A PILE OF BODIES part three of a year-long feature in the form of a list devoted to grouping together requested reviews for recordings of interest that were released (or submitted) between May 1st – June 30th in the year 2020. These albums were volunteered by the bands/labels directly with request for coverage/review. All releases are given equal time and consideration unless the art demands more attention, some releases were excluded for crimes outside of already very forgiving taste! All releases are presented in a loose order of receipt. If you’d like to send an independent release for review: email@example.com please see FAQ for details on submitting releases.
|Title [Type/Year]||Down So Low [Cassette/2020]|
|Tsuguri Records||PREVIEW on Bandcamp|
Pennsylvania’s Squelch Chamber offer a novel and excruciatingly painful concept: Harsh noise treatment of noise rock/hardcore punk. The outcome is an uneven mixture of screaming static-blasted noise, screaming grindcore-esque 20 second blasts with what sound like programmed drums, and some slower noise rock/punk songs. Dude screams is damned head off when he does sing and this occasionally gives the sense of early industrial music projects where some elements were live and others sound manipulation giving it a gritty machined feeling, this is strongest on “Brain Closed For Bug Spraying”. I found the whole thing caused some extreme anxiety, I’d wanting nothing more than to slap the headphones off my ears but once I know what to expect and took it all in with experimental noise/analogue tape manipulation projects in mind it ‘Down So Low’ came together in some sense. I still didn’t enjoy a second of it but in terms of music that’d test my resolve and showcase noise rock from an unexpected and distant, hellish perspective.
|Title [Type/Year]||Axis Mundi [EP/2020]|
|Nordic Mission||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
‘Axis Mundi’ is the second official release from Kristiansand, Norway based black/doom metal band Cloth who focus on a mid-paced black metal sound not far from the black n’ roll of Satyricon or Sarke. The only song here I’d like to see expanded with greater detail through several variations comes with “Ad Baculum” where I’d especially liked the choral vocals towards its peak. So, it should be no surprise that “Ad Baculum” features some modern melodic doom metal influences whereas the first couple of songs are fairly similarly grinding mid-paced black metal. I get the sense that this is a part time project or a slow moving evolution for the artists involved. They’ve not entirely found distinct or impassioned expression just yet but the verve of the guitar work is enough to make it worthy of a listen if you’re interested in post-metal infused black metal with modern doom influences.
|Title [Type/Year]||Shapeshifter [LP/2020]|
|Forbidden Place Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The Tunnel are a post-punk/noise rock trio out of San Francisco with an extra helping of gothic, doomed strange on their plates. Most often compared to the darker days of The Birthday Party and even late 80’s Swans, I suppose I’d throw in a bit of Oxblood‘s charisma in there too in reference to their fifth album, ‘Shapeshifter’ which comes five years and almost as many EPs beyond the last. “Punisher” is probably my favorite song here, I could live within that bassline (and tone) and deal with the weirdo singing, echoing my sentiments for most of the full listen. When the freakout doom-like bumps of “Unseen Sea” and well, most of the album beyond “Punisher” I’d developed a preference for their gloomier, creeped out dirges beyond the deathrock shrug of “Death’s Request” and running-with-their-pants-down noise rock of “Membrane”, loved the variety of it all but would rather The Tunnel just cranked their most dire edge and hit me with it. Took a few spins but I’d warm up to ‘Shapeshifter’ and I’d highly recommend it to folks looking off the beaten path for noise rock heaviness with post-punk freakery around every corner.
|Title [Type/Year]||Apore Flesh [EP/2020]|
|Self-Released||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp|
Hailing from the Basque region of Spain Pestilength is a blackened death/doom metal duo with a suffocating, lo-fi production sound that is brutally achieve by way of obscuring atmospheric distortion. Blurry, unsettling soundscapes result rather than entirely coherent songs and in the case of ‘Apore Flesh’ the pieces tend to simply fade out giving it a sort of ‘bedroom’ project feeling as the title track ends. Half of this EP features wandering dark ambient pieces (“Blades Upon”) and instrumental mood pieces (“Haulth”) but the final track “Phleuma (Plant of Torment)” reprises the black/doom side of the project. I would not say the two more substantial pieces on ‘Apore Flesh’ are anything special compared to Pestilength‘s latest full-length ‘Eilatik’ but rather likely leftovers from those songwriting sessions. I didn’t come away from my time with this EP feeling anything for it but I think folks who’re looking to go beyond redemption with obscure extreme doom crate digging will find a dumpsters worth of filth in this bands body of work.
|Title [Type/Year]||Such Devils We Shame [LP/2020]|
|Self-Released||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp|
Atlanta, Georgia-based duo Amidst the Suffering are suggested as a symphonic black/doom metal band though I’d add in a strong modern death/doom metal element to that otherwise apt description. Their third album ‘Such Devils We Shame’ is most definitely not a light-hearted listen lost in vampiric fantasy but rather an evisceration of the Earth’s oldest curse, religious zealotry and the prevalent culture of ‘proud ignorance’ that has been especially damning in the United States throughout this last decade and certainly the entirety of this year. They’ve not written it in plain political language and the lyrics aren’t easily derived by ear unless you’re incredibly intent on it, but there is some considerable depth to be gleaned from paying attention on the level. Otherwise consider what Century Media‘s line-up sounded like circa 1998-2003 and now apply that glossy, double-bass drum rocketed European symphonic black metal sound to a band like Abyssic, pulling back on the progressive and bombastic elements. You’ll be in the ballpark of what Amidst the Withering do, most of which is pretty restrained and perhaps not ‘symphonic’ so much as featuring layers of keyboards/chorale for atmosphere and emphasis.
Though it is well made, professionally rendered at a high standard, and inspired in subject matter I’d found the similar lilt of the first three songs to be a bit of a battery before “Nothing’s Left” allowed pushed the death/doom buttons a bit harder. I don’t think waiting 20 full minutes for a stroke of doom is reasonable but it’d not been a huge deal when approaching the full listen with some patience and familiarity with the payoff. With everything always cranked to ten and aimed down the same corridor I’d felt some fatigue with the band’s sound on record around “Rapture in Silence” which is a fine enough song in its own right, but I’d yearned for some different guitar sounds, some greater expansion of Amidst the Withering‘s sound that’d allow the malaise to sink in rather than be sandblasted away. It’d be fair to say the album only gets more brutal from that point and “The Magician” ends up being one of the best pieces on the full listen for its clean vocals and symphonic emphasis. I’m not the biggest fan of this style but I do see some great potential and already present professionalism in this project.
|Title [Type/Year]||Exitum [LP/2019]|
|Sanit Mils Records||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Hor is a relatively orthodox (early second wave influenced) black metal project from Athens, Greece and ‘Exitum’ is their debut release. Though this was released back in November of 2019 I’ve no major qualms with taking a look at it during a slow couple of months for requests. Some of my favorite records of all time are widely considered ‘genre entry’ releases so I can easily see the appeal of Hor‘s straight forward Norwegian and perhaps earlier French black metal influences. ‘Exitum’ does not necessarily carry the torch for the typical Athens-born black metal sound; Though some spoken sections recall classic Acherontas the bulk of the four extended pieces within are generally mid-paced, atmospheric and occasionally pull in some folkish guitar phrasing. For my own taste the riffs barely scrape by with a notable flinch, often dragging behind the somewhat loud standard programmed drums. The vocals are probably the most expressive performance here, shrieking out torment to strong enough effect although they hit a bit of awkward tonality as the second part of the ~11 minute title track kicks into gear. I’d like to see what they could do with a human drummer’s input and a second guitarist, I see the potential for something bold and diabolical in the future but ‘Exitum’ wasn’t a memorable experience for my taste.
|Title [Type/Year]||Nunc Finis [LP/2020]|
|Rock is Hell Records||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Here we go, this is my kind of noise rock nihilism. Bug are not necessarily a retro-attuned sort of band but one that happens to recall the energy of the truly insane trailer-meth’d Midwest freakery of a certain era bumped up to the psychosis of 2020 with black metal, sludge, and noisecore nods within their action. ‘Nunc Finis’ is the end of the rope, the last big swing before the end of the world erases all art and humanity by way of a pure survival state. Snarling in the corner for the first 7-8 minutes of the record between the depressive, hate-filling mania of living (“Happy Pills”) and the grave-pissing demon-dancing incantations of “Hell is Empty” but Bug really gripped me with “Lost Soul”. I felt it, loved the descent of it, loved the gigantic slightly springing sludged bass tone. They’re old pros with a classic sound made modern, landing somewhere between the wicked freakouts of Victim’s Family and the grinding sulk of prime Shellac. Mumbling vocals, gigantic bass guitar sound, skittering guitar tirades, and even some post-rock fiddling on the closing track all add up to the exact sort of antisocial rock music I need so much more of these days. But sure, these Austrians can do more than antisocial, ante that up to denial shattering apocalyptic soul mutilation and throw in will-stifling, soul-dragging beating and frickin’ this is one of the sharper noise rock gut-punchers I’ve heard this year. Loved it, would recommend it to folks who’re looking for the ‘hurts so good’ kinda spank from a noise rock/post-punk band.
|Title [Type/Year]||Bring Me to Suffering [EP/2020]|
|Self-Released||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
I’m not the most enthusiastic mark for 90’s gothic metal beyond some of the formative melodic death/doom metal works and some transitional records from bands like Tiamat and Moonspell so I’ve got no real business interacting with a band like Chasing Ghosts who are pretty straightforward alt-metal with heavy goth rock/metal influence. Opener “Until the End” is catchy enough, a bit long-winded but the leads are reminiscent of Paradise Lost enough that I’d been interested the other two songs incorporate a dual vocal approach I can’t hang with so I’d not been able to invest much of my interest in much more than the opener. If they focus on the lead guitar driven moments as in “Until the End” more intensely I’d probably be into ’em at some point. For now, not my gig.
|Title [Type/Year]||Split [Cassette/2020]|
|Nihilistic Holocaust||BUY/LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The latest release from revered French metal scene supporters comes as a split cassette tape featuring two very limited releases from lesser known death metal bands. The first side is from French death metal solo project Silure which is spearheaded by M-Kha whom you should recognize as the man behind post-black metal band Aodon. His side of the split includes the three song ‘Route de Troche’ demo from 2019 showcasing a brutal, ranting form of death metal that sounds like it might lean towards Mithras a bit if it were polished and produced. The S.O.D. cover doesn’t do much for me but this is a solid enough introduction to Silure‘s sound, which leans into progressive feeling atmospherics as often as it does classic USDM heaviness.
The other side is a set of demo tracks originally compiled in 2018 by Chilean death metal band Feretro for a promotional tape which includes two songs from a 2012 promo demo and two more from 2017, it is essentially their best songs pre-‘Deathsolation’ EP in 2019. These guys are a bit more tightly wound and focused on pure garage-crashing old school death metal I’d liken their sound on the first half to early Sentenced or Therion, crushed-out riffs with some Autopsy-esque pace changes with fairly simple song structures otherwise. The second half is clearly five years removed from Feretro‘s beginnings where the render and the guitar work take a grand leap in quality. It is cool to see the evolution of the band over the years, and I love “Cemetery Rites”, but I was more inspired by the newer songs, they whip more ass and definitely made me want to grab their second EP (hit up Argentina-based Conjuro Records). Solid split tape between two great bands, hope to hear more from each in the future.
|Title [Type/Year]||Genesis of Blasphemy [Cassette/2020]|
|Putrid Cult||BUY from Putrid Cult|
Got a bunch of Putrid Cult releases at once and wanted to touch on Polish black/death metal band Atonement first. Bellowing vocals, doom-stained pacing and snarling riffs make for an over the top but deep underground debut from this newer project which recently added members of Arkona and Horns. The guitar sound isn’t there yet, inhaled vocal style might be somewhat surprising for an irreligious themed band but it all works up into its own sound after a few spins. They probably have a few tapes to go before finding a full-length worthy sound but so far they’ve gotten it right with this one, love the sludged-out slower pieces, “Mirdautas Vras” especially, and I greatly appreciate the drummer’s ability to cross between black and death metal styles without resorting to plain war metal tactics.
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