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 best albums releasing this week [December 7th-13th]. Consider it my way of making sure I cover as many late year releases before 2019 ends. 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 curated for the sake of not ignoring December releases in favor of ‘list season’. 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]||IV: Come the Dark [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Helter Skelter/Blooddawn Productions|
Death Wolf began under the name Devil’s Whorehouse in 2000 playing an extra morbid and metallic Misfits influenced sound that’d find the band releasing two albums that decade before changing their name. ‘IV: Come the Dark’ is the fourth record under the name Death Wolf and with that name change came a somewhat darker sound that more or less persists despite the five year hiatus stalling this fourth album unto the end of the decade. Back in 2000 these guys, most notably Marduk‘s Morgan and Nixa‘s vocalist Valentin Mellström, were certainly thinking far outside of the box in Norrköping, Sweden; Today I’m not sure what angle to approach ‘IV: Come the Dark’ from, as it brings a mix of alternative metal, a few heavy metal stomps, and a real lack of memorable pieces despite the 11 song tracklist. Side B is where the variation begins to open up beyond a grip of straight-forward Grand Magus-esque ‘half epics’ starting with “The Executioner’s Song” a piece that kicks off the strongest portion of the album that ends as “Into the Woods” makes the biggest push for worth beyond oddly balanced niche. Does modern rock performance mix well with extreme metal influenced darkness? I think so, but I felt that Death Wolf missed an opportunity to introduce their deeper vault of melodic capabilities on this fourth album, since it comes after a long hiatus where a less mild reinvention might’ve been the right risk to take.
|Title [Type/Year]||Age of Capricorn [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Debemur Morti Productions|
In the decade span between ‘Konstelacja lodu’ (2003) and ‘Chaos.Ice.Fire’ (2014) Polish black metal act Arkona reconfigured so deeply it is hard to figure what links those releases in hindsight; This hiatus unto exponential progression, from rawly achieved black metal with heavy Norwegian influence towards a cleaner more stoically presented form of ‘modern’ black metal, feels most reasonable on ‘Age of Capricorn’ if only because it guts out the primal rage of the past entirely. It then becomes counter-intuitive to suggest that this seventh full-length from Arkona feels like a dive backwards to ‘remaster’ their early ambitions, reaching the quality of the late second wave of Norwegian black metal masters while translating that brutal sterility into pieces that breathe more freely than the strictures of the late 90’s past would’ve allowed. So, the listening experience isn’t ‘full circle’ so much as it is reflective and sentimental without feeling like retro exploitation. A tough enough balance to achieve and not entirely worth the effort due to the broad availability of those olden days today, but an entirely comfortable and listenable black metal experience with plainly clear fidelity. If not for the keyboard work throughout and some fine semi-melodic stretches within “Deathskull Mysterium” I’d have moved on from ‘Age of Capricorn’ quickly. A high recommendation for those yearning for new fidelity applied to slight variations of old, in terms of late second wave Scandinavian black metal. I’m of the age where that lines up with my own teenaged years and have fond enough associations of discovering the ‘second tier’ norse stuff so, I had a good experience with this record.
|Title [Type/Year]||Vessels into White Tides [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||BUY from Nine Records|
London area atmospheric doom metal band The River fit the theme of this weeks releases nicely as they’re yet another long-running project that took a long hiatus before releasing a record at the end of a very crowded 2019. ‘Vessels into White Tides’ would fit in very nicely back in 2009 in the sense that it blends the heady lilt of post-rock with the pace and push of melodic doom metal. Considering Christian Leitch would pause the band around 2009 to join Warning (and consequently 40 Watt Sun) most of those innovations in the early decade are applied here with pretty decent results. The bigger story here comes from a general lift in fidelity, The River had long been a lo-fi, independent act and all previous releases are jaggedly raw compared to the slick sleepiness of ‘Vessels into White Tides’ and this ends up being the most important triumph of the release, an effective capture of an entirely different but related mood. Much of the ease felt upon first listen comes by way of vocalist/guitarist Jenny Newton who impresses more with cadence than tone as a replacement for the somewhat ‘off’ performances from Vicky Walters on the previous album ‘In Situ’. It sounds like a first run that needs another pass, and a somewhat missed opportunity in terms of layering vocal harmonies rather than resting on those slower post-rock/doom riffs that’ll be quite familiar with 40 Watt Sun enthusiasts. I was left wanting something more… emotionally driven, to be set in the throes of something more poignant, but the pairing of the 15+ minute “Into White” and closer “Tides” was just about the right feeling when played in succession.
|Title [Type/Year]||Supreme Command of Satanic Will [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Iron Bonehead Producitons [12/13]|
A dissonant and ruthlessly Satanic death-leaning missile of war metal straight from western Canada hits by way of Trajeto de Cabra, who hurl ‘Supreme Command of Satanic Will’ as their impetus, introducing a volatile and inventive swarm of goat-sucking bloody death upon the unassuming masses. This is generally the sort of war metal I like, stuff like Abysmal Lord, Proclamation, Antichrist Siege Machine, and Sacrocurse and it’ll be no surprise that most of these guys are/were involved in cult act Necroholocaust. I don’t want to be just another lazy asshole saying “Its all war metal, its all the fuckin’ same” but at the same time Trajeto de Cabra do aim at a very orthodox vision of grinding, skull-kicking black/death metal that spirals into repetitive spirals of punkish grinding percussion. Where these guys stand out is in atmosphere which they build with fretboard strangling wails and roars that envelop themselves in the midst of the chaos, driving their sermon of chaos outward without concern for where it lands. “The Final Gate” is a prime example of this modus taken to its most elaborate extreme. Plenty of depthy atmospheric value here though I wanted a big moment or two where the riffs really pushed out something huge and memorable.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ignee Sacertà Ctonie [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from ATMF|
Through much painstaking work and obvious attention to detail beyond their 2015 EP, ‘Divinità terrifiche’, Italian “apocalyptic black metal” band Comando Praetorio finally achieve their first opus, a narrative in reference to the chthonic fire cult of Mount Soratte and the torrid cultic rituals abound. ‘Ignee Sacertà Ctonie’ is an experience of patient wonderment as a set of four 9 minute black metal songs that are generally atmospheric and somewhat ritualistic in their ascending movements. These pieces are surely recognizable as both emotionally and spiritually connected pieces depicting zealous acts but they do not always complete in satisfying ways. Composed of members from straightforward death metal acts (Eroded, Bastard Saints) and avant-black curiosity Movimento d’Avanguardia Ermetico, the amount of atmospheric subtlety in the guitar work here is almost bewilderingly uncomplicated and gentle in its steadfast expression; Because of this I’d felt like it’d all been a journey without a destination, or at least any marked punctuation. Momentum as a major focus in atmospheric black metal is hit-or-miss for my own tastes and while I felt I’d gotten the message, the heaviness of a diabolic rite of passage (and the ferality of men unleashed therein) is made somewhat light without a powerful ‘heavy metal’ moment to set it all in stone.
|Title [Type/Year]||Danger Zone [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Dying Victims Productions|
Turn your head around completely for a minute and flip over to southeastern Spain for a neckful of pure and simple heavy metal by way of Iron Curtain‘s fourth full-length ‘Danger Zone’. How pure are we talking? Like, early Riot rock n’ speed metallic cod-piece sporting pure heavy metal. At their hardest Iron Curtain have a bit of Exciter-esque edge and some of those spirited early Razor records in their blood but ‘Danger Zone’ is here to rock explicitly. The biggest change for the band thus far came after their second album ‘Jaguar Spirit’ (2013) when Hitten‘s guitarist was swapped for shredder Miguel Ángel López as a lot of his heavy rock interests explored in Harikiri are satiated within this band. I approached this one as a hard rock/heavy metal blend from the moment I heard the guitar tone and didn’t really expect a full-on riff album (maybe if that was a flying V on the cover?) and I found it a satisfying if sometimes predictable rager. Tune your expectations towards High Spirits and the softer side of post-’82 NWOBHM and ‘Danger Zone’ should be a solid easy listen.
|Title [Type/Year]||Mountains and Darkness [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Black Lion Records|
I’d approached Los Angeles area symphonic black metal band Northwind Wolves with some enthusiasm on this second official full-length ‘Mountains and Darkness’ because I’d felt few (if any) bands are creating this type of music today with the same emboldened panache and spirit as back in the late 90’s/early 00’s. In my review of the prior album I’d remarked that Covenant (Norway) and the more keyboard driven era of Thyrfing were major starting points in describing Northwind Wolves‘ sound and they’ve absolutely recreated that magic here for a more ambitious follow-up. The inevitable response from folks who’d either missed or avoided that era of popular black metal will be reductive, too quickly pointing towards a Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir reference, and I don’t blame them because the keyboardist/vocalist/guitarist and songwriter Noor is driven by an era defined by those artists. ‘Mountains and Darkness’ does more than create an atmospheric incident across these ten songs but builds the world depicted on the illustrious cover art, a gnarled concrete labyrinth of gargoyles and ancient darkness amidst a great dark castle. “Unholy Forest of Wolves – Part I” is where I hear the most peak Galder influences in this work and from my point of view that is the highest compliment for an album in this style, that they reach that level of infectious abandon.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Death of Gaia [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Transcending Obscurity Records|
Though they’ve long been on the atmospheric spectrum of death/doom metal long-running Netherlands based sextet Officium Triste are most often lumped in with the broader spectrum of melodic death/doom metal. They’re certainly not writing death metal riffs here, and instead opting for a heavily layered melodramatic sound that emphasizes the glowing, yellowed ‘prettiness’ of decay on ‘The Death of Gaia’. Looking back on ‘Mors Viri’ (2013) it’d felt like new life had been breathed into the band thanks to a new drummer but Officium Triste never seem to make the same mistakes (or progress) twice. ‘The Death of Gaia’ is a fine representation of a craft that has long been extremely versatile due to its slow pace and open arms to keyboards, melodicism, and the shifting sands of doom metal rhythms. What is meant to always sound as if it were on the brink of emotional collapse, not yet desperate but squarely in the midst of mournful difficulty, can communicate joy as well as pure suicidal despair… though Officium Triste opt for a glowing sentience here, a slow decaying radiation and because it does not ‘go hard’ at all, ever, it’ll be easy to skim right past. Who needs such a big, flowery death encased in cathedral glass when you’ve got cavemen running up the hill smashing skulls and such? The peak of the album is “The Guilt” and the plateau ridden is “Just Smoke and Mirrors”. The listening experience is just fantastic, a warm and sorrowful sit that doesn’t seem hopelessly lost but, fuming as a volatile incense that’ll slowly cloud the room as you meditate unto death.
|Title [Type/Year]||Arrows From Below [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from New Era Productions|
Netherlands based black metal act Israthoum are far more open-minded and truly Satanic in their approach to expanding their esoteric black metal sound across a span of four albums and eleven years. The skies truly opened up for this band on the somewhat underrated ‘Black Poison and Shared Wounds’ (2012) where a ranting, avant-garde spirit began to possess Israthoum. “Ascetic Temples” is the grand first apex of this spirit finding a deeply shared root between the raw early second wave roots of the band and the hallucinogenic futurism of their peers. The full listen is just over a half hour, allowing for these songs to waft in easily and bluster away as the finale clears the air. It isn’t the most varied black metal album of the year tonally speaking but ‘Arrows From Below’ offers some meaningful textural variety, with plenty of heady tangents along the way. It did however feel like something was missing, a reprisal of the aggressive opener “Litany of Spite” to really storm the halls and punctuate the full listen. A fine release all the same and well worth tracking down in review of 2019.
|Title [Type/Year]||Tales of Sorcery and Death [LP/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Testimony Records|
Although I’ve done my best to cover as much of the late year death metal releases as I possibly could a few truly great records have gotten stuck in the limbo of December. Count Nightbearer among those fine records that may not get a full review but still command a very high recommendation from me. ‘Tales of Sorcery and Death’ comes from German musician Dominik Hellmuth who performs all instruments on the album and enlists vocalist Michael Torka, from melodic metalcore band Bloodwork, on vocals. The guitar tone is pure overblown Boss HM-2 and the riffs have quite a bit in common with early Edge of Sanity, pre-brutal Fleshcrawl, and should please folks who loved that most recent Bodyfarm record, though this is less melodic. Although the guitar tone erases a lot of the nuance here the bass guitar presence helps direct the listener towards the strong compositional skills of Hellmuth who crafts excellent atmospheric values a la prime Revel in Flesh as the album proceeds. The main point is that this isn’t just another HM-2 driven death metal record. Hell, I’d probably buy it just for the album art but ‘Tales of Sorcery and Death’ is likewise noteworthy for its innards.
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 music. Thanks.
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