A PILE OF BODIES part one of a yearlong feature in the form of a list devoted to grouping together requested reviews for recordings of interest that were released between January 1st – February 29th in the year 2020. These albums were volunteered by the bands directly with request for coverage/review. All releases are given equal time and consideration unless they demand more attention, some releases were excluded for crimes outside of already very forgiving taste! All releases are presented in a loose order of receipt. If you’d like to send an independent release for review: firstname.lastname@example.org please see FAQ for details on submitting releases.
|Title [Type/Year]||Confessions of the Damned [LP/2020]|
|Angel Grinder on Facebook||PREVIEW on Bandcamp!|
Conjured as a quartet unholy from a particularly inspired pocket of the Boston area death metal underground, the blasphemic riff-upon-riffs firing off throughout Angel Grinder‘s debut full-length ‘Confessions of the Damned’ give voice to the dead ways of thrashing death metal, of blasphemic curses and merciless brutality. A union between Nocuous guitarist Daniel Gordevich, Scaphism vocalist Eden Rayz, and Concilium drummer Joseph Goldwater, it’d be fair if none of this rang a bell in terms of personnel as these bands are generally independent but they represent some of the more spirited underground acts within Boston’s greater extreme metal reality, covering death/thrash, death metal, and even some doom and black metal if you throw in the additional work of guitarist Sam Willgoose (Coffin Birth, Lord Almighty). The gist of it is that Angel Grinder churn out a riff record with fine taste in ‘old school’ death and thrash metal, almost always pulling from a pre-’93 toolset while crafting dynamic and occasionally pretty technical whips of death/thrash riffs.
If I’m at a loss for words and all I can think is “riffs” it is a sign from Satan that the rhythm guitar work is meeting a high standard by way of my jaded asshole self but, beyond that it should be emphasized how hard it is to string together a blast of thrash influenced death metal riffs and not sound entirely rote or, plainly hardcore. There are a few songs that do kinda bend towards a hardcore vibe (“Spine by Spine”) but we’re talking the mosh riffs of early 90’s Slayer or Dead Head, not whatever hardcore means today.
Part of nailing the attack of old school east coast death metal involves finding that sort of attack and running with it while weaving in inventive song structures. I could easily argue that Angel Grinder have done just that throughout this fine debut. If I had to finger ’em with a comparison to the old stuff, maybe Invocator‘s first album but seen through an ‘Blessed Are the Sick’ eyeglass, slightly more mid-paced and obviously conscious of a much more broad spectrum of death metal influences. Rayz‘ vocals lean just slightly towards ‘Dawn of Possession’ tonality on this release, especially on album closer “Pyres”. I’d end up leaving this one on repeat for way too many spins, likely because ‘Confessions of the Damned’ more often than not lands in my own ‘happy place’ for thrash influenced death metal riffs.
|Title [Type/Year]||Sonic Sabbath [EP/2020]|
|Chains on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Slovenian occult themed doom metal duo Chains began as a solo drone/doom project back in 2010 and the unique vision of their debut full-length ‘Of Death’ (2012) soon attracted Chad Davis of Hour of 13 to play drums on an EP before Set and The Sabbathian (among other projects) saw him off-boarding. Chains have continued that occult rock influenced sound since, maintaining a sort of ‘gothic’ Danzig influenced vocal approach. ‘Sonic Sabbath’ is the first non-split EP from the band since acquiring new drummer Matz Sick and I’d generally say they’ve retained the sound of the ‘Dancing With My Demons’ EP while focusing on simpler, often quite repetitive and disparate songs. The heavy use of vocal effects, and blurry slightly out of tune guitars often feels like the wheels are about to fall off the cart and I suppose this comes from a heavy influence from early Paul Chain and the intent to sound raw. Opener “Devil” actually benefits from that amateurish sound until it comes time to move beyond the main verse which simply repeats with 2-3 variations until the song is over, most of the tracks on ‘Sonic Sabbath’ don’t have traditional doom metal (well, standard heavy rock) structures and this ends up leaving an impression of a song that might have a riff, a vocal harmony, a chorus, or a compelling verse but these elements are scattered and not always developed in meaningful ways. This wouldn’t normally bother me as a listener if not for the fact that it sounds like they’re trying to piece together songs that aren’t landing beyond a silhouette.
|Title [Type/Year]||Mechanical Eyes [EP/2020]|
|Orochen on Facebook||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Gothenburg area post-music quartet Orochen aren’t exactly as unsettling as their cover art might suggest but their themes are as bleak as anything you’d like to infer from the selected imagery. Smirk all you like at the theme of a future world where capitalism renders humans and the associated natural work as commodities enslaved and in constant convulsing torment in such an unnatural state, it is enough of a reality to be harrowing prose. But we’re not getting a shouted, garish chunk of atmospheric sludge from this group, but rather a mixture of post-rock elevations, neofolk influenced melodic traipsing and well, rather emotionally spellbinding music.
The elements on display are stark much of the time, they’ve not yet blended out the edges of their post-rock strumming so that it’d weave sweetly with the folkish chorus-driven heart of ‘Mechanical Eyes’ but after several EPs this is quite close and effective nonetheless. Opener “Dirty Eyes” is direct, a grand sweeping motion that is warming but hollow and bleak all the same. The title track puffs its chest a bit more, humming out a less ‘pretty’ tirade that feels more psychedelic than it does emotional when revisited a few times. As effective as they can be in creation of ‘cinema’, I see the post-rock influences as entirely superfluous and if anything they’d double the impact of these songs losing those extraneous dives into post-whatever rhythms. I don’t know if it’d let some of their more distinct qualities (such as the uh, banjo?) breathe a bit more. Just a thought, though. “Thinking Eyes” is the reprise here, the only song to match the efficacy of “Dirty Eyes”. Worth checking out if you’re prone to post-rock, post-metal, and modern folkish rock variations.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Hermetic [EP/2020]|
|WtCG on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
UK based solo ‘progressive’ black metal project Where the Crows Gather shows some steady improvement beyond their previous two EPs with ‘The Hermetic’, a more ambitiously crafted set of songs that are hampered by the bedroom quality of the recording. Post-metal spaced and occasionally sludge driven pagan metal is the most sensible approximation I could offer though there are some clear influences from progressive rock in there as well. With that said, these stylistic nuances aren’t going to help the average listener look past the bulbous guitar distortion, which sounds like a very cheap stock digital effect devoid of any actual tone. Without any depth applied to a very digitized guitar sound atop programmed drums, much of the naturalist and spiritual impact of ‘The Hermetic’ unfortunately falls a bit by the wayside.
It is a shame because I think the ideas are there, and could be expanded beyond these demo quality stages before they become overwrought. The focus on leads and grandly-stated rhythms is probably the most interesting part of the whole, though the mediocre growl of the rhythm guitars and often too-persistent vocals make for a bit of an overstated mush when left on repeat. These songs beg for a collaborative voice, someone to needle over the actual sound design and leave the promising bigger ideas of the artist to evolve unhindered. Or, I dunno just a real amp and a few overdrive pedals instead of a plug-in.
|Title [Type/Year]||War General [Demo/2020]|
|Holocausto on Facebook||LISTEN on SoundCloud|
The way guitarist/vocalist Valério Exterminator (BHell) tells it, he is the rightful founder, and guitarist of the legendary Brazilian metalpunk warriors Holocausto and I’m inclined to agree. The band had ended in late 2018 before their final album ‘Diário de Guerra’ released, an album that I really liked and wanted more of. Since then Exterminator has renamed the project Holocausto War Metal to distinguish the part of the band that is his creation as he states the ‘experimental’ records were written by Rodrigo Führer whereas he wrote the guitar work for ‘Warfare Noise’, ‘Campo de Extermínio’, ‘De Volta ao Front’, ‘War Metal Massacre’, and ‘Diário de Guerra’.
‘War General’ is the first demo from Holocausto War Metal recorded in mid-December 2019. It is a very bare bones tape/CD, raw metalpunk with plenty of the blasts and the mid-80’s Brazilian style ‘deathcore’ brutality you would expect. The demo features Luiz Panzersoldner on drums and Exterminator on the rest, handling it all pretty well on their own. There isn’t much to really analyze here, it is a raw throwback to the core of this legendary bands sound and in demo form it’ll probably not blow your mind, just remind you of the part of Holocausto most people actually like. If you want a copy you’ll have to go find him on their Facebook page and ask, I think they still have CD copies and some distros have copies.
|Title [Type/Year]||Demo II [Demo/2020]|
|Nimbifer on M-A||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Hanover, Germany based black metal duo Nimbifer continue to bear excellence through their melodious obsidian craft, now employing some fresh room-filling bombast and subtler extensions of their selves into these three dark and ornate pieces. “Im Dickicht” in particular shows some sharp use of rock drumming to ballast the impact of their endlessly streaming melodic black metal guitar work; Even if the guitars aren’t serving the most revolutionary rhythm in that moment the drums bring a memorable thrill, and some new point of view into their oeuvre. Much of what I’d have to say about this second demo I’d said about the first, a crossing of Finnish sub-saccharine melodicism and Quebecois’ black metal austerity with some implied reverence for the masters before them. Again, the resonance is there and they can only succeed with songwriting like this. The path forward is increasingly paved but, would a full-length reliant on melodic ideas offer a central point of significance or, if there are bigger waves to come are they archaic or modernist?
|Title [Type/Year]||The Dirge of Endless Mourning [LP/2020]|
|Vendetta Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The stated intent of this second full-length from Irish black metal project Scáth Na Déithe bears some hatred for the caricatures made of Irish folklore’s most sorrowful characters, and by proxy a sense of disgust for a generational softening of mankind is carried through its desolate, bristling pieces. Very much a spiritual successor by virtue of being largely spearheaded by the same musical personality, Scáth Na Déithe is an extension of musician Cathal Hughes‘ stylistic growth within a five album run in Dúnmharú between 2012 and 2015. The core modus is a form of highly expressionistic atmospheric black metal that is muscular by way of blurry blackened death unorthodoxy and capable of the appropriately weighted sorrow by way of slower black/doom metal dirges. This is no amateur set of songs but an imposing blur of a great work.
The style of ‘The Dirge of Endless Mourning’ isn’t the easiest thing to compare due to the deeper layers of its sound stemming from black, death and doom niches. At the very least you could suggest ‘Pledge Nothing But Flesh’ (2017) was more fixated on abrupt and violent black/death pacing whereas this second album is more comparable to the paganistic mid-point of The Ruins of Beverast‘s development, just prior to their heavier doom lean today. “The Maligner’s Tongue” barrels in before revealing a deeper meditation on pieces written for two guitars, with additional layers allowed but still focused on the left and right channel dynamic. The result is akin to Aeternus‘ more progressive second and third records where long streams of composition would reveal their austerity only to the most patient listener.
What appeared as a blur of many styles loosely stapled together in cursory preview reveals itself as a meticulous and high-class set of compositions that are as concerned with mood as they are attack. Ah, and how dire is the mood? Ruinous, contemplative, stunned by lament, and malevolent in their dire chaotic stream but not necessarily in that order. Where I lose the plot is in reflection of the album beyond its motion, there is such a fugue state created by the dark ocean deployed by Scáth Na Déithe that I’d generally struggle to point towards a sublimely memorable single moment or riff, it is the whole of the experience that redeems.
|Title [Type/Year]||Petrichor [LP/2020]|
|Eyedetic on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Born as a duo in ~2017 and spun up into a trio for the sake of this full-length debut, New York-based and sludged-out noise rock band Eyedetic stab me right in my 90’s for this absolute crippler of a jam. ‘Petrichor’ offers the sort of noise rock that’d ingratiated me into the general swing of the sub-genre, the kind of band (-16-, (early) Helmet, Unsane) that had the right kinda weed-and-coffee warrior mind but a stiff-necked vibe that doesn’t try so desperately to be quirky, they just groove with an angry face. The flourishes arrive in the form of subtle flavor packets: Post-rock noodling leads, gloomy grunge-punk riffs and whatnot but most of ‘Petrichor’ is spent pushing those core noise rock statements towards a post-hardcore point of atmospheric extremity, extending grooves and finding auspiciously sharp turns to take.
“Metropolitan Bushcraft” is probably the best signifier that this band have a really interesting future if this is their true path. The song itself mixes a sort of tamed (recent) Lightning Bolt sound with ‘Betty’-era Helmet syrupy crunches and some of that post-hardcore slipperiness I’d suggested earlier. It comes together remarkably well, not too far from what bands like Ils are doing, though admittedly less catchy and tightly wound. Most of ‘Petrichor’ offers the sense that Eyedetic jam these ideas out, feel them into shapes and never force too much intention anxiety into their pieces. So, there are a few songs that read kinda lax, kinda stoney or doomed from the neck down. It all works and I was happy to see such a big step up in general songwriting complexity and length since their ‘Primer’ EP back in 2018. This one has been totally lost to the aethyr and deserves some love if you’re into the gentrified 90’s noise rock, space-case, sludge rock kinda jam we don’t get enough of anymore.
|Title [Type/Year]||Demo 2020 [Demo/2020]|
|Predictor on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Predictor offer no extraneous detail to pluck from beyond the fact that they are a “European” black metal duo and a fairly new expression from an (t least) decade old conception. This first demo from the band is extremely thin and claustrophobic. Predictor present only darkness, a focused stream of thrashed-out steadiness that only shows its bestial emotion through effects-laden vocals. A plainly presented doubled guitar track and drums with a mild amount of reverb provide the obtuse presence of the demo, sunken by its glaring guitar sound, intending the dry and colorless obscuration of early 90’s black metal. No joy or life exists within their plainly buzzing riffs and as all of these pieces fall together, I’d say they’re aiming for early German black metal bleakness, something not intentionally ‘old school’ but stripped down to only the most necessary primal actions. What carries the aesthetic or, matte obsidian sound design, comes with the sense of suffocation resultant of immersion and there is the sense that this demo is absolutely not for anyone, designed entirely to please the goals of the artist. So, a classic expression of black metal that doesn’t seem too self-conscious, just laser focused on a certain vision that appears to turn its back on the audience. As a rendering of an initial vision it is successful, recalling Ungod‘s demos or, I guess I’d imagine this is what a band like Xantotol might sound like reborn and not doomed at all.
|Title [Type/Year]||Bring Me the Axe [EP/2020]|
|Bring Me the Axe on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Hailing from Béziers, France and sporting a rasping, gloom-barking cloud of sludge/doom metal in their hands, Bring me the Axe unveil their first release: A limited run cassette tape through Gabu Records featuring two huge n’ hissing songs. The band cite Melvins and modern stoner/doom music for their sound, though the rasp and groove feeling they bring is akin to the primal eras of Goatsnake and Grief. These are easy-going riffs, slow rides that buzz along with a live in studio production setup that provide copious amounts of presence and space at once. “Beach Doom” is the ‘single’ of the lot, jogging up and doing some work to get the stoned mind working while “Pachidermous” is about 11 minutes of just low-swinging stoner doom riffs. What’d gotten me to the point of wanting to hear more was honestly the sound of the recording, I love the ‘live in studio’ grit and spacious-but-compressed feeling of this EP. The songs could use something extra, a more distinct bass guitar sound or something to differentiate the instrumental plod of it all. Nothing wrong with the arrangements, just needs something to push over the edge and show a bit more personality.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ahi Cab [EP/2020]|
|Anthrazit Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Idolos are an atmospheric black metal duo who’d be the first to suggest they are simply husks, puppet corpses making movements channeled by otherworldly beings from the planet Venus. Venus? Is this the message of love from outer space we so desperately need on Ear… No, its just atmospheric black metal with some nice sleepy parts. Stoic, sensitive, and generally presented with post-black metallic ease, there wasn’t much about ‘Ahi Cab’ that excited me beyond some of the lyrics dealing with the Mayan underworld. The presentation when viewed from a wide angle presents two narratives, two worlds, before I’d even understood what Idolos were all about and this crossing of ‘transmissions from planet Venus’ and ‘Mayan parables from the land of the dead’ made for a strange introduction to a relatively plain record. I don’t think the softer atmospheric parts offer much of anything to the experience, a place to rest in between mid-paced black metal riffs that are only slightly less plain. What’d kept me engaged long enough to give ‘Ahi Cab’ several spins was the professional render of the recording, a clean and always vivid presentation. Tons of interesting ideas here but I don’t see the connection between the mysterious band bio, the lyrical theme of the album, and the light moodiness of the music.
|Title [Type/Year]||Grow. Decay. Transform. [LP/2020]|
|Follow Red//Shift on Facebook||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
“Hey, check out our progre…” Nah. An independent progressive metal band can be such a frightening prospect because any well-intentioned musician can be convinced that prog rock is ‘original’ beyond any other pretty well defined space in music. Alright, but what if we threw in some modern prog-influenced metal? Nah. Well, in the case of Minneapolis, Minnesota trio Red\\Shift the combination works for the sake of their specific coalition of space-gazing attenuation. ‘Grow. Decay. Transform.’ sports a glom of post-space rock, progressive sludge riff runs, and the stretchy ambitions of modern prog rock/metal hybrid.
How they manage to do all of this without sounding completely pretentious is admirable and most of the record appears more concerned with the ‘trip’ they’re presenting rather than any dryly indulgent compositions. “Forest of Eternal Winter” is a fine example of this, bearing a Crimsonian wall-crawling jam to start, showcasing the fine bass guitar work of Jake Spanier while feeling entirely grounded on whatever planet they’re on. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they’re at least slightly influenced by progressive thrash, particularly when pieces reach wild peaks of intensity.
Despite the many successes found within, and the undeniable listenability of the full album, it is nearly 80 minutes long. As the record progressed my mind naturally began to classify their songwriting into two major modes: The metallic prog rock modernist and the space-faring progressive metal mutation. I’d say develop both but don’t undervalue the EP as a means to keep the thread going between albums, there is easily 30 minutes of material that could have made a fine in-betweener while still leaving ‘Grow. Decay. Transform’ a full and satisfying prog-rock/metal experience.
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