Overlooked Releases – Q1 | 2020

OVERLOOKED RELEASES are the weight in hand and a task engaged in random order! This will be a quarterly feature in the form of a list devoted to grouping together albums of interest that were missed within a three month period, this entry being specifically January 1st, 2020 through March 31st, 2020. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons, the most common reason being constraint of time. The goal is to cover as much of the greatness that’d slipped through my fingers in the past three months as well as show thanks and acknowledgment for notable works. All releases are presented in random order, it is mostly metal. Each item rates above average.


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Artist WITCHTRAP
Title [Type/Year] Evil Strikes Again [LP/2020]
Dirty Sound Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Hailing from Medellin, Colombia and playing ripping raw witching metal since 1992 Witchtrap are absolutely seasoned pros when it comes to mid-80’s German thrash metal influenced blackened thrash metal riffing. ‘Evil Strikes Again’ is the fifth album from the band since 2002 and although they’ve improved a shit ton over the years they’re still devoted to Hell and its multifarious rhythms first and foremost. All of the band’s discography has been picked up by Hell’s Headbangers Records over the years while also self-released on their own DIY imprint locally, I hadn’t really heard of the band until 2017 when HHR put out vinyl issues of most of their records when their last album ‘Trap the Witch’ (2016) released on vinyl that year and I’ve been anticipating ‘Evil Strikes Again’ for about that long.

Looking for the latest trend? Something hip? You’re barking up the wrong pyre because these guys are true die hards and like I said they are pros, self-producing, mixing, mastering in their own studio and they’ve really gotten it right these last three albums in particular. Witchtrap‘s sound is rooted in the catchier non-power metal side of German speed metal and with each album their love of pure heavy metal shines through a bit more. The first records from Destruction, Kreator, and Slayer inform some of their diction and most of their greater riff structures but they’re not so stuck in the 1985 that it’ll sounds dryly ‘retro’ or completely derivative. All that really needs to be said is that this is a fantastic guitar album for folks who love any band ever labeled evil thrash metal, satanic speed metal, or witching metal.


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Artist ALTARS OF GORE
Title [Type/Year] Obscure & Obscene Gods [LP/2020]
Self-Released BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Altars of Gore is a primitive death metal attuned bestial black/death metal project that intentionally leads with a casket-buried sound, muddy and begging to be cranked up until the riffs shake the walls. Blaring, unflinching riffs, puked echo-chamber vocals, and belligerent as all Hell do-it-yourself recording all comes by way of Death Fortress bassist/vocalist T. Warrior with some additional lead guitars from J. Aversario (Abazagorath, Death Fortress, Siege Column). The way I saw this album was something like if Mortician were into war metal, or if bands like Crurifragium or Cosmic Void Ritual took a more focused, riff heavy approach. That isn’t to say you’ll be picking many distinguished riffs out of the sinew and slime of it all but ‘Obscure & Obscene Gods’ manages to communicate its lo-fi evil and pummeling approach enough that you can become familiar with its rhythms and songs. Each song is structured in a fairly similar manner, a lot of ruminations upon themes and slow variations on a central pattern make for a focused but hellish mush of rotten sound. Raw, foul, full of horror and hatred — Absolutely not something I’d overthink. I’d recommend at least giving it one listen, it’ll either be immersive or dry depending on your sensibilities.


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Artist NOX FORMULAE
Title [Type/Year] Drakon Darshan Satan [LP/2020]
Dark Descent Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The only reason I’ve not been able to make time for Nox Formulae is due to the extreme number of fine black metal albums released the last week of March and regretfully I’ve not even had the chance to play favorites as I stare at a list of ten records I just wouldn’t have time to devote true mind to. ‘Drakon Darshan Satan’ is the second album from this anonymous Greek black metal act who are most certainly related to Serpent Noir and maybe a more ancient band such as Acherontas, there are not many musicians that are this devoutly religious or prone to align with serious Draconianism within the Athens, Greece circles — Unless I am mistaken, and certainly could be. Their identities don’t particularly matter if you are looking to discern what Nox Formulae sound like as the quintet does not plainly resemble any act I could suggest by relation. This is not the melodic and ‘epic’ form of black metal you’d expect out of Athens. The traditions of Scandinavian and French black metal of the most orthodox Satanic forms is present here in spirit and the purposeful gait of this album has the potential to be too devotional for listeners who are prone to shrink away from ‘serious’ religious incantation. I’m actually more compelled by obscure religion and philosophical thought so, I become more and more curious about similar threads of Draconianism and its emotionally charged use of symbolic, personalized meaning for ritual thanks to bands like this.

‘Drakon Darshan Satan’ is patently aggressive from the first second, blasting in at high speed with all three elements rabidly hitting an immediate and sustained blast for the first minute. As soon as the vocals came in I was almost entirely sure who lead vocalist Monkshood 333 was and I figure that’ll be a reward to figure for more dedicated Hellenic black metal fans. I digress, though, as the brutal pace and incredibly tight-woven riffs of “Psychopath of NOX” set a high standard that the rest of ‘Drakon Darshan Satan’ almost entirely lives up to. By the middle of the album some spoken word arrives from a familiar voice (“Eclipse Of Gharrasielh”) and a more melodic heart begins to show. I was thankful that they’d not repeated the brutality of ‘The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy’ (2016) entirely here and by the time “The Blood Oath Of Thagirion” gracefully burned in mind things had taken an almost psychoactive turn beyond the melodic statements prior.

This all sounds very comfortable for my tastes yet I’ve not mentioned the gabber/trance song “The Arrival Of Noctifer” which sent me on a wild (but bad) nostalgic trip back to that one song at the end of ‘Tales From the Thousand Lakes’ and Morbid Angel‘s techno remixes. Though I like the idea of this song it didn’t work for me and slightly staggered the momentum of Side B. Thankfully “Berzerks Of OD” comes next and manages to be such a fantastic song, perhaps one of my favorites overall, that it nullifies the moment of discomfort that “The Arrival of Noctifer” brought and leads brilliantly into the thrashing exit of “Eve of Annihilation”. The full listen is not perfect but it is largely fluid and purposeful even in terms of the more experimental moments, I found myself entranced by ‘Drakon Darshan Satan’ yet hardly able to describe it or analyze the experience beyond enjoying it.  


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Artist COME TO GRIEF
Title [Type/Year] Pray For the End [EP/2020]
Grievance Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If you were as fanatic about sludge in the mid-to-late 90’s as I was no doubt you had Grief‘s Century Media debut ‘Come to Grief’ (1994) recommended to you at some point, it was a ‘smaller’ label at the time and the CD wasn’t that easy to come by but I’d always treat it as a sort of ‘diamond in the rough’ personally. No doubt the Boston, Massachusetts quartet helped to solidify the doom metal characteristics of classic sludge metal for generations to come. Come to Grief comes about a decade after Grief split up by way of one original guitarist Terry Savastano, who is also in the formed version of Warhorse, as well as ‘…and Man Will Become the Hunted’ (2000) drummer Chuck Conlon. No doubt if you followed their old band up to the millennium you remember their stoner-doomed shift away from abrasive Eyehategod-esque hollering lurch and if you’re not into that no worries as ‘Pray for the End’ is a call back to the early 90’s style of sludge/doom Grief was originally known for.

This three song EP is relatively short and offers the sort of straightforward hissing doom one should expect from a band named Come to Grief. I’m all for it, not just for the sake of nostalgia but for the severe lack of absolutely nasty, truly depressive sludge metal around today. Sludge should be suffering bled out, sludge should be from the mouth and hands of someone who is a terminal goddamn case! Savastano is still a fine guitarist who is no less capable today of nailing a doom metal riff while putting a gnarly, gloom ridden twist on it, such as the middle of “Raping the Wiling”. “March of the Maggots” reminds me of discovering Side B on ‘My War’ as a kid and being thoroughly mind-fucked by those slower, creep-assed songs therein and no doubt it’ll appeal in the same way to folks who are into Thou, Coffinworm, and Cough today.


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Artist AHNA
Title [Type/Year] Crimson Dawn [LP/2020]
Caligari Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Vancouver, British Colombia experimental death-crusters Ahna have returned with a second full-length album. Kicked into gear as a fairly standard crust punk band back in 2008 the core duo had been prone to stylistic shifts and experimentation leading up to their first EP, as evidenced by their countless demo tapes and interstitial recordings, but they’d more or less found some mixture of death metal and crust punk from that point on. The ten year gap in between albums finds Ahna more complete in their stylistic evolution and far more tightly performed as a quartet. ‘Crimson Dawn’ comes after a few years spent grinding away at unique rhythmic ideas in ‘old school’ death metal projects Grave Infestation and Total Isolation. This record doesn’t lean too heavily in the death metal direction despite being far more deathly than anything prior and shouldn’t alienate curious crust extremists too drastically. Ahna‘s style still heavily resembles ‘In Battle There is No Law’-era Bolt Thrower but thankfully stretches miles beyond a tired imitation of it. Some tracks are full on crust in spirit (“Sick Waste”) whereas the next might sound like a demo for Death‘s ‘Leprosy’ (“Crimson Dawn”). The effect is always intense, blasting, free-wheeling, and particularly spacious thanks to the incredible journey the album took from Grind City Recording (recording) to Earhammer (mix) and Audiosiege (master). Tons of energy, plenty of memorable moments on each side of the tape, and an enormous sound make this one of the sharpest records of its type so far this year. A high recommendation on my end despite not having much to say about it otherwise.


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Artist TULUS
Title [Type/Year] Old Old Death [LP/2020]
Soulseller Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Norwegian black metal band Tulus have been around since the late 80’s and they’ve always made sure they didn’t sound anything like their compatriots in Oslo. Going as far back as their first album in 1996 the trio has featured a full and very audible bass guitar performance that helps to propel their grinding rock influence grooves. Tulus never quite got their due back in the day, weird album covers and such, but when they formed Khold and evolved their sound a bit they’d hit upon a wave of popularity for a decade or so. In recent years things have come full circle in an interesting way since the formation of Sarke (with Nocturno Culto on vocals) the tendency of that band has been a sort of third evolution of that original Tulus. So, how does Tulus sound on their sixth album after six years of waiting? Unexpectedly catchy, an eclectic bass-driven blackened rock record performed by a classic Norwegian black metal band. Well, it is an awkward generalization on my part to suggest it is a ‘rock record’ as this is a black metal record at its heart but the limbs aren’t flailing out auld speed metal or punk rock rhythms. Sarke and Minas Tirith guitarist Stian Kråbøl (aka Crowbel) is a true talent on bass and a really important part of why I enjoy both Sarke and these last two releases from Tulus. They are fairly simple rhythms and not magical feats but, there are so many Norwegian bands who attempt this sinister blackened rock style that is yet in touch with ’91 black metal and few accomplish anything as memorable and ‘bold’ in feeling as Tulus has on ‘Old Old Death’.  I say this as a big fan of Sarke, to be clear, so if you’ve no love for them I’d venture a guess that you’ll have a similar reaction to this (so far) underrated release.


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Artist GLACIATION
Title [Type/Year] Ultime Eclat [LP/2020]
Osmose Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Glaciation began around 2011 as a post-black/atmospheric metal group with members from Alcest and Peste Noire among other French modernist black metal groups but around 2018 the entire band was restaffed and no longer includes any of the original members. This new formation centers around the second vocalist for Anorexia Nervosa (the first vocalist is now in Ævangelist, oddly enough) Hreidmarr who has filled out the band with members of bands you’ll likely not recognize (Eschaton, Deathcode Society, etc.) with some songwriting from the gentleman behind Ende. Though it is a decent enough atmospheric black metal album with plenty of very soft but often unexpected moments I did not find the majority of ‘Ultime Eclat’ particularly interesting. I’ve no real alignment with the previous albums from the band yet I was still somewhat disappointed that this record didn’t sound much like the previous album, ‘Sur les falaises de marbre’ (2015), beyond the vocal performances. Several extended and dramatic atmospheric black metal pieces begin to lose their structural interest, or distinction as the album proceeds due to very similar expression throughout although the band does shine best during ‘heavier’ and more black metal focused pieces such as “Ce qu’il y a de chaos”. The vocal performances are never particularly effective beyond some cleaner breaks on “Et puis le soufre” and I’d soon found myself admiring the execution of the album more than the content itself. Nice atmosphere and a post-rock influenced set of movements yet all of it seems pulled from a very predictable playbook.


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Artist GLOOSH
Title [Type/Year] Timewheel [LP/2020]
Casus Belli Musica BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Hailing from one of the larger cities in Siberia atmospheric black metal band Gloosh bring a contemplative and beauteous piece of black metal with their debut release ‘Timewheel’ and no doubt it is primarily influenced by popular Ukrainian bands (Drudkh, at least) as well as earlier Mgła, unless I am entirely mistaken. Gloosh is an interesting name and while it sounds like a watery, flushing sound effect from a comic book the word translates as “remote or untouched forest land” in Russian if the spelling is changed to Glush. Although this is pretty excellent for atmospheric black metal, with beautiful art design and some sweetly resonant guitar movements what’d interested me more was the implications of musician Foltath‘s naturalist beliefs where he sees non-anthropomorphic deities within nature, beings as species and saints with the natural order of the wilderness they sustain. This point of view is suggested as stemming from the very universal themes of animism in many pre-Christian cultures and although we are all here for the music, this sort of thinking is incredibly vital when sourcing the heart of passion that goes into emotionally driven music such as atmospheric black metal. I won’t suggest that all of the riffs are exceptional or that Gloosh are vitally different than many other bands in this style but ‘Timewheel’ is still a very tasteful and meaningful record. It’ll likely be even more resonant if you can translate the poetic Russian lyrics.


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Artist MAVORIM
Title [Type/Year] Axis Mundi [LP/2020]
Purity Through Fire BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Mavorim is a solo black metal project from German musician Baptist who’d started the project back in 2014 and initially focused on ambient black metal before he worked towards more austere and melodic black metal forms for his first full-length ‘Silent Leges Inter Arma’ (2018). That triumphant streak of powerful and characteristically German black metal with a heavy emphasis on melody is doubly ambitious on his second full-length ‘Axis Mundi’, which I’d considered one of the best releases of January this year. It’ll be those melodious intentions that draw fans in first, especially when certain pieces include keyboard melodies to distinguish their grand rhythms such as opener “Aus Asche auferstanden”. No two songs are too alike here and Mavorim pull from a vast array of influences that aren’t limited to the already broad and fruitful history of German black metal. Ambient interludes, folkish melodies, and a celestial keyboard work make for an album that should please fellows who’d like some crossover between folkish and atmospheric black metal. I found myself listening to this album quite often during the later weeks of January and early February, but never exactly sure what to else to tout about the experience beyond enjoying its varied approach to vocals and detailed melodic compositions. I’d primarily recommend this one to fans of Finnish and German black metal of late. Standout tracks for my taste were probably the more melodic pieces, such as “Der Himmel bricht entzwei” and the sublime “Wo kriegergleiche Kräfte walten”.


cover Sallow Moth - The Larval Hope

Artist SALLOW MOTH
Title [Type/Year] The Larval Hope [LP/2020]
Dead Red Queen Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Sallow Moth is an independent solo death metal project from Dallas, Texas based musician Garry Brents (Cara Neir) that leads with a fairly unique progressive and melodic death metal sound, crisp and spacious a la late 90’s Edge of Sanity. If you’d already known about this band more than likely it was because of his ‘Deathspore‘ EP from 2018 where a tendency towards Gorguts influenced riffs began to express in connection with the Pestilence and Swedish death metal influences on that second EP. ‘The Larval Hope’ is basically part one (well, Chapter II but ‘Deathspore’ was more or less a prologue) of an extensive sci-fi/fantasy narrative that is unique for its naturalist angle, think of the TV series V but with moth people and some conflict between human and androids in there as a major plot device. The theme is not cursory or throwaway, plenty of thought and world building have been put into this second chapter and it is well worth consideration as a vital part of the whole experience.

Brents packs a lot of meaningful and moderately technical style into this half hour full-length, all of it comes with a great understanding of slick atmospheric transitional moments and bounding but not cornball melodic death metal. If you were stoked for the most recent Angerot record or enjoy classic Edge of Sanity and the first Hypocrisy album there’ll be a lot to dig into here. There is a bit of tradeoff for folks who’d loved ‘Deathspore’ where increasing fluidity, complexity and extra patience for melodicism makes ‘The Larval Hope’ less brutally engaging as the EP that preceded it. This is a fine shift in dynamic and a more ‘whole’ feeling, expressive record from Sallow Moth results. Highly repeatable and highly recommended, especially if you liked the vibe of that debut from Sweven in March.


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Artist BANISHER
Title [Type/Year] Degrees of Isolation [LP/2020]
Selfmadegod Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Banisher are a Polish technical death metal band founded by sole original member Hubert Więcek (Decapitated, Redemptor) in 2005 but the line-up wouldn’t truly start to solidify until their third album ‘Oniric Delusions’ (2016) due to focus on other projects. The fourth album from the band is probably the most accessible and memorable thing Banisher have done yet, featuring remarkably intense but never too-complicated technical groove riffing at a mid-to-fast pace. Of course the easy comparison here is Decapitated since this record features their current bassist though I’d also point to Hate, and maybe even certain Aborted records by the time this record finishes its 40 minute jog. I’m not really the mark for technical death/groove metal hybrids though ‘Degrees of Isolation’ manages to keep the full listen fairly strong and entertaining, not enough that I’ll go looking for similar records but I never found myself shying away from a spin of this Banisher record. I appreciated the non-typical production job here. the Polish death metal I grew up with was raw and flat with overblown low end that’d just destroy speakers whereas this record is geared towards modern standards common to popular technical/progressive death metal. A few of the songs drag on a little bit too long or feel a bit claustrophobic but this is likely for good reason on an album themed after the mental effects of incarceration, which obviously comes from personal experience considering what Decapitated experienced back in 2017 and part of 2018. Not exactly my style but still a good death metal record. For preview I’d suggest “Extradition” and “Echoes” as particularly memorable among the bunch.


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Artist XENOBIOTIC
Title [Type/Year] Mordrake [LP/2020]
Unique Leader Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

As much as I like the whole package of Xenobiotic‘s second album I ultimately don’t enjoy modern deathcore/tech-death hybridization anywhere near as much as I do straight technical death metal. The distinction isn’t so cut and dry when initially firing up ‘Mordrake’ as it generally resembles modern tech-death but the riffs make their case for deathcore just a few seconds deep into the remarkable second piece “Light That Burns the Sky”. My tastes and mind is open to expansion so I’d given this record plenty of attention and consideration even after I’d decided I couldn’t put together a review for it. Not because I didn’t like what Xenobiotic do but because I didn’t want to write another “I don’t get it, and that is ok I still liked it” reviews in full. The same way I could appreciate the lead-focused and airy Fallujah record last year I can appreciate what these Perth, Australia based musicians have cooked up on a conceptual level. Yes, the riffs are chuggy and syncopated in a blunt fashion but almost no other element of their music is. Beyond my criticism of their rhythm guitar style the creeping atmospheric horror and tension of the record speaks a bit louder because of that binary wallop in the background, this is particularly effective on “Acedia” and “Dysphoria” where I felt that duo of escalating discomfort starts to define ‘Mordrake’ as an experience: Fully modern but not vapid in its intended effect. The cover painting, the production, and the varied landscapes created within the experience all make for a best face forward for a record I wasn’t sure about otherwise. I’m not sure I’ll ever warm to the uninteresting rhythmic tropes of deathcore but I do think Xenobiotic have realized some special potential here on their second album.


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Artist DESOLATE REALM
Title [Type/Year] Unleash the Storm [EP/2020]
Self-Released BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If you’re a fan of epic heavy/doom metal such as earlier Grand Magus and Finnish doom metal in general then Helsinki, Finland based duo Desolate Realm have managed a remarkable display of potential worth checking out on this self-released debut EP. Matias Nastolin should be a familiar face here if you’re familiar with his work in Altar of Betegeuze and the current drummer from his death metal band Decaying is featured here as well. Of course this project is far from stoner/doom metal or ‘old school’ death metal citing Candlemass and Savatage in self-description. Only die-hard epic heavy metal fans will stick around beyond the first song here due to the somewhat awkward King Diamond-esque 80’s metal shrieks that howl in and change the mood of “Unleash the Storm”. I like these sorts of choices, though, because those odd decisions might lead to something far more redeeming later or they might characterize the bands early output when looking back upon their discography later on. Some of the guitar work is underwhelming, such as the stumbling verse riffs for “Vindication”, and though it works for the more classic heavy metal pieces the stuff that really slows down can feel somewhat forced. I’d really enjoy the personality of this release and felt it was worth mention but I’m not sure they’ve found the rhythms that sets their concept off. Lots of potential here, especially if they can find a more commanding guitar presence, something more thrashing like ‘Ancient Dreams’ that’ll stand up to the idiosyncratic vocal work.


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Artist FER DE LANCE
Title [Type/Year] Colossus [EP/2020]
Cruz del Sur Music BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Fer De Lance is an epic/heavy doom metal project out of the Chicago, Illinois area featuring members of Moros Nyx and Smoulder. The trio’s first EP, ‘Colossus’, features unmistakable influence from ‘Hammerheart’-aligned Bathory (or, perhaps Scald) and surely a hint of the bombast of groups like Atlantean Kodex. Upon first listen I wasn’t wild about the vocals as they’re remarkably over the top but only really on fire when accompanied by the full force of the band. Folkish parts with only acoustic guitar and singing stuck out as a moment that’d called for tact and restraint, a build rather than a howl in the dark. “Colossus” is a fine song but it’d have been a monster of a statement if the vocalist hadn’t approached cranking it to eleven. It is heavy metal, though, so go for it if you must but for my taste it files under ‘Nordland II’ more than ‘The Gathering Wilderness’ for that reason. I can’t overstate the generally strong songwriting here as Fer De Lance finds an under-served space in epic heavy metal and really goes for it with some remarkable energy. If you’ve ever heard Scald‘s post-album demos and songs like “Master of Tundra” I’d definitely felt like that spirit could be invoked within this band quite successfully or at least please fans of epic heavy metal quite easily.


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Artist SALTAS
Title [Type/Year] Mors Salis – Opus I [LP/2020]
Nuclear War Now! Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

If you’d thought that Altar of Gore record I’d mentioned earlier was pure mud then I’d recommend cranking up this debut full-length from Swedish drone/death doom metal duo Saltas. Molten organic material fuming with inorganic death and skull-rumbling lo-fi pain, ‘Mors Salis – Opus I’ makes good on the thrillingly primordial sledge of their prolific demo tape schedule leading up to this record. Think of it like if Hellhammer were performed by Earth in a basement in 1989, sinister and rhythmic to the point of ritual but also psychedelic and adventurous in its movements. This’ll all make a bit more sense when you realize members of The Funeral Orchestra, Irkallian Oracle, and Runemagick whirl this cavernous dimension into existence. I’d written three or four drafts while attempting to do a full review of this album, which I like quite a bit, but I’d never found an apt description. I’ve seen apt comparisons to Bog Body and Ceremented but I’d say this has an entirely different vibe while carrying some of the same demented sound design on a superficial level. Grinding sawblades, machinery, garbled howls, and moaning horrors lie beneath the roaring layers of guitars and growling slow death within and no manner of prose on my part could properly describe the redeeming qualities of this Hell they create. That said, I must’ve listened to this fifty times in the last three months.


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Artist CROWHURST
Title [Type/Year] The Fake Grape Sessions [EP/2020]
Prophecy Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based avant-garde noise rock, sludge, black metal etc. project Crowhurst achieve something remarkable here on this ‘official bootleg’ release captured in London by Sam Thredder of Slabdragger and his Cro’s Nest Studio as a set of six fully improvised noise rock pieces. The sound is definitely ‘live in studio’ feeling not only because the improvisational nature of the music demands it but for the sake of these performances bouncing off of each other in some remarkable ways. Averaging 5-6 minutes each, the six pieces (or, takes) develop remarkably fast and with generally fine results. The late 80’s Greg Ginn-soaked bumbling of “Big Shark” threatens to fall apart at the end but the stumble n’ swagger freak rock boogie of “Alien Abduction In Lake County” has some serious merit and I’d actually found it a highly repeatable song despite the shrug away from returning to the main theme created. “Changes” brings in the side of Crowhurst I am personally most familiar with, filthy sludge rock with a sort of metalpunk vibe to it. I came away from my time with ‘The Fake Grape Sessions’ wondering if I was just a noise rock scum fuck who liked anything that sounded remotely unhinged or if these guys are just that good, and I’m inclined to give ’em due credit for whipping out some intensely enjoyable material out of seeming thin air.


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Artist ANTHROPOPHAGOUS
Title [Type/Year] Spoiled Marrow [EP/2020]
Blood Harvest Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Originally released back in 2019 and given a run on cassette through Headsplit Records that following October, this fine demo from Montague, Massachusetts death metal duo Anthropophagous now receives the 7″ vinyl EP treatment from Blood Harvest Records here in early 2020. I’ll admit up front I basically never put in the effort to actually spin 7″ records anymore, it takes more time to whip one out and throw it on the turntable than it does for the side to finish, but I’m not above collecting them. ‘Spoiled Marrow’ was 13 minute to begin with and just the right length to hit hard and leave a fantastic first impression for their groovy, juiced early 90’s death metal sound that lands in the ‘Severed Survival’ camp most of the time. The destroyer on the tracklist is probably “Memento Mori” just for that post-Repulsion late 80’s progression they’re kicking around but the songs that stuck best were opener “Trial by Fist and Stone” and thrashing madness of “Anthropophagous”. They’ve released a second demo as a duo at the start of this month and you’ll hear a more brutal n’ loose zombie side of the band on that one so, savor the thrashed-out spirit of this one in case they never outdo their ‘skeletal Slimer’ demo debut.


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Artist ROAD WARRIOR / GRAVEBREAKER
Title [Type/Year] Split [EP/2020]
Cruz Del Sur Music BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Australian heavy metal maniacs Road Warrior have a solid second album coming out soon and this split 7″ EP with Swedish true metallers Gravebreaker helps to prime the pump with a quick song from each. I really enjoyed ‘Power’ (2018) and after revisiting it as well as ‘Mach II’ I’d say “Death in Heels on Wheels” does a fine job of highlighting the strength gained in the interim. Very powerful 80’s power metal song, more of a stomper than a speeder and the drum sound really emphasizes the subtle hook of the arrangement. My first reaction was something like, if Omen‘s ‘Escape to Nowhere’ had riffs, but there are probably far cleaner comparisons to make. Either way it is a strong taste of what is to come with ‘Mach II’ soon enough and holds up next to the sheer power of Gravebreaker‘s “Death Promise”, a melodic speed metal beast of a song. Since we’d not heard from the Swedes since 2016 and their logo is similar, I’d initially thought this was Canadian speed metal band Chainbreaker well, before hearing it and taking a closer look. Strong piece as well, love the keyboards for emphasis. I’m a big fan of both bands so of course I’d recommend this split single, though practically speaking this one is for the die-hards and collectors.


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Artist CONJURETH
Title [Type/Year] Foul Formations [EP/2020]
Self-Released BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

One of the biggest bummers of the last decade was undoubtedly getting some forward-thinking, brutally different noise from Ghoulgotha and watching the legions of superficial scum around the world spend next to no time with the challenging death/doom they’d presented. Conjureth is basically the ‘To Starve the Cross’ line-up minus drummer C. Koryn playing a more straightforward brand of death metal that reaches for brutality and triumphant movements on this first demo tape, ‘Foul Formations’. The focus here is pure and intense riff-socked death metal, punch drunk with reeking sickness and thoughtfully strung pieces of classic but not blandly ‘old school’ death riffs. Elektrokutioner‘s work has always been a bit off for the sake of standing out so don’t expect something plain as many would suggest, the arrangements are simplified and he is not approaching the avant-garde in any sense but you won’t find me comparing this record to anything pre-1998 and feeling like I’ve done a service to its professional capture and malevolent rhythms. Huge recommendation for this one if you’re a death metal fan, one of the most essential death metal demos of 2020 thus far.


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Artist ALL MY SINS
Title [Type/Year] Plamen I Led [EP/2020]
Casus Belli Musica BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

All My Sins are a Serbian pagan black metal duo who I’d really loved on their debut full-length, ‘Pra sila – Vukov totem’, back in 2018 so I’d been a little bit surprised at the first impression of this new EP which turns out to be two very sharp cover songs and a re-recorded/re-imagined version of their a two part piece (“Where the Winds Will Blow”) from their 2004 demo ‘From the Land of the Shining Past’. The first cover is from Luna, a darkwave band active in the early mid-80’s in former Yugoslavia, and their remarkable “Ogledalo Lune” which recalls early The Cure for me at times on the original. All My Sins‘ version is very nicely done, respectful of the original while adding some expressive power of it through their black metal tendency. The second cover is of Old Wainds‘ ‘Scalding Coldness’ (‘Oбжигающий холодный’) from 2005. A band like this always serves as a reminder that there is yet more underground history to explore in the last two decades of music that I’ve missed or skimmed past, a reminded to check out Old Wainds is much appreciated though the song pales in comparison to the re-imagined “Where the Winds Will Blow”, which is the glorious standout here. A curio for anyone but collectors or those intrigued by ‘Pra sil – Vukov totem’, I’d still recommend this EP to fans of pagan black metal for a strong introduction to All My Sins.


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Artist KORGONTHURUS
Title [Type/Year] Kuolleestasyntynyt [LP/2020]
Woodcut Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Korgonthurus are an atmospheric black metal band from the Helsinki, Finland area originally concieved by veterans of Horna, Sear, and Totalselfhatred. ‘Kuolleestasyntynyt’ is the third full-length from the core duo who’ve split up numerous times since forming in 2000, each time with a new (or additional) line-up and some form of update to their atmospheric black metal style. Their first album ‘Marras’ (2009) was definitely a product of its time with two extended ~20 minute pieces, their second album ‘Vuohen Siunaus’ (2016) touched upon some depressive/dark metal tendencies seeing as how it’d featured the core membership of Totalselfhatred during a long hiatus for that group, and this third full-length is more in line with the emotive range of Finnish black metal of late though it isn’t particularly influenced by modern shoegaze or late 90’s throwbacks, nor does it feature exceptionally melodic pieces. Despite plenty of familiar textures and techniques characteristic of their region Korgonthurus do still retain some of the broader appeal of their previous record on “Tuhontuoja” and “Nox” two of the more memorable and perhaps cathartic pieces on ‘Kuolleestasyntynyt’. The patient atmospheric black metal fan searching for this bright niche should be well rewarded by this album. It isn’t entirely my wheelhouse though I did find the majority of these songs redeeming and highly listenable.


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Artist BLOOD AND SUN
Title [Type/Year] Love & Ashes [LP/2020]
Nordvis Produktion BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Call it dark folk, neofolk, gothic country or what best suits your associations to the music of Luke Tromiczak‘s Blood and Sun there’ll be no doubt that it is emotional and spiritual kin to great North American folk music traditions of speaking one’s truth, and woes, from an earnest perspective. A daunting amount of layers build ‘Love & Ashes’ into an almost inhuman sized wall of rumbling tune that insists to be heard. It just doesn’t work like background music as typical neofolk artists often do, barked and crooned out as if early Rome were healthy students of Americana alongside a dose of Woven Hand and 16 Horsepower. Tromiczak‘s past in black metal groups such as Maledicere doesn’t shine through beyond some strong paganistic symbolism and his baritone vocals pull things far from any metal biosphere. ‘Love & Ashes’ is remarkably lush compared to the sort of neofolk/gothic country projects who share similar tonality — Violin, Bodhrán, cello, accordion, and strong chorales often surge as one force within these deeply layered compositions bringing their full strength so often that the pieces tend to bleed together with the full choir engaged for each song. That said, the entirety of ‘Love & Ashes’ feels all the more like a spiritual event for the persistence of those bigger moments. I’d meant to write a full review for this but I’d felt unqualified to address the neofolk genre with any meaningful authority or insight, so I took it as a chance to do further associated listening research instead. A resonant and unforgettable record all the same.


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Artist DROWN
Title [Type/Year] Subaqueous [LP/2020]
Prophecy Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Incredibly talented Ukranian musician Markov Soroka certainly turned heads with his stunning Tchornobog debut in 2017 and the ripple effect has enlightened folks to his other quite divergent projects in its aftermath. Krukh‘s ‘Безглуздість!’ (2018) was brilliant enough and Aureole‘s back catalog offers a sharp examination of atmospheric and ambient black metal, but the one that’d really hit hard for my tastes was funeral death/doom metal band Drown which Soroka first formed as Slow in 2012 until switching to Drown in 2018, likely to avoid confusion with Déhà‘s popular funeral doom/ambient project of the same name. The 2014 debut from Slow (‘Unsleep’) would be re-released under the Drown name in 2019 and here ‘Subaqueous’ is a follow up that directly picks up where the previous album had left off, at least in terms of continuing the thread of numbered tracks with the sixth and seventh pieces from the project using this convention. I’d listed this as one of the best releases from February this year and continue to be impressed by its evolved atmospheric take on funeral doom, which is certainly influenced by post-metal sensibilities yet still unflinchingly engaged with the sub-genre assigned.

Think of an atmospheric black metal guitarist showering a funeral doom metal band (such as Lycus) with luxurious and sometimes uplifting moments streaming from the guitar work. Still delightfully ‘gothic’ in terms of classic funeral doom but also engaged in melodic death/doom movements and generally modern build-and-release compositional techniques. The aquatic theme isn’t superficial and the ‘artist’ within Soroka expresses through his true ability to communicate theme through highly detailed sound design. This could be as simple as aquarium noises and some breathing machines but in the moment it all adds up to a remarkably effective atmospheric event. 2020 has been a fine year for death/doom metal to be sure but there are yet few notable funeral doom metal records to choose from and this is certainly one of the very best options thus far.


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Artist DODENBEZWEERDER
Title [Type/Year] Vrees de toorn van de wezens verscholen achter majestueuze vleugels [LP/2020]
Iron Bonehead Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Dodenbezweerder is an atmospheric/raw black metal band from Maurice de Jong who is best known for his visionary work in Gnaw Their Tongues among countless other projects. Of course he brings his lo-fi cauldron of sound to ‘Vrees de toorn van de wezens verscholen achter majestueuze vleugels’ and this makes for a very distinct debut that emphasizes the possibilities of severe noise within the otherwise calming, centered world of atmospheric black metal. The result is an album that feels submerged in electrical sparks that pose no real threat, just horror and discomfort alongside subterranean isolation. The main reason I’d gotten excited for this record is its general resemblance of early Urfaust despite the vocal approach being entirely different. Spaced-out and cathedralesque raw black metal that reaches for the ceiling with its sound design is certainly something to behold upon introduction though I didn’t find myself returning to the album because it’d become a draining event as I sat through its ~40 minute length with increasing frequency. For such a pretty record on paper there is a damning, stymied quality to it that is interesting as an adventurous listener but also unpleasant when the mood isn’t exactly right for that specific well of ruinous noise. The balance of ‘pretty’ tunes, classic black metal kicks, and purposefully harsh aesthetics makes for a compelling listen that takes some great fortitude to stick with. “Glimmende zwaarden door de mist van het evangelie” was the track that stood out most and I’d suggest starting there on Side B if you’re so inclined.


 

Artist AUTOMB
Title [Type/Year] Chaosophy [LP/2020]
Witching Hour Productions BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Automb are a black/death metal trio from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania featuring ex-Abysmal Dawn and current Morbid Angel drummer Scott Fuller as well as Serge Streltsov (Dreadeth, ex-Necrophagia). If you’d flipped over, like I did, to see what folks thought about their previous album ‘Esoterica’ (2018) on Metal-Archives and saw the very low scores (from troll accounts, upon closer inspection) you’d think it was a stinker but hey, it was a pretty solid black/death metal album. I’d generally have a lot of the same things to say about that first album as this second one. Their style doesn’t stray far from many other bands influenced by ‘Satanica’ era Behemoth and that sphere of propulsive blackened death yet that focus leans towards black metal quite a bit more this time around with more polished performances in hand. The dynamic between Fuller and Streltsov is fairly tight though the guitar work isn’t particularly flamboyant in terms of personality, making for an above-par experience in terms of sheer machinery but lacking in some distinctive personality. Vocalist/bassist Danielle Evans provides a very standard central voice within the recording, not detracting from the experience but also not elevating it beyond the status quo for black/death metal. Though there are no major surprises or great bouts of insight beyond face value, the whole of ‘Chaosophy’ examined finds every aspect of Automb‘s second album highly professional. From its sharp layout, slick cover art from Néstor Ávalos, clean self-production and master from Hertz Studio there is no question they’ve checked all of the right boxes in realizing this second record. I’d recommend giving this one a chance. Although I don’t think it’ll blow the minds of folks who’re sure they’ve heard everything a thousand times over, there is some serious intent laid out here well worth checking out. I’d recommend “Serpent of the Night” and “Cosmic Tyranny” for the most representative sample from the full listen.


 

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