PICK OF THE WEEK: Conan ravage through smothering, immersive fire on ‘Evidence of Immortality’

Heaviness is a major reason we’re here, which is ridiculous to even say because it’s the main modifier for the genre name. There are plenty of different ways to make music weighty and feeling like it’s situated dangerously on your chest, like trying to breathe with a planet on top of you. That massive power is so much of what makes this music appealing and addictive.

UK doom trio Conan practically have defined what heavy means to doom metal, something they’ve strived to perfect over the past decade and a half. On their massive fifth record “Evidence of Immortality,” the band—guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist Chris Fielding, drummer Johnny King—mauls you fiercely and lulls you into dreams you can’t escape, and they’ve been incredibly consistent their entire run. The six tracks on this new experience keep that vibe in place, yet they branch out a little more, add extra gasps of atmosphere into the room, and on the adventurous and dour closer, put you in a more somber mind frame than usual. It’s another Conan record that grasps your attention right away, puts you through the ringer, and let’s you bask in a different, more seductive shade of darkness.  

“A Cleaved Head No Longer Plots” is the 10:23-long opener, and it hangs in a storm cloud before it begins to drub with power. Davis’ wailed vocals cut into your brain as the band pounds away, scuffing and bruising, slowly turning up the heat. The pace crushes as the colors splash over the earth, the howls reach into the stratosphere, and the drums decimate as the track melts away. “Levitation Hoax” lights up right away and the drums decimate, the vocals wrenching before group howls penetrate. There’s a vicious call-and-response section that jolts, and psychedelic clouds mar your vision. The riffs light up as the playing gets burlier, clobbering and dissolving into cosmic pressure. “Ritual of Anonymity” delivers smearing riffs as the pace picks up and bruises before unexpected speed ruptures and cuts into your flesh. Davis’ vocals dent your skull, the playing sprawls with power, and wills are destroyed, brawling and opening wounds as the guitars leave permanent scars.

“Equilibrium of Mankind” starts by landing heavy body blows as the guitars begin to agitate and even soar toward higher grounds. “Raise up your swords,” Davis demands as the track takes on a heavy Sabbath vibe, rambling into swaggering heat as the guitars spit fire. The playing smokes as the world comes unglued, bleeding out into a permanent grave. “Righteous Alliance” lets loose as a guitar haze spreads across the sky, dragging darkening shadows along with it. The vocals carve away as the bruising gets darker, and Davis switches over to a deep howl that refuses to release its grip. Sounds sizzle as cosmic fire rockets through the atmosphere, and then the slow crushing returns, laying in punches that splatter to the end. Closer “Grief Sequence” is a funereal 14:50-long instrumental that is unlike anything else in Conan’s catalog, and it demands your attention and keeps it through the duration. Feedback washes as spiraling organs slither, the guitar work flexes, and things turn spooky for a stretch, sending chills down your spine. The track then pierces into a psychotic dream, feeling raucous and spacey, swimming in worlds eons away, and everything blasts into slurry weirdness that swallows you whole.

Conan remain one of the most interesting and heavy bands in doom metal, and “Evidence of Immortality” stands on its own in their history and sits perfectly along the rest of their catalog. There are new folds and flavors mixed into their bludgeoning recipe, and this record is a punishing treat from beginning to end. Everything here leaves you sore, discolored, and pushed to your limits, and the excursion you’ve taken definitely challenges but ultimately is a doom-fired venture that leaves you breathing fiery new life.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/pre-orders.html

Or here: https://napalmrecords.com/deutsch/?SID=91hk6fc736toptcqukf3e9145h

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

Gazey spirits Pencey Sloe propel into embracing one’s identity on tranquil second album ‘Neglect’

Photo by Nicolas Di Vincenzo

One’s identity should be something in which we feel secure and are allowed to pursue and understand, but you know what happens when get other people involved in that exploration. Political and societal pressure often plays a role, as do our friends and families (both for the good and bad), and the ability to be one’s true self isn’t always easy, especially when people try to shout down who you really are.

That can be an exhausting thing to experience, and “Neglect,” the second record from dream gazers Pencey Sloe, examines that very thing. While these 10 songs can be serene and even pull your attention to more comfortable thoughts, built into this is that struggle to find one’s identity and be confident in what that is. The band—Diane Pellotieri (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards) and Clément Hateau (drums, bass, keyboards)—sinks deep into the fog and unravels the layers, bringing on some special guests (more on that soon) and darkening their edges to help you experience the storm but not go too far off the deep end into threatening waters.

“What They Need” opens in a deep, obscured dream, the playing dripping in and activating your cells. Pellotieri’s singing flutters as the playing gets even more immersive, sending off gazey fire and fading into darkness. “Smile to Zero” brings echoing guitars and spirited emotion, pushing you and playing with tension. The playing treads in shadows, melting ice caps, and the powerful singing sends shivers through your body. The title lets guitars poke into your ribs, and a dreamy phase gets inside you and converts your blood. Things sweep into mystery as the guitars numb and travel through the murk and into moody noise. “Mirror Rorrim” is airy and takes its time setting its pace, and the singing haunts and shakes you to the core. Pellotieri floats as if on a cloud above your head, the waters rush and leave you shivering, and things melt into a new tributary that lets you float into forever. “Sigh” is a murky instrumental with keys glazing and your mind slowly melting, pushing into cooler waters that cover you and leave you refreshed.

“The Run .I” features Niege from Alcest and Benjamin Marius Petit on electric keys, and they instantly set up a shimmery world, guitars rising and making your adrenaline surge. Niege and Pellotieri combine voices that create something otherworldly, the playing mesmerizes, and things gently drip out and into “The Run .II” that has Justin K. Broadrick of Godlfesh and Jesu sharing vocals. The playing is soothing and psychologically stimulating, the vibe lightly taps on and eases your anxiety, and everything disappears behind a stormfront. “Brutal in Red” instantly situates itself in the air as the singing gently moves, numbing and creating a strange miasma. The dark elements thicken and tease, the vocals take a turn for the hypnotic, and everything washes out into the sea. “Reversed Backwards” calmy moves and gets its hooks in you, the guitars glowing and Pellotieri’s singing again taking you on a journey. The storm coverage thickens and mars the sun as things keep pushing forward and melting with supernatural forces. Closer “Inner” starts with quiet guitars and a tempo that dissolves deliberately, Pellotieri calling, “There’s no way I’ll be there for you, I believe it’s time to go.” Time seems to dissolve in the universe, bells chime, and final gasps of distortion let the glowing embers liquify through time.

“Neglect” certainly provides a feast of thought over these 10 songs that can make you question your place in the universe and even in your own life. Pencey Sloe provide a calming, tranquil territory in which to examine these things and question your own identity and how you’ve come to understand that. It’s not necessarily a comfortable question to tackle, and you might see shades of yourself you didn’t expect, but these 10 gifts are here to pull back your blood pressure and make you see this adventure is something that ultimately should give you a better understanding of yourself.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://lnk.spkr.media/pencey-sloe-neglect

For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/

Ferum’s doom-splattered death puts screws to sanity, chokes with blood on ‘Asunder/Erode’

Death metal and doom are two fouls tastes that have tasted great together for about three decades now, and it’s a union that doesn’t seem to make sense but always does. Doom digs into the guts and drags you over the coals, extending the torture for as long as possible. Death heads for the jugular, tearing you apart and splattering your blood as recklessly as possible. Somehow, they mix so well.

Italian juggernaut Ferum prove that repeatedly on their hulking debut record “Asunder/Erode,” a truly battering document that pummels you from pillar to post. A lot of what is created by the band —vocalist/guitarist Samantha Alessi, bassist Matteo Anzelini, drummer Are Kangus—reminds me a lot of Derketa, one of the most legendary death metal bands of all time, so that immediately made an impression on me and invited them into the darkest parts of the heart. The record explores separation and its other side all the way through to its erosion, and that bloody adventure is splashed all over these eight songs that take you to your limit over and over again.

“Halfhead” trudges and boils in oil, a trait this band does so well, death metal that answers first to doom. Alessi’s growls pummel and scrape, the guitars come to life and bleed lava, and that mauling force slows down even more, adding pressure and ending in heat. “The Undead Truth” features Mike Perun from Cianide, and it opens with drums splattering and the power taking a deliberate bend to the ground. The playing fully crushes, the drums maul, the playing gets oppressively heavy, and the growls lurch into devastating heat and burns off. “Desolate Vantaa” punches through and gets vicious, thrashing hard even amid its deliberate pacing. Guitars heat up as doom rivers flow violently, the soloing gives off some unexpected warmth, and then it gets warped and turns around, bringing everything to a mauling end. “Belong” opens with slithering riffs and a monstrous terror as Alessi’s growls rip into ribcages. The guitars melt as the aftermath glistens, the growls punish, and an atmospheric power brings the song to a chilling finish.

“Monolithic Acquiescence” has funeral bells reverberating and growls slowly lurching into the scene, dragging bodies over dirt. Guitars bubble as ominous colors flood the scene, trudging hard and letting the riffs spindle, brutally bringing slow pressure that squeezes the blood out of your face. “Entrails of Linnahall” is a punisher, serving heavy smashing and stomps your flesh into different forms. Airy guitars give off an atmospheric chill, and then the pace pulls back and turns things darker, the savagery increases, and everything bleeds put into the night. “Resurgence in Bereavement” again simmers in doom, and then the growls open tributaries of blood, plodding with excruciating viciousness. The shrieks devastate, mixing with bellowing growls and a guitar glaze that pierces your vision, slurring in ash and turning toward hell. Closer “Outro – Spesso Il Male Di Vivere Ho Incontrato” is a quick instrumental that crackles and pounds, guitars sit in echo, and chilled speaking rolls down your back, sending strange vibes that leave you frozen in time.

Ferum’s debut “Asunder/Erode” is a powerful glimpse into things falling apart and pulling away into something transformed, and there are so many different ways to look at this from politics to socioeconomics to urban decay. The band’s strangling death metal makes it feel like the world is falling apart, grinding you into clashing parts, leaving you a pool of blood and piss. This record puts you through the grinder, spitting you out on the other end, leaving you to decipher if the future is worth considering.  

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

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

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

Hive’s metallic hardcore boils in mental health damages, pain on mind-melting ‘Spiritual Poverty’

Misery and psychological pain is everywhere you look, and even when you try to find silver linings and make the best of bad situations, it still weighs on you. Taking care of one’s mental health, especially in this country where it’s paid lip service by those who, uh, lead, can be the ultimate challenge, and before you know it, you can be buried beneath the murk, unable to break out.

Minneapolis hardcore unit Hive is well aware of this issue, and it’s smeared all over their new third record “Spiritual Poverty.” You can take inventory on that title alone, as it speaks volumes, and then you dig into these nine heaters, and that pain becomes all the more pronounced. I called them a hardcore group, and at their heart, that’s what they are, but the band—vocalist/guitarist Morgan Carpenter, guitarist Dan Jensen, bassist/vocalist Jim Adolphson, drummer Mike Paradise—plaster plenty of metallic elements as well, so it’s something that isn’t necessarily tied to one way of thinking. This record lays in its beatings right away, and you’re immersed in this pressure right to the final second.

“With Roots in Hell” punches open and charges with mean howls leading the way, the playing crunching and bludgeoning. The pace continues to ravage, the howls multiply as the playing jars, chugging hard until it blurs out. “So It Is Done” blisters with grisly howls and the leads catching fire and spiraling into the flames. The blasts go off as the leads light up and charge as Carpenter howls, “Where do we go from here?” as the melodies collect and gut you thoroughly. “Parallel Lines” unloads right off the bat, bringing menacing wails and the speed punishing and leaving you in the dust. A hardcore fury explodes and works its way toward you, kicking in the doors before ending abruptly. “Remedy” starts with the leads teasing and the playing glimmering, combusting as the hammers drop. The low end feels muddy and ugly, the guitars open and wash over you, and the leads leave everything in ash.

“Metamorphosis” opens with winds blowing and acoustics setting in, beginning a slow burn that stretches your muscles. The humidity picks up as the guitars hit a spark, eerie speaking gets into your cells, and barked howls punish as the darkness dissolves in noise. “Order as Law” immediately goes off, menacing and clobbering, lurching hard into your safety. Trudging terror meets with layered guitars and atmosphere, the vocals blister, and everything ends in madness. “Protection” pounds away as harsh growls smash into you, the playing eventually going for your neck. Sludgy power and blistering mud combine and gum up the gears, the riffs stick to your bones, and the leads flood with melodic waves. “Hunger Strike” just melts as the pace demolishes, the guitars shimmer, and the nastiness increases. The pace becomes unruly, blasting worlds apart, and the vocals smother as the final drops soak into the earth. Closer “Hallucination” has a psychedelic edge and a D-beat drive, chugging and knifing through bone. Spacious guitars swim as blistering soloing explodes, the tempered pace increases the humidity, and the terror bleeds away.

It’s hard to imagine there is anyone alive untouched by mental struggles and the will to always find a way to excel, but it can crash down on you, which is what Hive’s devastating “Spiritual Poverty” sounds like. The band’s aggressive yet melodic hardcore has heavy metallic edges and keeps you buried under their weight through these nine tracks. This is a punisher, a record that gives off the fumes of stress and pain and translates that into this vicious document.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.instagram.com/hivempls/

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/spiritual-poverty

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Boris rampage back with acidic chaos on latest destroyer in ‘Heavy Rocks’ series

Photo by Yoshihiro Mori

There are times when I suffer from serious writer’s block when trying to start off these pieces, because sometimes the brain is just not charged up enough for me to draft something unique. It happens as writing 4-5 pieces per week every week for 11 years does tend to make the challenge to be fresh greater, but eventually we put it together. It’s another reason Boris scare the hell out of me.

It’s possible we’ve written about the Japanese psyche/doom/drone/metal/etc. legends more than any other band in our history, and that’s because they’re so goddamn prolific. How do they continue to create material at such a high level so long into their run? Their latest is “Heavy Rocks,” their third album with this name or a form of it and second full-length effort this year, and once again, they scorch us into ash. The band—guitarist/bassist/vocalist Takeshi, guitarist/vocalist Wata, drummer/vocalist Atsuo—bring a heavy dose of everything they’ve always done well, primarily focusing on acidic energy but also adding nice bursts of chaos and doom, giving you a generous helping of all of it.

“She is Burning” just explodes as the singing wails, blasting with catchy and punchy melodies, and even some goddamn horns! The leads singe, and everything comes to a blistering end. “Cramper” gives off a serious psychedelic burn as the fiery verses bask in chemicals, and then the echo thickens as the playing takes on a vintage feel. The guitars devastate as your mind spins, all ending in a crush of drums that set you off balance. “My name is blank” enters amid charging riffs and high energy, blood racing through your veins at a dangerous pace. The singing reaches the stratosphere and is balanced by low-end gurgles, and then the guitars just go off. The playing whips through space, your head spins wildly, and everything melts into a haze. “Blah Blah Blah” has horns charring right off the bat, buzzing and sinking into a 1970s-style glaze that gives off a high. The trance increases as the sax playing burns, abrasive fire scalds, and everything gets lost in steam. “Question 1” bursts through the gates as strong vocals flex, and noise hangs in the air as it mixes with an oncoming storm. Growls punish as the playing thickens, the fire gusts, and everything ends oddly, in beachy acoustics.

“Nosferatou” unloads thick drone and the drumming sending rock to dust, heavy trudging bleeding through the cracks. The playing feels ominous, the sax haunts, and the guitars challenge, leaving blanketing steam behind. “Ruins” brings crushing riffs and a dose of speed, making it impossible to look away, not that you’d even want to divert your attention. The playing keeps its foot on the gas, rampaging through the gates and bringing the cosmos along with them. “Ghostly imagination” explodes into the picture, bringing along with it industrial carnage that makes an electrified mash. The words are surging and howled, the psychedelic pressure gets harder to avoid, and the blazing begins to consume greater worlds and more ferocious stars. “Chained” soaks in street sounds, feeling calming and connecting before the steel doors are melted away. Doom spreads as the playing comes unglued, devastating and putting your mentality to the test, dissolving into static. Closer “(not) Last song” dawns with piano dripping, beats, and slurred vocals, slowly lurching toward the stars. Steam shrieks as the synth flourishes, singing wrenches again, and the psychosis ends suddenly with a gasp.

It doesn’t matter how many records Boris release and how many they dub “Heavy Rocks” or something of that nature, they never report back with something expected. In a way, this album is a sort of amalgamation of most of their styles, blowing you back to just experience the colors and menace that’s heading for your security. This is another awesome blast from these Japanese legends who never pay mind to violating excess and will drown you in noise and leave you basking in your own ecstasy.    

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/boris

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

Cosmic beasts Blasted Heath aim for alien devastation, terrifying messages on molten debut ‘Vela’

We all see it. We all see it.

As we’re on day two of our duo of space-related records, there is some distinction that needs to be made based around what you’re hearing, as that can go all kind of different ways. It’s outer space, and that’s an unpredictable place where you might think it’s going to be calm and spacious, but you don’t know what horrors also lurk. That pleasant dream can suddenly turn into terror.

Indianapolis black metal/thrash destroyers Blasted Heath is that nightmare lurking behind the darker parts of stars, waiting for you to make your move so they can devour you whole. Their stunning debut record “Vela” certainly exists among stardust, but it’s a nasty mind fuck, something that’s warped and incomprehensible that can take your psyche apart. The band—vocalist/guitarist Kyle Shumaker, guitarist Billy DeRocker, bassist Joe Clark, drummer Conrad Cotterman—floods this thing with intensity, devastating power, and vocals are like extraterrestrial transmissions, making it feel like a message from beyond that makes no bones about its mission to shock your system and fry your brain.

“Big Chill” is your introduction to this insanity, and it bleeds in with the riffs taking over quickly. The vocals are awash in reverb, something that is a trademark of this album and is really alluring. The leads blaze as everything spirals, the vocals smash, and everything comes to a violent end. “Ape” is a spirited jaunt with the echoed howls hammering, immersed in psychosis, and things chug hard as we move closer to alien planets. Strange clouds hover as things speed up and enter punk chaos, the guitars racing off into the sun. “Europa” brings spindling guitars that have a psychedelic edge, and the playing weaves as the energy plays tricks with your mind. The vocals carve as a strange space weirdness hangs over and threatens, clean calls enter the mix, and then the guitars echo and slip off behind the moon.

“Dark Energy” trickles in and darkens the skies, then the vocals tear through and mash digits, leaving you in pain. The humidity increases as the threat increases, the howls echo through time, and the final moments soak the ground. “Neutron Star” propels into the cosmos, guitars burning behind it, melodies flooding the senses. The aura is immersive as a strange starry blanket envelopes you, ringing in your ears and jostling your balance as the track stampedes into the void. “The Wind in Vela” explodes after ominous clips about the end of civilization, and the playing goes heavily toward black metal glory. There’s an elegance as well as a sludgy bruising, combining terror and adventure, twisting through the stars and ending in a vapor trail. Closer “Strange Matter” is the longest track at 7:18, and things slowly dawn, picking up the strange pace, twisting your dreams. It’s punchy and plastering as the vocals unload chaos, thrashing with speed and melody. The howls fry as the tempo combusts, the leads gush with colors, and the final moments dissolve into time.

Metal has had quite the relationship with the cosmos for the past decade, something that seems to be strengthening and growing more adventurous. Blasted Heath bring so many bizarre elements to the mix on “Vela,” and they do this in a way that adds to the conversation in their own way. These songs are a blast to absorb, it tries to alter your metallic DNA, and it leaves strange marks all over your body you don’t remember receiving while stuck on their craft.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://blastedheathindy.bandcamp.com/album/vela

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

Puerto Rico’s Moths dash into astral adventures on dreamy, cosmic debut opus ‘Space Force’

We’ve always been a huge fan of space-related themes and music, and we’re having a sort of mini-week of those types of releases that bask in worlds beyond. For me as a listener, bands that soak in the stars end up creating art that helps me escape and travel into parts unknown, capturing my imagination with the themes and keeping it with the sounds they create.

Puerto Rican galactic dreamers Moths lock down that vibe early and often on their debut full-length “Space Force,” a record that’s also situated in doom and sludge. These six tracks (four full cuts and two smaller instrumentals) creep inside your dreams and guide you to the maw of the universe, their music pumping you full of energy and passion. The band—vocalist Damaris Rodríguez, guitarists Jonathan Miranda (leads) and Omar González (rhythm), bassist Weslie Negrón, drummer Daniel Figueroa—also adds elements of music from their home Commonwealth as well as progressive power that makes for a diverse and exciting record from a unit that holds a ton of promise.

“Space Cowboy’s Ballad” is an intro cut that’s heavily psychedelic and dreamy, washing through the senses and bleeding sky as we head into “Awake” that immediately launches a jerky pace that throttles. The pace plods as Rodríguez’s howls ring out, moving through rocky, yet murky terrain, the vocals then turning clean as the playing gets even proggier. “Is this the end? Is this all that is left?” Rodríguez wails as the melodies boil over, the fog continues to rise, and a laser beam of synth works through and burns everything to dust. “Awake” churns as the vocals soar into the clouds but also grinds with vicious growls, and the adventurous playing lifts the spirit of this song noticeably. Growls lace as the keys zip, and the guitar work picks up and makes your blood race, a jazzy haze hangs over, and energy pulses and fades.

“Unbound” lands early punches as the organs give a vintage feel, moody guitars swallow, and the riffs carve their way into stone. Rodríguez takes command again, coming off breathier and alluring, and then the playing tears open and bleeds. The adrenaline boost takes you for a ride, and the cosmic gust that bursts at the end leaves its mark among the stars. “There’s No Place Like Space” has a Southern rock glide and static jolts, the leads burning, disappearing into smoke, and that leads us to closing title track where the guitars blast into the stratosphere. Keys roll in as the pace is hyperactive, the singing driving and speeding along, melodic flushes suddenly turning grisly. The mood darkens as the guitars pick up speed, Rodríguez’s growls crush your chest, and the keys slur and drip into another dimension.

Moths are a true revelation, a band that certainly belongs and reigns in the metallic world but brings much more to the table. “Space Force” is an impressive debut that certainly gives a wide variety of tastes but also doesn’t do too much, letting you immerse yourself in their intergalactic energy. This is really a fun record, something that takes you on a journey to undiscovered worlds, removing you from the chaos that surrounds us all just for a little bit.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://mothspr.bandcamp.com/album/space-force

Viking beasts Amon Amarth rage back with fire, renewed passion on exciting ‘Great Heathen Army’

There are bands that, when they come back with new music, you pretty much know what to expect. Consistency is important for some, and comfort zones aren’t necessarily bad thing as long as the art you create still comes from the heart and has the energy and intensity that makes it so important to your audience. Not everything has to be a wheel reinvention.

Swedish giants Amon Amarth have been creating rousing, surging death metal that’s awash in melody, excitement, and Viking lore for 30 years now, and a new record from the band comes with some expectations that they faithfully meet just about every time out there. I’m not sure if it was the pandemic that ended their tours in support of their last record “Berserker” or if it was different energies surrounding this band, but their 12th record “The Great Heathen Army” definitely isn’t totally by the numbers. Look, it’s an Amon Amarth record, and longtime fans aren’t going to be left in the dark. But the band—vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, bassist Ted Lundström, drummer Jocke Wallgren—show some new wrinkles on this nine-track, 43-minute bruiser. Their energy is impossible to miss, and there’s an urgency that feels super amped up to a different level, making every drop of this thing alluring and fun as fuck. It’s also one of their shorter records, but it skimps on nothing and is a lean, mean beast here to punish you.

“Get In the Ring” gets the record off to a rowdy start, swinging and stomping in, daring their foes to meet them in combat. For an opening track, it’s doesn’t have the spark of most songs that start Amon Amarth records, but it’s certainly not bad, Hegg taunting, “When the sun begins to wax, come find me in the ring,” as the band mauls you senseless. The title track is a killer, a song that could end up a classic and should rouse live crowds as riffs char, the rhythms devastate, and Hegg promises “10,000 warriors from the north.” Gang shouts of “hail hail!” crush, and the catchy assault continues and drags their foes’ faces in the dirt. “Heidrun” is another pummeling track that starts with folk-flavored electricity and great verses that get your juices flowing. The band pays homage to the great mead maker, shouting, “Who’s the goat? Heidrun!” a line that would be silly if anyone but this band was delivering it. Instead, it creates more energy and what should be a high point for their live shows. “Oden Owns You All” is devastating as the ground quakes, the leads swell, and Hegg’s growls dig into the guts, coming out deeper and soaked with drink. Maiden-like guitars increase the glory as the playing thrashes and ends in a pile of bodies.

“Find a Way or Make One” brings jolting riffs and Hegg demanding, “Stand tall and fight!” as he amasses the troops. The song is defiant and blood-soaked with Hegg vowing, “When all hope is gone, I will find a way,” as the playing crushes and leaves dust and carnage behind. “Dawn of Norsemen” delivers a gigantic surge, raining down blows and even entering into calmer waters later, with acoustics adding texture. Start/stop mangling wrenches the guts, the chorus stirs again, and the fiery guitars slam home the final exclamation marks. “Saxons and Vikings” is a fucking treat, the highlight of this record, a duet between Hegg and legendary Saxon frontman Biff Byford as they make the cases for their own people. Each vocalist presents a different perspective and with their distinctive voices, it’s easy to keep the story straight. And this is just a joy to hear, two amazing forces combined for one of the most memorable songs in the Amon Amarth canon. “Skagul Rides With Me” heats up right away, vowing victory with the gods, torches burning brightly. “Where lesser men have failed, I will conquer,” Hegg vows as warm leads change the temperatures, and a final chorus gives one final gust. Closer “The Serpent’s Trail” is a dark one, starting with a spoken intro and adding vulnerability to the bravado. “In the darkness I am drifting, I am losing my direction,” Hegg levels as the storm gathers, the band bringing the rains along with them. The power crescendos, the band flexes its might, and everything ends in flames.

Amon Amarth are about as reliable a band as you’re going to find in extreme metal, but they add some new flourishes on “The Great Heathen Army” and sound revitalized as this record is an absolute blast to hear. Longtime fans will know what to expect, and they’re definitely served a feast with this tremendous album, one that contains one crusher after another. This band could crank out anything at this point and still be met with raucous masses at their shows, but they put everything they have into this album and deliver another killer we’ll be listening to for decades.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Turian explode with captivating, diverse attack on mind fuck ‘No Longer Human’

Photo by Kyle Burnett

Sticking with a formula that works for you never is a bad idea, because why disrupt that which isn’t broken? Or so the saying kind of goes. But that doesn’t always apply, even when the mixture of elements is powerful and moving, because if it doesn’t do anything for the creator, the final product will not have the intended impact and eventually will lose power.

Seattle crushers Turian have been at it for several years now, making mostly grindcore-style noise that certainly was impactful, but obviously the band felt like they needed something else. Enter their amazing new full-length “No Longer Human,” a 10-track affair that’s still heavy musically but refuses to remain in any boundaries as they slather their music in noise, New Wave, metal, punk, and yes, even some grind. A game-changer was the inclusion of vocalist Veronica “Vern” Metztli to the original trio of guitarist Ryan Moon, bassist Cris Sanchez, and drummer Andrew Nyte, and combined, these four just explode with colors, passion, fury, and energy that cannot be contained just within this record and makes itself something that exists within you as you experience this absolute killer of an album.

“Slowdeath” tears the record open with punchy venom, harsh howls that make your bones hurt, and sludgy hell slurring all over. The vocals get nastier as the playing increases its danger, and then it’s on to “Snakehead” that explodes with thrashy rage. “Hatred for man, flesh melts away, all I see is wasteland, hair entwined with snakes,” Metztli wails, their wrath spilling over and melding with daring, striking playing that sinks into arteries. “Judas Tree” brings catchy rock riffs and a vibrant chorus that lives in your bloodstream. “Judas tree, go to sleep!” Metztli howls as the band chugs and stabs before slinking into atmospheric chill. “Malfunction” has guitars going off as nasty vocals scrape, and the charging, jolting playing loosens teeth. Metztli speaks fluidly, “Presented my arrival, my dreams were fed to me,” as the melodies loops back before a devastating finish. “Ten Misfortunes” has thick bass and Metztli switching to croaking slurred vocals, a dreamy pace swishing into sudden unsettling drama. A strange vibe arrives as feedback spits and echoes, and the vision ends abruptly.

“Willoughby” brings rubbery guitars and a zany pace, the vocals smashing into your comfort zone. “That train don’t stop here,” Metztli howls as a bizarre haze begins to rise, and then the guitars jolt your nervous system back into shape. “American Dog” has a catchier approach with a song teeming with anger, Metztli jabbing, “People are dying, and it’s never his fault,” something that is easy to understand and also sickens your belly, and later on the blast of “bred to kill” absolutely drips with disgust. “Buster Room” speeds in with spat-out vocals, the playing carving paths to punk-fueled extremes. The leads drive through the night, everything slinking off into calm. “Narcissus” bludgeons as the guitars dare, Metztli wailing, “It will not consume, it will only create.” The brutality simmers as spacey guitars launch, Metztli speaks and repeats the chorus, and the final moments take a neck-jerking turn. Closer “Saila Maaso” goes off and mashes with a hardcore vibe, the relentless energy getting inside your skeletal system. The pace draws blood as you’re shaken to your core, and the final moment is Metztli howling a restless “Fuck!”

“No Longer Human” is a massive step forward for Turian, and that’s not a negative comment on their back catalog at all, just a statement of how surprising and volcanic this record truly is. This is one of those albums and bands where you can’t accurately transfix a description, because they defy all sub-genre marks and seemingly exist in every single one of them. This record is packed with rage, power, and energy, and every repeat visit you make uncovers devious new wrinkles you never noticed before.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://turian.bandcamp.com/album/no-longer-human

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

Irish beasts Coscradh devastate psyches with glacial cataclysm on crushing ‘Nahanagan Stadial’

It’s been pretty damn hot with some violent storms here lately in my part of the United States, which hardly is ripe time to think about arctic conditions that render our land a frozen tundra. Yet here we are, with a massively heavy record named after an ice age that impacted the world about 10,000 years ago and destroyed life and impacted the Northern Hemisphere for thousands of years.

It’s harrowing subject matter to use as inspiration for your first record (especially as our climate again is ridiculously volatile), but it’s fitting Irish black/death metal band Coscradh chose that for their debut “Nahanagan Stadial,” the Irish name for that event. That’s because this album is as heavy as a glacial sheet scraping across the land, swallowing everything in its path and bringing oppressive pressure that encapsulates you into the earth forever. The band—lead vocalist/guitarist Ciarán Ó Críodáin, guitarist/vocalist Jason Keane, bassist/vocalist Hick O Aodha, drummer Boban Bubnjar—commit to that heaviness early and often, delivering five tracks and 41 minutes of devastation that feel impossible to climb out from underneath, so you might as well not even try.

Opener “Nahanagan Stadial” runs a healthy 9:44 and simmers in noise before doom drops and the vocals wretch. Guitars wail as the playing combusts, blasting savagery and spitting shrapnel. The growls begin to crackle as the aura blackens deeply, punishing cries extend, and the ferocity burns flesh from bone as everything disappears into a haze. “Feast of the Epiphany” rips open and spills guts on the floor, beastly howls land hard, and the pace absolutely crushes. The leads torch as violent howls cause reverberations, the low-end bludgeons, and then the guitar work blinds, hovering and threatening until hissing power tears everything away.

“Plagues of Knowth” explodes right away, pummeling and taking victims along with it. The pace is fast and gnarly as an animalistic assault spreads and increases the levels of danger. Riffs accelerate as the pace envelopes, absolute chaos mashes brains, and a noise cloud swallows everything whole. “Cladh Hàlainn” goes 7:19 and dawns out of another pocket of sound, and then the playing jackhammers as the insanity thickens and feels like it’s opening a gap in the earth. The guitars jangle and make your senses tingle, the tempo crumbles, and the power slams through rock, swimming into the deep sea. Closer “Feallaire Dóite” is the longest track at 11:52, staggering in and crushing in sooty murk. Shrieks rupture as the power buckles, ominous guitars blacken the skies, and the guitars catch fire, consuming all that lies before it. Lava flows, noise corrodes, and the guitars ripple out and leave ash behind.

Over these 41 minutes, Coscradh bring the freezing power and upheaval that’s hinted in the album’s title and smears that all over their doomy infestations. “Nahanagan Stadial” packs doom-encrusted black and death metal into a concoction that feels as weighty and destructive as the earth icing itself over and imprisoning everything inside. This is a devastating debut record that feels as massive as its collective parts.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://invictusproductions.net/shop/coscradh-nahanagan-stadial-cd-digipak/

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