SHORT REVIEWS Our first chunk of March 2022 releases finds us biting into some solid variety from popular sludge metal legends to deepest underground black and metal alongside a few brilliant niche outliers and young upstarts. I’ve done my best to grab ahold of the most interesting stuff while still presenting some decent variety here. These particular selections will release between March 1st and 11th, the next column will feature additional releases from the 11th and beyond this time period. If you find something you dig in the lot of ’em, go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase. The arts require your support and/or own contributions. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to: email@example.com
|TITLE:||Dissecting Goryfication [Demo]|
|LABEL(S):||Necrolatry Records [Malaysia],|
Old Skull Productions [EU],
Reaping Death Records [Indonesia],
Transylvanian Recordings [US],
Dark Recollections [Mexico]
|RELEASE DATE:||March/April, 2022|
Reputdeath are an ‘old school’ death metal trio from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and since you’ve seen the cover art and logo for this seventh demo tape from the band, you know you’re getting some rotten bones n’ blood-whipping pure ‘ugly’ death metal outta these guys. Their sound revolves around a mix of HM-2 driven gigantism, puke-and-roar vocals, and early Autopsy influenced songwriting. I’d compared this band to Murder Squad and Coffins in the past and I think this still fits but their sound is a bit better on this tape compared to the last. Plenty of heavy doom metal riffs over slow double-bass hits make opener “Foul Stench of Life” my jam here but each of these four tracks does something huge to stand out on its own. “Infested Swarm” is a major surprise here since it features some incredible inhaled putridity from Takashi Tanaka of Anatomia and Wormridden — I’d been so stunned by this song I’d found myself coming back to the demo several times just to get another hit of his vocals on that song, definitely need more of that sound. Highly recommended for ‘Mental Funeral’ addicts looking for a fix.
From what I’ve gathered so far these songs were being finalized about six months after their ‘Slurking, Leeching, Reeking‘ (2019) tape, which I’d loved, had come out but due to global pandemia they’d likely had to take a break from finishing it between February 2020 and January 2021, then mixing took another year. All that waiting has been worth it, though, as they’ve nailed this sound and any band that can get me to sit through 20 minutes of that buzzsaw guitar tone these days is doing something damned right. I don’t have a release date, not sure if they’ve got social media, and don’t have a sample to share but they’re working with a ton of labels worldwide to make sure it hits most of the important continents.
|TITLE:||Peace & Doom Session Vol. II|
|LABEL(S):||Electric Valley Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 11th, 2022|
Purple Dawn are a Cologne, Germany-based heavy rock trio who’ve garnered some considerable notice for their live-in-rehearsal room recorded debut ‘Peace & Doom‘, a set of catchy pieces that excelled in crossing sub-genre and era-established borders and sounding entirely natural as they did. It is stoner metal with doom influences at heart but this ranges from late 60’s heavy psych jogging, effects drenched mid-70’s psychedelic heavy blues, and all the way up to early 80’s doom metal heaviness meets 90’s stoner metal head charges, they’ve kind of got it all going on in terms of using every trick in the book and keeping it all in the same lane. This second session sounds a bit more like a full-on studio album and a better recording with stronger songwriting overall, I don’t know how valuable a note of “everything but better” is but that is generally the case. Vocalist/bassist Patrick Rose has an excellent voice, set distant in the mix but still capable of bluesy chest-sung show closers like “The Moon Song” as well as the more powerfully chucked heavy psych/stoner riff-chunking drawl of “Old Fashioned Black Madness”. The only piece that’d thrown me of a bit at first was the Clutch-esque stumble and hop of “Power to the People”, and not necessarily in a bad way but I’m starting to see a really sharp commercial angle available to this sound if they continue to plumb multiple generations of stoney rock music.
|TITLE:||Zero and Below|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 4th, 2022|
Crowbar are one of just a few still going strong bands I’d discovered without even knowing what the damn internet was, I’d read about them in Metal Maniacs (or… possibly Metal Edge since they loved any Anselmo/Pantera angle around that time, ~1993) and after a couple weeks of requests on a local radio show I’d heard “All I Had (I Gave)” + “No More Can We Crawl” back to back, been a fan ever since. Ridiculously heavy production, downtuned to Hell guitars, hardcore punk’s force and doom metal’s existential rot all delivered with tortured emotional resonance — As an alienated kid who was depressed to shit it was the best yet mixture of all of the things I’d loved about music and it was the right soundtrack to figuring my head out at the time. Anyhow, I could reminisce for pages here but the main thing to catch onto is that Crowbar were a uniquely emotional band in a sea of dumb angst and faux goth-sadness in the mid-90’s when I discovered them and following that thread for eight albums still sticks with me to this day.
The years between ‘Lifesblood for the Downtrodden‘ (2005) and ‘Sever the Wicked Hand‘ (2011) presented just enough of a void that I wasn’t back on board right away, that eighth album seemed to be the defining peak of the core idea, it was as big as it needed to be and the stripped down production and uncomplicated songwriting of certain earlier records were the major appeal on my end. ‘The Serpent Only Lies‘ (2016) was the record to pull me back in, likely because they’d intentionally reminisced on the core musical beginnings/influences of the project and the album art was one of their best yet. That said, I wasn’t initially sure if I was the right ear for a twelfth Crowbar album here in 2022, at least beyond nostalgia at this point.
In a sense Windstein and crew have their sound down to a science: The going-deep depressive melodic reaches (“Zero and Below), easygoing harmonized leads, plenty of twisted doom metal riffs (“Chemical Godz”), and they’ve even got a kicking sludge-punk song (“Bleeding From Every Hole”) on here. It more or less speaks to iterating upon what ‘The Serpent Only Lies‘ had gotten right. As I did my research, ripping through all of their back catalog in a couple of days, the most glaring note I’d taken in response was that by comparison ‘Zero and Below‘ didn’t have a big single, a song I’ll never forget on it. They’re all fine pieces and the album has the right sound, it just doesn’t ask me to keep listening with songs that stick. It is either a symptom of nostalgic fervor or I’m looking too hard for the simpler yet still effective songcraft of their late 90’s/early 2000’s sound.
The cynic in me figures that is just what a band becomes after they’ve found their gig, got the winning formula down, and reached the 10+ album discography. Then again, nobody ever accused fuckin’ Lemmy of making “content”, right? So, if you don’t mind me arguing with myself here a bit, ha, this is a great Crowbar album that continues to pick up the thicker layered production and ‘cover all stylistic bases’ deal they’ve served fans since ‘Lifesblood For the Downtrodden’. Though the pacing is still characteristically anxietous I am hearing a lot more traditional doom metal riffs in their sound since 2016 and really appreciating it. It’ll take a few more passes to fully sink in but I doubt any up to date fan of the band will be displeased with this record.
|LABEL(S):||Edged Circle Productions|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 11th, 2022|
In Aphelion is a 2020-formed black metal project which features the handiwork of Sebastian Ramstedt whom is best known as key guitarist and songwriter for Necrophobic starting with ‘The Third Antichrist‘ (1999), this fellow is a legend in my book for that alone but also for having played on ‘Envoy of Lucifer‘ and as part of cult death metal group Morpheus in the early 90’s. The band eventually added fellow Necrophobic guitarist Johan Bergebäck (a longtime compatriot who also played on ‘Son of Hypnos‘, and ‘Envoy of Lucifer‘) and Cryptosis drummer Marco Prij on drums. Though you will absolutely recognize Ramstedt‘s ornate Swedish melodic black/death metal phrasing and compositional style throughout ‘Moribund‘ this record features some strong emphasis on mid-to-fast paced black metal ideas throughout its hourlong reap. At first pass there is a lot to take in and the album is not in a rush to reveal its hand, so, those early inklings that this is a Necrophobic album in all but name will be strong until you’ve sat with it and caught its angle.
‘Moribund‘ is an album from a band whom are ready to be a big fuckin’ deal as singles “Luciferian Age” and “Draugr” had already showcased a quick pivot from something a bit more black/thrash on their first demo towards elaborate black metal pieces which hold up to the eldest standards without sounding desperately nostalgic. In fact this is the pitch for Ramstedt‘s career to some degree if you ask me, this is one of the few fellowes who’d escaped the 90’s seeing a clear path forward for Swedish melodic black and death metal which wasn’t contrived or dismally commercial, that standard isn’t lost upon In Aphelion and I’m glad they’ve not gone for a naïve or dumbed down approach here. Those singles should’ve already sold you on the experience, the rest of the album holds up that pace and austerity almost to a fault and arguably for ten minutes too long but at the very least we see a clear and inspired point of view within ‘Moribund‘ which fans of Swedish black metal should adore.
Though the running order is front-loaded for my own taste the full listen is impressive for its keeping the thread going for a full hour, spanning a full double LP without becoming an absolute drone. To start I’d tended towards the longer 6-7 minute pieces beyond the main singles such as “This Night Seems Endless” and the title track, “Moribund” for the changes in pace that they represented. In the long run “Draugr” is more or less the clincher and “He Who Saw the Abyss” and “Let the Beast Run Wild” were the songs that’d stuck with me long after. It might seem like a lot for a debut at first but when given due attention, or sheer attrition, ‘Moribund‘ ultimately won me over.
|LABEL(S):||Transcending Obscurity Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 4th, 2022|
Godless Truth are a cult technical death metal band from the Olomouc Region of Czechia who’d gotten their start in the early 90’s with a Death influenced ’95 full-length (‘The Desperation‘, 1994) before taking on a brutal death metal sound that sustained them for three full-lengths between 1999 and 2004. The band has been fully re-staffed by guitarist/founder Švany a few times and their early history was botched a bit by a few bad egg record labels but they’d found a Malignancy and Internal Bleeding-esque sound on their early 2000’s records which was pretty solid, I always really liked the drumming on ‘Arrogance of Supreme Power‘ (2004) in particular. The last we’d heard from them was a 2010 EP and now after 12 years they’ve got an all new line-up and a big glossy new full-length, probably their most professional release to date and it comes with completely modern style as they’ve always kept up with the times.
‘Godless Truth‘ is in essence a modern technical death metal album though I’d personally consider it a progressive death metal album, as shades of ‘Symbolic‘ lead songs like “Scissors” but without going fully there (a la Martyr). Most of the guitar work is sharp, nuanced and strong leads point the way forward throughout the album; One or two pieces seem to get a bit lost in their cups (see: “Fortune Time”) but I’d nonetheless found the brief ~33 spin an engaging thread to follow where the riffs count in every case. The drum sound/production is heavily stylized and won’t be for everyone but I’d been keen to the different timbre it’d given the full listen, a sort of mechanical trait that’d taken me to a different era of brutal tech-death without actually striking into classic brutalism. All things considered this is not only a completely different Godless Truth than expected but also their best release to date, though I’d recommend the journey through their discography as useful context.
|TITLE:||Die Wiederkehr Des Verdrängten|
|LABEL(S):||Babylon Doom Cult Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 4th, 2022|
Unru is an eclectic Bielefeld, Germany-based atmospheric black metal quintet who’d originally been heavily influenced by crust and soon began to incorporate more prominent dark ambient/synth elements. They’ve made a daring, if not admittedly a bit dull for my taste, choice by kicking off their second full-length album, “Die Wiederkehr Des Verdrängten” with a nearly eight minute vocal ambient piece. Beyond that point they roll directly into a cavernous blender of dramatic atmospheric black metal melody and steadily aggressive neo-crust influenced black metal making their sort of flagship statement for the album with “Ein Hauch der Freiheit”. Heavy use of synth/keyboards and extended transitional passages keep the fog of this song hanging thick for the duration of its ~13 minute run, nearly burying some of the more dense melodic ideas available in the first half of the piece. I was more-or-less back on board after the second and third songs on the tracklist pulled me into their world yet the ethereal post-black wandering of the ~16 minute “Hungersteine” never really caught me with its momentum and left a huge void of interest on my part. Excellent sound and I love the ideas presented here but the full listen didn’t manage to hold my interest for a few of the extended pieces.
|TITLE:||Sarcophagical Lament of the Past|
|LABEL(S):||Inferna Profundus Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 1st, 2022|
I’d covered Chilean dungeon synth/black metal artist Old Castles last February for their ‘Die Wampyriskra Symphonie‘ compilation, a pairing of two very early tapes where I’d heavily favored the dungeon synth material. ‘Sarcophagical Lament of the Past‘ is a full-length entirely focused on the black metal side of things, showing some evolution beyond the previous compilation’s ambient/black metal side and pulling out a few solid raw black metal riffs beneath a truly lo-fi presentation. I greatly appreciate the dedication to their aesthetic and the miserable affect of this sound as it fits the intentionally cold, distant and shattered vampyric black metal intent. I am not consistently a fan of this type of release but some time with upcoming releases from labelmates Gryftigæn and Vampirska had me primed to appreciate time spent with this record. Folks looking for this niche will be well served, and the only constructive thought I have is that I’d like to hear this sound delivered from different emotional mindsets, such as something more aggressive and hateful, down the road.
|RELEASE DATE:||March 11th, 2022|
E-L-R is a Swiss post-metal/doomgaze trio out of Bern whom bring a certain hypnotic quality to all of their recordings, their second album ‘Vexier‘ is arguably the most intense of their three releases thus far. Of course this is not necessarily a niche that I spend a ton of time with these days, so I’ve no real authoritative voice to cast upon its wares but I had appreciated the themes and aesthetics of their 2019 debut album ‘Mænad‘ when it released. This time around the production values are quite high, nearing a sort of heaviness you’d expect from Year of No Light or the more cinematically attuned records from The Moth Gatherer, but the mood is nonetheless dark and often gilded with the sounds of nature (see: “Three Winds”) often using bursts of speed the same way a blackgaze band might. Their use of repetition and similarly down-turning progressions helps to build upon themes of distress and unease in an effective way and this is the major outcome after I’d found myself stretching my ear looking for what made the experience stand out among similarly voiced instrumental post-metal bands. The format is akin to a long-form study rather than a varietal popular rock record so, I understand that the greater doomed dirge is the major point yet I’d found myself a bit lost for a meaningful connection with ‘Vexier‘ after a handful of listens.
|LABEL(S):||Godz ov War Productions|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 11th, 2022|
Trenchant is an inspired death metal trio from the Austin, Texas underground featuring members/ex-members of Imprecation, Averse Sefira, and Morgengrau. They’d released a demo back in 2018 which had leaned into a more bestial death metal spectrum, blazing through myriad riff ideas like they grew on trees and impressing many with their ‘Martial Chaos‘ attack, I’d missed that tape but I’ve been blown away by ‘Commandoccult‘ thus far. The opener/title track had especially caught me off guard with its solo, thinking “Man, they nailed that Immolation style perfectly” when in fact it is a guest spot from Rob Vigna himself. Just beyond that up front stunner the militant melodicism of “Burning Spires of Mercury” earned quick fealty as the band continued to hold that level of brutal yet precise blackened death metal attack well on through the record. Beyond the first half of the record’s rapid-fire I’d say “Atrocity Vision” best illustrates what Trenchant do best, hitting upon violent rhythms with excellent control. One of the better death metal records coming up in March.
|RELEASE DATE:||March 4th, 2022|
Sorcerer’s Sword is a fairly new duo out of Reno, Nevada angling towards a sort of ’82-’86 underground heavy metal aesthetic while landing a style somewhere in the realm of black/heavy metal with a fair amount of ‘evil’ speed metal influence. Think of an even more over the top ‘Sorceress Bitch‘-era Witchtrap with high-pitched vocals and frantic, fast-paced drumming and you’ll be in the right ballpark. Though the art style gives the impression of a sort of naïve retro band the kick-off into opener “Demonolatry” has an inspired ‘Hellish Crossfire‘ kinda vibe I’d appreciated and the blasted out sections of the song help push it all along with a good variety of riff-textures and pace changes. Lo-fi and ruddy as this first demo is intended to sound they’ve still managed sharp performances that could only come from close study of the weirdest side of classic heavy metal’s early 80’s underground, finding their own dark corner within that feeling. If they can keep up this level of detail in terms of riffcraft and expand their arcane sound without losing the black magick that drives it I think these guys are onto something unholy. Pretty damned substantial demo at ~27 minutes, too.
|TITLE:||Shadows in Atlantis|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 8th, 2022|
Chronomancy is an epic heavy/power metal sextet from Thessaloniki, Greece whom have brought Wishdoom vocalist Chris Paschalidis on board for this much improved second full-length from the band. Fans of Dark Forest should appreciate the almost folkish use of melody on the slower pieces here, likewise (yet to a lesser degree) the dramatism of Ironflame might be tangentially applied but much of what Chronomancy does is rooted in 90’s power metal and more “modern” revival of epic heavy metal storytelling. Paschialidis‘ range is a treat here, a bit more adventurous than the previous vocalist between a Shelton-esque layered resonance and a few harsher growled out verses here and there. I clearly don’t listen to much power metal these days but the dramatic epic heavy metal tenor of ‘Shadows in Atlantis‘ was compelling enough to sit down for a tale or two and I’d found myself enjoying the sonorous, somewhat dark tone of their presentation.
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