PICK OF THE WEEK: Forteresse pay homage to history, fighting back with ‘Thèmes pour la Rébellion’

ForteresseRebellion is about as vital to heavy metal as lungs are to human beings breathing and staying alive. As a style itself, it’s a form of lashing out against the mainstream, and even within genres, there are battles against each other. Hell, black metal itself might not exist if it were not for the rise of death metal and some people’s aversion to what it was becoming. Rebellion against a form of metal!

Quebec black metal band Forteresse also has rebellion in their blood, and on their amazing new record “Thèmes pour la Rébellion,” they paint a bloody photo of the carnage suffered during the Lower Canadian Rebellion that took place in 1837-38. Known as the Patriots’ War, the conflict pitted the lower Canadian area, now known as Quebec, against British colonial forces, in which they ultimately were unsuccessful. As expected, the band’s melodic black metal spread over this eight-track record is packed with violence and glorious fight, as the songs are incredibly catchy but unmistakably brutal. There’s a sense of vengeance rushing through these, and the band does an amazing job bringing you into the heart of battle, as blood splashes all around you.

Forteresse coverAs for Forteresse, this is their first record in five years, their last being the much-celebrated (and for good reason) “Crépuscule d’Octobre.” The band, a leader in the much-praised Quebecois metal scene, have been making powerful music for the past decade or so, and ever since their stunning debut “Métal Noir Québécois,” they’ve been making an impact on the metal scene not only at home but all over the world. This group—vocalist/guitarist Athros, guitarist Matrak Tveskaeg, bassist/guitarist/lyricist Moribond, and drummer/keyboardist Fiel—pack their sound with such molten power on this record, it’s impossible not to get swept up in their assault and feel the plight of the patriots in your soul.

“Aube de 1837” is the introductory piece, as fires crackle, people howl for war, and explosions can be heard, and that barrels into “Spectre De La Rébellion,” a track that shoves you full force into the battle. Black metal melodies are lathered heavily over this cut, with fierce growls punishing, and the band hits a glorious high. It feels like the opening salvo being fired, when energy and ferocity are at their zenith. “Là Où Nous Allons” follows with strong riffs and a thick atmosphere. Guitars swirl amid the gritty vocals, while a spoken passage arrives, and the band even tries on some wordless harmonies. From there, the track surges anew and heads out in a whipping wind. “Par La Bouche De Mes Canons” has a stampeding opening, as strong melodies cascade, and the thrashing crushes you alive. The chorus is absolutely on fire, with the guitars on a total rush, with group “ahs” ringing out and the song bleeding away.

“Le Sang Des Héros” is jackhammering from the start, with wild growls arriving, the song spilling all over the place, and vicious growls pelting you. The fiery passage eventually halts and lets the smoke clear before the pace ramps up again, overwhelms, and slips away into the trickling waters you hear at the end. “Forêt D’automne” has raucous melodies and gruff growls, with the tempo increasing and pounding, feeling like a storm is swelling overhead. There is amazing energy pushing from this one, and it ends in the palm of nature, with insects chirping and owls chattering. “Vespérales” continues the push from the songs that preceded it, with animalistic shrieks bruising, and the playing crushing. The song gets atmospheric for a stretch before the track starts killing again, with strangled growls, riffs burning, and everything ending in a driving rain. Closer “Le Dernier Voyage” is an ambient-rich soundscape. Clean, watery guitars trickle, while moody, murky fog settles, and the final notes feeling like a smoke-has-cleared passage that laments the lost fight but pays homage to their battle.

Forteresse’s mastery continues on “Thèmes pour la Rébellion,” a record bleeding with history and their passion for homeland and heavy metal. They’re still a band that’s slightly under the radar for so many, and hopefully this record will wake up more listeners to their incredible sound. If you’re one who thinks black metal has reached some sort of creative limit (admittedly I do from time to time), Forteresse will destroy those worries as they ignite your heart and face with their savagery.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Forteresse-312227428819928

To buy the album, go here: http://www.sepulchralproductions.com/collections/preorders

For more on the label, go here: http://www.sepulchralproductions.com/

Thrawsunblat try to reconnect to their natural surroundings with strong new ‘Metachthonia’

CDI101_1P_insert.epsOne of the single most infuriating things I encounter on just about a daily basis is trying to walk somewhere and having to avoid other people because their stupid faces are pasted to a phone. Part of me gets it, because I use my phone a lot, but I make a concerted effort to pay attention when I’m walking or driving because there’s nothing on that screen that can’t wait.

Our society is becoming more and more consumed by technology. It’s getting to the point where you don’t really have to go to the site of your job to even do your work. We’re all interconnected by cables and satellites, and it is starting to take place of the relationships on our lives. I feel like some of that bled into Thrawsunblat’s great new record “Metachthonia,” a concept piece that wonders aloud what happened to our connection with nature. The word metachthonia is ancient Greek for “the age after that of the Earth,” and it’s where we find humanity in this electronic era. The six songs on this record lament a time when we would immerse ourselves in, and learn from, the natural world around us, and it expresses a longing for that time that, sadly, looks to be dead and buried for so many.

Ever since forming seven years ago, Thrawsunblat have been carrying on the tradition of folk-infused black metal over a first album “Canada 2010,” a couple of EPs, and their excellent second full-length “Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings.” The band is comprised of former members of Woods of Ypres, and that group’s late leader David Gold even coined the Thrawsunblat moniker. Joel Violette is out front on guitar and vocals, and he’s also the band’s primary lyricist. Along with him are bassist Brendan Hayter (Blood of the Goods, Obsidian Tongue) and drummer Rae Amitay (Immortal Bird), who provide the solid backbone for the band, and inject thunder into Violette’s atmospheric, heady compositions. Also, Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Musk Ox) adds cello work and a ton of depth to this record.

“Fires That Light the Earth” kicks off the record, a 10:46 opus that starts with solemn strings and quivering atmosphere before the track charges ahead heavily. The riffs batter you, while Violette’s vocals scrape the skin off your flesh, and the drumming dusts bones. Later, clean singing arrives, as Violette continually calls out references to Metachthonia, and the tempos mix together from serene to savage, with the final whispered message of, “I found my answer,” slipping away with the song. “She Who Names the Stars” starts in a pit of prog death, with clean signing spilling in, and a surging chorus. Violette gets grim later on, pushing the growls from the pit of his stomach, while the melodies swirl and carry you through the piece. “Do you not take comfort in seeing the same stars as your ancestors?” Violette asks, as the final minutes duel in light and dark, with the track disappearing into babbling water. “Dead of Winter” starts with harmonizing before it crushes hard, with a trade-off of singing and shrieks and a pace that’ll get your blood flowing. Sometimes this song reminds of Amon Amarth’s burlier early years, flooding you with riffs and vocals that make you want to conquer a mountain.

“Hypochthonic Remnants” is heavy and gruff at the start, later blazing with melody and delivering a chorus that provides a serious crunch. The body of the song is punchy and blasting, with Violette howling, “Sing to the sky!” and their sweeping heaviness blending into rustic folk. The last moments drip away with acoustic power adding beauty. “Rivers of Underthought” continues that woodsy ambiance, letting that flow until the track explodes. The vocals are shriekier, with the strings rushing and ramping up the drama, and a killer section of soloing lighting new fires. The track slips into serenity, allowing you time to breathe, and clean guitars explore on the other end of that before then whole thing explodes with life and rumbles to a finish. Closer “In Mist We Walk” is another epic at 11:40, starting softly before the riffs rips things apart. The pace kicks up and drives up dust, with an enthralling tempo taking hold, and later a Medieval-flavored passage of acoustic guitars making it seem like you can hear branches crunching and smell cook fires wafting. The back end returns to chaos, with the track blasting your senses, and the song fading into the night once its glorious run dissipates.

Thrawsunblat’s reach deserves to grow with the dawning of “Metachthonia,” which stands as another huge step forward for the band. Perhaps this music would be best served and honored absorbed outside at night while connecting galaxies, or on the path of the nearest wooded trail as you reconnect with your surroundings. Yeah, you might end up listening to it on your phone in that situation, but put it in your pocket, take a deep breath, and enjoy what’s around you while you still can.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.brokenlimbsrecordings.net/#!store/azhdm

Or here: https://thrawsunblat.bandcamp.com/album/metachthonia

For more on the label, go here: http://www.brokenlimbsrecordings.net/

Blut Aus Nord, Ævangelist join warped forces, bloody waters on split ‘Codex Obscura Nomina’

Blut Aevangelst coverThere are some unions that, where you hear of them, you nod and confirm that said bond makes total and complete sense. So when my inbox was infiltrated by a new split release pitting Blut Aus Nord with Ævangelist, it didn’t really shock me. That’s a release that’s just too much logical.

For Blut Aus Nord, we’ve long been enchanted by their strange form of black metal, one that has twisted and turned over the years, taken on surprising new elements, and really hasn’t bowed to anyone’s wishes. The band, led by the unstoppable Vidsval (guitars, vocals) and rounded out by keyboardist/electronics wizard W.D. Feld, bassist GhOst, and drummer Thorns, has whipped out 11 full-lengths since their formation in 1994, their most recent being 2014’s excellent “Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry.” Their four tracks on this split release “Codex Obscura Nomina” shift even further away from pure black metal and into industrial, trip-hop elements that have been woven through their work over the years. Their cuts here are strange, nightmarish, and intoxicating, a definite foray away from the band’s center (which, granted, is way different than most). That makes these songs really exciting and something that might indicate even more experimentation in the future.

“Evanescent Hallucinations” begins with strange industrial sounds before opening up in the mouth of a storm. Thick keys make the song sound like a dark carnival, with really weird, nightmarish melodies laced into the track. Buried growls rumble, with the back end of the track bubbling up as a monstrous sprawl. “Resonnance(s)” makes it feel like the room is spinning, with slurry, odd, dreamlike imagery taking hold. The growls dissolve, while chants rise up, a clean, deranged wails explode behind the din, and everything fades into a sound cloud. “The Parallel Echoes” has static beats and off-kilter playing, with gurgly growls sounding like a demonic strangulation, before they hit a humid simmer. Mesmerizing guitars float, as the weird riffs levitate in mid-air, and the sound reverberates inside your chest. “Infra-Voices Ensemble” is their final deed, bleeding in from the darkness and heading into aggressive programmed beats. Harsh growls slice their way in, as the tempo reaches its dark arms across you and embraces with force. The track punches and pelts, with the beats maintaining their intensity and then subsiding in a cloud of noise. Really interesting stuff from one of the world’s most inventive bands.

As for Ævangelist, they, too, walk their own path, which is fucked up with tons of dissonance and jarring noise that go against every fiber of metal’s grain. They have been quite prolific as of late, with three full-length efforts that past three years (last year’s “Enthrall to the Void of Bliss” is their most recent and first for 20 Buck Spin), as well as a couple of EPs. On this split, the band—Matron Thorn (guitars, vocals, bass, noise) and Ascaris (vocals, saxophone, cello)—commit their longest song to date, a 21:33 opus that takes up their entire side of the effort, and one awash in great terror. As usual, their music isn’t easy to approach, especially if you’re not familiar with their style. But if you participate fully and let the music wash over you, it’s easy to fall prey to their punishing hypnosis, which could leave you lost, disoriented, and oddly speaking in strange tongues.

“Threshold of the Miraculous” has a numbing start, with drums and beats rattling, then growls beginning to make their way across. Weird melodies swirl into a sound vortex, and then things really get started, with gurgles bubbling up, menacing messages being delivered, and then a stretch of uneasy quiet. That’s torn apart by slicing riffs that sound almost conventional (at least in an Ævangelist world), before the first stretch of speaking arrives, switching back and forth between tongues, and sounding like a sermon for the end of days. That melts into death and an array of dizzying sounds, with the monologue returning and then dissolving into a stretch of lurching growls and a melody burst that spins out of control. “Bow down and pray!” is bellowed over and over, way more a threat than an invitation, while the last few minutes bend into feral ugliness and go out in death fumes. This is one of Ævangelist’s more daring pieces yet, one that holds its own quite well with their split mates.

As much as I enjoy split releases that feature bands coming at things from completely different angles, it’s also great to hear one where both groups are operating within the same sphere, albeit with different agendas. Blut Aus Nord and Ævangelist are two of metal’s most daring and interesting bands, and you never can guess with total certainly where either will gravitate next. To have both locked into the same creative space is an enthralling thing, one that will reprogram your brain and how you process art.

For more on Blut Aus Nord, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blutausnord.official

For more on Ævangelist, go here: https://www.facebook.com/aevangelist .official

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

Sol Sistere dump boatload of riffs, dangerous melodies into ‘Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum’

Sol SistereI’ve been on this tangent before, but it’s tough as a music writer to sift through all the promos that weigh down my inbox, listen to as much as I can, and pick the ones I want to feature. That also answers the question that’s been posed to me many times as to why this site doesn’t feature negative reviews. The idea is to cull all of the bands and records I think warrant attention and boil each week’s offerings down into four or five features. I could do an entire site based on bad shit in my inbox. Trust me.

Anyway, from time to time albums elude me, likely because I’m not on a publicist’s or label’s mailing list, and I end up doing some discoveries on my own, which is actually a lot of fun. I had that happen again with “Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum,” the debut record from Chilean black metal band Sol Sistere, out on Hammerheart Records. I do see promos from them from time to time, but this one didn’t make it my way. But I went to the label’s Bandcamp with other intentions, sampled this album, and was blown the eff away. This is one exciting record from start to finish from a band that deserves to get a ton of attention, especially from those who like their black metal melodic, atmospheric, and packed with enough riffs to defeat the zombie Mountain.

Sol Sistere coverSol Sistere only got their start as a band three years ago, releasing an EP “I” in 2014, and now coming in with their first full-length effort. The band—guitarist/vocalist C (formerly of Animus Mortis), guitarist Ricardo Araya (also of Cathar Eclipse), bassist Juan Diaz (also of Bauda), drummer Pablo Vera (also formerly of Animus Mortis, as well as Anima Inmortalis)—combines their myriad experiences elsewhere to create this destructive unit that packs a ton of power and passion into their music. Yes, a lot of bands go the atmospheric black metal route these days, but these guys stand apart. They’re not trying to make you daydream. They are instead filling your head of explosive imagery and fiery chaos that should ignite your dead heart and make you feel your purpose in life.

The record opens with “Death Knell,” a cold, airy cut at first before it rips apart, and the pace begins to devastate. The riffs are mighty and thrashing here, as they are so many places on this album, and C’s wild cries deliver a punishing salvo, one that keeps at the throat up until the song’s fire finally burns off. “Relentless Ascension” has guitars fluttering before taking charge of the mission, with glorious melodies arriving in abundance. The tempo feels like a great storm hanging overhead, later going cold and murky, only to emerge from the other side with a cathartic blast of energy. “Deliver Us” bursts from the gates, with riffs blasting all over the place and creaked growls leaving bruises. The track feels equally guttural and overwhelmingly powerful, with the emotion shaking your insides. “Sight of the Oracle” bleeds in with a thick bassline and more huge melodies bursting from the seams. C roars heavily over this thing, with the guitars simmering in some places, burning and churning in others, with the track’s final moments crackling away only after leaving serious burns.

“Degraded Soul” has a clean opening, teasing serenity, but it’s not long before the doors are stormed and the assault is on. The song is mid-paced but heavy as hell for a large portion of its run, with gruff vocals, infectious melodies, and later a breath of calm before the molten steel is poured out all over again. “Towards the Morning Star” is an instrumental cut built with clean playing, thick, moody strings, and a murky ambiance that unleashes thick servings of darkness. “6th Replicant” just explodes, with riffs tidal waving toward you, and the drums rumbling especially aggressively. The tempo turns a little gazey at points, letting spacey magic rain down, but this mostly instrumental (there are some beastly howls toward the end) cut later spills blood again and comes to a thunderous conclusion. Closer “Seeker of Souls” boils at first before spilling over and letting the pace get raucous. The track mauls for a while, with the vocals feeling feral, but also creaky in spots. Later C warbles his words, almost like Tom G Warrior at his gothy best, and the track then hits a dangerous gallop, finishing up in a pit of melting riffs.

I don’t do nearly enough random digging online because, as noted, inbox. But now and again unearthing something I may not have found otherwise, such as Sol Sistere’s debut “Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum,” makes all that investigative work worthwhile. This is an electrifying, world-toppling record, and its constant rotation in my ears the rest of the year is as given.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://hammerheartstore.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.hammerheart.com/

Atrament spill D-beat fury, black, death metal into dark future on ‘Eternal Downfall’

AtramentWatching this current presidential campaign, it’s not inconceivable we’ll all be dead in a few years. If not dead, at least living in ruin and wondering what the hell went on the past decade or so. How did we get here? How will we climb out? WILL we climb out?

All of those morbid visions hit home on “Eternal Downfall,” the debut record from Oakland, Ca., D-beat/crust/black/death amalgamation Atrament who waste no time getting their Apocalyptic visions out front on these quaking, smothering 11 tracks. Here, the band imagines a world in which humanity is a hindrance and not a primary commodity, and that fallout from radioactive annihilation chokes out whatever is left and breathing. Really, how does that seem too far fetched considering what people are doing in these primary elections? Holy fuck, this could happen. Will Atrament bask in the fact that they were right all along? Not likely as it doesn’t appear many would survive such an onslaught. So they’d be more prophets of death rather than gloating soothsayers, and with that in mind, it’s not too late to avoid making some really, really bad decisions, right?

12inch_3mm_v92012.inddAs for Atrament, they’re just at the beginning as far as this unit goes, having formed in 2014 and only having a demo to their credit up to this point. The group is comprised of vocalist Mattia Alagna (Abstracter), guitarist James Meyer (also of Abstracter, as well as Black September), bassist Sam Carr-Prindle, and drummer Chad Gailey (Caffa, Necrot), and they blast and bruise their way through this record, with most songs clocking in at under three minutes. Their urgency and savagery are obvious and tangible, and they rip through this record, painting a picture of the void they imagine in our bleak futures. Kind of depressing, eh?

“No Beyond” begins the trauma, stomping hard, with gruff vocals bruising, the assault rollicking hard, and mucky, brutal pounding setting the pace for “Sunken Reign.” There, gurgly growls team up with muddy smothering, sinking thrash madness and outright vitriol into the mire. “Aberration” is mean and delivered deep from inside the intestines, with black metal-style guitars raining down, and a nasty storm cloud opening up and threatening to drown everyone. “Consumed” has vocals that sound based in blood, while the D-beat-style chaos ruptures veins, and the vocals take on more of a death metal style. Once that song thunders out, we’re right into “Hericide” that stampedes over everything, into sludgy terrain, grimy growls, and a flurry of fists. “Wretched Apparition” also sinks its teeth into death metal, with the song hammering, the tempo chewing bones, and after a brief injection of calm, rips into a black metal-tinged stretch.

“Rotting Twilight” is full of slowly meted-out misery drubbing punishment, and wild howls of, “Cursed to see the future!” that put you into the mentality of our tale’s unfortunate survivors. The final moments charge up the ferocity and spill into “Aeon of Suffering” that is fast, intense, and hellbent on bringing total destruction. The track absolutely obliterates, and then it’s into “World of Ash” that sets up its premise in its title and pays off the promise with speedy, crunchy playing, a strong dose of thrash, and a black, ugly sentiment. “Circle of Wolves” is punchy and threatening, with more black metal-style melodies, and a sense of total devastation so true, you practically can taste soot in your mouth. Closer “Dusk Abuse” finds a strong groove as its front end, and then it launches itself forward violently. The drums smear everything, while the guitar work goes off, infusing some classic metal glory into the mix, and letting every element burn off permanently, leaving the record in a toxic cloud of smoke.      

Atrament show a lot of promise and power on “Eternal Downfall,” and here’s hoping humanity will not have eaten itself before these guys have a chance to complete another record. The band has a great sound, hunger, and tenacity, and that shines through again and again on these 11 cuts. Shit may be getting ready to get really ugly really soon, and we’ll have Atrament here to lead us into the gutters forever.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.brokenlimbsrecordings.net/#!store/azhdm/collections/new-releases/1

Or here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/atrament-eternal-downfall

For more on the label, go here: http://www.brokenlimbsrecordings.net/

And here: http://sentientruin.com/

Death Fortress’ pure domination colors black metal with war on killer debut ‘Among the Ranks…’

Death Fortress coverMetal’s always had an affinity for power, strength, and domination. You can hear that in tons of bands across various sub-genres, from doom to sludge to thrash to death. What’s wrong with feeling empowered and mighty in the face of opposition, I ask you? The answer? Absolutely nothing.

Jersey’s black metal squadron Death Fortress have no qualms with balling their fists and crushing your will to live. Their sound is straight forward and ferocious, and the feeling you get from hearing the band is not unlike what it might be like to get crushed by their boots trampling across your chest. Expect bruising, bleeding, and a whole lot of humiliation. The band’s first full-length effort “Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable” tells you this right away, and it’s not some thin statement made to make the guys sound tougher than they are. Once they plug in and begin striking, you know you’re in the middle of a psychiatric struggle, where you will pay a toll but might come out stronger for it. You can thank them later after your wounds heal.

Death Fortress are comprised of veterans of other noteworthy underground hell-breathers, with T. Warrior (Dethroned Emperor, Senobyte) on bass and vocals; J. Averserio (Abazagorath, Dethroned Emperor, Senobyte) on guitars; and S. Eldridge (Funebrarum, Abysmal Gates, Disma) on drums. Every ounce of this six-track, 38-minute crusher feels weighty, devastating, and utterly devoid of mercy. They certainly have the tenets that would make old school black metal fans quite happy, but they also power through with the audio violence that could make death and war metal devotees more than happy to walk with into battle alongside the trio of terror.

Opener “King’s Blood” starts off with dissonant interference, letting the buzz build and approach with threatening power before the track rips open and starts punishing. There’s a strong melody lurking behind the chaos, but up front we have harsh, guttural growls that sound soul-wrenching, spacious fury that makes it feel like you’re in the grips of a tornado, and delirious playing that baffles and destroys. But the bottom line is the track’s brutal underbelly, which is deep and expansive. “Arrogant Force” begins with whipping winds that could eat at your cheeks and then drums that absolutely decimate. There are strong, intelligent lead lines that inject excitement into the piece, and the vocals are absolutely gruff and monstrous, grinding away just as hard as the song around them. The final strains of the track bleed into “Fifth Season,” which takes some time to simmer before reigniting the intensity. The guitars are insane, with vicious growling blending in and upping the ante on the madness. The song pulls back a bit, letting some different colors into the space, and the track ends on an extended section of razor-sharp playing that eventually dissolves.

The title track tears open the second half of the album with a channeled assault and devastating riffs that continue the punishment. The growls are grim and evil, and they join in with the tempo that mashes everything in its wake. The song hovers like a relentless, all-day summer storm, soaking the ground and unleashing thunder that never seems to subside. Soloing emerges that is creative and brainy, but ugliness rules the day as the final moments are smoldering. “Pride of the Enslaver” dumps churning guitars, vocals that capture and suffocate, and encircling melodies that should leave you dizzy and disoriented until it burns out. Closer “Ancestor’s Call” starts firing hard from the get go, with the drums pulverizing your senses, melodic guitars shredding through the muck, and vocals that are charnel and deadly. Interestingly, some post-metal-style melodies slip in, which could be confusing if you’re expecting wall-to-wall burning. Instead, the band ends the record on a mesmerizing, haunting note that finally gives you some mercy so you can begin licking your wounds.

Death Fortress’ name can be taken pretty literally, because that’s what it feels you’re locked inside of on “Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable.” The record is a ferocious one, and if you’re in those ranks of people who think black metal’s gotten too proper and polished, you’ll enjoy hearing these guys take their blades to that whole idea. This is filled with danger and malice, and nothing good can come from this band’s agenda. Well, other than black metal getting another group of warriors here to restore its good name.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Death_Fortress/3540352232

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

For more on the label, go here: http://www.fallenempirerecords.com/

Mortuus’ dank, dizzying black metal revels in death, begs for its arrival on ‘Grape of the Vine’

MortuusIt’s going to get dark, spooky, ugly, and horrific soon in America. Or at least that’s what a majority of the population thinks. I always find the Halloween season a little bit silly, especially when the religious dorks rise up and protest what is a pretty cartoonish, harmless season. But elsewhere, real terror awaits.

If you want to look into the true face of death and evil, look no further than Mortuus, the long-standing Swedish black metal band that will have no problem causing chills to go up and down your spine. Their freshly released second full-length “Grape of the Vine” has arrived after years of their minions waiting for an answer to 2007’s “De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis.” That’s one hell of a mouthful of a title. Anyhow, this seven-track, nearly 50-minute excursion is painted all over with the stench of death. It’s a nightmarish soundtrack of your body expiring and what’s left being sent on a suffocating journey through a darkness full of mysteries and perhaps danger. The record is chilling from front to back, and they establish a dank atmosphere that relies more on psychological punishment than it does overwhelming you with power and speed.

Mortuus coverThe band is made up of two musicians, that being vocalist/guitarist Tehom, and bassist/drummer/backing vocalist M. Hinze. Together, they work to create a dark vortex of hell that might take some getting used to. It might not suck you in right away simply because they eschew convention, with sticky melodies and any hooks completely absent. Instead, the vocals often sound like a running diatribe, designed to provoke the forces of evil, while the music rains down like blood, getting in your eyes and causing your lips to stick together. It’s not a comfortable experience, but it is one that’ll feel a lot different than the ones on which most modern black metal bands take you.

Frosty instrumental “Layil” opens the record with ominous playing, drums throbbing hard, and guitars spilling all over the place, instilling a foreboding atmosphere into the proceedings and leading into the furious title track. There, guitars chugs, maniacal growls sting your senses, and the music drives a dizziness that could leave you trying to regain your footing. Most of the track is a slow burn, with drubbing compositions and driving vocals that sound accusatory. “Torches” has a scintillating lead guitar line that knifes into the beginning of the track, and a calculating pace meets up with monstrous howls to blow fire into your face. Some traces of tangible melodies slip into place, giving the track the slightest hint of accessibility, and the final dose of storming glides into dripping piano that closes the door on the cut. “Sulphur” has fires crackling and a poisonous gust in the air, as the band churns slowly, violently. The song opens up a bit, with Hinze howling, “I hear the devil speak while I lay asleep,” setting imagery from which your worst dreams are made.

“Disobedience” is eerie at first and takes it time setting the scene, but as it goes on, it turnsurh into something cold and prickly. The tracks bleeds slowly, while the darkness sets in thick, and a frozen, deathly melody arrives the make things even more charnel. The song is just ugly, with infernal vocals and vicious mashing dragging you to the finish. “Nemesis” is psychologically damaging and even manages to hit a little harder than what preceded it, with Hinze declaring, “You are prophets of your own demise.” There is a hope for death, if not a worship of it, in the air, and the entire song feels like it’s luring you not just to your grave, but to eternal damnation. The final moments are so destructive that they’re oppressive, and this is the most aggressive track on the whole record. Closer “Tzel Maveth” has a cloudy start, only to have riffs burst from it like lightning. The songs lurches like a slow-moving, deadly lava, and the pace returns to the calculated climb most of these cuts take. The song burns heavily, filling everything with a thick smoke, and mercy is only given in its final moment, when the record meets the demise it promises all along.

When people are reveling in ghouls, ghosts, devils, and skulls next month, remember to give them a break. For they do not know of the true chaos and death that is Mortuus’ music, and most would faint at the first few notes of “Grape of the Vine.” As for you, the hardening of the arteries and exposure to real fright will get you ready for the cold months when everything around you is dead and decaying. Nature is getting ready to take that rotting journey, and everything on this nightmare of a record will have gotten you pretty much prepared.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/collections/all

For more on the label, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Ævangelist’s chaos, infernal flames smeared all over ‘Writhes in the Murk’

Photo by Alyssa L. Paulsen

Photo by Alyssa L. Paulsen

Chaos and torment are elements that make up a great deal of metal in this day and age, and sometimes they can serve to undo works of art. Too much of either can feel overbearing or even annoying. But the right amounts, presented the correct way, can enthrall and even cause you to teeter on the edge of your own breakdown.

They haven’t been clubbing souls for long, but Ævangelist have, in a little under five years, shown the word what true panic is all about. Their music is suffocating and terror inducing, like you’re trapped underneath a great weight or lodged in a deep tunnel, with only your throbbing anxiety there to keep you company. Their sounds are pummeling and punishing, but also oddly intoxicating, like you’re being overcome by a great cloud of mind-altering smoke. It’s such a strange experience, and with each of their first two albums–2012’s “De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis” and last year’s great “Omen Ex Simulacra”–this Illinois/Oregon-based band has created an audio journey that equals strange nightmares from which you feel you’ll never wake. Sound perversely pleasing? Good, because it is.

Aevangelist coverNow comes the band’s third record, the massive and swelling “Writhes in the Murk,” and the title is appropriate because that’s what you’ll feel like you’re doing listening to this many-tentacled beast. Death and black metal are there ripping apart foundations with their tornadic approach, while heavy and gusty industrial elements also make their presence known and give the record the feeling like it was formed in great steam-filled factories. After all, how else would these strange figures in vocalist Ascaris (he also handles sax and cello) and multi-instrumentalist Matron Thorn come up with such menacing, steely creations. Shit, I often forget they’re based in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, they’re so bizarre. It feels like they should hail from a rogue, burning planet or underground. Oh, and when they play live, the lineup swells further, including musicians Æryn, ][, The Auditor, and S.

“Hosanna” starts off the filth hymnals, and you can bet they’re not being sent on high, as noisy industrial pounding and murky, churning guitars open up this madness. The vocals go from warped growls to pained moans, and the whole environment is eerie and strange. Everything explodes anew toward the end, with drums splattering, the vocals being spat crazily, and everything disappearing into a hiss. “The Only Grave” is built on doom-heavy riffs, slurry melodies, and gurgling vocals, like Ascaris has a pool of blood welling in the back of his throat. The song sounds like it would be appropriate material for a dank dungeon, where some poor bastard is hanging upside waiting to be tortured. “Præternigma” has black metal powering it forward, and along the way it meets up with more harsh growls, a thick haze of violence, and then some eerie, almost prog-style playing that trickles all over. Odd bellowing emerges like a crazed prisoner being held somewhere, potentially hallucinating, and the final grinding moments ensure the proper amount of damage was done. “Disquiet” brings things back to calm temporarily, acting as a weird, blip-filled bridge into the second half of the record.

“Ælixir” has a neurotic, twisted sense, with vocals and guitars swirling about and a mashing sensibility that smears you. Creepy dialogue emerges, noise whinnies and pierces, and horns cry out, meeting up with bone-dusting drums. The song takes a foggy, jazzy curve, the music sustains serious artistic damage, and the song bleeds out into the night. “Harken the Flesh” has a slow, weird start that also heads toward black metal terrain, but the kind that also is inhabited by bands such as Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord. The song is mucky and muddy, there are zaps of noise, and some old-style guitar soloing hits toward the end. That’s the weirdest part of the song, the section that feels the most straight-forward. “Halo of Lamented Glory” blasts open with a rock-solid riff, abrasive growls, and more nauseating melodies that might make you think the room is spinning. The second half of the song straightens out a bit, headed slightly toward accessibility, and the track fizzles out in static. The closing title cut has a clean, creative bend, and some classical-style guitar playing emerges to add a sense of infernal class into the proceedings. The song charges up, of course, as guitars chug, the vocals belch tar, and the hell is allowed to spread all over. As the track goes on, it gets stranger and stranger, with a female voice providing icy commentary that borders on inviting death, and the final moments offer room for both hammering violence and alien transmissions that leave your head swimming and you confused as to what you just heard. It’s a hell of an unsettling album, and I know it took me several listens just to digest everything that was going on here. I’m still not sure I have a complete handle on it.

There’s no way to put Ævangelist into a corner or to hold them to some kind of standard, other than experimental excellence. They put their own spin in black and death metal, and everything they do is interesting and compelling. “Writhes in the Murk” continues the band on their path of infernal chaos and proves that they’re only scratching the surface of what they can do creatively. It’s weird, it’s warped, and it doesn’t go down easily, which are high compliments. This band will burn a hole into your gut and your psyche at the same time. Holy shit, what could possibly be next?

For more on the band, go here: http://www.newobliviongospelmusic.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

Or here (North America): https://shop-hellsheadbangers.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

Or here: http://www.hellsheadbangers.com/