Archive for June, 2016

Backyard Junkyard cover art

North Carolinian bruisers Thundering Herd have dropped their new record ‘Backyard Junkyard’, a record chock full of (excuse the pun) thunderous groove and old school RAWK! Available on their Bandcamp now!

You’re looking at an album here that is pulsing with muscular riffing, a ton of massive groove and a sweet Southern stoner vibe that is thoroughly energising. Sometimes you need something dark, brutal or heavier than hell, and sometimes you need something that rocks hard and sets your head nodding. Thundering Herd are here for the latter, and on songs like the great ‘Stars, Bars and Mason Jars’, they really capture that feeling perfectly. The vocal hooks are catchy, and there’s almost something a bit thrashy about their riff patterns in places. Imagine Clutch made love to Lamb of God, and you’d be getting there.

The soulful swagger of ‘Aces and 8s’, the grinding ‘Chopper’ and the muscular ‘Some Assembly Required’ are some of my highlights, but it’s not difficult to find a good, banging track on this album. It’s big, dumb and full of groove, and sometimes that’s all you need.

I’ve waxed lyrical on here before about the quality of Cumbrian black metal, and about Skiddaw in particular in the past. That’s why I’m happy to say we finally have a new Skiddaw album, their debut full length called ‘For the Triumph of Evil’. This is forty eight minutes of rain drenched, icy cold black metal from lonely mountains in the north of England.

After the gloomy opener ‘Skiddaw Forest’ builds and swells to the crashing frenzy of ‘Christ Vanquished’, you instantly feel the step up in songwriting from their debut EP. ‘Christ Vanquished’ is a clattering ode to the likes of Gorgoroth or Mayhem, but ‘Oathbreaker’ has expansive moments that remind of ‘Nightside’-era Emperor. Relentless blasting meets instrumental expanse that fleshes out the music well, and allows Skiddaw to drift above the one dimensional black hordes. Their black heart beats proudly, but there’s more to them that meaningless plagiarism.

The cry of ravens ushers in the dark melancholy of ‘Skiddaw Towers’, while the scathing hellfire of ‘Venom Wax’ leads into the gloomy ambience of ‘Under Ebon Shades’. This is an eeire respite before the clattering rage of ‘Abyssal Descent’ and the black miasma of ‘Gate of Beleth’. Skiddaw have crafted a polished, black gem that oozes darkness and evil while sounding fantastic. The warm production gives the impression of a rusty razorblade dipped in hot blood, accentuating the sharpness and the savagery on show.

Closing with the relentless beating of ‘Even Titans Fall’, ‘For the Triumph of Evil’ is a new standard in modern UK black metal; thoroughly old school but fresh, crisp and well written. Black metal is easy to do badly, but Skiddaw are carving out a pretty nice niche for those of us who appreciate traditional black metal with enough nuances to make it interesting. Kudos to these guys!

German depressive black metallers Meuchelmord have returned from a few EPs last year with a new full length, ‘Nostalgia’. The name translates to ‘treacherous murder’, and the dark oppressive nature of ‘Nostalgia’ seeps into your very pores, infecting you with a gloomy misery.

Meuchelmord bring to the table a cold, clammy black metal that clings to you like a funereal mist. You see the world as a grey husk while the buzzing ‘Rabensang’ haunts your existence. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some brighter spots, where melody peeks through the shroud and casts light upon tracks like ‘Grau’. But the overriding, pervasive sadness is soothing in places, especially on the synthy interlude ‘Zwischenspiel’.

A hypnotic, mournful shriek from forests of grey rain and misty clearings, ‘Nostalgia’ is an album that conjures up the likes of Darkthrone or Mayhem, but takes them to a darker, more morbid place. Stark imagery on the cover and inner booklet hint at past pains, and the melancholic, atmospheric black metal served up matches it entirely. A ode to forgotten misery and pain, Meuchelmord are thoroughly absorbing.

Sorcery - Garden of Bones

The legendary Sorcery have come crawling once again from the Swedish underground with fire in their bellies and riffs from the vintage book of Swedeath. Their classic debut, ‘Bloodchilling Tales’, is a favourite of mine, and we waited over 20 years for the follow up, 2013’s raging ‘Arrival at Six’. Not so long a wait for new record ‘Garden of Bones, 52 minutes of classic death metal goodness from Xtreem Music.

Opener ‘Holy Ground’ opens with a total righteous riff, that tears forward with fearsome power. Each track possesses a primal rage, where fetid chugging riffs meet a thick growl and a dense, atmosphere coats the production. Every vintage Swedeath trick appears, from the galloping rage of ‘Hellstorm’ to the morbid chug of ‘Cleansed by Fire’. But as masters of the craft, Sorcery live and breathe these kind of riffs, rather than just being copycats.

What really impresses me is how the songs breathe and devleop. Anyone can write a three minute rager with chainsaw riffing and deathly roars. But Sorcery give each track a little more time, allows ideas to flourish and thus create a much more interesting and refreshing album. It’s great to see a band with this much history in the scene come back relevant and yet true to their roots. Take the monolithic closing title track, that exudes a regal strength and constrained ferocity.

‘Garden of Bones’ is a strong slice of vintage Swedish death metal that is at once contemporary and instanly recognisable. Sorcery do their legacy proud, and continue to prove that the twitching corpse of Swedeath still has much to offer. Hail chainsaw riffs of death!

Swedish death dealers Humanity Delete are pretty much straightforward brutality, as the less than subtle album title gives you the idea. ‘Fuck Forever Off’ is a half hour ride through a hellish world of chainsaw riffs and burning ferocity. Another Rogga Johansson project, the man of a thousand bands strikes once again with visceral and headbanging death metal.

You can tell there’s been a great Dismember and Grave influence on these guys. The songs drip with that buzzing intensity that the classic Swedeath records have, and the ferocious ‘Into the Maze of the Minotaur’ is a better example of the high quality fare on offer here. Rogga’s guttural roar adds a deathly power to each track, and there’s some soulful lead melodies in the almost gloomy ‘Creeping of the Shoggoth’ that bring to mind prime Katatonia. As expected, the songwriting is strong, and there isn’t any one way to skin a cat/write a Swedish death metal song.

Humanity Delete manage to cram all facates of quality death metal into this release, from the moody gloom to the battering obviousness of ‘Lairhunter’. Songs cave in your skull, or lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce with a killer riff. Each song is unique, but they all flow into one satisfying whole, from the thrashing ‘Barbarian Axe’ right through to rumbling closer ‘Flesh Panzer’. Another great record from one of death metal’s true masters.

Coscradh - Coscradh

Coscradh, which is Gaelic for slaughter or massacre, are the latest snarling beast to come out of the vicious Irish underground, and this is another rabid animal being tamed and nurtured by Invictus Productions, who have brought us some fearsome entities in the past. This is their self titled debut, which is available on tape, and soon on CD and vinyl.

When that creaking, fetid riff erupts at the start of ‘Buried’, like an arm reaching from a crypt, you know that something is afoot here. Something nasty, wretched and frankly, awesome. A dense, murky atmopshere pervades this riff, possessing it and dragging it towards its doom. The frenzy begins; raw riffing slashing from right to left, searing, ripping, gouging at your flesh. You feel instantly that Coscradh aren’t your average underground black/death band.

‘Lynch’ echoes with the cacophony of throat shredding growls, while chaotic blastbeats rain upon a scorched earth. A crazed solo pierces the shower, while incantations to darker beings are made. ‘Drowned’ writhes in molten riffage, while closer ‘Coscartac’ is a lurching, venomous belch from the underworld. Coscradh are my new favourite band of 2016, and I cannot recommend this release enough. Support this fucking band!

Plateau Sigma - Rituals

Italian funeral death/doom lords Plateau Sigma bring the misery and the crushing apocalypse on their newest record ‘Rituals’, out now on Avantgarde Music. A weaving of graceful melodies and unbearably heavy morbid doom awaits anyone who begins this journey.

Opener ‘The Nymphs’ is clean, gloomy guitar with muffled giggling in behind, building to the monolithic dirge of ‘Palladion’. Dense, crawling riffs link with glacial quiet sections, while a soulful, almost David Tibet-style spoken word vocal builds into a powerful roar. Plateau Sigma work with post metal stylings; a slow burn build into powerful realms of the riff. Couple that with a rumbling, death/doom style and you’ve got something resembling Neurosis mixing with Paradise Lost.

The haunting drone of ‘The Bridge and the Abyss’ is a personal favourite track, but Plateau Sigma’s deft touch brings multiple shades to the dark, looming miasma of their music. The ghostly clean vocals of ‘Cvltrvm’ meshes beautifully with the propulsive bottom end, while soulful guitar melodies cruise through an ashen sky. This is a band whose maturity and song writing is infinitely impressive.

A mountainous, miserable record that is equal parts graceful melody and crushing, deathly inevitability, as the two part title track closes with glacial simplicity. Plateau Sigma are worth getting into, as their mournful heft is a sheer delight.

Goholor - In Saeculis Obscuris

Slovakian death metallers Goholor dropped their debut EP back in January on Symbol of Domination, and it is four tracks of seething, bubbling deathly fury. ‘In Saeculis Obscuris’ is merely a taste of what is to come.

Opener ‘Art of Infernal Power’ beats with this propulsive power, a relentless rumbling powerhouse of a track that oozes with influences from Bolt Thrower to Obituary and everything in between. Peddling an old school groove, but blending in plenty of fierce blasting too, Goholor have got some killer, buzzsaw riffs. The scathing, Behemoth-esque ‘Naberius Daemon’ is a personal highlight, with its eerie tones and insidious melodies.

The striking thing for me about ‘In Saeculis Obscuris’ is the pure venom with which it is delivered. A flesh searing darkness and evil pervades every track, while the cavernous roar of frontman Anton channels latter day Glen Benton at his blasphemous best. Goholor have got that Eastern European ferocity down to a tee, feeding from the dark chaos unleashed by the likes of Azarath and Behemoth, with dashes of Belphegor in there too. This is a band that could be very big in the underground if their full length follows up on this debut. AWESOME!

Serpent Spells - Mantras Within Ascending Fire

Bangladeshi blackened death metallers Serpent Spells have arisen from the eastern fringes of this world with their debut EP, ‘Mantras Within Ascending Fire’, out now on Godz of War Productions. It seems appropriate that such a release oozes with hatred and fire, considering the terrible events that have befallen the people of Bangladesh recently in the forms of brutal, religiously motivated murders.

Opener ‘Prism of Flesh (Entrance)’ sets the scene nicely with a crackling fire and ominous choral backdrop to delicate acoustics. The imminent detonation of ‘Piercing the Cervix of Nehemah’ is no less visceral when it arrives; with savage riffing and a throat shredding vocal. There is some more straightforward, expansive sections that work well, but Serpent Spells work best at full bloodstained throttle. A relentless Bathory worship is clearly on show here, but there’s also throwbacks to vintage Marduk and Darkthrone too.

I like the eerie parts of ‘Scourge Heretic Consecration’ and the immolating rage of the closing title track is enough to raise the horns of even the most jaded black metaller. Uncompromising, brutal and thoroughly enjoyable, Serpent Spells capture pure fucking armaggeddon in a release, and if you get your hands on a copy, you will be richly rewarded.

Phobocosm - Bringer of Drought

Canadian death metallers Phobocosm hail from Montreal, and if you’re thinking ‘Canadian death metal’, you’re thinking Cryptopsy and Gorguts. You’re also thinking about some of the most inventive and ‘difficult’ death metal on the planet. Enter ‘Bringer of Drought’, a labyrinthine exercise in dissonant brutality. Out now on Dark Descent Records.

The opner ‘Engulfing Dust’ crawls upon you, like a miasmic smothering of death metal. An atmosphere loaded with prime Nile heaviness entwines an inexorable heaviness, like being caught in a mire with no escape. ‘Tidal Scourge’ feels like the flailing death of a drowning man, with the darkness of the deep looming to grab him. There’s a lot of this, almost Lovecraftian death metal around these days, music that devastates you with guttural heaviness and a maddening unease.

The earth shakingly heavy ‘Ordeal’ opens with one of my favourite riffs of the month, because it is so dense. But nothing compares to the world collapsing weight of closer ‘Fallen’, which writhes and thrashes like a beast among the stars; destructive waves radiating from its black core. The quieter moments even pulse with malevolence, and the guttural vocals feel like a voice from beyond.

‘Bringer of Drought’ is a magnificent achievement. In a world where death metal keeps evolving, changing like a chameleon from brutal to fast to slow and heavy, Phobocosm capture that essence perfectly; that feeling of brutality and fear that this kind of music used to induce. Bravo