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And as the corpses begin to pile up in mortuaries, funeral homes, crematories, hospitals and morgues around the globe (seriously, there are news items about states having to hire refrigerated trucks just to store ’em all, there’s such a backlog), we can all laugh in the face of this new Black Death.

…or Red Death…or turn of the century epidemics of Spanish Flu, smallpox or encephalitis, if you prefer, with – you guessed it – yet another heaping helping of DEATH!

That’s right, we’ve got another big batch of (occasionally) primo death metal on tap for you tonight…appropriate for our times.

Stay indoors, stay as safe as your personal time on this plane of existence allows, and let’s dig in, n’est pas?

Once more into the breach!  Allons-y?

Voimaton – Demo 2019 (Blood Harvest) (November 1)

If someone gave Incantation or Grave an actual groove ala Obituary (or early Six Feet Under, for that matter) and dosed them with heavy rotations of Anatomia and Autopsy, you may well wind up with something along the lines of Voimaton, a three piece straight out of the Windy City.

This is some hefty shit, with a beefy tone and sluggish feel slathered in Craig Pillard-level deep death vocals and the aforementioned unusual if quite winning
propensity towards a vintage death metal groove.

There’s a lot of bands out there aping the classics and attempting to syncretize, to varying result. This is definitely one of the ones that works, and works well.

Definitely check it out if you dig any (much less all!) of the aforementioned, you should find yourselves pleasantly surprised.

Sartegos – O Sangue Da Noite (Blood Harvest / I Voidhanger) (November 29)

We’d covered this Spanish one man bedroom black/death band twice before,
for their split with Ysengrin and their split with countrymen Balmog, both times coming out better for the wear than his splitmates.

Here things haven’t changed all that much, as there’s still a bit of groove and movement to be found in the riffing beneath the usual boring tropes of the subgenre, and a further sinister yet quirky feel that evokes first wave oddities like Mortuary Drape or Masters Hammer. At times, there’s even a faint whiff of Rotting Christ, but blink and you’ll miss it. Try “solpor dos misterios” and see if you notice.

Still, one gets the general impression that this is a sound best served in short form and smaller doses – splits, EPs, singles. The longer form leaves Sartegos feeling like they’re pushing things, nearly wearing out their welcome before the last track rolls.

“Fish and visitors stink in three days,” Benjamin Franklin once sagely offered…and by the time you get to “arqueiro”, there’s a distinct feeling of evening of day 2, sunrise approaching over the horizon.

Worth a listen, see if this grabs ya…at least it’s different from the same old, same old.

Xantam – Altered State CD/12″ MLP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (December 13)

I really love that cover. Did I mention I really love that cover?

Xanathar the crusty old Beholder (or is he a Spectator? How many eye stalks is that again?) looks awful gleeful over all that player carnage in front of him…damn, what is he, the Vlad the Impaler of Beholderkin? I love that cover.

So first off. This is an EP (or as the label would have it, MLP). 2 tracks of likeably atmospheric and dark toned ambient dungeon synth and two of a speedy, blackened death metal.

The former are actually the strong points here, with the latter bringing a weird flavor of pagan/Viking harmonies to the otherwise somewhat generic proceedings. The title track fares far better than “pseudogods”, though they appear to have been recorded in completely different studios under different producers – the worse song sounds so much better than the more dramatic title cut in purely sonic terms.

Either way, neither track really matters. It’s apparent this one man black/death bedroom band is really a dungeon synth troll in disguise, and that’s where he really manages to shine.

Stick to what you do best and drop the mediocre (if admittedly still listenable) metal bits.

In Obscurity Revealed – Glorious Impurity CD/LP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (December 13)

ugh, is this boring shit, or what?

Uber-generic, noisy atonal black/death with a lot of speed and noise-leaning tremelo riffing out of Mexico.

We’d covered their 7″ Grim Fumes of Revelation several years back, and found the A-side far more interesting than the slower, more atonal B-side…but despite an insistence on keeping things running at a brisk pace here, the latter’s ugliest aspect seems to have crept very much to the fore.

As Weird Scenes cohost Louis said in our recent Coronavirus Special…who the hell is listening to this shit? Who is the audience for it? And how long are they really going to stick around playing this kind of thing?

A little bit of harmony, a dash of melodicism. Doesn’t take much to make
something memorable and even more dark and sinister than pointless irritating
noise ever could.

Blood Spore – Fungal Warfare Upon All Life CD/12″ MLP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (February 28)

Sinister sounding underground black/death act out of Philly, emphasis on the “morbid death”.

Some seriously snotty snarl/gargle vox and overly detuned guitars playing blackened riffs, simplistic drums that kick in to even more simplistic blastbeats…could be an easy pass, except for an unusually strong death metal feel that pops its head in every so often.

It’s basic, but has some strong doomy elements to it, offering an extremely tenuous kinship to the likes of Autopsy and Goatlord at times, most notably on the best foot forward opening salvo “hostile fruiting bodies”.

If all three tracks were more like that opener, this would be a much better review. As is, one pretty good track and some underlying tendencies save ’em from a toss into the hopper.

Phobophilic – Undimensioned Identities CD/12″ MLP (Blood Harvest) (February 28)

An interesting cross between a filthy sounding Finnish death metal and the nastier end of vintage domestic death – the usual suspects come to mind, like Incantation or Baphomet, but also many even lower tier acts, like you might find on the Necroharmonic roster.

And then you get some early Amorphislike melodically mournful leads on tracks like “synaptic vessel” and breakdowns that feel almost Swedeath (think more Carnage or Grave than Nihilist/Entombed or Dismember here)…yeah, this sounds pretty nice, huh?

Damn good stuff, and this out of North Dakota of all places?

Oh, no question, I liked this one.

Anthropophagous – Spoiled Marrow 7″ (Blood Harvest) (March 13)

And here’s an example of a band that has the right basic idea, chases after the same essential sound as several other bands praised in varying degrees tonight…and yet manages to miss the mark for the most part.

Bar one groove-driven old school death metal riff midway through “illness enthroned”? This one just doesn’t fucking work.

The production is crappy, most evident in the vox, which are buried well beneath the grinding guitar and snappy drums…not something you want to hear when it’s all throaty vomit vox. The end result is like the guy’s whispering amidst all the din.

Tag in two out of four tracks with absolutely zero memorable (or even distinguishable) riffs, and two more that only start to work in part, then lose the riffs and tempos that were elevating them from their usual doldrums (“memento mori” being the other partially listenable track here, leaving the 7″ with a presumed B-side that utterly decimates its lackluster A-side! Good planning, guys!)

Yeah, this stinks. Only for completists.

Maybe they’ll polish and hone things to their embryonic strengths next time around, but if you’re looking to sample new bands at their peak, this one sure as hell ain’t it.

P.S., nice face, there in the middle.  Jack Hill’s Equinox much?

HAR – Anti-Schechinah TAPE (Blood Harvest) (April 10)

Nasty, blasphemous underground black/death out of Israel.

This one leans reeeeeally far into sheer noise territory, with the expected overuse of reverb and slap echo, atonality, overly detuned guitars, speedy, indistinguishable riffs that make no sense and go nowhere and blastbeats.

We get it, you’re Israeli and hate being under a religious government.

Doesn’t justify releasing pure crap just to show how angry you are.

WHIZZZ!!!!

Whoof! Smelled some nasty sulfur when that piece of crap hit the flames…
did someone rip one?

Check your pants…that had to have left skid marks.

…NEXT?!?

Bones – Gate of Night 12″ MLP (Blood Harvest) (April 24)

Belgian black/death act who really, really wish they were Grotesque.

Nope.

You’re not.

…next?

Cryptic Shift – Visitations From Enceladus CD/LP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (May 4)

Oh, just what we were all waiting for: djent goes all (blackened) deaththrash.

Seriously.

More off-time spastic riffing and atonal herky-jerkiness than Atheist, later Gorguts and Watchtower in a circle jerk.

This must appeal to somebody, or they wouldn’t keep coming out with band after band working this unlistenable crackhead picks up a guitar and pretends to be a Shrapnel shredder crap.

(shakes head in sheer disbelief, facepalm)

…many more of these tonight? Because the quality seems to be dropping all of a sudden…

Evoker – Evil Torment CD/12″ MLP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (May 29)

oh, thank God, we can end on a good one. I was having serious doubts for a bit, there…

Interestingly enough, given all the shit we give to the Aussie black/death scene, that’s exactly where these guys hail from. 

Of course, I’d be more inclined to just call them straight up death metal, or perhaps deaththrash with an evil vibe and overall blackened feel ala Morbid Angel or Grotesque…which is what the distinctly Mike Browningesque vocals leave them sounding most like on many of the tracks here.  It’s straight up Abominations-era Morbid on “from the depths” and “old evil”, Grotesque on “shackled to the grave” and “sacrilicious lust”.

The other tracks are even more interesting, because they sound more traditionally death metal, less slavish to the off kilter template of either of the aforementioned bands.  “Exhumation of the damned” is a midtempo ripper that brings Malevolent Creation or Ripping Corpse to mind, where “parasomanic” bears a faster triplet based riff that returns to a more 4/4 feel for long stretches, ending on a doomy Sabbath tritone trill with death metal overtones.

Taken as a whole, this is some seriously good shit, drawing heavily from some very obvious (if inassailable) vintage influences, and yet proving themselves capable of something more original and syncretic on the very same all too brief release. And subjectively speaking, none of it seems overly slavish or copycattish, as blatant as some of this can be. Nice job.

Very good stuff. Right up there with Voimaton and Phobophilic as this label’s far and away standout releases among those covered herein.