PICK OF THE WEEK: Doodswens act out against the daylight, ravage with black metal on ‘Lichtvrees’

I’m not in any way vampiric, except for the occasional bloodbath for the skin to prevent aging, but my preference for is for hours when the sun disappears for the day, and the darkness spreads across my section of the Earth. There’s nothing wrong with the daytime, and that’s honestly the easiest time to take walks, but I feel most secure in the darkness, maybe because it’s harder to see me.

Eating from the diseased fruit tree that is the early 1990s black metal scene, Dutch crushers Doodswens (their name translates to “death wish”) unleash their debut full-length offering “Lichtvrees” onto the world. The title means “fear of light,” and perhaps that’s one of the reasons this record resonated with me so much. Sort of like a subconscious guide, this eight-track, 36-minute offering drips with panic and destruction, but it’s not entirely behooved to the sounds of three decades ago because they have their own bloody DNA to smear into the mix. The band—vocalist/guitarist Fraukje van Burg, drummer and Inge van der Zon—released a demo and a split before their first full record, and they deliver fury, mystery, and a lashing back at the daytime hours, the enemy of these menacing spirits.

“In Mijn Bloed” buzzes as it opens before the shrieks rip in, and the playing totally devastates, leaving your skeleton shaking. A melodic gust matches the intensity of the track, the shrieks reign, and blistering violence melts away, into the very strange “Onplaatsbaren.” This is more or less an interlude built on street sounds and a man endlessly ranting and in apparent pain, which is pretty uncomfortable to hear by design, paving the way toward “Zwarte Staar” that starts with boots crunching and a clean, reflective opening. The track takes its time cinching in its claws, but once it does, the assault is fully under way with you no match to stop it. Grisly buzzing and vocals that scrape the mind make a formidable unit as the guitars jangle later, and suddenly we’re submerged in cold waters. The vocals pelt hard, the pace hammers, and the track ends in bloodshed. “Eindzicht” brings sweltering noise and a static storm, moving through riffs and complicated melody that eats away at you. Darkness wells as the pain increases, the guitars grind and serve up misery, and the darkness spreads, plummeting the temperature. The shrieks then awaken as the playing enters a blinding gaze, slipping into psychosis.

“IJsheiligen” starts by chilling your flesh as a female voice speaks, feeling detached and horrifying. Black melodies rise and the shrieks destroy, opening veins and spilling into “Het Zwartewaterland” that’s dreamy and weird at first but then completely comes unglued. The playing rumbles viciously, lathering in total blackness as the drums decimate, and the playing feels like a drug entering your system and permanently altering your reality. The title track dawns with riffs blasting through and the shrieks pounding away, leaving you very little room for safety. The playing blends into warping chaos, and if you feel like the room is spinning and you need something to steady yourself, you’re not alone. That continues as the track numbs your mind, slipping into brief outro cut “Lichtvrees II” that sits amid quiet guitars, chirping, and speaking that fades with the horizon.

Doodswens may have designs on reviving what made the sound of ’90s black metal so penetrating, and they certainly achieve that on “Lichtvrees,” but it goes so much further than that. The psychological edge, the claws that split your mind cannot be underestimated, as those elements can leave you gutted and shaking. There’s a lot more going on here than mere black metal heyday revival, and if you sell this record short based on that, you will walk away from his record shrouded in nightmares.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/doodswens-lichtvrees-album/?goal=0_4a25200f14-d3eb44e50a-98321619&mc_cid=d3eb44e50a&mc_eid=a10b82c416

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

Der Weg Einer Freheit sprawl in nighttime, dreams, add spark to black metal on murky ‘Noktvrn’

Photo by Mario Schmitt

A few years ago when marijuana was legalized where I live, I started using THC to calm my anxiety, hoping that it would soothe some of the chaos I would feel at times and help me get a better grip on what was going on in my head. The idea worked for the most part, but I had to take a break and alter my use for a few reasons, one of which is I stopped dreaming when I used THC.

I was reflecting on that after taking on “Noktvrn,” the new record from progressive black metal band Der Weg Einer Freheit that delves deeply into the night and the dreams that accompany our slumber. Inspired by Chopin’s compositions about the night, the band—vocalist/guitarist Nikita Kamprad, guitarist Nico Rausch, bassist Nico Ziska, drummer Tobias Schuler—went about creating music that also basked in the darkness and paid homage to those later hours. Amid all of this, Der Weg Einer Freheit generated some of the most explosive, moving music of their career, and this entire thing drips with twists and turns you won’t see coming. The band also wrote two songs in English for the first time, and there are clean vocals on a few songs that add to the aura and make it even more mysterious.

“Finisterre II” is an instrumental intro cut that is awash in acoustic guitars and a hazy aura, moving through the clouds into “Monument” that also basks in gray atmosphere before things come absolutely unglued. The guitars cascade behind the driving pace, feeling both aggressive and exciting as vicious growls lacerate flesh, and the savagery continues to multiply. The tempo rages with fire as a moody stretch takes hold, shrieks hammer the ground with daggers, and the track comes to a smoldering end.  “Am Rande der Dunkelheit” ignites from the start as horrifying wails splatter, and the drums mash bones into paste. The playing is blinding and devastating, going into murky strangeness that gets into your blood, and then a new charge awakens spirits. The playing rushes from there, only to dissolve into liquid that drips away for good.

“Immortal” changes the pace a bit as it hulks in the mist with Kamprad’s clean yarling spreading over the verses. Synth waves increase the cloud coverage, and then the power arrives, the growls choking you hard. The pace sways back and forth, going from cold to raging fire, ending when the smashing bows out to the heat. “Morgen” is thunderous as it knifes through earth and rock, the growls crush, and the riffs take off. The playing adds pressure to your brain, and an atmospheric stretch lands at the feet of hell, going off as the playing implodes the earth. “Gegen das Licht” runs 11:13 and floats through the cosmos as the bass scuffs, and the playing seemingly unites with the air. Gazey lurching emerges as a savag assault is mounted, the growls mar, and the playing flattens everything ahead of you. Cold eeriness settles but then gnaws as bone, trudging chaos gallops, and the final moments are absorbed by liturgical organs. “Haven” ends the record soaring in odd auras as high clean singing chills, and we’re headlong into moodiness. A dream state is achieved as the temperature drops, the band churns, and wordless calls chill your flesh as the track melts into the ground.

“Noktvrn” is the record that really shows the possibilities Der Weg Einer Freheit hold as these seven tracks come to life and bustle with stuff not typical of most black metal. It’s enthralling and captivating, as the idea of celebrating the night and dreams that come with that feels very tangible when experiencing this record. This band is doing some pretty special things that should set them apart from their chosen sub-genre because they are proving they are capable of so much more.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): https://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.season-of-mist.com/

Pantheist expand funeral doom color to lament altered reality of pandemic with ‘Closer to God’

We’ve talked about the pandemic so much, you’re probably really tired of hearing me reference it. Or you don’t care. Whatever. But it’s a tough subject to avoid because it has impacted all of our lives, though we don’t necessarily have to always immerse ourselves in the most tragic aspects. This thing also has been irritating as hell, completely altering the way we live in grating ways.

Kostas Panagiotou, the artist who drives funeral doom band Pantheist, is feeling that too, and that frustration floods over into “Closer to God,” the sixth full-length under this banner and one of the most interesting so far. He cites the pain of the lockdown, being cut off from people, playing videogames endlessly, and even basking in the majesty of Italian composer Ennio Morricone as themes of dealing with the pandemic, not all of them bad. It’s just that things can get tiring, and where do you channel that energy? Luckily for us, Panagiotou directed that toward “Closer,” and he even managed to expand the projects’ boundaries internationally, bringing in U.S. musicians in guitarist Jeremy Lewis and drummer John Devos, both of Mesmur, as well as French guitarist Frederic Laborde of Hidden in Eternity, and Welsh bassist Matt Strangis of Doubtsower to flesh out the recording. This makes for a very well-rounded record, one that still swims in doom darkness but also expands to more mind-altering terrain that makes for an even richer journey. It also has the weirdest cover art, but you’re likely not to forget it.

“Strange Times” is the 23:47-long opener, easily the longest track on the record. There’s a heavy sense of eeriness that floats over, trudging through dreamland, speaking to you in a voice that is easily understood yet still feels like it’s in a strange tongue. Then the power arrives and blows off the doors, blistering through dark atmospheres, melting into organs, stretching into the universe, and then wrenching your guts again. Growls rush as the keys split, things turn more elegant, and then the guitars open up an entirely new world of psychedelic exploration complete with choral sections and theatrical fireworks. The heaviness returns as the shrieks ravage, emotional keys blanket, and everything spirals into distant stars. That theme carries over into “Erroneous Elation” where keys create an intoxicating fog, Floyd-like acoustics brush, and the Morricone presence is felt heavily, making it feel like you’re gazing upon a western sky, watching the sun fade forever.

“Wilderness” dawns in a synth cloud and eventually is gutted with the growls sprawling from the wound. Spacious grimness surrounds as the track scrapes along, taking raised flesh along with it. The pace halts for a moment as the keys provide coolness, and the words, “For a moment, we can breathe a sigh of relief,” is something so many of us are striving to achieve. The song ignites all over again, the track heavily pummels, and everything concludes in mystical air and strange chorals. “Of Stardust We Are Made (and to Dust We Shall Return)” ends the record, starting with airy guitars and clean singing, the keyboard drizzling precipitation. The track has a Katatonia vibe for a stretch, and then the growls sink their teeth into flesh, a gothy gaze slowly blocking your vision. Rains and heat unite, increasing the enveloping fog as a chorus rises and works on your psyche. The playing keeps aiming for the sky, ascending, reaching out its arms, finally uniting with and disappearing into the clouds.

It’s hard to even grasp reality at times, something that’s thematically been woven into so much of what we have written the past two calendar years, something Pantheist try their hands at understanding on “Closer to God.” By uniting with musicians across the globe and trying to make some sense of madness, we get the most varied Pantheist record yet and one of the most approachable. That doesn’t mean this isn’t challenging; this is still a record that demands your attention and rewards it with music that’ll fill your imagination and perhaps find some understanding in a mire of seemingly unfriendly darkness.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://pantheistuk.bandcamp.com/album/closer-to-god

Genocide Pact see no reason to be optimistic, channel that on devastating self-titled album

Photo by Brian Boeckman

You don’t come to death metal because you’re looking for an emotional boost or something to turn your dour mood around. You’re here to soak in it, to take on all the negative that’s surrounding you and perhaps even find a likeminded negative spirit with which to brood. If that’s the case, you’re going to find a lot of content to stir your misery today.

Starting off with a name such as Genocide Pact already should clue you into the fact that you’re going to approach content that isn’t really advisable if you absolutely need cheer. You won’t find it here on their self-titled new record, one that was created with the events of the past 18 months in mind. Pestilence, violence, social unrest, people who are ruthless assholes, politicians with only their bank account in mind, you name it, there’s enough to fuel a death metal record that seeks to maim those who ail us all. So, that’s what the band—guitarist/vocalist Tim Mullaney, guitarist Demir Soyer, bassist Mike Nolan, guitarist/drummer/vocalist Connor Donegan—attacked when creating these eight tracks that stretch over an economical 33 minutes, and you will come out of this disgusted and frayed, certain that taking any further punishment will not be welcome with open arms.

“Led to Extinction” opens with guitars chugging and the pace ripping holes in you. The growls punish and bury, and the simple chorus is effective and should be a jolt to hear live. The soloing just explodes, and the track crushes until it ends suddenly. “Perverse Dominion” destroys right away as the riffs haunt and the vocals grind teeth. Rumbling violence meets with smothering death, and the final moments rub your face in the soot. “Fossilized Future” is mashing and menacing, driving right through your chest, your ribcage be damned. Leads burn as the vocals turn into a mangling assault, bashing away as everything corrodes and blows up. “Mutilated Vision” pounds away with the riffs entangling and opening wounds exposed to the elements. The track slowly trudges and creates bruising before the sounds burst, sending dangerous charges carving at your bones.

“Deprive Degrade” is speedier and completely decimates, the growls digging their teeth into muscle. Complete savagery is realized while the band delivers gut punches, and the playing smears blood in your mouth. “Purged Flesh” is steaming and charging with the growls churning in your guts, and things then shift with the drums leveling buildings. The band brings a massacre complete with spacious soloing, twitching tempos, and massive thrashing that ends in fire. “Barbaric Regression” lives up to its name as it boils to life, and then the pace explodes, lathering with heaviness. The steam picks up and smashes your senses, monstrous growls belch, and the track grunts out for good. “Industrial Obedience” closes the album by bringing punishing heat and devastating growls, slithering with menace. The growls penetrate as the guitars get going, the playing scorches, and the track ends simmering in noise.

Genocide Pact do not have a lot of positivity to offer on their new self-titled record, and that’s probably for the better because it matches what everyday life has been for so many of us. Their crunching death metal just bleeds pain and disillusionment as the band unloads the pressure and anxiety they have faced along with us in a world filled with people who seemingly don’t care. This record is the last 18 months gift wrapped in pain, torment, and hurt that never seems to end.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://relapse.com/genocide-pact/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Dream Eternal mix dreary coldness with hazy anguish on ‘Tide Turns Eternal’

This time of the year, the evening often rivals mid-summer for the best skies of the year, as everything is awash in oranges and purples and horizons zipped with light. It’s a time that, depending on your mood, can invigorate you with warm feelings despite the temperatures or can be a great visual in which to stare as you wrestler with despair and pain.

If you’re in the mood to soak up the darkness, you won’t find a better place than Dream Unending’s strong debut record “Tide Turns Eternal” that mixes so many elements of heaviness that it’s hard to climb out unscathed from the experience afterward. The unexpected union of two death metal powers in Tomb Mold’s Justin Detore (drums and vocals) and Innumerable Forms’ Derrick Vella (guitars and fretless bass) turned into something altogether different, a band that has some death metal senses for sure but delves even deeper into murky waters, doom majesty, and dripping coldness, making it feel like you’re on out in the elements on one of those aforementioned autumn nights, shivering and coming to terms with what ails you emotionally. It’s dreary and punishing, something that’s a product of a strange dream that refuses to relent its grip even after you’ve awakened.

“Entrance” takes the first steps, a quick intro cut that is gloomy and strange, setting the proper aura that gets under way on “Adorned in Lies” that bathes in clean streams before growls reach out, and the fog obscures your vision. An unsettling haze stretches as the music trudges, and the vocals play tricks with your mind, further warping any wellness. The heat then picks up, the growls sludge, and the guitar work beams into the sky before disappearing. “In Cipher I Weep” has the bass quivering and guitars teasing before the thing is fully engulfed, and the synth creates a poisonous cloud. There’s a mean fury that penetrates and leads into cold streams that chill you to the bone, rendering you endlessly shivering. A mystical weirdness expands as double-kick drums rumble in your chest, the growls melt, and the guitars inject a sudden heat that scorches your icy heart.

“The Needful” is psychedelic and watery as the growls crush and the bass slinks through. A deathly march lurches as misery spreads, elegant blood tributaries flow, and the track pounds away before ending in a vortex. “Dream Unending” is the latest in the line of songs named after its creators, and at 11:07, it’s the longest cut on the record. Things purposely meander as the darkness thickens, and the playing clobbers, sending a sense of goth mystery and death morbidity. Strange speaking seems to slip in from a dream, while moody guitars collect and amplify its mystical surroundings before the playing rips open your chest. Strange winds blow, the power collects and adds pressure, and the track bubbles out in a frosty cover. “Forgotten Farewell” is a brief interlude where guitars heat up and generate steam, folding into a sound squall and toward the closing title track that wanders amid chilling wastelands paving the road to hell. Growls crush as the enveloping chaos gives off a tingling sensation all through your muscles, and the guitars generate heat that feels more mentally intrusive than comforting. Hulking growls menace as McKenna Rae’s voice adds a mysterious texture to the swarm, making you willing lose consciousness and submit to the icy deluge that encapsulates your soul forever.

Dream Unending’s debut is hitting at just the right time, when the weather is turning against us, and the frost and cold is about to take hold. “Tide Turns Eternal” packs decades of musical influences, many not metallic, and forms them into something that feels like a product of your deep slumber, amplified by your pain. This union is a strange yet effective one, something that hopefully continues to grow and warp in the future into forms we can’t even imagine in our present state.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/dream-unending

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

Metallic dreamers Daxma bask in absorbing grief, handling losses on captivating ‘Unmarked Boxes’

Photo by Ben Hirschfield

It’s easy to get bogged down in loss and grief, common themes the last year and a half for all of us, and I’ve written about it extensively based on my own experiences and pain. Getting lost in it might seem natural, especially when it feels like everything around us is negative, and that can cloud our eyes from the good that’s going on around that can be reinvigorating to our spirits.

Oakland-based post-metal quartet Daxma often wrote about philosophical and anti-capitalist political perspectives, all of which we support wholly, but this time they turned their focus inward on “Unmarked Boxes.” The title is taken from 13th century Persian poet Rumi’s work of the same name that basically says don’t grieve as the things you love come back in other forms. Not that grieving should be avoided, but one should keep in mind that positive energies shift and change, we find things of wonder and beauty in other places, and we can grow and heal through those ideas. The band—Isaac R. (guitars, vocals, bass), Jessica T. (violin, vocals, guitar, piano), Forrest H. (guitar, bass), Thomas I. (drums)—spreads these sentiments and emotions over six charged, riveting tracks that visit dark and light, misery and revitalization, all of which fill you with varied energies that help you find some sense of recovery.

“The Clouds Parted” runs 13:25 and opens unassumingly with keys dripping and teasing before the track powers open. Isaac’s vocals settle over everything, injecting power, while the drama builds and strengthens its hold. Jessica’s voice enters the fray as we have dual voices moving, amplifying the darkness, sending a deluge of sounds to swell the high point. The playing fades into dark before reemerging in a gaze, spilling slowly and bleeding away. “And the Earth Swallowed Our Shadows” moves with precision as noise moans and keys slither, and then the water rush, keeping you afloat on your journey. That leads into a murk that finally settles in echo, and then we’re into “Hiraeth,” a 13:29-long epic that’s majestic from the start. Sounds swell as Jessica’s voice explodes and drives the plot, synth sways, and strong jolts get your blood racing. The violin play amplifies and makes your mind soar, while graceful melodies encircle, the playing rains down, and everything submits to the sunset.

“Saudade” enters with acoustic guitars and some thick cloud coverage, echoes filling your mind. Gazey wailing creates a syrupy drip that enters your veins, and the gears move into “Anything You Lose,” an 11:21-long journey that starts in psychedelic clouds. Alien strangeness clouds as breezy night winds take hold, and dual vocals increase the dreaminess. As the playing unloads, it feels regal and driving with the strings calling before the guts get ripped out. The playing goes from calming to punishing, stomping and rising with a fury as frigidity takes over and smears into 9:43 closer “Comes Back in Another Form” where strings hover like a storm. Ominous bashing and a heartfelt deluge unite and increase your adrenaline while the melodies crush hard, feeling energetic and jabbing. The temperature changes for a stretch as the strings sting and the storm promises a soaking that finally arrives and bleeds into morbidity that sends endless chills down your spine.

Daxma’s power and energy are forces with which to be reckoned on “Unmarked Boxes.” That’s not just musically, where their might is apparent, but also thematically as the band gives you a place to deal with pain, loss, and regret and make sense of these darker elements. For those of us suffering, especially the ones who have been for extended period, this record is a great place to center yourself and absorb these forces and turn them into positive energy.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://majesticmountainrecords.bigcartel.com/product/daxma-unmarked-boxes-2xlp-with-etched-d-side

Or here: https://www.bluesfuneral.com/collections/releases

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

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

Apostle of Solitude battle with personal loss, thicker shadows on grim ‘Until the Darkness Goes’

If someone had come to you in February of 2020 and explained what things would look like in November 2021, how many people would have outright decided to just opt out of that whole experience? It’s been an awful stretch of existence that have robbed so many of us of our sanity, our safety, and even worse, our loved ones. It’s not over, nowhere close, and so many seem to not even care to try.

Apostle of Solitude have been carving out their doom path for almost two decades now, and they’ve been a source for some of the darker elements in life, sometimes in uncomfortable form. But you never could question their intent, and as time has gone on, their sound rounded into something larger, more melodic, and that peaks on their new record “Until the Darkness Goes.” Right away, longtime listeners will notice some changes in that there are fewer songs than usual and that their playing has grown richer, but there’s something even darker inside. They, too, were impacted by the pandemic, and one of their members lost both parents, something that also has happened to me. Therefore, the songs this band—vocalist/guitarist Chuck Brown, guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak, bassist Mike Naish, drummer Corey Webb—created for their fifth album hit even closer to home for them as this is the product of pain and suffering they very much endured and likely have to face every day when they wake up. It’s a struggle and a burden, and that comes across ion the music.

“When the Darkness Comes” dawns with strong guitar work wailing and bleeding in misery, barreling through as Brown’s singing wells in your chest. The playing travels through cold that makes your bones shake, the bass snarls, and burly crunching makes your heart feel heavy as Brown calls, “There is no way we survive,” as the track bows out. “The Union” is muscular and burns slowly while the center point pounds away. “From this truth we are taken, we all die alone,” Brown wails, making your existential heart ache as the song enters a low-end pummeling, and things buzz deeply until draining away. “Apathy in Isolation” takes time to mold and develop a mood, letting you swim in the waves. “It’s too late for sorrow, the sand’s run out,” Brown levels as the track slips into colder waters. The chorus is simple but effective as the guitars cascade, the sadness flows, and the final moments punch out.

“Deeper Than the Oceans” begins with clean riffs before things begin to buzz, and the misery spreads as Brown notes, “The requiem has begun.” The burning picks up in earnest as the soloing takes flight, and things slip into a sun gaze, giving off a late-day desert vibe. Morbid power rises, and the last gasps melt into the night. “Beautifully Dark” is a brief, yet fitting instrumental that is elegant and sunburnt, later letting the chill take over. It feels like staring into a late-afternoon winter sky, leaving you shivering as the band heads toward “Relive the Day” that immerses you into a downtrodden mood right away. “Our house of cards starts to fall, we all fall,” Brown notes as guitars hang in the air, and the shadows stretch. “Sail on alone, on and on alone, you will suffer,” Brown calls defiantly, challenging death, while the playing is somber and chilling as it bows its heads for the last time.

An Apostle of Solitude record definitely is not a great place to retreat if you need solace from the pain in the world and your own life, and if anything, records such as “Until the Darkness Goes” can compound your woes, making you face them. This brand of doom has spread its wings as of late, and its success is due to bands such as Apostle of Solitude building a solid foundation and continually applying steady blocks as time has gone on. This is another strong entry from a band that still does not get the credit and adulation they deserve.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/index.php?route=product/search&search=apostle%20of%20solitude&description=true

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

LA’s Teeth unleash death metal brutality while twisting your brains with smashing EP ‘Finite’

Photo by Brandon Mavaddat

My mouth is an endless source of misery for me, the one horrible trait I have inherited from my ancestors that haunts me and my banking account to the ends of the earth. No matter how much care I do, no matter the amount of cleaning, no matter the money dropped at the dentist, I never seem to get any sense of relief.

That’s no fault of the mangling death metal squadron Teeth, but damnit if I don’t cringe every time I see their name because of that. Hey, it’s not their fault my anxiety causes me to ruthlessly grind my soft teeth at night, but records such as their new EP “Finite” might not be helping. And that’s too bad because there is brutal and precise death metal that drips in doomy pools to absolutely ruin any mental well-being you have left. This is the band’s first release since 2019 full-length display “The Curse of Entropy,” and these five songs find the band—guitarists/vocalists Erol Ulug and Justin Moore, bassist Peter King, drummer Alejandro Aranda—in ridiculous form, twisting your brains and injuring your muscles with their clobbering savagery that, while it might leave you scarred, is a pretty good time.

“A Garden of Eyes” opens the record, and it’s the longest song, running 7:22. The track enters from a haze before it bursts, and the growls take hold and drub you, pulling you along the way. A beastly fury unloads as zaniness goes off, the waters get muddied, and the track trudges and enters an eerie sequence. Melodies are traced along the air before the next explosion, leading to a mangling assault that drowns you. “Dreamless Hieroglyphs” is ugly and driving with nasty growls slaughtering and the playing getting heavier. The band melts into rage as the earth is ground into splinters, and then we’re into “Concubine” that cuts right through you. Gargantuan mashing bruises your face as unglued thrashing sends sparks and shards of bone flying as the earth is shaken to its core. “The Fog of Futility” clobbers immediately with the growls knifing through your chest, bludgeoning as the menace hulks closer. All hell is unleashed as the band enters a monstrous phase that fries your mental circuit board.  “Scornful Nexus” finishes things off by unloading on you, peeling back your flesh and pouring copious amounts of salt inside. The playing is destructive and dizzying before cold waters rush, and a thick bassline snakes through. The band emerges from the mist with a final steely push that stomps away and leaves only refuse behind.

Even a smaller release from Teeth is mightier than most as these 22 minutes are formidable and rattling. “Finite” is direct and menacing, a five-track collection that wastes no time getting you opened up and bloodied, making sure you have no time to recover. That’s what makes Teeth such an intimidating, impressive force in that they can take half the time to leave you a crumbled mess.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/collections/teeth-collection

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Converge team with Wolfe, Brodsky & Chisholm on dream project ‘Bloodmoon: I’

Photo by Emily Birds

It’s always amusing seeing NFL teams ramp up and sign all the big free agents after the season ends, the fanbase gets all lathered up, and then they do fuck all when the next season comes. Washington Football Team was legendary for that back when their team name was way more racist, and it was clear the formula of just getting a ton of big names together wasn’t a very good one.

That could have come to a head when Converge teamed up with myriad musicians including Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm, and Steve Brodsky (Cave In) on collaborative effort “Bloodmoon: I,” but they avoided any possible negative traps and instead put together one hell of a record that showcases what they all do best. It’s not that these forces are foreign to one another: Brodksy long has had ties to Converge, playing bass on 1998’s “When Forever Comes Crashing,” and this entire crew performed reworked Converge songs at 2016’s Roadburn. But pulling together to create fresh material is much different, and having everyone involved writing and contributing not just their own parts but others as well shows just how flexible everyone involved here truly is. Wolfe and Brodsky tend to share the largest portion of the vocals here, though Jacob Bannon’s unmistakable howl also lifts heavily, while everyone else—Converge is rounded out by guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton, and drummer Ben Koller—mixes hardcore, metal, Western-style dreaming, noise, and post-rock gazing, often with all of that in the same song. It’s also a little weird that this is called a Converge record and not some collaborative name, but it’s likely easier from a marketing and recognition standpoint, so I get it.

“Blood Moon” opens the proceedings, slowly coming to life as the music clears its eyes to see the world more focused. Wolfe leads, but as the track gets rougher, Bannon emerges with his trademark yelp, and the track pushes and pulls from light to dark. Things get grislier, the intensity pours generously, and finally the structure burns down, left in a pile of soot. “Viscera of Men” splits off and feels more like a Converge track, leaving you in the dust. As the mood settles, Wolfe pushes in and lends her otherworldly voice, group vocals chant behind her, and the emotional pall thickens and becomes frosty, ending frozen in a cube. “Coil” is awash in acoustics and a gentler tone with Wolfe and Brodsky sharing vocals. “It’s like a serpent coiled inside of me,” they both call as the storm thickens. Shrieks strike hard as the pace increases, and the track comes to a riveting finish. “Flower Moon” has keys dripping and slide guitar haunting with Brodsky taking lead. The track is sinewy and mysterious, slithering darkly as the emotion thickens, with the final moments devoured by static. “Tongues Playing Dead” starts with the bass trudging and shrieks playing off the zany guitar work that increases your blood pressure. “We go silent, so, so silent,” Brodsky warns as the playing goes for your guts, electrocuting with sharp riffs and ending with a jolt of power.

“Lord of Liars” starts with guitars jarring while Wolfe’s singing and Bannon’s gutting shrieks combine and hammer. Guitars tangle as disorienting speed has its way with you, stymying and sizzling, stomping with a Zeppelin-style grit. “Failure Forever” mixes gruff with elegant, giving a different vibe as Brodsky calls, “Constant reminders of failure last forever.” Isn’t that the truth? Shrieks land hard as the track remains a grim reminder of the things that weigh on our psyches before melting into the clouds. “Scorpion’s Sting” is prickly and steely, a perfect opening for Wolfe to come on and drive the dagger deeper. The track is slower and stormy, a fiery solo lights the sky, and sounds reverberate as the song has consumed fully the dusk horizon. “Daimon” starts with anxious breathing before Wolfe knifes the surface as acoustic snaps and power jolts coexist. “Your children will answer for your crimes,” Wolfe scolds coldly as the leads come in and add to the foundation. Wolfe and Brodsky combine forces, delivering horrific imagery as quiet playing tries to wipe away the torment. “Crimson Stone” delivers guitars blazing as Wolfe and Brodsky team up again, moving into slower, disheveling territory. Bannon’s shrieks rip at flesh over the singing, your heart gushes with power, and lush and effusive playing emerges and spreads over the landscape. “Blood Dawn” is the closer and basks in a Western vibe, the declining sun still streaking the sky. Wolfe leads as chant-like vocals lather, echoes make you question your grasp on reality, and calls of “blood moon” create seismic waves that work down your chest and into your guts.

Putting together so many heavy forces could have gone to hell in less capable hands, but what Converge, Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm, and Steve Brodsky, do with these songs leads to a late-year classic, something that’ll register well into 2022. Hearing this dream finally come to fruition is rewarding as hell as this album is a surprise from front to back on the first listen, with other layers revealed on later visits. While they all have plenty of business with their own projects, hopefully this is a venture that has legs, isn’t a one-off, and perhaps opens its gates to other powers on subsequent journeys.

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

And here: https://www.facebook.com/cchelseawwolfe

And here: https://www.facebook.com/CaveIn.Official

To buy the album, go here: https://kingsroadmerch.com/epitaph-records/

Or here: https://deathwishinc.com/products/converge-bloodmoon-i

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

And here: https://deathwishinc.com/

Khemmis touch on expectations, battling with mental health on soaring, face-gripping ‘Deceiver’

Our brains and the internet have something in common: They’re both the best and worst things to ever happen to us. We grow up with a sense of self developed not just by us but by people around us, by traditions, by societal structures that do not apply to everyone. It’s easy to get down on oneself when we don’t think we’re measuring up to this imagined set of rules, and our minds drive us into the void.

A lot of this thinking flows through “Deceiver,” the excellent fourth record from doom-inspired classic heavy metal band Khemmis, and these six songs certainly are the darkest of the band’s run, even when they burst with glory. Mental health has taken a beating for so many of us, so not only do we struggle with whether we’re living up to expectations, we also have the burden of being able to cope with depression and anxiety, which the band—guitarist/vocalist Phil Pendergast, guitarist/vocalist Ben Hutcherson, drummer Zach Coleman—has plenty of experience managing themselves. There also are loftier hopes for the band with their move from 20 Buck Spin to Nuclear Blast, but this record absolutely delivers, even showing off some of their heaviest playing to date.

“Avernal Gate” gets things started, and it packs with it a surprise, namely some tasty melo-death riffs that sound decidedly Scandinavian. The vocals soar, though Hutcherson is there with his gutting growls where need be, and that element has a bigger role on this record. “These faded lives are all we have to find our way through shadowed lands, we stumble on with broken backs, holding hearts in calloused hands,” Pendergast calls as the guitars heat up and gush, violence sprawls, and the track ends in glowing embers. “House of Cadmus” begins with clean lines trickling in, and then things open in full, pushing the tempo harder and faster. There is heavier darkness, especially vocally as the moon beams are strangled, and then the growls engorge, scraping through ugly and morose as the track trickles out in pain. “Living Pyre” fires up hard as Pendergast’s singing soars with him wailing, “Outside the storm rages, injustice, bold and ageless, while I’m alone in the cold.” The track remains lit up as growls enter the mix and scrape with cinders, and the ugliness complements the elegance ideally. “I’m drowning in a mind that’s always caving in, the rivers rise and surround me,” Pendergast levels as the track burns off into the sky.

“Shroud of Lethe” starts a little doomier as it moves slowly and deliberately with Pendergast wondering, “Why should I atone and wash away the pain? I can’t trust the memories leading me astray, still I hold on to what I know are lies, written in stone.” The guitars swim and push as all the energies clash, growls peel paint, and the tempos shift into darker water, exploring its pitch-black surroundings. “Obsidian Crown” delivers sinister riffs and then slips into sorrowful terrain, clouding your heart. Great vocal melodies rise as the shrieks add a sense of terror and volatility, the blood runs cold, and the violent jarring takes over and buries the last moments in mounds of powdered bones. “The Astral Road” closes the album with clean playing, echoing leads, and a classic metal assault that emerges and takes over the land. The pace gets exciting and digs even harder, great leads flex their muscle, and Pendergast calls, “I’m praying for the rain to take it all away.” Pendergast and Hutcherson trade solos as things warm up but also start to sting, and then the shadows get thicker and smothering. “If I could throw the guilt aside, I’d let myself be washed away from the chains of pride, into the love that I feel today,” Pendergast wails as the tides rise, the playing scorches, and the final drops sink beneath the waves forever.

If anyone was worried about Khemmis falling victim to pressure because they’ve signed with metal’s largest label, you can forget those immediately as “Deceiver” is a tremendous record, one that ups the ante from their three killer releases that preceded this. The edges are darker and sharper, and the power that always was prevalent in their blood has an even greater role. This will be the band’s introduction to many listeners based on their union with Nuclear Blast, and Khemmis absolutely put their sharpest blades forward, slicing their way to even more hungry hearts and minds.

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

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

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