…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 23rd through October 31st, 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 30th, 2020|
Seventeen years after their grungy death n’ roll exodus, the sluggish and unforgivably dry ‘Swansong’, British deathgrind and melodic death metal pioneers Carcass returned with what would be a moderately polarizing success in ‘Surgical Steel’ (2013). In terms of popular music the band had been moving in geologic time since reforming in 2007 and they’ve continued to stick with what is essentially a 6-7 year cycle for extensive touring between original releases; This means their latest EP ‘Despicable’ comes six years after their last B-sides EP (‘Surgical Remission / Surplus Steel’) and what I’d consider the usual major label detritus for normies (“Best of” compilations, retrospective box sets, etc.) between releases. No matter how you felt about the previous album, I’d actually enjoyed it as good fun, it was clear that guitarist Bill Steer and vocalist/bassist Jeff Walker understood the nostalgia of their legacy together quite well, there just… Still wasn’t that much they could do to push beyond their classic sound on ‘Heartwork’. At the Gates subverted this issue with ‘At War With Reality’ circa 2014 where simply coming back wasn’t enough, the decades in between had to be accounted for. I could argue that ‘To Drink from the Night Itself’ was regressive but we won’t go too far off the rails here, the point of self-parody or exhausted characteristic sound threatens in the distance for Carcass going forward. ‘Despicable’ feels like a slight upgrade in ‘Surgical Steel’ tech, amplifying some of the bounding heavy rock riffing Steer is known for making death metal sized epics from and crafting melodic deathgrind that is distinctly mid-90’s Carcass in affect.
If I had to guess, the purpose of this EP is perhaps more of a necessity due to global market changes, pandemic related logistics and to delayed touring cycles. These are likely leftover cuts meant for another post-album dump as before and, well, if this is true then these songs were likely cut because they just kinda sound like ‘Heartwork 2.0’ minus any of Michael Amott‘s touch. So, as a listener the value of this EP rests almost solely in nostalgia and fandom ultimately rests upon needing more of what ‘Surgical Steel’ was getting at. “Under the Scalpel Blade” feels like it was getting somewhere, a subtle enough Celtic Frost riff posted in between a main riff progression that might’ve made the cut on a single from ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’, sounds amazing right? Well, the part that is amazing is seemingly lifted, chopped and reused from their past and feels awkwardly self-referential as a result, this reads as pandering and trite for the most part. Again this only serves to aid my theory that this wasn’t necessarily where the band wanted to lead from in putting out their next album, it just made more sense to tread lightly with an EP during a trying year for the music industry. Carcass isn’t big 90’s money anymore but they are big money on tour compared to most classic extreme metal acts. Does that mean it would be fair to wave a bored hand at ‘Despicable’? Nah, I mean if you loved anything the band did beyond their third album this should be right up your alley.
“Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue” is the exact sort of thrash n’ roll posture you’d expect and want from Carcass at this point, a dramatic lead-in with a catchy enough precision stab of riff n’ roll along the way. All of the dramatic slow triplet tension, harmonized guitar leads, and rolling bigger riffs off the top-heavy B string are here in spirit but arranged along a pretty well trodden song structure. Yes, just how catchy it is does ultimately outweigh the dry minutiae of Steer‘s adherence to classic thrash metal song structures but nothing about the skee-boppin’ metal jog of “The Long And Winding Bier Road” makes me want another album from the band if we’re just giving different textural variation to already well-trodden ground. This is where the typical Carcass fan and I diverge, since I know this band as the sort to change drastically between each album until they’d found their idealized and most distinct mash-up. Now they’ve worn the mash-up quite a bit and I’d like to see something daring instead. Credit to a band like Napalm Death who’re still taking chances and making a real mutant of themselves over the years, even if I’ve long lost interest in that. Ultimately these four songs will speak almost exclusively to folks who want the next Carcass release to simply invoke the band’s history and craft catchy tunes from their easy-swinging side. Though I found some of these songs precocious rather than heavy, I do still find the Carcass sound impossible to replicate properly beyond the real thing and for what its worth, they’re still exactly that.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
Insidious Disease features an interesting multi-national mix of musicians you’ll recognize from Morgoth, Dimmu Borgir, Napalm Death, Nile, and Suspiria most of whom have been consistent fixtures since the early to mid 90’s. Despite this being a super group for folks who’ve been connected to the Nuclear Blast and Century Media ecosystems over the last thirty years the music itself isn’t a n equal “meeting of the minds” between their biggest influences, instead thier second album, ‘After Death’ is a hardcore-barked take on classic death metal with some smaller sensation of dramatic tension applied. That is to say this is what classic death metal was leaning towards as popular bands had begun to tire of new groove metal influences in the late 90’s. The first album from Insidious Disease actually came a full decade ago with Jardar now ex-guitarist for Old Man’s Child co-writing at least a third of the songs now on this follow-up Cyrus of Suspiria fully takes over the second guitar role. I’ll venture a guess here and suggest that Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir) is the main composer across the board as the types of moshable but still bleakly atmospheric songs he’d written for the first album are much in the spirit of this second record.
Here I’m forced to draw a line in the sand between death metal written for arena-sized venues, giant bills with general tastes interspersed and death metal written without any of this in mind beyond riffs, structure, and style. A song like “Betrayer” rides the fence between its hardcorish mid-90’s German thrash stomp and danceable mosh groove break in the middle. This would please a Pro-Pain or Obituary fan all the same, rock solo included, but if you’ve seen the kick-ass Dan Seagrave artwork and with vocalist Mark Grewe‘s Morgoth-associated name the expectation is perhaps something closer to the garage than the stage. Just beyond that doorstep there is “Divine Fire”, again we’ve got this lovely early Amorphis guitar line circling us as the main riffs present but just as soon a crawling groove n’ grinder takes things to the 4-5 full stack sized show where the buzzsaw can cut through the audience. The only major point I’m attempting to make here is that they’re aiming for the crowd, for people who have shown up to mosh and move to the music. In this sense they’ve envisioned the physical reaction of the fan en masse without minding the easily bored critic who has heard everything.
I might not connect with the rather standard guitar tone, the repetitive phrasing of most central riff statements, and the moshable hook of basically every song but there are roots of street thrash and old school death metal (see: “Enforcers of the Plague”) in sight of something big enough for the giant fests of today. In this sense a song like “Born Into Bondage” might easily appeal to the sensibilities of any death metal fan but it will always make the most sense on a big stage. For my own taste I’d probably go get a beer after the fourth or fifth song on stage but I’d have nothing particularly negative to say about the experience. With that said death metal should absolutely be a strong reaction to the world and maybe that’d be the bigger selling point of ‘After Death’, Insidious Disease‘s lyrics are constantly suggesting some extra depth or meaning awaits those who’d be compelled to pull back a few layers and sit with the album with some due patience.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 23rd, 2020|
At this point folks know I not only love French death metal history but am always quick to point out the underrated legacy of Mercyless who’ve been admirably active and re-engaged this last decade. Not only have they put out three fine death metal albums since reforming in 2011 but all of their formative material has been respectfully reissued and given its due presentation; A museum worthy band getting their works framed and acknowledged is a real joy to behold. As a bonus to the release of their latest album ‘The Mother of All Plagues‘ (2020) special editions received a four song EP featuring covers of Hellhammer, Venom, Possessed, and Motörhead which of course has the potential to either be weird (read: terrible) or great, right? The EP now receives its standalone release. Sometimes covers of this sort of classic extreme metal material can be awkward or just lazy but thankfully Mercyless understand this music quite well and that it is best presented with minimum ego and maximum attack. Of course “The Third of the Storms” hits its mark right away but perhaps the most difficult piece to hit a high standard with, Possessed‘s “The Exorcist”, ends up brilliantly achieved. A straight kind of ‘Leprosy’ feeling drum sound, not programmed but deadpan and grinding, is key as is the precise guitar work where you can tell they’ve not fumbled or guessed their way through the runs. The way I see it Mercyless are still putting out quality ‘old school’ death metal albums because they’ve not lost sight or mind of the source, the good stuff and how those ‘simple’ rhythmic ideas create framework than can be used as fractal inspiration for work that resonates beyond. Take it as an “old man” recommendation on my end, for the love of those old bands and here’s to more Mercyless down the road.
|TITLE:||One Step Beyond|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 31st, 2020|
The first album from horror themed Mexican old school death metal band Summoning Death focused on pieces that invoked specific classic horror movies ranging from 1920-1971 going as far as titling each song with that specific movie’s title. Of course they’d included a cover of Carnage‘s “Torn Apart” to make it even more clear where they were coming from, representing a love for late 80’s/early 90’s classic death metal horror just as well. This second album from the band, who’ve undergone even more line-up changes since, instead focuses on their reverence for a classic television series for inspiration, unless I am mistaken each song refers to a certain episode of the One Step Beyond series (1959-1961) which was around during the original Twilight Zone series run and preceded The Outer Limits, each pulling from the tradition of old radio broadcast horror thrillers. The television show entered the public domain in the 80’s so you’ll find it was freely available and I believe at least referenced by the guys in Necrophagia (or Deceased?) back in the day.
This time around Summoning Death are still sticking to their classic Scandinavian death metal roots for the most part but also finding some more thrashing, blasting and otherworldly touches along the way. The inclusion of a cover of Depravity‘s “Silence of the Centuries” signals a push away from simple buzzsaw Swedish death towards something more nuanced and serious, embodying some of those supernatural horror ideas without sounding like a cheap Swedish knock-off. Guitarist Ricardo Gil is the driving force here as the producer and main engineer but he has notably brought in more members of another band he’d worked with in the past (along with bassist Grey Arceo) Ticio, adding vocalist Abigail Paz front and center. “The Image of Death” is the perfect example of how far Summoning Death have come beyond the first album (and their early demos for that matter), with its subtle foreshadowing via keyboards and slow build-up towards its Autopsy-esque buzzsaw grind n’ blast setting the stage for the episode in question (you can watch the full Episode free on YouTube: Here) an eccentric episode that is eerie in its implications of a sinister haunt rather than being outright bloody or horrifying. Each episode can be easily searched for and referenced per its associated song title and the album art from John Quevedo Janssens, who also did recent covers for Burial Remains and Nocturnal Hollow, does a fine job of referencing most of these episodes in one image.
The gist of what I’ve intended to showcase here is that this isn’t just another grimy, superficial old school death metal album with a kill-saw attached but that one could spend countless hours using Summoning Death as the soundtrack to discover not only several brilliant classic movies fueled by clever supernatural horror but now to delve into a curated set of episodes of a classic TV show via ‘One Step Beyond’. I appreciate this as much as any album that turns me onto a poet, a book, an artist, or references classic bands. Beyond that, the vocals from Abigail Paz attempt to do something slightly different, an unhinged and throaty performance that fits quite well for the Finnish/Swedish lean of the full listen but also works in some clean singing on “The Bride Possessed”. The crossing between classic surrealistic horror and old school death metal is keen as hell and an enjoyable listen throughout. Probably my biggest recommendation for this week’s list.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
Finnish death metal act Convulse are vitally remembered for establishing the grotesque teenaged entombment of that regional late 80’s/early 90’s garage-heavy sound along with an elite group of peers yet, I’d argue their greatest contribution to death metal in the 90’s was perhaps the most pure and meaningful application of the “death n’ roll” concept circa 1994 with ‘Reflections’. A love for 70’s rock and the emergent popularity of stoner metal throughout Scandinavia was surely in full-swing around this time but few had actually escaped imitation or iteration upon Entombed‘s ideas better than Convulse. Surely Lubricant and Xysma had found their own brilliant ways around it but ‘Reflections’ was an astute and stunning connection made between the groove of Paradise Lost-esque (1992-1994) death n’ roll and the stoner metal of the time, truly ass-shaking heavy rock grooves and rhythms applied to death metal guitar work. Disagree or correct history however you see fit, that album is underrated. I won’t suggest that Convulse‘s three albums since reforming in 2012 have pushed for a continuation of ‘Reflections’ but that we’ve seen some serious avant-garde notions of heavy rock and modern death metal applied along the way. ‘Deathstar’ is perhaps the most apt render yet, now embracing the rhythmic spectrum of retro-futuristic progressive rock and creating freshly idiosyncratic works along the way, something not quite prog rock and not purely death metal either.
The core conceit of Convulse being a death metal band or, known primarily for being one, is ultimately accepted and smartly harnessed for this record. Working with that preconceived idea rather than trying to simply erase it makes for a natural yet shocking divergence from prior material which never makes pandering choices but certainly toys with death metal rhythm in curious ways. The eccentric choices made therein ultimately read as daring for a band that could easily just re-write ‘World Without God’ and earn a decent check at festivals — I’d buy it, honestly. ‘Deathstar’ is almost immediately ready with a challenge as “Extreme Dark Light” presents us with what is a classic Sabbath groove, a stadium rock riff, and… Whispered vocals? Soon the whispers blend with growls but, all vocals are kept quite low as the piece rolls into its seven and a half minute run. This sounds more like a later Cathedral record to start but it isn’t at all representative of the entire album, simply how it starts. The first of many subversions that make for a truly avant-garde death/heavy rock mutation, weaving some uplifting progressive and stoner rock rhythms into growling pits. Being in a death metal mindset where tradition dictates expectations is the exact right position to receive this gentle mindfuck.
Finland is the land of eccentric symphonic prog gods among other experimental music elite of all kinds yet grasping what ‘Deathstar’ intends is not easy, some of the album is quite challenging and almost too experimental for its own category. “The Summoning” for example has a lightly effects-buzzed spoken word vocal to start with tandem growls in the background, this precedes what is an alternative metal section (by my own dated understanding of Finnish modern rock) and a full bore circa ’96 Amorphis prog-metal roll-out. Right, if you’d thought we were diving into something as easily understood as a newer Opeth, or Sweven for that matter, this is all quite a bit more erratic. Honestly my sitting here and parsing out the craft of ‘Deathstar’ it all isn’t likely the goal of the artist, these are intuitive death-rockin’ numbers, creepy crawls and sunny bursts of what amount to the songwriter’s peaks of inspiration in writing an album that is not at all devotional to any one type of music or mood. By the time we hit “Chernobyl” it should be clear we’re going to start getting weird but perhaps you won’t be expecting the absolute Deep Purple jam of “We Sold Our Soul for Rock n’ Roll”. If that is a cover song, I don’t know it but it is a pretty sharp moment on the album that wasn’t expected.
So, what is the danger of going full on rock n’ roll with death metal vocals that are intent on readable phrasing? Well, I hate to say it but a few of these songs hit dangerously close to those bad Graveyard Classics records from Six Feet Under. This might be reserved primarily for the title track but it is yet a less enlightened feeling as it sinks in. Side B otherwise takes a more upbeat heavy metal approach, lead driven heavy rock songs with death metal vocals that recall the out of character moments on albums like ‘Tales From the Thousand Lakes’ while also keeping in line with some of the ideas that made ‘Reflections’ its own remarkable being around that same time. ‘Darkstar’ is a weird one, an album that almost appears as if it intends to be baffling and divisive as much as it seeks some new and resonant thread shared between death metal aesthetics and prog-tinged traditional heavy rock sounds. I’d of course recommend it for the boldness of its actions even if not all of it lands for me personally. Convulse traverse their own path forward, one that is daring not only for its balance of shadow and light but for its clever play with listener expectations versus their eccentric reality. A high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Lifelong Death Fantasy|
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
|LABEL(S):||Profound Lore Records|
Bleeding Out represent the very best of Toronto’s last two decades of deathgrind via this debut record, showcasing the collaborative vision of members of Fuck the Facts, Column of Heaven and the vocalist from death/crust punks Abyss. You could safely assume how they work things out from those namedrops alone as ‘Lifelong Death Fantasy’ whips through its eight song and ~19 minute rub at an unrelenting pace. The fanfare of “Finally Dead Once More” might put death metal on the brain but we’re neck deep in nad-crushing grind dirges by the time “Realm of Silence” hits, exemplifying the immediate and very loud reality of what they’ve conjured here. What is new beyond the style we’d heard on their split with Skullshitter last year? “Nightmares Forged in Blood” brings a bit of an ‘Acts of the Unspeakable’ vibe briefly in separation of sides and I think their deep crust vibes are surfacing even more here. The action is brutal, scathing, loud as fuck and always roaring but the adrenaline and noxious volume will wear off if you’re prone to overspin a shorter record like this. I definitely ground it into the dirt with at least ten spins in a row and found I’d gotten the idea well enough right there. I might’ve had to chill on it after a while but if you’re gung-ho for deathgrind that is crust-loose and violent as fuck these guys hit it right off the bat.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
A decent non-metal record for my own taste this week: This self-titled debut from Cologne, Germany’s Gong Wah dubs itself “fuzzwave” via their punkish new wave spirit and trip-heavy influences from krautrock, shoegaze, and psychedelia. Vocalist Inga Nelke is assuredly the focus of the hook heavy songwriting throughout but guitarist/co-songwriter Thorsten Dohle keeps things light and weird as some of the bigger romper-stomper tracks (“Sugar & Lies”, “I Hate You”) threaten twee rock taste without hitting upon plain naivete. What hits hardest for me are the tracks that toward chilled out, easier movements such as the dreamy opener “Let’s Get Lost” and the more psychedelic/lax side of things on “Contaminated” and “With Him”. Not a perfect debut but a sharply realized debut full of radio viable psychedelic rock songs.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
Having formed in Bern Switzerland back in 2011, progressive death metal band Sulphur Sun have been an extreme case of quality over quantity, having delivered a total of six songs across two EPs and one single release since. Of course this is not a slight in any sense as each song they’ve delivered is meticulous, perfectionism made easy-shouldered and actually remarkably brutal as their style is rooted in the early-to-mid 2000’s realm of technical death metal. In fact, they’ve even managed a guest solo from former Nile guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade on the opening track for this two song EP, alongside a mix/master from Neil Kernon himself. What I personally love about this pieces is the meaningful restraint of technique, of course they’ve managed some thunderous brutal and technical death metal here but nothing intentionally flashy. The aim is clearly bent towards something esoteric and oddly adorned by shamanic vocals and cleverly placed mood swings. This is probably more evident or, more flamboyant on “Trilobyte Thief” but there are some unusual vocal experiments all over “The Temple of Dunkleosteus” as well. I won’t get into it too deeply here, there are only two songs and ten minutes here, but the impact is strong enough that folks should definitely be encouraged to seek out the project’s four other songs and key into their efforts in hopes of an eventual full-length. Fans of everything from Nefas and Lykathea Aflame might not be blown away but you will likely be intrigued enough to take a closer look.
|RELEASE DATE:||October 30th, 2020|
Aesthetically speaking Funeral Harvest make an undeniably effective first impression with this masterful layout/cover art from View From the Coffin in representation of their Satanic themes as well as the brooding ritualistic black metal within. For a debut EP release from a project split between Norway and Italy the entire presentation is immediately serious, professional, and their sound/style is fully developed. Their rehearsal tapes allow for some messiness if all of this seems too buttoned up to start but Funeral Harvest are not tight-necked and trying too hard in any sense, they are however dead serious in tone as the mystic crawl of ‘Funeral Harvest’ arrives. That is to say that this is not a big riff record but more along the lines of say, Katharsis in the sense that the riffs and rhythmic map of the album is erratic and responsive, black metal with the feeling of physicality rather than notable technique. Think of the abrupt shocks of One Tail, One Head and the stunning violence of Ultra Silvam and you’ll have the general idea of the gamut. I don’t believe the structure of this music will be entirely thrilling but once you’ve learned it, known it well enough to predict its twists and turns, there is some value in its greater ritual. What comes next will surely be tasteful, monumental, and thrillingly in opposition.
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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