New Jersey’s Anticosm unload catchy black metal thunder on smashing ‘The Call of the Void’

Black metal is a strange lawless land that weirdly is governed by a ton of dumb rules that should have gone out the window years ago. There’s no one right way to play it, and it’s been refreshing hearing bands try different things and stretch the borders to their comfort levels. I certainly have preferences for how black metal sounds, but handcuffing artists to that standard would be destructive and selfish.

Jersey’s Anticosm definitely do not adhere to any strict guidelines when making music, and if anything, these guys sound as loose and at home as anyone else playing this stuff. They’re back with their third record “The Call of the Void,” and their rock n roll-infused black metal remains fluid and crushing over nine tracks that some might even find, gulp, accessible. That’s another no-no for black metal, that people might hear it and like it, but this album is full of stuff I can imagine finding a bigger audience sort of the way Tribulation did, and there are some mild sonic comparisons there. This band actually has been doing its thing for more than 15 years now, with two other full-lengths (2009’s “Against the Cosmos”  debut and 2015’s self-titled record) to their credit. The band—vocalist Kirill Kovalevsky, guitarist Mark Siedlecki II, bassist Tom Wilson, and drummer Beheader (Keith Romanski joined on guitar after the record was recorded)—have endured lineup changes and label switches, but from the sounds of this album, they’re refocused and ready to break bones again.

Opener “Viral” fades in from the cosmos before things catch fire, and the track begins to shed blood. “You exorcise demons in the name of false gods,” Kovalevsky howls over the chorus, with the guitars going off and creating a firestorm. A weird prog fog then settles before the leads spiral, and everything comes to a mashing conclusion. “Someone Must Suffer” has some tasty riffs out front, neat classical guitar spots, and then a wave of proggy thrash. “In the name of peace, let there be war,” Kovalevsky wails as the track blasts into the night. “Scorched Earth” has creative riffs, fiery vocals, and a speedy, molten tempo that spills over. The band hammers away with reckless abandon before finally bringing a modicum of mercy. The title track has a clean start, with acoustics setting the mood and synthy strings drizzling before the track explodes. The playing is melodic and catchy, swimming through guttural chaos and ending in a glorious haze of fireworks.

“Fall Asleep” emerges from a fog before fluid thrashing picks up, and a storming pace spreads fire throughout the land. Emotional soloing and punishing vocals lead the way before everything comes to a smearing end. Oddly, the final four songs are some of what I’d think would appeal to a broader crowd, which makes it feel strange that they’re back loaded. “Somewhere Between Life and Death” has guitars rushing, a strong rock n roll vibe, and shrieky vocals that suit the song well. Soloing kicks up and makes waves, bringing this short, but effective, song to an end. “Behold the Venom Crystals” has guitars poking, the playing spreading its wings, and a strong chorus that could go over well live. “The Only Truth” is solemn and eerie as it starts, with the vocals sounding raspier and the guitar work opening wounds. It’s another track that should be a blast to hear live, as it’s packed with a lot of energy. The album ends with “Never Enough,” perhaps the most energetic of the bunch and a real barnstormer at the conclusion of the record. “I don’t want to live forever, no!” Kovalevsky calls amid stunning soloing, sticky riffing, and a finish that grinds teeth to dust.

Anticosm sound primed and ready to bring more followers into their fold with “The Call of the Void,” a record that’s heavy as hell and has a lot of sticky moments that pop up and destroy you. It’s been a long road to get here and five years since their last album, but it sounds like all that time was very well spent from a creative standpoint. This album’s a bruiser, and it’s also an insane amount of fun.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Darsombra go into psychedelic bends, cosmos on calming opus ‘Transmission’

If we’re being 100 percent honest, and we are, this hasn’t been the best year of all time personally, as the anxiety, depression, and impostor syndrome trio has really done a number on the psyche. So, sometimes hearing violent, furious music is exactly what I need, but in other instances, something that’s the opposite of that works better so I can simply breathe.

Baltimore duo Darsombra seemed to arrive at just the right time with their new record “Transmission,” a single-track, 41-minute album that’s as psychedelically warming as it is cosmically adventurous. Through this entire sojourn, guitarist/vocalist/effects creator Brian Daniloski and synth player/gong crasher/visual artist/vocalist Ann Everton pour their imaginations and artistic skills into this expansive display that, quite obviously, you need to absorb front to back. If you do, the reward will be yours as the boundaries in your mind are stretched, and you might find that you’re able to dial back all the chaos of everyday life and simply live within this world. It’s done that for me as it helped level me and balance the noise that always seems to rear its head.

“Transmission” slowly emerges from a fog, as a trancey ambiance is set up and maintained through the entire piece, and guitars drip from the heavens. The first part has a mid-afternoon desert feel as psyche keys emerge and color the horizon, the music stirs, and Daniloski and Everton commit to harmonized chants that stretch over the next section of the song. Guitars snake through as minds are pushed on high, and the playing keeps cutting through before the band starts to slowly crush you. That crunch leads toward space bubbles as the guitars warm up and give off beams of light, and things trickle toward center, giving a bit of an Earth vibe, which is always welcome. It then feels like the music has tunneled through your head and into your brain as the fuzz is amplified, riffs slowly light up again, and the tempo trots through the dust, as your head continued to buzz. Cool riffs release breezes and waft, and then things burn and bustle as the song heads toward the home stretch. Wordless chants are sung, your head is filled with dreams from other planes, and everything spills out into a calming bed of chimes.

Darsombra have become road warriors and created a live setting that is totally theirs and welcomes your own energy. The music on “Transmission” sounds like it’ll be ideal in that place, where Daniloski and Everton stretch out and try to make a connection with those who have assembled to witness their art. This new, entrancing chapter of Darsombra’s journey will take you out of this world, beyond your mind, and into strange corners that might seem terrifying at first but ultimately lead you to a deeper mental discovery.

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Pittsburgh’s Ritual Mass unload savage death metal assault with EP ‘Abhorred in the Eyes of God’

If you’re one of those people who turns up their noses when local artists get opening slots before your favorite bands’ live shows, definitely try to improve that attitude. One of the pleasures I’ve gotten over the years of attending shows here in Pittsburgh is getting a taste of what the bands here have in their arsenal, and I’ve become huge fans of many, so much so that I look forward to them as much as the headliners.

I say that because Pittsburgh’s Ritual Mass got a crack at being one of the first bands to hit the stage during the recent Steel & Bone Vol. 1 fest, and they fucking slayed. Anyone who ever saw them before would not be surprised by this, but it was great to see people there to wreck their bodies and hearing to Immortal Bird, Tomb Mold, and Horrendous were just as enthused by this band’s set that was short but totally satisfying. Now, just a couple weeks later, they’re back with their second release “Abhorred in the Eyes of God,” a four-track, 12-minute effort that’s nicely sized to give you an example of what they do and why they’re one of Pittsburgh’s, and metal’s, more promising death squads.

“Grievous Sin” tears the record open and begins to crush bodies right away as primal growls are unleashed, and the tempo adds ample pressure to listeners’ skulls. Severe pounding and nasty growls roll through, and the playing is meaty, massive, and deadly. “Seated at the Right Hand of the Lord” is a monster that blows flames in faces and smears soot across the world. The playing is crunchy and violently catchy as the growls mash, and then slow-driving hell begins to spread. The final minute of the song it utterly gut wrenching, and then it bleeds into “Servant” and its all-consuming riffs. The track spirals dangerously as the playing breaks down and spits nails, proverbially shoving its hands over mouths in an effort to cut off breath. “Devoured” closes the assault with killer guitars coming to life, the growls scraping off flesh, and an all-out animalistic display flexing its muscle. It feels like the song is trying to peel back scabs and going to chew into bone as mangling growls deliver the final blows, and the track stings and fades.

Ritual Mass have been making their way through the Pittsburgh underground, and “Abhorred in the Eyes of God” is a monstrous display that demonstrates to the rest of the world what we locals already know about them. They’re a sharp, devastating group that proves its meddle live and pour that into these four songs. This is only the dawn of Ritual Mass’ campaign, and they’re likely not finished until they amass a tidal wave of willingly collected broken bodies.

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Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze put hypnotic black haze over chaos on ‘Offerings of Flesh and Gold’

Twitter is an absolute fucking mess, filled with shitty people and dangerous ideas, and it really isn’t worth anyone’s time really. That said, had it not been for a couple of friends who posted some really helpful pointers toward some new bands worth checking out, I wouldn’t be presenting the piece I am today, which happens to be about a record that has me as fired up for a debut as I can remember.

If you haven’t yet woken up to Colorado/Washington black metal blazers Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze, make that correction right now. There’s a link to the record below. Go listen to it immediately. You can do that and read this piece at the same time. The band’s devastating and mind-bending debut record “Offerings of Flesh and Gold” is one of the most amazing first records I’ve heard in a long, long time. Maybe the last time I was this excited was with FALSE’s first EP, and we all know how that story turned out. This album is three tracks spread out over 46 minutes that seem to go flying by, and the experience you will have will be unlike anything else you take on this year. I know the year is only half over. That’s how confident I am that once more people hear this record, it’ll be a watershed moment. The band—vocalist/synth player Achaierai, guitarist/bassist Athshean, drummer Yaeth—without question embrace anti-fascist and anti-capitalist thinking and urge listeners to look within themselves for power when battling against such insurmountable odds. It’s a noble stand, and even though that’ll grate at some people, good. They probably deserve a good bout of irritation.

“O! Smile of Blood” starts the record with noise pounding, the spirit spreading quietly and dangerously, and an ambient haze washing itself over everything, as throaty buzzes emerge and terrify. About 4:30 into the 13:10 mauler, the first words are uttered as Achaierai warbles, “From the cacophonous roar, beauty springs, a blood-streaked rose rising from a pile of shit.” The track then catches fire as the growls blaze, the guitars go into tornadic convulsions, and maniacal lurching keeps the assault bloody and real. The earth is rocked violently as a hypnotic stretch arrives to further jostle the senses, and from out of that, the drums turn everything to powder, the vocals massacre, as Achaierai wails, “We will bear our young and birth them in your lungs, in your hearts, in your minds.” The riffs land like a torpedo, the fire begins to spread, and the track finally cools out in the clouds.

“What Awaits Us (A Void Is But an Open Mouth)” starts with clean guitars trickling, light drums tapping, and then a sudden opening into crazed shrieks and guitars beginning to stampede. The track encircles you and easily could bring on panic when serenity sets in for a moment, letting the wounds heal before the pace jolts again. The howls hover like a hungry vulture, the feeling is menace and torture, and the track ends in a smoking pile. “Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze” ends the record and is a mammoth at 22:13, of which each second is used wisely. Sounds pulsate, clean guitars bleed, and the first lines are spoken with Achaierai pointing, “We cover our heads in reverence, and so our station is known, what we do today will reverberate throughout eternity.” The track then explodes as melodies become monsters, the vocals slaughter, and the pace goes back and forth from reckless abandon to a modicum of control. There are points when the band makes the room spin, leaving you clutching for the walls, before the next wave of assaults arrives. The playing pulsates as a single guitar lashes out, droning into the ground before it’s joined by other forces, and suddenly you’re in the heart of a typhoon. Warbly speaking arrives, the band chants as if trying to haunt your soul, and that repeats until mercy is finally delivered.

I cannot hail enough the greatness of “Offerings of Flesh and Gold” as well as the might of Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze. This band has me excited again for the possibilities of what black metal can truly be, as well as their words and chaos that lash back at the corrupt power system that tries to stomp on every one of our throats, even if some of us seemingly ask for it with great pleasure. This is a huge first statement from a band that very well could be the future of black metal. They’re that good.

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Hulder lash back with scathing black metal assault on coarse EP ‘Embraced By Darkness Mysts’

We try to work about a week ahead with new music so when we write about it, you have time to consider it, buy it in advance, and help out the artists we feature here. This is a weird week. Next week’s release schedule is as weak as I can remember in some time, so this is a nice chance to visit with recent records that we didn’t get a chance to feature but are well worth your time and dollars.

Last year, I was turned onto Hulder, the one-person project helmed by the Inquisitor, and the “Ascending Raven Stone” demo. Her primitive, darkened form of black metal made me think of the mid-2000s when Xasthur, Striborg, and others were proving this style of music didn’t have to have heavy-handed production and bells and whistles to be utterly mortifying. We now have new Hulder music in our hands in the form of 7” release “Embraced By Darkness Mysts” that feels like a rampaging ghoul in the night, seeking your flesh and blood as it hunts in the dark. By the way, the physical version of this release? Totally sold out. Luckily, the music can be purchased now on Bandcamp, so it’s not like you’re without options. And this is so raw and embedded in chaos that it’ll be something with which you’ll want to spend lots of times investigating the ins and outs of the music.

“Unholy Divine” is the A side and begins with static-rich guitars, woodwinds calling gently, and birds chirping before the savage burst of black metal rips through your chest. Scathing growls and a thunderous pace are under way before you know it, and strange, eerie calls are situated behind the thrashing. A murky chorus adds to the mystery, while the Inquisitor unleashes raspy growls, the riffs circle back for one last gallop, and everything ends in punishment. “Interring the Light” is waiting for you on the other side as bells chime, the beast snarls, and riffs rise out of the madness. It feels like a late autumn chill has overtaken you as guitars rip from black metal’s old veins, the playing gets speedy as hell, and suddenly we’re rocketing toward a cliff, threatening existence as a whole. “Darkness consumes,” she wails as the animalistic growls get bloodier, the fires rage toward the skies, and everything floats off on a bed of chimes toward a final resting place.

Hulder remains a mystery to the metal world at large, though from the strength of “Embraced By Darkness Mysts” selling out of its initial run, more and more people have caught on. This is violent in nature, a mysterious slab of chaos, and just enough of a serving to keep your stomach pangs at bay. Hulder’s grip is just beginning to tighten, and once she has full command, good luck finding a god who will still have mercy on your filthy soul.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Russian Circles remain steady, get even heavier on psyche-crushing ‘Blood Year’

Consistency in music is a nice-to-have element, but with things changing so much, musicians coming and going from bands, and inspirations not always being up to par, putting out a series of strong records isn’t always a given. The ups and downs sometime accumulate charm over time, or it makes the high points even more satisfying, but hammering it home every time is a lofty expectation.

Which makes it even more astonishing that Russian Circles nail it every time out. With the release of their seventh record “Blood Year,” this instrumental trio continues what’s been one of the most consistent runs in music in any category, as they always bring their best. This record follows three years of touring on their last album “Guidance” (their last time in Pittsburgh sold out, and I was late to the draw) and the trials and tribulations that come with that, and they pour all of that unrest in these seven tracks. This is some of the band’s meatiest, heaviest music yet, and while they’ve always sort of been metal adjacent, the band—guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Dave Turncrantz— moves a little closer to that center here, and it’s an exhilarating experience. But it’s not just sonic punishment, as the melodies remain powerful and charging, and the album is imaginative as hell.

“Hunter Moon” enters as an introductory piece that fades in slowly, situates in the darkness, and then lurks toward “Arluck,” where drums meet you at the gates and set the pace. The bass drives hard while the guitars light up, with the riffs absolutely trucking. The guitar work continues to punish as you wind through back alleys and into a cold patch, where calm and echoing slide guitars set the mood. The song ramps back up, splashing psychedelics before hammering everything home. “Milano” starts dreamy but punchy with melodic smashing and seething riffs. Cold guitars chime behind the main wall as the emotion wells up and raises temperatures, stretches, and wails out in noise.

“Kohokia” gets off to an ominous start, as the drumming brings more darkness, and the playing feels introspective and spacey. Just then, the intensity and the volume pick up dramatically, as strong melodies pull into volcanic waves before a cloud cover settles over and gives a break from the sun before darting off to the stars. “Ghost on High” is a quick interlude built by quivering noise and buzzing, leading toward “Sinaia” that bubbles in the atmosphere as the pressure climbs. A deluge of guitars rushes over the ground as the playing gets muscular and angular, slowly crushing you to a stain. From there, the riffs pummel the senses as the drums light up, the track begins to find its grounding, and the end comes forcefully. “Quartered” closes the record, beginning in echo before massive guitars come in, setting up the heaviest section of this record. The track is muddy and thrashy as hell, making it feel like the band has gone into the heart of battle. That continues to snake through the entire song, making every stretch dangerous and refusing to relent until the assault has reaped its rewards.

Russian Circles continue to be compelling and fiery seven records into their career, and “Blood Year” is the band reshaping itself yet again, something they’ve done quite well over their 15 years together. The music is melodic but authoritative, forceful but thoughtful, and it’s ripe for repeat listening, which isn’t a surprise coming from this band. Russian Circles haven’t disappointed us yet, and clichéd as it may sound, this album almost sounds like they’re just getting started.

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Clouds Collide allow grief and dark emotions to be tackled on gazey ‘They Don’t Sleep Anymore’

Sadness and grief are things we cannot avoid, and at some point in our lives, we’ve all had to deal with these entities. The result can bring depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, all of which are pretty hard to shake, especially when it feels like you’ve had a gigantic cavern drilled into the center of your heart. Where we go from there depends on how we pull through.

Chris Pandolfo always has used his Clouds Collide project to delve deep into his soul, but never more so than on his third record “They Don’t Sleep Anymore.” This five-track offering has Pandolfo, the band’s only member, reflecting on the 10th anniversary of his mother’s passing as he himself stares 30 in the face. The record isn’t really about that thematically, as he said there isn’t an ongoing plot. Instead, it’s him digging through his emotions, his darkness, and creating music he hopes can help connect with people experiencing the same types of things. Those who deal with trauma or who are grieving or who struggle with mental health issues could spend time with this music and perhaps see something of themselves in what’s going on here. Sonically, Pandolfo still uses black metal as a base, but there are elements of emo (in a good way), shoegaze, and doomy melody that keeps you guessing. He trades off between piercing shrieks and earnestly delivered singing, giving the music different textures that take you in and out of splintering heaviness.

Clou“Entanglement” comes in with post-rock waves, pushing a gazey atmosphere as wild howls punish over the top. Clean singing then follows, giving an about-face that cools the temperature, as the guitar work feels inspired by Smashing Pumpkins. The track is breezy later before growls return and crush again, the emotion builds into a wall, and the vocals get more forceful before a giant crescendo ends. “Cosmic Loneliness” rushes open, with the music feeling big and elegant and vocals bursting through the gates. Growls scrape before Pandolfo returns to cleaner tones, digging into his heart, and then a watery, murky edge pushes in. Wrenching cries crash down as Pandolfo’s soul squeezes all its contents from itself, sounds spill, and everything loads into the sea.

“Golden Youth” lets cool winds touch down, feeling like it’s mid-summer, as clean singing continues that ambiance. Wild howls and tumultuous curves unite to bring storm clouds, as guitars turn into a psychedelic cloud, soothing wounds before things explode again. The track swarms, the singing reminds me of Duran Duran for some reason (which is a compliment), and the track bleeds away. “Parallel Ruminations” basks in ’80s-style keys before the track rolls into violent winds. Singing returns as the keys blur, with screams then taking control, the tempo poking into blood, and a fury spreading. Keys spiral while cries tear through the night, with wrenching playing twisting at your guts. “Infinite Purgatory” ends the record by slowly unraveling, with singing and harsh vocals trading off and Pandolfo calling, “Please release me, I’ve been in prison for too long now.” Gutting sadness takes on a major role as gothy clouds hover, and then the track strikes hard again. The screams punish, the gazey bleeding spills ahead, and waves crash down, with the mist leaving a coating on your face.

Soaking in shadowy chaos and bathing in sonic beauty, Pandolfo pours his entire self into “They Don’t Sleep Anymore,” a record that’ll tax your heart and mind. There is a lot going on here, and it might take a few visits through this album just to examine all the twists and turns and each bleak corner. It takes a lot of pain and suffering to get to this point, and Pandolfo showed the strength and courage to put himself and his gushing heart on display.

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