…From the Tomb 5/04/20: “The clarity of the mirror, already waiting.”

…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 (and last) [May 1st through May 8th, 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. This time around I’ve grouped things in loosely related sub-genre pools for your convenience, we go from sludge, rock, prog-doom, stoner drone, ambient black metal, funeral doom, and maybe eventually find our way to a few riffs.

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 KEVERRA
Title [Type/Year] Keverra [LP/2020]
Seeing Red Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Los Angeles sludge metal trio Keverra are a revelation in mud, a boot-print in the shape of someone else’s savior, one mountain-sized sinister groove after another, and easily the most under-hyped sludge bomb to drop so far this year. Although it’ll score some filial piety that these guys were involved in certain -(16)- and Goatsnake records over the last decade ‘Keverra’ is an even more menacing beast than that’d suggest; A Throatsnapper or Unearthly Trance-sized snarling, prowling menace echoing around your favorite smoke spot in the woods. Shades of blackened sludge, noise rock, and a fresh waft of atmospheric sludge energy rounds out an album that almost threatens to be a good time in its first half. Side B pulls the soul out of the skeleton, though, and keeps the mood fuckin’ strung-out miserable ’til the end of the full listen. Slick production with enough boom-and-rasp to recall early 2000’s Relapse boosting compositions that’ll feel sourced from the nastier second half of the 90’s. Favorite part on the record comes near the end of “Bathsheba”, a fantastic song to begin with, with some breaks that reminded me of ‘Betty’-era Helmet. This’ll be the sludge record die-hards are pushing come the end of the year so, I’d jump on the vinyl sooner than later. High recommendation.


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Artist SAAVIK
Title [Type/Year] Saavik [EP/2020]
Other Electricities BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

You’re damn right that is a drawing of Saavik, Kirstie Alley‘s (or Robin Curtis, too) unforgettable run as the vulcan who cried when Dr. Spock’s coffin was chute’d out into space beyond death. I’m not here to debate whether or not it’d been appropriate canon to make her character a traitor beyond the novelization of the third Star Trek movie but I am here to talk about this disaffected and oftentimes experimental sludge rock debut from Miami, Florida area quartet Saavik. These folks are old pros at this point having been plugging away in the sludge space since early 90’s involvement in Floor and some related projects though they’ve more recently been involved in droners Holly Hunt and the somewhat underrated Bleeth. With those namedrops in mind you can suss out the bass driven buzz-and-shout catharsis they’re bringing on this debut EP, a lost and soul-searching set of songs that’re more serious hearted than the goof name and hand drawn cover might suggest to some. I particularly liked the sort of Sonic Youth-esque harmonization at the end of “Red Sun” but it was the everything-about-to-collapse anxiety of “Horizon” that’d really sold me on Saavik‘s sound. They could get weirder, catchier, make those experimental digs louder, and such but as is I think this EP has plenty of appeal for folks who love the memorable “rock” side of sludge.


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Artist ABRAMS
Title [Type/Year] Modern Ways [LP/2020]
Sailor Records/Atypeek Music BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Denver, Colorado based heavy alternative rock/post-hardcore quartet Abrams soften their hand a bit with the production, hopefully easing up the completely off base comparisons with Mastodon and Baroness in the past. Leave it to mainstream metal critics to have three melodic rock band references in their wheelhouse, all dated. Anyhow, ‘Modern Ways’ is certainly going to spark the ears of sludge rock fans for its gloriously heavy-but-balanced Flatline Audio render but the average Torche fan’ll probably won’t stick around beyond the heavy intro for “Modern Ways” and its Stereomud-esque anthemic moments. If you’re a fan of Big Business or recent Lo-Pan records I think this’ll be largely up your alley if you can hang with accessible alternative/heavy rock, too. Not my thing at all but I figure it’ll perk up someone else’s day if discovered at the right time.


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Artist ALKYMIST
Title [Type/Year] Sanctuary [LP/2020]
Indisciplinarian BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Typically described as a progressive doom metal band, this Danish quartet play a particularly dynamic and present form of post-metal blends an aptitude for modern progressive metal with sludge metal sensibilities. In other words, not traditional prog or doom in any sense. ‘Sanctuary’ is the second full-length from these Copenhagen based fellows and the most notable difference here is that they’ve scaled back the over-produced thousand-guitar sound of their self-titled debut and instead opted for something more distinctly filthy with a digitized edge. As the title implies, ‘Sanctuary’ is a search for internal respite, a caustic scouring of the mind for solace and meaning that could be considered characteristic for Alkymist at this point. The mood or, emotional dynamic, of each piece appeals to me and I generally enjoy this record more than ‘Alkymist’ (2018) but I found myself wanting something more substantial in the realm of guitar riffs, something to elevate the experience towards more active listening and better engagement. ‘Sanctuary’ should hold strong appeal with fans of The Ocean, Ghost Brigade, and Cult of Luna.


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Artist BEAR
Title [Type/Year] Propaganda [LP/2020]
Pelagic Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The fourth album from post-djent/mathcore band Bear is a direct and angered response to the callous corporation fueled automaton ways of the present. The Antwerp, Belgium based quartet more specifically focuses upon the propaganda that suffocates and destabilizes the minds of the connected-but-not-equal world citizen of today. Offering bright polish, heavy melodicism and song wrenched-out metalcore riffing that is surprisingly djent-lite this time around ‘Propaganda’ is definitely still high-energy and hardcore bound up front but the title track bounces in sounding like mathcore Floor with its lumbering sludge rock riffs and clean-sung melodious verses. This isn’t a huge shift from their prior album, ‘III’ (2017), but it is more of a reach towards something memorable and accessible than I’d remembered. “Flares” probably has the most memorable vocal hook of the bunch and I’d find myself coming back to it a few times though the album as a whole drags on for 5-6 minutes too long, needing some variation in guitar textures or something to break up the primal bonking of the rhythm tone. I’m not huge on mathcore these days and some of the tracks where mildly redundant but overall ‘Propaganda’ is a solid and memorable listen front to back.


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Artist HOLDEN
Title [Type/Year] Ursa Minor [LP/2020]
Self-Released BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

There are plenty of bands out there labeling their digs ‘progressive sludge metal’ to suggest a semblance of better known projects but Holden do so in an earnest attempt to describe the extended modern sludge metal dirges they create and adorn with detailed bursts of what could be reasonably considered progressive metal activity. I’d probably point towards Kylesa, Deadbird or even -(16)- rather than an actual prog band but you get the idea, they lean outward when they can. Swoons into very slight post-rock bits amidst a mix of progressive rock and metal influences come with consistently punched-up aggression, nothing too forced but a sharp mix of aggro, textural and picturesque elements. Not sounding like your deal just yet? Well, I’d argue that a song like “Sparks Between Teeth” should appeal to both classic and modern sludge metal fans, those wanting the screaming, groove-ridden excess of the 90’s and just a hint the post-Isis spirit of the 2010’s will gel fast with most of this record.

“However Small, However Hidden” is my jam, easily my favorite piece of the lot which clocks in at 15+ minutes and is purely instrumental, bringing in a reasonable comparison to Pelican without bringing in any post-hardcore. The Richmond, Virginia based trio have a lot more to give in the span of this strikingly well arranged and highly considered debut, bringing in extreme metal rhythms (“Emperor of Maladies”) and I’d say most importantly a real sense of doom metal’s dejection running through the whole piece. Even if the prog-sludge tag threw you off I’d felt like the average stoner/doom, sludge/doom, classic sludge, and modern sludge fan has some potential to love ‘Ursa Minor’. Their logo sucks, though, something more ‘organic’ would better represent the rolling thunder of their sound.


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Artist HADEWIJCH
Title [Type/Year] Herbal Noise [EP/2020]
Electric Valley Records BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Despite being named for a Christian mystic poet who’d famously gendered the love of ‘God’ as female, the intended love effusing from this (largely) instrumental psychedelic doom metal project’s debut EP is meant to bring humanity back down to the Earth and reattach with the soil. ‘Herbal Noise’ consists of a single ~18 minute stoner/doom metal jam entitled “Salvia” which’ll recall early instrumentals from Electric Wizard at the very least, though you’ll feel the burn of the amplifier’s presence more than the space witchery of the mid-90’s in this case. This was worthwhile for a couple of reasons, first the name directed me to Hadewijch‘s 15th century prose which is perhaps obsessed but well-translated and beauteous and perhaps more importantly ‘Herbal Noise’ provided its intended meditation each time I’d listen. The brief spoken/vocal section is a nice central peak and the piece is stunningly performed, a directional heavy blues jam brought up to stoner/doom levels of hulk without sounding artificial. Any piece of music that chills me out and comes with suggested reading is a thousand percent my jam.


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Artist GOLDEN ASHES
Title [Type/Year] In the Lugubrious Silence of Eternal Night [LP/2020]
Oaken Palace Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The fourth release and second full-length from Maurice De Jong‘s (Black Mouth of Spite, Caput Mortuum, Cloak of Altering, De Magia Veterum, Dodenbezweerder, Gnaw Their Tongues, Grand Celestial Nightmare, Hagetisse, Malorum, Mystagogue, Obscuring Veil, Pyriphlegethon, The Black Mysteries, The Sombre) atmospheric and symphonic black metal project Golden Ashes is an immediate and well-sustained dance of the ethereal and the extreme that’ll appeal to fans of symphonic black metal aesthetics but who’re also open to ambient and atmospheric black metal songwriting. Beneath the shroud of grandiose ambiance and blasting drums is a set of songs that are mostly well conceived and resonant though I felt “Amongst the Mossy Tombs” kind of forgot where it was headed during certain sections. When I first approached this project it felt a bit ‘cheap’ or thrown together but as I returned to it 3-4 more times I found myself really loving the outward glowing presence the sound design provides with the remarkable keyboard/synth work and very active drum arrangements. It is an experience of presence and seated wonder that is actually quite comfortable to live within, and a slipstream of blackened heroics that becomes tough to step outside of.

All Oaken Palace Releases should be no-brainers in terms of support due to all proceeds going to endangered wildlife causes directly. This album aims to save the critically endangered Hooded Vulture, a distinct and majestic raptor with a hood that looks like beige sheep’s wool. They are larger vultures with bulging resplendent chests, loosely communal beings that tend to stick within their chosen radius of about a hundred miles within Gambia. Anti-inflammatory drugs given to already unhealthy and poorly cared for cattle have decimated scavenger bird populations around the world and creating cheaper, safer alternatives to Diclofenac (and similar drugs) should be priority for these important pest and pestilence curbing species. A world without glorious open-aired ossuarium, filled with snarling vultures ready to pick clean our ancestral bones and release us from all mortal coil, can no longer be a reality because you eat fucking shitty ammonia-washed burgers. Anyhow, I really enjoyed sitting with this album not only because it tapped into my teenaged years spent with symphonic black metal progeny but also for the sake of the immersive sanctum it can potentially create.


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Artist BOREAL
Title [Type/Year] The Battle of VOSAD [LP/2020]
Nebulae Artifacta BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Among the earliest of tapes put out on the venerable Eternal Warfare mark circa the mid-to-late 2000’s ‘The Battle of VOSAD’ was the first tape from Washington-based musician Ash Fox‘s Boreal, an atmospheric black metal achievement beyond (or, adjacent to) the nascent buzz of Twilight Falls. The original version was brilliant if not entirely raw and ear-shattering at times for its crystalline do-it-yourself rendering, I still think that original version is well worth hearing and contrasting to this fine re-recording (and slight rearrangement) of that original work. This time around the recording features the contributions of four related artists assumed to be from the Nebulae Artifacta collective all serving to flesh out and make enormous the original vision of ‘The Battle of VOSAD’; The result is certainly grand and stoic, plodding with purpose and perhaps less intimate than the buzzing hymnal quality of the original.

I appreciated having “The Battle” and “The Battle II” in succession as it makes a bit more sense on the full listen and these two pieces are perhaps changed the least in terms of their total ~20 minute presence and grand focus of the album. “Dusk of the Warrior” becomes “Dusk”, a substantial reworking of the original piece that retains the intended sense of movement while including that same marching undertone from prior sections of the record. “Dawn” is even more remarkable for its expansion of the central theme of its original version into an eight minute piece that concludes with some of the original fanfare as it exits. At the very least you could say they’ve approached this re-creation with care and respect for old works while expanding old ideas with some meaningful insight. Cosmic, ethereal, oaken, and ever-marching in its slow-dirging intensity ‘The Battle of VOSAD’ should be well worth checking out if you are a fan of ambient, atmospheric, and earthen black metal forms.


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Artist NOCTU
Title [Type/Year] Gelidae Mortis Imago [LP/2020]
Transcending Obscurity Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

The second full-length from Italian blackened funeral doom metal solo project Noctu warms up the production values to a standard, cleanly render while focusing on a bleak and often minimalistic atmospheric doom metal sound. His debut full-length, ‘Illuminandi – Esoterica Illuminazione Ermetica‘ (2017) was certainly more attuned to classic funeral doom bleakness in terms of sound design whereas this time around the clarity of this release occasionally hinders its immersive qualities. The chosen thump of the drums is difficult to resolve as it appears wooden and clunky when set in the midst of of the otherwise bleakly ethereal qualities that ‘Gelidae Mortis Imago’ leads with. Otherwise Noctu is a fine addition to today’s Italian funeral doom-centric world and perhaps a bit lighter on the keyboard work than many contemporaries. Interludes are now set to less than three minutes and three central 16, 18 and 32 minute tracks make up the bulk of the experience. “Fitte Tenebre (Le Radici Dell’ Inferno)” is the shortest and the strongest of those three pieces whereas the final and longest song “Isolato Da Un Mondo Senza Speranza” recycles its key point of interest (some chilling synth work) a few too many times and this doesn’t end up justifying its very extended length. Even with some minor complaints I found ‘Gelidae Mortis Imago’ a refreshing bout of truly melodramatic funeral doom metal, a stoic example of a very broken internal narrative that embodies exactly what funeral doom should present to the listener. This one will stick with the established melodramatist, and extreme doom metal die-hard, best.


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Artist GRAVE CIRCLES
Title [Type/Year] Tome II [LP/2020]
Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

From the moment ‘Tome II’ surges in with its modern rock tinged melodic spiritus and sharp black metal blasts it cannot be denied that Ukrainian black metal act Grave Circles are approaching the sub-genre from a very high point of inspiration and certainly not the typical run-of-the-mill attitude. Whereas their ‘Tome I’ (2017) was clearly influenced by the avant-orthodox spirit of Deathspell Omega with some exaggerated technical heaviness applied this second vision is more measured and memorable overall, leaning away from modern black metal tropes just enough to stand out and retain the wild-swinging balls of their craft. I’d compare the overall effect to a band like Sinmara in most respects but Grave Circles push into more directly ‘heavy metal’ riff territory (a la labelmates Moonreich) while also quite confidently exploring clean vocal work, atmospheric black metal pieces, and a generally broad-scoped expanse of sound. It is exactly the sort of border-pushing stoicism that fans of LADLO signings have come to expect yet ‘Tome II’ is likewise accessible and makes a fast and sharp first impression. Per my own tastes I favored their more classically melodic side, the rolling and spiraling tremolo driven pieces such as “When Birthgivers Recognize the Atrocity” yet there was no moment I’d felt I needed to skip past or avoid when returning to the album. A fine and appreciably defiant black metal album crafted with some exceptional balance of brutality, melodicism, and avant-garde notions.


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Artist AN AUTUMN FOR CRIPPLED CHILDREN
Title [Type/Year] All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet [LP/2020]
Prosthetic Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

Adrift on their own personal isle of respite and reflection for a universally aimed eighth full-length album Netherlands-based post-black/blackgaze project An Autumn For Crippled Children are exactly where they want to be, by their own hand. Without a doubt ‘All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet’ is ultimately a bed of dried flowers and flowing white button-up t-shirts, loosely worn, they’re happy to lay within and this speaks through the level of personal and affected revelations shared within the album. If you’re familiar with the progression of the project, which I was admittedly not prior to researching their discography for this release, you’ll find an increasingly deft hand in crafting extreme rhythmic pieces bitter-sweetened by lilt of shoegaze and gothic rock, expressing their own taste for the modern forms of those sub-genres rather than sticking to the frowning squareness of the classics. This ends up making for an entertaining blackgaze record that doesn’t attempt to be oddly muscular as say, Deafheaven‘s latest, nor as drearily crescendo-affected as many of their peers.

I suppose when seeking a bigger picture beyond the core progression of this band’s discography the question becomes obvious: Why not simply excise the black metal angle? It doesn’t factor into the instrumentals with any real resonance and (with due respect for the craft) the vocals are the least expressive portion of An Autumn For Crippled Children‘s sound. Just a thought, and one I have consistently when approaching blackgaze and post-black metal artists who’d honestly not alienate anyone making a full shift to modern rock for an album or two. Anyhow, I found this album easy to listen to and leave on repeat with “The Failing Senses” and “Silver” containing the most meaningful connection between lyrical sentimentality and instrumental conveyance and “Water’s Edge” as a well-chosen single for its very modern, lucid post-rock sensibilities.


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Artist NADIR
Title [Type/Year] The Great Dying [EP/2020]
Self-Released BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

The debut EP from these Norwegian fellows isn’t necessarily the sort of black metal you’d expect at a glance and that is perhaps because ‘The Great Dying’ comes from fellows who’ve stepped outside of their (actually quite good) sludge metal bands to make Nadir. Both Ocean Dweller and Jagged Vision have a bit of a hardcore or thrashing mindset to their respective gigs so some of that forceful, gnarled energy defines Nadir‘s presence. As such the chugging furioso that closes “Trishul” will probably slap away orthodox black metal fandom outright and pull in the Lord Mantis, Tombs and Wolvhammer crowds instead. Overall this is a pretty solid EP in that style, they throw in some airy leads and some more punkish moments but overall I’d say the path forward will call for some expansion of rhythmic ideas and “The Wasteland of Man” presents a pretty strong archetype to build upon with it’s modern whips into sludge swagger. I see the potential there and greatly appreciate how professional the render and overall conceptual verve of their blackened sludge (er, sludged black metal?) sound. Worth a spin, plenty of big sludge riffs and black metal austerity to take in.


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Artist TOMBSTONER
Title [Type/Year] Descent To Madness [EP/2020]
Redefining Darkness Records BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp

The band name says “all-over-print” slam death metal, the album cover says “buy me”, and the mix of death metal and chuggin’ late 90’s hardcore is pretty tuff on this debut EP from Staten Island, New York’s Tombstoner. For sure I’m looking at and listening to a band with some strong potential to nail it for mosh-metal heads if they can convince folks to let ’em in their ears for a minute or two, honestly that is all it’ll take for most. ‘Descent to Madness’ has all the subtlety of a friggin’ 25 Ta Life record, the depth charge chugs of Grave, and some serious hardcore-meets-death metal appeal that’ll curry some favor with folks looking to dig deeper and go full-on pelvic floor heavy beyond Judiciary, Creeping Death, and Homewrecker. My favorite part of the EP comes with the riffs near the end of eh, “Filth Hole” which’re pulled straight from ‘Domination’ era Morbid Angel-alikes in the late 90’s. Beyond that point I’d say “Guts” is the one to push on anyone who loved non-metalcore hardcore stuff in the 90’s and early 2000’s as I think that song could be a worthy gateway into death/hardcore hybrids on both sides of the fence. I’m into it for a quick spin or five but I dunno what I’d want on a full-length just yet beyond seeing what they could do with something Internal Bleeding-esque.


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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