A PILE OF BODIES part four of a year-long feature in the form of a list devoted to grouping together requested reviews for recordings of interest that were submitted (not necessarily released) between July 1st – September 15th 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: firstname.lastname@example.org please see FAQ for details on submitting releases.
|TITLE:||A Heinous Portrait|
|RELEASE DATE:||May 10th, 2020|
Gotta start things off with a bang and no doubt the blackened death/thrash riffing of Columbus, Ohio trio (at the time of recording) Eternal Bloodshed brings the energy and the necessary evil on ‘A Heinous Portrait‘, the independent band’s debut full-length and first official release. The first couple of songs feel pretty comfortable in terms of some classic thrash riffing, blackened vocals, and some pretty insane drumming from Scott Pletcher who folks should remember from Darkmoon if they followed USBM back in the late 90’s or if you recall their vocalist/guitarist joining Nile for ‘Annihilation of the Wicked’. Anyhow, Pletcher lends a lifetime of versatility on the kit to this record and it makes for a solid black/thrash metal album that truly dips into classic heavy metal riffing and a few hits of hardcore punk here and there. This recording also features Mike Lare of Ringworm on bass but he has since exited the band. The details themselves are pretty straight forward, exactly the sort of blasphemic riff music you’d expect out of Ohio’s greater hell-cult these last several decades. Recording sounds realistic, the drums are particularly set right where they need to be and it doesn’t sound like they’ve had to doctor them up or reverb anything to hell to cover up any shit takes. Solid first album overall, I feel like the riffing is edging toward bigger swings of the epic/melodic side of black metal but they’re conscious of keeping the core street-thrashing vibe in tact.
|RELEASE DATE:||July 20th, 2020|
Graz, Austria-based trio Toblakai are an ‘epic’ black metal act feature members of melodic death metal band Doomed to Fail with some viking/black and melodic black metal influences informing their sound. Think of early Suidakra with a bit of a classic heavy metal intent, very blunt rasped vocals without much nuance and some folkish rhythms written (mostly) for a single guitar. It looks like the band were picked up by Naturmacht Productions during the period of consideration for the promo but I am not sure if they’ve signed up to release this record or a future composition instead. The songs here range from serious but humble viking epics (such as the title track) to snarling, kinda goofy heavy metal tracks (“Hail to the Insane”) and this translates as a bit of a jumble that is actually pretty listenable thanks to the strange, somewhat indecisive style they’ve managed along the way. The musicianship is still formative, leads noticeably stumble a bit along the way and the drum sound never quite settles into its groove but all of that fits the gnarly blackened/heavy rock angle pretty well. It doesn’t necessarily compare with Abbath‘s black n’ roll stuff but the attitude seems headed in that direction the more I grasp the full picture of this record. The render here is fine enough but it is the songwriting and vocal patternation that needs a full overhaul to create more than an implication of “epic” blackened heavy metal.
|RELEASE DATE:||July 20th, 2020|
Kratornas was essentially Filipino musician Zachariah‘s solo black metal/grindcore project from 1991 until about 2012 and after a hiatus and a move to Canada the project would become a duo with the addition of drummer Guzzarin was added in 2016. Naturally you’d just see the combination of black metal and grind as “war metal” in essence but there is a particular distinction to make in terms of classic 80’s hardcore punk influences digested through the extremity of grindcore and juxtaposed (rather than fully blended) with pre-’94 black metal sensibilities. Sure, there is some manner of early Beherit or Blasphemy here in spirit but the world of Asian extreme metal has their own analogues that are perhaps more thrash/speed metal cognizant and those inform this sound much more. ‘Pestilence’ comes in the form of a three song demo that shows some finesse developed beyond the well-received ‘Devoured by Damnation’ record back in 2016. These are 5-7 minute songs and not just directionless, blasted war metal punk songs so think of Deiphago, Sacrocurse, and maybe even Sadistik Exekution now and then. Frantic blasts and ominous black metal riffs create a uniquely eerie tension across the length of this demo and I’d found myself especially enjoying “Three Unclean Spirits” for this dynamic. Solid demo, it isn’t up for streaming any more but I believe you can buy the self-released tape version.
|RELEASE DATE:||July 1st, 2020|
Greybeard are a four-piece progressive/melodic death metal band from Calgary, Alberta who’ve been developing their mid-paced traditional heavy metal influenced sound since at least 2016 or so. Think of their interpretation of melodic death as uncomplicated, a bit mainstream’d and focused on patiently revealed rock guitar hooks. The pace of the first two opening pieces reads a bit more like groove metal to me ears but they do eventually pick up the pace to an early 2000’s Rotting Christ guitar hero jog by the third song. The half-rasped vocals are so focused on reading through the ornate lyrics that oftentimes they bear no particular melody, no pronounced phrasing or any real emphasis and the additional backing vocals only serve the disarray of their directionality. The guitars are in the pocket by the time “Truth” swings in but the vocals feel a bit vexed and unsure of where to insert themselves. Granted, this has a bit of a sleepier later-era Dark Tranquillity vibe to it and I don’t really ‘get’ that group anymore either so, bear with me.
The disconnect (in my mind) here really boils down to the majestic high fantasy appearance of the album, wherein ‘Oracle’ depicts a grand prophesier and suggest some central event on the horizon yet Greybeard‘s music feels more like pedestrian thrash-rock frustration with a blackened veil than it does a fantasy sojourn. I don’t mean for that to sound shitty but, the mystique isn’t there quite yet and all I’ve felt is the ‘grit’ and snarl of its stomping ways. “Craven” and “Truth” are the main highlights for my own taste, the hooks are mostly there and the pacing works to build some needed tension.
|RELEASE DATE:||July 15th, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||School of the Arts|
‘Winter War’ is (as far as I know) the first release from this ‘dub metal’ trio with members split between Moscow, Russian and Barcelona, Spain. Two eighteen minute performative pieces of psychoactive grinding chill emanate from the mostly live-rendered drone core of their sound, splitting the album in half and surely bearing some influence from the stonier, spacier side of drone music. The percussionist is perhaps the most entranced on “War” whereas the guitar and bass stacks are generally calculated throughout weaving their relatively simple swells of feedback and amplifier presence in somewhat practices patternation. The distinction between music that is crafted in experimental ways for a studio format and music that is essentially a performance with experimental modus is important here, as Petrozavodsk are employing well-known techniques and showcasing their ability to improvise within that contained environs. The vibe is effective, the guitar tone is bristling but never screaming, and the trance of the percussionist is decent anchor for the performances. I didn’t feel anything new or compelling from the full listen but I did enjoy the development of “Winter” from start to finish, “War” was needlessly drawn out within its core wavelength and the finale felt a bit ‘too little, too late’ in my experience. Then again I’m not on any good drugs lately so, gauge your interest accordingly.
|TITLE:||Back From the Grave|
|RELEASE DATE:||July 10th, 2020|
Umeå, Sweden based power metal band Carnal Agony hearken back to the early days of Sabaton when they were having a but more fun with fantasy worlds rather than military history. Pop metal hooks, a bit of a sly grin to their comedic horror narrative, and heavily melodic keyboard-bumped mid-paced rock tunes all amount to something I’m not generally a huge fan of. The production is very clean a la an out-of-touch AOR group or bands like Battle Beast but, maybe a bit more direct and not so overblown by artificial loudness and too many guitar tracks. Very dorky, cheesy stuff here but it sounds like they’ve had a lot of fun making and performing these pieces. I’m just not at all a power metal dude beyond 1990 but hey if you’re big on Sabaton definitely give this a run-through.
|RELEASE DATE:||August 1st, 2020|
If you were a pornogrind, deathgrind, or experimental brutal/grind whatever fan the early 2000’s you no doubt touched upon the glorious weird of the greater Czech scene and at the very least hit up a band like !T.O.O.H.! along the way. One of the lesser known groups from that era were Alienation Mental who were likely influenced by stuff like Cephalic Carnage at their peak in the mid-2000’s I still own their ‘Psychopathicolorspectrum’ album from 2005 and though it just sounds like Slipknot grind today, it was good fun back then. That band eventually evolved into Perfecitizen and they’ve released three albums since 2011. The third, ‘Humanipulation’ has some interesting progressive intent to its “blastcore” version of brutal deathgrind and they’re totally hit-or-miss across the board for my taste. “Blind Ignorance” is particularly bad for its ill-fitting guest vocal and much of the album bears this bonking djent inspired guitar tone when things slow down and get a bit technical. Another band that just doesn’t click with my own taste but I can appreciate where they’ve gone with their music these last two decades. Check it out if you’re into weird ultra-brutal grind excess.
|RELEASE DATE:||August 5th, 2020|
According to Metal-Archives Bladecatcher are a progressive metalcore band from Akron, Ohio but I’m not sure I can fully agree with that tag. If anything they’re a modern prog metal band bringing in some mathcore influences at a formative stage and that distinction is important, to me at least. Is it any good? Well, not really my style and the belligerent aspects of the vocals don’t mesh well with the prog-death feeling of the instrumentals. Much of ‘Eidolon’ feels a bit more spirited in nature than the “Arrghh-yoww!” of the vocals, and this pairs poorly with the somewhat anxietous lead guitar strands running through each piece, which often feel contextually irrelevant. This feels like a progressive post-metal band in development, especially as the naive stumbling entrance of “Accidental Origami” kicks into gear. They could either go The Ocean-core or something prog-deathcore like Krosis down the road, we’ll see. Again, totally not my thing and not something I could recommend even if it was entirely pro.
|RELEASE DATE:||August 1st, 2020|
KI⸸⸸ENS is an international experimental noise collaboration between musicians in Colombia, the United States, England and Italy. The membership is anonymous with each member named after horror directors (mostly) from their respective countries and… I suppose “anonymous horror” is a fine description for the severe minimalist techno/industrial beats and noise rock clangor that defines this self-titled debut EP. Lo-fi guitar slapping, manipulated screams of terror, martial bare-bones jungle beats, and ear-pricking dissonance create an unpleasant but highly-present mindfuck as these 3-5 minute pieces play out. Bits of saxophone and synth dot themselves in a few songs to keep things interesting and we’re eventually treated to some divergent textures on a few songs, “Crushed to Death by the Weight of Existence” brings the most eclectic and sickly amateur grind to the EP feeling a bit like a shelved Cold Meat Industry cast-away demo as it resolves. The whole thing caps off with a cover of Massive Attack‘s “Angel” which they’ve not only butchered of its central bassline but nearly busted my ears with the harsh noise that spikes out of nowhere. Didn’t appreciate the cover, at all, but this EP has some solid enough ideas to expand upon. I feel like if things are going to be this sparse, the recordings need the presence of a room or defined spaces to really have any impact. A bit of reality or an organic touch would be much more frightening than bland spoken word samples or whatever else adorns the edges of each song.
|RELEASE DATE:||August 14th, 2020|
‘Nadir’ is the first demo from brand new Connecticut-based black/death metal solo project Kato. I suppose I’m using those sub-genre identifiers tentatively because black metal seems to be the central impetus for the project but the first song “Submit” has a bit of a heavy/doom metal affect as it slowly introduces itself and the second song “Suffer” uses a certain bassline that as a bit of a post-punk trounce to it before the whole second wave meander of the track kicks in. These pieces still feel a bit freshly picked and not all of them are arranged in meaningful ways, I can hear the artist’s ambitious vision just begin to unfold before “Suffer” can go anywhere and well, it just fades out. The ideas that are ready formed and impressive largely come from the later third of “Submit” when some keyboard/synth triads emphasize the central chord progression. The songs themselves are yet inconsequential and the guitar techniques are rudimentary black metal modernisms but I appreciate the nihilistic spirited prose of the lyrics and some of the atmosphere built within simple forms. Yes, it is certainly unfinished bedroom black metal thus far but the two main pieces here are right on the edge of fully developed melodic ideas, the major potential is there but some input on drum arrangement is needed to really punch the pieces out to their greatest potential. A fine start and surely worth some intensification.
|TITLE:||Swallow the World|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 1st, 2020|
No doubt most folks would take one look at that album art and shove Cyclops Cataract away like a one-eyed street dog but if you’re willing to peel back some of that up front cheapness ‘Swallow the World’ is actually a pretty solid extreme metal salad-toss via black, death, and even a bit of grind influence. Drum sound is brittle but loud as shit, guitars obliterate the whole thing, not sure if there is a bassist, and as a result the vocals battle with the rhythms in a fascinating way throughout this EP. The centerpiece is “Cyclops” the sort of drab, mid-paced black metal sway every garage metal band toys with somewhere down the road. Cyclops Cataract blast their way through it in fine form peaking at the 2:15 minute mark where the guitars sync and segue into the vocal part; This all works beautifully, a hooky respite versus the severity of the rest of the song creates a solid enough dynamic worth expanding upon. Didn’t feel any particular magic on the rest of the EP, perhaps the bouncy melodeath hits of “The Deep” but nothing too memorable comes of it.
If I missed your favorite album from 2020, whoa! E-mail me or hit me up on Instagram 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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