A malignant and serpentine debut, ‘Staring Through the Veil’ is the first record from Cryptic Fog, a two man project that twists and melds the grand tradition of death metal from both sides of the Atlantic into new and abhorrent forms. Blood Harvest is releasing this at the end of October, and it looks to stake a place amongst the most uncomfortable records of 2017.

Progressive, twisting black metal with hints of death metal’s low end come through strong on crushing opener ‘The Grand Berator Walks Amongst the Hall of Misery”; you can feel moments of technical wizardry like Atheist meeting the labyrinthine riffing of Morbid Angel, wrapped within dark realms of suffering. Vocals belch from dank pits, while the deadly riffing spirals in multiple directions, never leaving too many breadcrumbs to follow. There are some proper Dismember worship moments in the stunning ‘Cursed Oil Upon the Abhorrent Idols of Men’, the horrendous violence of ‘Eternal Internment of the Prolific Paradigm; Staring Through the Veil of Aberration’ and the crushing, eldritch finale of ‘Cleansed by the Black Flame of Absolution’ are all great.

The ironically simple pleasure in such a complex and technical record is how you never lose interest, that Cryptic Fog are consistently shifting form and keeping your attention. There’s blasting, chugging Swedeath riffs, wailing solos and grinding brutality, all sewn together into a cohesive, virulent mass of death metal. ‘Staring Through the Veil’ is the archetypal look beyond, into worlds where death metal will grow in new ways.

https://www.facebook.com/CrypticFog/

https://bloodharvestrecords.bandcamp.com/album/staring-through-the-veil-12lp-cd-tape

http://www.bloodharvest.se/

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The work of two bona fide death metal icons, Ursinne brings together Dave Ingram (Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Hail of Bullets) and Jonny Pettersson (Wombbath, Henry Kane) to create ‘Swim With the Leviathan’, one of the densest and most brutal death metal records of 2017. Our favourite record label Transcending Obscurity, dropped this monster in August. Original material meshes with death metal covers of 80s classics in one of 2017’s best and most unique records.

The devastating opener ‘Devil May Care’ is undeniably brutal and straightforward, but it has some nice open spaces in the middles where melodies play around a chugging low end. ‘I, Serpentine’ has that Swedish rawness to its riffs, as well as a healthy dose of Gothenburg meldoy. It is a theme running through ‘Swin With the Leviathan’; brutality in riffs and vocals, but not lacking in memorable melody lines. ‘Bullet Bitten’ is inspired by Lemmy, including a great sample from the great man himself, and the driving bassline underneath is a fitting tribute.

While all the original material is excellent, (in particularly the swooning menace of ‘The Chimes at Midnight’) the real fun begins with the four covers songs. The death metal rendering of The Osmonds’ ‘Crazy Horses’ is pretty odd, but the crushing ‘Turning Japanese’ is killer and ‘Monsters in the Parasol’ features Massacre legend Kam Lee, turning the Queens of the Stone Age classic into something very brutal and menacing. You’ll struggle to find a more different, entertaining and downright heavy record in 2017. Ursinne is a great amalgamation of classic death metal and a sense of the absurd, leading to some genuine year highlights.

https://www.facebook.com/UrsinneBand/

https://ursinne.bandcamp.com/

https://tometal.com/

Kentucky trio Tombstalker are releasing a two track 7” in follow up to their devastating 2015 debut ‘Black Crusades’. The band has had a slew of splits and EPs since their inception in 2008, and ‘Chaotic Devotion’ drops two new tracks of molten, rabid blackened death metal into our laps. Due to be released on the 19th of September by Boris Records.

The first track, ‘Scared to Death’ has a killer opening riff with a nasty as fuck guitar tone. The fretwork is awesome, and there’s a definite Swedeath influence here. Urgent, vibrant and lacking any fucking about, Tombstalker are here to slay you with riffs. Grinding bass kicks off ‘Treads of War’, and the low end on this track is very prevalent. ‘Chaotic Devotion’ is two excellent tracks of chunky death metal with a savage, black edge to them. Short but ultimately very sweet.

https://borisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/chaotic-devotion-7

https://www.facebook.com/tombstalkerband

http://boris-records.com/

Australia’s Runespell are dropping their eagerly anticipated debut full length record ‘Unhallowed Blood Oath’ through Iron Bonehead Productions this year, and if you are looking for something that is deeply submerged in 90s black metal classicism then this is likely to be for you. A one man project, Runespell is the work of Nightwolf who also features in Eternum and Blood Stronghold, more profilic members of the fiery Australian black metal world.

‘Oblivion Winds’ builds into a crashing, blastbeat marathon with rasped vocals and murky production values that enhance the mystical connection between music and listener. While violent and abrasive, there is a certain black magic lurking within this slice of vintage black metal. Whether it is the cavernous ‘Heaven in Blood’, the pastoral acoustics of ‘And Wolves Guide Me Home’ or the spellbinding ‘All Thrones Perish’, Runespell really channel the feel of Norwegian black metal circa 1992.

When olden rituals are performed, spells cast and black magicks released, albums like ‘Unhallowed Blood Oath’ are the result. A gloriously dark record that pulses with a vintage menace, capturing not only the sound of old school black metal but the FEEL of it too. Runespell feel like a lost legend, resurfacing once more from depths unknown. The majestic ‘White Death’s Wings’ is a centrepiece of an album with no bad tracks. Get it!

http://www.ironbonehead.de/

Swedish death metallers Paganizer have been killing it for almost twenty years now and their newest release, ‘Land of Weeping Souls’, is proof that some bands just get better with age. It is out now on Transcending Obscurity, and is defiantly some of the best old school death metal you will hear this year.

If anything, Paganizer have got heavier and faster since I first came upon them on 2006’s ‘Carnage Junkie’. Opening with the rabid ‘Your Suffering Will Be Legendary’, chunky death metal riffs fly in all directions, while a propulsive drumming performance underpins the whole thing. The ever prolific Rogga Johansson’s vocals are the typically great deep growls, but he seems to have even more clarity than usual. Remember how good it was when Bloodbath returned with ‘The Fathomless Mastery’ in 2008 and it was like Swedish death metal was back? Well, turns out Paganizer have been at killer riff capacity and have been churning out tracks like the vicious ‘The Buried Undead’ and the old school class of ‘The Insanity Never Stops’ for years under the radar.

This record is a strong addition to the old school death metal revival that seems to have been going on recently, and in fact shows most of them how it’s done properly. ‘Land of Weeping Souls’ is flawlessly executed, faithful in its worship of iconic classics and somehow confirms that death metal isn’t always about decay and ‘the end’. Sometimes it is can be the most vital and ALIVE genre out there. I love it.

https://www.facebook.com/paganizersweden/

https://paganizer.bandcamp.com/

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Profound Lore will forever be one of my favourite record labels, having put out some of the most challenging and engaging extreme music out there, and the new record from French drone/doom lord Monarch may be one of its finest hours. ‘Never Forever’ is due to be released on the 22nd of September, and it is over an hour of glacial, hypnotising doom.

Opener ‘Of Night, With Knives’ builds with menacing fuzz and ghostly whispering, and as waves of droning, mesmerising doom flow over your ears the mood changes from harrowing to haunting. Emilie Bresson’s vocals are the true highlight here, with her soft croon being almost as affecting as her snarling shriek. Drone/doom may be a singularly repetitive genre, but Monarch’s take is particularly menacing. ‘Song to the Void’ is a monstrous emanation, and coupled with soft rhythmic vocals, is a contender for one of the more unsettling songs of the year.

But then the monolithic ‘Cadaverine’ takes over your mind for almost 18 minutes, with its glacial beauty and awe inspiring power. A sorrowful morass, the sounds of pure density and otherworldly electronica woven together in a tapestry of sound. The centrepiece is my highlight, although the droning majesty of the closing ‘Lilith’ pushes it close. The soulful soloing in ‘Diamant Noir’ (a twisted take on a Kiss classic) is an underrated gem that only really captures your attention on a second or third listen, and provides a bridge of reality between the two massive tracks.

Despite this being album eight, Monarch were new to me until this record and frankly that is embarassing. ‘Never Forever’ is a record that transcends mere genre constrictions, and comes from a place of soul, of darkness and of emotion. Drone/doom with all the emotional heft and helplessness you could want. This is glorious.

https://www.facebook.com/Monarch-121146434822/

https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/never-forever

A new band from an old hand, Affliktor is the work of Toby Knapp whose guitar work you’ll have heard spread across classic records like Onward’s ‘Evermoving’ or ‘Reawaken’. Affliktor is all about the old school blackened thrash riffs, and the simple fact that ‘Affliktor’ is the work of only one man is even more mindblowing. Transcending Obscurity are due to release this on the 20th of October.

The matching of a neoclassical guitar player and the traditionally one dimensional blackened thrash genre feels, at first, like it’ll never work. But Knapp’s fretwork is nothing short of mindblowing, and in fact imbues this record and style with a new impetus to be fresh and exciting. The blasting ‘Storm of Demogorgon’ is a defining moment for the record, and the following songs strive for the same excellence every time. Parts of the croaking ‘Born to the Breeder’ remind me very much of early Immortal, while the chunky ‘Burn the Earth’ is prime Sodom riffs coupled with an early Bathory attitude. The most exciting part of the whole record is how the essence of blackened thrash is captured within songs that are easily identifiable from each other.

This record is a blasting half hour of joyous, nasty as fuck thrash metal. Galloping like classic Exodus or Kreator, but delivered with a Venom sneer and scowl, ‘Affliktor’ is a record that is not to be trifled with. The snarling rage of ‘Planet Rogue’ is the highlight of a record full of high points; riffs galore and glorious thrashing sections are what Affliktor is all about!

https://affliktor.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Affliktor/

https://tometal.com/