PICK OF THE WEEK: Narakah grind maddeningly, violently through damaging debut ‘Nemesis Cloak’

What’s worse: A long, grueling fight where you get in your shots but ultimately take on a lot of damage or a short blast where you have no chance at all but at least the savagery isn’t sustained over an extended period of agony? I don’t have an answer. I’m not super into getting my ass kicked so I don’t have a preference, but I’m sure there are some sickos out there who are doing the math in their heads.

Anyway, it might not be the longest record you’ll ever encounter, but Narakah’s debut full-length album “Nemesis Cloak” is the latter, a microburst of grindcore madness that stomps you into the ground, your identity mostly left in question. This Pittsburgh assault unit grew out of other local crushers such as Slaves BC (now Uzkost), Meth Quarry, Acolyte, Demilitia and plenty of others, and they bring their sardonic chaos to these 18 tracks that blast by in a mere 20 minutes. It felt like a fucking cartoon trying to take notes during this thing, requiring more than one session, but who gives a damn when the music is this piledriving and fun? The band—vocalist Adam Joseph Bailey, guitarist/vocalist Christopher Martin Smith, bassist Evan Richard Kunkle, drummer/synth player/sample master Jason Lee Spence—derive their maddening inspiration from areas as wide as anime, manga, TV shows and movies, videogames, and more. Their sample selection is both flavorful fun but also packs one particular head-jerking clip that’ll make long-time Pittsburgh residents almost wreck their cars. I was almost test case 1, thinking my car stereo was possessed.   

“Leftover Hamburger” actually kind of hangs in the air, like you’re going to have a chance to breath before you’re suddenly underneath a goddamn tractor that’s eating you alive. “Crosstream Sumeria” has barks ripping at your flesh as the playing explodes in fits of rage, mauling to a gurgling end and ripping into “Seven Zurls” that lets the noise sting before striking. Throaty growls and mauling drums are on the hunt, rattling brains and leaving you off balance for “The Uzi Crusades (“Uzi Jūjigun”)” that starts with an old Century III Chevrolet jingle that everyone in Pittsburgh knows off by heart. From there, the force opens ribcages, savage growls lurching and boiling in acid, making toward “Silian Rail” that starts with a “Ghostbusters” sample before taking on a sludgier path. The vocals scathe and gurgle in violence as the beating is meted out slowly, then “Headless Nazarene” splatters and stabs toward you, digging in and thrashing, dragging things to a bludgeoning end. “In Hostile Purity” has guitars chewing their way in, punishment and melody forming the strangest tag team ever. The growls erupt from hell and consume, then “F.R.E.E.” comes in, an eerie “Clockwork Orange” sample making your unease increase before mangling guitars and piledriving power chug and take apart worlds. “Gabriel’s Horn” is an ambient interlude, but it leaves no room for comfort, the sounds feeling warm and unsettling.

“Through Incendiary Tropics” unloads and strings guts all over the place, feeling animalistic and unhinged, leading into “Yarler on the Prowl” that feels washed out and disassociated with reality, strange music making your mind trip out. The title track is a fucking lariat to the throat, the vocals peeling flesh, and the playing giving off a punishing hardcore vibe that doesn’t forgive. “The Colour of Illusion” spirals in amid throaty growls and guitars tangling you in their webs. Crazed shrieks caw as the levels increase threateningly, then “The Rogue’s Wallet” pushes in and explodes as the drumming tries to murder you, the vocals are spat out like poison, and a brief airy feel gives off a dreamy vibe before disintegrating. “Hausu” almost immediately spills over, the pace is relentless, and the fires grow out of control, moving toward “Oaky Afterbirth” that mixes weird sounds and gruff shouts, feeling brutal and menacing, blackening eyes along the way. “Creepshow Tabernacle” strikes off kilter and purposely so, lest you think you’ll be given a chance to exhale. Muddy power and chugging guitars combine, landing a blow before closer “Thriving on Mysterious” ruptures absolutely. Growls gurgle in acid, the playing tears apart muscle, and final devastating gasps helps the body melt into nothingness.

Narakah’s grind attack is mightier and blooder than ever on “Nemesis Cloak,” their ridiculously disruptive debut full-length assault. There’s zero room to breathe or even dream of escaping as fists and kicks are flying the entire time, multiplying and turning everything to a pile of mush and blood. This band is an animalistic machine, and their first record is enough not only to put Narakah on the grindcore map but also serve as a warning they’re here for blood and won’t settle until they’re satisfied.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://forceofreckoningrecords.bigcartel.com/product/narakah-nemesis-cloak

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

Vicious Blade unleash wrath on Metal Immortal Festival II, bring devastating EP ‘Siege of Cruelty’

It’s supposed to be hot as fuck over the weekend, which makes for the perfect setting for a heavy metal festival that contains bands from all corners of the subgenre map. After a two-year delay and multiple false starts, Metal Immortal Festival 2 finally will melt faces at Mr. Smalls, a quick drive from downtown Pittsburgh, and the lineup is diverse and bloody.

While there are plenty of bands on which to focus, we’re looking at Vicious Blade who hail from Pittsburgh and have their second EP “Siege of Cruelty” ready to burn you down. Over five raucous tracks that combine thrash, classic heavy metal, punk, and other volatile elements, the band gives you a huge blast back to when the harsher forms of metal started to solidify but with a 2022 mindset that powers these tracks and make them melt over. The band—vocalist Clarissa Badini, guitarists Jeff Ellsworth and Erik Wynn, bassist Dan Ford, drummer Kevin Parent—contains members with hefty and impressive resumes with crushers such as Castrator, Complete Failure, Commit Suicide, Tartarus, Don Caballero, etc., and they’re the perfect choice to get the fest off to a devastating, fire-powered start that’ll keep energy levels high all day. It’s also a step up from their killer 2020 self-titled EP debut, proving they’ve grown more violent and menacing as the world waited out a lockdown.

“Cult of Scourge” teases you a bit as it starts before it hits high gear with Badini’s barked howls feeling like haymakers. The chorus is thrashy and tasty, the guitars crush, and the commanding vocals refuse to let you offer anything but your undivided attention. “Scavengers” wails and churns before exploding with speed and rampaging with reckless abandon. The beastly chorus makes your insides shake, fiery howls leave bruising, and the final moments are consumed by its own flames. The title track mashes from the gates with Badini’s wails blowing you back off your feet, the guttural speed feeling like a head-on collision. A monstrous cackle warps as soloing erupts, and the sinewy chorus makes one more round and knocks you on your ass. “Speed, Leather & Hell” is fun as fuck, a classic metal throwback that dines on punk’s veins and delivers fast, infectious chaos. Another tremendous chorus has its way with you as the playing hammers, and the end comes swiftly at the heart of a riot. Closer “Wretchedness of Existence” has rock-solid riffs that make your blood rush as Badini howls, “No, you can’t walk away!” Black metal-style playing runs as things surge with dangerous intent, riffs blasting, and one final chorus delivering the goods again and driving an exclamation point with a dagger.

Vicious Blade are coming on fast and stridently, which they prove hands down on “Siege of Cruelty,” their punishing second EP. The band is a force live, which Metal Immortal Fest attendees are about the find out, and these songs give them an even more formidable arsenal that’s bound to leave blood generously shed. These five songs are proof this band is playing with fire, and anyone who stands in their way is going to be burnt to a crisp.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.ourancientfuture.com/collections/all

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

Metal Immortal Preshow
Friday, Spirit, Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.

Eviction (30th anniversary reunion show of legendary Pittsburgh thrashers)
Sanhedrin
Shadowland
Olathia

To buy tickets, go here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/metal-immortal-2-pre-fest-show-eviction-reunion-tickets-228269840237?aff=ebdssbeac

Metal Immortal Festival 2
Saturday, Mr. Smalls, Millvale, Pa., 3 p.m.

Funhouse
Vicious Blade: 4:30
Soul Grinder: 5:20
Bewitcher: 6:40
Accused: 8:10

Main stage
Lady Beast: 4:40
Solicitor: 6:00
BAT: 7:20
Deceased: 9:00
Raven: 10:00

For more on the fest go here: https://www.facebook.com/MetalImmortalFestival

To buy tickets, go here: https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/16005C311FFD32F6

Vile Haint further haunt black metal with Southern magic on infectious ‘Sacrificial Baptism …’

I’ve always thought the unofficial rule set that governed black metal for no apparent reason was just a way to retrain its energy and never let it expand to the areas in which it was destined to spread. Over the years, the gate keepers that sought to prevent the subgenre’s masses from venturing beyond its borders to absorb influences elsewhere have been cast aside, and black metal has been able to grow and shift in various directions.

Nashville black metal force Vile Haint—vocalist/guitarist Ryan Clackner, drummer Zac Ormerod—is one that has bled into places many others haven’t before, taking the template formed three decades ago and giving it an education in the haunted American south. Their second record “Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters” takes what they started on debut “Ol’ Hatchie Haint” and expands it ever further into the strange and esoteric, taking you on a five-track, nearly 49-minute excursion into the graveyards, the folk tales, and the ghostly ambiance that infects these tales and gives them a spirit that infects and sends you on a mission into waters you previously were terrified to tread. It’s unsettling and real.

“Cathartic Sacrament of the Cattle Goddess” runs 8:37 and starts with noises haunting and gasping before the playing ruptures and gushes, shrieks weighing over the balmy pace. The playing then begins to blister, creeping and playing with speed and tension. Leads spiral as the intensity increases rapidly, shrieks rain hammers, and the track comes to a storming end. “Unrest in Moonlit Grave” blares in as the vocals carve vein tracks and the drums utterly pulverize. Murk gets thicker as the playing detracts from reality, the leads boil and trample, and the playing charges into slurry filth and howls that take you apart. “Upon the Throne of Restless Vision” erupts as it starts as the drums bustle and the pace lathers you up in fire. Guitars drip as the essence takes on a druggy feel as you work your way down hallways as the power tidal waves. Guitars ring as the pace slowly mauls, eerie guitars slither, and the final moments bleed into a time warp.

“From the Abyss that Yawns” is the longest track, running 13:01 and creating chills that work their way down your spine as strange energy collects as the picture slowly comes into focus. The tempo then warps the mind as the vocals attack and the guitar work rattles, feeling like it’s making alterations to your DNA. Keys glaze as the playing goes from trancey to electric, the guitars going off and blinding, trudging through timelines and burning until everything is mere ash. Closer “Torches Illuminate the Bleeding Walls” enraptures for 12:33, slurring in and basking in bright moon beams. Face-pummeling playing unloads as the synth gazes, and everything feels like is spills into a spacious cavern. Glimmering notes spark as the ground begins to rumble, and then the soloing takes off for the sky. Shrieks mangle while the slicing intensity makes itself a greater force, classical-style guitars give off a time-drenched aura, and the melodies merge into a sound cloud, the final breaths landing in the soil.

Carving out a unique path in black metal is nearly impossible in this era, but Vile Haint have something the rest have missed, mixing in the haunting Southern gothic vibe into what’s otherwise hyper-violent terrain. “Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters” is another giant step into the creeping shadows for this band, and each drop of this makes your brain think strange things, your eyes see objects that don’t even exist. This is ghostly and tormented in the best way, shaking your spine and soul with quaking hunger.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://moonlightcypressarchetypes.bandcamp.com/merch

Or here: https://www.folkvangrrecords.com/categories/all

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

And here: https://www.folkvangrrecords.com/

This White Mountain, Lev’myr up first for Fiadh Productions as they focus on dark, wild music

I cannot imagine the amount of incredible heavy metal I don’t get to hear every year just due to the sheer amount of music that’s out there and all of the labels both big and small putting content into the world and filling our senses. Each year, I encounter at least a handful of new labels that become favorites and whose releases I mark in my mental calendar because they’re always worth it.

Fiadh Productions is a relatively new venture based in New York that, in their words, promotes all that is wild, dark, and enchanting and that nobly supports animal rights and welfare. It also helps that we do know the one force behind this label also had a major hand in Broken Limbs Recordings, another of our favorite small labels, and they’re already off to a great start with two of their initial releases. One is “The Final Sorrow,” the latest full-length from Connecticut-based This White Mountain (helmed solely by Kevin Narowski, though drummer Chris Bryan plays on a couple tracks), the other is “High Plains of Lev’myr,” the first release from Lev’myr (the Dallas-based duo of Andrea May Taylor and Garry Brents, who also plays Cara Neir among other bands) who take you on the Medieval-style journeys of Gwyn the badger, Basil the hedgehog and their friends as they take an adventure that feels half “Lord of the Rings,” half “Over the Garden Wall.” They are very different trips though they definitely adhere to the promise to uncover all that is dark and alluring, and each release is ridiculously satisfying and touch on different types of artistic stimulation.

As for This White Mountain’s “The Final Sorrow,” “Pouring” introduces you to the collection with rains pouring and the essence bleeding into “Demise,” a 9:43-long burner that has scathing atmosphere with leads swimming through murk and the playing continually smothering. Blackness and elegance fall, chilling you to the bone, then it’s on to “Burden” that thrashes and burns. Moody and ferocious as it pushes on, there are emotional waves and devastating guitar work, and even the calmer moments have tornadic pressure behind it, soaring out through the air. “Bleak Future” has guitars dripping and the intensity tearing things apart, great melodies tidal waving onto the shores. Later, the drums take apart everything, and the adventure hits a huge high point that leaves you breathless. “Death Take Me” comes in fast and rupturing, the violent pace clubbing away and creating storming power. The playing is relentless and trudging, unearthing filth and anger that fully consumes. Closer “The Final Sorrow” is the longest track, stretching over 15:01 and dawning in cold fog, the bass bending, and a gust takes over that reminds of classic Opeth. Melody and skullduggery are two massive elements, washing through space and into the stars, overcoming with passion and infectious devastation, rushing out amid crushing screams and an abrupt end.

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

“High Plains of Lev’myr” opens with the title track and has acoustics fluttering as the splendor unfolds, the village opening itself up to the rest of the world, then “Shire Sunrise / Morning Tea” has a baroque feel amid the synth strings and the breezy early hours feel, wheat flowing and birds chirping. “The Journey Begins” has cellos swaying and keys making magic as gold is stolen, the honey runs desperately low, and a great wizard advises our heroes. “Under the Stars” has strings creeping as the clouds collect above the group’s heads as they seek rest for the night, this calming passage surely able to get them there. “Rain Awakening” brings dramatic synth and gusts of air as raindrops the size of coconuts crash down, acoustics and strings striking, heading toward “Cave Ambush” where serene synth and woodwinds creep along as spiders attack from all angles, the group fighting hard to survive. “Ironworks of the Bears” is the final chapter with strings and keys plinking, blowing through the trees. The group finds a place to rest for the night, thankful for the safety but aware the journey is just beginning.

These two releases could not be more diametrically different from each other yet coexist nicely on the Fiadh roster. Blistering and atmospheric black metal from This White Mountain and Lev’myr’s charming and cinematic dungeon synth and folk each make for two records that’ll attract different audiences with a surprising large circle at the center of the Venn diagram showing each’s following. Both of these are enjoyable, surprising releases that have us excited for both bands and this new label.

For more on the band, go here: https://levmyr.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the albums, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Axioma reflect on survival amid pestilence with gargantuan face masher ‘Sepsis’

Photo by Doug French

We have been through hell as humans for quite some time now as we have battled disease never seen before and tried to find ways to survive and keep others safe. Not all of us. You know who you are. But being able to live and thrive in the face of pestilence has been a test for all of us, and the way we have been able to keep moving proves the power of the human spirit.

Cleveland’s Axioma might dabble in the darkest of metallic arts, but they also have noticed the will of the human durability amid the worst of times, and that spills over on their thunderous second record “Sepsis.” The record is named after a life-threatening condition due to the body’s response to infection, and it’s a harrowing, often fatal condition, so fighting through that takes the ultimate in endurance. The band—vocalist/bassist Aaron Dallison, guitarists Cyril Blandino and J Meyers, drummer/percussionist Jon Vinson—steps up their game from their stellar debut “Crown” to unload heavy elements of black metal, doom, and sludge to make for a formidable display that overpowers and pounds into submission.

“Blood Ruminations” trickles in before punching a gigantic hole in the wall, howls defacing everything in its path. The playing coldly moves along as guitars taunt, and the moodiness increases before guitars haunt, and the vocals scrape flesh. Burly power flexes as atmospheric melody peaks, fading into coldness. “Contortions of Passage” opens as a drumming assault as the guitars begin to hypnotize, and then the beast hammers through and stomps with blood lust. Speed becomes a factor and increases your anxiety levels, nasty howls leave ample bruising, and then guitars hang in the air, increasing the barometric pressure. A calculate assault fires up, and the last gasp pummels into the earth. The title track rips in and crushes, blasting hard and teaming with throaty howls and dangerous levels of violence. The friction goes for the throat, black metal-style melodies bleed, and the chaos increases before the final drops are absorbed by the earth.

“God Extraction” starts with clean charges before wrenching wails bristle, and the slurry atmosphere leaves a moisture slick on your face. Nasty howls stretch, guttural power collects, and everything keeps tearing away until the end. “The Tower” is the longest track at 7:31, starting calm and balmy as the track plods along and leaks through the cracks. The riffs begin to get meaner and mostly stay that way as the punishment is meted out with calculated heat, the energy kicking in later and making blood spatter. Hypnotic melodies slither as the bass chugs hard, blasting and rendering the final deadly blows. “Emptiness of Anguish” emerges in sooty doom, moving with a hulking pace as the vocals are like devastating hollers designed to startle. Guitars slur as the fires choke, and the menacing terror they develop drags you into the underworld. Closer “A New Dark Age” brings charging guitars and vocals that compromise your safety, the playing utterly jackhammering. There are threads of dreaminess that help cool off the elevated heat, and blistering tones turn your flesh purple, bringing a final gasp of suffocating power before turning out your lights.

Obviously with a record called “Sepsis,” you’re bound to walk into a world of disease where filth and horrors are around every corner, your very existence called into question. The fact that Axioma continually figure out ways to make the load you’re bearing even heavier and more devastating is a feat to behold. This is a monster of a record that requires repeat visits just so you can properly absorb everything going on, and once you’ve familiarized yourself with this wasteland, you’ll realize you’re now cemented to this reality, and survival is up to your determination to thrive.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/sepsis

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

Serpent Ascending explore tales of creation, unveil daring death metal on ‘Hyperborean Folklore’

There is a slew of different stories about the creation of humankind, and throughout the ages, cultures have come up with their own tales, giving us rich stories that are woven through time. This doesn’t take into account scientific explanations, nor should they because they were born before those advancements, and it leaves room for folk takes and lore we would dismiss as myth today.

So, delving deeply into Nordic creation stories comes Jarno Nurmi, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for Serpent Ascending, who travels back and soaks up those legends on “Hyperborean Folklore,” the project’s second record and first in eight years. Nurmi takes a great deal of his lyrical inspiration and content from the frame of many works of fiction, coloring in the fiery, yet colorful death metal that snakes around your brain and provides added stimulation. This is a record that is heavy and brutal, but it’s also imaginative and spellbinding, making it something that requires your full absorption.

“Growth of the Soil” blasts open, the 10:27-long lid lifter representing the longest track on the album inspired by the work of the same name by Knut Hamsun. Voices warble as a prog push makes this rubbery and gruff, the propulsive rhythms doing their damage. The tempo pushes back and forth, feasting on speeds, the vocals getting gnarlier as detached speak-singing makes you question your sanity. Things crash down as the guitars rally, and one final gust makes you run for cover. The title track is based on sections of the Kalevala and runs a healthy 9:32 as the guitars charge from the gates, goth-style singing sending chills. The song moves into exploratory terrain, the savagery existing alongside strange vocals and monstrous heat, steamrolling before slithering through terror. The playing stampedes, taking on a Maiden-style adrenaline rush, strange speaking slithering, and the tempo surging before disappearing into the sea.

“Stállus Hideout” is an 8:49-long smasher that brings teasing guitars and an atmosphere that takes its time to establish a world. About four minutes in, the singing creaks, and glorious leads open the center and release beams of light. Guitars flush as the tempos char, the playing lights up dangerously, and the final elements burn into the ground. Closer “Skaði’s Longing for the Mountains – Njorðr’s Desire of the Sea” is dreamt from excerpts of old Norse text Gylfaginning by Snorri Sturluson and is the shortest song at 8:28, yet still an epic as doom spreads across the land. Monstrous vocals lacerate flesh, and strange melodies sink into your bloodstream, leaning into disarming melodies. Guitars get breezy, floating in atmosphere, and the bass feels oddly poppy, which is a lot of fun. The playing soars amid the stars, the pace speeds up dangerously, and the last moments drive through space into its home planet far away.

Nurmi creates a bizarre yet intoxicating world on “Hyperborean Folklore,” a record that defies conventional death metal and gives it a different personality not of this world. The retelling of classic folk tales and the delving into the myth of creation add even meatier elements when peeling back the music, and together, every ingredient makes for an insanely satisfying adventure. This is an exciting new path that makes Serpent Ascending a beast that deserves your undivided attention.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063482710108

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://metalodyssey.8merch.us/

Or here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

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

Aaron Turner creates shadowy, improvised exploration through guitars with immersive ‘To Speak’

Photo by Faith Coloccia

Often, I spend the evenings of my workdays enjoying a fine marijuana product in order to relax and prepare my body for sleep, something it’s not actually terrible at doing but doesn’t always serve me as I wished it would. The deeper I get, the more I want music surrounding me, stuff that can be there as I contemplate and imagine, something that stimulates creativity and thought as I prepare to recharge.

I doubt Aaron Turner had that in mind when he went to work to create “To Speak,” but it’s a perfect record for what I described. This third effort of solo guitar experimentation from the man whose fingerprints are all over modern heavy music from his work with ISIS, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, and so many other projects, is an introspective and mentally stimulating record that really needs multiple visits to fully take in the entire thing. When I mention in the open this music has been great for altered mental states, understand that doesn’t mean wasted. It means a time when the mind is operating and thinking on a different plane, a productive one, and having music like this to enhance that experience is so valuable. By the way, when Turner entered the studio with producer Randall Dunn, he had nothing. This music was created in spontaneous fashion, improvised magic that was left mostly as is in the final product, and that is stunning to realize that something this powerful was drafted from scratch.

“Firelight” opens with sounds humming before the playing rumbles, strings thumped and plucked. Noise picks up and sizzles, making your core vibrate, your senses blur, and then the final gasps leave you electrified. The title track begins in a haze of doom drone, punching through and dining on interference, the sounds making it feel like you’re in the middle of a roaring furnace. Glorious leads begin to spill generously, the intensity picks up and drives, and the sizzling burns a new path with visions never consumed before. Fires gust, things feel more beastly, and the power gently fades into the air. “Granny’s Pendalgue” runs 10:12 and is moody and introspective as it begins, dreamy noise piercing your mind. Guitars swarm and create a strange ambiance, noise stretches and slurs, and everything stomps in a drunken haze, stepping into primitive terrain. The pressure builds one final time, the world feels like it implodes, and the rubbles gathers all around you.

“An Unpleasant Gravity” trudges through space and time, strings are struck with agitation, and then it seers into your mind. Guitars spit static and tangle with its surroundings, jolting to its end. “Wingehaven Decension” is the longest cut at 14:15, and it dawns in a light rumble, almost as if a storm is just beginning, and in a way, it is. Cosmic light quivers and moves through the skies, strange auras open up before your eyes, and your head is surrounded by sounds that make every one of your cells react. It then sounds like a giant craft is landing, the playing cuts through your dreams, and the beastly fire fades.  “Brittle Expectancy” enters amid chiming guitars before charges bolt, clean shimmers and melodies mixing together. Electro zaps make your brain short out, sounds scream through the clouds, and the last blasts strike and fade. Closer “A Deep and Instant Regret” starts as a static storm with the guitars shaking bones and the charges pushing into your comfort zone. Punches are thrown and absorbed in the dark, guitars collect and scoff, and the last scrapes drain the last of your life force.

Entering the sessions that resulted in “To Speak” with nothing but time, it’s almost incomprehensible considering what Turner created spontaneously on his third solo record. This is an album that has many perfect settings for its consumption, but probably the best is alone, in the dark, maybe if you’re a little high, just taking time to exist and align with yourself again. This is an imaginative, cosmic collection that finds ways to rewire your mind in ways you never thought possible.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://aaronbturner.bandcamp.com/album/to-speak

Or here: https://www.trost.at/aaron-turner-to-speak.html

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

And here: https://www.trost.at/

Danish death crushers Chaotian deliver mangling madness that rots with killer debut ‘Effigies …’

Photo by Steffen Jørgensen

Life being what’s it’s been as of late, meaning the last several years, putting on music that is barbaric and completely here to unhinge you and everyone else around you is something that becomes more welcome by the passing rotten day. Death metal always comes to the rescue in those times, and holy shit, if it hasn’t been there to clean up our blood and tears once again.

I don’t imagine Danish death machine Chaotian had calming nerves in mind when they went into business, put out a few well-respected smaller releases, and planted the seeds for their destructive debut offering “Effigies of Obsolescence,” but here we are, using their music as catharsis. Just the way it wasn’t intended. Anyway, everything comes apart and destroys with shrapnel on this seven-track bruiser, a record that goes full throttle for your throat and refuses to relent. The band—vocalist/guitarist Søren Willatzen, bassist Jonas Grønborg, drummer/vocalist Andreas Nordgreen—make the most of the path of devastation they’re on, leaving bodies and ashes behind, their concern for who they’ve maimed registering at an all-time low.

“Gangrene Dream” starts the record with eerie noises spreading and a mysterious void opening before the hammers drop, and the bass absolutely melts. The playing chugs and smears while the growls devour you alive, the guitars frying your brain waves. The atmosphere is humid and nasty, the guitars firing off as the earth beneath you crumbles. “Into Megatopheth” is a gargantuan force, the growls crushing as the guitar work makes your blood race. The aura is molten and cataclysmic, the drums jackhammer, and misery enters hell, pummeling to the end. The title cut brings horrific screams and guitars unloading all their weight as the pace explodes. The leads are blinding as the tempo warps time, tangling with vicious power as the blood drains completely.

“Adipocere Feast” lights up immediately and packs a thrashy edge, the deep growls feeling seismic and dangerous. Guitars catch fire as the band unleashes panic and relentless power that lasts until it finally expires. “Etched Shadows” feels doomy as hell at the start, splattering with tenacity and bringing infernal chaos. The striking slows as a gloomy section sinks in, and then the hellish wails crawl into the blood, sending off jolts that scorch the sky. “Fustuarium” is an onslaught that packs bending bass and sooty guitars that add to the bruising. The low end shows muscle, making things uglier and more oppressive, scathing vocals leaving burns on your chest. Closer “Festering Carcinolith” stabs into the scene as the guitars explode, and the mauling tempo grabs you by the throat. There’s no relent whatsoever, the bass snarls, and the playing chugs with ferocity, slowly bleeding away and leaving broken bodies behind.

Chaotian make their case for violence early and often on their smothering debut record “Effigies of Obsolescence,” a destructive and evident display of their brand of death metal madness. This record maims over and over again, and there’s zero downtime on this thing as you’re put to the test from beginning to end. This Danish force is the real deal, and this is a striking first display that will knock you on your ass.

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

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

Or here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/vinyl-cds-merch/

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

And here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: White Ward set fires on societal issues, violent power designs with ‘False Light’

Since the beginning of heavy metal’s lifespan, there has been suspicion over the government and those who control people and what they’re allowed to do. The medium has long lashed back as societal and political corruption and abuse by those in control, and as we work our way through the 2020s, those topics remain as rich as ever, and even more so now that some power structures are out of control.

For Ukrainian black metal band White Ward, who has seen the impacts of oppression and bloodshed firsthand, they were only too eager to visit that and other touchpoints that have ignited segments of society on their excellent third full-length “False Light.” If you’re already familiar with the band, you realize the black metal tag is merely a base as they spread beyond that to include elements of jazz, post rock, prog, and plenty of other colors. This album lyrically focuses on, to quote their bio, government-sanctioned murders, imminent environmental catastrophes, police brutality, domestic abuse, the psychic emptiness of cities, falsity of modern mainstream culture, and ill-effects of overconsumption. Those subjects are violently relevant, and the band—vocalist/bassist/lyricist Andrii Pechatkin , guitarist/vocalist Yurii Kazarian, guitarist Mykola Previr, drummer Ievgen Karamushko, sax player Dima Dudko—also takes inspiration from novel Intermezzo, by Ukrainian author Mykhailo Kotsubinsky, as well works by Kerouac and Jung. They also get contributions from other musicians including guest vocalists Vitaliy Havrilenko, Jay Gambit (Crowhurst, Execution Mask), Adam Symonds (Latitudes); trumpet player Jerome Burns; double bass player Yaroslav Tovarianskyi; and Mykola Lebed (Ghost Cities, Selma, etc.) on piano and Rhodes piano.

“Leviathan” is the beefy 13:17-long opener that properly sets the pace for what’s ahead. The playing punches through after noises swirl over the first minute, shrieks tearing your muscles apart. Sax sets in and creates added cloud coverage, elegant power unfurls its wings, and clean vocals bellow and make your blood rush. Sax gusts, the power crushes, and the final moments bleed into the earth. “Salt Paradise” is a severe changeup, an Americana-styled track with Gambit adding his gravelly, dusty voice to power this along and add even more rustic character to a highlight of this album. Sax blends in as the dust collects, then jazzy playing cools your wounds as sunburnt melodies pass. “Phoenix” runs 10:49 and starts with cosmic keys and breezy sax, the guitars lighting up and blinding your vision. Things tear open as the shrieks attack, and a breakdown hammers but also explodes with life. The vocals crush as the pace encircles, plastering with savagery and later into gothy waters, clean singing jolting your spine. The playing then melts into spacey keys, and a voice sample rightfully scolds us for what we’ve let happen to the earth. “Silence Circles” basks in keys and monstrous intensity, the sax adding some coolness to the volatile heat. Clean singing bellows as the ground ruptures, the guitars chomping at the bit, the drums crushing, and the elegant haze lingering and fading.

“Echoes in Eternity” is a brief instrumental with keys rolling in, the sax acting as an evening breeze, and jazzy basslines quivering, moving toward “Cronus” that’s another place for the band to take on unexpected shades. Gothy singing swells with darkness, filling your heart with pain, remaining balmy until the whole thing is torn apart. The playing soars as the drumming explodes, the doors coming off like they were devoured by a storm. The growls settle in and rupture, the atmospheric pressure builds dangerously, and the drums splatter as the final minute settle into the earth. The 14:43-long title track dawns in a synth/sax cloud cover feeling like the gentle moments of early morning. It’s not long until the playing comes apart and slaughters, unloading and taking apart worlds, often pulling back to let serenity into the room before the next attack. Snarling soloing takes over, then clean singing and sax enter, changing the temperature temporarily before everything is flattened again. Vicious growls strike as the land beneath you crumbles, keys emerge, and liturgical chants lead the track into the land of souls. Closer “Downfall” is an instrumental finish with keys gliding, sax echoing, and a voice playing with the origins of sin, the scourge of obedience, and the final drops leaving your mind wandering.

White Ward have been an ambitious band never completely tied to the tenets of black metal or any other metallic subgenre, and they flex that muscle further than ever before on “False Light.” This record is a jam packed 66 minutes that has so many twists and turns, avenues you never expect them to take, and a spirit that their peers in all of metal should envy. This band never fails to make every emotion inside you explode, and somehow, they manage to top themselves on the finest work of their career.

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

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

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

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

UK’s Consecration explode into scathing doom-death blend that assaults, maims psyches on ‘Cinis’

Even as it gets warmer here in the United States and pleasant weather has retuned, it can’t truly obscure all of the pain and misery that still surrounds us and the torment that lives in the psyches of so many. It’s harrowing and depressing, almost like ashes are constantly on the air, coating our lungs with blackness, making it feel impossible to move forward.

Fittingly, UK death-doom crushers Consecration named their third record “Cinis,” taken from the Latin term for “cold ashes” and constantly intertwining itself with death. It’s a fitting title for this nine-track, 58-minute monster that drags you through the darkest elements of life and makes you confront every downfall. The band—vocalist Daniel Bollans, guitarists Liam Houseago and Andy Matthews, bassist Shane Amies, drummer Jorge Figueiredo—comes on like a million earths piled upon your chest, squeezing every bit of oxygen from you, making it feel like a hopeless cause. The band also is joined by Benediction frontman Dave Ingram on a special guest vocal spot, and the sound production was handed over to the mighty Greg Chandler (Esoteric, Lychgate), who presents this band in its dankest light.

“The Dweller in the Tumulus” is the 8:20-long opener, the playing chugging as Bollans’ growls crawl menacingly toward you. The haze continues to build and oppress as the growls carve into flesh, and cavernous playing makes the pain seem even more spacious. Guitars then take off and scorch as the playing blasts to a volatile finish. “Ground to Ashes (A Cremulation)” mauls as the growls bleed, and evil cackling eats away at your wounds. The pace catches fire as the playing mashes digits, the leads blare, and the wrenching growls add more pressure and make submission the only means of survival. “Embrace of Perpetual Mourning” is the longest track, running 11:01 and beginning with clean guitars washing over everything. Sorrow wells up heavily as whispered growls plod, and ominous melody mixes with a collecting blood pool at your feet. Calculated riffs let the slow burn feel even stronger, the melodies cascade, and the power levels, leaving everything in dust. “A Dying Wish” is a brief interlude with glimmering guitars and floating energy that hovers above your head.

“These Fleeting Memories” is a 9:20-long pounder that starts with growls engulfing and the guitars boiling, slowly blazing a path. The guttural pace leans into the shadows, then melody floods as the soloing ignites, smearing blood over the surface of the earth. Finally, a dose of aggression is doled out as the playing blisters viciously, the vocals going for your guts. “The Charnel House” brings snarling guitars and fast, crunchy playing, letting the fires develop. Grime and death metal savagery combine as the viciousness multiplies and leaves everything in ashes. “A Sentient Haunting” delivers moody guitars and an attack that drubs with precision and muscle, the skies melting around you. Psyche strangeness and stabbing power become one, the guitars light up dangerously, and everything hulks to a depressing finish. “Unto the Earth Bethralled” is a hefty 9:22 and punches its way in, the grisly vocals adding a deep dose of corrosion. The track trudges heavily as it slips into colder waters and thick haze, mystical strangeness flooding and threatening. Growls mar as the playing picks up the pace, everything wrenching your blood and bones mercilessly. “In Loving Abandonment” is a closing instrumental track that lets clean guitars tangle, letting delicate darkness leave their fingerprints behind.

Consecration’s stranglehold on death-flavored doom flows over the rim on “Cinis,” their masterfully crafted third record. This is one of those experiences where you feel every bit of these 58 minutes because it’s impossible to avoid the pressure and intensity of this attack that reminds you that you aren’t well in body and spirit. This is arguably their finest record yet, a planet colliding with planet and leaving nothing but pain, misery, and inescapable trauma behind.   

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Consecration666

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

Or here: https://redefiningdarkness.8merch.com/

For more on the label go, here: http://www.redefiningdarkness.com/