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Third Eye regulars may already be aware of Satanath Records.

Over the past few months’ Roundups, we’ve reviewed a few releases from this Russian-based label, who specialize in both black metal (like this month’s Bestialized, covered in the August Roundup) and bands like Epidemia and Evil Reborn – both respectable acts in the current death metal scene.

Recently, the label dropped us a line here, opening the vaults of both the main label and their offshoot Symbol of Domination with a plethora of releases from 2016, essentially bringing our global audience up to date with everything they have to offer of late (anything older than that, you’re on you’re own, folks!).

So with a heartfelt salute of due respect, we offer a comprehensive review dedicated entirely to these two labels offerings of the year to date.

Prepare to be scared.

Let’s roll…

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Bestial Deform – …Ad Leones (March 15)

The Russian bear lumbers forth from its cave to deliver this meaty and yes, lumbering slab of reasonably old school-style death metal.

With mainman Kirill Ulanenkov handling both guitar and vox and a discography dating all the way back to the latter end of death metal’s glory days in 1992, it’s unsurprising that this feels pretty authentic, despite some obvious markers of more “modern” and “blackened” iterations of the subgenre.

Ulanenkov’s vox sound like a cross between David Vincent growls and something far more blunt and “brutal” ala Vader, and the riffs vary between a straightforward crunchiness somewhere between Baphomet and Immolation, and dropping straight into earlier Pestilence territory at some points (check out that quirky trill riff on “chariots” or the stutter stops of “symbol of salvation”).

On the other hand, you can smell the Swedish black metal influence all over this – somewhere between the black-death of Grotesque or Necrophobic and the highly overutilized and quite self consciously eeeeevillll vibe of Watain.

If you take later 90’s/early millenial releases from once-worthy acts like Immolation, Vader or even something otherwise unrelated like Malevolent Creation or Nile seriously, there’s no question that …Ad Leones will be right up your alley.

For diehard old schoolers like myself, there’s a hell of a lot to like here, for all its homebrew cocktail-style dilution through unrelated (and unwanted) non-scene filters.

I dug it, and could easily see giving this another spin or two in the near future.

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Malamorte – Devilish Illusions (March 26)

Italian act with former Theatres des Vampires frontman Alessandro Nunziati (then going by the pseudo of “Lord Vampyr”).

As one might expect from the leading light behind the Vampyrisme through Nightbreed of Macabria-era Theatres, this is a modern black metal act, but with some quirky theatrical if not symphonic leanings.

It’s a very Italian sound in all its oddness, vaguely hearkening to earlier Cradle of Filth or even a touch of (generally overproduced and keyboard-sporting) later 90’s Nordic black metal acts like Dimmu, Ancient or Emperor, but still bearing that nasty, more idiosyncratic occult vibe you get with bands like Mortuary Drape or Death SS.

That noted, the overall sound is more listenable and melodious (though not exactly “melodic” in any appreciable respect) than most of the aforementioned touchpoints in that respect, and you can stretch somewhat to liken the feel and even some of the riffing style to bands like (earlier) Bulldozer or some ersatz BM take on Black Hole. It’s reaching, to be sure, but if you can hear what I’m trying to say here, that should give a fuller picture of just how Italian the sound ultimately is.

I dug it, and while I do have a soft spot for his Theatres work, that band seemed to really come into its own as a more melodic gothic-vampire affair under Sonya Scarlet after his departure, and Malamorte is, in all honesty, a stronger black metal act than his era of Theatres ever was.

If you have a taste for the peculiarities of Italian black metal (with a slight but far from obnoxious gothic-symphonic orientation peppering the mix), you could do a hell of a lot worse than this.

Props to the veteran’s snazzy new cruise.

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Styxian Industries – Zero.Void.Nullified {Of Apathy And Armageddon} (March 31)

You know that sort of tremelo-driven yet wide open and majestic feel you get with Gorgoroth?

OK, now cross that with an odd industrial orientation, utilizing more samples of churning pistons and suchlike than purists ever cussed about appearing on albums like Destroyer and Incipit Satan. It’s hardly Rammstein or Laibach, much less Skinny Puppy, but it’s a strange fit.

Luckily for Styxian Industries, it meshes well enough…or the power and scope of their riffing and sound otherwise proves engaging enough…to allow all but the most orthodox of fans to appreciate what they have to offer.

They’re a Dutch act, which may account for the strangeness here – the Low Countries are noted mainly for their gothic/symphonic scene, not black metal (or for that matter, industrial). Did I mention the aforementioned guitarist bringing so much majesty and authority was a female? Talk about taking things outside the standard box…

Even so, the sound overall (there are some odd variations in style and production quality from track to track) was evocative enough of old school second wave Norwegian black metal (and Gorgoroth in particular) to work for me.

Recommended. Give it a listen, you’ll probably be hooked right off.

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Nazghor – Death’s Withered Chants (April 15)

Swedish black metal that manages to actually tap into what made bands like Watain or Dark Funeral work in their early days (or in the case of the latter, now again) rather than just a soullessly slavish regurgitation of an increasingly barren strain of stylistic flourishes.

I’d call this a lot closer to the Blackmoon era of Dark Funeral than Watain even at their best, with strong inflections of the melodicism of Where Shadows Forever Reign or classic Dissection elevating this to an even higher level than those signposts and markers might suggest.

These guys are a pretty busy bunch of worker bees, dropping no less than five actual albums inside of their whopping three years in existence (say huh?!?)  Normally that’s a bad sign – quantity seldom runs equivalent to quality (and in fact generally tends to work in an inverse ratio), but if they’re going to deliver melodically oriented Swedish black metal at this level of quality, fuck it, keep ’em coming.

Very, very good for the type. Profound hails.

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Enoid – Exilé Aux Confins Des Tourments (May 5)

Swiss black metal.

Wait, what?

Oh, and these guys obviously hail from the Romandie end of Switzerland, if you couldn’t tell from the titres en Francais…

They’re shooting for an old school Norwegian sound, with raw, overly hissy production that grates on the ear. But it’s a very artificial and obvious filter being laid over a base production that’s at least rather clean if not bassy – listen closely to the drums and the room ambience on the guitars.

So it’s actually a decent production, albeit one transformed into a very deliberately thin and grating final product. Hmm…

There’s a lot of mournful melodicism and enough tremelo-driven forward thrust to keep fans of the mid-90’s Norwegian (and arguably Swedish) sound content, but think more Taake crossed with Enslaved (or the less particularly “Norsecore” moments of Legion-era Marduk, for that matter) than the likes of Burzum, (early) Mayhem or Immortal.

And I don’t know about you, but I can’t help finding bands of this tier (Taake, Enslaved, Ancient, Tsjuder, et al) kind of…boring.

It’s in the right ballpark, alright.  But nah.

Did nothing for me.

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Demonic Obedience – Nocturnal Hymns To The Fallen (May 18)

Greek death metal of the blackened variety.

Oddly, they use the harmonizer-style puke vox Entombed used on “premature autopsy”, doubled with harsh Mitch Harris-like snarl vox.

The overall effect leaves Demonic Obedience sounding quite grindcore, and they do in fact throw in some earlier Carcass-style riffs (the breakdown section of “portal of the sacred kan”, for instance) and solos (ditto), but there’s more of an atonal blackened feel hovering hereinabouts.

Thankfully, the latter syncretism appears more as an obnoxious overtone than a raison d’etre for the band’s sound, and taking this as a (one man) grindcore-leaning death metal band leaves George Ntavelas’ solo project far more listenable than it could have become had his orientation skewed more towards the modern, atonal black-death sub-subgenre.

While that sort of crap still plays into the sound far more than it ever should have, fans of earlier strains of grindcore cum death metal can listen to this without wincing overmuch.

Not too bad, has its moments every now and again.

If all of this still intrigues you, give it a listen.

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Gloomy Grim – The Age Of Aquarius (June 6)

Now here’s a band I have prior experience with.

Introduced to them by a video appended to Bill Zebub’s original (and superior) version of Metalheads (and appearances on subsequent interview “documentaries” by the man thereafter), I’d long had the excellent Blood, Monsters, Darkness in the collection, with the rather more questionable (and far less melodic and keyboard-inflected) Grand Hammering gathering dust somewhere therein as well.

So here we are, a good 12 years on from Grand Hammering and nearly 20 years since Blood, Monsters, Darkness. They haven’t done much in the interim – only one album and an EP since 2004. How will things stand after such a remove?

Well, Juha “Agathon” Hintikka’s still present and accounted for, of course, as is the Grand Hammering rhythm section of Janne Ojala and Tomi “Nuklear Tormentorr” Tornqvist. Longstanding six stringer Jussi “Lord” Heikkinen is here as well. Not bad, there hasn’t been much turnover at all…

Hintikka’s vocal approach has changed, and fairly dramatically at that. Gone are the quirky black metal sprechtgesang snarls which set the band apart, with “Agathon” serving as a sort of sinister narrator of the dastardly doings being delineated herein. Instead, you get a far raspier take on his deep death growls alternating with a throatier but equally laryngital blackened roar.

It’s more Hammercult than Gloomy Grim, and likely the result of years of touring and the passage of time…but leaves the band, at least vocally, coming off as what feels like a far more generic affair than they were in their earlier days.

Even so, the sort of ooky spooky Tim Burton goes funereal feel of the band’s better days can still be discerned herein without a great deal of digging. The guitar and (far subtler and less pronounced) keyboard bits still suggest being treated to a creepy evening of dark storytelling rather than the usual touchpoints of black metal, with Age of Aquarius never really falling into the standard tropes of Norsecore, Watain wannabes, atonal black-death, blackened thrash or even bearing much akin to the real deal old school diehards who keep the scene’s flickering flame alive after all these years of bastardization and syncretism.

So in sum, this is still Gloomy Grim: neither the pointedly idiosyncratic and unique band who gave us Blood, Monsters, Darkness or the more aggressive, ersatz Crimson Moonlight with a touch of Roky Erickson sound of The Grand Hammering…but still recognizable as the same band underneath it all.

Hell, “the shameful kiss” even feels a bit like a modernized reworking of a Grand Hammering era outtake, so the apple hasn’t fallen far from the original tree.

Respect to the veterans, who still manage to retain enough of their individuality and weirdness to actually deserve it.

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Acheronte – Ancient Furies (June 13)

Italian black metal, but sounding more Continental than that designation would normally indicate.

Picture Viking-era Graveland vocals over busily buzzing guitars and ridiculous sounding blastbeat drums, but with the oddball feel and lower production values of Italian scene – check out that arpeggiated section in “addicted to war”. Then tag on a weird but somehow sort of generic feeling riffing style that feels a touch Greek, with elements that speak more to French avant-garde BM.

You could easily classify this with the quirkier end of Italy’s metal scene – think a black metal Run After To, I guess – but then those pseudo-Norsecore cum twisting yet pointless Necrophobic riffs kick in again.

And what the hell is with those juvenile blastbeat drums? The guy can obviously play proper double bass, if nothing else (“destroyer for the glory”)…so why deliberately work in a style that feels distinctly South American in a “D.D. Crazy” manner? I don’t get it…

Look, this is no slag. There’s a LOT of weird to be found herein, with “ancient persecutor of Christianity” feeling like a spastically speed-riffed take on Mortuary Drape and plenty of those where the fuck did that come from bits ala Black Hole or the aforementioned Run After To, and the whole thing feels very, very underground in the sense of some unearthed Siciliano artifact from somewhere in the 1988-94 era.

As you might expect from some of the above, these Ancient Furies have a few serious flaws to these ears, but for a relatively new band to be pulling in quite so much vintage Mediterranean underground metal weirdness and off kilter feel is one hell of a feat.

Major points for being just fucking strange in that patented Italian manner.

Saluti, paisan.

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Grotesque Ceremonium – Demonic Inquisition (June 15)

Turkish black-death.

Yeah, not something you hear very often.

Promo materials namecheck Incantation, and that’s definitely a valid touchpoint. Apparently they’d previously released some tape-only material through a Mexican label, and that holds as well: think Castleumbra.

As those may suggest, this is detuned but still listenable “morbid” inclined death metal with nigh-Demilich bowel-level vomit vocals. What you probably won’t pick up is that this is apparently another one man band, with a certain Batu Cetin handling all duties.

The music doesn’t really go anywhere, though Cetin displays a respectable degree of competence on all fronts which you can pick up from all the stop-starts, double bass drumming and switching between Exodus-lite chunka chunka riffing and weird atonal tremelo meanderings on the guitar.

That said, it’s reasonably well recorded and you can hear everything that’s going on, whether guitar, drums or vocals, and I appreciated the vocals and the more chugging death metal riffs on display herein.

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Coldblood – Indescribable Physiognomy Of The Devil (June 16)

Brazilian death metal. But before you start thinking Sepultura, Soulfly or such blackened thrash greats as Vulcano, Holocausto, Sarcofago and Sextrash…forget their nation of origin.

Then forget this is supposed to be “old school” death metal.

Because it’s far more blackened and atonal in riffing and approach than it ever gets death in the classic sense, despite the barf-growl vocals, typewriter double bass and the presence of some detuned but reasonably melodic solos in a vaguely Entombed vein.

Drummer Markus Couttinho and lead guitarist Artur Cirio come off best here, with Cirio’s leads and Couttinho’s unrelenting (if admittedly unspectacular) double bass being the anchors that keep Coldblood’s metaphorical feet within the death metal camp.

After that, it gets a bit sketchy.

There are riffs that feel comfortable enough within the less produced and rawer reaches of mid-90’s death metal, but the blastbeats? The atonal meanderings? The blackened focus and influence? And are those vocals really death metal? Or are they leaning more thrash-aggro?

I don’t know how to feel about this one.

I guess if you consider Mystifier the sine qua non of old school death metal rather than the odd blackened offshoot they actually represent, you’ll really dig Coldblood.

Me?

A few deserved nods of respect to Cirio and to a lesser extent Couttinho aside, nah.

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Helleborus – The Carnal Sabbath (June 17)

From the good ol’ USA comes this weirdly sinister black metal project from
Colorado brothers Wyatt and Jerred Houseman.

If you took some of the strange sensibilities of Sabbath Assembly, crossed them with a Watain riffing style and overall feel and a very underground black metal croaking vocal approach, you may get something much akin to Helleborus.

The production is imperfect, with far too much hiss on the cymbals and even across the kit per se – this was either badly compressed in mastering or they were pushing levels into the red throughout – but the vocals are clear and there’s a lot of reverb on the guitars, with the clean blues-style lead on “edge of black waters” coming across quite well.

Even the more blastbeat-driven Watain/Dark Funeralisms of stuff like “colored spores of Yuggoth” displays a respectable level of room ambience across the board…just don’t mind the hiss and tape shaking overdrive on the drums throughout.

It certainly sounds quite “evil” and bears a measure of modern black metal atmosphere that other, lesser acts could stand to crib an idea or two from…but it’s firmly situated in that lame “occult black metal” school Watain (and Gaahl-era Gorgoroth) appear to have inspired nigh-singlehandedly. Enough, already.  We’re getting bored.

Interesting enough for what they’re shooting for – just could have stood with a lot more individuality and quirkiness and much better drum production.

 

So now we leave Satanath Records proper behind, and leap headfirst into the murky waters of their related Symbol of Domination label. Where Satanath seems to focus more particularly on (as you might expect) some rather quality black metal and dabble in a sideline of death or black-death, here the focus seems to shift, with more of a death-thrash focus and a side helping of black metal.

So let’s see where that takes us…

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Assailant / Ubiquitous Realities – Bringers Of Delusion (Split) (February 27)

Well, if this is any indication, not very far!

A pair of Costa Rican acts, Assailant being a rather modern-sounding thrash act who dabble wayyyyyy too much in atonality and polytonal structures for my taste. A promo name check of Cynic is patently false, but their likening to Atheist falls closer to the mark.

Picture a more spastic Atheist with the pinched vocals of early Believer crossed with those of Atrophy, then make it more atonal and, let’s be honest here, hit any fucking note and hope it sounds good than any of the aforementioned acts.

Nooooooo way.

Ubiquitous Realities…well, there’s a reason they’re on this split.

It’s more particularly death metal in orientation, but think a spastic take on…I don’t even know who to compare this to. It’s not latter-day Gorguts, nor is it Suffocation or later Death.

You know who this reminded me of most? A far less likeable riff on Unexpect.

Pass!

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The Eyes Of Desolation – Awake In Dead (February 28)

And lest you think from that last offering that we have any sort of weird grudge against Costa Rica, we now come to The Eyes of Desolation, a sort of gothic metalcore act (self-classified as “dark/gothic metal”) that crosses metalcore/emo screams (which alternate with Fernando Ribiero-esque baritone croons) with a musical approach that melds Moonspell and H-I-M with strong elements of bands like AFI, Atreyu and All That Remains.

Basically, take the uptempo, heavily emo feel of, say, the soundtrack to a CW tweeny drama and bring it to a more particularly “gothic” aesthetic. It’s a million miles removed from goth proper, and is about as far from the female fronted “gothic/symphonic” more generally encompassed by that designation.

Instead, it’s more along the lines of Vile Valo and his heartagram, Ribiero’s long running Portugese act and the sort of gothic doom the UK and Canada seem to specialize in (anything from My Silent Wake, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride to Sleep of Monsters and The Drowning).

That said, it’s hardly a bad thing to say that Eyes of Desolation manage, by introducing these unfamiliar elements to what amounts from its similarly oriented touchpoints to being a reasonably standardized gothic doom affair, to infuse new life into said template.

While coming closest to Opium-era Moonspell gone H-I-M, there’s a youth and vibrancy in play here that seems less out of place at a darkly inclined high school hangout (think anything from a goth/emo run prom to Hot Topic here) than any of the aforementioned “gothic doom” acts ever would.

And while that may sound like an especially backhanded sort of a compliment, rest assured: I enjoyed this one.

Well produced, skillfully performed, 4 songs that leave you waiting for more.

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Colemesis – Viviseccion [re-release] (2016) (February 29)

Sticking with the sunny climes of Costa Rica, here’s a reissue of a 1992 demo of this strange tech death act. What’s strange is that they claim to be “old school death metal”, but there weren’t many bands doing music this disjointed and pointless back then.

Death themselves had just started down this slippery slope with Human. Gorguts hadn’t gone that way yet, having just dropped the excellent Considered Dead – Erosion of Sanity was still a year away, and Obscura a full 6 years to come. Suffocation just released Effigy of the Forgotten, but that’s an entirely different animal. Who was left, Atheist?

So questions as to why Colomesis appeared to be “ahead of (a very bad) curve” linger, but the bottom line is, this was released during the very heyday of death metal, right around the scene’s apotheosis. Within a year or two, things would more or less fall apart at the seams and listeners (and record labels) would abandon the style in droves, either to Norwegian shores to hail the advent of black metal or to walk away from metal entirely for at a bare minimum the remainder of the decade (which was exactly what happened here in the States, and left its mark on many a metal band’s career and sound thereafter, cross genre).

But this was still 1992, not 1993 or 1994. The scene still had life in it (ironic turn of phrase in relation to death metal, that), and some fairly well defined boundaries. No mistaking the Florida bands vs. the Buffalo scene (who still traveled down to Morrisound and Scott Burns for production duties), much less the Swedish scene, which played by a different set of rules entirely. And then there’s the grindcore folks, and those who emerged therefrom to prominence in a more accomplished death metal proper as their musicianship and polish increased proportionately.

Tell me, where the fuck does Viviseccion fit in all that?

Nowhere.

Next?

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EDxKEMPER – Cut Her Head And Love Her (March 13)

Speak of the devil. Grindcore, anyone?

Now, when I say every song sounds EXACTLY THE SAME, that’s hardly some major revelation for fans of the genre. Grindcore prides itself on a slavish regurgitation of a particular template as established by the likes of Napalm Death and Carcass, Terrorizer and (to a lesser extent) Repulsion, to the point where there are so many Carcass soundalikes floating around out there with the dual death growl/black snarl vox, short bursts of speed and gore-soaked lyrics you’d think that band was a whole hell of a lot more prolific than they ever actually were.

But this isn’t template. At all.

Again, super annoying screech/scream vox that hearken back to Hammercult or something, with an incredibly shitty punk snare sound (which sounds like someone beating on the side of an empty coffee tin) and highly overdriven/red zone distortion that makes any riffs present absolutely indistinguishable.

PASS!

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Endlos – Im Fallen Verlaufen (March 18)

Sort of surprised this didn’t hail from Prophecy, or perhaps even Svart or Eisenwald.

Sorrowful Teutonic affair that incorporates a lot of spoken word (in German, natch), midrange raspy growl-shriek vocals (male) and clean sprechtgesang female vox vaguely reminiscent of Kim Gordon in Sonic Youth over nylon string acoustic guitars that erupt into poorly produced, over-distorted guitar and drum sections.

In other words, it’s a fairly standard Germanic gothic doom cum post-black metal affair, leaning more heavily towards alt rock sensibilities than metal per se, despite all the sturm und drang that erupts every so often.

Fair enough for the style, but lacks the production and polish the average release on any of the aforementioned labels tend to demand of their acts.

Meh…neither good nor bad to any appreciable degree.

Your call.

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The Unhuman Thorn – Sacro-Kvltus Dementis (April 27)

Chilean one man black metal (leaning black death) act.

Guy goes by the hilarious nom du guerre of “Baal the Unhuman” – and recognize that when I typed that originally, it came out as “ball the unhuman” which makes it even funnier than it already was intrinsically…

Watain, Watain, why hast thou spawned so many inferior soundalikes?  Thou wert ne’er that fucking good in the first place, being something of a Gaahl/King Ov Hell-era Gorgoroth clone with Dark Funeral stylings on the guitar end…

That kind of says it all. If you really need yet another album in the virtual Watain library of “occult” Swedish style black metal with death elements peeking in there at points, Our Pal The Unhuman is no worse than any of ’em.

Regular readers already know how sick and tired I am of this particular style.

Next…

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While They Sleep – La Nausee (April 28)

Ponderously mournful Ukraine black metal in the vein of old pal Vardan, but with absolutely horrific production.

Take a few Vardan EPs and run them through a busted 1970’s vintage PA from your job or school’s supplies closet, and it will still probably sound a whole fuck of a lot better than this. Were they serious?

Ear-grating production aside, this is still a bit more aggro and driven than the Vardan comparison implies, and given how much we tend to enjoy his work, I’m sure While They Sleep could turn out a decent album in the style as well.

But they’ll have to hire a real producer first!

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Granada – PrisionEgo (April 29)

Oy.

Argentinian groove metal.

Yeah! Pantera! Viva Anselmo!

Not.

At least Granada throws some actual thrash elements into the mix, with some pretty cool riffs and speedy Bay Area sort of solos interrupting all the Vulgar Displays of Rubbish.

Oh, and there’s some decent production, likely related to their decision to record “live in studio” without samples or triggers. Either way, sounds pretty decent on that end.

My advice?

Lose the Pantera influence. Fast.

There’s a much better band hiding behind all that Anselmo/Dimebag love.

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Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus – Madness Incarnate EP (May 16)

USBM of the sorta Wolves in the Throne Room school of thought.

Not bad at all, musically speaking. I’d have really liked this one were it not for the lousy vox, which are too screechy and distorted in the mix to be so front and center as they are.

Even the keyboard bits, while somewhat overly prominent, don’t offend. Best track first (“traversing the frozen north”) – the others, while not bad, don’t even try to live up to its glories.

Nothing a bit of proper mixing and/or re-recorded vocals couldn’t fix lickety split.

Get it for “traversing”, but you may want to give it a spin first to see if the rest appeals even half so well.

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Nulla+ – Stornelli Distopici (May 19)

Italian blackthrash. Sadly, vox ascribe to this annoying new trend of overdriven, neo-industrial processing that buries them under scratchiness and hiss. I just keep thinking of that act that shared the “chant of the barbarian wolves” split with Satanic Warmaster, though they may be symptomatic of the problem rather than the genesis thereof.

Either way, it’s fucking annoying.  Please stop doing this, people.

You know, they even share a similar production on the band end to that aforementioned act.

Sheesh.

Next…

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Orobas – Arise In Impurity EP (May 20)

Bangladeshi black-death. I’d say, for a change, that they actually lean closer to “death” than “black” in that equation, which is an unusual plus in their favor.

I wouldn’t exactly say they made a fan out of me here. But it’s surprisingly listenable, the riffs are simple and straightforwardly old school and the whole EP feels much akin to the earlier blackened thrash end of the black metal movement. A tad South American stylistically, perhaps?

There were some interesting folk bits thrown in that felt kind of Greek in origin, and bringing Rotting Christ to mind is always a good thing. Then they close matters out by covering Venom. Nice touch.

I’ll give ’em the horns up in the hopes they get a full length out soon. This was pretty decent, and by what appear to be Symbol of Domination’s standards?  Practically a masterpiece.

Worth a listen to be sure.

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Spit The Blood – S/T (May 22)

Weird. This is the second thrash/groove crossover I’ve encountered here, this time from Greece.

The production seriously blows, sounding like it was recorded live if not under a heavy batch of wet blankets, but it’s still beefy and has some degree of clarity beneath all the mutedness – none of this bullshit we keep hitting where everything’s bleeding into the red on the levels and so much distortion you can’t pick out the original instrument tone.

Should I revise that statement, then?

“Could have been respectable production if not recorded under a boarding house worth of wet blankets.” How’s that?

The band leans a LOT heavier towards the thrash end this time around, so much so that you could almost just call them “thrash” per se, bar the gravelly shouted vox. Think Max Cavalera live and you’ll get the basic idea…and nobody challenged their thrash credentials.

In fact, some Biohazard-esque hardcore tendencies aside (still not a bad thing to say there), I’ll go so far as to compare them straight up to a sort of Sepultura analogue, at least in the Beneath the Remains era or thereabouts. Remember that live reworking of “antichrist” as “anticop” that showed up on Arise? Spit the Blood is playing sort of along those lines.

Hey, I was a huge fan of the original Brazilian blackened thrash scene back in the day (and in Sepultura’s case, later thrash cum death metal), so I have zero complaints here.

Could stand with a proper remastering and a better producer next time around.

Otherwise, give props to the best thing the Cavalera brothers (didn’t) release in decades.

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Acoustic Anomaly – Dominvs. Tinea (May 23)

Russian stoner metal, more or less. They self-identify as “post-metal”, whatever that means, but think stoner or stoner doom and you’ll get the idea.

There’s some alternative to their sound, and a healthy inflection of folkish traditional instrumentation peppering the mix, but yeah, this could easily play at a trippy generator party without too many folks turning their heads.

Nothing wrong with it, didn’t set me on fire.

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Dizziness / Lord Impaler / Hell Poemer – Carved By The Winds Eternal (Split) (May 25)

This is an all-Greek split of a trio of black metal acts.

Dizziness comes first, and kicks off with a track that plays very much by the Satanic Warmaster rulebook both vocally and musically (“goddess of the moon”), which gives them a major check mark towards the positive in my book. They’re a bit more folkish and mournful than anthemically melodic in tone, but it’s clearly walking the same grim roads as Finland’s finest. Nice.

Unfortunately, they misstep somewhat with their unpronounceable to English tongues second track (your guess on that title is as good as mine, have at it). It’s not terrible, but far less atmospheric and evocative. A serious letdown in tone and style after the grandeur of “goddess”.

Lord Impaler is up next, and they’re working more of a Norwegian sort of thing bordering on Swedish but never quite going “Norsecore” either. It’s that strain of unimpressive late 90’s/early millenium Nordic black metal that bands like, say, Ancient tended to put out. I’d say 1349, Tsjuder or post-Euronymous Mayhem as well, but it’s more generic than the latter and not as Norsecore as the first two.

Even their cover of “call from the grave” kinda sucks – didn’t sound like Bathory in the least. Overall? Very bland and unimpressive, if listenable for the type.

Hell Poemer has a bit more individual character and feels a tad more Rotting Christ in the spastic yet very trad metal-oriented riffing, though the prominent if quirky keyboards bring it somewhere else entirely. The guitarist is pretty decent, actually crafting proper solos with structured individual phrases. If it didn’t start off with Dizziness’ “goddess of the moon”, the standout track of this split would easily have been “the sacral knot of heirophant”.

“My dreams will stay frozen on the mountains” gives the keyboards even more prominence and strays straight into Magica territory, with just a hint of Gloomy Grim to offset all the gothic/symphonic metalness of the affair. Personally, I loved Lightseeker (and to a lesser extent, Hereafter), so this worked for me as well…just didn’t feel very black metal in the end.

Taken on the whole, this is a very strong split that shows the contemporary Greek black metal scene in a positive light: even the least of the acts here (cough Lord Impaler) isn’t exactly lightweight fluff, with nary a Watain wannabe in sight.

Horns up, to be sure.

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Wormreich / Diabolus Amator / Gravespawn / Vesterian – Infirmos Vocat Deus Fidei (Split) (May 28)

Four way split on a wolfpack of USBM acts.

Wormreich starts things off strong with “feeding the ouroboros”, which almost feels Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten-era Judas Iscariot with a stronger Norwegian bent.

Unfortunately, the band then falls flat on their collective ass with a poorly produced nigh-rehearsal session recording of “to render the right hand” and the boring dirge “terra mortuorum”, none of which sound like any of the rest.

First track was strong, anyway…

Then Virginians Diabolus Amator chime in almost literally with their rehearsal space-style recording of some seriously underground snarly-vox over a more boring Watain-like ringing open chord dirge. That explodes into Norsecore for a bit. Then back to Watain.

Somebody explain what the eeeeeeevil vocals are doing amidst all this decidedly Eurotrash crap music? They could have adorned something much more interesting than this

Next up, Gravespawn. Damn, Rob Darken enough on the vocals? Well, fine by me regardless. The music is more anthemic/melodic with tremelo riffed themes, creating some heretofore unseen bridge between Taake and Satanic Warmaster in that respect.

They lean a bit too far towards the pagan (and therefore Taake) for my taste, but no denying that they stand head and shoulders above the other bands on this split, even with that lousy live track appended on for no reason whatsoever.

Then we close matters on North Carolina’s Vesterian, who are still sort of working the Darken vox, though not as precisely as Gravespawn. It’s like Darken was gargling a shitload of Chocomel or something. Maybe “Vertigo” (seriously, that’s the guy’s chosen pseudo) was downing brandy alexanders before the recording session, I dunno.

They’re kind of like a more idiosyncratic version of Lord Impaler on the last split, less in terms of stylistic considerations than in their sheer Laodicean meh-ness. Not bad, but at the same time, really, who cares? Not impressed, sorry, guys.

If you’re gonna get this one, do it for “feeding the ouroboros” and the Gravespawn tracks, but it’s kinda hit and miss overall.

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Harvest – Omnivorous EP (May 31)

Panama gives us a strange thrash act who lean a bit too modern and groove for my taste. There’s even a few sorta death metal riffs floating around in there, but none of it actually worksparticularly with those awful aggro vocals.

Next?

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Fortid – The Demo Sessions (May 25)

Norwegian pagan metal. Not bad, definitely bears some mark of quality to it despite the hollow production, which later turns thin and hissy, then gets a little upgrade but still sounds thin in tone, then goes all muted under blankets, but turns surprisingly clear and full sounding despite that. Then it flips back and forth on the last few tracks – if every track doesn’t sound different from the one before it, then every second one does for sure.

So you guessed it, that means this is a compilation of recording sessions from Thule mainman Einar “Eldur” Thorberg – “sessions”, not “demos” in the sense of “this is all the cool stuff they did before the band got signed”.

This is the band working out ideas that hadn’t made it to albums till now, and there’s something to be said for that too…just don’t expect a “demo album” (which can sometimes be pointless, but tend to be fairly essential in the underground metal scene).

Well, I love those Thule demos, so it’s no surprise that one of his later acts would be producing music of this level of accomplishment.

It’s not as interesting as Thule, nor as “underground” in tone, but this is clearly “professional” music from experienced musicians. Doesn’t always translate to quality material, but does generally indicate excellence of performance, so take that into account.

I was hardly set on fire here, but appreciated the jump in musicianship from the splits and such I’d been listening to and reviewing prior to this (which was both jarring and dramatic).

Your call.

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Isgärde – Jag Enslig Skall Gå (May 26)

Swedish black metal that veers between ambient and pagan-folk orientation.

Again, respectable and certainly has its moments. Some of the more “cascadian” elements lean towards the distinctly majestic – the midpoint of “thousand scars” really moved me. Then he shifted gears and wrecked the mood entirely.

He does that a lot.

Consider this the metaphorical little girl with a curl.

When “Somath” was good, he was very, very good.

You can guess the rest.

Okay, okay, he never got that bad. More unspectacular. 

Let’s close with the summation that the album certainly has its moments, and leave it at that.

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Ribbons Of Euphoria – S/T (May 27)

Greek retro/stoner 70’s rock. They tap equally into stuff like early Sabbath and the less bombastic Deep Purple and more straight ahead material like Grand Funk and Cream.

You get the idea: Hammond-style keyboard, occasional flute, fuzz guitar, muted but busy drums and druggy singalong choruses falling somewhere between “child in time” and “the wizard” if not “the white room”.

But then there’s a sort of Santana-esque jazzy section in “a jester and the queen” that brings matters somewhere else entirely. How about that early Rod Stewart/Faces harmonica and guitar thing in “the druids are rising”? Or the Gentle Giantisms of “smokin’ and spittin'”?  It gets a bit less straightforward as you progress here.

I guess if you had to peg ’em, I’d say think Cream.

Not bad for what they’re shooting for – sounds rather authentic, in fact, and very close to the template right down to the production.

But I only liked Clapton in the Yardbirds, personally.

Not bad at all – in fact, that’s a decided understatement, they’re damn good – and definitely the sort of thing Rise Above might be interested in adding to the roster.

Give ’em the props they so clearly earned here.


So overall, it appears that Satanath Records is the way to go.
There’s a level of quality in performance and production that tends to run across the board, where even the less likeable acts bear some notable measure of polish and the best of them border on the truly outstanding.

While Symbol of Domination does certainly have its merits every now and again, they seem to take more chances on less developed acts, and focus more on stylistic variants and sub-subgenre outliers that just don’t work to these seasoned ears. Think of this label as the farm team, where possible new talent can be groomed for better things or play themselves out as a never was.

Good strategy, and probably why the main label bears so many heavy hitters…but recognize that when you tackle the sub label, you’re more or less playing with half a deck going in.  Use a little caution and look before you leap.

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