Bring out your dead… | 2019

A PENANCE TO HEED, a yearly feature in the form of a list devoted to grouping together albums of interest that were missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons, the most common reason being constraint of time. The goal is to cover as much of the greatness that’d slipped through my fingers in the past year in an effort to recap as well as show thanks and acknowledgment for notable works. All releases are presented in loose alphabetical order. Each item rates above average.


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Artist Aphelion
Title [Type/Year] II [EP/2019]
Self-Released BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

For their second EP release in 2019 the newly leathered skin of Aphelion grows even more raw and jaggedly melodious on ‘II’. More cognizant of shaping atmosphere with deeper melodic statements, these Missouri based musicians have found some meaningful phrasal point of view in this second step within their established ‘raw melodic black/death metal’ modus. “Vacant Thrones” and “Fed to Fathoms” are the most compelling pieces here thanks to some of their least standard arrangements and some solid justification for the ‘raw’ aspect of Aphelion‘s sound.


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Artist Avslut
Title [Type/Year] Tyranni [LP/2019]
Osmose Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Osmose is one of those labels I rarely lose track of thanks to their excellent choice in extreme metal reissues and sharply curated releases from modern bands but, I did miss three important records from the French label in 2019. The first and probably most polished of that triad of the lost is pure Swedish black metal band Avslut who aim for a moderately orthodox approach to their precise and cavernous sound. Funeral Mist, Ondskapt, and earlier Dark Funeral spring to mind as the record spins but I’d not suggest all elements of ‘Tyranni’ land in the early 2000’s; Some focus on dissonance and crooked ‘modern’ progressions highlight certain songs on the album, the most serious balance of old and new comes with “Den Eviga Flamman”, which is admittedly a little bit chugging a la Emperor‘s fourth album. I’d initially felt that this wasn’t a particularly ‘deep’ listening experience but Avslut gave me good reasons to return to their second album at least four or five times.


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Artist Agabas
Title [Type/Year] Death Sessions [EP/2019]
Agabas on Facebook LISTEN on Spotify!

Norwegian ‘dødsjazz’ band Agabas returned for a revision and a deep breath of new life in the twilight hour of 2019 with ‘Death Sessions’, an extended single featuring a live in-studio setup with minimal processing. Bounding with shockingly naked energy and the ever alluring trills of their prominent deployment of the clarinet it is a small wonder that this art rock set up somehow translates to dark and heavy music. At their most synchronous Agabas feel strikingly avant-garde and accessible at once, creating a sense-saturating thread of high concept death noise with hits of 70’s twang and a noise rock edge. The wide-swinging breadth of “Sorrowful” really benefits from a ‘live’ feeling, as balanced and psychedelic as their studio version from ‘Agabas’ was this version has a more vital feeling, an unearthly presence. ‘Dødsjazz’ eh? Death and jazz are surely influences but the sound is somewhere in the land of ‘Souls at Zero’-era Neurosis and Entombed covering King Crimson circa ’97. Sure, those are terrible references at a glance but I think it’ll make more sense in terms of ‘vibe’ once you’re in the midst of the music, it is dark but not that dark. The greater point of differentiation comes with the clarinet which provides a very distinct voice as both rhythmic definition and lead instrument depending on what each song calls for. The range of ideas that this project could run with is seemingly endless and I’m excited to hear more.


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Artist Acne
Title [Type/Year] Crossways [LP/2019]
Acne on Weibo BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Southern Chinese ‘Peking opera death metal’ project Acne began as a fully staffed death/thrash metal band based out of Guangzhou but by 2014 it’d become a solo project thanks to Gary Ho‘s ambitions directing him towards a sound defined by traditional Peking opera percussion. Sounds amazing right? Slow down if your mind is already spinning because this is made possible with a programmed version of that percussion and this means most of ‘Crossways’ feels like the soundtrack to a very heavy metal video game, something early Playstation where chiptunes met with Redbook audio. Well, you’re in the right place for that sort of thing if you’re stuck here in my sphere of meditation. The arrangements are thoughtful if not heavy handed and mechanical at times, I took it upon myself to watch a few hours of Peking opera performances to get a sense of the percussion used and though I felt the arrangements needed more flow on ‘Crossways’ I could envision what a beautiful idea this is if the programmed elements were to be replaced by human performances. Meticulous and fine work but it’ll sound like a prototype due to some prominent repetitive elements.


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Artist Bodyfarm
Title [Type/Year] Dreadlord [LP/2019]
In Memoriam BUY from No Dust Records

Celebrating their first decade as a band with their fourth full-length in hand just a step beyond a successful string of records on Cyclone Empire, ‘Dreadlord’ is a triumphant and violently melodic death metal album a la early Necrophobic and certainly a step beyond their last record ‘Battle Breed’. It is fortunate that guitarist/vocalist and co-founding member Thomas Wouters lived long enough to see this Seagrave n’ Swanö blessed creation which will undoubtedly pull in some lapse God Dethroned fans from the rafters. Wouters unfortunately passed away from cancer in August of this year and the band would release the album in September. They’ve been touring with D. Kreft (Graceless, Soulburn) since. I found myself listening to ‘Dreadlord’ quite often but I’d always stop short of considering it any kind of ‘classic’, there are some rousing moments of semi-melodic genius and the guitar sound is gracefully oppressive with its layered and heroic rises to tremolo fueled dual guitar leads. Should please the crossover of fandom between Necrophobic, Bolt Thrower and Amon Amarth.


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Artist Bestialord
Title [Type/Year] Black Mass Wedding [LP/2019]
GrimmDistribution BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Bestialord is more or less a ‘power trio’ extension of old school death/doom metal band Sanctus Infernum as both bands featured key songwriter Mark Anderson who is best known for his bass work on Manilla Road‘s fantastic comeback records ‘Atlantis Rising’ (2001) and ‘Spiral Castle’ (2002). When I say ‘old school death/doom’ I’m really just talking about doom/thrash from the mid-80’s such as Dream Death and a sound that is most reminiscent of Goatlord and early Usurper. Pure doom metal delivered with a rasp and some late 80’s death metal influences in terms of guitar solos and overall themes. This is a much better record than their debut (‘Law of the Burning’, 2018) thanks to a more balanced production and easier flow of rhythm that leans towards the true doom metal side of things.


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Artist Black Tundra
Title [Type/Year] Daylight Dark [LP/2019]
Black Tundra Facebook BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If stoner post-doom metal is already a ‘thing’ then pardon your grassy ass for not passing whatever it is you’re smoking. It is a thing and a pretty good stylistic descriptor for this Warsaw, Poland based band which features members/ex-members of Hidden Haze, Dopelord, and Corruption. Post-metal is the main driver in the dark world suggested by this second Black Tundra record, ‘Daylight Dark’. Exasperation and defiance transmit through growling, serious tonal performances which release pressure through gigantic grooves that only the left hands of Audiosiege and Satanic Audio could so naturally enhance. It is a huge record, plenty of giant grooves, and a listening experience that successfully matches the lunging trip of modern stoner sludge/doom metal with the emotional indulgences of post-metal. Black Tundra do not stray from cleanliness in terms of songwriting, focusing on bleak mood and melodramatic malaise that is thankfully given body and warmth by way of thick sonic presence on album. Go nuts, get filthy with guitar feedback, just shake fuckin’ loose at the top of a crescendo and I’d be dying for it.


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Artist Decoherence
Title [Type/Year] Ekpyrosis [LP/2019]
Sentient Ruin Laboratories BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Of all of the extreme metal bands to explore the realm of cosmic horror in some earnest fashion in 2019 it was probably UK based project Decoherence that’d actually captured that feeling innately, unforced and this despite the ‘bedroom’ feeling programmed/noise elements the grace their debut, ‘Ekpyrosis’. I greatly enjoyed discovering this band’s vision on their self-titled 7″ EP back in April but I wasn’t fully expecting a 40+ minute atmospheric dissonant opus, boiling over with liquid avant-black dissociation. It’d all be a depressive hurl, a stop-motion capture of flesh ballooning and sloughing off a screaming skeleton, but rousing tonal shifts and ethereal nuances provide immersive depth, a sense of wonder beyond the cold and dark pits of Decoherence. Ambient, psychedelic, atmospheric, experimental and even a bit industrial at times there couldn’t be a more ‘right’ band for the blackened sorcery of Sentient Ruin. “Primordial Replicator” exemplifies each of my thoughts in the space of about ten and a half minutes, I’d recommend it first and foremost.


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Artist Devourer of Light / Voces
Title [Type/Year] Apparitions of the Voces Unknown [Split/2019]
Night of the Palemoon BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Without any record of it in my e-mails I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with a copy of this split between these psychotic atmospheric black/death metal horrors. The digipack is beautiful to start, with artwork from Sang Ho Moon that magically imbues the release with the exact right atmosphere. Devourer of Light is a known quantity, a Malaysian artist who could be seen as a more black metal centered vision comparable to Cosmic Void Ritual. This is my absolute favorite side of the split because I’d already been familiar with Devourer of Light thanks to their ‘Death Triumph’ EP the year prior. Blurry and downtuned strokes of blackened death metal guitar work create a truly psychedelic amount of reverb when washed with the similarly afflicted vocals, the formula resolves into a harrowing fog of screams and diabolical guitar descent. As for Voces, well I don’t actually know anything about this project beyond their sublimely atmospheric approach to black metal which they bring to three ~6 minute songs that are each fairly similar. I particularly liked some of the drumming on “III” though I’m not entirely sure if they’re programmed. A great find and a fine product for folks interested in psychedelic, reverb coughing black metal variants from the true underground.


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Artist Dikasterion
Title [Type/Year] Stavelot 1597 / Rome 897 [EP/2019]
Amor Fati Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Dikasterion appear with their first official 7″ EP brandishing their freshly concieved supremely evil war metal influenced take on early black metal. The aim of this EP is clearly some kind of possessed austerity fitting of similarly ‘classic’ works from Spite and Barathrum. The main reason I kept pulling this record out came from the the colorful and ornate cover art but I slowly became more curious what this band might do on a full-length the more I sat with the impressive “Stavelot 1597” and its slightly more brutal Side B, “Rome 897”. The live production sound gives the appearance of primitive notions but the music that Dikasterion are writing is not barbaric and if they keep the riff levels simmering at or above an Archgoat level of attack I’m doubly intrigued to see what comes next. Beyond some fascination with the evil, ancient heavy metal groove of the guitar riffs it’ll be  the precise attack of Pz. Kpfw, Possession‘s drummer, that’ll take the full listen from strange collector curio to a sharp and professional first blast.


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Artist Dorminn
Title [Type/Year] Dorminn [LP/2019]
Antiq Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The physical power of death’s percussive force trailing the soul into useless vapor at the sight. The opium channeled from these fingers is structured, ritualistic, a feat of analogue presence and brilliant use of live audio looping technology. The old reel itself snaps on and off before and after each piece. Dark ambient, neofolk, dark folk, or acoustic black metal whichever leading element you’d use to describe Dorminn‘s (Moëvöt, Enmity, Yele Solma) ritualistic compositions won’t fit fully describe each varied and starkly noir event. Urfaust‘s earlier madness comes to mind alongside Equimanthorn (US) during my favorite composition “II” but I’d probably been sold on the experience a couple of minutes into the first of four 7-10 minute rituals. The cathedralesque organ exodus of “Zurghtapre (Chant d’éternité I) by Dorminn‘s eldest dark ambient project Moëvöt, bringing less of an arabesque touch to the full listen. The organ work is very severe, dramatically dark, and fits the tone of this debut well.


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Artist Flagellant / Orcivus
Title [Type/Year] Flagellant / Orcivus [Split LP/2019]
World Terror Committee BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

All graphic psychedelia from the indomitable artist Karmazid is worthy of some high mention but this piece in particular is exquisite, fine and worthy of a thousand long stares. As is typically the case with W.T.C.’s fine record of split releases this union of long dormant Swedish Satanic black metal masters Flagellant and Perditor‘s Orcivus. Each band contribute substantial material to this split LP averaging ~20 minutes apiece. The ‘return’ of Flagellant came in 2018 through a compilation/split but we get a deeper look into their obsidian hall of mirrors on this feral, bounding rip of atmospheric and pensive black metal. Their works past and present deserve mention alongside Valkyrja and early standard-bearers from Ondskapt. Precise and hallucinatory at once, I felt the loathsome energy from this Side A heartily. Orcivus are perhaps even more traditionally fluid, a chilling burst of night air blown from the depths of Vänern lake. This side of the album reminded me of Mortuus, the guitar tone and semi-melodic focus are similarly achieved but Orcivus is much more morose, contemplative. If you’re a fan of Swedish black metal these are essential ‘modern’ bands, each of which hadn’t released much since 2010-2013 or so and each return is as true and steadfast as ever.


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Artist Hexekration Rites
Title [Type/Year] Desekration Manifesto [EP/2019]
Atavism Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Burgundy, France based independent black metal label Atavism Records are responsible for a remarkably beauteous streak of the dark arts since inception and this Hexekration Rites EP, along with a Saltas demo compilation, served my introduction to their output. ‘Desekration Manifesto’ is not only alluring for its slick black matte digipack but for the ease of its entrance. Even when ruminating over my initial casual listening I’d found Hexekration Rites‘ sound captivating for its raw simplicity of message spoken through ornately designed events. Winding, twisting alchemical trails and ritualistic barbarisms are door-and-hinge to the slashing movements found within this fine black/death metal EP. It isn’t ‘war metal’ but it does carry the same sense of nihilistic ruination, a storm of massive extinction hinted at with every blustering attack of the drums. Hell, “Blazing Purification” practically screams the intended imagery into the ear, riff after riff. My only real judgment cast comes from a frustration with the balance of all elements, too-neat arrangements bring a lack of variation; This is not an issue for an EP but on an LP it’d not hold my interest.


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Artist Hope Drone
Title [Type/Year] Void Lustre [LP/2019]
Moment of Collapse Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

It’d been interesting to see folks fawn over Hope Drone‘s second full-length ‘Void Lustre’ after their first album (on Relapse) had been almost insincerely received by critics, most of whom were atmospheric sludge/post-metal fans that’d appeared to resent the black metal adjacent sound of the band. The right home for a band such as this is actually alongside bands like False, Entropia, and Altar of Plagues thanks to extended song lengths and a serious, tangential fluidity offered by the sparkly washes of post-metal that extend ‘Void Lustre’ to a full hour of music. On initial listens I’d compared it to Downfall of Gaia but the extended nature of these compilations allows Hope Drone to breathe in between the confines of their suggested sub-genre(s) and push harder at their extended swells of post-metal guitar techniques; This amounts to more depth, from my perspective but it’ll feel like filler if you’re impatient around flighty post-music in general. ‘Void Lustre’ comes at a high standard but creates no endearing melody or heady, stunning riff so I’m left without much to grip and cherish beyond the commonplace ecstasy of the hour.


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Artist Irata
Title [Type/Year] Tower [LP/2019]
Small Stone Recordings BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Small Stone Recordings continues their streak as one of my personal favorite psych rock and stoner metal labels well, ever, and this year was stacked with fantastic high quality stuff. ‘Tower’ kicked off a mind-blowing streak of records that’d include some of my favorite albums of the year but Irata is more of a grower and didn’t get its hooks into me fast. The Greensboro, North Carolina band create a progressive stoner rock sound that is surely informed by the melodic nature of pre-‘Restarter’ Torche and the soupy smilin’ while screaming period of Jane’s Addiction, maybe even bleeding into some Porno For Pyros supremely chilled side. It isn’t a traditionally heavy record but they do dig into some Rush-like feats of prog rock on “Leviathan” and an almost modern sludge feeling at the apex of “Crawl to Corners”.


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Artist Keitzer
Title [Type/Year] Where the Light Ends [LP/2019]
FDA Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

‘Where the Light Ends’ is the seventh full-length album from German deathgrind band Keitzer who’ve remained steadfast and consistent throughout their two decade history as a band. If you’ve been following the band since their signing to FDA Records around 2010 you’ll notice they’ve moved away from more obvious comparisons to Misery Index and Nasum towards a sound slightly more rooted in Bolt Thrower styled death metal. ‘The Last Defense’ (2014) was probably my favorite record of theirs coming into ‘Where the Light Ends’ because it was such a brutal and loud album which they’d iterated on very closely with the follow up, ‘Ascension’ (2016). After several months with this one I’d say it is their best, most varied and least concerned with ‘plain’ brutality. Keitzer‘s grind is a bit more ‘old school’, their death metal is more austere, and all of it meshes well with their inherent hardcore punk influences. “Under the Surface” collects those thoughts into one sharp four minute signpost for a new balance and a meaningful tuning of the bands overall dynamic as they celebrate their second decade unscathed. All original, no pandering, Keitzer slip in the window, slit throats and run in this very reasonable 38 minute deathgrind album. The main judgment made on my part is that I could use more variety in the vocals, opener “Shattered Silence” changes things up frequently but the middle portion of the record doesn’t push beyond the established range.


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Artist Lost Orb
Title [Type/Year] Low Ebb’s Lament [LP/2019]
Giganto Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Chris West‘s (Landskap) first hit of Lost Orb is aptly named for its conveyance of lament, not outright keening but… draped over its chair feeling heavy and hollow. The fuzz-blazoned southerly dirge of the main riff and its multiple reprisals would be a dark wave of sorrow without the soulful timbre of Chantal Brown (Vôdûn) providing for a hopeful, bleary-eyed driver. West also managed to enlist the talents of Tony Reed (Mos Generator, Temple Sound) on drums for this 17+ minute song and man, he took it and ran with it in the best way possible. I’d have to consider this a sort of ‘proof of concept’, a documentation of tone, ideas, and general movement that feels like a cathartic dirge more common in the late 70’s heavy rock spectrum, stoney and downtrodden but spiritually realized by the end. Spin in some surreal vocal lines and/or Alice in Chains style harmonization and I’ll be all about it.


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Artist Nox Irae
Title [Type/Year] Here the Dead Live [EP/2019]
Transcending Obscurity Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

French death metal band Nox Irae is both a continuation of member’s past work in Affliction Gate and a move back towards the rich history of avant-death and death/thrash metal within France. This release also notably includes two members of classic death metal band Catacomb who are best known for their ‘In the Maze of Kadath’ tape from the early 90’s. ‘Here the Dead Live’ sounds more along the lines of Asphyx, Bolt Thrower and the similar bands out of the UK circa ’89-’92 or so. Don’t sound too downtrodden if you’re a big fan of their earlier bands, this is right up that same alley and that’ll be more clear once you’ve heard their cover of “Supposed Dead”. It is a good full listen though nothing about it stands out too strongly, the guitar work is often somewhat bland or repetitive and this would be less of an issue if the bass guitar tone was more present and no so fully buried in the mix. Opener “Phantom Parasite Trauma” and “Cold Wind” are the biggest highlights for my taste.


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Artist Sartegos
Title [Type/Year] O Sangue Da Noite [LP/2019]
Blood Harvest/I, Voidhanger BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A look at the bigger picture of Sartegos‘ unique approach to black/death metal should present itself as a challenge for the myopic. This solo project from Rou Sartegos fractally integrates a multitude of extreme metal influences into these 4-6 minute experiences, each conveying a distinct uneasiness common between admired projects (Ysengrin, Balmog) but from a point of diction that has more in common with Mercyful Fate than avant-black/death metal. Heroism, austerity, death’s knowing brutality, and the pure graveyard fog of ancient black metal contribute to this jagged and almost stuttering record. Upon first impression I’d had horrifying visions of bands like Angelkill where I’d loved all the imagery, themes, and production but the songwriting just wasn’t there, ever. Some context helps, though, and references to Greek black metal in the press release provides a more clear setting for this narrative that smartly whips between jogging blackened death/thrash, black/death metal, pagan black metal, and early black metal esotericism. “Arquiero” is where I’d finally break the shell of ‘O Sangue Da Noite’ and sink into it. My recommendation for this release must center around the unique diction and often amelodic sensibility employed throughout, it holds great value in terms of multiple alien layers that fold away across several listens. The vocals don’t always work on the slower paced songs but the mid-paced and melodic heights of the album (such as “Baphomet no Rashulmat”) are greatly enhanced by the inhaled death metallic feeling of the vocal performance.


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Artist Scaphism
Title [Type/Year] Perpetual Torment [EP/2019]
Scaphism on Facebook BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Man what a trip it is to put on Scaphism‘s ‘Unutterable Horrors’ and be just as blown away by it as I was in 2018. It still holds up thanks to its brutal, compressed production sound and varied vocal performances. It turns out their riffs still hold up with different production and vocals. Weaponized here in 2019, Scaphism flip their switch towards a pure late 80’s hack n’ slash death/thrash metal sound on this two song demo, ‘Perpetual Torment’. They’re still brutal but, brutal thrash metal and still have all their grooves but it is all given more room to breathe with the recording’s 90’s garage death metal demo tape sound. “Infinite Coil of Auto-Enucleation” is just as infectious as it sounds. Good ol’ rain scrambling pit music.


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Artist Seventh Circle
Title [Type/Year] Cycle of Violence [Demo/2019]
Caligari Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

‘Demonic black magick’ is exactly right, lock up your children when this Santa Barbara, California blackened death/doom metal duo begins to possess ‘the youth’ by way of brutal contracts with Hell. ‘Cycle of Violence’ is a three song subversion of the human will, a plow dragging a thousand years of suffering human slurry by way of this chamber rattling guitar tone and weirdo rock textured death/doom riffs. Only thing that bums me out is the use of samples, doesn’t need it. I came back to this tape a hundred times in a week, for Seventh Circle‘s outrageous dry-socketed, asphalt grinding psychedelic death sound and for the death/doom riffs. A stunning first impression for the band. I’d unquestionably start with “Death Mask” in preview.


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Artist Shock Narcotic
Title [Type/Year] I Have Seen the Future and it Doesn’t Work [EP/2019]
Housecore Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Easily the best grindcore release of 2019, though I didn’t give due attention until much later in the year. Shock Narcotic feature some of Detroit’s finest with members/ex-members of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Child Bite, Shit Life, and Battlecross though their sound is unique to previous accomplishments. Shawn Knight (Child Bite) is an all-in, thoughtful vocalist who always adds effective personality to anything he touches and the use of vocal effects and layers is a great highlight throughout this 14 song 19 minute EP. ‘I Have Seen the Future and it Doesn’t Work’ vaguely resembles early 2000’s Napalm Death first and foremost as the tracklist begins but their sound cracks open beyond that point with some early Ministry groove on “Sliced Self / Multiple Lives” and the Head of David-esque “An Obsession Supreme”. A banging head trip boosted by killer groove that comes at a machine pace.


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Artist Teeth
Title [Type/Year] The Curse of Entropy [LP/2019]
Translation Loss Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Los Angeles, California area extreme metal act Teeth shift years here about five years removed from their 2014 debut with ‘The Curse of Entropy’, a relatively short and brutal ‘dissonant’ death metal album. Originally known for their extreme post-sludge/death metal sound this time around they’ve gone for a brutal, all-killer attack that rarely rests beyond the expected Gorguts/Ulcerate brooding discordance. The full listen feels like a modern take on deathgrind, swapping out post-metal for Portal riffs. No complaints on my end, I like this style much more than the first record and they’ve done a fantastic job of creating a sense of true death metal attack while still carrying some of their frantic The Red Chord-like approach. I’d mentioned this as one of my favorite releases of November but throughout December I found all of it bled together too cleanly and there were no clear standout moments that pulled me back in beyond the opener.


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Artist Theories
Title [Type/Year] Vessel [LP/2019]
Corpse Flower Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This third deathgrind album in a row is as good, if not better, than the last two if you lean towards classic grindcore style in the ratio. Theories hail from Seattle, Washington and features folks you’ll recognize from Book of Black Earth, Samothrace, and Black Breath. Their debut on Metal Blade back in 2015 was not wildly different in concept, a mosh-conscious crust n’ deathgrind album with a dull and loud-blasted ‘modern’ production sound that’d buried the dynamic. ‘Vessel’ hits much closer to the vein of  ‘Anticapital’-era Assück and pre’-98 Nasum with an urgent, tortured sound featuring a brutal snare that kills no matter how far they bend their crusted death, crust and grind extremes. It started to drag about ten listens deep but ‘Vessel’ whips pretty fast for a ~40 minute grind record and it was easy to come back to. Cover art always jumps out across the room at LP size, misery, despair, annihilation etc.


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Artist Totaled
Title [Type/Year] Lament [LP/2019]
Profound Lore Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

I’ll admit to sheer ignorance as I quickly perused this masterpiece of sorrowful d-beaten black metal and never saw past the HM-2 guided kängpunk nuke exterior. Totaled are anonymous, no location or intention given, just a blackened hardcore tag and a mind-gorging cover. I don’t doubt the folk(s) responsible for this album are at least established as black metal musicians, none of the riffs or compositions are remotely ‘dumbed down’ to hardcore but entirely convergent with specific frantic and metallic strands of it. Overwhelming as the presence of the album is, ‘Lament’ never becomes plainly repetitive nor to they rely on vague crust tropes to convey hardcore/crust attitude and style. ‘Lament’ is one of several afterthoughts for a very busy 2019, at least on my end but I would eventually buy this LP. “Hypnosis” is the big standout for my taste followed by energetic opener “Deplete”, the tracklist flows quick and in meaningful order though I’d felt like “Bereft” could have opened Side B instead of closing it, if only to keep the party going.


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Artist Tragediens Throne
Title [Type/Year] Tragediens Throne [LP/2019]
Osmose Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Norwegian musician Svard (previously Aatselgribb) would form Tragediens Throne as a solo work in 2007 around the same time his collaborations in avant-black metal band Slagmaur began to intensify. A 2007 demo, ‘The Cold Depths of Solitude‘, was released and as such it provides some guidepost as to how these ideas had developed since. In suppressing the use of samples, dark ambient noise, and the dry nature of those demo recordings Tragediens Throne do not lose the Norwegian orthodoxy inherent but “Cold Depths of Solitude” does feel appropriated and ‘modern’ with its piano/synth groaned reprieve. I’d loosely guide the fandom for French and Icelandic black metal towards this album but it holds broader appeal thanks to distinctly Scandinavian voicing, not in servitude to old Norwegian gods but surely influenced by them. I’d not describe this as dissonant, at least not any more than your average classic black metal guitar work, there are a few parts that break into ‘Drought’-era Deathspell Omega territory, “Stygian Fluke” is evocative as a centerpiece for this thought but the song itself doesn’t define the style of the album. The sinister ethereal combined with the muscular elite makes for a thrilling listen but also a somewhat puzzled together flow, the listening experience is uneven and this is likely due to these songs being written and finalized through different periods of time. Some thoughts are beautifully finished and others are about 75% there. A fine record by any standard and one that’d only gotten lost in my hands due to the rush of releases at the end of the year.


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Artist Toxic Carnage
Title [Type/Year] Doomed From the Beginning [LP/2019]
Toxic Carnage on Facebook BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

About a minute and a half into opener “L.O.D.” Brazilian thrash metal band Toxic Carnage invoke that swinging n’ killing axe of ‘Terrible Certainty’-era Kreator riffs and I was more-or-less won over. Sure, it doesn’t take much for me and a thrash to get along but, I’ve no goddamned patience for ‘retro’ thrash that doesn’t start killing with riffs right away. ‘Doomed From the Beginning’ definitely feels like a true thrash metal record rooted deeply in their west-of-São Paulo reality but the quintet celebrate their eleventh year perfecting their sound on time, cleanly recorded, and world class. Hardcore punched speed and shouted rage keep Toxic Carnage‘s Germanic wave of riffs from feeling canned but around the third or so spin of this album I’d already worn it out in my mind. Blame a lifetime spent listening to every thrasher possible but I’ve heard it all before and that isn’t really a knock, the thought is more of a ‘gate’ for folks who expect thrash metal to be ‘new’ and not ‘true’. “Victims of Science” is an ’87 Sodom-esque ripper (and actually not a Gammacide cover) that helps to keep the momentum going into the second half of the record. The tracklist becomes aimless, or at least less thoughtful towards the end of ‘Doomed From the Beginning’ and this is where I’d go lukewarm on the album as a whole. Great sound, good riffs, solid thrash.


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Artist Timelost
Title [Type/Year] Don’t Remember Me For This [LP/2019]
Golden Antenna Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A duo who’d naturally coalesce for the love of shoegazing early 90’s indie/alt rock despite their separate bodies of work being metal-related (Set & Setting, Woe, Fatal, Infernal Stronghold), Timelost are swinging a collective pendulous neck outward into luscious and melodious grunge rock on their debut ‘Don’t Remember Me For This’. The last thing I think folks care about, judging by the clicks on my noise rock coverage, is what a metalhead thinks of a rock album so I’ll keep it brief. The Primals had gotten me on a ‘grunge rock’ revival for a while in 2019 and Timelost was the apex of that idea, they’d reminded me of peak Catherine Wheel from the outset. I’d always appreciated the busy nature of the vocal layering set next to guitar and keyboard work that’d felt inhuman when in sync and riveting when things go slightly disordered. It’ll all seem to simmer at an even keel through the first five tracks or so but I’d suggest Side B has some additional interest for the curious.


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Artist Usud
Title [Type/Year] As Old as the Hills [LP/2019]
Geenger Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Usud are a death metal band that’ve hailed from Zagreb, Croatia since forming in 1999 and they’d been on a very promising upswing for two full-lengths in the mid-2000’s with ‘Creator’s Sorcery‘ (2006) finding some blackened death worked quite well within their dissonant Immolation influenced sound. Thirteen years later they’ve returned with a host of modern guitar techniques and an almost progressive death metal sound applied to their crunchy ‘old school’ ways. What took so long? Member’s other bands Narednik Lobanja i Vod Smrti, Decomposing Entity and brilliant avant-black metal band Pogavranjen kept them engaged otherwise but this long period of silence only benefits ‘As Old as the Hills’, an album that showcases an amount of musical development appropriate for Usud‘s thirteen year gap. I’ve seen this record labeled post-death metal or post-metal influenced and that’d make sense though I’d lean towards modern black metal guitar techniques and not any current or recent trend in death metal. “Soulless” is probably the trip over the deep end, where things begin to get weird but “Throne of Death” rights the ship. This tug towards sinister atmospheric values doesn’t always feel experimental but comfortable in presence. ‘As Old as the Hills’ is equal parts austere and progressive when considering the full listen and it didn’t read as trendy ‘non-music’ to me.


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Artist Wheel of Smoke
Title [Type/Year] Sonic Cure [LP/2019]
Polder Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Belgium based retro-futuristic psychedelic rock band Wheel of Smoke have been in regular rotation on my end for a couple of months now thanks to the use of analogue synth sounds, sweeping atypical rhythms, and an altogether sense of jammed-out freedom in their loose and airy compositions. Vocals are very minimal beyond the first track with a long drought between the opener/title track and very memorable “On a Wave”. ‘Sonic Cure’ isn’t demanding upon first listen though it does manage to hook in slowly, I’d found myself wanting to go back and re-explore its meditative qualities. Polder Records have only been around a couple of years now and this is a major ‘get’ for my taste, very class packaging and all around release.


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