Serpents of Secrecy - Ave Vindicta

Review by Geary of War

Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Serpents of Secrecy will not be hidden for too much longer based on the strength of full-length debut ‘Ave Vindicta’ out now on Moving the Earth Records.
Sitting very comfortably in that desert rock/doom niche the album kicks off with the fuzzy tones of the weighty title track. Starting off slower and almost gently, the crunching end lets you know you are in for a record covering a fair bits of ground. ‘Heel Turn’ has a few things going for it. A mighty groove led by the bass (laid down by the late, great Rev Jim Forrester) and excellent use of the cowbell from Chuck Dukeheart III and lastly slick and smooth guitar play from Todd Ingram and Steve Fisher. It is to be expected from gents who cut their teeth in the stonking Sixty Watt Shaman.

Good doom/desert rocks bands often live and die but the quality of the vocals. Sure one or two tracks might leap out but a whole album? No thank you. Thankfully this is not an issue here and Mark Lorenzo shows great range and control managing to move from softer cleaner sounds to harsher yelling and make it all feel natural and correct.
The longest track on the album ‘Time Crushes All’ is the kind of wide ranging melodic to thumping war cry that shows the band really stretching its creative muscle. Not to mention the hair raising closing refrain which not only becomes an earworm but also reminds me of Hawkwinds ‘Warrior on the Edge of Time’ chant which gets under your skin.
‘Lament’ is a wonderful instrumental break as normal service resumes with ‘Warbird’s Song’ where we get echoes of Kyuss and more glorious cowbell. ‘Orphan’s Dream’ swings from the most relaxing playing and singing into a romping hard rock classic and back again. ‘Dealer’s Choice’, kicking off with more cowbell so you know it’s good, has so much swagger you will be asking if it has a licence that that thing.

‘Bleeding Still’ oozes classic doom with the slow pace and a star gazing quality about it. It feels like it is reaching upwards. With ‘Broke the Key’ you just KNOW that when gigs happen again there will be many sore necks after this one. Rounding out our time here with a beautiful play on words with ‘In the Lock’ (because where did you break the key?) More swagger and groove are here and we are treated to a Tom Waits like spoken word crowd address.

Between the band names, the eye in the palm trippy album covers i had my reservations about what i may be hearing. The more I played this record and dug into the band’s history, the more it grew on me. This album 100% blew away my expectations and brought me joy. ‘Ave Vindicta’ will be remaining in my rotation and I strongly suggest it gets into yours too.

Luna in Sanguinem - Global Bloodbath

Review by Geary of War

Spring Grove, Illinois sounds like it should be a quaint and peaceful place does it not? No it does not according to Luna In Sanguinem who have just released their debut EP ‘Global Bloodbath’ through their Bandcamp. While the world at large right now is not a bloodbath it is fair to say things are not far off at times (and I say at times as it is always a joy to listen to well executed death metal) this band has a lot to look forward too.

If the dark and skeletal cover art did not let you know that you are indeed and to be regaled with some death metal then ‘Hunter Killer’ wastes no time in setting you straight. After what feels like warning tones, brooding heavy riffing and a growl worthy of any demon, we are treated to snarling, head banging riffs and some blasting. At 4.52 we are then gifted a brilliant solo which sounds which I can only describe as if dial up internet could shred. I have played that a few times, get it checked out. ‘Killed by the Dead Hand’ which, apart from being a fairly rough way to go, is also the longest track on this EP. There are bits of doom at the start, then the thrash influence comes through. At all times you feel like this was designed to crush you into head banging submission; even as I write this I am nodding along.

‘Perfect Neighbor’, telling the story of dining with a serial killer, is probably the first and in all likelihood only time I am going to hear the word ‘dinner’ growled with such menace. The track rounds itself out with an armour plated riff and groove. I am reminded of Nile through playing ‘Angel Wings’ when the blasting takes over. The menace and intent of the song, the famous Blood Eagle, is conveyed exceptionally from the riffing and guitar tone which assaults, to the excellently put “omega level torture as your ribs crack”. Luna In Sanguinem are not messing about. ‘Far from the Light’s opening lyrics are ‘thunder tearing through the skies’; well before that happens their music is going to thunder out of your speakers. They close this EP with a strong track which once again shows a band who are capable of stretching the soundscape of death metal while still keeping it old school.

In sports such as wrestling and boxing it is popular to do neck bridges to strengthen the muscles used there. I can safely say that starting in the state of Illinois they can stop that and just have the athletes headbang to Luna In Sanguinem. At just under 30 mins a routine of this 4 times a week and they will have a neck like Brock Lesnar in no time. ‘Global Bloodbath’ is an excellent example of old school death/thrash in a modern world. They have a style but they keep it fresh. These are guys to watch

Review by Sandre the Giant

I reviewed the debut EP by Priests of Prometheus, ‘Lodestar’, here earlier this year and it was a great little death metal release that I have returned to a few times since. ‘Encased’ is something a little different, well a lot different to be honest. An ambient horror soundtrack in fact; a far cry from the death metal rage of their debut. It is out November 20th.

Ambient, particularly dark ambient, is something that has begun to appeal to me a little more as I’ve got older so I was intrigued by the prospect. Opener ‘Bells and Glass’ is quiet, subdued with a persistent ringing noise droning quietly in the background, while ‘Conjuring’ opens with this unsettling, almost scratching effect that continues throughout, occasionally being broken by a dissonant moan. The story told within these 5 tracks is one man’s journey through grief towards salvation, before being taken by the ultimate in terror. ‘Pulse’ has actual guitar; a nerve jangling acoustic melody that makes you feel as uncomfortable as the scratching in ‘Conjuring’ did, especially when a atonal piano takes over.

The sinister, scraping distortion of ‘They’re Here’ leads into the eerie ‘Still Alive Inside’, which feels almost hopeful as it starts. Lighter piano, still a little distorted, slowly fades out. ‘Encased’ is a very nice piece of work, unsettling at times which is ideal for ambient horror. I don’t listen to a lot of this stuff, so I have no idea how it measures up critically, but personally I’m a fan. Does what it says on the tin!

Review by Sandre the Giant

The crossover thrash of Puerto Ricans Fullminator is a refreshing blast of fresh air into my dim and dark death and black metal obsessed world. As the cover art suggests, they’re into some weird shit; aliens, science fiction, basically all the stuff on their cover arts. Their luminous new EP ‘Omniplasm’ is out on the 11th of December.

Opener ‘Artificial Immolator (AI)’ is a gloriously catchy slab of thrashing riffs, playing straight from the same vein as the likes of Gama Bomb, and it is just a superb track. It reminds me of the joyous energy that got me into metal in the first place, and that energy never drops throughout. This EP is a blast, from the punky speed metal of ‘Checking Acunt$$’ through the neon glow of ‘Perihelion’ to the Beastie Boys cover, you can be sure that Fullminator will fight for your right to party, and they sound like they’ll party super fucking hard.

Rampaging with infectious riffing, and never losing the pure fucking joyous nature of their chosen field, it’s so good to hear a band that are willing to keep a bit of fun in their metal. Never falling into parody, Fullminator have kicked my arse a few times in the last few days and it is welcome. I love this, and you will too.

Review by Sandre the Giant

Originally published here:

The deep darkness from where Dark Buddha Rising have dragged their newest record of psychedelic droning doom seems particularly lightless, even for them. ‘Mathreyata’ is the sixth full length from these Finns, and the first in five years. It is out 13th of November on Svart Records.

The dark, droning rumble of ‘Sunyaga’ is just the kind of hypnotic dirge you’d expect from a band with such a name. A churning guitar riff throbs incessantly while the hum of the void groans throughout, accompanied by ranting chants of utter doom. It is definitely meditative but I’m not sure inner peace is what they’re going for here. More like the vibration of your soul out of your body and into the yawning abyss. ‘Nagathma’ is much calmer, with mesmerising bass lines following syncopated drumming and smooth female vocals until all of a sudden the intensity ramps up with crashing cymbals and that impassioned roar again. It lulls you in beautifully before cascading its heaviness down upon your mind.

‘Uni’ starts with a haunting wailing note, as if searching for something, a lifeline, in the awful empty blackness. It builds, swelling with scattershot drumming and an omnipresent hum of guitar that becomes excruciating before it evolves into the tribal hypnosis that is ‘Mahatgata III’. Haunting vocals drift like smoke across a bewitching beat, before grandiose riffs come crushing and the haunting vocals become a roaring, shrieking terror. This truly begins to feel uncomfortable, as the vocals fade in and out while the incessant drumming drags you deeper into a trance like darkness.

‘Mathreyata’ is an album that excels in making you feel uncomfortable using psychedelic drone and meditative doom as its weapons of choice. It is truly transfixing, but you can’t help but feel uneasy with each passing moment. For an album to instil such a primal emotion of fight or flight, it should be something special and this is. Dark Buddha Rising write music that personifies their name; an ancient darkness rising from a place of eternal enlightment. Or should that be ‘endarkenment’…

Transilvania - Of Sleep and Death

Review by Sandre the Giant

Austrian blackened thrashers Transilvania (one of only two metal bands to spell it with an I not a Y, therefore being much easier to find online) are releasing their second full length record ‘Of Sleep and Death’ on the first day of the new year, and it looks to bring 2021 in with a fiery and traditional black metal flair. It is being released by Invictus Productions.

Opener ‘Opus Morbi’ is laden with some excellent riffing and snarling vocals, but the important part is the atmosphere and the FEELING. This is about as pure a black metal experience as I’ve had recently, conjuring much of the classic black magick from old school gems but infusing it with a thrashy flair for guitar licks. It’s a mix that leads to some serious ferocity in their attack, like the Marduk-esque throttle of the title track, or the tremendous lead work of ‘Vault of Evening’.

Sure, the beating heart of pure black metal powers all the tremolos and the snarling rasp, but the technical fretwork of some thrash fans lurks beneath the corpsepaint. The songwriting is complex, and the tracks are all fairly lengthy and well paced, with the shortest being the 4:45 single, ‘Hekateion’. This means Transilvania can explore a number of musical ideas while maintaining a sensible run time. It is also likely to destroy mosh pits whenever we can get back into them.

‘Of Sleep and Death’ is an album that will open 2021 with a bang. The fiery guitarwork is outstanding, and the whole record just pulses with a malevolent atmosphere that is intoxicating. I really appreciate a blackened thrash act that aren’t just playing terrible early Sodom ripoffs, and ‘Of Sleep and Death’ is anything but that. Awesome stuff.

Horde of Hel - Döden nalkas

Review by Geary of War

What better way to celebrate 20 years as a band than to kick out a truly grand slab of black metal? Well as it happens Horde of Hel could not think of anything else and with that ‘Döden nalkas’ was released in September via Blooddawn Productions.

If you had not already guessed from the dark sketched, crown wearing, spear wielding cover that this is a black metal album then you find out fairly quickly once this record starts to play. While being in the black metal camp, there are many other aspects to this record. Opener ‘Blodets morgon’ has an industrial feel to it as it sets about blasting your hair back. ‘Death Division Status’ is what I would have expected if a human played drums at the tempo set for the most aggressive drum and bass going. There is a break from the skin peeling as ‘Visdomen kallas doden’ carries us forward. More like a blackened doom track, there is a foreboding bell ringing over the top of some excellent musicianship.

‘Standard Nordland’ is a return to face peeling while ‘Totalitarian Regime’ has a touch of that black ‘n’ roll that Satyricon went for a few years ago. (It might be more than a few years I know but let’s pretend we are not all getting older please and thank you). There is a groove, there is blasting and some brilliant headbanging heavy riffage. ‘Total Death’ finds Horde of Hel flexing their creative muscles again with a track that would find its way onto any good noise/dark shoegaze playlist. Scratching, more of that industrial feel with a marching beat which makes me think of Godflesh and an almost gentle ring out. ‘Holy Ash’ is further buzzing, guitar led assault that leads into ‘No Remorse’. After a brooding intro at the start, a massive primal roar leads into a track laden with synth, menace, violence and intent. ‘Livits narkos’ takes a step back into the buzzing, rending and relentless classic black metal style and we finish up our 44 minutes and 1 second with ‘Of Eternity and Ruins’. A slower, almost writhing track which maintains elements of the unease which has so carefully been built over the album’s runtime.

All the classic black metal elements are here, rasping vocals, buzzing guitar playing, drums designed to tear a house down with the vibrations alone yet there is more to this band and this record. They have forged their own path through the 20 years together and it has led us to this recording. If you like your black metal to have a little something extra then this is the record for you. Bleak like a Scottish winter, hitting as hard as a boundary fair from a taxi and as satisfying as finding money in an old jacket, Horde of Hel keeps the ever evolving landscape of black metal alive.

Wombbath - Tales of Madness

Review by Sandre the Giant

Wombbath’s ‘Tales of Madness’ is a 30th year celebration of the band, from their earliest days on the Swedeath scene up to this year and their ‘Choirs of the Fallen’ masterclass. It is a collection of new material and old classics rerecorded in anticipation of their 2021 full length on Transcending Obscurity, and I’m intrigued to know whether the old material stands up to the new. It is out this December.

Ah, what a fucking riff of brutality that leads this record off. Immediately you are hit with a grinding, dense death metal assault that is thick with darkness, and you can tell that early 90s death metal sound has never left them. This is pure old school filth, and it is a joy to be in the company of. The disgusting guitar tone of ‘Brutal Mights’ is devastating, as is the caustic force of ‘Save Your Last Breath to Scream’ and the grinding rumble of ‘Lavatory Suicide Remains’. You may struggle to find a purer example of classic Swedish death than this in 2020. Well, maybe Paganizer but that’s a tough call. I might just take this right now.

There are times when an old band resurfaces and you ask yourself, ‘are they still relevant in today’s scene?’ Those questions have been answered about Wombbath in the last few years, but ‘Tales of Madness’ is the final nail in the coffin of that argument. With old and new material standing side by side like brothers in arms, this band have proven themselves worthy of their modern accolades. ‘Tales of Madness’ feels like a complete piece, not a disjointed collection of old and new and that complete piece is utterly awesome.

Opium Warlords - Nembutal

Review by Sandre the Giant

The fifth album since 2009 from Finnish doomlord Opium Warlords is another magnum opus of classic yet funereal doom from the bizarre Reverend himself, Sami Albert Hynninen. ‘Nembutal’ is out in December through Svart Records.

From a man who has laid more grand slabs of heaviosity on this earth than most, ‘Nembutal’ is an awesome achievement. Titanic opener ‘A Heavy Heart’ has the kind of massive riffs you’d expect; vast roiling oceans of mournful guitar while the impassive tones of Hynninen preach sermons of doom in a way so iconic it is difficult to not be instantly enthralled. It’s insane how a song this long can be an earworm, but it really is. Following up is ‘Threshold of Your Womb’, creating an opening half hour duo of almost perfect orthodox doom. The opening chords of the second track sound like the tolling of a distorted bell; an ominous march into darkness and gloom. From here, ‘Nembutal’ gets darker and stranger with every track…

I’m not sure anyone has ever recorded the sounds of tectonic plates grinding against each other, but I’ll bet the opening riff of ‘Destroyer of Filth’ is pretty similar. The sheer oppressive weight of this record is staggering at times, almost unbearable during the terrifying ‘Solar Anus’, the haunting acoustic tales of ‘Sarah Was Nineteen Years Old’ and my own personal highlight, the rumbling menace of closer ‘Xanadu’. All the while the Witchfinder’s massive voice whispers, snarls and creates an atmosphere you just cannot find anywhere else.

Opium Warlords are not as genre defining as Reverend Bizarre were, but they don’t half come close. ‘Nembutal’ is everything you could need for a record that inspires true doom in you. Sure, it can be all about the riffs, but doom as a unbearable mental fear is the real reason I love this. ‘Nembutal’ is like no other doom record you’ll hear this year, and it is all the better for it.

Possessor - Damn the Light

Review by Sandre the Giant

Originally published here:

‘Damn the Light’ has a great, old school horror vibe that really settles in at this time of year. Due to be released just before All Hallows Eve by APF Records, the fifth full length from London trio Possessor looks to take the Electric Wizard blueprint of stoned doom into a more upbeat and nasty territory. Written and rehearsed almost entirely via voicemails and phone videos due to lockdown conditions, the fact that this album is here is credit to the band’s dedication.

The thrashy, sludgy energy of opener ‘Bloodsuckers’ lays the groundwork for an album that is very much a hybrid of styles. I’ve seen it described as ‘proto-metal’ but I feel that doesn’t really give enough credit to the nuance on display at times. Thick, filthy basslines that Lemmy would be proud of, coursing through each track is a glorious thing indeed, and accompanied by a powerful roar from vocalist Graham Bywater definitely gives us a feeling of a ‘building blocks’ album. But this feeling of primality is not the same as those distortion drenched raw black metal bands. There’s a hardcore crunch to ‘Take It to the Grave’ that has a nice turn of pace too, a bit like Neurosis and Discharge had a kid and it was born with a Pentagram shirt on.

It isn’t all driving forward though, see the stoner psychedelia that takes over ‘Razorback’ about halfway through, and the humming melodies that climb us into the driving seat of the title track. Nothing is forced, everything feels like a natural progression. The haunting interlude of ‘Confession’ is a nice touch to ramp up that horror styling, sounding like an excerpt from some old Hammer Horror film. It sets the place for the precise thunder of ‘Scalpel’ and then the grinding, fuzzed out brutality of closer ‘Return to Slaughter High’.

‘Damn the Light’ is an album that tries very hard to avoid every pigeonholing attempt other than ‘heavy music’. Sure, it’s a little bit thrashy, a little bit sludgy, a little bit stoner and a little bit doomy. What is definitely is is an album that has a single focus on being weighty, being heavy and not caring exactly how they come to that conclusion. We need more bands like Possessor out there doing that.