…FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a list grouping albums from the current weeks new releases with short 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 grip of new releases from this week [February 8th through 14th, 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 …FROM THE TOMB due to time constraints for processing long-form reviews or because a paragraph or three’s 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 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 have some potential to hold value. I might not always be the target but you could be. 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]||The Three Appearances [12″ LP/2020]|
|Sentient Ruin Laboratories||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
If you’d seen the news that Palermo, Italy death/doom duo Assumption‘s 2014 EP was finally getting the 12″ vinyl LP treatment and didn’t convulse at the sheer ecstasy of the event you’re in for an unexpectedly righteous ladder of transcendence once it finally hits you. ‘The Three Appearances’ was not fully ignored back in 2014 but it surely didn’t receive due praise from the greater death and doom adjacency worldwide. I’d discovered the band’s demo (‘Mosaic of the Distant Dominion‘, 2012) while searching for projects comparable to Disembowelment. These folks played important roles in bands like Morbo and Undead Creep so when it comes time to punch into some death metal, they’ve got the right underground swing to their hits. The ‘Antithesis of Light’-era Evoken feel of their lean towards death metal on this EP really fucked me up, establishing Assumption as one of my most anticipated cosmic-funereal death metal up-and-comers.
Because ‘Absconditus‘ (2018) loosed itself into the funeral death/doom realm with an ethereal and less directly burly death metal approach, I’ve found myself returning to this EP since and more or less considering it a first album at a half hour (compared to ‘Absconditus’ at 36 minutes). I’m not one of those purists who feel vinyl releases are necessary to legitimize music but it does go a long way to solidifying ‘The Three Appearances’ as a coveted item, and a fantastic example of death/doom metal. A must buy, for my taste at least.
|Title [Type/Year]||Fist to Face [LP/2020]|
|Xtreem Music||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Champion of Spanish heavy and extreme metal since at least the late 80’s and contributor to that history since, Dave Rotten‘s (Xtreem Music, Avulsed) handful of projects would branch out into pure ‘old school’ thrash metal in the mid-2000’s with Holycide. Their sound had a slight extreme edge to it early on but two albums deep ‘Fist to Face’ has a late 80’s New Jersey thrash meets a German post-‘Ride the Lightning’ thrash vibe to it. The production is less compressed than the prior record (‘Annihilate… Then Ask!‘, 2017) and the vocals are even more over the top a la Roger Miret on ‘One Voice’ circa 1990. I’d say the major change from the first album to ‘Fist to Face’ comes with some tighter and slightly more intricate guitar compositions, more effective leads and a better tracklist overall.
Very direct political and sociopolitical lyrics don’t bother me and the point is made clearly enough. Where I get a little bit lost comes with the social commentary of songs like “Empty Cyber Life” and “Trapped by the Crappy Trap”. They’re good enough songs on their own but the phrasing is awkward for some of the vocal lines and as much as I feel the sentiments of these songs they do come across a little bit silly, particularly “Trapped by the Crappy Trap”; The song seems like a great opportunity to stick it to braindead popular music culture but the music video itself does more to lampoon Xanax rappers than the ‘poking fun’ lyrics do.
I’d been on board with the sound and most of the riffs on ‘Fist to Face’ from the get-go, the production is well-balanced save for the sometimes muddled bass guitar tone. If you’re looking for an up-to-date vision of thrash metal with a distinct voice Holycide are a decent option on this second record. After a handful of listens it’d really blend with more typical modern thrash metal throwback bands with the only major difference being that ‘Fist to Face’ has some notable variety in song structures and should appeal to Bay Area thrash lovers as much as the more east coast United States bands from the mid-to-late 80’s. Check it out if you like Nuclear Assault, Terrifier, and Evildead.
|Title [Type/Year]||Night Lands [LP/2020]|
|Cardinal Fuzz Shop||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Manchester, England psych rock quartet Dead Sea Apes expand to a quartet for this set of three improvisational songs across the span of ~45 minutes. The addition of a fifth is a temporary gig as the band make room for Nik Rayne (The Myrrors) on second guitar. Last year ‘The Free Territory’ from Dead Sea Apes was a dark ambient meditation that’d balance elements of ominous drone with their psychedelic rock sensibilites, it’d really felt like boundaries were being pushed in some intense ways; ‘Night Lands’ is more of a traditional jam, if it could be considered as such, a neo-psychedelia showcasing the bands versatility as they play off of Rayne‘s slow-burning movements.
“No Friends But the Mountains” seeps in, a hallucinatory post-desert rock shudder with some nuclear dust in its teeth, smiling as it opens up nearing the 10 minute mark. This record is basically sold out already so, if you think it sounds bold and non-commercial to kick off with a 21 minute jam for an opener, you might’ve stumbled into a realm worthy of more patience and understanding. From my perspective the guitars are lovely guidance and the basslines give warbling bone-strength to the striking flesh of Dead Sea Apes but it is the keyboard/synth work of Alistair Reid that takes each piece to the right place, setting the scene and whirling within it. The fuzz-sucking bluesy tower of the title track is where the jam takes off for me but “A Slow Heart Beats Hard” is the most interesting piece when considering the tonal range of the full listen, it goes a bit more space rockin’ 90’s stoner jam than the more meditative counterparts on the full listen.
Note that if you want a copy in the United States it’ll be through Feeding Tube Records.
|Title [Type/Year]||Visions of Purgatory [EP/2020]|
|Redefining Darkness Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Kids have been whipping up the best riffs Scandinavia has to offer since those first whiffs of extreme metal hit their collective viking bloodstream so, I wouldn’t consider it novel that Trollhättan, Sweden blackened death/thrashers Sarcator feature youths as young as 14. In fact the 14 year old lead guitarist here is Marko Tervonen‘s (The Crown) son Mateo, one of four fellowes taking inspiration from the most pure and exciting history of Swedish metal, the crossing over from Satanic speed/first wave black metal towards death/thrash. Well, they’ve already ‘crossed over’ so to speak as Sarcator‘s first two demos from 2019 (compiled here as a pair) develop a squarely composed sound not far from that of Merciless‘ ‘Unbound’ era, taking cues from classic Teutonic thrashers (Kreator, Sodom primarily) and applying those forms naturally to the refined whip of melodic black/death aesthetics of the early-to-mid 90’s. The result is too fuckin’ thrash to stick right next to ‘The Somberlain’ but plenty of that tonality is there and it rips.
Sure, my first reaction was basically “Agh, middle-upper class kid thrash” but this isn’t lazy kid beercore and none of those doofy modernisms apply here. If anything these guys are buzzing hard off of ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and getting right from the start. Hell, I don’t care who you are, how old etc. if you can riff like that and get me nerding out over Kreator, Merciless, and Dissection I’m there to shake your hand and say good show. New logo is a beast, the songwriting and recording are LP quality enough, and if they can toss an inch more ‘Blood Fire Death’ into a full-length I’ll be hanging from the rafters over it.
|Title [Type/Year]||When the Wolves Start to Circle [LP/2020]|
|Medusa Crush Recordings||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp|
This solo project from Martin Sällström aka Equimanthorn of Pest does offer a few shades of black n’ roll spirit as it kicks off but the tone of the full listen touches upon classic heavy metal more than the extreme metal adjacent rock music you might expect. Deep stabs into sublimely gloom-ridden doom metal, NWOBHM, and a few songs that’re one part British post-punk and one part Quorthon (“Once Alive”, title track, etc) makes for an album that feels like a raw outsider heavy rock album, anthemic and ‘punk’ as often as it is dripping with a dark distillation of a heavy metal point of view. The vocals tend to fit the situation well enough though a few tracks felt a bit bare and atonal at times, some intentionally so and others not hitting the right note; The most successful ‘mood’ strikes during the Pentagram-esque doom numbers (“Old Wounds”, “Covenant of Decay”). The overall effect reminds me of Furze‘s more experimental side when they’d leaned into heavy psych heaviest although Blissful Stream feature a consciousness more aligned with the early 80’s and with some metalpunk edges keeping this varietal and raw.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Arrows of Our Ways [LP/2020]|
|Within the Mind Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
I doubt the 4-5 spins I’ve given this lushly detailed and stylistically broad bout of Cascadian post-black progressive metal from Seattle, Washington’s Izthmi will be exactly enough to convey its depth. The biggest picture I can manage is a progressive metal album with an eclectic set of tastes applied, ranging from melodic black metal to post-hardcore. The spark of the atmosphere they create is Agallochian just as The Flight of Sleipnir tends to be but, there are some deeper threads of modern prog metal riffing and splashy blackgaze refrains that keep ‘The Arrows of Our Ways’ thriving through its demanding ~45 minute spin towards a unique result. I’m not the biggest post-black fan out there but Izthmi does a fine job of working outside the box through the use of experimental noise and long threads of unpredictable by soupy rhythms that wax and wane throughout the full listen. A cathartic record but also a deeply intelligent bout of… nihilism, or a similarly defeated ecstasy. Highly recommended if you sway towards the non-follower breed of post-black stuff.
|Title [Type/Year]||Bedehuis [LP/2020]|
|Argento Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Hailing from Zwolle, Netherlands this atmospheric and somewhat progressive black metal duo could be likened to the current modern black metal renaissance occurring in Amsterdam at the moment between the post-metal crowd and the more earthy transcendence of bands like Turia and Fluisteraars. Of course Ossaert are a bit more on the harsher edge, the impetus of the project being ‘defiance and darkness before beauty’ if I’ve read their vibe properly enough. The four pieces of ‘Bedehuis’ align quite cleanly, forming a whole experience that is almost seamless but never staggered in transition. Flow and cumulative emotional dynamic end up being remarkably important because of how well each part of Ossaert‘s debut follows the last. The result is a fine modern atmospheric black metal album that is memorable for the experience rather than any particular song.
|Title [Type/Year]||Portraits of Mind [LP/2020]|
|Redefining Darkness Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Upon a cursory listen Greek death metal quartet Plague could be summed up as ‘old school’ death metal, pulling in some pretty ace Asphyx, Death and Morgoth references along the way. With a closer look at a much higher volume the Athens based band sport a more diverse sound than a quick scrub-through implies, surely taking cues from early 90’s death metal first and foremost but not plainly riding that semblance. The ‘Slowly We Rot’ and ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ shove of it all is the main event but there are few Florida death metal circa ’91 sounding bands around today that actually write songs worthy of that era, I’d say Plague are 80% there on their debut and all of ‘Portraits of Mind’ warms to an satisfying rotten fervor in the mind the more time I spend with it. “Portal Into Reality” is the head-tripper here, a fistful of ex-thrasher gone death metal attitude with a short dip into ‘The Karelian Isthmus’ lucidity in the middle. It’d be the song that pulled me back in for the full listen several times and reminded me of the death metal that’d won me over in the first place back in the day. Every song on here is killer and ‘Portraits of Mind’ is a no-brainer for the average old school death metal enrollment. For folks looking for some small stabs outside of the norm, Plague actually has what you want in small doses. For folks looking for a complete reinvention of classic death metal, fuck off eh.
|Title [Type/Year]||As Life Decays [LP/2020]|
|Arcaine on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Arcaine’s Website|
Swiss progressive death metal band Arcaine work outside of my comfort zone when it comes to what I’d even consider ‘death metal’ at all but I’d concede that their second full-length ‘As Life Decays’ is at least a progressive-aimed deathcore record with some technical death metal runs spun throughout. Sure, call it ‘modern death metal’ and generally count me out of any analysis of it because it does nothing for me in a practical or emotional context. They’re fantastic musicians, the album has a clear and precise rendering, every aspect of ‘As Life Decays’ is professional grade and has the feeling of a clanging machine stomping across the Earth with the mush of a thousand corpses slicking every step. It certainly isn’t a bad record but I’ve no place remarking too heavily on it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Storm of Witchcraft [Remaster/2020]|
|Armageddon Label||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp|
Heads up, crosses down! Boston, Massachusetts witching speed metal maniacs Malleus have had their 2016 debut EP ‘Storm of Witchcraft’ remastered, packed in with their ‘Night Raids’ EP from 2018 and shipped out by Armageddon Label. If you’re not familiar with the band they’re as inspired by Hellhammer as it looks but their sound is punkish in a different way, not necessarily Boston hardcore in spirit but nastier and more confrontational than most heady chunking bands of this type are. ‘Storm of Witchcraft’ kills because it sounds like you’re there with the band live in studio, ripping their way through the blast n’ crawl dynamic of ‘Apocalyptic Raids’. A total blast and a worthy reminder of how much the right energy counts in black/speed metal attack.
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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