SHORT REVIEWS Our first set of April 2022 releases finds us without a rope to hang ourselves with, waffling between cult black metal, super mainstream avant-chug, art music, burly death metal killers, and a couple of traditional heavy metal MLPs from late March. I’ve done my best to grab ahold of the most interesting stuff I come across while still presenting some decent variety here. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
|LABEL(S):||Atomic Fire Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 1st, 2022|
As a fellow well aware of Swedish technical-progressive groove metal quintet Meshuggah since the release of their 1994 ‘None‘ EP I’ve got a hundred personal anecdotes, a few weak quips (“The most avant-garde thing they ever did was play Bay Area thrash in late 80’s Sweden“), and some of the same praise you’ll read everywhere else for their innovative ‘avant-garde’ touch upon the bluntly aggro pseudo-rebellion of mid-90’s metal’s simplification of thrash metal forms. When tasked with writing a brief review for ‘Chaosphere‘ for a magazine in 1998 I’d submitted a 150 word philosophical treatise on the value of songs as communicable ideas versus showcases for mechanical ‘motions’, concluding that Meshuggah had left an unforgettable mark upon rhythm and technique yet they’d likely never manage a song worth remembering in that present mode, “a musician’s band for better and worse” or nearby. Funny as it might seem today this thought is yet unhindered in my mind as these folks have modulated meter, rhythm, production, theme, tuning and compositional scope over the course of several well-received albums since, yet their signature machine-musical presentation, their sound, became something bigger than their own musical statement (see: Djent) over the last two decades. A bit of a pent-up dullard’s rant on my part but, there you go.
‘Immutable‘ is the latest subtle variation of Meshuggah‘s sound. As much as I appreciate them for being up to their old tricks per my own nostalgia this approach is neither timeless nor progressive in truth, it is a comfortable and unchallenged monument. Massive as it is, complexly lain as their dirging path forward is, the maximal and hard-shouted abrasion of the band couldn’t be more one-dimensional and yes, that is exactly what die-hard fans of the band want. No foul there, really, I’ve no real issue with what this band does so much as the way the press often sells these intermittent works as an legacy of innovation when in truth custom gear and a few gapless single song records are the most daring ideas they’ve had in the last two decades. But yes, this is a good Meshuggah record — The lead guitars are far more active throughout and the general mid-pace of the whole experience (peaking on “They Move Below”) serves the magma-chunking atmosphere well. The experience is long, arduous, and impressive in the steady assault of odd-timed, ultra-downtuned riffing that it feeds. The upsurge in note count and pace in the final third of the album helps to keep things moving as we hear some strong experimentation with effects, tone, and their usual knack for grinding out depth via repetition, “The Faultless” presenting the most impressive peak of the full listen. I’d love to hear something a bit more challenging from the group but, as I’d realized back in the late 90’s, is up to me to find (or create) and not them.
|TITLE:||Into the Nightmare MLP|
|LABEL(S):||Sentient Ruin Laboratories|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 25th, 2022|
Of course I was immediately on board for this mean as fuck Mercyful Fate worship MLP from Chilean musician John Shades, or, the fellow whom is best known for his work in cult death/thrash metal group Apostasy. An aggressive yet very 1983 style of evil heavy metal follows within these four tracks, originally released on cassette by the artist’s own label Catabalist Records in mid-2021 this second cassette run from Sentient Ruin features updated artwork/design, doing a fine job of setting the tone for the experience within. Thirteen minute tape so there isn’t much to ramble on about, just a killer start to an already infectious project.
|TITLE:||Anthems of the Night MLP|
|RELEASE DATE:||March 31st, 2022|
Netherlands-based heavy rock quintet Cobra Spell play a style of music which I’ve been avoiding since at least ~1993, the oversexed remnants of the late 70’s/early 80’s Los Angeles hard drugs n’ rock n’ roll scene and its gaudy, ballad heavy strut towards the early 90’s where performative shred and hump anthems kept folks flicking lighters and dropping panties for a few years too long. It is all in good fun that this sort of music is revived these days and for what its worth guitarist Sonia Anubis (Crypta, ex-Burning Witches) and vocalist Alexx Panza (Hitten) at their best can carry a tune just short of (post-’79) Whitesnake or early 80’s Priest within this sort of 80’s hard rock and nigh power metal styled release. It might ultimately be more for the yacht rack type of listener per songs like “Steal My Heart Away” and thus not even slightly my thing but hey, I definitely had a good time.
|TITLE:||The King Departs|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 1st, 2022|
I hadn’t a clue who Shannon Rowley was as I’d pressed my face to the vellum unknown of this outsider folk-spiritual debut recording and, well, of course getting to know the mind of this fellow is the major goal of participating in ‘The King Departs‘. An entirely intuitive shape formed by worship music, surrealistic cinema and likely a bit of Finnish tramping this record appeals first for its less than self-conscious approach of big, nigh celebratory peaks and their ecstatic sustain. Though there is an overwrought hand in some of the gibbering orchestrations herein the fellow has a masterful sense of holding onto a golden moment and juicing it to the point where the mind cannot help but appreciate when that grip is released. This is moreso true within the longest pieces here, “Says the the Dead Sailor” and in various waves of “The Orlop” but it can be felt within the passionate phrasing of closer “Heart Be Filled With Light” as well. The rest of the album mulls on various points of focus, be they a ballad shared by a living room full of comrades or a post-punkish shuffle. The most inspired piece here for my own taste is the ghostly Stooges stumble and wail of “Into the Heart of Hearts”, hitting a bit of the Viagra Boys part of my brain with its ranting saxophone in its last third. A bit serious, a bit quirk, and altogether delivered with many sides of the artist visible at once, there is a lot to like about Rowley‘s approach here when soaked-in as an experience. His isn’t a world class vocal just yet and some of these pieces don’t hold much singer-songwriter weight outside of the whole experience but ‘The King Departs‘ serves a redeeming go of it all around.
|RELEASE DATE:||April 8th, 2022|
Making proggy, fairly accessible rock influenced ‘heavy metal’ with a serious face just didn’t suit Hamburg, Germany-based trio Voldt when they’d started out, releasing a demo and single to some minor notice. The floodgates of personality wouldn’t come slapping open ’til their 2019 EP ‘Voken‘ revealed a goofin’ heavy metal influenced action rock band armed with a more direct point of view than, eh, that description might suggest. That’d key us well enough into what makes ‘Vandalism‘ a compelling debut, a sort of juxtaposition between fairly dark, personal subject matter and chest-belted boisterous rock music and this is helped along by the vocalist/guitarist’s expressive vocal work. Though I love a vocalist who can carry a tune I’m not really up for any instance of metal having “fun” or being clever beyond a braindead stoner moment or two. *Deeply frowning face* As such, this isn’t really my jam but ‘Vandalism‘ is a catchy record with plenty of viable singles throughout. Only gripe is that they’ve got to shake things up in terms of using all of the tools in their veritable sheds, these are talented folks who could definitely give us a variety of song types and different structures that aren’t all so taut and boppin’. Without “Monsters of the Sea” and closer “Shame or Glory” to keep things hookin’ through to the end I’d have checked out beyond the first listen.
|RELEASE DATE:||April 9th, 2022|
Delayed by the usual circumstance of late indomitable Austin, Texas stoner metal/psychedelic rock quartet (trio for the recording) Greenbeard have greatly benefitted from the nearly four year process of making this well-anticipated third album, which takes itself a bit more serious than ‘Lödarödböl‘ (2017) in cutting right to the quick and getting a lot off their chests up front. Taking their time whether they’d like to or not, and opening up the floor to the full band’s songwriting ideas amidst several guest spots, these folks have done something very right with ‘Variant‘ in marrying the spirit of blues-driven 70’s heavy psych grooves and anthemic 90’s stoner/desert rock push unto what is incontestably their best record to date. I only really mess with this sort of gig anymore when a band is doing something beyond the buzz n’ bustle of the norm and that’d be the bulk of my recommendation here, it is a quick and severe set of cuts that doesn’t have time to fill or waste. The hooks come fast to start yet the arc of the full listen burns slow making for a most mature, worldly heavy rock record able to escape any too-direct ‘retro’ accusations or any of the usual fuzz ruts their category is prone to fall into. The appeal of their songcraft is classic yet void of amateurish follower noise, hitting upon heady n’ variable yet memorable heavy rock pieces, one after another before they duck out. Fans of Sundrifter, Snail, and earlier Queens of the Stone Age should appreciate the vibe but you won’t find a good enough comparison for the biggest pieces here (“Diamond in the Devil’s Grinder”, “Burns like Basketweave”).
|LABEL(S):||Bleeding Heart Nihilist|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 1st, 2022|
Florence, Italy-based trio Noia have impressed me with this sixth full-length of thrash metal influenced blackened metalpunk as they strike a fine balance between crust punk, pure thrash riffs, and a ‘Circle the Wagons‘-esque thread binding it all. Thought they’ve been at it for a couple of decades now this is probably the first record they’ve done where all of the songs reach for the 6-7 minute length as opposed to their usual 3-5 minute range, packing twice as much detail into each piece and doing a fine job of carrying each through to satisfying conclusion. It reads like a solid late 80’s thrash metal record up front and that is the major appeal for my own taste in surreal pairing with black metal flourish and tonality; This is most profound on “Disappear Into Nothingness” where keyboards add an electric to their ominous Amebix-esque plod. Solid record and probably the one to dive into first if you are unfamiliar with their discography.
|ARTIST:||TERZIJ DE HORDE|
|TITLE:||In One of These, I Am Your Enemy|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 8th, 2022|
Moulded from crust-grinding basal forms unto chaotic hardcore influenced rhythms this Utrecht, Netherlands-based avant-garde post-black metal group can effectively whip up a stirring rhythmic build with an above average collective hardiness built upon since 2007 yet their sound resembles a captured consciousness in the moment rather than any sort of empowered statement. ‘In One of These, I Am Your Enemy‘ drones, yearns and confesses its long-formed surreal guts in three oddly shaped pieces of prose which offer various points of discovery, or, pockets of keen riff and damning motions. This format delays gratification to such a degree that I’m left searching for the moment when satisfaction might arrive to no certain avail, though their proper modern guitar tone and dramatic rhythms are nearly cinematic in a frantic post-hardcore meets black metal sort of way I’d felt the need to be hit over the head with something a bit more concrete. “Cheiron” almost gets there within its brevity but the carrot is ever-dangling for the remaining ~25 or so minutes of the record. I’d definitely wanted to write about this very personal history of dark (or, nihilistic) vitalism, a land of many circuitous definitions, and how it connects to this band’s output but without the lyrics or any connection with the music I’d moved on.
|LABEL(S):||Into Endless Chaos|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 9th, 2022|
Dresden, Germany-based quintet Deathrite were well-noticed in the early 2010’s as death metal influenced hardcore band with little more than a huge sound to throw around, soon evolving into a grindcore influenced gig on their ‘Into Extinction‘ album in 2013. They’d eventually move toward an Entombed-core kind of style once they’d landed on the trend-hungry Prosthetic Records camp before a major paradigm shift was in the works on their Century Media debut ‘Nightmares Reign‘ (2018), the sort of record that comes and goes without notice due to it being a bit too underground for the above-ground platform they were given. Gone was their hardcore influenced chunk fest and a broken-legged sort of deathrock kicking death metal trot was introduced. To great effect from my point of view, it wasn’t half bad as a cold and creeping occult record pairing well with strong cover art. Their latest EP beyond a near full re-staff of the band in 2021 lands within this same territory, picking up where ‘Nightmares Reign‘ left off while offering a slightly revised production value with clearer vocals and plenty more guitar tracks filling out their sound. While I don’t find these folks to be profound songwriters and their discography reads a bit like a group whom have been “following the wind” with their vision as tastes change year over year, ‘Delirium‘ is yet a strong MLP which expands upon their best ideas in subtle ways.
|TITLE:||De Evigas Gravrit|
|LABEL(S):||Purity Through Fire|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 10th, 2022|
If you are not already well indoctrinated into the world of prolific Swedish black metal musician Swartadauþuz‘ work stretching back to the mid-2000’s needless to say that a list of his past and present projects amounts to hundreds of hours of listening, primarily focused upon self-sustained atmospheric and traditional black metal ideals alongside some notable blackened death (Musmahhu) and symphonic/melodic black metal (Greve, Gardsghastr) ventures and I’ll be covering a couple of his Trolldom records next month. Anyhow the two groups most folks keeping track of the best black metal out of Sweden in the last decade should recognize Azelisassath and Bekëth Nexëhmü the latter being his coldest, most elaborate exploration of atmosphere and a pool of ideas which have stretched even further within other projects. After ten years, eight demos, four albums and an EP (with up to three more albums on the way this year) it seems the fellow is ready to clean house and move on from this path.
That is to say that the mournful, abrasive trip of ‘De Evigas Gravrit‘ represents the latest yet still quite old peak among peaks in his work under this name, a combination of 2011 writ and recorded elements (including album art) alongside vocal recordings from 2020. It doesn’t necessarily feel out of place in combining decade-separated works, primarily reaching atmospheric highs with strong precedence for this project’s unhindered style but it is decidedly slow and driven by severe melancholia; Making good use of a crumbling guitar tone, acoustic guitars, fantasy synth and slow-paced pieces a funeral march is enacted beyond two of Bekëth Nexëhmü‘s biggest records ‘De fördolda klangorna‘ (2019) and the equally long ‘De fornas likgaldrar (Forna nordiska besvärjelser omfamnat i tre kapitel)‘ double album last year, this fourth record yet takes its time in savoring the excruciation of its ~57 minute reveal. Though it is technically a loose end long without tourniquet, I believe this will be one of the more appreciated works in the artists discography when more serious ears are pointed towards the flood of activity under this name. A world unto itself if you’d choose to get involved.
|TITLE:||Apotheosis of Anti Light|
|LABEL(S):||War Anthem Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||April 1st, 2022|
Nossen, Germany-based death metal mainstay Purgatory aren’t the sort of band you’re going to thrill nowadays death metal hipsters with, there is no wild tech available or prog-gimmickry to their sound and as far as they’re considered there is no post-anything worth spiking their gig with. They’ve always been entirely brutal and straight forward in their approach to a fault and the only major change has been finding better musicians whom can play in time since the 90’s. Nothing has changed too drastically in their realm since ‘Blessed With Flames of Hate‘ (2000) but they did have a period where their riffing took on an earlier Immolation-esque style that I’d really appreciated and I still kind of like their messy late 90’s records (‘Damage Done by Worms‘, especially) but they’ve never really cranked out a record that’d floored me. ‘Apotheosis of Anti Light‘ is no different despite the prime brutality this one offers overall as they clock in at higher double-bass kicking speeds. Above average work, groove-heavy death metal done the right way but it’d ultimately land middle-of-the-road in terms of holding my interest.
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