Costa Rican killers Astriferous launch swirling death metal on ‘Pulsations From the Black Orb’

Have you ever bought a record based on the title? I honestly can’t remember if I ever did that. When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I know I bought albums based on the cover art, something I don’t recommend in the current era. But the title? Don’t think I ever did that one. But maybe today’s entry would change my mind.

Costa Rican death metal maulers Astriferous are coming at you with their debut full-length offering “Pulsations From the Black Orb,” and how can you not be intrigued by that title? The music is death metal that pushes the boundaries of time and space, and at 34 minutes, it gets in, makes its point, gets out with you fully devastated. The band—guitarist/vocalist Federico Gutiérrez, guitarist/vocalist Felipe Tencio, bassist/vocalist José Pablo Phillips, drummer José María Arrea—pays off on the promise of their smaller releases with this record that is imaginative and punishing all at the same time.

“Intro (The Black Orb)” starts with strange whirring and zaps, rubbery weirdness, and the tone of this intro cut diving into “Blinding the Seven Eyes of God” that arrives with a riff attack. Infernal howls dig into the guts as the playing gets speedier and rowdier, and then the soloing engulfs in flames. Things slow down and get more flexible, growls lurch, and everything burns away. “Teleport Haze” mangles as the growls wrench, and the tempo hits the gas dangerously, blinding and squeezing your neck. Guitars then hulk as the intensity piles on thick, and the playing chugs and leaves bruising. “Metasymbiosis” delivers aggressive riffs and a plodding bass that begins to accumulate a body count. Total decimation arrives amid sinewy playing and a storming assault, and the power continues to unload as the guitars soar. The playing then slows and sludges, growls mash, and the savagery melts away.

“Forlorn and Immemorial” is a quick interlude with chilling winds, acoustics swirling, and a classic metal feel woven into the passage, moving toward “Ominous and Malevolent” with trudging mauling and guitars scaling. The playing erupts as the growls chew holes in flesh, and the ground crumbles beneath you, opening a pit in the earth. The playing drills, the soloing sears, and hellish chaos encompasses everything. “Lunomancy” lets vicious growls spill over, the playing tangling and blistering, the intensity smashing through boundaries. The playing unloads as the growls menace, the guitars loop, and heavy devastation leaves everything in cinders. “Symmetries That Should Not Be” closes the album by drubbing and flattening with a slow-driving attack, the thunder pulsing through muscle. The growls destroy as the pace levels buildings, warped heat mars senses, and a guttural, abrupt end dices guts.

“Pulsations From the Black Orb” not only is an incredible name for a record, but it’s a promising debut full-length from this band of death metal crushers who have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Astriferous create something interesting and mind-warping with these eight tracks, and the compact running time means that the impact is direct and economical. This is a devastating first shot from a band that’s just getting  started and already is this deadly.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Majesties set fire to melodic death metal on debut ‘Vast Reaches Unclaimed’

Dynamic forces coming together to create something massive that benefits the entire world is something out of the 10 million superhero movies that come out every quarter (or so it seems). Bringing together great powers to accomplish something as a unit makes for exciting storylines, but in reality, it’s not often we see something like this that lights our imaginations on fire.

Luckily for those of us whose cinematic world is heavy metal, we have that very thing with Majesties, whose debut record “Vast Reaches Unclaimed” revives and sets ablaze the spirits of classic Gothenburg-style death metal. We mentioned forces forming on the same team, and here we have Tanner Anderson (vocals, guitars, drums) from Obsequiae as well as guitarist Carl Skildum and bassist Matthew Kirkwold of Inexorum to create this incredible triumph that could travel back three decades and knock the sound’s creators on their asses. Anderson’s vocal approach is razor sharp and full of lava, while Skildum probably forgot at least a song’s worth of riffs in the time it took me to write this. It’s infuriating, really. These three pull together what they do best and both pay homage to a sound that sparked the desire in them and have added to that vocabulary with these thunderous 10 tracks.

“In Yearning, Alive” tears in with delirious riffs, a major factor on this record, and devastating shrieks raining down with force. Smearing and driving hard, the playing is as thick melodic storm that blows in, flood, and rampages away. “The World Unseen” has blinding guitars and shrieks tearing muscles apart, the wealth of melodies collecting on the river’s edge. The drums gut as the tempo grows even more urgent, blistering and slashing right up to the end. “Our Gracious Captors” stomps and delivers punches, and then the shrieks strangle, everything else tramping you underfoot. The leads sweep and deliver classic death metal flourishes that hit the sweet spot, and then acoustics flood and wash everything away. “Verdant Paths to Radiance” just storms with great guitar work and playing that feels like thick sunbeams through clouds. Shrieks mar as the pace slashes and burns, the guitar work making everything reverberate in your chest and steal your breath. “Across the Neverwhen” is exhilarating from the start, aggression bleeding and teaming with vicious shrieks to add to the bruising. The playing blisters, going fast and furiously through your psyche and into your guts.

“Seekers of the Ineffable” lands with stabbing guitars, the fiery terror coming at you with force, the shrieks utterly bludgeoning. Leads glow as the storming increases, the vocals tear at flesh, and colorful playing laps until an abrupt end. “Sidereal Spire” brings thick basslines and another riff flood, shrieks savaging with hurricane force. Things go cold as they head underwater before breaking the surface again, taking you on a mangling adventure, tearing into a waves of echoes. “Temporal Anchor” blazes open, the guitar work twisting you into knots and giving you no time to gain your thoughts. The drums plaster as the synth glows mysteriously, the shrieks become a jarring force, and everything zips into the clouds. “City of Nine Gates” opens with the drumming clobbering, great riffs rushing the gates, and your senses flooded by everything that’s going on here. The playing bubbles over as it manages a new level of intensity, the shrieks pierce flesh, and the final moments leave your heart hemorrhaging. Closer “Journey’s End” lets waters bubble and humidity add steam as the pace keeps amplifying. Guitars jolt the system as the rapid-fire playing increases the intensity, the vocals massacre any sense of calm, and acoustics rise out of that, giving a rustic end to a thrilling ride.

It’s almost criminal how many insane riffs are packed into “Vast Reaches Unclaimed,” the breathtaking debut record from death metal force Majesties. Hopes already were high when this project was announced simply because of who is involved, and every moment on this 10-track destroyer feels like a high-speed adventure over land and through the air. This is infectious, riveting, and a total rush, an album that every time you hear it, you have a different favorite song and find new ways to crush your central nervous system.   

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Nordic legends Enslaved engulf with fresh approach to rousing style on blood-pulsing ‘Heimdal’

Each morning is a chance for a new beginning, a fresh start that while informed by the past does not necessarily have to travel in that same direction. We’re always held up by our history and what led us to where we are when our eyes first open each day when we wake up. But from that point, the destination is our own, and we don’t have to trap ourselves in the old ways.

With the arrival of “Heimdal,” the 16th full-length album from Norse black metal gods Enslaved, we are greeted with something that feels like where this band has sailed before, but it very much impacts like a sojourn breathing fresh air, pumping newly generated blood. The album’s title refers to the old Norse god whose lineage comes directly from Odin, though the band jumped into more open-ended mythologies and possibilities they felt bold enough to explore. The band—vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal, keyboardist/clean vocalist Håkon Vinje, drummer Iver Sandøy—plays with some different sounds, and while the music instantly is recognizable as Enslaved, the chances they take here and new passages opened are enthralling. A run-of-the-mill record from this legendary band would have disappointed no one, but they clearly didn’t care to rest on what was expected. There’s a daring nature, an excitement to these songs that keeps Enslaved vibrant, mandatory, and endlessly creative. It’s a really fun listen.

“Behind the Mirror” slips in ominously and quietly, waters lapping, horns sounding in the distance and moving closer (Heimdal’s call?), and then burly riffs open, not a very typical sound on most Enslaved songs. It’s fucking ripping. Clean singing joins with Kjellson’s unmistakable howl along with burning prog fires, breezy warmth, and everything crumbling off into the sea. “Congelia” lets drums rush in, the riffs darken skies, and Kjellson wails, “I’m leaving this body behind.” Synth zaps like lasers across the sky—and by the way, Vinje pulls out different wrinkles on the keys on this record, which is really refreshing—and then the elements all begin to bubble. Clean singing wafts as the guitars melt rock into rivers of lava, the pace rustles, and everything fades into mystery. “Forest Dweller” is glorious as deep singing and beaming synth are major presences, the power ramping up underneath it. Shrieks mar as the singing gets grittier, the power jolts, and then a sudden calms takes over, Vinje’s soulful vocals settling nerves.

“Kingdom” delivers active guitars that slowly dawn, the howls and zapping synth becoming an emerging power. Daring and fiery, the tempo warbles and drives, trudging playing spiraling as the growls nip at your flesh, and echoed howls swallow everything whole. “The Eternal Sea” opens with synth dancing, the fog collecting, and hearty singing making your heart respond with force. Guitars jab and jolt as the atmosphere increases, and then the shrieks maul bones, the power forges, and the keys send a wave of electronic pulses. “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” brings whipping winds, the bass trampling, and a fiery flow getting your juices rushing. Speedy playing erupts as Vinje’s singing leads the way, vicious clobbering wrapping around the energy. Gazey winds gasp as the singing gets breezier, landing ashore with a palpitating end. The closing title track starts with alluring sci-fi keys, and then the pounding tempo digs in its claws, buzzing overhead as the growls corrode. The guitars explore as dreamy sequences unfurl, eventually rousing you into full consciousness, aggressively treading waters. Group vocals surge, synth takes over, and the ship unexpectedly lands on alien shores.

Enslaved’s legend continues to grow with “Heimdal,” a record that will feel familiar to longtime fans but also has some exciting new waves woven into the mix. These seven tracks are exciting, active, and audacious, creating a collection that expands the band’s standing and proves they’re as hungry as they’ve ever been. Any new Enslaved record is a treat, but one like this that reveals new pathways ramps up that enthusiasm a little more than usual.

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Yaaroth add an elegant tone to classic doom metal, rustic folk on rousing ‘The Man in the Wood’

Over history as music has developed, a lot of ground has been covered to the point where it’s hard to come up with a fresh take on things people have heard for years. Not that it has to be any musician’s goal necessarily as playing with passion and honestly also fits the bill, but keeping things exciting and continually attention grabbing is a challenge to which not everyone is up to tackling.

Musician/artist Dan Bell (he’s done album artwork for bands such as Crucifist and Orodruin) delves into the heavy doom picture with his Yaaroth project and debut full-length “The Man in the Wood.” Bell initially had a band Yarrow that released an EP in 2015, and three of these tracks also exist in a different form on that recording. Here, Bell takes classic elements of doom and ’70s-style folk to shape this five-track album, and his singing voice is different than most come to expect from extreme music. It’s a smooth croon that could be effective in many different genres, but his work here adds a richness to his doomier moments and delicacy when things get quieter. It’s a different tweak on these territories, and while Bell isn’t recreating the wheel, he’s breathing life into a something that could really use it. By the way, Bell is joined by drummer Samuel Nells, though Will Hoback also handled drums on one track.

“Ancient Sea Town” is a quick opener to establish an ambiance as waters rush and nature comes to life, and then it’s into “The Subterranean Stench” that opens the gates to dramatic and classic doom. Bell’s yarl is not unlike Morrissey (you know, if Morrissey wasn’t a gigantic baby), and that tone adds a lot to this music, because it stands out so much in the genre. The playing is properly Sabbathy, the spirits rip hard, and the singing remains a strong point, adding a tasteful shade to a swaggering pace that isn’t afraid to lash back. “God of Panic” runs a healthy 9:56 and opens in acoustics and folk-style singing, feeling rustic and foggy. There’s a definite Jethro Tull feel here, and not solely because of the windy flutes, and as things go on, the doom waters get deeper and more aggressive. The vocals push higher as the riffs mash, psychedelic bluesy licks swelter, and grimy howls darken the skies, warped and stinging, dissolving into a synth whir.

“They Seek Baryba” brings burning guitars and mournful tones, the singing mixing with muddy streams, warmth heating up your chest. Keys drizzle softly as the dreamy clouds thicken, the power reopening and burning, strange atmospheres strangling and cutting off the air. Moody singing arrives as the music laps, melodies buzz, and birds chirp, pushing you off into space. “Cassap” is the closer, running 13:23 and being led in with flutes and calming folk, even feeling jazzy in stretches. Psychedelic guitars confound, the tempo builds, and sophisticated melodies wash down mountain sides, slowly turning the screws in your mind. The playing speeds up as the guitars jolt, the singing coats like a syrup, and sounds swirl, taking softer acoustics and cosmic vibes into the deep beyond.

There aren’t many bands in the heavy music scope that sound quite like Yaaroth, and for a scene that’s flooded to dangerous levels of saturation, a unique voice is something sorely needed. “The Man in the Wood” sounds equally like something born several decades ago but also timeless, a strange spirit in the metal world that makes the form more interesting. It took me a few visits for this to really sink in, but now that it has, it makes the possibilities of my own listening interests wonderfully expanded.

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Greek power Ocean of Grief hit somber note with sullen doom and death on icy ‘Pale Existence’

Very soon, the sunshine will return on a more regular basis, and the daylight will last longer each day as the warmer weather rules the land again. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have time to squeeze a few final dark drops of despair and agony out of the months that most heavily impact those with mental health conditions. We can wallow a little more before the sun warms our faces.

Therefore, it remains the ideal time to welcome “Pale Existence,” the second full-length effort from Greek melodic doom/death power Ocean of Grief. Seven songs stretch over 47 minutes, and it’s perfect fodder for grasping the waning days of darkness before more hopeful times are on the horizon. The band—vocalist Charalabos Oikonomopoulos, guitarists Filippos Koliopanos and Dimitra Zarkadoula, bassist Giannis Koskinas, keyboardist Aris Nikoleris, drummer Thomas Motsios—floods the senses with glacially played, gothically driven heaviness that weighs on you both physically and mentally and provides a chance to bask in the despair with some like-minded forces.

“Poetry for the Dead” begins with orchestral synth before the guitars flood and the growls punish, elegant destruction riding along the path. The playing surges as the drums rouse spirits, the guitars scorch, sounds glaze, and darkness unfurls and blocks the sun. “Dale of Haunted Shades” is murky when it opens as growls stretch their sinewy arms, steam rising and darkening the mood. Guitars soar and then liquify, proggy keys make the hairs on your arms stand, and the pressure increases before the melodies melt into a mist. “Unspoken Actions” glimmers and the growls engorge, bludgeoning but also swimming into dreamier terrain. The bassline engulfs the mind, the haze thickens, and then energy bursts out of that, erupting and gushing. Colors explode, vitality pulses, and everything disappears.

“Imprisoned Between Worlds” trickles in, almost from the ash of the previous track, and the growls mash as the misery rises like a fog. Momentum builds as guitars emerge, and the emotions get heavier, becoming dangerously somber. Growls lash as the playing mars, bleeding into the dark. “Cryptic Constellations” is even heavier and more foreboding, mystical waters cooling down the temperature. Thrashing emerges as the keys give off a strange vibe, guitars swelter and melt, and things spiral as the growls sink teeth into muscle. “Pale Wisdom” begins reflectively before the power explodes, and the vocals ravage the senses, settling into the mists. Leads go off as the bass takes control, guitars slice open veins, and the playing unites with glowing strings before fading out. Closer “Undeserving” brings burning guitars, an even slower pace, and heavy sorrow as the synth gathers into clouds. The coldness expands as the guitars impact your mind, the playing strikes, and the momentum pounds and sinks into dirt.

The despair is thick and alluring on “Pale Existence,” another entry into the gloomier sections of doom metal’s rich terrain. Ocean of Grief have a stranglehold on this style, and every drop of this record you can feel deep in your gut, eating away at you. This is a record that’s not here to mask your pain or hide your sadness; it’s here to enhance those things and make the trials more manageable.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Trespasser fire torches of rebellion, fight back against tyranny on ‘ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΣ’

Photo by Kristoffer Holden Axiö

We’ve made no secret here that we are not interested in writing about bands that support fascist ideas, homophobia, transphobia, and that ilk, and that philosophical style of music always will not be welcomed here. There’s been enough right-wing ideology in black metal to make one sick (and cue the babies in the comment section) that having something to battle back against that is a must. Luckily, resistance has grown steadily over the last few years.

Swedish two-headed beast Trespasser have been fighting against fascism and right-wing ideologies since their formation in 2017, and their fire-breathing second record “ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΣ” (translated means “Apokalypsis”) has arrived to disrupt and dismantle power structures. The band uses the Book of Revelation in an anarchist sense and its ideals as a base to let loose the idea that taking back control and living in a society where victory over tyrannical power is something that can be achieved. But having honorable beliefs is one thing, but that doesn’t always translate into good art. But Trespasser—multi-instrumentalist XVI, vocalist Dräparn—more than deliver the goods, bringing molten black metal with incredible spirit and potency that spills lava and topples worlds. You don’t necessarily have to be lockstep with the band to appreciate their thunderous assault, but it sure helps you get the most of this record. “ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΣ” already is out digitally, but if you’re a fan of the physical form like I am, both Red Nebula in the States and Vault of Heaven in Germany have those for you (links below). Super highly recommended, and I’m very excited to hear this beast on my turntable.

“Forward Into the Light!” storms out of the gates with warning sirens swirling and blistering fury overcoming, the fires blazing for all to see. “Join the ranks of proud tradition, a march that’s been under way for thousands of years,” Dräparn howls following a simple but rousing chorus, and then the riffs speed up more ferociously, the playing continues to rip, and everything fades into smoke. “The Great Debt-Strike I: A Pillar of Smoke” delivers an ominous riff that melts into chaos, pummeling and scorching as the damage is spread liberally. The chorus is a firestormer as Dräparn howls, “Burn the records of the creditor!” that lights you up inside and details the effort to strike terror in the guts of the oppressors. Later, a spoken declaration further pushes as Dräparn howls, “Surely I cannot be held accountable for my father and his father before him? Then tell me, from where, then, comes your wealth?” Everything after that is a total bludgeoning. “The Honourable Thrall, Or the Last Remnants of Peter’s Second Epistle Shrugged Off” rouses and unloads, the passion bleeding forcefully as the vicious playing unloads with guitars crushing, and the tempo stomping mud. Everything comes together as the earth feels like it opens, and the wild howls and electricity whips you into a frenzy.

“Flakes of Ash” opens with guitars glimmering and the playing trudging, glorious emotions running over. The gutting continues as the riffs melt, the pace clobbers, and it’s hard to regain your senses once it’s over. “Holókaustos, or the Justification and Affirmation of Hierarchical Order By the Symbolism of Immolations” begins with mystical powers and a banjo scraping out a melody, the power surge not far behind. The vocals strike an urgency, beastly intensity bleeds out of that, and challenged playing washes over, icing and then fading away. “Hand in Hand Towards Har-Megiddo” ruptures and storms, bringing down the columns and dousing everything with riotous energy. “As we marched under a scorching artificial sun, guided and blinded by a seemingly eternal daylight, we chased the night away, rejoice and jubilee!” Dräparn calls as incredible spirit emerges, ransacking and running through blood and bone, dueling leads sending smoke billowing. Closer “The Great Debt-Strike II: יובל” enters in drums blasts and mauling force, Dräparn wailing, “What beautiful chaos it was! What delightful disarray! What majestic confusion! It was divine pandemonium.” The blades swing as the playing decays, wild chants unite the masses, horns call out, and everything comes together perfectly, fueling the torches of rebellion.

Trespasser have unleashed and early year classic with “ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΣ” and not just in black metal but in the entire genre as a whole. This album is impossible to hear and not feel everything in your guts, a call back to the people who have been trampled underfoot and refuse to take it any longer. This is a statement, a call to action, and a collection of songs that can ignite the fires inside you.

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Big|Brave meld darkness, unease into immersive doom that sobers on mind-warping ‘nature morte’

Feeling the nastiness and downtrodden nature of society isn’t necessarily a means to embracing constant negativity. Reality is what it is, and thinking it’s always sunshine and equity for all is foolish, perhaps purposely so, and it’s a false existence. Times are dark, our relationships with one another as people are corroding, and power structures are more than happy to let the bloodshed happen in front of them.

There’s never been a time when Canadian doom/noise/drone trio Big|Brave hasn’t splashed every ounce of their being and experiences into their music. Their new offering “nature morte” is a French term for “dead nature,” itself an art form showing still-life paintings. The cover art is dark and foreboding, and digging into these six pieces reveal the morbid underpinnings so many of us face from dashed hope to the rage of existence to the continual effort to control women, something a particular ilk of politicians in this country exercise to disgusting levels. The band—guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie (her voice is a powerhouse that demands your attention), guitarist Mathieu Ball, and drummer Tasy Hudson—continues to push the boundaries of sound and what it means to emote musically about the things in life beyond our control because we’re not allowed to control it. It’s beauty wrapped in hell.

“carvers, farriers and knaves” jars you awake with Wattie immediately greeting you with, “It claims you, a disease for keeps piece by piece, it mars your mirth, it slaughters all you thought you’d know,” immediately sobering with its effect. The playing boils and scalds, pulling forward and back, sounds pulsating. Later, the vocals jab, Wattie’s shrieks blurring your vision as disorienting tones blacken skies. “the one who bornes a weary load” runs 9:16 and brings jarring guitars, luring strikes, and thorny impulses that run along the skin. Vocals swim in fuzz, deliberate jabs loosen ribs, and the temperature boils, shrieks raining down. The playing gets heavier and louder, pushing through boundaries, lava spilling over and hardening the ground. “my hope renders me a fool” slowly emerges as sounds hum, and a moody fogginess takes over and weighs down. It feels like the center of a serene dream, cold guitars flow, a solemn and lonesome tone is struck, trickling and easing away.

“the fable of subjugation” is the longest track at 9:21, Wattie’s voice quivering as the guitars trace patterns, sounds rattling like a loose screw in a dryer. Sounds immerse as the drums strike, the playing crashes, and the bruising reaches the surface. “Because your beauty is so hard to hold your force… so lawless and rash allow me to prevail over all your lure,” Wattie stabs, the anger dripping from her jaw. The tension builds and feels uncomfortable, the machine feels like it’s coming apart, and the howl of, “I am a man, and I need you too,” feels dark and threatening, the sounds slowly dissolving. “a parable of the trusting” goes 9:19, shadows spreading and pulsating, a doomy pall hanging over everything. The playing pummels as shrieks tear through, driving and crushing, sounds bouncing off walls. A filthy sting lingers, the percussion drives, and everything erupts, scorching and tearing flesh, feedback burning and leaving blackness behind. Closer “the ten of swords” shakes in guitar glaze, Wattie’s delicate singing washing over, guitars drizzling. It feels like a daydream stretching its arms around you, pulling into emotional caverns, slowly closing off the final rays of light.

It’s easy to fall to the hypnosis of these songs but also feel the ocean of dread roaring underneath, something Big|Brave always have done expertly, but never this bluntly and bloodily. “nature morte” feels like a dread you know is coming, you fear, and that you live inside of, never being able to shake yourself loose from the power. This is sobering, these songs tells of truths we try to avoid and never address, and the aftermath is a psyche forever changed, putting up a guard you never let down.

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Minnesota crew Wanderer apply serious bruising to your psyche on EP ‘Indulgence of the Unreal’

We haven’t visited pro wrestling in a while, so this seems like a good time for that. At the Royal Rumble this year, during the men’s version of the match, Ricochet and that dickhead Logan Paul put together a spot where they launched themselves into the air from opposing sides and collided in mid-air, making for a highlight of the match. It was senseless, brutal, ridiculous, ill advised, and pretty fucking awesome.

This popped into my head when I was trying to think how to open this piece on “Indulgence of the Unreal,” the new EP from Minnesota wrecking crew Wanderer, who know a thing or two about laying a massive beating on their audience. This is their fourth EP overall and first release since their 2021 full-length debut “Liberation From a Brutalist Existence,” and these five songs that last about 13 minutes total are like that Rumble spot. It feels like the band—vocalist Dan Lee, guitarist/vocalist Brent Ericson, bassist/vocalist Jack Carlson, drummer Mano Holgin—put together music that feels like two competing masses driving toward one another, leaving only carnage behind. Their brand of hardcore, black metal, and death metal feels virulent and dangerous, seeking to split skulls. They’re joined by guests in vocalist Jamie Eubanks, bassoon player Alaina Leisten, and throat singer Steve Decker to round out this collection that aims to sever skull from neck.

“Pure Human Despair” gets things started by putting down the hammer early, Lee’s howls blasting through your chest cavity. The pace flattens as incendiary playing increases the heat, strange atmosphere hangs in the air, and rubbery force blasts and ends viciously. “Slow Death of the Crowned Head” brings jerky guitars and growls leveling, the playing taking on a post-hardcore-style sheen. Things feel loopy but forceful as slow sludging makes it feel like you’re sinking in quicksand, the drubbing increases, and the final blasts make their bloody mark. “Vivisection of Consciousness” mashes as the drums blast with precision, and the growls maul as your head is spinning trying to figure out where you’re at. The bludgeoning continues and chews frayed nerves, slowly fading to a haze of Decker’s throat singing. “Hatred” begins in eerie atmosphere, feeling strange and spacey as weightlessness comes on unexpectedly. Guitars open and slither as the growls deliver force, the shrieks melting as everything catches fire. Deep growls curdle later as echoes sting, noise hovers, and the last jabs are guttural. Closer “When We Stopped Asking Why” closes things with a thick bassline flexing and death growls ripping at your flesh. The low end absolutely destroys, noise stretches, and the shrieks rain down like daggers, nailing your limbs to the ground.

Wanderer’s fourth EP “Indulgence of the Unreal” is a total beast, a blunt-force combo of death metal, hardcore, and other heavy sounds that meld together perfectly. It might not be the longest release in the world, but it’s one of the more volatile collections you’re bound to hear, one that’ll make you quake over the fiery human emotions jammed inside. This EP bridges the band to whatever comes next, and while we don’t know what that is yet, we do know it’s going to be a force that’ll wrestle you to the ground and pin you in the dirt like an animal.

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Swedes Wretched Fate unload blood and guts with mangling death metal on ‘Carnal Heresy’

Photo by Robin Åhlgren

I really enjoy a lot of the advancements that have been made in death metal because the barbaric sound that crawled put of the swamps and rose from Scandinavian regions had to advance or get driven into the ground. That said, the guttural stuff still remains tasty as hell (um, even if that taste is equally nasty), so hearing things that churn flesh and guts warms our diseased heart.

Swedish crushers Wretched Fate have their grimy boots in the old camp, finding madness and ugliness in our mundane existences and turning that back on us as their brand of death metal. It’s slathered in generous portions on their second record “Carnal Heresy,” a warped serving of the classic stuff that drills its way into your psyche. The band—vocalist Adrian Selmani, guitarist/backing vocalist Mats Andersson, guitarist Fredrik Wikberg, bassist Robin Magnusson, drummer Samuel Karlstrand—unloads their monstrous power over these nine track and 39 minutes that rubs your face in the soot and hardly lets you have a breath as you gag on the stench.

“Mind Desecrator” erupts as the guitars go off and pulverize, and the drilling fury makes an early statement that you’re in for utter brutality. The speed picks up and crushes and leaves you in a daze, smoke pours from the cracks, and striking leads burn to the end. “Momentary Suicide” clubs with menace and starts fire blazing, absolutely decimating everything in front of it. The growls menace as heavy brawling works its way toward you, and the guitar work blazes all over, bringing vicious plastering and an abrupt end that levels you. “Utterance From the Inhuman Tongue” brings guitars churning and succumbing to tornadic winds, and the punching adds blood spatter that fully disgusts. Everything hits the fan with merciless chaos, and the growls crush and blister, leaving everything in the dust. “Cry From Beyond” has an eerie opening before muddy crushing gets under way, and the vocals dig into your flesh. Strange keys hang overhead and add a weird fog, and that haze makes it feel like you’re in an altered state of mind, paving the way for sounds rattling and broken piano keys to drip.

“Umbilical Suffocation” has, you guessed it, a baby crying out at the start. Poor kid. The playing clobbers and the leads ignite, vicious destruction making its way across the land. The vocals are throaty and threatening as the terror scrapes, speed pummels, and the chorus tears through your chest. “Harlots for Suffering” blasts and brings melodic riffs, snaking and encircling with dangerous intent. Savagery trucks you and aims to pull out your guts, soloing rips open and sweeps, and beastly hell steamrolls, flattening and ending in an echo bath. “Upon the Weak” begins ominously with a calculated pace burning, the growls eating into your flesh. The moodiness thickens before the animalistic fires burn hotter, the band storms with force, and the heat slowly dissipates, leaving sweat puddles behind. “Morbid Testament” unloads as the growls hammer, the guitars swell, and the whole thing is shredded at the mid-section, blood pouring forth. Sweltering fury and a growing madness become major factors, and infernal pressure scalds, adding humidity and horror to the disgusting stew. “Spineless Horror” closes the proceedings with guitars steaming and adding extra heat to the room, and then everything comes apart, volcanic torture meted out in generous portions. A brief bit of calm comes on and then the menace claws back, heavy weight hangs overhead, and the end comes swiftly and violently.

“Carnal Heresy” is one hell of a second roundhouse blow from Wretched Fate, a band firmly keeping the blood and guts in death metal, the place where it belongs. This is a morbid, punishing display that often hurts to confront and leaves your stomach queasy afterward. These nine songs are nasty and devastating, leaving a thick blood trail on the much-travelled path that is death metal.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Ulthar rampage back with two death maulers on ‘Anthronomicon,’ ‘Helionomicon’

Photo by Melissa Petisa

You know when you have those spurts where you want to get up and accomplish things that are on your agenda, and the adrenaline pumping through your system makes that reality? I get that a few times a year, and it’s always satisfying seeing everything you finished sitting before you, no longer taking up room on your to-do list. I just realized this makes me sound kind of lazy, but whatever. I’m tired.

Never a band to just rest on their accomplishments, Oakland death metal smashers Ulthar have been pretty busy since their formation in 2014 as their debut “Cosmovore” arrived in 2018, following that with “Providence” in 2020. Now, three years later, the band—bassist/vocalist Steve Peacock, guitarist/vocalist Shelby Lermo, drummer Justin Ennis—returns with TWO new records, both full-length efforts that fit nicely together but also have some notable differences from each other. “Anthronomicon” is an eight-track, 41-minute bruiser that has the band delving deeply into their brand of death metal and treating that with cooling space haze that plays tricks with your mind. “Helionomicon” has Ulthar trying their hand at longer-form passages as the two-track, 40-minute album digs in with a similar sound but with added room to expand and explore, the alien parts feeling even more immersive. Both records are further solid building blocks for a band that is trying to keep their sound fresh and growing, proving terrain that has lasted the test of time still can be bent to your will and made even more exciting.

“Cephalophore” opens the “Anthronomicon” portion with doomy blasts and crushing growls as the pace sinks its teeth into your ribs. The leads scorch as the playing trudges, howls crush, and the sharp leads dig into the earth. “Fractional Fortresses” fires up and unleashes a punishing fury, twisting and stomping, charging with sinewy precision. The leads blister as they light up, black metal-flavored hell is unleashed, and a speeding assault robs your lungs of breath. “Saccades” destroys and jerks at launch as further black metal stylings come into focus, pummeling into a muddy pool. Infernal growls strike while the playing plasters, and the blows dealt feel heavier and deadlier, your consciousness taken by an immersive synth bed. “Flesh Propulsion” mashes guts as guitars jolt, howls lash, and a bludgeoning force lays waste to the earth beneath you. Guitars spiral, and then things get rubbery and disorienting, the bass tramples, and the force multiplies until it’s impossible not to submit.

“Astranumeral Octave Chants” brings challenging guitars and gutting heaviness that lands with a quake. Heavy and relentless playing becomes impossible to survive as the speed goes off the rails, and a strange fog sweeps in and combines with decimating drums. “Coagulation of Forms” is charging and relentless, the howls destroying as the channeled pace increases the pressure. Speed continues to rip into flesh, intense carnage collects into smoking piles, and vicious chaos slams closed the door. “Larynx Plateau” opens with guitars peeling off and crazed howls crashing, hypnotic thrashing making the temperature increase rapidly. The pace quickens as the blazing gets incredibly forceful, churning until a shocking abrupt end. Closer “Cultus Quadrivium” is crazed and sooty, riffs tangle, and the pace opens you up at the guts. Splattering speed invades your cells, and beastly howls dig into your chest and leave bruising. Blows continue to land until a synth storm envelopes and spreads, taking over and even marring a brief doomy return that swells and fades out.

The “Helionomicon” portion opens with the title track, a 20:31-long beast that starts strangely and then jars, the growls feeling like they originate from a different kind of beast. Portions are zany and dexterous, and it feels like an organism is slowly growing, the spindly weirdness becoming heavier and meaner. Growls grind as guitars dive, weird noodly playing sections feel like they fell from the cosmos, and then infernal crushing lands with power. A black metal-style rush explodes, the playing challenges, and everything wooshes into the stars. “Anthronomicon” is the closer, running 19:52 and starting in absolute madness that tramples and mars, leaving mental scarring behind. The playing gets muddy before merging into a sound bath, eeriness spreads, and then speed explodes out of that, sending spindly melodies and vile growls into your flesh. Shrieks wrench as the vice gets tighter, and ominous devastation spills from cracks, settling into a strange aura that feels alien at its heart, watching the weirdness warp like tendrils reaching for the moon.

Ulthar’s ambition is remarkable with “Anthronomicon” and “Helionomicon,” two records that have their share of commonality but also exist as different animals that can survive on their own. You get varied experiences with each record, and there’s so much going on here that repeat consumption is necessary and surely something that won’t be a problem. Both records are great on their own, and their union as pieces recorded at the same time stitch them forever as heavy journeys you take one by one that leave you mentally gassed when you’re finished.

For more on the band, go here:

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