Annihilate This Week 1/18/21: “A craftsman must probe to the very bottom of cruelty.”

ANNIHILATE THIS WEEK hits every Monday (or nearby) mentioning important new releases whilst grouping short reviews for albums, EPs and demos selected from the current week’s best. These albums were overlooked for a more detailed review for any number of reasons, I’m either low on time or the music itself doesn’t warrant depth of inquiry or require too-serious engagement. I do my best to cover as much of everything I receive in some form regardless of genre or representation so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way:

The third week of 2021 is highlighted by plenty of deeply spiritual black metal, cinematic heavy rock outta time, and simply classicist old school death metal. We’re finally hitting the stride of January yet I’m not sure folks are ready for the sheer number of big-hitters coming in early February. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with five more new releases from different styles, genres, etc.

The Album of the Week for my own taste is Aethyrick‘s ‘Apotheosis’ [Review] and I suppose for reasons too myriad to summarize, I’ve been a fan of their brand of melodic/atmospheric black metal for a few years now and this is their most “complete” musical statement to date. Beyond that high point this week we’ve got the latest Here Lies Man ‘Ritual Divination’ [Review] where their combination of stoner/heavy psych guitar crunch and afrobeat rhythms leans into its heavy rock side for some of their best material to date. Hulder‘s debut album ‘Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry’ [Review] turned out to be surprisingly polished, beautifully melodic and already indicative of future mastery. Finally, we’ve got the major label stuff with Asphyx‘ tenth full-length ‘Necroceros’ which brings some surprising highs and a few merely average chunks, and finally Wardruna‘s ‘Kvitravn’ as they ride the momentum beyond Einar Selvik‘s high visibility work on the Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla OST. These five albums should reasonably sustain the week and beyond. If you need more, well, there is technically more…

Beyond the five records I’ll shortly review, these were notable this week: Sumeru‘s ‘Blood Ordinance’ gives a reasonably potent dose of progressive sludge aggression, moving away from the slower doomed vacuum of their previous record, which I’d also liked. It is a two song EP but works itself into fine enough a frenzy on loop and I appreciate the change of aesthetic with the artwork. Sacrocurse‘s ‘Supreme Terror’ is simply raw war metal, as thrashing as ever. Not sure what else there is to really dig out of the four song EP, it rips. The same could be said of Satanize‘s ‘Baphomet Altar Worship’, the sixth full-length from this now veteran Portuguese war metal duo. A ruthless hammer of raw black/death energy, nothing else to say about it. Finally we have an independent album from German death-thrashers Mortal Terror with ‘Bite of the Underdog’, apparently these guys have been around since 1986 and put out tons of demos and records since yet I’ve not heard of them. Their style is still rooted in speed metal, hardcore punk, and 80’s death metal so it won’t feel as extreme as the late 80’s/early 90’s stuff of legend but still has the right attitude. Give it a patient spin and I think most death/thrash folks will eventually feel it. If you’re not feeling it, need to chill out and ease into the week Finnish singer/songwriter Suad‘s debut album ‘Waves’ offers a piano and beat driven examination of the self and those darker corners of the mind she tends to pull from. Lovely sense of melody and plenty of brisk-paced yet somber songs that’ll be just right for Spring when it comes. Still need something more cutting, something cult and mind-flaying? The Sinister Flame‘s reissue of Guatemalan black metal duo Abyssum‘s hidden gem from 2008, ‘Poizon of God’, is not to be missed. I’m still considering a review for it if I’ve some extra time at the end of the month.

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. Onto the reviews:

TITLE:Throne of Control
RELEASE DATE:January 19th, 2021

Although Mumbai, India-based thrash metal act Bloodkill do a fine job presenting a modern approach to Bay Area aesthetics on this debut full-length their compositional skills don’t yet see eye to eye with general technical skill. All of the power in a song like the anthemic “False Face” topples offstage when the leads begin to trail off into demo tape worthy scrawl, this serves as the first small crack in an otherwise commanding, professionally rendered start. It is a bit of a shame that they run out steam quickly and begin to show heavy influence from what I’d consider the laze of “new school” thrash metal with rasped, tuneless vocals and uninteresting mosh riffs. “3B” sinks its mild melodic lead driven hook beneath these unsophisticated chunks and lands a bit flat with all of it. There are some brief moments where you can hear some bright flits of present day Kreator and some speed/power metal bumps when things begin to lean towards a Testament-boosted heavy/thrash metal sound but again, the songwriting lands on a lower tier a la that awful comeback record from Lȧȧz Rockit a decade ago. Of course I’d understand if I sound a bit harsh here, but they’ve been at it since 2016 and “traditional” aspects of thrash metal of this sort is all long demystified, conquered and mastered the world over. For a first album they’re in step, tight enough performances and some sharp sound design but the details fade into dry cliché after the first couple of inspired pieces.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

TITLE:An Unexpected Reality
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2021
LABEL(S):Closed Casket Activities

The worst thing that can happen to an up-and-coming death metal band hitting their stride is hype, thinkin’ they’re boss as fuck and running with it. I don’t mean to suggest that Gatecreeper arrived upon the sharpness of their debut ‘Sonoran Depravation’ (2016) without pounding the pavement and earning it, they did, but that a few years later they’d sounded complacent, overconfident and unfocused on their follow-up, ‘Deserted’, in 2019. If folks are going to hit this death metal + hardcore thing any harder and lean ‘old school death metal’ it just can’t be such a basic roll. Since I can assure you we’ll see more of this death metal/hardcore mashing-up this year you’ll start to notice the market is lightening and weary of the already dusty plates on their shelves in this style, the trendiness of it has blown out quick for dispassionate releases. Anyhow, sorry for the armchair editorializing, my main point here is that the folks behind Gatecreeper are clearly looking for a more extreme angle away from their usual Entombed-core, they know it needs a boost, and we can potentially consider ‘An Unexpected Reality’ a market test for where to lean next. One side is pretty literal bombast-core, Sunlight studios guitar bonk at one minute 90’s hardcore punk intervals, a few wild mosh spills here and there but mostly just grinding 2-3 riff cuts. Good churn, low calorie thoughts, solid performances. This is personally where I’d lean, just go for a deathgrind angle and intensify up to a Nasum (or, Nails) level of frenzy and they’d stand out for all the right crowds. The second side is “Emptiness”, a bog standard ~12 minute death/doom metal track which should surprise nobody who’d made it to the second half of ‘Deserted’ as their songwriting struggled to the finish line. The drama of the piece is a bit forced and only the pacing is “doom” but, it isn’t a bad song. Not the right self-serious vibe for Gatecreeper‘s larger gig and it sounds pretty pale after 2020 soaked us with solid death/doom from start to finish. Cover art is great, fast songs are effective enough if not generic, and the slow song is just average at best. Decent EP but, will it be functionally non-canon?

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

RELEASE DATE:January 22nd, 2021
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions

For the non-Deutsche speaking folks among us Grabunhold reads kind of funny at first glance, as in “grabbing hold” but in German it essentially means barrow-wight (or, wraith) and this makes good sense because this ‘medieval’ and oft epic stationed black metal act from Dortmund have focused their sights upon Tolkien-writ lore since forming in 2016. There is a part of Lord of the Rings where the hobbits are captured by a barrow-wight, eventually landing them key weapons which were left out/reinterpreted in the movies; Not the only deep cut in that lore but, I enjoy that sort of reference. Anyhow, ‘Heldentod’ translates as “a heroic death” and the stately, determined and heavily melodic style of Grabunhold echoes this sentiment well enough, landing their sound somewhere between ‘…of Lunar Passion’-era Moonblood and earlier Monarque, stoic and melodic but ultimately a forceful evil. The leads are a strong focus for much of this release yet the full listen brings much more than the expected motions assigned to this sort of black metal. The most notable example being the spoken/dungeon-folk of “Trommeln in der Tiefe” likewise, the second half of the album incorporates some clean-sung harmonized vocals. By paying some serious attention to keeping each song a separate but equal experience, Grabunhold stand out with a familiar sound. “Fangorns Erwachen” and the epic closer “Der Einsamkeit letzter Streiter” are my personal favorites but the journey to this endpoint is no less stunning. I’d love to hear these clean vocal moments become more prominent, the same way Horn has found a good balance of clarity on recent releases. I figure this will be a hard sell for some, the name is a bit odd and such, but folks who pass between melodic, pagan, and ‘epic’ forms of black metal will likely find ‘Heldentod’ engrossing and meaningful even if you’re light on your German lessons.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:The Archer, The Fjord and the Thunder
RELEASE DATE:January 22nd, 2021
LABEL(S):Dark Essence Records

Endezzma are a fine example of how Norwegian black metal has steadily evolved via the natural selection of the last two decades wherein black/thrash n’ roll, razor-whipped orthodoxy, and the tuneful high-fidelity voicing of bigger acts all refined over time rather than disintegrated into self-conscious devolution. The core of their experience has long been in the “attack” sustained by Mattis Malphas guitar work, and you’ll understand what this means for their third album ‘The Archer, The Fjord and the Thunder’ with consideration for his current station in Carpathian Forest and Svarttjern. What should my rambling suggest at this point? Endezzma maintain the severity of the second wave by nature, not by forced affect, and the result naturally pushes into the last two decades of thought on Norwegian black metal without coming across as trendy or overly complicated muss. In fact I think a lot of folks will approach this fine-tuned and very balanced “modern” black metal record and be somewhat stymied by its irreverence for niche or posturing; The full listen is gloriously broad ranged and stout-chested as the Hønefoss-based quintet rip through a neat progression of detailed, nigh technically achieved compositions. The major point of sale on my end comes via comparison to major Norwegian black metal acts today who aren’t necessarily pushing boundaries either but mostly arrive upon fragmentary good ideas rather than wholly considered songs, Endezzma aren’t just chugging along carrying a neato vibe. So, why not write a full review for it if I am so impressed? It is entirely a timing issue, I am working very slowly this month and I’ll have to come back to this once the mental fog lifts. One of my favorite album covers this month, also.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

RELEASE DATE:January 15th, 2021
LABEL(S):Black Doomba Records

A beast of many backs for the last decade or so, Missouri metalpunk staple Gravehuffer are a mass of several concurrent evolutionary traits all amounting to a difficult to describe wallop of death/thrashing sludgepunk spasm which I’d say reaches an unholy peak with this third album ‘Necroeclosion’. Grindcoring Melvins-dirtied chunk-thrashers, sky-shouted inside jokes, early Neurosis-edged sludge-crusted multi-vocal walls of gunk, all of it finds its oozing path forward with a certain inelegant ham-fisted push that I’ve really enjoyed so far. Think of the well aged sludge of bands like Buzzov•en, the idiosyncratic brilliance of outsider crossover like Dead Horse and give it a drugged thrashcore feeling early 90’s Poison Idea dirt and you’re pretty much there… Maybe toss in a bit of Red Fang‘s early stoner weirdness too. Anyhow, I was fully into this record to start but the ganged approach to the vocals kinda wore on me after a while. The first handful of listens were good fun but I’d found I hit a wall with it as a repeatable experience pretty early on in my process of review. That said, if they “cleaned up” their sound and addressed the smaller issue I have with their approach I think it’d lose the fun or, myriad set of interests that make Gravehuffer what they are. They’re doing their thing and I appreciate that, just didn’t hold up under my magnifying lens.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

If I missed your favorite album from 2020, whoa too late! If you’ve got 2021 digs to whip out E-mail me or hit me up on Instagram if you want me to review it, I’ll consider it.

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