Short Reviews | September 7th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our third set of September 2022 releases finds us picking up a few records missed along the way, digging into some terrifying black metal spewed portals, and grappling with various hits of doom metal, brutal death metal, grindcore and weirding rock music. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works I come across while still presenting some decent variety here, but it boils down to what sticks or is worth writing about. 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:

LABEL(S):Closed Casket Activities
RELEASE DATE:September 2nd, 2022

Though it is of no concern to the listener, this one made a pretty bad first impression due to the 64kbps mp3 files provided for review on the day of release, sounding something like a whale song sped up to a rat screech. You’ll understand why the low bitrate sound files were a problem when you hear how frantic the drumming is, lower bitrates tending to distort crashes and cymbal hits into streaky whining. To be fair there was a split second where I wasn’t sure if this was a choice made by the band since they’re sorta known for a certain brand of noisome black/death influenced grindcore rhythm which emphasizes aggression amidst chaos (see also: Infernal Coil, Gravesend, and earlier Knelt Rote). For those already familiar with this ex-Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire successor crew you’ll know this is a long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s well-liked ‘Decline‘ and at face value we’re getting… a very direct follow-up albeit without the slower, lengthier songs they’d leaned into for the sake of variety (see: “Industrialist”) on that second album. Most of these pieces snap into their slim jim at around one or two minutes and intently focus on chaotic deathgrind cuts. No major distinction between most pieces, always out to kill, and apart from the intensity of their work being highly entertaining I’d found it to be just ok. A healthy bout of bleeding out the poison of hatred, shaking off a few years of frustration and hammering away in place. I guess that’d be the profound bit to catch onto, ‘Retaliation‘ feels mired and stuck in place, an old thorn still cutting at their side.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Sentient Ruin
RELEASE DATE:September 2nd, 2022

The whole notion of virtuosic war metal might fly over most skulls, and it probably isn’t how they’d label themselves (abstract, maybe?), but in the capable hands of experimental Portland, Oregon area black/death metal group Diabolic Oath the signature blur of bestial death receives a deep ripple of weird that makes good sense. Cavernous in atmosphere, cold in delivery, and callous in its largely tuneless slapping this second official release from the band feels more confrontational than their debut full-length. Using both fretless bass and guitars as a point of differentiation lends a satisfying wobble to certain heavier rhythms (“Malefic Pathways”) but don’t go in expecting a progressive metal record, these guys are still all about stalk-and-kill death metal songcraft.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:The Great Seal
LABEL(S):Svart Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

The world outside of Finnish traditional doom metal haunters and die-hards hadn’t really let loose the secret of Spiritus Mortis ’til their third album ‘The God Behind the God‘ notably picked up former Reverend Bizarre vocalist Sami Hynninen, since that band had packed up and the public were looking intently at what he’d do next. As a result there was quite a lot of spurging over their largely undiscovered discography up ’til that point and, probably not enough appreciation for their former vocalist. Without any particular nostalgia for their past works these folks certainly sound like 80’s Scandinavian doom metal post-‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus‘ gathering its own personae over the course of several decades since, hitting upon some Sabbath-era Dio, some of the bluesy edged side of early Trouble, and yet their sound remains very much 80’s metal compared to equally long-standing idealists such as Solitude Aeternus or nearby. Crystal clear production values, modest album art, and a point focus on songwriting ensure this is both a strong introduction to new initiates and I suppose impressed enough to ease the wallop of change for existing fandom.

Anyhow, for album number five Spiritus Mortis once again provide an incredibly polished, well-written and varietal heavy metal album with a traditional doom metal soul. This time around it seems they’re sporting a new drummer, though I’m not sure he performs on this album, as well as a new vocalist and in this sense I’d found vocals just alright, expressive and classic in performance yet not odd and weirding as I’ve come to expect from epic or just traditional heavy/doom metal ideals. There are a few vocal effects used, the odd grunt and such, but I’d found the character missing from this one to some small degree and some love for Messiah‘s patented dramatic phrasing and some power metal-adjacent swings charming otherwise. They’ve front-loaded the album with some of the more vocally driven and catchier pieces so, it’ll take a bit of patience before the riffs and some of the band’s signature to start to really pile up in mind. ‘The Great Seal‘ is inarguably above average, as a huge fan of traditional doom I fully understand why this is a great example, yet I’d felt no real connection with or inspiration from the experience. Recommended songs: “Martyrdom Operation”, “Feast of the Lord”.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:In the Dark
LABEL(S):Small Stone Recordings
RELEASE DATE:September 9th, 2022

It’d been tough to fend off the hook and hammer applied on debut single/album opener “Like Hell” and approach ‘In The Dark‘ as a full listen, the song itself is pure plastic thunder, all hooks and delivered with the roar of friggin’ ‘Wolverine Blues‘ times two. Somewhere in the midst of the rest of the album I’d have to concede this is essentially a sludge, stoner, and even extreme metal juiced alternative rock record occupying a space somewhere between the unearthly introversion of Quicksand and the sonic excesses of groups like Torche and Hark. It’d be fine to assume they’ve been chipping away at this sound for years but they’d actually started out more of a ‘math metal’ sort of group by my recollection, eventually leaning into post-hardcore/alt rock sounds and heavier sludge adjacent render, wherein their always accessible songwriting has ramped up on their last two records. Without being able to tour the previous one it’d seem ‘In the Dark‘ finds the band soul-searching a bit more in terms of lyrics, simpler song structures with both vocalists impressing throughout. This is about my threshold for accessible modern rock music these days but I definitely never felt the need to shrug off any of these songs. For sure check it out of you’re big on nowadays Deftones and Hum.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Rebirth in Black
LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

Swiss semi-technical brutal death/groove metal quintet Omophagia are in interesting exception in terms of their doubling down on their sound unto excess rather than adapting to the times and following the latest thing. What does that mean? You’ll find precedence for the unusual guitar sounds, harmonies, and songwriting tics which differentiate each song on ‘Rebirth in Black‘ when looking back through their discography. Thought they’ve been consistent in terms of integrating various trickery and inventive flashes of brilliance into their craft over the years the pacing of their records has stabilized quite a bit beyond ‘Guilt by Nescience‘ (2011), now reading a bit like the groove metal influenced side of Polish death metal post-‘Organic Hallucinosis‘ and won’t be far off of your radar if you’re a fan of Krisiun‘s slower, groove oriented side. I’d recommend this one to folks who are more attuned to brutal death metal but might’ve grown up a fan of early-to-mid 90’s groove metal, there is a maximal yet tuneful side to Omophagia‘s work which seems rooted somewhere in between those two extremes. For my own taste the entertainment value is there but most of the full listen goes from zero to a hundred in terms of brutal n’ loud attack without enough breathing room otherwise.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

TITLE:At War With the Multiverse
LABEL(S):Dark Horizon Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

Memphis, Tennessee-based melodic black/death metal group Epoch of Unlight have a history which stretches back to last gasp of the 80’s, taking various influence from death and grindcore of the time ’til they’d likely discovered the virtues of early At the Gates and Dissection and rebranded into this form in 1994. It’d be a vast understatement to suggest that they’ve been variously underestimated over the years but there’d been some praise for their early full-lengths in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. ‘At War With the Multiverse‘ is the first album from the band since 2005 though it seems they’d been getting back into the swing of things and composing these pieces as far back as 2015 or so. For the die-hards who still remember these folks expect their signature focus on the pre-‘Clayman‘ era of melodic death metal, still aggressive and technically impressive in an ‘old school’ No Fashion appreciator kinda way but lacking the over the top late 90’s black metal rasps which put some folks off their first record. From my point of view this band has always been about the guitar work, all the way back to ’95, and in this sense ‘At War With the Multiverse‘ impresses for its full duration by way of complex, aggressive yet patiently resolved phrasing. Plenty of riffs, intense lyrical lore, and a certain classic melodic black/death performative flair makes for an entertaining, memorable full listen. What would we have written about it back in the late 90’s? Something chadly like a “symphony conducted with a double-barrel shotgun” and a reference to the plot of Quake II before including it in the best of the month. That’ll do, eh.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Phosphorus Vol. I
LABEL(S):Listenable Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

The seventh full-length album from Sweden-based and Chile borne Luciferian black metal act Hetroertzen continues to elaborate upon the declarative, atmospheric coil of their previous album ‘Uprising of the Fallen‘ (2017) which itself had more or less picked up on the best elements found on ‘Exaltation of Wisdom‘ (2010), what I’d consider the first musical breakthrough for the band since their early 2000’s beginnings. Although that is a terrible way to introduce the band to folks who’ve never heard them, the only truly fitting way to describe a band like this in summation is “black metal” otherwise, the very categorical sort of Scandinavian black metal you’d expect to hear beyond the late 90’s minus any interest in keyboards and focused on atmospheric generation. The unique thread here is a bit of chaos imbued into the more excitable pieces, always in service to a passionate spiritual core as its muse. If you’d enjoyed the most recent Die Kunst der Finsternis record as much as I had then you’ll pretty much understand the greater language inherent to the artist’s guitar work, involved mid-to-fast paced works which run fluid and sinister but rarely “brutal” in their attack. Fans of LvxCælis and Serpent Noir should give this one a chance.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:I Nordisk Vredeslusta
LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire
RELEASE DATE:September 15th, 2022

As far as I know Gnipahålan is a collaboration between the impressively prolific Swedish musician Swartadauþuz (Azelisassath, Bekëth Nexëhmü) and German black metal artist Taaken (Odal) who has provided drumming on each of their recordings. The style of this project seems to have been built beyond a sort of early Burzum-esque atmospheric sound towards the cosmos-defiling brand of symphonic black metal of Odium and the first Limbonic Art record, mid-90’s Scandinavian eccentricity sophisticated by the upwards-flung guitar lines of ‘In the Nightside Eclipse‘ presented with more ‘soundtrack’ worthy celestial and ethereal synth swells. Though these suggestions help us figure where their inspiration might come from they do not illustrate the actual tonal whirlwind the artist is known for, a faster pace and less defined guitar sound with isn’t afraid of cold-ringing distortion and mid tones. The emphasis here is upon the keyboard/synth work, which is both orchestral in its movement and ambient in presence leading to a distant and obscure feel for the recording. Though I’d read the tone of this record as conversely fascinated, impressed by the majesty of harshest nature or evil, and swollen with violent anger but I can only glean so much from bits of lyrics and song titles. Fans of Evilfeast, Ringare, as well as Trolldom should check this one out, but stick around long enough ’til it reveals its own unusual character (“I Blodets Svarta Dunkel del I”) and don’t push through the full hour without stopping to enjoy the scenery, grey as it is since the second half of the album is where the true mesmer of the experience should naturally set in.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Tzadik Records
RELEASE DATE:September 16th, 2022

For the sake of an experimental instrumental jazz-metal group providing skillfully improvised ideas in irregular swells across this ~45 minute experience I’ll try to improvise my thoughts on the nature of recording improvisation without observable performances. Without seeing the brain in motion, human eyes moving, heads turning to observe key and physical intensity, the tic of muscle memory in hand, and the horror of four-or-five human music machines whittling away in irregular kinetic response we, at the very least, lose sight of the conductor of sorts. I’d say that was never the case in terms of guitarist Sally Gates (ex-Orbweaver) clearly leading these nigh combatively clever-noodled exchanges of thought, gracefully plinking away at jazz fusion standard chord-age and flicks into tech-metal craw, wobbling into surreal wobble here and there. Yet it is the rhythm section and its feature of two bassists Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk) and Matt Hollenberg (Cleric, John Zorn) which takes ‘Vonals‘ from a follow-the-leader weird jam to its occasional bouts of rebellion, stepping into time with Kenny Grohowski‘s (Secret Chiefs 3, Imperial Triumphant) drumming in creation of contrast with what’d otherwise be a bit fiddly, distant in between its heavier pedal-clicking quips. The best parts of this record are in fact its groovier, sleepier pulls from the moment and the slinking-away that the guitars eventually do (see: “Vacuum Symmetry”). Yet as a product, a thing, an item, I’d just as well want a Blu-Ray of a live in-studio performance rather than a record to sit with, however off-topic that thought might be. Of course I am a primitive, visual creature, and the record is just fine consolation otherwise but the brain within cannot help but insist on witnessing, verifying these emergent moments.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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