Swiss destroyers Anachronism waylay senses with prog, death onslaught on harsh ‘Meanders’

Music can be a means for settling one’s anxiety as sounds that appeal to you can wash over your mind and help you get a grip on reality. At the same time, every person is gifted and/or cursed with an individual brain with unique wiring, so music that might cool your tension won’t necessarily work for everyone else. Your sedative might cause someone else’s amygdala to lose control.

Swiss metal brain crushers Anachronism might not be what ails you if your anxiety is running amok as their elastic, bludgeoning combination of death metal, jazzy bends, and technical proficiency doesn’t exactly scream serenity. Nor did they likely aim for that anyway. But for me as a listener, I found comfort in the psychosis on their warped third record “Meanders,” an eight-track, 33-minute bruiser that is nicely portioned as all these twists and turns could grow exhausting if dumped into a larger bucket. The band—vocalist/guitarist Lisa Voisard, guitarist Manu Le Bé, bassist Julien Waroux, drummer Florent Duployer—makes wise use of their time and leaves you thoroughly torn apart yet not so overwhelmed that you can’t take another trip quickly. Unless they crush your mental comfort, of course.

“Contrasts” displays smeary vision as proggy bass bends around corners, and Voisard’s growls become a factor early, digging underneath your fingernails. The playing is trudgy and tricky, playing games with your mind, and a strange atmosphere clouds your brain before everything melts and drips away.  The title track is punchy and weird, the growls scraping as the playing bludgeons and bruises lungs. Rubbery guitars and violent shrieks combine, icy waters flow and threaten hypothermia, and the final moments disorient as the growls peel back your face. “Prism” chugs and punishes as the growls leave damage to your ribcage, the guitars launching a channeled assault. The playing manages to be muddy and elastic, clubbing as Voisard’s roars smash you, the guitars delving into jazzier territory that adds elegance to the blunt jolts. “Source” is viscous and gutting, wild howls making thunderous impressions, spacious melodies flooding your imagination. Guitars ignite and take progressive turns, the growls crush, and strange waves pull you under the surface.

“Insula” lets the bass out front to flex as the pace mashes and lurches, the violence steadily increasing. The playing then strikes harder, the growls add extra levels of menace, and blistering fury ensures that the pain you sustained lasts a while. “Mirage” begins in a bizarre vibe, your mind floating on water and the spacey guitars taking you to planes beyond this one. The bass tramples as the playing jars and shifts, and your mind snarls without mercy, meandering into cold waters that cause you to tremble violently. “Macrocosm” lets guitars explore the atmosphere, later drilling into your skull as the riffs leave your vision blurry and uncertain. The bass chews as the vibe slurs into madness, growls turn up late and rip into your sides, and the heaviness peaks and explodes into the sky. Closer “Dialogues” crushes as throaty growls attack you, slipping into murky power as you’re mentally forced to deal with the chaos. Screams lace as bloody urgency rises dangerously, fading into eternal psychosis.

Anachronism’s style is all over the map, yet it’s obvious they’re in total, deadly control as they prove on “Meanders,” an album that will twist your brain into a pretzel. One can install the death metal foundation and all of the various descriptors, as we attempted above, but that won’t truly get you to the heart of it. This is music that must be experienced to be absorbed, and while understanding might always exist at arm’s length, it still will indoctrinate you into a world consumed by fire.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sound-cave.com/en/band/anachronism

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

Ominous Scriptures churn bone with death metal mind crushing on ‘Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition’

Have you ever been punched in the face? If not, it’s not a great experience! If someone out there is trying to tell you that you need to feel that before you can truly enjoy your life, chances are they’re a sociopath that no one likes and deserves every fist to the mouth. No worries, though, as there are death metal bands I’m convinced are only here to help you experience that in art form. Which is amazing.

Belarusian brutal death metal fuckers Ominous Scriptures are here to let you feel that fist to the face without the bruising and mental trauma, and their third record “Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition” is an incredibly safe way to be brutalized without losing blood or being wrecked permanently. The band—vocalist Pawel Nalecki, guitarist/vocalist Siarhei Liakh, guitarist Pavel Lapkouski, bassist Andrey Pilipenko, drummer Alex Navitski—puts on a physical and mental display that’s impossible to shake off, and their approach is menacing and deadly, bulldozing into a record that’s technically proficient but also bleeds heavily from self-inflicted wounds.

“Demonic Totem I Am” rips open, regurgitating brutal death in a pile in front of you, shifty playing and monstrous growls forming an impressive tandem. The leads churn as the growls get nastier, landing some deadly final blows. The title cut blisters as harsh growls knife, and the battering pace causes instantaneous bruising. Guitars encircle as the playing goes off and rattles skulls, the humidity thickens, and a last burst of bludgeoning leaves mental scars. “Enraged” chugs as muddy growls land, and the guitars charge dangerously. The playing manages to be driving and drubbing at the same time, a battering ram striking you in the chest and knocking the wind out of you. “Fanning the Flames” delivers twisting guitars and ugly, warped tempos that are disorienting and gutting. The guitars dice flesh, the soloing floods your senses, and then the ugliness swells, bludgeoning into weirdness.

“Serpentine Wisdom” is tangling as the drums erupt and shake your skeletal structure, the growls wretch, and the guitars glimmer in the murk. Growls scrape as the playing hits hyperdrive, plastering and burying your face in ash. “Mangled Perception” arrives amid surging riffs and raw growls, the muddy and guttural force making sparks fly. Guitars play tricks and feel like they’re bending time, the growls increase the harshness factor, and everything comes to a fiery finish. “Inhabitant of the Lacrimarium” drills right away, the growls making everything feel hostile as a jerky, furious tempo causes confusion. The drums plaster and scramble brains, riffs blast and shift, and the heat melts flesh from the bone. Closer “Codex Rescriptus” is smeary and rubbery at birth, violent growls lurching and helping enhance the razor-sharp riffs. Dark edges lead to a strange field, the intensity rips anew, and tornadic pressure mounts and sends the filth catapulting into space.

“Rituals of Mass Self-Ignition” is a bruising, disorienting trip through death metal that generously serves brutality in a manner that makes it hard to maintain your mental capacities. Ominous Scriptures have proven over time how insanely flexible they are musically as they apply their skills to a compactly served record that makes its point and never overstays its welcome. This is a record that’s not welcoming, greets you with open hostility, and twists your brain into puddle of goo.

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

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

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

Imperium Dekadenz create dark, rushing black metal on murky, surging ‘Into Sorrow Evermore’

Photo by Benedikt Walter © Void Revelations

The strange group of metal folk who are weirdly averse to showing any emotion expect anger is a weird lot because having only one way to feel is kind of odd. Also, calm down. We get how metal you are. Now, go back to that death metal dot org site and flex, bro. The rest of us who don’t mind feeling different things can expand upon that and be the target of your really bad jokes.

That all pertains to “Into Sorrow Evermore,” the new record from Imperium Dekadenz, a band my non-metal-listening cousin insists is a beer and not a band, and he’s got a point. I’d CRUSH an Imperium Dekadenz. Instead, we’re talking about the long-running German black metal force that is releasing their seventh album and has done something amazing in that they’re putting forth dark, devastating passages that feel really good to experience. Maybe the band—vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Horaz, guitarist/bassist/drummer/keyboardist Vespasian—got on board with the idea that the worst of feelings can be expressed in a way that lets you get out your trauma but also maintains an adrenaline level where the pain is transformed into art that lets you process. Whatever it is, this is another killer record from a band that doesn’t fear the darkness.

The title track opens in glorious atmosphere as melodies gush, and the shrieks rain down and increase the caterwauling emotion. Spacious playing gets even bigger as Horaz wails, “Who does not reach for it will fall,” as the pace stampedes, and the power crests and fades. “Truth Under Stars” blasts as the leads rip, shrieks knife, and the playing spirals, making it feel like you’re rocketing through the stars. The spirits race as the melodies get even more infectious, stinging and blazing as Horaz calls, “It’s a world for the true hearts,” as the flooding power rushes out into the night. “Aurora” begins with dripping keys and foggy power, the vocals wrenching as sorrowful playing takes control of your mind. Emotion floods as the keys become a bigger factor, the passion builds, and a rumbling pathway leads to your brain being locked in your dreams. “Elysian Fields” arrives with gushing madness and creaky speaking, the playing jarring and electrifying as the vocals wrench. A massive deluge threatens to pull you under as the atmosphere increases while Horaz calls, “I can’t see you nor even feel, because now I know you were never real.”

“Forests in Gale” lets guitars hang over like a storm cloud before the whole thing tears open, a great force unleashed into the world. “A last light dies, the sky summons the storm,” Horaz howls as the playing surges into the stratosphere, crunchy power landing blows. Things pull back some before lighting up again, blasting into dreams and jarring you awake. “Awakened Beyond Dreams” is murky and trudging but also dynamic and exciting, storming into the open. “Walk through the flames, whose power awe holds,” Horaz belts as clean guitars drip through the shadows, icy speaking making your flesh crawl. Blood rushes as the catchy energy become insurmountable, rupturing and blasting into the ground. “November Monument” brings thunderstorming and massive shrieks, the playing pulling your heart in different directions, the guitars flooding your chest. The bass slithers through mystical lands, darkness increases its grip, and the track fades into a bed of clean guitars. Closer “Memories … A Raging River” blasts in and brings black melodies, intense shrieks, and a freezing energy that envelopes you. “Lost years, when storms carry the rain, washed away, irretrievable,” Horaz levels as your heart and mind race, blazing into heavy shadows. Hazy guitars glaze, the clouds gets blacker and thicker, and quiet strains blend with the horizon and fade away.

Imperium Dekadenz maintain a stranglehold on gloomy, emotional black metal that makes you feel deep within your chest and in the most vulnerable parts of your mind on “Into Sorrow Evermore.” It’s a fitting title considering the journey that accompanies this record, though the music can lift you into the stars and help you rocket away because everything is so damn infectious. This is black metal perfect for any environment or time of day as long as you’re willing to pay the mental price that comes with these eight gargantuan servings.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/imperiumdekadenz

Or here (rest of the world): https://napalmrecords.com/imperiumdekadenz

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Katatonia chill with gloom, melancholic woes on captivating ‘Sky Void of Stars’

Photo by Mathias Blom

Those of us who swim in the seas of personal darkness easily can get swept up in those waves and have a really difficult time trying to find solace in whatever comforts we may have. Basking in it isn’t always the best course of action—though understanding those feelings can be a key to health—and the further out one gets, the harder it is to return to shore.

That feels like a pretty logical transition into “Sky Void of Stars,” the latest record from long-running melancholic doom band Katatonia that lands in our laps in the darkest period of the year. This, their 12th record and first since 2020’s “City Burials,” is 10 (or 11 depending on what version you get) tracks that were written and composed by vocalist Jonas Renkse, whose voice is one of the most identifiable in all of heavy music. And as you may have guessed, the tone here is morose, angry, painful, a collection that delves in that same pit of agony described earlier but dealt with in a productive way through this music. The rest of the band—guitarists Anders Nyström and Roger Öjersson, bassist Niklas Sandin, drummer Daniel Moilanen—continues with Renske down a less metallic path but one that swells with emotion and morbid catchiness that puts a strange energy into the middle of one’s pain. Katatonia are aging incredibly gracefully, and their stranglehold on their style is impressive.

“Austerity” is a fitting opener, a Katatonia track through and through that drives and leans heavily into gothy power, delivering a strong chorus, which is hardly a surprise. “I hear things aren’t well since you sold me out,” Renske calls, his voice as powerful as ever, cold electricity leading the way into the unforgiving night. “Colossal Shade” has bass clouding your vision, the pace getting punchier as Renske howls, “He is the voice of our demise, spitting fire like a mountain, this is us, let’s drain the source.” The darkness plods and makes your limbs heavy, keys pulse, and the emotion drains away. “Opaline” brings drizzling synth and clapped beats, elegance spreading as the temperatures get noticeably colder. The chorus is a puncher, a surge of energy out of the murk, guitars opening and embracing the sleeting. As the track goes on, heat is added to the mix creating a steam that coats your face with thick condensation. “Birds” almost seems like a band anthem considering the symbolism of the title, and it’s energetic, making its strength something with which to contend. “Shut down my mind, is the heart brave enough yet, uncover the skies and show me the birds,” Renske drives, leading a path with burning guitars and trudging power, doing its damage mentally. “Drab Moon” is moody with whirring synth and a smooth pace, Renske lamenting, “Low I go.” The keys spin and confound, the chorus pushes through walls, and the end comes suddenly and forcefully.

“Author” bathes in synth glaze and trudging guitars, adding muscle to the force, heaviness becoming a serious factor. Fiery leads cause smoke to well, and Renske wails, “A sky void of stars, touch the concrete placed on my chest,” giving us our album title. “Impermanence” features Joel Ekelöf of Soen and Willowtree, and the playing melts the ice, the keys making your brain feel like it’s spinning. “We can’t live forever, I gave you my shards of sky,” Renske calls, a strong soloing ripping into the fabric of time, fuming and creating a devastating and strange finish. ​“Sclera” has washed-out singing and an ambiance that feels like it creeps up on you, startling with a cold hand to the back. “Meet up at dusk out on the tracks, quietly stare with poisoned eyes,” Renske sings ominously, mixing moody shadows with solemnity, pulling vulnerability out into the open for all to see. “Atrium” leads with synth strikes and guitars that lap over the earth, daring you to look the storm in the eye. Keys bubble and Renske’s tone gets a little deeper, paying the emotional toll at hand, letting the sharp angles dig into the flesh. “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” is your closer if you have the vinyl edition, a 6:08 power that digs into your bloodstream and threatens with edgier guitars. “I arm my dead mind with the final reason, will sell it to the lowest bidder,” Renske taunts as the playing smears, the heaviness working as a perfect companion to the foreboding dreams. “The more you hurt, the more I love you,” Renske confesses as weighty playing shakes the ground, and an icy ambiance escapes into the night. “Absconder” is a bonus track on the CD and digital formats, and it’s honestly not a throwaway piece. It’s emotional, forceful, and stormy, a strong cut that could have appeared earlier and not been out of place.

Katatonia’s work comes with some expectations, that being goth-laced heaviness, confessional bloodletting, and the feeling like emotional wounds you never considered have risen to the surface. “Sky Void of Stars” fits nicely in their career trajectory, and while their heaviest days remain in the past, they have mastered this frosty power, delivering songs that stick in your mind for days on end. Katatonia show no signs of slowing down, nor do they seem to be gaining any immunity to the pain that plagues all humans as we look despair in the face and try to make our way in defiance.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/katatonia

Or here (rest of the world): https://napalmrecords.com/

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

Black metal maulers Dryad dive deep for horror, psychological matters with ‘The Abyssal Plain’

As a sufferer of claustrophobia, I don’t like tight spaces, and I definitely won’t enjoy being in mysterious places where there is no light. I need an escape route at all times, which is just how my anxiety works, so there are areas from which I steer clear in the event that danger strikes and I can’t break free. It’s a huge reason why I’ll never scuba dive or spend any time in deep waters. Huge respect, but no way.

The darkness and pressure that is present in the depths of the ocean are major topics on Dryad’s debut full-length “The Abyssal Plain,” a record where the Iowa band creates a journey through depression and psychological frustrations with the ocean as a backdrop and source. Woven into that are environmental warnings involving our precious bodies of water as well as horror themes as you never know what lurks in the waters deep below the surface. The band—vocalist/guitarist/synth player Claire Nunez, vocalist/guitarist Grimmtooth, bassist Joe Milik, drummer Oliver Weilein—uses grim black metal as a base and piles on thrash, punk, and heavy synthscapes in order to impact you mentally and physically. These 13 tracks spread over 35 minutes hit hard and create mesmerizing experiences that tangle muscles and brains alike, giving you a full workout your muscles will feel the next day.

“Counterillumination” is a quick intro that chimes in and slowly thaws, its frosty trail leading to “Bottomfeeder” that quickly smashes through the gates. Nunez’s growls curdle as the speedy assault damages bones, trudging and thrashing through a steam cloud that settles into strangeness.  “Brine Pool Aberration” mashes and leaves blisters right away, the vicious shrieks strangling as a punk vibe makes things feel dirtier. Growls bubble as black metal riffs make the room spin, and the blasts eat away at your mind before synth and strangeness swallow you whole. “Trenches” is more calculated at first as the guitars build and the vocals creak before the band starts dropping bombs. The tempo is hazy and melodic, the leads go off and deface, and guttural mashing increases the temperature, ripping into a bizarre smog. “Loki’s Castle” attacks and makes the most of its brief run time, blurring, tying up limbs into torturous holds, letting fresh rivers of lava flow aggressively. “Hadal” is a quick interlude with immersive synth, dream-state pressure, and strange visions that make you question your sanity. “Pompeii Worm” follows and reignites the blazes, Nunez’s reverb-rich howls bouncing off each side of your skull, making the pain flood. The playing is thunderous and disorienting, blazing through grim storming and preventing any light from surviving.

“Chimera Monstrosa” lets keys drip and nightmares flourish, echoes giving off an eerie sense of dread that makes this quick piece terribly uneasy. The title track brings liquifying guitars and a goddamn rage that feels like a bull rushing you from out of nowhere. Shrieks pulverize as the playing slashes through with reckless abandon, crushing and blaring, increasing the heat that merges into black metal force. “Black Smoke” is doomy and chugging, the growls mauling and grinding flesh in its gears. Shrieks then rip while the synth force grows heavier, followed by strong riffs that act like a gut punch. Morose echoes rattle cages, howls boil, and the final moments draw more blood. “Raptures of the Deep” is the final interlude, a soundscape that warps and lets strange spirits run amok, leading into “Eutrophication” that settles like as storm cloud. Bizarre synth meets up with a raucous explosion as the playing speeds into existence, the vocals spat out like poison. Shrieks arrive and jab under your ribs, the band pounds away, and ominous thrashing melts rock formations. Closer “Abyssobrotula (A Nagging Thought)” is an instrumental piece with freezing keys and heavy drama, stirring in the fog and feeling like a phantom come to life, a psyche dream that has the feel of a lost level of Fallout where the radiation eats away at your mind.

“The Abyssal Plain” might look like an overstuffed serving from the track listing, but it is anything but that and can get your heart going at dangerous rates. Dryad’s mashing of black metal, thrash, punk, and cold synth makes for an unpredictable sojourn that has a gloomy, sobering message tied into the natural terrors. It might take a few visits for everything to fully register, but once it does, you’ll find yourself captured by a band that doesn’t give a fuck about style points and only cares to haunt and devastate.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.prostheticrecords.com/collections/pre-orders/products/dryad-the-abyssal-plain

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

Stormy duo Tribunal add dark, gothic shadow to doom metal on ‘The Weight of Remembrance’

Photo by Liam Kanigan

This is the ideal time of the year to lustily embrace darkness, because there is a premium on sunshine, and seasonal affective disorder is running rampant, making people feel like they’re decaying on the inside. It’s strange because I enjoy this time of year since I like snow and ice, and working remotely makes awful roads moot, but it’s still sometimes hard to avoid the grim grasp of mental illness.

That means it’s also a great time for music that wallows in the hopelessness with you, and Vancouver’s Tribunal arrive with their foreboding debut album “The Weight of Remembrance” at the right moment. The duo of classically trained bassist/cellist/vocalist Soren Mourne and guitarist/vocalist Etienne Flinn unleashes seven tracks that are awash in gothic doom and orchestral drama, and it digs right to the core of the weightiness of the season in which we’re trapped. Not lyrically, mind you. This is more shit I’ve connected in my own head from the music, which I’ve visited quite a bit later at night when it’s quiet in the house, and contemplation is at its zenith. And when I’m peacefully high, if we’re being honest. My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Draconian disciples are bound to gravitate to this album, and with good reason as Tribunal walk similar paths, but with their own brand of grimness.

“Initiation” sets the mood early, letting stormy doom waters lap over the land and coat it with darkness. Flinn’s growls dig into your chest, and Mourne’s singing treats the ugliness with cold delicacy as the funereal pace stretches. The trudging adds pressure as Mourne calls over the flames, the chorus making one final dash. “Of Creeping Moss and Crumbled Stone” slowly dawns and lurches, growls making headway and leaving bruising, Mourne’s singing adding chill to your bones. The chorus punches and then sinks into guttural boiling and liquified murkiness that makes it feel uncomfortably chilling. Leads soar in the shadows, synth creates an impenetrable cloud, and the drubbing rhythms bury you in the soil. “Apathy’s Keep” lets icy guitars drip and sorrowful melodies melt, Mourne’s singing making your nerve endings pulsate. Growls lean into ashy grounds, morbid spirits rise, and shrieks rip, keeping the pace turning and jolting, strings scraping a clean path. “Remembrance” is an instrumental built with unsettling keys and elegant ambiance, bone-chilling rains falling and making your limbs shake viciously.

“A World Beyond Shadow” lets string run loose as the pace smashes, Mourne’s singing sending jolts down the spine, Flinn’s growls balancing the delicacy with horrors. Darkness drizzles as the guitars tear through, ripping things open, the drumming rattling and punishing forcefully. Scathing howls and drama combine, letting the embers surge before fading. “Without Answer” has gliding strings, deadly growls, and a tempo that picks up and forces blood to race. Leads glimmer like a laser through a thickening fog, the growls are thorns to the ribcage, and both voices combine for a sullen final nail in the coffin. Closer “The Path” runs 12:16, dawning in dreary weather, dark paths being trampled underfoot. Growls rip as gargantuan hell is unleashed, the playing enraptures, and a deep burn seems to chafe the soul. Flinn’s growls and Mourne’s voice again are strange but fitting companions, sowing sadness and misery, accompanying a crushing force that kicks up and brings brutality to an otherwise ghostly final encounter.

Tribunal’s stranglehold on gothic and drab darkness is a revelation on their great debut “The Weight of Remembrance,” a record that feels like it pushes down on your chest and psyche over these seven tracks. The album feels like a haunted journey in your mind, leaving you cold and wondering where you can escape for a even a gasp of light that never seems to come. Every drop if this is heavy both musically and emotionally, and you’ll feel its effects long after the music has ended.

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

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

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

Oak Pantheon finally return with woodsy black metal fury on sweeping opus ‘The Absence’

The weather has a big role in what I decide to listen to a lot if times as however it feels outside makes my brain and heart want certain things. We’re in a weird limbo here where I live where it should be frigid and snowy, yet that hasn’t really panned out quite yet in January, so the bands and records that usually get precedence in this period are sitting and waiting. And now we have a new one to add.

We haven’t heard from Minnesota’s Oak Pantheon in about seven years at least as far as full-length records are concerned, with their last being 2016’s beefy “In Pieces.” Luckily, the drought is about to end with the arrival of “The Absence,” an eight-track, 41-minute opus that is their shortest album to date but also their tightest. On this, their third record, the band—guitarists and vocalists Sami Sati and Tanner Swenson (the band’s initial duo), bassist Jake Spanier, and drummer Andy Anderson—not only expands their ranks, they also have solidified their sound. They remain woodsy atmospheric black metal in scope, with folk flourishes throughout, but they also clearly have grown as artists, which this record demonstrates. They’re joined by guest performers Joe McCumber of Decisions and Catey Swenson of Silence We Plead on guest vocals as well as Kakophonix (Becoming None, Beating Heart, Silence We Plead, Old Yarn) on cello, and they add texture to a rousing Oak Pantheon collection that brings the band right back to the forefront of those making great music that’ll sound perfect on icy winter days.

“Becoming None” starts with lush acoustics and rushing atmosphere, feeling active and vibrant, strings carving and rupturing. Singing gives way to growls and shrieks, the emotion caterwauls, and the end sinks into your bones. “Listen!” has guitar swirling and maniacal guitars knifing through as the playing pummels. Leads stretch out and proggy waters wash over, the call of, “We’ve had enough, just listen!” racing through your blood. Fluid guitars change the temperature, clean singing brings a sense of calm, and the final moments are trudging. “Dissociate” is dark with growled lines, gothy undertones delivering thicker darkness as the bass playing roils. The desperate cry of, “Watching it all fall down,” hits center as guitars bubble and race, aggravating raging fires. “Beating Heart” is serene and channeled, clean singing creaking as sadness and longing become major factors. Harmonized calls give a whisp of autumn air, strings glaze, and things settle as your inner tension finally subsides.

“Bard of the Hell-Bent Ages” absolutely destroys, peeling soil from the earth and chewing into psyches as a spirited gallop rips across the land. Speed adds to the mix, and breathy calls destroy as the guitars take on more heat. Melodies soar as the feelings rupture, ripping through with wild howls and chaos. “Decisions” bleeds with warm guitars and a tempo that gains momentum, the growls and shrieks tangling your nerve endings. Ample crunch and maniacal cries do battle as the punishment increases and refuses to release its grip until the end. “Silence We Plead” starts gently, hinting at woodsy ride, but that’s temporary as the track explodes. Slide guitars add a slurry texture, feeling rustic and Midwestern, and the call of, “I’m not king for this world,” jolts bones. Swenson’s singing adds a different element as she calls over the madness, a calculated strike mounts, and the final strains burn away. Closer “Old Yarn” balances light and dark as the acoustic strains give way to damage, and creaky shouts mix with hearty singing. The playing continues to disrupt, a thunderous pace makes your blood rush, and everything ends with you heaving, your lungs doing battle with the frigid air.

Oak Pantheon show remarkable growth on their first record in ages as “The Absence” displays maturity and sharp songwriting that prove this band is ready to measure up with the masters of the atmospheric black metal realm. We all know that’s saturated territory, so being able to create something powerful and well served and knowing when to trim the excess is key. This is an exciting record with peaks and valleys, rivers of emotion, and a wild spirit that can capture your imagination easily.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://oakpantheon.bandcamp.com/album/the-absence

PICK OF THE WEEK: Ahab catapult into classic sea story draped in black on dark ‘The Coral Tombs’

Photo by Stefan Heilemann

An adventure under the sea is one of the last things I ever hope to take, no offense intended toward massive bodies of water. I enjoy being near the oceans, I appreciate sea creatures, but it’s just not a situation that suits me or in which I would thrive. I’m not even crazy about being in a boat on the river. There’s just way too many things that can go wrong.

Luckily, I can live vicariously through Ahab, the long-running and self-described “nautik funeral doom” band that has returned after eight long years with their excellent new record “The Coral Tombs,” their fifth overall. Unabashed fans of tales that originate in large bodies of water, this record focuses on the classic Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a story about Professor Pierre Aronnax and his shipmates who go on an excursion to find an elusive beast only to discover it’s actual a highly advanced submarine headed by Captain Nemo. Hijinks ensue. The band—guitarist/vocalist Daniel Droste, guitarist Christian Hector, bassist Stephan Wandernoth, drummer/percussionist Cornelius Althammer—dive headfirst into the story, joined by guests Greg Chandler (Esoteric) and Chris Noir (Ultha) who help bring this massive adventure into the doom world and make it a musical companion worthy of this classic. It’s the best thing Ahab ever has done, which is a massive statement considering their resume.

“Prof. Arronax’ Descent Into the Vast Oceans” starts in the most misleading manner possible, with the band in total devastation mode, mashing, drums blasting, everything coming apart before we gradually slide into slower, more torturous doom like we expect from Ahab. Droste’s singing keeps getting better and more soulful, and the band matches this with guitars aching, and the melodies warming up noticeably. The playing gushes and heads deeper into the water, flowing into “Colossus of the Liquid Graves” that stomps as the growls unfurl. A doomy pall hangs overhead as the foreboding increases dangerously, and sorrowful melodies stretch their wings, pummeling as the playing drowns out in slow noise. “Mobilis in Mobili” starts with waters bubbling, a blistering pace greeting you as the waves subside. Growls wretch as the playing grows spacious, clean calling glistening as the mood turns dour. Dark and lonely melodies tighten their grip, marching ominously as the power creaks and drubs to an end. “The Sea as a Desert” runs 10:49 and simmers in psychosis, the darkness thickening as the growls stir the pot, melodic singing later wafting and making the journey dreamier. The pace keeps moving under the current, looking like the shadow of a beast ready to pierce the surface.

“A Coral Tomb” opens slowly, the growls buckling as the shadows envelop. Slurring guitars immerse the senses as clean singing numbs your wounds, giving off a feel of corporeal class. The playing floats in the middle of nowhere before the storming comes on harder, jarring and electrifying, making your muscles scream as coldness takes over, lulling you into unconsciousness as everything slips away. “Ægri Somnia” runs 12:22 and moves solemnly but surely into the oncoming murk, pushing and crushing as the intensity builds. Growls lurch and later are relieving by atmospheric clean calls, and the pace plods as the pressure gets more intense, later gently dissolving and turning into ink. Growls well, rich singing becomes a deeper factor, and calls echo out, the emotional toll being paid heavily as the final moments disappear. Closer “The Mælstrom” runs 10:02 and bursts open, the playing sounding wonderfully fluid but also devastating. Dark growls engorge, changing the pace from the hearty singing, and elegant leads transform the dark waters to streaks of gold. Wild howls scrape, sounds pulsate, and static wells up and washes over you, burying you under the sea.

Ahab’s glorious, nautik doom was greatly missed the past eight years when they were absent, but “The Coral Tombs” brings back a spirit only this band can command. Over these harrowing 66 minutes, the band expands their sound and mission, making some of the most exciting funeral doom in a sub-genre not really known for that element. This is dawn-of-the-year classic that will be an incredible journey to take deep into the final days of this new calendar.

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

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/ahab

Or here (Europe): https://napalmrecords.com/deutsch/ahab

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

Black metal force Iravu take aim at torment, societal injustice on massive ‘A Fate Worse Than Home’

You know that “new year, new you” silliness? We should try to apply that to society at large and how we treat other human beings. Despite the fresh calendar, there remains suffering around the world. People still struggle with being able to pay bills and keep themselves healthy, and we still largely treat minorities and those not deemed “normal” like something not worth protecting. It’s a sickness.

The title “A Fate Worse Than Home” and the cosmic cover art that accompanies the debut full-length from Malaysian act Iravu seem like something that will let you take a journey beyond and forget the troubles here on earth. It’s a misdirection as sole creator/multi-instrumentalist Hareesh Kumar Shanggar instead focuses on our home planet and the issues facing us with the constant scourge of capitalism destroying lives and the continual oppression of marginalized people, something we can’t seem to solve, with humans being the biggest problem. Amid all of this comes fascinating black metal with dazzling guitar work, a great display that does have the ability to make your imagination go wild, but don’t lose focus of what’s at heart. We have so many issues here on earth that home doesn’t feel like home.

The title track begins calmly, letting you collect your bearings before the track ruptures open with savagery, delivering a spacey rush. The track wrenches and whips through the stars, melodies gusting and then going calm, floating into worlds unknown. Guitars engulf and splatter with devastation, wild howls stoke the emotional flames, and everything hurtles into the universe as we run face first into “The Creature” that churns and guts. Animalistic howls devastate and drive the journey, power wrenches, and strangeness gets into your cells, icing you thoroughly. Dark, drilling playing takes the upper hand, growls haunt, and chaos erupts, rampaging through your ravaged psyche.

“Reflection” is an instrumental piece that clouds your mind as sounds build and ambiance collects, feeling like you’re stuck in a static storm with no hope of exit. The noise travels through dimensions as the power hums and bristles, bowing out and into “Fear and Lead” that explodes from the gates and dazzles with trickery. The playing spirals as violent punishment is dealt, melodic stabbing working alongside mauling thrashing with sinister intent. Then things just destroy, proggy angles jabbing, torment increasing, and the riffs twisting and turning maliciously. Guitars swell and bleed emotion, roars crush, and the final strikes are deadly. Closer “Home” begins disarmingly serenely, dreamy guitars glazing glitter and soothing your senses. Speed picks up as the playing gets raucous, melodies flooding and joining up with wrenching howls. A huge deluge sweeps you up and pulls you under the waves, spacey gazing explodes, and everything washes into the unknown, claimed by mystery forever.

While “A Fate Worse Than Home” feels like a galactic adventure over much of its run time, Iravu’s focus is centered here, bringing sobering realty about factors that tear apart people’s lives. Shanggar’s splattering black metal and intense emotion is palpable, something that jumps out of your speakers or headphones and grabs your attention with no designs on returning it. There are real-world issues at play here, things that ravage lives, and while your mind may want to wander into the stars, you can’t avoid the bloodshed on your home planet that won’t come to an end until we stop it with force.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/album/a-fate-worse-than-home

Or here: https://vitadetestabilisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/a-fate-worse-than-home

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

And here: https://vitadetestabilis.com/

Legendary Obituary unload grim serving of death metal comfort food with ‘Dying of Everything’

Photo by Tim Hubbard

Dependability can be a good quality, and when it comes to long-running death metal institution Obituary, that’s exactly what you get every time out. They’ve been at this thing for about 35 years now, which is one hell of a run for a band that keeps amassing followers and hasn’t lost a fraction of a step of their intensity and execution. They’re as dependable as they come.

We are soon to have their 11th record “Dying of Everything” in our hands, their first since their 2017 self-titled effort, and it’s Obituary through and through. You’re not going to be terribly surprised by anything you hear on these 10 new mashers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. No weird angles, no strange twists and turns, and just warm, damp, bloody death metal that sounds only like this legendary beast. The band—vocalist John Tardy, guitarists Trevor Perees and Ken Andrews, bassist Terry Butler, drummer Donald Tardy—sounds alive and thriving, blasting their way through this record that destroys your senses and delivers an ample serving of death metal with Obituary’s disgusting blend of bloody spices.

“Barely Alive” opens the record and pummels with force, vicious howls lacing your veins and a simple chorus landing effectively. Slayer-style riffs light the fires, the soloing goes off, and another run through the chorus batters your bones. “The Wrong Time” changes the pace as it’s doomy and hazy, trudging as the vocals pierce your eardrums. The energy is great and chugging through the whole thing, leads search the stars for answers, and things change up at the end, mangling and thrashing to the finish. “Without a Conscience” arrives in a wave of noise, taking on a hardcore feel, which is not alien territory for Obituary. “Without the price of free speech ratings, I’ll put an end to you, within the price of blood spilled feedings, I’ll put an end to you,” Tardy wails as the pressure increases, and the song drowns out in sounds of warfare. Speaking of which, “War” follows and continues the onslaught, crushing thrash and calculated bruising coming out of the sounds of combat. The playing is sinister and steady, landing blows to your midsection and charging viciously. Suddenly, the track goes acoustic but only for a breath as things get back to slaughtering as Tardy’s howls devastate, and the final jolts grind your teeth. The title track clubs as riffs chug, and the force becomes a problem. The verses are spat out as the leads glimmer in the murk, the playing bubbling in acid. “Patronize the living in a dark and dying world, recognizing evil as a darkened tale unfolds,” Tardy howls as the guitars take on a techy sharpness, bashing with start/stop drubbing that cuts off your air.

“My Will to Live” has a classic thrash feel as it rips from the gates, wah-infused guitars giving a psyche edge to bloody death. The playing is humid and thick, almost as if it literally rose from the swamps, and the playing later is caked in mud, lurching and pulling you under. “By the Dawn” feels like its boiling in oil as the first punches are thrown, and suddenly we’re in a battle royal. The playing is sludgy at times, while the guitars open things up and scorch flesh. The playing continues to increase the pressure, while Tardy’s madness overflows as he wails, “’l kill for the fun of killing and laugh when most would cry, alone in my connections and lies to justify.” “Weaponize the Hate” goes right for the throat, Tardy scalding, “Tell me what you need, I see, believe.” Guitars blaze as the pace hammers your face with fists coated in cinders, encircling and letting the madness sink in. Vile howls haunt, and the chorus strikes again, dragging you underwater. “Torn Apart” unloads with guttural slashing, a galloping pace, and guitars that aim to deface. The playing sweeps with vicious intent, coating the lungs with soot, crushing skulls and letting the life juice dry on the ground. Closer “Be Warned” delivers filthy guitars and as pace that feels like it’s melting. The growls lurch, Tardy howling, “Criticizing gods to be gone, visualizing ways to destroy, victimizing ways to decide, criminally waiting for law,” as fluid leads dream, and then monstrous mauling takes hold. Guitars scar as the playing corrodes, the final moment draining into the underground.

It’s not a criticism to say there aren’t a lot of surprises on an Obituary record, “Dying of Everything” included, but there’s something to be said for consistency. These 10 tracks are pure and true Obituary-style death metal, and every second of this thing totally delivers. There’s a reason people flock to the rotting altar of these death metal legends, and it’s because they’re dependable, destructive, and always willing to take you to your physical limit.

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

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

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