AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING – THE COMFORTING GRIP OF MISERY, ANTE-INFERNO - FANE, APOLLO STANDS - MINDS (FEBRUARY 28), ARGESK – REALM OF ETERNAL NIGHT, ARX ATRATA – THE PATH UNTRAVELLED, BLACKENED DEATH RECORDS, Clobber Records, Comatose Music, DEADSPAWN – PESTILENCE REBORN, DOMINIA - THE WITHERING OF THE ROSE, ENGUTTURALMENT CEPHALOSLAMECTOMY – GLAM NOT SLAM, GAYLORD – WINGS OF THE JOYFUL, Gore House Productions, GOREVENT - FATE, INVERTED MATTER - DETACH, LETHAL SCISSOR RECORDS, MORNING STAR HEATHENS MUSIC GROUP, OATH OF DAMNATION – FURY AND MALEVOLENCE, Plague Pit - Labyrinthine, PURULENT NECROSIS – CADAVERIZED HUMANITY, Pythia - "Hold Of Winter", SOULPHERNUS, THE MEDEA PROJECT - SISYPHUS, third eye cinema podcast, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE – A RESTING PLACE FOR THE WRATHFUL, UKEM RECORDS
It’s been a few days since we spoke, and while we enjoyed a few operas (check the Facebook page) and the nation and globe at large continue to increase their crackdowns on social isolation…Trump and friends are suddenly pushing to get everyone back to work, as in one week from today. Yay, mass deaths! Profits over people, every time, that’s the folks WE need in government, right?
Yeah. Bring the torches, kids. It’s getting about that time, we can’t let these pieces of crap keep steamrolling over us, or it’ll just keep getting worse.
Power to the people.
Selah, so mote it be.
Well, it’s grindcore, and the modern sort driven more by pig noises and generic detuned guitar/drum unison rhythms than the old Carcass double voiced/Napalm Death really short “song” but recognizably (and occasionally memorably – see Repulsion) riffed iteration thereof.
The only thing you can possibly offer as “well, they’ve got this going for them, anyway…” is the obvious sense of humor that drives this. “worthless intro you will skip”? Indeed.
Knocks on far softer toned bands like Def Leppard, KISS, Skid Row and Toto (“pour some pitriffs on me”, “knights in slammin’ service”, “8.1.2. and life”, “I bless the slams down in Africa”) hint at similar and better jokiness to be found beneath such monikers, but no such luck, just more of that ol’ Deliverance “squeal like a pig, boy!” bullshit. Snore.
Sorry to say, there’s really nothing positive to offer here.
Let’s see what’s next on the menu, shall we?
OATH OF DAMNATION – FURY AND MALEVOLENCE (GORE HOUSE PRODUCTIONS) (MARCH 13)
Aussie black/death of the tech variety.
As such, while lyrics, snarly vox, blastbeats and cover certainly adhere to the black metal playbook, this is far from what’s usually conjured up when someone refers to “black death”.
Instead of the usual Watain/Gaahl era Gorgoroth to Behemoth nonsense (or even the more listenable if still pretty generic Marduk/Dark Funeral/Belphegor end of the scale), these guys are working a hyperaggressive tech death thing instrumentally, with busy but tight riffs that come off more akin to Atheist by way of Nile on crystal meth than anything else.
The playing is far more precise (and therefore less interesting of a ride) than edge of your seat concerns like Grotesque or even Necrophobic, but it’s still pretty fast and crazy for (modern) death metal…and pretty off the beam for black metal or black/death.
Tag in some symphonic sampled vocal choir keyboard stings at the open of tracks like “ardenti haereticus”, and there’s at least some feel of uniqueness, something different from the same old, same old to recommend these guys.
Will we still be talking about ’em 6 months to a year from now? Nah.
But for the moment? Sure, this may well pass the time admirably enough.
GAYLORD – WINGS OF THE JOYFUL (BLACKENED DEATH RECORDS) (MARCH 20)
“I love neofolk and I love black metal, but I absolutely despise how both have become breeding grounds for hateful ideologies.”
So speaketh the man behind this one man bedroom black metal band, which incorporates plenty of the old acoustic breaks between a dark and throbbing, almost old school second wave approach to black metal.
There are moments that pulse like vintage Mayhem (“wings of the joyful”), others that come off in the more spastically traditional riff-driven style of Rotting Christ (“the first to die”), still others that suggest an almost first wave feel (“devils from the black” comes off more than a tad Bulldozeresque). They even get that swarming bees atonality of Necrophobic, Centurian or At the Gates on the title track…all delivered in a rather early Graveland-style tortured snarl.
Am I totally enamored of this? No, not really. But it shows a lot of promise for a one man band with a joke name, much less one done by, however well intentioned, a virtue signalling PC type (apparently he’s not even gay, it’s just a show of solidarity with that community.)
Look up Alan Moore and the Mirror of Love, and how he was treated for creating it and donating all profits to GLAAD, and you’ll get a hint of why I feel the way I do about this sort of thing, however well intentioned.
Nobody wants to band together for a common cause as fellow outsiders and rebels against society anymore…these days it’s all been shunted into partitioned purity test driven identity politics bullshit.
And that’s where y’all lost me, and anyone else with a brain.
Misguided do gooder schtick aside, yeah, this one’s well worth checking out, see if it grabs ya.
APOLLO STANDS – MINDS (FEBRUARY 28)
Interestingly, these guys consider themselves “melodic metalcore”.
Now, I had to think about that, given what I was hearing (which often approached a more standard power metal feel, otherwise leaning towards the more generic “modern metal” or that super broad and somewhat fictitious “NWOAHM” classification.
Big guitars, melodic lead lines and wah-driven solos, keyboards and a sort of radio friendly industrial electronic nonsense filling the soundscape…and what really belies the metalcore label, not only don’t they follow the Killswitch/At the Gates derived template very closely, but very seldom does frontman Ry Hase ever fall back on the lazy/career shortening tonsil waggling and throat polyp developing screamo bullshit.
Sure, he does it on “fired up” and “titan”…but that’s four full songs of actual singing, as if Howard Jones were back in Killswitch and not devolving during the verses.
…well, OK, not that good, nor does he have Jones’ inimitably booming baritone to his credit…it’s more like All that Remains’ all too rare clean sung sections. But a whole four songs worth of ’em, without a hint of the screaming!
As such, I was pretty good with these guys. Not exactly on the level of an Adam D production sonically or in terms of sheer band quality, nor was it that likeably template metalcore in the sense of the first In this Moment or Agonist albums…but I really appreciated the reliance on actual singing for a change.
THE MEDEA PROJECT – SISYPHUS (MARCH 20)
Two man South African act billed as “gothic doom”, if you can picture such a thing. Of course, that’s a bit of a misnomer…
There’s a strong stoner doom vibe to this, partially driven by the bass-like detuned guitar tone and the nearly sludge gravelly grunge style vocal howls, but it’s not exactly Sleep or Conan either…more akin to something like Acid King or Turkey Vulture.
Look, it’s effectively stoner doom (with strong sludge elements, in case you didn’t pick that up), so I’m good.
Just don’t walk in thinking you’re going to get Moonspell or something…”gothic doom”? Where the hell did anyone get that idea?
TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE – A RESTING PLACE FOR THE WRATHFUL (COMATOSE MUSIC) (MARCH 27)
Somewhere between grindcore and “brutal death” (you know, the obsessive “all Suffocation, all the time” fanboys) comes this buzzing swarm of bees with pinch harmonics and Deliverance pig noise vox, switching tempos and keys at random points for no apparent reason (“ochlocratic prostration” being a perfect example).
Now jump direct from the aforementioned track to “the locard principle”.
Did you even realize the track had changed, much less that you’d jumped several tracks ahead in the album?
…your honour, I rest my case.
…next on the docket?
GOREVENT – FATE (COMATOSE MUSIC) (FEBRUARY 7)
Wait, this is the second grindcore act talking about “slam”, as in “brutal slam”. Is this a thing now?
Seriously, the last time I heard that term was with crossover acts like Gothic Slam (of “who died and made you God?” fame). It referred to that sort of punk meets metal thing like DRI, MOD, the Cro Mags and Agnostic Front were throwing down.
So how is this obvious grindcore, with a theoretical (if completely unheard herein) crossover into the Suffocation circle jerk that is “brutal death metal”, somehow relating itself to that?
Sorry, I’m not hearing it.
Anyway, these guys hail from Japan, and throw down some actual (if simplistic) death metal riffs in the sense of the faster Autopsy or even Acheron.
Not a lot to hang the incessant bowel belches on, admittedly, but at least it’s not the boring mush you tend to get with grindcore these days, eschews the pig noises associated thereto (for the most part) and skips all the Suffocation pinch harmonics and spazzy atonal riffs and leads (overall…both offenses do pop up in the album’s worst track, “fate”).
To the extent they skip the cliches and just drop slow and grinding riffing with the vomit vox, yeah, I could file this with stuff like Anatomia and Incantation without much complaint.
Better than some of the other stuff we’ve reviewed thus far, that’s for sure!
Pythia – “Hold Of Winter”
Femme fronted symphonic metal. Vocals are a bit lighter, more desperate feeling than you’d expect and prominently gasp for air between each phrase, which evokes more of a Triaxis vibe than the intended Epica/Nightwish/After Forever thing they were likely shooting for.
That said, vocals are pleasant enough (if you can see past that awkward inhalation closing every phrase) and the band themselves are working a machine gun riffing and blastbeat approach that brings Echoes of Eternity’s Forgotten Goddess to mind…just nowhere near that polished or laid back.
Again, these guys are clearly pushing it, driving too hard for their own good and leaving the listener feeling on edge when they should be siren calls to draw one in, riffs and production feeling decidedly jagged when they should be smooth and winning.
It’s more a case of a band who need to drop the caffeine and light up or take a valium than one who doesn’t have the right stuff.
Chill out, be more confident, find a better producer. I have faith in ya.
You have this one.
ARGESK – REALM OF ETERNAL NIGHT (CLOBBER RECORDS) (APRIL 17)
Geez, I kicked off this one with “drowned in freezing waters”, and for a good 35 seconds, I was under the delusion this would be an AMAZING album. Driving, mournful, melodic and multitracked tremelo guitars, a cold, bombastic feel…damn, this should be awesome!
Then in comes Isahn, Jr. shrieking away like a lunatic, occasionally belching oddly, at times screaming like a straitjacketed patient in a rubber room.
Holy fuck, why do all you bastards love Emperor so much?
Can’t you accept the fact that they suck some serious ass?
And people bitch about Cradle of Filth because of Dani…sorry, but those first few albums are fantastic, and I pull them out regularly.
Dump the frontman, or just market this to Emperor fanboys. There seem to be enough of ’em, for whatever ungodly reason.
Plague Pit – Labyrinthine (SEPTEMBER 2019)
Weird black/death outfit with a vague thing for Necrophobic crossed uncomfortably with a bit of Watain worship and some out in left field Finnish death metal business. None of it meshes, and then there’s the nigh-Charles Ives 10 car smashup that is “feverish stupor”…
(dramatically pinched nose, while other hand holds CD far away by the fingertips like a fresh, moist little sandwich baggie of dog shit)
I’m actually turning green, here. Next?
SOULPHERNUS – S/T (Clobber Records) (September 13, 2019)
oh, look, someone discovered Inquisition string bends as riffs (“sztandar lucyfera”). Yawn.
That aside, this is noisy blastbeat driven business with deeper death growl vox and a thin toned, mids heavy and mixed far too upfront Marshall stack guitar that strays between a bouncy Eastern European feel ala Masters Hammer, Root or Tormentor and awkwardly speedy chaos.
It’s not bad, it’s certainly quirky enough…just doesn’t have the same appeal as any of the aforementioned bands.
I guess in the end it reminded me of weirder Belgian and Austrian acts like Mordicus or Messiah, if not even more bizarre than that.
And there’s certainly something to be said for plain old weird in an overcrowded field of soundalikes.
I kinda liked it.
AND NOW THE OWLS ARE SMILING – THE COMFORTING GRIP OF MISERY (CLOBBER RECORDS) (NOVEMBER 1, 2019)
Depressive Cascadian “atmospheric black metal” style bombast, all odes to nature and wide forest and mountain expanses.
You know I’m there already.
It’s a one man band out of Norfolk, the vox are pretty raw and the guitars are overly thin if multitracked and droning in all their tremelo driven riffing and sadly melodic leads…but such emotional, moving material!
Again…this is my kind of thing.
You should already know if this speaks to you as well.
ARX ATRATA – THE PATH UNTRAVELLED (OCTOBER 11, 2019)
And here we have yet another of these one man bedroom black metal bands out of the UK working the “atmospheric” sound, this time more polished and “professional sounding” than And Now the Owls are Smiling…but while certainly on the right track, it doesn’t bear the same degree of appeal.
In fact, not by a long shot.
So what’s missing, here? It’s certainly better produced…didn’t like the vox, but are they really that much more abrasive than Owls? Is it the more laid back, open space riffing? The symphonic elements like the string section in the title cut and the far more prominent keyboards?
Who knows. All I can offer is, there’s no reason this one shouldn’t appeal to fans of the style…but no, it really didn’t do anything for me, where And Now the Owls are Smiling hit all the right buttons along the way.
Check ’em both out and decide for yourself.
DEADSPAWN – PESTILENCE REBORN (JANUARY 11)
Sort of a darker Belphegor with unfortunate sliding atonal riff elements swiped from earlier Dark Funeral, these Arizona dust devils work an aggressively death-oriented black/death that borders on tech and swipes some pinch harmonics and glissando sweeps from Suffocation to boot.
It’s overly aggressive, but that’s not the issue…it’s the atonality that underpins all this back and forth Dark Funeralesque nonsense, particularly in tracks like “this ascension”, “limits of flesh” or major portions of “the plague within”.
Listenable for the general type, but too over the top and overreliant on elements that should be eschewed.
DOMINIA – THE WITHERING OF THE ROSE (MORNING STAR HEATHENS MUSIC GROUP) (JANUARY 20)
A really weird Russian take on gothic metal with trumpet (“the song that you don’t like”), violin and other unusual elements.
It’s quite awkward, with a vocal and violin approach that would fit pretty well in a more Projekt darkwave act like Rasputina or Mors Syphilitica…but which often chooses more aggressive death metal or blackened tremelo riffing instead.
Well…it’s certainly sad!
But it’s probably not going to wind up played at your local goth club night, no.
PURULENT NECROSIS – CADAVERIZED HUMANITY (COMATOSE MUSIC) (NOVEMBER 1, 2019)
North Carolina grindcore leaning heavily “brutal death metal” act.
Pig noises, atonality, grossout lyrics, blastbeats, riffs that blur one into the next ala Suffocation, check, check, check.
hmm? you were saying?
yeah, whatever. Trash. Next?
INVERTED MATTER – DETACH (LETHAL SCISSOR RECORDS) (DECEMBER 2019)
How ironic is it, with an entire genre packed to the gills with slavish imitators of Suffocation and no other band even exists (“brutal death metal”) that no less than Mike Smith himself, sticksman behind the first two of four albums that defined said band and its legacy (career high point Effigy of the Forgotten and the troubled Breeding the Spawn…he was already gone by the time they fixed Breeding’s production woes for Pierced from Within and the excellent Despise the Sun EP) comes out with a new death metal band…
…and drumming aside, they sound nothing like Suffocation.
So prepare yourself for some of that restlessly jaw dropping stickswork only Smith can bring to the table, alongside Desultory-esque croak vox and mids-heavy toned riffs and solos that speak more to an awkward if somewhat tech leaning death metal ala James Murphy‘s Disincarnate than Smith’s famed former act.
Honestly, the rest of the band, while not exactly awful are pretty forgettable, and I wasn’t very impressed with what I heard here…except for that fucking drumming!
Damn, I missed Mike Smith.
And apparently, so do these guys! He’s already jumped ship since this album originally dropped in 2017…oh, well.
Check this out for Smith, he’s as amazingly crazed as ever.
ANTE-INFERNO – FANE (UKEM RECORDS) (MAY 1)
After a few wasted tracks (“fane”, “oath”) this UK band finally finishes their long tea break and straps on their instruments to deliver some sweeping, expansive and droning black metal of an “atmospheric” “Cascadian” bent.
“Passing” kicks things off on a reasonably good foot, “return” keeps the ball rolling more or less…then another wasted ambient track (“absence”) and the album’s one true stinker (“worship”), before closing on its defining moment.
Seriously…I was lucky enough to start the album on “fragments”, it’ll close the album for most of you. Don’t even bother with the rest, just jump right to this track.
If you don’t want more after sitting through the 7 1/2 minutes of that majesty, I don’t know what to say for ya.