…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 29th through March 6th, 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]||Tellurian Slaked Furnace [LP/2020]|
|Nuclear War Now! Productions||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Although the archivist in me would’ve wanted the demo era of Lurker of Chalice untouched and compiled, the ‘L.O.C.‘ (2001) and ‘Lurker of Chalice‘ (2002) CD-Rs would’ve reached nearly three hours in total if left to their own devices. Instead, ‘Tellurian Slaked Furnace’ re-imagines a hand-picked and primed selection of old experiments and resuscitates what’d been left on the cutting room floor. Whether or not you’d consider this streamlining “cutting the fat” or not, this compilation does appear intentional in its tonally related pieces, all tangents on a similar trip. Upon hearing the self-titled debut from Lurker of Chalice a handful of years post-release and having access to the second demo, it came as some surprise that these pieces were fundamentally different in execution as largely instrumental and non-‘metal’ vignettes. There are a few different ways I’d looked at this disparity back in the day — The first suggestion was that the artist had been holding onto their best and most effective ideas for the debut record, back when bedroom artists had the luxury of restraint. This thought always circled back around toward the idea that releasing a demo of unused ideas would at least attract a record label that’d get the vibe first and foremost. The second thought, and not a particularly deep one, is that those demos were an honest and whole hog rendering of the conceptual work that’d lead to ‘Lurker of Chalice’, expressing a bleak and industrialized horror, stark and dangerous in feeling but warm and resounding in motion.
‘Tellurian Slaked Furnace’ pulls away from the ‘Streetcleaner’ crunchiness, Hitler speeches, and even the wrenching cold of ‘Lurker of Chalice’ that most folks remember towards a thread of sentient dark ambient travels unrestrained by sub-genre intent and most certainly not ‘metal’. Without the screeching feedback and gloom-drowned concrete Hell of the demos emphasized, this collection begins to read increasingly adaptive and eclectic as bits of 80’s Killing Joke, some ‘Souls At Zero’-era dread, maybe even a bit of ‘Loveless’ unless I’ve lost my mind, and a healthy post-metal lean that won’t feel as cheap or alien as that tag would apply beyond 2004. These disparate parts coalescing into a tape of blurry beats, hard growling ambiance, and plenty of somber guitar work hardly add up to black metal but all elemental conjurations speak the same idiosyncratic language, concentrating broad interests into fairly detailed works. The most objective stance I can manage, anything less than a gut feeling, won’t provide more insight than the sense that these songs were (again) a part of the process, building blocks for conceptualizing an atmosphere were Lurker of Chalice could breathe. With that said the only song here that could even be considered a leftover or cut take from the debut’s sessions might be “II”, and I’m only a little surprised that a few more cuts from the demo in this style didn’t end up hitting the bar.
I’ve taken this record in with the context of most of these pieces being written and recorded in 2001-2002 era of the project when the self-titled debut was created. Set back in that old space, and knowing ‘back then’ just as well as today’s reality, it is probably “IV” that speaks to me most. Sure, it is as post-rock as the album gets but also regenerates the sound of the suburban slum, of blight and those prone to seeing red. Doors rattling shut with chains, howling dogs, and the scraping whip of existential dread as it encases the overheated summertime mind as it is lit by the crooked headlights of fate. I don’t know the depth of post-processing applied or if the differences between the original CD-R renders is cleaner by virtue of all the poorly encoded rips from the early 2000’s that I’d heard over the years, but this vinyl master sounds leagues deeper and richer; It feels like a remaster, a recollection, almost a refinement of vision from the grave where 20/20 hindsight is only meaningful because the artist is still compelling and, not weirdly exploitative of his legacy recordings.
Although I found ‘Tellurian Slaked Furnace’ interesting, I’m not sure how or to whom I’d recommend it. Context is only thrilling to a certain kind of person, beyond a follower I guess, and this render is far too slick and smart to be considered merely archival. The greater and lasting value will generate within those who have long thirsted for more Lurker of Chalice and I think most will be at least mildly surprised at the broader lexicon of the artist as these vibes and tangential pieces reach far beyond black metal. Approach with patience and understanding for best results.
|Title [Type/Year]||Purist [LP/2020]|
|Purity Through Fire||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
With increasing hordes of mid-90’s influenced (well, mildly symphonic at least) atmospheric black metal records coming from Finland and the United States these days I’m reminded more and more of why the trendiness of the original movement died out so quickly in the underground, where it’d often boil down to the keyboards/synth serving the music very little purpose and the cheese of it all becoming insufferable. We’re not there yet but I’m not sure what makes Jyväskylä, Finland based black metal solo project To Conceal the Horns particularly special or, above average. Extended and slow-growing pieces often stretch towards the 8-9 minute mark within the first half of ‘Purist’ allowing for a very close look at the production values and overall breadth of Agitathur Vexd‘s (Ghost Brigade, ex-Alghazanth) vision for his band. The elaborate vision is there and some of the rhythms are inventive in their somewhat aggressive, long-winded atmospheric verve but much of the effect is that of a hanging ghost; The first time you see its ethereal poignancy, it chills you but by the fifth time the apparition’s corpse is merely dressing for a non-threatening scene. There are some sharp riffs here but when the speed kicks up, so do the programmed sounding bass-blown double bass drums which muddle an otherwise successfully atmospheric record. “Death Horizon” is the song I’d recommend in preview, easily some of the tightest song-craft and guitar work overall.
|Title [Type/Year]||Expound and Exhort [LP/2020]|
|Hammerheart Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The 1991 debut full-length from short lived cult death metal band Viogression wouldn’t have gained its legendarily known (but often blandly summarized) station in death metal history if not for the sloppy-but-ambitious production job from Eric Grief, who’d begun working with fresh young death metal bands (Morbid Saint, Morta Skuld, Accidental Suicide, Transmetal, etc.) through Milwaukee Metalfest around 1989 amidst his time as manager for Death‘s prime years (‘Leprosy’ through ‘Human’) back in the day. With the exception of Transmetal‘s hairy ‘Zona Muerta’, I can’t think of a record that Grief touched from this era that needed remastering as badly as ‘Expound and Exhort’ did and thankfully Hammerheart Records saw the lasting value in preserving underappreciated classic death metal record.
Sluggish, doomed, and snarling loud Viogression were always a band that most folks would take a cursory listen to and soon write off as a take on ‘Cause of Death’-era Obituary. To some degree this was fair enough due to the Brian DeNeffe‘s vocal style and inflections matching those of John Tardy closely. None of this comparison ever matched up for me when it was time to take a closer look at the riffs, which were clearly more influenced by locals and the first couple of Death records. Beyond the riffs, raw production sound, and the use of interludes (by way of some hilarious audio samples) the general swing of ‘Expound and Exhort’ is demo-level formulation with a fairly thin but downtuned thrash metal production sound, and some pronounced ebbs towards death/doom metal style. Although I tend to listen to ‘Passage’ more often these days both Viogression albums rip.
Hammerheart always do great justice to reissues and this one is no exception including a second disc including the first two demo tapes (‘Perception Blur‘, 1990) and (‘Execution‘, 1990) in addition to the first disc, a remaster of the full-length. In most cases both of the demos included sound amazing and it’ll come as a nice surprise to find that the ‘Perception Blur’ demo features the band’s early extreme thrash metal sound akin to Dark Angel or Slayer in terms of riffs and vocals. The clarity and power of those demos is worth the purchase price alone and in some sense the actual remaster of ‘Expound and Exhort’ might sound too clean, exposed of its modest budget and the grotesque presence of Midwest United States death metal. This remaster is essential for fans of ‘old school’ death metal especially if you’ve lost sight of the fun and the fury of this type of band, something you’ll never see recreated in ‘retro’ death metal bands today out of sheer self-conscious ideals. If you loved this and are making a list of unloved and lost Midwest death records to try out add Blessed Sickness ‘Massacre the Holy‘, and Haruspex ‘Modify’ as well. Here’s hoping it might be worth it to give similar treatment to Viogression‘s ‘Passages’, which was slightly more death/doom in nature but also one of the most botched (but successfully atmospheric) production jobs I can think of.
|Title [Type/Year]||Y [LP/2020]|
|Les Acteurs De L’Ombre||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Borgne is the long running Swiss ‘industrial’ black metal project of Bornyhake (Sergio Da Silva) who is best known for his black metal project Pure as well as stints in Kawir and Oculus. The last two records from the project have featured keyboardist Lady Kaos and I’d say ‘Y’ appears to feature more of her input compared to the last, if any. Is it possible to get me excited about a black metal album with very loud programmed drums? Not since the mid-2000’s, so much of ‘Y’ was difficult to attach to beyond some of its grand keyboard swells. As often as I try to find the positive angle on every release and work from there, much of the redeeming ideas that help Borgne to stand out do not appeal to me; Bits of electronic music and ethereal breaks are often made to feel clunky due to the programmed drums bringing muddiness and distortion to the atmosphere of the record. Not for me, but I know there are legions of folks who’d love this mixture of heavy symphonic metal elements and the grimy ‘industrial’ feeling of the record.
|Title [Type/Year]||Nightmares of Our Own Design [EP/2020]|
|Svengahli on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
This progressive death metal band comes from Exist bassist Alex Weber who has enlisted members/ex-members of WAIT and Syharbor for this debut EP. The nearly ten minute opener “Writing on the Wall” packs in an ambitious level of composition, leaning towards later Cynic to help push through the middle portion of the song. Though there is the same sense of movement and staggered pacing you’ll find in a jazz fusion’d band like Exivious most of ‘Nightmares of Our Own Design’ leans into its own lounging roar. I am admittedly not the biggest modern progressive death metal aficionado as the new breed often leans into tired shit like djent but Svengahli create an atmosphere that never allows anything exactly that obtuse to muss its flowing nature. “Nightmares Of Our Own Design I: Echoes Of Prejudice” manages to be prophetic, opulent and ominous enough that I’d end up returning to this EP a handful of times just to sit in the biomathematical spiral of its opening. The balance of modern progressive metal ideals and classic progressive death metal’s evolution is impressive in the moment throughout ‘Nightmares of Our Own Design’ though I’m curious to see if the ratio of great to merely standard movements might improve on a full-length, making small cuts (such as the “Adrift” portion of the titular suite) could tighten the impact of a focused listen.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Third Perspective [LP/2020]|
|Selfmadegod Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based progressive/avant-garde metal band Azure Emote appeared to have been a one-off idea dump for (then) Vile and (still) Monstrosity vocalist Mike Hrubovcak who’d gotten his start in Rumpelstiltskin Grinder back in the early 2000’s. The project returned in 2013 with an even bigger, more ambitious and somehow even less cohesive album in between big albums from their member’s other bands (Fear Factory, Malignancy, Total Fucking Destruction, Hypoxia, etc.) it’d been a selection of ideas that were free from any mortality. Sure there was still the sense that these were songs that’d spiked out of left field while writing for other outlets but what Azure Emote would continue to define itself more clearly with each release. On ‘The Third Perspective’ a blend of progressive extreme metal with its imperial bouts of shred and cosmically charged keyboard/synth finds more definition than the average listener will immediately see. It’ll take a few listens to align the mystic keyboard/synth work, the dual guitar solos, the general rip of the drumming before making a whole of their parts.
Consider how broadly deviant a band like Nocturnus were on their first two albums and then apply that bravado to the outrageous clip of early 2000’s black/death metal brutality. The Monolith Deathcult, Ex Deo and maybe even a flit of Necronomicon (Canada) could apply here but none necessarily imply the full ‘progressive’ range employed by Azure Emote. I found it puzzling and awkward to start but warmed to the bigger picture on the third listen. The lasting appeal of a record such as this generally lies in just how quickly the deeper layers reveal themselves and then the focus turns towards the textural aspects of the music and how they hold up. With this mindset it is the keyboard/synth orchestrations that glue together the layers of depth and the lasting interest; “Curse of Life” is a good example of a song that appears very ‘kitchen sink’ until it is seen within the context of the whole and admired for the amount of detail set within. It surely isn’t the sort of thing everyone would find depth but, it is there nonetheless.
|Title [Type/Year]||Medium [EP/2020]|
|Transcending Obscurity Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Having seen a lot of hype for this Argentina based band’s debut EP I figured Medium would’ve gone a bit further with their sound, an amalgam of Tragedy/Martyrdöd styled modern crust variations with some of the same melodic guitar techniques employed. This is certainly nothing new but the number of bands doing it has waned in the last five years after some oversaturation. Of course I have no problem with the style here, I really enjoy it, but the idea that this is grindcore or all that extreme simply because they’ve used an HM-2 pedal and thrown in a few growls doesn’t add up to my ears. Otherwise yes, the melodic hardcore applications of neocrust work quite well here and most of ‘Medium’ is solid and well-polished metalpunk. Very straightforward and powerful stuff, I’d say anything longer than 20 minutes would have been overkill.
|Title [Type/Year]||Obsidian [LP/2020]|
|Unique Leader Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Firing up a record like ‘Obsidian’ offers a bit of an existential crisis in the sense that it’d feel completely unfair to not allow due process for a specific hybridized style of music that I’ve never found any major value in. Although I enjoy technical death metal quite a bit the inclusion of deathcore has always felt like a way of enhancing the ‘gimmick’ aspect of technical metal with dunder-headed chug riffs and generations evolved melodic metalcore — Basically the stuff I’d hated as a petulant teenager. Well, who gives a shit, right? This stuff is massively popular for its pairing of spectacular angst and technique. I’ve seen plenty of this ‘current’ sort of band (opening for big names) live to realize the crowd often goes doubly nuts for the melo-core side of technical death than they do the legacy artist. Viscera are yet to be tested in this sense, a fairly new band formed with former Sylosis and Heart of a Coward vocalist Jamie Graham up front. His melodic deathcore ranged vocals take equal stage with their tech-death influenced proggy deathcore style and most of it appears fairly standard to my suddenly old-feeling ears.
When ‘Obsidian’ does to fire on all cylinders and whip out an impressive technical feat it comes too eagerly. It’d seem that each composition intends to pull the listener in with flair and the hope that they’ll stick around for the ‘just ok’ melodic parts. It does work early on, but as the melodic lexicon of the songwriters quickly falls into redundancies so drops the level of distinction between songs. If not for healthy use of keyboard/synth adornment and some djent-influenced mosh riffs much of Viscera‘s debut would plainly mush together. For every impressive hyper-sped technical moment or fun keyboard riff there exists always an equal and opposite reaction that’d tend to drop me out of it or too quickly ease on the extreme intensity of the moment. What is generally missing is the ‘heart’ of their proposed influences, those late 90’s and 2000’s popular metal innovators who distinguished themselves with sounds that are now all too emulated and commonplace. I’d actually suggest this band are better at their deathcore whips than they are at the melodic/technical sidebars throughout, for all of the vocal range displayed none of it really lands as well as the plain hardcore roaring and some of the guttural parts (see: “Immersed in Ire” verses).
With all of that talent, technique, range, and professional render in hand much of ‘Obsidian’ feels attuned towards writing catchier music than Viscera manage. The skittering blast of their technical death/melodic deathcore hits are going to fit the bill and open the pit but it’ll take some better focus on hooks and captivating textures to leave a lasting impression, for my own tastes at least. Compared with the numerous deathcore related records I zip through on a regular basis, this is obviously above average and with a high-level execution so at the very least don’t let your takeaway be that this is average or amateur stuff.
|Title [Type/Year]||Martyrs of the Storm [LP/2020]|
|ViciSolum Productions||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp|
A nearly five full year journey within Duat, this third full-length from Egyptian death metal band Scarab enlists the help of eight other worlds within the twelve regions of the underworld to attain its realization. ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ is colloquially interesting just in the sense that it represents a third generation of Egyptology themed death metal influenced by ancient North American fixations in the mid-to-late 90’s and popularized in the early 2000’s. In simpler terms, an Egyptian band influenced by Egyptology influenced United States death metal bands. Not to give all credit to Nile for taking the ancient inspirations of Morbid Angel and creating their own world from it but, you’ll not only hear those old ways throughout Scarab‘s discography but Karl Sanders features as one of several guest musicians included on this album (see: “Kingdoms of Chaos”.)
What Scarab do with certain scales and the post-‘Gateways to Annihilation’ world of death metal translates among similarly themed bands (Crescent, Maat, Akhenaten, Necronomicon) but they’ve generally eased up on the symphonic/keyboard focus that many bands of this influence tend to evolve towards. The major difference between this album and 2015’s ‘Serpents of the Nile’ comes with songs that are generally half the length, which ends up making a huge difference for the listening experience. Whereas the 7-9 minute songs of the previous album would over-extend the sound design of the full listen this time around the mid-range wealthy crunch of ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ feels less compressed and oppressive this time around. The main highlight beyond more succinct songwriting comes with guest guitar solos from members of Psycroptic, Temple of Baal, Formicarius, Aeternam, The Contradiction, alongside some former members who appear as session musicians. Despite these inclusions it isn’t a particularly technical or ‘shred’ heavy record, and none of the guest appearances offer great distinction from one another unless carefully listened for, with the exception of Sanders‘ solo.
The detailed storyline of this album, as in the development of it since 2016, ends up enhancing the feeling that the record is itself a journey towards some level of self-improvement and higher achievement for the band. Beyond this feeling I’d actually find Scarab‘s third album unsurprising having heard every variation on what Nile and Behemoth were doing in the early 2000’s for the last two decades I’m not sure the rhythm guitar work stands out and the fretless bass work on the album is somewhat buried in the mix, missing out on some much needed distinguishing characteristic. A good album but perhaps nothing that most death metal fans haven’t heard many times over.
|Title [Type/Year]||Choirs of the Fallen [LP/2020]|
|Soulseller Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The general mania for the post-millennium respawning of post-‘Left Hand Path’ death metal bands out of Sweden’s first wave of buzzsaw death has had diminishing returns for a couple of decades now. With the average punk and doom influenced HM-2 driven death metal album now down to a science for even the most amateur band, it pains me to sit through a record from an old name and see them pushing out something just as standard as any imitation. To be fair Wombbath weren’t meant to generate any certain level of mania, they’d release a promising demo in ’92 followed by a very good EP that same year and then the ’93 debut ‘Internal Caustic Torments’ was just average, up to par and a good listen. It’d prove a bit late to the party for the fast moving Swedish scenes of the time — After they’d gone death n’ roll key members would call it quits to play in a melodic death metal band (In Thy Dreams) who were pretty decent in hindsight. ‘Choirs of the Fallen’ is the third record from the reformed version of the band that’d regenerated back in 2014.
When spinning through Wombbath‘s discography the first album and the second album do translate somewhat as related pieces, both are very straightforward though some of the more direct Carnage influence wouldn’t resurface in 2015 for ‘Downfall Rising’. A shift towards slightly more melody came with ‘The Great Desolation’ (2018) and ‘Choirs of the Fallen’ iterates on the changes heard on that third album, not overthinking the approach and add some more variation in pacing as the album progresses. Though many will write of the album for its blunt and plain sound there are some successful attempts to modulate their ‘old school’ approach throughout that at least differentiate this record from the previous. “Void” is probably the most interesting song for my own taste, with its blasts and melodic death riffs phasing in and out. “Wings of Horror” likewise features some atmospheric parts that’d help prevent Side B from completely dragging on. I’m still far from jumping out of my seat for Wombbath at this point but this is probably the best of their comeback records thus far.
|Title [Type/Year]||Aphasia [LP/2020]|
|Electric Valley Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Minds shared between worlds and the listless, numb-faced strain of misunderstanding flow from Stonus, a desert rock influenced stoner band who’d formed in Nicosia, Cyprus years prior to relocating to London. ‘Aphasia’ marks the full-length debut of the band after having spent a few years finding their rhythms between their first two EPs. ‘Aphasia’ is appropriately spaced-out, mildly psychedelic and generally pushing enough air to cue the nostalgic listener into what’d been so refreshing about 90’s stoner rock when it started to really sing beyond the doldrums of doom and sleepy acid-soaked jam bands. Stonus could be loosely compared to a band like Stoned Jesus or I suppose the nearby world of Nightstalker but ‘Aphasia’ finds the and dropping out of consciousness more often than either, meandering off into the distance just long enough to build up the anticipation for their return (see: “Nadir”.) In this sense we’re at least not getting just another heavy blues record or a plain early Kyuss imitation, though both of those elements are fundamental to what Stonus do. The trip ‘Aphasia’ takes feels great, though you might not remember it with any lucidity. Very much an ‘in the moment’ kind of record.
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.
<strong>Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:</strong>
If you appreciate what you’ve read, please consider donating directly using PayPal.