…FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a list grouping short reviews for albums selected from the current weeks new releases. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here I present a grip of new releases from this week [September 25th through October 2nd, 2020]. 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, lasting value is the major goal in approaching each piece. 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.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 2nd, 2020|
The fifteenth album from long-running Bergen, Norway-based “second wave black/viking metal gone blackened progressive metal” act Enslaved certainly shouldn’t be a polarizing event at this point. Their traversal of distinctly Norse progressive metal and rock is now a minimum of seven albums deep so, fans who are still quite attached to their transition from teenaged ‘Vikingligr veldi’ beginnings through their revelatory ‘Isa’ album ten years later may or may not have been along for the ride once the style of the band generally stabilized. When it stabilized, and if it did, is up for debate as well yet the band remain popular and quite inspired however they’ve been labeled. The important point to make here is that Enslaved have always approached composition and style from their own point of view and each release builds legacy via a combination of subtle stylistic touches and the occasional freak paradigm shifts. ‘Utgard’ could be seen as the proof we’ve been after that Enslaved were going to eventually take a deepest turn towards progressive rock stylings though I’d argue this was evident even before ‘In Times’ (2015), which was more than a subtle hint of it. As you’ve already likely sensed there is a lot of baggage in hand with a band who’ve released so many albums and well, there is no way around it.
Their Bathory-esque ‘Frost’ album from the early 90’s is a personal favorite, an album I’ve inadvertently collected of its special editions over the years but I don’t personally pick their discography back up until the transitional trilogy of ‘Monumension’, ‘Below the Lights’, and ‘Isa’ from 2001-2004. Liking their most classic releases alongside their mutant years (and arguably their heaviest influence upon modern black metal) means I can appreciate where Enslaved have come from as well as each step taken beyond. I’m still a bit of a quasi fan, though, because the old criticisms still stand; They’ve never justified that poppy, sweet and sentimental rock’d edge of their sound via ‘catchy’ or particularly clever songwriting. Opeth took quite some time to find a happy medium between texture, movement, and motif that’d pull the listener back in and it seems Enslaved yet intends to paint with emotion rather than plainly illustrate for an audience. This is entirely fine yet the bursts of heaviness, hooks, and prog-metal histrionics allowed ‘Utgard’ remain the only “life behind the eyes”, so to speak, and they’re not eyeing me directly.
“Sequence” and key single “Homebound” make a considerable case for the newer set of clean vocalists, primarily the returning Håkon Vinje who replaced longtime vocalist/keyboardist Herbrand Larsen (who’d been with the band since at least ‘Isa’) in 2017. New drummer Iver Sandøy apparently also provides clean vocals but I’ve no mind for picking one throat from the other. The trouble on my end is that I’d felt Larsen had finally gotten somewhere keen on ‘In Times’. Much of what Vinje does matches that energy but without much distinction from the average dulcet tones you’ll find an every other Norwegian progressive metal band. This doesn’t mean we’ve landed in “blackened Leprous” territory just yet but it doesn’t quite feel like Enslaved until we’re served some riff and growl action in smaller waves along the way. No doubt you’ll disagree until you’ve heard the deeper cuts on the album, the singles were generally chosen amongst pieces that invoke some blackened prog-metal point of view… Excepting “Urjotun”, a steamy synth head-bobbing and bass-driven prog-rock jog of a song that certainly didn’t need any harsh vocals applied.
Where I begin to shrug in reflection comes with “Storms of Utgard”, a piece I don’t understand on any level as it kicks into a big heavy rock salvo that uh, finds its way towards a chord progression that is essentially an airport rock version of “Everlong”. Of course I’m being a little bit absurd here, this song would fit on any album they’ve released in the last decade, but I feel I’ve been a cheerleader for Enslaved many times in the past only to find no intellectual or emotional reason to return to any of their records beyond 2004. This is certainly no shame fest on my part, they’re a fine live band and they’ve a proud space on my shelf. So, it is no belabored revelation that ‘Utgard’ isn’t my kind of thing. Norse prog-metallic rock with black metal vocals is yet a unique and tricky balance to pull off and these guys are still quite good at it.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 2nd, 2020|
Hesitant as I am to hug up on anything remotely post-black metal lately, any initial resistance to this progressive/Cascadian black metal influenced Minnesota-grounded quintet generally dissipates as I become more familiar with their discography. Amiensus don’t carry a particularly regional sound but the seeds of their actual compositions seem to stem from admiration of key works from (later) Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room on a very basal level; This means grand-soaring builds that lead to quite beautiful highs, “summit” moments that feel endless as they strike upon something a bit more intelligent than your typical post-rock crescendo abuse. ‘Abreaction’ is not entirely celestial, in fact the most intimate and memorable moments are often the mid-paced sections that feature dramatic acoustic guitar and cello-adorned peaks. An earthly sort of wandering that provides a sense of wonder but without a direct narrative implied.
This sounds a bit standard for blended sub-genre music of this sort but the extra je ne sais quoi here on the tip of the mind therein is a touch of late 90’s Borknagar if it were updated via North American atmospheric black metal modernism. More broadly speaking, there are actual black metal components threaded throughout ‘Abreaction’ and in a somewhat traditional manner; The balance achieved avoids resembling the usual plain-assed n’ cloud-dancing “soft rock album with rasped vocals” syndrome while likewise reigning in the synth/keyboard work enough to escape comparison to late second wave symphonic trash. Major label standards more homemade black metal sounds is the ultimate effect, a la Abigail Williams‘ ‘The Accuser’ but perhaps far more sophisticated when dug into. It a considerable feat to craft a ~55 minute prog-black album that reaches for the cinematic highs of post-black metal and yet remains interesting for its entirety and Amiensus do everything to make the listening experience fluid and well, inoffensive.
That raw-edged spirit of traditional black metal ethos might be missing in abundance therein if you’re a fundamentalist, and in that case perhaps guitarist/vocalist James Benson‘s post-black project Chrome Waves will feel even more sacrilegious, yet I’m prone to work what what is given rather than conform to dry auld standardization. Attune your own predilections appropriately. The goal of this record is stated as a display of pronounced professionalism, road-tested modus and a conglomeration of strengths and this is hard to argue with as a point of summation. All aspects of ‘Abreaction’ are honed, tightly knotted and sewn into seamless and watery warmth. Easy listening is a difficult term to use appropriately when I’m regularly inducted into the deepest extremes of metallic forms yet there is such ease and well-rounded grace in this record’s ascent. Beyond that I believe the distinctly United States sourced influences, progressive nature, and ‘modern’ black metal spiritual avoidance of cheap n’ chunky groove found on ‘Abreaction’ helps to sell Amiensus as the odd exception to a lot of dried up modern black metal standards that clutter the landscape. Anyhow, you get the point. I wasn’t expecting to like it but this is a fine record with some solid incentive for re-enjoyment.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 2nd, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Eat Lead and Die Music|
Well damn, I was hoping for a few short and vapid records out this week but we’ve got yet another brainy progressive multi-genre epic here with Monsterworks‘ sixteenth (or so) full-length, a concept album that picks up the science fiction narrative shared between two prior albums ‘Spacial Operations’ (2007) and ‘Singularity’ (2009). Describing the stylistic shift from thirteen years ago ’til today spanning several pieces, each of which carrying different tone and intent isn’t actually all that daunting; Stoner, groove metal, thrash and death with an epic heavy metal twist and a progressive rock crawl can be reduced to a philosophically-bound science fictive extreme metal version of Queensrÿche if you can imagine something quite a bit more riff intensive than that’d imply. The fusion aspect of Monsterworks is yet their most endearing quality, it isn’t so much ‘something for everyone’ but a something crafted from pieces of everything that makes sense once you’ve indoctrinated into the greater language of forms and phrasing that distinguishes the quartet’s efforts.
‘Malignment’ succeeds in capturing the essence of its related trilogy of legs (compare “Matariki Dawn” with “Contemplating Godhood” b/w “Ice and Awe”) while keeping with the most dynamic achievements of ‘Scale and Probability’ (2018), an album I’d been most impressed with when reviewing it upon release. Overall I’d say this latest record lives up to the high standards of the previous while providing a different sort of narrative experience, setting us in a fictional future and post-event horizon where a starship is destined to crash land on near-future Earth. When this happens grievous injury forces the issue towards transcendence or, the integration of the protagonist’s consciousness with the ship’s AI. The narrative is able to warp into the unreal via the suggestion that the transition from corporeal to AI corrupts the fellow. The band continue to present their music with meaning and because lyrics, themes, and fidelity are all important for the experience they not only provide a well-designed PDF with lyrics but digital copies offer the option of 24 Bit 48kHz full dynamic range masters. This is especially important if you’ve spent decent money on headphones, as I have but it should just be the goddamned standard. Choices like this speak to the sense that Monsterworks give a shit about what they’re up to and it is a good look.
Dig back and forth though the long history of the band and their prolific release schedule and the evolution over time becomes less obviate beyond face value judgements. Dynamic rendering does a lot to create a vibrant and modern progressive extreme metal sound yet the performances themselves, particularly the varied approach to vocals, craft a curious sort of heavy metal space opera that is surely more serious-faced than say, Devin Townsend yet likely to hold some appeal to a similar fandom. Less for bombast and more for exploration of heavy rock, extreme metal, and progressive metal textures. Although I don’t have quite as much rambling to do about this record as I’d with the last, it is nonetheless an equally stunning experience. A high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 2nd, 2020|
Yes, in fact we’ve four gigantic progressive metal albums to mull over this week and ‘Nostrum’ might be the most immediately enchanting of the bunch for its sourness of spirit, a dark metal infused progressive crawl that relies upon smartly harmonized vocals and virtuosic drumming to weave its unusual spell. ‘Nostrum’ features a dose of ‘Dark Metal’-era Bethlehem as much as it lands within the Psychotic Waltz realm of prog metal, some curtain of gloom hangs over the chassis of its core movements just enough to keep Dialogia from sounding too hopeful or dryly polished. The effect is an intelligence that is difficult to predict, a sensation of an individual who is smart and a bit dangerous for it. It is a very accomplished and well-woven tension to bring into a debut full-length. At this point I’d only speak to the mood of the overall record yet the style of it is certainly more nuanced than gloom-ridden prog metal and above all else it is the performances here that are the biggest stun available.
Formed between two fellowes originally from Bolivia who’d reconnect as friends and musicians in Maryland years later the core trio of Dialogia would complete with the chosen addition of ex-Dodecahedron and current Ulsect drummer Jasper Barendregt. Armed with this high level of proficiency it’d seem the development of the album was drawn out across three years as the possibilities expanded in-process, such as the addition of choir and cello/violin accompaniment for certain pieces alongside guest guitar solos from Bobby Koelble (see: Death‘s ‘Symbolic’) and Daylight Dies guitarist Barre Gambling. Each of these artists are able to fit the mood and general feeling of the record within their contributions yet it is the mere mention of Daylight Dies that cues in the surrealistic and downtrodden affect of ‘Nostrum’ near perfectly without resembling that particular band’s style.
Mid-paced progressive metal with dark and death metal influences is a good start in description of where the band have gone here. I found the level of technique and composition compelling though the atmosphere of the record feels drawn out and too insistent in its steadfast grind. Thrilling as the early album tracks are for my own taste the full ~62 minute experience is overly long and begins to wear its welcome out once we’ve flipped over to Side B. Standout “Sacrosanctum” remedies some of this feeling just in the nick of time but the somewhat overthought opus of “FearBlack RedEscape” fully pulls me out of the trance of ‘Nostrum’ as it plods on. So, perhaps there are a few very small points of unecessary excess to examine going forward yet as a whole Dialogia have managed a solid showing for their debut.
|TITLE:||Dulce Bellum Inexpertis|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 25th, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Gates of Hell Records|
Formed in 2019 with NWOBHM and all manner of early-to-mid 80’s heavy metal on their minds Blazon Rite are a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based quartet with swords and sorcery to spare. An independent digital release of this debut EP would soon lead to their own run of cassette tapes and a CD release via the venerable long running Greek metal imprint Alone Records. Today we’re getting a 12″ vinyl version via Gates of Hell Records with some improved more colorful artwork. Why all the fuss? That secret to the best of the 80’s lies in the intensification of guitar work developing in 70’s occult heavy rock outliers as well as popular groups. Blazon Rite founder, guitarist and songwriter James Kirn surely studied the old craft and the influential nods from classic high fantasy British rock are not to be missed. And really beyond that they’ve got those catchy, anthemic early Iron Maiden feelers out (see: “Diamond Daggyr”). No doubt if you’re a fan of bands like Greyhawk or Angel Sword you’ll dig it though Blazon Rite don’t jump ahead into true early power metal (nor speed metal), stopping just short and keeping the ‘rock’ front and center throughout. It is an inspired EP with universally appealing classic heavy metal notions abound, very clean presentation and just enough garage-like thump to the drums to keep it sounding old-but-new.
|TITLE:||Out Raising Hell|
|RELEASE DATE:||September 25th, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||D-takt & Råpunk [EU]|
Konton Crasher [US]
Swedish metallic d-beat/kängpunk trio 偏執症者 were on the edge as they worked through their third album, like many others they’d been conscious of the world falling apart around them and they’ve suggested it has only darkened and amplified their sound. I won’t suggest their overall sound has changed drastically but this one doesn’t instantly ring of loud and brash Disclose styled hardcore of the past, edging out some of that Venom-esque roll applied to Discharge style rippers and instead going with songs that just buzzsaw their way forward never-minding ‘the rock’. This turns out to be the exact right thing to do, at least in my mind where 偏執症者 standout comes with their skills that bend d-beat into something catchier than it should be anymore.
The band suggests ‘Out Raising Hell’ was a chance to take control of their gig, put out the record themselves and “keep it simple, primitive and spontaneous“. A lot of old school metalpunk heads don’t necessarily understand the best of the style has typically arisen from spontaneity and well, I can assume as much because every throwback ‘follower’ band out there puts out stinking dry standard dogshit riffs. This is where a band like 偏執症者 are able to get it right, winging it and cutting down whatever doesn’t land. Jamming out and knowing when to hone in on a strong bit or let it ride is a sensibility you get from years of digging through punk records and taking notes from the really inspired stuff. I dunno what I’m on about but you should at least get that there is some energy here alongside the more d-beat by numbers pushers. “Minagoroshi” is an interesting outlier in this sense, almost sounding like an early Celtic Frost riff as it kicks along ’til you realize the vitality of Amebix is what you’re really hearing.
Anyhow, no sense prattling on about it. What these guys put out there this time around is straightforward 80’s metallic d-beat in the best way possible with enough of their own inspired ideas to keep things swinging along. Great album covers for this one, and probably their best overall full-length package to date. High recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||September 18th, 2020|
Prana Crafter is a divination of primally effective psychedelic mood enhancement via musician William Sol, most often dubbed as “psych-folk” but more of a kosmische meditation with minimalist electronic and guitar effects drenched modulation in mind. These are launching points for those seated and enhanced in mind, best experienced by an opened trio of eyes at their most suggestible wideness. The dreamy hum of reels, tapes, analog effects, the loud clicks of vintage gear, and the eternal slow ooze forward of their sustained collage build a force that is not only captivating but capable of quite quickly changing the mind, removing it from whatever state humbled it away from transcendental bliss. I found myself pulled away from any tandem work or focus while listening and I believe the artist has this intent, to pull the listener back into their own nature away from anxietous futurism. Whatever it is about this experience that makes me want to roll in mud, bake in the sun and bathe in a river is certainly the right stuff, simple yet effective.
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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