PICK OF THE WEEK: Sumerlands sit in driver’s seat for classic metal odyssey on blazing ‘Dreamkiller’

Photo by Jaclyn Woollard

Walk with me a moment as I think back to my high school years, late summer, right after finishing cutting the gigantic lawn (I got push mower duties). I’d make a little bit of money doing that, and those earnings almost always were turned into heavy metal cassettes, all different styles since I listened to just about everything. I get nostalgic about that, and it makes me think of when metal first claimed me.

That brings me to “Dreamkiller,” the second record from Sumerlands, a band that drinks deeply from the pools of classic heavy metal from the late 1970s and early 1980s. All of that is woven into their sound, and it gets me right in the chest because it reminds me of the days scouring for albums after finishing my lawn work. There has been a major change with the band since their 2016 self-titled debut, that being the exit of singer Phil Swanson and the arrival of new vocalist Brendan Radigan (formerly of Magic Circle), an element that made me skeptical despite being a fan of Radigan’s work. One trip with these eight songs dashed all of that as Radigan takes this thing to a new level of greatness, and the rest of the band—guitarist John Powers, guitarist/synth player Arthur Rizk, bassist Brad Raub, drummer Justin DeTore—responds in kind, turning out an insane performance that practically takes you in a collision course with metal’s history from the first seeds right up to this day.

“Twilight Points the Way” gets things off to a rousing start as riffs tangle and Radigan’s killer voice guides, calling for “one final strike against the setting sun.” The chorus is awesome and sticks in your brain, and as Radigan calls, “Will you remember our name?” the only answer is the affirmative. “Heavens Above” delivers a Dio vibe as the track feels warmer and is less intent on bruising, which is a nice change of pace. Shimmery hazes hypnotize as the tempo pushes back, and the muscular chorus mesmerizes and leaves behind its mark. The title track is spirited with the synth pulsating and forceful vocals as Radigan lashes, “Killer of dreams, stealer of time.” Great soloing launches itself across the horizon as the power eventually fades and is swallowed by space. “Night Ride” slowly builds and lets the ambiance set itself, bringing fiery early 1980s energy. The bass plods as Radigan admits, “I won’t live to see tomorrow,” as things get cooler, and the keys replace your body’s heat with icy madness.

“Edge of the Knife” brings jolting guitars and a welcoming summer feel, Radigan wailing, “We dance on the edge of the knife.” The soloing utterly melts while the chorus rushes, the steam rises, and the final moments zap away. “Force of a Storm” enters amid synth that chills bones and a vibe that’s almost tangibly neon. The gears of the machine keep moving as the singing reaches the stratosphere in spots, blistering before draining away. “The Savior’s Lie” is balmy as the keys mix into the picture, and the playing moves elegantly through clouds and into shadows. The pressure rises as the vocals hit a fever pitch, bowing to pastoral keys that pull a blanket of storm clouds across the earth. Closer “Death to Mercy” unloads with a killer riff and a blistering tempo, Radigan wailing, “On to desolation, led by the war machines.” Synth swirls and melts with blazing guitars, the playing exercises a push-pull philosophy, and everything fades into the final rays of daylight.

It’s been a long wait to get a second album from Sumerlands, but, as cliched as this will sound, it was absolutely worth the wait. “Dreamkiller” is an incredible record, one that’s been on constant rotation since the promo landed, and it brings back huge vibes from my own formative days as a metal fan. This is a perfect classic metal record from the playing to the emotion to the production, and it’s the ideal way to proclaim Sumerlands remain a devastating force that will not be toppled.  

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

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

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

Danes Dead Void devastate with doom-mashed death that feels devious on dire ‘Volatile Forms’

It’s still technically summer here, but the daylight is expiring sooner, and the skies are sullen, reminding that the cold weather and morose times are creeping up on us again. That’s not a complaint at all, as these are the days that live deep in my bones, a time to retreat into the shadows and take in darker colors and art that matches.

Danish death metal power Dead Void should be perfect fodder for the colder weather, and their debut full-length album “Volatile Forms” is a daunting, sooty destroyer that has a power and force that drags you into the dirt. The band—guitarist/vocalist K, bassist/vocalist D, drummer/vocalist A—digs deep into scuzzy, muddy doom metal, giving off some classic metallic vibes that turn your organs black. The five-track, 44-minute beast is oppressively heavy, unforgivingly bleak, and takes its toll on your psyche in a way that burns you back to your most vulnerable state.

“Atrophy” enters in a thick, doomy haze as the growls wrench, and the lurching pace aims to bury you in smoke. Speed picks up as the filth increases, punishing and battering, erupting in fiery residue that reminds on heyday Celtic Frost, at least tonally. Guitars bubble as the playing slowly mauls, scathing howls scrape minds, and eventually everything falls to ash. “The Entrails of Chaos” explodes in a savage gust as growls engorge, and mucky stomping increases the violent pressure, lightning brooding fires that coat your lungs. Growls mash as warped playing twists your psyche, guitars add more heat, and some final blasts bury this thing under bloody soil. “Sadistic Mind” takes its time developing an ambiance, turning the screws, absolutely bulldozing with strength. Growls dig deep inside and bludgeon organs while a gut-wrenching pace intensifies, drums crush, and the guitars turn rock to lava. The tempo slows crushingly as your brain is left dizzied, and infernal howls slam down the final dagger.

“The Reptilian Drive” is sludgy as hell and instantly open wounds, the growls mauling with reckless abandon. The stomping grows agitated and chaotic as the nastiness becomes an even greater factor, hammering hard and adding insults to the festering wounds. Guitars catch fire as the heat turns oppressive, blinding and turning misery into a terminal condition. Closer “Perpetually Circling the Void” is the longest track, running 11:01 and immediately bringing morose and brutal tidings as heavy blows land against the ribcage. Punishing howls dice flesh as the playing drubs mercilessly, steam rises and clouds your vision, and it feels like you’re being encased in stone, left to suffocate. Throaty growls do ample harm, the outright meanness multiplies in a hurry, and the monstrous power breaks through the earth’s crust and turns everything into a global graveyard.

“Volatile Forms” is a massive statement from Dead Void, one of those records that leaves you physically and mentally exhausted when your time with the thing has ended. The devious ghouls you only see in shadows on their promo shot dress this record in mystery and torment, almost as if they’re fleeing the scene after setting up an explosion that hasn’t reach you yet. This is mangling and horrific, an album that pulls you apart limb from limb and leaves you to suffer in your own juices.   

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

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

Or here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/dead-void-volatile-forms-lp/

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

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

Fins Spiritus Mortis light doom fires that explode with classic spirit on smoking ‘The Great Seal’

Heavy metal as an artform can be grandiose and gigantic, something that feels larger than life that can take you to places in your mind you never expected to visit. As time has gone on, the metal tree has spawned so many different branches, each one a backbone of a specific style and the bands that formed from that approach, that it’s sometimes hard to dig down into the roots where it all began.

Speaking of origins, doom metal has many bands that helped build its lofty castle, not all of them as notorious as your Sabbaths, your Vituses, your mass of candles. Finnish band Spiritus Mortis deserves to be in that same conversation, their formation some 35 years ago looming large and solidifying the selections from their home country. They have returned with their fifth album “The Great Seal,” and as is the case with so many bands, they’ve gone through a roster upheaval since their last record, 2016’s “The Year Is One.” One of the biggest is the addition of new vocalist Kimmo Perämäki (he did a turn in 2004, so maybe new is a stretch) who replaces Sami Hynninen (formerly of the Reverend Bizarre), who turns in a masterful, dramatic performance on this record. The rest of the band is rounded out by longtime guitarist Jussi Maijala and equally tenured basisst Teemu Maijala (who also handled vocals for nearly a decade), guitarist Kari Lavila, and drummer Jarkko Seppälä on a record that reminds the world this band always had a stranglehold on bringing something massive and powerful to the table. “The Great Seal” is a steady reminder of that fact.

“Puputan” opens delivering driving riffs and Perämäki’s singing that borders on sinister, bringing the perfect vibe to this record. Gothy keys thicken as strong soloing darkens the mood, the chorus melts with emotion, and the slashing power disappears into the night. “Death’s Charioteer” chugs hard as gravelly singing changes the  mood, and the fog thickens and adds to your mental confusion. Strong leads chew into muscle, the singing haunts, and the burning terror exits like a mist. “Martyrdom Operation” brings swaggering guitars and a heavy Deep Purple vibe, punchy and slithering, clashing with vintage thunder. The leads scorch flesh as Perämäki hits some ridiculous high notes, making adrenaline flow as the final fires fade in the dirt. “Skoptsy” smokes with prodding guitars and an evil cackle, as the full picture fully blossoms. “The fruits of sin shall be removed,” Perämäki howls as the chorus swallows you whole, the balminess gets thicker, and tremendous soloing melts your face off your skull.

“Khristovovery” starts with guitars mauling and breathy vocals, a classic doom metal storm forming shockingly quickly. The chorus wilts flesh and then the pace speeds up, taking on a Maiden-like gallop that gets the blood flowing. The soloing is a blast to the system, blistering and leaving your flesh amply bruised. “Vision of Immortality” is heavy and sludging, a more monstrous being that gets nastier as it goes on. The singing is even more forceful with Perämäki wailing, “I’ve seen 1,000 planets, I’ll conquer 1,000 more.” That leads to a final push that wades in power and aggression, taking us full bore into “Feast of the Lord” that begins with a rich and tasty riff that reeks of Sabbath. It’s another one that lands body shots, putting you to the test, swinging into more sullen passages that push the emotion and darkness before giving way to final wordless calls. Closer “Are You a Witch” is plodding and haunting, taking you deep into the shadows, the verses oozing oil and evil intent. The chorus digs into your bloodstream as the psychological elements increase, and some bluesy guitar work causes steam to rise and your body temperature to skyrocket. Strange speaking sends chills down your spine, the pressure mounts, and the energy gradually fades, soaking into the earth.

Spiritus Mortis continue to etch their legend as one of the finest classic doom metal bands ever to creep out of Finland (or anywhere), and key lineup changes not only didn’t derail the band, they added to the power reserve. “The Great Seal” is one hell of an adventure, a virtual lesson plan into what makes this type of music work, and why only the special bands are capable of creating something truly memorable and exceptional. This is a record that can unite longtime Sabbath fans and those still taking their first lessons in doom, as there is so much flowing nectar that everyone can be nourished.     

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

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/en/product/spiritus-mortis-spiritus-mortis-the-great-seal/1677813

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

North Dakotans Phobophilic go for human themes over blood, gore with ‘Enveloping Absurdity’

I was just whining a week ago about what kinds of death metal I like and that the gruesome qualities outweigh just about everything for me when it comes to enjoying this style of music. But that’s not a be all, end all for me because I can appreciate all different types of shades and approaches. To me, it’s more the way it sounds and is played. It’s that type of brutality I require.

North Dakota is not necessarily the first or hundredth place that comes to mind when it comes to devastating death metal, but there’s a good chance Phobophilic are going to change that whole premise. The band is getting ready to unleash their tremendous debut record “Enveloping Absurdity,” and this eight-track crusher sounds like the filthiest, grimiest death one can order from that perverse menu. But look deeper beneath the surface, and the pain and torment is replaced by explorations of the human condition, inspired by the works of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Fredrich Nietzsche. This band—vocalist/guitarist Aaron Dudgeon, guitarist/synth player Josh Poer, bassist Christian Alm, drummer Vincent Tweten—is here to make you think and not to bleed, and when the music hits this hard and this massively, the blood and guts aren’t missed one bit.

“Enantiodromia” slowly gets its juices flowing before the punches are thrown, and burly growls dig deep into your guts. Speedy riffs topple as the playing slices and dices, the soloing burns eyeballs, and the pace shifts one final time, crumbling into a doomy sprawl. “Those Which Stare Back” blisters as the growls go for the throat, punishing and consuming, the guitars snaking through murky waterways. The bass delivers a beating as the atmosphere bursts, twisting your brain and challenging your strength. “Nauseating Despair” trudges and decimates, spacious guitar work swelling and aligning with the increasingly violent weather patterns. Growls smash as the guitars tangle, splintering and charging to the finish line. “Cathedrals of Blood (Twilight of the Idols)” opens amid driving drums and great riffs, the growls engorging and becoming sinister. The playing turns into a practical burial of spirit, slowly devouring muscle and bone.

“Individuation” is a strange, spacey instrumental that delves in cosmic keys, bizarre whirs, and thickening bass that mixes with alien guitar work. Then we’re on to “The Illusion of Self” that fades in and then fully takes off, driving full force into your skull. The riffs destroy as the tempo stabs forward, bringing brutality and devastation, the guitars getting trickier as they form into a greater beast. The pace decimates as things melt into a slower, thornier monster, finally disappearing into the void. “Survive in Obscurity” launches with sooty growls and a chugging pace, knifing through the darkness. The growls crush as the guitar work jars your nervous system, the playing shorts out your mental circuit board as the final moments light up dangerously before fading away. Closer “Enveloping Absurdity” delivers crunching guitars and fluidity, adding that to aggression and muck that quickly begins to collect. The guitars warm up, the soloing adds crashing waves, and everything bubbles over, drowning the senses.

“Enveloping Absurdity” is not your typical death metal record at all, though it might take delving into the words and philosophical content for that to become clear. Phobophilic not only are a monstrously killer band capable of splitting skulls, they also force your brain to do some work, challenging what you know of death metal’s DNA and twisting that to their will. This record pays off all the promise contained on their earlier recordings and slams that into this beast of a debut that will just as easily take off your head as it will force you to expand your mind and thinking. It’s the best of both worlds.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.prostheticrecords.com/products/phobophilic-enveloping-absurdity

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Holy Fawn add new emotional waves, rich hues with pensive ‘Dimensional Bleed’

Musical boundaries are made to be destroyed, and adhering religiously to a sound or ideology could be comfort to some, shackles for others. There is merit to both approaches, but the artists that take a base and build something greater, an obelisk toward the stars that contains multiple elements and influences, tend to be the ones that create the most exciting art. Having no limits means anything is possible.

I’m sure there will be people who argue that Arizona band Holy Fawn doesn’t properly belong in the heavy metal conversation, but that would be an incredibly narrow-minded way of looking at things. Yes, they won’t rip off your head with savagery—though there are thorny bends to their music—but the weight is instead in the emotions and the heart gush. Their second record is “Dimensional Bleed,” and it’s a hefty mix of atmospheric heaviness, delicate expressions, sometimes hushed passages, and, yes, daggers you don’t see coming that pierce your chest. The band—vocalist/guitarist Ryan Osterman, guitarist Evan Phelps, bassist/vocalist Alexander Reith, drummer/vocalist Austin Reinholz—named their record after a phenomenon where multiple dimensions and timelines exist at once, and this immersive, breathtaking music can leave you gasping, sometimes holding back tears, always soaring through the atmosphere to explore other planes of existence you’ve never touched before.

“Hexsewn” starts as a gentle flow, pouring a dreamy haze that will become a common factor, the vocals soothing as we head into “Death Is a Relief” that has keys quivering and a fog enveloping. Energy bursts mix in with the moody melodies, Osterman wondering, “When the stars blur out, when our families die, will you think of me?” Shrieks unload and melt into the background as the colors blur and fade. “Lift Your Head” settles in with steady drumming and the vocals pushing you into a heavier flow of playing. The energy numbs your limbs, the increased shades mix into the sky, and things crash down with ease, the shrieks picking up and causing your flesh to blister and ooze. “Empty Vials” opens with a voice speaking and quivering calls delivering electricity to the gathering lushness. “Can I move forward in a heap of bones, as a barricade, or would I only slow you down?” Osterman calls as the playing unloads. The thornier moments prick flesh, and everything dissolves into a sound cloud. “Amaranthine” breaks in with keys glimmering and washed-out vocals pulsating, the power tailing behind. Once the energy increases, the playing ices charred wounds, everything merging into space.

The title track delivers a thick blanket of darkness and softer vocals that feel like they’re teasing your brain. “Surrender to the blackness while I am watching everything growing,” Osterman observes as a doomy steam overcomes, slowly dissolving into acoustic strains. “Sightless” enters with beats echoing, the playing meandering through the mist, opening into gushing playing. Shrieks unleash darker tidings as the tempo picks up its pace, barreling into the unknown as smeary keys close the door. “Voice of Light” has a bit of an underwater feel at first, your body shivering from the vast coldness, the vocals feeling like they’re muffled in the distance. As you surface, the dream picks up and pulls you further out, the shrieks serve as an awakening, and electricity jolts, bringing you back into consciousness. “True Loss” feels solemn as it leaks red hues, the drums punching in and increasing the somber vibes. “Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one like me out there,” Osterman calls, delivering a message that can either devastate or fill you with life, the playing feeling like it’s slowly soaking into the earth below. Closer “Blood Memory” is bleary and hushed as it enters, the vocals feeling a little higher register. The gusts land as the track opens its jaws, shrieks sending electricity down your spine. The playing turns from drizzle to driving rain, the liquified surge looms larger, and Osterman ends calling, “There is only time, a circular pattern, a hex I abide, I’ll find you again in some other life.”

Holy Fawn already had done some incredible things, made engaging art before “Dimensional Bleed” was even a germ of a thought in its members’ heads. But this record is a major step ahead for this band as they grow even more confident in their mission and find more inventive and mystical ways to activate your emotions. Maybe this record doesn’t bask in heaviness from a decibel standpoint, but you’ll feel the weight of this thing from the toll of human emotion paid long after the music stops.   

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

To buy the album, go here: https://waxbodega.limitedrun.com/categories/holy-fawn

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

Death power Bloodbath return with renewed carnage, violent rage on ‘Survival of the Sickest’

We are entering into the season where we celebrate horror and watch slasher films where blood is shed, and we bask in the vilest of human tendencies. It’s a perverse escape from the real world, where the terror actually is far worse and permeates our society, damaging people’s psyches and means of comfort. Suddenly, a masked serial killer disemboweling an innocent teen in a movie seems not too gross.

This is the perfect time of the year for us to welcome new music from Bloodbath, the long-running death metal horde dotted by some of the most accomplished musicians in the entire genre. The band—vocalist Nick Holmes, guitarists Anders Nyström and Tomas Åkvik, bassist Jonas Renkse, drummer Martin Axenrot—also spread their darkness in other powers including Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Opeth, Lik, Blasphemous, and plenty others, and they again prove their terrifying meddle on crushing sixth record “Survival of the Sickest.” With 11 tracks spread over 45 minutes, if their first new long player in four years and manages to be one of the most violent offerings on their resume, proving there is no such thing as too much bloodlust or buckets of guts one can spill on the floor. It’s gloriously gross.

“Fucked! Nowhere to run!” is how opener “Zombie Inferno” tears open, Holmes’ growls swirling around your head as the playing chugs, and the blood flows. Leads spiral as the vocals grow even more hellish, ending in a pool of guts. “Putrefying Corpse” destroys as the riffs collect and land blows, the speed becomes a greater factor, and the growls are absolutely barked. The murk collects as the band trudges anew, Holmes howling, “Kingdoms burning as the master dies, building evil from a new foundation,” as the swarms heads into hell. “Dead Parade” crashes through the gates with pure brutality as murky synth moves, and a spellbinding chorus does ample damage. A strong and inventive solo rages as things veer toward proggy territory, everything ending in shadows. “Malignant Maggot Therapy” has divebombing riffs and growls that curdle in your stomach, the pace first playing games and then engulfing fully. Total chaos is achieved as the guitars shred veins and the drums mash digits. “Carved” mashes right away, going for the throat, tearing at your muscles. The chorus is simple as the title is howled, followed by, “Disemboweled and scarred, ravenous and starved,” which is fun to hear as it probably was for Holmes to regurgitate. There are thrashier moments, blunt force in others, and everything ends in a pile of goo. “Born Infernal” brings zapping guitars and a plastering assault, the humidity eventually becoming a factor. The tempo races as the chorus mauls and Holmes belts, “Evil will tear us down into the dead of night,” as the assault burns and leaves ash behind.

“To Die” chugs with animalistic fury, the throaty growls tunneling into your chest, spilling blood. The playing turns mind-numbing as a simple, yet effective chorus makes its presence felt, slowly disappearing into the path of infernal winds. “Affliction of Extinction” brings bending leads and a brawling mentality, the channeled terror eating into your ribcage. An airy solo adds some unexpected atmosphere, yet the growls bring us back to miserable earth, Holmes calling, “For the weary choose oblivion, our saviour’s godless suicide, demented forced starvation, affliction of extinction,” as the track rests in the mud and filth. “Tales of Melting Flesh” opens with the drums mauling and riffs jolting, Holmes’ growls destroying psyches. “Oblivion, burned out, with the outmost darkened fear,” Holmes jars as the playing makes your footing increasingly unsteady, your frayed nerves treated to a warped music box that drains out at the end. “Environcide” hits hard from the start and delivers serious crunch, leading a horrific attack that doesn’t even know where the brakes are located. Horrific howls and evil cackles inject the fear and anger, while immersive leads flood your brain with colors as Arctic winds devour everything in its path. Closer “No God Before Me” stomps through mud as the pace is pulled back a few notches, though the heaviness is served generously. The playing boils in brutality, warped and scathing melodies create a tornadic effect, and Holmes howls, “The slur of demons electing death, ministry, inverted clergy I grasp at chains, my poisoned breath contaminated undead journey,” as group calls swell and drag you off into the night.

There was no reason to think a new Bloodbath record wouldn’t be a force of violence and devastation, but the carnage packed into “Survival of the Sickest” is a force you almost won’t see coming. This is a nasty, crushing, bloody serving, a death metal attack a few notches filthier than what we’ve come to expect from this super force of the most putrid art form known to humankind. That’s all a wordy way of saying Bloodbath still fucking rule, and they remain capable to delivering records that can torch even the most veteran of death metal listeners.

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

To buy the album (Europe), go here: https://napalmrecords.com/deutsch/bloodbath

Or here (North America): https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/pre-orders.html

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

Veldune haunt you on isolated journey down dark highways on immersive, chilly debut offering

I love driving at night. I don’t mean 9 p.m. I mean well after midnight when no one is on the road and you can soak in the darkness, the stars, and the soothing isolation, you left with the gears turning in your brain and reliving emotions and events that have permeated your life. There’s a sense of freedom from reality, a time to sink deep into your psyche and drink in whatever confronts you in the shadows.

The debut record from Veldune isn’t entirely devoted to night travel, but it’s a companion I want by my side next time I get to experience that journey. Comprised of artists who have played in bands as varied as Hammer of Misfortune, Sabbath Assembly, Dysrhythmia, Gorguts and plenty others comes this dark guest, traveling down highways, watching the steam rise, having misadventures in small towns with people you might never see again, and drinking in whatever it takes you put your mind at ease. The band—vocalist Jamie Myers, guitarist/synth player Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Johnny DeBlase, drummer Jeff Eber—has comprised a road record, something to assist you on your travels as you try to reach your destination, your psychological health hopefully intact.

“The Night Is for Dreamers” immediately immerses you in cold darkness as Myers sings about “a tremble as we touch” as the stars swim above your head. “In the pyre, I’m burning for your touch,” Myers calls in a mist of jazzy chill that’s eventually consumed by flame. “Willow Sways” starts with a breath as the bass plods and pushes the narrative to the edge. “The weeping willow sways,” Myers observes as the murk closes in, and moonlit streets make you question your safety and sanity. “This Time Around” opens with guitars slinking and the vibe melting like gold, flowing as Myers sees “madness in your likeness.” The track heats up from there, wood blocks echo in the night, and the guitars bubble, opening an elegant shadow that swallows you whole. “Chasing Down the Sun” is gothy and pulsing before the pace gets a little punchy. “On a trail with no end, a night with no day,” Myers levels as the leads begin to stimulate. Breezy dusk cools your flesh, the playing jolts, and everything fades into mystery.

“The Road Ahead” has guitars chiming as the mood increases and gets darker, feeling like the relaxing, somewhat disorienting nighttime drive that charges your soul. The playing drips coolly as psychedelic notes stretch out, Myers begging, “Lure me from this place,” as the color drains. “A Glimpse of Being” starts gently with Myers scolding, “We lost our way,” as things remain delicate. The pace picks up as the guitars get dreamier, soothing your wounds as all of the respective parts push harder, melting into the clouds. “Yearling Thunder” starts with the drums rousing and the guitars shimmering, making you shield your eyes from the light. Myers’ vocals reach a little higher as the dust settles, the darkness covers, and the vocals spiral, leaving you in a buzz. Closer “The Final Bow” starts in acoustics, the vocals haunting as a ’70s folk vibe is achieved and leaves an amber glow. “Give up the ghost, come take the final bow,” Myers urges as the spirits gather, bells chime, and the dark essence exists the room.

Veldune’s first recording is something that should be consumed exclusively at night, preferably after midnight ticks by and enters the early morning. That’s where these emotions are at their apex and bleed into your soul, which is the perfect time to absorb such impulses. If you’re on the open road, it’s an even better setting as it’s just you and the journey dealing with your own darkness together.

For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://veldune.bandcamp.com/releases

Danish bruisers Wayward Dawn destroy wills with doomy death assault on ‘All-Consuming Void’

I’ve said it enough times to be annoying, but the best brand of death metal is the most disgusting, brutal kind that makes you feel uneasy inside. I’m not about to abandon that sentiment anytime soon, because it’s just what does it for me when I’m angling for death metal. For some reason, it just gets the blood flowing more than the overly technical stuff.

Digging into “All-Consuming Void,” the third record from Wayward Dawn was an experience from the first time, and it continues to hammer all the right things with what I want from a death metal record. These Danish beasts go at it full bore as the band—vocalist/bassist Kasper Szupienko Petersen, guitarist Jakob Kristensen, guitarist/vocalist Rasmus Johansen, drummer Lukas Nysted—also slather their heinous art with generous amounts of ashen doom to give that old-school effect but in a way that guarantees the rot you encounter isn’t retread material at all. This is total devastation from front to back, and each journey with this bastard has cost me at least a sliver of my sanity.

“Disorienting Verminosity” dawns in static before the drumming decimates, opening up a path to straight-on death that’s picked up by “Cage of Resentment” that punishes right away. The growls intensify as the heat is turned way up, the rhythmic assault bears down, and heavy punches are volleyed and crush bone. “Isolation” has the drums turning everything to dust as gnarly riffs cut through your midsection, the growls paying the bulk of the ache. The leads burn as the vocals wrench, ending the mission in complete chaos. “The Crushing Weight” enters amid infernal growls and vicious riffs that smear blood on the walls. The pace splatters as the riffs get trickier, nastiness multiplies and sickens stomachs, and the final moments drag everything to eternal damnation.

“Bottomless Pit” enters with wailing guitars and churning that twists your insides, the mix of shrieks and growls playing games with your psyche. The playing pummels thoroughly, building to trudging guitars, scarring growls, and a final gasp that maims. “House of Mirrors” brings a rush of guitars that figure into a total demolition, the carnage leaving blisters all over your body. The heaping death metal punishment gets meaner as the guitars cut through flesh and spill guts on the floor. “Pull of the Boulder” is the longest track, running 12:26 and remaining a steady force through its lifespan. The pace is doomier and less relentless, but it’s by design as you’re here to pay the total price. Guitars become devious as the playing shreds your sanity, drums clobber, and a miserable haze hangs overhead feeling noxious. The final segment rampages a little more, the bass leaves oil slicks, and the congealing wounds are reopened as the last growls batter and leave bodies gasping behind.

“All-Consuming Void” is a perfect title for Wayward Dawn’s devastating third record as once you’re done with it, you do feel like a large chunk of your body and mind has been digested. The fury at which the band plays is impressive and deadly, delivering death metal that guts you thoroughly and spills blood on the floor. This is a massive attack, one you might not see coming until you’re inside the belly of the beast.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://emanzipation.bandcamp.com/album/all-consuming-void

For more on the label, go here: https://emanzipation.dk/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Trial (swe) hit dramatic new heights, unleash metallic glory on ‘Feed the Fire’

Switching vocalists is a major deal in any form of music. As much as the music part matters, and it truly does, the voice out front also is critical because it can either make or break what you’re trying to do. Look at Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Cannibal Corpse in their formative years. Changing that voice pushed them to new dimensions. Of course, Maiden and Priest made late changes as well that dunked their popularity into the doldrums, so it doesn’t always work.

As for Swedish heavy metal power Trial (swe), they made a change of frontman since their last record, 2017’s “Motherless,” replacing Linus Johansson with Air Raid singer Arthur W. Andersson, and it has made every difference in the world. There was nothing wrong with the band and their former vocalist at all. They made epic, meaty records that definitely had an impact and still sound great today. But the band’s new record “Feed the Fire,” their fourth, is something altogether different. This thing just booms with energy and enthusiasm, a massive record that engulfs you from moment one, takes you on roller coaster rides of emotions, and makes the blood race through your veins. The band—it’s rounded out by guitarists Alexander Ellström and Andreas Johnsson, bassist Andréas Olsson, drummer Martin Svensson—breathe incredible new life and push themselves to a new level, where they have found a special formula that blasts them into the stratosphere. This album is a total fucking blast.

“Tria Prima” is a proper introduction to this record, a quick instrumental that dawns like the morning light hitting your eyes, and then we head into “Sulphery” that ignites and absolutely gallops. Andersson’s impact is felt immediately as he brings a new element to the band, a siren of a voice that is full of emotion and fire, which is no knock on the departed Johansson. The dual guitars are razor sharp, the chorus explodes in your chest, and a huge flurry stabs an exclamation point at the end. “Thrice Great Path” is my personal favorite track here, and it starts a little darker before the fires engulf, the vocals absolutely going off. “Those who see, those who wonder,” Andersson wails, filling you with energy, as incredible dual guitars swallow you whole, ending everything in excitement. “In the Highest” explodes as the leads race breathlessly, and Andersson’s singing manages an even higher octave, which seems hard to fathom. Another huge chorus smokes, the tempo pushes and pulls, and the guitar work causes every drop of blood in your body to electrify. “Snare of the Fowler” is a nice treat as it features At the Gates frontman Tomas Lindberg who adds a nastier side to this one. The track slowly unfurls before things get speedier and infectious, the verses swagger, and then that familiar voice howls, “Go!” Lindberg’s vocals lash out and draw blood, and the fluid soloing adds even more electricity, blasting into the sky.

The deliriously catchy title track starts with a capella group singing the chorus, and then it’s onto rousing power that accelerates your heartbeat, but in a way that’ll make you feel alive. “It takes a lot to feed the fire,” Andersson calls as the guitars glimmer with life, jolting and jostling, delivering metallic crunch that jars your entire body. “The Faustus Hood” operates in the shadows, and the playing is more mid-tempo, as least for Trial (swe). Some of the guitar work feels like it feeds from folkish streams even in its electrified form, and it’s definitely the oddball of the record, which I mean in an affectionate way. The diversity is refreshing, and the final moments soar among the clouds, ending on a spirited note. “Quadrivium” fires up right away, landing punches as the verses explode with passion, the chorus once again blackening eyes. Later, the guitars have a battle of their own, dueling back and forth and giving a performance that’s riveting and flattening, fading into the horizon. Closer “The Crystal Sea” is the longest track, running 9:17 and feeling like an epic storyteller, something at which they prove quite capable. The track takes its time to build an atmosphere, and once it does, the colors dash across the sky, the earth begins to quake. The playing brings excitement but also doesn’t blow itself up, following the pace and letting the wings unfurl. Andersson’s singing digs deep, weaving tales and belting with energy, and that matches the force created by the rest of the band. It’s a satisfying ending to a great collection that has so many high points, it’s impossible to capture them all here.

Trial (swe) wasn’t really a band hurting for forward mobility, but bringing in Andersson as the new vocalist awakened something inside them, and “Feed the Fire” is an excellent record that could not have been more aptly named. This album takes them from a band with a strong grasp of pure heavy metal to something really exceptional that can transcend and swell their audience. This is this band’s finest hour, a record that we all may look back on one day as the first building block to something greater.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

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

Inventive duo Nadja draft four unique voices to color the guts of reflective opus ‘Labyrinthine’

Artists that have an endless thirst to create music is fascinating to me as I have periods of time where I can’t get motivated to do much of anything. This site is a miracle sometimes that it even exists in a regular cadence that took years to figure out. Please clap. But knowing there are bands that seem to be in constant creation mode blows me away, and that always leave me in a sense of awe.

Toronto-bred duo Nadja now hail from Berlin, and their existence has been a constant barrage of releases, none of them sounding alike. Their latest is “Labyrinthine,” which was created concurrently with their recent Southern Lord release “Luminous Rot,” and one of the main features of this album (other than the brain-stimulating music) is a guest vocalist for each song, who we will cover below. The record was, according to the album’s promotional details, inspired by Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Victor Pelevin’s reinterpretation of the story of the minotaur and Ariadne, The Helmet of Horror, and explores themes such as identity, loss, regret, and the distinction between labyrinths and mazes. Each track exists as its own creation, and the singer for each leave their own stamps that are indelible and help make the track what it is. I have a wide array of favorite Nadja releases, but this one is up there, with time and familiarity eventually figuring just where it will land.  

The title track opens and runs 14:10, and it features Alan Dubin, volatile vocalist for bands such as Khanate and Gnaw, and he adds something properly unhinged to what are otherwise thought-massaging passages. His wild shrieks penetrate as the band builds a sound cloud that glimmers with electricity. “Are you beast or are you man?” Dubin howls as the track basks in static, lulling your mind into a false sense of security as the doomy waters build. “Something claws at me!” Dubin levels over and over again as the track hovers, melts, and swirls away. “Rue” is a 12:37-long adventure that has Rachel Davies, vocalist/bassist for the alluring Esben and the Witch, and she immediately helps the song sink into foggy terrain. The playing slowly emerges as Davies taunts, “Watch me burning,” as the playing meanders in and out of shadows, never letting you feel secure. “Looking for the light ahead,” Davies calls as the playing slowly drubs, and then things scorch your flesh, noise grows more dangerous, and the buzzing intensifies and fills your ears like a late summer evening in a cicada symphony.

“Blurred” features Lane Shi Otayanii of the great Elizabeth Colour Wheel, and she adds a sultry, jazzy edge to this 17:14-long excursion. Noise swells as the drone engulfs, and Otayanii’s singing stretches out past the stars, bringing you along with her. Everything thickens as the vocals swirl, floating and haunting, making every cell in your body activate. Otayanii’s rich voice drips like honey, wordless calls move through your bones, and then she unleashes a spine-jarring shriek as the playing succumbs to echoes. Closer “Necroausterity” is the longest track at 18:57, and it features vocalist Dylan Walker from grind beasts Full of Hell, and he brings the proper amount of volatility. Growls swell as the savagery folds, the vocals sound like they’ve entered an acid bath, and you’re absolutely gutted just as the playing gets dreamier, calming your frayed nerve endings. Walker’s vocals reawaken and dig into your bones, strange throat singing haunts, and everything deliberately dismantles your psyche, lurching and bleeding away.

Nadja always have been prolific and generous with their creations, but “Labyrinthine” is one of the most inventive and unique on their massive resume. Every vocalist Nadja chose to work with on these songs brings something completely unique from the rest, and Baker and Buckareff shape-shift their sound around them, forming four completely different experiences. This record is a real treat, something in which longtime Nadja fans are sure to indulge heavily as they experience these new ripples from this imaginative duo.

For more on the band, go here: https://nadjaluv.tumblr.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://nadja.bandcamp.com/album/labyrinthine

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