PICK OF THE WEEK: Seputus smash back with psychological death on devastating ‘Phantom Indigo’

Photo by Caroline Harrison

Events over the past year have changed all of us more than just not being able to be around friends and loved ones and watching an illness shut down all the things we love. That time period also likely hardened a lot of activities that inflame our monotonous behaviors from phone scrolling to reading comments from trolls to just menial activities around the house as we try to deal with all this time on our hands.

Warped death metal band Seputus doesn’t wholly center on this subject matter on their awesome new record “Phantom Indigo,” but that’s definitely a part of what’s going on here. Much of the inspiration comes from the book Hallucinations by late neurologist Oliver Sacks, his effort to normalize the symptoms and effects of mind-altering experiences and to remove the stigma associated with it. But the band—vocalist Doug Moore, guitarist/drummer Stephen Schwegler, bassist Erik Malave—also centers on mental fixations, meaningless routines, and negative thought patterns, things that obviously have been aggravated heavily the past 15 months. The music is mind-wrenching, psychologically challenging death metal that never relents and always keeps your mind working, practically doing battle against the forces they’ve written about. On the record, they’re joined by guest guitar soloist Evan Void (Hivelords, Sadgiqacia), Dan Gargiulo (Revocation), Dylan DiLella (who plays with Moore in Pyrrhon), and Pete Lloyd (Replicant) to add even more fire into these devastating songs.

 “The Will to Live” starts with noise boiling and drums unfolding before ferocity strikes, and Moore’s vocals slice through your organs. He trades off between shrieks and guttural growls as the drums mash, and vicious guitar work explodes. The leads disorient while the back end delivers smothering hell and ugly vocals. “The Learned Response” brings hovering noises before the track utterly massacres, with the shrieks aiming to kill. Growls and shrieks mix as brains are scrambled, and the playing just keeps pounding away, never letting you have a moment of solace. A murderous pace destroys, anxiety totally jolts, and then everything comes apart, strangling with electricity. “Tautology” runs a cool 10 minutes, starting with the drums exploding, and muddy playing clogging up your veins. The shrieks tear you apart as your head swims in psychosis, and the guitars work taunts and jabs. Things then come unglued, the vocals fire off haymakers, and the playing is mucky and ugly, contorting its face. Guts keep getting ripped out, the playing rampages in noise, and the track finally delivers a gasp of mercy.

“The Forgetting Curve” unloads noise and muscular bass as chaotic mashing runs amok and spits nails. The playing is chaotic as the drums punish, the track rips into space, and the instrumental track basks in fire. “Deuteragonist” is the longest track, running 10:16 and starting with moody crushing and shrieks ripping into your skeletal structure. Gargantuan hell is unleashed and makes the earth move, the drums go off, and it feels like bones are being powdered. Things gets stranger as things go clean and eerie, and your mind just wails as piledrivers are delivered unprotected. The growls melt, the ferocious playing lays waste, and the unhinged playing blasts you into the furnace. The title track ends the record and gets fired up right away as the playing sinks in its teeth. Shrieks hammer as the playing crumbles, while the guitar work darts and dares. There’s an ugly underbelly as the growls belch, and the assault spirals into the core of the earth. A total eruption then takes hold, barriers are destroyed, and a dagger is hammered into the earth, cementing their violent statement.

“Phantom Indigo” is a tremendous bout with psychological torment and physical madness, and Seputus’ delving into the themes of Hallucinations delivers even more meaning to what is otherwise aiming to slice your skull from your spine. There is a lot of unpack here both musically and thematically, and it’s a total pummeling that is a morbid joy to hear from start to finish. We all can relate to the mental loops the band examines on this record, especially after a year where we’ve had to relearn how to live and try to do it without completely losing our minds.

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

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

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

Kent’s Pertubator slips futher into shadow, shows humanity’s vices with ‘Lustful Sacraments’

Sure, this is a metal site, but we don’t have any preconceived notions that the people who read our work, and the artists we cover, simply listen to that style of music. I have a slew of friends I know through metal, and not one of them has rigid listening interests. In fact, we have bonded over other artists and forms of music because wouldn’t it be boring as hell to only enjoy one style?

James Kent is one of those people, who has dabbled in metal but whose interests stretch beyond that. He’s also the sole visionary behind synthwave band Perturbator, whose new record “Lustful Sacraments” is arriving five years after his last full-length, 2016’s “The Uncanny Valley,” though he’s put out smaller releases during that time. Strangely, this style of music has become fairly popular among metal audiences (the term “neon metal” has been affixed to this music, even though it’s decidedly not metal), and that same thing has happened with other forms of music such as folk and neofolk. The music here shows some development into new areas of darkness, and Kent brings in collaborators including Maniac 2121, True Body, BELIAL, and Hangman’s Chair to bring different vocal perspectives into the nine tracks you hear here. Thematically, Kent digs into the troublesome nature we take on as human beings and works to examine ways to address addictions and self-destruction.

“Reaching Xanadu” starts in eerie coldness as the storms begin to build and a chill is in the air, sending strange vibes into the night, heading toward the title track. Cool melodies warp as the vocals simmer beneath the waves, as the keys stab away, right beneath the ribs. We head into watery weirdness before a deathrock vibe emerges, and that flushes into warmer trails as a moody buzz gives the track a dark finish. “Excess” features Maniac 2121’s vocals mixing in with Kent’s, and the energy shoots toward you, embracing you. That digs into dark trickling as heatwaves rupture, and that slips into mechanical energy. That feels like a gust of summer dusk, feeling moody and moving at the same time. “Secret Devotion” delivers heavy beats, driving synth, and cloudy singing that moves into your chest. Speaking emerges, and a darkly infectious chorus infects your bloodstream, the playing navigates through the murk, and everything disappears into a thick haze and heavy pressure.

“Death of the Soul” hovers overhead as the synth adds a cold front, and then the beats push in and knock you around. The track hits jabs as BELIAL’s vocals add a new dimension, haunting in the shadows, entering atmospheric chaos that threatens to saturate the ground. “The Other Place” brings dark and moody melodies as the beats strike and blast hard, and the melodies work their way in and then eventually begin to fade. But the playing blasts through that, the synth whirs, and strange speaking sends strange vibrations down your spine. “Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze” delivers regal synth and moody singing from Maniac 2121 as a New Wave jolt gets into your muscles. The playing works through the humidity as the synth creeps toward you, the playing soars into the clouds, and then everything slides away. “Messalina, Messalina” pushes in with synth crawling and the beats echoing, while the vocals warble, and catchy, energetic air infuses the scene with power. The track moves on and explodes, the playing slowly spreads, and the keys evaporate suddenly. “God Says” finishes the album, joined on vocals by Hangman’s Chair, and things get eerie and strange in a hurry. The track moves slowly and thickens the mood, whirring strangeness enhances the hypnosis, and things even get more soothing. The vocals begin to push harder, the music swims into the murk, and a strange dream gets even more tangling psychologically as the track comes to an end.

“Lustful Sacraments” is Kent pushing the Perturbator vision even further but also exposes cracks in the foundations of us all, exposing the things that sometimes make us not the most ideal beings in this world. We all have darkness, no matter how much we might deny it, and walking through that chaos and examining could either make or break us. From the sound of the music and the way this great record is put together, it sounds like Kent came through his self-exploration a more confident, stronger artist, which is the best-case scenario.  

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

To buy the album (U.S. and Canada), go here: https://www.blood-music.com/store-us/

Or here (rest of the world): https://www.blood-music.com/store-eu/

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

Ancient Wisdom’s lengthy layoff finally ends, storming back with ‘A Celebration in Honor of Death’

The black metal world of 2004 is like a ompletely different planet from the one we live in today where the boundaries have been stretched, mostly for the better, and possibilities are completely endless. So much has been added to black metal’s DNA in the last 17 years that it’s hard to really unravel in a single opening, and jumping back in after a long stretch has to be somewhat strange.

So, it’s been 17 years since we heard from long-running Swedish black metal band Ancient Wisdom, the project helmed by Marcus E. Norman (who also goes by Vargher). That was 2004’s “Cometh Doom, Cometh Death,” but now we’re graced with his dark arts again on “A Celebration in Honor of Death,” the project’s new seven-track record. Jumping back in with Ancient Wisdom almost seems like a seamless effort for Vargher, as the music sounds timeless, strange, and explorative, an album that doesn’t feed on current trends but also refuses to dine on the past. Then again, it’s not like Norman has been in a cave as he’s been playing with Naglfar and Bewitched, but even those bands don’t feel like they rub off on this new record all that much, making this album stand apart.

“Haec Est Mors Secunda” starts with guitars opening, bells chiming, and chants reverberating. Melodies scorch, chants rise, and then we’re on to “Breaking the Circle of Life” that explodes and trudges its way into chaos. Shouted growls and strange melodies unite as things creep toward calculated highs and the title being wailed as the music then trickles, and the keys bubble. Things gets vicious again as the riffs cut through, keys drip like icicles, and the chorus rushes back before the synth sweeps out. “Architect Of Death – Laudamus Te” opens with chants pushing through, dramatic flushes quaking the ground, and snarled vocals ripping through Vargher’s teeth. The track keeps racing toward the mud as keys drizzle, fantastical playing gets into your blood, and everything comes to a sweeping end.

“The Coronation” blasts out and heads into symphonic spread, and then the playing gets your anxiety going, crushing with mangling howls. The vocals carve pathways as the strings hit their stride, the vocals punch, and then we’re back into calm. The keys open, the vocals splatter, and that ends in a wave of emotion. “Those Who Do Not Exist” hits an ominous tone as it starts with guitars hanging in the air, and the passion dripping into the atmosphere. The claws dig into that and enrich the air while a note of regality peaks, and the instrumental cut ends with your heart quivering. “And God Saw” unleashes keys that rush into streams, and a pummeling force comes out of it, as Vargher’s forceful howls gnaw at you. The playing crumbles and rolls downhill, sorrowful leads gut you, and a gothy push thickens the shadows and the darkness that are stirring like a storm. “Towards Your Destruction” ends the record and unleashes spindly riffs and growls that sound like they’re ranting as the momentum picks up. “Every act of mine is an act towards your destruction,” Vargher howls repeatedly, making sure you grasp the gravity, while organs rise and create a huge fog. The chorus returns, the playing get meatier, and synth waves bounce as the track fades away.

A 17-year gap is an eternity to wait between records, and it was starting to become a mystery if we’d ever hear from Ancient Wisdom ever again, but luckily that’s no longer an issue with “A Celebration in Honor and Death.” This record is an exhilarating gust from this long-running back metal project, and this album comes in sounding fresh and exciting in a sub-genre that’s comically oversaturated. This band is coming back at a welcomed time, and this record is an enthralling experience from front to back.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ancient.wisdom.sweden

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sound-cave.com/

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

International black metal band Sojourner back with new faces, two jolting songs on ‘Perennial’

Photo by Heike Langhans

For the most part, we spend a lot of time with full-length albums and EPs, and rarely do we tackle anything smaller than that. There’s some logic behind it: There are just too many smaller releases like singles and whatnot that we can’t really justify doing one if we don’t do more. But there also are exceptions to that rule, and you guessed it, we’re at that point today.

I’ve been a fan of international black metal band Sojourner ever since their Avantgarde Music days (though technically I first found out about them when Folkvangr handled their cassette releases, starting with 2016 debut “Empires of Ash”), and I’ve really loved their folk-infused, epic approach to this style of music. So, when they announced a mini release with their new single “Perennial,” also the full title of this release, we got excited and made an exception. It’s our site anyway. Another notable detail is the band is introducing co-vocalist Lucia Amelia Emmanueli, who replaces Chloe Bray, who makes a great showing of herself on these two tracks. The rest of the band—vocalist Emilio Crespo, guitarist Tom O’Dell, guitarist/pianist/synth player Mike Lamb, bassist and fellow newcomer Scotty Lodge, and drummer Riccardo Floridia—continues to up the ante on dramatic, arresting black metal that transports you away and never is awash in anything but escapist, driving power that easily can infect you.

The title track begins things with flutes floating, piano dripping, and then the track bursting to life. Burly and emotional playing gathers and pounds away while Emmanueli slips in as she sweeps in and changes the texture. Crespo’s growls burst as the track continues to surge and blister before the synth swirls in, and then everything simmers and boils. Emmanueli punches back in as the growls punish, choral flourishes add chill, and everything is torn apart before disappearing into the atmosphere. “Relics of the Natural Realm” is the closing track, and waters rush in, the flutes fly again, and Emmanueli’s vocals are prominent and haunting. That slowly trickles as the growls rush in, and then the track heads into solemnity before the ground erupts. The growls crush, the guitars go off, and the melody snakes in and enhances the mood. Vicious growls menace, the guitars exude emotion, and everything bleeds away.

While just a small, two-track release, even that much is a nice serving from Sojourner, who continue to ramp up the black metal drama with “Perennial.” Breaking in Emmanueli was a good choice, and she absolutely shines on these tracks, and this should only solidify their path as they work toward their fourth record. This is a nice, rousing blast from this band that only seems to get better as they go along.

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

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/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Ghastly travel further into death metal oddity with weird ‘Mercurial Passages’

Photo by S. Kujansuu

Death metal is such a strange beast and concept that it’s weird that the music doesn’t sound more bizarre than it does. At least to us who already are indoctrinated in the style and listen to it constantly. Play it for a normal person, and it probably sounds buckwild as shit. Yet the amount of experimentation and risk taking isn’t quite as common as someone like me would like. I’ll take that over brutal any day.

Finnish death maulers Ghastly never have had an issue defying convention, as their style certainly has the sub-genre’s base, but it branches out in unexpected directions from there. Their third album “Mercurial Passages” is finally in our grasp, and as usual, it’s pretty goddamn weird, but it’s also punishing as hell just where it needs to be. The trio of Gassy Sam (vocals), Johnny Urnripper (vocals), and Ian J. D’Waters (multi-instrumentalist) forges into the macabre and the weirdly spooky, spreading their mangling charisma and razor-sharp creations over seven tracks and 40 minutes. Good thing is, though, the band doesn’t go too far into the bizarre; so a non-adventurous listener still could get taken for a ride from the heaviness and work their way into the mind-numbing drama.

“Ouroborus” fades into the scene as the music drips, and then the growls go after your throat. There remain clean elements even as things get heavy and mind taxing, letting your mind swim in psychosis as heavy growls strike again, and everything bleeds to the end. “Out of the Psychic Blue” has the drums lighting up and daring riffs crumbling forward as the growls go to work at your slowly congealing gashes. The leads squeal as the pace trudges, ripping open any chance of calm with a violent assault, raw howls, and the drums going to work, leaving everything in front of it in the dust. “Sea of Light” emerges with cold riffs and tangling playing that causes you to question your sanity. The track then crumbles into hell with the vocals taunting you, the leads snaking, and a hypnotic fury rising like a stormfront, keeping its grip on your throat before the track rumbles to a finish.

“Perdition” blows through walls as your brain is put to the test, and then the drums allow reckless boulders to race down the hill toward you. Fierce vocals sharpen their teeth as everything is engulfed in madness, the growls chew at your veins, and song burns to a crisp. “Parasites” tears open and attacks your central nervous system before the growls go to work on your flesh. Hazy hell begins to unfurl, melting your through processes, and then the soloing goes off the edge. The music explores space, the growls make your spine crumble, and the track ends in heavy echo. “Dawnless Dreams” is the longest track at 8:34, and it starts with a heavy dose of atmosphere before the vocals get to work upending you, and the guitar work opens you up. The drums engulf you and shake the entire earth while the guitar work reaches for new creative heights, and a gust of keys turn things oddly hypnotic. Psychedelics and space unite, the menacing pace meanders purposely, and the track ends up in a starry grave. “Mirror Horizon” ends the album, a 7:25-long piece that starts landing blows right away, with the growls smashing and the guitar work turning up the temperature. The place smashes and smothers, making it hard to surface for a breath, and then the growls go back to work again, seeking your bruises. The playing remains ugly, melodies encircle, and you’re left on the ground watching the sky spin and the contents of your stomach threatening to surface.

Ghastly’s strange, out-of-body style of death metal continues to weigh on your mental well being on “Mercurial Passages,” another heavy dose of total disorientation. At times, their music can be peculiar and might not be everyone’s thing, but for those who align with them, this is another exciting journey with so many bizarre turns, it’s hard to keep from getting perilously dizzy. Ghastly remain one of the more daring, anxiety inducing bands in all of death metal, and this latest serving isn’t going to do much to ease your aching guts.

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

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

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

Flight of Sleipnir unleash into noctural journeys, majesty of the night on rousing ‘Eventide’

I don’t know where I go at night in my head while sleeping, though I do have recurring scenes that visit me regularly, worlds and places I’ve never seen on this earth that seem like reality when I’m dreaming, an alternate world that I sometimes prefer. Not everyone enjoys the nighttime and their sleep, as they can be terrifying and unwelcoming if one’s journey isn’t a true escape.

Long-running atmospheric dreamers The Flight of Sleipnir often focus on Nordic tales and fantasies, but on “Eventide,” their seventh record to date, they instead dig deep into the night and where those hours take them. Over six tracks and 44 minutes, the band—long-time members David Csicsely (vocals, guitars, drums) and Clayton Cushman (guitars, vocals, bass keyboards) and newer members Justin Siegler (guitars) and Dave Borrusch (bass) who both joined in 2016—digs into some of their richest, most involved music to date, mixing doom, black metal, folk, and prog into their journey that drives them deep into the nocturnal world. It’s an exciting, fully melodic record, too, and it’s one that hopefully will open more eyes and ears to this long-running band.

“Volund” starts the record with a melodic charge and harsh shrieks that drive the track deeper into the atmosphere. Clean playing merges and soothes before the track begins to boil, leading the vocals to catch fire as the playing follows suit. Even when breezes push through, the track feels dangerous and edgy with guitars washing out into the haze. “January” opens in a spiral as the shrieks punch in, crushing your will to carry on. The track then turns cold, sending chills, and then the spell is broken and unloads. The melody surges as the fires rage, ending with clean guitars that bleed out. “Thaw” starts with gazey smoke blanketing the horizon and the shrieks bask in heavy rains as the track drives slowly but surely. The bass feels jazzy as the guitars bask in elegance before the guts are ripped open. The drums make the walls cave, clean calls bellow, and glorious leads end the track in glowing embers.

“Bathe the Stone in Blood” starts with acoustics and guitars whirring, with pedal steel adding a sorrowful element to the song. The vocals carve bone as the emotion rains down hard, and the strong leads settle into the mid-section. The weather turns chilly again later, sparks are stoked, and the playing floods, ending with rustic passion. “Harvest” opens with piano dripping and acoustics gusting wind, with the cleaner vocals helping usher in a folk vibe. Weepy slide settles in the forefront before the track opens, the guitars rush, and the shrieks punish. The track drives hard into spirited clean calls, jolts of lightning, and a clean tributary trickling into a larger body of water. “Servitude” ends the record and begins with heavy rumbling and vocals that bruise your ribs as the hammers rain down. The vocals spit as the track moves into more solemn territory, easing your mind until the energy re-engages, the leads burn your face, and the track disappears into the cold night.

For as long as they’ve been a band and as many strong records as they have to their name, it’s hard to understand how Flight of Sleipnir still register below so many listeners’ radars, because it makes no sense. Hopefully “Eventide” helps wake up more people to their destructive, earthy powers that they’ve demonstrated over the past 14 years and seven records. This is as strong as anything they’ve released, a record that’ll sound great during these long summer nights in front of the campfire or right before you’re headed off to slumber.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://store.eisenton.com/

Or here: https://store.eisenton.de/en

For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/

Sadistik Forest mash with their brand of death metal on vicious stopgap EP ‘Obscure Old Remains’

Few things are as vile and disgusting as Finnish death metal, a form that has a definitive DNA you practically can smell coming and that always finds a way to deliver quality. It just feels more sinister than most other forms of death, almost like it’s rotting your guts and your brain at the same time, lurching toward you like an old zombie intent on making you a meal.

Another solid entry from that contingent is Sadistik Forest, a band that’s been plying their destructive trade for nearly a decade and a half, reminding the world just how formidable their country’s blend happens to be. They’re back with a quick EP “Obscure Old Remains,” a sort of stop gap after 2018’s “Morbid Majesties” and whatever comes next, but this is no pit stop you can just ignore. It’s a ferocious four-track (well, technically five, but read on) explosion that the band—vocalist/bassist Markus Makkonen, guitarists Antti Heikkinen and Jarkko Lahtinen, drummer Vesa Mutka—turns into a furious, bloody, and filthy display that demonstrates that their teeth are getting sharper, their bloodthirst thickening as they plot their next moves.

“Mandragore” begins with drums pummeling and filthy riffs that tear everything apart. Fiery growls destroy as the vicious bass rams through the gates, the guitars twist steel, and the ending is destructive as hell. “Barbarian” twists guts as the playing jolts with power, feeling vicious and mashing. Ugly growls tear into flesh as the leads go wild, speed combines with melody, and the hammering force bleeds out. “Nihil” fades in but wastes no time stomping all over everything, leading to gut-wrenching shrieks and a thrashy tempo. The body is fast and crunchy, the bass and drums team up to maim, and the guitars cut through the center, leading to an explosion. Things gets muddy and remain clobbering, ushering in warm leads that feel like flowing blood. “Waters Black” seemingly ends things as it’s the last listed song. Doom slithers as sludgy riffs pump their chest, and a gargantuan assault starts to blacken eyes. Amid the corrosion come swaggering riffs, forceful growls, and more doom humidity, working into a slowly moving, pulverizing assault that fades into darkness, making you think things are over. Yet after about 10 seconds of silence comes something you could blink and miss, their cover of the Napalm Death classic “You Suffer,” all 3 seconds of it. Nice touch. I popped.

Sadistik Forest continue their spiral deep into death metal’s rotting guts and putrid wounds, which this stellar EP “Obscure Old Remains” aims to accomplish. It’s mangling, gross, and oddly catchy, a burst of death metal you won’t mind chewing, strange taste aside. This stopgap between records is packed with bloody carnage, and if it’s an indication as to what’s coming, their future is going to be violent.    

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

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

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

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

Cherry digs into ‘Skyrim’ legend with Noctule’s fiery black metal debut offering ‘Wretched Abyss’

Photo by John Ashby

Heavy metal and videogames go so naturally hand in hand that I feel stupid even pointing it out in this intro. Of course they’re perfect together. I remember being in high school and playing hours and hours of “Metroid,” “Castlevania,” and “Wizards and Warriors” as I played the shit out every Iron Maiden, Helloween, and Metallica cassette ay my disposal until the print wiped off each side.

That was 150 years ago, but the idea remains. Serena Cherry obviously agrees with that sentiment, though her game choices are far more current as her new black metal project Noctule examines the world of “Skyrim” on debut album “Wretched Abyss.” Cherry also fronts the awesome Svalbard, but under this banner, she digs into classic second-wave black metal without the shitty politics, hammering with eight tracks that are flooding with melodic riffs and adventurous playing that it’s super easy to get caught up in everything. Cherry’s guitar work always was a huge highlight of Svalbard’s music, but it’s even more gigantic and alluring here, and her vocals are downright mean and vicious. This is an awesome display that buries you in power and strength, engulfing you in dragon fire.

“Elven Sword” gets us started with shrieks and a melodic gush before the pace is shredded, and great leads hold it all together as the glue. The track jolts your blood, the guitars remain white hot, and the fury drowns out at the end. “Labyrinthian” is spacious when it starts with great melodies pouring in and the riffs just flexing in your face. Cherry’s vocals crush as everything spills into a breezy gaze, a quick breather after your throat is chopped heavily. The playing is elegant and dark, guitars flood your senses, and everything burns out with heavy emotion. “Wretched Abyss” has Cherry’s vocals slice through as the leads rush with color. Melodies light up as the shrieks pound your flesh, and then things turn dramatic and stirring in a hurry. Portals into the stars open, the playing enraptures, and everything ends in the laps of an angelic chorus. “Evenaar” opens with a different pace as the playing chugs, the growls crush, and the leads add new rays of light. There’s a warmer post-rock vibe to much of this before the drums come unglued, your head fills up with clouds, and the growls well, sent to the finish line with devastating guitar work.

“Winterhold” has great leads swimming as a thick fog rises, and then everything gives way to speed. The drums club as the playing encircles, and exciting gusts make your adrenaline surge, and the shrieks maul, burning off into the night. “Deathbell Harvest” drips into the scene before rushing through, as the riffs stab and draw spurts of blood. The melodies crush amid warmth while the playing churns guts. The leads explode with energy, Cherry’s shrieks devastate, and the guitar work makes lava spit from the earth as the track winds down. “Unrelenting Force” lets the riffs sink in, and Cherry’s vocals open new abrasions as heavy punches are landed. The guitar work stiches everything together as the vocals crush hopes and dreams, the melodies flood your mind, and everything blisters as the track comes to a fiery finish. “Become Ethereal” is the closer, starting with a synth fog and orchestral keys, feeling tragic and classical in essence. The keys continue to trickle as the shadows loom larger, the darkness thickens, and the passage slips into cold, murky waters.

Noctule really exposes just how much of a stranglehold Cherry has on traditional black metal, at least as far as the song structure and heaviness is concerned, and “Wretched Abyss” is all the evidence you’ll ever need to prove that. Not that anyone should have wondered that because Cherry has displayed unreal chops every time she commits her visions to permanent record, and this “Skyrim” based album is one of her most impressive collections to date. As dizzy and nauseous as that game’s play often makes me, this music sends me into the stratosphere, blazing with energy and power as Noctule’s music fills the empty crevices in my brain.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://orcd.co/wretchedabyss

Or here (Europe): http://www.churchroadrecords.com/products/search?q=noctule

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Esoctrilihum’s doom, black metal swarm over rebirth tale on ‘Dy’th Requiem…’

Remember movies? We used to pack people into theaters to see huge, fantastical stories play out in front of us, distracting us for a few hours and letting our imaginations run amok. It’s not like we don’t have movies anymore, but we’re not going to theaters in anywhere near the clip we did before the pandemic struck, so that aspect of escapism has taken a back seat for now.

It’s still possible to be overcome by big stories, major themes, and the overall hugeness of that style away from a theater, and Esoctrilihum, the project helmed by sole artist Asthâghul (vocals, guitars, bass, drums, synths, violins, piano) is out to prove that. Well, maybe that’s not the sole purpose, but the music, deeply situated in doom, black metal, and plenty of other dark tidings, always has been content you cannot just sample. You have to commit, which Asthâghul proves again on “Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath,” his sixth album in five years and his lengthiest at 12 tracks and nearly 78 minutes. It’s a four-part epic that tells the story of the death, transfiguration, and rebirth of the Serpentine Telepath, a character in the midst of Asthâghul’s universe who gets an entire tale told over this bold, thunderous, highly adventurous album that will keep you riveted the entire time.

The record starts with “Part I – Serpentine Lamentations of Death” and the first track “Ezkikur” is spacious as the growls rustle and carve, and beastly playing mixes with chilling synth. The keys swim in the murk as icy waves lap over, majestic melodies flood, and the chugging fades and heads into “Sahln” where strings stir, and the growls carve flesh. The synth layers in and creates a regal vibe, the playing is wrenching but melodic, and the growls lurch hard. The pace chugs as the drums echo, the intensity bursts, and the growls submit to heavy psychosis. “Tyurh” lets the synth spread as similar melodies settle in, and savagery punishes you. The pace bursts as the keys again establish their stronghold, sounds feel like they blend through time, and guitars charge violently, bleeding into the next section, “Part II – The Secret Doctrines of Transmigration.” The first track of that segment is “Baahl Duthr” where intense riffs explode and drive in daggers, and gruff growls sink in their claws. There’s a thick atmosphere, the drumming crashes through, meaty thrashing takes hold, and the pace storms with quaking vocals and strange chants that sprawl to the end. “Αgakuh” unloads another punishing set of riffs, the growls are gurgly and gnarly, and the playing digs deep into your rib cage. The synth then detonates, the atmosphere swarms, and the vocals come alive again, basking in the nasty ugliness it established. “Eginbaal” has keys storming and the drums smashing, as icy pressure is established and arrests your cells. The riffs come to life and leave ample bruising, the leads are majestic and jolting, and moody strangeness floods and takes you into the next section.

“Part III – The Scarlet Flame of Transfiguration” begins with “Dy’th” and its stab of raw growls and vicious punishment. The playing trudges hard as the drums swallow you whole, and it feels like an utter massacre. It feels like sitting in total hell, strange riffs haunt you, and the horrors hang as the terror slips away. “Craânag” is a quick instrumental piece with pastoral synth and cataclysmic murk. The drums echo as the synth soothes, washing over your brain and into “Zhaïc Daemon” that charges up right from the start. Vicious pounding moves into a thick fog of keys that work toward you, crumbling into hell. The thing then gets spacious, great melodies rush through, and the growls swirl, moving toward the final chapter “Part IV – Methempsychosis of the Grand Telepath” and its opening cut “Nominès Haàr.” A sound cloud hangs over as the playing begins to slash, though clean notes do find their way into the blood. Synth sweeps as the pace continues to maul, growls snake through the creaky punishment, and entrancing melodies trick your mind into thinking it’s safe when it’s really not. “Xuiotg” lets guitars well up as haunting vibes settle over you, and gross growls makes the bile drive into the back of your throat. The track picks up and starts to destroy everything in front of it as anguished cries jolt, keys swoop, and the carnage floods until it slips into instrumental closer “Hjh’at” that already has weird vibes. Synth spreads as the playing takes on a Middle Eastern feel, the spirit grows stranger, and the track slips off into the unknown.

Esoctrilihum’s world is a bizarre one that has unfurled over each album under this banner that continues into “Dy’th Requiem for the Serpent Telepath.” The story that unfurls over this album’s 12 tracks is not of this world, and the music that accompanies the tale feels the exact same way. No idea how Asthâghul continues to be so prolific and powerful, coming back in short order with records as involved, imaginative, and punishing as this one that feels half as long as it is and keeps you tied into every ounce of the story until it finally unhands you.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Esoctrilihum-305266723253656

To buy the album, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

Nadja’s mysterious sound keeps advancing, taking on dark new waves on stormy ‘Luminous Rot’

There is not a single way to play heavy music, and to think there is essentially cuts you off from any  aspect of creativity or experimentation that has served to broaden perspectives from artists hellbent on defying boundaries. That’s been for the better as every single style of heavy music has grown, and diverse artists have been able to flourish and find an audience.

Nadja long has been a band on which it’s been impossible to affix a label. Yeah, they simmer in doom and drone and noise, but their style they’ve developed over a whole slew of recordings has shifted and changed, ensuring they never could be painted into a corner. On their latest LP “Luminous Rot,” they stretch even further, adding vocals and even more approachable touches, delivering songs that are a little shorter than their usual and knocking it the fuck out. The band—multi-instrumentalist Aidan Baker, bassist Leah Buckareff—works into the shadows, pokes through to doomy muscle, post-rock hypnosis, and a slowly drubbing storm that leaves you soaked to the core.   

“Intro” is a quick piece that boils in noise and builds pressure until it penetrates and makes your skull vibrate, leading into the title track where sounds agitate until the power punches in. The vocals swim through the fog, burrowing deep into mystery, and then it gets moody and weird as the playing eats into your psyche. The power stomps through as things gets murky and even take on a New Wave edge, washing out into the horizon. “Cuts on Your Hands” sends seismic waves as the track slowly moves, and the vocals slip into the mix. That trickles into strangeness as the mood gets heavier, as a dark mist moves overhead and blocks out your vision. The noises get more oppressive as the melodies lap, repeat, and cut through the center, heading into space and scraping away at the sky.

“Starres” is ominous as it starts as things get whirry and hypnotic, the growls chew at muscle, and the playing numbs, while the vibe actually starts to feel scary. The singing floats as your head fills with anxiety, and the melodies loop and chill you, droning away until everything fades. “Fruiting Bodies” brings total doom riffs that unload the hammer as the fuzz builds and carries over, while the riffs razor and the vocals swim. Ghostlike transmissions mix in, the guitars buzz, and a quick halt then leads to a burly blast, icing you over as the song fades. “Dark Inclusions” is the closer, and it lurches through dark fury while the music drives into menace. The vocals tease as the playing warps your mind, leading to the drums pummeling. The ambiance gets heavy and strange, dipping into the cosmos, while the playing pounds away, slipping into a psychedelic dream that buries you.

Nadja’s massive catalog contains no two things that sound alike, and “Luminous Rot” fits right in with that idea, as this is unlike anything the band ever released. As much of their music as I’ve heard, and the understanding I’ve developed to expect anything, I still was thrown for a loop by this record, which I mean in a good way. Nadja remain a fairly mysterious entity to many people, and if you’re one of those folks, change that now and dive in here knowing the water is deep and rich.    

For more on the band, go here: https://nadjaluv.tumblr.com/

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

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