Mortal Incarnation’s lumbering doom assault gets new life with reissue of ‘Lunar Radiant Dawn’

It’s a new year, and we have a lot of new music with which to visit, but not everything last year had to offer got its just due. So, in early January, before things get too out of control (which should be next week), let’s put some focus on a burly motherfucker perhaps you missed like we did.

OK, and truth be told, this isn’t even cheating, because Mortal Incarnation’s EP “Lunar Radiant Dawn” didn’t get a physical release in 2019, though Sentient Ruin is changing that in 2020. The two-track, 16-minute mauler is being given cassette and vinyl (release for this is TBA) treatment so that the Tokyo-based death-doom destroyers can creep into more people’s brains and leave them in worse shape than they found them. I know there’s a lot of death-doom stuff out there, and if you’re at overload, trust me, we understand. But you want to give “Lunar Radiant Dawn” some consideration because it’s a psyche-scarred journey you’ll take, and the band—guitarist/vocalist Septic Necrovoid, guitarist Goatlord, bassist R$Y, drummer Miasma Vortex (all their given names, might I add!)—waste zero time luring you into their vortex and, once you’re there, laying waste to your mental well-being.

We get started with “A Dismal Propagation Into Decay” with its smothering darkness and doomy soul. Vicious growls roll underneath the mire, while weird psychedelic melodies swim below the millions of layers of filth. Blinding pain ignites as burly riffs pummel and draw blood just as dreamy strangeness melts into the DNA just before dark curtains drop again. A solo detached from humanity sits in the clouds as a strange ambiance rises and disappears into the sky. “Infinite Consciousness” deals piledriving black doom that shifts through mucky riffs, though off in the distance, you can hear a bell ringing eerily into the morning sky. The riffs turn their knives on you and carve paths, utterly destroying, while a voice warbles behind the wall of pain. It suddenly feels like your mind is settling into an impenetrable fog, leaving nowhere to move, as strange paths pull you forward right into the heart of an incinerating explosion of insanity that burns everything to the ground.

You’ve got plenty of time to start putting things on that best-of 2020 list, so why not go back and enjoy some time with Mortal Incarnation, who will burn your soul to a crisp? “Lunar Radiant Dawn” might not have gotten the attention it deserved when it surfaced last summer, but the physical versions coming up should help inject new life into these songs that reek of death. It won’t even take you 20 minutes to absorb, and it’ll char your insides in a way that’ll hurt really badly but leave you wanting more.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/mortal-incarnation-lunar-radiant-dawn

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

Odious Mortem crawl back from long layoff, splatter minds with intense assault on ‘Synesthesia’

We try to celebrate and shine a light on many different styles of metal at this site, and I think it’s one of our strengths that you’re not bombarded with the same type of stuff over and over. That said, there are certain styles that don’t quite get us in the guts the way others do, and one of those is technical death metal. This is a tremendous lead in for the record we’re discussing today…

The Bay Area’s Odious Mortem have been making just that style of metal for more than two decades now, and yet despite what we said just a minute ago, their music always has worked just fine for us over here. Yeah, they’re techy for sure, but not at the expense of a heart and soul, as their stuff always sounds written by humans, played by humans. That continues on their great third album “Synesthesia,” their first in 13 years following 2007’s “Cryptic Implosion.” Comprised of three former members of Decrepit Birth, this band pounds you with expertly played stuff that is destructive and imaginative at the same time. The band—vocalist Anthony Trapani, guitarist Dave Eggers, guitarist/drummer KC Howard, bassist Joel Horner—sounds like they haven’t missed a second as they’re tight and ferocious on these 10 cuts that combine for about 38 minutes.

“Dormant Retribution” punches its way open as fierce growls strike while the riffs twist and snake toward its prey. The bass bubbles over as the playing goes into wrecking mode, ending in a smeary death assault. “Condemnation Foretold” lets the riffs go off to the races while the playing twists brains, and gruff growls skin knees. The track heads into a proggy cloud as things work into deep space, complete with sci-fi-led trails. Back on earth, the drums bash away, and the track ends in rubble. “Ruins of the Timeworn” is speedy as hell as growls splatter, and the pace shifts violently, bringing about a new savage pace. This track also sounds hellbent for the stars, with cosmic leads adding unexpected warmth. “Replenish the Earth” pulverizes from the start, eating through walls as the riffs soar. The band thrashes heavily while the vocals are spat out, and the track grinds into hell. “In Abominable Form” unveils contorting leads and monstrous vocals designed to maim. Everything blisters out of control as the music confounds and leaves minds a melting mess.

“Eagle’s Tower” opens with cleaner guitars flowing before the bass sparks an ignition, and the guitars trample all over the place. Growls rupture, and your thinking is pushed into overdrive before the soloing explodes, and the track ends in a blaze of hell. “Cave Dweller” is punchy and menacing as the riffs tangle each other up, and the playing sweeps and deals further damage. The playing builds in calculated manner while the tension splits, bringing everything to a death-defying halt. “Spirit Hole” totally blasts off from the start as the music charges hard, with the guitars travel at dangerous speeds to make their impact. Beastly growls leave bruising, while the fuel is touched off and leaves shrapnel sticking into chests. “Synchronicity” has a classical-style start, as the playing goes in loops, bringing you into a premature sense of ease. Then the hammer drops halfway through, and the beatings commence, twisting everything into a bleeding, painful mess. “Dissonant Theology” closes the book on the record and simmers in popping bass before destruction arrives. The playing is staggering in its violent power, serving growls engorged with blood, leads breaking time, and a dizzying finale that’ll make the room spin out of control.

Odious Mortem’s power and surgical precision remain and splatter all over “Synesthesia,” a very welcome return to the death metal battlefield. Hearing bands that are incredibly capable musicians but who don’t lose themselves while they’re dazzling you aren’t quite plentiful enough in the tech death field, but this band certainly hasn’t let that become a part of their translation. Their music is violent and mind-blowing, as it’s here to outright flatten your senses.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://willowtip.com/bands/details/odious-mortem.aspx

For more on the label, go here: http://willowtip.com/home.aspx

PICK OF THE WEEK: Lotus Thief put history of violence, revenge on display with dramatic ‘Oresteia’

If there’s a thing we can say definitively about us as humans it’s that we sure as shit like to kill each other. From wars to cold-blooded murders to crimes of passion to pure revenge, we don’t really cower from spilling each other’s guts when we feel the time calls for it. Happy New Year, by the way.

Bay Area metallic sound benders Lotus Thief never have shied away from the violent and tragic, and they sure don’t pull their punches on “Oresteia,” their third overall and second album for Prophecy Productions. Often pulling from Greek tragedies that they apply to modern times (scary how that works, by the way), this time they focused on Aeschylus’ trilogy of the same name, a story that balances dealing with murder, revenge, and justice. In our country alone, we deal with killings in schools, churches, malls, movie theaters, you name it, and when it comes to our foreign policy, bloodshed often jumps from people’s tongues before trying to consider diplomacy. We haven’t changed at all. And we probably never will. The band also examines gender roles based on the story, and they add extra nuance to their music as we have both a female and male perspective vocally to hash all of this out. Bezaelith (lead vocals, bass, synth, guitars) has been in the front of this band from the start, as she has navigated the band through murky but always stimulating waters. She’s joined there by AJL (additional vocals), Romthulus (guitar, vocals), Tal R’eb (guitar, synth, vocals), and Kore (drums, violin) on a record that’s packed with power and surprises, as well as that bloodshed we’ve been kind of hinting toward.

“Agamemnon” begins with Bezaelith reading from The Watchman section of the tale as the track slowly opens and reveals itself. The singing swells, though growls simmer beneath it all, and then the pace explodes. Harsh cries ring out in the fog, while the pace swoons and is shredded again, and then synth creates a fog. “True prophetess, true paramour, Woman, what deadly birth, what venomed essence of the Earth,” Bezaelith calls as the track punches and swirls into smoke. “Banishment” is a quick interlude piece that basks in atmospheric waves as the cloud cover builds, and the sounds blend into “Libation Bearers.” The song lets synth unfurl as the track situates in fluttering singing before the track explodes, and the playing goes back and forth between fire and ice. The track gets heavier, with prog waves pushing in, as Bezaelith calls, “Hear me, O father, child upon thy sepulcher, each, each, where thou art lowly laid, still stands doom invincible.” Growls inject menace, as things get even more vicious before the singing reestablishes itself, overwhelming and bringing about an icy haze that pushes into “Woe” that immediately strikes ominous tones. Murky sounds stretch their wings as light pounding thumps, bringing about a cold front that ices bones.

“The Furies” opens with wordless calls, slow drumming, and the song slowly coming into existence before things starts to chug. Synth breezes blow as the playing snakes, and Bezaelith’s devastating, powerful singing again takes center stage. The track quakes the ground beneath it, and keys and noise unite and create a stormfront, while the singing drives, pushing the plot and bringing alien synth that flows into “Reverence,” a 54-second interlude that is a sorrowful and crumbles your psyche, simmering in fog and echoes that leads the way toward “Sister in Silence.” Strings feels both woodsy and Celtic, welling up with Gothic spirits, as Bezaelith’s singing again swells and lets the emotions caterwaul, taking a neck-jerk turn, crunching the ground beneath it and tearing apart serenity. A sweltering storm settles overhead as Bezaelith calls, “Liars, may ten thousand horses break your name, vile laws of men, half-blinded visionaries all be devoured.” The track returns to calmer waters, though the track remains intense as hell, before the song rolls off into a cosmic shimmer. “The Kindly Ones” closes the album with keys murmuring and a sense of dread, as Bezaelith channels Athena’s judgment, singing, “The thirsty dust shall nevermore suck up the darkly streaming gore, of civic broils, shed out in wrath and vengeance, crying death for death!” as noise jolts, drums pound, and everything rumbles away.

Having a new Lotus Thief record so early in the year surely will help a typically slow January feel a lot more enthralling, as “Oresteia” serves up an experience that you might have to visit a few times before you fully get what’s happening here. And that’s OK, because I often find the music that stays with me the most is that which I have to earn as a participant, though this one nailed me right away. Lotus Thief continue to push the boundaries of heavy music, what we can expect from them as a unit, and the themes that have created who we are as humans, even if that means that we really haven’t changed all that much.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://prophecy.lnk.to/lotus-thief-oresteia-rervm

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

Haunt’s prolific creativity hits back as they deliver hot vintage metal assault with ‘Mind Freeze’

I have to laugh uproariously every time someone claims when a metal band, or one that’s slightly adjacent, gets shit for making music that’s too catchy or leans hard toward rock n roll. Like metal and rock n roll haven’t been entangled in a sordid affair since the very beginning, and if you poll an honest death or black metal musician, they’re going to tell you that’s where their roots lie as well.

So, it is that we have “Mind Freeze,” the brand-new record from Haunt, their third, and the first album we’re even reviewing in the year 2020. What started as a solo project for Trevor William Church while working with his other band Beastmaker turned into a full-blown band with a complete lineup and now three charging records released between 2018 and now. They’re practically as prolific as the bands to which they’re often compared (Priest, Dio, Maiden, etc.) as “Mind Freeze” lands a mere 10 months after last year’s “If Icarus Could Fly,” itself a rock-solid collection that only amplified the band’s name. This nine-track, 37-minute record is properly portioned and should strike the sweet spot of anyone who has been lured in by this band—Church is joined by guitarist John Tucker, bassist Taylor Hollman, and drummer Daniel “Wolfy” Wilson.

“Light the Beacon” begins with sci-fi synth before the track starts punching, and the strong vocals from Church hint at remembrance of people he’s lost. “I only wish I’d said goodbye,” he calls following a crushing solo and seriously catchy guitar work. “Hearts on Fire” bursts open as synth washes in, and the track is off to the races. “I see the future in my sight,” Church sings as a killer chorus gets the blood flowing, and blazing soloing fans the flames before the chorus returns and takes us out. The title cut has a tremendous riff attached and synth generating fog before Church wails, “It is freezing in my mind.” The track feels a lot like an early ’80s Ozzy song, which fills the heart with nostalgia, with Church wondering, “The frost is taking over, how long will I last?” as things burn to a close. “Divide and Conquer” has riffs surging and the pace kicking up before keys slither through, and the leads roar. The playing splatters all over before things come to a rousing end.

“Saviors of Man” leads in with the synth driving, the verses catching on, and the track pulsating, with Church urging, “If someone would save us from ourselves.” The track then speeds up before a solo burns, and the chorus drops the curtain. “Fight or Flight” opens up and just soars with the verses delivered more forcefully, and the vocals sounding a littler grittier. Dual leads deliver metallic glory before things come to a punishing end. “Have No Fear” delivers keys that sound like they’re conjured from three decades ago (which is a plus) before the track gallops hard, and Church delivers the song’s simple, effective message over the chorus. Guitars and keys mix and rumble together as the chorus brushes back, and the song blasts mouths on its way out. “On the Stage” has a glorious start that keeps building its intensity with the leads lighting up and fluttering and the track blasting you in the chest. Adventurous “Voyager” ends the set and starts when drums awaken, and synth blends into the mix. The verses fire up as the chorus is fun and blistering, with the guitars and keys trading off. The drums again pound hard while soloing spreads before the track surges and fades away.

Haunt definitely feel on the verge of exploding with “Mind Freeze” (a Decibel cover story also should help out the cause), and once people get their hands on this music, the mania is only expected to rise. This is well played and executed, but it’s also a blast of fun to hear emanating from your speakers, your headphones, what have you. This band obviously has its tank full of fuel and passion, and it won’t be shocking in the least if “Mind Freeze” has a younger sibling later this year or next.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/pre-orders.asp

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

1. MIZMOR, ‘Cairn’ (Gilead Media)

Picking a no. 1 record each year isn’t always easy. This year was one of those because there were so many great releases that meant something to me and resonated that isolating just one proved more difficult than I imagined. At the same time, when it became clear to me that “Cairn,” the third long player from Mizmor, was that choice, it seemed like all the mental wrestling I had done to come up with what record should stand out front was actually obvious from the start. So, here we are, and Mizmor is in its rightful place as our favorite metal record of 2019, the final year of this decade.

There are many reasons why “Cairn” sits in the top spot. First, the music on this four-track, hourlong album are some of the most devastating of sole creator A.L.N.’s run under this banner, which is a weighty statement. He’s also been a master of spilling black metal and doom into a melting pot and adding his own personal chaos, which has kept his music important and core-shaking, which you can’t shake after spending time with “Cairn.” The second reason this was such a massively vital record is from the psychological torment that went into the lyrics: the struggling for meaning of one’s existence, the crisis of faith, both things with which I’ve personally struggled. These songs touched on a lot of that, as I was able to identify with a so much of what went into informing these songs, making it feel like I had a sort of musical companion to my own torment. I can’t stress enough how huge that is for me.

“Desert of Absurdity” starts with acoustic waves before the track tears open, and the waves begin to lap violently. A.L.N.’s growls penetrate the surface as melody swims, and elegant doom crashes to the ground in drops of acid. The screams lurch and the sounds echo and sting, meanwhile the surface of the Earth is scorched, guitars well, and then coldness reigns, with the final moments feeling utterly sorrowful. “Cairn to God” runs a mammoth 18:03, the longest track on here, and things unfurl with noise flooding, all elements rising up, and shrieks tearing the walls apart. Doomy stomping is mixed with mystical sounds, while raw growls scrape at open wounds, and the track moves into slow-boiling hell. “Cairn to Suicide” goes right for the throat with devastating playing and vicious growls bruising bodies. A heavy cloud cover threatens with darkness, and a low rumble makes it feel like you’re being dragged through a dank basement toward whatever that dripping sound is. As the song moves on, acoustics mix into the fray and spread before another explosion that spits ore and bones, causing pain and confusion before the final moments bring crashes and acoustic blur. “The Narrowing Way” closes the record, pushing over 16:40 and opening with an air rush and quiet trickling. The playing builds into a deluge complete with slithering pacing and growls crushing and slowly working to cut off air supplies. The playing pounds away and fills your head with noise, while drone rolls through, and jarring shrieks rob you of any sense of solace. Strange chants pass through ghoulishly, the vocals turn to death growls, and the leads glimmer and scream.

Mizmor’s power and meaning cannot be understated, and “Cairn” is a masterful record that accomplishes its musical blackness and hammers home its philosophical tones perfectly. This record gnaws at me, lives with me, and continually takes up space in my mind as I battle with the same forces that occupied A.L.N.’s thinking. This is an album that’ll take time for some to fully engage and absorb what’s going on, but once that happens, your brain is imprinted with this music for good. (Sept. 6)

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

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

2. WHITE WARD, ‘Love Exchange Failure’ (Debemur Morti)

Deep relationships with black metal albums largely don’t start by letting them sink in while you’re staring at the Atlantic Ocean while sitting on a beach in nearly perfect weather. But that’s our story with “Love Exchange Failure,” the second album from Ukrainian black metal band White Ward, who inject a world of musical texture and emotion into a genre that used to scoff at such things (well, some aspects of the listener base still feel this way, having not grown up). It was in late August, while vacationing in Delaware that I spent my initial time with this album, and it washed over me mentally and physically, as I sat and listened over and over, once on a very early morning sojourn to just reflect.

In creating the thematics for the record, the band thought about how involved our lives have become, how many people have lost the ability to love (not sexually, necessarily) other people, and how that affects us mentally. It’s a heavy thing to mull, and when you think of how our lives have devolved, especially socially, the idea is worth considering because we’re likely all guilty. That is why they named the record “Love Exchange Failure” because it observes people using more hatred than love when dealing with other people. Using this record, that is a seven track, 67-minute epic, lets the band apply different sounds and textures to their atmospheric black metal, another way in which they—vocalist Andrii Mai, guitarists Yuriy Kazaryan and Mykola Jack, bassist Andrey Pechatkin, drummer Yevhenii Karamushko—dig into your mind and make you think of things in ways you maybe haven’t before.

The title track starts the album with the sounds of urban life as sirens cry in the distance before keys and sax meet up to add to the ambiance. Three minutes in, the song explodes as Mai’s vocals rip out, and emotional trauma is spread heavily. Calm later returns as the music breezes and keys drop, and then the fires ignite anew, with wrenching vocals and pulsing drums. The track continues to punish as guitars and drums charge, but then things are swallowed into a jazzy mist as the song fades into the night. “Poisonous Flowers of Violence” has gazey dripping that sets the mood before things fully erupt. Melodic riffs and spiraling playing join with Mai’s harsh cries, with the song utterly waylaying with power. Gruff growls give off a guttural jolt before rain picks up, and the soft sax arrives again. “No Cure for Pain” revels with delicacy as the track takes time to get moving as a mood is established, and at about 3:35, the playing get shredded with growls smashing and the tempo destroying. Sounds mash into an epic solo that again brings back the feelings of metal’s glory years before the hammers drop all over again, and the vocals pelt the flesh. Sax playing mixes in with the thrashing as the group joins up in rousing “ah-ah” calls, and deep crooning from Vitality Gavrilenko goes for the chest before the shrapnel is spewed all over again. Closer “Uncanny Delusions” also brings different winds, as clean guitars flow generously, and vocals from Ivan Kozakevych (with his thick Ukrainian accent) add a brassy, elegant feel to the song. Eventually things blow apart, and the metallic attack arrives, complete with Mai’s wrenching screams. The meaty mashing always melds back with shadowy playing, feeling like a fog is taking you to a haunted place. This is a mesmerizing experience, a true example of how elegant and emotionally devastating a black metal record can be here at the end of the decade. (Sept. 20)

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

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

Or here (Europe): https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

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

3. TOMB MOLD, “Planetary Clairvoyance’ (20 Buck Spin)

Does death metal exist in space? I’m not really sure. I’ve never been there before. But if it does and it spirals its way across the galaxy, it’s likely being carried there by Toronto beasts Tomb Mold, who blasted back at us this year with their third full-length album “Planetary Clairvoyance.” Their profile has been building for a few years now, and if you’ve ever seen them live, you know they are devastating. This record continues the power they’ve been building, and what’s even more impressive is that it feels like these guys never take a break.

Tomb Mold are on an impressive clip, delivering three devastating records in as many years, the latest, obviously, this seven-track, 38-minute record. Here, they generously deliver more smothering goodness from a band that has justifiably been referred to as pone of death metal’s finest forces. The power is relentless, and the twists and turns on this album could jerk your neck out of place. The band—vocalist/drummer Max Klebanoff, guitarists Derrick Vella and Payson Power, and bassist Steve Musgrave—has truly come into their own as a unit, and the display they unleash on this beast is overwhelming and so goddamn infectious you can’t help but keep coming back.

“Beg for Life” starts the record in a cloud of space haze before the guitars light up, smashing bodies and letting riffs devour everything. The playing is spindly and savage, as the drumming begins to decimate, and the guitars chug through the gates. The track halts as classic acoustic guitars slip in, and as the song rambles back to life, things crush anew. The drums destroy bones, the growls scar, and the guitars shoot off into space. The title cut rips through as riffs play tricks on you, and filthy guitars spread soot over the chorus. The leads chew while the growls boil, sending the track into dust. But wait! A fucking nasty new riff comes in and lays waste to everything, killing as the track comes to its end. “Infinite Resurrection” utterly wrecks shit as massive, nasty growls pummel the earth, and the band starts to decimate everything. The pace thrashes and stomps violently, while the guitars melt through rock, the drumming crushes wills, and everything ends in a delirious assault. “Accelerative Phenomenae” smashes bodies when it starts its run downhill, as the growls suffocate, and mean thrashing eats away at your rib cage. Closer “Heat Death” does a good job living up to its name with its melodic violence as the guitars go for the jugular, and gruff growls hulk their way toward you. The guitars twist and shift, the playing rearranges faces, and the song is sucked into a gross vortex of sound. “Planetary Clairvoyance” is the best death metal album of the year, and it’s actually not even close. (July 19)

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

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

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