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How’s everyone holding up through this long hunker down?  We’re doing surprisingly well, actually.

Life seems almost normal, even my generally cabin fever climb the walls prone wife has appeared to adapt to the new paradigm with shocking ease.  The days tend to blur into one another, but honestly, they always did.  Less pressure, less expenditure, more R&R, what’s not to love?

Well, yeah, there’s a major fucking plague raging outside, it’s all Masque of the Red Death meets Love in the Time of Cholera by way of the Spanish Flu epidemic of the early 20s, right down to the makeshift field hospitals and Florence Nightingales. Whistle through the mass graveyard all you will, it’s the end of the world as we knew it.

But right now, like a straight, far less SJW Michael Stipe, “…(but) I feel fine.”

So in the spirit of Ringing the Changes ala Robert Aickman, let’s all celebrate with the most appropriate genre of music to the situation.

Now’s the time, now’s the place, now’s the weather.

The living and the dead, dance together.

Brace for a deep dip, and try not to take too strong a breath.

Death Courier – Necrotic Verses (Transcending Obscurity Records) (June 5)

A rather nice Dan Seagravesque cover (quite reminiscent of Gorguts’ classic Considered Dead, in fact) conceals what is in many ways something of a throwback to much better days for death metal, though not without some unmistakably modern flaws.

This is what would at first glance appear to be Greece’s nomination for one of those demo act obscurities being unearthed by several of that nation’s labels (and to a lesser extent, one or two domestically as well), vintage acts whose only crime was coming around in far more challenging times for getting signed and released…or just as often, for pulling themselves to some measure of prominence a few years too late, only to find themselves marooned in a sea of shitty grunge acts and utter disinterest from label and audience alike.

With a good 5 or 6 demos and an EP, these guys kicked around from ’87-’92 before  finally releasing their sole album Demise in ’92 and folding thereafter. So far, fits the sadly typical scheme.

But then sole founding member “Bill” (vocals/bass) decided to reform the band
20 years on with new members (to be fair, the original guitarist passed on right
around that time, so a true reunion may not even have been an option). Oy, we all know how these tend to go.

So what do we get from the “new version”, who’ve managed to crank out only two albums (present company inclusive) over the past decade?

Well, there’s a hint of Morbid Angel riffing and that annoyingly incessant blastbeat drumming, which seems to be de rigeur these days. Sure, folks loved Morbid Angel back then, but jeez, it wasn’t all about Morbid, Suffocation and those loser shock rock hacks in Cannibal Corpse, kids…in fact, nobody much cared about the latter two (CC was regarded as something of a joke, in fact). Enough, already.

There is an odd sameness that sets in here, though. It’s almost as relaxing and predictable as Considered Dead in that respect, where little changes from song to song and the entire album feels very much of a piece. The riffing can be somewhat winning when not working too hard at aping Azagthoth and Brunelle, and the guitar tone is just on the right side of crunchy, though the production oddly favors an overly mids-heavy, too thin tonality overall. Vox are just right, somewhere between Patrick Mameli and Luc Lemay in their throaty tenor growl.

On the whole, this comes off sounding (and from that cover, even looking!) decidedly vintage, and there’s quite a bit going for it…if only they’d went with a beefier tone and production approach, and slowed down on the modernistic “worship one or two bands and regurgitate” schtick that marks far too many acts nowadays.

Overall? I really liked this one.

A few relatively minor tweaks, and this’d be nearly a classic.

HENRY KANE – Age of the Idiot  (Transcending Obscurity Records) (May 22)

We’d covered this one man bedroom band project for Den Förstörda Människans Rike four years back, and really didn’t get the grindcoresque wall of nonstop noise warfare on display.

As noted, this is a solo venture from the revived Wombbath’s frontman Jonny Petterson, but it’s a far cry from what you’ll hear over that way.

The only positive we can offer here is that the man must have heard a lot of negative feedback, because it’s right there in the PR writeup:

“(the new album) proves that there’s more to this band’s music than just an intimidating wall of sound banging against you repeatedly.”

And yes, there are actual variations to be found herein, mostly of the folky, Taake-esque bounce variety, but you’ll also encounter some outright midtempo breakdowns, some straight up black metal moments and other bits of business intended to, if nothing else, break up the monotony of tuneless grind bashing.

Still didn’t like it one bit.

But it certainly shows major improvement over the utter shite we were given last time around.

NOCTU – Gelidae Mortis Imago (Transcending Obscurity Records) (May 8)

Weirdly dark, organ driven and sinister sounding symphonic black metal, so often vocal free as to suggest an oddly grim variant of dungeon synth…but then come a few tracks with (occasional) black metal croaks, and suddenly it’s a cross between Abhor and Vardan or something.

So is it “atmospheric suicidal symphonic black metal”? Italian horror movie soundtrack (check out the piano bits, like opener “suididio al chiaro di luna”) gone the Mortiis-derived route of “dungeon synth”? Yes. No. A bit of all, actually.

Well, it’s interesting, it certainly sets a very dark and evil mood…you may well enjoy this one if you’re a fan of the aforementioned acts, Mortuary Drape or similarly satanic sounding Italian first wave black metal…but it crosses too many previously unrelated genres, hits too many buttons all at once to really sit comfortably in the palate.

Yeah, I sort of liked most of this…next time skip the vocals, the rest should gel.

Xpus – In Umbra Mortis Sedent (Transcending Obscurity Records) (April 24)

And here’s another one with a Considered Deadlike Dan Seagravesque cover. Nice touch.

Unfortunately the band blessed with said cover is generic at best.  While leaning more old school death metal than not, the sound is akin to Immolation crossed with Acheron, while less engaging or winning than either.

Production is pretty muddy on the guitars and drums, while becoming oddly clear for the reverb and echo-washed vocals, themselves prone to an acceptable but unimpressive croak-growl. The riffs are so unengaging as to come off black metal (or perhaps more to the point, black/death), but it’s arguable.

The fact is these guys adhere to a low rent, simplistic approach that really stands out in no way whatsoever – think Acheron without the Church of Satan connections and angle. Remember how “Vincent Crowley” (and Glen Benton, for that matter) used to go on that kook Bob Larson’s show to troll and debate him on a semi regular basis? He wouldn’t even bother having these guys on, that’s how snoozeworthy this one turns out to be.

It’s inoffensive and feels sort of old school, if by no means as much as the excellent album cover would suggest.

But trust me, it’s nothing to get yourselves all worked up over.

LIVE BURIAL – Unending Futility (Transcending Obscurity Records) (April 3)

Terrible, thin toned and trebly hiss prone (under)production is the unfortunate order of the day for this old school-leaning death metal band out of the UK.

Nearly every song kicks off with what appears to be a powerful build in the vintage Death vein, but then falls into a more speedy than the band is capable of navigating breakneck pace that falls utterly apart under the horrible production and wah pedal set to the middle mids heavy guitar tone.

Vox don’t help, being more screechy than “Evil Chuck” ever was, and more nasty than close analogues like Morgoth, Autopsy or the recent Gruesome. The paper thin, scratchy sounding guitar is bad enough, the vocals worse, but put them together under this (lack of) production? P-U!

Sadly, while the riffs often fail where they should soar and drop into low gear when they should at least deliver a driving, chugging midtempo pace throughout, none of this is a major problem.

In fact, all of it would fall into place, even seem like minor quibbling, were this given a Scott Burns level production, something with clarity, power and full bodied heft.  At the very least, Live Burial would come off like an early Morgoth clone, and who’s complaining about them?

In desperate need of a quality remaster, this one comes with some very qualified positives, and a recommendation to lean on strengths shown herein (the powerful intros, the midtempo chug where present, the early Death vibe) and drop or ameliorate the failings (the overly fast bits, the awful production).

Next time, these guys could come back for an easy raised horns salute, it won’t take all that much tweaking on their part.

MEDIUM – S/T  (Transcending Obscurity Records) (March 6)

Crust punk gone death metal. -Ish.

Busy if basic gallop prone drumming that barely changes a whit from track to track, crunchy HM-2 Swedeath distortion and vomit vox.

Essentially? High school garage band crossover crust punk gone (blackened) metal.

Listenable for the type, but nothing you’re going to pull out regularly, that’s for sure.

INNARDS – Back From The Grave, Straight In Your Face (Transcending Obscurity Records) (February 21) 

Nasty sounding old school grindcore. At least these guys own up to what they’re doing, and do it well…this is far more Repulsion with touches of Carcass, Terrorizer and your average Necroharmonic release than it ever comes close to mainstream death metal (old school or modern).

Riffs are oddly memorable and distinguishable (there’s the Repulsion connection), there’s dual vomit/snarl vox (Napalm Death and Carcass) and interestingly, they even pull in Sodom and Kreator six stringer Frank Blackfire and Mantas/Death/Massacre frontman Kam Lee for one track.

Only three tracks, but well worth your attention, sirs…here’s hoping a full length continues on the surprising degree of promise shown herein!

WARDAEMONIC – Acts of Repentance (Transcending Obscurity Records) (March 20)

Oy, Aussie black metal.

You know, I certainly enjoy some cult cinema and classic television shows from Down Under (Biggles, anyone? How about Thirst or anything starring Chantal Contouri?). My father and I used to love the Paul Hogan show (years before he came to fame Stateside with the Crocodile Dundee films).

They had some rather rather good bands back in the New Wave days (Icehouse! The Church! Men Without Hats! Real Life! Men at Work! the list goes on…) Florida used to be filled with pretty, friendly blonde lasses from the Land Down Under, and Vanishing Point’s Chris Porcianko displayed a great sense of humor when we dropped questions about rabbits and vegemite on him during our interview a few years back.

Need I mention that Bon Scott, alongside Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, was my personal teenage hero, and led the only era of AC/DC I’ve ever acknowledged?

So why is it that the only time we get to refer to Australia in these pages, it’s with a clothespin to the nostrils and a grimace of distaste?

Oh, that’s right.

These days, it’s all about the gnarliest, most tuneless and overly aggressive blackened death metal (or as in this case, straight up atonal black metal). Just about zero percent of this shit is even listenable, much less good by any standards.

As Weird Scenes cohost Louis put it in our last podcast, who the hell is the audience for this stuff? Who do they market this shit to, do they actually expect to make any money or sales off of this utter noise?

Case closed, nuff said.