gates, making your body convulse as vicious growls lather up the intensity. The heat is lowered for just a brief respite before everything is fired up again, bringing this quick one to a punishing end. “Viimeinen Rituaali” is your closer, bringing thick riffs, sickening growls, and even a dive toward doomy waters. The melody stretches its wings as the band clobbers you, destroying limbs as the track ends in a scream-filled sound pit.

Revulsion’s debut took about 15 years to get into our hands, but the wait was more than worth it for this slab of death metal that has heavy Finnish traits but isn’t subservient to the past. Everything here feels fresh and vital, even if they aren’t necessarily reinventing the wheel, and this thing legit has zero fat attached to it. This is a grisly, menacing debut album, an excellent first stab at a full-length that leaves you sore in the best possible way.

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

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

Or here (International): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.de/shop-en_1

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Nervosa live as they lash back against tryanny, injustice with ‘Perpetual Chaos’

A lot of us found our lives turned upside down when COVID-19 struck, some of us impacted much worse than others. But so many of us have faced upheaval, even if that just comes to changing the way we live our lives or go to work, that life today doesn’t even resemble what it did a year ago. The music industry was hit as hard as any with live shows gone, earnings dying, and venues closing due to lack of support.

Long-running thrash band Nervosa were not immune to these times, as the band practically dissolved around Brazilian guitarist Prika Amaral, leaving her with addressing the rumors that the band was no more. But Amaral refused to give in and instead put together a stellar new lineup—including vocalist Diva Satanica (also of Bloodhunter), bassist Mia Wallace (she most recently played with Abbath and is a veteran of a ton of other bands) and drummer Eleni Nota (also of Lightfold, Mask of Prospero)—and they got to work on their thunderous fourth record “Perpetual Chaos,” a 13-track, nearly 45-minute album that is razor sharp and sounds like a band operating with as bloodlust. The band addresses abuse of power, violence, capitalism, and taking up arms for minorities who too often get ground in the gears. You can hear their venomous rage in the music, filling you with fighting spirit since the struggles people face are still in our backyards ready to topple us.  

“Venomous” starts the record with heavy thrashing, riffs that crush wills, and Satanica’s deep shrieks that add a more muscle vocally for Nervosa. The leads go off as the chorus soars, bringing everything to a disruptive end. “Guided By Evil” is a little doomier but no less heavy as the verses smash and the simple, yet effective chorus sends jolts down your spine. Vicious shrieks later blister bones while everything comes to a devastating end. “People of the Abyss” keeps the intensity high as the leads catch fire, and the low end is burly and muscular. The pace speeds up later and splatters faces as Satanica’s voice feels like a dagger to your chest. The title track has the drums firing up and the guitars joining in the madness as the chorus punches holes in you, and the warmth picks up and destroys. Start/stop mauling gets into your blood as the drums kill again, eventually bleeding away. “Until the Very End” unloads and catches your fingers in a heavy steel door before the riffs hit the gas pedal. There’s a bit of a punk vibe here, which is tasty, and then it gets darker as Satanica wails, “Bad thoughts coming first, somebody help me get out of this place, and give me strength to start all again,” seeking support as mental wounds lean in again, something in which we relate a little too much. “Genocidal Command” combines Satanica with Destruction overlord Schmier as they double up and crush you. Their dueling shrieks peel flesh from your body as the call-back chorus pumps its chest, and everything ends in fire.

“Kings of Domination” punches open as the guitars scorch, and the playing grinds away, as the blood rushes to the surface. The vocals thrash away as the guitars bring fluid power, the carnage collects, and the track slams the gates on your face. “Time to Fight” has riffs firing up and unleashing lava while the verses blaze, and the straightforward chorus provides energy. The guitars light up later and churn a path while everything crushes bones at the end. “Godless Prisoner” unloads and evil guitar work and doomy prowess as the playing clobbers, and the pace snarls hard. The guitars go off, bringing things to a punishing finish. “Blood Eagle” is a fucking spine shaker after it moves past its strange and eerie start. The band leans back in to start/stop skullduggery that hits the sweet spot while the chorus rules hard, and the end is consumed by fire. “Rebel Soul” pairs Satanica with Flotsam and Jetsam vocalist Erik A.K. as they create a modern-day anthem for raised and pumped fists in a live setting. The playing has a Motorhead filth shine to it, while the two vocalists lather up forces for good and strength as they proclaim, “I’m a rebel soul, just like you.” “Pursued by Judgement” is the one weak spot on the record. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t really stand out much. It’s thrashy and meaty for sure, but it could have been lopped off and not hurt the record at all. “Under Ruins” is the closer, and it’s a barnstormer. It begins moody but later turns deadly and soberingly violent as Satanica desperately pleads, “Save me, help me, don’t let me die in the streets.” The band immerses itself in power, lashing back at injustice, bringing the record to a fierce, righteous end.

Nervosa is a being Amaral refused to let die, and her efforts and determination paid off wonderfully, as “Perpetual Chaos” is easily the strongest, most ferocious of their four records. The band definitely sounds deadlier and hungrier, and noticeably heavier, as they blaze their way toward widespread recognition among metal’s circles. They’re vicious, powerful, and ready to strike, bringing with them an album that’s here to topple worlds and fight back against oppression and fear they face head on.

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

To buy the album (U.S. and Canada), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/

Or here (rest of the world): https://napalmrecords.com/

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

Belarusian maulers Eximperitus unleash ancient magic, powers of gods into strange ‘Šahrartu’

We’re very into strangeness here, as long as it makes sense in the confines of the music and isn’t just there to cover up for a lack of substance. Any time metal can be bizarre and feel like it’s coming from a strange cosmic entity instead of an earthly being can be really exhilarating because it destroys expectations and helps open the gates to other experimentations.

Belarusian death unit Eximperitus (by the way, that’s the shortened version of their full name Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum) dig back into the works of the ancient gods and magic that has lurked behind the scenes for ages on their new record “Šahrartu.” That title is a million times shorter than what they named their debut 2016 full-length, but the idea remains relatively the same. The term “technical death metal” is affixed to this band by some folks, but this is full of alien creativity, punishing confusion, and yes, very well played and executed death that easily can capture your imagination if you’re along for the ride. It’s not antiseptic, uncreative noodle shit at all. The band—there is no official lineup that I can find, and no band photos were supplied with the promo—keeps things dark, strange, and terrifying in a mind-erasing way that leaves you reeling once the music—six tracks at an economical 37 minutes—ends.

The title track starts the record instantly heating up as guitars rise, the atmosphere thickens, and the instrumental piece burns its way toward “Utpāda” that starts in a calculated manner before tearing into a mind warp. Sinewy hell and thick growls erupt as things get shifty and punchy, with creaky vocals sticking into your side. The track gets meatier and heavier as the leads snake through smoke, the growls lurch, and everything winds up in a pile of ash. “Tahâdu” rips open and just slays, as fast and smudging guitars set fire, and the growls gurgle amid thickening humidity. Growls pile up as the guitars get racing again, bringing brutality and power, churning into hell as everything melts into strangeness.

“Anhûtu” leads in the guitars charging, growls opening veins, and a monstrously weighty approach leaves you with bruising. A strange bit of electronic glitching took me out of the thing for a moment, and man, if bands could quit doing that already, but then the mauling and musical stabbing returns, smothering hell makes its presence known, and the track ends in a mysterious pocket of sound. “Inqirad” is the longest track here, running 10:05 and beginning in psychedelic waters. Growls then crush as violence explodes, and sanity is torn to shreds. The playing settles into the mist and then rounds back to deliver morbidity and growls gurgling blood. The playing brings with it visions of doomy horrors, trudging into echoes, and finally submitting to the heat. “Riqûtu” is the closing instrumental cut that brings strange impulses, playing dripping into dreams, and a sense that chills your soul.

Eximperitus bring bizarre, penetrating magic on “Šahrartu,” a record that can easily be labeled as technically proficient death metal, but there’s so much more going on that it really lies beyond that simple descriptor. The band’s utterly bizarre tidings on this record can dig deep inside of you and cause you to see strange things in your dreams, even after you think you’ve shed the music after it’s over. It doesn’t leave you alone, and you likely will be just fine with succumbing to such occult-friendly incantations that turn your mind to fire.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.willowtip.com/home.aspx

Sataray, Zania Morgan combine dark forces, deliver ritualistic powers to split EP ‘Argyropoeia’

It’s redundant as hell to point out the harrowing darkness in which so many of us are trapped, but here we are because there’s still just so much to unwind so we can one day feel normal again. Ritualistic comforts have become a way for many of us to cope, and I fall in line with this as I need time alone on weekend evenings in darkness with candles lit just to get my anxiety to remain at a tolerable level.

The urge to dig deep within one’s own psyche and address those demons is something I felt every time I listened to “Argyropoeia,” a split effort pairing Sataray and Zania Morgan, two solo ambient electronic artists who deliver black tidings and penetrating doom that matches the storm in your own mind. Over five tracks, the two artists pull in their own shadows to help you confront the numerous forces that ail you and help you reach out beyond yourself. Sataray released her first full-length effort in 2019 with “Nocturnum,” and she often performs live with Butoh dancers and with other artists, as the mind-numbing music can veer into soft darkness and morbid incantations. Zania Morgan is helmed by Zaskia S. Morgan, and she has spent the past 13 years creating immersive sonic rituals to capture her audience in her dark tidings. Her “Shapeshifter” album was released on vinyl in 2017, and her music is such that it could shake you to the ground, leaving you heaving as you sweat out what’s eating away at you. They’re ideally matched here as they come from similar angles but branch into different directions.  

Sataray (photo by Anima Nocturna)

Sataray’s section begins with “Saturn” where morbid synth waves unfurl, and warbled calls sit behind everything like a ghost reaching across planes. Light glimmers before things turn eerie as the melodies darken, and strange calls reach down and chill your spine. Noises then hiss as tension and anxiety flex, sweeping out into a night haze. “Rain” is dark and strange as the track dawns as an angelic mist coats faces, and whispers loop through your mind. The track continues to haunt, reaching out through synth clouds and rising noises, feeling both doomy and elegant, letting the fear chew on your nerve endings. “The Flood” caps Sataray’s selections as noise simmers, the fog collects, and a detached voice calls out, making it feel like you’ve left reality. Listening on headphones, my mind filled with various visions, feeling at times like I was in a dream state as noises crashed around me. Whispers enter the mix as chants flood, pulsating and shifting strangely, leaving you in a gasp of industrial heat.  

Morgan begins with “Crepulsculum” that arrives in the deep night and brings soft vocals making its way to you, echoes pulsating. Keys glimmer as weirdness extends its black wings as Morgan’s voice travels wraithlike, as chants swirl, a swarm of sound picks up, and everything echoes and blows away. “Nyx Ambrosia” is her final cut as noise caws and zaps, and an alien formation sinks in its claws, as it feels like war is making its way through the cosmos. Sounds get thicker as a bright light beams through, teasing you with energy zaps as her voice lulls you into a sense of serenity. Transmissions from beyond layer over the rising synth, beats push into your mind, and everything is swallowed by an intense furnace burst that melts the ice in your heart.

Sataray and Zania Morgan are ideally matched on “Argyropoeia,” a collection that captured me right away, entranced me, and made me go back for more time and again. There’s something about music that’s takes you on a mental journey and forces you to reevaluate where you’re standing that can be incredibly rewarding, as this album is for me. Or, you can just take a dark journey along with both artists and let yourself touch the face of the spirit world.

For more on Sataray, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sataray7

For more on Zania Morgan, go here: https://zaniamorgan.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the album, go here: https://www.scryrecordings.com/posts/discography/argyropoeia-split/

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

Surprise! It’s death! Gatecreeper suddenly return with fast, slow sides on ‘An Unexpected Reality’

So, I’m looking at the latest issue of Decibel with Nervosa on the front cover (more on them later this week), and I turn the magazine over and see the back, which appears to indicate there’s new Gatecreeper music in the works? There’s no label info or a date, but hey, the prospect was exciting, and so it piqued my interest. Nice work, advertising!

Anyway, a couple weeks later I get an email about a surprise Gatecreeper record, pulling that goddamn Krallice trick of expecting money from me on demand and, of course, getting it. Yes, there’s a new Gatecreeper record called “An Unexpected Reality,” but it’s not necessarily containing what you think it does. That’s not a bad thing. Look, we’re still in a pandemic, and this band got to work, coming up with tracks that are dramatically shorter and a little rougher. But instead of releasing a track here and there, they decided to put it all together on this record, that has a fast side and a slow side. The band—vocalist Chase Mason, guitarists Eric Wagner and Israel Garza, bassist Sean Mears, and drummer Metal Matt—mashed their hardcore-fed death metal bursts on the first side, which is faster, and they hold off the 11-minute doom mauler, the slower side, to smother you into your final resting spot. It’s an exercise in opposition, and it’s a really enthralling release that is landing when we needed it most. When things are the most fucked they’ve ever been.

“Starved” gets things started as thick death is creeping as the track grinds hard and the shrieks and growls combine to land damaging blows. “Sick of Being Sober” blasts open with a menacing hardcore vibe that mashes bodies and threatens safety, ripping past you and barreling into “Rusted Gold” and its sludgy heap of death. The track is blistering and sinks its teeth into you as the growls scar before the track bows out. “Imposter Syndrome” is gloomy as hell before it breaks into thick terror and punishing fury, making your vision go blurry as you head into “Amputation” that instantly drills at your teeth. Belchy growls and a menacing terror go all in and flatten during its quick burst, paving the way for “Depraved Not Deprived” that delivers punchy riffs and lurching vocals, crushing vital organs in the process. “Superspreader” has a grindcore assault and gruff vocals, smashing its way through and leaving bloody trails in the dirt. Closer “Emptiness” runs 11:06, making it a few minutes longer than the seven previous tracks combined. It’s morbidly sorrowful and deeply doomy as growls buzz, and the solemnity thickens. Eventually things get misty and strange as humidity collects, and the growls scrape trails in the earth. The music turns atmospheric and chilling, trickling toward an awakening with glorious leads, shrieks raining fire, and everything is buried in a tomb of smoke.

Gatecreeper’s surprise “An Unexpected Reality” not only sums up perfectly the reality we’re all living in its title, but the panicked fury is something that’s likely permanently painted all over our psyches now. I’m not sure if this new approach to their sound is a permanently shift or just what they needed to express on this release, but it’s refreshing and deadly. This is an early burst out of the gates for 2021, and it’s setting the perfect tone for a time period we hope to reclaim as our own.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://smarturl.it/anunexpectedreality?fbclid=IwAR0Az0b1qkaDHQNzknq1tNez7JzTDQ1IRPAirulNQo_4mfc6n6rxntoeikI

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Battle Hag’s expansive doom lights fires on land-toppling ‘Celestial Tyrant’

Remember when everyone was really excited for 2020 to end so that 2021 could get here and automatically change things for the better, and we’d all be really happy again and be able to resume our lives in peace? Yeah. It was always a lie, or perhaps just a way to ease our nerves, but here we are two weeks in, and things aren’t feeling much different.

The relieving thing is we already have a nice bit of good heavy music in 2021 to keep us gainfully distracted, and the one coming our way today arrived via a heads up in my email about “Celestial Tyrant,” the new crusher from Battle Hag. The music has been available digitally for about a month, but the three-track, 45-minute opus is being issued via cassette by Transylvania Tapes, and is it ever worth devoting your time to this outright mauler. The band—guitarist/vocalist Dan Aguilar, guitarist/vocalist Danny Ensele, bassist Neal Oliver, drummer Grey Cat—just clobber you but also make your imagination soar to planes beyond this one as they play tricks with your mind while leaving you battered.   

“Eleusinian Sacrament” is the 12:47-long opener, and it’s the shortest song on the record, just so you know what you’re in for. Glorious riffs burn like a freshly lit candle crackling as growls slither and slowly maul, and the leads begin to glimmer in the sky. Things get moodier and then crunchier as a psychedelic edge sets in, and the low end absolutely pulverizes. The vocals smear, the playing barrels you over, and then elegantly slow leads transfix as waters rush, and the guitars trickle away with it.

“Talus” runs a hefty 13:12 and is introduced by drums tapping and guitars bleeding in before everything lights up and blinds, with doomy melodies melting into guttural fury. Grime and sorrow meet as the riffs get darker and more dangerous, even moving toward Sabbath territory. Things then get faster and more aggressive as the leads take over and cut through, wild howls punish, and the bloody ice melts and leaves the ground stained. “Red Giant” is the 19:15-long closer, and it unloads with snarling growls and dark tidings, with a stoner-style vibe feeling thick and mesmerizing. The growls rumble as the guitars leave sunburn, pushing into psyche territory before things get cold and icy. The track flows slowly for a stretch before the sludge returns and starts landing body shots, emotionally spilling its guts all over the ground. A deluge of power pushes its way in, and the band begins stomping as the growls punish and the guitars take off and set uncontrollable blazes. That sets the stage for the fiery finish that feels like it’s pulling the world apart at the seams as the playing and noise sizzle away.

“Celestial Tyrant,” the second record from Battle Hag, is an early-year revelation, a tremendous doom document that’s a soaring fireball across the sky that’s screaming toward the surface. It’s expansive and imaginative, heavy and smoking at the same time. It’s an album that hopefully puts the band’s name in more people’s mouths as they talk who’s keeping doom’s fire burning so dangerously.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/album/battle-hag-celestial-tyrant

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

Portrayal of Guilt continue to destroy senses with metallic chaos on ‘We Are Always Alone’

Photo by Addrian Jafaritabar

Usually when we discuss black metal bands that try to stretch their reach beyond a particular sound, we kind of laugh at the idea that there are specific lines in which one must paint and a template for how to create art. It’s silly. You don’t get that handcuffed approach in other subgenres of metal and heavy music in general, as experimentation and creativity often are celebrated and rewarded.

Austin trio Portrayal of Guilt likely would not be super cooperative in the confines of a strictly structured genre, and so they light all the rules and expectations on fire on their explosive second full-length “We Are Always Alone,” the follow-up to 2018’s scathing “Let Pain Be Your Guide,” itself an eye-opening release. It would be easy to name hardcore as a root for the band, but you can just as easily say punk or doom or black metal, since they fuck with all of those, but you’d never really put your finger on exactly what’s going on here. The band—vocalist/guitarist Matt King, bassist Alex Stanfield, drummer James Beveridge—bring volatility, passion, and chaos to these nine tracks, and from moment one to the end, there’s not any time to catch your breath or seek cover, because the assault is relentless.

“The Second Coming” burst from the gates with gnarly vocals from King as well as violent, yet melodic tributaries. The track is short but effective, agitating fires as we head into “Anesthetized” where the bass drives and takes total command. Wild shrieks crush as the riffs shift into a strange doomy haze, smearing blood into clouds as we move toward “A Tempting Pain” that’s an outright demolition from the start. The playing is smothering and coats your lungs with soot while orchestral noise warps and drags the song to its end. “It’s Already Over” starts with clean notes, which only adds confusion, and then things pulsate as a post-hardcore-style haze floats overhead. Shrieks carve as the song slowly unfolds, bringing tension and thorniness that slam shut the door on your hand.  

“Masochistic Oath” has strange riffs reigning as the shrieks hammer away, and black metal melodies enter the mix and make things more sinister. Things push into mystical terrain before the vocals slice veins, the drums unload, and everything ends in industrial chaos. “They Want Us All to Suffer” is complete savagery as things start, with more black metal influences erupting and the vocals carving flesh. The guitars send jolts through your system and things abruptly end, paving the way for “Garden of Despair” that has a Nirvana feel to it as it gets started. The track comes unglued as sludge piles on top, eventually taking on a hardcore vibe, and then it gets weird and trancey. But that’s temporary as it’s not long until blows rain down again, as the repeated shouts of, “Searching for ecstasy,” leave bruises and psychological damage as things end in noise. “My Immolation” is tempered as it begins, but you know the punishment is coming as King taunts, “Breathe in, breathe out,” before the track melts into dreamy rock. Clean singing numbs as the track gets hypnotic and wiry, ending in a bloody slither. The title track ends the record with sounds rushing, muddy madness pushing, and the vocals caving in your skull, meeting up with a singular guitar than stings your nerves. Wild cries hang in the air, the tension builds, and things come to a bludgeoning end.

If anyone thought Portrayal of Guilt was going to settle shit down or pump the brakes on their maddening sound, “We Are Always Alone” is all the proof you need that any thoughts of that nature were silly to have had in the first place. This band’s stinging sound and relentless energy are all over this record, playing games with your nerve endings and psyche. There is no calm, no healing, no solace, as everything staring you in the face is psychological violence you cannot side step.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://orcd.co/portrayalofguilt

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

And here: https://evilgreed.net/

And here: https://deathwishinc.com/