…From the Tomb 3/16/20: “Hoofbeats from a thousand angry mares.”

…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 [March 14th through March 20th, 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.


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Artist TETHRA
Title [Type/Year] Empire of the Void [LP/2020]
Black Lion Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Italian melodic death/doom metal band Tethra definitely lean towards the gothic spectrum of the sub-genre by way of popular Finnish and British bands on their third full-length ‘Empire of the Void’ and this style shouldn’t be any huge surprise following up their much improved second album ‘Like Crows For the Earth‘ (2017). I’d generally classify this type of death/doom more in the realm of gothic metal with some melodic doom and some fairly standard progressive metal influences. This all comes together nicely on a few songs, “Dying Signal” and “Cold Blue Nebula” have this solid ‘Aphotic’-era Novembers Doom sound where Tethra appear to thrive most.

Where I begin to fall off from the experience comes with the clean vocals which spark up prominently on “Gravity Pt. II – Aeons Adrift” and continue through the odd transition of the title track and a cover of David Bowie‘s “Space Odyssey” which just doesn’t work at all. As a fan of death/doom I can appreciate how each Tethra album is an improvement over the last but I realize I am just not the right listener anymore when it comes to most gothic doom records. It is absolutely one of the hardest styles to pull off and sound earnest, though I don’t doubt the intended emotion put into the music it just wasn’t for me. The first few and the last few tracks on ‘Empire of the Void’ were pretty solid, enough to bring me back in for a few more listens.


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Artist BAXAXAXA
Title [Type/Year] The Old Evil [Demo/2020]
Iron Bonehead Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Baxaxaxa might’ve only put out one tape back in 1992 (‘Hellfire‘) but they’ve held up as quiet legends of early German black metal since thanks to their association with Ungod and forward-thinking (at the time) contributions to raw black metal. Self-released last year and now picked up on physical formats through Iron Bonehead Productions, ‘The Old Evil’ actually features Traumatic (Iron Bonehead, Witchburner) on vocals as well as Predictor drummer & Ungod guitarist Cryptic Tormentor, each of which provide infernal performances re-solidifying the original sound of this band to great detail. The 12″ vinyl LP version does a lot to emphasize the raw, room-filling horror of the original tape. I particularly appreciated their using similar imagery for the cover art, it ties into the first demo as a direct continuation and retains that early 90’s first wave aesthetic. The music itself is exceptional stuff; A crazed, morbid, spontaneous and way over-the-top shot in the arm.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for not knowing this group today but you’ll undoubtedly recognize them if you’d ever sought out analogues to early Samael or the roots of Ungod, who you really should know for ‘Circle of the Seven Infernal Pacts’ (1993) at the very least. Baxaxaxa is one of those old demo band names folks were digging up when Moenon of Xezbeth and Cemetery Lights were blowing minds a year or two back so, if you’re looking for similarly raw and mystic tones, this is the right shit. This kind of stuff is my jam, big evil riffs, haze-ridden effects (“Bells of Charon”), and I especially love the use of keyboards on opener “Sepulchral Winds Return”, reminds me of those old Alastis or Christ Agony tapes but with the guitar actually in tune.


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Artist ULVDALIR
Title [Type/Year] Hunger For The Cursed Knowledge [EP/2020]
Inferna Profundus Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Now approaching their second decade as a band and continuing their thread of higher quality as of late, St. Petersburg, Russia based ‘true Ingrian black metal’ band Ulvdalir return from the nuclear fire of their underrated ‘…Of Death Eternal‘ (2019) record with this 33+ minute EP, ‘Hunger for the Cursed Knowledge’. I’m glad that Winterheart and Kreator have focused their energies towards this band in recent years because it has produced some of their best material to date and though it might appear as plain and pure occult black metal at first glance most all of their material is actually pretty memorable. There is no gimmick, nothing that really strays from the cold and true history of black metal but this EP does bring an impressive amount of tonal variety within its four tracks.

“Road of Knowledge” of course catches my ear for its sharp classic second wave riffs and gripping semi-melodic bursts though the other three songs are in the 8-10 minute range and are more experiential, with bigger compositions reminiscent of the earlier Norwegian classics. The press materials cite early Darkthrone, Dodheimsgard, and Arckanum as the mark of purity and strength in mind and I’d say Ulvdalir have done some justice to that idea with this EP. It is music like this that reminds me to pull back on ‘modern’ black metal ideals and remember how hard-hitting the devotional stuff is, and that there is nothing wrong with the idea of ‘regression’ when it means great riffs and true death worship.


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Artist CASKETS OPEN
Title [Type/Year] Concrete Realms of Pain [LP/2020]
Nine Records “White Animal” on YouTube

The nipple on the cover of this fine fourth album from increasingly unique Finnish doom metal trio Caskets Open is a bit of a vortex, once you see it the eye pulls back towards it, unable to escape its pull. As much as I don’t care to focus too much on the lack of aesthetic for this killer band, fuck that album cover sucks. It is a shame because their last two album covers had been as adventurous and tasteful as their blend of traditional doom metal and experimental punk spheres. ‘Concrete Realms of Pain’ stretches even further outside of the box, pulling in more of those goth-rocking Samhain-esque melodies and even a bit of extreme metal rhythms to switch things up. This has long been the band that I’d pull out whenever someone would say Cardinal’s Folly is a bit weird, as in Caskets Open are a bit more weird in a pleasant sort of avant-Reverend Bizarre way. “Four Shrines” more or less tells you everything you need to know, as it starts off with a powerfully dreary doom metal song that eventually breaks into a solid hardcore punk break that they manage to thrash out of. It is an exciting moment and makes good on the most promising elements of their last two records.

I’d first discovered this band looking up Timo Ketola (the other one) on Metal-Archives and accidentally clicking on the bassist/vocalist for this band by the same name. This was around the time their second album (‘To Serve the Collapse‘, 2014) had come out and it turned out to be one of the more exciting gems I’d find within the still very much alive Finnish trad doom metal underground that year. Though it is clear just minutes into any of their albums that Caskets Open are an admixture of traditional sounds and unorthodox influences, which folks have likened to everything from Debris Inc. to Type O Negative. One of my all-time favorite records is Saint Vitus‘ ‘Hallows Victim’ for its slight motorpunk feeling and Scott Reagers‘ distinct vocals so, there is a highly evolved thread of this spiritual energy in all of Caskets Open‘s releases, probably not a conscious thing on the part of the artist but that is where I place it in my mind.

As I’d suggested earlier these Finns push outside of their established sound a bit on ‘Concrete Realms of Pain’, though it always seems like this band are on the verge of something ‘big’ despite their avoidance of bigger hooks that might find them on a new level of notability. In reality they’ve made a sharp record just being themselves and I appreciate going along for the ride, always improving and ever restless in defiance of norms.


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Artist NECROGOSTO
Title [Type/Year] Ancestral Bestiality [EP/2020]
Nuclear War Now! Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Eviscerate the priest, slash the holy feces from his entrails and boil the useless carcass in the blood of conquered missionary swine! São Paulo’s noisiest crematoria for clergy Necrogosto have finally unleashed their first official 12″ EP and thankfully ‘Ancestral Bestiality’ keeps the filth in their noisome war-like defiance of faith. I loved their first demo, which Nuclear War Now! Productions put out on tape last February, and I’m just as stoked by this record. The big difference with this material is that they’ve slowed down to a stomp for most of the ~20 minute spin, aiming for obtuse evil in bursts with less of the straight thrashing bestial stuff. It is still warfare noise (see: “Intoxication and Ecstasy”), don’t worry about that, but I doubt folks will be expecting the full on productions within, like “Marching to Oblivion” where Necrogosto show they’re more than just a pack of war metal marauders.

Featuring members of Nuclëar Fröst, Beastkrieg, and ex-Whipstriker among their membership Necrogosto clearly have some love for the most horrendous nuclear punk and warfare noise blasts out of mid-80’s Brazil and no doubt you’ll hear the influence of Sarcófago, Holocausto, Insulter, and (early) Mystifier both in atmosphere, echoing snarled vocals, and the chunking raw guitar work. The spirit of 80’s extreme thrash and the potency of South American black/death is there manifesting as incredibly ugly heavy metal noise. “Perversions at Necrotemple” is vile and exciting, reminding me again of those most infamous Beherit demos in sound and something more traditional like Bathory in the actual riffs. This ends up being a lot of the same notes I’d taken for the demo last year and for my own taste that is a great thing.


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Artist TAAKE / WHOREDOM RIFE
Title [Type/Year] Pakt [10″ Vinyl EP/2020]
Terratur Possessions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

A special split release between Norwegian brethren in Taake and Whoredom Rife, this 10″ EP features two exclusive tracks from each artist as much a statement of unity as it is a highlight for each unique vision. Out of sheer love and familiarity I am drawn to anything with Taake‘s name on it, I have been a rabid fan since 2005 with the release of ‘Doedskvad‘ which is to this day one of my favorite black metal records and a coveted breakthrough moment for aligning myself with the sub-genre more completely. I have always found writers explain Taake in the most complex way, simply put he has a knack for making a song special, one of few Norwegian originals who isn’t ‘lost in their cups’ in terms of understanding a ‘hook’ will stick in the mind above all else. I’m not sure if “Ubeseiret” is a leftover from ‘Kong Vinter‘ (2017) but if it is, the piece must’ve been quite difficult to stay quiet with. This is classic Taake as far as I’m concerned and his elastic sense of movement and ‘rock’ hooks really do a lot to make this release special. The distorted bass/vocal focused cover of Sisters of Mercy‘s “Heartland” pulls away from the powerful guitar work of the original for the bulk of the song, maybe missing the expected impact of the song in the process of making it work in an avant-black metal process.

Whoredom Rife are relatively new having formed by way of drummer/multi-instrumentalist V. Einride (ex-Keep of Kalessin, ex-Gorgoroth) and featuring Bloodthorn vocalist K.R. around 2014 but their vision is no less traditional for it, focusing their attack upon pure Norwegian black metal of the true second wave. Their music should take you back to the old days where the attack of black metal still felt ‘dangerous’ and young men were still inspired enough to burn churches. “From Nameless Pagan Graves” is a world-burner, a stunning opener and the kind of song that could sell a record to most 90’s black metal fans in a heartbeat, the guitar work certainly has some of that early Emperor/Mayhem influence in its sway bit perhaps as evolved as say, Nightbringer‘s more recent works. The arrangement is fantastically grand and yet traditional in is cadence, I found it a very effective reminder of Whoredom Rife‘s capabilities as I’d only discovered them on their second album (‘Nid: Hymner Av Hat‘, 2018). “En Lenke Smidd i Blod” shows the more atmospheric side of the project while enforcing the theme of brotherhood and alignment of the two artists on this split. Two fantastic sides to this must-have record for fans of either band.


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Artist NUCLEUS / ECTOPLASMA / FETID ZOMBIE / TEMPLE OF VOID 
Title [Type/Year] 4 Doors to Death Vol. II [Split LP/2020]
Unspeakable Axe Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of my favorite labels of the last decade starting around the time they released that self-titled Omnivore record, Unspeakable Axe have continued to expand their roster with some of the most inspired death metal, death/thrash, and straight up thrash bands of our time and their first 4-way ‘4 Doors to Death’ split between Sabbatory, Trenchrot, Ectovoid, and Cemetery Filth back in 2016 was a smart way to introduce folks to some of their oldest allies and newest killers. Volume II finds ’em showcasing four of the best fresh-assed death metal bands kicking around these last few years, each contributing prime material, no shitty B-sides just a best face forward for each band.

Nucleus are one of the most forward-thinking, limit pushing death metal bands out of the United States today and though their second album ‘Entity‘ (2019) did well and even made it onto my best of the year list they deserve much more notoriety. The two songs they provided for this split sound like they’re from the ‘Entity’ sessions but the songs themselves are more in the style of their first album ‘Sentient’, more of a classic avant-technical death metal soul with an ‘old school’ temperament. Maybe it has just been a while and I’m excited to return to Nucleus‘ sound but I’ll be damned if “Nexus” isn’t one of my favorite arrangements from the band thus far and I love the Demilich-esque grind of “Replicant” afterwards.

Now that Greek death metal band Ectoplasma have a third full-length under their belt they’ve beyond hit their stride, riding the fine line between intense, ‘Legion’-sized riffs and Grave-heavy brutality. The four songs they’ve contributed to this split align best with their most recent record ‘White-Eyed Trance‘ (2019) where they’ve kicked up the speed and leaned into their early 90’s riff machine harder than ever. These guys have literally never written a bad riff, and even the filthy strangeness of “Atrocious Ovomorphic Death” grew on me after returning to their part of the split several times. Check out their other band Vultur, they rule too, and here’s hoping for a fourth full-length sooner than later.

Fetid Zombie are a solo death metal project out of Virginia by way of Mark Riddick and the only band I’m not really familiar with from this split. I dunno if it is the programmed drums but I get a kind of homespun Mortician kinda vibe from these songs. I didn’t realize Riddick had also done those Macabra albums too until I began to recognize his guitar playing and poking around the internet for more information. These are pretty decent songs but I found myself moving on from ’em pretty quickly due to the programmed drum sound, those riffs deserve a human drummers touch.

I couldn’t think of a better way to close out the split than three new songs from Temple of Void which arrive just a week before their third full-length ‘The World That Was’ releases on Shadow Kingdom Records. This Detroit death/doom quintet continue to evolve in meaningful ways, carrying some of the Hooded Menace type energy and some Bolt Thrower heaviness on their first two EPs, their third album pushes the envelope in terms of psychedelic splatter and melodic death/doom movements, anyhow I’ll get to that review soon enough but for now these three tracks appear to have been taken from sessions for the new album, as evidenced by the extended instrumental psych crawl of “Perfection of the Hideous” and the intense mixture of guitar effects/sounds that help to define that album. Easily one of the most inspired death/doom metal acts in the states these days and I’m impressed that they’re able to push the envelope and still write tuneful pieces. Huge recommendation for this split.


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Artist NITE
Title [Type/Year] Darkness Silence Mirror Flame [LP/2020]
Creator-Destructor Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

For their debut full-length San Francisco, California based blackened heavy metal band Nite have managed an instantly memorable and hugely listenable first strike. Conjuring the spirit of the most anthemic rock-fueled NWOBHM rhythms via ex-Dawnbringer guitarist Scott Hoffman alongside members/ex-members of heavy rock band Older Sun and black/thrashers Satan’s Wrath to back him up, these guys present a very uncomplicated puzzle of influences focused on a very easily digested concept: Mystic traditional heavy metal with rasped vocals, mostly mid-paced, lots of leads, and an inspiring jog forward across the full spin. Black metal guitar work does factor into these movements (see: “Ezelia”) just never with a truly murderous attack, instead taking chord progressions, shapes, and generally obsidian contours from the dark arts and retrofitting them to occult heavy metal songs.

No doubt we’ve all heard a thousand ‘we added harsh vocals to…’ bands but hell, I couldn’t name one that has a chill-but-evil vibe exactly like Nite does. The major focus is the songwriting itself, which is made more distinct by their ‘blackened’ rasp-sung vocal approach. Though I think vocalist/guitarist Van Labrakis could switch up his vocals now and then, the consistency of tone gives a sort of menacing deadpan feeling to the full listen and puts more of an emphasis on the inspiring guitar work throughout. “Night Terrors” is basically the shit or get off the pot moment, you’re either eating up that pure 80’s intro and the silky leads at that point or you’ve already slapped the record player off. It all worked for my taste and the more time I spent with Nite the more damned irresistible their whole sound was, plus there are some real singles here — “Chains” nails everything the band have going on in the best way possible. That’d be the song that had me flipping back around to the first side several times, ready to listen to the whole record again.

The combination of “Genesis” and “The Way” are an equally potent introduction to Nite but I’d suggest jumping to “The Way” right off the bat if you’re jaded enough to need the venom straight to your veins. Huge recommendation for this one, even if you think you’ve heard all the black/heavy metal you can muster ‘Darkness Silence Mirror Flame’ will almost definitely prove itself catchy and captivating.


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Artist LEIRU
Title [Type/Year] Idő [LP/2020]
Sun & Moon Records PREVIEW on SoundCloud!

Hungarian modernist black metal band Leiru are distinctly introverted, full of existential dread, and equally inspired by underground black metal as they are classic rock and 80’s heavy metal. The resulting album, ‘Idő’, makes a strange first impression as it hits that odd point of rock/extremity where only a few bands (such as Sólstafir) have ever thrived for any length of time. The guitar work is informed by raw black metal and maudlin melodic rock/metal bands, citing Plaga and Akitsa next to Scorpions in their press materials says a lot about the ever-shifting mind and mood of their debut. Considering they’ve been primarily a raw black metal act leading up to this point there is the sense that this is a big moment, a difficult reveal of very personal thoughts and unorthodox melodic devices for the black metal attuned group. It ends up being goddamned brilliant stuff if you sit within it and give their moody rock vocals a chance to thrive next to the whips of fine riffing that follow, some of it charging along like a pagan black metal act and a few sword-swingers a la Grand Belial’s Key. There aren’t a ton of Hungarian black metal acts that shake things up in such a bold fashion and it might take a bit of an open mind to warm up to some of their phrasing and vocal performances. Nonetheless, ‘Idő’ absolutely feels like something special and hopefully doesn’t end up too hidden a gem. At the very least go and preview the moving performance and inspired composition of “Lemoshatatlan”.


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Artist SOLIPSISM
Title [Type/Year] Trhliny v (ne)skutočnosti [EP/2020]
Sun & Moon Records PREVIEW on SoundCloud

Hailing from Slovakia this first official release from black metal act Solipsism has just the right balance of underground grit and high-minded, beauteous atmosphere to inspire several listens on my part. The title of ‘Trhliny v (ne)skutočnosti’ translates loosely to “cracks in unreality”, and this idea translate to their modus of rhythmic naturalistic blackened music prone to tirades into unexpected directions. “Negalomania” takes the first steps outside the doors of perception but things only become more unreal from there as keyboard/piano work distance from the intense and plodding rants of their black metal modus. “Ozveny budúcnosti” (“Echoes of the Future”) employs the use of atmospheric keyboards as if they’ve flipped a switch into another dimension, there is a strong sense of passage within the song that’d continue to stand out on repeated listens. On a basal level I could compare Solipsism to plenty of eastern European naturalistic atmospheric bands but that’d too plainly overlook the details that make them a quite special band. Dramatic, immersive, driven and full of oddly psychedelic blurred edges and of course entirely my kind of shit. This is a pretty substantial EP and though you’ll have to be on board for the linear nature of the songwriting, long ranting pushes of black metal followed by moments of release, there is a real experience here to warm up to. I love the cover art as well, a pure class release.


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Artist WARDAEMONIC
Title [Type/Year] Acts of Repentance [LP/2020]
Transcending Obscurity Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Although Australian black metal band Wardaemonic hail from afar they are no stranger to me, at least since the release of ‘Obsequium‘ back in 2015 where stunning artwork and a pretty standard modern black metal sound had been intriguing enough to pull me in. ‘Acts of Repentance’ goes a bit harder, actually much harder and louder than ever before. This time around the press materials suggest they’ve incorporated more of a dynamic, some varied pacing by way of slower dissonant sections and this is surely a defining trait for the full listen but make no mistake this is a glaringly loud record that allows for very little rest between pieces. Although the dissonant sidebars do not always work the intensity never suffers thanks to an immense drum performance from Maelstrom who also provides vocals for ‘Acts of Repentance’ and for the first time. No doubt you’ll get hints of ‘Satanica’-era Behemoth, early 2000’s Marduk due to the brutal swipe of the drums and the wandering eye riffing but the use of death bellowing dual vocals on songs like “Act II – Admission” should excite fans of the heavier side of norsecore and brutalist black metal, such as Angelcorpse.

As their attack advances through five acts amidst 8-12 minute songs Wardaemonic stretch their compositions to the limit, employing extended atmospheric sections (“Act III – Castigation”), clean vocals and adventurous dissonant rhythms (“Act IV – Sufferance”) though for my taste they’d never really pulled it all together at the end. The final act pulls in some satisfying Deathspell Omega styled riffs but it’d generally land as just another track rather than a cumulative or grand finale and cycling back to the first track felt a bit too similar when leaving the album on repeat. A fine record, class performances, plenty of hard-whipped brutality, and an interesting theme I’d just felt they could’ve trimmed the fat a bit and emphasized their most potent riff ideas.


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Artist NECRO CHAOS
Title [Type/Year] Spiral of Obscurity [EP/2020]
Helldprod Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Every roar from the throat or strum of the guitar is a massive eradication of life at the edge of the ever-expanding universe and Porto, Portugal based death metal band Necro Chaos are making sure to keep the death count in the billions with their debut EP ‘Spiral of Obscurity’. This isn’t just another damned death metal tape, though, these guys have an ear for lacing the deranged in with their seemingly straight-forward ‘old school’ death metal sound; Fairly simple grooves eventually give way to oddly psychedelic and horror-tinged sonic experiments. The watery bass guitar tone adds this otherworldly dimension to the music to begin with, but their use of samples and sci-fi/horror synth touches add a lot of personality to the gory traditional death metal of it all. Stylistically speaking I’d compare this band with Molder or the first Ectoplasma record in the sense that Autopsy and Death are important basal influences alongside a few smaller hits of death/thrash riffing. The slower parts had me thinking of Morta Skuld‘s first album thanks to a few awkward leads and some doomed passages along the way. These guys are already pretty class and on the absolute right path with these songs, it isn’t forward thinking or all that regressive, just ‘old school’ feeling death metal simplicity with a love for strange atmospheric ideas. “Internal Flood” is the track to check out as soon as possible but don’t miss “Entanglement of War” for some extra context.


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Artist ESCUELA GRIND
Title [Type/Year] Indoctrination [LP/2020]
Armageddon Label BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Some guy was playing with a pocket knife in the parking lot, I dunno if he was drunk after the Benümb show (back in 1999 or so) or what but he threw it and hit my leg. There wasn’t that much blood but I’d realized then that the potential infection from a stranger’s knife was scarier than most of the powerviolence/grindcore bands I’d heard that night. Still, if I need a good thrill I can’t count on random accidental stabbings or knife-tossing strangers every day so, it’ll have to be moshable grindcore bands like Escuela Grind for kicks and their first album ‘Indoctrination’ are up there with Internal Rot as far as modern grinders I can buzz off of. Grindcore, moshcore, powerviolence, noisecore, I mean whatever you want to mince ’em up into they’re putting the right energy out.

What are your gold standard grind albums any more? If you’re a deathgrind band, I’m all for those two early 2000’s Napalm Death albums and I’ll listen to anything even slightly Nasum-esque anymore. So keep in mind I’m close-minded enough about grind that I’ll only listen to improperly labeled death metal… Anyhow, ‘Indoctrination’ is a modern take, not death metal in any sense but they’re awesome for working borderless, without barriers between past-and-present powerviolence and the original mania of grind — They’re not ‘old school’ so much as they’re just doing it -that- hard and fast. Where are the catchy hardcore punk riffs? Eh, they’re all over the place you’ve just gotta lift the chassis a bit and put your ear to the motor.

Escuela Grind (formerly just Escuela, if you’re looking ’em up) rely heavily on the foundation of Jesse Fuentes‘ (ex-Kill the Client guitarist) drumming, without those blasts their whole ‘grind on the verge of collapse’ gig might not be as impactful as it is. I also loved the moments where the vocals double up between front and background (“Million Year Picnic (M.O.S.H.)”, “Line in the Sand”) as these were often paired with energetic punk bursts that’d get my legs kicking under my ass. As for what really hits, “Incel Circle Jerk” paired with “A Ladder of Seven Rounds” is probably the tightest combo of the bunch but if you’re more the powerviolence/hardcore kid “Line in the Sand” and “In a Locked Room” should be a total blast, too.


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Artist VECTIS
Title [Type/Year] No Mercy For the Weak [LP/2020]
Helldprod Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

This troupe of young fellows out of Porto, Portugal might be green but that never stopped any great band from cranking out killer satanic speed metal! ‘No Mercy For the Weak’ finds Vectis maturing, clearly taking a shine to old classics and living under the banner of violence & force. Exciter, Iron Angel, and early Razor come to mind but Vectis aren’t even all that flashy, driven by simpler riffs and pure heavy metal creed. Five songs, fifteen minutes, everything about ‘No Mercy for the Weak’ is straight forward and hard as nails so there isn’t any real story beyond the lede. Solid tape, great tunes, standard but ripping stuff.


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Artist PYRIOR
Title [Type/Year] Fusion [LP/2020]
Tonzonen Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

Berlin based instrumental stoner/heavy psych band Pyrior began exactly where you’d expect, in a jam collective finding their rhythms going wherever they pleased. ‘Fusion’ is the fourth album from the band and probably the most representative work thus far, the prior trilogy of records found variations on sub-genre focused themes. Instrumental rock albums have to work with bigger ideas and often rely on genre music for structure and narrative, ‘Fusion’ combines some of those space rock and post-rock ideas from previous records and gloms them together into one heavy rock sound. Think of the exuberance of recent Fu Manchu records as a loose guideline for sound but this is jam music and you’ll hear the improvisation inherent to the experience as things progress in songs like “X” which almost appears to be a first or second take. Rock music without vocals is typically in one ear and right out the other with me and I don’t think Pyrior could change that but I had a great time putting on ‘Fusion’ and appreciated the professional quality of the recording and the stoney, bluesy whip of the band.


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Artist NECK OF THE WOODS
Title [Type/Year] The Annex of Ire [LP/2020]
Pelagic Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

Vancouver, British Colombia band Neck of the Woods do a lot with their sound and as a result the conversation tends to swing towards the sub-genre resultant rather than the actual music at hand. This is perhaps by design in some sense because they’ve consistently crafted extended progressive metal pieces that are heavily influenced by ‘modern’ metal acts associated with death metal, metalcore, post-metal, and associated ideals of sound design. You could say ‘The Annex of Ire’ is a progressive death metal record just as easily as you could say it is a post-hardcore influenced prog metal album but however it is sliced the work of this quintet is undeniably modern. Having seen the band live during the cycle for their last album ‘The Passenger‘ (2017) I’d say the reality of the band in person is that the metalcore elements mix most easily with the progressive metal modus and the hints of extreme metal otherwise are superfluous or apparent by association only.

When it comes to metalcore and post-hardcore vocal work on modern metal albums I always find myself pining for a more expressive performance from the vocalist and Neck of the Woods is no exception in this sense, and as a result ‘The Annex of Ire’ is largely not for me personally. I still admire its ornate compositions, bombastic production, and knack for achieving thick atmospheric values despite the hulking charge of the band always striving forward. There are plenty of ingenious sparks of sound, such as the break in the middle of “Vision Loser”, that make the full listen more eventful. I’d also say these guys really excel when writing transitional post-hardcore moments into their extreme metal influence battery, I think if they ever settle away from the harried bursts of extreme prog there is a remarkable softer side in there waiting to be nourished. Check this band out of you’re a fan of prog-core minus the djent, or proggy modern metal bands like Allegaeon and Black Crown Initiate.


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Artist O ZORN!
Title [Type/Year] Your Killer [LP/2020]
Seeing Red Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

As Long Beach, California sludge-rock band O Zorn! strum into view with a Crowbar-esque chord progression I can’t help but side-eye their gravel-spanked slow-motion post-hardcore sound a bit. Are you going sweet on me from here, or is this going to get chunkier? Turns out ‘Your Killer’ intends a bit of both while comfortably buzzing High on Fire-worthy rhythms and ear-popping snarls across single “Casket” and quickly grinding gears over into the dreary Deftones-esque first half of “Cult Status”. This seven minute climb bears some substantial vulnerability before raising a few hairs for dramatic effect as it peaks around the five minute mark, a clear standout moment on the album. They’ve yet some room to grow in terms of making each song its own island, a major event that can be approached from any angle, but this is yet a great cumulative leap in quality from their self-titled debut a few years back. The trio have put a lot of work into blending their influences which range from stoney rock and atmospheric sludge to evolved forms of punk rhythms into a singularly writhing identity.

‘Your Killer’ is a fuckin’ bummer by design approaching all matters of life from the perspective of failure, depression, addiction and the shattered illusion that we’ve got any truly effective dent to leave in the world. As a personal, dejected, and sourly cathartic modern rock record at its core ‘Your Killer’ a well-crafted and altogether inoffensive experience. They’ve not pushed into any wild extremes or gone overboard with their ‘pulling at the heart-strings of your cloudy day’ groan and I suppose it’ll be far too subtle for your average popular metal idiot, who expects to be exploited in the most obvious sense. Yet it’ll be just right for folks who grew up during the rise of sludge metal’s most visible exit from the underground and its generations of application to rock music since those early 2000’s. A requiem for the tunelessness of records like ‘Wavering Radiant’ a decade prior while radiating that same level of evolved post-sludge/rock. A successful bout of redemption for O Zorn! who were virtually ignored when their debut landed two years ago.


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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