Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Come to Grief - Pray for the End

If the name seems familiar, its because this is the continuation of the legendary Grief who finally called it quits over a decade ago. But you can’t keep a good band down, and in Grief’s case, praise all dark and horrible things that Come to Grief became a reality a few years ago. Their new EP ‘Pray for the End’ is out now through Grievance Records.

I mean, what do you even say about this kind of release? Grief invented half of the iconic sludge doom traits, and are about as important as EyeHateGod in the creation and perseverance of the style. Opener ‘Ignorance is Surely Bliss’ immediately descends in hellish churning riffs, coated in tar while a guy asks you if you want to fuck around and laughs menacingly. Snarling vocals haunt massive, sludgey riffs in the omnipotent ‘March of the Maggots’, calling back to the very height of Grief’s powers as a nihilistic juggernaut. ‘Raping the Willing’ is a final nail in the coffin for anyone who thinks that classic bands coming back do not have their benefits. A monstrous groove coupled with throat shredding vocals and an atmosphere you could drown a small child in, this is perfect.

Come to Grief were one of those reunion type things I just missed in the last few years of music. I have a back log of music to catch up on since 2015. But ‘Pray for the End’ has cured that particular ailment and now I am fully involved in the continuation of this sludge legend. Iconic, looming and endlessly miserable, this is what sludge is all about

Lantern - Dimensions

Review by Geary of War

Finnish quartet Lantern have followed up 2017’s ‘II: Morphosis’ with a strong and engaging album in ‘Dimensions’ which is out on Dark Descent Records. Lantern are showing real evolution of their style which draws from black and death metal. Moving on from a much more straightforward style showcased in the previous record ‘Dimensions’ finds the band exploring melodic moments, various time changes and some good old headbanging.

Opening track and lead single ‘Strange Nebula’ hits you with dramatic opening bars, suspense, a powerful clean solo and a war like chant. Then we move past the first 90 seconds of the song! If all Lantern opted to do was release ‘Strange Nebula’ I would be simultaneously fine with it and raging as there is a lot of promise here. ‘Beings’ treads a similar path, which is to say excellent however where the evolution I mentioned earlier is put front and centre is with ‘Portraits’. At 2:07 it is very much the shortest track on offer but exposes a side of the band which flexes the boundaries of the genres Lantern occupies. Melodic tones and an almost clean vocal approach (Necrophilous on vocals has too much gravel in his voice to be truly clean) draw you in, you get a quick smack around the head as aggression hits before the softer side returns and now leads you to a sudden yet excellent conclusion.

‘Cauldron of Souls’ and ‘Shine of Revelation’ take the baton of violent intent forward with continued execution of the band’s brand of audio war. The sixth and final track on ‘Dimensions’ is the epic and exploratory ‘Monolith Abyssal Dimensions’. Having highlighted the shortest track previously here I must point out that this is the longest track at 14:17. Between the black metal riffs and blasts, solos reminding me of Death. The band that is, not the soul harvester. Moments of prog wandering like a really extreme Pink Floyd all surrounded by vocals which complete the image of horror depicted on the album cover. A cover, which reminds me of the evil castles and strongholds hosting necromancers as depicted in Robert E Howard’s Conan stories.

‘Monolith Abyssal Dimensions’ has meant that for the best track here it would be a toss of a coin between that and ‘Strange Nebula’. The press release says the band have been “illuminating death metal’s dark passages since 2007”. To quote Sterling Archer, ‘uh, phrasing?’ but I can safely say they have strode forth and now command a position of respect; they can stand tall and proud of the record they have put together.

Review by Sandre the Giant

Canadian tech death maestros Atrae Bilis have brought their spiralling complexities on their new album, ‘Divinihility’, out in August through Transcending Obscurity. Expect a bewildering cocktail of brutal and technical death metal.

After the jagged complexities of instrumental opener ‘Gnode’ giving you a rough idea of where this album is going, the soul squeezing brutality of ‘Sulphur Curtain’ comes barrelling into you, replete with a powerhouse drumming performance that somehow keeps up with the intricate riff patterns and tempo changes. The dissonant guitar work in the superlative ‘Phantom Veins Trumpet’ creates more variety in three minutes than many bands manage in an album. There’s clearly a lot of Gorguts influence here, along with some Ulcerate and perhaps some more brutal options like Dying Fetus or Depravity. Not enough bands these days are referencing Gorguts for my liking, so I’m on board with this.

The TO label sampler including ‘Ectopian’ on their playlist and I can see why. There’s an infectious chug to it that burrows into your mind like a parasitic worm, laying eggs that burst into breakdowns and surprisingly memorable passages. Normally overly technical death metal can just become an exercise in overkill, but Atrae Bilis handle it well. I mean, there is the oppressively dense ‘Upon the Shoulders of Havayoth’ but hey, if you can play like that why wouldn’t you show off every so often?

‘A Ceremony of Sectioning’ brings us to a juddering, cavernous close and ‘Divinihility’ is over too soon. Asides from being too short though, the music here is tremendous; varied and highly skillfull while remaining tight enough in the songwriting department to ensure that you’ll remember a couple of the tracks for a long time. Hopefully on their next release we can get a lot more!

Eremit - Desert of Ghouls

Review by Sandre the Giant

I waxed lyrical about German sludge doomsters Eremit and their debut record two years ago here. They have a mighty legacy to follow, even if it is only one album. ‘Desert of Ghouls’ is the newest piece from them, and it is out now through Transcending Obscurity.

Only two tracks here, but they total over 20 minutes so I think the legacy of ‘Carrier of Weight’ remains strong. Opener ‘Beheading the Innumerous’ swells through squalling feedback and schizophrenic drums into a fuzzed out rumble that groans with primal weight. This mighty riff cycles endlessly, soon accompanied by a tortured howl. It is hypnotising and smothering, slowly submerging you in mighty doom while you’re too transfixed to move. The other half of this piece, ‘City of Râsh-il-nûm’, begins to fade in gently, like a mirage slowly becoming clear. It’s over five minutes in before a churning groove looms into view, a bleakly relentless sandstorm of gloom piling dust on an ancient place. It feels like an awakening of some dark beast that dwells beneath a forgotten temple, lost to time.

‘Desert of Ghouls’ is a very apt title, as this feels like a journey through ancient lands and bewitched by ancient dark magic. There’s a titan weight to each track, an oppressive depth and darkness to each sallow riff and impassioned growl. Eremit blew my mind the first time I heard them, and they’ve begun now to move beyond our world and into something else. Something old and vibrant.

Pyre - Chained to Ossuaries

Review by Geary of War

Pyre, a Russian death metal trio, have released their second album ‘Chained to Ossuaries’ through Memento Mori Records, however it does feel as though I should say unleashed rather than released. Preferring to hone a more ‘traditional and raw sound’, Pyre comes at you with the oldest of schools of death metal, often evoking memories of Entombed and that classic death to death ‘n’ roll sound.

Following the short instrumental opener of ‘Exordium’ we are then treated to the real meat and potatoes of the album. Rasping vocals, thumping drums and guitars wielded with only one thing in mind, menace. Tracks like ‘Across the Shores of Emerald Fractals’ and ‘Ornaments of Bones’ show a band evolving as much as they can within the confines of death metal, the latter opening up with 40 seconds of quiet brooding yet beautiful instrumental you would almost be forgiven for forgetting what you were listening to. Then the classic death metal arrives back in with a squeal of the guitar and drums battered in a way which makes me think of ‘Beneath the Remains’.  Add to that an ear for groove and a hook and you will be left in no doubt why these lads have something to offer.

Title track ‘Chained to Ossuaries’ goes all out to bring to the listeners all the feelings you would expect to experience if bound in a room full of bodies and bones. A brooding opening, death metal assault for panic, an almost classic heavy metal solo for the rising sense of control. Then we are back to a brooding hopelessness.  It is a track which tells a story and that is always worth the time. I would pick this to play to someone who was new to the band. We continue in a similar vein all the way to the album’s end with ‘Death’s Dawn Call’ which brought a wry smile as it kicked into gear with a cheeky pic slide.

Very much in keeping with the tone, Pyre ensures we leave the spin(and it is still a spin even if it is digital!), treated to aggression, pacing, hooks and solos. Add to that the determination to bring the heart of death metal alive, to give a horror movie a soundtrack. Pyre is not going to be tearing down any preconceptions of what death metal is, old school or new but what they are doing in ensuring it doesn’t become stale. The St. Petersburg scene has a gem on their hands.

Review by Geary of War

When I get offered bands to review I absolutely base my selection on the band name and how it draws me in. No science, no fluff. All guess work.
With Cryptonight the pun lover within me skipped with glee, oh i see what you are doing, Cryptonight, like Kryptonite, Superman’s one weakness. Crypt like a place of death, death tonight. Weakness of man etc etc.  Excellent. Puns ahoy.

Upon receiving the information and music I see the band name, scrawled in finest black metal tradition, barely legible. Onwards into listening to the debut from the Canadians, mind racing about the puns to be had. ‘The Black Ritual’ is the audio interpretation of the band’s various nightmares and the delivery is influenced by various video games which aid the delivery of their own audio horror. ‘The Black Ritual’ opens with ‘The Black Key’ and at a mere 1:26 this is clearly a classic atmosphere setting instrumental. It opens with unsettling tones and a thumping bass which is the first hint that this is not what you would expect.

‘The Black Key’ effortlessly unlocks into ‘The Black Door and here is where all preconceptions about the bands style are smashed aside like Doomsday batting aside mere humans as he destroys Metropolis. Instead of grim, frozen tundra feeling black metal we have instead jarring and aggressive djent doom metal.
There is nothing comfortable about ‘The Black Door’. The vocal screech and bellow at you from all sides. The bass and drums feel like fists battering the side of your head while the guitars and synths are the nerve searing harpies, just out of arm’s reach. ‘Shadow Walk’ shows a different side of the band and really showcases their computer game influence. The haunting and slightly unsettling guitar playing is accompanied by subtle and effective synth work. It is a creepy effect that reminds me of Resident Evil where you know it’s all too quiet and something will try and tear your face off any moment, probably a boss.

To compound this there is sporadic vocals delivered as if they were just beyond that corner and coming to get you. What seals this for me is the bell that tolls and then its riff assault that Messuggah would be proud of. The rest of ‘The Black Ritual’ follows a similar pattern of eerie beautiful and relentless aggression and if I was to compare it to a gaming soundtrack the obvious and only choice is Mick Gordon’s DOOM. ‘The Black Ritual’ is not without a few issues even after such a lofty comparison for while it reminds me of DOOM it is not quite at the same level (Oh yes, I went there). After a few songs the vocals feel overbearing, as though the delivery has been about being as aggressive as possible at the sacrifice of clarity and purpose. Something which is never more evident than in the title track. It is clear something is being articulated but for all the whisky in Scotland I could not tell you what; it feels like a loop of what someone thinks metal vocals sound like.

There are ways and methods to deliver the most evil and nasty vocal performance of all time and have variety in your delivery and that variety would really upgrade this band. Then we come back to the elephant in the room, the name. It detracts from the whole for me. Cryptonight, haha very good is what I think everytime. I should be able to get past that but I struggle. ‘Shadow Walk’ is a highlight. It covers all that the band can do and do well. This is Cryptonight, today, I am keen to see what we get from Cryptomorrow.

The grimness of England’s east coast is nothing to underappreciated. Battered by the fearsome power of the North Sea, it cannot always provide sunshine and sand. And a prominent place along that coast is Scarborough, inspiration to Swiss duo Diablerets on their new album. ‘II: Scarborough’ is 47 mins of blackened ambient drone doom that will seep into your very core.

It was delivered to me in a bespoke cardboard case with post-it size maps as part of the package, and each track is a location on said weatherworn map. The opener ‘Scarborough’ has a low intensity hum lurking within, with occasional quiet squeals of feedback and an oppressive weighty atmosphere on top. It is truly sinister, as if some ancient being is hiding in the depths waiting for a time to return to our world. ‘Ravenscar’ increases the intensity, like a stiff breeze battering cold silent cliffs. A hint of vocals tries to wrench through the claustrophobic wall of drone and barely succeeds. A droning organ floats amidst us, really reinforcing the eerieness. ‘Devil’s Dyke’ features plenty of foreboding samples, but succeeds in not losing bleak, terrifying focus.

‘Coffinswell’ is a tortured piece of miserable dark ambient horror, with a wretched rasp snarling whispers of evil over a low hypnotic hum. Odd noises fade in and out in the background, like the soundscape of an ancient abandoned hospital or mortuary. The kind of evocative silence that conjures up all types of twisted visions. Closing with the equally menacing ‘Leatherhead’, whose sinister tale is woven by a calm, unfeeling voice, ‘II: Scarborough’ is an album designed to unsettle.

‘II: Scarborough’ is the kind of album you don’t listen to on a whim. It is an album that needs to be played in a certain time in a certain frame of mind. It is creepy, dark and haunting to a point of being spellbinding. I couldn’t listen to this all the time, but if I felt in the mood for a disturbing, mind rending journey into the dark and twisted hellscapes beyond this dimension, this would be the album I’d choose to simulate it just right.

Tzun Tzu - The Forbidden City

The newest EP from Australian bruisers Tzun Tzu is called ‘The Forbidden City’, and continues along the vein of ancient Asian culture that their previous work has. Their name is an alternate spelling of legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu, and their death metal comes from the complex and brutal direction of Suffocation and Devourment. It is out now through Lavadome Productions.

‘The Forbidden City’ opens with the carpet bombing shock and awe of the title track, which bombards you with technical riffing, murky guttural vocals and a thick low end ravaged by a superlative drumming performance. ‘Kunoichi’ and ‘Ko’Muso’ are both rerecorded tracks from previous releases, the former being a dark and atmospheric take on brutal death metal with churning riffs echoing within the bowels of the earth in between traditional instrumentations injecting light into the deep. The latter thrashes and writhes, roiling waves of double kicks powering along before it opens up into this magnificent vista where wild soloing soars above open space.

A nice little release, with some excellent material and a very interesting concept creating the perfect storm of ‘The Forbidden City’. Tzun Tzu don’t really sound particularly like anyone else, which is a definite good thing. This could easily have gotten lost within the myriad death metal releases of 2020 but its decision to do something different means for me, it won’t.

Alestorm - Curse of the Crystal Coconut

Review by Sandre the Giant

Even as a guilty pleasure comedy band, my fellow Scots Alestorm should really have died by now. I’m a big fan and I’m saying this. Frowned upon by po-faced metal fans that take themselves far too seriously, the main reason that Alestorm are still around, singing daft songs about pirates is because of two things; their songs are fucking great and their live shows are loads of fun. Their new record, ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’, which appears to have some links to the Donkey Kong game series (?) is out now through Napalm Records.

Opener ‘Treasure Chest Party Quest’ is an uber catchy party anthem, with its irresistable chorus and bouncy accordions followed by the instant standout gallop of ‘Fannybaws’. Probably the greatest concept for a pirate I’ve come across, you’d struggle not to shout along with this chorus too. Alestorm have never been shy of the ridiculous when it comes to the singalong moments but this takes the empire biscuit. Pop artists will struggle to out-chorus these guys this year. The addictive Maiden-esque gallop of ‘Call of the Waves’ is pure early power metal, and it reminds you that beneath a lot of this silliness beats the heart of a very talented metal band.

Alestorm do tend to follow a formula at times; you’ve got the thrashy, heavier song (‘Chomp Chomp’), the drinking song (‘Pirate Metal Drinking Crew’), the more solemn ballad (‘Henry Martin’) and even the power metal epic (‘Wooden Leg Pt.2: The Woodening’). Predictable maybe but that does not mean that it doesn’t work. I’m not sure about the rap metal experiment of ‘Tortuga’ but maybe it’ll grow on me. You can’t complain that they never do anything different now guys!! This also applies to ‘Pirate Scorn’ which is a cover of a song from the Donkey Kong Country cartoon series. Man, that is a deep cut. But it is this sense of irreverant fun that has always helped Alestorm stand out from the crowd.

You’ll either hate this album, and therefore you probably shouldn’t be reading this review, or you’ll love it and actually my opinion will mean shit to you. ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’ continues Alestorm’s streak of somehow keeping pirate metal interesting and not running out of material to write songs about. Maybe this’ll be the last time. But we’ve said that before. Dust off your tankards and eye patches, and let’s have some fucking laughs!

Umbra Conscientia - Yellowing of the Lunar Consciousness

Review by Sandre The Giant

I like to find music from all corners of the globe, particularly places where I haven’t really explored before. Central America is one of those places, and the debut record from Costa Rican (and German) black metal duo Umbra Conscientia had me intrigued from the getgo. ‘Yellowing of the Lunar Consciousness’ came out late last year through Terratur Possessions.

The eerie ambience of the intro ‘El caos que precede a la creación’ immediately prepares you for music coming that is not always of this world. ‘Maze of Exile’ erupts with blasting black metal ferocity, blastbeats peppering a landscape of scything guitar and shrieking roars. Umbra Conscientia are intense, a pyroclastic flow of prime black metal riffs cascade through the fiery ‘Romance of Contradictions’ and the caustic, bilious fury of ‘Citrinitas’. You can feel the influence of Marduk or Funeral Mist on these guys; the relentless push forward through violent impacts. ‘Umbra Conscientia’ thunders like a raging tornado of hate fuelled black metal glory, while the scabrous riffing of ‘Lord of Phosphorus’ may be even more visceral and hypodermic sharp.

Closing with the mesmerising, undulating devastation of the title track, ‘Yellowing of the Lunar Consciousness’ is an album that challenges your perceptions of just how savage and hellish black metal can be without descending into lo-fi clattering and murk. Aided by a razor sharp production, Umbra Conscientia have crafted an album that lays fire upon all that has come before it and challenges anyone to pick up the mantle and take them on. I wouldn’t if I were you…