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 constraint 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 absolute best reissues & remasters I’ve received for review consideration (so far) this year. Consider it a second breath of life into recordings that still mean a great deal to either the artists, their labels, or whomever had the passion to revive old releases in revised or reinstate format. 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 focus was chosen because I’d had a conversation with a fellow who owns an independent label here in Washington and he’d remarked how important reissues can be to the growth of a new label as they attract fans of their own taste as well as provide new interest in lost or forgotten works. 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]||Busse Woods: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition [Remaster/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from RidingEasy Records!|
For their second full-length San Francisco area stoner/doom metal legends Acid King would swap out the bass guitar position in their power trio and welcome early Buzzov•en bassist Brian Hill into the fold for a short period of time. This’d manage to be a defining moment for the band and for stoner/doom metal at the time that should be remembered for its impact which could be compared to that of Sleep and Electric Wizard of that same era. It was just another run in the ladder for the basically flawless discography of Man’s Ruin Records from ’96-’01 but also one of the more overlooked records whenever retrospectives of stoner/doom arise (alongside Dozer‘s debut!) today. Lori Steinburg had really found her rhythm on ‘Busse Woods’, that stoned n’ sinister curl of buzzing downtuned doom riff and looming basslines that could easily be seen as influences for bands like Windhand, Alunah and Mountain Witch among others. RidingEasy Records are again right on point in terms of a stellar new master, extensive packaging direction, and providing new interest beyond reissues from 2004 and 2007. This coincides with a 20th anniversary tour for the album with Warish and Wizard Rifle, which I’ll be attending later this month. I’d go with vinyl in this instance as I get the sense the master is geared towards it in general, though it will be on cassette and CD.
|Title [Type/Year]||Crust [Reissue/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Greyhaze Records!|
Easily the most challenging and unrepentant release from Brazilian extreme metal legends Sarcófago, the ‘Crust’ EP would come during the final twilight hours of the band and defiantly emphasize the most extreme aspects of their sound yet. Once again featuring programmed drums from Eugênio de Sá (ex-Genocidio, Zona Morta), as all 1994 and beyond releases from the band had, there is a cold extremity to this 12 minute EP that might not be considered the finest hour of the band. Every aspect of ‘Crust’ is a defiance of new and pretentious norms among black metal as the millennium approached from the hyper speed pacing, the purposefully blunt guitar work, and the pitch-shifted vocal layers, to the “F.O.M.B.M. (Fuck Off the Melodic Black Metal!)” track near the end. Greyhaze Records have done a fine job of preserving ideal versions of Sarcófago‘s whole discography without polishing them too much and this is a release that would lose its ‘sign of the decline’ status if cleaned up or re-worked. If you’re new the the band, keep in mind this is for the die-hard fandom and the best foot forward is still ‘I.N.R.I.’
|Title [Type/Year]||Neurosis & Jarboe [Remaster/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Neurot Recordings!|
Well, I could write fifty pages on what an unexpected paradigm shift Neurosis were for me starting in 1996 through at least 2006 and that ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ (2001) is still perhaps one of my absolute favorite records of all time but rather than dwell too long on that personal impact I’d rather focus on what this collaboration between Neurosis and Jarboe (Swans) was then and why it should be reexamined today. I was only familiar with Jarboe‘s work due to generally following Alternative Tentacles‘ output throughout the 90’s and ‘Sacrificial Cake’ was a polarizing record among magazines when it’d come out and I hadn’t really looked beyond it at the time. Later on I’d discover Swans‘ ‘The Great Annihilator’ and find a glimpse of her work on that record but ‘Neurosis & Jarboe’ would be the first time I really set myself down and pressed my ear against a record she’d been a prominent voice within. Back in 2003 a sort of schism between the masculine and feminine was constantly highlighted in then-scholarly examination of the admittedly atmospheric art-metal piece but, this point of view has aged poorly and it is clear that everything Neurosis did in composition of this piece was meant to enhance the powerful sensitivity and alienation provided by Jarboe‘s vocal oeuvre.
It is a difficult piece, a sort of neo-folkish experiment just as post-metal/atmospheric sludge metal would become definitions for Neurosis‘ legacy soon after. It all appears as as sort of meditation for the band that’d allow for some experimentation (electronic music, neofolk etc.) that’d be expounded upon with their triumphant peak of ‘Eye of Every Storm’. This was an excellent point of depth for Jarboe‘s position as a solo artist, exposing her to legions of experimental sludge and atmospheric music fans that might’ve been of a different generation than longtime Swans fandom. Me? Well, I hated it at first. The vocal that introduces the opening track still makes me laugh but oh man is it just as compelling to witness where Jarboe places herself within such alien music, it all feels naturally unnatural, organically alien, and remains a juxtaposition that was so incredibly anti-commercial at the time you couldn’t help but admire how bold ‘Neurosis & Jarboe’ was. Fully remastered for a more dynamic experience, and rendered gracefully beyond the not-so graceful use of ProTools back in 2002, this is the absolute inarguable definitive edition of this collaboration. This one speaks to me through vinyl once again, I think the new album art is striking enough and Neurot Recordings have a solid history of quality packaging of remasters.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Sleeping Eye [Reissue/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from 20 Buck Spin!|
Sounding like a hybridization of Saviours and peak Cro-Mags the second album from Texan crossover thrashers Iron Age should draw immediate comparison to the Power Trip, High Command, Take Offense, Enforced new school of brutal thrashing tuneful crossover but it’ll start to feel like a superficial thought once you’ve sat through the damn thing and realized it was originally released on Tee Pee Records back in 2009 as an ahead of its time punch of dark atmosphere, old school crossover with an inch of southern sludge on the tip of its tongue. What did these guys do after they split in 2011? Several feature on Mammoth Grinder‘s best album, ‘Underworlds’ and the vocalist is frontman for Eternal Champion. This one had admittedly never been on my radar, I never followed Tee Pee all that closely and hadn’t really dug around any of the associated bands. It makes sense to give this record a second gasp of air because there are some brilliant ideas here, especially when they drop out of the more thrash oriented kicks and jam a little harder on the sludge moments. They reformed around 2015 and still play shows, now with Chris Ulsh (Power Trip, Impalers) on second guitar. I’m gonna venture a guess and say this reissue is either an act of admiration or a portent of a third album coming in the next year. Love the guitar solos that fire up during ‘Arcana Pt. 2’, more of that please!
|Title [Type/Year]||Abstract Principles Taken To Their Logical Extremes [Remaster/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Svart Records/Secret Trees!|
This was a huge surprise to receive in my inbox several months ago because I’d thought the general metal population had left Dark Heresy behind long ago, only to be enjoyed as a prog/technical death rarity (along with Dark Millennium, Traumatic Voyage, etc.) by a select few but thankfully the intrepid mind of Hexvessel/Secret Trees Records‘ founder Mat McNerny and always preservation-minded Svart Records have teamed to bring ‘Abstract Principles Taken to Their Logical Extremes’ back into the sunlight. Four demos of varying quality would find the London based band on Unisound Records, an sometimes questionable entity that’d act as a conduit for the early Greek black metal scene but do a half-assed job maintaining that legacy in the years leading up to the label’s demise. Whether it was a failing of the record label’s then limited scope or just about ten years ahead of its time, this debut from Dark Heresy remains a piece that’d reward the curiosity of the listener with each step they take towards gleaning the record of its hour long contents. Anti-christian lyrics thrill the mind, progressive death metal confounds (or delights it) and a heavy influence from British folk music (or, lets say the Skyclad/Sabbat dichotomy) make for an unusually intellectual and adventurous retreat from the norms of old school death metal.
The paganistic perspective is an extra layer of interest that was reasonably rare at the time though Ancient Rites had touched similar textures and thoughts nearby, I’ve seen the label of Germanic paganism applied to these concepts but other than “Ofermod” I don’t think that’d be the entirety of the message within. The record does however work just as is stated in its title to a point where I’d argue they go too far with their experiment of logical extremes into the unknown with tracks like “Hole” where breeze-blown jazz lounges alongside death metal distortion and an oddly 60’s vibe, somehow. I’d included this in a list of underrated death metal oddities back in 2013 describing it as off-kilter and poorly produced but with this remaster I’d say cleaning up the sound of the record has done wonders in revealing its defiant oaken heart through the years of neglectful patina. You must listen to “The Millstone” at least!
|Title [Type/Year]||The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty [Vinyl Reissue/2019]|
|Rating [4.25/5.0]||BUY from Nuclear War Now! Productions|
Though the main event came back in 2013 as Shadow Kingdom Records had gotten license to release both The Mezmerist EPs and a long lost demo tape in one compilation today we get the vinyl version from Nuclear War Now! Productions. What is the big deal? Well, the rumored (then later confirmed) drum performance from Bill Ward of Black Sabbath is typically the first talking point when referencing the titular EP as Ward contributed to the piece out of contract. I don’t blame the guy, looking back at songs like “Digital Bitch” back then I’d run off to find a more rewarding gig fast! The music here lands well within the realm of early 80’s doom performed by musicians who’d grown into heavy rock during the mid-70’s and perhaps grown up admiring the harder psychedelia of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Paul Chain, The Black, Coven 13 and to some degree Legend all provide a marker from whence the odd and very free-spirited realism of The Mezmerist comes. There was revolution, action, and paganistic occult rock fire in the brain of the mysterious Thomas Mezmercado when writing and performing these songs and his psychedelic guitar work is a pure wailing trance throughout these works.
The Mezmerist speaks to the tyranny of society, the unjust nature of modern times, and reoccurring themes of usurpation of ‘the powers that be’ give the impression of a soul without rest beneath the thumb of an anti-spiritual theocracy that offers nothing to the outsider, the free-thinker. Fantasy, darkness and violence are additional themes but it is unrest that is most often conveyed through performances. In fact the vocals are wild and well, wildly varied too moving between Cirith Ungol wails to sneering Mercyful Fate narrative and the more controlled style of pre-’87 Bobby Liebling. Definitely check this out if you liked that Python record I’d reviewed earlier this year or if early Paul Chain is exactly your jam as much as it is mine.
|Title [Type/Year]||Eye M God [Vinyl Reissue/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Lusitanian Music!|
Portuguese death metal legends Sacred Sin formed in 1991 after José Costa‘s former band Massacre reformed as Enforce and beyond their self-titled demo he’d start Sacred Sin and take his songwriting in a death metal direction heavily influenced by Florida death metal of the era. The second album of this venture had reached for a slightly less ‘progressive’ sound than ‘Darkside’ (1993), which featured a heavier implementation of atmospheric keyboards. Back then they were maybe contemporaries of bands like Eternal Dirge, earlier Depresy, and their compatriots in Desire (who are also very underrated). Because their debut was so muddy in tone ‘Eye M God’ is probably the best introduction to Sacred Sin‘s ‘old school’ era and this vinyl reissue from Lusitanian Music offers an ideal rendering on an attractive gatefold with a 12″ booklet with plenty of material from back in the day. Underrated and well-presented, exactly the right kind of reissue for my tastes.
|Title [Type/Year]||Tôtbringære [Remaster/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Eisenwald!|
Austrian black metal musician Menetekel‘s first full-length under the Ungfell name is a crossing of medieval melody-driven black metal and the more popular works of Peste Noire that’d broken up that formula. Consider it a quantum leap beyond the strained avant-black work he’d done in Wyrgher two years prior with a greater focus on melodic variation. All is helped a great deal thanks to the addition of a drummer who brings the right ‘grit’ but still manages to tighten the release ‘in time’. Though it isn’t a massively original release the musical personality of Ungfell that’d been threaded here would be extorted in greater detail on the follow-up, ‘Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz’ (2018). Many of my comrades really would fall on a sword for this album but I’d never found it so mind-shattering simply because so many French bands really excel at this style of music with great insight. Still, the variety of textures and tones used show a brilliant mind at work and this showcases best when focusing on the guitar work throughout. A remaster two years after the initial release sounds dicey but, this has been done so that it doesn’t sound like a mess of shit now that it is available on CD and vinyl formats. Again, for the archivist or the die-hard fan the vinyl might be the ideal move here.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ond Spiritism [Remaster/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Nordvis!|
I think I’d finally bitten the bullet back in 2005 and decided to dig through a lot of classic oversights, such as the post-’96 era of Marduk and within that exploration I’d been made fun of online (as we used to do among friends, without sensitivity) for exploring ‘norsecore’ a term I’d never really understood before. Well, it is a blanket term that loosely describes an era where the mindless use of blastbeats rose to prominence alongside similar operations within the brutal death of that time (1998-2005, roughly). The concept was just the sort of idiocy I love to see shared between metal fans because it breeds strong opinions that are baseless but still entertaining when sold by youthful conviction. What am I going on about this for? Well, one of the bands named when I’d asked about ‘norsecore’ was Armagedda and to this day I’ve not entirely understood how these fellows are related to that particular movement beyond being Swedish and recorded at Necromorbus Studios.
Guilty by association I guess, but either way I’d been exposed to the band’s discography starting with Agonia Records’ version of ‘Ond Spiritism’ since. You’ll understand my confusion as you spin through the first few tracks, each of which doesn’t touch an inch of the orthodox or the brutal, only esoteric darkness and biting curses. So, what does it sound like, then? Think of the weirder, heavier era of bands like Helheim, the later era of Arckanum (‘Antikosmos’ through ‘Fenris Kindir’) and some hints of what’d come with Graav‘s other project LIK. Today a continuation of this style can be felt within groups like Grá but perhaps with a different sense of the spiritual, which is its own entity and perhaps the ‘point’ of this final Armagedda release. I would say this is underrated but I’ve found this band to be generally well revered by those who’ve spent any thoughtful amount of time with them, certainly not blasting norsecore by any stretch of the mind.
|Title [Type/Year]||Negligible Senescence [Reissue/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Aesthetic Death!|
An early release from western Massachusetts based experimental/art music duo Pando in 2016 now receives limited release on CD through the boundary-voiding Aesthetic Death Records. Black metal vocals, psychedelic rock ooze, field recordings, a pastiche of musique concrete and abrasive sound collage create an unquestionably thick darkness that is frightening in the way that a horror movie is; In some sense you know the language being used here, and the expectation is some darkness and edge-of-the-seat surprise but ‘Negligible Senescence’ still manages to be so engrossing in the moment that you can’t help but be along for the ride at the very least. I’d reviewed one of their more recent records last year and see the progression here, however abstract, in terms of weaving together sounds to create structure for musical/atmospheric statement. “Ohm” is a fine example of this and I’d sat at least soak in its waters on your way through. Since this was only a digital release prior, I guess ‘reissue’ is relative, it is the first official physical issue from an album released digitally in 2016.
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 consider a small donation to help keep me in front of the computer writing about metal. Thanks.
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