Overlooked Releases – Q3 | 2020

OVERLOOKED RELEASES are the weight in hand and a task engaged in random order! This will be an ongoing quarterly feature in the form of a list devoted to grouping together albums of interest that were missed within a three month period, this entry being specifically July 1st, 2020 through September 31st, 2020. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons, the most common reason being constraint of time. The goal is to cover as much of the greatness that’d slipped through my fingers in the past three months as possible, as well as show thanks and acknowledgment for notable works. All releases are presented in random order, it is mostly metal. Each item rates above average with few exceptions.

TITLE:Blood of the Decievers
RELEASE DATE:September 11th, 2020
LABEL(S):Duplicate Records

Proselytism is a fairly new project from a duo of established south Norwegian musicians, most notably including Kjetil Hektoen of Enthral. Their debut arrives professional, practiced and well-produced with a strong sense of self right out of the gate. ‘Blood of the Deceivers’ is direct and calculated across its ~28 minutes, starting with a burst of ‘The Third Storm of Cythrául’-era Absu blackened thrash metal style and working its way towards classic Teutonic thrash numbers and slightly more extensive (recent) Aura Noir-esque riffs. The performances are precise and buttoned up, avoiding any reasonable comparison to South American variations and thus the appeal of this band’s sound is probably best aimed towards fans of the Norwegian and German sects of black/thrash. Plenty of soused speed metal burner riffs, trailing solos, and a uniquely bloody rasp of a vocal performance keep this one tightly wound-up and enjoyable throughout. I totally understand why this has been underrated, it starts out with a bang and only goes a few interesting places to start before leaving Side B to bask in its most traditional fare. For my taste this is a good thing, a true shock of black/thrash that isn’t afraid to roll out a big rock riff for effect. The cover art is fantastic, too.

TITLE:Revenant Of Blasphemies
TYPE:Demo / 12″ EP
RELEASE DATE:July 26th, 2020
LABEL(S):Dunkelheit Produktionen

Originally released as a limited demo tape and CD run back in early 2017 via Psychogrind Records this Costa Rican death/doom metal band’s first release finally gets some broader reaching attention in the form of this 12″ EP release via Dunkelheit alongside a CD reissue. If you’re familiar with the more recent stuff from Shambles (Thailand) where they’ve gone death/doom but kept things stripped down and dark you’ll warm up to this sound right away. Any band that has done splits with Anatomia and Throneum is definitely going to be raw and real die-hard stuff so steel yourself for the single guitar presence, the slow-churning death metal gallops and satisfyingly heavy dips into doom territory. Solid as this band’s grip of classic slow-death is they tend to lean into some Hooded Menace kinda parts (alternately, Coffins) that don’t really stink of personality in a demo format so much of the major appeal here comes across via atmosphere and the strong appeal of the demo tape production. Folks who live for stuff like Abhorrence and the more punkish kicks of ‘Severed Survival’ influenced music will love it. Good stuff but I’d like to hear these pieces with a full-on production backing their ideas.

RELEASE DATE:August 28th, 2020
LABEL(S):Seeing Red Records

Earlier this year I’d gotten a hype e-mail from Intoxicated that showcased some recordings from recent live shows, I figure this was a smart way to drum up some label interest but I’d not realized it was pregaming for this inevitable release. Why get excited about ’em? I can’t think of a band who captures the essence of that late 80’s extreme metal wilderness of ideas where both death/thrash metal and crossover thrash hybridization would sometimes arrive in perfect harmony, producing these full-range demo tapes that were just too weird and unfocused for bigger labels. That is to say you’re getting the real deal scuzz of Corrosion of Conformity‘s ‘Eye For an Eye’/’Animosity’ (alternately, the second D.R.I. record) splattered in between chunks of ripping Florida death/thrash metal. The title track on this EP, “Walled” really knocks this idea out of the park via its throttled ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ grabs and, when paired with the hardcore punk push of “Grab the Rope”, speaks to the reality of what I hear as the late 80’s underground embodied.

How does it all line up so well? Probably by virtue of being elbow deep in it forever and understanding both old school skate punk and death metal well enough to make righteous thrash of it. The earlier incarnations of the band picked up circa 1992, self-released a record around ’97 and you can trawl through YouTube to find some live performances of that stuff. Where’ve they been since that record? Since 1999 bassist Gregg Roberts and guitarist/vocalist Erik Payne have been in Andrew W.K.‘s live band, yet this shouldn’t at all suggest Intoxicated are whipping up glossy big label over-production just yet. After a few spins through it becomes clear they understand putting some garage metal stink on it is just as important as making sure every second hits. No naïve “in love with a just ok riff” stuff, only hits that matter with either stylized or seamless transitions throughout. Too often I get the right ‘feeling’ from a band pulling from classic sounds and they’ve got nothing substantial enough on the fretboard to keep me glued, in this case Intoxicated bring pieces you want to re-spin and chunk out on the guitar in your garage. That’d be the basis of my recommendation, it sticks.

TITLE:Birth of an Eternal Empire
RELEASE DATE:July 17th, 2020
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

Ah, the Danes. It is in their blood and nature to conquer and as such some furious true extreme metal project seems to crop up from this specific collective within every 3-6 month span. If the glorious ‘old school’ atmospheric supremacy of Phrenelith, Alucarda, and Taphos were not enough of a statement lately some of those fellows involved have been cranking away at a primitive black/death metal grinder in the form of Ascendency. ‘Birth of an Eternal Empire’ is intended as the first of three short (EPs, assumedly) releases which thematically consist of a dynastic narrative, a great rise and a horrendous betrayal. The music itself has been likened to Profanatica and Demoncy (maybe ‘Within the Realms of Sylvan Frost’?) in the post-release interim but I haven’t personally found this record exactly as cut-and-dry as others have. Despite the production sound and general style of the release hinting at that early-to-mid 90’s USBM death grime, each song here features some manner of melodic centerpiece that is yet distinctly Scandinavian in flavor; “A Birth In Fire” should make this observation most clear. So, shake off that “primitive” black metal preconceived notion and approach Ascendency for the deep chasmic well of phrasal rhythm guitar ambition that it is. I think this band has some potential to hit close to the works of Prosanctus Inferi if the death metal were to take more of a center stage, that “blunt but clever” approach is already there just shrouded in early second wave black metal motif. Might be fair to consider this a “wait and see” release for some, but these pieces are more than promising from my point of view.

RELEASE DATE:July 17th, 2020
LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

Music as mystic and enthusiastically cryptic as Ysengrin tends to be followed by a crowd of “Yes” men gobbling at whatever droplets of artistry fall by the wayside and as such it can be daunting to see the forest for the trees. You do not have to run beneath other’s symbolism to resonate with importance, bear witness and be inspired to your own. Furthermore, what is the perspective of a man carrying too much unclaimed baggage in his arms? Either you’ve resorted to stare at the floor until the task is done or the head is yanked back as you trip forward eternally. This is how I’ve long seen the alchemical search for transcendence via Guido Saint Roch‘s Ysengrin, a project which intends to cease after this album via one more split release. Consider the core inspiration of Necromantia as the frame to work beyond wherein two (or more) bass guitars provide rhythm, phrase and flourish in gently menacing approach. Some releases from the project are driven, seeing only the path forward and not the view whereas others are clearly attempting to drop the baggage of existence and see eternity. These are all compliments, vague or otherwise.

Initiatio‘ largely transforms auld ideas, demo-era spells from formative efforts, unto the quality and majesty of today. That is to say that this release is technically a series of reworked, reimagined, and adorned pieces alongside some new compositions as well as some manner of additional ambiance. This will likely be a veil lifted for folks who’ve no insight into the work, and what I mean by this is that you could absolutely approach this album as if it were brand new material; It all reads quite clearly as a Ysengrin album and not at all like a collection of reworked pieces. Drop this baggage immediately, then. Much of the album reveals itself as gloom-ridden romantic morbidity but it is “Ode à l’Escarboucle” that stands out as evocative of one of my favorite obscurities, the ‘Black Wedding’ demo from Alastis where the opener “The Just Law” sets a beauteous bassline next to a crackling fire and a crawling beat. It is very much that slow-motion Mercyful Fate sort of thing that Varathron and Necromantia were known for early on, but purposefully funereal. This is the appeal of Ysengrin in a nutshell, “sold” in an instant on my part, yet you’ll want to dig into the details as much as possible, every corner of each release offers its own curio and detail worth knowing.

If this is to be the last full-length release from the project, if I’ve understood the messaging properly without reading any related interviews, then it is fittingly sourced from pieces written between 2005-2020, a release that is holistic and nostalgic yet placed squarely in the present tense. Is it an emotional farewell? No, in fact it is a proud moment as a longtime fan to see this departure as an ascension via proper self-representation. ‘Initiatio’ is as beautiful as it is crypt-born, quietly magickal and a completely private joy to behold, like an old book one cracks open to reexamine their fealty to the old ways… Only to arise with strengthened ideals in mind. I’ve a long list of 2020 I, Voidhanger titles to pick up on vinyl and this one is perhaps at the very top.

TITLE:Under the Influence
RELEASE DATE:July 31st, 2020
LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions

At this point in creation of this list I begin to seethe with regret, to have been overwhelmed with quality releases is such a joy until the pain of a hand forced to pocket amazing works beneath a great workload settles in. I have done a poor job of covering traditional heavy metal releases this year and at the top of my list of favorites is British trio Coltre‘s debut EP ‘Under the Influence’. You’ll understand where my enthusiasm stems from within the first few bars of “Lambs to the Slaughter”, a mid-to-late NWOBHM epic that’ll shake a bit of Angel Witch-esque melodicism at its highest point. These fellows understand the bulk of the wave persisted in memory not because of location or Iron Maiden clones but for the sake of condensing the best of 70’s heavy rock into infectious street-level pub metal numbers. This is exactly what we’re treated to as the bumbling verses of “Crimson Killer” chop into its studly main riff.

Each of the five songs here offer eye-level theatrical rock, head-bobbers and bangers that are all about harmonized solos and well, somewhat serviceable hooks. We’re invoking old heavy metal here, not trying to reinvent anything and this is why I’d probably grab this LP over the latest Haunt or nearby. Not a slight against that band but this feels authentic in that each piece strives to be different than the last without relying so heavily on iteration. Each track feels remarkably special in its place. The only track that didn’t land was probably “Fight”, as it lacks some of the heavier hits of the other songs. The path forward? Holy shit I hope this band realizes it is their “epic” numbers that hold the most water, spin right over to the 9+ minute slasher “Plague Doctor” to see what I mean. Whatever these guys do next, I’m in.

TITLE:Mass Cathexis
RELEASE DATE:August 17th, 2020
LABEL(S):Self-Released, Gilead Media

The collective hysteria of too-easily achieved diversion is on trial in the eyes of this hypelessly released ninth Krallice album, a gently-landed and summarily eruptive progressive black/death metal album. The long-winded and crossly expressive nature of the band has generally halved itself since their post-Profound Lore era opus 2012 ‘Years Past Matter’ and this continues to be a point of yearning on my part, wherein I’d actually loved ‘Diotima’ (2011) despite folks finding it a point of unlawful divergence. Nonetheless the increased efficiency of the project does not hamper the impact of their works since, I’d loved their collaboration with Dave Edwardson via ‘Loüm’ as well as ‘Go Be Forgotten’ in 2017 but I can’t say that I was expecting or anticipating what ‘Mass Cathexis’ would be. What could it possibly be? Reflection, conglomeration, succinct divination of essence? Well, sure, but it seems all journalism approaches Krallice as if they’ve been anything less than an engorging mass in this sense.

Nothing is left behind, as per usual, in view of ‘Mass Cathexis’ yet we encroach upon what I hear as the earliest essence of what made Krallice something exciting and artful early on: Mania. I won’t rush towards the Voivod references just yet but opener “Feed on the Blood of Rats” absolutely forces the issue, its skittering guitar runs and sci-fi synth presaging the monolithic force needed to exit the gravity of our dwindling planetoid. This piece is presented as a sort of grinding speed metallic ascent, a proper launch into the void that surely serves idealized Krallice atmospherics and technical bravado at once but also instantly characterizes ‘Mass Cathexis’ as a horror narrative, wherein the ‘self’ disembodies from its collective species with disgust. If this first ejection isn’t intended to read as such then consider it inspired projection on my part.

Shorter pieces allow for the majesty of this virtuosic troupe to pack in colorful shaping that must be spread evenly throughout confined spaces, this is perhaps the right sort of remedy for my nostalgic view of ‘Diotima’. There is no loss of meandering stylistic touches or rhomboidal, spaced out hallucinogenic swirling rants that characterize the Barr-Marston experience but they must limit the number of statements per piece and this circles around to the strength of ‘Mass Cathexis’ as a whole: Impact. Upon first or second run reflection you might see the throughway from “The Wheel” towards “The Myth” as nigh nonsensical, playful and aggressive pieces that illustrate dense and fractal lunges of black metallic prog-death strokes and at face value, yep fair enough. When considered as a set of windows with differently colored panes in a similar selected palette they speak to a larger form that offers descent and frustration. Consider this Side A‘s core statement, a dissolving intellectual capacity where mania chokes away illusory safety. Or uh, just consider it vibrant surrealistic black/death metal I mean this shit generally rips even if it isn’t all that memorable to start.

What I assume is naturally Side B‘s starting point, the title track featuring a guest vocal from Dave Edwardson (Neurosis) is yet another blast of unpure aggression. This not only inspired some enthusiastic revisitation of ‘Loüm’ but found my ear-brain connection beginning to examine ‘Mass Cathexis’ as a progressive death metal record, hearing some spurts of grind-fueled early 90’s prog-death within its blasted jerks. If “The Myth” wasn’t the breaking point then this piece certainly is. From there we are in orbit having blasted beyond the swiss-holed ozone layer in anxietous view. “The Formed” is the apex of this sensation, truly the peak that keeps on climbing in effect yet… it all kind of peters out with “All and Nothing”, an atmospheric 5 minute dirge that slinks off without necessarily resolving the excitement built between “The Form” and “The Formed”. This exit point bugged the shit out of me for about a month, loving the vault of the album yet never appreciating the floating exodus of it. I’m still not entirely satisfied with the running order but I do believe this is one of the better places to start if you’re unfamiliar with Krallice. Much of their tendencies and personal voices are condensed here within exciting ever-active pieces and it’ll make a fine introduction to the larger body of work. The final verdict on this one will be out until I pull together everything for end of the year consideration.

RELEASE DATE:September 4th, 2020
LABEL(S):Neurot Recordings

After writing an abstract review for quite an abstract album by Deafkids circa 2019, I’d had a fellow write into the site complaining of the complexity of my statements… and I’m still not sure what any fan of such a free-spirited and wildly deconstructive artist would expect otherwise. This has been a common result and very mild long-term struggle with writing about abstract music, and the main reason why I’ve eased up on it this last year, as it seems that many readers who explore the fringes of music want it presented to them plainly and in compartmentalized forms. “Give me a hundred buzz-labels to sieve through ultra-niche electro underground’s cutting edge stuff but please, don’t wax poetic about it.” and it doesn’t take much of this attitude to leave me bristling in response. So, what’d discourage me from racing towards this collaboration of Petbrick and Deafkids?

I’m not sure there is a conversation to have about it where I can illuminate. Maybe you’re a Sepultura fan who has been eager enough to see what Iggor Cavalera has done outside of the metal spectrum, and in that case Petbrick is quite accessible, and well-paired with the industrial crust punk rebellion of Deafkids. Perhaps the conversation is the side-note that Wayne Adams of the infamous Bear Bites Horse studios is always a bit of quiet second mention in reference to Petbrick or, maybe that the live collaboration with Rakta & Deafkids is probably way more exciting and all-too nearby. Alright well, no, none of that is going to suffice or hold up. In terms of ‘Deafbrick‘ the album, its collaboration is entirely inspired and perhaps in ways that ‘Metaprogramação’ (2019) was lacking, bringing some of that late 80’s Ministry and Fudge Tunnel force to their blurry elektro-punk attack. The result could easily have edged towards something like Atari Teenage Riot sans gabber-blasted beats but they’ve kept it all quite buttoned up for this collaboration, as evidenced by the nigh thoughtless cover of Discharge‘s “Free Speech For the Dumb”. If that sounds a bit like a hug with a gentle stab at the end, kinda.

The jungla of “Primeval I” leading into “Força Bruta” isn’t as immersive as it intends but it is exciting to land upon the echoing buzzsaw of the second piece, an up front payoff for the attentive listener in the form of a clean and unperturbed burst. The blood is moving but the body isn’t compelled until “Sweat-Drenched Wreck” shudders in and sticks around for nearly five minutes. I’m there for it, as well as the next several pieces feeling out the distinctly Petbrick-involved beats and some “composed” ideas lain atop via Deafkids yet I can’t help but shake the feeling that this middle portion is absolutely safe and minimal. Just as folks only remember Nailbomb for the short, ripping punk numbers so will ‘Deafbrick’ stick in the ear for its most active grinders a la “Mega-ritual”. I don’t intend any sour or reductive hand-flailing here, only that the moments where less is more ethos crops up feel entirely too normal regardless of their unique perspective. For a 40 minute experimental elektro-punk/noise collaboration the steps in and out of consciousness are appreciable yet the choice to lean towards minimal sleepiness made for some initial disappointment. Taken as is, there is certainly a time and place for this record and it has held up well to repeated listening. I wouldn’t blame anyone for seeing it as a bit of a “corporate taming” of what made ‘Metaprogramação’ such a righteous vibrancy but sure, ‘Deafbrick’ is probably far more listenable for broader set of folks.

TITLE:Tail-Tied Hearts
RELEASE DATE:September 4th, 2020
LABEL(S):Caligari Records

Getting past the “Wicked Games”-lifted introduction of “Glow” might be challenging for folks expecting something sublimely extreme and niche from Caligari Records‘ always eclectic hydra head of analog glory but hey, be patient. Russian trio Dunwich have plenty of creepadelic extreme gothic metal on the way. Yep, definitely not my “thing” at face value but “Through the Dense Woods” makes such a strong case for the artist that it was impossible to not give this debut album a closer look. Shades of Gold-like gloom juxtapose well enough with growling doom-tinged goth metal moodiness without ever feeling accomplished. The folkish side of the band that you’ll hear on “Wooden Heart” is perhaps the least interesting point on their spectrum, and the Hammond organ grinding post-punk glowering of “Mouth of Darkness” is the peaking glory of this album overall. For a formative but largely confident release there are some interesting ideas within ‘Tail-Tied Hearts’ yet none of them quite stick. The vocals and production values in general have a way to go in terms of finding their drive beyond wisp-like gloominess and the songwriting itself goes into moderate auto-pilot beyond the first 4-5 pieces. Why feature it, then? Those five songs are surprisingly memorable — I won’t become a convert of this type of gothic metal anytime soon yet I cannot deny an inspired, youthful act.

TITLE:Death Nova Upon The Barren Harvest
RELEASE DATE:July 17th, 2020
LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records

Calling themselves “death/doom necromancy” and featuring members of Into Coffin and other Marburg, Germany area underground misanthropy (Bestial Warfare, Ruinen, Omnivore) is exactly the right way to get me to gear into Nekus‘ approach to blasting atmospheric death metal. What this trio are doing on this EP shouldn’t be difficult to discern yet the presentation allows for some obscuration. Production is quite black/death in nature, pure grit and grind up front that emphasizes the floating presence of the drummer while the nuance of the guitar is left to wander around the mix and fill it with gaseous ruin, think of Disembowelment‘s demo era. What is lost in translation is the doom of it all thanks to those blasting moments which are an exciting escalation of death metal prowess that unintentionally (or not?) speak to early black/death metal hybridization. Fans of Into Coffin will embrace this nuance immediately and perhaps engage much quicker thanks to the sort of post-caverncore era murkiness, shorter song lengths, and Necros Christos style arrangements. I personally love this style of atmospheric death metal and find the chase for subtlety hypnotic if not particularly challenging. There isn’t any particularly deep conversation to glean from an EP like ‘Death Nova Upon the Barren Harvest’ just yet, and not for any lacking characteristic of the record beyond extra context or standout moments. It all blends together into one suffocating pulse of dark energy yet what lands is pure death, no particular extraordinary event to help the moment stand out. Chalk that up to a disembodied sense of my own numbness rather than a flaw in the creation.

TITLE:Fields of Sorrow
RELEASE DATE:August 29th, 2020
LABEL(S):Deviant Records

The narrative on modern Finnish black metal gets a bit frustratingly dry when all manner of folks seem to agree that only a few key artists are important and the rest are either second rate or also-ran. It makes sense on some level to point out the obviate influences passed along although not all artists from the country accept this personal canon, or give a shit about what their countrymen do. This point of view often keeps greater impact of groups like Cosmic Church and Blood Red Fog at bay simply because they’d arrived beyond the 90’s, a boring line to draw considering that decade wasn’t particularly strong in terms of -original- melody itself, deriving tone and structure that was mediocre in light of Norwegian and Swedish factories nearby. …And that rant being necessary was where I’d generally slide off of a full review for ‘Fields of Sorrow’ because it preempts my thoughts on the larger discography of the band.

With each release Blood Red Fog become more self-sufficient and adventurous, utilizing an engaging and fairly unique approach to melodicism via idiosyncratic synth & keyboard selections on certain albums to craft long-form pieces that are often traditional in structure. Think of this as alternate reality follow-up to ‘Filosofem’, with bits of Mütiilation and Austere around the edges that is yet cognizant of Sargeist on some level. Probably the worst possible way to introduce what is unique about this project, and especially since they’ve changed quite a bit over the years, but the gist of it is melodic black metal with depressive touches, some rock influenced progression, and plenty of synth work adding to the delirium.

The only piece on the album that feels somewhat typical when stripped to its core implied melody is the title track, yet this only highlights the point of view of the artist as somewhat unique where the melody is implied and not presented as some bare-assed depressive rock riff. These sorts of pieces are increasingly common and twee for my tastes, I’ve no love for a certain brand of sentimentality but somehow in the hands of Blood Red Fog this otherworldly atmospheric sensation manages to distract from that reaction on my part. You’re starting to get the gist of why I didn’t go for a long form review of what I’d consider one of the best albums of August, it wouldn’t have been all that thrilling of a read. It is a great album, though.

TITLE:Vad Är Inte Sju Huvud?
RELEASE DATE:July 31st, 2020
LABEL(S):Rubeus Obex

As far as a couple of months of divining has allowed, it’d become apparent that Reverorum Ib Malacht is as much of a reaction to black metal’s feigned “heavy metal” artistry today as the original movement was to commercialism and Christianity back in the late 80’s. That is to say that every moment of their Catholic black metal noise terror services art in reaction, using its own language to craft defiance in the name of their own devotion. It is the inversion of black metal’s core inversion to uproot the guitar, drum, and bass and reconstruct them of field recordings and custom electronic sampling. If you believe that black metal is a powerful artistic expression with no equal and opposite reaction in our universe, I believe ‘Vad Är Inte Sju Huvud?’ intends to be it and to strike terror in the minds who’d grow lazy in the cuddly arms of false Satan.

In every interview you’ll find the Uppsala-based artists, primarily the original 2005 duo, insisting that black metal has no gang-like ownership or “rules”, that it is religious music and without a doubt Reverorum ib Malacht are singular and representative in their power for the sake of their divergence. Of course my head spins in considering this amongst what I see as Christian propaganda as insistent as meaningless odes to Satanic faith but I remain impartial. The most important observation to make is that the craft evident on this bizarre black ambient/lo-fi black metal paints with a bloodied brush of mutilation, horror and the encroaching promise of God’s power. It is a possession of the flesh, felt cell-by-cell in electronic waves of blurring precision. How then, does this moaning, blasting, quaking and psychedelic monastic musique concrete somehow come across so fucking terrifying? It is a veritable inquisitor’s blade, not a warm floaty-robed hug from Christ but a bloody atomization of the ‘self’ that stings the more you try and wriggle free from its tendrils.

Approaching the discography of this band from the start is quite the undertaking and it admittedly caused some bout of personal madness to the point that I’d simply drop it for weeks at a time along the way. Even at thier most “traditional” phase of existence there wasn’t a thing normal or orthodox about Reverorum ib Malacht and much of what has changed between ‘Urkaos’ (2011) and today amounts to an expanded arsenal of samples, field recordings, and what appear to be generational manipulations of their own recordings. If you can imagine making a great work from one thousand sounds, then making twenty more increasingly complex works over the course of nineteen years without editing away anything you’ll understand why ‘Vad Är Inte Sju Huvud?’ is the beast that it is; They’ve built upon it in seeming geologic time, a personal tradition of accretion and remembrance. So, it is art music that invokes the spirit of black metal in the name of Catholicism and the result is quite impressive, fearsome and dutifully driven by spiritual self-empowerment yet I won’t bullshit you and suggest you’re going to like most of it.

An hour and a half of this is pure delirium — Blackened beats and grinding samples, ear-deflating chain blasted experimental noise, monastic chants and rambling religious recitations via slowed samples and bubbling guts-shaking electro shuddering violence. The effect is often annoying as fuck, especially when a 5-7 minute piece might be pitch shifted religious ranting (“HErrens tjänare äro HErrens tjänare) or singular, quietly descending noise (“Bönelivets yttersta utpost”). Some of the pieces do appear to have a slight sense of humor, particularly the final track which is almost infuriatingly excessive but most of the experience is quite serious, blurring, and abrasive at once. As art and audio-visual experience, it is perhaps one of the most remarkable events this year. As a commercial product to be bought and sold to the masses, it will feel like brutal harassment for most. I love this about the recording but I’d found it daunting and anxietous to return to very often, emotionally challenging but not cerebrally divisive and not strikingly voiced for my own taste overall. I would like to see what Reverorum ib Malacht could manage with the voice, be it their own or the voice of ‘God’ envisioned because at this point their mastery of this form doesn’t feel like it could possibly be any more extreme than it has become.

TITLE:…gedenken wir der Finsternis
RELEASE DATE:July 15th, 2020
LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire

Eisenkult arrive a fresh German entity bearing key members of Mavorim, Meuchelmord, Slagmark and Totenwache alongside some serious love for the Finnish melodic lore of recent years. Symphonic touches, retro video game soundtrack bumpers, and cloyingly sweet yet triumphant melodic guitar work means we’re getting regional dialectic vision of a very specific sound. They’ve suggested it is “Vulgar German hate music” but of course the melodies are quite sweet and sentimental, not to mention the production is clear and glossy. Though the compositions amount to variations on a theme throughout and the album only lasts ~28 minutes this actually works in Eisenkult‘s favor as brief and unchallenging material. It is the sort of band that is in one ear, out the other and yet whenever I’d come across the album I was happy to put it on for the brief duration. Easily consumed propaganda, I guess. I might sound flippant and perhaps because I don’t yet see the full scope of this project’s devotion beyond a quick side-project, but this one is at least worth mentioning.

TITLE:Under My Skin
RELEASE DATE:August 21st, 2020
LABEL(S):Australis Records

Alright man, lets get the obvious shit out of the way: Metalriff is a dumb band name. No doubt the band would agree, you need a beer and some sittin’ down time. Formed circa 2017 and via members of death and thrash metal bands (Dark Saga, Stigmatized) out of the Santiago area this Chilean thrash metal band manage a pretty sharp power/thrash metal sound that pulls from Bay Area thrash with a bit of an Artillery-esque twist. It isn’t pure old school thrash but it isn’t fully melodic shit either, plenty of riffs and frequently upfront catchy vocal melodies. The production is clear, bass heavy, and reaching for the well-balanced spectrum of early 90’s side of thrash metal I suppose. ‘Under My Skin’ is repetitive but accessible stuff and I really can’t fault it for this, I mean I’d much rather pick this up and let it rip than, say, the latest Testament or Death Angel records because Metalriff just get to the point and hit it, no self-conscious ideals to uphold and that unpretentious take on thrash metal with hooks is surprisingly effective. This comes as a big improvement beyond their debut ‘Blinded’ (2018), which suffered from overly simplistic guitar work and less engaging vocal work. It is a matter of cleaner iteration and some more thoughtful guitar work but the result is undeniably an improvement. Extra points for the accent on the vocals, gives a small bit of character to the album. Nothing earth-shattering or too noteworthy but this record is far more effective than their funny name might suggest.

TITLE:Ignis Spiritus
RELEASE DATE:August 21st, 2020
LABEL(S):Primitive Reaction

Flame are a long-running black/thrash metal band from the Nokia-area of Finland who sport ex-Urn members and the fellow who played drums on Barathrum‘s first three albums. This is actually a pretty good indicator of what their latest EP, ‘Ignis Spiritus’ sounds like in terms of Satanic speed metal ideals applied to menacing, blasting mid-90’s occult black metal. What has changed since their second album all the way back in 2011? Not a whole lot, these guys have kept their approach steadfast in the interim nine years. Less compressed rendering eases up on the bass drum hits considerably leaving the emphasis on compositions that aren’t afraid of slow-to-mid paced pieces in between their patented blasting sections. Fans of Urn, Gospel of the Horns, and Nifelheim will almost certainly love this and to be sure it’ll compel many to seek out their first two releases. For my own taste this is a smarter band overall, hitting all of their best attributes with far more appropriate production sound and plenty of riffs. Not a ton to say about the EP otherwise, just a solid black/thrash ripper with an earnest interest in the occult.

RELEASE DATE:August 3rd, 2020
LABEL(S):Aesthetic Death

Here we have a split LP between jam-heavy and dark extreme acid doom metal band Megalith Levitation out of Chelyabinsk, Russia and equally affected Moscow stoner/doom metal band Dekonstruktor. I’d really enjoyed the long, immersive nature of Megalith Levitation‘s debut album ‘Acid Doom Rites’ back in 2019 and I’ve arrived upon this split just as late beyond release. “Opium Ceremony” is more or less a six minute intro to the main event “Despair”, a ~13 minute burst of fuzzed ritualistic doom with meandering monastic vocals and impossibly heavy guitar tone. A dual vocal approach eventually works in some more impassioned phrases at the center of the piece and these eventually dissolve into growling that gives way to some faster paced galloping in the last several minutes of the song. I’m still very much on board with anything this band does and thought this song is somewhat straightforward for droning, ritualistic doom/sludge metal it is yet a (comparatively) small-yet-effective window into their greater capabilities.

Although I don’t know much about Dekonstruktor, who were originally known as Moon Mistress, their side is much more straightforward and easily digested. Two eight minute pieces of psychedelic doom metal along the lines of earlier Monolord and after listening to their previous record ‘No Way Back’ (2018) it is clear that these two pieces were selected to mesh well with Megalith Levitation‘s slower churning sound as much of what Dekonstruktor do is toy with rhythm and a variety of sub-genre influences, borrowing from the classics for sonic excess and sludging up stoner/doom metal standards a la -(16)-. These are meditative and stargazing pieces by comparison and I think that context is pretty important for finding this material special in reference to their other material thus far. Definitely love the cover art, also, and that’d be almost as much of a draw as the slow-going psychedelic morass of it all.

TITLE:Empty Body
RELEASE DATE:August 28th, 2020
LABEL(S):Pelagic Records

The fourth album from New Zealand-based post-metal band Spook the Horses intends to balance the gentler atmospheric lilt of their previous record, ‘People Used to Live Here’ (2017) with something entirely more aggressive, and this has been their wavelength since self-releasing their debut back in 2011. Every high is met with a low and no doubt ‘Empty Body’ is an expressive dip into abyss attuned thoughts. If that previous album was a meditation upon abandoned places then this follow-up is the process of self-abandon, of dissociation and dissonance. I won’t say that it is the darkest most personal post-metal record ever made, the polished post-hardcore sheen of the band ensures they’re not quite gritty enough to match early atmospheric sludge metal’s ruination, yet there is a resonant feeling of despair that shakes ‘Empty Body’ throughout. “Counting Days on Bone” is exemplar of this anxietous dissonance that takes over the spirit of the band, seemingly lost in the flow of their own darker movements. This is much more ruthlessly emotional than a lot of post-metal of this caliber, perhaps because it doesn’t feel quite so plainly performative or over-produced. That’d be the main reason I’d find myself coming back to ‘Empty Body’ with some frequency, its strong balance of polished ideals and tempered emotional outbursts that’d always feel on the verge of spilling over. That tension is yet vital ingredient that many atmosludge/post-metal acts lack. An invigorating skeletal shake and a must hear for folks who’ve been burnt out on post-metal in recent years.

TITLE:The World Trapped in Vampyric Sway (Darker and Darker)
RELEASE DATE:August 21st, 2020
LABEL(S):Crown and Throne Ltd.

Vampire themed raw black metal doesn’t necessarily want you to discover it, not because it is truly cult but because their niche is secretly the equivalent of Xanax-fueled SoundCloud rap niche within black metal’s underground today. What if one of those rappers made der Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect? Fun mosh riffs, electro-Mysticum spurting black metal beats, and guttural growls all point my mind in the direction of something decidedly not black metal in spirit but also probably more satisfyingly divergent than most of the typical ‘on scene’ generic black metal stuff coming out of Bandcamp every week. The main riff on “To Love” is feels like it was lifted from a defunct tech-death demo until it twists into some black metal inspired runs… aaaand then the elektro-noir beats bump in. Hear me out here, no I definitely would not buy this for my own collection but there is something to be said for a fellow willing to put out something so entirely “wrong” that it might end up charismatic enough to inspire some folks; This is the nature of either bold mediocrity or cheeky innovation and the verdict is yet out in that regard. Maybe I’m just out of touch with this kind of shit but I have to at least commend this over the top ~24 minute record being backed enough for a vinyl release, good on ’em even if it isn’t for me.

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