Tzompantli use doom, death to pay homage to indigenous tribes, people on debut ‘Tlazcaltiliztli’

Photo by Elena Chute

The treatment of native and indigenous people on the North American content has been hideous at best, something that barely was taught in school as I was growing and took me into college before some of those layers were peeled back. We still have one quite descpicable holiday and another that’s laughable at best that goes to show time hasn’t smartened everyone, and wounds remain open.

California-based maulers Tzompantli are a force that will not let native history lie still, and they pay fiery and emotional remembrance on their combustible debut full-length album “Tlazcaltiliztli.” The band—vocalist/guitarist Huey Itztekwanotl o))) (also of Xibalba and Mortuary Punishment) and bassist G-Bone—took their name from a rack used to display skull of enemies or sacrifices, and the album title is from a ritual ceremony that nourishes the fire and sun with blood. This record is deep with bludgeoning doom and death metal with native and folk instruments used to conjure a proper aura for this offering to people and tribes of every directional reach of this entire continent.

“Yaohuehuetl” is a quick instrumental intro cut with drums echoing, whistles wailing, and an ambiance being achieved before working into “Tlatzintilli” that begins cleanly and hazy. The pace drives slowly while the vocals add thick menace, and then everything ignites, doom fire raging with life. The growls lurch as the pace burns in place, heavy atmosphere fills your head, and clean lines hypnotize, leaving your mind in a vortex. “Tlazcaltiliztli” starts with muddy guitars and the growls scraping the earth, leaving crunched bones behind in a pile. Wild howls deliver bloody hell that is right at your heels, and the bludgeoning and mauling peak before ending in a pile of ash.

“Eltequi” begins with drums encircling, woodwinds generating a ghostly aura. The chants explode, the acoustics rush, and a spirited haze sweeps you up, bringing blackened rains and muck, this instrumental piece ending in the dirt. “Ohtlatocopailcahualuztli” moves in with wafting guitars before the playing unloads, the heaviness increasing by the second. The growls hammer away, and then a brief respite moves in, allowing a sense of relief until the guitars detonate and move into a soaking mist before meeting with the horizon. “Tlamanalli” is guttural with the growls crushing necks and a black metal-style assault moving forward, streaking with darkness. A brief cavernous section leads to more skullduggery, slow-driving and furious playing increases the bruising, and the final moments are pounded into stone. Closer “Yaotiacahuanetzli” slowly dawns as doom sprawls, the storm thickens, and everything comes apart, slashing away as your skeletal structure. Guitars cut through the murk as the heat becomes impossible to survive, sorrowful leads drag blood across the sky, and then everything dissolves into the distance, its spirit inhabiting the earth.

Tzompantli have a grim inspiration for their name, but one that pays homage to their ancestry and native/indigenous themes that make up their DNA. The songs on “Tlazcaltiliztli” are for their people and nation who have made up every part of the American continent and whose blood and bone are forever a part of our land mass. Their death and doom mix is mighty, bloody, and the perfect way to tribute those who paved the way for this duo and millions of people history often tries to forget.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/search?type=product&q=TZOMPANTLI

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

Psyche-doom power Ufomammut rewire and regroup, create slim, trim brawler in hypnotic ‘Fenice’

Photo by by Francesca De Franceschi Manzoni

I have a strange relationship with marijuana, and I should preface this isn’t intended to be some stoner piece that travels through the layers of drug use and heavy music. Instead, it’s more about calming my anxiety so that the effects of marijuana don’t undo me mentally, and I have combined ending my day with noise-canceling headphones and music to enhance my experience. I know. Groundbreaking.

I have found some records the past few weeks that really enhance my experience, and one is “Fenice,” the new album from longtime personal favorite Ufomammut, the Italian psyche-doom travelers. They have been in a similar mind frame as so many of us, trying to put together the pieces of disarray that could have undone us had we lacked strength. But for this band—guitarist/effects master Poia, bassist/vocalist/effects maker/synth player Urlo, drummer/effects wizard Levre, sound lord Ciccio—they learned from their past recording experiences and got back to their true essence, what really makes their spacey magic work the way it does. Over six tracks and an economical 38 minutes, the band captures your mind again, taking you on a mystical sojourn that, if you’re enjoying the effects of substances, will land even harder.

“Duat” opens the record and is the longest track at 10:34, sounds ringing out and static increasing. Strange blips reverberate as the guitars join in, a psychedelic trail blazed across the earth as the track trudges and punishes in the cosmos, ripping open and letting synth waves crash. The pace picks up as the bass flexes and chugs, and mystical energies combine with your own and are swallowed into the void. “Kepherer” is a quick instrumental, more of a bridge track that delivers echoed beats, static crawling through your mind, and the drums pulsating, working into “Psychostasia” and its hazy, impenetrable murk. Guitars float as the vocals search the stratosphere, deathrock vibes liquify the track in spots, and then things combust, making the journey a little rockier. The playing speeds up and jolts, the vocals power, and the final moments sizzle into vapor.

“Metamorphoenix” enters in a sonic buzz, voices warbling as the song slowly thaws. The playing carries through the air and into your dreams as hypnosis sinks in heavily, looping and repeating as it collides with “Pyramind” that delivers a crushing psychedelic assault on your senses. Voices echo as things plod purposefully, playing with fuzz, numbing your muscles before the intensity increases. A renewed push brings a bludgeoning force and fire, and that adds to the wilting steam and melds into closer “Empyros” that lands amid a quaking that’s joined in progress. Smashing and scraping, spacey synth swirls into your consciousness, fires lick the storm clouds, and everything spirals off into the mystery forever, leaving your nervous system tingling and challenged.

“Fenice” is a rebirth for a band that’s made some of the headier, most immersive doom and psychedelic power over their run, and it’s clear Ufomammut are ablaze again creatively and mentally. We’ve all had to find ways to restart our lives the past year or so as a sense of normalcy slowly has returned, and the energy we give off hopefully is positive and can lead to our own fuels burning cleaner. This is a record you can enjoy at any point—working, reading, traveling, enjoying some choice substances—and each setting makes for a completely different experience with this album.  

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

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

Or here: https://www.supernaturalcat.com/home/store/

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

Dream collaboration teams up Thou, Mizmor in a catastrophic union with thundering ‘Myopia’

I have a Google doc file that has my entire review calendar recorded, and right now, we have entries into July. It’s an easy way to stay on top of things and not let anything slip under the radar, because there are so many releases every week, there’s no other way to stay sane. Then fucking Gilead Media comes along. Again! And ruins the entire things. For one week, anyway.

Last week, as Roadburn was getting under way, Gilead dropped a goddamn bomb in our laps with the immediate arrival of “Myopia,” the collaborative effort combining Thou and Mizmor, almost the equivalent of Okada and Tanahashi teaming up in New Japan for the dream team to end them all. By the way, this album is available digitally right now, with physical media to follow. This eight-track, 73-minute beast is the perfect amalgamation of both bands, a true combination of each spirit into something that exists because as absolute shit as the world has been, sometimes it gives us gifts that make the misery worthwhile. Thou’s grungy doom and Mizmor’s scathing black metal live in perfect damaged harmony, and while they don’t unlock a ton of closed doors, they combine their storming energies into something that never existed before and now has left us shaken to dust.

“Prefect” starts this mammoth set as it burns initially before coming unglued. Shrieks storm as Mizmor’s A.L.N. takes the first go, the band ripping hard to damaged melody. Thou’s Bryan Funck joins the fray as the track slowly rumbles, feeling like everything is settling as exhaust. “Subordinate” dawns as feeling very much from the Thou playbook, the leads gathering as everything grows more colossal by the moment. The sound bleeds as the shrieks scrape against walls, mangled howls bring additional muscle, and clean notes add a foggy end to a balmy display. “Drover of Man” begins feeling panicked, the melodies flexing as the shrieks gut, and the ambiance feels sorrowful and emotionally heavy. Cold tributaries line the path as chaos bubbles and the growls ensnare, feeling deathlike before the aura gets burlier. The vocals rip back with harshness, the drums set off, and a final bludgeoning sinks the blade deep into your heart. “The Host” is gloomy when it arrives with A.L.N.’s voice powering through the thickness, guitars shimmering as they begin to gain momentum. Feedback hangs like a drubbing storm, Funck’s growls begin to lurch, and the playing heads for your throat, tearing away flesh before clean guitars settle and end this mania in a sense of earned solace.

“Indignance” begins in an oppressive ambiance, the guitars melt, and everything bursts with life as Funck’s growls agitate your already swelling flesh. The vocals combine as corrosion takes hold, the drums destroy, and Funck’s howls explode with menace, following glimmering guitars into the eye of a storm that fades over the distance. “Manifold Lens” slowly jolts as the leads begin to take shape, and Funck’s vocals carve away at you, stretching its heavy cloud cover and scorching with power. Guitars tangle as a doom pall gets meaner, A.L.N.’s vocals dig into you, and slow-moving pulverizing takes over everything, wrenching and glowing prior to being consumed by flames. The title track kicks off the final 20 minutes of this opus, feeling grim and boiling, the vocals sinking in their teeth and refusing to release grip. Everything combusts as gravity collapses, the dueling vocals increase the intensity with wails of, “Question your keepers, question your protectors, question your comforters, question your consolers,” eating away at your psyche, the ferocity landing in a bloody pool of mud. “The Root” closes things with the bass coiling and striking, Funck swallowing chaos whole, and things lumbering and thundering, your guts feeling the weight of this fucker. The guitars catch fire and then liquify, the haze increases, and Funck’s voice levels your safety, the final moments sounding like an engine dying in misery.

I was as surprised as anyone when not only the Thou/Mizmor Roadburn collaboration came to be but when the very existence of “Myopia” was known and understood. This record feels like a true combination of forces into something greater, more emotional, more intense. Both sides align ideally, their sounds meld to form a greater, more monstrous whole, and this record was exactly what I hoped it would be when I found out it was birthed into this cesspool of a world.

For more on the band, go here: https://noladiy.org/thou/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/whollydoomedblackmetal

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pyrithe launch sludgy, brain-melting attack on challenging debut ‘Monuments…’

Sometimes things get so perversely bad, you have to laugh at the misfortune and catastrophe swirling around your head seemingly at all times. I know that over the past two years alone, I’ve found myself turning to hilarity over torment because sometimes the pain just feels better coming out that way. And because you think you’re possibly on the edge of madness trying to survive.

“Monuments to Impermanence,” the debut mind flayer by Pittsburgh’s Pyrithe, hardly is a comedy album (the fact that real-life trash was used as percussive elements aside, which actually rules), but the band still finds the absurdity of existence in the pit of musical blackness. Trying to pinpoint the band’s sound isn’t very easy as it can change multiple times during a single passage, but sludge, doom, noise, prog, and many other elements are relevant as the band defines its own brand of heaviness. At the band’s core are three key members—drummer/synth player/guitarist/vocalist Kerr (Noltem, formerly of solo project Marsh Dweller), guitarist/synth player Miller, bassist/contrabassist/synth player/vocalist Weston (Cant)—and joining them on this eight-track crash course are former vocalist
Vicky Carbone; vocalist Doug Moore (Pyrrhon, Septus, etc.); Jason Cantu, who plays the actual trash, coconuts, and egg shakers; and Kerr’s Noltem mates Max Johnson on kantele and Shalin Shah on egg shakers. It all makes for a thick, immersive, raw, often indescribable album that gives you the idea from its composition that this band won’t rest and could sound entirely different next record. Who knows?

“Asurviance” starts in a panic, an immediate, mauling assault on the senses that leaves you no time to get your footing as you’re inserted in the middle of the battle. Drums thrash, the guitars boil and scrape, and then a brief calm lets a breeze into the room before you’re back in the vice. The vocals wrench as sludgy pounding grasps your throat, ending in total corrosion. “Glioblastoma” is an absolute motherfucker, Carbone’s desperate initial howl driving the blade deep into your chest before she strangles you the entire run with the musical pace jerking and swelling. Keys hang in the air as the skeletal structure is torn apart and reassembled, the playing keeping the adrenaline coursing and the tension tightening. Echoed cries bounce off walls, massive smashing overwhelms, and everything chimes out into psychosis. Then things turn on a dime with “In Praise of the Enochian Trickster,” a track that feels like a combination of medicine head dreaming and being lost at sea. The playing bobs in the waters, Weston’s clean croon feels like a drunken, yet aware narrator, making you feel calm and uneasy at the same time. Eventually the punches come, and they land, energy pulsating and the guitars dripping morphine. The drums roll back before the pace explodes anew, wild howls swell, and the final drops dissolve into the ground. “Heaving Roots II” bleeds into your consciousness, cymbals crash, and the sounds fold through the clouds, stinging and melting your mind.

“Luminous” opens with a guttural howl and start-stop clashing, cloudy noises flowing and tricking your senses. The yells curdle as the playing develops with a calculated attack, the jolts wreck your ribcage, and the exhaust settles into the atmosphere. “Earthen Anchors” feels like it’s going to go a little easier on you, but it’s a storm developing quickly, and Moore’s distinct shrieks sink their teeth into your cheeks, ripping meat from the bone. The playing bludgeons, feeling muddy and thrashy in sections, guitars leaking into a burgeoning chaos. Moore’s beastly howls unhinge, a crazed fury boils over, and the final embers retreat into reflective light. “Ekphrastik I” lumbers and tests your strength, punishing and opening the gates to repeated blows, the drums speeding toward slaughter. Calmer waters wash into the scene, mesmerizing and sinking into your bloodstream, heading into closer “Ekphrastik II: Gifts of Impermanence” that begins in serenity as it slowly comes to life. An ISIS-style essence looms behind you, howls rip, the guitars sauté, and a synth cloud enveloping and bringing hypnosis. The playing combusts and warps, howls crush, and metal scrapes against metal, twisting your nerve endings, mercilessly teasing you as the final minutes crash and clash in the midst of a trash pit.

Pyrithe is an alien beast that’s fairly impossible to accurately describe because they’re constantly changing, adapting to the environment, getting deadlier and hungrier. Having heard a lot of these songs in formation at their live shows, none of which are even remotely the same, I would imagine the songs on “Monuments to Impermanence” will shapeshift in form and DNA as they move into the live setting. This is a debut record that’ll stand out from so many others because the ideas are fresh, the execution is committed to the madness, and every trip through these propulsive waters is a new experience that reveals layers you didn’t notice all the previous journeys you took. Plus it’ll help you laugh at impending doom even as it consumes you.

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

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

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

Mexican maulers Introtyl bring bloodied, infectious death metal assault on decimating ‘Adfectus’

Death metal carnage comes in many forms, it’s created by all kinds of people, and as long as it’s done right—which is more a matter of feel than some archaic rules—it flattens like no other style of music. There’s a ton of it out there, and we’ve repeatedly lamented the deep swamp of just-OK bands that weigh down the sound, but finding something that resonates still has all the impact it ever had over death metal’s lifespan.

Mexican death quartet Introtyl have their muddy boots deeply ensconced in the traditional killing fields, their sound feeling like something that would feel at home in the early 1990s. On their thunderous second record “Adfectus,” everything hums like a well-oiled massacre machine, and the eight tracks run seamlessly, keeping things focused on the riffs, the growls, and the punishment. The band—vocalist Kary Ramon, guitarist Rose Contreras, bassist Sariux Rivera, drummer Annie Ramírez—lays waste on this, their second record, and blister you with guttural, punchy death metal that’ll stick to your bones and leave you battered and deeply bruised in the best way possible.

“Abyss” rips absolutely with throaty growls from Ramos, guitars spiraling, and the bass chugging heavily. Snarling chugs and metallic menace combine, the playing crunches, and gutting hell dumps you heaving on the ground. “Under My Skin” has chewy riffs and decimating pressure, feeling like a monster heading toward space. The growls squash your bowels, the growls scrape, and everything gets gnarly, crushing and sending spit flying. “Fear” delivers sprawling guitars and growls laced with poison as things get more vicious as they go. The riffs race and go off, the tempo blinds you, the drums explode, and the muscular bass splits bones alongside them, leaving ample bruising. “Inner War” stomps heavily and the growls devastate, and then it whips into thrashy madness, the growls licking up the blood left behind. Riffs twist as the vocals spit nails, your brain is tangled into a jumbled mess, and the final moments bring total brutality.

“Anger” is ideally named as the riffs sink in its teeth, ferocious growls take hold, and everything spirals, leaving the room spinning and you clinging to the walls. The guitars mangle as the vocals smash digits, the drums rumble, and the guitars race off into the distance. “Flame” tries to swallow you whole as fast, violent pacing does its damage, and then things get nastier, the bass playing again flexing its ample muscles. Rivera’s work on this record is a highlight, by the way. She’s a killer. The violence is amplified again, and a calculated finish is centered and vile. “Redemption” is built with raspy howls, guitars digging in its heels, and Ramos wailing, “Release your hate!” The ground rumbles as the playing comes unglued, wild blows land hard, and everything ends with a gust of roared breath. “Zombified” is the final chapter, and the riffs jerk and contribute to the insanity. The simple one-word chorus is effective and jarring, the guitars thrash, and the juices flow hard. This would be an excellent live set closer for the entire existence of the band as it brings infernal heat, it’s fun as fuck, and its wildness is impossible to corral.

Introtyl is a death metal force that will devour you, chew you up, and spit out your half-digested corpse on the bloody ground. “Adfectus” is a devastating record, a tried-and-true death metal assault that pays homage to the subgenre’s roots and carries the banner into the future. This is a punisher, a marked step up from their strong debut record, and a statement that should land like a comet into the earth’s crust once this beast is unleashed on the world.

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

To buy the album (vinyl), go here: https://targetshop.dk/vare/introtyl-adfectus-lp

Or here (CD): https://targetshop.dk/vare/introtyl-adfectus-cd

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

Silver Knife get ready for first public performance with brief, exciting EP ‘Rings’ that pummels

One day I’ll attend Roadburn. Maybe. I hope. Look, my anxiety is shit a lot of times, and taking a plane ride isn’t really something I’m inclined to do, but until there’s another means of transport, that’s the only viable option. It’s a dream because of the incredible acts the festival always puts on, but it also spawns creative ventures and ideas that make the metal and heavy music world even richer.

Case in point, internationally placed black metal force Silver Knife are set to make their live debut at this year’s Roadburn, and as a gift to all, we get a new two-track EP “Ring” for our perusal. The two songs were recorded during the “Unyielding/Unseeing” sessions, created to be packaged together, and this little adventure is great for anyone who’s been into the band since their 2020 debut or those new to the proceedings. At 13:41, it seems a little small in scope, but taking on the music reveals a different story. It’s powerful, involved, and a hell of an adventurous listen that this band—the quarter identifies as N., H., D., and P.—commits to and creates to send you on an adventure that no airplane or any kind of engine can accomplish and never will.

“Ecomimesis” starts with a massive howl and the playing washing over you, covering you up to your throat. Wild howls wrench, the pace captivates, and the drums rumble hard as the playing soars into the atmosphere. The emotion fills your chest, punishing while it reaches the stratosphere, waves lap the shore, and the energy crash lands, burying itself deep into the ground. “Recalcitrant” closes this quick EP with a spirited gust, flowing darkly and violently into your bloodstream, the riffs pulling out your guts. Desperate howls cascade as the guitars flow, and things even turn pleasingly gothy for a stretch, melting melody into the murk. The band finds another gear as the track explodes, a fantastical feel takes over your body, and the waters rush with aggression, firing and fading into oblivion.

Silver Knife may have offered up a mere appetizer with “Ring,” but it’s full of flavor and keeps you satisfied until their next main course is ready. OK, that wording sounds lame, sure, but it’s also really accurate as these two tracks perfectly maintain Silver Knife’s aura and gives us something to bridge the gap between full-length records. This is more than worth your time, it demands very little of your energy, and it’s a killer EP that is ripe for repeat visits.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/silverknifeband

Or here: https://music.extraconscious.com/

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

And here: https://www.facebook.com/extraconsciousrecords/

Corpsessed swim in the stench of death, lean into morbidity on decay-swollen ‘Succumb to Rot’

We’re all going to die, and it’s an inevitability we cannot avoid no matter how hard we try. I don’t know. Why start the week on a good note when so many things have gone to shit? Sometimes it’s better to grasp reality, let it sink into your veins, and go about your business because one day you’re going to be a rotting corpse nourishing the soil.

That dose of glee is on my mind after tackling “Succumb to Rot,” the latest long player from Finnish death horde Corpsessed. Over the course of a decade and a half and four crushing albums, “Succumb” the latest in the line, this band has made the realities of life a little clearer and uglier. The band—vocalist N.M., guitarist J.L., guitarist/backing vocalist M.M., bassist T.K., drummer J-P.M.—spends the better part of these eight tracks and 36 minutes battering you, smartening you to reality, and refusing to pull back from the stench of putrefaction that is your future, like it or not. Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure do need a beer.

The title track gets things going, a quick intro with weird synth, growls lurching in the background, and guitars spreading, loading into “Relentless Entropy” that splits open and wounds right away. Things are heavy and thick with guitars slicing through the center, and an echoed fury carrying into a beastly push that’s sludgy and ugly, ending in a complete bludgeoning. “Death-Stench Effluvium” is a pretty gross concept in and of itself, and the insects buzzing at the outset certainly pay off that reality. Once you dig into the body of the song, it’s puss-filled and mangling with the vocals crushing, the guitars burning and soaring. The drums clash as everything crumbles to the ground, squashing everything in its wake. “Spiritual Malevolence” brings synth heat and then hammering guitars scorching and mauling growls piling on. The murk collects as things feel uncomfortable, fading into a chasm of sounds.

“Calling Void” drill into your chest as the growls retch, and the playing just pounds away. Thrashy hell rears its head, thick basslines coil and strike, and the power gets even more massive, punching out and leaving teeth on the floor. “Sublime Indignation” brings a blinding pace that takes you by surprise, then the growls gurgle and things get ugly in a hurry, the heat intensifying. Hell is unleashed as the guitars mystify, the growls engorge, and the drums go off, dicing and fading into the distance. “Profane Phlegm” lashes with doomy pressure before things get ungodly heavy, growls weighing down on you and causing pain. A strange pall hangs over everything, the power jolts, and the final fumes burn off. “Pneuma Akathartos” closes the album with churning playing and dark cloud cover, collecting before the mauling gets out of hand. The playing trudges with the growls turning uglier, morbidity thickening, and everything slithering into the mouth of hell.

Corpsessed maintain their stranglehold on classic death metal with “Succumb to Rot,” a nasty display that decays from the inside out. They put the screws to you and grind your flesh with great precision, dragging you into the most horrifying elements of reality. It’s a punishing album that solidifies their standing as one of death metal’s most destructive bands.

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

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Freja immersed in fate, ancient mythology with mesmerizing, jarring debut ‘Tides’

Some things are just meant to be, a product of fate that was supposed to happen no matter what. You don’t have to believe in supernatural forces or religion or anything like that to buy into this concept as we’ve all likely had things happen in our life that lined up perfectly and seemingly out of nowhere. It’s the magic of the universe, friends.

That very thing happened and caused the formation of atmospheric, folkish black metal duo Freja, a union combining C. (also of Witte Wieven) and W. (of Laster, Verval) on their debut record “Tides.” The duo came together while working on Maalstroom, a commissioned piece for Roadburn 2019 that was a supergroup also featuring members of the Dutch black metal scene including Fluisteraars, Turia, Terzij de Horde, Verwoed, and Grey Aura. Their energy carried over and not only linked them romantically but also acted as the building blocks for Freja. This record is full of life and energy, a six-track album that feels like it pulls you into the clouds, over the mountains, and through glorious blazes that will infuse your heart and mind with much-needed energy. Lyrically the band basks in ancient myths (their name adopted from the Norse goddess of the same name) and applies those ideas to what’s often volatile modern times.

“Our Chosen Path” begins on a black metal onslaught with wild howls and spirited playing, bringing with it folkish flourishes that enhance the mood. There’s a fire-in-the-sky intensity even as the murk settles in, melody swells, and W’s howls belt you in the chest, the track stomping before bleeding away. “Scattered Shields” rushes in and heads into foggy melodies that feel like a dewy, obscured early spring morning. W’s vocals echo as the playing jars, and huge, atmospheric leads race to the surface, rocks split and rain down, and the rampaging feels calculated but also relentless, bleeding into the earth. “Dusk” slithers in coldness and dour environment, the growls crush, and C’s vocals work their way in, adding a new, alluring element into the music. A stormy surge takes flight, the rains pick up, and tornadic pressure runs wild, unloading beastly hammers. C’s voice seeps in again as a hazy push makes its last stand, the song dissolving into stark waters.

“Cataclysm” explodes with catchy riffs and harsh wails, W’s voice wrenching and exploding in the air. A daring pace picks up and races heavily, and the crunch multiplies, pushing through stinging guitars and enveloping murk. “Of Those Stricken By Fate” introduces delicate guitars as C’s singing takes over, sending mysterious waves into your bloodstream. It feels like a dissociative dream, the ambiance captures you, and everything rests at sea, the storm conquered. “Cloaks of Valor” is the 9:06-long closer and opens in a fury, splattering and sending punches flying, the growls holding their own. Hazy and vibrant, the wild shrieks tear into your muscles, the energy flows generously, and the leads glimmer. A slight pullback returns in the midst of guitars scorching, triumphant melodies dominating, and W’s calls chilling your bones before everything fades into the dusk.

Whether conjuring ancient myths or delivering passionate black metal that feels as much an homage as a carrying on the torch makes Freja’s debut one that will sneak up on you and take you down. “Tides” is as fitting a title as any for this surging record as it sometimes feels like you’re on the shore, looking into the distance, feeling the waters wash over you and try to pull you out. This is a great debut, a promising union both musically and in real life that hopefully lives for a very long time.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.babylondoomcultrecords.com/?s=pre-order&post_type=product

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

Qaalm’s funeral doom plunges in personal torment, emotions, hope on ‘Resilience and Despair’

A storm brewing inside oneself can be impossible to battle or even from which to find shelter, and that’s a terrifying predicament for anyone who has experienced such things. I’d imagine that’s most people, and from a personal standpoint, there are some things even therapy and medicine cannot help quell. Finding solutions and strength inside yourself can be key, and that can lead to some healing.

Diving headlong into “Resilience and Despair,” the first long player from Qaalm, brings all that to the forefront, confronting the chaos and pain that knows no true antidote. Over four tracks and 70 minutes, the band—vocalist Pete Majors, guitarists/backing vocalists Henry Derek Elis and Brock Elmore, bassist David Huet, drummer Dave Ferrara—uses primarily funeral doom as a base, but that’s not all that’s going on here. Yes, the tempo is achingly deliberate, the punishment allowed to sink into your bones, but even amid all of the depression, disgust with humanity, and all the torment present, there does appear beacons of hope that remind not all is lost. The fight is worth it, and if you arm yourself with the right tools, you can survive. By the way, the band was enhanced by studio musicians Steve White (drums, keys) and Kakophonix (cello), critical pieces for making this behemoth work.

“Reflections Doubt” is the 14:42-long opener, and it dawns with keys blurring and the track slowly rumbling, finally breaking open with snarling growls. Doom swaggers dangerously, clean calls haunt, and the playing trudges openly, the shrieks returning and peeling paint from the walls. Guitars trickle into a fog, steam rises, and growls and clean singing combine and make things feel gothy. Somber waters collect, the easy/harsh combination gets thicker, and things speed up, ending in a pile of ash. “Existence Asunder” is the longest track at 19:35, beginning with water dripping and a thick haze collecting, the doom melting and mauling. The track begins to lurch slowly, gnarly howls stretch, and a torturous pace touches down, stomping and flowing into sheen. The playing chugs, guitars bleed in the heat, and the vocals tear a hole in your organs, bringing psychedelic guitars and vicious churning that taps you out.

“Cosmic Descent” is a healthy 18:23, and is starts cleanly with strings sneaking in, a somber mashing taking control. Growls gurgle as things are bruising and crazed but also quite calculated. Mystical waters flow into spine-crunching doom, a spacey trickle adds stars, and the heat increases along with the emotion. Waters go from boiling hot to nearly frozen, a dream-like sequence gets inside your head, and a hypnotic rage stabs an exclamation point at the end of the track. Closer “Lurking Death” runs 16:16, and it mashes strings, fog, and clean singing, making your brain tingle. Shrieks gut as the playing gets devious, the leads bleed, and somber guitars wash into thick smoke and oppressive nastiness. The guitars then begin to saunter, mists rise, and the growls bleed, mowing into lurching growls. The mystical presence increases, the band crushes slowly but surely, and total darkness folds as the devastating shrieks cut paths into your soul.

The heaviness is both musical and emotional when it comes to Qaalm and their devastating debut “Resilience and Despair,” a record that obviously wasn’t named by accident. The sorrow and punishment combined in these songs transcend the art and get into your central nervous system, totally rewiring you. This is a record that’s even weightier due to the human element involved, the hell and torture so many of us face every day, our pool of unknown strength the only thing really getting us through.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://linktr.ee/hypaethralrecords

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

NY smashers Undeath more than live up to hype with gory, catchy ‘It’s Time … To Rise From the Grave’

Photo by Errick Easterday

Every year, there seem to be a handful of records that get the over-the-top treatment in the months leading up to its release that it sometimes can seem a bit much. But that’s the game, isn’t it? Drum up tons of social media chatter, ads all over whatever site you visit, and in the case of being a member of press, email campaigns that feel like constant pokes in the ribs.

Rochester, NY, death metal manglers Undeath have been that band that’s seemingly on the tip of everyone’s tongues (and fingertips) mostly based on the surprising success of debut “Lesions of a Different Kind,” a record that could have been swallowed up by the pandemic but instead outkicked its coverage in a good way. It certainly helped that the record is a killer, a master class of classic death metal, and that is why so many people have been frothing at the mouth for their follow-up effort “It’s Time … To Rise From the Grave.” And here’s the thing: Once again the band deserves all the fervor because this 10-track album is the real deal, a blazing beast that brings blood, violence, and chaos into a package that could strike the heart of any death metal fan of any age. The band—vocalist Alexander Jones, guitarists Kyle Beam and Jared Welch, bassist Tommy Wall, drummer Matt Browning—blasts back with a record full of memorable moments, bloody melodies, and outright devastation that’s anything but empty calories. This is a full-on feast that’ll leave you swollen and satisfied. And really sore.

“Fiend for Corpses” rips off the lid with the bass snarling and the band openly mauling you, the leads encircling and flattening. Guttural fury goes off, the chorus curdles, and everything comes to a punishing end as we head into “Defiled Again.” The drums unload as the guitars chug mercilessly, beastly growls open new wounds, and the playing just scorches, trudging and taking off reams of flesh. “Rise From the Grave” has great riffs and a galloping pace, blistering and stomping as your guts hang out. “It’s time! To rise from the grave!” Jones wails, quoting this monstrous record’s title, and the leads light up again, taking you to the floor. “Necrobionics” punches in as gnarly growls wrestle you into the filth, the drums splintering dangerously. Deep howls curdle your blood, and then the playing rallies, burying you in dust. “Enhancing the Dead” is ugly and deathly as the drums punish and the riffs strangle. Things come unhinged as they get kind of nasty, a doomy pall hangs over, and the final moments are ripped away.

“The Funeral Within” explodes with punishing riffs and tangling guitars as the pace has its way with you. A brief halt leads to it exploding from the other end, the band thrashes wildly, and thunderous hell melts bodies, going for the throat as it’s pulling you into the grave. “Head Splattered in Seven Ways” has a jerking pace and a memorable blaze, Jones howling, “Tell me, tell me, tell me the truth,” before everything gets even gorier. The playing gets hazy for a stretch, the bass flexes, and the leads take flight, grinding to the end. “Human Chandelier” is a tremendous song title, and it blasts its way in, the melody lines snaking and drawing blood. The leads add even more character, the drums bash away, and things round back before an explosive end. “Bone Wrought” detonates immediately and unloads, the vicious growls sounding like they’re boiling in Jones’ throat. The chorus is simple and easy to call back, the monstrous fury thrashes, and the final moments choke you into blackness. “Trampled Headstones” is the closer, arriving amid a slaughtering pace as things get mangy and violent. Guitars sweep as bones are turned to dust, the pace devastates completely, and a sticky death swagger sneaks in as the track slowly fades.

Yes, Undeath have been the recipient of an enormous amount of hype, and “It’s Time … To Rise From the Grave” is arriving with a big promotional push that might make some skeptical. There’s no reason to question as this record just rips as it’s a straight-up, blood-and-guts death metal that is catchy and devastating at the same time. Sometimes people go nuts for a band because they’re really fucking good, and that’s the case with Undeath and this awesome record that’ll only elevate them further among this era’s best purveyors of the metal of death.

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

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

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