Archive for October, 2016

British metallers Wretched Soul have spent years honing and crafting a modern, blackened heavy metal sound with constant gigging around the country. I enjoyed their vicious 2013 album ‘Veronica’, and I must say their newest offering through UKEM Records, ‘The Ghost Road’, is sounding superb. When faced with an album cover like this, you’d expect something a little darker and more brutal. But trust me, this is better.

Opening with the anthemic ‘Necromancer’ is a good start, with its stadium metal ‘wooo ooooohs’ at the start, and the fiery guitar licks will instantly appeal to all riff addicts out there. Capturing that early thrash aesthetic, and filtering vintage heavy metal through more extreme genres has worked wonders. The raging gallop of ‘War Wolf’, the glorious fury of ‘The Silent God’ and the melodic power of ‘The Great Destroyer’ leave you breathless and with sore arms after pumping so many fists in the air.

As metal fans, we all love things harder, faster, heavier than everything else. But there are times where we NEED bands like this. Bands to remind us that good tunes, air guitaring and singing along is what heavy metal was built on. Killer riffs spill from the likes of ‘I Am the Thunderer’, but it’s the catchy chorus of ‘Burying the Heretic’ or the soar of the magnificent ‘We Made the Gods’ that captures the imagination here. Well done UKEM Records, you’ve given us a total gem here.

Wretched Soul

Abstruse Custody - Seeds from the Void

Canadian thrashers Abstruse Custody do what a lot of Canadian metal bands do, which is bend the genres a little bit on their debut record ‘Seeds from the Void’. A potent concoction of thrash, black metal and even some baroque classical influence appears too. Mixed by  Sébastien Robitaille of the superb Sorcier Des Glaces, ‘Seeds from the Void’ is going to be a firm favourite for those of you who enjoy the riffs!

Opener ‘Opening in D/Inhabited’ builds with a classical groundswell before some cool technical thrashing riffs take over. A lonely, black metal shriek howls from beyond, with sinister whispers invading at points too. Imagine early Dani Filth with less histrionics and drama, and you’d be close. There is a gloomy occult feeling that does reappear again and again, like the intro to the superb ‘Salem’. The musicianship on this record is magnificent, the classical licks bringing to mind European power metal greats like Savatage or Firewind, but in a rawer format.

Instrumental centrepiece ‘Ison’ really flexes that classical muscle, but we get plenty more ferocity in the spiralling ‘Gone Adrift’, and the moody ‘Stalingrad’. Abstruse Custody have really hit upon this style that I can honestly say I’ve never really come across before. It’s thrashy, but not really; it’s black metal but not really. The piercing shriek over the fretwork fireworks is intriguing, and it works really well.

To be honest, my only real criticism of this record is the thin production, which would work well with a more overtly black metal album, but as a thrash record seems a bit light. The songs are all well written, the unique vocal delivery helps to set them apart from the crowd, and the music is just damn good. Imagine mixing Burzum with early Kreator, then mixing as dry as dust. Brilliant stuff!

Noise Trail Immersion are a five piece Italian band that collaborate on a chaotic blend of progressive/death/math metal that defies logic and categorisation at points as ‘Womb’ spills like fire from your speakers. If you appreciate challenging brutality, then this stuff is definitely for you.

After the howling, ethereal rage of opener ‘Border’, scattergun riffing sprays carnage in the atonal riff-plosion of ‘Somnis’. Imagine if the Dillinger Escape Plan met Ulcerate head on with dashes of Psyopus in there, you’d have a good idea of where we are going with this. ‘Womb’ is a record that is full of moments of glorious melody and jarring jazzy breakdowns. Notes pile on top of each other, while rabid roars grasp for help. ‘Light Eaters’ is almost straightforward in parts, with some glacial post metal melodies gleaming through.

‘Placenta’ spirals almost grind like madness into mathcore chaos, while the ominous gloom of the title track provides a sinister change of pace from the more frenetic moments. ‘Organism’ is a instant favourite, providing the carpet bombing while still keeping moments of melody at the forefront. The jarring ‘Ipnagogic’ makes for an uneasy listening experience, while bug-eyed madness infests the furious ‘Tongueless’. There’s a variety and an enthusiasm here that is positively brimming, and the slow burning build of closer ‘Birth’ encapsulates everything good about the previous half hour.

Noise Trail Immersion are refreshing change from identkit extremity that can become apparent to music reviewers. Their adventurous spirit is infectious, and their music is both a challenge and a reward for those dedicated enough to unlock its true greatness.

Nasty hardcore/sludge from New York? Well, if you insist! False Gods are a dense four piece who wield brutal groove like a rusty hammer, bludgeoning with each swing. Their five track EP ‘Wasteland’ is positively crawling with sludgy grooves and roaring hardcore influences.

Opener ‘Despot’ has that irresistable Southern groove, despite their northern home, and coupled with a caustic hardcore roar creates a scuzzy, lo fi monster with all the mournful blues of prime Sabbath and the attitude of EyeHateGod. Most successfully achieved by Black Flag, this marriage of hardcore rage and the unyielding, cloying power of sludge is a match made in heaven, and ‘Wasteland’ is another excellent example of how the two styles fit so well. Crowbar riffs rumble through a humid swamp, while the snarling vocals pour venom upon those who are captured by the music.

‘Grant Me Revenge’ has a particularly bleak fury to it, and the crumbling world feel of ‘Worship as Intellectual Tyranny’ also gives off those apocalyptic vibes. But closer ‘I Can See You for What You Truly Are’ sums up the kind of murky, savage sludgecore that False Gods have crafted here. This is nasty, violent music designed for nihilist tendencies and a love of good groove. Get this shit as soon as.

This atmospheric black metal collective has achieved three excellent things before the music even plays; their name is great, their album title is better and their album art is instantly evocative of what we can likely expect from this piece. Battle Dagorath are a two piece USA/Germany collaboration, whose music explores the most distant parts of this dark galaxy we call home.

‘I – Dark Dragons of the Cosmos’ is the first of what plans to be a two course release, and while the eerie signals of ‘From the Black Sun’s Fire’ call from dark corners, invocations to the black serpent in the cosmos begin with ‘Phantom Horizons Beyond’. This is bleak, relentless black metal that barely lets up, nor changes focus. You’d describe it as ‘cold’ or ‘icy’, if it didn’t have a feeling of otherworldly death about it, like there was no concept of temperature in its world. There is distorted effects, and no little melody lurking within these riffs, and it adds a very evocative feel.

Ghostly incantations to great spirits of night flow through each black ritual, and with songs so long and complexity or variety required, Battle Dagorath step up. The gloomy acoustics and keyboard that load the middle of ‘Return to Gates of Dawn’ with such emotion bears stark contrast to the rushing torrents of riffing that follow. The glorious space and melody of ‘Through the Rite of the Stars’ is a massive achievement, evoking the glacial darkness perfectly until the gradual comedown of ‘Transfixion of the Spheres’.

Battle Dagorath have created a glorious monument to the power of atmospheric black metal as an art form. The second part promises to be more than worth a listen, if they can maintain this level of craftsmanship. Futuristic yet fiercely traditional in its ethos, ‘I – Dark Dragons of the Cosmos’ praises silent unmentionable evil, with beautiful bleakness.

Canadian heavy metallers Barrow Wight started off as a high school Venom tribute band, and their take on the world of JRR Tolkien keeps much of that early influence. Referencing much from Middle Earth, from the Dwimmerlaik (the Rohan word for spectre or phantom) to Grond (the battering ram used to break the gates of Gondor), this is music put together by folk who know their stuff.

Not only their Tolkien knowledge is tight; their capturing of classic 80s metal riffs is also on point. After the swelling intro, first track ‘No Sleep Till Gondor’ (I see what you did there) is classic Venom worship, that point in time where heavy metal and black metal started to splinter. That NWOBHM gallop is still in full effect, as shown in the excellent ‘Osgiliath’, but there’s plenty of rawer moments. Even the most infectious rock of ‘The Cult’ has this grimy aesthetic. No super clean production or anything here, as the rumbling dark ‘Grond’ will testify to.

There’s a punkish simplicity to this as well which is endearing. The obvious Venom leanings of ‘In League With Sauron’ bleeds into this strange keyboard-led section before returning to riffs, but you never feel overwhelmed by anything other than great songs and passionate delivery. The propulsive bass of ‘Dwimmerlaik’, the gloomy wanderings of ‘The Palantir’ and the kick ass riffery of ‘Harrower of the Dark’, Barrow Wight hit all the right notes.

‘Kings in Sauron’s Service’ isn’t technical, shiny or even remotely original. But that’s what makes it so great. You’ve got 10 songs of heavy fucking metal that breathes that time where everything was a little bit simpler. And for that, Barrow Wight should be praised, because this is totally excellent!

When you’re faced with artwork of a burning church, and a ghostly black figure disappearing off into a dark sky, you immediately would expect it to be black and white, and be full of Satanic black metal anthems. Well the vivid colours of the new release from Sepulchral Curse, ‘At the Onset of Extinction’, will dispel that myth, but don’t think that it isn’t still an album writhing with dark energies…

Sepulchral Curse are Finnish, and therefore are expected also to have that lonely, Finnish melancholy running through their music. That’s not the case here at all; what you have is four tracks of hellish brutality, meshing black metal aesthetics to brutal death metal riffs. The vocals are cavernous, inhuman growls shot through with screams when required. Opener ‘Envisioned in Scars’ is a relentless, chainsaw riffed monster that barely slows in its attempt to sever sinews.

Conjuring the dark spirits of legends like Demigod or Convulse, each song carved by Sepulchral Curse has an innate darkness to it. An almost smothering presence, coating each track like black oil. ‘In Purifying Essence’ bulldozes like prime Bolt Thrower, while showcasing some nice bass work, and the wind tunnel of ‘Gospel of Bones’ is a thing of savage beauty. But epic closer ‘Disrupting Lights of Extinction’ is where the real power lurks. A lumbering behemoth of ancient riffing, this is where some, just a little, of that melancholic vibe creeps in. It struggles to show amongst crashing waves of death metal, but its there if you look for it.

‘At the Onset of Extinction’ is a great record, and another powerful statement is made for death metal in 2016. With bands like Sepulchral Curse flying those tattered banners, only Death is real. Excellent.



Being asked to review a new Hellripper release is like Christmas come early. Except Santa is covered in spikes, a Venom t-shirt and is thrashing his head against his sleigh, blood spraying everywhere. ‘Complete and Total Fucking Mayhem’ is a collection of all of Hellripper’s releases so far, splits and EPs etc, onto one excellent disc. Sit back and prepared to be thrashed.

‘Flesh Ripper’ does exactly that, with razor edged riffing tearing at you while a raging vocal spouts fear and death. ‘Total Mayhem’ is one of my favourite songs of last year, with its raw as fuck speed metal sensibilities scything through all competitors. Hellripper take all the raw potential of early Bathory and inject the kind of melody that Quorthon didn’t manage until much later. It’s harsh, uncompromising but still catchy as all hell, like the wonderfully ravaging RAWK of ‘Hell’s Rock and Roll’.

I had actually missed their split with Fetid Zombie earlier this year (shame upon me), so the last four tracks here were totally new to me. Of these, the standouts are the fiery fretwork moments of ‘Mephistophelian Dreams’ and the Sodom worship of the speedy ‘Blood on the Cross’. The uncanny melding of savage blackened thrash riffs and insidious melodies is what draws me back to Hellripper time after time. Insane air guitaring and headbanging ensues when you crank this up, so make sure it’s at 11.


Bangladeshi blackened death metallers Orobas hail from Dhaka, and their new EP ‘Arise In Impurity’ comes to us from the underrated Symbol of Domination label. It is seventeen minutes of ferocity and blackness the likes of which I’ve never seen from this part of the world, and I like that!

After the eerie, almost occult organ and synthy intro, the machine gun precision of opener proper ‘The Ravana’ becomes ragingly apparent. But this is no one dimensional thrasher. ‘The Ravana’ oozes with miasmic darkness, with riffs that loom in and out of shadowy places with liberal doses of Behemoth-esque blasting. There’s something about the keyboard use that adds a little unease about what the end result may become, which enhances the release. Without something setting them apart, Orobas may have got lost in the mix somewhat.

‘Lord Ramesses’ has an early Venom vibe to it, while the nasty riffing in ‘Bad Blood Hunter’ is very tasty. Orobas have got a lot of potential to become something very special. My only real criticism is that the production would benefit from being a thicker, to give the guitar work a little more body. But a commendable start!

Echelon - The Brimstone Aggrandizement

International death metal setup Echelon have got an eviable pedigree, grabbing members from some of the finest UK and Swedish death metal scenes and creating a fine slab of excellent, grinding death metal with some vintage Scandinavian riffs and good old fashioned British death power. It’s out in December on Transcending Obscurity.

‘The Brimstone Aggrandizement’ is chock full of excellent death metal riffs, for want of a better starting point. There’s decades of history woven into every decrepit riff and morbid guitar solo, and with the cast of characters involved, you can understand why. The rumbling Hail of Bullets/Bolt Thrower worship of the excellent ‘Lex Talionis’ makes for top headbanging music, while the septic wound raked across your ears by the savage ‘Vital Existence’ is another stormer. But what is most evident throughout every song is that feeling of authenticity; that desire for nostalgia.

This is a defiantly old school death metal record; Rogga Johansson’s vintage guitar work entwining with Dave Ingram’s instantly recognisable growl makes for a perfect combination for old school death metallers who want nothing to change or evolve EVER! But in reality, this is a reinvigorating shot in the arm to bands who think they can just play ‘old skool’ riffs and get away with subpar song writing. ‘The Brimstone Aggrandizement’ is a record that pulses with deathly vitality, and each song has its place. Even the weird sampling close to ‘Monsters in the Gene Pool’!