Caestus - The Undoer's Key

Review by Sandre the Giant

Finland’s Caestus have their debut record, ‘The Undoer’s Key’, out now through Purity Through Fire and their work looks to shatter expectations of what Finnish black metal is at its core. Old school atmosphere meet modern sensibilities, with no keyboards and a lack of traditional tremolo leads? Sounds like an interesting take to me!

Opener ‘Reclamation’ is a brutish blast of black metal darkness, absolutely serrated riffs scything through your consciousness while a rabid snarl shrieks overhead. That is Caestus’ modus operandi on this record; a thick and visceral effort with a great production giving everything an extra oomph. They also flirt with atonal melodies in places, like on the great title track and the swelling ‘Pariah’s Crown’. The guitar work is sharp, technical in places but always capable of a rampant flow of molten riffs, while when they slow it down to a malevolent crawl, like in the haunting evil of ‘Burning Hope’, Caestus create some really different stuff. Lyrically the band are anti-Christian based, which you feel goes pretty well with the angular ‘against’ style of melody work, and I feel thier sound is probably best shown by the varied ‘Dawn of Reckoning’.

This is, of course, still black metal through and through, but Caestus look to redefine and refine their sound, not escape it altogether. You’ll feel fiery traditionalism here, particularly in the flesh tearing ‘Condescenders’, but ‘The Undoer’s Key’ is much more concerned with weaving new styles with old instruments. A shame it came out so late in 2021, but I’d carry it over in being one of 2022’s first best black metal records.

Boris - W

Review by Sandre the Giant

Originally published here:

Boris are one of my favourite bands EVER. Their magnificent genre bending, style switching music has enthralled me since the first time I heard ‘Pink’ way back in 2005. I made it a mission of mine to own as much of their stuff as I could, scouring the internet for the rare EPs and vinyls etc. Their newest piece, ‘W’ is a successor to last year’s ‘NO’, probably their most visceral and extreme release, and means to create a counterbalance to that. It is out 21st of January on Sacred Bones Records.

Opener ‘I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…’ maintains the same melody as ‘NO’s closer, ‘Interlude’, and it is a haunting ambient drone, a soohing sinistral piece with Wata’s ghostly vocals skirting the edges. She takes the lead throughout ‘W’, her beautifully haunting voice drifting throughout the ambience/drone/noise/new age delicacy of ‘Icelina’ and the sinister beats of ‘Drowning by Numbers’. At points that iconic Boris guitar howl wavers into view, as if ready to detonate into spiralling freakout soloing but at once dissipates. It’s almost as if it is aware this is not the place. This is a place for a glacial languidity, like the tranquil ‘Invitation’ or ‘The Fallen’, a showcase of the side of Boris most people don’t appreciate enough. Sure, their mind-bending ALL CAPS ROCK side is glorious in full effect, but they are rarely more affective than right here in the mesmerising quiet. In fact, ‘The Fallen’ feels to me as the spiritual successor to my personal favourite song by the band, ‘Farewell’.

‘Beyond Good and Evil’ finally begins to bring some guitar into frame, slow motion chords swaying in a thick, droning atmopshere, and it begins to turn into a monstrous, sludgey chug. But as quick as it starts, it stops, turning into the vast soundscape of ‘Old Projector’. There go Boris again, destroying expectations and conventions. Perhaps, we thought, the quiet of the first tracks were building towards some mammoth stomping conclusion. ‘Old Projector’ certainly builds though, gradually swelling under swirling guitar feedback and rumbling noise into a wall of sound echoing back from the void.

‘You Will Know’ leads us quietly, almost silently actually, into the sludgy behemoth of ‘Jozan’, finally bringing us full circle back to ‘NO’. ‘W’ is an album that stands on it’s own as a wonderfully fragile reminder of how the heaviest music doesn’t need to be all riffs and screams. Sometimes it is an emotional weight, brought on by haunting majesty. Put together, ‘NO’ and ‘W’ is a superior experience, but don’t let that stop you with ‘W’; it has Boris at the peak of their powers.

Nekrovomit - Demonic Possession

Review by Sandre the Giant

Indonesian blackened thrash/speed metallers Nekrovomit are an absolutely brand new entity, and their debut EP ‘Demonic Possession’ gives their style and genre away before you play a note. That monochromatic cover, calssic hand drawn stylised cover art and logo; you’re immediately in the know about what to expect. It is out at the end of January on cassette through Helldprod Records.

‘Enter the Gates of Hell’ is discordant, hellish noise with shrieking and a weirdly distorted bell sound, and it basically feels like you are entering one of the realms of hell. That plays perfectly into the muffled, rabid menace of the title track which explodes with all the raw filth of a rusty sewage drain. Nekrovomit are going for the absolute rawest assault on your senses they can, with ‘Night of the Dead’ spewing deathly riffing into an atmosphere so thick you can barely make it out. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said this was recorded in a Colombian basement in 1993, that’s how true to the roots of the genre it is. ‘Faces of Death’ is an absolutely killer tribute to the earliest Sodom records, frenzied riffing stabbing throughout. In fact, you’ll find a cover of Sodom classic ‘Outbreak of Evil’ here too, albeit it laced with aural strychnine.

By the time ‘Abbatoir’ comes to its eerie, bloodsoaked conclusion, you’ll be awed by the sheer force of necrotic violence on show from Nekrovomit. ‘Demonic Possession’ does absolutely nothing new or inventive, but the pure black energy of the music makes it intoxicating and essential. Hook the genocidal ‘Mass Graves’ to your veins and prepared to be poisoned to death with metal.

Black Whispers - Dusk

Review by Sandre the Giant

Costa Rican black metallers Black Whispers excel at the depressive end of the black metal spectrum, and ‘Dusk’ is their first effort in 6 years since their last full length ‘Shades of Bleakness’ in 2015. ‘Dusk’ is out now through Grimm Distribution, and is a co-release with More Hate Productions and The End of Time Records.

‘Intro’ sets our atmosphere immediately, with weeping piano keys tinkling in a murky gloom as it bleeds into ‘Castle of Selfdestruction’; midpaced and dense black metal fuzz. It doesn’t really buzz with any great intensity, this is much more of a draining release. Cold riffs soak within a cascade of blastbeats, and everytHing is covered in a veil of depression. There’s almost a constant flow of frozen black metal to come throughout, from the moody clattering of ‘Weighing Fade Away’ to the sinister, surging title track and the utter grimness of ‘Void’. Wherever you look, you’re surrounded by monochromatic fury and bleak snarling frigidity. By the time the creeping piano returns in ‘Outro’, the circle of misery is complete and death claims us all.

It might seem remarkable to find something so bleak and cold from such a hot place, but that old cliche is meaningless as depression and black metal are feelings, not locations. ‘Dusk’ is misery on tape, recorded in what feels like a sodden cave beneath a glacier. Black Whisper’s work continues to be elegiac yet savage, and never short of quality. You’d be hard pressed to find something bleaker around at the moment. Great stuff

Decerebration - Follow the Scars

Review by Sandre the Giant

Quebec brutal death metal legends Decerebration have returned after 20 years with a new record, after 1998’s self titled effort and years sharing stages with some of the genre’s greatest bands, including Suffocation, Incantation and Cannibal Corpse. ‘Follow the Scars’ is out now through Bandcamp.

After the sinister, scene setting intro ‘Scorched Memories’ we are met at the door of this house of death by the slamming, gurgling meltdown of ‘Infamous Duality’, a mid paced monster of churning death riffs. ‘A Ghost of Flesh and Blood’ ups the ante into a bit more of a thrashy, flailing number, and the technicality only seems to increase from there. The Dying Fetus-worship of the superb title track is a chugging, guttural masterpiece with occasional flurries into, gasp, clean vocals as well. ‘Follow the Scars’ is an old school album in almost every way, from the thick and slightly fuzzy production to the straightforward, no bullshit brand of crushing death metal. Decerebration aren’t going for a swampy, murky style, nor uber clean tech death sterility, this is an album made to feel like 1995 and it is so authentic. Whether it is the oddly melodic thrashy leads of ‘Break the Cycle’ or the progressively atmospheric ‘The Gift of Anger’, it all goes to show that Decerebration live this style through and through.

Decerebration were famed for their insane live shows back in the 90s, and you can see exactly how tracks like these would fit perfectly into a live setting. The music isn’t written to wow listeners with jaw dropping musicianship or to reinvent the wheel. ‘Follow the Scars’ feels like a record designed to destroy live shows, obliterate necks and pits, and it does that with fucking triumph.

Druid Lord - Relics of the Dead

Review by Sandre the Giant

Druid Lord were a bit of a hidden gem in the American underground for years but when their second album ‘Grotesque Offerings’ was snapped up by Hells Headbangers in 2018, they finally got a bit of recognition in the wider world. Well, the same label are just about to release their newest effort, ‘Relics of the Dead’, and hopefully it is ready to take them to new heights.

The title track opens the record with probably the perfect distillation of Druid Lord’s sound; a lurching, death doom behemoth that crawls and drags itself into your consciousness with brutally heavy riffing and guttural roars. The Autopsy/Obituary/Asphyx trifecta of influence is primal here, huge riffing gridning through a murky, slimy atmosphere and gore soaked vocal roars echoing around these caverns of death. A trembling melody shudders through ‘Thirteen Days of Death’, which also features so really nicesoloing in places, puncturing the bloated swirling chaos. As the album progresses, the more it strains against the ancient binds of convention. The almost hopeless dirge of ‘Immolated into Ashes’ turns into a rampage that 1990 Entombed would’ve been proud of, while the toe-curling, gothic death/doom majesty of ‘Monarch Macabre’ is utterly spellbinding.

‘Relics of the Dead’ is a record that just gets everything about the death/doom sound completely perfect. The death is savage, relentless, visceral, while the doomy elements are what creates the supreme low end rumble of heaviness. Druid Lord may sneak the odd riff from the greats, but they are well on their way to joing the pantheon themselves. Fucking brilliant.

Review by Sandre the Giant

The debut record from Michigan stoner metallers Grave Next Door is called ‘Sanctified Heathen’, and is out at the end of January on Black Doomba Records. Their press blurb gives Black Sabbath, Cream and Black Flag as influences, but there’s obviously some other stuff lurking in there as well as those, and this power trio really bring the heavy here.

Opener ‘Thor’ has a nice smokey groove to it, with a fuzzed out guitar riff vibing under a more insistent vocal performance than I expected. The gloomy organ snaking its way through the start of ‘Bloody Nuns’ amps up the sinister feel to it, which continues with a grinding riff and some excellent vocal diversity. The Sabbathian rumble of ‘Heavy as Texas’ actually highlights the real feeling of gloom that shrouds all of this record. A lot of stoner metal is about the groove and the haze, whereas Grave Next Door are handling heavier topics and therefore their sound is rawer, gruffer, weightier.

‘Charnel House’ is definitely my favourite song here, slipping deep into the fuzzy grooves of Electric Wizard without the nihilism, instead bringing a more haunting, dusty adaption of that style. ‘Heathen’ takes that roiling Kyuss style guitar style and adds a little grit to it, while ‘Sand in the Blood’ is where that Black Flag influence comes in, leaving a crusty hardcore residue. ‘Sanctified Heathen’ is a great record because it subverts all of these cliche stereotypes that you expect when you get handed a ‘stoner metal’ record to review. Grave Next Door’s work is gritty and dark but it doesn’t lose any of its bluesy groove. The blues were always a bit miserable anyway, wasn’t it?

Aegrus - The Carnal Temples

Review by Sandre the Giant

Finnish black metallers Aegrus return with their new EP, ‘The Carnal Temples’, available at the end of January through Osmose Productions. For the past decade plus, Aegrus have worked hard to make themselves well respected in the Finnish black metal scene, and this latest salvo looks to add to that reputation. I first came across them on 2017’s ‘Thy Numinous Darkness’ record, and have followed with interest since.

The title track is an instant, fiery explosion of rabid black metal fury, vampiric snarling vocals shrieking over a pummelling backdrop of furious riffing. This is orthodox, second wave classicism with a scoff at modern sensibilities, and to be honest is a bit of a breath of fresh frosty air in a world where every black metal seems to be trying to be something unique. There’s a reason we all keep listening to ‘Transylvanian Hunger’ guys, even after all this time. ‘In Death Rapture’ is a gloriously savage monochromatic black metal song, as black as night and smothered in a blizzard of atmosphere, which pervades into the measured bleakness of ‘Moonlit Coffinspirit’, which feels like an Immortal d-side, lost to time.

‘The Carnal Temples’ is a magnificently measured and mature piece of slavish tribute to the greatest works in black metal. Aegrus are now masters of this craft, and in a world where the forward motion of time and evolution seems to be unabated, it is nice to hear a band that appreciates the rigours of traditionalism. I am here for this attitude hard in 2022. Let old shool black metal rule the day once more!

Electromancy - Technopagan

Review by Sandre the Giant

Electromancy is an utterly fascinating concept, a black metal band whose music is performed entirely by robots. Brainchild of Satyra, who suffers from a debilitating disability that left them unable to perform or play any instruments, Electromancy’s work is performed by robots of their design, with the ‘band’ being made up of mannequins cut up and filled with LEDs. Sounds totally fascinating! But what of their actual musical skill? Well, ‘Technopagan’ is out next week, so let’s find out.

‘Technopagan’ is made up of twelve tracks, five of which are ‘Machine Chatter’ interludes. The first song proper, ‘The Spark’, is frankly indistinguishable from ‘live’ black metal, apart from probably the intensity of the drumming. Necrotic, battering riffs pummel your ears as sinister, low growling snarls steal through the miasma. The bass elements were created using a modified PVC pipe, creating that droning backdrop that fills the void and makes this feel so dense and heavy. The devastating ‘Disabled’ is burning through frequencies of pain in ways you’ll have never heard before; a bleak industrial black noise that takes us to the haunting, cybergothic grandeur of ‘Soot and Sulfur’.

The creation of these robots leads to compositions of music simply not possible with human hands or feet, but this doesn’t leave ‘Technopagan’ as some kind of chaotic, convuluted mess. ‘Glasshole’ opens with double bass kicks done with a jackhammer it seems, but when the guitar work kicks in it flows into a droning, hyperactive buzzsaw black metal piece that wouldn’t be out of place in a more traditional setting. Uhh, those double kicks though, *chef’s kiss*. ‘Warpaint’ channels Portal and Killing Joke and ends with the trembling drone of a didgeridoo-like sound, while closer ‘My Body is Failing Me’ is a poignant reminder of why this whole project exists in the first place. A raging hopelessness, but rife with power and energy and an unstoppable will to survive and destroy.

Originally I assumed this whole idea to be a gimmick, a university project idea almost. But to read about how this magnificent concept was done to help someone, who at some point composed half of this record by FOOT because Satyra couldn’t use their hands, create music when that ability was taken from them was inspiring. Even if I hadn’t known that, I would’ve enjoyed this record for its murky, bleak violence and heartless, relentless barrage. With that knowledge, ‘Technopagan’ becomes a shining beacon of how metal can conquer almost all adversity.