Short Reviews | December 10th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our (actual) final edition of Short Reviews for 2022 finds us finishing off the year strong with a bunch of death metal and some doom metal releases. Album submissions for 2022 releases will be accepted until December 16th, but at this point they’ll only be considered for the final AOTY list. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works that I come across while still presenting some decent variety here but choices boil down to what sticks, what inspires or what is worth writing about. These are more easygoing than longform reviews, so relax and think for yourself — If you find something you dig go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase! If you’d like your music reviewed, read the FAQ and send promos to:

TITLE:It Never Ends…
LABEL(S):Emanzipation Productions
RELEASE DATE:November 25th, 2022

Danish death metal was only just taking off by 1992 with demo tapes from Detest, Caustic, Dominus, Illdisposed, Iniquity releasing as early formative steps, Infernal Torment and Mercenary (in their pre-power metal days) had only just formed, and Mordor weren’t far behind with their brutal pre-Exmortem spark standing out a couple years later. So it’d been a big deal that Maceration were already full album ready but it wouldn’t have been such a surprise in hindsight considering musician Jacob Hansen had been recording death metal demos as early as 1988 during the peak underground aggression of his band Invocator and fellow bandmate Jakob Schultz was right there with him in forming this proper death metal band circa 1990. ‘A Serenade of Agony‘ still holds up for its thrashing Florida scene influenced rhythm guitar work and some of its interesting turns taken, such as the gloomy keyboards on “Pain and Pleasure Incarnate”, much in the same tradition as Loudblast‘s ‘Disincarnate‘ rhythmically and the second Atrocity (Germany) album in its intense yet somewhat brittle production values, still far ahead of their time. The 1986-1992 headspace for thrashing death metal is some of my all time favorite metal music so, Maceration‘s back story and debut have always been a well-loved sort of one-off thing that included the illustrious Dan Swanö by chance, raising its infamy considerably. So, the first question to ask right off the bat with this context fresh in mind is: “Why did they reform?

I’m not all about speculating that sort of shit on the business end, but I figure a decent band name and a good reputation go a long way when servicing nostalgia. Bringing back Swanö and whipping together a death metal album thirty years later seems more celebratory than calculated at this point and it helps that ‘It Never Sleeps…‘ is a professional result with fine artwork and a straight forward death metal style, which is assuredly going to catch the ear of Swedish death metal fans up front. I referenced “Pain and Pleasure Incarnate” earlier for good reason, as some of the tendencies in the songwriting on that piece echo in the finer details of this album though the first impression sounds absolutely nothing like ‘A Serenade of Agony‘ thanks to a big honking Boss HM-2 enhanced guitar sound cranking its scuzz over each riff. The right reference to start would be a more recent Entrails record per the loud sound design and hardcorish front to “Lost in Depravity” but, eh, we do start to buzz into some of Maceration‘s rhythm guitar muscle memory within the more knotted parts of the title track. “Engulfed in Agony” is probably the best argument against the guitar sound, as it actively scrambles the impact of the guitar work and feels like some of the better riff ideas on the song, and record in general, have been muscled over by uber distortion. That’ll come down to personal preference I suppose, though I’d found the ideas lacking on “Arcane Secrets”, “A Sacrifice of Pity” and “Monolith of the Cursed” to the point that the full listen felt entirely too standard in its scrub through those sparser ideas and cranking the volume didn’t necessarily help. Overall I’d walked away glad they were back, though the album is just up to par with modern HM-2 driven stuff and doesn’t seem to add (or detract) from the legacy.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Mycoticism: Dissemination the Propagules
LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records
RELEASE DATE:November 25th, 2022

Mycelium is a mushroom havoc themed solo death metal project from Glasgow, Scotland-based musician Greg Edwards who is best known for his former black metal project Necronoclast. Though his album titles have thus far referenced early 90’s death metal records the style that we find here is more akin to the non-Suffo obsessed side of late 90’s brutal death (see: Netherlands, Poland, etc.) per the mechanical effect of the drum programming and the multi-tracked and heavily layered vocal patternation which scourges across the full experience, the fantastic Jon Zig album art helps us get there, too. So far the riff work here is likewise a mechanical means to a gory end, not aiming for tuneful works so much as ominous and bludgeoning aggression to back his wordy and incensed narration. I went into this record thinking it’d be a shock of psychedelic-themed ‘old school’ death metal record but the actual experience is a brutal tunnel dug beneath the cold permafrost its atmosphere creates, single-minded and completely charged for the duration of its ~37 minutes. Not what I’d expected but with context in hand a strong improvement over the first album (‘Scream Bloody Spore‘).

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:La Mort Appelle Tous Les Vivants
LABEL(S):Sleeping Church
RELEASE DATE:December 9th, 2022

The first and last time I’d heard French traditional doom metal band Barabbas was on their label’s well-loved tribute album (‘Doom or Be Doomed : A French Tribute to Cathedral‘, 2019) and I am happy to find their mixture of 80’s and 90’s doom metal influences still includes plenty of Hammond-esque organ grinding per that particular influence alongside their insistence to sing entirely in French, which I greatly appreciate. Adding Thomas from Northwinds on second guitar for this album hasn’t drastically changed the sound of the band, at least not as much as this more contained and dynamic production sound, but does appear to have opened more possibilities for dual guitar compositions they could translate into a live setting and the leads are decidedly better this time around. The inspiration is clearly flowing here as the band packs a lot into this hourlong record yet none of it ends up feeling too overstuffed until we get to the last pair of roughly 9+ minute songs. The trade-off is that the biggest bits of personality shine on those last two pieces, so, a fair trade overall and an engaging full listen for the most part. Fans of ‘Alkahest‘-era Paul Chain, mid-to-late 90’s Cathedral, and 90’s Candlemass will do well to check these folks out.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:Bestiary of Immortal Hunger
LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records
RELEASE DATE:December 30th, 2022

The CD and tape versions of this third full-length from New Orleans, Louisiana-based black/death metal band Abysmal Lord land on the second-to-last day of this year. Fans of Proclamation and ‘Gods of War‘-era Blasphemy before them will immediately recognize the cruel intent of these folks as they drop nuclear waste-level contaminant upon concise and occasionally grooving bestial death metal songs, all of them grinding low and blasting unholy. The most quintessential Abysmal Lord song on here for my taste is “Bestiary of Immortal Hunger”, it’ll serve as a good showcase for their sound having changed in terms of less shocking reverb applied, more of the actual performances kicking through and this time around far more variety on the kit. Best songs on here for my taste are “Carcass of the Living God” and the ancient goat-horned grind of “Glowing Baphomet”.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Solitude Productions
RELEASE DATE:December 16th, 2022

Seven years beyond the last, Russian melodic death/doom metal band Mare Infinitum release their third full-length having taken a turn towards symphonic and especially empyrean realms in the years between. Most of ‘Cryosleep‘ is operatic, outsized, and often symphonic in its simulated orchestra pushed sound and this is certainly captivating when they are focused on big and readable hooks, such as the dramatic motif explored on “Your Final Bow”. It more or less reads as orchestral gothic metal with a focus on funereal solemnity, and this is certainly impressive in motion, especially on the standout mid-album track “Event Horizon” which highlights the full listen, though we just as often find less engaging songs such as “The Flight of No Return” and the title track which I could do without and still. The grand finale of “Celestial Escapist” shows their intentions aren’t to stick with the usual gothic doom affect and I think it is a cool direction to go in. Not a perfect album for my taste and not all of its excesses pay off but I’d had a good time with it.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Prelude to Obscurity
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:December 23rd, 2022

Madison, Wisconsin-based death metal band Embalm receive the full discography remaster (per Arthur Rizk) treatment on this compilation from 20 Buck Spin and Hospital Productions. The big deal here up front is the ‘Prelude to Obscurity‘ demo from 1997 being revealed of its aggressive mid-paced rhythms and given a chance to shine within those heavier grooves, a sort of Morta Skuld-esque crawl. The rehearsal quality ‘Persistence of Suffering‘ demo is also included but labeled as ‘Demo ’95‘ per my own notes alongside a couple of live tracks from late March 1998. For folks always on the hunt for interesting trivia, you’ll note that this is some of the earliest work we hear from Andy Shoengrund (Feral Light, ex-Wolvhammer), and you’ll do well to check out ‘Psychic Contortions‘ to see what the is up to now. The main reason to grab this is the titular demo in a remastered state, the rest is solely for completionists or archivists looking to document classic USDM permutations.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:Deceptor Creator
RELEASE DATE:December 1st, 2022

This debut full-length from Bahrain-based extreme groove metal quartet Ryth presents a mélange of modern groove metal, alternative metal, and death metal ideas into a sound which is heavily reminiscent of earlier works from Gojira and Opeth. Most of ‘Deceptor Creator‘ runs on the fumes of imitation and approximation, skipping over the core phrasing needed for this type of music to retain melodic value as it builds, and in this sense it reads a bit flat, charging forward through ideas without completing each thought or making the connection between riff ideas or grooves. They’ve the right sort of foundation to build upon per a debut but the reality of this type of music is too third stage “general metal fest” for my own taste.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

TITLE:Within the Ceaseless Murk
LABEL(S):Caligari Records
RELEASE DATE:December 17th, 2022

A little over a year since their last we’ve gotten a second mLP from New Orleans, Louisiana-based grinding death metal quartet Congealed Putrescence, who’ve hit us with ~12 minutes of tightly thwacked-at and jittery stuff full of pronounced grooves, a nasty-ass guitar tone, and an entirely irregular stream of consciousness. “Gelid Fathomless Suffering” (and “Advection” before it) blasts and ducks through its almost Finndeath inspired rack of riffs, fitting in the implication of the hardcorish grooves (Tomb Mold-y?) they bring on the next couple of songs, keeping it interesting enough ’til “Suffocating Brain” just kinda flops it out. The interplay between the guitars and the drums is really the draw here, otherwise I think they could go way more deathgrind weirdo with it and bump up the slam tension that works up here and there. Only complaint is the bass is too quiet, and I suppose the vocalist could freak out a bit more often a la “Burning Off”.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:Ascend to Infinity
LABEL(S):Meuse Music
RELEASE DATE:December 6th, 2022

Southeastern Polish quintet Dargor play an extremely pleasant form of atmospheric yet primarily melodic black metal at a determined enough mid-pace, an approach which will immediately appeal to fans of groups like Wormwood and Netherbird. There is a resilient, positive message and spirit behind this music which will surely read as accessible per the key they’ve chosen to pursue, so, there is some personal darkness explored here but not a damning one. ‘Ascend to Infinity‘ doesn’t necessarily hit the undeniably golden guitar hooks one would want from this style of music often enough but each piece finds a meaningful direction and at the very least hums in conversational phrasing. “Waste What Was Given” is particularly impactful with this in mind, as is closer “Afterlife”, and the less subtle “Morals Redefined” gets us there much quicker and more often. It is a shame that it doesn’t all come together as flawlessly as it’d needed to be at a short ~34 minutes but there are a handful of memorable guitar moments that make this album worth picking up more than once.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:The Agony in Slumber
LABEL(S):Bitter Loss Records
RELEASE DATE:December 16th, 2022

Portuguese death metal trio Rotten Coffin formed a couple of years ago between two former members of a fairly unknown death metal band Altar of Pain before adding Russian vocalist Devourer (Deviant Syndrome) and session drummer Krzysztof Klingbein to the line-up for this debut full-length. ‘The Agony in Slumber‘ is completely sound work from seasoned professionals thought it takes cutting through a few fairly standard, barreling and quite loud death metal songs before their personae begins to develop. The riffs are generally mid-paced, built upon basic and repetitive grooves and the vocals aren’t so much brutal as they are intent on being intelligible. This ends up feeling like an accessible, too tidy and somewhat average result. There are hints of melodic death metal in the rhythm work which impress in bursts on “Torment Parallax” but overall the signature of the band is yet uncertain and the sound design is just your average computer assisted bombast without distinct voice. Though Rotten Coffin have curated a record that approximates the death metal experience in a professional manner there is a soul missing from the well-embalmed corpse, and I think it is just a matter of moving too quickly toward a full record before having an above-average conception in mind. Not a band place to start, though.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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