Wraith add blackened ferocity, punk abrasion to thrash metal on lip-splitting ‘Undo the Chains’

I tend to be a little judgmental when it comes to thrash metal, especially when newer bands try their hands at it, because so often it just goes wrong. This is one of metal’s few subgenres that actually requires a sense of acquiring the sound’s spirit, and just putting on a pair of white high tops isn’t going to do it for you. I enjoy so few of these bands, not that I haven’t tried.

But that isn’t a blanket statement on all bands, as sometimes one comes in and just nails it from the start, sort of like Indiana’s Wraith, who are in full command on their third record “Undo the Chains.” Part of what makes this band work so well is they’re not trying to put on a costume or revive an era in which they didn’t live. Instead, they get to work on these 12 tracks that blast over 32 minutes and deliver mashing, blackened, punk-fueled power that gets in your bones and does ample damage. The band—vocalist/guitarist Matt Sokol, lead guitarist Jason Schultz, bassist Chris Petkus, drummer Mike Szymendera—is locked in, hammering you with tracks that don’t overstay their welcome, splitting your lips with pulverizing intensity that also happens to be a blast of fucking fun at the same time.

The title cut opens, a quick intro piece that chugs and burns, setting the stage for what follows, with the first up being “Dominator” that amplifies the dangerous fun. “Created to kill, that’s just what he’ll do,” Sokol warns as the band delivers nasty thrashing that leaves ample facial bruising. “Gate Master” lands heavy punches as the guitars unload fire, and the raspy howls power the machine. The simple single-word chorus blisters and should do the same live, while hefty punishment keeps raining down. “Mistress of the Void” gets off to a smoking start with great guitar work getting things flowing, with Sokol wailing, “Don’t be afraid, it’s you she’s here to claim.” The band rips hard as the chorus makes its mark, ending thing with a jarring charge. “Cloaked in Black” is just mashing with a dangerous chorus that gets inside of you and the guitars spilling dump trucks of lava. Things then take a nice classic thrash bend, sending sparks as the track blasts out. “Born to Die” is in a similar vein as it unleashes some vintage metal fire, a chorus that cracks your ribcage, and dual guitars aligning and blinding.  The track keeps the energy flowing, ripping into you and leaving you a quivering pile.

“Time Wins” is a fast blast with nasty vocals, music that corrode, and a jolting, alluring attack that grinds away at your mental faculties. “Gift of Death” is speedy as hell as the bass rollicks and the vocals are spat out like they have a bitter taste. The gang shouts of the song’s title get you in the guts as the pace blinds, and the band shows some excellent fire. “Disgusting” has guitars blazing as the track goes for broke, with the simple chorus making its filthy point and rendering you too sore to move any great distance. “Bite Back” amps up quickly with Sokol howling, “Sharpen your teeth, embrace the pain,” almost like he’s giving you a violent pep talk. Catchy riffs and a slaughtering mentality combine and make all the pain you felt worth your while. “Victims for the Sword” has guitars stirring as things get out of control in a hurry, blasting by with punk fury and molten intensity, setting the stage for closer “Terminate” that wastes no time delivering the crunch. The band wails, “Terminate!” over the chorus, which live crowds are sure to mimic, and the track stomps and hammers, giving you one final taste of their storming volatility.

There have been enough bands that have tried to find thrash metal’s true spirit and have totally succumbed to the pressure, but Wraith are not one of those. What surely helps is that “Undo the Chains” is not a band trying to wear something that doesn’t fit them as they instead take a sound they love and batter it to their will. This is bruising, unforgiving, triumphant shit that is sure to get you bloodied in the pit but stronger for having endured the challenge.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.redefiningdarkness.com/products/705934-wraith-undo-the-chains

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

Pesch revisits Warlock’s classic, shows infectious intensity with punchy ‘Triumph and Agony Live’

Photo by Marko Syrjala

We don’t do a lot of live albums around here—I’m sure we’ve done them in our 10 years, but I don’t specifically remember one—and the reason is we see no real need to review them. We’re not really covering any new ground, and there’s no sense giving a blow by blow of an album that mostly contains material people have heard before. Not that we don’t love them!

But there are exceptions, and one of them is Doro Pesch’s “Triumph and Agony Live,” an excellent set that covers the 1987 Warlock classic of the same name that is one of the most important metal albums of all time. And one of the best. Pesch and her band, including Tommy Bolan who played on the original album, performed the entire album at Sweden Rock Festival in 2017, though not in the sequential order it’s presented on the LP. This collection that now celebrates the 35th anniversary of the album is an absolute must have for any Warlock or Pesch fan, or for anyone who just wants to get lost in the power of classic heavy metal. Pesch made her name at a time when there were not many women playing metal, and she’s an unquestioned pioneer, a true legend who still sounds amazing, is busting with energy, and unquestionably rules her version of the ruins, which she will defend to the death.  

“Legacy (Intro)” is a quick bit for when the band takes the stage, so you hear people getting riled up and the sense the band is getting ready to go, which they do on “Touch of Evil” that demonstrates just how powerful Pesch remains. The band sounds great, too, though one complaint that runs over the course of this entire record is the guitars and other instruments are kind of washed out so the vocals can be prominently out front. I get it. It’s Doro. But sometime that robs the songs of their power. “I Rule The Ruins” follows with Pesch leading her “hey hey hey!” chants that pop up throughout the record. The track is high energy, and the band’s gang calls over the chorus rush on the track’s last stand. “East Meets West” is one of the more aggressive tracks on “Triumph and Agony” and is punchy as hell here with Pesch in total command, the band on fire, and this thing just melting down the crowd. “Three Minute Warning” has the drums pacing, Pesch sounding strong and ideally raspy, and the solo just burning shit to the ground. “Kiss of Death” is a steamier, murkier song, a nice come down that’s still heavy but isn’t requiring your blood to pump with full force. It’s nicely positioned here.

“Für Immer” was a controversial track at the time as the label did not want the German-sung ballad on the album, only to have Pesch rightfully fight for it. That call was so obvious as three decades later it remains one that gets you in the guts, and the chorus of, “Deep inside my heart,” is so impactful. Oh, if you haven’t read Adam Tepedelen’s “Triumph and Agony” Decibel Hall of Fame piece, go check it right now. “Cold, Cold World” launches into heavy terrain with a killer echo on Pesch’s voice on the chorus, her voice like a razor blade against your neck. “Make Time for Love” is a soaring power ballad with dark synth and the singing rumbling in your chest as she bellows with emotion. “Metal Tango” is a fun one, a simple, catchy track that also was the B side to “Für Immer,” so it got a decent time in the spotlight, and the crowd eats it up here. All this builds to all-time classic “All We Are,” which is the album’s opener, but of course you’re sending the crowd home happy with this one. This is extended some as Pesch gives the crowd ample chance to sing back the iconic chorus, as well she should, and when she’s out front, she’s just unstoppable. The crowd sounds in a frenzy here, shouting back every word as Pesch praises them, giving a final adrenaline jolt to end the show on the right fiery note.

Pesch was one of the first women to prove that this is not a men’s game, and she can stand in there and rule along with the greats of the business, of which she is now one. “Triumph and Agony Live” not only is a celebration of an absolute classic metal album, but it’s also a treat for those of us who were there in the beginning to hear these songs sound just as powerful now. This is a live platter that is so much fun to behold, a jolt of energy that brings heavy metal to life in your heart and bloodstream.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://doro.lnk.to/Warlock-TriumphandAgonyLive

PICK OF THE WEEK: Succumb grind brains, unleash vicious breed of death metal with pummeling ‘XXI’

When discussing death metal, people like me often describe the mangling torment it can do to your body and the imagined trauma one would go through when listening to this style of music. It makes total sense as it’s awash in brutality, but let’s not discount the idea that death metal can challenge your brain as well and whatever’s going on in your mind.

San Francisco-based death crawlers Succumb very much can leave you exhausted and bruised with their music, but they add so much more than that, which they prove again on their excellent second record “XXI.” The title of the album comes from the final Major Arcana card in the tarot deck, and it symbolizes the end of a life cycle or pause before the start of the new life cycle. The album takes on themes such as the elements and their natural deities (and they’re likely plotting their revenge on us for how we’re treating this place), Lilith, the Boxer Rebellion, Arthurian literature, and many other fertile, thought-provoking ideas, with vocalist/lyricist Cheri Musrasrik drawing on poets/writers such as William Butler Yeats, Jean Genet, and Émile Zola to fully flourish her gripping words. Her performance is like that of a demon trying to inform the world of the ills that ravage it while the rest of the band—guitarist Derek Webster, bassist/vocalist Kirk Spaseff, drummer Harry Cantwell—launches into terrain that is mind-ripping, destructive, and slaughtering, which will do a number on your sanity.

“Lilim” opens the record with chaotic tension, unloading and snarling with the howls stampeding, the guitars slicing into your muscles, and the track running headlong into “Maenad” that slowly boils in the juices of the nasty growls. “They danced around a phallic stone, giving over to revels and rages,” Musrasrik snarls as pure soot smudges, the guitars soar before touching back down, and abrasive disorientation leaves you gripping for the walls. “Okeanos” stirs the turmoil, clobbering as the vocals aggravated oil fires. “Foam in a revolving whorl touches an unknown and sublime abyss,” Musrasrik sneers with your psyche stomped into the ground, corroding and delivering a mauling finish. “Smoke” punches as the guitars go off, and an unsettling pace gets into your chest and rewires your electric impulses. The vocals ensnare you in a steel trap, poking at you, while the violence increases, mauling as you lie there prone, unable to defend yourself as the track disappears into a noise void.

“Graal” scrambles impulses as it starts as guitars hang in the air and sting the senses, with vicious growls swiping at you. “A divine substance held in the bloody relic, illusory phantoms, and secret words spoken to a knave,” Musrasrik digs as parts of the song get muddy and dangerously slow before things fire up again and thrash mightily, stomping out its foe. “Aither” is another quick burst that comes in absolutely on fire, stabbing and splattering, driving its fist through you as you crumble to the ground. “Soma” smashes its way in, bringing furnace heat and a tempo that continually intensifies. Madness takes hold as noise rings, the vocals trample, and the swirling storm goes right for your throat. “8 Trigrams” closes the record, starting with militaristic drums and ominous tones, setting a strange ambiance that soon aims to remove your head. Things get dizzying and odd, with Musrasrik wailing, “Headless fighters and spirit guards are at war with mortals, shadowboxers moving in unison and covered by protective charms.” Total slaughter is achieved, bringing maniacal and dangerous sentiments, peeling away at your psyche and scalding your flesh as you writhe and beg for psychological mercy.

Trying to capture Succumb in words is nearly impossible, though we gave it a shot, and it’s up to you if we captured the insanity that surrounds “XXI.” But this is a band that, while they are shedding blood in terrain others have trampled, they’re doing it in ways that are terrifying and smothering in a way no one has done before and likely ever will again. This is an altogether different breed of death metal and a band that is seeing fit to deface it in any way they see fit based on their mission.   

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

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

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

Waldgeflüster keep black metal powers closer to home, bask in Bavarian landscape on ‘Dahoam’

Having a connection to one’s home means a lot of different things, be that the fabric of community, the sounds and smells of the surrounding area, and the natural elements that connect with our hearts and brains. For me, Pittsburgh contains all those things, which is why I have chosen to stay here, and even if I were to relocate one day, my roots cannot be unearthed from this place.

For the bulk of their run, German atmospheric black metal band Waldgeflüster have played to the praises of nature, basking in the majesty of the outdoors. But their new record “Dahoam” goes in a bit of a different direction thematically—namely on paying homage to their Northern Bavarian home which band leader Winterherz (vocals guitars, keys, samples) further celebrates by singing in that area’s native tongue. The record also is sort of the mirror side of their “Femundsmarka” album, that pushed away from home and ruminated on ideas and concepts learned while traveling aboard, Winterherz (he is joined by guitarists Dominik Frank and Markus Frey, bassist Avagr, and drummer Thomas Birkmaier), used this music and record searching for one’s soul in the confines of the homeland.

“A Taglachinger Morgen” is a calming opener that is built with acoustic guitars moving, birds chirping, and nature opening fully, pushing into “Im Ebersberger Forst” that runs 10:15, the first of three epics cuts surrounded by quieter, more reflective pieces. Vicious hell is unleashed after the initial serenity as Winterherz’s vocals jam your ribs, and then another wave of calm washes over, with fog spreading and intoxicating. New melodies sneak in as the vocals get cleaner but even bolder, the power rages, and wild cries pound into the night, ending with solemn acoustics. “Am Stoa” bubbles from the earth, the synth spreads, and the woody instrumental soothes your aching muscles, basking in softness and whispers.

“Am Tatzlwurm” rumbles for a healthy 10:47, beginning with acoustic passages and waves lapping, eventually firing up and creating forceful blazing. That increase helps the emotions ride harder, angling through lush strings and bubbling waters, slashing through with Winterherz’s forceful howls. Later, the singing turns to hearty bellows, brief sections of calm are engulfed with chaos, and the band pelts you with force as the song bows out to the rains. “In da Fuizn” rumbles the earth, bringing natural forces and spacious leads as the shrieks hammer away. Hearty singing arrives, guitars keep cutting, and the track disappears into atmosphere. “Mim Blick aufn Kaiser” is the final of the trio of beasts, and it’s the longest one at 11:10. The track is steely and spacey as it launches, bringing a fiery pace that is cooled by the clean singing reaching out, with the shrieks later adding abrasions. Acoustics arrive as chirps and croaks make it feel like you’re navigating a swamp, letting that ambiance spread before the track bustles back, flattening you. The journey rages toward its conclusion, the riffs swirl, and the final moments leave you robbed of breath. “Am Wendelstoa” closes the album with acoustics and folk-styled singing with the guitars adding a gentle haze. Drums are tapped, the vocals reverberate, and things are ushered out quietly, with you resting comfortably in the forest.

Waldgeflüster’s nature-inspired, atmospheric black metal always sounds huge and daring, which continues on “Dahoam,” a record that takes you on a familiar, hearty adventure through the band’s home territory. Sort of like the German version of Panopticon, it’s impossible to walk away from this band’s records without taking on an emotional toll, one you won’t mind facing. This is another rich, cascading record from a band that doesn’t just churn out tracks, they stuff them with genuine heart and emotion you practically can reach out and feel with your hands.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.aoprecords.de/gb/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.aoprecords.de/

Finnish funeral doom legends Skepticism weave grim, elegant sorrow on dramatic ‘Companion’

The idea of funeral doom seems to, just from its name, note a style of music that is crushingly slow, leaving you in abject misery as you stare the end straight in the eyes and try to buy yourself more time. For the most part, that’s exactly what it is, and it’s difficult to shake the dread and morbid pressure that feels like it’s weighing down on your chest like an anchor.

Finnish spirits Skepticism have helped craft this sound, spreading their slow-moving drama over the past 30 years, creating sub-genre landmark “Stormcrowfleet.” But they’ve done so much more than that, and they’re still adding to their greatness with their new album “Companion,” a record that should find an instant home in their fans’ blackened hearts. Despite helping craft the very idea of funeral doom, this band offers up something different, an elegant, graceful, yet crushing display that makes them one of the most significant and special acts in all heavy music. The band—vocalist Matti Tilaeus, guitarist Jani Kekarainen, organist/keyboardist Eero Pöyry, drummer Lasse Pelkonen—smears their misery over six tracks and 48 minutes on their sixth long player, one that’ll carve out your soul.

“Calla” immediately immerses itself in the drama as the organs unload, the guitars tangle, and the growls slither through, making for a chilling presence. Things feel dark and stately as the track pumps colors with shadows swelling, the melodies growing thicker, and the mid-section stretching. “The Intertwined” greets with throaty growls and guitars daring as the organs muddy the waters, pushing hard into danger. A foreboding sense rises as the growls gurgle, watching the clouds thicken overheard as a gothy haze expanding its wings. Waves lap, the growls crush, and the track slowly wretches into the fog. “The March of the Four” runs a healthy 10:04, the longest track on the collection, and it delivers cascading organs and growls lumbering with the guitar work flexing its muscles. The guitars churn as the sadness collects, carving into your mind with thunderous, thick power, drizzling into the atmosphere and trailing off into the unknown.

“Passage” goes in a different direction as the guitars are sinister, the growls hammer, and the added weight crunches. The playing lurches and blends into fantastical elements that quickly turn dark and horrific. As the vocals snarl, the song swims deeper into the murk, the playing buzzes, and the whole thing burns down and finally bows out. “The Inevitable” opens in acoustics as ghostly apparitions arrive, adding to the pressure. The lather keeps getting heavier and richer, the growls emit pain, with the guitars drizzling blackness. A glimmering surge causes you to shield your eyes as your heart is gutted, and acoustics return to drown everything out. “The Swan and the Raven” closes out the album with organs pumping, the growls carving a path, and a dark adventure beginning to take hold. Things then take off toward the night sky as the guitars slither and the smoke builds, letting the rumbling take over and assume control. Waters thicken and drain, the melodies round back, and everything is swallowed under a black sea, washed out to oblivion.

Skepticism’s doom majesty remains as strong as ever three decades into their run, and “Companion” is a record that further pushes their campaign into new areas but also keeps their path steady as ever. The band remains an enigma, one of those entities that has stayed true to their mission and cultivated many followers but few who can equal what they do. This is a fantastic, smothering record that feels gigantic while burying your face in the soot.     

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

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/skepticism-companion-album/

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

Japanese dreamers MONO create surprising, soaring new sojourn on great ‘Pilgrimage of the Soul’

Folks like me like to use the word “cinematic” to describe music with a huge scope and feel, and that’s not a major issue because if the portrayal fits closely enough, it’s a pretty good descriptor. But the idea is that the music you’re hearing makes you escape to another place, taking a journey into a new world in your own head because you’re so caught up, you can’t help yourself.

Japanese instrumental power MONO has been creating that very experience for the past couple decades, and now they’re delivering their 11th record “Pilgrimage of the Soul,” one of the most daring of their entire catalog. This is the point where I tell you I once saw MONO play a goddamn classroom at Carnegie Mellon University, and they absolutely destroyed the place. Despite the band carving out a following and style, they are not glued to that, and this record is a perfect example. Yes, there are sweeping highs and lows, of course there is plenty of soft-loud on this album, but the eight songs on this collection show a different side to the band—Takaakira “Taka” Goto (guitar), Yoda (guitar), Dahm (drums), and Tamaki (bass, piano). The music rollicks you more than usual, some of the emotion is even more tender than you might expect, and from start to finish, this takes you on that aforementioned cinematic ride that leaves you exhilarated and full of life.

“Riptide” gets things started, first basking in reflective waters before ripping open and soaring in a more propulsive manner than we’ve come to expect from this band. That makes your heart surge in the best way as gorgeous, gazey guitar drizzle, the melodies catapult, and the band drubs before retreating into the clouds. “Imperfect Things” basks in noise pockets and dripping guitars as the dreamy haze takes hold of you and changes your psyche. The bass trudges as the drums come to life, fully awakening as the guitars take off, abrasive sounds erupt, and everything keeps spiraling before fading away. “Heaven in a Wild Flower” slowly blossoms, setting up its world as we wait with anticipation. Moody yet calm, the music gets eerie, horns rise, and the horizon stretches, lathering with thick strings and heavy lather that helps you soak in this new, imagination-driven world. “To See a World” has guitar hitting the gas and the strings rising behind that, aching as the emotion thickens. The playing jolts and causes you to sit straight up as rich, gushing playing collects, and chimes ring brightly. The playing keeps upping the ante, delivering wave upon crashing wave until you’re buried beneath.

“Innocence” has sweeping melodies that practically lift you off the ground, guitars creating new paths, and a wondrous aura that aims to capture you and bring calm. You can feel the intensity build, even when the band is holding back, and then beams rip through the clouds, snaking through the winds before the tempo calms, and the music dissolves into the air. “The Auguries” plods ominously as the strings increase, and you can feel your blood rhythmically coursing through your veins. The power and volume gradually lift, the bass flexes its muscles, and the track swells up and explodes into a mist. “Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand” is the longest cut, running 12:22 and starting the keys pumping, chimes sounding, and noise reverberating. The playing feels gentle for stretches before the storm gusts, and the emotion caterwauls, bringing the rush to a new level. A gigantic high is hit, your body is cajoled, and the cut ends with your senses being smashed. “And Eternity in an Hour” is the closer, starting the keys drizzling and strings gathering, delicate and impassioned as the playing rises. Keys splash as the ambiance increases, darkening skies as your blood settles, and you wake from your dream.

MONO continue to enthrall and surprise on “Pilgrimage of the Soul,” their enchanting 11th record, a collection that contains much of the band’s usual DNA but also delivers unforeseen colors and tastes. Feeling your insides activate and your mind blast off with the visions created with this album makes for a MONO adventure that’s a little different from the ones that preceded it, proving they still have surprises up their sleeves. This music is perfect for lifting your spirits, taking a trip, or just losing yourself in a story, preferably the one playing out in your head.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.temporaryresidence.com/collections/albums/products/trr364

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Mastiff unload death, hardcore, sludge on wiry, nasty beast ‘…Ashes of the Earth’

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but life on this rock has not resembled anything approaching pleasurable in quite some time, and despite numerous chances to change our fortunes, half of us have decided to roll in the pig shit that is uninformed opinions. It’s one of those times when living underground finally seems like the most logical option for my sanity.

UK crushers Mastiff sound like they’ve heard about enough themselves, though not necessarily about the same subject matter, and they splash that misery and misanthropy all over their third record “Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth.” Combining sludge, doom, hardcore, death metal, and whatever other clobbering sounds they deemed fit to smash into their formidable sound, they deliver nine tracks in about a half hour that are weighty and unforgiving. The band—vocalist Jim Hodge, guitarists James Andrew Lee and Phil Johnson, bassist Dan Dolby, drummer Michael Shepherd—recorded this bastard in only five days, jamming every vitriolic fiber into this pummeling album that can leave you either feeling worse about this shit or determined to rise above it and smash the assholes keeping us down.

“The Hiss” slowly dawns, reveling in filth, lumbering as shrieks rain down, and things bend into gloomy hypnosis. That feeling spreads and bubbles as the storms get heavier, and the playing drubs with sorrow, suddenly disintegrating into “Fail” that bursts from the gates. Converge-style guitar feedback powers as beastly howls rain down, and a hardcore-style assault splatters your guts all over the walls. “Repulse” hammers away immediately with crazed vocals and an assault that’s meaty as fuck. “Feel like a god, no one to answer to,” Hodge pummels as the band massively thrashes you before things slow down and suffocate, folding the earth in half and squeezing out its guts. “Midnight Creeper” is a panicked assault that clobbers with vicious double-kick drums and screams that tears muscles apart. Absolute demolition rolls out, teeth are ground to dust, and the track burns off for good.

“Beige Sabbath” is a fast one that has riffs mashing, heaviness throwing its weight around, and Hodge accusing, “Same old shit, nothing’s changed,” as the track smashes your senses. “Futile” opens with noise ringing and the bass snarling as muffled growls land blows, and the intensity explodes around you. Things come unglued as elements turn even more vicious with the cry of, “Live with the misery!” burying you in the ash. “Endless” brings doomy riffs and a pace that seethes, clobbering with death metal thickness. The whole thing feels like it aims for your neck, sending sinister intent as Hodge laments, “Endless suffering, endless pain!” “Scalped and Salted” simmers in abrasive sludge as mangling hell and hardcore punishment combine and bruise your emotions. The playing utterly steamrolls as the band bludgeons, and everything rests in static. “Lung Rust” is the nearly seven-minute closer that lands heavy shots as it slowly corrodes, shrieks killing and the music bathing in the horrific lather. The track is ugly and thick, peeling back flesh and exposing only the morbid sections of your mentality. Static creates a tidal wave that grows to monstrous proportions, and it drags you under, never to be seen again.

We’ve all come to see the darkest, vilest, most disgusting elements of humanity as of late, not that it wasn’t always lingering right under the surface. Mastiff bathe in that horrific blood and guts on “Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth,” one of the most devastating pieces in their already volcanic catalog. This is the perfect music for getting out your own frustrations, dealing with your anxieties, and putting up your own boundaries to keep the scum of the earth out of your business.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://eoneheavy.com/collections/mastiff

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

Death legends Carcass rip out guts again, surgically bludgeon into psyches with ‘Torn Arteries’

It’s been a downright cosmic and strange era for metal’s classic bands as so many of them have offered up really strong material lately including Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, At the Gates, and Helloween. Not sure what the reasoning is for that (maybe they’re just all really great bands?), but it’s been a huge benefit for the fans and for the artists’ respective legacies.

One of the bands that first reminded us that the pioneers could still fucking go was Carcass, who did that with bloody precision eight years ago with “Surgical Steel,” their first in 17 years at that point. Plus, they delivered that smoke on the road (when I saw them, Bill Steer was violently ill, and I had no idea), so anyone who had counted them out had to feel like a jackass. They’ve delivered yet again on “Torn Arteries,” their seventh overall full-length and a tremendous piece of work that has 10 tracks blasted over 49 minutes. The band—the aforementioned guitarist Steer is joined by vocalist/bassist Jeff Walker, guitarist Tom Draper, and drummer Daniel Wilding—sounds spry, channeled, and like they’re having a fuck of a good time knocking these songs out, and every ounce of this thing is juicy and exciting.  

The title track gets things going with the drums crushing and the riffs churning, verses hammering away and getting your blood pumping. Portions are thrashy as hell as the leads burn, and the speedy fun comes to a mashing end. “Dance of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No. 1)” again proves their knack for great song titles as the drums stomp and the riffs tangle, rising gloriously over the chorus. The vocals chew tendons while the soloing injects a sense of fun, the vocals spit over the chorus, and the guts are stomped out. “Eleanor Rigor Mortis” begins with guitars soaring and Walker’s vocals sounding particularly abrasive. The chorus chars and rumbles as the playing chunks and simmers, the leads glide, and everything catches fire before the blistering takes hold. “Under the Scalpel Blade” also was on their “Despicable” EP and the Decibel Flexi series before that, and it’s bludgeoning and memorable, a classic cut that’s going to endure as a modern favorite. “The Devil Rides Out” unloads heat and strong guitars, adding muscle and a stamping out the idea of Satanism, which is not typical for metal. But this is Carcass, and Walker wailing, “Get behind me, Satan,” bristles as speed jostles, and the end rips out the guts and tosses them on the scrap pile.

“Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited” is the longest track, running 9:53, an uncharacteristic move for this band. It lands heavy shots, with Walker wailing, “Repulsive!” as sinewy guitar work manages to glisten. The band digs in its claws as the guitars race, and a quick cooldown slips in before things melt hard. The chorus rounds back, the band rubs your face in cinders, and the end erupts in pain. “Kelly’s Meat Emporium,” which is named after a real place, has zany guitars and drums that destroy skeletal structures, as the pace slaughters, and the bass pummels. The band blinds with speed in spots, and then it’s all dumped onto the killing floor. “In God We Trust” has guitars blasting into the atmosphere, the vocals strangling, and the leads going off. There’s a, and I swear I’m not making this up, hand clap section that’s weird but fitting? The band keeps adding punches before the tracks spins off into the night.  “Wake Up and Smell the Carcass / Caveat Emptor” has drums rolling into a death groove, more raspy howls, and the guitars hitting the gas for the song’s second part where the punches tenderize the ribs, and things end abruptly. “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing” ends the record by coming out of the gates swinging, even feeling moody in spots. The warning of death is in the air aa the band speeds and mauls, with Walker’s howls of, “Rewind the death clock,” reminding that doom is near. The leads crush as the playing opens your belly with Walker wailing, “Tick! Tick! Tick!” as the record times out.

More than three decades in the game hardly have had an impact on Carcass as they keep unleashing the rowdy and infectious death metal they do so well. “Torn Arteries” is a nice step up from “Surgical Steel,” a record it’s somewhat in line with but also stands apart from with its increased freshness. This record is fun, violent, and massive, and it’s another fresh slab from the unstoppable Carcass machine.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

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

Pittsburgh’s Lady Beast rampage with massive, traditional metal assault on captivating EP ‘Omens’

Heavy metal has the power to inject you with more strength and stamina than you even realized you had, which is probably why a lot of people listen to it when lifting weights. I do, because I noticed when I listen to comedy podcasts, I tend to drop weights when I’m laughing because I sometimes can’t handle things. Anyway, that’s where switching to something heavier comes into play.

Pittsburgh’s traditional power metal force Lady Beast is a favorite around here (meaning this site … well, and in the city), and while I was on vacation, they offered up their killer new EP “Omens,” a nice smaller serving of the charging fun we’ve come to expect from the band. This offering contains four new tracks and a great Rainbow cover, which they knock the fuck out of the park, with every second of this thing getting your blood surging. The band—vocalist Deb Levine, guitarists Andy Ramage and Chris Tritschler, bassist Amy Bianco, drummer Adam Ramage—storms through these nearly 20 minutes that conjure the spirits that metal has courted since the very beginning.

“The Poisoned Path” gets us started by the track punching in and charging up, delivering awesome, steely riffs. “Poison in your eyes, in your veins, in your brain,” Levine howls as the track keeps trudging hard, ending with power busting. “Reaper” rips open with the drums launching and the riffs driving, with the chorus swelling in your chest. “Nowhere to turn, nowhere to go, the reaper knows,” Levine warns, as death closes in, causing the temperatures to rise. The soloing soars, increasing your adrenaline level, and wild cackles drive the song to its end. “Blood for Blood” dawns with riffs churning and a defiant pace with might and muscle, with Levine warning of “payback by violent death.” Revenge bursts from every seam as the guitars bubble, with the leads ripping out into the night. The band then delivers a great cover of Rainbow’s “Kill the King,” with Devine expertly delivering her best take on Ronnie James Dio’s performance, but with her own blades dug in. The rest of the band increases the intensity from the original, with the guitars absolutely catching fire and melting away. “The Fool’s Journey” is the closer, with the band delving deeply into NWOBHM terrain and stomping that ground heavily but tastefully. The vocals drive hard and the bass sludges while the guitars explode and rush toward the stars. The soloing kills while the speed picks up, ending the track in trudging glory.

Lady Beast keep the traditional metal fire burning brightly on “Omens,” a great EP that bridges last year’s “The Vulture’s Amulet” with whatever comes next from them. They’re in full command here on these five tracks, and if you’re already fully in the band’s camp, this will just entrench you even further. This is a really fun blast that’s going to enhance their already stellar live show and make you want to sharper your blades for battle.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://ladybeast.bandcamp.com/album/omens

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Mehenet burn with black metal, magical gust on haunting crusher ‘Ng’Ambu’

The strangest shit happens sometimes, and one of those is taking place right now. I’m getting ready to tell you about the new record from black metal wanderers Mehenet, and there’s an old episode of “Murder She Wrote” on where they’re in New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras. I had planned an intro completely different than this, but sometimes the universe pulls bizarre tricks, and here we are.

That area also has been ravaged by yet another hurricane, and people again are having to scramble to just survive, and we hope for the best for them, and please donate if you can. We’re here to discuss Mehenet, a force that, according to their bio, has a personal connection and dedication to Quimbanda, the Afro-Brazilian diasporic belief system based around magic, rituals, and offerings. It separated from Macumba at some point, taking on the darker, more black magic aspects of the religion. It also rejected the Catholic and Kardecist spiritual elements that penetrated Macumba. On their haunting second record “Ng’Ambu,” Mehenet works in sounds, samples, and music from the French Quarter, bringing you not only into the band’s home but also to their belief system to which its members have committed. Featuring members of members of Thou, though we do not know which ones, the band—vocalist/lyricist Algol, guitarists Nehushtan and Cernunnos, bassist Matr’el, drummer Acheron—inject their fiery passion and cataclysmic personality into this album that it takes a toll on you mentally, but in a refreshing way.

“Dona Sete” starts with percussion awakening souls, chanting enrapturing, and the guitars slowly dawning, like the sun poking over the horizon. Then the burst happens, and the world is engulfed in fire and lust, speeding with manic jolts and clobbering fury, returning again to chants that send fire down the spine. The vocals mangle as the playing increases the fire, maniacal energies sicken, and the flames are choked out, though the embers still crackle. “Horse to the Earth” is spirited, featuring noises from the streets, accordions dancing, and then the world is absolutely devoured. Slow mauling increases the bruising while the growls splatter, and suddenly it feels like the walls are moving. The playing punishes and sends dangerous surges, leaving you grasping for any modicum of safety.

“In the Garden of Suicide” catapults with black metal fury and a mangling pace that leads you into a darkened mash, with clean calls tingling your brain. The guitars increase the heat while the drama builds, smashing and jostling everything until it finally bows out. “Whom God Did Despise” opens with bells chiming, the drums hypnotizing, and the body slowly emerging, rumbling beneath the earth. About three minutes in, the earth is cracked, the lava spills furiously, and the pace jerks you back and forth. The vocals darken as the shouts pummels with cries of, “I am the image of my father who rides on black wings, who pecks at the rib of Adam, hear the echo of my screams!” The track increases the intensity, devastating and flattening until the final venomous stings. “The Mystery of Nations” closes the album with black metal rivers racing, rage splattering, and things somehow taking an even darker turn. The playing smashes as savage growls break through with Algol howling, “Step out! Look in my eyes, see the stolen fire of your life, torn out! Get out!” The guitars send the mind sprawling, and the animalistic finish sends ghouls and spirits drilling into the crust.

For as many times as bands call their regular shows rituals, Mehenet is a band that actually creates music designed to rouse the spirits and deliver magical offerings. The furious sprawl of black metal on “Ng’Ambu” definitely doesn’t feel like just an album as the music can swim and burst in your brain, making you see ghosts move and energies rattle your skeletal structure. This record is one that hasn’t let me go, refuses to let me settle my brain, and only relents once I agree to align spiritually and follow that black path into the night.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Abomination718/

To buy the album (vinyl to come in 2022), go here: https://gileadmedia.net/products/mehenet-ngambu-cd

Or here (cassette): https://stygianblackhand.bandcamp.com/album/ngambu

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

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