TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a list grouping albums from the current weeks new releases with mini-reviews for each. These albums were overlooked for full review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I try to cover as much 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 spread of new releases from this week [January 11th through 17th, 2020] with no specific genre focus or theme. This ends up being the most effective way to cover as many releases from 2020 in a timely fashion so things don’t bottleneck at the end of the year. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because of time constraints for long-form reviews or because a paragraph or two worth of insight was all that was necessary. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more new releases from different styles, genres, etc.
Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because these records aren’t getting full reviews. Quality control is important and the focus of each entry places emphasis on expressive, meaningful, and heavy releases that hold value without trendy gimmickry or bland plagiarism. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate friendly and positive interactions. 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.
|Title [Type/Year]||Fury [LP/2020]|
|Doomed to Fail on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp! [January 17th]|
Doomed to Fail are a classically achieved, Scandinavian styled melodic death metal band from Graz, Austria featuring members of Klynt and Toblakai. They’ve taken early inspiration from peak Dark Tranquillity and Amon Amarth alongside thrash and black metal in conceiving their whole vibe and so far their sound points toward ‘epic melodic death metal’ that stops short of big budget bands in that style, such as Insomnium. When I’d heard the first single [Music Video: “Betrayer“] it’d immediately sent my mind spinning back to ~1999 when melodic death metal was arguably at its performative peak where bands like In Thy Dreams and Sins of Omission were doing their best to wring extra juice out of the early classics but ‘Fury’ doesn’t rest upon that sound for the entire record. “Once More Into the Fray” has a healthy bit of pre-‘Fate of Norns’ era Amon Amarth riffing that pulled my head out of the Gothenburg realm and allowed a closer look at what else they’re bringing to the table in terms of extreme metal and heavy rock music.
By virtue of being more modestly recorded and written with fewer layers Doomed to Fail resemble the old standards of melodic death metal from an era that was supersaturated with this sound so, it’ll feel nostalgic but doesn’t seem to intend any sort of ‘retro’ or nostalgia born hero worship as a mission statement. Most importantly ‘Fury’ is short and very easy listen that manages catchiness and mild melodramatic tension as it spins. How original the conception is doesn’t matter as long as it is repeatable and not goddamn annoying so, in that sense Doomed to Fail have done a fine job with this debut.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Weakest Among Us [LP/2020]|
|Lacerated Enemy Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Zooming out to the biggest possible vignette without using a single sub-genre signifier or band comparison in description of Baltimore, Maryland quartet Wormhole‘s second full-length, ‘The Weakest Among Us’, will have to involve one of my favorite but not objectively good sci-fi/horror movies Pandorum; More specifically the Orbital Dysfunctional Syndrome that the crew of the ship have incurred by way an overexertion of the mind in deep space following a century in ‘hypersleep’. In this state of madness and delirium upon awakening the crew hallucinate while experiencing brutal paranoia, it is the ultimate bad acid trip that might involve cannibalism, cave painting, and mutation. I’m not going to spoil the ending because the point I’m making depends on the grotesque tension and release of the film as distress and utopian flashbacks stagger the protagonists towards their goals. So staggers these young fellows towards their twisted and conjoined destinies.
‘The Weakest Among Us’ utilizes the tensile mania of technical death metal as a major force of propulsion within visceral encounters with barbaric, ‘devolved mutant’ slamming brutal death metal techniques. At the very least it feels like less of a technical deathcore record than ‘Genesis’ (2016) did while representing actual slam minus the acquired taste of the sub-genre’s typical production and sound design. Sanjay (Equipoise) and Sanil Kumar show some meaningful creative evolution of the technical/progressive elements of their compositions, which are more brief and impactful while restaffing their project with members from Cognitive, Perihelion and Greylotus. Beyond the pointed, spacey breaks into prog-shred metal tirades throughout the major tipping point comes from a dynamic performance by vocalist Anshuman Goswami who appears capable of bending in whatever direction this brief but cranked album demands. I’m not really up to date on the hyper specific niches they’re pulling from but Wormhole have admirably captured the ‘fun’ of slam on this second album without losing the serious-face sci-fi video game delirium of modern tech death along the way.
|Title [Type/Year]||Meridians [LP/2020]|
|The Osedax on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Stripped down to a trio and no less lushly presented for it, this Virginia based band hail from one of the least desolate parts of the union, the third most affluent area in the states, and well, not far from CIA headquarters. If you’re familiar with their stints and currency in experimental bands like Psyopus, Gloom, and Mod Flanders Conspiracy it’ll come as some surprise that The Osedax‘ sound intends a Pelagic Records level of undersea atmospheric depth bringing to mind flashes of early 2000’s Neurosis, Minsk, and more recent works from The Moth Gatherer. Extended atmospheric sludge/post-metal pieces dirge beyond those suggested influences with flashes of blackened sludge, not far from more recent Tombs, which help keep ‘Meridians’ from becoming entirely sleepy and expected. In terms of complete and resounding experience by way of atmospheric metal art this is the finest and most serious bout of The Osedax to date, managing to achieve a depth previously unheard of in their oeuvre. ‘Meridians’ doesn’t blow me away in terms of riffs nor do I find the blackening of atmospheric sludge anything too far out of the ordinary but they’re able to push me away from apathy by way of their deft use of whalesong-esque dark ambiance. “White Horse / Tempest” showcases this best and I’d suggest starting there if interested in a closer look at each extreme they’ve brought to this third album.
|Title [Type/Year]||Gospel of the Goat [EP/2020]|
|Inverse Records||Nobody on Facebook|
Of course indigenous folk rock, modern neofolk, and the many permutations of folk metal have greatly influenced each era and ‘wave’ of black metal throughout the last few decades but fully acoustic extreme metal is most often treated as an oxymoron, a jocular meme, or a slightly broken experiment. With ‘Gospel of the Goat’ Finnish musician Nobody (Tuomas Kauppinen) applies rasping black metal vocals and song structures written for two acoustic guitars, creating the effect of atmospheric and ‘folkish by association’ black metal. From classic Ulver, Falkenbach, Panopticon and October Falls all the way up to last years fantastic showing by Darkenhöld on their brilliant acoustic performances on the ‘Atra Musica’ split with Griffon — I am a psychotically rabid fan of the acoustic guitar used in interesting ways be it for percussive effect, dynamic flourish, earnest presence, loud-quiet-loud contrast, or full on rhythmic driver for an ‘unplugged’ black metal sound. The pairing is some kind of madness when the vocals have merely replaced the presence of a stark-naked neofolk vocalist because black metal vocals are flatly presented and traditionally caustic by definition.
‘Gospel of the Goat’ lives and dies by the contrast of its unplugged black metal guitar progressions and ‘back of the throat’ black metal rasp; Kauppinen‘s vocals actually remind me of certain acoustic performances from Dornenreich minus the pterodactyl screams where in both cases I felt some additional reverb or layering is necessary to pull the ear back towards the guitar work, which is the actual star here. Finger-picked voicing sends each piece into its appropriate gloom but I’d found myself yearning for techniques closer to tremolo picking, such as the palm muted approach from the aforementioned ‘Atra Musica’ release. “The Feathered Serpent” shows a bit of the passion I’d been seeking in its finale. The project may or may not be entirely devoted to the concept, or taking the idea too brutally serious, but I felt like this ~18 minute EP did some good work in seeking a path where the core concept isn’t a gimmick. It is a worthy niche idea with some considerable depth to be tapped if a proper balance of rasp and jangle can be achieved.
|Title [Type/Year]||Beyond the Crimson Throne [LP/2020]|
|Blessed Black on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Cincinnati, Ohio stoner/doom rockers Blessed Black make a compelling introduction by way of Luca Solo Macello‘s striking sci-high fantasy cover artwork, appropriately setting the tone toward the “stoned and polishing their Warhammer figurines” spectrum of heavy rockers within. In fact ‘Beyond the Crimson Throne’ leans heavily into the stoner rock realm, conjuring 90’s alternative/hard rock crooning and stoner rock riffs dressed up somewhere between early The Sword and Wolftooth. There is a constant thread of melodramatic tension created vocalist/guitarist Joshua Murphy throughout, doubled up and kinda belting it out on a similar keel for each song. None of it really fits the suggestion that this is straight up doom in any sense but rather geared towards the commercial spectrum of stoner metal. No doubt Blessed Black are writing effective heavy blues soul’d swinging sounds and folks seeking some sourness mixed in with a whiskey shaking stomp, they’ve got it. For my own taste ‘Beyond the Crimson Throne’ felt like a bit of soul-searching debut, an unsure step towards accessible rock standards and stoney fuzz metal that mix in an unsatisfying ‘one note’ manner. Breaking up the too-serious alt-metal face of their slickness and dropping those shoulders a bit would fit the full package a bit better, at least. Not a bad full listen at all, brief and aiming for the gut with some resonant melodic ideas and interesting fantasy inspired lyrics, but with this amount of polish and capability they could be pushing out a lot more variety and probably have a lot more fun doing it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Shame is Just a Word [LP/2020]|
|Soulseller Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Across five albums and seventeen years Norwegian black metal band Svarttjern haven’t faltered in their aim providing subversive thrashing hellfire that is par for the course but certainly not bland. Their maniacal Oslo born true black metal energy has found them picking up stints in classic bands like Carpathian Forest and Ragnarok along the way, not to mention certain member’s mastery of epic heavy metal in the indomitable Magister Templi. With all of those exciting associations aside ‘Shame is Just a Word’ doesn’t break out of the box of miserable obsidian insanity that Svarttjern portends, they’re not doing anything that’d alienate your average Urgehal, Deathcult, or eh, Ragnarok fan in the slightest. The root of interest in bands such as these is nothing new and in some sense that is the point, consistency is a virtue when you’ve killed it from the start and no doubt if you’re enamored with the brutal riff-crammed side of Norwegian black metal where thrashing comes fast and crisply presented ‘Shame is Just a Word’ is a brick of molten sulphur to add to your wall of steel.
Plenty of double-bass rolling, blasted riff-wrangling and snarling black metal rips from this record and it all bleeds out around 36 minutes long. As a listening experience it doesn’t quite reach the level of outrage that I’d gotten from recent records by Aura Noir, think more along the lines of early Enthroned, but Svarttjern do manage to be about as entertaining as each when all is said and done. The odd standout here is their cover of Exodus‘ “Bonded by Blood” which is presented largely note-for-note as a black/thrash cover that works well and doesn’t sound too out of place on the full listen, in fact it leads perfectly into the closer/title track which serves as a brilliant finale to the relatively short and impactful record. I’m glad they didn’t fuck around with the cover song and even more glad they didn’t fuck with their sound throughout ‘Shame is Just a Word’, instead elevating it to real blast of a riff record.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ascend! [LP/2020]|
|Cardinal Fuzz||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Described as a “post-apocalyptic, scalp sizzling sonic freak-out” with references to Amon Düül II, Chrome, and even The Stooges you know The Cult of Dom Keller aims for both the ancient and the destructive in conjuration of their British psychedelic overdrive. ‘Ascend!’ is much more meditative than you’ll realize as its grainy and boiling kosmiche/space rock groove trails on in with opener “Hello Hanging Rope”, a nearly self-collapsing 11 minute bound unto oddly satisfying garage-psychedelic unknowns. Hailing from Devonshire and at it since at least 2007 the sense tells me that The Cult of Dom Keller have been loosed, freed from something still in sight as they reach a fourth mile marker (er, six and a halfth kilometer?) of their astral projection thus far. This first song was initially exhausting, three separate waves of modulated screaming psychedelia atop a banging psych stomp have order and reason that’ll only make good sense to the initiated and I’ll say “It is worth ruminating over…” but don’t get stuck on it… there is plenty more record to soak up! All of it just as growling, dissociative, and outrageously loud.
Cue the strobe lights before the naked knife fights begin, the intensity of statically charged overblown fuzz n’ feedback whirling heathenry makes ‘Ascend!’ a spectacle and a horror upon the senses that never drops that lucid jammed feeling, at no point does it slide into a catchy hook for the sake of anything; Joining The Cult of Dom Keller sent me back to stoned record store visits as a teen where exactly this sort of wailing, destructive take on outer space autobahn blues would have me lookin’ up at the ceiling just in case it was all planning on caving in on me and helicoptering my blood n’ guts into the maw of the void. Cardinal Fuzz have done a fine job of entirely reshaping my thought on psychedelic rock these last couple of years and ‘Ascend!’ is a fine example of that mind-slapping expansion.
|Title [Type/Year]||Algorithm & Blues [LP/2020]|
|Fysisk Format||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Norwegian melodic hardcore punks The Good the Bad and the Zugly won a Spellemannprisen for their last album ‘Misanthropical House’ (2018) which I’d described as a combination of shout-along Scandinavian melodic hardcore and Hellacopters-ish existential freedom rock. Somewhere between then and now their vocalist took over the frontman position for Kvelertak and that’d make good sense because ‘Misanthropical House’ and this new LP ‘Algorithm & Blues’ have that same swinging grit n’ roll to their gig. They’re a bit more Turbonegro than they like to admit and way more hardcore punk than that comparison might suggest and they’ve not ‘sold out’ into big and brassy pop rock on this otherwise actually pretty damned catchy-assed record. “The Man Behind The (Oxygen) Mask” could’ve been on a Burning Heart compilation twenty years ago but it doesn’t feel a day older than it is and no doubt it’ll warm over folks who’ve some nostalgic love for that era of Scandinavian hardcore just as much as it makes sense as a compliment to whatever Kvelertak have morphed into over the years. I appreciate any record that gives a snotty middle finger to expectation, to lemming culture from any and every point of view and The God the Bad and the Zugly are still doing it their own way. I mean all the rasped shouting grates on me around the half hour mark but at 35 minutes we’re golden.
|Title [Type/Year]||To Fathom the Master’s Grand Design [LP/2020]|
|Scarlet Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp|
Intent upon illustrating the descent and inevitable demise of mankind, Danish black metal stalwarts Horned Almighty spent around five years writing and perfecting their bristling sixth full-length, ‘To Fathom the Master’s Grand Design’. The suggestion is that they’ve clipped away the reigns of expected style and let true Satanic independence resound within this latest record and this manifests as a wholly round, surprisingly robust coiling of their serpentine black n’ rolling thrashed out sound. Incorporating influences from black metal, punk, thrash, and even a few spiraling doomed moments along the way isn’t far from the general modus of the band since at least ‘Necro Spirituals’. On some level they’ve still got a similarly ‘classic’ second wave black metal feeling as ever, the same sphere of interest that’d draw folks toward the Svarttjern record I’d mentioned earlier but these Danes have their own point of view which is less strictly designed as referential Norwegian ruckus might be. It’d be a stretch to say they’ve gone fully black n’ roll, that thrashing and blackened rocking side of the band has always been there, but it doesn’t at all feel like they’re attempting to posture or pander in any one specific direction.
“Swallowed by the Earth” shakes things out right when the jog of ‘To Fathom the Master’s Grand Design’ begins to stagnate, lifting the plod out of itself by way of some swinging, Taake-esque riffs and a memorable blackened thrash intro. This was an important turn to take as I familiarized myself with the full listen though I’m not sure they’d entirely held my interest. Waiting for the last minute of the tracklist to spark into doom on “Punishment Divine” made for a too little, too late diversion and “Witchcraft Demonology” felt like an anticlimactic end to a record clearly building towards some meaningful apex. ‘To Fathom the Master’s Grand Design’ is yet exactly the sort of record the established Horned Almighty fan would want, it doesn’t deviate wildly from their core sound but instead refreshes it with some inspired riffing and a general polishing of where they’d left off with ‘World of Tombs’ (2014).
|Title [Type/Year]||Echoes of the Past [LP/2020]|
|Redefining Darkness Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Brotthogg‘s debut full-length was originally self-released digitally in late July of 2019 without a proper introduction, the odd band name suggests music less serious than ‘Echoes of the Past’ contains and the art direction feels as if it were drafted for a band like Thyrane (or Thyrfing) back in 2003. I don’t intend to dog on it with any seriousness but the full presentation doesn’t match the appealing, precision thrust of Norwegian musician Kristian Moen‘s vision of peak Scandinavian excess in terms of combining melodic black/death classicism and melodeath/thrash of the early 2000’s with some occasionally pronounced technical thrash and progressive metal influences. The 2020 version of this album comes by way of Redefining Darkness Records on CD and features their 2017 EP ‘The Last Traveler’ as bonus tracks and this earlier work features a clearer set of melodic death metal influences, blending just slightly less with the intensity of their black metal edge.
‘Echoes of the Past’ offers such a rush on the first fifteen minutes of its length that I couldn’t wait for “The Aftermath” to finish its sluggish (by comparison) weight and get back into the fray. The second half of the album, not counting the bonus tracks, leans into an ‘Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion’-era Old Man’s Child sort of overblown thrashing black metal sound sans keyboard and this hammered down upon some of my deeply ingrained nostalgia for late 90’s commercial black metal bravado. Good intensity and memorable for its bouncy jolt of hyper-arcing melodic black metal feeling, though I own quite a few records in this style and wanted something more from the full listen, a deeper hook or two that could pull me back in for another couple of spins.
If I missed your favorite album from 2020 already, whoa! E-mail me or hit me up on twitter if you want me to review it. If you’re in a band and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page and send me a copy, I’ll consider it.
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