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/

Thou, Rundle deliver dramatic doom sludge, absolutely killer cover on wiry ‘Helm of Sorrow’

(Photo by Craig Mulcahy)

It’s no question 2020 gave us a lot of total bullshit that still is free flowing into 2021, a year that so far is high on the potential cancellation list after last week. Holy hell. But in the interest of not trying to sound too sad and pessimistic about things, there was a handful a good things that came from last year, the association of Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle being high on that short list.

Lucky for us, the two sides still had some good content they were holding back, and we get that now in the form of four-track EP “The Helm of Sorrow,” a collection that treats us to the rest of the songs they came up with together. Will you be shocked to learn this thing is great, just the thing we need to power us past the darkness we’re all experiencing? On top of that, we get one of the best cover songs we’ve heard from a heavy band in some time, but more on that later. Again, just like their collaborative full-length “May Our Chambers Be Full,” the music is a true meeting point for both sides as they craft a sound that’s truly their own thing, with hefty influences from each participant that meld together perfectly. If you liked the full record, there’s no way in hell you won’t love this one.

“Orphan Limbs” starts off with calm water and Emily McWilliams taking lead vocals, as her voice soars into the atmosphere. She sings of “the puzzles of deformity, ugly and grotesque” as the momentum slowly picks up and finally is full bore in a storm as Thou’s Bryan Funck’s howls enter the picture and take over. His shrieks hammer as Rundle calls in the background, and the band smears you with power before finally relenting. “Crone Dance” is a barnstormer as Funck lurks out front wailing as the band delivers a doomy charge, jabbing and pounding. Rundle slips in behind, adding a level of dreaminess to the brutality, and then sludgy menace crawls ominously, winding its way into hell. Funck and Rundle join up and punish together before the track fades into a bed of acoustics.

“Recurrence” starts in a dark, echoing pocket before vicious howls mar the calm, and the track feels like vintage Thou. Rundle emerges more forcefully on the chorus, injecting even more life as the filth gathers. The growls then get more muscular as the track crashes to a spiraling finish. “Hollywood” is a cover of the Cranberries track, and it’s a fucking volcano of emotion. Rundle handles the verses eloquently, matching Dolores O’Riordan’s quivering intensity, and then the chorus just combusts. Both Rundle and Funck wail away, howling, “Run away, is there anybody there?” blasting fiery magic into song, capping this great EP with this unreal take on an underappreciated cut from a band lost too soon.

One of the real blows of 2021 is losing Migration Fest and Thou’s performance with Rundle, which is something I was looking forward to with great excitement. This “The Helm of Sorrow” EP is at least a nice consolation gift that is a powerhouse for sure, with that absolutely killer Cranberries cover at the end. This collaboration has been an amazing success and resulted in two awesome recordings, and let’s just hope this is the start of a long-running association for both sides. And maybe we’ll all still get to revel in their combined presence live one day.

For more on Emma Ruth Rundle, go here: https://www.facebook.com/emmaruthrundle/

For more on Thou, go here: http://noladiy.org/thou.html

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/sba008-emma-ruth-rundle-thou-the-helm-of-sorrow

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

Aberration mix black and death metal with suffocating doom on smoking, devastating debut EP

We’re probably all a little tired of wallowing in terror and darkness and hopelessness for an entire lifetime after the past 12 months, but metal doesn’t abide by ordinary laws and ideas, and the genre is going to force-feed us pain and misery as long as it’s around. But at least when it comes to metal, it isn’t going to give us a lethal pathogen. It’ll just beat the shit out of us psychologically.

We say that as Aberration’s debut self-titled EP is about to be in our laps, and it’s nasty and pounding and feels like hell slowly creeping across the earth. It’s but three tracks long, but the weight of this thing and the way it mashes the planet is not just something you can shake. Your best bet is to strap in and go along for the ride as the band—guitarist/vocalist JH (also of Void Rot), bassist/vocalist DH (also of Suffering Hour), guitarist AW (of Nothingness), and drummer EC (of Tvaer)—rumbles across the earth, crossing the streams of death metal, doom, sludge, and black metal into a sickening cauldron that, if we’re being honest, kind of smells awful. But the music is fucking killer.

“I” burns into the picture as the track begins to rumble, and the growls bring menace. Infernal hell erupts as the pace scrapes along, collecting flesh behind it, and the guitars begin to boil and give off wilting heat. The playing then gets gazey as it lets loose, letting fires rage as the band clobbers with force, beating you down until everything bleeds into dust. “II” keeps the tempo trudging as furnace-style heat burns your face, and the low end absolutely pummels. Growls hiss as the playing drills into the earth, building to a violent crescendo that eventually combusts. “III” ends things in a wave of total violence that unloads as nasty doom works its way into the mix. The guitars gain momentum as hell is unleashed, and monstrous growls wrestle you into the dirt. Atmospheric leads erupt and spread through your bloodstream as the battering continues until they finally grant you submission.

Aberration’s initial slice cut into this world is a deadly one, seemingly promising that things only will get meaner and heavier as they progress into their full creative realization. This self-titled first EP is just a taste of what this band can do when having their way with death and black metal, as well as doom, and it’s a frightening storm of power that’s contained here. This is a great start, and I can only imagine what’s coming from them next.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/aberration-aberration

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Transilvania mash death, thrash into black metal with ‘Of Sleep and Death’

There was a time, and not that long ago, when black metal had a very strict boundary from which bands didn’t often veer, and if they did, it could be detrimental to the artists in the event they go too far beyond where they stand. Luckily, we’ve moved the goalposts in the last few years, chances are taken within black metal’s confines, and we’ve been better off for it, to be honest.

We have another shining example of that progress with “Of Sleep and Death,” the second record from Austria’s Transilvania, a band that doesn’t seem all that concerned about obeying rules. And good for them because this record, which landed on the first day of the year, is an exciting, vicious, sprawling display that’s a blood rush from beginning to end. There also are roots that have grown from Transilvania into metal’s formative years, but it’s there as a texture and not as a commitment to the past. It all makes for a remarkable effort by this band—bassist/vocalist P. Čachtice, guitarists O. von Schwarzenberger and D.D. Stumpp, drummer H. Paole Grando—one that takes what they established on 2018 debut “The Night of Nights” and takes that even further into the stratosphere to mesmerize us all.

“Opus Morbi” stirs from the start as organs swirl and the guitars awaken before everything is ripped to shreds. Melodic fury and explosive growls send ripples, while crunchy and disorienting playing make your eyeballs hurt. A fiery charge keeps hammering away, racing before everything burns off. “Hekateion” has guitars mashing and gruff growls staggering as speed and melody unite. Complete savagery is fueled by adding gasoline and echoing shrieks as the playing takes on a classic metal feel as guts are stomped into the ground. The title track arrives amid spellbinding guitar work and splattering vocals as the pace is a lightning jolt to your system. The pace is pummeling, but it eventually is vaporized and chills the atmosphere as guitars boil and again delve back into classic era terrain, which makes the heart swell with drama. Everything explodes anew as the track races, the simple, effective chorus strikes again, and the track ends in a cloud of smoke. “Lycanthropic Chant” lands stiff punches as everything comes to life, and the chorus fattens lips. The drums hammer and leave everything powdered while the guitars scrape at scabs and end the track in heated fashion.

“Vault of Evening” has riffs snarling and the pace clubbing away as things get speedy and volatile. The leads bleed color as the assault trickles into a hazy dream, turning your brain into warm mush before the attack is under way again. From there, the offensive is on as the leads glaze and melody buries you in shallow soil. “Heart Harvest” has a punchy start as the growls lacerate, and the howls attack your central nervous system, causing your heart to race. The guitars heat up as the growls eat into your psyche, tunneling toward your anxiety as gang shouts echo, warm leads rush, and the track bleeds its last.  “Mortpetten” has riffs going for broke and challenging speed records while raw growls pick at flesh, and the tempo relentlessly gallops. The leads destroy as the vocals bludgeon, causing vertigo as the track finally relents. “Underneath Dying Stars” is your closer that bleeds into the picture as Čachtice bellows before the track comes unglued. The entrancing pace plays tricks while the guitars go off and unleash hell. Grisly growls turn into furious roars as the pace speeds along, and the drums power the song to its devastating end.

Sure, there remain those people who hold black metal to silly ideals born like three decades ago, but more and more artists are doing whatever they see fit, and Transilvania are one of them. “Of Sleep and Death” has its share of death metal, thrash, and even gothy shadows, but its base is undeniable, and it remains heavy and ashen dark. This is one hell of a record containing music that pays off the imagination and wonder it promises at the front door with its cover art and continues to expand the idea of what it means to play the heaviest, darkest music on earth.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://invictusproductions666.bandcamp.com/album/of-sleep-and-death

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

Dallas’ Frozen Soul inject their death metal with grisly frigidity on rumbling debut ‘Crypt of Ice’

When thinking of some of the more frigid areas in the United States, places cold enough to inspire death metal that feels like it’s freezing your bones in order to break them into dust, you’re probably considering Michigan, Minnesota, Maine, Colorado, etc. Your brain isn’t automatically going toward Dallas, but it looks like we’re all going to have to recalibrate how we answer that question.

Frozen Soul hail from Dallas, though you’d never guess that after taking on their destructive first record “Crypt of Ice,” being released by metal giants Century Media. But despite not being in what most consider frigid territory, they somehow breathe freezing sentiments into these 10 tracks and 39 minutes of bruising power that leave you ravaged behind them. The band—vocalist Chad Green, guitarists Michael Munday and Chris Bonner, bassist Samantha Mobley, drummer Matt Dennard—imagines all angles of wintry torture and demise, as they unfurl snarling death that leaves bruises and mental wounds behind. It’s a dawn-of-the-year excursion into the weather most of us feel outside right now, with us trying to avoid falling victim to the reaper’s blade. It’s a fucking muscular record.

The title track starts the record with strangeness before the guts are torn out and spilled into the snow. Grinding death pummels you as the leads cut through, the growls gurgle blood, and the trudging pace thrashes shreds muscle. “Arctic Stranglehold” has slithering growls and chunky power as the growls slither through madness as Green vows, “Your time has come.” Slow-driving fury picks up the pace as growls boil and the playing mashes until it fades away. “Hand of Vengeance” has keys dripping in before the whole thing lights up and explodes. Forceful playing rattles your brain inside your skull as growls sound scraped from Green’s guts, the leads catch fire, and the final moments melt flesh. “Wraith of Death” begins ominously as doomy muck gathers and spills through cracks in the walls, and the playing takes on a deliberate tone. The track crushes and ushers in darkness, ending in beastly carnage. “Merciless” ramps up quickly and gets super heavy in a hurry, chewing up flesh in its gears. The playing lays in a beating while the growls open wounds, and the track is devoured by an unforgiving wind.

“Encased in Ice” brings with it whipping gusts and a slower beast, though everything is just heavy as fuck. Raw growls make their way as vicious bludgeoning cracks skulls, the guitars push you to the limit, and everything ends in an icy grave. “Beat to Dust” is frigid from the outset before the pace begins to clobber, and crunchy death savages its victims. The growls mash amid a thrashy wave, battering through mud and slush before ending abruptly. “Twist the Knife” lets loose strange growls that echo in the atmosphere before the playing opens fully and kills. The bass is thick as hell, feeling like it’s coming for your throat, while complete misery is served with bloody coldness, slaughtering all the way to the end. “Faceless Enemy” has its riffs carving pathways to damnation as grim growls set a darker tone, and a stomping fury loosens the earth. The chorus smashes through rock while thick riffs add pressure, and the meanness of the tempo adds insult to your pile of injuries sustained. “Gravedigger” caps off the record by setting up a synth gaze before everything comes unglued. Animalistic rage and massive fury make a formidable duo while gritty vocals lay waste, and sinister guitar work burns everything to ash.

Entering just their third year of existence (though each member has plenty of experience elsewhere), Frozen Soul already have captured the attention and commitment of one of the biggest labels in metal and issued a killer debut with “Crypt of Ice.” This is especially suiting the season we’re experiencing in the Northern Hemisphere (where it’s already been snowier and icier than in many years previous), so this record is hitting even harder as we strive to stay warm. This is a promising debut by a band that is starting the year with a supreme dose of death metal served cold, and it’ll be really interesting to see how their profile increase as this year matures.

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

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

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