The Silver make odd, exciting mix of blistering blazes, gothy haze on exhilarating ‘Ward of Roses’

Photo by Scott Kinkade

Doing something original in heavy metal (in any genre!) is growing increasingly tougher to do because everything has already been done before. In fact, everything has been redone before, and if you’re into music because you want to find innovation you’ve never experienced, I can imagine your record collection is quite small and sad. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to try unconventional means.

The Silver contains a group of artists who have created some of the more impactful music in heavy metal over the past decade, but here, they deliver sounds you will and won’t expect from them in a way that’s never not enthralling. Their debut offering is “Ward of Roses,” and it provides eight tracks that mix a bevy of different sounds in a manner I don’t really think I’ve herd before. No, they’re not inventing new subgenres, but they’re taking sounds that have inspired them—vocalist Matt Duchemin, guitarist Matt Knox, bassist Jamie Knox (both of death maulers Horrendous), drummer Enrique Sagarnaga (from doom rollers Crypt Sermon)—and putting them into different formulas. It’s heavy, gloomy, mournful, vulnerable, and exciting, a mix that feels like they’re on to creating something that is unique to them and very much something that makes every drop of your blood sizzle with excitement.

“…First Utterance” is a fluid, fog-creating instrumental opener that sets the stage and moves toward “Fallow” where the guitars rise, and the track splits at the middle. The vocals surge and punish while the playing takes hold and tries to move the earth, while clean singing mixes in, adding gothic warmth. The track takes an autumnal turn as moody guitars lather, and savagery blasts out at the finish. “Breathe” lets guitars drip as thick bass comes to life, and anguished cries from Duchemin wail, “I couldn’t bear to call you name.” Anguished shrieks take hold as the guitars surge, the drumming welts, and the track comes to a huge, rushing end. “Vapor” runs 9:37, the longest cut here, and the drums fade over the line with the vocals joining and glazing. Doomy hell unloads as the shrieks penetrate, and your guts are wrenched as you’re tossed back and forth. A strange vibe lands later as cleaner singing tries to soothe, and then the intensity melts steel, returning to crushing psyches as the tempo dizzies and ends in dust.

“Gatekeeper” is propulsive and surging as the shrieks peel paint from the walls, and the leads heat up and add significant pressure. Terrifying cries scramble brains, the playing pummels, and the final gust leaves facial abrasions. “Behold, Five Judges” tumbles in with drums pounding and the playing coming unglued, bringing melody and devastation. The guitar work scorches hard, and the speed increases, making things more combustible as icy speaking works its way down your spine. “Oh-oh-oh” calls reverberate, the tone is mournful, and the track ends in a pit of its own ash. The title track brings agitated guitars, detached speaking, and dreamy sequences that help ice your wounds. Hearty singing sinks into the chorus while the playing rumbles in your chest, and falsetto calls leave your hair standing on end. “Then Silence…” is the final cut, starting with jabbing guitars and then shrieks that make your spine feel crunched. “Body and soul yearns to walk with yours,” is called as the fog gets thicker, and a long numbing stretch puts you into a dream state. The playing then punches back, the bass gets more muscular, and a mix of chaos and gloom unite and burn off like jet fuel.

The Silver have come up with one of the more interesting debut records of the year with “Ward of Roses,” an album that’s not very easy to classify and is better experienced than read about. The band combines so many different elements on this collection, but they do so seamlessly and never in a way that sloppily pastes things together or forces vibes. This is a fascinating record, one that feels like it changes in attitude, mission, and tone every time I hear it, which makes for a stimulating experience.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/collections/pre-orders

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

Kowloon Walled City reflect on death, aging, continue to pound using emotions with ‘Piecework’

Photo by Maria Louceiro

I’m getting exhausted writing this, and I’m sure you are reading it, but we’re in the midst of one of the toughest stretches most of us ever have experienced, but for some folks, it’s been a bigger level of hell than you can imagine. I understand some of that because my family essentially has been shredded, and even I have not had it as bad as some other people.

This comes up based on “Piecework,” the great new record from Kowloon Walled City, a favorite of ours who have operated under too many radars for too long. While lyrically the songs jump all over, inspired by various musicians and writers, as well as computer science and security, the fact is the album came to be when guitarist/vocalist Scott Evans was dealing with his father’s death. He took solace and lessons from the various women who have had major roles in his life, one being his maternal grandmother who worked at a shirt factory in Kentucky for 40 years as she raised five kids. The album’s title quite obviously is dedicated to her. Themes of death and loss, aging, and family come into play, and the band—Evans is joined by guitarist John Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Dan Sneddon–ease into their doomy noise rock, getting in and out in about a half hour but leaving their heavy mark on your heart and psyche for sure.

The title track opens the record with thick drubbing, the vocals yowling, which is a familiar component that makes the band feel so comfortable in the heart. The playing slices through as the guitars rinse wounds, the vocals tap at your head, and things trudge, slowly bruising before bleeding away. “Utopian,” partially inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s sci-fi novel Red Mars, is even heavier with the bass plodding away. There is misery in the melodies before things briefly work into calmer waters before the storm punches back. The howls pick up the intensity, the bass hammers, and the track bows out to the night. “Oxygen Tent” begins clean with the drums digging the path and then the drubbing arriving as the guitars unhinge their jaws. Dark clouds cover any hint of light as the vocals get punchier, the rumbling intensifies in your chest, and things come to a pummeling end.

“You Had a Plan” has guitars trickling over rocks as Evans’ bark explodes, and the watery ease works its way toward trouble. Leads soar into the atmosphere, harsh howls bruise, and the final notes ring out. “Splicing” is dreary and slurry as it dawns, and the bass chugs again, working toward all-star status on this album. The guitars cut through and increase the already bustling emotion, and then a brief stretch of desolation is jarred by steely guitars, splattering before pounding out. “When We Fall Through the Floor” lumbers as the playing flexes its muscles, and the thickening heat starts working its way through the cracks. “What’s hidden in the floor?” Evans calls repeatedly as the guitars lap and lather in doomy juices, and the drums stand alone as the track fades. “Lampblack” is the closer and opens in sullen mood, with the guitars beginning to churn and smoke. “You’ll never get away that way,” Evans accuses, with the heaviness weighing down, pummeling along with the bass snarling dangerously and the track turning into exhaust that fades into the air.

Kowloon Walled City has been a little underappreciated by just about everyone, but every time out, the band churns out a workmanlike mix of post-hardcore, doom, and noise rock. “Piecework” is another great building block by the band, an emotional, jabbing dagger to your ribs just to wake you from any sense of apathy. Worked into this is very human pain to which we all can relate and likely all have experienced in some form, and this record works to make that emotion a little more tangible.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.neurotrecordings.com/store

Or here: https://gileadmedia.net/products/kowloon-walled-city-piecwork-lp-pre-order

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

And here: https://gileadmedia.net/

Illudium watch as surroundings burn, personal wounds surface on soul-ached ‘Ash of the Womb’

Photo by Michelle Nisbet

Wildfires in California are not a new phenomenon, but it seems like they’ve been picking up the intensity and violence the past few years, with 2020’s making worldwide headlines amid a pandemic and a nation embroiled in demonstrations over police brutality. Last year was record-setting for wildfires in California, costing 33 lives and $12 billion in damages. But yeah, the environment is just fine.

Those fires weren’t just watched on television and the internet; people living in those areas obviously witnessed these disasters in real time, one of those being Shantel Amundson, whose Illudium has returned with their second record “Ash of the Womb” that directly was inspired by the blazes. She watched her home state turn into a strange murk while events in her own life also were simmering in tension, and it will come as no surprise that the songs on this album are darker and more foreboding than what was on debut “Septem,” sometimes making it feel like you’re working your way through a blanket of smoke. On these songs—she was joined on the record by bassist Josef Hossain-Kay and drummer Gregory Wesenfeld (who has since been replaced by Trevor Deschryver)—she weaves in tales and personal reflection that are heavy both musically and emotionally and also add to the gaze and gothic underpinnings of many dark music pools from which she extensively drinks.  

“Aster” slowly dawns as cold, dark waters flow, while Amundson’s voice floats above everything, bringing heavy shadows. The power kicks in as the ice slowly melts, creating tributaries that stretch into gaze, more bursts, and ethereal vocals that soothe the mind. “Sempervirens” starts nestled in nature as quiet guitars and numbing bass awaken, then a propulsive pace arrives and shakes things up, buzzing and bubbling before pounding. A sense of tranquility arrives as Amundson’s voice flutters, and then the tempo unloads as the force increases, only to give way to softer guitars and a never-ending haze. “Soma Sema” releases inky patterns and then some heavier blows as the vocals hypnotize, and a steely, reverberating ambiance takes over. The push and pull continues as the band plays with soft and hard areas before they thrash, sparking jolts and unleashing mesmerizing clouds cover quiver and dissolve.

“Ātopa” runs 9:06 and enters with guitars driving and Amundson’s voice putting you in a trance, feeling like it’s letting you work your way down a stream before the thunder strikes. The power lets the song spread its wings, lightly storming, remaining fluid and washing up everything with it. The mist really mounts later as the vocals begin to crush hearts, the emotional waves touch down, and everything bleeds into the periphery. “Madrigal” is 9:02 and lets clean guitars collect before the aggression ignites, and even if the singing can be delicate, it definitely leaves a dent in your side. The vocals quivers and your senses go off on their own into the night, roars make your nerves react, and the final moments push off into the sea. “Where Death and Dreams Do Manifest” closes the record and starts gently before the guitars work into your brain, and the playing feels more animalistic. The singing again aligns with your bloodstream, warming your bones as some final fires are agitated, and the guitars gush into time.

Not only are Illudium ridiculously at home on the Prophecy roster, they’re quickly becoming one of their more arresting bands, which “Ash of the Womb” steadily proves. Anyone who worships at the altars of Esben and the Witch, Cocteau Twins, Alcest, Marriages, and groups of that ilk will find themselves in a wonderful home awash in personal darkness. This is a powerful album that will have its way with your emotions and never let you forget that experience.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://lnk.spkr.media/illudium-ash-of-the-womb

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Alda take heed over planet that slowly burns with atmospheric ‘A Distant Fire’

This past summer, the Pacific Northwest was overcome with residual smoke that wafted over the region from wildfires burning in places such as Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Adding a climate that’s consistently shifting to warmer temperatures (fuck off, if you’re shaking your head in denial), it made the problem that much worse and created some surreal and horrifying environmental issues.

Long-running atmospheric black metal band Alda are native to that region (hailing from Tacoma, Wash.) and have spent the bulk of their run creating music that basks in the majesty of their natural surroundings. But on “A Distant Fire,” the band’s fourth record and first in six years (their last was 2015’s “Passages”), the band—vocalist/drummer Michael Korchonnoff, guitarists Timothy Brown and Jace Bruton, bassist Stephanie Bruton—warns of a dire future that impacts us all as we watch fire glow in the distance, ash falling on us from the skies. We have not been kind to our home, and capitalistic bullshit and political theater have prevented us from really taking this seriously, which is a stupefying thing to realize. And here we are, watching the world burn as we stare into hazy skies, wondering how toxic the air and our surroundings are becoming.  

“First Light” dawns, an instrumental open with clean guitars and a rustic atmosphere, giving off an autumnal, deep forest vibe as it works into “Stonebreaker” that rushes open and quickly blisters. The emotion is unavoidable as the band delivers a catapulting haze and infectious energy that gets into your bloodstream. There’s a push and pull, as the tempo goes from slow to stormy, and later, the riffs have their way and race toward you, your heart rushes, and the wild cries rustle through the leaves, coming out of a deluge into a final passage that basks in serenity. “Drawn Astray” runs 10:19, the second-longest track here, and it marries acoustics with an air-infusive haze before the guitar work begins to charge. The shrieks rain down and punish while the leads stretch and deliver great energy, angling into a brief trickle where you can catch your breath. Clean calls send chills before the track explodes, the fury spreads, and the clouds open and drench the ground, bowing out to quiet guitars.

“Forlorn Peaks” stretches 9:40 and swims in burning guitars and rushing growls, bringing unquestioned intensity that makes the earth shake. The guitars cut into flesh again, blistering as they make up a huge portion of this massive assault, eventually melting into a mid-tempo gust that keeps the waters bubbling, with the different shades coming unglued. The vocals smash, the guitar work agitates blazes, and the track dissolves into instrumental interlude “Loo-Wit” that settles into rustling explosions, strummed guitars, and a cooling temperature. “A Distant Fire” is the 16:37-long closer that starts with acoustics and clean singing, heartfelt guitars, and eventually an active gust that brings in the power. The track is shredded as savage howls aim toward the gut while the band keeps battling, aggravating the fires they have tended all along this record. Calls ring out as the pace comes to life, the melodies hurtle, and the mounting pressure comes to a head and mixes into a synth murk, washing into acoustics and crackling fires that make up the album’s final resting place.

Alda long have paid homage to nature and the breathtaking world that surrounds them in the Pacific Northwest, but on “A Distant Fire,” we get a more troublesome look, one that doesn’t necessarily have a healthy future. It’s no question we live in uncertain times, and our world is in need of protection more than ever, but so many seem hesitant to lift a finger to help. The fires are building, the smoke is thickening, and if we aren’t better stewards, there could be a time where the elements we need to survive turn against us for good.

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

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

Or here (Europe): https://store.eisenton.de/en/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.eisenton.de/

Canadians Atræ Bilis add weird, futuristic mind jolts to death metal with alien-like ‘Apexapien’

Photo by Derek Carr

I would say 100 percent of the music we cover here is created by artists who live on the Earth, which probably isn’t a very big stretch. But I like to think about what kind of strange metal might exist beyond this planet and what that might sound like. Do you think they have edge lords? Anyhow, it’s fun when I get something that makes me question all this Earthbound stuff because the art is that bizarre.

When it comes to death metal, there aren’t many bands making it as spindly, crushing, and confounding as Canadian beasts Atræ Bilis, whose debut full-length “Apexapien” is sure to make more than a few brains go up in smoke after experiencing this thing. Over eight tracks and about 32 minutes, this alien-like band—vocalist Jordan Berglund, guitarist David Stepanavicius, bassist Brendan Campbell, drummer Luka Govednik—tangle you in their bizarre tech-minded death metal web and keep spinning you until you’re utterly disoriented. And yes, there are moments when this record makes me wonder just how human they really are and if we haven’t been visited by advanced beings that have figured out how to bend this stuff in perverse new ways.

“Theta” is an instrumental opener connected with tangling guitars and mashing, technical wizardry, preparing you for the journey ahead and heading toward “Lore Beyond Bone” that immediately challenges your mind. Berglund’s growls, that can sound alien-like on parts of this record, squishes your mind as the band unleashes a fury that’s astonishingly well played and emotionally engaging. Some clean “ahh” calls surprise before the gears chew you up again, the guitars slice, and your sanity is shellacked. “By the Hierophant’s Maw” brings churning guitars and drums that drub, with the shrieks amplifying the intensity. Guttural growls dig into the abdomen as the things get muddier, and the bass twists up your brain wrinkles. “Open the Effigy” basks in bending guitars and gross growls that make it feel like your stomach acid is revolting. The playing is trudging and menacing, destroying you and forcing your face into soot as the rubbery finish leaves burn marks.

“Bacterium Abloom” heads deep into proggy waters, which feel pretty adventurous, and then the playing rampages with the guitars racing and the drums splattering. A dreamy haze suddenly takes hold, making you see colors you never before imagined, cutting into exploratory carnage that has an unsettling sense of warmth. “Into the Seas of Sepsis” explodes with gnarly growls and an animalistic assault that sets fire it never intends to control. There are jolts of atmosphere as the guitars allow you to breathe amid the smoke blankets, ending in a total spiral. “Hymn of the Flies” brings a super-fast pace as the growls bring corrosion and the drums hammer. Later, the guitars spit out a jerky tempo that shakes your bones, and then strange mechanical effects on the vocals turn in more of that outer space vibe, with the track dissolving into the machine. “To Entomb the Aetherworld” is the closer, bringing instant brutality and even nastier vocals, letting devastation reign. It feels like the band has opened your skull and started mixing your brains with a spoon as they deal vicious thrashing and a hammering finish that gives the record a proper volcanic exclamation point.

Death metal’s expansion over the past decade or so continues to be exciting to behold, and bands such as Atræ Bilis are the ones that will keep pushing its borders so that new ideas can continue to flourish. “Apexapien” is one you likely will have to visit a few times before it really sinks in its hooks, but once it does, you will continue to understand the machination even better. This is a record that will challenge you mentally, and that always makes for listening that’s a little more exciting than usual, especially for what we’ve come to expect from fellow Earth folk.  

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

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

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

Australian horde Norse hammer black metal doctrines, violently offer torment on weird ‘Ascetic’

For all the albums I get that choke my inbox to death, I’d say a good 60 percent of it likely is black metal. There is so damn much of it and so many bands doing it and so many records released all the time that it’s really tough to sift through it all, much less find what is actually worth devoting my time. I guess it’s a good problem to have, but standing out among that crowded pack isn’t very easy.

Bizarre Australian duo Norse never had much use for convention, and in their 16 years together, they’ve shape shifted more than once and have found ways to keep things interesting. That case is made again on “Ascetic,” their fourth overall and first since 2017, and their aim here appears to be to take black metal’s DNA and fuck it all up with different sounds and approaches. Over eight bizarre, penetrating tracks, the band—vocalist/lyricist ADR, multi-instrumentalist Forge—creates music that makes it feel like your temperature is spiking and your dreams are turning against you, showing you things you never expected existed and making you come to terms with their presence. It’s chilling, heavy, and inventive, an album that expands black metal’s reaches to the unimaginable.

“Ascetic” rumbles in and pummels as the growls smash, as a brief calm settles in before it explodes on the other end. Dizzying heat and spurts of coldness form a front, the jerky bass spatters, and the muddy gashing brings the song to a tumultuous end. “Parasite Warmongers” bubbles to the surface and chugs as the growls mar, and the humidity coats your face with added sweat. The guitars slice open veins, and a strange storm spreads, sending stymying electric pulses that disorient, mixing into the murk. “Fearless Filth Seeker” delivers staticky guitars and whispery growls, tangling with the elements. The aura swims as the growls gut, melodies mix into your bloodstream, and it feels like your brain is melting as you slip into a mist. The playing smudges, whispers haunt again, and everything is absorbed by the ground. “Accelerated Subversion” crushes right away as the bass sludges, and the playing loosens bolts. Dissonance mixes in as the shrieks kill, the heat rises, and the forces on the low end get uglier, ending in choral calls and chaos.

“Radical Depression” is eerie when it dawns, the drums tap away, and a moodiness thickens and makes it presence greater. An unsettling tone breaks through, crumbling the ground and challenging your balance, and then punches are thrown. Weird playing lands, the drums pace, and the frenetic final moments leave you jarred. “Zero Insight” brings dizzying guitars and vocals that leave abrasions, with the drumming sounding like a machine gun. The tempo comes unglued before cold water mixes with your blood, and things come apart, bringing hillsides down into valleys as the playing charges off into the cosmos. “Blight” is a quick one, but it brings the knives as strange ambiance turns into a drumming drill, the shrieks swelter, and the energy blasts into closer “Useless” that actually begins with guitars adding a chill. Then it obliterates your senses as animalistic howls crash through bone, the playing lurches, and the snarling heat blows you backward. Hypnotic lines soar, the growls eat into your mind, and the track ends with combine blades swallowing you into their clutches.

This bizarre Australian duo Norse has a very unconventional way to present black metal, and they do it in a way that keeps the subgenre’s creative gears moving into new territory. “Ascetic” is a collection that keeps you guessing and also demands and gains your attention, because how can you possibly look away? Records like this that plays in familiar territory but push the rules to the side are the ones that make this style keep growing and maintain its interest level.  

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

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

Or here (Europe): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.de/shop-en_

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Abtracter’s vile doom, death creates morbid view on our futures with ‘Abominion’

We’re about as close to being locked into a horrible cycle of hopelessness as we ever have as humans, and yeah, if you believe certain pundits lying to you on TV while storms that used to be normal have turned into beasts, then you’ve already fucked off, haven’t you? Denial of disease, lack of understanding of climate issues and other purposeful buffoonery have us right at the edge, and so many don’t care.

Oakland-based death squadron Abstracter are living in the same plane as us, and their music always seems to take a new grim, downward turn every time they respond with new music. Their latest is “Abominion,” and as expected, it’s their most suffocating, violent effort yet, an album that might even make you consider just how safe you are at the very moment you absorb these beasts. On this fourth record, they unfurl a hellish wasteland where survivors must cling to whatever they can to stay alive, if it’s even worth it, and warn about where we may be headed if a large portion of living humans don’t get informed in a hurry. The band—vocalist Mattia Alagna, guitarists Robin Khan and James Meyers, bassist G., drummer Justin Ennis—creates one of their bleakest, most oppressive displays of doom-smothered death and crust that feels like a total burial of humanity. And we could use one.

“Eclipse Born” dawns in dark, pummeling waters that seek to pull you under, tearing at your flesh as savage growls lay waste, and the destructive playing drubbing. The sounds feel like they’re rubbing your face in soot, delivering doom-sopping death that makes it heavy and impossible to move, as you might as well just submit to its will. “Warhead Twilight” burrows into the mud with the growls scraping at your flesh, the playing laying a heavy bruising, and sooty meanness corroding your insides, leaving them aching. The track turns dizzying as the misery multiplies, the darkness folds your body in half, and the vicious growls take their toll, leaving your chest heaving and heavy.

“Tenebrae” slowly awakens as the growls batter, the playing lurches, and you are put to the test. The drumming mashes as the stormy weather thickens and increases, the song digs into your psyche, and the pace lights up, twisting you into a paste. “Abyss Above” runs a healthy 10:19, situated into a noise cloud that opens into beastly growls, the playing slithering, and everything else dutifully pounding away. Mind-skewing murk lowers and envelopes, a thick fog robs you of your senses, and a calculated beating ensues as sludgy chaos increases, and the bubble bursts, bleeding out dangerously. “Lighteater” is the final boss, a 9:16-long destroyer that starts in a murky haze, slowly crawling through the damp soot, lashing as the darkness increases. The shrieks smear as the skies are devoid of any hint of light, the abrasion become almost too much to handle, and the misery multiplies out of control, disappearing into a chasm of madness that could break anyone’s will to continue.

Abstracter have been merchants of torment and angst, but on “Abominion,” things seem to have taken a severe turn toward utter hopelessness. It’s easy to say there is no reason to be optimistic about our future, as the last 18 months or so have cemented that idea, and these guys are here to remind of us of that fact and let us wallow in the pain. This document will not leave you feeling good, will not fill you with optimism, and will not lie to you about reality, because there is very little on which to cling.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/abstracter-abominion

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

Full of Hell unleash thursts of corrosive noise, death chaos on ‘Garden of Burning Apparitions’

Over the weekend, I saw a billboard on a well-traveled local roadway that related “the jab,” or the COVID-19 vaccine, with the mark of the beast that is presented in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. Having had members of my family ravaged by that disease, the only thing I could think to was figure out a way to destroy the thing, deface this message that bastardizes faith.

“Garden of Burning Apparitions,” the new LP from extreme destroyers Full of Hell, seemed to fall at the right moment. Instead of risking arrest and hefty fine, I lost myself in these 12 tracks, some of which also take to task the militarization of religion and its messages to act as scare tactics and abusive idiocy like what’s listed above. Certainly, that’s not all they cover on this explosive album, their fifth not including collaborative efforts, and as one might expect, it’s all over the map from grindcore to death to punk to black metal to noise to fucking everything else that applied to their formula. The band—Dylan Walker (vocals, electronics), Spencer Hazard (guitars), Sam DiGristine (bass, vocals), Dave Bland (drums)—is both in full command and completely unhinged as they rip through these tracks with violence and malice intended for their carefully selected victims.

“Guided Blight” immediately wreaks havoc with panic and chaos flowing generously, mixing shrieks and growls as it runs into the “Asphyxiant Blessing” that is absolutely monstrous. The dual vocals strike again with doomy drubbing, the words spreading hell, and the music burning off and leaving soot. “Murmuring Foul Spring” is strange and dark, burning with intensity and terrifying intent, pummeling and defacing before opening its jaws for “Derelict Satellite” that settles into complete racket, bubbling over a strange, deranged soundscape that doesn’t feel human in the least, delivering stabbing, animalistic power. “Burning Apparition” is a complete rampage, punching and opening veins, thrashing heavily into noise slaughter and pain. “Eroding Shell” has the riffs exploding, death growls splattering, and your guts repeatedly struck as if trying to resurface the contents of your intestines.

“All Bells Ringing” uses a strange riff as a base as the dual vocals punish, and weird tones hang overhead, clobbering as bizarre strings sting you. “Urchin Thrones” combusts and leads a mauling expedition that takes apart machines with the shrieks defacing and everything spiraling into doomy power as your eyes melt from the sockets. “Industrial Messiah Complex” has thick riffs and odd effects over the vocals, stomping as the playing haunts. The title is wailed repeatedly, driving home their point about poisonous messages hidden in religious efforts. “Reeking Tunnels” delivers jerking guitars that have a punk edge and an alluring, almost catchy tone that feels inviting, though you’re fairly certain it’s a trap, which the final moments confirm. “Non-Atomism” is a noise field with beats rumbling, making you question your sanity, paving the perverse path to closer “Celestial Heirarch” that ignites into combustible madness. Guitars spindle and spiral, the playing thrashes, and it feels like the world is coming apart beneath your feet, leaving you clinging to anything as a swarm of noise pushes you to your brink.

There’s no such thing as conventional when it comes to Full of Hell, and even if you know that going into their records, there still is nothing you really can do to prepare for records such as “Garden of Burning Apparitions.” Yet with the insanity going on here musically, do not write this off as just a bludgeoning with nothing else behind it. The tracks examine some heady, exploitative shit, topics that have haunted society for years that are raked over the coals, and no one gets out alive that the band has in its aim.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/full-of-hell

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

Wraith add blackened ferocity, punk abrasion to thrash metal on lip-splitting ‘Undo the Chains’

I tend to be a little judgmental when it comes to thrash metal, especially when newer bands try their hands at it, because so often it just goes wrong. This is one of metal’s few subgenres that actually requires a sense of acquiring the sound’s spirit, and just putting on a pair of white high tops isn’t going to do it for you. I enjoy so few of these bands, not that I haven’t tried.

But that isn’t a blanket statement on all bands, as sometimes one comes in and just nails it from the start, sort of like Indiana’s Wraith, who are in full command on their third record “Undo the Chains.” Part of what makes this band work so well is they’re not trying to put on a costume or revive an era in which they didn’t live. Instead, they get to work on these 12 tracks that blast over 32 minutes and deliver mashing, blackened, punk-fueled power that gets in your bones and does ample damage. The band—vocalist/guitarist Matt Sokol, lead guitarist Jason Schultz, bassist Chris Petkus, drummer Mike Szymendera—is locked in, hammering you with tracks that don’t overstay their welcome, splitting your lips with pulverizing intensity that also happens to be a blast of fucking fun at the same time.

The title cut opens, a quick intro piece that chugs and burns, setting the stage for what follows, with the first up being “Dominator” that amplifies the dangerous fun. “Created to kill, that’s just what he’ll do,” Sokol warns as the band delivers nasty thrashing that leaves ample facial bruising. “Gate Master” lands heavy punches as the guitars unload fire, and the raspy howls power the machine. The simple single-word chorus blisters and should do the same live, while hefty punishment keeps raining down. “Mistress of the Void” gets off to a smoking start with great guitar work getting things flowing, with Sokol wailing, “Don’t be afraid, it’s you she’s here to claim.” The band rips hard as the chorus makes its mark, ending thing with a jarring charge. “Cloaked in Black” is just mashing with a dangerous chorus that gets inside of you and the guitars spilling dump trucks of lava. Things then take a nice classic thrash bend, sending sparks as the track blasts out. “Born to Die” is in a similar vein as it unleashes some vintage metal fire, a chorus that cracks your ribcage, and dual guitars aligning and blinding.  The track keeps the energy flowing, ripping into you and leaving you a quivering pile.

“Time Wins” is a fast blast with nasty vocals, music that corrode, and a jolting, alluring attack that grinds away at your mental faculties. “Gift of Death” is speedy as hell as the bass rollicks and the vocals are spat out like they have a bitter taste. The gang shouts of the song’s title get you in the guts as the pace blinds, and the band shows some excellent fire. “Disgusting” has guitars blazing as the track goes for broke, with the simple chorus making its filthy point and rendering you too sore to move any great distance. “Bite Back” amps up quickly with Sokol howling, “Sharpen your teeth, embrace the pain,” almost like he’s giving you a violent pep talk. Catchy riffs and a slaughtering mentality combine and make all the pain you felt worth your while. “Victims for the Sword” has guitars stirring as things get out of control in a hurry, blasting by with punk fury and molten intensity, setting the stage for closer “Terminate” that wastes no time delivering the crunch. The band wails, “Terminate!” over the chorus, which live crowds are sure to mimic, and the track stomps and hammers, giving you one final taste of their storming volatility.

There have been enough bands that have tried to find thrash metal’s true spirit and have totally succumbed to the pressure, but Wraith are not one of those. What surely helps is that “Undo the Chains” is not a band trying to wear something that doesn’t fit them as they instead take a sound they love and batter it to their will. This is bruising, unforgiving, triumphant shit that is sure to get you bloodied in the pit but stronger for having endured the challenge.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.redefiningdarkness.com/products/705934-wraith-undo-the-chains

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

Pesch revisits Warlock’s classic, shows infectious intensity with punchy ‘Triumph and Agony Live’

Photo by Marko Syrjala

We don’t do a lot of live albums around here—I’m sure we’ve done them in our 10 years, but I don’t specifically remember one—and the reason is we see no real need to review them. We’re not really covering any new ground, and there’s no sense giving a blow by blow of an album that mostly contains material people have heard before. Not that we don’t love them!

But there are exceptions, and one of them is Doro Pesch’s “Triumph and Agony Live,” an excellent set that covers the 1987 Warlock classic of the same name that is one of the most important metal albums of all time. And one of the best. Pesch and her band, including Tommy Bolan who played on the original album, performed the entire album at Sweden Rock Festival in 2017, though not in the sequential order it’s presented on the LP. This collection that now celebrates the 35th anniversary of the album is an absolute must have for any Warlock or Pesch fan, or for anyone who just wants to get lost in the power of classic heavy metal. Pesch made her name at a time when there were not many women playing metal, and she’s an unquestioned pioneer, a true legend who still sounds amazing, is busting with energy, and unquestionably rules her version of the ruins, which she will defend to the death.  

“Legacy (Intro)” is a quick bit for when the band takes the stage, so you hear people getting riled up and the sense the band is getting ready to go, which they do on “Touch of Evil” that demonstrates just how powerful Pesch remains. The band sounds great, too, though one complaint that runs over the course of this entire record is the guitars and other instruments are kind of washed out so the vocals can be prominently out front. I get it. It’s Doro. But sometime that robs the songs of their power. “I Rule The Ruins” follows with Pesch leading her “hey hey hey!” chants that pop up throughout the record. The track is high energy, and the band’s gang calls over the chorus rush on the track’s last stand. “East Meets West” is one of the more aggressive tracks on “Triumph and Agony” and is punchy as hell here with Pesch in total command, the band on fire, and this thing just melting down the crowd. “Three Minute Warning” has the drums pacing, Pesch sounding strong and ideally raspy, and the solo just burning shit to the ground. “Kiss of Death” is a steamier, murkier song, a nice come down that’s still heavy but isn’t requiring your blood to pump with full force. It’s nicely positioned here.

“Für Immer” was a controversial track at the time as the label did not want the German-sung ballad on the album, only to have Pesch rightfully fight for it. That call was so obvious as three decades later it remains one that gets you in the guts, and the chorus of, “Deep inside my heart,” is so impactful. Oh, if you haven’t read Adam Tepedelen’s “Triumph and Agony” Decibel Hall of Fame piece, go check it right now. “Cold, Cold World” launches into heavy terrain with a killer echo on Pesch’s voice on the chorus, her voice like a razor blade against your neck. “Make Time for Love” is a soaring power ballad with dark synth and the singing rumbling in your chest as she bellows with emotion. “Metal Tango” is a fun one, a simple, catchy track that also was the B side to “Für Immer,” so it got a decent time in the spotlight, and the crowd eats it up here. All this builds to all-time classic “All We Are,” which is the album’s opener, but of course you’re sending the crowd home happy with this one. This is extended some as Pesch gives the crowd ample chance to sing back the iconic chorus, as well she should, and when she’s out front, she’s just unstoppable. The crowd sounds in a frenzy here, shouting back every word as Pesch praises them, giving a final adrenaline jolt to end the show on the right fiery note.

Pesch was one of the first women to prove that this is not a men’s game, and she can stand in there and rule along with the greats of the business, of which she is now one. “Triumph and Agony Live” not only is a celebration of an absolute classic metal album, but it’s also a treat for those of us who were there in the beginning to hear these songs sound just as powerful now. This is a live platter that is so much fun to behold, a jolt of energy that brings heavy metal to life in your heart and bloodstream.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://doro.lnk.to/Warlock-TriumphandAgonyLive