…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 [April 5th through April 10th, 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]||Give In To Despair [LP/2020]|
|Artoffact Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
This week in particular there are several inventive genre-blending songwriters to highlight and Vancouver, Canada based duo Ritual Dictates might be the most accomplished and skilled of the bunch. Now I’d normally include ‘accessible’ for a band like this but ‘Give in to Despair’ utilizes such a broad range of experience, technique, and influences for their brand of modernist death metal that no one could accuse them of pandering or simplifying the Ritual Dictates experience. One song might mix classic rock with non-traditional death metal (“Given to Despair”), the next weaves slippery black metal guitar washes with grindcore and then finish off with folkish early 2000’s melodeath-meets-heavy metal riffing… We’ve got early Kvelertak-esque hardcore punk songs and, hell there is even a ‘death metal Hellacopters’ part (“Poisonous Proclamation”) that still kinda blows my mind and makes me want to die at the same time. Without belaboring the point, they’ve been places and their debut album doesn’t shy away from coming full range with every bit of their collective resumes.
The sense that Ritual Dictates is an all-in affair for a new project should be obvious enough and no doubt their debut is landing during inconvenient times. It baffles me that the album art doesn’t choose a stylistic direction to imply but, this begins to make sense as the album itself doesn’t seem intent on being defined by any one style or sub-genre beyond a general ‘modern’ implication of a death metal sound. As I said, the duo have enough experience between ’em to know what they’re doing. Who are they and why do they sound like they’ve been doing this for decades? Vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Justin Hagberg was a unique voice within 3 Inches of Blood as guitarist (and later harsh vocals) while also serving as a key member in the slightly lesser known Allfather. Today Hagberg also features as keyboardist in underrated stoner rock/doom metal band Dead Quiet. Drummer Ash Pearson played on the last two 3 Inches of Blood albums and has been the drummer for Revocation since the release of ‘Great Is Our Sin’. Having worked together for several years prior there is no doubt they arrive upon ‘Give in to Despair’ with a strong professional presence and very polished performances. Their production is loud but balanced, all pieces of these stylistic Frankenstein’d songs are sewn together smartly and they’ve pulled in favors from several guests (Danko Jones, Auroch, Bison) to emphasize all the weirdo niches that they’ve been a part of over the years.
If the only goal of a debut in the long run is to establish a lasting foundation for musical personality that can be elaborated upon for years to come, then consider Ritual Dictates a moderate success as a fully three dimensional render of Hagberg‘s spherical and many-tentacled worldview. There is the sense that they have made this album restless in its genre implications by virtue of their own broad-but-accessible tastes, upholding a professional standard while reaching a bit more fearlessly than bigger label ‘popular metal’ bands dare anymore. This reminds me of that most recent Cast the Stone record in the sense that the standards are high but they’ve no fear of exposing the bigger picture of ‘underground’ music within multi-genre swings and bold movements. Ritual Dictates could be valuable to mainstream audiences in the long run for their mind-expansion potential but to squeeze in so much inspiration will exhaust the pop-metal mind in most cases. Who to recommend it to, then? I’m not entirely sure. Modern metal lovers, thrashers, and folks who’ll naturally swing between modern extreme metal, classic rock, and some punk here and there. It’ll either please the expanded mind or expand it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Come Forth to Me [LP/2020]|
|Redefining Darkess Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Another band comprised of fairly well-known musicians, Akurion took a few detours, and some time to deal with tragedy, in the nearly decade long development of their debut full-length, ‘Come Forth to Me’. Founded by guitarist Rob Milley (Neuraxis, ex-Phobocosm) and vocalist Mike DiSalvo (ex-Cryptopsy) in 2012 and rounded out by past and present members of Neuraxis, who’ve been inactive since 2015. In fact 2015 would be the year that several associated side-projects would come to a halt as bassist Oliver Pinard would split his talents between Vengeful, Cryptopsy, and Cattle Decapitation while other members kept busy with the Conflux collective, Phobocosm and more. Akurion would release one song “Yet Ye See Them Not” that year implying a fairly standard progressive death metal sound to be expected out of Montréal. This isn’t necessarily how ‘Come Forth to Me’ turned out, which ends up being a somber and less technical death metal record than one could divine from that first single. For a very loose comparison, think along the lines of Quo Vadis, Hath, and definitely a strong hint of where Neuraxis had left off back in the day.
If you’re like me and discovered Cryptopsy when they released “White Worms”, the primary single from their third album ‘Whisper Supremacy’, back in 1998 there’ll be some strong nostalgia attached to DiSalvo‘s roaring hardcore-edged and classic brutal death influenced vocal style. To set his voice right in the central midst of this guitar-forward mix creates quite a lot of competition for the bass guitar’s muddy ‘back of the room’ presence as it gargles behind the riffs. This forces the ear to decide between guitars and vocals during initial listening sessions where the continuous flow offered by the riffs ends up usurping those early spins. This ends up being a fair deal, the guitar work is a reasonable focus and though not massively technical in terms of sheer notes-per-minute, the arrangements are often impressive in their own right.
None of the songwriting is attuned to its most memorable aspects and as a result ‘Come Forth to Me’ expresses more as an outlet for emotion and technique rather than any particular focus on highly repeatable fare. “Souvenir Gardens” has an exceptional build that continues to escalate more as the song awakens, “Leave Them Scars” features exceptionally well crafted and sharply layered rhythm work, and “Petals From A Rose Eventually Wither to Black” is particularly devastating for its core dynamic and the inclusion of backing vocals from DiSalvo‘s wife who passed back in 2018. Though I like this album and have consistently enjoyed listening to it throughout several spins, even the strongest displays of technique and most alluring memorable moments didn’t stick with me once I’d stepped away from it. That isn’t a major fault for a progressive death metal album, especially one that resembles the late 90’s/early 2000’s era of the sub-genre to some degree, but it did keep me at an arm’s length when listening to it.
|Title [Type/Year]||Death Monolith [LP/2020]|
|Hibernation Release||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Influenced by classic death metal yet intentionally avoidant of typical or traditional death metal tropes, Chicago’s Like Rats began as a hardcore influenced sludge metal band that’d groomed themselves into an effective death metal group by their second album (‘II‘, 2016). Think of their sound as you would Glacial Tomb, Serpentine Path or Outer Heaven in the sense that you’ll hear their taste in other genres just as loudly as their classic death metal leanings. For their third album, ‘Death Monolith’, the band no longer appear to be holding back their urge to go full-bore death metal and this won’t be entirely clear until “Ashen Rain” finally starts to lean into its initial blitz of ‘Cause of Death’-esque rhythm. What I’m actually hearing is a very relatable persistent love of Celtic Frost that informs most everything does but, again, this is never anything too obvious. Any reference these guys lean into avoids coming across as amateurish by virtue of some subtle intelligence, for example when the vocals kick in for standout track “Foul Wind” the reverse echo surely references the smaller touches that made a vocalist like Max Cavalera a household name in the early 90’s. Many death metal bands incorporate obvious influences because it is a bit of a merit badge to worship the old gods but I appreciate Like Rats ability to imbue tradition but not vomit out bland retread.
Where I see strength I also see weakness and the title track, “Death Monolith”, highlights both what I appreciate most and like least about the album in equal measure. The hardcore influenced death metal or death metal influenced hardcore sub-genre space is never this inspired, at all and I greatly appreciate roar n’ kick methodology employed. About 1:40 minutes into the piece that main riff is a fantastic event within a non-analytical listening session, it spikes up into this stomping Benediction-esque 90’s hardcore bop that you’ll never hear elsewhere in underground death metal circles. On the flipside the pace of the record has more or less persisted at a middling speed up to that point and it begins to really drag the piece on within its seven minute length. I’ve got the fortitude for it and the riffs work for me but I didn’t feel like the record had really warmed up until “Crimson Cosmos” kicked in on Side B. It was within that second half that the full listen began to gel in my mind and I can now see the value of building up to and ending with the impressive “Land of Gloom”.
‘Death Monolith’ is a grower and might take some patience ’til it really starts to show some skin. The balance of bigger mid-paced riffs, hardcore influences, and a lot of subtler details along the way makes for an above-average record in this style. However you’d describe the balance of pure 90’s death metal influences and hardcore punk down-stroked chugging moments it probably won’t satisfy the die-hard death metal head looking for the rotten orthodoxy of the sub-genre’s evolutionary hammer. On my end the combo of “Foul Wind”, “Death Monolith” and closing moments of “Land of Gloom” sold me on several listens before some of the faster moments (“Ashen Rain”, “Crimson Cosmos”) became more of a fixation.
|Title [Type/Year]||Betrayal [LP/2020]|
|Unique Leader Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Originally hyped as a ‘brutal blackened death metal’ band when their 2017 debut EP ‘Black Blood Butchery’ released, Las Vegas brutalists Cordyceps now reach for slightly more technicality and 2000’s brutal death metal lucidity within their otherwise disgusting sledge of Gorgasm-esque brutality. I dunno how much time these guys have spent with records like ‘Masticate to Dominate’ and ‘Parallels of Infinite Torture’ but they’ve got just enough of that muddy early 2000’s United States brutal death metal heave behind their sound to keep me engaged for most of the full listen. ‘Betrayal’ isn’t a throwback by any means, there are some slamming and technical death techniques within, probably leaning their style a few generations beyond and reaching the depths of bands like Disentomb or earlier Devangelic. They’re not a full-on bass dropping slam band nor are they a plain-assed brutal death metal band.
Because they’ve leaned into a verbose and pit conscious sound the distinguished brutal death fan will appreciate the energetic delivery of Cordyceps throughout without any major points of distinction along the way. The sole original member at this point, drummer and now vocalist Rafael Gonzalez is a great highlight with his vocal work here gargling and inhaling his voice across the entire ~32 minute, 10 song debut to great effect. The drum sound definitely invokes that classic tinny clank of a certain era which I greatly appreciate, still a feral kick that’ll always have me feeling nostalgic. The first half has all the big riffs, the drops, the vocal patterns that are really going for it whereas the second half pulls back a bit and starts to work with variations on riffs while pulling back on the vocals a bit. Despite the well-oiled machine they present up front it actually leaves the later moments of the record feeling more free to find Cordyceps greater complexity within songs like “Maelstrom of Hypocrisy” and “Parasitic Degenerate”. ‘Betrayal’ has the spirit of where brutal death metal exploded in new ways beyond the millennium but also a sense of todays deeper underground masochism within brutal death.
|Title [Type/Year]||It Dwells Amongst Us [LP/2020]|
|Caligari Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Like many of their peers here in the Pacific Northwest United States Noroth are an ‘old school’ minded death metal band heavily influenced by the primitive, mid-paced strokes of death/doom metal hybridization that lay just beyond the formative stages of style in the late 80’s and early 90’s. ‘It Dwells Amongst Us’ is the trio’s first official release and it still blows my mind that this very simple and straight-forward type of demo/EP release is notable enough today that it’ll feature regularly on bigger publications like Decibel and such. Why does it? No clue, as this is the sort of tape demo hounds would treat like gems during the early 2000’s when mp3 trading made tape rips available to a new generation of online metalhead. This is a dirty old niche for underground music meant to stay there and not to be tamed or twisted into deeper mundanities.
I wouldn’t say Noroth are a tamed beast but the offer a profoundly simple jog of mid-paced death metal riffs that occasionally extend into pre-’94 Bolt Thrower and Cianide-isms with some primal black metal riffs chunking around the edges purely by association. The guitar sound is blunted at the tip, rounded and ineffective beyond the droning wave it creates for the sake of pushing out a mixed bag of riffs. Although I appreciate the nuance their speedier mid-paced efforts are it should become clear that the dull sound of the tape really emphasizes the power of their slower death/doom sections, such as the dramatic end of “Vengeful Tribulation”. Fans of Coffins will undoubtedly appreciate the effective use of simpler structures and the emphasis of slower pieces throughout though they will find no great distinction beyond known realms of mid-paced classic death metal and true death/doom sounds.
For someone like me this known quantity is a great thing, I mean the guitar tone is bland for my tastes but I love simple and effective (sometimes straight up crust punk-ish) death metal like this and the anti-authoritarian focus of the lyrics make for a nice change from the gore and putridity of their peers. I see potential all over this tape and my only gripe comes with the understanding that the muddiness of their rhythms is intentional.
|Title [Type/Year]||Soumises à la procréation [EP/2020]|
|Xenokorp||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
French death metal duo Savage Annihilation is one of the oldest projects featuring brothers Mike Savage and Dave Chaigne who also feature as key members of deathgrind band Defecal of Gerbe and black/death band Brennkelt. The concept behind this band involves what they call a comic book-like story featuring Lt. Savage and his brutally unhinged adventures in the post-apocalypse. It is not the most serious music in terms of themes but their late 90’s Morbid Angel and deathgrind influenced sound is sharp enough. ‘Soumises à la procréation’ is a three song EP with songs taken from the same session as their second album, ‘Quand s’abaisse la croix du blasphème’ (2017), and because that was a conceptual record they tie into it directly by association. Those first three songs are solid enough, nothing entirely magical or inspired but solid death metal in their own right.
The second half of the EP consists of a tribute to Jeff Hanneman by way of a Slayer quasi-medley “When the Slayer Bangs His Head”. As with all Slayer influenced death metal, it is great and a nice moment on the EP. This song was previously a vinyl only exclusive track from the aforementioned 2017 full-length. The last two songs are covers featuring guest vocalists and each of them were recorded for this EP. Max Otero (Mercyless) provides vocal parts for “When Satan Rules His World” and I have to say they don’t really nail this song anywhere near the original, the guitars are very laid back and it doesn’t come together for the big hits. Last is a song that I don’t actually know, “Savages” by Helloween which according to people on YouTube who “hate Thrash metal” this song was written to make fun of the genre. Somehow this brutal cover of the song, featuring Kronos‘ vocalist, a fitting end to this fun and kind of dumb B-sides EP from the band.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Awakening… and the Old [EP/2020]|
|Redefining Darkness Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Formed in 2008 as Torment Division these Stockholm, Sweden area black/thrash metal band would release two demos before changing their name to Curse, releasing two more tapes before putting their gig on hold around 2012. ‘The Awakening… and the Old’ is their first official release since reforming in 2018. They’ve done a fine job with the recording, a clear and fairly bright sound that rests tightly in the pocket of the drums for space. Clarity is most appreciated when focusing on the more thrash oriented riffing the band cranks out but most of their guitar work is of the Nocturnal Witch side of black/thrash where the early second wave of black metal is only tapped for a few guitar techniques and general patterns for riffs. A few of the song remind me of Shakma (or alternately, Nekromantheon) a bit, when things get somewhat intricate, but most of the EP leans towards a pretty standard mix of witching metal and somewhat inspired black metal riffs. “I Am Death” has a pretty solid moment as it arrives upon its conclusion and “The Countess” features some of the better drum patterns on the album, something I wished would have popped up more often on the full listen. I see the potential there for a full-length if they kick up the thrash energy.
|Title [Type/Year]||Emergence [LP/2020]|
|The Artisan Era||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
It almost feels dickish to sum up an album that’d been eight years in the making but for all of the absolute extremity suggested by this Stockton, California band’s genre tags (melodic, symphonic, neoclassical, technical, black/death metal) this sort of over the top music is The Artisan Era’s specialty and much of what Symbolik does on ‘Emergence’ will appeal to that specific taste in grand melody, bombast, and intense technique driven pieces. The times have changed and their style has evolved quite a bit but other than a rhythm guitarist swap this quintet hold fast to the blueprint of the ‘Pathogenesis’ EP from 2011. Consider the awkward technical peak of symphonic black metal hybrids in the early 2000’s, the neoclassical brutality of Fleshgod Apocalypse and the bouncy melodeath mid-career of The Black Dahlia Murder and you’re just about in the right headspace for ‘Emergence’. Thrilling as that might sound for some the bigger picture of Symbolik‘s songwriting is more interesting than the gauntlet of its motion where plenty of wailing solos, celestial keyboards, and hyper-speed blasts weave into some grand pieces. For my own taste I’d found that I would get to about track 5 or 6 before it would start to feel like I’d just listened to one extended piece. The extreme approach to composition experiences what I call the Mekong Delta effect where a band might be so eager to stay over the top with their sound that they flatten in my mind as I become more familiar with the piece. Unfortunately none of the album really stuck with me and I’d had little to say about it after the requisite listens.
|Title [Type/Year]||Thy Dying Light [LP/2020]|
|Purity Through Fire||PREVIEW on YouTube|
Released on cassette in limited quantities in early February this self-titled debut from British black metal duo Thy Dying Light has now arrived on CD and 12″ vinyl format by way of Purity Through Fire. Prolific musicians Azrael and Hrafn have at least ten projects shared between them (among several others) spanning these last two decades with notable highlights being Nefarious Dusk, Úlfarr, and Atra Mors and this fairly new conception Thy Dying Light which’d formed in 2016. Having released three demos, five EPs, three compilations and now a full-length in the span of those four years most of this debut is a known quantity, expected raw or ‘classic’ early second wave black metal. I enjoyed this album quite a bit but found nothing interesting to say about it, the riffs are sharp but not massively varied, the atmosphere is very stark but never desperate, and the guitar work is generally fantastic throughout. If anything they’re somewhat ‘clean’ and restrained on this record but this charm only lasts for about half the album and I’d found myself pausing in between halves of the album to clear my head of the developing monotony.
|Title [Type/Year]||Summerland [LP/2020]|
|Prophecy Productions||BUY & LISTEN Bandcamp!|
Dool is a shoegaze and psychedelia influenced dark rock band from the Netherlands formed between current/ex-members of The Devil’s Blood, Gold and solo artist Elle Bandita. There are strong gothic post-punk (‘death rock’) vibes to certain songs on their second album ‘Summerland’ where modern dreariness crosses over the edge towards occult rock intermittently without sounding even slightly retro. Fans of Gold and Chelsea Wolfe are probably the best target for these tunes, Dool aren’t exactly as catchy or concise but they utilize similar post-rock techniques to enhance their compositions. I’d say ‘Summerlands’ sounds exactly as it looks, an oozing and sleepy record with often over-extended songs that jam out into gentle instrumental rants and personal tirades. Without any particularly catchy moments this is of course not my kind of thing, although I did enjoy the more energetic gust of “Be Your Sins” and “Sulphur & Starlight”.
|Title [Type/Year]||Infidel [LP/2020]|
|Saturnal Records||PREVIEW on YouTube|
‘Infidel’ is the third album from Tornio, Finland based black metal act Curse Upon a Prayer and a reasonably strong step made in terms of their ever-developing melodic voice which now alternates with more aberrated and avant-garde riff structures. The message of the band, which extends beyond anti-Christian themes towards dissent hurled against all religions, unfortunately seems to always capitalize the conversation beyond their music which is a bit different than typical Finnish black metal and should strongly appeal to fans of Icelandic and French black metal. Unfortunately I find myself likewise more interested the conversation surrounding the prospect of anti-Islam music becoming more prevalent not only because Christianity has been so thoroughly exposed, skewered, and milked for imagery but that Islam is an equally brutal and regressive religion that absolutely needs its criminal mistreatment of humanity examined a million times over.
By touching something that many people find untouchable for the fear of offending dangerous people Curse Upon a Prayer embody the spirit of black metal before you’ve heard even a single note and I’ll at least suggest that it is a nice bonus to find that they’ve got some substance and passion within their music that makes the hoopla all worth mention. Dark, mystic, and occasionally melodic ‘Infidel’ often dips into the ink of ugliness by way of their slightly dissonant leanings and abrasive guitar sound, creating a unique atmosphere with familiar parts. “Taste Ye The Penalty Of Burning” has all of these elements rolled into one piece, though it leans into a ‘melodic’ and triumphant feeling as it develops. “Prophetic Poison” is probably the most exemplar moment on the second half for its core melodic guitar hook that expands the structure of the song in some interesting ways as it commences. Does this make good on the ‘The Three Woes’ EP from a couple of years ago? I would suggest that they’ve evolved even more in the year or so since and bring some worthwhile insight in the space between.
|Title [Type/Year]||Jazz Soundtracks For Embalming [LP/2020]|
|Epictronic||PREVIEW on YouTube|
Shadowdream is more or less the pen name of Serbian musician Rastko Perišić as he’d begin the project as a young adult in the mid-2000’s as a black metal/ambient hybrid that’d soon incorporate elements of jazz and neoclassical music until the ‘metal’ part of the equation subsided. Having studied music in a performing arts high school and later (I believe) jazz as well as cinema, Shadowdream would become Perišić‘s catch-all for all manner of genre exploration. ‘Jazz Soundtracks For Embalming’ does more or less speak for itself in terms of sub-genre, a cinematically charged dark ambient record featuring lounge jazz numbers and occasionally cathedralesque landscapes (“I Can’t Help Myself”.) I found the full listen fairly repeatable with heavy favor for the jazz sections over the more plain synth/keyboard driven pieces, some worked and others didn’t. I’d typically find myself skipping past any sampled voice audio because it felt out of place on repeat listens. “Textures of Pain” is probably the only song where a gasping man and a heartbeat has ever been effective for my taste in an intentionally frightful musical recording. As I said the jazz pieces are the main draw here with the title track and “The Art of Fear” being particularly memorable. I would not say that this is the most studious or luxurious recording of its type I’ve heard when considering movie scores and oddball jazz records but I do think Shadowdream has hit upon an theme that is interesting enough and easy to come back to and repeat. Meditation for creeps, I suppose.
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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