Von Hausswolff focuses solely on pipe organ, conjures sorrow with haunting ‘All Thoughts Fly’

Photo by Gianluca Grasselli

Being a metal site that’s also a pro wrestling site, we reserve the right to change what we’re doing every now and again just because it’s a fun things to do. But mostly because something comes along that doesn’t necessarily fall into the heavy music category but 1. should have some interest among the readership and 2. just deserves to be discussed.

We arrive at that today with “All Thoughts Fly,” the new album from Anna Von Hausswolff, though something that might take you off guard if you’re already a devoted fan of her work. While past records could have fallen into eerie doom rock territory, this one is entirely different as it contains only one element: a Swedish replica of the Arp Schnitger pipe organ that’s located in Germany. Her voice is not present (though it certainly is in spirit with her playing), and the variety of sounds she manages through a single, albeit massive, instrument is utterly flooring. Von Hausswolff says she was inspired by the Gardens of Bomarzo, also known as Sacro Bosco, or “sacred grove,” a park commissioned by Pierre Francisco Orsini in memory of and in great mourning for his late wife Guilia Farnese. The cover of the record contains a depiction of the Orcus mouth in the park, and the music here revels in pain, love, and loss that come through in waves on these seven tracks.

“Theatre of Nature” begins the record like a ghost floating above a dusty old room long abandoned before the organs pump and bleat out a melody line that repeats while the atmosphere rises further into the clouds. Coldness emerges and brings a deep frost while keys pump blood through your head, leaving you buzzing toward “Dolore Di Orsini” and its ominous, yet pastoral tones. The song emerges slowly but steadily as the organs feel like they’re calling out like a bagpipe, scraping into mournful terrain, stunning and leaving you breathless. “Sacro Bosco” arrives in gentle winds as the keys ring out and bring a claustrophobic vibe that could have you clutching the walls. Sounds reverberate and mess with your balance while sounds swelter and mar the senses, buzzing and shaking nearly uncontrollably.

“Persefone” has melodies aching and a sorrowful pall cast upon the room, feeling like a dirge. The air sizzles with emotion as elements gradually amass, drone rains down with great penetration, and everything is sucked out into a cloud. “Entering” begins with what sounds like a film slipping and thrashing off its reel as organs swell the atmosphere with dread, feeling like the sound is coming in from a great fog. That drips thick mist on your face, coating you as you move toward the title track, at 12:23 the longest track by far. The playing flutters and mesmerizes, chiming in your ears and dizzying, numbing with an angelic haze. The tones then switch, signaling an icy haze that drops, building power and strength. The organ’s presence grows larger and larger, seemingly blotting out the sun before exploding, leaving only pieces of itself behind. “Outside the Gate (For Bruna)” closes the album, feeling like a funereal message being sent to planes beyond. The organ mimics strings and then a wooshing that sounds like airplane propellers overhead, rising in volume before settling down and sinking into the earth.

Von Hausswolff’s artistry and compassion always have bled through heavily in her music, and I can’t say I wasn’t a little hesitant approaching “All Thoughts Fly” at first. But it took just a few listens for the music to sink into my bloodstream and her inspiration to become apparent to mind, body, and spirit. This is music that’ll quake you, even if it’s not dishing out decibels, and anyone who opens their mind to what’s lurking here will take a journey straight to the center of the heart that will leave you devastated.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/band/anna-von-hausswolff/

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

Amiensus’ rushing black metal stimulates senses, mauls wills on fiery, ambitious ‘Abreaction’

Photo by Josh Shields

In this time of trying to find a distraction that isn’t something damaging to one’s psyche or physical well-being, we can look to nature as well as anything that moves our spirit in the right direction. Having the windows open with a cool early autumn breeze moving into my workspace, it makes for the right mental phase where it can line up with music and permanently imprint that on my brain for years to come.

I have that experience all the time with records that have strayed with me—what was the season when we first came into contact?—and I have a feeling I may have that same relationship with “Abreaction,” the third full-length from black metal chameleons Amiensus. This music struck me really hard right in the chest a couple weeks ago when listening during work, and it happened to be one of those late-summer cool days that hinted at what lies ahead. This is their first full-length since 2015’s “Ascension,” and the band—vocalist/guitarist James Benson, guitarist/keyboard player/vocalist Alec Rozsa, guitarist Kelsey Roe, bassist Todd Farnham, drummer Chris Piette—continue to expand their palette, adding elements of forestal folk and progressive metal into their amalgamation that can be downright arresting if it hits you at the right time.

“Beneath the Waves” opens with clean strumming and Benson’s singing stretching out, with harsh cries hitting over the chorus. “What do you know? What do you feel?” is growled with menace as the drums crush, and then dreamy thunder strikes. Benson sings the same growled lines cleanly, but the shrieks return before the track bows out. “Divinity” has acoustics blending in before the track opens up with a clean singing/shrieking mix and moodier playing that sets the tone. The track eventually bursts with thoughtful chaos as the pace rumbles, the vocals swell, and the track ends in rustic energy. “To the Edge of Life” tears open with shrieks raining down, the keys aching, and the track heading into colder waters that soothe. Gazey playing builds up a lather as harsh cries strike with calls of, “Scrutinize! What did you find?” as things fire up before the gushing spills into gentle acoustics.  “A Convocation of Spirits” rises up with strong singing erupting, shrieks following, with Benson wailing, “Can you still hear me from the other side?” That causes drama to stir as violent tendencies emerge, tearing tendons, but then clean singing returns, acoustics push into the mix, and everything washes away.

“Euphorica” begins with heavy pounding as the riffs flex their muscles, and the shrieks aim to tear down walls. There is smooth singing over the chorus before murk takes over, clean trickling merges with heaviness, and waters rush hard to the shore. “Drowned” blasts in with drums crushing, guitars rinsing you with blood, and the shrieks smash boundaries. Hypnosis nears as the growls stir, while wrenching hell is administered later, while Benson’s singing adds other color streams that wash into the sea. “Cold Viscera” has a trudging pace out front while the growls land blows, and the atmosphere becomes more turbulent. The playing jerks around corners as the guitars charge up, sinister growls create bruising, and a storming fury takes the track to its end. “All That Is Unknown” awakens to growls and shrieks bustling and melodies rushing, making the playing feel dramatic and grim at the same time. The playing cascades as it captures you and takes you on a journey, crashing through calm as it blasts away. “Iconoclasm” has a bit of an Enslaved edge to it, bringing synthy punch and penetrating growls to the foggy atmosphere. Keys plink through like ice daggers as the rage builds musically, spreading great dark wings before disappearing into the night. There’s an acoustic, instrumental take on “A Convocation of Spirits” that ends the record, letting your blood pressure come back to earth.

Amiensus’ cerebral mix of black metal, progressive metal, and folk continues to do wonders on “Abreaction,” their first full-length record in five years. Benson said the record feels truer to what the band sounds like live as they’ve learned to work and play together more efficiently, and you can hear that in these exciting, full-bodied songs. This is a record that hopefully puts the band’s name on more people’s tongues, especially those who can appreciate an ambitious group that can unleash storms right from the center of their hearts.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://transcendingrecords.com/products/amiensus-abreaction-pre-order-only

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

Fins Gorephilia splatter guts, create death metal weirdness on burly ‘In the Eye of Nothing’

We’ve been trashing 2020 for the absolute shit that it’s been pretty much wall to wall (and it! Isn’t! Over! Yet!), but let’s be honest: It hasn’t been all bad. I just found out they’re building a Popeye’s like a block away, Schitt’s Creek won all the Emmy awards, and death metal still is really good, with so many bands contributing vital, bloody documents.

Toss another one on the pile as Finnish beasts Gorephilia have returned with their deadly third record “In the Eye of Nothing,” an album that’ll make any honest fan of the sub-genre downright giddy with bloodlust. Over seven tracks and about 43 minutes, the band digs deep into the morbid stuff and pulls out a record that is vile, brutal, weird, and just a blast to take on from front to back. The band—guitarist/vocalist Jukka Aho (he takes the helm from former singer Nemesis, who passed in 2018), guitarist Pauli Gurko, bassist Tami Luukkonen, drummer Kauko Kuusisalo—definitely do their homeland’s rich death metal history proud with this album, and each meaty chunk they tear off and throw at you lands with weight and precision, leaving nothing but bruises and a hammered psyche.

“Walls of Weeping Eyes” opens the record by tearing through guts and hammering away with great power, while the riffs smear plasma. A mucky chorus adds more crunch before the playing hits a downward spiral, melody bursts from the seams, and the track ends in slow-driving menace. “Perpetual Procession” has riffs churning right away before the playing shifts, and the growls gurgle with disgusting energy. The track turns thrashy and deadly with a guttural chorus that mashes digits before a searing solo. The playing continues to clobber as the growls crush while the song burns to ash. “Ouroboran Labyrinth” begins with a classic-style death riff as the tempo trucks, and the growls are worked into layers. The guitars splinter off before the gas pedal is jammed through the floor, while the guitars light up and blind, and jolting blasts end the track with bruised ribs. “Devotion Upon the Worm” punches its way in as the music slowly wrenches, the growls crawl in filth, and the atmosphere begins to boil off. There’s a ghoulish feel to the ambiance as it chews into your psyche, strange clouds hover, and mournful guitars flood and let darkness cover the land.

“Consensus” is a quick interlude that has guitars that stymie, bass protruding, and strangeness swimming toward “Simplicity of Decay” that tears through flesh and muscle and brings primal devastation. The riffs cause dizziness while the drums decimate, and then the bass liquifies rock before some eerie slide guitar brings chills to your system. The track begins to chug anew as the soloing floods over, and the track ends on a note of sudden morbid mysticism. “Not for the Weak” makes your head spin with tricky riffs and the leads immersed in madness, feeling bizarre but also violent. The soloing sprawls as it tunnels its way into the earth, overwhelming and making you question reality as it rips its way into “Death Dream,” a final interlude piece. The playing numbs your brain wrinkles as warm leads change the temperature zone, making its way to final cut “Ark of the Undecipherable” where guitars meet you with venomous stings. The band outright mauls as the guitars melt faces, and the playing stomps bodies, entering murky streams as the growls flatten your midsection. The playing erupts with dangerous energy as soloing sweeps through, the pace trudges, and the ending is buried in mud.

Gorephilia’s brand of death metal is fierce and creative, making you feel like you accidentally took something mind altering, and you’re trying to figure out how to hang on. “In the Eye of Nothing” has an awesome Finnish edge that’s pretty apparent once you first take it on, and it digs right into the filth and madness and makes you feel rightfully disoriented. This is ideally served death metal hitting at the right time when horror is in the air, and blood is ripe to be shed.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

Or here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/gorephilia-in-the-eye-of-nothing-lp/

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Svalbard push against sexism, gross treatment of women on fierce ‘When I Die…’

One would think in 2020, the worst year ever, we’d be far enough along as human beings not to lie incessantly to each other, make up shit that’s not real, and treat other people like objects and/or props for our amusement, but here we are, repeating the same old patterns because people don’t change. The internet is a hellish wasteland, and it’s not like people behave all that well in certain social situations.

One trip through “When I Die, Will It Get Better?” the new record from UK force Svalbard, is a jarring reminder that many members of humankind still have a long way to go before they’re considered decent. And so many of them probably don’t care. From harassing women to threatening LGBTQIA+ members to holding onto racist tenets to refusing to acknowledge the everyday struggles people have with mental illness and addiction, we’re still fighting so many of the same problems, and the open belching maw that is the internet has only emboldened people who’d be too afraid to act this way fading real opposition. Svalbard have been more than willing to stand on the front line of these battles as the band—vocalist/guitarist Serena Cherry, vocalist/guitarist Liam Phelan, drummer Mark Lilley (bassist Alex Hefferman played on the record but has since left the band)—unleash eight songs that address these territories, where they lash back against those who make people feel this way and stand in defiance of these creatures to the bitter end.

“Clickbait” opens in moodiness as darkness spreads, and then the whole thing explodes as Cherry’s voice smashes over the verses, leading into the venomous, “We are used as fodder to generate comments, because the presence of a woman is apparently reactive, fuck off!” An amazing surge follows, as if the sentiment is growing into a beast looking to maul, as she declares, “One day, when I’m represented, I will have control,” as the track hammers home. “Throw Your Heart Away” is intense from the start with harsh growls and the pace speeding up, leading to the drums leaving everything in the dust. “I am lost on the outskirts of your life, just feel the pain in the name of love, just fill the soil in the grave of love,” Cherry calls painfully as guitars lather and emit humidity before trickling cold for a bit ahead of the next explosion. She grits her teeth and sees the inevitable, wailing, “Trapped in a computer game, I just keep dying and continuing again,” a sentiment so on the head, it hurts. “Listen to Someone” is one of the most important tracks here lyrically, as it conveys the hurt and confusion of mental illness coupled with people who just won’t absorb their words. Cherry’s vocals are softer out front as she sings, “Don’t tell me it’s OK to not be OK then wince at everything I say, don’t act like a confidant if you’re just going to get impatient,” before the fog bursts. The pace kicks up as frustration mounts while the band backs with proper cathartic thunder as Cherry blasts, “If I could fix it like a broken limb, I would, if I could stop these thoughts and start again, I would, I would leap at the chance,” which are words that we all should take to heart and treat anyone with mental issues with the compassion they deserve.

“Silent Restraint” quakes the ground as Cherry’s voice blasts holes in the earth, and Phelan joins in with his melodic, powerful singing, as both trade back and forth. “I’m sick of feeling like a burden, I’m sick of having no control,” she cries, again in the clutches of mental duress, while the guitar work adds reds and oranges to the horizon, and the song burns away. “What Was She Wearing,” is another track that, lyrically, we need to use to educate people on matters of sexual abuse and what actually leads to it. Guitars glaze over a shoegazey approach, putting an edge of beauty on an ugly subject matter. But that calm doesn’t last long, because there is justified rage beneath the surface that cuts through as Cherry calls, “Showing flesh, showing flesh does not remove dignity, showing flesh, showing flesh, does not invalidate me,” as the storm grows and threatens. “This is the vessel I exist in, it is not a sin, my body is not a sin!” Cherry declares forcefully as the track comes to a massive end. “The Currency of Beauty” pours open as Cherry immediately stabs into the scene, calling, “I am not your trophy, I am more than my body,” while the track gears up and crushes everything in front of it. There is a brief respite from the chaos, but that turns back into a boiling cauldron as the track rages with life, and Cherry blasts, “Stop fucking rating us, stop fucking hating us, this isn’t a pageant, and it isn’t a compliment.” “Pearlescent” closes the album with cleaner tones, softer singing, and a numbing sense flowing over you, though there are cataclysms that eventually melt again. Gazey power explodes, pacing the back end of the song where Cherry dutifully insists, “For you I would die, for you I will live,” as the track leaves its blood and tears in a trail behind.

Svalbard already have made a huge dent in the heavy music scene with their incredibly infectious displays of metal and post-hardcore, and “When I Die, Will It Get Better?” is a record that not only sounds incredible, but it also stands as a must-read from a lyrical standpoint. From mental illness, to how women are treated in society (still!), to how we judge based on looks (still!), there is so much here that should be exposed to people as a whole for a sobering re-education effort designed to change matters like these. This is a vital band with a crucial message at a time when gaslighting is at its apex, and spreading new messages that reverses the abuse, torture, and hatred never has been needed more.

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

To buy the album (US), go here: https://translationloss.com/collections/pre-orders

Or here (UK): https://churchroadrecords.limitedrun.com/categories/pre-order

Or here (Japan): http://store.tokyojupiterrecords.com/#_=_

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

And here: https://churchroadrecords.limitedrun.com/

And here: https://tokyojupiterrecords.com/

Vatican Shadow conjure visions of American Middle East chaos on mesmerizing ‘Persian Pillars…’

Vatican Shadow by Sven Marquardt, 2017

There’s this notion that America in infallible, is just, and is always the force of liberty. If you live here like I do, it’s what you’re taught in schools. It’s pounded into your head, and when enemies of this country lash out, we’re told they hate our freedom, and that America will prevail. Never mind that there are plenty of reasons for parts of this world to despise us, and it’s been that way pretty much from day 1.

So-called patriots will say that sentiment such as that can only come from someone who hates America, which is complete head-in-the-sand bullshit. If you love the place you live, you need to see it for its good and bad, for that’s the only way to address the shortcomings. Dominick Fernow, who you also know from Prurient and Hospital Productions, isn’t one of the people to turn a blind eye to what people see as America’s heinous qualities. Armed with his Vatican Shadow project’s new record “Persian Pillars of the Gasoline Era,” he uses subject matter such as the U.S. overthrow of Iran in 1953, the violence and politics leading up to the Gulf War, and other similar matters to influence and inspire his music, which feels like a strange soundscape pushing you through the hottest terrain on earth. This is an instrumental record, so Fernow doesn’t lambaste you with harsh, critical words. Instead, the music swims over you and creates a dream state in which the arguable largest superpower in the world isn’t the knight in shining armor you’ve been taught and might actually be more of the great Satan than many here believe. Again, criticism is healthy; it doesn’t make you a traitor.

“Predawn Coup D’etat (Schwarzkopf Duffle Bags of Rials)” starts with Fernow creating a dramatic soundscape with precise beats and a sweeping synths gust going into a full sizzle. The music feels like it’s pushing into your brain, penetrating and playing with the wiring before the trash washes out. “Rehearsing for the Attack” has cold synth arriving as it feels like a blue-hued dream swell has taken over, soothing with a haze and beats that bounce off the walls. A mist hangs over as the beats stab out of nowhere while a whirring daze mesmerizes and cuts out. “Uncontrollable Oasis (Real Life Spy Mystery Ends With Scientist Hanged in Iran)” feels like organs bleeding into the atmosphere, opening up a portal into the mind. Beats echo as reality feels like it lifts off the ground and rushes into the sky.

“Taxi Journey Through the Teeming Slums of Tehran” starts as a fluttering storm before an onslaught of clicks and hisses arrives like a swarm, building as it rattles away and loosens screws. Murky synth rolls through the darkness as the melodies swim, and the track disappears into mystery. “Moving Secret Money” runs 10:10, and it begins with elegant keys and a bassline that has a dark wave vibe and acts as the track’s spine. Parts of this come off like something early-era Faith No More might conjure as coolness and anxiety both increase while the pressure gets heavier, and the track eventually dissolves into a mist. “Ayatollah Ferocity (The Refinery at Abadan)” is the 11:58-long closer that starts with a glimmering sheen as the beats pick up and start to storm. There’s a sense of being detached from reality mentally as machine-like penetration wears you down, and the clouds envelope and push. The final minutes are dizzying as melodies create a center and stir, and the track bows out under pressure.

Fernow has an interesting focus for “Persian Pillars of the Gasoline Era,” one that’ll rattle the cages of those who have that bizarre “America’s always right” agenda. The atmosphere he creates with these songs, that Justin Broadrick’s production certainly enhances, makes it feel sonically stimulating and even something you might use to achieve Zen even amid all of the chaos that’s a part of the story. This is an immersive and intoxicating record, and it hopefully will have you poring back through history to get a better understanding of why we’re not exactly universally embraced as a country.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/vaticanshadow

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

MSW reveals trauma involving brother’s addiction on stormy, wrenching offering ‘Obliviosus’

There are so many things in this world, just based on this year alone, that could cause one to struggle with demons and be tormented by deep-seeded issues lying under the surface. But for others, there are things that have been causing personal darkness long before this dreaded year 2020 ever struck, and they just might still exist once this has passed the rest of us.

Addiction is one of those horrible forces, and MSW, mastermind of Hell and Cloud, has faced that for more than a decade now as he and his family have dealt with his brother’s own battle. That fight is a centerpiece of MSW’s first record under his own moniker, the powerful and gut-wrenching “Obliviosus.” Here, over four tracks, MSW unleashes his sadness, frustrations, and hurt in a way unlike before, though musically you can hear some tenets of each project in the DNA. He’s joined by guests in a few spots—Carli McNutt and Jess Carroll vocally and Gina Eygenhuysen on violin—to help flesh out this document and add even more emotion and tumult to what’s going on in these songs. It’s heavy, powerful, and gripping, conveying not only the suffering MSW and his family have felt but even some of the chaos surrounding us every day. This record will crush you. The music has been available digitally since July, but the physical copy is set to be out soon, hence why we’re bringing it to you now.

“O Brother” starts with guitars clashing and doom falling as sorrowful guitars bleed into the night. McNutt’s vocals immediately haunt as she calls out before the ground breaks, and MSW’s shrieks penetrate. The tempo chugs hard as McNutt’s singing swirls in air, while the playing begins to punish hard. “I will never forgive you,” MSW calls painfully while an angelic haze drops, and guitars rain down like ice daggers. “Funus” is an instrumental bridge that immerses itself in darkness and piano drips like a cold rain, and the strings scrape in and later flood into full body. The emotional pall is heavy and makes your chest heave with pain and grief.

“Humanity” pokes open with shadow-rich guitars and strings adding a heavy glaze while the drums begin to crush, and guitars blaze. “With four angels it took my hand and yet behold, then you came along, this poison, head severed with blackened blood,” MSW calls cleanly before a huge gust strikes, and the vocals turn into a roar. “Look, our children, they’re dying with their hands held high,” he wails, digging into the pain as the leads churn in lava, and noises disappear into a flow of noise. The title track ends the record and starts with guitars agitating before a doomy storm laps shores, and the leads light up the sky. Strings flood as wordless calls connect, while the music feels like it’s floating along on a clean tide. About 10 minutes into this 19:40-long cut, MSW’s first shrieks tear open as the bass clobbers and the guitars rush. A gazey caterwaul brings added pressure, pounding away as it gusts, as MSW jolts, “Our family destroyed, dragging your fists through the open void, where are you, my brother?” Massive waves of devastation get swallowed by a noise gust, and suddenly it feels like the world is toppling before the music approaches the void and rumbles to the end.

I cannot imagine the torment that led to MSW creating the four tracks that make up “Obliviosus,” the first record MSW released under his name. These songs are centered in a chaos and hell that seems insurmountable, and the emotion, rage, and sadness that are ever present in every track never try to hide or pretend they aren’t there. MSW’s creative fire is much different here than what we hear from his other projects, and the fact that this one is so personal makes it like nothing he ever released before.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/obliviosus

Or here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/album/obliviosus

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

Skeletal Remains unleash chaos, vile death metal supremacy with smashing ‘Entombment of Chaos’

It can’t be easy to achieve death metal supremacy, what with there being like 11,000 bands out there doing it right now, and a good bit of them are pretty goddamn good. But there are bands that find their way to cut through the high weeds and dominate the swamp by just creating great art and using talent and tenacity to stand in the upper echelon of creators.

Hailing from California, where living hell literally is spreading its way across, Skeletal Remains have been blasting out top-notch death metal for several years now, and their latest record “The Entombment of Chaos” is one of their deadliest servings yet. Their first release exclusively for Century Media (the label co-released 2018’s “Devouring Mortality” along with Dark Descent), the band delivers an absolute mammoth of a record that should excite any death metal fan on any level. And this is the real thing here, as it’s brutal as hell, features mind-bending musicianship, and isn’t looking to smooth any of the jagged edges, that Skeletal Remains use to slice up your psyche. Over 11 tracks (10 if you have the vinyl version, which sounds great, BTW) and 48 minutes, the band—vocalist/guitarist Chris Monroy, guitarist Mike De La O, bassist Noah Young, and drummer Charlie Koryn (Pierce Williams has since taken over drum duties)—essentially is a mostly retooled machine that sounds deadly as ever and delivers a record that’ll burn your soul beyond recognition.

“Chasm (Intro)” is a weird, trippy first cut that opens the crypt door and lets you into the record’s hellish hall, which begins in full on “Illusive Divinity” that rips open and crushes throats. Harsh wails mar, and a raucous fury delivers a beating while the drums are hammered, and soloing tears through bone. A manic pace and deadly roars combine with fluid leads to end the track. “Congregation of Flesh” mashes and pulls away at muscle while vile growls and searing leads scorch flesh. Tricky guitars add to the assault while brains are scrambled, and the track chugs away. “Synthetic Impulse” clobbers as blinding savagery begins to spark violence. The band thrashes and delivers staggering power while leads twist bones, and the attack fires up again and blasts through the gates. “Tombs of Chaos” explodes, bringing churning chaos and vicious hell over the verses. The chorus opens up the atmosphere a bit before the hammers are dropped massively as the leads jolt, and the vocals feel like they blast from Monroy’s throat. Guitars layer and add creativity to the brutality while the track fades into maniacal coolness.

“Enshrined in Agony” is an instrumental piece with classic-style guitar work and jarring trickery, as the haunting feeling at the back end of it blends into “Dissectasy” that absolutely erupts with blood and guts. The vocals are nasty as hell as the gnarly pace grinds flesh into the ground, and the guitars ignite with fluid power. From there, the attack is just relentless before the track comes to a monstrous end. “Torturous Ways to Obliteration” crunches bones as the vocals wrench flesh as the pace trudges through mud. Animalistic wails cut into the psyche as wild soloing tests wills, and the track comes to a manic finish. “Eternal Hatred” bleeds into the scene as a slow-driving assault begins as Monroy howls, “Above all, I will remain!” Hellish blazing roasts flesh, mashing away as Monroy commands, “Bow down and pray before me.” “Unfurling the Casket” is the closer on the vinyl edition and stomps bodies into paste after the guitars emerge from the horizon. It feels like strange symbols are being carved into your chest as the leads smother and even glimmer before guttural madness returns, and the band brings the assault to a horrifying end. “Stench of Paradise Burning” is the closer on the other editions, a cover of the Disincarnate track that first emerged in 1993, which they give rightfully destructive treatment.

The death metal world is completely swamped with bands, many of them doing premium stuff, and Skeletal Remains have been one of the leading destroyers for a few years now. That continues on masterful “The Entombment of Chaos,” a record that just rips your guts out and refuses to relent during the entire run. As far as tried-and-true death metal that has its heart in the early ’90s but maintains a deadly modern edge, you aren’t going to find anyone doing it better than Skeletal Remains.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Sumac bask in waters of transformation with noise-crushed ‘May You Be Held’

Photo by Reid Haithcock

We are at a sort of crossroads as people. We’re dealing with the worst health crisis of most of our lives, and there is so much upheaval the world over, especially in the United States, that it feels like we’re building to some kind of awakening. Or an unmitigated disaster, but it depends on us to divert such a thing from happening.

Feel like I’ve said this about other records a million times, but there’s so way Sumac could have known just how profound their new album “May You Be Held” would be when it finally landed. But here we are, many of us trapped where we are, others having to make their way into the public like nothing ever happened, and we all have to make sense of it all. While in no way is this record a cure all, there’s a good chance if you immerse yourself into the chaotic world rumbling here, the music could take on a cathartic role. The band—guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner, bassist Brian Cook, drummer Nick Yacyshyn—brings forth all the elements needed for a personal transformation including the chaos, the pain, the struggles, and the hope that might be at the end of the path. Bathing in the music could make it feel like the trauma we’re been facing is burning off our bodies as we regenerate into a newer, better form.

“A Prayer for Your Path” opens the record and is almost like a reflection piece, albeit in oceans of noise, that acts as a gateway into the body of the record. Sounds reverberate as calls enter into the mix and get swallowed, leading toward a feedback rise and right into the title track, the longest track here clocking in at 19:52. Guitars crunch as Turner’s wails begin to stick, growing more animalistic as the track gets meatier. Powerful lashes are followed by an atmospheric bend that is pierced by lion roars and a mashing tempo that’s eventually erased by a long period of music hanging in the air threateningly. Drums begin to crash to the ground as slow mauling is administered, then guitars spit static as the noises coil, smearing growls and heavy clobbering into piles of dust in the ground.

“The Iron Chair” also serves guitars piping hot and attacking as the volume bursts, and molten hell flows freely and thickly in front of you. Fierce howls pummel as a psyche haze is achieved, which hints at something later, and noise pressure rises until it bursts. “Consumed” is the second-longest cut, running 16:58 and starting with noise sparks that pierce flesh. The track chugs hard and stomps mud in place as Turner calls, “So slow, so tired.” The pace hypnotizes as serene waters flow and chill flesh before the body reopens, and the vocals split atoms. From there, the track begins to tear worlds apart, bashing away, firing up a million hornets nests as vile roars crunch bones, and the band flattens everything in its wake like a comet crushing earth. “Laughter and Silence” is the nine-minute closer and is like a sound bath designed to soothe the scorched flesh from your trip through the middle. Psychedelic fog slows as the band achieves an ambiance where your mind is put to rest, you see colors and planes before unexperienced, and everything settles itself into a soaking, soft rain that carries you on your way out.

It’s beating a dead horse to mention how we’re in an unprecedented situation with a deadly virus spreading and leadership continually showing its uncovered ass, but there’s a truth to the fact that we’ll get beyond this at some point, and we must be ready for that. Sumac have the very document that could help you with that mentally and cosmically with “May You Be Held.” This is not the first time we’ve faced adversity, but what we do now depends on what our future is like, and having music like this can help open the mind and make the journey a little less terrifying to tackle.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/products/may-you-be-held

For more on the label, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/index

Napalm Death’s hellacious fury puts focus on treatment of the other on massive ‘Throes of Joy…’

The U.S. isn’t alone in this category, but we’re not particularly welcoming to outsiders, and that has been fanned into a raging storm the past few years, accelerated by a certain person occupying a white house in DC. This is despite this whole nation always been touted as a melting pot of different types of people, and this whole land being built with folks from other places.

As noted, this country isn’t an isolated case, and UK-based grind/death/punk legends Napalm Death have seen it all themselves, and they unleash all of that on their amazing new record “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.” This record, their 16th, certainly has a modern Napalm touch, but there also are elements of many of their different past eras in a way that makes for one of their heaviest, most aggressive, and exciting albums they’ve ever done. The band—vocalist Barney Greenway, guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury, drummer Danny Herrera—always have posited their work as protest music, and here on this 12-track album, they’re lighting up some of the most ferocious fires they’ve sparked in a while looking at how people unlike those in the dominant quadrant are treated and how that affects them. It can be a heartbreaking picture, but the way the band tears through this material and exacts their own rage keeps the pressure on.

“Fuck the Factoid” rips the lid off the record as the pace stampedes hard, with Greenway’s vocals almost sounding death metal in tone. Guitars mangle as the drums turn bone to dust, while the bass drives home with Greenway wailing, “Filthy fucking factoid epidemic!” “Backlash Just Because” has guitars swaggering some musical weirdness, which is a nice recurring theme on this album. The pace blisters as fury and savagery meet and burn hellaciously. “That Curse of Being in Thrall” is speedy as hell as the vocals are spat out, and the tempo utterly clobbers. “One of many unwashed on your back, platitude-shitting amorphous mass,” Greenway howls as gang-shouted sections leave bruises, and the finish mangles. “Contagion” has riffs charging away as the track explodes from the inside. “Greed is a contagion refined with a soulless poison, they negotiate in innocence with a greed that’s infectious,” Greenway accuses as dizzying insanity is unleashed, and a slurry pace emerges to bring things to a numbing finish. “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” has the bass rumbling and a sense of strangeness running through as the vocals grind along, and a sort of dream state hangs overhead. The track feels like it floats over your head, sucking you into the echoing finish. “Invigorating Clutch” has guitars that cause dizziness as its effects simmer and give off steam, churning through a chunky pace. The playing gives off a coolness that later is eaten by swaggering heat as the bizarre ending exits like a ghost.

“Zero Gravitas Chamber” delivers a strong riff that zips along, as the vocals explode past you, and the playing is a blast furnace. The approach is both violent and disorienting while the intensity never lets up for a second as Greenway wails, “Our armaments don’t slay, yes, we make them just to entertain, yes, food not bombs, please, food not bombs.” “Fluxing of the Muscle” has warped playing and the vocals melting through metal, as Greenway howls, “Throbbing muscle muscle muscle muscle!” to hammer home his point. The back end of the song has Greenway speaking his lines before exploding with screams as he repeats those words in the midst of chaos. “Amoral” feels different with brighter guitar work and more of a rock feel, with Greenway even singing gravelly, which is a nice change of pace. “In the end we’re just food for the worms, shit of the earth,” he concludes as the track bleeds out. The title track has Greenway wailing sans music before the track explodes into flames, flattening with a force, with the call of, “Expletive deleted defeated,” before the storm subsides. “Acting in Gouged Faith” is thrashy madness, with guitars twisting machines and the senses being warped. Drums crush skulls as cool riffs smother, with the track coming to a numbing end. “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” closes the album in a sludgy noise, vocals slurring, and the pace slicing into an alien haze. An industrial-style shift delivers jolts as Greenway wails, “Poke your corpse upon the golden sands, your day in the sun,” as the track comes to a nightmarish end.

Napalm Death have spent four decades now standing up for the downtrodden, fighting back against fascism, and being a raging beacon in a sometimes-unforgiving storm, and that continues on “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.” This is raging, blistering stuff, but there’s also some material here that’s a lot different from what we’re used to but also fits like a glove. This band never seems to run out of fuel, but living in this world and actually paying attention tends to keep the creative juice roaring ferociously.

For more on the band, go here: https://napalmdeath.org/scum/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

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

Russians Cross Bringer target trickery, corruption on raging opus ‘Signs of Spiritual Delusion’

We live in a strange time of delusions. You can sense that just by paying at attention to the current presidential race or, you know, to the guy in the White House and his strange band of followers who have fallen hard for an intense line of bullshit that’s ruining people’s mental states.

Much of what’s led to this has been people having a crisis of faith and falling in with an idea system that appears to promise salvation but really is flimsy fantasy with no one winning expect the people at the top. Cross Bringer hail from a world away from the American political system, as they reside in Russia, but they concentrate on similar ideas, or the theme of a prelest, on their great debut record “The Signs of Spiritual Delusion.” Trying to disassociate from delusion and lies presented to oneself and breaking the chains of dictatorship are things they’d know quite well living where they do, and the band—they are comrpised of members of Euglena and the Homeless Is Dead—channels their anger into their art and also tries to find new hope by spreading kindness, which the world needs in spades.

“Untitled (Prayer)” bleeds into the picture as sounds waft and whispers scurry, while the tide begins to rise. Shrieks rain down as the pounding is meted out slowly, pushing into “The Battle of the Weak” where Aleksandrov’s vocals rage into order, and the guitars rush into a crushing tempo. The playing is relentless and utterly shreds any sense of sanity while the drums pulverize brains, and a quick gear switch keeps things violent and blasting. “Supplication/Sacrament” is the longest track here, running 7:33, letting guitars emerge slowly before the playing it torn apart, the shrieks and guitars combine to maul serenity. Leads swirl and create a strange hell before the guitars divebomb, lighting up the room. The pace continues to pound away as the shrieks stun, the pacing brings humidity, and everything ends in scathing melodies.

“The Sun Ritual” is a quick instrumental that brings cool air and a feeling of basking in beams of light, steering into “Temptation of Naivety (Untamable Black Dog)” that opens up the record’s guts. Aleksandrov’s shrieks smear hell like piles of soot while vicious punishment is dealt, agitating the fires already set. From there, the drums explode, and the track ends in a pit of feedback. “Torture Incantation” is a healthy 6:51 and instantly delivers a burst of rage, bringing raucous fury and an increasingly rising temperature. “I hope you choke on your own choices,” Aleksandrov cries as the drums decimate, and the playing speeds and tangles. Shrieks pound flesh as a hellish fury boils over and bows out in a haze. Closer “Self-Inflicted Martyrdoma” is a massive as it begins, with guitars stabbing and shrieks stunning. “I want to disappear,” Aleksandrov calls as the anger and frustration mount a final offense, and the track smashes away, leaving a morbid blood smear.

Destroying controlling power structures and waking people up from fantasy existences may seem like an impossible mission, and for many, it actually will be a hard awakening the day reality returns. Cross Bringer shine a vicious light on that with “The Signs of Spiritual Delusion,” a great debut record that aligns black metal, hardcore, and post-rock quaking. There remains hope, hard as it may be to unearth, but finding that salvation can mean the difference between living in truth or lies.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://consouling.be/release/the-sign-of-spiritual-delusion

For more on the label, go here: https://consouling.be/