…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 16th through May 22nd, 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]||The Great Demise [LP/2020]|
|Testimony Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp|
Originally concieved as a studio-only project with some prestigious session musicians, including members of Katatonia and Netherbird, Harris Sopovic‘s Sodomisery arrived with some great potential on their self-titled EP back in 2017. Although the line-up was just a once-off event the project would pick up momentum enough to warrant full band status not long after release. This impressive debut full-length ‘The Great Demise’ finds their sound equally professional and serious in its intent of crafting memorable and smartly referential extreme metal songs that hold the classics fresh in mind. Blackened melodic death metal is probably the most appropriate tag here as Sopovic and crew lean into some melodeath-thrashing riffs (“Into the Cold”), some ‘Reinkaos’-era Dissection jollies (“Sacrifice”) and plenty of classic Gothenburg circa ’94 meets No Fashion Records’ blurring of the melodic black/death lines. Consider ‘The Great Demise’ a smartly modern take on Swedish melodic extreme metal origins that never loses sight of that specific era’s most important aspect, songwriting.
‘The Great Demise’ is pure class in the sense that it features tightly performed and refreshingly melodic death metal with some sharp blackened death metal twists. Managing such a high level of variety as well as the apropos melodrama one comes to expect from Swedish melodic extreme metal is undoubtedly a striking feat for a band who’ve only been at it for a few years. Credit to Sopovic’s taste and vision, crossing the line between modern and ‘old school’ for the sake of character building and catchy pieces, full of riffs and hooks alike. The key to these ancient and sacred forms is maintaining the menacing touch of death metal (or early second wave black metal) while keeping the guitar work driven by sharp melodic device, or referential nuance. Sodomisery find their happiest medium on Side B where “Arise” and “The Great Demise” in particular aim for grand dramatic statements that empower rather than drag on the full ~45 minute listen.
Side A reminded me a bit more of Sarcasm‘s most recent album in the sense that it focuses on the most intense hooks manageable without finding just one groove that builds momentum over several songs. This makes it a bit harder for Sodomisery to communicate their own unique voice up front, instead showcasing their strong taste and refined (read: classic-minded) compositional ability, which is a great thing for a debut album from a band looking to establish their sound beyond formative notions. “The Messenger” delivers what I’d expected and wanted as a follow up to the self-titled 2017 EP but also emphasizes Johan Fridell‘s (Netherbird) years of experience versus the switch to Sopovic‘s own vocals, which are just fine but quite a bit less expressive and detailed when compared to a track like “Resurrection”. This is only a small gripe as it felt like a step back from my expectations whereas every other aspect of the music took a grand leap forward. Despite not getting a full and detailed review from me this week ‘The Great Demise’ is nonetheless one of the most memorable death metal records of May and will likely end up on my best of the month list. As such, I can high recommend it with particular attention paid to the pairing of “Sacrifice” and “The Messenger”.
|Title [Type/Year]||Pile of Priests [LP/2020]|
|Extreme Metal Music||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
With this, the release of their second full-length since forming back in 2009 Denver, Colorado’s Pile of Priests fully unveil a long in development transition from melodic death/thrash metal act into an ambitious, narrative driven progressive death metal band. On a basal level ‘Pile of Priests’ is heavily influenced by popular melodic extreme metal from the late 90’s and early 2000’s, aiming for performative melodicism expressed through the familiar idiom of ornate melodic death/thrash metal guitar work. Where it becomes progressive is admittedly somewhat aesthetic with the clear-voiced bass guitar’s tongue wagging throughout each piece; Despite fine performances the bass guitar tone is a somewhat ‘flat’ presence and needs some tweaking to really pop into gear with the guitar work and mesh a bit. Ambitiously arranged and guitar-driven pieces take their time developing grand dramatic statements which recreate the feeling of auld greats to some degree, yet Pile of Priests haven’t necessarily nailed it on all fronts this time around.
I’ve few major gripes with the band’s sound and style, nothing really glaring or offensive occurs in the midst of the experience and the full listen is neatly arranged for effect. I did however end up skipping a few songs upon repeat listens, namely “Conjunction of Souls” due to the guest vocalist being ill-fitting for the vibe of the song and probably a few ticks too loud in the mix. The showpieces for where Pile of Priests excel are immediately clear on the full listen — “Bloodstained Citadel” is largely what props up Side B and “Exile Unto Divination” over on Side A is likewise a strong standout with some admirably sharp guitar hooks. Ultimately this album feels a bit like the days of MySpace and CD-r demo runs in the early-to-mid 2000’s where a lot of metal bands in the United States did their best to worship popular European melodic extreme metal without fully leaving behind their groove/half-thrash built riff styles. That could be a good or bad thing depending on nostalgia; I’m not sure I’m all that impressed beyond a few solid songs along the way. I definitely think the Dan Swanö mix/master provides some notable professional boost compared to previous renders of their work. Overall this second album feels like solid progress for the project.
|Title [Type/Year]||Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir [LP/2020]|
|Ván Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp [May 22nd]|
With a full nine minutes of Nordic folk gloom and whispered narration opening this ~75 minute follow-up to ‘Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr’ (2019) it is clear that Árstíðir lífsins are aiming directly for folks who’re already attuned with the first half of the experience. Rightfully so, of course, as it delivers the gorgeous “sister” to the first parts “brother” in a narrative sense but I’d found myself lacking the motivation to listen to both records back-to-back to start and that’d slowed my digestion of it considerably. When finally fully immersed, in the right headspace and patiently absorbing tales of viking kings sung and snarled in Old Icelandic by way of this German/Icelandic trio, the second part of this saga is just as grand and worthy.
The thing you’ll never quite get plainly stated ‘on paper’ when introduced to Árstíðir lífsins is that they’re certainly a black/folk metal band with ambient notions but these elements are not particularly intertwined from song to song. More often than not strands of touching Nordic folk, neofolk, and dark ambient pieces set the tone for separate pagan black metal songs which lean towards classic second wave black metal forms and early pagan/folk metal greats such as Kampfar‘s debut. In this sense these guys are perhaps more related to Winterfylleth or Helrunar than they are Falkenbach or Månegarm. So, don’t rush into their music thinking you’ve got a keyboard-honking set of songs to drink with but rather some deeply atmospheric pagan black metal with a flair for the dramatic. Without a doubt ‘Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir’ is more challenging than its predecessor in this sense, as it has even more striding ventures to detail and perhaps more words to speak rather than sing this time around. The two halves of the experience are from the same session, though, so all of it will feel related and could be taken back to back as a full 180+ minute epic. Without a translation, transcription, or even a preview track to share at this point it’ll still not be a challenge to describe Saga part II since it is literally just the second half of an experience a year later. If you loved the first part, you’ll love this as well.
“Er hin gullna stjarna skýjar slóðar rennr rauð” and “Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita” end up being the strongest pieces for my own taste as they lean towards classic pagan black metal sounds from the late second wave and each takes their time to develop larger musical statements within the storm. Of course if you remember ‘Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr’ the final track was ~14 minutes and ended up being a grand finale that’d glorified the full listen and ‘Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir’ repeats this modus with an arguably even bigger statement on its 17+ minute closer “Ek sá halr at Hóars veðri hǫsvan serk Hrísgrísnis bar”. This song in particular took me to a mid-career Helheim place at certain parts despite being one of the more ‘modern’ black metal arrangements from the band with recent pieces in mind. Though I enjoyed my time with this album quite a bit it doesn’t necessarily build upon the experience of the first part and I’d found the spoken word parts, the intense whispered sections, really go on far too long throughout the full listen without any reasonable payoff. This suggests I wasn’t necessarily invested in the “theater” of the piece and admittedly this stems from my lack of knowledge when it comes to old Icelandic. Still, I know I will understand the context someday and I trust it’ll come together given Árstíðir lífsins’ appreciable track record. A reserved recommendation for this one as I don’t think it’ll be as initially powerful for fans of the first part.
|Title [Type/Year]||Revelation of the Pure [LP/2020]|
|Les Acteurs de L’Ombre||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
This debut full-length from Würzburg, Germany-based post-hardcore/black metal hybrid trio Bait brings some meaningful contribution to the increasingly common combination of distraught sub-genres without ever stepping fully across the line. The heavy rock sweep-kick of post-hardcore is felt throughout the experience and because of this ‘Revelation of the Pure’ will ultimately read as an aesthetic black metal album where occasionally rasped vocals amidst a dark n’ stormy production sound is all that’d warrant that extra descriptor. The major difference I’d found between this record and their previous EP releases boils down to an increased utilization of modern black metal guitar techniques, typically reserved for atmospheric variants, which now better inform their larger musical statement.
Momentum-based rock beats and touches of chaotic hardcore spanking help to break up the blustery post-black absorbance of the experience yet they’re writing mood pieces and not memorable singles so, none of it really translates into more than stylistic exercise and easily felt emotional threads. I found the full listen would drone on with redundant pieces and perhaps steps beyond the ~35 minute album length with too much confidence just yet. Biggest highlights for me where “Into Misery” as I’d loved how the bass guitar tone stood out, I’d love them to lean into a more noise rock/post-hardcore sound while keeping the performative black metal gusts in tact, and “Revelation of the Pure” perhaps simply because one of the main riffs reminded me of Witch Trail a bit. I’d recommend this to post-black metal fans who’ve some interest in post-hardcore applications to extreme metal, which are few and far between in terms of quality.
|Title [Type/Year]||Devil With No Name [EP/2020]|
|New Density||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Though they are fresh beyond the gates Devil With No Name is no formative or nascent thought but rather a complete thought from seasoned professionals. It’d be reductive to call their self-produced first EP, ‘Devil With No Name’, a reinvention of Andrew Markuszewski‘s most popular black metal tirade beyond his stint in Nachtmystium, Avichi, but it will certainly feel familiar for those in the know, even featuring the same drummer. There are some key differences for those who’d dig a bit deeper, such as some very light black n’ roll motifs and curious desert-specific psychedelia (“Sycophants of the Covenant”) that brings a madness separate from Avichi and perhaps leans towards Tombs‘ earlier stuff. Any new black metal project stirring things up out of the United States should bring a reasonably strong personality to the table first and foremost and I’d say that’d be the great success of this first release from Devil With No Name.
Much of this record comes at what I’d call modern Darkthrone speed, just an inch beyond mid-paced leaving plenty of room for bigger riffs and stomping beats that most folks’ll warm up to if they’re not snobbish about black metal forms. Inspired by the desolate wastelands of Arizona and the life-sapping extremity that perspective offers the black metal experience, the intention to communicate the stark earthen heat death of the desert is evident and I’d say enhanced by some subtle adornments that suggest fiery hell rather than wintry. Interestingly enough they’ve gone further with it than that, introducing a narrative of a sort of old Western film capitalizing upon the murderous freelancing of the wild west. Don’t get me wrong it is still black metal at its core but I could see some influence from traditional US folk, country, and psychedelia finding its way comfortably into this band’s oeuvre especially considering Markuszewski’s solo project Sonoran Rebel Black Magick already having an avant-desert vibe that’d easily gel with this more straightforward black metal punching. I see tons of potential while also acknowledging that this record doesn’t push hard at any boundaries just yet. I’d generally recommend this, it won’t be particularly striking or out of the ordinary for most folks deeply into black metal but Devil With No Name is yet a captivating listen.
|Title [Type/Year]||Deathtrip Transcendence/Magicians of the Holocaust [Compilation/2020]|
|Amor Fati Productions||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp|
‘Deathtrip Transcendence/Magicians of the Holocaust’ is a compilation of Swedish black/death metal act The Third Eye Rapists‘ two 2017 releases which amounts to about 20 minutes of rabid, mind-warping blackened bursts of energy. Since both fellowes formed this band a year after suicide had disbanded their previous gig (black/thrashers Morbid Insulter). It sounds like they took a bunch of drugs and documented the horror of massive and repeated ego-death and well, these songs are surprisingly stronger for it. Despite being a very short reissue of old material these songs are well worth unearthing, especially the real skull-bruisers like “Deathtrip Transcendence” and the absolute psychosis of “Den Universella Våldtäkten”. Some of the material just farts around with a somewhat orthodox early Swedish black metal blast n’ grind, something akin to Ultra Silvam‘s demo, but when they really reach for the next dimension they get there in fuckin’ grand fashion. Though I don’t have much to say about it this compilation is entirely necessary if only for the two tracks I’d mentioned previous.
|Title [Type/Year]||Tales: Of Humanity and Greed [LP/2020]|
|Self-Released||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Further nailing down their station as one of the finest and steadily maturing melodic death metal bands out of France today, Temnein pull from every available corner of their minds in creation of ‘Tales: Of Humanity and Greed’. This third full-length from the band find them pulling from fantasy worlds and personal experiences alike in creation of parables that’d examine the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ nature of humanity, perhaps suggesting that the potential for two (or more) steps back is evident today. It is a powerful modern melodic death metal record that is both cognizant of the high standards of the sub-genre in 2020 but also willfully tied to the classics that’d originally inspired them.
Today one could draw parallel between their work and the last decade’s worth of works from Omnium Gatherum, In Mourning, and maybe Be’lakor at their most relaxed when considering the level of quality and modernism applied to ‘Tale: Of Humanity and Greed’. What’d separate the northeastern France-based quintet from that crowd is perhaps their less maudlin (Finnish melodic death metal) approach to the sound than their peers, there is some furor (“Yuki Onna”) and melodrama (“I Am Davy Jones”) within the experience but also bouts of joy and enthusiasm in most pieces. The experience is perhaps closer attuned to classic Dark Tranquillity in that sense. The guitar hooks are what I’m after when I grab this sort of record and I’d say right out of the gate we’ve got the strong but familiar “The Blind and the Greedy” before the “The Knotted Bag” steals the show on the first half of the record. The bridge on “Rise of the Sontarans” is also strong though the soloing takes precedent over the overall impact of the track. From there the second half of the album perks up during the melodic death/doom metal influenced sections, which tend to be subtle enough that they avoid sounding uncharacteristic or forced within the band’s known oeuvre. A fine and certainly well above par modern melodic death metal record that I’d recommend to the devout. For preview check out “I Am Davy Jones” and “The Knotted Bag” for the best first impression.
|Title [Type/Year]||Echoes From Deep November [LP/2020]|
|Prosthetic Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
In this week of heavily melodic and ambitious extreme metal records Connecticut-based quartet Fires in the Distance take the cake with thier gorgeously modern achievement in progressive melodic death/doom metal wares, their debut album ‘Echoes From Deep November’. Though the roots of their sound saddles up a few generations beyond the “Peaceville three” thought on goth-stirred death/doom metal, their guitar work finds some kin to Sentenced‘s most distraught and broken catchiness retooling it into sound I’d compare closest to post-’95 Paradise Lost. The band finds deepest distinction in its bold use of synth/keyboard work rather than death/doom riffs or cutting vocal hooks. Serious kudos to guitarist Yegor Savonin and his synth work as it ends up pushing an already above average level of expression into a repeatable and unique experience.
If you’re like me and did some growing up listening to mid-to-late 90’s Century Media releases with some rabidity you’ll understand the appeal of ‘Echoes From Deep November’ quickly, there is a warmth to their hooks that draws the heart in and once you’re close enough to read the lyrics they’re absolutely devastating. Taking stock of the waves of flourishing and devastated states that come with chronic depression allows a touching look at one’s affliction outside of the ‘self’, it is brutally existential at the very least, that examination is perilously cathartic but thankfully never exploitative. If you’re a fan of the more melodic side of death/doom metal but also perk up when considering modern Finnish melodic death metal there is some tasteful crossover of musical themes that’ll find this album landing happily in your ears. A high recommendation on my part, it may resurface with a review when it officially releases.
EDIT: Sent as self-release for May 22nd but they recently signed to Prosthetic Records for an August 1st, 2020 official release.
|Title [Type/Year]||Age of the Idiot [LP/2020]|
|Transcending Obscurity Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
‘Age of the Idiot’ is the second full-length album from deathgrind/grindcore solo project Henry Kane which comes by way of prolific Swedish musician Jonny Pettersson who is perhaps most notable as a member of reborn Wombbath and Ashcloud. I am undoubtedly a huge fan of the deathgrind and classic crusted grindcore that’d influenced this record yet I did not find ‘Age of the Idiot’ particularly memorable or compelling. The whole thing flings by at around 35 minutes with solid enough performances. A lot of the songs resort to what I’d consider very plain HM-2 driven death metal riffs that venture into punk and grind blasted speed. A few of the shorter songs, such as “No Road to Redemption” smoked on the first listen but when returning to the album a few times I’d found it was all a bit of a blur without a great deal of inventive riffing to pull me back in to read the lyrics or give it another few spins. Not a bad record in any sense but nothing’d really jump out at me beyond a few sharp death/crust riffs here and there. If you’re in the market for a Swedish death metal leaning deathgrind album, this is a solid choice.
|Title [Type/Year]||Storm [LP/2020]|
|Artoffact Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp|
Though we’ve been graced with countless glossy, surface-level goth outsider post-punk/deathrock bops these last several years few have nailed the ‘staring out the window and suffering’ level of yearning that Oakland, California’s Ötzi brings to their second full-length ‘Storm’. Sounding like a live Cure soundboard from 1979 (sans keyboards) with a cranked-but-disintegrating guitar thread running through each piece Ötzi offer the illusion of motion, a sinking feeling with little more than a pop-steady bassline to signal a way out. Dread, hesitant joy, unrequited love, societal estrangement, and the inescapable drone of the utmost classic post-punk dreariness makes for a bruising experience that never forgets to punk it up, get a bit too loud, and overwhelm the room with a gorgeously wrong vibe. “Contagious” is probably my biggest jam on the record, again rolling back to ’79 pre-hardcore punk and leading directly into “Eight Cups”, that combination ends up being my favorite moment but Side B in general is a bit more fired up gloom punk than some of the more crushed Side A tracks. A fine album if you’re up for some gothy post-punk that isn’t afraid to kick up dust once in a while.
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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