Epic doom legends Candlemass return with classic-era glory on fire-stoking ‘Sweet Evil Sun’

We are very lucky in that we live in a time when metal’s legends still are among us, creating great art and proving the style has true staying power even after its creators have spent so much time in the trenches. Judas Priest and Iron Maiden continue to make strong new records and tour, and having seen Metallica on their short stadium run this summer, it’s clear they still absolutely bring it.

That also applies to longtime doom standard bearers Candlemass, who continue to make strong music nearly 40 years into their run as a band. Just as the air is getting colder (actually, it was like 80 here today, but that won’t last…), this legendary act returns with “Sweet Evil Sun,” their 13th album and follow-up to 2019’s “The Door to Doom.” On this record, the band—vocalist Johan Lanquist, guitarists Lars Johansson and Mappe Björkman, bassist Leif Edling, drummer Janne Lind—digs back to their roots, delivering epic doom metal but also grounding that in where this stuff came from in the first place. Lanquist (who returned in 2018), Björkman, and Edling all date back to their “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” debut, and they still have the fire and ominous energy to be as relevant and fiery as they are on this album.

“Wizard of the Vortex” kicks off the record with crushing riffs and strong singing, two hallmarks of any good Candlemass song. The chorus is gothy and hearty, the soloing rips out and delivers electricity, and Lanquist calls, “Spreading her wings down, down, down, down,” as the track ends on a folkish note. The title track erupts with guitars blaring and melodies twisting, a classic 1980s feel driving through your blood. The soloing melts as the fiery pace kicks harder, and Lanquist howls, “Oh mother of the world, you are one.” “Angel Battle” is sinister with grittier singing and the guitars bringing aggression, Lanquist calling, “The war to end all wars.” Guitars melt as the playing turns into slow and doomy storming, rolling under thickening cloud cover and fading into steady rain and chiming bells. “Black Butterfly” powers with its blackening riffs, the murk hanging overhead and making the shadows feel more threatening. The band finds a way to get more haunting, the chorus smokes, and the guitar playing spirals into a pile of ash. “When Death Sighs” features Jennie-Ann Smith of Avatarium who adds her dramatic vocals to this stunner. The chorus is steamy and alluring as great darkness falls, the classic doom strains flex, and the calls of, “Now tell me who you love,” reverberate in your cells.

“Scandinavian Gods” is ominous with thornier singing and slow-driving, sooty playing that coats your face with black. “Sing for me brother, sister, and son, sing for the brave and old,” Lanquist bellows over the chorus, adding a catchy, dark edge to the playing, the soloing taking off into the sun. “Devil Voodoo” starts acoustically with the singing deliberately moving, the pace eventually bursting open. The chorus punishes as the guitar playing brings some bluesy heat, and then we settle back into slower, more delicate terrain as Lanquist calls, “Can I really do what you want me to?” as everything soaks into gothy soil. “Crucified” lets guitars utterly melt, kicking in and leaving dents in your skull, bringing a spirit that darkens the skies. The pace stews and steams, sludgy guitars emerge, and everything slowly evaporates into thin air. “Goddess” takes its time sinking in its hooks, while the vocals scrape prone flesh, Lanquist howling, “Do you really feel betrayed?” The guitars take off as the singing toughens, the power slithers, and the ominous call of, “The beginning of the end,” makes the aura feel apocalyptic. Closer “A Cup of Coffin” is a brief instrumental outro with the bass lurching, guitars heating up, and detached applause raining down and dropping the final curtain.

Candlemass obviously are legends of the doom genre, carrying the banner for four decades, and creating so much diverse music, even within their own catalog, that the world owes them a debt of gratitude. “Sweet Evil Sun” is a chance for this reworked version of the band, once that stretches all the way back to their formation, to flex their muscles and continue to prove the fire they have left for the world. This is a strong, immersive, powerful set from a band with nothing left to prove that continues to create great art regardless.

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

To buy the album (U.S./Canada), go here: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/

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

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

Destroyer of Light put focus on people’s responses to disasters on diverse, mind-numbing ‘Panic’

At the risk of making longtime readers roll their eyes out of their skull, yes, we’re doing the pandemic opening again. But hold on! There’s good reason for it. That period of time had a horrible impact on a lot of people’s mental health, mine included. The news cycle was relentless, and having a new virus we knew little about creating havoc and taking lives was a lot to handle, and it’s not over.

On Destroyer of Light’s incredible new record “Panic,” the timeframe once again rears its head, reminding us of all the ways we lost ourselves trying to mentally deal with something unknown. But this record doesn’t just touch on that topic as the band also visits subjects such as natural disasters and other upheavals that have us losing our fucking shit trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath. That period of freakout inspired the band—vocalist/guitarist Steve Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, bassist Mike Swarbrick, drummer Kelly Turner—to create these seven tracks that are some of the richest, most diverse of their entire run. It’s a great doom record for sure, but there’s so much more packed into this thing that deviates from their previous four albums (killers them all) but also ties them all together, creating even more room for creativity.

“Darkshimmer” opens as a siren and sinks right into a heavy doom riff, and then the singing swells with shrieks mixing in and adding the thorns. The power mauls as the leads soar, bringing a psychedelic edge as the growls smear blood, the singing swings back, and the energy finally fades out. “Contagion” might hit a little too close to home for those still psychologically impacted by the pandemic, the sludge thickening and chugging. Ominous singing stings the ears, and the chorus, while incredibly dark, also pushes you to the emotional brink. The guitar work continues to pay off the hopelessness, the playing takes off, and the growls smear as the soot hangs in the air. “The Midnight Sun” opens with a clip from “The Twilight Zone” episode from 1961 of the same name as the song. The riffs are catchy as hell and the singing gets you, pushing the gas pedal and increasing the steam. Later, there’s a slow-driving force that brings a psyche haze as everything glimmers and scorches to the end.

“Before You Die” delivers a swarm of guitars as a slow, plodding pace takes over, a shadowy vibe spilling into a hypnotic pall, the guitars washing over everything. The playing drubs as everything slowly spirals, the darkness increases, and the guitars set the scene ablaze. “Cold Air I” dawns with atmospheric guitars and a spacious energy, the singing pushing you to your will. Melodic leads and a warm bath of emotion floods, the electricity stretching until strange bubbling rushes to the surface. “Cold Air II” starts with acoustics and washed-out singing, a synth haze buzzing overhead like an alien ship. The cosmic essence gets thicker, beams of light tear through the night, and somber storming pulls to the finish line. Closer “Nightmares Come True” opens and immediately boils, the vocals taking to the air as the guitars rise with everything. A strong chorus utterly rips, and sludgy punching takes its toll, Colca calling, “Search for the truth, feed the lies, your mind destroys you,” a true dagger to finish this killer collection.

Who amongst us hasn’t felt complete and total desperation the past few years alone? Destroyer of Light calling this record “Panic” is a perfect move, encapsulating not only how we’ve felt during a health crisis but the way people react to natural disaster and events we have no hope of controlling. This not only is a step ahead for the band musically, but it’s also a thought-provoking collection of songs loosely stitched together by the concept of losing your total fucking mind.

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Steamy doom unleashed by Dream Unending infects on ‘Song of Salvation’

There are times when I like to enjoy some very legal Pennsylvania marijuana and take the hottest shower I can handle before going to sleep. The effects of all of that is a sensation like I’m floating, entering into a strange dream state even though I’m wide awake and letting myself drift off to wherever it takes me. I don’t advise operating machinery when this happens, so we’re clear.

That experience is one that I feel without the benefits of drugs and steam when experiencing “Song of Salvation,” the incredible new record from death/doom duo Dream Unending that follows last year’s “Tide Turns Eternal.” The leap from record one to two is astonishing, and that holds even more power considering how great their debut is. The band—guitarist/bassist Derrick Vella (Outer Heaven, Tomb Mold), drummer/vocalist Justin DeTore (Sumerland, Innumerable Forms)—enters into a mystical land of frost and fog, strange transmissions, and the thorns of death and doom that feel like they stretch the lifespan of all heavy metal. They’re also joined by noted metal luminaries (we’ll introduce them later) to help realize their visions and create an atmosphere that stands on its own as something that’ll infect your cells and make it impossible to shake its power.

The record has epic numbers as bookends, the first being the opening title track that runs 14:05 and trickles into guitars launching and growls lurching. The murky coldness keeps getting thicker, the condensation on your limbs freezing you as mystical playing makes you see visions, and then the grisly powers open again. Dark, steamy trudging has its way, the howls penetrate your psyche, and the final minutes work to fully disorient you as it dissolves into mystery. “Secret Grief” features Phil Swanson (Hour of 13, ex-Sumerlands, myriad other bands) and Leila Abdul-Rauf on trumpet, and everything moves quietly and cleanly, giving you comfort that feels a little unsettling. The heat envelops as the horns haunt, strong and hypnotic playing is a bed for the clean vocals and growls to intermingle, and everything is engorged before ending abruptly.

“Murmur of Voices” is a brief interlude built with clean guitars bubbling, warm winds blowing, and whispers jarring you from sleeping, pulling into instrumental track “Unrequited” that melts into the rocks and soil. An elegant ambient glaze drizzles as the guitars burn deeply, synth clouds spread, and the body feels like it’s rising into outer space, floating endless among the stars. Closer “Ecstatic Reign” is the longest track, running 16:03 and trudging open, leaving muddy bootsteps behind. Growls pummel, but that aggression is encapsulated in dreamy interference, McKenna Rae’s (Phantom Divine, Revelry) gentle calls as The Implorer making the tension calm and your mind able to wander. The playing reignites later, bursts of lava blazing the night sky, a doomy pall covering the land and bringing on the cold. Max Klebanoff (also of Tomb Mold) twists his howls with DeTore’s as the pressure gets heavier, and then Richard Poe enters as The Dreamer, narrating and haunting. “The search continues, the dance lasts forever, can you hear the song that plays?” he implores as the final bursts of fury register, the growls engulf, and the swarming leads bring this dream to a stunning end.

Dream Unending’s artistic output seems not of this world, an environment seemingly only accessible in slumber or when indulging in mind-altering experiences. “Song of Salvation” exists on its own island, a piece that I’m not sure any other band in heavy music could equal, a vision that entrances and pulls you into their world with electricity and numbing energy that spills right into your brain. This is an indescribable experience, though we tried to convey what we felt, and it must be absorbed to fully understand exactly the impact it holds. And like a drug, the journey is likely to be radically different for everyone.

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

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

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

Detroit brawlers Fell Ruin cast dark shadows over harrowing reality with brutal ‘Cast in Oil…’

The world is a dark and horrible place, and anyone who thinks differently clearly isn’t paying attention or is willfully ignorant to the truth. We live in a hellscape that likely is going to get worse. Oppression is on the rise, hatred is seen as a quality to get elected, and respect and protection for people different from the majority is eroding at an alarming rate. Survival has become a deadly game for so many.

Detroit black metal/doom crushers Fell Ruin surely have seen the erosion in their own backyards, and they use their second record “Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought” as a sort of memoir for a character trying to survive in what’s become an increasingly hostile world. The band—vocalist/synth player Brian Sheehan, guitarist/synth player Robert Radtke, bassist Jeff McMullen, drummer August Krueger—deliver a six-track destroyer that is heavy, bleak, and bruising. It’s a record that aligns with anyone feeling the same type of misery but also reminds that positivity is a losing game, and there is so much more to endure before we can even imagine brighter days. Reality sucks, and this album is a reminder.

“Fixation” opens the record and is a quick, synth-driven intro track setting the ambiance for what comes next, which most directly is the title track that immediately ravages from the word go. The pace has moments where it slows and lets the burn really get inside of you, but mostly you’re being fully battered as weird guitar lines slash, the playing boils in hell, and a brief gasp of solemnity dives right back into churning power. The bass chews, the howls pummel, and the fog claims everything. “Stain the Field” blisters as the vocals cave chests, dark and foreboding melodies rushing and snaking. Foreboding winds blow as the playing gets more intense, giving off strange vibes that encircle, the guitars knifing toward you dangerously, washing out with pools of blackening blood.

“Patronage of the Gutted Man” is another quick instrumental cut, sprinkling folkish melodies and gentler guitars, slowly trickling toward “The Burning Spire” that tears open and lets the drums mount a complete assault. The playing trudges and splits skulls as the vocals burst, and the guitars tremble, leaving you shaking uncontrollably. Detached speaking makes you feel extra uncomfortable as the growls corrode, the playing thrashes and burns, and the knives coming at you at weird angles finally relent as the end is fully smothered. Closer “Sightless Amongst the Weavers” dawns in a cloud of strange synth that wafts, and then the growls splatter, and psychedelic drops get into your skin and make you see visions. Cavernous power engulfs as the playing mars, coming apart and powdering bones. The riffs ignite and make seismic waves, the devastation multiplies, and everything spirals out, resting forever in a static bed.

“Cast in Oil the Dressed Wrought” is immersed in the horrors of the world, a place where our comfort gets further away from us by the moment. Fell Voices treat this reality with harrowing, hypnotic and doomy black metal that tortures your soul and pushes your psyche to its limits. This is a massive statement that is a sobering reminder of the hell that surrounds us and that music like this is here to be a partner in that shared torture.  

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

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.tartarusrecords.com/product/fell-ruin-cast-in-oil-the-dressed-wrought/

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

Metal lifers Darkthrone launch fresh wave of heavy adventures on killer burst ‘Astral Fortress’

You know that whole “there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes” thing? Well, it’s wrong. There’s a third. Darkthrone will return every few years with another record that isn’t a callback to their black metal roots that’ll continually annoy the so-called purists. But for the rest of us, it’ll be a joy in a life of constant pain, a lifeline from metal’s roots that always seems ready to nourish.

Yes, we have a new Darkthrone platter called “Astral Fortress,” and yes, it’s a fucking great time. The duo of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Nocturno Culto and everyone’s favorite metal lifer/cool uncle drummer/vocalist Fenriz are back to spread more metallic tidings, this time with seven tracks over 40 minutes. This follow-up to last year’s “Eternal Hails……” and 19th full-length overall definitely sounds like the Darkthrone we’ve come to know the past decade or so, but they always have some new twists and turns that leave you guessing. They label themselves “old metal,” and that’s a pretty good descriptor as they traverse the genre’s history, grab components from their lifelong journey, and color it with 2022 vibes. They’re as reliable as one can get from any metal band, and while this won’t satisfy everyone, you have to either be a miserable bastard or just too set in your ways not to smile a whole fucking lot listening to this.

“Caravan of Broken Ghosts” starts not with a gust but acoustically, giving a slow burn before things starts to scrape, the humidity increasing and barreling toward you. The guys then start thrashing, firing up and bringing heavy lumber, defying all times and eras. Darker riffs emerge, the vocals are gruff and grisly, and the final churns eat into the earth. “Impeccable Caverns of Satan” delivers strong riffs and Nocturno Culto’s unmistakable howls, the ominous tones getting into your blood. Guitars trudge and then take on a glorious sheen before the playing gets dirtier, mashing your fingers and stretching your muscles before dissolving into thin air. “Stalagmite Necklace” lights up the guitars, brings strange and hovering synth, and devious and echoey playing makes your flesh crawl. “You cannot see the forest for the fear,” Fenriz howls, “I see you with your stalagmite necklace,” sometimes sounding like Tom G. Warrior. The murk thickens as the doom lands, pummeling before burning out.

“The Sea Beneath the Seas of the Sea” is the longest track, running 10:10 and unloading psychedelic guitars that help the ambiance get more intense. Vocals mar as the playing chugs with a filthy underbelly, the steady playing keeping the blood flowing as the howl of, “Drying out in the caves of apathy while I am the sea beneath the seas of the sea,” jolts you to your core. Mesmerizing thrashing makes its presence felt, the leads smear, and a huge, raucous finish melts everything to goo. “Kevorkian Times” opens with sooty riffs and vocals that feel like they’ve rolled around in the dirt, speeding up later and jolting your bones. Darkening swirls add immersive shadows, sinking you in dark waters before washing away. “Kolbotn, West of the Vast Forests” is an instrumental piece with chimes, chants, and odd strings, adding an eerie aura that leads into closer “Eon 2” that responds with charging riffs. Everything soars as classic guitar work makes you feel the pit of nostalgia, the vocals creak into a lush acoustic bed, and manic energy fills your every pore. The energy charges and takes you with it, finally letting you breathe a little, ending in a pocket of warmth.

There are plenty of things you can expect from a Darkthrone record—boundless energy, the love of every era of heavy metal, the frosty gasp of wintry winds—but they always have a few surprises up their sleeves as they do on “Astral Fortress.” Likely those who expected black metal from this duo every time long have fucked off, and they’re not missed as Darkthrone keep releasing fully enjoyable and honest slabs of “old metal” that feel tried and true. This is as true an expression of heavy metal one is going to find, and leave it to the trusty Darkthrone institution to satisfy all over again.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://peaceville.merchnow.com/catalogs/Darkthrone

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

Fiadh Productions unveil power from maulers Agriculture, Vega, Sanguinaria, Uamh, and others

Doing a site that reviews a handful of records each week might not seem like that tough of a thing to do, and honestly there are harder jobs out there. We’re not exactly saving lives. But we live in shitty times where fascism is on the rise, we’re somehow still dealing with rampant antisemitism, and finding bands and labels you can truly trust is exhausting and involves more research than it should.

So, when we find a label like Fiadh Productions, it makes what we do a whole lot easier. Not only is the female-owned label steadfast in their stance against fascism and supports animal rights, they also put out killer music in physical and digital form you can trust isn’t made by shitheads. It’s hard for a site like mine with one dummy doing everything to capture everything Fiadh is putting out and already has released (Cherry Cordial are a delight; the Book of Sand’s “Occult Anarchist Propaganda” vinyl reissue is essential as is their new album that we covered Friday; Petricor make rousing black metal), but we present a few of their November releases we really liked in capsule form as well as some notes on other stuff that’s available. Fiadh already has informed me there’s another swarm of stuff coming, so I’m very excited to hear that and give you another roundup when the time is right.

Agriculture is a four-piece black metal band from Los Angeles, and their “The Circle Chant” is a fairly compact collection of four tracks that give you a taste of what the band does well. Yes, of course, black metal is so prevalent in heavy music that it’s not always the easiest to sift out the trash, but Agriculture certainly are in the group of those that adhere to the roots but push into places others fear to tread. Take for example the storming title track that starts the collection that then pushes into “Salt” that features lush singing and harmonizing, sounding like something you’d hear coming off a misty mountain hike. “The Circle Chant Pt II” that closes the collection even features some honey-thick pedal steel that veers into country terrain, giving this blast of black metal a proper sunburn.  

For more on the band, go here: https://agriculturemusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-circle-chant

The band supports: https://www.myfriendsplace.org/

Just a couple weeks ago, one-woman black metal project Vega didn’t even have a social media profile at all. Now, there’s an Instagram account, and the woman behind the five-track debut EP “Reliquia,” Vega Shaker, has explained the power behind this jarring effort combines her desire to move forward with her life and the struggle to make sense of a past that wasn’t always comforting. The songs on here revel in black metal horror but also trade off with gothy tendencies and delicacy not often experienced in this style of music. It feels very personal even before knowing what the music is about, and you can feel the exploration and the pain drip through this entire thing. It’s emotional, intense, vicious, and vulnerable, the first step on what could be a fascinating project to watch and hear develop.

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

Finland hasn’t come at us with the most reliable of bands when it comes to battling against fascism, but raw vampiric black metal force Sanguinaria make it very clear right up front they do not tolerate that bullshit with their “Fuck NSBM. No tolerance for nazis and nazi sympathizers,” greeting on their Facebook page. So, we already had love in our heart for this bizarre band for that reason, and their seven-track debut offering was something we looked forward to devouring in full. And what an experience it is with some of the strangest guitar playing, warped melodies, and mystical fury, sometimes even packing a punk rock edge to their chaos. The songs are mangling, exciting, chaotic, obscured in noise, and a tremendous blast right to your chest that robs you off your breath.  

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

Montana isn’t exactly a hotbed for heavy metal, but Uamh potentially could change that with “Ràithean,” their second EP overall and this year. Over two lengthy tracks, the one-man project helmed by Urisk Uaine (guests musicians add tin whistle and harp) stretches into stormy, glorious black metal that feels like it’s rampaging over the horizon, situated in the heart of a storm that’s growing more intense by the moment. The music is angling to express what’s it’s like to witness the changing of the seasons in Montana, something I’ve never witnessed, so I can only take for granted the feelings conveyed here. But I definitely got something in my gut that made me think of the natural cycles here in my home state. So, I guess I got it. The music provides electricity, driving energy, and waters rushing, chilling you thoroughly and letting the soil entomb you for good.

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

The band supports: https://www.niwrc.org/

There also are recordings from Connecticut black metal force This White Mountain with “A Plague Upon the Earth” (we covered their “The Final Sorrow” earlier this year); Scottish dungeon synth force Abyssal Slumber with their “Demo I” that’s a strange and mysterious adventure; and Scottish black metal crushers Dorchadas and their slashing “Aon.” All are more than worth your time, and as noted, many of the bands support great causes.

To buy all of these releases, go to: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/

MMM album premiere: Book of Sand’s “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar”

Having the honor of writing up Book of Sand’s new album “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar” is one thing, and its insane mix of black metal, strange experimentation, and overall discomfort has provided me hours of torment. The other thing is today, we present the actual music itself, this seven-track, 63-minute excursion into psychosis and punishment, one of the most warped black metal albums released by anyone this year. We’re not going to talk your ear off. You can read our review at the link below, but find out for yourself what this music means to you and how affected you are when it’s all over. Thanks immensely to Fiadh Productions for trusting us with this stream.

To read our review, go here: https://meatmeadmetal.com/2022/10/28/pick-of-the-week-book-of-sands-approach-to-black-metal-alters-on-mind-melting-seven-candles/

Fiadh has a slew of other releases, a really diverse offering that touches on many areas of metal and heavy music. We’ll have a roundup of those coming up tomorrow.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/book.of.sand

To buy the album, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/album/seven-candles-for-an-empty-altar

For more on the label and to buy the rest of the releases, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Book of Sand’s approach to black metal alters on mind-melting ‘Seven Candles…’

Black metal is a strange and often repetitive style of music, as much as we still enjoy it and sink lots of money into those types of records. I guess we can blame oversaturation of the sound, which applies to many different types of metal, and the difficulty cutting through a lot of that to find the artists who are defying convention and logic, violating all the alleged rules and frames of mind.

Book of Sand long strayed away from the expected and even the comfortable over the course of eight full-length records that have challenged and twisted brains into mush. Yet, on the project’s ninth album “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar,” sole creator dcrf finds inventive and complicated ways to deform black metal and create an entirely different beast that—WARNING!—almost assuredly won’t go down easily. Yes, the bulk of this seven-track, 63-minute opus is grimy and mangling black metal, but there are passages where you’ll forget where you are. You’ll find yourself wandering a blackened garden, stumbling over melted blacktop, and trying to take an inventory of your mental capacity. It also should be pointed out dcrf and Book of Sand are antifascist comrades squarely in the RABM circle and lashing back against the forces of oppression. Yet another reason to support Book of Sand fully.  

Opener “Speak in Tongues of the Dead” runs 10:54, and the first chunk of the song has piano driving and stirring, for at least a stretch making it seem like the entire track is a dirge in this nature. About halfway through, the track rips open, dcrf’s howls reverberating, and the playing jolts your skeletal structure. That’s all while strange transmissions char and destroy, battering your psyche. The playing swims in a whirlwind, shrieks punish, and cosmic frying shorts your circuit board. “Soft Sun on Silent Water” opens with somber black metal riffs and the vocals burning, slicing into your brain. Blinding chaos rides hard as the vocals strangle, the playing cascades, and doomy clouds get even darker as mournful sax boils in the background. “Without the Limits of Power” brings tangling guitars that repeat for the first three minutes or so, letting its hypnotic energy spread, and then stiff punches land as the shrieks surface. The playing storms hard as dcrf lets his wild vocals take hold, the playing slashes tornadically, and we’re back to our minds being melted, the energy fading into the shadows.

“Kyrie” delivers abrasive noise and organs flooding, giving off a pastoral vibe before the pressure increases and crushes. The shrieks corrode while unhinged horns trample the ground, the gates exploding and letting rivers of blood rush through. A brief halts lets you catch your breath, and horns return, cataclysm multiplies, and the power sizzles away. “The Realization of Unclear Dreams” is the longest track at 13:51, beginning with horns sweltering, organs rising, and about 5 minutes in, the black metal assault launches in full. The playing is foggy and doomy, and the intensity pulls back and forth, subsiding at times, lashing back with virulence at others. Synth zaps as screeches lace your senses, and the playing gets dizzying and nauseous, spiraling and punishing before being swallowed whole by the cosmos. “6” is haunting and stinging, combining steady drumming with acoustics and chilling winds that make you shiver. The instrumentation reeks of endless darkness, notes chiming out, elegance stretching then dissolving. Closer “A New World Waits in the Soil” is a healthy 10:36 and immediately pummels with vicious riffs and charging shrieks, the doomy ambiance encircling. Cries rattle off the walls, and the melodies begin to feel imminently apocalyptic, the dense weather front menacing from above. Spacey swirls add even more imagination to the formula, your heads fills with chaos, and the playing burrows into the ground, disappearing into the soil forever.

Book of Sand traverse terrain so many other artists fear to tread, because accessibility and comfort are elements not even considered, and pure expression of black metal chaos always is at the forefront. “Seven Candles for an Empty Altar” takes things further than ever for this project, adding different instrumentation and atmospheres to the music and creating something exciting yet shocking to even those who have been with this band since the start. This is ambitious, dark, and devastating, a record that’ll scar you from listen one and change your perception of what is possible when creating the darkest of arts.

Fiadh has a slew of other releases, a really diverse offering that touches on many areas of metal and heavy music. We’ll have a roundup of those coming up Tuesday.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/book.of.sand

To buy the album, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/album/seven-candles-for-an-empty-altar

For more on the label and to buy the rest of the releases, go here: https://fiadh.bandcamp.com/

German prog-death sojourners Disillusion tighten their morbid, stormy ways on excellent ‘Ayam’

Photo by Sergey Sivushkin

The pandemic had mostly negative impacts on people, and how could it not since it caused so much pain, isolation, and fear? But there were those who used the time to their advantage and tried to grow and change. Some took on new career paths, new interests, new hobbies and perhaps shaped their lives differently and expanded on their knowledge base.

As for German prog death/doom band Disillusion, they had their normal lives of being a touring band taken from them. Certainly, they were not alone in that category, so they used the time where touring wasn’t possible to work on their sound and used that to craft “Ayam,” their tremendous new record. For this album, the band—vocalist/guitarist Andy Schmidt, guitarist Ben Haugg, bassist/backing vocalist Robby Kranz, drummer Martin Schulz (Sebastian Hupfer also played guitar on the record)—is joined by other musicians in Birgit Horn (trumpet, flugelhorn), Clara Glas (cello), Frederic Ruckert (keyboard), and Marek Stefula (triangle) to flesh out these eight tracks and deliver some of the most atmospheric, emotional, and devastating of their run, which truly pays off the renewed focus they were awarded. This is a document that might not exist had it not been for that period of time, and it’s clear from the first visit with this record that the extra attention paid off.

“Am Abgrund” is the 11:21-long opener, dawning in mystical waters, clean warbled vocals meeting up with the crunch moments later. “From the top of the world to the end of the sea,” Schmidt calls as the guitars surge, and the stormy mood gets even more immersive. Acoustics sweep in, cutting into the energy, creaking through the murk as Schmidt wails, “I would like to believe I’m stronger than this,” as the guitars blaze. Gothy doom pumps as sounds liquify, the keys and quiet singing draining away. “Tormento” opens with gentle, breezy singing wafting as the playing jars, and maniacal vocals take over and drain blood. The playing punishes and sweeps, hitting new heights before briefly disappearing into shadows. A doomy push emerges, guttural hell erupts, and the smoke chokes out your lights. “Driftwood” swims in acoustics and delicate singing before gothy thunder strikes, and the melodies trudge and bloody mouths. Leads stretch as the guitars take control, gushing and pushing into dreamy sequences, numbing before slipping into the fog. “Abide the Storm” is the longest track, running 11:51 and churning and punishing right off the bat, the vocals defacing. Gruff shouts and building heat combine, horns pump, and softer playing and proggy thunder take hold, Schmidt wondering, “Where do we belong?” Repeat calls of, “The calm before the storm,” churn in your mind, the playing chugs, and everything comes to a disruptive end.

“Longhope” opens in keys and guitars digging into the ground, Schmidt’s vocals sending cool breezes and strange vibes. The emotion sweeps as the track tears open, the cloud cover thickens, and Schmidt reasons, “We are what we see,” just as the fires are stoked more heavily. The vocals punch, the playing busts, and everything slips into cold waters. “Nine Days” is moody and brings aching guitars, clean singing making the mist in front of you thicken. “You shall never reach the open sea,” Schmidt warns as the electricity jolts, and danger builds, and Schmidt finishes with, “No one knows my dreams tonight.” “From the Embers” slips in with quiet keys that entrance before the explosive pressure breaks, dark singing making the spirits around you come to life. Water laps as soulful calls chill, the guitars taking over and making energy charge through you, soaring with emotions and soothing energy that drains away. Closer “The Brook” wells up and makes blood rush to your face, moving delicately through dark waters and mystical wonders. Later, the playing engulfs, energy spitting fire, the power surging, and then the singing swells all over again. The playing takes jabs at your chest, ghostly echoes penetrate, and everything dissolves into the background.

Disillusion continue to progress a quarter century into their run, once again finding ways to devastate and compel on “Ayam,” one of their most full-bodied records so far. It’s emotional and moody for sure, and the heaviness and thorny playing make for more explosive elements that can torch your flesh and psyche at the same time. The strange mysteries built into the music keep your mind working, your curiosity peaking, and your inhibitions satisfied even if you’re not quite sure how that happened.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://de.prophecy.de/Artists/Disillusion/

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

Lightlorn rush through cosmos as interstellar dreams gust on icy jolt ‘These Nameless Worlds’

You can’t help but gaze into the vast night sky and feel a little lonely. There is so much beyond our world, possibly planets similar to ours struggling with the same issues, forces and beings we cannot possibly imagine. It’s easy to feel small and insignificant knowing you’re but a speck of dust in an entire universe, a place almost all of us never will get to explore.

Those feelings comes on pretty strong when taking on “These Nameless Worlds,” the new EP from Swedish black metal duo Lightlorn, as they offer a small sojourn into the unknown. Over four immersive tracks, the band—multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Renwar, drummer/programmer Riaan—flood these songs with cosmic atmosphere that fills your mind with tingling sensations and makes it easy to imagine leaving this place and finding out what lies beyond the Earth. The music might be epic in nature and fills your eyes with stars, but the thorns are sharp, and you won’t have a ride sans turbulence. It’s spirited and adventurous, sending jolts down your spine and opening your imagination to its fullest.

“Unmapped Constellations” opens with synth hovering as notes drip to the earth before the energy engages. Wild shrieks pierce the sky as spacious melodies race to the stars, the guitars eventually easing and bringing somber tones. That’s a buffer for another huge explosion, riffs charging and encircling, shrieks gusting, and the emotion charging away. “Through the Cold Black Yonder” guts right away as Renwar’s shrieks crush your ribcage, and then the riffs encircle and make the room spin out of control. Some poppier moments bring levity as keys drip and echo, riffs cascade, and the power increases before slipping into spacious numbness. Melodies gush again, keys plink, and every element slips behind the sun. “Dilation Sleep” dawns amid chiming guitars and a rush of fire, crushing and letting emotions gather in a flood. Foggy guitars mars your vision as the synth rises, clean calling icing your wounds and sending chills through your nervous system. The playing all of a sudden pounds away, riffs splatter, and vile howls drive home the daggers. Closer “Stargazing in the Abyss” eases in, the synth blazing and the riffs exploding with devastating power. The vocals wrench as the playing takes on a cool New Wave feel even if briefly, the playing lapping in cold water. Heartfelt chaos is mounted as the guitars gasp lava, the energy catapults, and everything burns off, leaving trails in the sky.

“These Nameless Worlds” contains so many different competing feelings, you might need a few trips through this Lightlorn EP to get a true hold of what these songs mean to you and what is their ultimate impact. It’s easy to slap the cosmic black metal label on something just because it’s immersed in more atmospheric and strange energy, but that descriptor truly fits here. This feels like whipping through the universe, the majesty and vastness making themselves apparent, the heartfelt force of what you’re witnessing making everything inside you shake and shift.

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

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