Twenty From the Tomb 6/03/19: Smooth and smiling with ruin in their eyes.

TEN TWENTY 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 twenty album sampler of some of the absolute best albums released in May 2019. Consider it a good rub of the stuff I loved but couldn’t find the time to do a full review of. 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 week I pretty much went through all May 2019 releases and picked twenty of my favorites that I hadn’t mentioned yet. Next weeks picks will cover non-metal releases that I’ve been slacking on! 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.


Artist Earth
Title [Type/Year] Full Upon Her Burning Lips [Full-length/2019]
Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Seattle’s long-cherished experimental drone progenitors (gone psychedelic doom-rockers) Earth come bearing signature minimalism as if they’d challenge themselves to exist in the moment without mentally digging through the enormous legacy behind them. ‘Primitive and Deadly’ (2014) was such a revelation that it briefly gave the sense that Earth‘d turned a new leaf. I do not say that with any point of view applied but as a fellow who’d so loved the presence of vocalist Mark Lanegan within their psychedelic doom/rock riffcraft. The spiral castles and slow motion blues-grinding creep of Earth is still there but voiceless once more. I’m still into it, in fact there may not be any guitarist in the realm of psychedelia and doom today that I admire more for his tone, style, and grace of performance. So, why not review the album? By the time I’d bought it, sat down with it, and thought about ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’ I had this sour premonition that I’d rather experience it alone than write about it. In the meantime I’d gotten the double LP of the previous album and spent a few weeks marveling over that. I do have a couple of criticisms though: It is 20 minutes too long, the evolution of the tracklist is far too slow to start, and it felt like they’d started to reach for ideas in the middle portion of the album though it finished strong. Oh and the first harmonic hit in “Descending Belladonna” blew my mind, for whatever reason.


Artist Destroyer of Light
Title [Type/Year] Mors Aeterna [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

All things considered I’d say this third full-length from Austin, Texas epic doom metal act Destroyer of Light is among the most underrated records of the month. Not only is it their most expansive record in terms of emotional variety but the themes show a great deal of maturation in the two years since ‘Chamber of Horrors’ (2017). No longer a descending swamp of Solitude Aeternus riffs and Eldritch lore ‘Mors Aeterna’ is a soured, soul-searching experience that begins to explore elements of modern stoner metal/rock hybrids as well as the modern tendencies of groups like Pallbearer. It is a curious but unchallenging mixture of epic doom metal and the more melodic side of gloomy stoner metal. Some of it really lands and hits hard but there are a few moments that feel kinda goofy, such as “The Uknown” and its amble into “Falling Star” which felt amateurish in terms of the synth work and the riff development. The song “Falling Star” is quite good otherwise, just a very minor stumble into it.


Artist Vortex of End
Title [Type/Year] Ardens Fvror [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If you were overwhelmed by all of the choices black metal presented in the last two weeks of May as most were, nobody would blame you for missing what is perhaps one of the better modern black metal releases of the year so far. In previous months I’d prioritized Drastus and Sinmara over Akrotheism but ended up liking the third band most and in this case I prioritized Deathspell Omega and Misþyrming over Vortex of End and found myself favoring the NoEvDia titles thus far. ‘Ardens Fvror’ is a bit more challenging in terms of pacing as this hate-filled Paris, France based group often venture from later Emperor towards modern occult black metal for a sound that can be as digestible as Hate but keeps everything as buttoned up and expansive as Nightbringer. I often found myself lost in the midst of ‘Ardens Fvror’ and not entirely sure where their style landed. Some of it is performative and grand, other tracks are razor precise and deeply complex but none of it is anything less than unhinged thanks to some truly fucked up vocals. All of this is both in line with modern French black metal’s finer heretical sects but also, a bit more ‘free’ from orthodoxy than many.


Artist Suspiral
Title [Type/Year] Chasm [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The brutal black/death blast of Suspiral‘s second album ‘Chasm’ aims to find that sweet spot in between occult black metal unpredictability and atmospheric death metal’s downward spiraling rhythmic narrative. Often heavily dissonant and guided by repetitive rhythms that introduce variation with subtlety, ‘Chasm’ is at least aptly named. The project features members of Sheidim and Arkaik Excruciation so at the very least you can expect success in regards to violent and unpredictable compositions with a great sense of brutality amongst the atmospheric presentation. With four tracks and 39 minutes between them I’d say Suspiral comes very close to exhausting each set of riffs within the space of each song but they are thankfully not redundant when viewed as four separate pieces. It is a fantastic ‘in the moment’ black/death metal album with a great sense of pace and ominous tonality, particularly with the guttural and room-filling vocal performances a la Grave Upheaval. My only hesitation for scoring it higher and doing a full review is that it didn’t manage to be memorable in terms of spectacle or composition.


Artist Sinners Bleed
Title [Type/Year] Absolution [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

With a full sixteen years between their debut full-length and this second one, ‘Absolution’, German death metal band Sinners Bleed haven’t lost their brutal edge or that early 2000’s brutal death metal sensibility but they’ve clearly kept up with modern death metal in terms of progressive death metal guitar structures. Their old ways on ‘From Womb to Tomb’ (2003), which as been on my ‘best of brutal death’ list for well over a decade now, do shine through but as I listened to ‘Absolution’ I wasn’t sure if this wasn’t too much of a throwback. Yes, it takes me back to the long gone era of bands like Spawn of Possession, Kronos, and Trauma but doesn’t really break out of that box. Sinners Bleed doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel and if anything has changed it is that ‘Absolution’ is far more progressive and just packed with technical runs, quick changes, and general flair. I’m never sure if my reviews of brutal/progressive death metal are very useful to folks because I often pine for the ‘good ole days’ when this kind of stuff was new and fresh (1999-2004) as I discovered brutal death in my early 20’s.


Artist Calyx
Title [Type/Year] Vientos Arcaicos [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Before I’d checked out the promo the track premiere No Clean Singing had posted sorta mentioned some of the influences at the end as could be found in the press release but what threw me off was the writer’s comment which amounted to “My friend heard the whole thing and he said it sounds like the first Old Man’s Child album”. I mean, really? ‘Vientos Arcaicos’ is the debut from this Spanish black metal band and their intentions are right there in the name “archaic winds”. Calyx follow the trail blazed by groups like Tormentor and Bathory with a love for epic heavy and speed metal as a strong influential component. Nowhere in this fine album’s 45 minute length does this style translate to the cheesy keyboard driven melodic black metal that early Old Man’s Child became known for! So, if that threw you off like it did me… try to shake it off. Calyx are incredible, though, and I only wish I’d not skimmed past the album too quickly. It happens, and it is my own fault for having a huge pile of things to hear and not enough time. If I’ve learned anything over the last decade it is that I can trust an Iron Bonehead Productions release is procured with good taste, this one comes close to having the same appeal as Funereal Presence but with even more bold swings into pure heavy metal territory (such as the title track) a la Melan Selas. Also one of the best album covers of the month. If I manage some free time outside of my normal schedule I will circle back and review this album.


Artist Handful of Hate
Title [Type/Year] Adversus [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Here is a page out of Italian black metal history and the bloated second wave of black metal across Europe where plenty of strong bands were lost to the fray of the symphonic metal movement. Handful of Hate were not gone for long, mind you, about three years in the late 2000’s before reforming. Their inspiration always leaned towards Swedish black metal a la Marduk, Dark Funeral, and a reasonable resemblance to Belgium’s Enthroned in their mid-career works and I’d say ‘Adversus’ follows that form in general. Insistent, violent, and incredibly studied in the technical underpinnings of black metal guitar work there is something irresistible about Handful of Hate‘s seventh full-length as it starts. Sure, the compositions are essentially variations on a theme but the album continues to develop well into its second half without ever entirely escaping what read as “Marduk-isms” as it plays. As I was a teenager during the peak of black metal’s second wave there is a lot of nostalgia born from this listen and I found myself appreciating how aggressive the piece is. It isn’t strikingly original but as a throwback to a certain era of incredibly brutal pace and razor-whipped guitar work ‘Adversus’ is fantastic.


Artist Calamity
Title [Type/Year] Kairos [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

From the moment I fired up ‘Kairos’ I wasn’t sure what exactly this Puerto Rican thrash metal band’s ‘angle’ was. On one hand they’re clearly a melodic thrash metal band that lead with melody but their sound doesn’t necessarily lean modern nor fully ‘old school’. The song structures are comparable to Heathen in the sense that they are rooted in classic heavy metal melodies but attempt a generally progressive structure. This is somewhat in line with one of my favorite ‘prog-thrash’ releases from Hexen but as soon as the power metal melodies and neoclassical shred of “Still We Live” hit I was really perplexed by their choice of tracklist progression. Ultimately ‘thrash as a jumping off point’ is the ‘angle’ of this album and as ‘Kairos’ progresses it becomes clear their ambitions are towards progressive metal. They’re already quite good from that perspective but bass drops (ugh!), awkward melodies, and ineffective mosh riffs all become severely annoying with repeated listens. I appreciate the ambition and the intense enthusiasm that Calamity show on this debut full-length though I wish it’d been presented as a prog-metal album rather than a thrasher. Taken for what it is, this is a great first step for Calamity.


Artist Widower
Title [Type/Year] Cataclysmic Sorcery [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

You’ll pretty much know what to expect from Austin, Texas blackened thrash metal band Widower by the end of the first song on this, their debut full-length. ‘Cataclysmic Sorcery’ marks the first recording with their new rhythm section including Morgengrau‘s bassist and Infuriate’s drummer. The solid brick-tonnage those two provide really kick Widower up ten notches while preserving their Skeletonwitch and Toxic Holocaust style of modern extreme metal influenced thrash metal. The pressure that these songs exudes often cranks up towards a death/thrash (or, brutal thrash) presence at times but never puritanical death metal in any sense. It isn’t my favorite blend of styles to place black metal vocals over modern thrash metal rhythms but in this case it all hits just brutal enough that I was happy to spin through Widower‘s debut a handful of times.


Artist Goregäng
Title [Type/Year] Neon Graves [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Goregäng is one of many joint projects between a Florida based duo of musicians who’ve collaborated on Dritt Skit, Infernaeon, Wombbath, and more recently in Ribspreader. This time around they’re tackling the death metal + hardcore idea which may be presaged with a ‘death/crust’ tag but is ultimately more rooted in 90’s hardcore punk sensibilities than it is crust punk at all. Gang shouts, NYHC builds, and some punchy groove metal riffs end up sounding more like early metalcore experimentation rather than death/crust. I found ‘Neon Graves’ a bit disappointing as a full listen because it didn’t really do hardcore or death metal much justice in terms of riffs. I liked the “Where the Slime Live” vocal effect on “Spray of Teeth” and that’d probably be the best song of the lot so, check that one out and figure out if its a record for you from there. The Juanjo Castellano cover art is immaculate!


Artist Ontborg
Title [Type/Year] Within the Depths of Oblivion [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

After they’d called it quits with their symphonic black/death project most of Voices of Decay would conjoin again to form Ontborg with the idea of returning to their ‘roots’ and original conception as a pure death metal band. Of course they’ve been quite successful in creating a Swedish sounding death metal record complete with a big crunchy guitar tone but they’ve not given up on writing highly melodic songs. Thankfully their ‘dark metal’ tendencies from Graveworm (most members were involved at some point) are not fully present in Ontborg though “Entwined in Darkness” is more or less dark metal. If you liked those later melodic albums from Dismember or more recent records from Obscure Infinity there are some things you’ll like here. I think the guitar tone is pointlessly obtuse but it provides just enough grit to prevent ‘Within the Depths of Oblivion’ from sounding like a generic melodic death metal record. The whole thing is just barely above average in most respects and I think the HM-2 guitar tone sounds like an imitation pedal rather than the real thing but it is a surprisingly catchy listen.


Artist Swamp Witch
Title [Type/Year] Dead Rituals [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Independently released in late December of 2018 and predictably missed by the flipping of the switch that happens as the new year comes this second full-length from northern California based sludge metal band Swamp Witch is deserving of your time, especially now that Transylvania Tapes have snatched it up and give it an official glossy release. If you’re not familiar with Swamp Witch, they’ve got both members from GraveCoven who put out a killer EP last year as well as the vocalist from Evulse who also put out a monster of a death metal demo late last year. ‘Dead Rituals’ doesn’t really fuck around too much, it is four 9 minute songs of death/sludge that is more or less in the style of classic death/doom metal. Big riffs, big roars, and heavy mid-paced drumming. Think of Samothrace, Corrupted, and the more modern takes from Primitive Man and Coffin Torture and you’re in the right ballpark. The album is a beast and Earhammer can do no wrong for this type of band so I’m a fan, though I really couldn’t find much inspiration to write about ‘Dead Rituals’ in depth. Again… Big riffs, big roars, and heavy mid-paced drumming.


Artist TIR
Title [Type/Year] Metal Shock [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Ancient Italian traditional heavy metal band TIR formed in 1980 and had released their first demo by 1984 entitled ‘T.I.R.’. They would split up by 1986 and reform in 2005 having released two full-lengths since, the first in 2011 and this second one, ‘Metal Shock’ this May. It is ultra traditional rock music with a heavy metal spirit as the band has always been and they make no bones about modernizing. Their style is ultimately more of an upbeat 80’s power metal/biker rock kind of hybridization. The guitar work is fantastic and their rhythm section feels very entrenched in an early Accept-meets-Maiden circa ’81 sort of style that can speed up to punchier NWOBHM speeds at times. The sound and the style of this band reminds me very much of the throwback heavy metal that Fighter Records has been putting out lately, it has that 80’s rock twang to it that feels very traditional. Maybe I have too-specific taste in classic heavy metal but I didn’t have much to say about this album other than it was well produced and catchy.


Artist Kull
Title [Type/Year] Exile [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

With Bal-Sagoth more or less dead in the water since 2007 the line-up of the band (minus the founding member) have all opted to continue on with the style. While I do think this would have had a bigger impact back in 2009 than it does today, Kull have done some incredibly fine work beyond their formation in 2012 and the realization of ‘Exile’ this year. If you are not familiar with Bal-Sagoth they were a London area symphonic black metal band that was a bit unique in that their rhythms were often akin to death metal and songwriting would quickly follow an ‘epic metal’ modus. The presence of vocalist Tarkan Alp couldn’t be more appropriate, as he’d filled in on vocals for Bal-Sagoth before, but it never feels like he is imitating Byron Roberts. Because this is a more aggressive record than the last two Bal-Sagoth releases I think fans of their previous band’s earlier work will be very happy with this. I’m not the biggest fan of their past work but I do think guitarist Chis Maudling continues to be a truly impressive composer and performer.


Artist Big | Brave
Title [Type/Year] A Gaze Among Them [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] PREVIEW on Bandcamp!

While I do often find the art-rock worthy guitar pyrotechnics and weepy post-rock esotericism of Canadian trio Big | Brave redeeming as an experience, there is nothing pleasant or inherently repeatable within these overly extended sonic trips. To get to the point where I’d have sat through these longer pieces and really absorbed them it’d seem I’ve have to take up recreation drug use again. In opting out of intoxication I am not sure I have yet ‘felt’ what ‘A Gaze Among Them’ is getting at beyond a very basic deconstruction of rhythm and what more or less sounds like Bjork doing a harder, less directional modern post-rock record. Reductive and insulting as that might sound it isn’t meant as such. I think the direct appeal of “Sibling” is obvious enough but I couldn’t bring myself to engage with the record’s more harshly toned noise experiments as they don’t color the mood of the record so much as they appear misplaced. Much as I tried to spin my head around this release, I couldn’t find any reasonable point of entry that had it clicking with me.


Artist Doomstress
Title [Type/Year] Sleep Among the Dead [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Here’s one I’m guilty of simply missing in the fray of the early part of the month. Doomstress is a Texas based stoner/doom metal band with a traditional heavy metal bent that largely manifests in classic rock structured songs that aren’t afraid to repeat a chorus (or certain verse) upwards of 5-6 times in a single song. ‘Sleep Among the Dead’ is more memorable because of its simpler structure but the deadpan vocals from vocalist Alexis offers a unique driver for a stoner/doom metal band. She’s got a bit of an occult rock starkness to her voicing but the full register comes out somewhat meekly at first, in the tradition of classic doom metal vocalists. There are a few tracks that just put me to sleep (“Dreaming Spider” in particular) but most tracks feature strong harmonized guitar leads, big doom metal riffs, and some sort of melodic chorus that should have folks coming back for additional listens. It is a fine idea to reach for a medium between occult rock and actual doom metal, however novel you find it. I wanted to mention how pleasantly surprised I was by the lyrics, songs like “Apathetic Existence” kinda grab for those early Wino-fronted Vitus records where he’d let it all hang out a bit, ugly innards and all.


Artist Bewitcher
Title [Type/Year] Under the Witching Cross [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Here is an album that offers a sort of testament to my own connection with the music being the ultimate decider of coverage. On paper I love everything about Bewitcher: Blackened heavy/speed metal, incredible cover art, pure blasphemy front to back, tons of kitsch 80’s riffs, its all a bit like Midnight but with a fuckin’ kick-ass early Running Wild feeling. So, why didn’t I review it? The fine line between exciting and typical gets harder and harder to cross for my own tastes as a band like Blackrat will blow my mind but its a crapshoot if I’ll be back in that blackened speed metal mood anytime soon. Bewitcher rule, though, they’re a fantastic live band in particular but I just didn’t have anything to say about ‘Under the Witching Cross’. At some point during the review process I made the mistake of putting on Running Wild‘s ‘Gates to Purgatory’ and well, no matter what without fail I flip out listening to it. The guitar work just crushes my neck every time with 30 minutes of catchy-as-hell songwriting. So, anything else in that style rarely reaches that same level of excitement for me. I will say that Bewitcher come close and I did eventually snap out of it but I felt I missed the point where I might’ve had anything halfway interesting to say about ‘Under the Witching Cross’. It does rule!


Artist Dead Sea Apes
Title [Type/Year] The Free Territory [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Dead Sea Apes are a Manchester, England instrumental psychedelia rock band that likewise engage in kosmiche music influence and relatively minimalistic experimental electronic pieces that’ll remind of Klaus Schulze a fair amount. Post-rock, psychedelia, a bit of an acid-rock jam, and various other concepts adorn these tonal jams and meditative electronic pieces to great effect. The last few songs are where I really engaged with the album but I did love the wah-pedal abuse on “Diaspora” as well. This sort of trip doesn’t often fit into my own schedule but I was happy to make time for Dead Sea Apes because I’ve enjoyed their collaborations in the past without ever having a chance to dig into their full-lengths. ‘The Free Territory’ is the most visceral I’ve heard the band get and I have to say I like the darker-edged pieces of this album the best.


Artist Vultures Vengeance
Title [Type/Year] The Knightlore [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Though I saw plenty of warranted praise and recommendation of this album leading up to its release I was not quick to warm up to Vultures Vengeance. Epic heavy metal is the sort of music I watch for intently though, this Italian band are a bit more in tune with early power metal and 80’s hard rock guitar techniques. I understand how interchangeable a lot of those traits are and I’d have no complaints of ‘The Knightlore’ if guitarist Tony Steele could manage to enunciate an entire sentence without losing it up his nasal register. I’m not being a dick, either, his cadence literally cuts off after every 1-2 syllables and is completely drowned out by the lead guitar sound. Because those vocals are so unlistenable I avoided this otherwise strong debut album as long as I could. Having watching many bands form into fine musicians over the years this vocal performance feels like a demo where the vocalist just hadn’t had lessons first and I know that isn’t the case based on some prior Vultures Vengeance recordings, it is a stylistic choice that I just do not like. It sounds meek and out-of-breath where this type of music should be powerful and expressive. Well, with that rant out of the way, ‘The Knightlore’ is a strong epic heavy metal record that offers a commendable exploration of mid-80’s power metal and hard rock tropes.


Artist Hellish Grave
Title [Type/Year] Hell No Longer Waits [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Helldprod Records have been on a roll for a while with several solid classic metal inspired bands and so far I think Hellish Grave is one of the coolest ones yet. Hailing from Osasco, Brazil and finding their place within very dark black/speed metal Hellish Grave are damned gnarly on this brutal and ultra-evil speed metal record. Yes, it is just satanic speed metal and I’m sure Bewitcher fans are flipping me off for liking this just a bit more but I cannot deny how evil ‘Hell No Longer Waits’ sounds. It has that grimy early Bathory sort of growl to it that I love but their Mercyful Fate influences show up here and there as well. Grab this one fast if you like Whipstriker and Witchfyre, there’s a bit of both here and it comes coated in black vomit.

Did I miss your favorite 2019 album? Send me an e-mail and tell me about it. It is always worthwhile to speak up for the lesser known stuff. Please remember you can contribute to my Patreon @ only $1 USD per month ($12 a year) to help keep me in front of the computer writing about metal. Thanks.

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