Vastum creep into darkest parts of perversity, psychological ire on scarring new ‘Orificial Purge’

Photo by Chris Johnston

Obviously, we love death metal here, as that tends to be one of the most covered terrains of heavy music we write about. But some of the classic stuff that spilled blood, guts, and gore always has been fun but never came off as psychologically warping. It’s kind of like when you watch a slasher movie. You can enjoy it, but it never seems real. The bands that really can get inside your head are our favorites.

Bay Area heathens Vastum are one of those that morbidly capture the imagination and warp it beyond recognition. For nearly a decade now, the band has been unearthing takes of sexual depravity and psychological scarring that would make bands vomit in their own laps. The band’s fourth record “Orificial Purge” continues to toy with the mind all the while devastating you with their sound. You could simply put this album on, forget the words you’re hearing, and enjoy it for a vicious, pounding slab of dark death metal. But spend time with the words, and you might not sleep at night. Not because of some boogeyman or monster tale, but because of the acts and ideas you hear conveyed in their lyrics. Also, don’t think that because they’re delving into sexual issues and acts that you’re going to walk away horny or with ideas. Well, you might, and we don’t kink shame here. But you’re more likely to be horrified legitimately by the band—vocalist Daniel Butler, vocalist/guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf, guitarist Shelby Lermo, bassist Luca Indrio, drummer Chad Gailey—and the corners in which they shed light. Yeah, the music rips. But the thematic elements tear psychological well-being apart.

“Dispossessed in Rapture (First Wound)” kicks off the record with strange, pained moans in the background before things comes to, um, life. Riffs pummel while the dual vocals work as a vicious tag team to batter you around. The chorus strikes with music and words as Abdul-Rauf wails, “Churn in your center, feel me arrive, don’t lose faith, that this fist is alive,” with her practically spitting that last word. “I on the Knife (Second Wound)” is bloody and devastating, as the words describe endless self-inflicted injuries with a blade, as the instructional lyrics practically taunt to derive obedience. “This wound is your life, knowing, cutting, sever your head, now you sit on the knife, burning pleasure, unknowing death,” is a horrifying wake-up call, as the band delivers it with force. Lurching and attacking, the band wraps you in riffs and guttural grunts that explode with pain. “Abscess Inside Us” has guitars jolting and grim growls, and even some of the playing later on is a little proggy. A storming solo drains from overheard, while the wails of, “Malicious adoration in my confusion and complex grief, I have a long way to go before I set myself free,” lands as the song comes to a gloomy end.

The title track has guitars stinging and strange, detached speaking sounding like it comes from a lobotomized mind. Grim growls and sinewy riffs strike, as the vision of, “Orificial passage, an elemental drift, everything erected, everything impotent,” bruises you, with the song coming to a startling, weird ending. “Reveries in Autophagia” has growls menacing, while the words come at you directly and in sobering tone, while the band causes your bones to crumble. “Whittling down my flesh to the most vile of excretions, dining on my psychesoma, I serve up another limb,” is enough to make anyone shudder with dread, but that feeds you into fiery soloing, as other elements pile up and make breathing nearly impossible before everything chugs out. “His Sapphic Longing” mercifully ends the record as strings moan, riffs slowly fold in, and then the animal is on two feet, walking upright toward hell. The vocals trade off, describing unfathomable situations, ending with, “Reach beneath the cloth (slip inside me), nobody will save you (from this rapture), his sapphic longings gagged and bound, inside the phallic tomb his father gave unto him,” which should just make you convulse with nausea. The band puts the final touches on this by slowly stretching out the torture, with the song finally boiling in its own juices in a relentless sound vortex.

Vastum long have been favorites here at our silly web site, and they’ve yet to let us down with death metal that crawls into our minds and eats at the wiring. “Orificial Purge” is another in a line of tremendously titled records that are not here to give you an escape into fantasy world. This music is here to confront the darkness and some of the most profane examples of human behavior that, while it might sicken some, are reality. That’s always more unsettling than a zombie eating someone’s intestines an album cover, as cool as that might be.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Savage Master conjure hellacious metal fires with killer ‘Myth, Magic & Steel’

Photo by Rachel Autumn Deering

Heavy metal’s foundations are built on myths, legends, demons, wizards, and all kinds of fantastical creatures. Just look at the covers of any collection of metal albums in your local record shop, and you’re going to see some crazy shit that took some creative jumps to dream up in the first place. It’s part of what makes metal lore so exciting.

Following in the path blazed by bands including Iron Maiden, Dio, Warlock, Judas Priest and so many others come Savage Master, who not only pay homage to classic sounds but also make their own mark in metallic glory. Proof of that is on their third full-length “Myth, Magic & Steel,” their first for Shadow Kingdom and one hell of a blast of vintage glory in a modern world. This record is a nine-track, 40-minute blast that’ll make hearts soar of anyone who has followed metal’s story the past five decades or so, and it brings back to the forefront the foundation mentioned in the opener, where strange creatures and occult forces burst from the seams. That not only make this record something that trickles with true metal blood but also provides one hell of a good time. The band—vocalist Stacey Savage and her hooded menaces guitarists Adam Neal and Larry Myers, drummer John Littlejohn—delivers over and over again as evil is afoot and magical forces are ready to capture your soul.

The title track gets things started with a killer riff driving the excitement and Savage’s direct shouts spreading blood over the verses. The chorus is a killer with the whole band howling, “A world of fantasy revealed!” along with Savage, making it meatier and even catchier, and later on, the soloing lights your flash on fire before the track ends with Savage screaming, “Myth, magic, and steel!” “The Devil’s Ecstasy” has rambling riffs that smoke during the verses, with Savage again in command, especially on the chorus where she keeps things simple but effective. Later she commands, “So come take my hand, the ways of the witch, sign it in blood, 666,” before guitars again catch fire and race toward the finish. “The Owl” has ominous tones as it begins, as the tale slowly unfurls and also leaves some bruising. “I see hell fire burning even higher,” Savage calls on the chorus, as the soloing takes off and rules, and the band returns to the refrain before punching out. “Flyer in the Night” has guitars charging up, verses that pelt your chest, and yet another sticky chorus that sticks inside your head. Soloing takes control, leading into the night with torches, before Savage ends with, “Soon I’ll meet the gallows and I’ll part forevermore, becoming one with my source.”

“Crystal Gazer” starts chugging and landing blows, with Savage asking, “Do you hear a voice calling from the other side?” The vocals are a little gritter here while the leads melt faces, and the track slowly bleeds away. “Lady of Steel” is a blast, one they performed at Metal Immortal Festival over the summer in Pittsburgh, and it features three verses, one taken by Savage, one by Deborah Levine from Lady Beast, and one by Sandy Kruger of Sacred Few (at least I’m assuming that’s who is singing here). It’s a tremendous cut that gets your blood surging as these three awesome vocalists show their absolute grip over metal’s forces. “High Priestess” is more slow driving at first, working its way through the verses, with gang vocals over the chorus as Savage wails, “Daughter of the moon,” and later, “Risen from the tomb.” It’s eerie and punishing and perfect for this time of year. “Far Beyond the Grave” has a killer riff that surges, and their love for 1980s metal is smeared all over this thing, in a great way. The soloing even takes a different turn, sounding like its phrasing the story musically before the track ends in a pile of ash. Epic closer “Warrior vs. Dragon” runs a healthy 8:24, and it tells the story of a hunter tracking down its fire-breathing prey. The first half of the song is calculated, as Savage vows, “In death you know you will be set free, Dragon, let the wind carry you home.” Soloing spreads its wings, then suddenly, the gas pedal is pounded, and the track goes into overdrive. Savage’s vocals come harder and faster, setting up the dragon’s demise before the song blends into somber acoustics and a strange trippy cloud that carries the poor beast home.

Savage Master’s reign has been a glorious one as they have retraced what brought metal to where it is today and have decided to add more chapters in their own unique voice. “Myth, Magic & Steel” is a fiery, catchy record that is packed with songs you can’t help but yell back live, with fists fully pumping. This band lives devoid of trend or tastemaker expectation and instead smash full speed ahead through the boundaries, holding heavy metal’s banners aloft with power.

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The Great Old Ones draw dark horrors, dizzying black metal with mind-bending ‘Cosmicism’

Photo by Joel Queyrel

Many corners of black metal lurk with strange, fictional creatures, which is part of what makes the music so intriguing. French beasts The Great Old Ones have reached their arms around Lovecraftian horrors, which also have a massive impact on the heavy metal world (I mean, Metallica have been influenced by the writer’s monsters), and that’s helped their music become so ominous.

We’d be remiss not to point out that it’s accepted that H.P Lovecraft was thought to be a racist piece of shit, which it isn’t too hard to figure out by reading his many stories. So, this is hardly an endorsement of his thoughts and feelings, but one cannot deny his creations have had a huge impact on the literary, fantasy, and horror worlds, and because karma is a motherfucker, the writer died penniless. So, fuck him. But we’ll  concentrate on the music here instead, as there’s no indication the band agrees with the man’s viewpoints. Digging into the band’s sweltering fourth record “Cosmicism,” it’s obvious the Great Old Ones—guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Guerry, guitarists Aurélien Edouard and Alexandre ‘Gart’ Rouleau, bassist Benoit ‘Barby’ Claus, drummer Leo Isnard—immerse themselves in dark mystery and terror, as this album is a journey into the center of mystery that keeps your head spinning the entire time.

“Cosmic Depths” is an introductory track that swims in clean waters as murk gathers overhead, and it’s into “The Omniscient,” a 9:26 crusher that gets that chaos and confusion flowing right away. After it drips from the ceiling, the track rushes to life, chugging and mauling, with a storming fury unable to be contained. The vicious growls and storming madness eventually go cold, as chills go down your spine, and then things slowly ramp up again. The track unleashes tornadic hell, destroying what’s in front of it as wild growls pummel, the music cascades, and everything ends in a blaze of power. “Of Dementia” spirals and causes vertigo, with melody snaking through savage waters. A strong riff arrives as the song’s backbone, with a stabbing breakdown pummeling and sludgy terrain being stomped. Sounds hang in the air as the main riff returns, continually rounding and disappearing into a fog. “Lost Carcosa” is spindly at first before it unleashes a ton of bricks. The playing is smothering and heavy as the pace suddenly switches to something thrashier, with creaky speaking haunting and sending the track into a spacious hell. The playing simmers while the growls lurch along, the sound hovers, and everything splashes into a pool of acoustics.

“A Thousand Young” is the longest track, running 11:43 and starting with a strange alien cloud moving in before the storm tears into the atmosphere. The playing trucks while the growls decimate surroundings, mashing hard and creating an epic sensation, burning in place while char marks are created beneath it. Hypnotic riffs pile on as the vocals gnaw on flesh, repetitive melody lines create hypnosis, and the track slowly bleeds away. “Dreams of the Nuclear Chaos” rupture with strange riffs and a sweltering, mentally disarming assault. Underneath the layers of soot is a weird catchiness that almost feels poppy, but you can barely even put a finger on it. But it’s there. From that point, the music continues its rumble, setting the stage for “Nyarlathotep,” a song based on the horrifying fictional outer god. Slow drumming and a calculated approach allow an ambiance to be formed before things get strangely muddy, and the vocals scrape the inside of your skull. Things get heavier from there as detached speaking haunts before things turn thrashy and crunchy. The song keeps building its pillar toward the skies before cracks form, and the structure falls like powder to the earth. “To a Dreamer” is a bonus track and the closer depending on what edition you have, and it’s a mind scrambler that fills the room with noise. The track is heavy and vicious, smothering with weird speaking as the pace lights up and destroys worlds. Savage cries and mystical melodies loop together as the band pushes their final bursts of energy, bringing the song to a huge, devastating finish.

The Great Old Ones keep shapeshifting each record, warping their black metal power into stranger and more destructive forces. “Cosmicism” is another massive step for the band into the future as they conjure music that recreates black metal’s universe in their own image, making it scarier and more esoteric. This is a record that needs to be visited a few times to be fully absorbed, but once it’s in your head, you’ll be hard pressed to remove those tentacles from your brain ever again.

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Black metal force Dawn Ray’d strike back against tyrrany on fiery ‘Behold Sedition Plainsong’

Now’s the time to strike back. Here in the States, we’re under the thumb of a fascist regime that has done everything it can to lie, cheat, and steal in order to exert its control over the American people. That same thing is happening in many other places around the world, along with seeing extreme right-wing hate groups boil over and threaten people’s safety and well-being. It’s time for it to stop.

Funny enough, but the people who use violence and fear and terror to try to make their impact are the same people whining about the left not being peaceful enough in their protest and making those people who use fear feel threatened. Awww, poor babies. But fine, you want peaceful protest? Look no further than UK-based black metal band Dawn Ray’d, who have used their platform to fight fascism, sexism, racism, and any other force that works against the people. Their anarchic power is all over their records, including their new second full-length album “Behold Sedition Plainsong,” their first official release for Prosthetic Records. If you’re already indoctrinated into their sound, you know Dawn Ray’d create passionate, fiery black metal that also can be catchy and sticky, with an added element of violin weaving in those extra strains of sorrow. The band—vocalist/violinist Simon B., guitarist Fabian D., drummer Matthew B.—now has a wider reach with their alliance with Prosthetic, and as noted, now’s the time to strike back against the forces of tyrannical evil, which this record definitely does.

“Raise the Flails” is a quick introductory cut with guitars awakening, the violin stinging, and the power eventually kicking in, with strong wails by Simon B. lashing, “Wield your mighty lances! It’s time for new tales of resistance!” before we’re headed into “The Smell of Ancient Dust” that’s raucous as hell when it starts. The violin threads its way into the mix as harsh wails and sweeping playing catch you up in the madness, and a gritty chorus helps increase the surge. Later, the melodies swell massively, while the guitars march, the drums blister, and the track returns to dust. “Like Smoke Into Fog” has the guitars hanging in the air before they make good on their threat and rip the place apart. The vocals are savage on the verses, lashing back at corrupt cops and homophobic priests, and the galloping tempo then is tempered by a haze that rises momentarily before the playing ignites again. Fierce playing and destructive shrieks fire the final nails into the ground before acoustics join for the final moments. “To All, To All, To All!” bursts from the gates and immediately makes your blood rush as the shrieks rumble over the verses, only to have the song meet up with a folkish calm. From there, the violin cries before the song explodes again with monstrous wails, a stomping assault, and the strings stinging their last. “A Time for Courage at the Borderlands” begins with sorrowful playing, joined up by the violin, and from there, the band delves into the plight of others who find themselves turned away by those who could supply aid. “Can you imagine the horror of a fence they won’t let you through? Another country refusing help, what if that was you?” Simon B. posits, making the listener face the moral crisis amid a storm of playing that gushes with passion.

“Songs in the Key of Compromise” has blazing riffs and relentless verses along with vocals that refuse to cave in to pressure. The track then calms to a strum while the music begins to trickle through ice before fading. “Until the Forge Goes Cold” has raw wails and surging playing, as the melodies scrape against the skin, and delirious playing gets your mind racing. The riffs just keep piling up while punches are thrown, as Simon B. calls, “And when they asked us to kneel, fascism is the hand that keeps us down,” as everything disintegrates into a blazing inferno. “A Stone’s Throw” begins with moody acoustic guitars as the violin sweeps over the top, and hearty group singing causes the banners to flap. The track remains in a folk vein, a dark, dour feeling that chills your bones. “Soon Will Be the Age of Lessons Learnt” buzzes slowly as death growls and shrieks strike, and the playing goes for the throat. The violin playing adds heavy emotion behind it, as Simon B. wails, “Only in their death will our debt be erased, and we wait, build, grow, agitate,” all before the track is left to drip into dust. “Salvation Rite” begins with the violin leading like a beacon as the track slowly unfurls. Finally, the lid if ripped off and the fury boils over, while shrieks pound the senses, and a merciless tempo mixes into folk winds, dissipating into calm. “The Curse, the Dappled Light” ends the album by splattering mud and blood, unleashing a vicious pace that comes right for you. “And if they crush our fierce rebellion, if they stamp out defiance-light, I’d sooner cast off subordination and believe in reprisal, and die for spite,” Simon B. lashes as violins and majestic riffs melt together while the music fully floods over. The band vows to continue their fight whatever the cost, and everything bows out with the faint trace of their bonfires still filling your sinuses.

Dawn Ray’d have been fighting for justice and equality ever since they emerged four years ago, and already they’ve made a major impact for metal’s anti-fascist movement, which is gaining ground. But besides all of that, they’re also a blood-rushing, compassionate band that makes music you can feel deep inside your body. “Behold Sedition Plainsong” is a fire-breathing set of anthems that burn the torches against hatred and unquestioned power, a record that should unite those fighting the same battle to keep going until all of the enemy’s blood is drained.

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Botanist assemble full force as planet’s still harrowing future comes into focus on ‘Ecosystem’

Photo by Siren Sea Media

The earth is slowly suffocating, and we humans have a pretty large hand in making that happen. In many ways, we’re the worst thing that’s ever happened to this planet, despite all the technological advances we have made to push humankind. We have been the ones choking out its heart, and if scientists are right (and they probably are), we could be very close to annihilating this place.

Avant-garde green metal spirit Botanist has been telling us this for years now over a series of full-lengths, smaller releases, and splits, and the message hasn’t really changed: Plant life one day will rise up and claim us all after we’ve done our damage. Only problem is, we’re now in danger of killing our real-life Verdant Realm that we might not live to see this play out. Nonetheless, Botanist is not to be deterred, and the project is back with “Ecosystem,” a release that features the entire fleshed-out lineup—Otrebor on dulcimers, harmonium, vocals; Davide Tiso on bass; Daturus on drums; and Cynoxylon on additional vocals—so it’s not just a dulcimer-and-drums effort. That gives these songs even more body and texture, not to mention vocally the music pushes past shrieks and whispers to embrace cleaner singing that also adds a pretty cool texture to the songs.

“Biomass” begins the record with the dulcimer hammered and all of the forces rising, as wild cries jab into the ribs. The chorus backs up and swells while gruffer vocals push in before calm emerges. Singing and shrieks mix while a panicked tempo jars and moody chorals take us out. “Alluvial” has light strumming before things comes to life with clean singing and a breezy atmosphere before things darken. Vicious howls blister, whipping up crazed winds before things disappear into the background. “Harvestman” has dour melodies darkening the ground before the track rips things apart as shrieks make dents in the assault. Guttural growls give the track more of a death metal essence while the dulcimer goes off, and there’s a furious rush to the finish. “Sphagnum” is slowly picked as singing floats overhead, and the atmospheric pressure gives a Pink Floyd feel. The growls return as the music spirals, and then the guts are churned. Choral sections add some beauty to hell, as everything bleeds out.

“Disturbance” has noises rising, the dulcimer shaking, and heavy shrieks raining down blood. The track has a dramatic tone as insanity ensues and spreads, while a crazed fury digs in its claws. “Acclimation” is calm as it starts, softly pushing the pace, as choral parts mix with grisly growls. Cymbals crash while a clinical-style melody reaches its roots, vicious shrieks scrape, the music crescendos, and the final sounds are delicately played strums. “Abiotic” begins slowly as the drums and bass pick up, and solemn singing from Cynoxylon and vocal harmonizing give lushness to this folk-flavored cut. The singing continues to push the plot, observing that “a path of doom is laid” before the song slowly fades. “Red Crown” closes the album with a huge, joyous feel as the drums rumble, and the singing swells with, “Sunlight rains down through the branches and reaches the ground.” As the track goes on, the music continues to add muscle, the singing floods the senses, and the track subsides with the call of “with balance ruling, red crown, ecosystem” as the grip is gently loosened.

Our fate is nearly sealed, and the people who make the actual decisions in this world have turned blind eyes to the problem vexing the earth. So, it may be time for the Verdant Realm to rise up and slaughter us all for the good of this place. “Ecosystem” is another warning, an additional plea for us to wake up and start caring for our surroundings before it comes for us and removes our stain from the planet. It might sound grim, but it’s the fate we currently deserve.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Alcest conjure black metal fires again, maintain warm gaze on ‘Spiritual Instinct’

Photo by Andy Julia

People complain a lot when they don’t get the things they want. In music especially. Not saying every twist and turn a band or musician takes is a great one (in fact, there have been a lot of bad decisions over the years), but it’s their art and their brains making it, so sometimes divergences from the path end up being for the good.

For the past several years, there has been a lot of hand wringing over French blackgaze dreamers Alcest not being heavy enough and getting away from the elements that made people love them in the first place. There’s some validity in the claims because Alcest have backed away from the heaviness of their earlier work, especially when it came to 2016’s “Kodama” (an album I really enjoyed despite it being their least metallic effort to date). But here we are, three years later, and the band—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Neige, drummer Winterhalter—return with “Spiritual Instinct,” their sixth record overall, and those seemingly abandoned pockets of ferocity have returned. But this isn’t an example of “you fuckers happy now?!” fan service. The shrieks and black metal elements are worked in organically and seamlessly, as the band maintains the earthy melody of the past couple records and simply lets the more abrasive parts settle back into the recipe, making it seem like they never went anywhere at all. It’s their heaviest album in some time, but it’s strong not just for that but for every strange twist and turn this band takes over these six tracks.

“Les jardins de minuit” begins the record with the bass driving and gazey playing, all par for the course for Alcest, with Neige’s singing reaching for the atmosphere. But don’t let yourself slip into a comfort zone because, before you know it, the power surges, and wild shrieks enter into the chaos, keeping things vicious and melodic. That sensation rushes ahead as the track has a gigantic feel, as shrieks and strength drive to the finish. “Protection” is crunchy and atmospheric with strong riffs and soaring singing. The track then gets heavier and more raucous as shrieks wash in, and the tempo pounds before the track swings back toward friendlier skies, with “ah-ah” calls lathering texture and the song gushing away. “Sapphire” has a spindly opening that crawls spider-like before the body begins to form. Clean singing and a mid-tempo trip are laid out, as the vocals swell and the playing is extremely catchy. As the song twitches, the shrieks rain down before we switch back to calmer singing, and the track chugs away.

“L’île des morts” is the longest track, running 9:04 that gets started with sharp synth beats before the riffs begin to lather. As the song grows into its body, clean singing and fiery shrieks trade places, like they do on so many songs here, while more “ah-ah” calls ring out, and things start to calm down while drums patter. A gazey cloud hangs overhead before the track rips back to life, the singing re-emerges, and a glassy haze brings the song to an end. “Le miroir” is heavy and sludging at first before the riffs turn more folkish, and the guitars glimmer amid the rumbling. The vocals stretch while the playing boils consistently, while wordless calling rises up, and the track burns brightly before giving way to serenity. The title track ends the album by bleeding into the scene with dreamy vocals setting the pace. The playing hits a mid-tempo pace as the vocals get higher, the sounds cascade, and things wash through. The drums tumble into stinging guitars hanging in a fog, with the track fading into an electric flood.

Alcest’s metallic side may have remained dormant for a while, but it’s clear that things were percolating under the surface, waiting to push through on “Spiritual Instinct.” But this isn’t just the band bringing back heaviness and savagery in order to make other people happy or because they need to do this. This is an inspired, dreamy burst of chaos that feels like Alcest’s early thorns colliding with their current introspective mind to create something exciting and rupturing.

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Nordic black metal killers 1349 lick hell’s flames all over with crushing ‘The Infernal Pathway’

Photo by Dmitry Valberg

Black metal always has centered on hell, which makes a lot of sense. The evil and torturous elements of existence always have been a part of the sub-genre, as if it makes up the very nature of its DNA, and the threat of eternal damnation (if you buy the Bible version) or a place where one’s heathen instincts finally can have a place to reign surely, um, ignites the music’s fire.

For many years now, 1349 have been a purveyor of this style, and they’ve been one of the most consistent bands of any brand of metal. Live, they’re an utter beast, and their records have smothered senses, with their “Hellfire” and “Beyond the Apocalypse” standing as black metal pillars. By the way, the much-maligned “Revelations of the Black Flame” needs to be revisited. It’s long been a favorite of mine, and it needs to be one of yours. Anyway, 1349 have returned after a five-year break with “The Infernal Pathway,” an album that lathers with flames and is one of their most intense records in a good while. Dumb shits got all worked up over the style of “Dødskamp” just because it wasn’t 1000 percent ferocity, but black metal doesn’t always have the most reasonable listeners. That track is on here, by the way, but the record reinjects some serious savagery that the band—vocalist Ravn, guitarist Archaon, bassist Seidemann, drummer Frost—hasn’t shown in this manner in a while, as it feels like they went for broke and lunged right for the throat. This is a fucking monster.

“Abyssos Antithesis” gets the record off to a sort of misleading start, as the guitars hint as a looser rock n roll approach before things switch on a dime, and the band begins to thrash away with violent intensity. Ravn’s vocals swirl through the madness, as the band lays down the hammer in a way they haven’t in quite some time, smashing and scraping against the opposition, seeking to taste blood.  “Through Eyes of Stone” continues that assault and works to extract a submission from its victims, as the band lathers in hellish intensity. The chorus is devastating, with Ravn wailing, “Surrendering this mortal flesh,” on the back end, while the track keeps loosening teeth before coming to a devastating end. “Tunnel of Set VIII” (these tracks date back to the “Demonoir” album) is an ambient interlude that sounds like it was recorded in a hellish basement, and that leads into “Enter Cold Void Dreaming” that drubs from the start. The vocals over the verses are creaky while the guitars rage with black metal intensity over the bridge, leasing to a ferocious chorus, where the title of the track is spat out. The intensity is amplified while the leads smear, coming to a spine-crunching end. “Towers Upon Towers” has dizzying guitar work that walks zombie-style into crazed punishment that scrambles that meal of brains. Another powerful chorus erupts, the guitars go off, and warbling, detached speaking gives the track as ghostly feel it maintains to its grisly, abrupt end.

“Tunnel of Set IX” is the second of three interludes, this one swimming through noise banks while the sounds break overhead and right into the mouth of “Deeper Still” where Ravn greets you with the command of, “Fall to me!” The track thrashes and splatters its way toward you, as strange vocals slither, and the guitars rip out guts. An unexpected push of melody adds a swath of new colors to the mix, while the track comes to a blistering finish. “Striding the Chasm” rages out of the gates with fast verses that get your blood flowing and a concise chorus where Ravn simply howls, “Striding the chasm!” which would be easy to hammer back live. The gas pedal is pushed again, this time jamming it into the floor as the band creates havoc with soloing lighting the world on fire, the tempo galloping, and the chorus revisited before the track is swallowed into a void. “Dødskamp” is taken from the band’s Edvard Munch tribute track released earlier this year, and it has a more streamlined feel before the wheels are torn off. “I can no longer see where chaos ends and I begin!” Ravn cries, as the band continues to unload the lumber. “Death feeding life, death feeding death,” Ravn calls as the track continues to smother before ending in a pile of ash. “Tunnel of Set X” is the final interlude, scraping along with fires rumbling and entering into closer “Stand Tall in Fire” that pulls things back a bit, driving in calculated manner as they turn the screws. Weird speaking rolls as a more rock-style approach is used, with Ravn calling, “Release your soul!” He follows that up by the demand to unleash your spirit as the track fires up, and soloing tears things apart. The pace ignites again as Ravn howls to “lay naked by the flame,” as the song comes to a massive end complete with mechanical screams.

For more than two decades now, 1349 have been one of black metal’s most notorious warriors, burning fires that have not even come close to being extinguished. “The Infernal Pathway” is their hellacious tribute to the darkest, most foreboding elements of existence, and it absolutely bathes in its juices. This is a powerful, savage document from one of black metal’s most consistent forces.

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