Terminal Nation’s fire-churning rage matches a land in turmoil with massive ‘Holocene Nation’

Photo by Kurt Lunsford

There was a time when we thought COVID-19 was going to be the biggest issue and problem the United States was going to face this year. And then George Floyd was murdered. Then the floodgates opened. Then the government’s outright fascism spewed into the streets, and the people who claimed to want to fight tyranny parked themselves at the boot for a long, sensuous lick. This is America.

Imagine, if you will, being locked deep in Arkansas during all of this, a place as red as red can be, with what I’m sure is a population steadfastly wrapping their arms around the goddamn injustice marring our country. That’s where Terminal Nation hail, where their politics surely can’t be met with smiling faces. But in total defiance, they push on, and the results are all over their new album “Holocene Extinction,” a collection that is fire-breathing and full of torment, an onslaught that likely didn’t know it was going to be as on the head as it is. For those new to the band—vocalist Stan Liszewski, guitarists Tommy Robinson and Dalton Rail, bassist Chase Turner, drummer Chase Davis—expect a punishing mix of hardcore, doom, thrash, punk, and death, and along the way, their righteous fury for what they’ve seen and heard comes rushing to the surface.

“Cognitive Dissonance” bursts open, trudging and smearing blood, with wild howls landing blows. The guitars take on machine-like efficiency while Liszewski prods, “What side will you be on?” as the track spirals out. “Arsenic Earth” has nasty wails as the pace grinds away, and speedy jolts send electricity. The guitars light up and punish, leading toward the title track that churns your bones in their gears. “The doomsday clock, it keeps on ticking,” Liszewski warns as the guitar work builds momentum. “You cannot save a world that does not want to be saved,” Liszewski charges as the track ends in muddy thrashing. “Master Plan” blasts by, sprawling and throwing wild punches as the vocals are directly in your face, and the senses and nerves are chewed to its ending. “Revenge” is blinding with rage-infused vocals and noise hanging in the air like a threatening cloud. The playing gets gritty and wild as maniacal laughing splashes with acid, the system burns down, and everything melts into dust. “Thirst to Burn” is a maniacal 31 seconds that’s a hugely splattering attack that reminds of Napalm Death at their gnarliest.

“Orange Bottle Prison” starts doomy, bathing in drone before it shreds into hardcore-style violence. The track lays waste in no time as Liszewski howls, “I can’t escape from this orange bottle prison,” as the guitars openly burn off. “Leather Envy” is animalistic and goes right for the guts, tearing you open and letting the insides spill out, raging into “Expired Utopia” where the guitars melt rubber and release noxious fumes. A doomy haze later settles over an atmospheric pocket, feeling mournful at times as hope bleeds away, putting a pall on this instrumental cut. “Death for Profit” hovers over as Liszewski’s talk singing lands shots before the intensity explodes. The words turn into vicious barks, with Liszewski howling, “When will we ever learn?” about humanity being a commodity for trade, and spirited gang shouts help hammer home that message. “Caskets of the Poor” is speedy and chunky as the pace agitates, slamming home the message with gargantuan power. “Disciple of Deceit” explodes with the bass driving and raspy wails, with Liszewski accusing, “You play the victim.” The track is sludgy in spots, feels like hardcore insanity in others, and is utterly devastating. “Age of Turmoil” closes the album with chugging playing and the pace smashing. “Welcome to the age of turmoil,” Liszewski wails while the playing is calculated but hammering, as the track is slowly pounded into oblivion.

It’s an incredibly fitting time—cosmically so—for Terminal Nation to arrive with “Holocene Extinction,” a record that matches what we’re seeing on the news and in our streets as people finally seem to be waking up to reality. This record has those same levels of anger, sarcasm, and hope, fighting and refusing to ever relent, and it probably packs even more for a punch for them being deep in red territory. This record not only is recommended for its incredible musical content, but also because it sounds like the voice of a nation that has had enough of being fucked.

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

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

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

Faceless Burial inject creativity, brutally progressive spirits on smashing new album ‘Speciation’

Stop me if you’ve heard the whole thing about there being an insane amount of death metal bands and records, and wading through them to find the ones worthwhile can be a chore. I’d imagine it’s harder for a listener than a writer, because I pretty much have every release at my disposal, so I have the opportunity to find what I like. I guess good luck to the rest of you?

Anyway, Aussie trio Faceless Burial indeed create the good stuff, and they do again on their mind-splattering second record “Speciation.” Hey, it’s Australia again, a land that has produced a ridiculous amount of darkness as of late, and Faceless Burial definitely fall into that mix. But that’s not all that’s going on here. While the band—vocalist/bassist Alex Macfarlane, guitarist Füj, drummer Max Kohane—has their tentacles wrapped around classic death and its tenets, they also have an adventurous nature about them, a creativity that is, gasp, fun. They have progressive tendencies, but in a way that injects a strange alien DNA and never delves into being brainiacs just trying to impress themselves.

“Worship” gets the record off to a gritty start as the growls bubble up and the leads warm as the pace lurches along. The track is punchy and mashing while the lead shatter glass, and the playing gets ugly, carving a bloody path. Guitars shift as the playing rumbles, getting tricky and proggy before turning thrashy. “Limbic Infirmary” is muddy and crushing as nasty growls penetrate before things speed up dangerously. Guitars sweep while the playing erodes, thickening and giving off a hellish feel. Cooler leads melt into the picture before the playing begins to swagger heavily, blistering and leaving heavy bruising that’ll need an icing. “Irreparably Corpsed” pounds away with utterly relentless intensity as the guitars swelter, with the leads carving away. That pressure never relents once as it smears psychologically before coming to a brutal finish.

The title track spews lava from the start as the leads glow and the vocals stomp through mud and rock. It’s clobbering and heavy, pure death metal filth shoved into your mouth, where you’re forced to chew. The track hits the gas pedal and bashes punishingly while the soloing opens up and soars, slamming closed in a burst of colors. “Spuming Catarrhal Gruel” crushes and thrashes from the start as melody jolts, and the playing hammers bones. Drums splatter as the guitar work cuts through, allowing the soloing to ignite and the proggy madness flow. The track races around, mangling senses before finally bringing mercy. “Ravished to the Unknown” closes the album and unleashes pure savagery, with the drumming delivering thunder. A massacre ignites as the guitars explode with rage, numbing the mind and going into thrashy chaos. The guitar work freezes the flesh with the track fading into a haze of static.

Faceless Burial have their roots in classic death metal for sure, but they also inject progressive spirit and a strange creativity that helps “Speciation” rise among the endless glut of music in this sub-genre. On just their second record, they’re incredibly confident and absolutely devastating on this six-track display, one that’s just enough of a serving to satisfy but not overfeed. This band has a rock-solid formula, and that’s all over this blood-thirsty sophomore record.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

Or here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/faceless-burial-speciation-lp/

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

And here: https://www.mesacounojo.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Dark city spirit at core of Imperial Triumphant’s monstrous creation ‘Alphaville’

If you could be granted a look into the future, would you want it? Knowing where we are now, the conditions in which we’re living, the uncertainty surrounding us, and the offensive black hole of leadership failing to guide anyone, do you really want to see how things turn out? If you do, is it better to know, or do you have hope things can turn around?

You’re not going to get any answers listening to Imperial Triumphant’s astonishing new record “Alphaville,” but you might get the inspiration to wonder on your own without actually being exposed to the truth. This, their first for indie giant Century Media, is their fourth full-length overall, but this version of the band truly begins with 2018’s “Vile Luxury” and continues itself here. That’s where their examination into their hometown of New York City, its history, its architecture, its spirit, and its future really started, and it gets an even sharper focus here. Over seven tracks and about 50 minutes (there are two bonus cover songs as well), the band—Zachary Ilya Ezrin (guitars/vocals), Steven Blanco (bass, vocals, piano, mellotron, synth, etc.), and Kenny Grohowski (drums)—again don their brass masks and cloaks on a mesmerizing journey built with black metal, jazz, noise, and so many other elements that make it feel like you’re shifting back in time to industrial greatness before jettisoning back to the present to take a look at the mess we’re all in. And this all was written before COVID-19, if you can imagine. The band also has some special guests on the record including Tomas Haake (Meshuggah), Phlegeton (Wormed), and Yoshiko Ohara (formerly of Bloody Panda), who also appeared on “Vile Luxury.”

“Rotted Futures” starts with noises swirling in eeriness and the sounds of decay rising from the streets before the long introduction gives way to a sludging pace that jerks and Ezrin’s vile howls. The guitar work lets its screws get jarred loose while the growls corrode, and a choral section sweeps through amid the commotion. The bass bends, growls scrape, and organs rise to carry it all home. “Excelsior” has bass smudges and a Voivod-ian edge, which makes even more sense later. The playing jolts your brain as crazed howls chew into jerky guitars and a cacophony of chaos that suddenly halts. What sounds like store overhead announcements work their way into the murk before everything re-erupts and melts closed. “City Swine” has guitars slurring as Ezrin growls, “We don’t need you,” amid mystifying terrain. The track then calms, letting quiet drumming set the course before the track enters into gargantuan playing that’s some of the heaviest stuff in the band’s history. “There is no place for you here,” Ezrin wails as the playing recoils and the track ends in a static bath.

“Atomic Age” begins with, you guessed it, a barbershop quartet, but one that feels like a crackling transmission from “Bioshock” designed to make our skin crawl. The track unravels out of that as guitars shake the contents in your stomach, and weird voices circle in the air. A brief respite unloads lava out of the other end as the horns wrench guts, ushering in a quiet section where an airplane flies overhead, electro pulses shock, and the track ends in utter strangeness. “Transmission to Mercury” opens with elegant piano spreading and horns swimming before the riffs wreck shop. The pace churns and brings nausea while the brass pumps again, and it feels like your head is merging through traffic. Fierce shrieks rain down, and they continue to wreak havoc over the final minutes before everything burns off. The title track arrives with guitars tearing into the earth, the bass liquifying, and the growls going after prone flesh. The tempo comes unglued, buzzing, destroying, and speeding through the metropolis while weird synth pockets hypnotize, and then the playing goes back to loosening the foundation. Mechanical croaks pelt away before manic hell is unleashed, leaving heads spinning and defaced. “The Greater Good” is the closing cut of IT material, and it stomps guts right out of the gates, with ghostly synth surrounding, and an avalanche of punishment dealt. Guitars feel like they’re ripping at your throat while shrieks and growls unite into a single beast, and the drums agitate. The keys form like a warped old film score unearthed from Armageddon, while the atmosphere simmers in sepia, and that storm spreads to the end. There are two bonus cuts as well—a version of Voivod’s “Experiment” from “Dimension Hatröss” to which they give an added death metal vibe, and a deranged take on The Residents’ “Happy Home.”

Imperial Triumphant’s decaying world they first introduced on “Vile Luxury” continues to slip away and erode, with filth and vermin in the streets at your feet. “Alphaville” is the logical next step, but it also stands apart from their last record as it feels like an animal that’s switched up some of its DNA in the process while remaining maniacally recognizable. Hyperbole aside, there isn’t bound to be another metal record this year that’s anything at all like this one, and repeated listens lure you into other portals to consider a societal decline that isn’t fiction any longer, as it’s knocking on our front doors.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://centurymedia.store/store/

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

Barghest’s mauling death metal splatters and takes victims with bloody, punishing ‘Altars of Rot’

What a year to feel shitty and full of spite. Just about every possible power structure has failed us, which is no surprise at all, and other members of the human race have found a stage to act like repulsive, mindless creatures with no concerns beyond their own disgusting bodies. What a wonderful time to be a human being.

Speaking of hatred and nausea for every fiber of existence, Barghest have returned with “Altars of Rot,” a fresh slab of death and black metal that will continue to rot you to the core. It’ll get in and add a level of blackness to any part of you that still has humanity remaining. That all sounds nasty and devoid of hope, and it is, but there’s also something fruitful to finding art that feels as miserable as you do inside and disappearing into the maw. On this, their third full-length and first since 2014’s “The Virtuous Purge,” everything is up for ruthless judgment, with no one offered a hint of mercy. The band—vocalist/bassist Troy Bennett, guitarist/vocalist Dallas Smith, guitarist Jason Thorning, drummer Max Kimmons—sound as savage and bloodthirsty as ever, turning in seven songs over nearly 33 minutes that wreck your soul and light fires of rage and revenge.

“Extinction Dialogue” explodes with mauling death as the vocals carve through, and the playing catches speed. “Shame is not armor that protects you from the woes at hand, blame is not a weapon with which to lash out at a weakly man,” Bennett wails as the track kicks into high gear, the leads cut through, and the track ends in bloody chunks. “Negative Forms” explodes with tricky riffs and the vocals tearing away before things get into a skull-mashing tempo. Black metal-style melodies melt away and flood with blood while Bennett ‘s vocals come unglued, and the track blasts into delirium. “The Pious (The Poisoned)” is a punisher that has filthy riffs and vicious growls, as the guitars fill the air with tension. “Sworn to uphold the vile words of men pretending to be gods, empty and weak and hollow, taking from the peasants of tomorrow,” Bennett wails while the drum work clobbers, guitars catch fire, and the track comes to a blinding end in hatred and filth.

“Ferinus Vis” punishes and erases whatever data your mind is holding onto as a violent pace and thunderous riffs arrive. The playing smothers as it curves into hell, growing completely unhinged as the guitars burn off into the murk. “Nomadic Plague” is … timely delivered in this diseased year of 2020, at least as far as the title is concerned. The playing is thrashy and channeled as the shrieks rush to the surface, and the drums smash at your fingers. “Intrinsically destroying everything, elaborately portraying martyrdom,” Bennett stabs as the tornadic assault ends abruptly and shockingly. “Endless Empty Shapes” brings with it deep growls delivered from the guts as the playing mars, and the words are spat out as if they’re sickening Bennett. The playing starts landing blows heavily and recklessly, stampeding with crazed desire, tearing away at guts and splattering blood. The title track ends the proceedings, kicking in with Bennett snarling, “Ignorant herds, weeping with false faith, led to their blind ways,” attacking with bloodlust right from the start. The drums unleash war while vicious growls lay waste, as hammers are continually wielded and allowed to leave gaping wounds in whatever they encounter. That intensity never relents as the playing continues to dole out punishment until everything finally comes to a merciful finish.

Barghest’s savagery and chaotic appetite for hellish ways arise again on “Altars of Rot,” another record in which they refuse to pull back musically and lyrically. This record is a beast that flies by in no time but makes sure you feel every ounce of the punishment along the way. There’s zero mercy to be had at this band’s hands, a lesson we’ve learned over and over during the past decade and a half of their reign.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://barghestsoulless.bandcamp.com/album/altars-of-rot

Battle Dagorath venture deeper into galaxies, other dimensions on mind-melting ‘Abyss Horizons’

Have you ever gazed into the night sky and into the elements of the universe you can see and wonder what could be going on in places millions of light years beyond our planet? I’ve done this for years, often wondering if there are worlds in the same type of disarray as ours or if anyone or anything has reached themselves beyond their current physical plane.

Long-running cosmic black metal creature Battle Dagorath—helmed solely by Black Sorcerer Battle at this moment—has been creating music that sparks you to imagine the beyond over the course of the past 18 years and six full-length records, their latest “Abyss Horizons” having recently landed in our laps. If you’ve been on board with this project, you’re going to feel right at home with these eight tracks and 73 minutes of intense and dreamscaped sounds, where at times you’re being drilled into psychosis and others where calm waters from other planes wash over your mind. These pieces are elaborate and envelope you in space wonders but also reveal journeys beyond oneself, into ancient mysticism, crossing realms and dimensions,  and making sure the music gets you there. And every step of the way, it very much does.

“Womb of the Labyrinth” is a quick introduction track with strange synth passages, chants, and the feeling of cult-like adulation, leading into 16:07-long “Incantation of the Vortexx.” Keys swirl as the guitars ignite, and hypnosis spreads over the track, shrieks shredding time. As the track goes, the playing goes back and forth from black metal savagery to calmer, quieter pockets, as if storms are building to ultimate violence and then subsiding. Chaotic immersion seems to melt within the stars as the playing rushes as the final surge melts away. “Spectral Emanations” is a quick instrumental piece that sits in static as lush noises knock, and winds pierce with sci-fi imagination. “Phantasmal Eye of Dreams” is the longest track, running 16:15 and starting with vocals wrenching and a stunning pace that captures your mind. Melodies flood as the playing fills your ears and brings strange visions while a synth pocket unhinges its jaws and tries to swallow you whole, unleashing fireballs and madness before slowly trickling away into the night.

“A Voiceless Call” is the final quick interlude track and has organs calling, bells chiming, and a strange feeling washing over you as it segues into “Conjuring the Starwinds” that’s a healthy 14:14. The guitars catch fire as banshee howls rain down and cover the ground, chilly wooshes sweep across, and it feels like alien nightmares are about to come true. The charges then reignite as the wartorn hell is unleashed anew, the shrieks smear the senses, and the track dissolves into strange miasma. “Twilight of the Cold Sun” is freezing from the start, as reflective synth unfurls and blankets its entire reach while the playing blasts away, with the vocals crushing. A new synth bath causes the flesh to rise and goosebump as the cold fury keeps its pace, swirling into galactic power and dissolving into meat of planets not yet discovered. “Saturnian Moons” is the instrumental closer where synth simmers and glows on the horizon, numbing your brain. It feels like slowly being drawn into a space void as the playing pulsates, finally disappearing into unexplored mysteries.

Cosmic black metal is terrain Battle Dagorath essentially own and have operated since they bubbled into existence nearly 20 years ago. “Abyss Horizons” keeps their imaginative adventures going and hurtling even deeper into space, where no human ever has or ever will tread, shattering your psyche. This band has created visions only their dreams could bring to reality, and their existence again proves to be one of black metal’s most interesting corners.

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

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

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

Death dealers Sepulchral Curse create quaking fury on massive debut album ‘Only Ashes Remain’

I’m running out of shit to do, man. I’m sure I’m not alone. This not being able to go anywhere weighs on you, even though it’s the right thing to do, but mentally it’s very taxing realizing you live in a very specified space, and the amount of activities available just chews at every nerve ending and sends you into a spiral of madness.

Death metal and doom are things that strangely keep me sane, and Finland’s Sepulchral Curse had a huge hand in keeping my mind in one piece the past few weeks. Their debut full-length album “Only Ashes Remain” had a huge part in keeping my mind engaged the past few weeks, a perverse thing to admit about a record that essentially is looking to dismantle anything it encounters. If you’re a huge fan of Finnish death and doom—and aren’t we all?—prepare to embrace these seven tracks and 45 minutes in a way that’ll keep your heart blackened, and not just from the events of this year. The band—vocalist Kari Kankaanpää , guitarists Jaakko Riihimäki and Aleksi Luukka, bassist Niilas Nissilä, and drummer/vocalist Tommi Ilmanen—have plied their trade in other well-respected groups such as Yawning Void and Solothus, but here, they unleash a completely different portal into hell and drag you along kicking and screaming.

Fin”From Within the Bowels of the Earth” opens grinding away as Kankaanpää’s animalistic howls jar, and the leads cut through the midsection. The growls and shrieks mix as melody rampages, the band pummels you, and bursts of all different colors emerge as the rampage smashes toward the doors. “Swarming Blackness” is deadly right away as the track fires up and the growls scrape through the mashing assault. Shrieks rip out as the cymbals are crushed, the band hits a thrashy cycle, and the leads get into full command before the track disappears. “Into the Depths Unknown” crushes out of the gates while Kankaanpää’s vocals revel in brutality, and the guitars mangle your brains. Strong leads trudge while the guitars stampede, with the entire atmosphere of the song feeling like a million pounds of pressure on your chest as you struggle to gasp for air.

“Eyes Inside” simmers while the pace takes on a calculated pace, and the growls work their way into your mind. The shrieks burst as the guitar work sets the challenge, the pace trembles, and everything is put through the shredder. The vocals return to death grunts, the playing is burly, and everything is pounded into dust. “Church of Loss” slurs while thunderous drums loosen bricks before the playing quickens in a hurry. The guitar works spirals while Kankaanpää seemingly gurgles blood delivering his words while a thick humidity arrives, and the track bleeds off into chaos. “Dead Stars Drawing Spirals” grinds away as the growls and shrieks tangle, and the guitars hit the gas pedal. The absolute doom of humankind is envisioned while meaty death rains down, the growls bubble, and the leads light up. The leads unravel and usher in madness before the violence increases to the finish. “Maan Tuhkien Uneen” ends the record, and at 11:04, it’s the longest track on here. Low-end hiss arrives as beastly lurching gets under way, and the brutality is devastating. Nasty wails dizzy while the steady pace breaks bones, and lava slowly oozes from the cracks. The heaviness increases as the song goes on, and the shrieks temper while the playing gains steam, working into a heavy storm that sizzles in the atmosphere, bringing everything to an echo-ridden finish.

Sepulchral Curse’s debut is a steady, punishing slab of death metal and doom that hulks across the earth, bringing with it broken bones and devastated wills left in their wake. “Only Ashes Remain” is a crusher of a record that refuses to relent over its 45 minutes, and it carries with it astonishing promise for a band that’s best days are actually ahead of them. It’s an earthquaking first step that’ll leave every inch of you bruised and in total submission.

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

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

Or here (international): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.de/shop-en

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Couch Slut put psyches to test with raw tales of abuse, blood on ‘…Rock ‘n’ Roll’

The album title “Take a Chance on Rock ‘n’ Roll” really has a sort of loose, fuck-it-all vibe to it, especially now that it’s summer, and no one can really have a lot of big adventures. But an album with that name sure sounds like one fun road companion, does it not? Music to keep you pumped and excited during the hot summer days. Then Couch Slut pull the rug out from under you, because you should know better.

Like all Couch Slut music, you’re not here to escape your troubles and have a good time. You’re getting the polar opposite of that experience because their music, especially what you hear on this, their third album, is uncomfortable to say the very least. The band delves into subject matter including mental abuse, drug use, underage prostitution, domestic violence, and plenty of other dark corners, with zero punches thrown, nothing held back, warts sliced open to ooze in front of you. The band—vocalist Megan O, guitarist/trumpet player Amy Mills, guitarist Kevin Wunderlich, bassist Kevin Hall, and drummer Theo Nobel—plaster you with noise, glass-shard riffs, strangeness, abrasiveness, and vocals that refuse to let you off the hook and ensure each ounce of pain is absorbed over and over again. And it all ends with a true story where it’s a miracle everyone lived to tell the tale. The album is available now to purchase by download and has been since May, but we’re on the verge of the physical release, hence why we’re writing about this record now.

“The Mouthwash Years” kicks off with the band’s trademark noise and trudging guitars as things get whipped into a frenzy in a hurry, and Meg’s vocals start peeling at your skin. The pace pummels as she sneers, ” Now you’re dried out, what do you want for it?” as the track ends in sludge and your ears lacerated. “Carousel of Progress” is speedier and wastes no time starting the bruising as killer guitars swelter, and Meg wails, “Yeah, it’s a gag, I know it’s on again, I didn’t want it,” as the track barrels into muscle, with drum spurts taking things to its end. “All the Way Down” charges up with the bass leading the way and the guitars sweating up a nasty swagger. The tale is horrifying, complete with blood in a sink, terrible events going on behind a bathroom door, and Meg calling out, “Pieces of flesh in the sink, I can’t take anymore,” before the song finally has mercy on you. “The Stupid Man” is a harrowing tale of a man stealing drugs, pissing in ovens, and being a threat to murder, oddly given a rather hypnotic backing at times that lets the words drive the panic. “My head wasn’t there, was not there at all, his mind wasn’t there, piece of shit addict,” Meg rails as the band hits a doomy swell that feels uncomfortable and eventually slams shut, as footsteps walk away.

“In a Pig’s Eye” already is relentless when it starts as hard shrieks pulsate, and the story is one where the woman, having been assaulted, is questioned about her motives. “They wanna know, they asked if I’m a whore,” Meg howls as the cops print her car and basically provide no help, only adding to the vitriol in the song. “I hope they’re fucking dead now,” she blasts while the band backs her with bone-stripping, noisy thrash. “Topless and Bottomless” has the guitars slamming you with a punk-fueled vibe, the vocals smothering, and Meg taunting, “You can’t even fuck a doll.” The playing drives a hole in the ground as the piss and fury continue to build, with Meg mocking, “Take it easy like a desperate fuck,” as the track boils out in noise. “I’m 14” is a tale of cocaine, secretly pierced clits, and sexual favors under the influence of drugs, all involving a teenager. The calculated vocal delivery makes sure you absorb every bit, squirming as the guitars strangely dream, and Mills’ trumpet flutter through as everything crashes down, but not before the song is twisted into the 1987 film “The Gate,” an end I did not see coming. “-” is a quick gateway track, driven by Wiley DeWeese’s piano playing that leads to closer “Someplace Cheap” that is a true story that happened to Meg and her previous bandmates when they decided to tour and ended up in Ohio. I don’t want to give away the entire thing, but let’s say it involves bikers, people being unknowingly drugged, those people waking up to realize they were jerked off over on camera, and a fucking amazing threat for the people who drugged them as to where they could find them so revenge could be had. Meg literally speaks the story over the band’s slurred guitars, pummeling drums, and humid pitch that gets heavier as the story gets scarier, only coming unhinged at the very end. Scary as hell. Glad they’re all alive.

As noted, you should not be fooled by the record’s breezy album title because what you find upon cracking it open are sobering, bloody, horrifying events that really happen to women and that are bluntly delivered in devastating detail. Caution always should be used when approaching a Couch Slut record (though it’s utterly vital these stories are shared), but assuming some newer folks are along for the ride, it just helps to reiterate. That all said, this is a killer record delivered by a tornadic force of a band, and it’s one of the year’s most jarring, unforgettable albums to be sure.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/take-a-chance-on-rock-n-roll

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

Maggot Heart unleash attitude, swagger to bloody mouths with danger-smeared ‘Mercy Machine’

Not everything is meant to last, even if it’s something you think is incredibly fruitful artistically because those behind the work may not necessarily agree. That was the case with Swedish/German duo The Oath, whose great 2014 debut record was accompanied not long after by the group’s permanent dissolution. Still, something good came out of that.

The band’s two leaders went on to their own projects, Johanna Sadonis founding like-minded Lucifer, and Linneá Olsson taking her darkness to filthier terrains with Maggot Heart, whose new record “Mercy Machine” is about to land in our laps. Olsson has a sneer and a swagger that stands way out front with this band that is incredibly appealing and gives the music even more fuel with which to set blazes, and they take things even further on this album, that shows a lot of growth from 2018 debut “Dusk to Dusk.” Joined by bassist Olivia Airey and drummer Uno Bruniusson, Olsson uses her voice and daggering guitar playing to whip up 10 tracks that sound like the band is in the streets and ready for a fight, even though they may be coming from another rumble a block over. It’s easy to get the feeling from listening to this record that Olsson is behind you, fist balled, just ready for you to make the wrong move so she can punch your teeth right down your throat.

“Second Class” gets things kick started as it lands scuzzy punches as Olsson’s singing leads the way, chock full of attitude. “You’re still running, but you’re so far from any kind of achievement,” she pokes as anger and spite melt right into the blood work. “Sex Breath” is a charger as the vocals prod, and the chorus is catchy as hell. Guitars darken and chime as the shadows lurk, the chorus kicks back in, and the song churns out. “Justine” has guitars slinking with Olsson pounding, “Every woman is a star, even those that go too far.” Punk heat is added to the forceful chugging while Olsson warns, “I’m not far behind,” as the track burns away. “Roses” is a strong one as a sinewy bassline crawls, and Olsson’s singing pushes into goth-scuffed guitars. She notes she’s “falling down the rabbit hole,” while the guitars charge up, and the rough playing gives the song a dangerous edge. “Gutter Feeling” has a bluesy bend with talk-like singing, as Olsson notes, “Heavenly bodies thrown out with the trash, I’ll look through the trash.” The chorus is tremendous as she stabs, “I’ve been tripping on that gutter feeling,” with the track ending with its own nose bloodied.

The title track has driving guitars and menacing vocals with yet another killer chorus that settles into your system. Noisy playing angles into a filthy pocket while the riffs charge up, and Olsson calls, “Show no mercy on me,” as the track bleeds out. “High Rise” has guitars agitating at the start before the song goes in more of a mid-tempo direction. The chorus is simple but effective as the title is called over and over while the leads take over and leave the song in a glimmering shine. “Lost Boys” delivers cool riffs while Olsson’s singing is pulled back a bit as the darkness is allowed to rain down. The guitars catch fire and take off for gritty, punishing terrain while Olsson calls, “Thank god I’ve got nothing to lose,” as the track melts away. “Senseless” trudges and feels doomy as Olsson notes, “I see the dogs of death in my garden,” as she stares menace in the eyes. The guitars thicken and sting while terror spreads, and echoes send chills down the spine. “Modern Cruelty” is the closer and starts with rock-solid riffs and things getting rougher in a hurry. Olsson practically spits out her words as the pace takes chances and causes you stomach acid to splash, while the sun sets quickly, letting dark vibes to roam. “Dawn breaks, you take your pills to get by,” Olsson calls as the track slips by, with the band firing off a final note repeatedly, as if driving the dagger deeper into your chest.

Maggot Heart have truly opened up a gruesome vein on “Mercy Machine,” an album that has the band really finding their way and developing their personality. These 10 tracks are dangerous, flooded with conviction, and confrontational, while Olsson is in total command out front, her vocals exploding with attitude. This is a fun, jarring record that shows no fear and will drive your face into the dirt just to prove its point.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://maggotheart.bandcamp.com/

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

Empress push progressive doom to honor fallen friend, address mental battles on ‘Premonition’

Mental illness is for real. There are people who will try to argue otherwise, and if you’re one and you claim it has something to do with toughness, let me know so I can tell you to go fuck yourself. This is after five tough years of therapy and learning about social anxiety and other issues that helped me keep it bottled up and basically untreated for most of my life.

Empress’ debut record “Premonition” is based in a lot of that as the album touches deeply on mental health issues and the way they weave through our families and loved ones. This album specifically focuses on the struggles faced by vocalist/guitarist Peter Sacco and his family as well as the trauma and difficulties that can go along with that. There also is a measure of protection involved, discouraging people from pressuring those with mental health issues to come forward and instead letting them handle their life and struggles as they see fit. On this record, the band not only makes its mark with its prog-infested doom but also has a very human touch that should help those who identify with these issues feel a camaraderie and others in the dark about these matters help opening their eyes and hearts. The band is rounded out by drummer Chris Doyle, and bassist the late Brendan Gunn, who passed away in late October. This record is dedicated to his memory.

“A Pale Wanderer” has a fluid open before Sacco’s clean calls reach in, and the music heads into a proggy gaze. Doomy trudging lands punches while the soloing heats up, and a calm brings cooler air while sounds rush. Drums open up as the vocals turn to wild cries, moody melody brings cloud cover, and the track fades out. “Sepulchre” gets off to a raucous start as the chorus belts you, with the track taking on more of a rock n roll vibe. Gruff cries team up with the doomy chugging while the bass sinks in its teeth, yells punish, and the song ends abruptly. “Passage” trickles open as the guitars tread water, and Sacco’s signing hits Ozzy-style highs. The pace gallops as the guitars heat up and burn the hair on your arms, while a strong chorus gives an emotional boost. The bass rumbles as the track blasts ahead, and wild shrieks contributes to the end’s dust up.

“Trost” has strange effects on the cries, then the track cracks through the surface, and there’s a slight black metal edge to the melodies. The playing jolts your blood flow, as Sacco goes back and forth between harsh calls and clean vocals, and the playing eases into a driving bassline. Dreamy guitars come with a breeze as the singing floats in the air, wild cries explode, and an atmospheric soup leaves you coated in condensation. “Hiraeth” has a hazy start that flows in, setting the stage before the playing rages in flames. Guitars buzz while raw cries punish, and the underbelly pulsates and pounds before the tempo pulls back. The bass gets things moving again as yells echo, guitars blaze, and the track lands crucial punches before the track begins to melt back into the earth. The title track is a strong instrumental that leans in already on fire as the long intro sets the vibe, and all kinds of colors explode on the horizon. Things bubble while the drums tap away before the lid is torn off again, with the emotional surge challenging your psyche. “Lion’s Blood” is the cataclysmic closer that starts calmly, dripping in with softer vocals as the intensity ramps up. Once the awakening happens, crazed cries emerge, and the playing gets even more compelling, with Sacco’s wails reminding a bit of Bruce Lamont. The pace blends into cold, simmering there for a bit before the track trudges again, wild yells scrape the flesh, and the track burns out of time.

“Premonition” is a record that has two experiences, one musically and the other emotionally. It’s certainly possible to sink into Empress’ progressive doom and let the music wash over you as you disappear into the atmosphere. But if you connect to the lyrical content and have experienced mental illness yourself, it opens even deeper, digs into your heart, and provides an experience that every part of you can indulge and come out emotionally tested.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://thisisempress.bandcamp.com/