Castrator turn blades toward oppressors, blast vicious death on crushing ‘Defiled in Oblivion’

If you’re living in the United States and feel women and people who can carry children should have their say over their reproductive choices, the past few weeks have been fucking infuriating as we watched a SCOTUS with an agenda destroy progress and right to privacy. What do you expect from a drunken doofus, a man whose wife poorly tried to help overthrow the election, and a bunch of liars?

Metal hasn’t always been kind to women and anyone who is not male, and the misogyny that’s run amok over the years and very much still exists today has been sickening. I say this as a dude who doesn’t experience what they do, so I’m sure I don’t know the half of it. Castrator, a death metal band that has spent the past few years fighting back against oppression both in metal and the world are delivering their crushing debut record “Defiled in Oblivion,” and it goes right for the throat. The band—vocalist Clarissa Badini (also of Vicious Blade, who we just visited a few weeks back), guitarist Kimberly Orellana, bassist Robin Mazen (Derketa, Gruesome), drummer Carolina Perez (Hypoxia)—tears through 10 tracks, one of which is a savage and very fitting cover, and the power absolutely clobbers you and makes it very clear the old guard will not be permitted to stand.

“Dawa of Yousafzai” starts with a clip of Malala Yousafzai declaring, “They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed. Weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage was born.” Then grinding, deadly death metal ruptures, tearing apart flesh, draining veins, and the power blows you back. Badini’s growls are deeper and more guttural than her work in Vicious Blade, and she’s surrounded by carnage fueled by rage and revenge. “Tormented by Atrocities” has riffs firing up and tearing things apart, the growls tunneling into chests. There are some weird and punchy moments that make you tilt your head in a good way, the growls gut, and the pummeling ends in guitar squall. “Befoul My Existence” ignites with guitars rampaging and the playing scraping flesh from the bone. The growls smother as the playing generates heat, hazy strangeness hovers, and the fires engulf until the track ends abruptly. “Inquisition Sins” is punishing and chugging, going for the throat as the vocals strike. There’s a growl/shriek mix that chews through muscle as the soloing erupts, rounding back to hell and smashing boundaries. “Voices of Evirato” enters with liturgical chants surrounding and guitars enveloping, the stomping feeling like it’s trying to lead a path to dismemberment. Speedy bursts clobber as the soloing explores, the playing leads to increased heat, and the howled vocals leave bruising.

“Forsaken and Deprived” lets riffs spill from the seams, the speed increasing and making the surroundings seem dangerous and unruly. Growls bring menace as the tempo goes for the throat, rampaging and splattering with ash. “Sinister Mind” has guitars whipping in with force as the vocals are spat out with Badini stabbing, “Don’t waste your time, prepare to die!” The playing keeps the juices flowing violently, and Badini promises “no forgiveness” as the track slashes to the end. “Purge the Rotten (Ones)” unloads speedy riffs and a mucky path that promises to challenge your muscles and well-being. The soloing explodes and rampages toward the sun, crazed charging lays your psyche to waste, and Badini howls, “No one will ever know,” which sends chills down your spine. “Tyrant’s Verdict” comes out of the gates swinging, drawing blood and forcing your face into the ground. Classic thrash-style soling overflows and chars, the growls boil in filth, and vile punishment threatens your security. The record ends with a slashing cover of the Venom classic “Countess Bathory” that completely makes sense and tears down the walls, putting a fresh coat of blood and piss onto a metallic landmark.

Castrator take no prisoners and aim to destroy those who support oppression and tyranny with “Defiled in Oblivion,” a ripping slab of classic death metal. Seeing metal dudes squirm over these four women taking the goddamn burdizzo into their own hands and showing their strength and bloodshed skills surely makes them shake and cower. This is a savage debut record, one that turns the tables on the people who have tried to lead metal by force and cast doubt on anyone who doesn’t look and sound like them. Castrator are here, and now the crumbling authorities no longer are safe.  

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

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

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

Sludge maulers Northless turn toward honoring those we have lost on burly ‘Path Beyond Grief’

Photo by Bronson Karaf

Sorry that you’ve heard this story from us a million times, but people are suffering. There are a lot of people who used to be in our lives just a few years ago who are memories now, and for the survivors, it’s not easy to handle. Life is different, some of us feel stripped of safety and love, and it’s been a fucking mess trying to reassemble the pieces. Because you can’t do that. Pieces you need are gone.

Milwaukee-based doom/sludge maulers Northless did not escape unscathed, and their new record “A Path Beyond Grief” is their means to pay homage to those who have passed this realm and preserve their memory so they can continue to live in our hearts. The band—vocalist/guitarist/synth player Erik Stenglein, guitarist Dan Lee, bassist James Becker, drummer/vocalist Jeff Nicholas—always has been impossibly heavy musically, but to add this level of emotion to their formula makes what they do absolutely flattening. In addition, the band adds new textures to their sound, more clean singing, and an expanded color palette that makes what they do even more immersive.

“Nihil Sanctum Vitae” opens the record with guitars plucked and folkish singing and harmonizing, easing into what turns into a gargantuan killer with the title track delivering muddy crushing. Cleaner calls wash over, wading in punishing and grim power, leveling with anguish as Stenglein howls, “I’m coming home!” The pace continues to add pressure as the atmosphere thickens with wrenching chaos. “Forbidden World of Light” has scarring guitars and hazy clobbering, the vocals howled as the surroundings are thick and sooty. Clean calls merge with the chaos, and then everything comes apart, the world crumbing beneath you as sinister guitars launch. Melodies bleed as growls curdle, the bass trudging as the playing fades. “Carried” blows through with singing moving and an emotional chorus leaving ribcages permanently compromised. Gargantuan howls erupt as the guitars spread and gaze, and the spiraling storm gets heavier and finally dissipates.

“Of Shadow and Sanguine” enters in full assault as vicious howls blacken eyes, and then speed becomes a factor, making your blood rush. Blistering fury increases the intensity, melodic howls send waves crashing, and thick basslines and molten terror dissolve into noise. “What Must Be Done” slowly mauls as murky skies hover, and the punishment dealt is calculated, devastating along the way. Steam rises as the guitars lather, sung shouts penetrate, and the guitars absolutely chug, raining down shrapnel and madness that collects and overwhelms. “Nothing That Lives Will Last” closes the album as it pushes through the darkness, creating somber waves as Stenglein wails, “I emerged from a haze.” The playing and vocals have a bit of a Baroness vibe with the wildness quotient increasing, a huge deluge of melody pulling you into the undertow. The vocals crush as the emotion spills over, amplifying the misery and leaving a trail of broken bones behind.

Many people have been touched by loss and grief these past few years, myself included, and “A Path Beyond Grief” is a bloodletting from the heart that reaches out and pays homage to those we don’t have with us any longer. Northless always have been as heavy as a cement truck, a gut-wrenching band, and here, they remain as devastating but also add new flourishes that really bring the machine to life. It’s not been an easy go for our species as of late, but as we live in the shadows of those who moved on to the next plane, we continue to find ways to honor them while we try to live our lives.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/a-path-beyond-grief

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Scarcity gaze into grief, loss, pay homage to void on gripping debut ‘Aveilut’

Part of having anxiety and the trouble with guiding it sometimes is the lack of control we have over certain situations. That can make you feel helpless and/or trapped, triggering whatever mechanism in your brain pounds the panic button and makes you choose flight over fight. There’s only so much we can do, only so much authority over the things that happen to us and others that it can be a lot to handle.

That’s not entirely what “Aveilut,” the debut record from Scarcity is about, but it certainly led my brain in that direction over some of the subject matter with which I can identify. This project is helmed by multi-instrumentalist Brendon Randall-Myers, who began to write this record after processing the loss of two people close to him and while caught in lockdown in Beijing in 2020. Randall-Myers, leader of Glenn Branca Ensemble ever since Branca’s passing, worked with vocalist Doug Moore (Pyrrhon, Weeping Sores, etc.) to add a volcanic, unhinged element that increases the misery and devotion to the void. Moore’s own lockdown occurred while living next to a funeral home in New York, one of the epicenters of the plague. So, you can imagine what these two forces, who stared desolation, loss, and tragedy in the eye, created when they got together. Black metal, doom, noise, ambiance, you name it, and it all feels like a trip to the center of devastation.

The record opens with “i” where drone spreads to all reaches of the earth, the guitars spiral, and the drumming pounds a path into your brain. Noise builds as layers are added generously while psychosis increases and limits your comfort. Moore’s shrieks erupt with fury, leads echo and surround, and final cries into the sky lead into “ii.” The track instantly has an industrial feel, driving and penetrating deep into your mind. The pace pushes as the shrieks corrupt while the playing hovers and hypnotizes, the guitars sizzling and streaming amid all of this. Wild terror enacts and gains control, blood sprays, total disorientation makes its presence felt, and deranged howls sink their teeth into muscle before melting away into the waters.

“iii” dawns in guitar fog as the sounds swirl and shrieks decimate, ripping through flesh. The force becomes a lot with which to tangle as the playing catapults and eventually torches your spirit, storming rages, and the momentum pushes toward “iv” that starts with a funereal pace. Growls lurch as the force builds, the noise pierces the fog, and the sounds scorch and push into the cosmos. Sounds glimmer, the power wrenches, and then we’re on to closer “v” that’s the longest track at 13:16. Guitars jostle as the playing unloads and just melts, creating seismic shock and an aura that causes your mind to wander. Synth blends in as the shrieks grab you by the throat and return you to reality, the sounds smear and streak, and that all washes into a gaze of dreams that are more grisly than calming. Shrieks echo, the sound cloud mashes, and everything spills into atmospheric glaze that dissolves into time.

So many people have been touched by loss and have had their lives altered forever, their realities shattered. Randall-Myers’ experiences are all over Scarcity’s debut “Aveilut,” and what he and Moore pour into this catastrophic, emotional journey can act as a means to letting the horrible events we’ve experienced make a little bit more sense. This is a bloodletting and a means to let the negative, sorrowful energies out, and the scathing adventure ends with you taking on more scars but ultimately move closer to healing in the end.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/scarcity

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

Behold! The Monolith thunder back with sizzling, humid sludge on ‘From the Fathomless Deep’

Upheaval is a matter of life, and how one deals with that tells a lot about the person’s strength and perseverance. This is heavy metal after all, and keeping things in a state on normalcy is not really an element that makes up this style of music. This breeds chaos, and the forces that make these sounds can be volatile. Or sometimes people just move on to other things, and the overall beast endures change.

Los Angeles sludge beast Behold! The Monolith have been making heavy, quaking sounds for 15 years now, and they have four very solid full-length efforts to their name, the latest being “From the Fathomless Deep,” their first in seven years. This band has been no stranger to lineup changes, sometimes for tragic reasons, but they’ve kept going, weathering every storm that’s come for them. Joining long-time members guitarist Matt Price and drummer Chase Manhattan is vocalist/bassist Menno Verbaten (Cryptic Slaughter, Lightning Swords of Death), taking the band back to its power trio formation they displayed on their first two records. Not satisfied with staying complacent, the band adds southern and classic rock goodness to their gargantuan sound, making this record feel like a summer destroyer. 

“Crown/The Immeasurable Void” starts with a gasp before the sludge rolls in and riffs swagger. Whispers wash through before acoustics take over, bringing a dreamy haze that settles over into bass boiling and a proggy sentiment. The guitars gush again as the mud cakes and stretches toward the cosmos, dual guitars make blood rush, and everything sizzles out. “Psychlopean Dread” enters amid aching echoes that eventually gives way to trudging heaviness and spacey growls that have an alien finish. Warm guitars glow and entrance before the pace picks up, and the waters get increasingly choppy. Twin leads rule, growls draw blood, and thick bass plods toward the gates. “Spirit Taker” enters in furious flames and mixes into a mesmerizing flow, punishing and lurching, the growls mashing muscles. A psychedelic wash grips before things get breezy and then raucous, the guitars go off, and the chorus is wailed as the final moments bubble away.

“This Wailing Blade” dawns with a southern rock vibe, burly singing powering, the gritty bridge leading to the mauling chorus. The guitars glimmer, bringing on memories of summers long passed, the elements soak in the juices, and the simple, but muscular chorus lashes back again before fading. “The Seams of Pangaea” opens with a bluesy tone and speak singing, and the playing slowly increases its presence, launching into a spacey void. Moody guitars give off a mystical glaze, and then everything explodes with furnace pressure, feeling like it’s translating what warm weather feels like, the bass diving for gems. The playing flutters as the atmosphere shocks, mauling with precision to the very end. Closer “Stormbreaker Suite” is the longest track, running 11:25 and immediately serving generous amounts of sludgy guitar. It’s a slow crusher for a good stretch, increasing psychedelic heat, the flames lapping and leaving soot on your flesh. The leads infect as the playing keeps developing, bringing awesome energy as faces are melted before acoustics blend in, the final embers washed away at sea.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard from Behold! The Monolith, but they make up for that absence with this muscular, atmospherically rich fourth record “From the Fathomless Deep.” This album seems to drink as deeply from the darkest reaches of the ocean as it does outer space, and the band’s mix of sludge, doom, and southern musical accents makes for a full-bodied, incredibly satisfying listen. This record feels like a statement from a mighty force reborn, one with experience and more tricks up their sleeve than you realized could fit in their massive arsenal.   

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

Or here (Europe): https://www.ripple-music.com/ripple-eu/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.ripple-music.com/

Raucous Mantar keep piling on muscle, finesse to their sludgy sound on edgy ‘Pain Is Forever…’

Photo by Matthis Van Der Meulen

Heaviness can only take a band or artist so far, because it’s not that difficult to achieve this level of extreme. There has to be more behind it, some actual substance, for the weight of the music to truly have a force behind it. Anything less is just music play loudly and aggressively that doesn’t make you feel full and satisfied when the noise ends.

German duo Mantar—vocalist/guitarist Hanno Klänhardt, drummer Erinc Sakarya—always have had plenty of aggression and substance to their music, but they decided to take things a little further on their crushing Metal Blade debut record “Pain Is Forever and This Is the End.” No one ever accused them of cutting corners, but this time around, the band focused more on the songwriting end and less on the heaviness, and they came out with 10 tracks that spark, punch, and give off a hearty beating that feels rich and fully realized. These songs are fun and feel loose and energetic, and while the band didn’t concentrate on this aspect, are plenty heavy. Also, being on a legendary label with a huge following will expose Mantar to even more people, and they could not have put a stronger foot forward.

“Egoisto” gets this going with the guitars trudging and throaty wails pounding away, feeling melodic and grisly. Throaty howls smother, the riffs encircle and sizzle, and the chorus punishes one last time. “Hang ‘Em Low (So the Rats Can Get ‘Em)” sounds like such an obvious lead single, a thing I guess still exists. Guitars jolt as the raspy vocals leave welts on your flesh, scraping and swelling, delivering a chorus that fills you with adrenaline and puts out your lights. “Grim Reaping” arrives with a strong riff that punches in as the track lights up and fill its lungs with soot. “Everything dies in the end!” Klänhardt howls, powering through a simple but killer chorus, ending with the final jab, “Misery knows your name.” “Orbital Pus” brings aggravated speak-singing, the drums leaving bruising, and gruff goodness that makes your blood surge. The assault continues as the guitars build and dual howls punish, leading into “Piss Ritual” that fires up right away. The vocals snarl and spit nails, and the duo pumps out black metal-friendly playing, steamrolling with speed as Klänhardt vows, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

“Of Frost and Decay” starts with cleaner guitars and a foggy aura before the first punches are thrown, and gnarly vocals chew their way into the scene. The track gets dark and moody as Klänhardt repeatedly shouts, “Wait to fail!” over the chorus. Electricity bubbles as the drums unload, melting into the earth. “Walking Corpse” brings strangling riffs and the vocals rustling, with Klänhardt howling, “There’s no remorse for what you’ve done.” A blistering punk feels melts faces, punching out and moving into “New Age Pagan” that stings the flesh right away. Riffs bulldoze as the singing is smoother but just as nasty, a heavy groove ripping through chests. The chorus washes through, guitars jab, and a vicious finish adds an exclamation point. “Horder” begins gently, but that’s a ruse, because before you know it, the fuel is dumped on the flames. “Get up, get down, get born again,” Klänhardt taunts as the guitars slash, and the pace gets punchier. The track seems ready to dissolve, but it’s another tease as the playing rips anew, delivering one final rousing chorus. “Odysseus” is the closer, leaning in with an ominous riff, buzzing and gnawing. Klänhardt’s singing is a little cleaner but still leaves bruises, and some of the track even feels kind of poppy. Melodies wash over as the energy soars, letting your juices flow one more time before fading into the darkness.

Mantar’s climb through the world of heavy music has been fascinating to watch as they’ve added muscle and grit and even more approachability on “Pain Is Forever and This Is the End.” While the sound is more streamlined, it’s still a brawl over these 10 tracks and still has a heavy share of thorns to drive into your side. With metallic superpower Metal Blade behind them, Mantar’s direction is up, and these 41 minutes are filled with power to sway the masses in their bloody direction.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.metalblade.com/mantar/

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

Space beast Xenoglyph prophesy digital sentience, humanity’s end on cosmic behemoth ‘Spiritfraud’

If it’s not every day that some sort of machinery or technology shits its pants and makes me more confident that machines never truly will take over the world. You know how many times I try to put my debt card into a chip reader and it fails spectacularly and I have to spend minutes inserting and reinserting? That came out wrong. How many times does my modem fail out? It’s constant.

That’s not to suggest it can’t happen, and a few visits with “Spiritfraud,” the new opus from intergalactic black metal entity Xenoglyph might have you wondering if your days are numbered. The duo behind this shadowy beast explores a reality where digital creatures come to life and desire for the existence that humans enjoy/bastardize, so they aim to steal our dreams. Humankind then must grapple with whether fighting a losing battle or disappearing gracefully is the better choice. Musically, the band delves into cosmic realms of black metal, freezing your cells, warping your wind, and taking you on this adventure that only can end in misery and defeat.  

“Mainframe Equilibrium” starts with guitars dawning, the sounds washing over and bringing chilled numbness, the growls squashing bowels. Atmospheric pressure unloads as the black metal elements multiply, melody becomes a bigger factor, and everything feels gigantic. That heads deeper into the stars, cascading heavily and trickling into oblivion. The title track explores the elements before guitars chug in, and lurching motions make for a devious ride. Melody and drama intertwine as chaos eats away, and everything is pummeled as the vocals tear into wounds. Strong energy ignites as the spirit grows more formidable, then all the elements rush with force before synth joins and fades with it all. “Cyphon” pops open and immediately trudges through everything, the playing feeling both mystical and fog-covered, the drums tearing through the veil. The tempo gets darker as a proggy finish is applied, guitars space out, and the playing disappears in the sky.

“Iconocide” begins in strange waters as it gets more cosmic, and growls push through as sinister riffs join the fray. The drums maul as the pressure gets heavier, sooty guitars scar, and voices swirl in the air as the attitude mangles dangerously. Then the vibe gets wonderfully majestic before the final hammer drops. “Nightshade Reverie” rushes in as shrieks splash, and a thick mist moves its way in and coats faces with moisture. The storming punishes as keys glow and the blackness multiplies, drubbing and chewing away before fading. Closer “Acclamations of Emptiness” starts with a long stretch as the ambiance leans in and expands itself, and then vile growls explode as fire streaks the skies. It feels like we’re headed even deeper into the universe as the playing tricks your mind, paving the way for grittier moods, voices that swirl in the air, and everything bleeding into dust.

A lot of people are wondering how things possibly can get worse on this planet, and Xenoglyph have the apocalyptic answer with “Spiritfraud.” Chaos has spread across the globe, and in this country in particular, we’re being fed into a time machine but also potentially must do battle with technology with our new overlords once they become sentient. This is terrifying both musically and psychologically, and we can’t say we haven’t been warned about what’s ahead for us.  

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pestilent Hex streak black metal with drama, hell on ‘The Ashen Abhorrence’

Image by Kammio Visuals

We’re in the midst of what’s supposed to be the summer blockbuster movie season, something that was heavily damaged by the pandemic the past few years and really hasn’t recovered to the level it used to be. This is the time when all the huge and dynamic pictures are in theaters over the summer, and it’s not that long ago that you used to get a massive new movie or two every week. It was wild.

While it’s not something you’re going to see on the silver screen, Pestilent Hex have something that might be the audio version of a massive adventure with “The Ashen Abhorrence,” their debut record. This Finnish band that combines vocalist/lyricist M. Malignant (Desolate Shrine, Convocation) and multi-instrumentalist L. Oathe (Corpsessed, Tyranny) explodes into cinematic, symphonic black metal that remind of the era of when this style came to be. It’s not overdone, it doesn’t sound like a Disney score, and it does drive a dagger into the heart of black metal from three decades ago and drinks deeply from its veins. Each of these six chapters sweep over you and makes for an enthralling journey, one that deserves multiple visits, like a film you see so many times, you know it off by heart.

“Chapter I: The Ashen Abhorrence” opens the sojourn by rupturing peace and delivering vile force, pushing through elegance and mysticism. The symphonic aura explodes as the band pulverizes your senses, strange cackling pours salt in the wounds, and keys wash through to add more color to the tangling finish. “Chapter II: Nature of the Spirit” blasts in and takes over like a raging storm seeking to soak the earth. Shrieks creak, and a sweeping chorus knocks you for a loop, pushing you into tangling madness that blisters the flesh. Keys wash down, the humidity builds, and your mind begins to tingle, blasting through animalistic shrieks and hammering terror. “Chapter III: Mephistophelean Liaison” dawns as darkness unfolds before the playing makes a tear through your mid-section. The keys flood with fury as a zany pace picks up, the shrieks gutting as the melodies gain momentum. Morbid and daring, gargantuan wails make seismic impact, speed boils, and everything ends in a surge.

“Chapter IV: Interlude – Mists of Oneiros” brings eerie noises and keys trickling, feeling like a classic King Diamond interlude to get your imagination flowing. “Chapter V: Old Hag” churns as the punches land, and clean lines mix into the bloodstream and become flammable. Violent insanity storms as the sophisticated design unfurls, taking on spiraling guitars and playing that will make your brain spill in your skull. Animalistic shrieks make their presence felt, strange playing splatters, and everything rushes into the void. Closer “Chapter VI: Banishment” unloads with death gurgles and a blinding assault, wild calls making chills run down your spine. The playing charges but also numbs, slurring through strange vocals and dizzying guitars that make the room spin. The pressure squeezes your temples, the pace gives some final jolts of energy, and melodic keys and the remaining gusts of fire bury this thing in the stars.

Symphonic black metal is a style that hasn’t aged particularly well, but there are bands that still do it really well and don’t overdo the silliness, and Pestilent Hex have a stranglehold on this whole thing. “The Ashen Abhorrence” is a record that not only delivers really strong black metal, it also packs the right amount of drama that keeps you tuned in and won’t release you until the ride is complete. This is a powerful statement, something that feels cinematic and bloody in all the best ways, and it’ll fill your summer with delicious morbidity.

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

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

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the album, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/