Short Reviews | October 12th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our second set of October 2022 releases finds us catching some classic gore action, some classic heavy metal friction, a ton of dark fucked up occult and/or space-crazed shit, and generally a set of decent death metal records alongside some good traditional heavy metal stuff. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works that I come across while still presenting some decent variety but choices boil down to what sticks, what inspires or what 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 contributions. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to:

TITLE:To the Dead
LABEL(S):Relapse Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

San Jose, California-borne deathgrind crew Exhumed take a shovel to the back of the maggot infested brains of caustic decadent human existence and its many cognitive failures on this umpteenth full-length, taking a minute to call in some of their alumni to help write pieces which glorify, exemplify and define their gig. It makes for one of their best records since reforming, certainly the easiest to throw on a loop and sit with for a few hours. Production sound is booming in all the right places, they’ve got riffs a la ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious‘ all over this thing and it smokes front to back thanks to a truly adept battery from Mike Hamilton dodging between brutality, freakout grinding, and catchier swingin’ movement with ease. I don’t know if there is any major reward for analyzing a record in this style versus just enjoying it but the one thought I’d had amounted to Exhumed being the opposite of the “older stuff is better” trope, in the sense that the new stuff (which they’ve made resembling the old stuff) is better than what they’d done before. This one all gels together, shreds a bit more, shrieks more often, and outshines ‘Horror‘ (2019) as far as I’m concerned.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Black Lion Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

The history of extreme metal is rife with teenaged kids (yes, often very privileged ones) putting together records nowadays seen as classics but, largely for the sake of inventing the wheel at the time. It shouldn’t impress or confound anyone that Swedish extreme thrash/blackened metal group Sarcator comes from still-young folks who’ve been at it since they were thirteen or whatnot. Youth is a cynical place to start with a first impression, as is nepotism (vocalist/guitarist here is the son of The Crown‘s guitarist) and a lot of that banter really doesn’t help the first impression of the band from my perspective. Not to be unnecessarily rude but, who cares? How are the songs, eh? In fact this second album from the band kicked my damned teeth in to start with opener “Ascend”, sounding like one of the sharper blazers from the self-titled Merciless album off the bat. I’d really appreciated the string noise adding to the thrashing mad blackened feeling of their scrape as they blasted and ranted through it. Solid first impression, the engine was running and this is an hour long record so I was geared up for where they were going and… Well, what exactly is with the blackened hard rock switch-up on “Perdition’s Hand”? It sticks out a bit on the record in general ’til the influences from Swedish melodic metal/rock, Mercyful Fate and a bit of In Solitude seem to burn away the whole blackened thrash metal idea as the album persists.

Sarcator don’t seem entirely sure where their thread is going, or, what singular artistic voice is driving the ship and because of this I’d found myself losing the thread along with ’em early on. Landing in full-bore heavy rock territory by the time “The Long Lost” shows up ain’t easy to sit through after the equally dry seven and a half minutes of “Dreameater” and I’d more-or-less lost all connection with the record right there. The second half of the album clears things up a bit stylistically between the blackened balladry of “He Who Comes From the Dark”, the similarly bounding heavy metal jog of “Devil Sun” and hard rocking “Sorrow’s Verse” but I’m not sure that is what I’d signed up for, or, at least what’d been implicated off the bat. Not to mention these are quite long songs which manage very little statement within a droning yet steady guitar progression or two, climbing well beyond the six minute mark ’til we finally land on the far too indulgent ten minute closer/title track (which isn’t half bad, mind you). Not feeling the fire with this one in general, far too ambitious without the singular rhythmic voice needed to pull it off and the full listen generally lacks in distinct personality just yet. They’ll get there and they have improved in the meantime but it’ll take a ton of editing down to a stronger core idea before their true nuke hits.

[NOTE: Release pushed back to November 4th.]

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Every Battle Has Its Glory
LABEL(S):Gates of Hell Records
RELEASE DATE:October 14th, 2022

Now just over a year into their gig Swedish duo Sordid Blade offer an interesting prospect up front, decidedly soft rocking hooks braced by ‘epic’ heavy metal. Most of their debut full-length ‘Every Battle Has Its Glory‘ intends to land in classic traditional metal territory but eventually drifts into an adult-oriented rock feeling when the vocal melodies begin to feature, if at all. The effect is somewhat alien when the somewhat homebrewed vocal harmonies kick in, they’ve a bit of a distance from the late 70’s rock melodies you’ll find in the work of mid-80’s ex-NWOBHM groups seeking accessible hooks and the ethereal side of outliers like Heavy Load and it all feels a bit awkward in motion. It isn’t necessarily a complaint when I suggest that this record reads a bit “soft” and out of sorts as it makes its first impression, the weirdest stuff tends to take on a life of its own, but there is an unusual thread of sentimental under-delivered anthemic rock which isn’t helped by the jogging-forth stride of reserved rhythm guitar tones which seem to refuse to drive the record into gear. I’ve not mentioned riffs thus far for good reason, the songwriting here generally creates a bubble around the central feature of the vocalist who is perhaps not entirely ready to be the focal point herein and it leaves the guitar work pushed back in the mix and never quite hitting upon any profound or inspired moments. After about three listens I’d found it difficult to sit through, the aped guitar hook and harmonized vocals on the title track being the last nudge to move on.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Seven years later it seems Swedish heavy metal trio Witch Blade have put in some serious consideration for where they’re headed, with the gap in mind it should come as some small surprise that they’ve released what I think is one of the better traditional heavy metal records of the year with ‘Månsken‘. They’ve firmly planted their feet in late 70’s heavy rock but spread that idea between Judas Priest‘s overcharged road anthems and the more intimate tumble of groups like Angel Witch and Quartz on hand when it comes time to bear a bit of their occult heavy rock skin. The best parts of this album capitalize on their woodsy, arcane heavy rock sound for theatrical moments such as the driving hooks and dual guitar melodies that arise within “Hellvetika”, the “Swords and Tequila”-level ride of pub-shaker “Häxjägarna”, and the stuck in traffic half-boogie of “Ritual”. It shouldn’t go without saying that vocalist/bassist Witchhunter‘s performances in Svenska go a long way in characterizing the otherwise British heavy rock influenced pounce of the music, lending a unique personality which I’m feeling a bit more here compared to their debut. They’ve kept it short and to the point here at around ~33 minutes, sticking with their catchiest songs and I’ve found it to have serious legs in terms of replay value thus far whenever I’m up for retro heavy rock/trad metal.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

RELEASE DATE:October 14th, 2022

After All is a heavy/thrash metal band from Bruges, Belgium who’ve been around since the late 80’s until officially forming in 1990 and keeping up with it since. Their sound has generally touched upon traditional heavy metal, melodic power metal (sans theatrics), thrash metal and some groove metal influence on certain records but we can generally consider their style power-thrash metal rooted in the high standards of the mid-to-late 80’s. This time around they’ve landed a new vocalist and drummer adding some considerable speed, a cranked guitar tone, and some greater attention paid to the vocal patternation/harmonization. This of course takes their power-thrash metal dynamic to a different level, leaning into the more aggressive side of early 90’s power metal before easier grooves and keyboards had taken over. Fans of Agent Steel and prime Angel Dust likely already know this group but this record feels a bit more amped-up and inspired than the otherwise fine ‘Waves of Annihilation‘ back in 2016. ‘Eos‘ tended to grab my ear with some consistency around the time the fourth song, “Kindred Spirits” (“Demons Raging” is also quite good), hit the speed and guitar interest generally picks up a bit for the next few songs, serving a hotspot for my interest. These guys are pros and can definitely carry a ~45 minute record but I’d felt like eleven songs was about two too many, the melodies don’t continue to reach beyond a reasonable peak around the middle of the album and it all begins to threaten to blur together in mind pretty quickly on repeat listens. Will definitely revisit this one later in the month, though consider it a good sign that I’ve already kind of overplayed it.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Sadistic Storm
LABEL(S):Personal Records
RELEASE DATE:October 14th, 2022

Cimmerian Possession is a Mexican deathcrust side-project from members of In Obscurity Revealed, Ravenous Death, and Remains founded 2021. No huge surprises here if you’re familiar with the brilliant history of death metal and crust punk in combination, though these folks have a somewhat unique approach to death metal riffing which adds their own perspective to these songs. Their riffs definitely come from an extreme metal informed perspective and largely focus on the d-beat spectrum of crust but do a fine job of hitting the right stride on this introductory EP. This style of death metalpunk definitely benefits from a unique perspective on each side of the fence to truly stand out and they’re almost there, a tip or two from a group like Amebix might differentiate more than what they’re pushing here. I won’t dig in too deep since this is a ~18 minute record, cover song included, but of course I heartily approve of their stab at the deathcrust continuum and hope more is on the way sooner or later.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Yawning Expanse Yearning
LABEL(S):Bent Window Records
RELEASE DATE:October 14th, 2022

Daemogog is a sci-fi/horror themed and Vancouver, B.C.-based experimental death metal project from former Atræ Bilis bassist Brendan Campbell, who performs all instrumentation and shares vocal duties with a fellowe named Miles Chic. ‘Yawning Expanse Yearning‘ is their second full-length album and the first I’ve broken into to date, finding the riffs satisfying enough in exploring of the spaces available to spear in between ‘Obscura‘, modern black/death metal’s (read: Portal) dissonant riff shaping and hypnotic, sludgier hard-hit pieces solely concerned with grinding in place. The effect is hypnotizing, definitely an interesting album to follow as a rhythm guitarist or bassist since that is where the major action of the recording is. Noisome textures, disorienting pacing, skronk and such give the album the feeling of a ride, an experience which slowly erodes or pushes the listener somewhere new.

Much as I liked this record on the first few sittings and appreciated that it went somewhere within the full listen the experience does end up being somewhat demanding, even for a ~34 minute record and without much analytical detail paid to the experience on my part, at least beyond observing and enjoying the grotesque, odd-angled bones of the arrangements. Not the most memorable record of the month but something different, unexpected and rife with depth worthy of sitting with and exploring further. More prominent bass guitar interjections and more brutality in general would amp up the experience for me, there needs to be a bit more to this music beyond the guitar techniques before I fully sign up for it. An awesome start with plenty enough potential to expand in the future.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:The Relegation
LABEL(S):Time to Kill Records
RELEASE DATE:October 20th, 2022

Martyred are an Austin, Texas based death metal band who’d kicked up a bit of dust back in the early post-millennium but only just got back into gear around 2017, firing off an EP in 2018 and now hitting us with their debut full-length this month. Though that fantastic Jon Zig painting on the cover might suggest they’re a brutal death group their sound leans in a few different directions, generally hitting on point of black/thrash metal, brutal death and some Morbid Angel influenced pieces here and there with “Iniquitous Transformation” touching upon all of these things in a single bound. If you’re big on groups like Lecherous Nocturne, Hate Eternal, Deeds of Flesh and that early 2000’s death metal peak crossover between the old school and the new brutality you’ll definitely appreciate these folks. There is a lot of what I like in this record but it didn’t fully kick my ass beyond the drumming, which I’d found generally on point and generating the most interest. The sort of record that doesn’t fully stand out but I wouldn’t turn down a listen, either.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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