UK black metal powerhouse Fen continue injecting wintry winds into madness on ‘The Dead Light’

I often associate music with weather, and I’m not sure why that is. But that’s the way it is for me, and after I hear a record a few times and truly get a feel for it, I immediately begin to associate what I’m hearing with the temperature and conditions that would most fit what’s swirling in my brain. As fall reigns and winter approaches, that only gets stronger.

“The Dead Light,” the sixth record from incredible UK black metal band Fen, is one that feels most at home during a soaking rain and cold weather, which, funny enough, was the condition when I was doing my note-taking listen to this collection. This band has been a personal favorite for a long time, and I’ve always found them to be a superior group in the whole atmospheric black metal terrain, even being able to do battle with the rightly celebrated Agalloch any day of the week. This new effort continues to build Fen’s reputation as a thought-provoking, imaginative unit as the band—guitarist/vocalist The Watcher, bassist/backing vocalist Grungyn, drummer Havenless—delivers the goods on their Prophecy debut, one that hopefully continues to swell their mass of followers.

“Witness” unfurls quietly before it expands majestically in scope with clean group singing bustling and colors being mixed into the murk. Whispers snarl and threaten and the horizon darkens, leading into “The Dead Light Part 1” that delivers proggy punches out of the gate. Heavy shrieks explode from the Watcher as the pace begins to thump and the ground swells. That burns into an acoustic path that takes the journey for the next bit before the heaviness is born again. Melody infuses with thrashy intensity while group calls surge your blood, and punishment and growls drop the final hammer before leaning into instrumental “The Dead Light Part 2” that’s made from vibrating tones, crunchy guitars, and a spirited pace that delivers the proper exclamation point to the end of this pair of tracks. “Nebula” starts slowly, trickling inward before prog fires burn brightly, and then the Watcher’s growls leave bruising on your chest. The track gets gruff and tricky while the drums power, and melodic runs keep the song trucking until it hits an icy edge that brings a chill to your flesh. The bass then sparks and chews as the song re-opens, clean calls bellow, and everything rushes to an explosive finish.

“Labyrinthine Echoes” begins with clean guitars draining before the song bursts and growls hammer you. The playing takes a daring twist and heads toward progressive waters again as the music rains down and continues to get more aggressive. The song hits a stretch of calm before lighting up again, with the Watcher wailing, “We lie to ourselves,” as the track bleeds away. “Breath of Void” assaults from the start before the guitars go exploring, and strong shrieks combine with imaginative guitar parts that get your mind working overtime. Calm along with solemn whispers combine before the tempo kicks back up and delivers a thrashy dose of punishment. Sludgy hell then emerges, punching out before the song disappears into mist. “Exsanguination” has a tempered opening as singing spreads before things are whipped into higher order. The vocals inject dreamy thinking as soaring calls head over the mountain. The track chills and slithers, gradually slowing down before the track floats off. “Rendered in Onyx” ends the record with cold winds touching down before punches are landed, and fluid guitar work chews nerve endings. Growls then destroy as the song picks up a savage pace that sheds blood, raging and burning into an acoustic wash, adding calm, freezing layers that hint at the wintry onslaught ahead.

Fen continue to carve out their creative path into the upper echelon of atmospheric black metal on “The Dead Light.” It’s going to get cold any day now here on the East Coast, and it’ll soon be time to hibernate with music that exhales its gripping breath into the air. This is another stunning addition to a catalog that’s as strong as anyone else trying their hands at this style of music.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://us.prophecy.de/?

Or here (International): https://en.prophecy.de/prophecy/fen-the-dead-light.html?listtype=search&searchparam=fen

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

Ragana’s societal anger blends into atmospheric doom chaos on icy ‘We Know That the Heavens…’

Photo by Bailey Kobelin

It’s late in the year, and most of the noteworthy music is behind us as we have to face the tidal wave of best-of lists that already have come rushing our way. But the past couple years, there has been strong music bleeding out through December, and that same thing is happening this year. Basically, don’t tune out on 2019 or you’re going to miss some cool shit.

One of those is a quick two-track release from Ragana, the anarcha-feminist black metal and doom powerhouse that is putting a bruising edge on socially conscious art. Maria (guitars/vocals) and Nicole (drums/vocals), the two members behind this force, have struck back with “We Know That the Heavens Are Empty,” a tremendous piece that, while it’s two songs, is really one full piece stitched together. It also shows the band expanding their sound a little more as they blend plenty of atmosphere in with their abject heaviness and emotional turmoil the duo commonly displays. The title of the recording comes from an 1892 poem called “The Toast of Despair” by anarchist artist Voltairine de Cleyre, which adds to the band’s commitment to their ideals and their devotion to their movement’s history.

“Waiting” starts off with clean guitars trickling in before the track bursts open, creating heavy tides before things calm, and the pace brings solemnity. The calls of, “Light flickers as I wait for you,” increase the feelings pulsing through this, and then the power jolts again, the crunch is delivered, and furious shrieks leaves heavy welts, as feedback rings out, mixing into “The Tower” that starts with slow drubbing. The singing spreads its wings and soars with calls of, “All day, I’ll lay,” before things are shredded, guitars bustle, and the shrieks leave devastation behind. Guitars bubble and spill over as the track chews everything in its gears, noise returns and stings, and the track slips into the void.

Ragana’s power is on full display with “We Know That the Heavens Are Empty,” as the band again proves it’s one of the more unique forces out there, as their sound continually evolves and strengthens. These two songs are jarring and get inside you, changing your mental makeup while this music has its way with your mind. Ragana delivered to us a late-year gem that will continue to quake the ground and your own bones well into its full life cycle.

For more on the band, go here: http://ragana.org/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Mesmur smear world-toppling misery all over funereal third record ‘Terrene’

If you were to tell me the entire world is in a freefall, I wouldn’t argue. In fact, I’d probably ask if you’ve been paying attention to things I say in real life, on social media, and on this page because I bought into that concept long ago. But there are so many in denial for various reasons—brainwashed by moral-free politicians, their money is in jeopardy, they don’t care—that is never hurts to bluntly hammer home to point over and over again.

Funeral doom crushers Mesmur, a band whose members hail from all over the world, aren’t just bringing you that perspective from one country or one continent. They’ve seen it, lived it, breathed it for years, and that pushes over into their stunning third record “Terrene,” which is a mammoth of an album. While the band has basked in the stars in the past, this new record is more earth-bound in its approach, though there remains alien DNA all over this thing. Their drubbing approach to doom remains as dark and dank as ever, but there also is more atmosphere than ever before as well as added texture from guests Don Zaros (of Evoken, who handles flute) and Nadia Avanesova (cello) as they infuse color into the work that this band—vocalist Chris G. guitarist/synth player Jeremy L., bassist Michele M., drummer John D.—has committed to history.

“Terra Ishtar” emerges from the skies with a frosty pace and a cosmic, spacious atmosphere that unfurls into evenly paced punches and then cavernous growls that rupture your bowels. Synth spreads as a sorrowful adventure begins to take hold, with the leads opening and stretching their wings and the double-kick drums ravaging the earth. That pushes back into space again as orchestral synth creates waves, and a mournful haze begins making its way across the ground before things ramp up again. Hulking growls pummel as the stars sizzle, and everything melts into a slithering dirge. “Babylon” has keys shimmering as we open into a scene from a dream, pounding away as the tempo boils. Keys bleed despair while the growls set in and chew your guts, with things getting sludgy and tough to travel. The guitars begin to weep as the music gets slurry, floating nautically into another round of savagery. The track hulks into a synth haze, bludgeoning repeatedly until the melodies melt into the clouds.

“Eschaton” has gothy keys and a bone-crushing pace as growls begin to crawl through the mud. The leads then catch fire, and the playing is more uptempo, at least as it refers to Mesmur’s typical pace. The growls punish before the playing goes cold, leaving you in chills as it mixes with cleaner waters and ghostly speaking. Strings then gather and sweep, swimming into moody guitars and murky synth that give the track a gothy finish. “Caverns of Edimmu” closes the record by unloading murky sounds and a more vulnerable pace, as it feels like the world is falling apart. The growls are smeared with psychedelic echo while the keys crawl and lower a goth-style curtain. While that’s happening, a sci-fi-style bubble bursts as the growls begin to aggravate mental wounds, and the playing gets purposefully dreary. Sorrowful scraping keeps working at sore spots while the grisly hell combines with elegant synth to put a morose sheen over everything, with the song coming to a mystifying, mind-teasing finish.

“Terrene” is meant to be the more grounded record of the band’s collection, but Mesmur definitely didn’t abandon the cosmos on these four funereal passages. This band remains under the radar for many, which is a shame since Mesmur have been nothing but solid since they started, and their third record continues to open their expanse. Perhaps this new document will be what the band needs to open more ears and bring added followers to their morbid procession.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://solitude-prod.com/releases/solitude-productions/mesmur-terrene/

For more on the label, go here: https://solitude-prod.com/

Indescribable Wishfield smother all kinds of dark, adventurous sounds over chest-caving debut

It’s getting close to the time where we’re reviewing the music that came out during the entire calendar year, and typically I keep a list of everything covered on this site to make that venture easier. In having just gone over all that music that came out in 2019, it’s weird to discover that although a lot of great stuff has been dropped on us, there’s still a lot that just melts together in the mind.

That’s not to suggest there aren’t things that came along that absolutely stand out, and one of those is arriving later in the year in wider form, that being Wishfield’s debut album. The music was released by the band in April, but Tridroid is giving it cassette treatment that’ll be arriving in mailboxes pretty soon, and it’s a fascinating, jarring listen that’s nearly impossible to fully explain. It’s a combo of ’90s indie-style rock, experimental strangeness, and some swaths of black metal blended into this eight-track album, and it’s a record that could soothe, excite, or induce panic, depending on the listener. The band—vocalist Mariah Timm, fretless guitarist Nick Stanger (also of Ashbringer), fretless bassist Andy Meyer, drummer Theo Galetka—puts together a record that washes over you, intoxicates you, and at times startles you as it spills over you consciousness.

“Something” starts the record and gives you an early indication into the ride on which you’ve just committed to taking. The guitars are slurry and static-scuffed, making it feel like the room is spinning before Timm’s wild shrieks take over and cut you apart. The choruses are more melodic, with Timm’s voice surging, even getting breezy in spots as she calls, “Water is rising, feet sinking into sand.” A strange, frenetic pace comes from there, as Timms finishes us off with the promise, “Change is coming soon.” “Earth, Venus” is a strange instrumental with guitars scraping and what sounds like intergalactic interference, making it feel like two worlds are trying to bounce signals off each other. “The Fishbowl” has aggressive guitars and jolting yelps, with Timm’s vocals turning to shrieks while the guitars race and loop. Guitars slide and begin their turn toward space, fading into the golden horizon. “Shallow Heap” opens slowly, trickling, and the singing is pretty high register, coming off as a stinging swoon. The chorus settles as scratchy guitars poke at the skin, shrieks burst, and the song explodes to its end.

“Nothing” gets into a calculated stream as the guitars slither, and Timm warns, “Watch out for broken glass and coins thrown at your head.” The track takes its time unfurling while the singing flutters before the speed kicks up, the guitars loop with texture, and the guitars settle over top and darken shadows. “Swimming, Dreaming” is a quick cut with harsh guitars, detached moans, and sounds echoing, pulling into “Three Seconds (Radio On)” that has staggering riffs and really strong singing. The track moves toward something like a screamo/post-hardcore bend from the early 2000s, when the styles still had a healthy heart, as a colorful burst pushes in. Wordless calls give off catchy vibes while the track explodes on its way out. “Isolated People in Isolated Rooms” closes the album by unleashing black metal strains and splattering guitars before Timm’s singing comes in and soars toward the sky. There are mesmerizing stretches that are cut down by a speedy squall, and then the track turns into a bizarre alien sendoff that blips out into an ocean of echoes.

Wishfield’s tremendous debut record is one that definitely deserves this revisit later in the year, and if you’re looking for something to tangle your brain and send you on a bizarre journey, you might want to grab this cassette. From the smearing instrumentation to Timm’s sometimes stabbing, sometimes soaring vocals, there’s a lot here in which to sink your teeth. Plus, it’s nice to have a record this interesting that makes its mark after a year of being bombarded by a ton of music.

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

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

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

Galician metal force Sartegos drop long-awaited first album with punchy ‘O Sangue da Noite’

Sometimes things take time to come to fruition. In some cases, it can take a really long period of time to see something from its roots to becoming a fully grown, totally realized idea that is ready to make its way into the world. That long period of seasoning and maturity is the cost and the difference between putting out something half-assed vs. work you’re proud to display to the greater population.

That’s all a lofty, wordy way to say that it took like 11 years for Sartegos to release debut record “O Sangue da Noite,” and that’s OK because the album is a mind fucker that feels like it’s stitched together by elements of 30 years ago as well as today. That’s part of what makes this such a fascinating listen in the first place, as sole member Rou Morgade mixes a supply of riffs that practically have to be sailed in on a fleet of ships as well as some flesh-tingling synth that makes it feel like these are made for some early 1980s sci-fi flicks that veer to the terrifying side. The wondrous touch this Galician musician puts on this music elevates above mere black and death metal, giving it a sense of adventure in the darkest order, which constantly loops back and reminds you it’s watching you.

“Ventos (Prelúdio)” is a quick intro cut that has winds blowing and synth sounding like something from a videogame I would play in my high school years, and then it’s on to “Sangue e Noite” that tears the lid off with killer riffs, boiling rage, and grim spirits that barrel into you. A group-style chorus pushes hard before it’s back to hellish splattering, weird chants, and a charred conclusion. “Lajes em Tormento e Decadência” has the riffs circling while the bass charges up, and the drumming pelts the flesh. Vicious growls strike as the burly bassline slithers underneath the surface, while an eerie pace is achieved that feels ominous. Some clean calls bustle while the guitars achieve a night-time vibe that ends the song in a chill. “Solpor dos Mistérios” has guitars fluttering in the atmosphere as harsh growls push in just ahead of a melodic wave. The vocals turn raspy and forceful leading to a premature finish (Morgade does this often on this record) before the song returns and ends in diabolical manner. “Jugular (Interlúdio)” is a quick track built by winds calling again and strange synth that leaves an alien feeling in your blood.

“Arqueiro” blasts open and crushes wholly, with vicious growls mixing with odd whispers that feel ghostly. The pace grinds and smashes while the riffs catch fire and fill the room with smoke, as synth slips in and provides relief. The guitars splinter from there before going cold and hypnotic, bringing a jarring end. “As Devesas som dos Lobos” starts with cold trickling before growls burst through and the riffs begin to chew into muscle. Speedy playing then strikes, setting a new pace, and bellowed calls and icy playing remind a bit of Celtic Frost. We have one of those premature endings where the song returns and hits a slow, slurry tempo that aims to suffocate. “Baphomet no Rashulmat” rips open and immediately destroys, as gurgling growls and fast guitars team up to dominate. The vocals then turn chant-like as the leads play mind games, leading to a scorching finish. “Poço e Serpe” blows up right away as the riffs disorient, and monstrous growls launch an attack. The rest of the way, it’s still hard to keep your footing as the music creates dizziness, and the song later restarts as a firebreathing mammoth stomping away. “Águas Negras (Final)” in a quick instrumental finish that has water trickling, keys plinking, and then synth creating fogs that remind me of a score from a movie MST3K would dice up.

It’s not like we’ve been bereft of Sartegos material, as Morgade has put out two demos, an EP, and two splits along the way, but we’re finally finding out what this artist can do with a full-length. “O Sangue da Noite” is a record that grabs your attention right away and keeps it over 10 tracks and nearly 42 minutes. It might have taken 11 years for us to finally get an LP-length release from Sartegos, but from the power of this thing, it’s safe to say the wait was worth it and completely sensible.

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

To buy the album (vinyl), go here: http://shop.bloodharvest.se/?s=Sartegos&post_type=product

Or here (CD): http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.bloodharvest.se/

And here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

Teeth chew (sorry) toward true death supremacy on devastating smasher ‘The Curse of Entropy’

Photo by Brandon Mavaddat

Chances are, you’re not turning to death metal to find a way to be uplifted and have your heart soar with positivity. Well, at least not in the conventional sense. No, you’re here because you expect skullduggery and darkness, elements that pull you under and threaten to never let go.

If that’s the case, and you’re sidling up next to “The Curse of Entropy,” the second record from California death squad Teeth, chances are you’ll feel right at home with this 10-track, 30-minute album. Their first in five years since debut “Unremittance,” the band sounds savage as ever, absolutely carving through these tracks with all the fat sliced off and fried up for good measure. I mean, OK, so they also happened to grab a guest spot from Gorguts legend Luc Lemay, which is cool as fuck, but even without that, this record is a ripper that dwells in elements of grief, loss, and hopelessness. That just hammers home the point I made in the intro that you’re here for dark tidings, and they are delivered in spades. The band—guitarists/vocalists Erol Ulug and Justin Moore, bassist Peter King, drummer Alejandro Aranda—land punches and obviously were channeled when they recorded this thing almost a year and a half ago now, and finally having this devastating album in people’s hands will be a quest worth following through.

“Enlever” opens the record and just unloads with snarling growls, tricky playing, and complete chaos, making the most of the 1:55 run time. “Husk” features guest vocals from Lemay as the band brings fluttering riffs and complex, muddy mashing that scrambles brains. The track is merciless with mean shifts and sludgy hell that swallows the song whole. “Wither” continues with the onslaught with punishing growls, contorted playing, and leads that go right for the jugular. Means roars and nasty pounding amplify the song’s agenda and leaves you in the dust. “Collapse” is dizzying from the opening bell as growls gurgle and the melodies do their best to keep you confused. The devastation continues to spread and drive through your chest, while everything fades into a sudden light. “Birthright” is chunky and thrashy as the growls gut, and then things get fairly ugly. The track tracks mud through everywhere and we had just cleaned!

“Cretin” bleeds in from its predecessor as the drums disintegrate bones, and the guitar playing twists your brain inside your skull. Furious violence erupts as the growls sound like they’re choking on blood, and the track comes to a brutal ending. “Dread” has riffs powering and stampeding, leaving shit in a state of disrepair. Start-stop thrashing leaves ample bruising while there is a sense of urgent chaos in the growls that tear apart your nervous system. “Blindness” is utter demolition, a blinding assault from which you cannot protect yourself, so it’s useless to even try as they follow with a barrage of lurching growls and unprotected chair shots to the face (which we do NOT condone). “Entropy” is loopy as it starts, as its manic death trip heads toward corrosive growls and then unexpected atmosphere. The playing gets muscle caught up in its jaws as the track comes to a deadly finish. “Vessel” caps off the album by setting a sense of misleading calm before a slow-driving menace settles into the story. Roared growls and a heavy assault lead the charge, while psyche-mauling serenity and an echo chamber leave you prone and shaking.

Teeth’s return after five years is a massacre, pretty much, as “The Curse of Entropy” lands and hammers everything in front of it over its economical running time. This album and band serve to enrich what’s already an embarrassing amount of quality death metal we’ve been issued this year, and this late-year entry is one on which you definitely don’t want to miss out. Having Teeth back in our timeline is a gift that leaves you battered physically when you’re done visiting.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/product/teeth-the-curse-of-entropy-lp-preorder

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Obsequiae apply sword-tested metallic touch to great ‘Palms of Sorrowed Kings’

Part of the reason I started listening to metal in the first place is because it was a way for me to get away from the things that bothered me in my younger years. I wasn’t an outcast or anything, but making friends wasn’t automatic for me, and I suffered from anxiety and depression, though I didn’t realize it at the time. But metal was always there, and it was a place I could always go to get away.

Every time we get a visit from Obsequiae, it brings me back to the times when I had to retreat into metal for comfort, which continues on their stirring third record “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings.” Something about their music connects me to that, makes me feel like I’m entering into a spacious world where the negativity of existence isn’t quite a heavy. Their Medieval-style black metal pummels and gallops but also shimmers, making it feel like you’re headed toward a great quest where adventure is at every turn. Like the other Obsequiae albums, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Tanner Anderson and drummer Eoghan McCloskey are joined by harp player Vincente la Camera  Mariño, whose interludes take you back to well bygone eras, almost as if these songs were conjured to the present by time machine. It all makes for a package that this band owns so securely and exclusively, which makes them such a special band.

“L’autrier M’en Aloie” opens the record, the first harp track from La Camera Mariño that lets loose calming fogs and a chilling ambiance that flows toward “Ceres in Emerald Streams” where glorious leads emerge from the mists, while melodic shrieks set the tone, and the intensity is multiplied. Leads burn and sprawl, unleashing a chugging fury that ends in a fiery burst. “In the Garden of Hyacinths” comes out of a smokescreen while cool riffs and busting drums team up and begin the march. The pace is punchy for the most part, while the chorus is swelling and energetic, bleeding into rushing terrain. Shrieks compound while the soling goes off, leaving a trail of ash behind. “Palästinalied” has the harp thawing, letting the music wash over you like a babbling brook, pushing you down downstream to “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings” and its glowing introductory riffs. The leads lap and give off a classic power metal feel, later mixing into goth-style backing that creates steam. The leads break open and lead to an adrenaline surge, meeting up with lathering shrieks, clean calls bellowing, and the track fading out. “Morrígan” begins with birds chirping before the riffs awaken, bringing burly playing and gruff shrieks. The leads feel like they soar over the mountaintops, with savagery cutting in, and a glorious haze putting over the final attack that makes up the snarked finish.

“Per Tropo Fede” brings the harp back in as birds chirp and your mind unravels, heading toward “Lone Isle” that blasts open, as the guitars flow like lava. Shrieks rain down as the molten playing keeps raging forward, as the drums take their turn dealing shots. The playing just surges from there, bringing the track to a smoldering end. “Asleep in the Bracken” reveals gothy synth sheets, intricate leads, and a folkish vibe amid a pool of heaviness. Melody spreads its wings while the song pelts you with cinders, while shrieks pound away, and the mind-altering puts you into a trance. “Quant Voi La Flor Novele” has the harp playing emerging from a frosty peak, as mist coats your face, and a feeling of solemnity pushes into your heart. “Emanations Before the Pythia” slowly dawns as a dialog begins to show itself, feeling dreamlike, before a burly riffs flexes and shrieks scrape your skin. The track is both melodic and aggressive, fiery and combustible as the leads sear, and the voice from beyond seems like a ghost calling you. The track then explodes anew as the guitars pour out, and the essence is charred away. “In Hoc Anni Circulo” closes the record, acting as a harp-infused bookend that brings a last dose of numbness before the track exist into the night.

“The Palms of Sorrowed Kings,” like the other two Obsequiae releases in their respective times of release, sounds absolutely nothing like any other album that’s come out this year, no matter the genre. This is fun, challenging, heart-swelling music that makes you imagine eras gone by when castles were stormed and blood was spilled right in earthen battlegrounds. This makes for a great escape from the monotony and frustrations of everyday life, giving you a chance to feel the power of heavy metal and how it can positively impact your psyche.

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

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