Archive for October, 2017

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Vaultwraith seems to have born out of a desire to bring the horror metal of early King Diamond and Mercyful Fate to a more extreme and bloodthirsty audience. Searching in amongst the ruins of ancient castles, these Missourians have found rituals and arcane magic that brings to life the ghosts of Nocturnus, Celtic Frost and Bathory, weaving a classic heavy metal streak through them to create ‘Death is Proof of Satan’s Power’. Hells Headbangers is dropping this on Halloween.

First to rise from the grave is ‘The Vaultwraith’ and the band’s eponymous track is a perfect encapsulation of what is to come, with galloping thrash riffs meeting scowling vocals and insidious melodies to create something defiantly old school. Haunting keyboards hover in the distance, enhancing but never overpowering. Imagine ‘Ravaged in the Crimson Mist’ as a Judas Priest song, but dipped into the murky black waters of Sodom, or Bathory. Vaultwraith’s true talent lies within their ability to create a collection of songs that are both catchy and still raw and filthy.

You’ll be humming every nasty riff and throaty growl, air keyboarding when the ethereal notes seep through this blackened thrash nightmare. The rumbling menace of ‘Open Grave Rape’ and the ethereal grimness of ‘High Priestess of the Wolf Coven’ mixes the raw thrash of the early tracks with a more measured, horror-induced style that really stands out. ‘Death is Proof of Satan’s Power’ is an album that unlocks its majesty slowly, drawing you in with temptains of headbanging and then meanders through your mind, enslaving you to its ghostly horrors. Stunning.

https://vaultwraith-us.bandcamp.com/album/death-is-proof-of-satans-power

https://www.facebook.com/vaultwraith/

http://www.hellsheadbangers.com/

Sludgy Arizona band Horse Head have already disbanded by the time you hear their final release ‘Terminal’, and it feels like I’m getting to know them too late. Their follow up to the well received ‘Missionary’ will appeal to fans of EyeHateGod and Rwake, but Horse Head aren’t mere clones. In fact, they could’ve been something incredibly special.

Opener ‘Inferno’ builds with rumbling bass and a cold, clean guitar riff then strong doom guitar crashes behind a nihilistic shriek. While lacking much of the squalling feedback of EHG, Horse Head definitely capture a more sun scorched take on sludgey nihilism. It is dry, suffocating heat with almost brutal takes on Kyuss riffs, rather than your murky swampy eastern sludge. ‘Throne of Lies’ is a stomping, Godfleshian nightmare where southern fried riffs take on a ritualistic, nightmarish edge. They remind me of fellow Arizonians Godhunter, especially in the deathly, sludgecore crush of closer ‘Price We Paid’

Horse Head have left quite the epitaph in ‘Terminal’. Sludgey, fire scorched riffs burn brilliantly under throat shredding screams and a dangerous sense of groove. It seems quite the shame that they have gone, but we have this to remember them by.

https://www.facebook.com/horseheadphx/

https://horseheadphx.bandcamp.com/

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Serpentrance have crawled from ancient Russian voids to belch forth their debut EP ‘The Besieged Sanctum’, first released in 2015, and now being rereleased by Blood Harvest Records. It’ll be out on the 10th November, and is probably one of the most devastating releases of 2017.

Opener ‘Sin’ is a growling, lumbering beast of horrendous black/death metal; riffs hewn from the abyss crash upon you while a fell voice utters atrocities that wind around blasting drums and crawling riffs. This trade off between ferocity and slow doomy passages gives way to fears of what these rituals will draw forth, especially with that toll of the bell at the start of the frantic ‘The Aphotic Temple’. Serpentrance are indeed like their name; a snake like entity that moves with dark grace but waits with evil intent to snag you and entrance your mind. Hypnotic dirges leave you little light or air to survive on, and the titanic miasma of ‘Among the Timeless Tombs’ is the high point.

‘The Besieged Sanctum’ is a piece of art; devastating extremity layered with massive low end, brutal vocals and a vibrant yet crushing riff set that will strike fear into the hearts of men. Serpentrance are chaos, death and abyssal evil, and this release is the epitome of those principles.

https://bloodharvestrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-besieged-sanctum

https://www.facebook.com/Serpentrance-243700699154518/

http://www.bloodharvest.se/

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Irish death metallers Coscradh’s debut demo last year gained international acclaim (including me:  https://thoseonceloyal.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/review-coscradh-coscradh/) and Invictus have brought us yet more of this devastation with their latest EP, ‘Of Death and Delirium’. This takes everything the band achieved on ‘Coscradh’ and cranks everything up. Prepare to be brutalised…

Opener ‘Disappeared’ is a horrifying, miasmic hurricane of sound; tar thick riffing splattering everywhere while inhuman vocals spew forth wretched bile and filth. It’s exactly what Coscradh needed to do, dive headfirst into improving everything from their previous work (which would be a challenge given the quality of their output) and this is surely an auspicious start. The scalding ‘Hangwoman’ is next, grinding riffs suffocating underneath oppression and hatred. Nothing matches the ambitious darkness of ‘Saor sa hAnbháis’ however; waves of ugly, dissonant death metal crash upon you while hands of dread claw at your, determined to drag you under. Torturous, gloom death metal of the highest order here at the end.

‘Of Death and Delirium’ is hellacious, murky death metal that continues to showcase the steps towards Hell that Coscradh are taking. Their music gets deeper in the abyss, and where they will go from here I don’t know. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

https://invictusproductions666.bandcamp.com/track/hangwoman

https://www.facebook.com/Coscradh/

Worm - Evocation of the Black Marsh

A one man swampy black metal project from the dark recesses of Floridian marshland, Worm’s debut record ‘Evocation of the Black Marsh’ is due out at the end of the month on Iron Bonehead, and is a particularly nasty slab of raw, sludgey black metal with more subtlety and nuance than you might expect…

‘Altar of Black Sludge’ couldn’t really be better named, as a morbid crawling riff oozes from underneath occult atmospheres of dread before the ‘Winged Beast of the Phantom Crypt’ envelopes a harsh riff in a suffocating miasma and unholy screams vomit forth from dark places. All the best parts of early Bathory combining with the latter swaying doom of Celtic Frost make ‘Gravemouth’ a modern, mutating classic. Sure, black metal plays the major influencing role here but there’s an undeniably sludge and doom undercurrent here too. The title track sounds like Xasthur covering EyeHateGod, which is inevitably awe inspiring.

Monstrous, fetid crushers like ‘Evil in the Mire’ and ‘Swamp Ghoul’ raise foul spectres of southern sludge and when layered with a malevolent black metal spirit allows ‘Evocation of the Black Marsh’ to become as good an embodiment of a title as any album you’ve heard in ages. Poisonous, asphyxiating bands like Worm aren’t ten a penny, and therefore you need to find this.

http://www.ironbonehead.de/

https://www.facebook.com/IronBoneheadProductions/

Ashen Epitaph - The Formed Filth Enigma

Serbian death metallers Ashen Epitaph have taken their name from a Benediction song, so you can expect some similarly brutal death metal coming from within ‘The Formed Filth Enigma’. This is their third full length, and is just out on Grom Records now. Think Amon Amarth without the Vikings and adding more death metal, and you’ve got a good idea of where Ashen Epitaph are coming from.

A gloomy intro leads into the snarling ‘Fog, Mud, Loneliness’, a galloping riff laden beast with a ragged, poisonous guitar tone and a firm grasp of memorable riffs. There’s plenty of moments that remind you of Sweden’s greatest melodeath bands, from Amon Amarth to Arch Enemy to further back early Dark Tranquility or In Flames. ‘The Mirrorgallery’ has this feeling in spades, where thrashing death metal crunches through open melodic territory, dragging bloodied corpses behind.

For me though, the overriding joy of this record is how, despite the obvious melodic tendencies, the purity of brutal death metal riffing, growling and blasting drums is never lost. The devastating ‘The Wounds’, the chugging ‘Destroy All False Faiths’ or the brutal smash of ‘One More Nail’ keeps this record fully grounded in filthy, rampaging death metal. Ashen Epitaph have created a record to be proud of here; visceral, relentless and thoroughly enjoyable.

https://www.facebook.com/ashenepitaph/

http://www.gromrecords.net/

Prostitution - Egyptian Blue

By looking at the cover, you’d expect Prostitution’s ‘Egyptian Blue’ to be a prog rock opus of epic proportions. But no, these New Yorkers are some vicious black metallers and this is their latest EP, coming on the heels of 2013’s ‘Listless’. Their sound spreads from Darkthrone to Pink Floyd, and their psychedelic aesthetic jars with standard black metal themes, but damn it if it doesn’t work out pretty well.

Opening track ‘Hypergiant’ is a sprawling, raging monster of a track; all shrieking tremolo and bloodcurdling screams at the start before it begins to evolve, slowly and deliberately into something grander. While always retaining their metal heart (blastbeats reign supreme over much of this EP), the expansive nature of their riffing brings to mind latter period Enslaved, particularly ‘Ruun’, and the soaring ‘The Boat’ melds spiralling fretwork into spacious waves of black metal fury.

Closing with the tour de force of ‘Elevated Droves’, where blastbeats disappear into dense voids of chugging riffing, and atonal melodies haunt plains of progressive metal, ‘Egyptian Blue’ is a thrilling and adventurous piece of extreme metal. Black metal is the core, but like bands like Ihsahn or Ved Buens Ende it isn’t the cage. Prostitution are a stunning proposition.

https://www.facebook.com/Prostitution666/

https://prostitution.bandcamp.com/

Normally I don’t review splits very often, as their juxtaposition of bands can sometimes be a bit jarring for someone that mostly listens to complete records, but I’ve come to enjoy the Chilean contribution to South America’s metal scene recently, and ‘Wrath of Darkness’ is a split between two forces in this underground mecca, Wrathprayer and Force of Darkness. Both draw from a black metal wellspring, but in different yet collaborative ways. This split is coming out on Nuclear War Now! Productions in a mere 2 weeks!

This split is an entirely collaborative effort, from artwork to musical direction and so has a lot more cohesion than a lot of splits do. Wrathprayer take first stab with the creepy intro and the suffocating, oppressive ‘Tria Serpentis’. Howling roars from deepest abyssal plains, belching horrors untold as chasms are torn asunder by dense, rippling riffs of the darkest, deathly black metal. ‘De Profundis’ is even bleaker, led in by tortured screaming and howling winds of blackened death. They leave a huge challenge for Force of Darkness to meet on their part.

Fortunately ‘Wall of Fire’ proves to be more than up to the challenge, with fire breathing ferocity powering us along at breakneck speed. A surprisingly melodic solo punctuates a song that is more waspish, traditional black metal than Wrathprayer’s contributions. ‘Nunc Scio Tenebris Lux’ is another scorcher that, despite its fuzzy guitar tone and screaming vocal, does nothing to stop being the most memorable song here. The powerful ‘The Order’ finishes their contribution as Force of Darkness sail off on black waters through their outro.

‘Wrath of Darkness’ is an excellent release that really showcases two starring lights in the Chilean extreme metal scene. Wrathprayer keeps everything dense and dark, while Force of Darkness has a bit more melody and some furiously catchy songs. Make a note of its release folks!

https://nuclearwarnowproductions.bandcamp.com/album/wrath-of-darkness

http://www.nwnprod.com/

https://www.facebook.com/WRATHPRAYER-184968604887127/

With a name like High Reeper (God that spelling is going to annoy me through this review) and an album cover like their self titled debut, it’s pretty obvious that within this disc is going to be some stoner related music. But their press blurb says they’re going the Saint Vitus, Orchid and Sabbath way, rather than the Kyuss clones I’m getting tired of. That already is a good thing. ‘High Reeper’ is out on the 3rd of November.

‘Die Slow’ opens this record with a simply jamming groove that, when coupled with the lonesome, Ozzy like vocals, makes this an instant hit. High Reeper tread that line between blatant Sabbath worship and healthy doses of modern rock and roll, and the results are infectious and soulful. The energetic Clutchisms of ‘Chrome Hammer’, the soulful blues of ‘Soul Taker’ and the grinding title track provide a three track salvo of pure doom blues for anyone to get into. At this point, I’m sold. it’d have to go well downhill from here to suck overall.

But it doesn’t! The heavy rumbling open of ‘Reeper Deadly Reeper’ is a lost howl from doom’s murky past, and the second half of the record builds more into classic doom territory, with the sprawling ‘Weed and Speed’ and the insistent ‘Double Down and Let It Ride’ drawing from Wino’s playbook. Nothing however is finer than the monstrous doom rock of closer ‘Friend of Death’, which somehow combines everything good they’ve done all record and cranks it to 11.

If you’re looking for an album that’ll give you that warm feeling the old Sabbath records did, but still cuts a massive modern groove, then ‘High Reeper’ is for you. The hooks are massive, the groove is brilliant and the atmosphere is pure chill. Light up, spread out and get ready to meet the Reeper…

https://www.facebook.com/HIGHREEPER/

This striking French black metal debut from Infernal Blast is  a torrent of violent, dark war metal. ‘Wolves Elitism Speech’ has no agenda other than to tear you apart from the ears down, and is another example of how far one man bands have come from badly produced bedroom acts. The cassette is out on 17th November through War Arts Productions.

Opener ‘Destruction Process’ is a vicious, barrelling nightmare of a track, with an eruption of blastbeats peppering a murky and dense guitar attack. This style continues undaunted throughout, from the carnage of the short ‘No Redemption No Remorse’ to the unremitted barbarism of ‘Wolf Hunting’. There isn’t a lot of room for variation but in a seventeen minute release you don’t need it. The creepy samples provide respite enough between the kind of metal that personifies how life is going; bleak, barbaric and dehumanising. ‘Wolves Elitism Speech’ has no care for you, it merely provides a dirty window into our future.

Infernal Blast have a bright future. Well, bright like a nuclear holocaust bright, as their music is apocalyptic, visceral and comes from the primal instincts of man for violence and savagery. ‘Wolves Elitism Speech’ claws and slavers at you, and it is ready to be unleashed on the wider world.

http://war-arts-productions.com/

https://war-arts-productions.bandcamp.com/album/infernal-blast-wolves-elitism-speech

https://www.facebook.com/Infernal-Blast-1719640488330494/