Archive for January, 2020

Witcher - A gyertyák csonkig égnek

The second full length album from Hungarian atmospheric black metallers Witcher, ‘A gyertyák csonkig égnek’ is out now through Filosofem Records, and it is chock full of glorious melody, soaring gloom and necrotic black metal rawness. An intoxicating idea, no?

The opening title track build with some delicate keyboards, swelling synth and weeping guitar, and while this feels very light and spacious, there is a dark, necro heart beating underneath. The croaky rasp of the vocals adds a certain edge to proceedings, just as the sense of scale adds a layer of majesty. It is the longest track here but never outstays its welcome. Following with the gloomy, piano led ‘Feloldozás’, there is a definitive Eastern European melancholy about this work.

It brings to mind a more delicate Drudkh; perhaps you wouldn’t go as far as calling them symphonic black metal but the keyboard instrumentations are just as key as the more traditional black metal tropes, and this collaboration is possibly best illustrated in the superb ‘Az én csendemben’, where the blasting misery of the intro opens up into this vast, bleak soundscape. Vocally the rasping growl works well, keeping the music grounded.

‘A gyertyák csonkig égnek’ is a gorgeous album, created with a palette of the palest whites, the bleakest greys and the deathly blacks. Grandiose, miserable and ambitious, even finishing with their take on some Tchaikovsky, Witcher’s work is a welcome break from bands who think ‘atmosphere’ is just blastbeats behind a synth. Mesmerising stuff!

Frayle - 1692

Originally published here:

The dark rock/doom stylings of Cleveland’s Frayle have come creeping into the light, with their debut full length ‘1692’, coming out on February 14th through Laybare Recordings/Aqualamb Records. A record that draws influences as far and wide as Cocteau Twins, Kyuss, Chelsea Wolfe and Sleep, they straddle a thin line between rumbling doom and almost dreamy, ethereal pop sensibilities.

The hypnotising drone of the introduction, coupled with the whispering vocals, leads us perfectly into the haunting dark rock gloom of the title track. Vocalist Gwyn Strang has a gorgeous voice, at once both eerie and yet fragile and beautiful. It flows in perfect synchronicity with the bleak drive of the guitar work. ‘Gods of No Faith’ adds in some male growls, but the main focus is always that ghostly interplay between the heavy and the light. ‘Darker Than Black’ is my favourite track here by far; riffs swaying in hallucinogenic atmospheres while dense drumming underpins probably the best vocal performance on the album.

This is a record that has become addictive over multiple listens. There has always been an important place for female voices in doom; the fragile nature of the style lends itself well to the more haunting female vocal, but there is something special about Frayle’s contributions. It isn’t just big riffs but a more nuanced approach, allowing the heaviness to build not just from the guitar but from Strang’s storytelling. Weaving tales of anger, heartbreak, resolution and hypocrisy, she adds that intangible that takes ‘1692’ away from the crowd and into a space that they alone inhabit. The brooding ‘Burn’ takes you in directions you wouldn’t expect, as does the gentle gloom of ‘If You Stay’. But it is the Triptykon-esque darkness pervading parts of ‘Godless’ that really gets to me in a primal way.

‘1692’ is a record that will stay with me all year. It gives me the same feeling as when I heard Mount Salem’s ‘Endless’ for the first time a few years ago; I didn’t know music could be this bleak and yet so beautiful. Frayle conjure those same feelings, and for that makes this a real gem. As they say themselves, this is a place to feel vulnerable amongst the chaos, and that is a welcome sight indeed.

My first gig of 2020 was one that, originally, I was just going for the support act. I fucking love Behemoth, and to be honest hadn’t really been into Slipknot for a long time. But I guess the 15 year old hiding in me somewhere said ‘you need to go to that, it’ll be fucking cool’. Well the little bastard was right. Another trip up the road to the Big Smoke, Glasvegas, my former home, is always welcome as well. A couple of beers on board, I swaggered on down to the Hydro ready to join the throngs of ‘goths’ ready for some headbanging.

But first, the original reason for my purchase; Behemoth were fucking outstanding. Nergal and crew showed why they deserve to be on stages this size all the time with a gloriously brutal and grandiose performance. Nergal stalks the stage, with every guitar riff dripping with Satanic menace. Couple that with throat shredding versions of ‘Daimonos’ and the superlative ‘Conquer All’ and they laid a very tough challenge at the feet of our headliners to follow them. They even got fire, which I was surprised at since normally support acts have gotta tone it down a bit. Not bible tearing though so…

But follow them, Slipknot surely did. As much as I’m sure many of my generation will hate to admit, you wouldn’t be into death metal and the like if it wasn’t for Slipknot turning up when you were 13 years old and fucking destroying your perceptions of heavy music. ‘Iowa’ did that for me, and I only realised how important that was when I witnessed 14,000 people going absolutely insane for this band. The Hydro has never been louder, as the band smashed through powerful versions of all their classics. ‘Duality’, Before I Forget’, ‘Eyeless’, ‘Wait and Bleed’; this was a veritable greatest hits by a band whose accessibility does not prevent them from being intense and heavy as fuck.

This was a gig that was utter joy to behold. Slipknot at full power are a tight, fire breathing machine of chaos. Explosions, flamethrowers, flaming baseball bats; everything you could want. And as a sold out Hydro screamed every word, you couldn’t help but be intoxicated by it. Closing with ‘Surfacing’, we all went home exhausted, sore throats and necks, but knowing we’d seen something special. I’ve seen both Sabbath and Slayer retire at the Hydro, but neither were as visceral or as energetic as this.

Earth and Pillars - Earth II

The glorious cover artwork for Earth and Pillar’s newest record, Earth II’ evokes many feelings but mostly for me the idea that atmospheric black metal and nature work so well together, even when not the stereotypical frozen wilderness. ‘Earth II’ is out now through Avantgarde Music.

Opener ‘Becoming’ grows with glorious synth swells and clean guitar, before the distortion and the snarls appear. But the atmosphere remains majestic with the ethereal backdrop and clean guitar melody flowing around the more traditional black metal instrumentation. There’s a wistful longing about this track, that seeps through into each of the others. ‘Falling’ flows like a raging mountain torrent, Cascadian black metal riffs pouring from the guitars. There is no let up from the relentless battering here until the last minute or so but it is invigorating! This perfect mix of synth led atmosphere, clean guitar and raging black metal is truly breathtaking in places, and I particularly was drawn to the mesmerising third track ‘Ascending’.

‘Earth II’ is a record of sweeping majestic, melancholy and savage blasts of black metal fury. Often this kind of black metal can feel overly long, repetitive or monotonous but Earth and Pillars fall into none of those traps. ‘Earth II’ is a glorious monolith to Cascadian black metal done right, and this is a record full of dark beauty.

Vofa - Vofa

Vofa is the work of Icelandic musicians that have contributed to the underground scene there throughout many genres; black metal, hardcore, death metal, electronica, and this is their exploration of the bleaker side of life. This is funeral doom soundscapes at their most evocative, and is out now through Funere Records.

Split into three tracks, ‘Vofa’ is an encapsulation of the grim cold of their homeland. ‘I’ builds with evocative clean guitar; glacial melodies weaving within a deep gloom before distortion and a titanic growl appears to shatter the illusion. There is a little bit of a trad doom swagger that starts to appear towards the end of the first track, which is unusual in proper funereal doom, but I like it. There is a wretched misery about each track, ‘II’ oozes from your speakers like a malignant growth ready to swallow the ground you walk on. The vocal interplay here between a raspy growl and mournful clean vocals is excellent, and it brings a much heavier crunch to it. ‘III’ brings forth a sludgey doom to it, giving us a nihilistic swampy feel to it.

‘Vofa’ is an album that paints with a dark palette; shrouding guitar in weeping mist and then building a deep heaviness to the fore by the end. An intoxicating mix of glacial calm and soul crushing brutality that should appeal to most. Rumbling magnificence.


If there was a band that, in 2019, defines Swedish death metal better than Paganizer, I’d love to hear about them. The hardest working dude in death metal, Rogga Johansson, is back with more riffs and more savagery with ‘The Tower of the Morbid’, released late last year through Transcending Obscurity.

Cloaked in some awesome Dan Seagrave artwork, this is a record that goes for the jugular straight away with the galloping ‘Flesh Tornado’ and barely lets up from there. The guitar work is thick; chunky riffing with that trademark Swedeath buzz, ripping solos and chugging brutality. Can you avoid banging your head to the thunderous stomp of ‘Cannibal Remains’? No, that is impossible. But this is no one dimensional hack and slash death metal record. The melancholic ‘Redemptionless’ is a melodic tour de force, the gloomy ‘They Came to Die’ is gloriously Amon Amarth-like in its sword swinging power and the title track throbs with an ancient darkness.

A stunning microcosm of just why Swedish death metal is so highly regarded as a style, ‘The Tower of the Morbid’ is as close as you’ll come to a modern classic of the genre. The guitarwork is top notch, the songwriting is creative and yet very streamlined, and the overall atmosphere is laden with death. Rogga does it again, and Paganizer are a joy to behold in full flight.

Chaos Motion - Psychological Spasms Cacophony

The twisting carnage of French death metal scientists Chaos Motion’s newest record ‘Psychological Spasms Cacophony’ must, frankly, be written by some kind of laboratory born mutant. That is the only way to explain how the genre is pulled in the strangest of directions by this band. It is out now through Transcending Obscurity.

The jerky, spasming ‘Intro’ will immediately let you know that something is afoot here. ‘The Sound of Specter’ ramps up the Gorguts and Atheist influences, but with a lot of added weirdness. This is an album that truly lives up to its title, with random jerking riffing interspersing the almost mathcore rage that infests ‘Perturbation of a Spin’. I’ve never heard anything that resembles this before, and throughout the forty minute runtime that feeling becomes more and more apparent. Just when you think you’re going to have a bit of a headbang it stops on a dime, spins and careers off in another direction.

The brain melting ‘Vital Vision Void’ sits astride the middle of this record, and its maddening structure is possibly the ideal summation of everything this record brings. There are times when I’m not even sure it still counts as death metal; where the abstraction of sound takes precedence over what we would think of as ‘typical’ death metal. ‘Inner Chaos’ is a great example of this. Don’t get me wrong though, when the heavy comes it is dense and devastating and a respite almost from the aural tyranny wrought upon us.

‘Psychological Spasms Cacophony’ is the logical conclusion of Psyopus, Meshuggah and Gorguts all fighting on a space station orbiting a black hole. An album that is not catchy, has no specifically memorable riffs or melodies but is yet utterly mesmerising. A staggering achievement, Chaos Motion have created something terrifyingly addictive with this; a genuinely unique sound.

A new two man project of death from Richmond, Virginia, Priests of Prometheus released their debut EP on New Year’s Day 2020 so it seems like a good record to start the year with. ‘Lodestar’ is out through their Bandcamp.

Opening with the visceral ‘Omnigore’, it is clear that main songwriter Justin Wolz has really managed to put together a great collection of songs here. A dose of grandeur dissolves into an acidic Swedeath riff, but that sense of majestic space returns and the crunchy guitar tone really breathes well here. A genuinely different take on modern/old school death, punctuated with glorious soloing. The battering, Cannibal Corpse-esque assault of ‘Darkened’ is superb, as is the chugging Suffocation-like thunder that powers the indomitable ‘Lacuna of Forgetfulness’.

Closing with the sweeping, brutal and technical tour de force of ‘Enlightened’, ‘Lodestar’ pulses with potential for what a full length could do. Priests of Prometheus have made a stunning start to 2020, and this will remain in rotation throughout the year. Great stuff!