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 18th through 24th, 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 due to time constraints for processing 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 an important part of this process and the focus of each entry places emphasis on expressive, meaningful, and ‘heavy’ releases that hold value without trendy gimmickry or bland, thoughtless 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]||…In Stille [LP/2020]|
|Hypnotic Dirge Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
A naturally assumed yet still impressive relationship exists between Essen, Germany based atmospheric post-black metal quartet Frigoris‘ third (‘Nur ein Moment…‘, 2016) and fourth (‘…in Stille‘, 2020) albums. The former was a journey set upon by a protagonist seeking meaning, some acknowledgement at the foggy bleakest end of the world. The lyrics illustrated a desolate world as the protagonist encountered personae positing deeper questions, suggesting a trip by train to represent the way forward unto suicide. The tonality of the album suggested a great damning solitude as a symptom of the lyrics but by the end it appeared to find some resolve, or dire fortitude. That sense of movement and sojourn halts on the second half of the vision on the latter, ‘…in Stille’, where vocalist/guitarist and songwriter Dominick Winter takes a sensitive, understated, and glowing tone in the midst of its conclusion where the train has stopped. The production values are improved, some guitar techniques are sharper, and the general artistic value of this latest album shines with impressive growth in the space of three years, noting that the prior album was recorded in 2015 and this one 2018.
Frigoris began as a pagan black metal project and the assumption is that some youthful political or personal clashes early on saw the line-up shifting between albums. Judging solely by the results, the staff appears most professional on tape beyond 2013. The songwriting had reached meaningful epiphany with ‘Wind’ (2013) and ‘Nur ein Moment…’ was essentially the payoff for those formative years. With that said, ‘…in Stille’ is yet meaningful extension of those lessons learned, a next step that is even more grand and impactful. Even if you’ve no interest in provenance or the thematic connection between the two albums the chilling cinematic dread of Frigoris circa 2020 should be broadly appealing to fans of atmospheric black metal, cinematically charged post-black metal, and sorrowful melodic doom metal’s juxtaposition of highs and lows.
The style itself is easily recognizable and well-rendered but the strength of the music itself comes from Winter‘s extensive compositions and evolving use of post-rock dynamics to score his greater concept. The 65 minute enormity of the album took some patience for my own mood lately but once I’d settled into 2-3 successive listens the bigger picture of the piece was there with its dark transcendence looming in the distance. The whole thing is written in German so it’ll take some interpretation and some of the poetic nuance of the prose will be lost with literal translations but they’ve dealt with the subject of suicide in a meaningful way that isn’t grotesque or careless. Also, I have a massive affinity for the covert art on ‘…in Stille’, the imagery is just as alluring and majestically dark as the music within.
|Title [Type/Year]||Exitus [EP/2020]|
|Xtreem Music||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The early history of Necropsy from about 1989 when their original line-up solidified until about 1994 is fascinating for its indecisive and constantly evolving sound which appeared to evolve from a primitive thrashing Carcass-esque style with pitch-shifted vocals towards a more typical Finnish death metal sound that’d been right up there with the peak of demo era Demigod, and Purtenance. Their influences were always pretty obvious, taking huge cues from Florida death metal and leaning into brutality to mix things up. The release that defined Necropsy for me most was probably the split with Demigod in 1992 and the ‘Go the Way of All Flesh’ demo tape where they had taken cues from the more technically apt side of early Finnish death metal and put some of Morbid Angel‘s blurry riffing into the mix. It bears mentioning that these guys were really young and actually pretty talented in their initial run all things considered, unfortunately they’d simply lost interest starting around ’92-’93. The original guitarist and vocalist reformed the project in 2008 and have put out two albums and now two EPs in the decade since, ‘Exitus’ being the latest.
What had changed between 1994 and 2008? They were a bit slower, chunkier, and less complex upon return but vocalist Tero Kosonen‘s style was still recognizable and that’d been enough to tie the old and new together to start. ‘Bloodwork‘ (2011) was a bit underrated for its meaningful continuation of the original vision of the band but I wasn’t all that excited about ‘Buried in the Woods‘ (2015) which slowed down and kept things fairly straightforward compared to earlier records. ‘Exitus’ continues that thread, slowing to a death/doom crawl as it introduces a slightly more atmospheric side of the band. “Meat Ceremony” is just alright, maybe better placed in the middle of the tracklist and “Fucking Dead” has this strong ‘Retribution For the Dead’ vibe that I enjoyed quite a bit, stark-raving but sluggish in its menace. The rousing peak of the EP, and the main reason I’d recommend it, comes with the 8+ minute crawling horror of “206 Motives”; The logical peak of the mood created by this EP comes in the middle of this song, just a hint of ‘Jhva Elohim Meth’ in the main guitar progression really fucks my ear in the best way possible. I think “Butcherado” should have been the opener as it will keep fans of the oldest Necropsy sound very happy and does the best job of introducing the Autopsy grooved thread running through this EP.
|Title [Type/Year]||Chief Tail [LP/2020]|
|Reptilian Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Late last week I was off using my researchin’ fingers looking up San Francisco, California based noise punk/rock band Chief Tail‘s previous quasi-existential crisis as PCP Roadblock in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when I landed upon a YouTube video of the boys screaming, feedbacking, flipping around their guitars and sounding like a formative powerviolence band or just some kids on meth making a very public mistake in a warehouse… Anyhow, the video’s description said something to the effect of “Baltimore 1999-ish, there was a homeless guy with a gun upfront.” And I tell you what I was so inspired by this #1 fan I had this long, very graphic review detailing the day that’d lead that man to the front of that show, smoking a very sparkly dipped cigarette and vibin’ off the manic punk noise they were banging out. That was it, for the sake of not offending the homeless in lieu of their long overdue uprising.
Anyhow, they’re not from San Francisco but they live there now and I don’t doubt the jenkem spewing sewers are getting to ’em based off of this distraught, disgusted and kinda smirking debut LP. Balls-nasty hardcore banging noise rock delivered at a kinda angry 3:00am drunk pace for about 20 minutes. When Chief Tail show up at your party they’re three hours late and at least one of them has already sweat through his shirt. They’re a punk rock band who’ve got the noise rock noodle fingers, having too much fun a la Scratch Acid circa 1984 with the loud n’ belligerence cranked to ‘Shallow’-era Pissed Jeans levels of werewolf hardcore noise and look, man, don’t let anyone know you’re listening to it — They’re singing about poop! Well, a pungent sewer drain where they pee during rehearsal on “Mighty Shitpipe.” You’ll get where the Brainbombs and early Flipper references come from if you read through these gross-but-kinda-into-it lyrics.
See if you can spot the song about bestiality, which is surprisingly not “Happy Little Duck”. I’m into it. I mean the noise rock/punk rock combo they’re doing, not the bestiality or the poop. Chief Tail shake it loose and sound uncomfortable as Hell on thier debut. They’ve got the big-boned grooves of late 80’s/early 90’s psycho alt-punk rock music flinging all over this debut but it never sounds anything less than DIY and a little bit of that Dave Sardy-esque ‘whoa, too far man’ feeling on top of big n’ brassy production from Steve Albini and crew ensures it is endlessly spinnable.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ballistic, Sadistic [LP/2020]|
|Silver Lining Music||Annihilator on Spotify|
Though I have some key memories of Canadian thrash metal band Annihilator most all of them stem from the brief but popular era of the band fronted by vocalist Randy Rampage from 1988-1989 who was best known for front seminal hardcore punk band D.O.A. as well as his over-the-top vocals on Annihilator‘s debut ‘Alice in Hell’ (1989). The first time I saw the video for “Alison Hell” it blew my mind how composed and thrillingly dramatic it was for a thrash metal song, that ‘flair’ was just undeniable and unforgettable. Well, there have been sixteen full-lengths released by the band since and guitarist/songwriter Jeff Waters has taken over most of the instrumental duties on the bulk of them since with various vocalists and drummers cycling in. Since about 2015 Waters has been the lead vocalist and the line-up has remained fairly steady with members from technical and progressive metal bands from Canada, England, and Italy filling out the line-up. Though Annihilator have always remained largely a thrash/ heavy metal band some albums detour into industrial and groove metal along the way so, I’ve never been entirely sure what to expect since about 1993. ‘Ballistic, Sadistic’ is an intentional lean towards the early years of the band’s technical and melodic thrash metal days and on an instrumental level it is a pretty refreshing change.
I’m no die-hard Annihilator fan and beyond ‘Never, Neverland’ (1990) I’ve only bought ‘Schizo Deluxe’ (2005). Right, the typical asshole fairweather fan but I’m always interested to see what comes next and overall ‘Ballistic, Sadistic’ is the right stylistic direction (and feat of impressive guitar work) for my old-thrash tuned ears. This sixteenth record reminds me of 2000’s Megadeth more than ever and if you’re a fan of ‘Endgame’ or ‘Dystopia’ this operates on similar scale with bigger/faster riffs, plenty of double-bass heavy drumming, and some shred-worthy thrash riffs throughout its generally accessible approach. The groove metal tough-guy thing creeps in pretty often, though, and I still think some of the 90’s metal cliches still bung up the flow of Water‘s songwriting; A lot of “Rah, rah, rah” verses a la Testament and some pretty awkwardly aggressive lyrics don’t necessarily bug me but they’re not convincing and detract from the energy of the performative, groovy pieces. Annihilator always puts on a show and this is easily one of the better albums they’ve put out to date. With that said, I definitely found myself skipping past a few of the more belligerent tracks (“The Attitude”, “Lip Service”) once I’d gotten the point and this made it slightly harder to flip on repeat and enjoy in full.
|Title [Type/Year]||Worlds Within [LP/2020]|
|Raphael Weinroth-Browne on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
For his debut solo album Canadian cellist Raphael-Weinroth-Browne infers great depth through organic and practical methodology, etching out a larger dramatic vision through naturalized shades of post-rock and electronic ambiance within a greater-branching classical piece. Voiced entirely with a cello connected to a looping/effects pedal ‘Worlds Within’ appears minimalist in its breathy ease of statement, phrased with the simplistic wavelength of post-rock but boasting hearty layers that surprise along the way. Having been featured prominently on heavily emotive records from Woods of Ypres, Thrawsunblat, and Leprous there is some light expectation of the cinema of post-metal and modern progressive rock to creep into ‘Worlds Within’ but it’ll likely resonate most with folk who’ve developed a taste for the improvisational and virtuosic.
The effect of the album as a whole conveys the beauty of natural exploration, the shapes of rocky hills and the gravity of seemingly eternal streams cutting through with their watery power. The listening experience begins with its most clear and intimate imagery conveyed through lush and exotic swells, placing the “From Within” portion of the tracklist not far from the breathy wonder of Christopher Larkin‘s soundtrack for Hollow Knight at its most unobtrusive. Pizzocato techniques on the cello have a contrabass sort of effect and the effects applied amplify the depth that shapes these pieces. “From Above” begins with more right hand technique, strumming the cello for an lute-esque sound and drumming on it to provide a beat. This is where the album turns towards a bit of a EDM feel, as the artist describes it, with swaying effects and a thumping bassline growing in prominence. The four sections of “Tumult” impress simply for taking that introduced language of motion and really going for it, emphasizing this curiously ‘electro’ feeling created by a thousand layered cello techniques. You could zone out just slightly and be somewhere else (genre-wise) entirely during this midsection though the cello is the main driver, the lead instrument driving its somber tones into dour internal revelry.
Citing the masterful simplicity of David Darling‘s similarly meditative early 90’s records ‘Cello’ and ‘Dark Wood’, Weinroth-Browne sets this standard for tone and resonance on ‘Worlds Within’ and applies an unpredictable and melodious sensibility, giving the record some improvisational feeling to its movements. The powerful solemnity of Darling‘s work is perhaps the most clear influence though Weinroth-Browne is restlessly appreciative of his instrument and seems to focus on celebrating its vast capabilities to the nth degree. This makes for a brilliant active listen, a post-music influenced head-turner rather than the expected singular expressive nerve strumming in the background. Great fuel for creativity, seated bewilderment, or any sort of active self-expression though I found that I couldn’t sit and read a book while it played.
|Title [Type/Year]||Part of a Sick World [LP/2020]|
|Metalville Records||Surgical Strike Website|
German thrash metal band Surgical Strike had a bit of a false start in the mid-90’s between two non-distinct demo tapes before splitting up. Vocalist Jens Albert would take a detour into the formative years of (now) long dormant thrashers De/Test and beyond that he’d eventually restaff Surgical Strike with members of nearby melodic death, metalcore, and groove metal bands in 2014. Then intention appears to be a revival of the style the band had been attempting prior with a distinct early-to-mid 90’s thrash sound. As their debut full-length ‘Part of a Sick World’ kicks off sounding like it’ll be a modern approximation of classic thrash with plenty of double-bass drumming and melodeath/thrash riffs but they do eventually calm down and kick into some more basic German thrash structures as the album progresses.
‘Part of a Sick World’ is a precision burst of fast and moderately intricate thrash metal that is cleanly presented with a ‘modern’ sound. Production values are nicely balanced, a muscular and distinctly German thrash guitar sound that bears the brunt of the work next to a solid drummer. Surgical Strike‘s style sets itself in the realm of early Grip Inc. and Artillery beyond their ‘By Inheritance’ apex where some elements feel mechanical and relevant to groove metal’s rise in popularity and other parts are clearly inspired by the realm of late 80’s power-thrashers. Today this style is pretty commonplace among bands that managed to survive the 90’s and I think the biggest compliment that I could give this band is that they sound like they’ve been around as long as bands like Heathen, Overkill or Whiplash.
It isn’t entirely my gig, though, as I’d felt much of what Surgical Strike does has such “tunnel vision” in terms of riff delivery that they forget to create a dynamic classic thrash narrative with those riffs, instead just banging out a pretty standard set of joggers; Opener “Dead End Gone” is the exception and closer “The Breed” does some work in that department too but it feels like more effort went into the bookends than the innards of the album. A fine debut for thrash heads all the same and the only thing stopping me from rallying for it is that extra ‘thing’ that sets Surgical Strike over the top in terms of personality.
|Title [Type/Year]||Damnation [LP/2020]|
|Vananidr on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Stockholm, Sweden based musician Anders E. aka Flame was an integral part of getting melodic black/death metal band Hydra off the ground after the project had stumbled for years ultimately releasing their lost to time full-length ‘Phaedra’ in 2003. The band would continue to flail after that point and Flame would focus on his own ideas starting around 2010 while also honing production/engineering skills for General Surgery, Insision, and several others. His songwriting would become increasingly complex within project Synodus Horrenda using music written as far back as 2005 and served as a spiritual successor to Hydra‘s collaboration which would release digitally in 2019 but is said to have been released back in 2010. There was no News entry on their website for it so I can’t confirm beyond the 2010 release of a demo ‘Grown From the Cold’ in late May that year. With the end of Synodus Horrenda in 2018 a new chapter began with Vananidr, a great upgrade beyond the forceful and rote vision of the previous geist.
Anyhow, I loved the mythological focus of ‘Phaedra’ combined with its modern (at the time) expression and it served as one of the best surprises when I was scouring 2003 releases for a Melodic Black Metal retrospective. Unfortunately Hydra‘s music is hard to find and it’d been an expensive get. Aesthetically speaking, some of that melodic black metal soul exists within Vananidr, minus the death metal influences. The three albums released these last three years come bearing the residue of restlessness, a spiritual path that appears forged for the sake of reinstating personal identity and reinvigorating Flame‘s voice within the black metal artform. If you’re seeking a Sorhin or Dissection-esque flood steer towards sometime more appropriately modern and driven by personal demons rather than presented in worship of them.
Mid-paced and extended tracks are the upfront focus of ‘Damnation’ as it begins with an emphasis upon expanded classic black metal structures set to easier-flowing atmospheric black metal pacing. This makes for an intense but ‘livable’ space for each piece on the album to preside in though the pace quickly becomes numbingly constant. The only gripe that’d develop when the album was left on repeat was the sterility of the drum sound which felt artificial enough to clash with some of the most intense parts of ‘Damnation’, such as the middle of “Hunter” and the blasts of “Wounds of Old”. This took away from the immersive quality of the album just enough that I didn’t find myself listening too intently beyond the first 2-3 spins.
|Title [Type/Year]||Rebirth by Blasphemy [LP/2020]|
|Metal Blade Records||LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Not sure if it’d be worse if the knife-wielding woman on the cover of the latest Midnight album cut her way into the goat’s body before inserting her leg or if this is a slightly more censored idea meant to replace them just straight up fucking. An unholy union either way, but also a total letdown after the scissoring fork-tongued and crow enchanted lesbian psychedelia of ‘Sweet Death and Ecstasy’ back in 2017. Cleveland’s masked blackened heavy metalpunk Athenar‘s trip over to the mainstream-ish side of things onto Metal Blade Records does kinda sound like he’s had his ass wiped a bit too hard of the gritty spunkiness that’d made Midnight kinda boss this last decade but you wouldn’t know it based off of that wrecked ass cover art.
‘Rebirth by Blasphemy’ is the most “punks making a NWOBHM record circa 1984” that Athenar has managed to date, no doubt the average Midnight rider will be shoulder deep in bliss by the time “Devil’s Excrement” sloshes out. The heavy metal side of my brain isn’t a huge fan of its glib retro guitar sound and very thin bass presence but the spittin’ idiotic punk part of my brain definitely appreciated the drum performances and production in general, great presence that lends itself to a very 80’s heavy rock and roll record from a distance. All the old references apply here from the peak Venom roars and the Tank informed guitar work (see: “Rising Scum”) and I couldn’t bring myself to have a problem with any of it regardless of how much I’d wanted to pass this record by based on the ‘whatever’ cover and dad metal pace of the whole thing.
‘Rebirth by Blasphemy’ ends up being decent steady-rockin’ spin and I’m grateful that Midnight have the sense to press on with this more fundamental Motörpunk sound now that the entire continent of Canada, and most of the Midwest states, are saturated with bands that sound like their old stuff. I still prefer the previous album a shit-ton, though.
|Title [Type/Year]||I Come in Peace [LP/2020]|
|Nuclear War Now! Productions||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp|
At some point around 2007 I’d been able to have conversations on messages boards (through online translation) with Polish death metal fans who’d collected tapes back in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s and this lead to getting very good transfers of tapes from Violent Dirge, Merciless Death, Mortify, Mortal Slaughter, Slashing Death and many more. These are all killers but when I’d started asking for the stuff that was more along the lines of death/thrash and deathgrind it was ‘I Come in Peace’ from Vehement Thrower that’d been the real murderer I was seeking. The scan of the tape’s art was blurry so I’d always been impressed at the image of a skeletal sorcerer draped in red robes approaching a tower and I’d filed it under death/thrash without a closer listen, not making time for it. Well, it was a knight on the cover and it wouldn’t be until 2011 that I’d sat down with it and really gave it due attention. You can read my first impression in the image below:
All things considered this is the right ballpark for a description of Vehement Thrower‘s sound circa 1993 due to the brutal Blood-esque mix of primitive death metal structures and early grindcore brutality. That blurry slap a la ‘Harmony Corruption’ wasn’t at all common among Polish bands at the time due to very cheap studio budgets, basic low-cost instruments and drummers who were often more ambitious than they should’ve been. In hindsight there is an intoxicating texture to those old tapes and the raw but present garage grinding death metal of Vehement Thrower feels like genuine outrage, a furor translated pretty damn well through rudimentary resources. As often as those old Polish death metal heads would describe the early scenes as follower cultures and teenagers who’d just copy each other’s shit an album like ‘I Come in Peace’ doesn’t at all sound like idol worship or style aped by association.
Lost to obscurity for its limited tape run during the early days of the infamous Baron Records going “legit”, ‘I Come in Peace’ now gets CD and 12″ vinyl release through Nuclear War Now! Productions with the 1991 ‘Worm’ demo included on the CD version. Seeing the proper album art immortalized and finally getting a transfer that didn’t sound like a cheap moldy cassette-to-WAV rip from 2005 really illuminates the finer qualities of the original recording. The rawness of the performances isn’t lost without the mild tape hiss of my copy, it sounds cavernous and brutal as all hell. The vocal effects on the unstoppable opener “Who Is Not with Us Is Against Us” really felt like a new voice for the record when I’d first fired it up, having never really paid attention to the brief pitch shifting applied at the start. All things considered this is an impressive render, that thankfully allows the bass its intended presence in the mix, the guitars are still Cryptic Slaughter levels of louder but it fits the napalm-flinging hardcore punk thrust of songs like “Unreality for Reality in My Eyes” where the bassline really matters but isn’t the major focus of the composition. Like I’d said earlier, this one is a murderer and I’m thankful the ol’ iron curtain has finally been lifted off its ancient shoulders.
If you’re curious what these guys did after Vehement Thrower split up around 1994, they didn’t! Technically speaking, they changed the name to Vehement around that time and the two remaining members would add a keyboardist and a drum machine for a creative fuckin’ mess of an album entitled ‘Born’ which was recorded in 1995. It would be released in 1996 on Psy Wojny Records but unfortunately it was posthumous as Vehement Thrower guitarist/bassist Grzegorz Borowczyk died very young at the end of 1995. Uh, this clip presents the album better than I could describe it: Click here to listen to “I Die at the Stake” on YouTube.
|Title [Type/Year]||යන්ත්ර.මන්ත්ර.ගුරුකම්! (Machines. Sorcery. Magic![Cassette/2020]|
|Virvpi Music||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
This tape was officially released back on January 13th and the Bandcamp was available as of January 17th but I wanted to include this album on this weeks list because it is compellingly psychedelic and unique in concept and expression. This is probably the hardest thing to describe not only because different descriptions of Sri Lankan folklore vary wildly by translation but because the people who’ve made this psychedelic, overblown, and live improvised ritual incantation of the demon Mahasonā don’t have a band name and wish to be represented by an image of the demon they call to possess them within the ritual of the music. ‘Machines. Sorcery. Magic!’ is a 14 minute blackened drone-doom ritual recorded live with offerings of blood and flesh to attract the demon. Maha Sona is described by old occult traditions as inhabiting graveyards at night, bearing the head of a bear, carrying a buffalo in one hand that it drinks blood from, and a great sword (or pike) in the other. His skin is red, he rides a great boar, and thirsts for the flesh of humans. I think half of the interest conjured by this release is the wild traditions of the Sinhala people of Sri Lanka and the descriptions of demons with extravagant details. By the time I was done reading about them I too wanted to be possessed by this demon.
The growled vocal treatments become incredibly unnerving beyond the halfway mark and there I felt the intended transcendence towards about 9 minutes in when the tempo increased and the full kit of drums was employed. I’d guess there are either one or two people performing on this tape, based on the focus shifting from the central incantation of the vocals that gives way to more involved drumming. I’d ended up enjoying this abrasive performance and the unsure feeling that it might be stunningly dark lo-fi performance art or a very real attempt at willing demonic possession.
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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