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/

French beasts Skelethal make bruising first impression with debut ‘Deathmanicvs Revelation’

SkelethalWhat better way to start another Monday, another grueling week than with some pure death metal that’ll make your soul feel black and rotting inside. That’s likely how you feel anyway, as you look to another week at the grind, so why not have some music that’ll match your disgust?

French death duo Skelethal could be exactly what you need about now. It comes to you by way of Iron Bonehead, one of the most reliable labels when it comes to unearthing the finest, most miserable underground death metal available on the planet. Name one time when they steered you wrong. Right, you can’t, so pay attention. The band’s first EP “Deathmanicvs Revelation” has everything that old-school death metal fans generally demand in their bands: raw power, skull-crushing death, production that sounds like it took place underground, and general ugliness that all the mainstream, polished-to-hell death metal bands have no grasp of whatsoever. This will bust you up and leave you for dead.

Skelethal coverThe two fellows behind Skelethal are guitarist/vocalist Gui Haunting and drummer/bassist Jon Whiplash, who both play in the band Infinite Translation, a thrash-oriented group that also pays homage pretty directly to that genre. So these two guys know a thing or two about what makes their chosen sub-genre pure and destructive, and they bring all of that to the seven-cut, 23-minute “Deathmanicvs Revelation.” The recording will surround you in fire, death, and destruction, and it doesn’t emulate the forces that preceded this band nearly three decades ago, but it shows a reverence for the pioneers of the genre. They sound like they’re eager to take the roots and carry them forward in their own way, and that’s part of what makes “Deathmanicvs Revelation” such a pleasure, even if it’s ugly as hell.

After a creaky, stormy intro piece that lets piano drip like blood, the guys tear into “Macabre Oblivion” that erupts with death glory, furious growls, and raw energy that gallops forward and mauls. Some awesome, doomy guitar riffs sprawl forth as if they’re mid-Black Sabbath worship and the last couple minutes of the song find the band grinding to a halt, blowing up again, and corroding. “Putrefaction” is up next, setting off an obliterating first minute, with gruff vocals, a fast and charging pace, filthy punishment, and some razor-sharp lead guitar work that could char you. The title track comes sweeping in from there, with gut-wrenching death, a punchy, thrash-ridden groove that’s as violent as it is glorious, more strong leads, speed, and vocals that practically are spat on the floor.

“Curse of the Neverending” is burly and mean, and though it’s only 1:51 long, making it the shortest track on the record, it does make the most of its time. Throaty growls, clobbering guitars, and the right levels of intensity make this both fun and bruising. “Death Returns” brings doom back into the picture again, but then it blasts open and starts the mauling all over again. There are some great speedy sections in this song, awesome soloing, and more thrashing that tips a cap a bit to their other band. The final minutes are full of pure devastation, and then it all dissolves into murky synth that sounds like it could soundtrack a B-level sci-fi movie. Closer “A Violation of Something Sacred” lets loose from the start, offering no mercy and providing none, and there even is a section that sounds a bit influenced by American hardcore. Or maybe that’s just me hearing that. The riffs are mean, the vocals go for the kill, and the finish is total demolition that leaves everything in soot.

Skelethal is another great find by Iron Bonehead, a duo that has plenty of admiration for the roots of death metal but has their own ideas for how to carry it into the future. “Deathmanicvs Revelation” is an incredibly positive and brutal start for the band, and anyone who still holds dear the blood and violence on which death metal was built will find a ton to like about this band. Hey, look, a lot of us death metal fans are a little judgmental and defensive, so it’s nice to have a new band like Skelethal to tout with no worries, knowing people like us will feast upon these French monsters’ work.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://ironbonehead.de/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.ironbonehead.de/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Triptykon return from darkness with terrifying ‘Melana Chasmata’

TriptykonWe as metal fans are lucky to be living in a time when we still have a nice collection of living legends still making music and playing before our very eyes. I’m talking people like Lemmy Kilmister, the members of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne and the remaining members of Black Sabbath, Doro Pesch, and even Metallica, despite the strange last two decades. We should be thankful and embrace this.

Another man who has meant a gigantic deal to the world of heavy metal and the many, many bands and artists that followed in his footsteps is Tom G. Warrior, who fronted and created with legendary bands such as Hellhammer and Celtic Frost and rose from his own ashes so many times that he has to be on his fourth or fifth life. He is revered, respected, worshipped, and seen as an idol of heavy metal, and no matter how many people tried to follow him and emulate what he does as a musician, none ever have come close to matching his dark magic. Simply, he is one of the genre’s most unique, raw, and troubled souls, and the art he creates are of his heart and soul, as black as those may be.

Triptykon coverWhen Celtic Frost dissolved in 2008 after their cataclysmic and astonishing comeback record “Monotheist” dropped like an anvil in 2006, it was disheartening to so many fans because, here was this band that survived so many downs that followed incredible highs that it seemed cosmically unfair that the group was not going to see another day. They created an untouchable triptych of releases in the 1980s that started with 1984’s eye-opening EP “Into the Pandemonium,” (the first song is “Into the Crypt of Rays,” an all-time classic!) continued into debut LP “To Mega Therion” the following year, and flowed into the strange and glorious “Into the Pandemonium” in 1987. Yeah, they fell apart not long afterward, and yeah, Warrior and a new lineup made “Cold Lake,” one of the weirdest disappointments of all time, but this story needed to end the right way. They seemed to light fire to their entire history with “Monotheist,” a record as great as their classics, but after their breakup, Warrior declared he would see his mission into the future with the new band Triptykon.

The band debuted with the thunderous and maliciously glorious “Eparistera Daimones” in 2010, and it instantly wiped away any disappointment of Celtic Frost’s demise. Along with guitarist/backing vocalist V. Santura (Dark Fortress, Noneuclid), bassist Vanja Šlajh, and drummer Norman Lonhard, Warrior had explosive new life with a lineup he has repeatedly said is the most familial and healthy of his entire career, and just from seeing them play live, you could sense something was different in a good way. A great EP “Shatter” followed that same year and now, four years later and after more tumult for Warrior, we have the gargantuan new “Melana Chasmata,” a record that not only meets the mountain of expectations but goes so far over the top. It’s another devastating step forward for this band, but it also has Warrior especially reaching back a little bit musically to his roots, mixing the best of all of his worlds.

“Tree of Suffering” opens the record, and right away, longtime Warrior fans will feel right at home with the downtuned, burly riffs, his trademark “ooh!” that we only get a couple times here, and his commanding howl as he shouts, “Speak to me, my master!” The rest of the band mauls along with him beautifully, with Warrior yowling on the chorus, “I am your life!” with Santura following him up properly with savage growls. The pace keeps sweltering, eventually a Middle Eastern feel is injected into the song, and the track bows out with fiery soloing and one final charge. “Boleskine House” is eerie and cold, with Šlajh providing dreamy vocals to go along with Warrior’s purposely detached singing. Then his growls erupt, a sludgy dose of hammering sets in, and it’s off into the fire. The song balances dark and light perfectly, and it’s one of the most textured tracks on the record. “Altar of Deceit” is one of the more approachable songs, and if there’s a gateway track for newcomers, this one’s it. The chorus itself is one of the catchier in the band’s short history, and it’s just bludgeoning enough. “Breathing” takes some time to settle in, and once it does, the ignition goes off in full. It’s thrashy, doom-laden, impossibly dark, and one of the best tracks on this incredible record. I keep going back to this one a lot, and it never ceases to knock me on my ass. The pace is faster than usual, Warrior’s growled words are spat out at a quick clip, and the menacing thrashing should get your blood surging in no time. This one will kill live. “Aurorae” properly brings you back down again and is the ideal antidote to what you just heard. The song is murky and gothy, it has a nice, damp, rainy feel to it, and when you hear Warrior call, “Spirit wasting away,” you know those aren’t just mere words.

“Demon Pact” is properly strange, with striking synth, sounds that could soundtrack a proper horror film, and a slurry pace that takes its time freezing your cells. Warrior warbles like a beast, unleashes more of his clean vocals, and the rest of the band gives him the proper backdrop for his bloodletting. “In the Sleep of Death” is a total showstopper, and for those who clamor for some classic Celtic Frost-painted work, you’ll feast on this. Warrior returns to his moan-like, tortured singing, calling out to a lost, dead love Emily (could it be Emily Bronte, a regular muse of his?). The song and the passion both quiver throughout, the horror and sorrow mix ideally, and Warrior laments, “You were the blood in my veins,” as he shovels final scoops of dirt over a long-ago-dug grave. This song is amazing. The 12:25 epic “Black Snow” follows, and it makes the best of its running time. The band isn’t in a hurry at all, instead settling into a muddy pace highlighted by Warrior going from whisper to shout, guitars swelling and boiling over, filthy grime, and deliberately meted out punishment. Closer “Waiting” is a sobering, reflective, dreamy song, with Šlajh again providing her hazy singing, repeating the line, “We are the same,” with Warrior later joining her on that refrain. Keys trickle into the mix, the band sounds like they are achieving a trance state musically, and the final moments send the record off into a space that is both cosmically energetic and uncomfortable lovely. What a final gasp this is.

Thankfully, wonderfully, Tom G. Warriors lives and prevails, remaining as vital a voice that we have in metal. He is on his third landmark band, and Triptykon sound like they have plenty of life to have a dark, bountiful future. “Melana Chasmata” may have drained Warrior of his life at times and likely was a mental struggle, but what he and his band created is one of the most important documents for metal fans in 2014. It’s a fire-breathing, lumbering monster that is truly terrifying, wholly inspiring, and looking to destroy whatever is in front of us. The world needs more Warriors and more groups like Triptykon to keep metal going in the coming decades, and there’s no doubt this record will be a template for those in coming generations who follow the band’s charred path.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.triptykon.net/

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

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

German black metal shadow Infestus expands blackness, chaos on ‘The Reflecting Void’

InfestusWe often describe records as journeys people can take when they listen to the music. But bands also can be looked at as sojourns, with members coming and going, ideas changing, sounds going through a metamorphosis, and the purpose switching faces.

German black metal entity Infestus actually can claim their records and their band both serve as adventures in their own right. Ever since the dissolution of Dunkelfront in 2003, Infestus rose from the ashes and started making righteous noise. The band was comprised of multi-instrumentalist Andras (he was known as Moloc in Dunkelfront and played drums), guitarist Harbarth, and vocalist Dagon, and they released a 2003 demo and a debut full-length record “Worshipping Times of Old” in 2004. Soon thereafter, Harbarth left the fold, and Andras took over all instrumentation, with Dagon remaining the vocalist. The duo released one more record, 2008’s “Chroniken des Ablebens” before Dagon also dropped out of the project. That left Andras on his own, which is how he remains, creating 2011’s incredible, landmark “E x | I s t” and now returning three years later with “The Reflecting Void,” an even more realized record musically and philosophically. Andras seems to be at his high point creatively.

Infestus coverAs noted, Infestus’ records always have been compelling documents, where it’s tough to pull out a song here or there and instead standing as albums that need to be digested in full. Maybe that’s frustrating to the Spotify audience that likes to jump back and forth from song to song, band to band, but Infestus requires a commitment. And if you are along for the ride and choose to be enraptured by the band’s brand of darkness, you are rewarded handsomely. “The Reflecting Void” is a great example of that, and along with the idea of your devotion to the record paying off, anyone who has followed Infestus throughout the years is certain to be fulfilled as the music never has sounded this huge, ambitious, and stimulating. The record goes far beyond black metal into the atmosphere, with thought-provoking melodies, moments of eerie darkness, and even some vocals that get away from the creaky shrieks, though just in doses.

“A Dying Dream” opens the record with noise humming before guitars rise up into a doomy lather, and sorrowful lead lines support the song’s dark essence. The drama builds along with the song, as Andras growls his words, and the final moments of the song bleed out into silence. “Spiegel der Steele” follows with charged-up guitars, mean and harsh playing, and some clean melodies trickling underneath the chaos. The pace goes back and forth, from tranquil to tumultuous, with the end leaving a mist of strangeness. “Constant Soul Corrosion” has a clean, watery intro, with Andras whispering over the dreamy sequence, but just when it seems it’ll stay along this pace, the song explodes, igniting the fury and unleashing compelling anguish that is thick and real. Andras returns to his quiet vocals as the song winds down, with one last blast of power left to finish off the piece. “Cortical Spreading Darkness” explodes out of the gates, with violence and savagery, cascading melodies, and tons of shifts from atmospheric back to volcanic. The song slips into heavy chugging, with Andras desperately calling, “Save me!” with the last bit of the track being treating with noise whir and spacey transmissions.

“Fractal Rise of the Fall” is a thrashy, cosmic-minded instrumental track, the shortest of the bunch at 2:35, and then it’s on to “Innere Reflexion,” a song that opens with punishing galloping, a serious mean streak, and drums that sound like they are programmed to kill. The music becomes exploratory at points, with the song sprawling and searching in the shadows, with everything fading out into the night. “Devouring Darkness” wastes no time showing its intentions, going right for the throat with crushing blasts, devastating howls, and then a classically played part that brings the temperature back down. There is clean singing at some points, whispered growls at others, and rich, textured guitar work that is flush with bleeding emotion. Closer “Origin” has a prog-fueled first few minutes before it launches into a sinister section containing bloodthirsty playing and growling, more tempo changes that dip and boil back up again several times, and everything leading to an abrupt ending that sucks the air right out of the room, leaving you wondering what the hell happened. It’s a bit of a letdown, the way it just ends like that, but perhaps that’s by design to get you off the track one final time.

Andras is operating at a high level with Infestus, and “The Reflecting Void” is the most immersive of all of the records in the band’s catalog. While “E x | I s t” may have gripped harder and been edgier and darker, this record expands that thinking and goes for more colors and shapes, more ways to get your brain working. It’s an album to which you should devote your time and energy so you can understand its mission completely. It might help you see into worlds and planes of existence you didn’t know exist, even if that discovery happens only in your imagination.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/