Short Reviews | January 19th, 2023

SHORT REVIEWS Our fourth edition of Short Reviews for 2023 releases finds us pecking away at some stuff coming in the last week of January for the most part. 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:Θύματα Ειρήνης
RELEASE DATE:January 6th, 2023

Athens, Greece-based quartet Πυρ Κατά Βούληση (“Fire at Will”) play reasonably authentic early-to-mid 80’s crust/hardcore punk and they do it very well. Most, or at least some, of these folks also played in mid-2010’s crust group Sarabante who you might remember from their Southern Lord-released sophomore record several years back but this is something different, more of a throwback to a certain early aggressive peak for pre-crossover d-beat. This authentic energy is communicated both visually and in the brilliant clangor of their duo of guitar tones as the harmonic wrack of crust as an off-shard of hardcore punk is well represented here. ‘Θύματα Ειρήνης’ (‘Victims of Peace’) really benefits from the mean but decidedly not metal tone of the full listen, which blazes past at ~17 minutes, but it’d be fair to suggest that it is somewhat average in terms of hitting normal milestones for songcraft per the well trodden sub-genre. The major argument for this one if you’re a longtime fan of this stuff is the conviction with which they chop at it, as it ends up being much more than an anti-war record with plenty to say overall.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:As Empires Decay
LABEL(S):Xtreem Music
RELEASE DATE:January 24th, 2023

Quebec-based death/thrash metal quintet Sarkasm are generally remembered as a deep underground note for their ‘Incubated Mind‘ and especially ‘Inner Flame‘ demos in the early 90’s but that doesn’t fully peg their sound as the pure 80’s speed metal influenced sort one would expect. While we do hear a bit of Florida death metal rumblings in their gig most of what these folks do centers around groove metal guitar riffing and the aggressive side of Bay Area influenced thrash metal of the early 90’s and beyond. As they release their debut full-length over thirty years later in 2023 we don’t find Sarkasm stepping outside of themselves but instead realizing the potential of the songwriting they’d been at work on since 1990, in this sense you could basically pick up the ‘Inner Flame‘ demo and strike right into ‘As Empires Decay‘ and get the same feeling and personality from it. If you’re hearing a bit of mid-to-late 90’s Obliveon in their sound it is likely due to this band featuring the same vocalist, Bruno Bernier, whose register is still as clear and directly shouted as it was back on ‘Cybervoid‘ for what its worth and this should cue folks in as to what sort of era specific sound the experience manages. The best way I could sum things up is that you get a 90’s thrash metal album from Sarkasm on their long-awaited debut, one which constantly threatens to fully stab into classic groove metal chunking and ‘old school’ death metal push but ultimately serves dynamic, aggro-apocalyptic classic thrash.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

RELEASE DATE:January 6th, 2023

Vosbúð is an atmospheric black metal duo which comes from the mind of Icelandic musician, chief performer and songwriter Rune Lúðvíksson alongside vocalist Eyjafjallajökull. Since I’ve picked this up on Bandcamp on a whim after release I’ve little more information to relay beyond their self-ascribed “volcanic black metal” tag and their themes set around the every churning tectonic activity which surrounds them. The style here is defined by longform pieces which dance between pagan black metal’s valiant sentimental nature and sleepier touches of post-black metal’s postmodern defeatism. This makes for an experience which feels modern but not that far from the sentiment of certain Árstíðir Lífsins records, something like Fluisteraars (see “Aska Sigursæl”) in its reach for both modern and classic forms. You’ll certainly have to be in tune with the pratfalls of modern atmospheric black metal voicing nonetheless since we’ve got two nobly epic pieces up front which total ~30 minutes alone and still 34 more minutes to go, you’re in for a long sitting and should probably bring a pillow or go on an unusually long walk whenever picking it up. In fact, I’d enthusiastically suggest taking a long drive or walk if you’re feeling extra immersed by this record as it feels entirely built upon evoking the strike of a view bigger than the eye itself. If they end up iterating along these lines I’d definitely call for more of the folken touches, the vikingr chorales and such since they (along with some dissonant guitar work) pull us away from the generic vistaes of post-black metal just enough.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Savage Blood Domain [Demo]
RELEASE DATE:January 1st, 2023

If you’d felt like the guys in Conjureth weren’t already murdering hard enough they’ve actually been working on this death/doom metal trio for some time and ‘Savage Blood Domain‘ is their first official demo release. The main goal here seems to be ‘old school’ death/doom metal locked in at a mid-to-slow paced dynamic wherein the rhythm guitarist and bassist maintain some strong parity in their rhythmic shapes. Each member is in a different chair here compared to their main gig and this manifests as a wholly different sound under similar penmanship. Granted these folks are all capable in any seat when we consider other projects (Encoffination, Ghoulgotha, VoidCeremony, et al.) but we’ve not heard vocals from Ian Mann before and he does a fine job fronting the loud and barreling roll of these songs. The theme I’d suggest in appreciating each of the three main pieces here is basically “three shades of morbid doom” wherein a different member pens each piece and their own hand of doom more-or-less expresses within the riffcraft/rhythms that result.

“Sterilizing Winds” is structured in descending pools of brutality, kicking off with an elaborate introduction which turns out to be the framing for the greater progression of the song. It’d which reminded me of how Eric Daniels often composed the more doom-leaning side of Asphyx by focusing on pacing and finessing variations on a core riff tract. “Rites of Forgotten Misery” has a sort of harmonized phrasing to its main riff a la Slugathor wherein the downturn of the opening riff progression is emphasized, a small touch which adds to the slow-motion Bolt Thrower feeling death/doom metal often takes on. I’d appreciated the wandering hand of the guitar work here, though the main riff and its reprisal at ~4:47 minutes in had this one stuck in my head for most of the day. “Bound to Rakasha” casts an entirely different shadow, building up tension with an ancient feeling intro before leaning into longer-ringing chords and lumbering slow riffs which eventually incorporate the opening progression. This’d felt the most rooted in the miserable patience of extreme doom metal but still clinging to enough of a death metallic register and made for a brutal place to land last as the impact of the full listen was felt. Each of these three pieces work well enough with one another in succession and each could be expanded even more, so I’d definitely walked away from this one wanting more and in that sense it hit just as a demo should.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Mantra Monolith
LABEL(S):Venerate Industries
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

This Greek doom/stoner metal trio made it pretty clear what their main source of inspiration was on their debut full-length back in 2020, approximating the vibe of the ’93-’02 run of albums from Cathedral from a stripped down, kinda janky Sabbath-bumbling perspective. While the guitar work wasn’t great on that record this follow-up, ‘Mantra Monolith‘, cleans up their sound considerably while still maintaining a loose doomin’ stride. You can tell they’ve sat down and consciously made an effort to write songs which differentiate in rhythm and pacing without stepping too far out of the box while still remedying the stiffness of the rhythms on the first albums. They’ve got at least a bit of a coherent swing to their stoner rock side on most pieces (opener “Astride” being the droll exception”) though we find no relief from the vocal style, which will likely be the main point of polarization for the average listener. I am enough of a Cathedral fan to appreciate what these guys do but I’d found the whole of the album didn’t offer much more than a familiar feeling and a pleasant enough spin.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

TITLE:Do What You Feel!
LABEL(S):Dying Victims Productions
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Freeroad is Monterrey, Mexico-based retro heavy rock band who side-step the approximation of heavy metal entirely for the sake of a New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal influenced take on anthemic 70’s/80’s rock. While there is a kinda early 80’s ‘The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent‘-era UFO meets NWOBHM quality to some of the pieces (“Pray For The King”) and they almost hit a Thin Lizzy-sized point of swagger on “Nature of Change” most of the songwriting is fairly average stuff, helped along by a spirited vocalist. A lot of the bands I could reference here were known because they were the best players and songwriters of their time so, a band like this often threatens to sound like a cruise ship act when running on charisma and a reasonable standard alone. I was into it and I had a great time with ‘Do What You Feel!‘ but it came down to needing bigger, catchier songs to carry it through this relatively short ~35 minute rock record.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:A New Day of Dawning
LABEL(S):Dawnbreed Records
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

Dead Will Walk is a zombie horror themed death metal trio out of Drenthe, Netherlands and they’re pretty up front about their gig up front. Just as the sticker on the front says, “Old School Death Metal” is what they’re up on on this second mLP and all of it entirely straight forward stuff which sticks to the major impact of Autopsy, Entombed and a few small hints of early Obituary. Kicks are punkish, the riffs are subtle with the melodies implied, and the production values are pretty well tempered to the point where nothing sounds amateurish but still has a grotesque edge to it. At around ~21 minutes it is a substantial enough mLP which hits the right milestone with its sound but doesn’t do much to stand out beyond some of the intricacies of the rhythm guitar work. While I enjoyed the full listen it whipped in one ear and out the other each time I picked it up.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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