…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: email@example.com
Here I present a grip of new releases from this week [October 9th-October 23rd, 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.
|TITLE:||All is Lost|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 9th, 2020|
For their third full-length, and second in 2020 after the impressive ‘Blood of the Night’, Maryland-based psychedelic sludge/doom metal trio Yatra aren’t ready to show all of their cards up front so, they’ve piled all of their heaviest pieces onto the first half. ‘All is Lost’ casts a tall dark shadow to start via the black metal influenced title track/opener, a piece that offers the Lair of the Minotaur-esque rasp and doomed crawl that’d highlighted previous efforts, and from there a similarly constructed ~4 minute piece (“Winter’s Dawning”) follows, each touched by extreme metal and a bit of booming high-fantasy High on Fire styled excesses. “Tyrant Throne” compounds that observation with its ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ feel. From there the album has established itself, made its first act count and now begins switching gears.
Pensive viking crown’d pillars of ornately carved crawling sludge are powerful and all but these guys have always bore a blood-spitting Sabbath groove from below which arrives most clearly with “One For the Mountain” a bluesy high via soulful clean vocals and vile flesh gargling villainy. Cue the bong noises on the way to Side B. From this point on we’ve one more barreling sludge piece that recalls the start of Side A and the rest of the songs tend towards the slower, bristling psychedelic doom the band have been known for in recent years. Style isn’t everything but implication is strong across the board here as even the slightest chord progression gives a blackened feeling without actually crafting black metal from it; The rasping sludge apropos (but also blackened feeling) vocal style employed by guitarist/vocalist Dana Helmuth throughout compounds the surrealistic quality of Yatra though the clean vocals on “Blissful Wizard” had me wondering if these guys could crank some serious thrashing stoner metal if the pace whipped up a bit.
That’d be the core excitement of seeing this project develop over the course of 3-4 years, there is a thread of identity through all three releases but they’re clearly adventurous, jamming it out, and enthusiastic about the possibilities going forward. The major bummer is that we got this album early, I mean don’t get me wrong I was more than happy to jam it but these guys were ready to do a run of the states back in February, they’re a true power trio who’ve toured tirelessly between albums. There is the sense that this one counts a lot going forward and not being able to tour it is surely a wrench. Between the incredible Paolo Girardi cover, the ‘on the edge of evil’ vibe of the album, and the stylistic push beyond the fantastic ‘Blood of the Night’ it’d be fair to boost this record with or without sympathy for dashed tour plans. Their best album yet.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 13th, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Blut & Eisen|
If you’d discovered this Shatraug side-project during their decade long demo phase and differing line-up with Blackheart (ex-Drowning the Light) you’ll likely enter ‘Verum Veterum‘ with some due expectation of a raw traditional black metal style, sourced from hellish necrosis and vexed by its own profoundly grating death worship. Cast aside that two dimensional ulceration as it does absolutely nothing to presage this new line-up and their depth-ridden output, which features the multi-talented Vaedis from underrated USBM band Vimur. The songwriting appears to have been largely woven by Shatraug‘s hand and I say that for the sake of the melodious strike of the guitar work, which does come with some early second wave notions but also the whirr of certain chord shapes (see: “Devouring the Flame”) that differ just enough from recent Sargeist to feel like they’ve been tapped from an ancient mindset. The title of the record does compound this intent, what is true is old.
What strikes me most after nearly ten full listens of ‘Verum Veterum’ isn’t necessarily the riffing, as front and center as it is, but rather the brutality of the piece paired with the vocal performance from Vaedis, who brings a diverse set of skills I’d not really paid attention to when approaching Vimur‘s second album last year. Even if it does feel like a hard turn for the project the result is ultimately the same goal and via a different statement, whereas demo-era Striges was a raw and visceral fleshy hypnosis this debut album is visceral blackness, true void and horror that looks beyond the flesh to the fate of the mind and soul. It will ultimately draw a different crowd with a similar ideal in mind — A deeper damnation but a damnation nonetheless.
|TITLE:||Dwellers of the Deep|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
Perhaps the most important non-metal release of the month, this fifth album from Norwegian progressive symphonic rock band Wobbler checks a lot of the same boxes their last three albums have: Classic (late 60’s/early 70’s) Yes influenced retro rock, exuberant and ornate with keyboard + bass driven rhythms. The context of their first two albums is important as they were prone to very relaxed, spaced and jammed feeling pieces until ‘Rites At Dawn’ (2011) found the band some greater attention. The point of balance was ‘From Silence to Somewhere’ (2017) where longform pieces would offer gloriously arranged epics with highs, lows, and due respite. It’d be fair to say ‘Dwellers of the Deep’ is quite similar to the previous album in terms of structure but without question this is the most active, inspired, and just thrillingly ornate bout of songcraft from the band to date.
Now keep in mind this is my voice from an insular place, I’ve spent years taking no great adventure through progressive rock in the early 70’s. ‘Relayer’ is one of my all-time favorite albums and you’ll find me listening to High Tide or early King Crimson to cleanse the mind just about every weekend but these have satisfied me for well over a decade. So, I’m no expert and I don’t have deeper cuts to pull into reference but this doesn’t dampen the impact of songs like (the first single) “Five Rooms” or the grand entrance of “By The Banks”, which is perhaps the most signature Wobbler piece on this record. Few prog bands actually crank up the vibrancy after four albums yet whatever’d energized the band with ‘From Silence to Somewhere’ is doubled here with absolutely sparking basslines and expressive vocal harmonies throughout. This helps to make this the most accessible record from Wobbler to date but also the most ‘active’, offering only just a bit of respite in the middle of “By the Banks” and “Naiad Dreams”. That is about all the insight and opinion I could manage so, a full review wasn’t going to be stunning. It is nonetheless one of the best releases of October.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
Both Centinex and Demonical return in 2020 with new vocalists and well, generally refreshed line-ups in tandem though Demonical have simply brought back their original drummer who’d left in 2011. Personnel aside, of course we’re getting loud and highly professional Swedish death metal from Demonical at this point and the question is perhaps what does ‘World Domination’ do to distinguish itself? Naturally there is a bit more melody within the band’s guitar work and less of the hardcorish thump that’d pulled me away from Centinex‘ latest album ‘Death in Pieces’, this is far more straightforward pure death metal. That said, I’d certainly enjoyed ‘Chaos Manifesto’ back in 2018 and the verdict isn’t quite as simple with ‘World Domination’.
To start, the vocalist here is perhaps more on par with the cheaper Rogga Johansson lead spectrum from Swedish death metal throwback cult of the last two decades. Yep, I know I’m an asshole but it all becomes fucking generic when fifteen records come from one person each year, my apologies for callous directness. This type of vocal works just fine for a band like Entrails, who’ve no certain personality bonding their output beyond HM-2 supercharging but Demonical have always had a darker touch, less “yaww” and more “urrgh” to the vocal, if you will. A nitpick on my part but when I’ve got one hundred albums in this style in my inbox every year, it makes sense to poke at the big name bands to do something more refined and set a highest bar possible. Is it a bad or mediocre album though? Not at all.
The theater of war via “Aeons of Death” is a bit much for Side A‘s otherwise straight forward rip; All of the huge production sound and ten tons of rippling Swedish overdrive find Demonical capably whipping out classic forms they’re known for. This time around we’re treated to a bit less melody and a bit more variety, grinding into some class Dismember + Autopsy-esque numbers (“The Thin Darkness”) where the grind of the guitars reigns supreme. The leads make all the difference and guitarist Eki Kumpulainen deserves some mention for his shrill old school flash across the board be it the Necrophobic-esque intro to “We Stand As One” or the subtle warp added to “Hellfire Rain”, simple touches but much needed flavor for such a ‘straight’ death metal album. Classic, straightforward, etc. you’re getting the idea here… This isn’t anything out of the norm for Demonical but it does take a bit more of a theatrical stomp along the way (see: “Slipping Apart” feat. Nils Patrik Johansson) which makes it different enough from ‘Chaos Manifesto’ to not feel like a phoned-in buzzer.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Extreme Metal Music|
Bay Area death-thrashers Thanatopsis never really got that much pull during their initial run of six demos and one EP spanning 1992-1997. Why not? Think of their early material as on the level with Sadus or the more mechanize side of Obliveon and then put that in context with the pretty much dead realm of tech-thrash/progressive death metal they were inhabiting in the early-to-mid 90’s. It is a shame because no doubt some of those demo tracks were on par with the best obscurities out of Canada and the Midwest US at the time. They made a push to give it a serious go starting in 2015 and after a 2016 EP we’ve finally got a Thanatopsis full-length ~28 years later in the form of ‘Initiation’. Any good? Yep. Out of touch? Shit’s timeless but a bit Testament-esque via Juan Urteaga‘s production. Groove metal? Sometimes (“Grim”).
As much as I’d like to get into all of the interesting trivia related to this band, such as this producer providing the vocals for the ‘Genocidal Race’ demo back in 1997 which was produced by James Murphy, and it seems there are countless points of interest to dig into but the music itself is just incredibly straightforward. Mid-paced death/thrash metal with some technical thrash influences is no crime and actually pretty much my jam so, should I approach this record as making good on some serious relics or as a modern sub-genre entry? Definitely making good on the original promise of the band back in the early 90’s and this style totally holds up when the band are in their pocket, such as “Suffer System”. There is some need for varied expression, some manner of pace changes that are more thrilling or vocal work that isn’t so locked into groove metallic meter. Without dismissing the strong bass presence throughout the album it is probably guitarist Dave Couch who saves the day here, his riffing is the most distinct thread across the project’s discography and ‘makes’ the record. Not the deepest insight on my part but I’m left with a generally strong impression of this album, here’s hoping they’re able to put out another one.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||I, Voidhanger Records|
On thier second album Athens, Greece-based quartet Kevel do not simply convey the virtue of self-divined change but embody it. The exploratory mind of ‘Mutatis Mutandis’ doesn’t intend to erase the post-metal past of the band on their 2014 debut ‘Hz of the Unheard’ but to envelop itself in the unknown darkness beyond, in literal and figurative sense. Of course you’ll notice there are dissonant black/death metal touches applied to their style of atmospheric sludge metal but these are merely greater intensifications of form rather than full on sub-genre leaps. This is still post-metal at its heart, right down to the use of sampled speech (“Of Being”) and spaced-out Cult of Luna-isms. Internalization, self-realization, progression and unlearning all play a central role in this perceived reskinning of the project and as such you’ll find me still waffling between recognizing the “old” Kevel and appreciating the new mind on display but the end result is undeniably something far more original and inspired.
“The Apophatic” speaks to me directly, a modulated beckoning of a riff and an escalating blast to indefinite momentum. One of my favorite ‘turning point’ records in my youth is ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ and upon hearing this record I’d almost feel like ‘Vertikal’ was Kevel‘s — Their application of additional extremity, fluidity and sci-fi sized grandiosity appears much more natural and intelligent from that point of view. A baseless supposition on my part but also a high standard to suggest for any artist. “Cosmic Domination” is where I’d felt the style of the album had seated itself beyond pure tumult and stirring rushes of riff, presenting a wide-open space to play to their atmospheric strengths via peaks and valleys. The whole of the experience bleeds together before it congeals into movements, wherein the only movement that is just “too much” is the early placement of “Terraforming” at nearly ~12 minutes on Side A it demands patience before familiarity. It may be a massive and exemplar piece but it’d been better served as a payoff or a flat out introduction rather than filling the “single” slot on the running order.
I’ll end up giving serious recommendation of maybe 3-5 post-metal/atmospheric sludge records at the end of this year and without a doubt one of them will be ‘Mutatis Mutandis’, not only for its themes-in-motion and the appreciable embrace of artistic growth therein but for the enthralling rush of its rhythms. At the very least you must hear “The Apophatic” at a too-high volume, this was the piece that’d slapped me hardest and gave good enough reason to dig deeply into the other corridors on offer. A high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 19th, 2020|
Of course I am always begging for more thrash metal, the real stuff anyhow, and the last several years have hardly had a fuckin’ butt-trickle of the pure, untainted stuff. Enter, uh, ThrashWall? Based out of Évora, Portugal this quintet might look a bit goofy at a glance (via the cover art) but they’re ripping it up across the board with this self-titled debut. If you’ve got me doing entirely not self-conscious air guitar at my desk in the middle of a bland ass Monday afternoon I’m seriously in your debt. But hey, you’ve heard this stuff before if you’re a thrash head, don’t expect this to pump up your big Havok-sized fake tits or hit any super deep themes, this is just a hard-riffing half hour burner. Early Bay Area/Los Angeles energy via Exodus and Dark Angel, some late 80’s New Jersey heaviness applied and some of the simpler songwriting of ‘Eternal Nightmare’ all bleed into the full listen. The guitar work is pretty straight forward, probably more of a ‘new old school’ feeling to the riffs about half the time but the sound of the record is pretty solid all the same. Not much else to parse out in this case because ‘ThrashWall’ is an entirely transparent thrash metal record, high energy defiance with a bit of that 80’s club-thrashing mosh energy.
|TITLE:||The Secret Teachings|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Burning World Records|
It will feel quite odd to go from this present day item backwards in time towards the beginning but, consider it a necessary trip from crust to the core of what makes this Netherlands-based act well worth the nostalgia. Anyhow, we start in the present day after nineteen years of reflection and nine years of preparation. ‘The Secret Teaching’ arrives alongside remasters of all Celestial Season material between 1991-1995 (excepting the ‘Secret Orb’ EP) where the band would release two demos and two full-lengths that were quietly celebrated outliers in the early melodic death/doom metal sphere before becoming a stoner rock/doom metal act. This is of course intentional as the project revived in 2011 for the sake of calling back their original “doom era”, a sound which is expanded and modernized via ‘The Secret Teachings’.
What of the interim? Celestial Season were always a collective of diverse tastes and shifting roles but for this release the intent was to push the line-up back into form circa 1995 while adding a cellist. At this point I have a ton of trivia to bounce around but it wouldn’t serve the mood of this album well to either discuss members success in electronic music (breakcore, jungle, etc.), The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, or take a ride down memory lane with early death/doom bands Bluuurgh… and Orphanage. The task of following up ‘Solar Lovers’ (1995) with some seriousness is either a tall order or, for many listeners, a trip beyond a completely unknown Point A; As such, the need to investigate backwards might be more pertinent if you’re prone to enjoy the provenance and order of operations an artist takes from birth, mutation, death, and resurrection. In this case I would call ‘The Secret Teachings’ additional mutation, maintenance of the mood of Celestial Season‘s early material but with entirely modernized production values, some modern rock/metal influences, and some gently placed nostalgia. Of course this isn’t possible in under an hour and with this in mind, this is certainly an album that seeks to balance some market viability without losing sight of the yet existent ‘old school’ fanbase.
“Long Forlorn Tears” isn’t the first piece to invoke the old ways directly but it is the one piece on the first LP (it is a double LP set) that’d stick out in my mind as brandishing that old charm readily. Much of ‘The Secret Teachings’ is very laid back with subdued vocals and a buried rhythm guitar tone that allows for some quite thick and moody moments but doesn’t bear that “death metal” edge of the earliest recordings. Multi-tracked spoken vocals aren’t very successful when they do crop up, feeling a bit like a bad Rotting Christ moment from 2001 in slow-motion. Otherwise, much like ‘Solar Lovers’ the tumult and ruin comes on the second half via “Salt of the Earth” and the rollicking “They Saw it Come From the Sky”. For my own taste the flower does not blossom on this record until this point and it really finds that nostalgic warmth on “Lunar Child”. This is where I’d felt ‘The Secret Teachings’ finds it success or, at least where I recognized the breadth of Celestial Season translated after so many years. Some of the guitar work is clearly cognizant of post-metal and modern heavy music in general so, the experience is neither distinctly nostalgic nor is it a pile of commercial shite. The remasters will rate a bit higher for me for their nostalgic value and those old ways nonetheless.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Burning World Records|
If you’d not fully bought into the idea that Celestial Season were done growing out of their influences on ‘Forever Scarlet Passion’ then you’ll have no basis for that argument here on their second album, released 1995 at the arguable peak of melodic death/doom tradition. Consider the landscape of 1995 where Novembers Doom were still catching up, Opeth were leagues ahead of everyone else, and My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Cathedral had left behind death metal entirely. There are a hundred more bands to consider and a thousand more that mattered only slightly less but Celestial Season bring something that was arguably entirely new: Slow motion stoney gothed-out Sabbath grooves? Imagine death/doom with some soulful, bluesy affect to the soloing, almost entirely the opposite of what the Scandinavian and North American side of the equation would bring for the rest of the decade, much less the fully fermented funeral doom side of things. “Solar Child” is the main event in this sense, and this side of the band remains somewhat subtle as their stoic melodic death/doom spirit is yet in tact as evidenced by the whispered grind of “Soft Embalmer of the Still Midnight”.
As you’d likely detected I actually hold this album with some regard, it is perhaps the most viably held memory of the band’s initial run and the end of their formative years. If you’ve some obsession with melodic death/doom, gothic extreme metal, and the idiosyncratic side of death/doom metal then there is some unusual internal stylistic juxtaposition within ‘Solar Lovers’ that makes it a curious, redeeming gem. Now, I wouldn’t call it a classic of the sub-genre but rather a unique outlier that’d quickly presage their shift to stoner rock/doom metal, which came via ‘Orange‘ (1997). I think the band were just onto something here, as evidenced by the impressive dynamism of “Will You Wait For the Sun”, a song that you’ll recognize from the ‘Promo 1994’ tape via the ‘The Merciful’ compilation.
In terms of the remaster being necessary, I was only briefly on the fence about this — After four reissues, each of pretty solid quality beyond the oddly flat Metal Blade CD version this was due for a bit of polish. The original sound of ‘Solar Lovers’ was already solid via the fellow from Orphanage who also did Within Temptation‘s debut. The bass is given some rounded presence, vocals are slightly less buried by the guitars, and I think Plotkin has done all anyone can do for the drum presence where some crashes dissolve and the bass drum is well… of its time. This album I will revisit for a few of the most hybridized songs (middle and second half) that pull in traditional doom metal riffs whereas ‘Forever Scarlet Passion’ is a full listen each time for its moody continuity. This more or less balances out their worth and I’d recommend each.
|TITLE:||Forever Scarlet Passion|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Burning World Records|
This 1993 debut from Celestial Season isn’t so easy to pass off as a Paradise Lost “clone” anymore as their sound is now in keeping with the band’s own early signature style of “gothic” death/doom metal. Violin from session artist Edith Mathot, who also appears on a few records by brilliant progressive-thrashers Blind Justice in the early 90’s, is essential here for developing melodies on the first half of the album. What makes Celestial Season special in the long run is their holistic sense beyond the rather insular feel of the “Peaceville three”, wherein the influence from Cathedral‘s ‘Forest of Equilibrium’ is felt along with some touches of the Netherlands’ own impressive death/doom canon. Don’t get me wrong, though, this belongs next to ‘Gothic’ and ‘Turn Loose the Swans’ on the shelf with the caveat that this early sound from the band was derivative for the sake of a style they were improving upon in a few key ways. By 1992-1993 Paradise Lost were creating catchy, chunky death metal/hard rock music with ‘Shades of God’ and ‘Icon’ so, in some sense Celestial Season were taking that development without losing the original chamber of melodramatic death/doom along the way. Are the melodies as sharp as anything on ‘Shades of God’? Maybe not, but I’d suggest some of the songs are much more compelling, immersive, and truly evocative of the new frontier of extreme doom they were trodding at the time.
So this is probably going to be one of the more key nostalgic pieces from the Burning World (Roadburn Records, essentially) reissue/remaster set we’re getting alongside ‘The Secret Teaching’. This one has the grit and the early spirit of the band in a nutshell with a lot of appreciably ‘analog’ elements such as studio effects and the timbre of the drums kept in tact. The bass is more audible without adding too much “blood” to the corpse, the violin is a bit less oppressive here at a volume that weaves within and soars as James Plotkin‘s ear is impeccably applied here. It is key to note that we haven’t lost the oddly gothic harmonic quality of the album in the remastering process; This listless dryness, which is perhaps as close to the early British sound as anyone ever would, has been lovingly restored rather than just cranked up. The merits of this album compared to ‘Solar Lovers’ might be debatable but if you’ve some love for the material on ‘The Waiting’ compilation it is imperative to give this album its long awaited championing.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
After 3-4 years in early Netherlands death metal band Bluuurgh… two key members would diversify away from their thrashing madness and form Celestial Season, a “gothic” death/doom metal band who would eventually follow their own trajectory away from extreme doom metal towards stoner metal. This particular compilation documents the ‘Promises’ demo tape from 1991 and their promo tape from 1994 alongside a few extra rare tracks. The history of this band is often stuffed into a box of also-ran melodic death/doom groups that’d surface as the “Peaceville three” zeitgeist spread in popularity, and to some degree you’ll hear shades of Paradise Lost within. Yet it’d be unfair to entirely box in what Celestial Season were doing in tandem, incorporating violin arrangements and bringing their own innovations to the sound along the way.
Without a doubt ‘Promises’ still holds up incredibly well, its innovations to that core ‘Gothic’ sound still outclasses much else circa 1991 and the use of different lead instrumentation really shines on this remaster from Varathron‘s Achilleas Kalantzis via Suncord Audiolab. “Surreal” was always the piece that hooked me with this demo, even when you couldn’t hear the bass and the leads were buried beneath the vocals, granted I’d only ever heard poorly ripped bootleg tapes before this restoration. Consider what similarly inspired Swedish bands like Cemetery and Lake of Tears were doing nearby and perhaps a few years later and you’ll find Celestial Season does deserve credit for fully realizing something far more mature and arranged compared to their time in Bluuurgh…, few demos of that era brought anything nearly as stylized as “For Eternity” to the table.
‘Promo 1994’ was recorded just 3-4 months past the band’s debut full-length, ‘Forever Scarlet Passion’, and it is clear they’ve swapped guitarists and violinists in the meantime. This is the harder to find of the two demo tapes and also the best possible primer for the big event that ‘Solar Lovers’ was for gothic/melodic death/doom metal. The big question when approaching this promo is absolutely why did they leave “Above Azure Oceans” off of that record? The other two pieces are already quite professionally realized on this tape with “Will You Wait for the Sun?” being one of the more memorable pieces from ‘Solar Lovers’. If you must have one release from Celestial Season, I would probably have a great deal of trouble suggesting which but for the folks looking for melodic death/doom metal rather than just gothic doom, this compilation is a perfect introduction. The remaster of ‘Forever Scarlet Passion’ is likewise an important bridge between the two promos here so, if you’re finding the 1994 tracks infectious and accomplished there is an excellent LP in between worth checking out. Classic stuff that should be eaten up if you’re the type who’d loved all the UK/US gothy death/doom before 1994.
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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