A CREDENCE BEYOND DEATH, part two of a 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.
|Title [Type/Year]||Dominion in Polarity [LP/2019]|
|Apognosis on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Slaking all writhing, senseless worms of their unending pools of slime through mountains of salt and oily fires of sacrifice, the austere rhythms of Athens, Greece-based black metal project Apognosis rends all hoof and chaff unto razor sharpness for this second full-length album. You must first will yourself to begin this descent, a nihilistic furor against all men and their ‘Gods’, without prodding or punches to your ailing human station and make the downward spiral consciously, prepared. I’d fallen into ‘Dominion in Polarity’ with some delay, appreciating the imagery and figuring the meaning long before the music itself pulled at me on a whim. In other words, when I get streaming links I’m completely lazy about reviewing them because it leashes me to one spot. Of course I always regret putting this sort of record off because there is such depth and inspiration within a solo black metal project such as this, and the production is quite vivid and balanced for such a fervent and personal undertaking.
Destruction parsed in atomic detail from a lens forever set upon the dregs of humanity and their waste-disposal through engorgement of filth and the fecal burial of all possesses the speaker into stately rasp, demonic and layered atop frankly stunning guitar work. ‘Dominion in Polarity’ is a high-functioning work, a professional black metal album driven by anti-spiritual hatred that blurs its heady cult rhythms with shades of countrymen Akrotheism and perhaps Acherontas to some degree while obviously inspired by a much broader worldview, absorbing the sombre melodicism of Finnish and Swedish defiance in heaving bounds. The rhythm guitar work is especially powerful and practiced, almost obsessively precise during peaks of intensity that add to the inhumane but intelligent approach Apognosis delivers. Use of keyboards are understated, set beneath the guitars to provide a lift and a resonant often cathedralesque presence that helps to pull most compositions away from sounding too directly 90’s in inspiration.
Captivating, focused, and more than just an inch above the high standards for black metal today Apognosis have impressed with this second full-length. The start and finish of the record are more or less the ‘highs’ of the experience and the mid-portion (“Worms of Nation”) was easier to forget but the whole of the album is one great thread, a rant across seven quite involved and related compositions. I’d personally like more variation in guitar tones, different layers or moods expressed in the span of a full-length but I understand this style is exactly right for the genre standard.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ormekongens Argelist [LP/2019]|
|Iron Bonehead Productions||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
For their second full-length Danish dry-rotted primitive black metal maestros Blot & Bod are hitting harder, blaring louder, and ripping through their cranked Norse dark spirituals with even more malice. Don’t get me wrong here, ‘Ligæder‘ (2017) was and still is a fantastic punk-shocked and rhythmically acidic first step but ‘Ormekongens Argelist’ is biting and raw on a different level. Comparisons are difficult to some degree, they’re not as scuzzy as Bone Awl or exactly as punk-shocked as Wulkanaz but their stuff is definitely in that same ballpark. The major shift here comes with some movement away from the Hellhammer-isms of the first record in favor of rhythms that appear to aim for an austerity that better fits their lyrical themes, which largely refer to Norse mythology for inspiration hence the “wyrm king’s malice” title (more-or-less). I’d hope to have more to say about this album when I went to review it mid-December of last year but rudimentary automated translations and some general comparisons weren’t enough for me to really put together the full review I’d wanted to. It is nonetheless a strong album, raw but not hopelessly lo-fi and an impressive leap from their earlier material. To stay true to their original vision but deliver a superior product is impressive and I’ll be there excited to hear whatever it is they end up doing next.
|Title [Type/Year]||Æstivation [LP/2019]|
|Amor Fati Productions||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Much of this list will simply restate several albums from my Best of December 2019 list from the middle of that month, in the midst of writing a dozen end of the year features and barely keeping up with reviews during the holiday season those reviews just never happened. Although time is a major factor, simply enjoying an album doesn’t mean there is much to say about it and I still feel like I’ve little to really add to any conversation on Cult of Erinyes‘ fourth full-length album. It is their most realized work to date and begins to sound like a completely different project, swerving towards the blurry and most brutal jagged edges of Blut Aus Nord and putting their own spin on that sort of chaos-fed black metal. The addition of Déhà (Acathexis, Slow, Yhdarl) on vocals brings a lot of personality and his production skills take that extremity to the point of unpredictable excess. None of this is unheard of or fantastically captivating but it is very good. It’d been such a strong year for this sort of moderately avant-garde, enlightened black metal that ‘Æstivation’ would compare well with others but didn’t benefit from showing up later in the year. An excellent atmospheric black metal record when taken beyond the context of late 2019.
|Title [Type/Year]||El árbol negro [LP/2019]|
|Thrashirts||LISTEN on Spotify!|
Here is a traditional/epic doom metal band out of Lima, Peru who bring a fairly original perspective on the sound that has some of the Candlemass spirit of their Chilean counterparts but also some influence from the darker side of doom metal, breaking into death metal vocals and some post-doom feeling tracks. Some songs will feel like pagan metal, a mix of traditional metal and something akin to Agalloch (or, Velnias maybe). The effect is akin to melodic death/doom and epic heavy metal in various concoctions and it all plays out in good form. There is a sort of underground edge to ‘El árbol negro’ that I really appreciated and the 8-9 minute extended songs feel oppressive in the most classic sense. Definitely something to check out if you enjoy Condenados, The Lone Madman, and Solstice.
|Title [Type/Year]||We Who Light the Fire [LP/2019]|
|Invictus Productions||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
‘We Who Light the Fire’ is the debut EP from Italian musician Marco S. who is best known as the frontman of Roman black/death band Demonomancy though he is also a sound engineer who’d recently relocated to Sweden to work at the venerable Necromorbus Studios (see: the latest Malokarpatan record). A solo project concieved for the purpose of empowering the ideological thinker, much of ‘We Who Light the Fire’ speaks to the listener as Bathory would at his most spiritual, less focused on destruction and horror for the sake of building psychic kinship with those who would go their own way in life. The effect is a musician pushing their own limits, and M.S. does achieve an ambitious and hard to define sound as a result. First wave black metal, viking metal, epic heavy metal, and speed metal all take their turns inspiring the unique melodic language of Flamekeeper.
At the most fiery peak of this EP “Until This Earth Takes Me” and the title track serve as the most inspiring works on the record, although that might be my own early folk metal and epic heavy metal fandom shining through. The Necromantia cover that caps things off (“Ancient Pride”) is inspired and its inventive spin on the song helps end things on a strong note. I see this as an implication of the greater vision of where the project could go, potentially serving as a bridge between epic heavy metal and Mediterranean black metal but personalized with a vision on the scale of post-’90 Quorthon, and going wherever he would want. A great first impression, particularly strong compositions, and a redeeming message.
|Title [Type/Year]||Jupiter [EP/2019]|
|Harbinger of Storms on Instagram||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Harbinger of Storms is a uniquely concieved and vigorously expressed epic doom metal project from Edinburgh, Scotland musician Shane Semler (see also: Shadowjack) under the umbrella of his DIY spot Dark Photon Studio. When dissolved down to metal’s skeletal substrate ‘Jupiter’ is wallop of Solitude Aeternus‘ glorious power-dread and a healthy swipe of The Lamp of Thoth (alternately, Space God Ritual) for Semler‘s dramatic and often over-the-top vocal inflections. He isn’t goofing around with Lovecraftian cartoons, though, instead pulling from mythology and the very human, very applicable follies of the ‘Gods’ to the hearts of men. The use of keyboard/synths, guitar effects, and slickly layered vocals distracts just enough from the programmed drums used on the recording that I’d hardly taken notice until I’d shift focus from the strong vocal movements and heavier guitars towards the stiffness of the cymbal patterns. It also deserves a mention that Semler is a visual artist with an illustrative 70’s sci-fi aesthetic to some of this work, I believe the cover of ‘Jupiter’ is his own work and I’d found it particularly cool. If you’re just looking to dip a toe or two: “Cealus” is just dripping with its cosmic mood and the punchier melodrama of “The Last Ballad” was equally engaging, I’d suggest giving both a fair try to start.
|Title [Type/Year]||Sentinel [EP/2019]|
|Testimony Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Having first discovered this British progressive death metal band during their more formative years I have a bit of a soft spot for the sake of the bigger picture, where the band have developed a distinct voice through adaptive tastes. Ultimately they’ve some great love for epic heavy metal, emotionally driven black metal, and perhaps most persistently some great interest in ‘old school’ progressive death metal textures. When I’d suggested that Horrified appeared to have “found themselves, their sound, and a pathway towards generally higher craft” on their third album ‘Allure of the Fallen’ (2017) when I’d picked ‘Sentinel’ as the #2 best release of January 2019 what I’d meant to imply is that this mini LP was that this was unexpected, it totally felt like a riff on what Horrendous had done with ‘Idol’ the year prior but maybe only on a superficial level because with a few more months under my belt I see the more pure elements of Horrified shining through. If anything, they sounded like this on ‘Of Despair’ (2016) and that’d been hard to remember since ‘Allure…’ was ambitious and more fresh in mind.
“The Pessimist” is conceptually rich, almost too much all at once upon a casual listen with it jogging NWOBHM-esque rhythms and melodic-but-progressive death metal guitar work. My brain wanted to hear Atheist but I was getting ‘North From Here’ and Anata at a more patient speed with some Cynic bubbling up beneath it and the compositions were somehow galloping forth within epic heavy metal structures. Sure, I sound nuts but like ‘Idol’ there is enough going on that I’d needed to focus before I could relax and feel the music. As I’d stated back in January, ‘Sentinel’ grew on me over time as my reaction evolved from “This is a bit off…” towards “This is exactly the right evolution.” As kitchen sink as the blender of their influences might seem, the gist is that they’ve aimed for something moving, grand, and personal pulled from their own tastes and experience within extreme music be it death, black, doom, or pure heavy metal. The thoughtful melancholy of the lyrics should indicate or, reinforce this intent well enough.
What appeared to be on the verge of falling apart solidifies more with time. ‘Sentinel’ has cured in my mind and enriched in response to what attention I’ve given it beyond the tension of its busy release date. It isn’t an album of huge riffs or big chunky death metal sound design and this ends up being the most endearing aspect of Horrified pushing beyond their points of origin. Consider it prog-metal for the ‘old school’ extreme metal introvert that avoids the machine-like trappings that progressive labels suggest, instead diving the heartstrings available to folks with broadest perspective on classic heavy music.
|Title [Type/Year]||Through Ruin… Behold [LP/2019]|
|Ván Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Every element of this debut full-length from Belgium based quintet Kosmokrator is immaculate at a glance. Well, either that or I am impossibly twisted around the left hand path that this sort of apocalyptic summoning persists with but it is exactly the type of black metal that 2019 was crammed with from start to finish. From the intense Timo Ketola artwork on the gatefold to the blurry omniscient furor of its interior rhythms ‘Through Ruin… Behold’ carries a meticulously achieved sense of ardor, a brutal and dissonant black/death metal record forging an unsure path forward through indeterminate amounts of modern black metal unorthodoxy and sinister atmospheric death metal plunges. Fans of early Bölzer will appreciate these qualities almost immediately though Kosmokrator skew towards a sound that is more experimental and often recalls the darker side of Blut Aus Nord in the process. What I’d appreciated most about this album was that it still keeps me guessing without frantically vying for my attention, that is to say that it isn’t specifically memorable but atmospheric breaks, vocal experiments, plenty of gutsy swerves outside of the ‘avant’-black safety zone of jangling riffs and dissonance all make for an album that fits the theme of destruction and awe nicely.
|Title [Type/Year]||Acedia [LP/2019]|
|Dunk! Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Believe it or not I’d missed yet another Belgium based band and of course, a very good atmospheric sludge/post-metal act who manage something vibrant and at times disturbing for its juxtapositions. The first song (“Fatigue”) wastes no time showcasing the screaming freakout of the vocalist atop an otherwise very peaceful intro. It is a good three and a half minutes before the dam breaks and the big rhythms come in, here the album shows it isn’t some kind of post-hardcore version of Minsk but instead… No wait, that might be the best way to describe Lethvm now that I think about it. Definitely think of post-hardcore, the screaming cathartic over the top modern vision of it applied to the dramatic warp of a band like Isis or the many others they’d influence these last couple of decades. The screaming vocalist is quite incessant and unwavering so I’d start to feel like I needed a break from him after just two songs, it isn’t quite my style but I never skipped over a track or wigged out over it. The emotion conveyed is successful enough, I think “Schisme” is my favorite example of everything coming to great effect. Post-metal is increasingly not my thing these days, I tend to lean towards the late 90’s and early 2000’s style of atmospheric sludge that is either more aggressive or avant-garde so ‘Acedia’ wasn’t particularly for me, but also not bad at all.
|Title [Type/Year]||Lot Lizard [LP/2019]|
|Lot Lizard on Instagram||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Buzzing in like a late 80’s garage rock band too ready for grunge to hit, this lounging n’ gas huffing Sioux Falls, South Dakota based quartet really hit with a wave that never quite slaps back. The effect of Lot Lizard‘s debut is much like your average mild opiate, you might be energized by the initial high a bit to start but the heavy blinking turns to a cocked head and daydreams that turn to eye-rolling into the back of the head. And hey, I don’t mean to suggest they put me to sleep just that they take it easy past a certain point. Heady but with enough of a beat to keep me from slumping over in my chair or reaching for an edible.
The intro of “Judas” is energizing, sort of Mission of Burma-esque for a minute before its ‘The Great Annihilator’-era Swans groove (minus any industrial chunks) takes hold. The stoned vocals get the message across well enough until “Evelyn” where it just does not work at all, sounding like Trevor Moore imitating a stoner while doing a Sonic Youth style strung-out ballad. I mean, it is a memorable moment just didn’t feel ‘real’ whereas the rest of the vocal performances are pretty much ‘on’ in the right way. I doubt most folks are exactly as finicky as I am and it does convey something. It is a weird way to end Side A but flipping over to “Ice” brings back that ’82 post-punk vibe smartly — I was all for this vibe carrying through to the end. In fact “Wired” and “CJ” helped make Side B my preference if I had to pick. If grungy, garage psych’d and old-timey post-punk at a codeine pace sounds great absolutely grab this. I came back to ‘Lot Lizard’ countless times just to bask in the eyes-half-shut ache of it, and I only skipped one song!
|Title [Type/Year]||Universal Death Church [LP/2019]|
|Profound Lore Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Where was I last November? Certainly not under a rock but somewhere between joyous and miserable while drowning in some of the absolute best music of 2019, trying to keep up while uh, living. So, where was ‘Universal Death Church’ on my best of November list, and my best of 2019 list? I could actually argue I am still trying to find an angle into Lord Mantis‘ return that’d be interesting to read, though it is unquestionably one of the best sludge-adjacent records of 2019. Their original drummer’s suicide (also of Indian) had basically put an end to the band by 2017 so coming back to the group’s sound meant re-opening a bit of a wound. Not that I knew the guy, it just felt like a fatal, tragic but clear end for Lord Mantis.
Hell, I think ‘Universal Death Church’ is one of Lord Mantis‘ best albums as it delivers on a sort of amplified Today is the Day sort of ‘all is one’ vision with a boost to extreme metal filthiness and modern sludge rawness. You can see all hands on deck for the pieces here compared to ‘Death Mask’ (2016) which’d been a record of solitary thought, dominated by how brutally personal it was. “Low Entropy Narcosis” leading into “Damocles Falls” played a huge part in finding an ‘in’ for the full listen, a couple of big moments to warm me up to what they were doing. The vocals in particular are just sinister and inhumane throughout, now -that- is the forward thinking freakery I’d missed about the band. Definitely one of those records that reminds me of buying my first Eyehategod album and completely dying inside along with an artist for the first time. Also the Venien album art is fantastic, very unique work outside of the usual ‘of the moment’ trends many popular extreme bands employ.
|Title [Type/Year]||Veniamo Dal Cielo [LP/2019]|
|ATMF||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Italian black metal act Nova might have steadily improved with each full-length thus far but that isn’t to say that they started in a low place. Having spent about a decade honing thier sound before ever releasing anything, the Veneto quartet produce a highly professional and dryly stoic paganistic form of semi-melodic black metal that exudes grandeur and violence. As they roll through ‘Veniamo Dal Cielo’ there are no obstructions, the way forward is entirely sung in Italian but the gist of it is easy enough to hear: They are aiming for the thoughtful warrior, the thinker when he decides the time is right and their influences become clear when the listener begins to realize just how broad the worldview is despite the totality of Nova‘s music feeling strictly Italian. Enriching pagan metal tirades, restless riffing, and some folkish asides intensify their sense of ‘self’. This effect is best felt during the most melodic moments, such as the Nokturnal Mortum-esque “In Lotta Elevata”.
Because of the proper black metal attack and idea-rich soul of ‘Veniamo Dal Cielo’ it felt like a full hour despite its brief ~35 minute length. Although it is difficult to plainly compare Nova to any certain black metal project I do think fans of Nagelfar (Germany), Grand Belial’s Key, and Janvs will understand the sway of ‘Veniamo Dal Cielo’ immediately. With that said, the warriors spirit only goes so far and the use of ‘fade out’ to end songs often feels like they rushed to finish a thought rather than give the song its due voice; This is only really glaring on “Fregata Covadonga”, a song begging for a refrain, reprise, or transitional moment that’d not apply such a roadblock for the mid-point of the album. I do still consider this one of the best albums of December 2019 although they’ve not found a sound that feels truly distinct, just basically a ways above par for this style.
|Title [Type/Year]||Abrahamic Godhead Besieged by Adversarial Usurpation [LP/2019]|
|Hell’s Headbangers Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The anti-spiritual counterpart to Neckbeard Deathcamp… Kidding, sorta. Harsh noise-blasted, industrialized, and cyber-fucked anti-monotheistic war metallers Nyogthaeblisz take absolutely no prisoners and retain no kinship with mankind on their official debut full-length ‘Abrahamic Godhead Besieged by Adversarial Usurpation’. You might think you’re getting some anti-Christian Inquisition style black metal at a glance but this is absolute chaos and war from the Satanist cult responsible for Hellvetron, Nexul and a former member of Black Witchery. Through and very detailed imagery, particularly their promo photos, leave no question as to what you’re experiencing or I guess what I mean is that Nyogthaeblisz aren’t coy at all, they’re destructive and expressing absolute hatred and defiance of societal norms and all culture surrounding Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. I don’t really care about the content in terms of ideology, this is stylized war metal and it’d just as well have lyrics detailing a priest eating shit from a nun’s ass in the liner notes and I’d never know… What matters is what they’ve done to make this blasting and weirdly inhuman grind into something listenable and repeatable.
That is a drum machine, right? A few layers of programmed percussion are buried by harsh noise, guttural hurling, and deeper layers of sprawling war-corrupted guitar techniques. When cranked up loud enough you’ll basically have to go deaf to hear the detail of the guitar work but, it is there, and some of the flourishes are actually fairly ‘modern’ and dissonant for this type of band. This type of music can be fairly placed within the realm of superficial reality, and I don’t mean that as an insult but that the message is plain as possible and the music is intentionally blurred — Destroyed to the point of painful, thrilling obscurity. The result speaks to the elitist on a base level, enthuses the insurgent basally, and either delights the lover of extremist energy or reinforces whatever ideology bristles them on a daily basis.
This level of whirling daemonic energy, hatred, and violent instrumentation speaks to me as pure nihilism without caveat or backpedaling. Does it make for good and repeatable music? Yes, but I think the novelty and thrill of it winds down around the tenth or so listen. If you’re just as prone to listen to early Mysticum as you are Sect Pig but wish your Satanic anti-human beliefs were better represented, this is the album for you. It has its moments for my taste, and for all of the harsh noise and inorganic elements deployed I found ‘Abrahamic Godhead Besieged by Adversarial Usurpation’ highly repeatable.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Hour of the Avenger [LP/2019]|
|War Anthem Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
German death metal machine Revel in Flesh have evolved to such strength over the last decade that they’d begun to stand out from the crowd at least by their third album ‘Death Kult Legions’ (2014) finding their own voice by cranking the melodic death metal soul of their Dismember-esque Swedish death metal sound. ‘The Hour of the Avenger’ is probably the quintets most successfully and consistently melodic record, occasionally reaching a feverish Necrophobic worthy level of elegance within their HM-2 crisped dramatics. I have the utmost respect for the quality control this band approaches each work with, I will say that their first three albums were good but they’ve put an extra years thought into these last two and it really shows. The true metal power behind songs like “The Nihilistic Nothingness” might appear to be a simple ‘Massive Killing Capacity’ style hell-raiser but I’ll be damned if the songwriting doesn’t hit harder than any other Sunlight Studios worshiping death metal band I’ve heard in the last few years.
“Sky Burial” pushes the limits beyond, though, kicking off with a gorgeous melodic death/doom attuned sound and flooring me enough to consider the album one of the absolute best records of December 2019 and well, up there in the top 100 of the year as well. Loving this album but not having the time to review it in full during the release month was a very important lesson for me personally, I’d missed a chance to fully express what an achievement this fifth record was for Revel in Flesh and all of 2020 has been designed so that every album will have an equal chance to feature. More importantly, this is the best Revel in Flesh album in terms of both songwriting and sound design, the band’s whole discography has been mastered (and generally mixed) by Dan Swanö and his rendering of their music has evolved along with their melodic lean to great effect. There is the feeling that a lot of classically attuned Swedish death metal influenced bands tend to sound like remasters of old mediocre bands but this is not the case with Revel in Flesh, who sound modern and freshly shorn but greatly considered, as ornate as the classics without sounding fussy or too focused on one idea.
Although I have received plenty of shit in the last two years for ragging on ‘cheap’ throwback bands that rely on the cranked HM-2 sound to get their asses in the hands of indiscriminate fandom, I do love the sound beyond plain nostalgia. ‘The Hour of the Avenger’ is the exact right way to use that sound to create power and extremity within a well-written record, it adds to the dynamic brilliantly and ends up sounding better than even some of the bigger bands in the style like Entrails or Demonical. Where this really hits comes with the Bolt Thrower-meets-Gorement “The Nightbreed”, where the distortion creates an infinite hall of sustain for the doom of the rhythm guitar hits, acting to elevate the lead runs. This is a point of finesse and restraint, not impossible without that giant guitar sound but using it with great reason and intent. Brilliant song and a good example of how Revel in Flesh are truly at their best on this fine record.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Brink [LP/2019]|
|Blues Funeral Recordings||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
New Jersey stoner metal lifers Solace have emerged from whatever depths they’d sunken into for the last decade and awakened with their strongest material yet, classic enough to deal with the harsh, broken reality of today. Active in some form since the early 90’s Solace are among the myriad stoner metal groups that’d cropped into view as groups like Kyuss and Cathedral began to see bigger support (er, imitation) beyond ’96 or so as Ozzfest and other fuckery drew in a new generation of Black Sabbath exposed fans. I only know of this band due to my Cathedral fandom as this is one of the first bands folks’ll recommend if you’re into the post-’94 stuff from them though the earlier stuff from Solace was more stoner rock (see: 90’s Trouble) in feeling. At first ‘The Brink’ felt like a return to the ’13’ (2003) era of the band I was most familiar with but this record is little bit longer, much more serious, and darker in general. I’m a fan but without any really moving nostalgia for this bands past behind some general admiration and recognizing their name.
As that first song fires up you’re going to hear a 70’s metal bumped 90’s stoner metal feeling catharsis as impassioned and strong as that last Magic Circle album and in a very similar style. Keyboards are an important element for this album’s greater swing, it might seem superfluous to start but without that embellishment the record would seem somewhat plain when cranked at higher volumes. The keyboardist is also Solace‘s new vocalist (since 2015-ish) Justin Goins, who fits the band remarkably well and obviously brings a lot to their sound. Are all of the lyrics golden? Nah, some are kinda goofy at a glance but for the most part ‘The Brink’ has a soul and all of the things I personally love about stoner rock/metal when it meets doom metal halfway. The album is a bit long for my taste but they mix it up often enough to keep Solace‘s return among the better records of late 2019.
|Title [Type/Year]||Archaic Towers of Annihilation [LP/2019]|
|Raw Skull Recordz||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Arizona ‘old school’ death metal band Skullcrush had me talking about Bolt Thrower styled bands and some early records from Vital Remains and Krabathor when I first hear them but by the time I’d spent a few months with their debut, ‘Archaic Towers of Annihilation’, it’d sink in that maybe I should have been looking towards more modern mosh-death stuff like Gatecreeper. This debut definitely balances elements of classic Swedish death metal’s punkish gallops and the more serious east coast United States death metal, ending up sounding like that first Hypocrisy album as much as it does Decaying or whomever else. I’m all for it, I love this brand of death metal just for the admiration of what they’re doing but ultimately I didn’t end up coming back to it much beyond December. As I’d said for my best of December spot, “I love their sound, that big guitar tone in particular, and the things they’re able to do with a mid-paced jog is already exciting enough but nothing about the songwriting on ‘Archaic Towers of Annihilation’ is particularly memorable” and that’d seem pretty damning but hell, I’d say the same about a plenty of 90’s classics too, it only matters when you’re assessing the value of a record in the long term. I know I won’t make the time to pick this one up over and over but when it did by chance flick on, it ruled.
|Title [Type/Year]||Death Veneration [EP/2019]|
|W.T.C. Productions||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
‘Death Veneration’ is an EP of extra pieces from the ‘Unbound’ (2018) sessions that has whipped out due to impatience with two planned split releases that’d not yet come to unlight. When spinning through these four songs it is clear why they didn’t exactly fit the flow and tonality of ‘Unbound’ (one of the best albums of 2018) not only for the listless shoegaze of “To Feast on Astral Blood” but also one very orthodox ripper of a song (“Lunar Curse”) written two decades ago when Sargeist was a solo project. Without this context the modus and power of this remarkable and influential Finnish black metal band comes across in flawless form. For some clearer context in Shatraug‘s own words you can read an interview on Bardo Methodology.
As with recent Horna releases it becomes clear that the guitarist/songwriter is increasingly concerned with, or reveling in, the details of melodic construction and building depth within a style of black metal many folks fairly credit him with. The title track and its circle back towards opener “To Make Wolves of Men” might simply illustrate where Sargeist was compositionally back in 2018 but broadens the depth of that emotive aspect of melodic intent, something less austere and rueful at face value. The halfway mark of the opening track does change that feeling for a moment but it speaks to the level of intuitive craft in hand. I’d have made time for this back in December if I’d noticed it’s surprise release on the 24th, but I wasn’t aware until the February release of the vinyl edition. If a repress of ‘Unbound’ is ever necessary, I’d say this EP should be included since I think all but the devout might’ve missed it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Repugnant Remains [EP/2019]|
|Burning Coffin Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Suppression kills! ‘Repugnant Remains’ is the first official EP from this Chilean death metal band formed between members/ex-members of Ripper, Putrid Yell, and (for this record) ex-Coffin Curse/Innana. — Some of the best bands from the country’s pure death metal underground, who’d formed the band back in 2012 and put out a demo but Suppression would be a side-project until recently. This comes hot off the back of Ripper‘s ‘Sensory Stagnation’, arguably some of their best work, featuring longtime (now ex-bassist) Pablo Cortés whose old school prog-death bass tone is all over this brutal tape as well. I love this EP and would have placed this high on my best of 2019 if I’d had it in hand back then.
A few obscure greats come to mind while listening to this tape, the first is Mass Psychosis (aka Psychosis) and their ‘Face’ record for the classic raw death metal sound with some technical ability, but I’d also point towards the blasting on this record which reminds me of early Sadism, Torturer, or maybe even the first Mortem (Peru) album. Of course you can point more directly to stuff like Pestilence, Sadistic Intent, and Sadus for certain aspects of Suppression‘s sound but this doesn’t clarify just how much the bass tone really pulls things into a brutal spot in between ‘old school’ rawness and progressive death/thrash brilliance. Maybe think of that Massacre demo tape (‘The Second Coming‘) they threw away back in 1990.
Every time that title track kicks in it feels like a rotten seizure in my brain finally erupting from my nose, years of fungus and gore spewing all over the place. For my taste this is one of the best bands I’ve heard in the last few years, an amazing tape that I want more of, and probably my highest recommendation from this list of 2019 records I’d missed out on reviewing late in the year. Very high recommendation in general.
|Title [Type/Year]||Enraged & Unbound [LP/2019]|
|Willowtip Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Although I am not the biggest fan of the deathcore and mosh metal basis for a lot of their riffing it was hard not to admire some of the inventive patterns and technical aspects of Unfathomable Ruination‘s third full-length ‘Enraged & Unbound’. Knowing some of these musicians past works in what were frankly pretty mediocre brutal death metal bands I wasn’t that excited about the announcement of this record. After revisiting ‘Finitude’ (2016) and giving this album another chance I understood the appeal of their sound, excessive but honed and characterized by a strong amount of variety.
Taken as a brutal death metal record it hits upon some of the same satisfaction I’d get from later Exmortem or the technical side of Defeated Sanity but stretches beyond that towards the stymied pacing of later Spawn of Possession, and maybe even some Decapitated, where odd time signatures applied to groove metal became an important movement for technical bands (see: Aborted) seeking a path toward bigger things; That is where my mind goes anyhow, I’m sure I’m a few generations behind on this stuff or missing the context of popular deathcore along the way. Either way, I can plainly see what is impressive about this British brutal/tech death band despite not being all that invested in their all-in style and I’d felt like this was a record not enough people were talking about in November of last year.
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