Posts Tagged ‘Transcending Obscurity’

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.

Oak - Lone

Reviewed by Geary of War

Portugeuese duo Oak have delivered something truly mighty in their debut “Lone” They class themselves as funeral doom/death and my oh my did they deliver this. It came out late last year through Transcending Obscurity.

I decided that ‘Lone’ was going to be my soundtrack for a long walk with my dog and it turned out to be the absolute best soundtrack for the location and weather. Album opener ‘Sculptures’ builds slowly but with real menace. The drums sound and feel like that are being hit with real violence even as the pace is slow, really emphasising the funeral here. At about 3:30, once the heavy musical tempo begins the vocals hit. Low, with rasping coming through you get a sense of the torture which someone might be feeling as they struggle to be alone. We hit 5:55 and suddenly there is a change in tempo in the double kicks, you feel the urgency yet so much else remains the same that you feel that going any faster is too much. And as soon as it hits we are back to truly beautiful guitar work which is tender and works hand in hand with drums which are still being hit as though they offended their player.

All this as I walk through a local wood which is drenched in history as it is the location to some of the Antonine Wall, the furthest north the Roman Empire managed. The atmosphere is fitting. The track, clocking in at 16:34 really takes you on a journey and gets better with repeated listens. “Sculptures” closes as delicately as it opened and drifts seamlessly into the second and longest track ‘Mirror’. ‘Mirror’ really came to life as the rains fell today, and boy did they fall, right as I entered a local woodland walk I had never been down and was delighted to discover how apt it all was, it was a medieval oak woodland. Add to all this the image of the fantastic art work for this album finding its way vividly to my train of thought and we were set up to truly be in the right place. At 19:13 you would be forgiven for thinking that ‘Mirror’ would feel a slog yet nothing could be further from the truth. Oak’s real strength lies in their ability to bring you along, let the song breathe and reel you back in for more crushing funeral death doom performed at a high level.

Oak have a fantastic touch and allow moments of calm to have their space and let you take in everything you are hearing. Much like when you go out on a walk and pause to admire your surroundings, that is what you get through ‘Mirror’. There I was, in the middle of built up suburbia, in a medieval wood, walking my dog in the pouring rain, rain which was only getting heavier and right as I think the rest of the walk home will be rubbish the aggression kicks back in and I decided to rally against the “woe is me” rain soaked thought and power on. Moaning about it will not make me any drier and there are miles to be walked and music to be enjoyed. ‘Mirror’ continues in a similar yet never monotonous manner of giving you space to relax with the calmer moments before shaking you back into action with the hell roar and the sound of instruments being played for all they are worth.

We launch into the latter half of ‘Lone’ with the aggressive and visceral ‘Abomination’. This is the most continually menacing and evil feeling song on the album. Perhaps being surrounded and covered by trees, rain battering my hood added to this, who knows. It is only when you hear old school chugging riffing that you realise how heavy they guys have been without going to classic methods. It is truly astonishing. There is genuine weight here. When there is but a second between this and the next track I swear you will feel it. Like that eye of the storm, only the eye is a blink. We close out this wonderful album with a splash of black metal for good measure. if ‘Abomination’ was the most menacing track then ‘Maze’ is the most aggressive. Blasting, roaring and a chopping guitar. But, just when you think you know what you are in for, Oak changes the pace. It was when ‘Maze’ had slowed down to a more classic funeral pace that I myself had a choice about when to turn home, I had reached the end of a path which I knew connected to roads not leading where I needed to go. As the resonating notes from the guitar rang out and the tempo picked back up I knew what to do, I headed back to a turning I passed which should bring me back to the location of a Roman fort, connecting the start and ending of my journey with that famous lost empire. Sure enough, as the trees began to part and a field opened before me i knew I had chosen wisely. As I made my way up the hill the blasting returned as though to give me a little bit of extra energy as Thor threatened to beat his mighty hammer upon the heavens. Then, right before the top. Silence. It was done. The album had reached its sudden, yet inevitable, conclusion. Here I once again thanked the gents from Oak as I turned around and took in the rain soaked landscape of Glasgow and her surrounding hills.

I then did the only sensible thing I knew to do. started the album again and headed home. In ‘Lone’, Oak has created some excellent funeral death doom which I feel separates them from the pack. They know song craft but understand the timing and need for aggression. For myself it formed part of a glorious day of exploration and as of writing I have finished playing it for the third time today. I normally like to pick a standout track but here I feel I would be doing a disservice to the rest. Start at the start, enjoy the journey and go a long walk while you do.

Poema Arcanvs - Stardust Solitude

Review by Sandre The Giant

The sixth full length from Chilean doom lords Poema Arcanvs is the latest in a long history stretching back to the early 90s. ‘Stardust Solitude’ sees them taking their Yorkshire doom worship to new and dark places, and after approaching 30 years of plowing these furrows Poema Arcanvs sound like they know exactly how to write this kind of music.

The ghostly clean guitar that haunts the opening chords of ‘Stardust Solitude’ is a bit of a tease for what occurs next. This is some mighty doom, laden with death vocals but not just simply more of that genre. You’ve got a bit of epic doom melancholia seeping in with vocalist Claudio Carrasco proving to be incredibly versatile. There’s a lot of Paradise Lost in his delivery,  and that goes for the music as well. There’s a gloomy grandeur to it that I really appreciate. The grinding churn of ‘Orphans’ evolves into something evoking Gojira in places, while the rumbling darkness of ‘Haven’ is lit by an impassioned croon.

It’s hard to describe what is most enchanting about this album. The quiet bleak moments in ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ are a personal highlight, as is the sweeping crush of ‘Pilgrim’ and its world rending solo. Maybe it is the roiling guitar of the seasick ‘Straits of Devotion’. I suppose the true magic of this record is the way it can sound like Candlemass one second and Swallow the Sun the next, and the transition never seems jarring. That ancient Yorkshire doom thread keeps everything together, where the mood rarely lifts from a sense of poignant loneliness, encapsulated in the slow, drifting heft of closing track ‘Brave’.

‘Stardust Solitude’ is almost an hour long but the music within never outstays its welcome. There’s so much variety in what I assumed would be a standard doom record that I am taken aback. The dynamic shifts, the weight and yet fragility of the songwriting will leave you in awe. ‘Stardust Solitude’ is a glorious ode to a founding strand of doom, and Poema Arcanvs pay tribute with grace and vitality.

Jupiterian - Protosapien

Apologies in advance if I appear extra fawning in this review (even more than usual), but I have been waiting for this record for three goddamn years since I feel in love with Jupiterian’s last record, ‘Terraforming’, which I reviewed here. That was almost my record of the year that year, and this already has a chance for 2020. It is out in September through Transcending Obscurity.

‘Homecoming’ builds with the ominous clang of a bell(?), ambience humming beneath a swell of brass as if it is ready to announce the arrival of some ancient god. ‘Mere Humans’ is that god, a vast crushing riff churning beneath a vortex of inhuman growls. There’s more than a taste of atmospheric black metal poisoning this album too, bringing with it some fuzz, spoken word and chanting backdrops. Death/doom often has a nascent beauty about its heaviness, and Jupiterian temper this with on ‘Protosapien’, where ‘Voidborn’ feels like the music is being ripped from a black hole and drowned in tar.

But you also have tracks like the gloomy ‘Capricorn’, that builds with a glorious riff pattern and bathes in mesmerising atmosphere before the destructive power comes in. ‘Protosapien’ has a number of moments like this, where we head towards a more Paradise Lost/My Dying Bride direction. You never get Lousiana sludge, this is more like Amazonian sludge; a primal, natural beauty trapped with cloying, sweltering heat. ‘Starless’ is the sound of other dimensional titans clashing in the void of space, while the closing ‘Earthling Bloodline’ would render the earth cracked and broken forever should it ever make landfall.

Is ‘Protosapien’ better than ‘Terraforming’? This is a hard call for me but I think it is. There’s more nuance, more darkness and more emotional weight draining you during these songs, and for Jupiterian to top their previous work is, for me, astounding. This is the standard to beat this year now, and I think it’ll finish either atop or second at the end. If you only hear one record this year, make it ‘Protosapien’.

Colosso - Apocalypse

This four track EP from Portugal’s Colosso has an end of the world type feel about it. Entitled ‘Apocalypse’, the four tracks are named for the Four Horsemen and it comes on the heels of 2018’s glorious ‘Rebirth’ album. I reviewed their ‘Obnoxious’ album 4 years ago, and was a big fan so this has me salivating. It is out now through Transcending Obscurity.

Each track is performed by a different member of Portugal’s fertile underground scene, including members of Oak, Analepsy and Bleeding Display, and this allows a certain variety to shine through. Opener ‘Pestilence’ feels like the gaping maw of infinity; an otherworldly titan grasping for a foothold in our universe. The guitarwork is asphyxiatingly dense, with more than a little Gorguts about the sickening sway lurking beneath. Guilherme Henrique of Oak does a stellar job here, providing a vast roar that sounds like the howl of the stars. ‘War’ sounds like just that, with the kind of doublekicks that sound like carpet bombing. The discordant, almost post metal riffs pour out like fire under eerie clean vocals in ‘Death’, while the atonal brutal death of ‘Famine’ provides a fitting finale to an EP that truly lives up to its name.

One of these days I’m going to find a TO release that I don’t like. Honestly, this label CANNOT keep putting out stunning releases forever. But today is not that day, as ‘Apocalypse’ takes its place amongst the pantheon of great releases this year. It is nice to hear a band take the route less travelled in death metal in modern times, and Colosso are devastatingly heavy at times. Brutal.

Death Courier - Necrotic Verses

Greece’s Death Courier are legends of old school death metal, with their iconic debut ‘Demise’ coming out in 1992, but they’ve been around since 1987. They returned to the fray in 2009 and released ‘Perimortem’ in 2013, but ‘Necrotic Verses’ looks to be their magnum opus, a mere decade later. It is out in June through Transcending Obscurity.

The title track that opens this record is probably the most visceral piece of music I’ve encountered in my lockdown purgatory. The old school thrashy death violence is breathtaking; each riff underpinned by a battery of blasting drums and dense bass and the pace is relentless. You’ll be battered by the brutal ‘Mourning Ecstacy’, mesmerised by the chugging ‘When Death Fits to Skin’ and drowned in the murk of ‘Pillars’. ‘Necrotic Verses’ is a pure old school death metal record, still imbued by the thrashy nature from which classic death arose. These guys are true originals, and each song just reinforces their credentials.

From the snarling ‘Visceral’ to the guttural roar of ‘Immune’, Death Courier are living proof that it is never too late to bring freshness to an ancient and founding genre. ‘Necrotic Verses’ is something to behold, enthralled by, and its one of the most straightforwardly brutal yet absorbing releases this year.

Innards - Back from the Grave, Straight in Your Face!!

The debut EP from Portuguese deathgrinders Innards is only a mere three tracks, but that’s probably as much as the world was ready for right now. This relentless, grinding slab of death metal feels more at home in the grim north than sunnier climes but hey, what do I know. It is out now through Transcending Obscurity.

The start of ‘Intro – The Night of the Anthropophagus’ is basically the story of the album cover, which is totally cool. After which, a brutal chainsaw riff gallops through its victims, and a nasty growl spits bile over a solid d-beat/crust assault. This is death metal in its rawest form, all speed and fury with little to no subtlety. It’s fucking great too, and if to boost their credentials even more they get a solo from Sodom’s Frank Blackfire and guest vocals from Kam Fucking Lee on the lightning fast brutality of ‘Enlightment Through Hate’. Close with the slightly slower crush of ‘The Fog’, steamrolling everything in front of it and you’ve got yourself a hell of a debut.

If you dig Repulsion, Grave or early Carcass then Innards is for you. An almst untouchable EP, these guys are going to be incredible on a full length and I cannot wait for it. Hopefully it won’t take too long. Death metal is eternal, and Innards prove it.

Verthebral - Abysmal Decay

Think of the awesome power that death metal, full on full force death metal possesses. Who are you thinking of, Deicide, Krisiun, Hate Eternal? Well, get ready to add Paraguayans Verthebral to that list, as their second record ‘Abysmal Decay’ is an exercise in the purest and most violent forms of riff based destruction. It is out now through Transcending Obscurity.

‘Ancient Legion’ is an eruption of chug; powered by a propulsive low end of double kicks there is a satisfying crunch to the guitars, while the vocals are suitably harsh but not indecipherable. This is a common thread throughout ‘Abysmal Decay’; a Morbid Angel-esque guitar tone dropping chunky riff after stabbing solo and each song overflows with a sense of savage melody. The title track is infested with a morbid gloom, while the churning low end of ‘Absence of a God’ brings to mind prime Bolt Thrower. A reference that is greatly appreciated by this site, as is the Obituary-esque thunder of ‘My Dark Existence’.

‘Abysmal Decay’ is a record that gives tribute to all the greats of death metal, but doesn’t feel derivative. Most of all, it plays with a true sense of power as you feel every riff coursing with barely restrained strength. With a guitar tone ready to snap necks and brutality seething from every pore, Verthebral feel like a band straining at the sinews to explode. Hopefully this beast of a record will make that a reality.

Live Burial - Unending Futility

The sophomore album from Newcastle’s Live Burial, ‘Unending Futility’, has a fair standard to live up to, as their debut ‘Forced Back to Life’ was an outstanding slab of uncompromising death metal. So, will this latest release from Transcending Obscurity maintain that quality or is it just a ‘futile’ effort? This will see the light of day in April this year.

Great slaughtered Christ, does opener ‘Seeping into the Earth’ put any fear of second album jitters to shame or what? A wandering bass pins down some eerie melodic leads, and when the crusted death riffs kick in proper, it is goddamn righteous. Instantly more thrashy than their debut, there’s an urgency to the delivery that is intoxicating. Something old school death metal that actually has a touch of pace? ‘Condemned to the Boats’ barely slows down at all, while the nasty guitar tone elevates ‘Rotting on the Rope’ to instant classic. The uneasy, Immolation-esque sway of ‘Swing of the Pendulum’ is another choice example of a band not content to limit its stylistic choices.

When you’re labelmates with the likes of Paganizer and Sadistik Forest, you really need to step your game up to compete. Live Burial has infested this record with a despondent gloom; heavy is the air around the cloying ‘The Crypt of Slumbering Madness’ and the pained howls that emanate from the epic closer ‘Cemetary Fog’ are the icing on a fetid, rabid cake. A cake made of nails, broken bones and rust. But it sure sounds hellish good. ‘Unending Futility’ is fucking superb.