TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a themed list devoted to grouping together albums of similar interest that I missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraints of time. I have a policy of covering 99% of everything I receive in some form, be it mini-review or full-feature, so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way.
Here I present a ten album sampler of some of the best blackened thrash/speed metal & extreme sludge metal from early 2019. Consider it a soundtrack to release the existential anxiety you’ll feel as you age, let those old and naive ambitions rot and celebrate the gaseous decomposition of hope. May the spiteful, drunken blackness scathe you and the swamp mud heal you. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because I couldn’t manage the time for a long-form review or because I really didn’t have more than a paragraph or two worth of insight beyond banal description. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more albums from different styles, genres, themes, etc.
Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because I am not doing full reviews for these releases! I always have some quality control in mind and look for expressive, meaningful, or just damn heavy releases that hold value without gimmickry or bland plagiarism. This weeks picks come from dissatisfaction with an (unnamed) recent blackened sludge metal release, I wanted to illustrate how black/thrash best understands the attack and how extreme sludge understands the groove by highlighting some bands that find working parallels without touching the other side. Next week the topic will be decided by PATREON patrons, who vote on a poll for Ten From the Tomb every two weeks. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate the friendly and positive interactions I’ve had with all thus far. Think my opinions are trash and that I suck? Want to totally tell me off, bro? Click away and let’s all live more sensible lives full of meaningful interactions. I’m too old and bored with people to care.
|Title [Type/Year]||Pyrrhic [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Minot, North Dakota black/thrash metal band Frosthelm put in a good showing in the span of their first decade between a well-received EP and now two full-lengths. Their sound is akin to a very specific but long-celebrated niche of black/death/thrash that was surprisingly popular in Sweden in the late 90’s. This was a scene that landed somewhere between the rise of melodic black metal in the early 90’s and the post-death n’ roll affected death/thrash (see: The Crown) that’d develop as trends came and went. Before you begin to squirm in your seat hoping this isn’t a Witchery clone, don’t worry Frosthelm aren’t necessarily that kind of act. Their sound does land in that same family, though, but I would point towards Swordmaster‘s ‘Postmortem Tales’ and Deathwitch‘s ‘The Ultimate Death’ for reference. I’d wanted to compare them with Prophanity but the lead guitars aren’t so shred-happy. The major difference here is where the thrash influences are coming from as those Swedish bands were heavily influenced by Kreator and Slayer (most often, at least) I’d say Frosthelm often lean into modern thrash and would more than likely compare best with Skeletonwitch. They’re at their best when they begin to lean over onto their pure black metal side though I wouldn’t say ‘Pyrrhic’ ever takes any bold chances with their Scandinavian influenced sound.
|Title [Type/Year]||Upside of Sick [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [2.75/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Baltimore, Maryland’s Musket Hawk often feel like an extension of what bands like Iron Monkey and Eyehategod have been doing for decades by emphasizing the hardcore influences upon classic sludge metal and ramping them up towards grindcore levels of attack. ‘Upside of Sick’ is a harsh, manic, and dreary kick of gloomy sludge-punk that is just sloppy and rough enough to be a good time. It isn’t as ‘listenable’ as Mistress or Maggot Bath and it isn’t nearly as extreme as Soilent Green, though you’re in the right ballpark if you’re already familiar with those acts. I ended up feeling like they’d be a better hardcore band than a sludge one, and the snare sound kinda takes things in a mid-90’s Victory Records direction at times but, I’d still recommend checking Musket Hawk out.
|Title [Type/Year]||Enter the Endless Abyss [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
As much as I really do love that album artwork the logo for Slovenian blackened heavy/speed metal band Vigilance is too well-hidden at a glance. If this has shown up in my inbox in January I’d have probably spent more time with it but unfortunately I’m inundated with blackened heavy metal albums and it didn’t quite live up to nearby releases from Bat, Nocturnal Witch, Siculicidium, Perversor, Hellripper, Lucifera… Well, I suppose it holds up simply for being something almost entirely different. ‘Enter the Endless Abyss’ is essentially an 80’s heavy/speed metal album that verges on late 70’s heavy rock topped off with first wave black metal vocals. That’d actually describe their evolution as a band that’d started as a pure heavy metal group who took a darker turn towards a Bulldozer-esque style on ‘Hounds of Megiddo’ (2015). I missed their last album but it’d seem they’ve balanced out the raucous ballsy rage of ‘Hounds…’ with their traditional heavy metal subtlety and man, it is a beautiful thing. I love the ‘distant’ sort of feeling Vigiliance achieve within ‘Enter the Endless Abyss’ partially because it reminds me of how Witching Hour have evolved (stylistically in reverse, though). I’m definitely on board with this album and I appreciate the consistent progression of quality and style within Vigilance‘s discography so far. Here’s hoping they keep putting out records of this quality every two years as they have been.
|Title [Type/Year]||Paralysis of Reason [EP/2019]|
|Rating [2.5/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
It’d seem that todays age of outrage culture, reactive thought, and tribalism has geek’d up Welsh sludge metal trio Tides of Sulfur into a hardcore frenzy that isn’t necessarily as flattering as their debut full-length ‘Extinction Curse’ (2016). That debut put them in line with groups like Slabdragger, Ilsa, and Samothrace but this EP dials down the quality for the sake of d-beat rage. Normally I’d be on board with this sort of change of pace but it is truly bland and average when considering ‘Extinction Curse’ and the myriad number of UK hardcore/sludge groups doing this very same thing. Might sound a bit harsh on my end but hey, as always decide for yourself. Maybe jump back to hear what Musket Hawk are doing with the sludge/hardcore ethos by comparison.
|Title [Type/Year]||Back to the Cult [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
A strong blackened death/thrash debut record from these Helsinki, Finland based folks, ‘Back to the Cult’ initially stood out for its production values. The drums sound quite a bit like pads with very little acoustic presence and the mix doesn’t emphasize bass frequencies (lows, bass guitar presence is pronounced) otherwise giving the whole album a sort of ‘remastered eastern European’ thrash metal kind of sound. This more or less fits in with the newer generation of thrash out of Norway lately, though its just a bit of early 90’s Finnish black/death metal (Impaled Nazarene,) and early Slayer song structures guiding this band through their debut. They’ve been around since 2007 but each member appears to have jumped around between various roles that’d solidify around 2016 or so, as such Grave Violator do kinda sound like they’re just getting comfortable in their skin and having fun with their brand of black/thrash. I’m always more geared towards bands that are a bit more ‘serious’ but enjoyed the ‘classic’ feeling of this release all the same.
|Title [Type/Year]||What is Imposed Must be Endured [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
As a general rule I’d basically vouch for every release that Black Bow Records puts out as their taste in sludge and doom is top notch (see: that first Tides of Sulfur album mentioned earlier) and Blind Monarch‘s debut is no exception. ‘What is Imposed Must be Endured’ comes after the Blyth brothers had spent years, starting in 2004, in death metal bands (Forgotten Grace, Parasitized) that’d gone nowhere. There are some death metal vocals interspersed throughout this extreme doom/sludge metal album but its overall kick is closer to the Thou, Burning Witch, and Grief spectrum of rasping and bludgeon-driven sludge. I had to be in the right mood for a four song and hour long depressive sludge-banger to really soak in ‘What is Imposed Must be Endured’ and once I’d found the right mental space for it I’d really enjoyed it. I’d almost wished they’d focus more on those groovin’ sludge movements more than the plodding, slower parts but as a whole this is a fine example of extreme doom metal performed within sludge metal style.
|Title [Type/Year]||Parthenogenesis [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Some of the finer early Celtic Frost/Hellhammer worship I’ve heard in a while, Martelo Negro (formerly Black Hammer) hail from Lisbon, Portugal and completely nail the sound they’re going for right off the bat. There are plenty of worship bands like this but I suppose what separates Martelo Negro from Apokalyptic Raids, Warhammer, and early Usurper is their focus isn’t completely centered around thrash metal and they aren’t recreating old legacies the entire album. Instead ‘Parthenogenesis’ makes a lot of smart nods to the classics while focusing on a blackened death/thrash sound that verges on a sort of punkish death n’ roll pace as it powers on. I think this kind of band looks like ‘dumb fun’ to many folks on the surface and that first impression is more or less correct. I had a great time with this album even if I wanted a lot more variation.
|Title [Type/Year]||Champ Du Sange [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Vous Autres are a blackened sludge metal duo from Paris, France whom I think will instantly appeal to folks who enjoyed the Fange record I’d reviewed earlier this year, only the focus is on black metal aesthetics rather than death metal this time. How to describe this album… A bit of post-metal era Dirge, a heaving dose of post-black metal ambiance applied to Amenra‘s subtle forms, and the polished high production values of Owl‘s more experimental (Godflesh-esque) EP releases. If the mixture of atmospheric sludge metal and post-black metal had been done before I’d missed it or wasn’t particularly satisfied but with ‘Champ Du Sange’ I believe Vous Autres have found a proper fusion that doesn’t blur either archetype beyond recognition. This is surely a release you must commit to and be ‘sold’ on immediately because a full hour of blackened anxiety and depression will be a lot to take in within one sitting. I found myself taking the album in two halves rather than all at once before I’d become more familiar with the twists and turns of each song. They take plenty of risks with this formula and enough variation exists within that I’m going to say this’ll be seen as a formative release as the project finds its most meaningful groove with time.
|Title [Type/Year]||Black Mass [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Bloodlust are a fantastic speed metal band from Medellín, Colombia who rip-and-tear their way through this fine debut full-length, ‘Black Mass’. This album immediately takes me back to the post-‘Hell Awaits’ breed of speed metal that would strike across western Europe and South America at the time. Guitarist Julian Rengifo (ex-Blasphemer) truly understands Satanic speed metal riffing and takes from classic Destruction, Slayer, and beyond for inspiration on ‘Black Mass’, I would say his skill really sets Bloodlust‘s debut beyond a typical ‘evil’ thrash metal release into something exciting and believably ‘classic’ in tone. An absolute must buy for speed metal fans.
|Title [Type/Year]||Bather [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [2.75/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Here we’ll end with something a little bit off the beaten path with Bather, a ‘prog metal bands attempt at hardcore’ which amounts to 90’s hardcore influenced sludge metal. An approximation of death metal, sludge, and metalcore creates the impression of an impersonation of extreme metal rather than a serious entry but for an ‘outsider’ take it is an effective enough package that is particularly aggressive in the 90’s tough guy sense and atmospherically interesting when it counts. ‘Bather’ almost begins to lean towards peak Integrity at certain points but never serves anything that isn’t just skin-deep, and I’d be interested to see what direction they choose to go forward with. I was enough of a hardcore fan in the 90’s to find much of this record a bit campy but, I appreciate the application of sludge-like forms that keep it all interesting. Nothing near what bands like Mastiff are doing in terms of quality, but still strong enough to warrant a listen.
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