Short Reviews | December 29th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our first edition of Short Reviews for 2023 releases finds us desperately scraping together albums of interest in the first few weeks of next year. Album submissions for 2022 are closed, this list marks the necessary transition into 2023 releases. 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: grizzlybutts@hotmail.com


ARTIST:WOTHROSCH
TITLE:Odium
LABEL(S):Hammerheart Records
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

The cold-bladed, industrialized death machine of “modern metal” bombast drives the sleek-in-motion mechanisms of Athens, Greece-based black/death metal trio Wothrosch, there is no doubt that post-metal and atmospheric sludge metal brace their thunderous form. This’ll be an issue for folks seeking organic and traditional sounds but at the very least we aren’t getting a bad metalcore record from cocky extreme metal tourists. If anything there is a stark industrial/sludge affect to the best parts of this debut full-length. I’d enjoyed the severity of their approach beyond the occasionally rote tremolo-needled exchanges of their verse rhythms yet the experience still lacks a soul, or, any particularly engaging nuance. This is an album of spectacle, a slabbed wall of aggressive noise which relies on its pummeling for experiential value and, sure, this wore on me as their song lengths reached for the eight minute zone repeatedly. If you did not build up a fortitude for this type of wall-to-wall brutality during the brutal death + atmospheric sludge heyday of the early-to-mid 2000’s the full ~55 minute pulverization available here should prove at least somewhat trying. If there were some manner of unique character driving the machined calamity of it all ‘Odium‘ might’ve stuck for me but taken as is I’d quickly built up a numbness to their cranked to eleven approach.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:DEATH ENGINE
TITLE:Ocean
LABEL(S):Throatruiner,
Code Records
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

For their third full-length album Brittany, France-based post-hardcore/post-metal quartet Death Engine move away from the chaotic hardcore/noise rock influenced side of their sound toward something more clearly of-the-moment post-metal pastiche lead by guitarist/vocalist Mikaël Le Diraison. Simple yet effective sludge riff progressions create the furor necessary to show off their blunt yet high-fidelity knack yet the new value proposition arrives otherwise in an altogether calmed, introspective bent which arguably hits the eye of the storm somewhere around “Dying Alone“. Fans of the noise rock/post-hardcore side of the band won’t feel fully shirked (see: “Lack”) but this one will appeal to nowadays post-punk obsessives tangentially instead. The album taken as a whole is a strong balance between the weirding creep of atmospheric sludge and accessible, memorable points of dark rock influenced fare. They’ve smartly kept ‘Ocean‘ just over ~35 minutes long and this turns out to be the perfect span of time to enjoy and avoid any too grating or lasting upsets. An above average release from the post-metal space from my point of view.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

ARTIST:CROM
TITLE:The Era of Darkness
LABEL(S):From the Vaults
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

I’m long past the point of giving participation points to cheap dodgers, the half-hearted and dispassionate side of power/heavy metal unwilling to go full-shirtless and sword-swinging into the fray, so, I was happy to come across this inspired fourth full-length from German heavy metal group Crom who not only lean into a specific form of 80’s meets 90’s power metal but likewise deliver it all with the spirit of vikingr Quorthon in mind and the classics of Robert E. Howard in hand. Though their stride defaults somewhere between the readability of Visigoth and late 2000’s Týr the vision of bandleader Walter Grosse (ex-Dark Fortress) smartly splits its time between heavier anthemic trad metal rides and chorale-gilded hooks. All of this is well and good ’til we hit “In Your Eyes” where you’ll have to be willing to go full dressed in fur underwear, Manowar tattoo, and a mullet 80’s style shout-along heavy metal to stick around. Though I didn’t find the band had justified the full hourlong rub of their gig herein and some of the vocals falter too far off key here and there to suit certain phrases, the over the top nature of their craft is well served and thankfully most pieces cut around the 5-6 minute or less mark. Overall a memorable first impression made which has already called me back for several repeat listens.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

ARTIST:SLOG
TITLE:Divination
LABEL(S):Morbid and Miserable
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

The sheer number of records United States-based musicians Nicholas Turner and Jared Moran are churning out hand-over-fist these days is impressive in terms of steadfast productivity, these guys are hard at work and I’ll give ’em that at the very least. In fact there’d been a few new releases relevant to their combined efforts I could’ve mentioned here today (Sermon of Rot is rad enough, eh) but what begins to nag me with regard to each project is that they often amount to what I’d consider demo quality conceptual work without a high enough artistic standard applied. They simply don’t (always) preen and refine their ideas to a profound state of personae and sometimes this works per the niche, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of death/doom metal focused project Slog the muddiness and seemingly half improvised riff structuring more or less works in a Disembowelment meets ‘Darkness Drips Forth‘ kinda gig. In fact ‘Divination‘ is pretty rad on the first pass through thanks to solidly belted growls and Moran‘s tweaked, hollowed out kit work, it all makes for an imposing presence which kinda it out weird on songs like “Creeping Flora” and “Labyrinth Amulet” despite their urgency leaving little actual mood to develop. Yet when I consider similarly muddied recent work from Charnel Altar and Bloodsoaked Necrovoid those releases stuck in mind more readily. None of this is a complaint, really, I think death/doom metal fans will appreciated the monstrous and ragged feeling Slog explores as they iterate with some greater focus here. A bit more polish and general aesthetic guidance could go a long way in this case, the potential is fully on the table here.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:NACHTMAER
TITLE:Van de Mare Bereen
LABEL(S):Thenra Colectivum
RELEASE DATE:January 13th, 2023

Nachtmaer is a solo atmospheric black metal project from Belgium-based musician/artist Snoodaert who is best known for his work in black/sludge metal act Kludde. If you are familiar with his other band you’ll note a focus on folklore and black metal nurtured therein and he has more-or-less expanded this idea into a conceptual act here on ‘Van de Mare Bereen‘. A set of four longform pieces explore what I believe are original stories or folklore gathered in reference to mares, which you can look up yourself. The major noted influence here is second wave black metal but this ends up being a largely aesthetic treatment which compounds the atmospheric breadth available to acts like late 90’s Limbonic Art set to a mid-paced, largely atmospheric black metal function. None of the severity of the second wave factors into these arrangements though certain riffs do chart a familiarly menacing course, especially those found on “De Drievoudschart”. Otherwise we find an exploration of mid-paced modern/post-black metal sounds with an up front ethereal keyboard presence and vocals which are more often spinning a yarn in strained cadence rather than carrying a tune. The black metal aspect of this sound is strong enough though I’m not sure it does more than generate the appropriate atmosphere since this is not “riff” metal, nor is it particularly a hook centric melodic act at its core. I’d found myself far more interested in the lyrics and the narrative explored than I was in the swaying, tormented rhythms overall but the opener “Marevlechten” and the aforementioned ~13 minute closer “De Drievoudschart” did impress overall.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

ARTIST:DEAD SEA APES / THE BAND WHOSE NAME IS A SYMBOL
TITLE:Split LP [12″]
LABEL(S):Cardinal Fuzz,
Feeding Tube Records
RELEASE DATE:January 20th, 2023

Here we’ve got a standout split 12″ pulled from a grip of upcoming Cardinal Fuzz releases, this one specifically showcasing the heady bustle of desert-droning kraut psychedelia which Manchester, England’s Dead Sea Apes have become known for since forming in the late 2000’s and an equal showing from Ottawa, Ontario-based improvised psychedelia troupe The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol. Each band contributes what is basically a ~20 minute jam for their side of the split album and of course I’ve already got my bias smoking in hand since I’d loved Dead Sea Apes‘ ‘Night Lands‘ record back in 2020. Here they’ve present a very simple four note progression whirling its hex for the duration of the piece, the real payoff for the droning nature of this one comes in the final seven minutes or so, an ecstasy which arrives just at the point where most minds would’ve otherwise begun to wander. You might recognize this side of the split, “Lunar Mansions”, as part of a previously released (digitally) live “lockdown session” broadcast in 2020. I am decidedly less familiar with the droning sextet gear of The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol but their piece here, “Pantheon of Fuckery III” is an immediately felt groove which evolves repeatedly throughout the tightly locked-in sympatico these folks have developed over the last fifteen or so years. Seeing as this side of the record is where the brain action is they’ve definitely gotten me to scrub through past work after hearing this song, though not enough to have figured more than a kind of signature motorik groove they sometimes catch onto. Two very different sides but effectively engrossing and hypnotic work from each.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

ARTIST:VELIU NEMAI
TITLE:Alkai
LABEL(S):Nordvis Produktion
RELEASE DATE:January 20th, 2023

Prague, Czechia-based musician Julius Mitė formed this neofolk/ritual ambient + more project in response to homesickness felt for his native Lithuania, producing a form of neofolk which is heavily influenced by Baltic music as well as neoclassical darkwave and dark electronic music in general. ‘Alkai‘ is the fourth full-length from this inspired act and to be sure this is not a passive round of background music, rather an engaging mystic pulse imbued with traditional instrumentation. Each piece generally centers around a ritualistic or ceremonial act, though you might not feel this up front as early standout song “Vaeringjar” feels celebratory, built more from a demonstrative dance rather than a seated mediation but, of course each setting is decidedly different than the last on this roughly hourlong, eclectic trip. Not every beat or moment works for me, “Invocation of the Nine Horned God” specifically interrupts the full listen in my case, but “The Plateau”, “Bardo”, the title track, and closer “Not” have all proven well worth returning for.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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