Lord Mantis pour black disgust, misanthropy into ‘Death Mask,’ their most miserable record yet

Lord MantisDid you ever get a message, or see a bizarre social media post, or have someone say something ominous to you that left you worrying about that person’s frame of mind? It’s one of those things where you don’t know if someone is trying to blow off steam or if there is a genuine reason to reach out and intervene to prevent something awful happening.

We now have three Lord Mantis records at our disposal to basically act as a cry for help—merely by definition, not that he actually wants it–from its deranged mastermind Charlie Fell. And I say “deranged” based on his art and not from having met the man before. There’s something about what he does with this band that stands above your basic death or black metal. Yeah, there is shadowy, scary imagery all over the place from other faceless groups, so much so that it all has become numbing to the senses. But there’s something about what Fell does that is so genuinely alarming and frightening, that I worry as a listener if it’s not just art he’s creating. It feels like he’s literally bleeding himself on his records, and his latest opus “Death Mask” is his most aggressive and most experimental document to date.

Lord Mantis coverOr this third album, Lord Mantis call Profound Lore home, a place it feels like they should have been all along, which is not meant to be a slight at Seventh Rule or Candlelight Records (who capably handled “Spawning the Nephilim” and “Pervertor” respectively). It just seems like this band is more in a place where the surroundings match the band’s chaos, and there probably isn’t a label more able to handle something so dark and sick as this record. Added to all of that is the album art that already has created controversy (created by the infamous Jef Whitehead of Leviathan) among some, although Fell has clarified that the painting is not designed to express hatred or intolerance toward the transgender community. But you can see where people might get that idea had he not cleared the air. So with all of this swirling in the air, it adds yet another element of madness to the Lord Mantis name and the tension surrounding “Death Mask.”

Fell handles bass and vocals on this record, and joining him this time around are guitarists Andrew Markuszewski (whose Avichi also records for Profound Lore) and Ken Sorceron (an original and current member of Abigail Williams), and drummer Bill Bumgardner (Indian). Guitarist Dylan O’Toole, also of Indian, contributed vocals to a couple of tracks on the record, which is fitting as he knows a things or two about uncomfortable situations and letting loose his psychological horrors. Sanford Parker was behind the boards for this one, and he gets the most from the band and also helps bring out some of the more daring tendencies from their muddy brand of black metal and doom.

The record begins with the abrasive “Body Choke,” a song built on harsh riffs, eerie guitar work, and Fell howling, “Kiss the snake, kill the child!” The vocals hit deranged on more than a few occasions during the track, speed eventually ignites and gets the fire burning brightly and toxically, and weird spacey noise and a heavy dose of ugliness take the song to its end point. The title cut is pure madness, with heavy punishment dished out, vocals that sound like they are trying to do you psychological harm, and drums that blow everything to dust. As the song progresses, Fell’s vocals grow more and more sinister, with him howling out, “You lay your curse!” “Possession Prayer” is bathed in industrial chaos and feels like it is trying to do war with the machines at the same time. “My life will end in blood,” Fell vows, one of those lines that make you wonder if the threat is real, and pulsating noises and power that fully engulfs you should make it easy to feel the pain and anguish contained in this song.

Interlude “You Will Gag for the Fix” drizzles over into “Negative Birth,” a track has doom-infested guitar work, noise that sizzles and corrodes, terrifying screams, and a tempo that gradually builds into a speed assault that continues to pound away without mercy for the rest of its running time. “Coil” is the real curveball of the set, with strange vocals that are treated with alien robot effects to make Fell’s message feel that much more detached. Noise wafts throughout the song, and everything here feels wholly unhuman, like it was sucked in from a wormhole or from a parallel plane where that world’s version of Fell tries to reach out to find his suffering twin. They both end up having out-of-body experiences. The 10-minute closer “Three Crosses” begins with guitars firing on all cylinders over a slow-driving track that takes its time to maul and deface you. The vocals are savage and purely ugly on purpose, some melodic guitar lines slip in to give a hint of hope, only to be snuffed out later, and total chaos re-emerges later in the track. The violence is spread thick over the back end of the song, and Fell goes for his final cries and moans of desperation, going out in a final blaze of fury that feels scarring and mean.

Fell’s hatred, anger, and misanthropy never has been thicker or more apparent. This record feels like hate and disgust piled on top of misery and depression, and if it makes you feel good inside, there might be something wrong with you. That said, “Death Mask” is an incredible metal record, one that finds this band throwing caution into hellfire and doing whatever they want. This feels sick and depraved, it’s destructive as hell, and it’s the best, most mentally challenging Lord Mantis record to date.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.lordmantis.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Death metal legends Autopsy reach back into the crypt for disgusting new ‘Tourniquets’

AutopsyAutopsy really need no introduction. They are one of the bands that helped create the death metal sound (which is now known as old-school death metal…) and are responsible for some of the genre’s most important releases. Bands have followed them not just for their sound but for their horror-themed music, and they deserve endless adulation for the work they have done.

Creating their creepy fun alongside bands such as Carcass, Death, Morbid Angel, Entombed, and many others, they carved a Hall-of-Fame-worthy reputation for themselves and became an unquestioned heavy hitter. But there was a world without an Autopsy for a while, when the band went dormant in 1995 after the somewhat disastrous “Shitfun” record that followed classics including 1989 debut “Severed Survival” and 1991’s “Mental Funeral.” After they disappeared, the death metal world exploded years later, and the sound Autopsy helped cultivate started to grow and spread like a disease. Of course, the other issue is people saw money in death metal, bands went the slick and neat route to move units, and death got to a major watering-down point. For people who liked the true, or old-school, sound, these were disheartening times.

Autopsy coverLuckily, Autopsy were revived in 2008 to do live shows, and the following year they released a 7-inch that marked some of the band’s first new music in nearly a decade and a half. A killer EP “The Tomb Within” followed in 2010, and a year after that their first full-length album since 1995 dropped in the form of “Macabre Eternal,” a great return to form that made longtime fans everywhere bask in its glory. “The Headless Ritual” followed in 2013 to somewhat unenthusiastic response from some (we were fine with it though not totally blown away), and already the band is back with their seventh record, the fittingly titled “Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves,” as well as its properly gross album artwork. If you were disappointed with “Headless” and wanted something more in line with their classic work, you’re in luck. They sound animalistic and furious, and it’s a brutal and fun listen.

Another thing that has kept Autopsy strong is their lineup, three-quarters of which is from their glory days. On vocals and drums is the unmistakable Chris Reifert, whose expression and bloody charisma made him a revered figure in the death metal scene. On guitars are Eric Cutler and Danny Coralles, and on bass is Joe Trevisano, who has been in the fold since 2010 and also played with Reifert and Coralles in Abscess. The guys give you exactly what you want here if you’re a staunch Autopsy fan who prefers the band as they’ve always been. The fact they haven’t changed much over the years isn’t a bad thing at all, as they know what they’re doing, they have a mission, and they execute it well.

The record kicks off with a quick track in “Savagery,” a song that instantly clues you into what this record will be like and how you’ll be brutalized. The vocals are perfectly growly, the guitars sound like they originated in 1990, and the soloing is razor sharp and just a bit out of control. “King of Flesh Ripped” is up next, with gruff, gurgly vocals, a thick slab of doom-infested guitar work, and a menacing approach they pull off perfectly. The title track follows, and the music is choppy and crushing, the vocals monstrous and dangerous, and a devastating thrash section goes right for the throat. “Your heart is bursting in your ugly chest!” Reifert howls, as he’s backed by grimy, glorious guitars. “The Howling Dead” opens with spoken vocals that are dressed with hisses behind them, and the song slowly trickles into doom territory. The back end of the song is faster and pushier, with a nice death tempo taking the track to its end.  “After the Cutting” is doomy and sludgy, working its way through the mud. Then it explodes and becomes gnarly and confrontational, meting out a severe beating the rest of the way. “Forever Hungry” begins ominously, but then the drums near blast beat territory, riffs sprawl all over the place, and one final wave of punishment puts this track in its grave.

“Teeth of the Shadow Horde” sounds like the name of an episode of the old He-Man cartoon (which was unstoppable), and you get a nice serving of violent chugging, nasty vocals that seem aimed to maim, and tortured screaming that cries out at the end, seemingly begging for mercy. “All Shall Bleed” is an instrumental interlude that mixes molten guitars with strange keyboards, and that goes into “Deep Crimson Dreaming,” one of the stranger songs in the Autopsy canon. There are clean guitars that lead into the song, and you’ll find far more melody than one could expect from this band. The vocals remain gurgly, and it does have its heavier moments, but it’s more mesmerizing and mystical than violent. “Parasitic Eye” sinks its teeth back into doom again, with swirling guitars causing tension and nausea, and the vocals sounding like they are choking Reifert to death. “Burial” has mucky riffs, growled/coughed vocals that sound like the pestilence remains from the last song, and more eerie noises that reflect total darkness. Closer “Autopsy” … wait. Yes, they finally have a song named after themselves. Took them long enough. But it’s a great one, with thrashy goodness creating the savagery you want, the vocals piercing and boiling, the guitars leaning toward Black Sabbath worship, and vicious cries that drive right into a feedback bed that ends the song—and the record—on a smoking note.

We need Autopsy in this world to keep the death metal scene honest and to feed us the proper amount of gore and horror that we require. Their return has been pretty rewarding so far, and “Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves” is as good as anything they’ve released since their reformation. Hell, it even compares favorably with some of their classic stuff, which is another reason to be thankful that this band is alive, well, and still killing.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.autopsydeathmetal.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://burningshed.com/store/peaceville/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.peaceville.com/

Sludge/doom pioneers Floor return with a vengeance with great new record ‘Oblation’

Photo by Kassi Kelley McKamey

Photo by Kassi Kelley McKamey

Not all band reunions are created equally. Some are done because there is money to be had, and putting the band back together is the best way to capitalize on said opportunity. Actually, my guess is most reunions are based on that model, and you really can’t blame them. But there are other reasons for pulling the forces back together that have more to do with spirit of the project.

Floor’s story is much more the latter. The Miami-based sludge/doom band started making noise more than two decades ago, and although they survived for quite some time after their initial formation, they only had two full-length releases and a ton of mini efforts to their name before they called it a day in 2004. They were a classic case of being ahead of their time, creating music that was both impossibly heavy but also sticky and fun in a poppy way, a formula not a hell of a lot of bands in their time were doing. They also had frighteningly down-tuned guitars, the infamous bomb string, and really catchy vocals that made them sound different from just about everyone out there, but that didn’t result in mass adulation or enough support to sustain the band.

Floor coverOnce the band split, guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks went on to form Torche, an insanely fun group that was much in the same vein as Floor, though a bit more exuberant musically, and they pumped out great records such as their 2005 self-titled record, 2008’s untouchable “Meanderthal,” and 2012’s “Harmonicraft.” The sound seemed to indoctrinate people to this style, and along the way, listeners found their way to Floor’s discography and realized that band’s greatness. Robotic Empire put out an insanely extensive anthology “Below & Beyond” for the band in 2009, with 10 LPs, 8 CDs, a 7-inch, a book, and more, and the guys then got back together for a reunion tour in 2010 to find their audience had swelled. While Floor initially said no new music was going to come from their reformation, that idea changed as time went on and now we have the glorious new “Oblation.” This 14-track, 45-minute record is stuffed to the gills with songs, riffs, hooks, and sludge, and it’s one hell of a return for the band. One drawback, especially to newcomers, is the music might sound very similar to what a million other like-minded bands are doing these days, but that just goes to show the Floor/Torche influence. These guys crafted this sound, and that must be kept in mind when taking on this album.

Floor has Brooks on guitars and vocals, sounding in fine form as always, and remaining one of the more engaging singers in extreme music. Anthony Vialon is on guitars, and Henry Wilson is on drums, and behind the boards for this record is Kurt Ballou, weaving his magic and really capturing the power of these guys. It’s a killer sounding record, and it’s great to have these guys back, even if it’s only a part-time thing between Torche records. I don’t know that it is the case, by the way, but I’d be fine with that setup. I’m sure a lot of people feel that way, too.

With 14 tracks, the record’s songs do smear into each other from time to time, but not really in a bad way. The record opens with the title cut, which is heavy and sludgy, with sleepy vocals and a slow-driving, drubbing tone. “Rocinate” changes the pace instantly, with a blistering opening, a driving tempo, the guitar strings rumbling like the earth is exploding, and Brooks promising “always and forever.” “Trick Scene” is muddy and thick, but also appealingly catchy, and “Find Away” also is a blast of fun, with Brooks threatening they’re “changing rhythms as we go,” continuing to push the madness with full force. “The Key” is a quick, 47-second instrumental blast that just seems to be there to put a pocket before “New Man,” a great, engaging song that’s full of guitar buzz and catchy filth that’ll get your blood pumping. “Sister Sophia” has the guitars lighting up again, blazing power, with chugging music, hopeful vocals and lyrics, and a really strong finish that hammers in a nail at the end of the sentence.

“The Quill” has awesome, feedback-smeared guitars, and the song drubs you slowly but thoroughly during its running time. Trust me, it’ll bruise you. “Love Comes Crushing” truly lives up to its name, with abrasive strings that rumble like thunder, the entire band sounding like machines that have gone to war against each other, and a finish that suddenly launches into speed and danger before it cuts itself off. “War Party” has more great riffs, with Brooks howling, “Control denied!” as the band takes its time clubbing your senses with roiling madness. “Homecoming and Transitions” has reverberating guitar work, Brooks voice blending in with guest vocalist Melissa Friedman, who adds a sense of chilled beauty to the song, and the two vow to “learn from yesterday.” This is a really great song. “Sign of Aeth” runs nearly eight minutes with guitars ringing out, Brooks howling, “We are chosen,” and the song settling into a smoky, doomy tempo that sounds more evil than fun. The song threatens to break open entirely here and there, but it remains murky and atmospheric for the most. The final couple minutes take on a classic rock feel, especially vocally, and the band trudges a bit more, but it’s never full throttle. “Raised to a Star” follows, with burly guitars and a hazy tempo that burns slowly, and closer “Forever Still” is a sugary, blistering blast of fan, with Brooks’ vocals purposely detached, the tempo bruising, and the whole thing getting caught in your head and refusing to let go. It’s a great way to end this record and a glorious way for “Oblation” to walk out into the sunset.

Floor’s return is a triumphant one, and “Oblation” is a comeback record that makes it feel like this band never really went away. They give you a stuffed collection with more riffs and melodies than you can handle, and hopefully this will lead to even more people learning about the group’s history and their undeniable influence on doom and sludge rock.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/floorofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Aussie killers Impetuous Ritual slither back on gory ‘Unholy Congregation’

Impetuous RitualIt’s time for another sickening, terrifying trip down the wormhole that is Australian metal, and as many of you know, this isn’t a journey to be taken lightly. Things apparently are done a little differently Down Under, especially with bands such as Portal, StarGazer, Bestial Warlust, and Mournful Congregation.

Another of those hellacious bands in Impetuous Ritual, a group that shares members with Portal and Grave Upheaval and is on their second full-length document of chaos, the impossibly thick and mean “Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence” (out on Profound Lore). If you were into their 2009 debut “Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence” (holy hell, it’s been five years?!), chances are you will feel pretty at home with this new one. Well, as home as you can feel taking on a record that sounds like the manifestation of hell on earth. You know how people will make lame jokes about metal like, “Oh, this one will scare your grandmother!” Yeah, well this one will scare other death metal fans, ones that aren’t ready for such an infernal, suffocating, punishing record. The bands on that cute little Mayhem fest? They’d piss themselves having to take the stage next to a horde like this one. Come to think of it, that would actually get me to go to that clown show, just seeing the reactions.

Impetuous Ritual coverBut we’re not here to slam mall death metal (well, we kind of are); we’re here to discuss this dense, eight-track vitriol that gets heavier, stranger, and more relentless as the thing runs its course. It’s not an easy listen to anyone who seeks a little perfection in their death metal, because this thing sounds like it was scraped over with a greasy Brillo pad, giving it that mucky, ominous feel. You have to concentrate deeply and show some patience if you are to have a shot at uncovering each layer of this record. But if you do, you’ll notice the musical genius of guitarist/vocalist Ignis Fatuus (Portal, Grave Upheaval), guitarist Omenous Fugue (Portal), bassist Typhon (Grave Upheaval), and drummer Necros Craigos (Mongrel’s Cross), whose work on this album is one of the most dominant factors. He rumbles and destroys behind the kit, and maybe it was by accident, but he becomes something of an all-star of this album with his playing. He cannot be contained.

“Verboten Genesis” gets the record off to a raucous start, blasting open in its first seconds to drag you into a world of nightmares. The deep growls reverberate, eventually getting into your veins and shaking your central nervous system. The guitars go off and are unrelenting in their mission, screeching and whining, leaving you dizzy and disoriented, and the drums obliterate everything in their wake before the song ends. “Venality in Worship” serves up more boiling madness, with raw growls, guitars with their own agenda setting off and setting things ablaze, and an overall churning feeling that just might sicken you. “Sentient Aberrations” remains just as suffocating as everything that preceded it, which really is a running theme of the record, and horrific, echo-laden growls and splattering drums give this song its unquestioned power. The 9:07-long “Despair” follows, and it’s the first song to change the pace, with drubbing, mid-tempo doom that crushes, a dark ambiance that sets a tone, charred growls, and a calculated beating. Then everything ends suddenly but lights back up again, finally pushing the tempo forward and unleashing crazed, whinnying soloing that drives you to the eye of insanity.

“Inservitude of Asynchronous Duality” trickles right out of “Despair,” with more charred guitars, clubbing drumming that could put welts on your face, a sweltering wave of noise, and vocals that again go for the darkest depths of the world. In fact, the vocals switch tones to terrifying shrieks and wails that sound like a man dying in his boots, and they make for some of the scariest moments of this record. “Womb of Acrimony” is devious and harsh, with gut-wrenching guitar work and evil spiraling right into “Metastasis,” as if they are conjoined. The band keeps stoking the fires, boring into your soul, while death bells chime over and over again, the tone feels dangerously ritualistic, and deep-seeded growls lacerate your heart. Closer “Abhorrent Paragon” gives the drums one final chance to do further damage to your psyche, while the hellacious noise they generate is overwhelming, the growls sound cavernous and filthy, and the guitars grind out and mete out their last acts of horror.

Impetuous Ritual remain one of the darkest, most dangerous death metal bands in the world, and there isn’t an ounce of compromise in their sound. You don’t get it? That’s too bad. These guys lay it on thick and deadly on “Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence,” an album too frightening for your run-of-the-mill metal fan, too dense for a listener who needs everything spoon fed and safe, and too smoky for someone who likes their death metal clean, neat, and digestible. Those people will be the ones in the corner choking while Impetuous Ritual claim their useless souls.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Impetuous-Ritual/128111827293954

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Doom duo The Body give double dose of chaos with ‘I Shall Die Here,’ collaboration with Thou

The Body
There are many bands that have special meaning to us here at Meat Mead Metal, and one of those is Rhode Island doom duo The Body, one of the most destructive, perplexing bands on the planet. That’s probably obvious to anyone who regularly visits these pages, because we try to write up everything the band does, and they’ve yet to put out a record that doesn’t resonate.

But there’s more to The Body, and their appeal to me, especially, other than their titanic music that’s unbelievably harsh and terrifying. It’s how they express themselves. Guitarist/vocalist Chip King and drummer Lee Buford have been building on their sludgy doom base for well over a decade now, and they always find a way to dig up the darkest, bleakest, most hopeless of emotions and give them fiery life. These are the things we often don’t want to identify that live within ourselves, but they’re there. Any time I feel that way, I generally go to The Body’s music because they always humanize the tumult and anxiety that resides within me, and instead of pretending it isn’t there, I slip into the band’s music to let those things out. I find it healthy, even if I don’t always come away feeling better.

The Body have been pretty busy the past couple years, putting out a great EP “Master, We Perish” last year and following that with their incredible full-length “Christs, Redeemers” that was released by Thrill Jockey and took their mission to an even crazier place. It was one of my favorite records of last year, and it scares the living hell out of my wife. This year, we already have two new releases from the band, one that finds them working with one of music’s more daring producers to create something unlike anything in their category. The other is a collaboration with another amazing doom band that also is a longtime favorite of this site and is a precursor to one of the most anticipated live performances of the year.

The Body cover
We’ll start off with “I Shall Die Here,” being released by RVNG Intl., a great label you should check out right now if you really need to be challenged. This one finds King and Buford working with Bobby Krilic (The Haxan Cloak), who adds a heavy electronic element to the band’s sound, but without compromising an ounce of their heaviness and terror. In fact, Krilic enhances the band’s approach and gives you a completely different look into their damaged psyches, showing just how much depth, creativity, and madness is contained inside these artists.

The six-cut, 40-minute record kicks off with “To Carry the Seeds of Death Within Me,” that begins with slow-driving, deliberate drumming, King’s unmistakable shrieks, and noise pulsating and bathing everything with dark energy. Things eventually sound like they slip deep underwater, where it is nearly impossible to make contact, and the song bleeds out in complete horror. “Alone All the Way” might really shake you up if you’re not of healthy mind. Clips are used from the documentary “The Suicide Tourist,” as they are weaved throughout the song, and considering the subject matter (the film is worth seeing, and it will leave you never feeling the same), it’s a heavy journey. Drums echo and bounce off walls, shrieks turn your stomach and show you true trauma, the tempo builds and clobbers you, and the electronic blips and hisses give the song an alien feel. It’s an unsettling dose of pure pain. “The Night Knows No Dawn” has a slathering, doomy opening like it’s paying some homage to Black Sabbath, with keys trickling like a nightmare, noise offering freezing sentiments, and everything being swallowed by a storm of insects. Or so it seems.

“Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain” brings back more from “The Suicide Tourist,” so instantly you’ll know just how hopeless and dark this is. There is an assault of electronic beats and sizzling, grisly shouts that sound animalistic and fearsome, and metallic chaos that feels like worlds falling apart and collapsing into themselves. “Our Souls Were Clean” has a thick synth haze, with mechanical keys, spacey intoxication, and more beefy doom riffs that are lumbering and devastating. The vocals sound intent on choking out everything in front of them, and the finish has the song dissolving into suffocating noise. Closer “Darkness Surrounds Us” runs 9:11 (a coincidence, I’m sure) and begins with the reading of apocalyptic, tortured poetry that ends with poking “to the fact that God did not save.” From there, eerie noises fold into piercing strings that whine, buzzing doom riffs, blistering static, and more violence designed to finish you off. The close is loud and abrasive, and King gets his last horrifying shrieks in before everything burns to hell. This is an amazing document.

To buy the album, go here: http://igetrvng.com/shop/category/all/

For more on the label, go here: http://igetrvng.com/

Body Thou cover
Up next is The Body working alongside the great Thou, whose new record “Heathen” is one of the finest of the year. These two bands will be touring together this summer, all culminating in a collaborative set at the second Gilead Fest, July 18-20 (they play together the first night of the fest. Get more info here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/fest/). But before we get there, we have “Released From Love,” a vinyl-only release being put out by Vinyl Rites that gives you a glimpse into what these two mighty beasts can do together. And when they combine forces, it’s pretty magical.

The record is four tracks, nearly 22 minutes, with one of the most interesting cover songs you’ll hear in the metal realm included at the end. We open with “The Wheel Weaves As the Wheel Wills,” a song that’s already intriguing from the title, and then it opens into super thick riffs, Thou vocalist Bryan Funck howling his diatribes, punishing drums erupting, and King joining the fray with his crazed shrieks. It truly sounds like the two forces melded together, with one not outshining the other and instead giving room for full effect. Toward the end, the pace really kicks up sand steamrolls forward. “Manifest Alchemy” follows, with that Sabbath influence rearing its head, static-filled drums, and Funck taking command again. The final moments are drenched in noise and fury, with chaos reining supreme. “In Meeting Hearts Beat Closer” is disarmingly melodic, and it’s the one where I wonder if Thou didn’t push the pace a little more as it sounds of their headspace. The song has a very different texture musically, with Funck and King doing what they do over top, and it’s equally vicious and mesmerizing. The closing cover of Vic Chesnutt classic “Coward” is a great choice, as both bands have a tendency to wallow in negativity, and hearing King and Funck interpret the words is something to behold. It’s also interesting how each band plays the song as if Chestnutt’s work is in their collective DNA, and hey, who is to say it isn’t? This is an amazing track, one that shows the real promise of these bands collaborating further.

The Body’s journey has been an interesting, twisting, scarred one, and each chapter brings something new to the doom world we’ve not encountered before. These two recordings are more than enough to tide us over for a couple years, but my guess is they’ll be back sooner than later to burn our psyches to the ground all over again.

For more on The Body, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/the-body/334047229514

For more on Thou, go here: http://noladiy.org/thou/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.vinylrites.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.vinylrites.net/

CROSSING OVER: Wovenhand return with fire-breathing rock on great ‘Refractory Obdurate’

WovenhandThere are those artists that, for whatever reason, stick with you through time and make an indelible impression upon your psyche and your heart. I’ve been lucky enough to come across quite a few of those in my days of listening to music, from Quorthon to Jason Molina to Neko Case to Iron Maiden to Cobalt. They’re my frequent go-to musicians, and I imagine they always will be.

Singer-songwriter David Eugene Edwards has been that way for a lot of people and, full admission, I got into his work later in his run, so I’m still trying to figure out which parts of his catalog resonate the most with me. There was a no-doubt factor the first time I heard his music under the Wovenhand moniker, and also with what he’s done with 16 Horsepower, and he has a voice and a means of expression you’re not going to forget any time soon unless your heart doesn’t work properly. You can make comparisons to artists such as Nick Cave, Molina, Mark Lanegan, Mount Eerie, Murder By Death, and the Black Heart Procession, even if it’s just philosophically, and there’s no way you can walk away from his records not knowing how much of his heart and soul he puts into the music. That, to me, is part of the appeal.

Wovenhand coverEdwards is back with a new Wovenhand record that’s being released by Deathwish Inc. in the States (Glitterhouse Records will handle Europe), a label known more for their hardcore and metal acts such as Deafheaven, Oathbreaker, Code Orange Kids, Ceremony, and more. But it’s clear they have an open mind for what they release, and Edwards’ music fits with their ethos and punk rock way of doing things, and releasing the excellent new “Refractory Obdurate” should be a benefit to both parties. This record is the follow-up release to 2012’s “The Laughing Stalk,” and joining him on this album are longtime percussionist Ordy Garrison, as well as Chuck French and Neil Keener, of grimy punk/metal crushers Planes Mistaken for Stars. Together, the band conjures power in the right spots, eerie hush elsewhere, and it all complements Edwards’ booming voice and dark storytelling that revels both in pain and glory.

It should be pointed out, of course, that since this is a Crossing Over piece, you should realize the Wovenhand record is not a metal release. But it’s dark and eerie at times, which could please those who like ill intent weaved into their music, and they do rock pretty hard here and there. If you’re a fan of a band like Horseback, you could find a lot to enjoy on this album.

The record opens with “Corsicana Clip,” a track rich with cool melodies, echo-laden vocals that give the whole thing a haunting feel, compelling darkness, and lines such as, “Who gave you a heart such as this?” that add a bit of menace. “Masonic Youth” has guitars that ring out and sting your ears, great vocals that are full of passion, and just when you think the band has settled into a tempo, they let loose with power and volume, drenching the thing with awesome noise. “The Refractory” opens with woodsy mandolin that leads into a dark storm that moves ever so slowly. The bulk of the song is murky and thick, though a wiry guitar line cuts through and acts as lightning, injecting power and electricity into everything. “Good Shepherd” is fiery and glorious with spirited guitar work, a noisy punk treatment, and moments that remind of 1990s college rock, when being earnest still was a virtue. “Salome” brings the clouds again, and dark ones, as Edwards calls, “Let the curse fall on me,” as the track, musically, feels like the end times are near. The melodies are infectious, and they really settle into your head.

“King David” is a dark storyteller, with more mandolin and piano setting the mood, and when Edwards observes, “You are a jealous one,” amid all of the rich echoes, you can feel the bloodletting emanating from his soul. “Field of Hedon” has thick strings, beds of feedback, and a glorious eruption of power, with charged-up guitars, heavy wailing, and a feeling that some evil spirits are being burned off with the power of this music. “Obdurate Obscura” has a folk feel at the start, with soulful percussion, more echo-drenched vocals, and strings that cut a path. The song is dusty and feels like it’s inspired by the Wild West, making it perfect movie fodder for a bloody film about revenge and redemption. It’s an arresting piece, one of the most effective on the record. “Hiss” follows, and it blasts open with a righteous burst of rock, with Edwards testifying as only he can, with the band backing him with chugging sounds and blistering chaos. Noise spits, the bands keeps their march moving forward with torches ablaze, and Edwards keeps your attention easily with his furious wails that grab you by the face and refuse to let go until the journey has come to an end. This is the loudest, harshest track on the record. Closer “El-Bow” is mesmerizing and warped, with Edwards’ voice swirling through the air, the percussion giving a spiritual feel, and the strings giving an ancient ambiance to the song. The aura builds over its 2:42 running time, and it’s a particularly gripping way to finish off a record filled with drama and unbridled emotion.

Each Wovenhand record is its own beast, and “Refractory Obdurate” is no exception. It had me from listen one, and each subsequent visit I uncover new layers of this great album. Edwards sound as passionate, inspired, and fiery as he ever has, and these are songs hopefully will end up in even more people’s ears due to Deathwish putting out this record. You don’t have to be a disciple of any particular musical genre to like this record either. You just have to admire heartfelt and honest artwork, and it’ll resonate with you for sure.

For more on the band, go here: http://wovenhandmosaic.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://store.deathwishinc.com/category/new.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.deathwishinc.com/

Falls of Rauros, Panopticon bring their black metal forces together on stormy split album

Pan Rauros coverLooking at this week’s weather where I live, it’s going to be the meeting of two great forces. At the start and end of the week, it’s going to be nice and warm, perfect spring weather with a few storms thrown in for good measure. Middle of the week? Snow. Awesome. Good thing I put all the screens in the windows for the season change.

On that note, today’s topic is similar to two great weather fronts coming together to create a chaotic whirlwind of meteorological madness. On one hand, we have Maine-based black metal Falls of Rauros who weave in folk elements into their expansive sound. On the other, we have Panopticon, the Austin Lunn-led, one-man black metal force who we have covered often at this site. The bands do have some commonalities musically, but there’s definitely a difference between the two sides that you can hear when their music is lined side by side like it is here. This six-song split recording (two tracks from Rauros, four from Panopticon) also has a more direct connect to the weather comparison I made earlier, as the Rauros selections feel perfect for the young spring, as rains will flood the grounds, and we’ll spend more time in nature. As for Panopticon’s selections, with Lunn tipping his cap to the Nordic second wave of black metal, his tracks are frostier, colder, and like they were born in a blizzard.

Falls of Rauros

Falls of Rauros

Falls of Rauros have been evolving for some time now, with each recording finding the four-piece group expanding their black metal and folk influences and growing more and more comfortable in their threads. “The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood” was a revelation for the band (it originally was released in 2011 and was re-released in 2013), picking up the intensity and imagination they showed on 2008’s excellent “Hail Wind and Hewn Oak,” a record that I still visit a lot to this day. The collection of artists including shadowy, singularly named members, show that their progress is just going to continue, if these two tracks are any evidence, and their next full-length record deserves to be one of the most anticipated of whatever timeframe it is released.

Their portion kicks off with “Unavailing,” an 11:53 epic that is sprawling and breathtaking. The opening strains are atmospheric, and the guitars hold just a hint of country before the sparks fly and the volume builds. Harsh shrieks erupt, guitars start spitting fire, and the song turns into a melodic, even breezy track, with acoustic guitars siding in, blending, and creating a pretty neat texture. As the song reaches its conclusion the screams return, the music cascades down, and the final moments are gazey and dreamy. “The Purity of Isolation” is their second and final track, with more acoustics and even some clean singing. The folk strains build, blending into more volcanic madness with vicious growls, heart-wrenching melodies, and sweeping chaos, with an array of colors that blind you. As the song reaches its conclusion, it begins to let loose its chokehold ever so slowly, letting air back into your lungs and drowning out into the night. These songs are perfect for the evolution of spring, especially when there’s a relentless thunderstorm around the corner waiting to black out your sunshine.

Panopticon

Panopticon

Lunn always seems to have several irons in the fire, be it with Panopticon or his other projects such as Seidr and Kolga, and he appears to have no shortage of inspiration or unique ideas, be that Kentucky-based coal workers or the failure of social services in his hometown. Under the Panopticon banner, Lunn has remained as busy and prolific as any other artists out there, putting our regular full-length albums as well as a ton of splits such as this one, with artists ranging from Skagos to Lake of Blood to Vestiges. You’d think creating this much music would spread an artist thin, but Lunn has shown no signs of running on empty (or even three-quarters of a tank for that matter). The four tracks on this recording are as explosive and menacing as anything else in his catalog. That should scare you.

Panopticon’s portion begins with “Through the Mountains I Wander This Evening,” a song that might immediately give you Nordic thoughts simply from the title but certainly reinforces those ideas when you hear Lunn’s harsh growls, the speedy, savage riffs, and dark and menacing playing that sounds like it emanated from a filthy dungeon somewhere. The guitar work is thick and entrancing, something that occurs quite a bit on these four songs, and this track ends suddenly, like it hit a wall and disintegrated. The tremendously titled “Can You Loan Me a Raven?” follows, and luckily he doesn’t really need said bird in order to send his black message. The guitars are dizzying and bathed in feedback, the melodies sound watery and dark, and eventually everything blows up into blast beats and terrifying shrieks. “Gods of Flames” is filthy and gruff, with the vocals barked through a mangled throat, lightning-fast guitars pounding, and unforgiving punishment meted out. Closer “One Cold Night” is perfectly titled, as the guitars are frozen, and the noise that is draped over the sound is like a heavy frost. The growls are scary and direct, though they sound like they’re delivered from an underground cell, the music can be enrapturing and cause you to stare a million feet in front of you, and the final moments are overcome by static, with piercing noises digging into your heart and mind.

This split effort is a great meeting of the minds, two entities that create black sounds that are their very own but certainly overlap into each other’s worlds. You’ll freeze, you’ll thaw, and you’ll be devastated completely by these two bands. If you’re new to one or both, it’s a fine introduction to what each does so well. But if you’ve been along for the rides with either one, this is a great way to show you how each band has expanded their mission and are ready to take you on new adventures in the future.

For more on Falls of Rauros, go here: http://www.fallsofrauros.blogspot.com/

For more on Panopticon, go here: http://thetruepanopticon.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/