Wharflurch - Lurking Doom + Demo 2019

Review by Sandre the Giant

Florida’s Wharflurch have been pretty busy this year already, but I’m going back to last year’s compilation ‘Lurking Doom’ which brings together the EP of the same name and their 2019 demo. Morbid Chapel Records released this on CD last November.

‘Kosmosa Kopums’ really brings the feeling of otherwordly space horror to the fore immediately. The black/death metal savagery is intense, murky and gives you a lot of that kind of void worshipping darkness. There’s an overwhelming, suffocating atmosphere of poisonous, oily dread seeping through the morbid belch of ‘Flensing Blade’, and a recurring motif is the eerie quieter moments that really juxtapose against the unyielding brutality. The rattling cough of ‘Sulphur Hell’ feels like disease incarnated, while ‘This Unfathomable Doom’ aims to destroy the earth under your feet with inhuman breakdowns. ‘Immortal Pain’ rounds out the ‘Lurking Doom’ part with Obituary-like intensity and creepy piano.

The 2019 demo tracks are rawer, rougher and not lacking in a certain charm. The pick of the bunch are ‘Eigengrau’ and the gutwrenching weight of ‘Lurking Beyond’, but they’re all definitely worth a spin. You can see the fledgling seeds of what was to come beginning to poke their fetid stalks through. This edition of ‘Lurking Doom’ is a tremendous opportunity for you to see what Wharflurch have been capable of, and hopefully where they are going to end up.

https://www.facebook.com/wharflurch

https://wharflurch.bandcamp.com/releases

http://morbidchapelrecords.com/

ARNA - Dragged to a Lunar Grave

Review by Sandre the Giant

The debut offering from Spain’s Arna may only be four tracks long, but this duo brings you closer to true second wave blackness than a lot of modern black metal will. ‘Dragged to a Lunar Grave’ is out at the end of July through Signal Rex.

Opener ‘Gallows Tree’ is full of that mysticism and atmosphere that classic black metal relied on to subvert the rawness of its musical core. There is looming menace behind the thrust of iconic riffing patterns, frigid melody climbing out of the fog before diving back in, like crows on the wing. The pace is relentless, the vocals harsh and unfeeling. ‘Moonknife’ brings a more discordant tone, ramping up the unsettling nature and drawing comparisons to early Satyricon or Beherit. An attention to detail really helps the melancholic riffing remain fresh and interesting, even while the potent flames of ‘Dolmen’ seek to extinguish the life. That is a song that bears much repeated listening, as does closer ‘Aunra’ which thunders off at icy speeds, blazing furrows across frozen tundra, creating sweeping soundscapes upon clean guitar and choral voices, and reinforcing the idea that the best black metal can paint in shades and not just monochrome rage.

Capturing the essence of the magicks that powered the second wave of black metal, ‘Dragged to a Lunar Grave’ is powerful, bleak, fragile and thoroughly absorbing. A world of ancient spells, darkness and misery awaits within this blackened masterpiece, and you’d be a fool not to follow the trails, wherever they may lead you.

https://arnabm.bandcamp.com/releases

https://signalrex.bandcamp.com/

https://signalrex.com/store/

Review by Sandre the Giant

‘Progressive metalcore’ is a term that scares me a little. I mean, Canadians No Light Escapes give themselves a lot of rope to hang themselves with here on their new record ‘The Purity of Grief’, but their work turns out to be a lot more interesting than I had feared. It is actually their second record, but first under this name as their debut ‘The Introspect’ was released in 2018 when they were known as Technical Damage. ‘The Purity of Grief’ is out now.

Opener ‘The Final Arbiter’ shapeshifts between some more traditional metalcore fare and thunderous deathcore breakdowns. This is how metalcore has evolved since the heydays of Killswitch Engage or God Forbid, and it has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. The djenty guitar tone adds a lot to the tempo shifts and the breakdowns are impressive. ‘High Tide’ zig zags from dizzying mathcore spirals to bouncy eastern melodies, while the more melodic ‘In Absentia’ enschews the progressive weirdness for some genuinely powerful catchiness. ‘Cascade’ breaks apart halfway through into this ethereal majesty, where female vocals soothe you back into the crush. ‘Ruminate’ destroys with jagged riffs that remind you of Protest the Hero at their 2008 prime, while closer ‘Phoenix’ amalgamates everything you’ve come across before in a scintillating deathly progcore odyssey of sweet melodies and brutal breakdowns.

Progressive metalcore, djent, deathcore, whatever you want to call this stuff, it doesn’t matter. ‘The Purity of Grief’ is an exhilarating ride through a spiralling tunnel of crusing breakdowns, progressive weirdness and melodic hooks that will surprise you every time they appear. Yeah sure, some times it can feel a little disjointed but when they hit, No Light Escapes are fucking awesome at what they do. And this album hits a lot. Feed me more.

https://www.facebook.com/nolightescapesband

https://nolightescapes.bandcamp.com/album/the-purity-of-grief

Ulven - Death Rites upon a Winged Crusade

Review by Sandre the Giant

Ulven is the work of American Sean Deth, and their second record ‘Death Rites Upon a Winged Crusade’, originally released in 2018, got a rerelease on CD by Morbid Chapel Records last August. This is fearsome and evocative USBM at its best.

Opener ‘Ninth Psalm Under Moons of Decay’ builds very slowly, with a low hum being interrupted by a tolling bell. This leads us into the dense, howling fury of ‘Howling Death’ which evokes the chilling decay of Mayhem’s ‘Ordo ad Chao’. No tinpot one man bedroom black metal album this; instead it is a well produced record full of hellish blackened rage and accursed melodies screaming through each song. There are also a number of mournful acoustic moments that raise a poignant spectre over proceedings, such as the lead in to the soaring ‘Night of the Long Knives’, or the stirring shades of ‘When It’s Cold’. The muscular ‘ A Shadow Suspended in Dust’ pulls us back down to earth with its mix of creeping decay and torrential riffing, while ‘Winged Promise’ follows up on this premise with a bleak yet atmospheric assault. All of these elements combine on epic closer ‘Where Light Barely Penetrates’ to create a perfect encapsualtion of what Ulven do best.

‘Death Rites Upon a Winged Crusade’ is an album for those of us whose taste in black metal hinges more on the atmosphere and dread than the songwriting necessarily. The songs here are great, but the oppressive murk that builds up like sodden lichen upon each riff and each guttural growl is to be commended. It is atmospheric but not in the usual style you’d expect. No soaring mountains and frozen valleys here, just suffocating, driving fog and rain. Superb.

https://www.facebook.com/ulvenblackmetal

https://ulvenblackmetal.bandcamp.com/

http://morbidchapelrecords.com/

Fetid Zombie - Transmutations

Review by Sandre the Giant

Mark Riddick’s Fetid Zombie has always been fairly prolific, but when you see they’ve put out TEN splits or EPs since their 2016 album, ‘Epicedia’, you really realise how much time you waste in your own life. Their newest EP, ‘Transmutations’, is coming out in July through Transcending Obscurity, and promises more of the brutality I witnessed in that last full length, which I reviewed here.

There’s plenty of snarling death metal on opener ‘Chrysopoiea’, but there’s also a huge trad metal influence galloping through the latter portions, particularly that wonderfully evocative soloing. It’s a fairly incredible feat to create music that still feels eldritch and deathly but equally as classic heavy metal too. Bringing in many extreme luminaries, such as Yylva’s Clare Webster, Ralf Hauber (Heads for the Dead, Revel in Flesh) and Arsis guitarist James Malone adds a huge amount to each track too. A subtle all star record brings songs like the atmospheric death of ‘Beyond Andromeda’ to life, as well as the gloomy, gothic ‘Dreamless Sleep Awaits’ and the scorching leads of ‘Deep in the Catacombs’. Fetid Zombie are a band that don’t conform to any of your preconceptions of how death metal sounds.

‘Transmutations’ is a wonderfully evocative record, bringing out the gloomy atmospherics of early Amorphis/Anathema and attaching them to a death metal core that doesn’t fear playing like a heavy metal guitar hero too when the time calls. Fetid Zombie thrashed my expectations to pieces and gave me a new favourite death metal record of 2021. Oh, and Mark Riddick’s artwork fucking rules too so, there’s that!

https://www.facebook.com/fetidzombie

https://fetidzombiedm.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/transcendingobscurityrecords

Frozen Wreath - Memento Mori

Review by Sandre the Giant

Hungarian atmospheric black metallers Frozen Wreath are a brand new entity but feature a member of Witcher, who will be familiar to readers of the Killchain as I’ve reviewed their work before. ‘Memento Mori’ is their debut full length, and it is out now through Filosofem Records.

‘Megsárgult fényképek’ opens with some lo-fi synth and a pummelling guitar/blastbeat combination, soon accompanied by rasping vocals. A sense of gloomy atmosphere begins to pervade in the background however, like the descending of a shroud of drizzling rain. This takes nothing away from the ferocity of the black metal, which operates at full force within this veil. Unlike a lot of atmospheric black metal, Frozen Wreath do not go for the extra long tracks, preferring more to approach with a more senseible trakc length and more concise work. Songs like ‘Halott ígéret’ have much more in common with early Darkthrone or Satyricon than say, Panopticon or Winterfylleth. That’s not to say of course that your slower, more heavily keyboard featuring songs like ‘Miért?’ don’t exist, it’s just the more self-indulgent notions of that style are entirely absent.

‘Memento Mori’ is a record that is equally at home pummelling you with murky black metal fury, like ‘Feltámadás’ (outstanding organ work here too by the way), or creating more contemplative pieces like ‘Fagyott koszorú’. Neither approach falls into cliche, and while there is plenty of space for the band’s sound to grow and evolve, as a debut effort this is pretty good.

https://www.facebook.com/frozenwreath

https://frozenwreath.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/filosofemrecords/

Halter - The Principles of Human Being

Review by Sandre the Giant

Russian death/doom lords Halter have appeared in the pages of the Killchain before, on their superb 2015 record ‘For the Abandoned’. You can read what I thought about that one here. Their newest release, ‘The Principles of Human Being’ is out now through Wroth Emitter Records, who have also done rereleases of their previous full length and their debut as well.

The thundering, grinding weight of ‘Sisyphean Toil’ opens up the record with deep growls and some really nice riff work. It feels a little more traditional doom here with the addition of the vocals taking us deeper. ‘Seasons’ is next, that even with the powerful death/doom background actually comes across a lot more accessible and up front than other songs on the record. I particularly like the evocative soloing. ‘Cobweb of Troubles’ has a bit of pace about it, and the almost stoner doom tribalism of parts of ‘Hiroshima’s Scapegoats’ continues a feeling of inventiveness. Death/doom often can feel fairly repetitive, but Halter have always been a band that shakes things up a bit.

From the almost rocking, bluesy chug of ‘Spring Morning’ to the imperious, emotional closer ‘As Nobody Returns’, Halter have managed to keep their genre interesting and varied, and this is a worthy follow up to ‘For the Abandoned’. Keep the doom alive guys, you’re doing great

https://www.facebook.com/groups/halter.band/

https://halter2009.bandcamp.com/

http://www.wroth-emitter.org/

Oakmord - We Were Always Alone

Review by Sandre the Giant

Released last December through Wroth Emitter Records, the debut record from funeral doom Finns Oakmord is a hefty slab of dark misery. ‘We Were Always Alone’ comes cast in a grim, black and white cover which does a lot to tell you what lurks beneath.

Opener ‘I Pray to Unforgiving Skies’ creeps forward with delicate piano before a massive force of doom comes crashing down, accompanied by pained roars. The tone is harsh, unsettling and set at a funeral pace, and even as the distortion fades out the unsettling nature continues with rasped whispers and cold, clean guitar. This dichotomy of quiet, almost wistful melancholy and walls of harsh, distorted doom riffs continues on the bleak as fuck ‘Dilution of Pain’, although at times there is the inklings of melody lifting us from the suffocating gloom. The quiet, dark ambience of the introdution of ‘Deliverance’ is hauntingly beautiful, and even if you know what’s coming it still provides a shock to feel this delicate moment of tranquility shattered like glass in a storm. It is another track though that allows fragments of light break through, all the while deep growls keep them at bay, while closer ‘My Eyes Only Reflect My Death’ looms up like a gothic monolith of funereal misery. Is it a cliche to describe it as gloriously Finnish in its take on gloomy misery? Maybe, but that only serves as high praise to sit amongst more of their nation’s dark masterpieces.

Oakmord’s debut is a poignant, powerful collection of dense miserableness that attempts to smother you into submission under its clammy hands of doom. ‘We Were Always Alone’ is tremendous and should be heard by everyone as soon as possible.

https://www.facebook.com/Oakmord-ex-My-Shameful-435614530570382/

https://oakmord.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.wroth-emitter.org/

Ice War - Sacred Land

Review by Sandre the Giant

All of Ice War’s work comes adorned with the kind of cover art you’d expect on 1950s pulp magazine covers and I love it. The solo project of Jo Capitalicide from Aphrodite, Ice War’s latest work ‘Sacred Land’ is out now and it takes the now traditional speed metal sound and blends in a mighty amount of old fashioned Sabbath doom in there. It is out now through Fighter Records.

Opening with the title track was a good call, as ‘Sacred Land’ lurches out with a Children of the Grave-esque rumble and brings a vintage heavy metal sound to the fore. Classic proto doom is the order of the day on the lumbering ‘Crystal Mirror’, telling tales of Conan style battles and sorcerors. ‘Nuclear Gods’ is more of the same swaggering Sabbathian riffs, and by this point it feels like that speed metal core has almost completely disappeared. The striding grandiose ‘Black Horse’ is tremendous, while the gloomy ‘Blood and Flames’ is another example of how Ice War has somehow leapt into this new sound and yet somehow grasped it immediately.

Lovers of classic speed metal may be disappointed with where Ice War have gone, but their worship of classic proto doom here is wonderful. ‘Sacred Land’ is a natural fit for them, and it is a record that may represent a stylistic shift, but not a qualitative one; Ice War are as good as they ever have been, if not better. And if you don’t believe me, put on closer ‘Slay the Beast’ at full volume and just try and lie to yourself. This shit is awesome.

https://www.facebook.com/icewarmetal

https://fighter-records.bandcamp.com/album/sacred-land

Review by Sandre the Giant

Florida’s Hot Graves are getting last year’s ‘Haunted Graves’ EP rereleased on what they describe as ‘pussy pink’ cassettes through Corrupted Flesh Records. The description is what it is, but it gives us all another opportunity to witness these death metal laden d-beat punks in full force. It is out now.

The energetic title track comes rampaging from the gate, throwing up all kinds of nasty, d-beat crossover into a blackened blender and serving it with toxic vocals. ‘Sewage Communion’ is significantly more deathly, clattering drumming kicks off a killer speed metal riff laced with venom before a slower, crushing riff interrupts with a wailing solo and a filthy atmosphere. ‘Ruination Supremacy’ offers much of the same; nasty early Sodom riffs crashing into a bit of Possessed and a bug eyed, Impaled Nazarene-like intensity that flows perfectly into the double kick powered ‘Rotted’, which definitely feels like the most death metal song here. The thing that I really love about this though is how goddamn catchy the whole thing is, and how quickly the songs become earworms.

‘Haunted Graves’ is a tremendously fiery short sharp shock of blackened thrash meets d-beat punk and crusty speed metal, and it contains exactly zero frills. As a precursor to a full length that is in the works, I cannot lie and say this doesn’t peak my interest severely for that coming up. Hot Graves are a lot of rather filthy fun, and ‘Haunted Graves’ is the latest in a long line of good, solid releases. This is great.

https://www.facebook.com/HOTGRAVES666

https://hotgraves.bandcamp.com/album/haunted-graves-ep

https://www.corrupted-flesh.com/product/hot-graves-haunted-graves-handnumbered-ltd-edition-tape-incl-digital-download

https://corruptedfleshrecords.bandcamp.com/album/haunted-graves