Venowl keep spreading terror and alarming horror on splits with killers Cara Neir, Highgate

Venowl

Venowl

So, it’s Monday, and that means it’s as good a time as any to get nice and agitated. You probably don’t feel like doing half the things that are in front of you, and the weekend is as far away as any point in the week. Frustrated now?

A good remedy for that goddamn itch that won’t leave you alone is music that sounds like it exists to gnaw on your nerves and piss off those who can’t grasp what it’s all about. That’s where Venowl (][ on guitar, vocals; // on bass, electronics; :: on percussion) come into the scene. If you go online and read people’s reviews and comments about their music, you’d think these guys personally insulted those peoples’ families or stole their dogs. Yes, the music they make certainly isn’t easy to digest, and it can be confusing and insultingly confrontational. That’s why I’ve enjoyed the band’s work, because it is as non-formulaic as it comes, and you never know what’s lurking next. Their songs sound like free-form, open-ended forays into madness that feel like they could last all day long if they so desired. There’s little structure (at least that I can here) or tangible direction, and it just sounds like a flow of aggression that lasts as long as it needs to until the guys don’t feel like killing anyone or themselves anymore. I mean all of that as a huge compliment. I love it.

Luckily for people like me who dig the band’s brand of mind-crushing noise, there are two new split efforts for our consumption. And because we’re focusing on Venowl, let’s not lose sight of the two bands they’re featured with also are killer groups. One of them is killer Dallas unit Cara Neir, who released last year’s tremendous “Portals to a Better, Dead World” and who play an atmospheric, emotionally melodic brand of black metal, punk, and noise. On the other release, Highgate is featured, a sludgy, doomy band whose last full-length landed last year in the form of “Survival” (out on Totalrust Records). Their sound is a little closer to what Venowl do and they also drag you through an epic-length mauler that’ll leave you nice and bruised.

Venowl Cara NeirLet’s start with the Venowl/Cara Neir split, yours via Broken Limbs as a limited-run cassette release. Here, Venowl unload “Scour (Parts I and II)” onto you, and it’s a miserable, devastating experience from the word go. Dissonant noise rings out and forms a death cloud, while sickening, nauseating doom bleeds out in full. It feels like everything is burning badly, with a heavy aura of insanity, drone creepiness, and deranged howls and shrieks that sound like that of a mentally disturbed individual. There’s a feeling of anguish and oppressive mental trauma to be heard, with guitar squall hanging in the air, riffs absolutely bludgeoning, and toward the end of the 21:02 track, feedback vibrating and pissing anger, with final shrieks unloading the last traces of torment. Awesome cut. Totally messed up.

Cara Neir are slightly more conventional creators, with three tracks here that are catchy and fiery. “Aeonian Temple” explodes into black metal chaos, with the band pushing hard with tricky playing and interesting melodies that could get your blood bubbling. There even is a classic screamo sense to the music, and it’s one hell of a blast from these guys (vocalist Chris Francis, multi-instrumentalist Garry Brents). “Nights” is a curveball in a sense, with jazzy guitar work, speak singing, and a feeling that Faith No More might have been an influence on this cut. Eventually some gazey guitars burst into the picture to add more texture, and it’s a really cool change of pace. “Pitiful Human Bindings” has a mathy feel at first, but it doesn’t take long for the black metal trappings to push through, wild cries and screams to pierce, and cascading levels of sound to make this beefier. The final moments are nicely spacious, as the song trudges and bruises its way to a finish.

Venowl HighgateUp next is the release with Highgate, out on Tartarus Records and also limited to 100 cassettes. Here, Venowl stretch out even further with “Vacant Cellar,” a track that runs 34:04 and feels like it’ll keep bleeding forever at points. The opening is dank, like it’s zeroing in on a damp basement somewhere with noises like a blade against vulnerable skin. Doom starts to flood, with wild shrieks and screams expressing emotions most humans never have the misfortune to experience. The track spends its time hammering away, remaining a formless creature, and coming off as quite feral. At around the 10-minute mark, the piece begins to sound like a collection of people wailing and dying, as it descends into mucky hell. About 15 minutes later, it turns into a horror show, with doom churning, the vocals finding new levels of deranged, and the atmosphere aiming to suffocate you in stinking rags. The punishment never relents, with a savage meltdown, a heaping serving of drone, and deafening feedback twisting and smothering until the track finally meets its end. This is exhausting in the best possible manner.

Highgate takes time to set up their scene on the 26:15 “Carved Into Winter.” The band—Steve Porter, Greg Brown, Nate Powell, Shawn Kirst—opens up a cavernous sound, with the feeling of cosmic vastness that meets up with buzzing, steely guitar work that sometimes reminds of Across Tundras at their dustiest. The power then really kicks in, with raspy growls emerging, guitars getting muddier, and the pace feeling a lot more dangerous. The growls keep stretching out, with the band trudging heavily behind, but then things go more melodic and glimmering. But they never lose their edge, as they’re massively heavy no matter what pace they’re setting, and they head right into a pocket of crushing feedback and spacey sizzling. Later, some cleaner guitar work arrives, as the band plods along and keeps their mission deliberate but strong. Finally, their intensity returns, the growls explode anew, and the track tucks itself away, thoroughly satisfied with the way it both pulverized and mesmerized you.

Venowl’s bound to always be a band that annoys and infuriates more people than they convert into followers. They probably relish that idea, because it’s clear their music isn’t here to make you feel good or achieve positivity. But, you know, not all music needs to meet the same goals, a point so many people miss. Venowl are here because they’re supposed to be the way they are, and they’re great at fucking with you. So deal with it. The fact they’ve released some poisonous new music packaged along with great bands such as Cara Neir and Highgate—both way more than worthy of your attention—goes to show their peers agree. Go jump on these limited releases because they sound like nothing else you’ll hear that way, which is a great and horrifying thing.

For more on Venowl, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Venowl

For more on Cara Neir, go here: https://www.facebook.com/caraneir

For more on Highgate, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Highgatedoom

To buy the Venowl/Cara Neir split, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/

To buy the Venowl/Highgate split, go here: http://tartarusrecords.com/album/split-3

For more on Broken Limbs, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/

For more on Tartarus, go here: http://tartarusrecords.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Menace Ruine’s dreamy beauty shines through the darkness on ‘Venus Armata’

Menace Ruine 2Beauty in metal and heavier music is not a commonly written-about topic here. That’s not on purpose. I guess the natural inclination is to steer toward the dark, violent, depressing, crushing. Plus, since we avoid symphonic metal outright, there’s not much chance to discuss lovely sounds in what’s an otherwise dark musical format.

Not that Menace Ruine don’t have their dark moments, but what I generally find when taking on this Montreal-based duo are sounds that reveal incredible colors, emotional depth, and music that doesn’t make me want to maim and pillage. Instead, I want to reach out with my imagination and keep dreaming. I want to stretch my creativity. I want to escape inside these sounds and absorb every beam of light they emit. The band’s music, which isn’t really metal but certainly can slip over and impact that audience, is a mesmerizing mix of drone, neofolk, gothic sounds, atmosphere, and the spellbinding singing of Genevieve Beaulieu, which are as alive and transcendent as ever on their new, fifth album “Venus Armata.” In fact, even if the sounds don’t grab you at first (expertly put together by S de la Moth), the voice will, and you might find yourself hanging on every breath without even knowing you’re doing it.

Mence Ruine coverMenace Ruine have had a prolific, yet criminally under-appreciated run ever since their formation in 2007. Having offered their debut full-length “Cult of Ruins” in 2008, they’ve reported back pretty regularly, following with “The Die Is Cast” that same year, “Union of Irreconcilables” in 2010, and their Profound Lore debut “Alight in Ashes” in 2012. They’ve also had their work released by noted labels such as SIGE, Alien8, and Aurora Borealis, and they’ve slowly built their following while sharpening their incredible work. On “Venus Armata,” they have put together their best work to date, and while it may take a few visits for the songs to begin taking root, once they do, you’re gone. You can feel the power and spirit pulsating in these songs, and the journey on which you should take mentally will leave you enriched and intellectually refreshed. That’s something brutality hardly ever gives to you.

“Soften Our Evil Hearts” begins the record with cold bells chiming, noise drone rising and getting lathered up, and the atmosphere continually building. Beaulieu’s vocals join the mix, and her mesmerizing ways snake through the song, always keeping you alert and wary. The music feels like a thick fog, with the signing coming on like it’s directing an early morning spiritual, with the tempo twisting and treading up to the end. “Red Sulphur” is a great track and might be my favorite in this band’s entire canon. A blanket of sound feels like they’re being emitted from ancient organs, and Beaulieu unreal vocals kick in. She sounds like a magisterial storyteller, and her harmonies are completely arresting and infectious. Psychedelic sounds arrive, and drums even push things ahead, but all the while the singing is the hook, one of the great performances of the year that should make other singers jealous. It’s hard to do this justice in words. Go listen to it. “Marriage in Death” has slowly delivered drumming, with guitar squall settling in and the singing sounding more solemn. The track bobs slowly on its waves, navigating you through the night, leaving your body quivering like the music. “Soothing But Cruel” is a fitting title for the song it represents, as there’s a deep chill in the air that could sting your cheeks, with emotional vocals that leave cracks in the glaze that forms over top. The composition is glimmering and frosty, with the sounds floating, and eventually dissolving into a deep buzz.

“Belly of the Closed House” stretches over 9:56, and it has piercing strings, a melody that cuts right through the thing,  and layer upon layer of atmospheric playing stacked so high, you can’t see the top. Eventually the vocals emerge, sounding like something magically recorded out of a dream, and the last portion of the song begins to weigh a little heavier, with thick drone and a penetrating show of force. “Torture of Fire” feels shivery and woozy at first, with echoey beats shooting out and striking the walls. The vocals take a different approach and have a new personality than elsewhere on the record, and Beaulieu sounds pretty dangerous. The 16:17-long closing title cut introduces itself by ringing out sharply and drone lowering itself to the ground for a final push. First, the vocals slip behind the noise, which sounds like a million insects buzzing, but then Beaulieu breaks through and takes control. The melodies—both from the music and the vocals—are swirling and trance-inducing, and maybe this is just something I’m pulling out the song, but there’s a sense of sorrow that embraces you like an old lost friend. The emotion conveyed is unmistakable and real. Organs pile on again, the tempo picks up and begins to vibrate with light, and the final sounds create one last cutting swoop before turning into vapor and disappearing before our eyes.

Menace Ruine can be a breath of fresh air for listeners who are too bogged down in violence and negativity. Beauty and light are elements we need to grasp, and even when there are darker moments on “Venus Armata,” I can’t help but feel uplifted when the whole thing’s over. It’s a work of poetry as much as it is a collection of songs, and never have I enjoyed a Menace Ruine record this much. And I love their back catalog. This is worth every ounce of your energy investment in these seven songs, and they will reward you a million fold for your effort.

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

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

To buy the album on vinyl, go here: http://sige.bigcartel.com/artist/sige-records

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

And here: http://sigerecords.blogspot.com/

Sunn O))), Scott Walker join forces and create disturbing, dark collaboration on ‘Soused’

Sunn WalkerWhen people think of daring collaborations involving metal artists and those outside that circle, most people’s minds likely will turn to the unmitigated disaster that was “Lulu.” Even the idea of Metallica and Lou Reed working together seemed like a bad concept before the final product came down, but people with the highest of hopes perhaps thought it could transform Metallica’s creativity. Yeah, not quite.

There have been plenty of other times when metal artists reached outside their boundaries to create something new (Merzbow’s many collaborations in the scene, Boris’ criminally under-appreciated project with Ian Astbury), but sadly the bloated corpse “Lulu” likely always will be the thing that rises to the top of the conversation. But maybe that doesn’t always have to be that way. Maybe we can change that talking point. I offer a new touchstone in the stunning new combination of doom-drone warriors Sunn O))) and former-teen-heartthrob-turned-avant-garde-artist Scott Walker on the incredible “Soused.” Now, here’s one that on the surface already brims with promise. Yet, you have to hear this thing to truly appreciate the melding of the minds and to experience the unexpected results of these two forces coming together. If you’re expecting Walker’s confrontational, warbling voice over a basic Sunn O))) record, prepare to have your mind blown. It isn’t that at all. Yeah, sure, you do get waves of it here and there, but it isn’t the dominant trait. Instead, each side works with each other, coloring and expressing what comes to heart and mind, and forming a different machine than what may have expected. It’s unbelievably exciting but also frightening at the same time.

Sunn Walker coverAs for Sunn O))), Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are no strangers to collaboration, having released a set this year with Nordic dreamers Ulver and also having worked with the likes of Boris and Nurse With Wound. They obviously bring the thunder and smoke to this thing, but they also show more flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking than ever before. And these aren’t exactly guys who stick to a script. As for Walker (real name Noel Scott Engel), this is yet the next step on the experimental trail for the 71-year-old singer. Having initially made his mark in the pop realm in the 1960s with the Walker Brothers (along with John Maus as John Walker), he’s carved out a career later in his life as a daring, ambitious, even uncomfortable artist, finding even more acclaim and adulation with his last two surreal, menacing records “The Drift” (2006) and “Bish Bosch” (2012). This union makes all the sense in the world, and the excitement drummed up before this record was released is matched and surpassed now that the music is in our hearts and haunting our dreams.

Opener “Brando” is inspired by actor Marlon Brando, and it opens with Walker’s operatic-style crooning ripping the lid right off. He’s joined by warm guitar lines that actually sound inviting, but that doesn’t last long, and the drone curtain drops heavily and lets extreme darkness envelop that area, while Walker goes on to poke, “A beating would do me a world of good.” Along with his lines of tribute, a bull whip cracks in the background, guitars stab and taunt, and a strange noise almost like whistling add to the odd environment. The drone rises up again at the end, with Walker calling, “I’m down on my knees,” before the sound finally dissipates. “Herod 2014” is an ominous one, with bells chiming and an effect that sounds like a propeller in motion. “She’s hidden her babies away,” Walker wails, as drone fires up in spots and horns tease the tension. There is some incredible wordplay by Walker on this one, especially lines such as, “Bubonic, blue blankets, run ragged with church mice,” delivered with equal amounts of playfulness and dread. The song is eerie and full of danger, and it’ll stick with you long after it ends.

“Bull” blows open from the start, and oddly enough, it has a conventional rock feel to it for its first minute or so. Eventually things melt down, noise begins to whir heavily, and Walker sings over the murk, urging, “Keep moving on,” while the violence swells in the background. The last few minutes of the song let the doom rise and waft, retching and smothering until it finally comes to its end. “Fetish” is a confrontational one, with Walker barking, “Red, blade points knife the air,” with horns snaking behind the terror and horrifying sounds making the picture even more nightmarish. The narration is coolly crooned, while industrial huffing creates even more tension and abuse. The drone hits again, with a tremendous psychotic breakdown giving way and the guitars working back to drill hard. The tempo and power rise and fall in the final minutes, with Walker’s singing allowing everything to fade away. Closer “Lullaby” helps whatever hairs that haven’t risen to this point stand at attention. Walker matter-of-factly notes, “Tonight, my assistant will pass among you, his cap will be empty.” There is an uncomfortable calm and deranged music setting the scene, but when Walker howls, “Lullaby!” it gets ever chillier. The song progresses back and forth, always circling to its beginning and taking another run through the mist, and the track and record finish with noisy chirps and Walker’s singing standing as the last thing you hear.

For fans of Sunn O))) or Walker, this is a must-hear record, the combination of two great forces that make magical, terrifying things happen together. If you’re not familiar with one or either and don’t have daring tastes, this will be a tough listen similar to being beaten down in a pool of your own blood. But hey, maybe a beating will do you some good. “Soused” will prod, poke, agitate, and offend, and certainly this union wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the epitome of collaborative art, and a chance to give two equally dynamic artistic giants a chance to melt together and bleed for us all.

For more on Sunn O))), go here: http://sunn.southernlord.com/

For more on Walker, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scott-Walker/409779832435562

To buy the album, go here: http://shopusa.4ad.com/

Or here: http://sunn.southernlord.com/products

For more on the label, go here: http://www.4ad.com/

Encoffination’s death worship sounds lurching, punishing on terrifying ‘III – Hear Me O’ Death ‘

Photo by http://www.gregcphotography.com/

Photo by Greg C Photography — http://www.gregcphotography.com/

So let’s go ahead and harp on this point again, and for the second day in a row. There’s a reason that people clamor for music they refer to as “real death metal.” It’s right there in the title: death. What about that is supposed to be slick, uplifting, catchy, and shiny? It’s death. It’s the end of all things. That isn’t supposed to be a particularly happy time, and many of us don’t care for our death metal to make us feel exuberant and pumped up.

That’s why I take a particularly morbid fascination with bands such as Encoffination, a group that sounds like it is the musical embodiment of death, the cessation of life. Their music is slow, drubbing, torturous, and sounds like it is one step away from shutting its eyes artistically for the final time. Nothing about it feels good or will get you jumping up and down like an idiot at a live show. You should be depressed, have darkened feelings that cannot be saved, and see only the worst in the music you are hearing. That’s exactly what you get with Encoffination and their suffocating third album “III – Hear Me O’ Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs).” That mouthful of a title alone should clue you into this being a dreary, miserable experience, and if that’s what you’re into, you won’t have a perversely worse time this year. Uh, in a good way. It’s the glorification of death, and that requires an abyss such as this.

Encoffination coverEncoffination is the work of two horrific souls, that being guitarist/bassist/vocalist Ghoat and drummer Elektrokutioner. Both men also play together in Father Befouled and also dot the lineups of countless bands including Beyond Hell, Chasm of Nis, Vomitchapel, and Howling. Ever since their arrival at this point in their journeys in 2008, they’ve been drumming up doom-blasted death metal that crawls painfully and scornfully, taking its time to spread its pestilence to ensure it has covered every inch of their battleground. From their 2010 debut “Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh,” to their sophomore effort “O Hell, Shine in Thy Whited Sepulchres” a year later, to now, they’ve been making noise that fans of band such as Incantation, Mournful Congregation, Grave Upheaval, and Impetuous Ritual should find disturbing and strangely satisfying.

Opening hymn “Processional – Opvs Thanatalogia” begins the record perfectly, with doom bells chiming, throaty chants beginning to unleash the horror of it all, and the sounds of panic that lead into “Charnel Bowels of a Putrescent Earth.” The song is as disgusting as its title indicates, with the bells carrying over, a pulverizingly slow death march pushing forward, and infernal growls that sound voiced by a demon. There are hints of melodies, as morbid as you can imagine, and the song keeps spinning and scraping zombie-like all the way to its finish. “Cemeteries of Purgation” opens with deliberate drumming and guitars that are heated until they boil over. The vocals lurch from Ghoat’s mouth, with the pace remaining a death crawl, with trails of blood and ooze left behind it. The track keeps hulking and crushing, with the growls eventually turning to pained moans, sounding like those of a mortally wounded soul. “Crowned Icons” keeps the tempo where it’s been the entire record, and eerie noises give way to a drum beats that push a little harder and sweltering, damaged guitar work. There are some interesting moments toward the end, as the fellows play with some different sounds, but for the most part, it’s a beating rendered until submission.

“Rotting Immemorial” has an ugly, retching open, as it pulls you into the fog and toward further defacement. The guitars bleed and trickle all over the ground, leaving a real mess, and doomy hell erupts later and brings everything to a painfully slow ending. “From His Holy Cup, Drink; Come Death” runs 9:29, and it’s the first of a concluding triptych of songs that stretches across the record’s final half hour. Doom-encrusted smothering begins immediately, with the guitars simmering over top, the pace reaching slightly more animated levels, and the growls gurgling in a pool of nearly congealed blood. “Pale Voices” goes 8:44, and the drumming takes the grip from the start, setting the pace for the song and bursting through barriers. The vocals again sound pained and barely gasping at air, while the guitars are more frenzied and dizzying, with the drums setting a militaristic atmosphere. This thing just squeezes and squeezes until you have no more air in your lungs. The 10:28-long closer “Mould of Abandonment” is situated in another deep puddle of doom, with bendy and weird guitar lines strung about, vocals that sludge along like they’re dying, and filth choking out every living thing in sight. There are solemn, dark guitar melodies that arise toward the last half of the cut, with the music quivering, the tempo suffocating, and the final words croaked out before it all comes to a devastating end.

Horrifying, depressing, and clubbing, Encoffination cure what ails those who thirst for true death metal, with the emphasis on the decay and misery. Three albums in, these guys have proved to be one of the ugliest representatives of the genre, a band that remember the spirit and point of this music in the first place. “III – Hear Me O’ Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)” won’t make you feel good on a Saturday night or be the fodder for silly arm swinging in the put, but it certainly delivers morbidity in crushing servings that most other bands can’t equal.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://selfmadegod.com/en/shop

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

Finnish doom death monsters Swallowed unleash haunting debut album with ‘Lunarterial’

SwallowedYou know when you’re hearing something a little extra special that separates itself from the pack of other music inundating your senses. Especially as a writer, who hears the bulk of new metal releases each year, it’s not every day something really grabs and forces you to pay attention to every moment of what’s going on. Trust me, it’s easy to nod off, as much as I don’t want to do that.

Luckily, bands such as Swallowed come along now and again and inject that passion for discovering new music back into my bones. The Finnish death/doom act are such a refreshing breath of air, albeit one full of rot and fire, and the way this group goes about what it does feels so loose and alive, it’s really easy to get caught up in their fury. Their debut full-length “Lunarterial” doesn’t like a band that fucked around with a bunch of computers, click tracked the shit out of things, or did whatever they could to come up with some glistening, polished product. This sounds raw, edgy, and dangerous, and it should be remembered as one of the most exciting debut records by any metal band this year.

Swallowed coverSwallowed is a two-headed beast, with Samu Salovaara handling guitars and vocals and Ville Kajonen on drums and vocals. This six-track, 53-minute slab of charnel madness definitely will do its damage, but it also provides a fascinating adventure into an opus built on pure violence, infernal creativity, and an animalistic inhibition that powers this thing from front to back. It’s an exciting listen, one that feels organic and nasty, and a record that excites folks like me who are sticklers for death and doom that sounds threatening and is worried more about the power and aggression and not that it’s easily consumed by the masses. The fact this album is out on Dark Descent (in conjunction with Me Saco Un Ojo, who are handling the vinyl) is no shock. They’re been so far ahead of the pack in finding true underground death and doom behemoths, that it isn’t even funny.

“Opening of the Key” sounds like a proper introduction to this record, as the brief cut is built on crazed noise, buzzing drone, swirling voices, and crashing cymbals, and that mashes into “Reverence Through…” The track is slow driving and menacing, with throaty growls, deranged melodies, and the song eventually blowing open into full-speed gashing. The vocals sound spat out, while the music is utterly pulverizing and catastrophic, with tortured wails and a thick psychedelic fog underneath it all. In fact, that element comes back quite often on “Lunarterial.” “Arterial Mists of Doom” is utterly clobbering, with the band hitting on quick bursts of speed that always end up giving way to more lurching. The vocals sound like Gollum choking on his words, with the music sitting back and thrashing heavily. There are several more tempo explosions as the track winds through its murk, and the vocals often flip back and forth from monotone wail to strange growls.

“Black Aura” would be the monster of most records at 9:52, but it’s a mere baby compared to what caps off the album. More on that later. The opening is trippy and loopy, with the doom spread thick over the piece and the melodies causing the room to spin and you to grasp for the walls. The vocals are belchy and vicious, with the guitars creating a violent haze that rises up like a poisonous fog. The playing creates a vortex that gets more insane as the song starts winding down, and the sounds keep spinning and killing right up to its finish. “Black Phlegm” is a warped, bizarre piece, with water dripping like we’re situated in a dank basement, then the riff rising in pure Black Sabbath worship. The music gets spacey and bendy, warbled whispers create a dizzying effect, and the whole thing feels damn claustrophobic. Oh, so I mentioned the ending of the record would be something mammoth in scope? That would be the 25:13 “Libations,” a track that’s utterly unforgiving and builds and twists through its huge running time. Naturally, you get a heaping serving of everything Swallowed do so well, packing ominous growls and whispers, eerie tones, vicious firing, and slowly meted out punishment into the stew. There is some fiery lead guitar playing that keeps the smoke building, psychedelic bubbling is present to alter your mind and blast your brain open, and the vocals have moments where they are completely unhinged. With just five minutes left, the song gets turned on its face, pouring strange cosmic dust into the sound, piercing guitar work, and smothering doom that keeps pressing until the song finally runs its barbaric course.

Swallowed will sicken, push, and agitate you, but at the same time, they should thrill those out there who relish death and doom bands with a firm grasp on the roots. “Lunarterial” is one hell of an exciting, devastating record, and the fact that it’s just this band’s debut is pretty frightening stuff. They will seize you like a demonic monster in the night and hold you captive while they torture you psychologically. You have no choice but to submit to their power, and once you do, you’ll find yourself completely transformed. Or at least you’ll start demanding more out of your death and doom bands.

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

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

Or here: http://www.mesacounojo.com/store/

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

And here: http://www.mesacounojo.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Blut Aus Nord swirl back to black chaos on mesmerizing ‘Saturnian Poetry’

Blut Aus NordBlut Aus Nord have been on one of the most impressive creative cycles of any band in recent memory. Great ideas and magical blackness appear to be pouring out of their headspace in France, and the results have been several years of some of metal’s most impressive, thought-provoking recordings. Right now, they seem unstoppable.

Ever since 2011 and the start of the “777” trilogy, the band has given us four full-length records, three EPs, and a split recording with P.H.O.B.O.S., all of which are quality. The latest of that run comes in the form of “Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry,” which follows up their last first full record, 2012’s bizarre and daring conclusion to the “777” piece, “Cosmosophy.” “Vetusta I” was their second record, released in 1996, while “Vetusta II” followed in 2009.” If you were getting a little impatient with the band’s experimentation and trips into dreamier, spacier territory, “Saturnian” is a return to form of sorts, with the band sounding heavy, channeled, and scary at times. But if you were turned off by the band stretching itself creatively, what exactly was your issue? Those “777” albums, the finale in particular, were wondrous works, some of the finest, most varied work in the metal landscape the past decade, and they proved just how willing Blut Aus Nord are willing to push the limits to deliver their message and perform their cosmic exploration. But if heavy is what you require, consider yourself served until you burst with the new one, the band’s 11th.

digi mall [Converted]If you were a fan of these guys throwing caution to the poisonous win, don’t be worried. While the band moves back to center (granted, their own version of that point), they remain as imaginative, creative, and mind-blowing as ever. “Saturnian Poetry” is a fascinating listen from front to back, and it’s one you might find yourself lost inside of again and again as you research every crevice. And why not? Band mastermind Vindsval (guitars, vocals, bass, keys, concepts) remains one of metal’s most elusive, compelling, and engaging personalities, and his partner Thorns (drums) helps paint a horrific, but also dreamy picture that is the perfect backdrop for this band’s mission. Simply, this is one of, if not the finest, black metal band anywhere in the world, and they sound nowhere near climbing down from that throne.

Breaking this record down track by track is more difficult than usual, mainly because the seven tracks almost act as one opus broken up into separate movements. That starts with simply titled “Prelude,” a murky, foggy piece that sets the mood for what comes next. “Paien” is the first full cut, blasting open with strong, mesmerizing melodies that encircle you, and monstrous, creaking growling that fees like they’re being delivered by a ghoul in the night. Clean calling comes in, as it does on most of these cuts, giving the singing multiple personalities, and the song keeps twisting and turning until its wintry finish complete with wafting synth and spacious imagination. “Tellus Mater” has piercing guitar lines, gurgly growls that sound like they’re bubbling from tar, and penetrating melodies that get inside of you. The track is equally dream-inducing and sinister, with a compelling finish that should have your head spinning. “Forhist,” an 8:56 cruncher, comes on as more aggressive at the start, upping the ante on heaviness. The playing bends and twists in ways you won’t expect, while the underlying menace swims along the surface, always warning it could snatch you underneath at any moment. The singing feels alien, the song has a renewed sense of punishment in its back end, and the finish is devastating.

“Henosis” has a spindly beginning, with the guitars creating a vortex effect, abrasive growls leading the way, and surging singing eventually taking over the messaging. The track is complicated and cataclysmic, with the song building layer upon layer and new elements slipping in and taking over the wheel. The whole thing ends on a sharp, blinding note. “Metaphor of the Moon” goes 8:12 and is tornadic right off the bat. The growling is ferocious, with the music cascading dramatically, and the whole thing has a mystical feel, like you’re coming upon a ritual in the deep, misty woods. The 8:27 closer “Clarissima Mundi Lumina” is a fitting final salvo, with off-kilter melodies toppling your balance, and forceful growls erupting and trudging over everything. The clean singing is as soulful as it is anywhere else on the record, which might be a strange way to describe that element, but I think it fits. The textured, tortured playing rises and falls throughout the song, the drumming begins to hammer harder than before, and everything bursts into a deep, high ember before fading out, leaving only a cloud of ominous smoke behind.

How long Blut Aus Nord can keep up this incredible streak of creativity is anyone’s guess, but it sure doesn’t seem like they’re running out of steam. “Saturnian Poetry” is another dose of black metal greatness so far and away from what so many other bands are doing, it’s like they’re not even creating the same style of art. Blut Aus Nord’s goes far and away from this planet into other galaxies not yet broached by mankind. They are the leaders, and though many may get behind them to follow their path, no one can equal their majesty.

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

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/

Horrendous haunt, punish with ‘Ecdysis'; Sempiternal Dusk, Sol Invictus, Alunah, Doombringer release their own fresh killers

Horrendous

Horrendous

If you’re a metal writer, you’re sitting upon an embarrassment of riches right now. September and October have burst at the seams with really good releases, and figuring we handle one per day, there’s no way to get a grasp of everything noteworthy that’s out there for consumption. No complaints. I guess.

Horrendous coverWe’ll take a look at a few string records that have come out or are about to be unleashed on the world, starting with Horrendous’ tremendous second full-length “Ecdysis.” These guys may hail from the United States, but they have plenty of Euro influence to go along with them, and their embrace of the disgusting and ugly only serves to enhance their style. This album, the follow-up to 2012’s “The Chills,” catapults the band into the upper echelon of underground death units and should be one of the most talked-about groups going. I say “should” because people aren’t always paying the proper amount of attention. No worries. Guitarists/vocalists Damian Herring (ex-Fields of Elysium) and Matt Knox, along with drummer Jamie Know, sicken, pulverize and mesmerize on this 10-track, 43-minute mauler.

The 7:24 opener “The Stranger” makes it clear just how much their game has changed. This is a real challenger, letting the band space out musically while still keeping it mighty brutal, and it’s an inventive piece that combines modern and classic death influences. From the first time I heard it, I couldn’t believe how good it was, and it gives you true insight into the abilities this band holds. From there, you get a good thrashing, from harsh and punishing “Weeping Relic”; to the wild howls and skin-splitting lead guitars on “Resonata”; to doom-encrusted and ghoulish “Nepenthe” that puts a real chill in the air while it gnaws at your bones; to the slow-driving tragedy that is closer “Titan,” with howls of, “Carry me home!” that seeks not comfort but the total end. This is a devastating step ahead for Horrendous, and it is a record that should make them a contender for the U.S.’s most compelling and crushing acts. Go get this right now, preferably on vinyl.

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

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

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

Sempiternal Dus coverSEMPITERNAL DUSK, self-titled (Dark Descent) — While we’re discussing bands on the great Dark Descent label, that takes us to Sempiternal Dusk. The latest doom monster from drummer/vocalist Tim Call (also of Aldebaran, Nightfell, the Howling Winds, among many others) is heavy and unforgiving, and this is certainly worth your time. Also including bassist TG (of Shroud of the Heretic) and guitarist JH (The Warwolves), this band decimates you over five tracks that lean toward epic length and should satisfy anyone looking for horrific darkness. Starting with the 14:56 opener that includes a sample from the film “Bad Boy Bubby,” the track smothers you as it trudges along the land, claiming bodies and severely injuring others. “Upon the Gallows” really should need to further explanation, as you can imagine the lumbering terror and fury within that’s paid off in full when Call howls, “I am the eater of worlds!” at the end. “Seclusion of the Bereaved” grinds, burns, and buries, as it pounds away and encircles you with menace. This band is as heavy as they come, and really, anything involving Call deserves your consideration.

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

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

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

AB_066_Sol_Invictus_-_Once_Upon_A_TimeSOL INVICTUS, “Once Upon a Time” (Prophecy Productions) — Tony Wakeford is one of those artists who really needs no introductions. But we’ll give him one anyway. The leader for the past nearly 30 years of one of the most influential bands of all time in Sol Invictus, he has created his own world, philosophies, and poetry over the course of the group’s 18 full-lengths. The latest effort “Once Upon a Time” is another fascinating entry into this band’s lore, and their mix of neofolk, prog, classic rock, and metal never sounded this fully realized before. This time, Wakeford is joined by musicians including old partners Caroline Jago, Lesley Malone, Eilish McCracken, Renee Rosen, and guest guitarist Don Anderson (of Agalloch), whose playing is one of the main highlights of this 15-track adventure. Wakeford’s unique voice, somewhere between a bellow an a croak, drives home these great stories and songs, especially “Devil on a Tuesday,” where he wryly notes, “Now my head’s in a noose/Now I swing like a pendulum”; the unforgettable title track that will get stuck in your head; “The Devil’s Year” that feels like modern Opeth at times; biting “Our Father”; and “The Path Less Traveled,” a song that sounds like an ongoing diatribe, where he urges to look among “the banker and the beggar, between the spires and the fire,   between the winner and sinner” for the path less traveled. Tremendous effort from a band that’s still at the top of their game.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.theconnextion.com/prophecy/prophecy_index.cfm?

Or here: http://en.prophecy.de/shop/

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

Alunah coverALUNAH, “Awakening the Forest” (Napalm) — Over the past four years, British doom unit Alunah have been making some of the most alluring, powerful music in metal. Sadly, they’ve flown way under the radar in America, but that could change with their tremendous new opus “Awakening the Forest.” This is easily the best, most elegant of all of their records, and they really hit on something during these six cuts. Vocalist/guitarist Sophie Day is an absolute revelation, as she commands while delivering her vocals, refusing to let you drop your attention for even a second. The tracks range between six and nine minutes long, with the band keeping you engaged throughout, and people into groups such as SubRosa could find a lot to like here. As good as all of the tracks on this album, the centerpiece title track stands the tallest of all of them. The music builds the piece perfectly, and Day’s tremendous vocal melodies and domination of the hook takes the track over the top. There are a lot of doom bands out there today, and it’s never easy to pick and choose the good ones. But Alunah is on a powerful streak of consistency, and they’ve never sounded a great as they do on this album.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.alunah.co.uk/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.napalmrecords.com/

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

Doombringer coverDOOMBRINGER, “The Grand Sabbath” (Nuclear War Now! Productions) — Behemoth aren’t the only ones making hellish noises and raising the ire of the faithful in Poland. Doombringer have risen with their debut full-length “The Grand Sabbath,” and this project that combines members of Bestial Raids and Cultes des Ghoules is a punishing, black thing that is the first salvo from what could be metal’s next great underground band. There is zero relent on these seven tracks, and the thing just gets nastier and more furious as it goes along. Comprised of vocalist Medium Mortem, bassist/vocalist Old Coffin Spirit, guitarist Tribes of the Moon, and drummer Sepulchral Ghoul, the band uses death metal as a base but mixes in black metal, doom, and thrash, making for one effective, devastating machine. From the 7:10 opener “Labyrinth of Everlasting Fire,” you’re thrust full force into the furnace with crushing, doomy playing and infernal growls, and from there it’s on to feral yet atmospheric ritual “Ominous Alliance”; “Nocturnal Assembly” that builds tons and tons of riffs on top of strange melodies, speed, and vocals that sometimes sound like chants; “Children of Moloch,” a boiling, punchy killing with bizarre singing that could freeze your flesh with fear; to the outright Sabbath-worship-meets-demonic-violence of “Grand Sabbath Reaps Souls” that is nasty, deranged, and outright punishing. This record is a devastating statement that Doombringer are here to be feared and that they’ll steamroll the weak.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://nwnprod.com/shop/

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