PICK OF THE WEEK: Urfaust push blackened hypnosis into stars on airy ‘Empty Space Meditation’

urfaust-013Bands that truly stand out in metal are kind of tough to come by. That’s not really the artists’ fault necessarily, because there are so many bands out there and so much music, that doing something that truly sets you on your own cloud isn’t easy to accomplish. When you’re able to achieve that, it’s an accomplishment that should not be underestimated.

One of the bands that has been on their own path ever since their formation is Dutch duo Urfaust, who have become one of those bands you either grasp or don’t. Those who do get it immerse themselves in their sounds, and their epic fourth record “Empty Space Meditation” is another strange chapter in their existence. It’s hard to pin down exactly what you hear on this six-track album. Surely there is much black metal terrain stomped over these mind-altering tracks, and some of the ambient elements we’ve come to expect from Urfaust also are woven into the picture. There also is doom, drone, and, as the album title declares, meditative passages, making for a record that could have you staring miles off into the distance while the music encapsulates your brain. You won’t be crushed and stomped by them on this album, though there are many heavy sections. Instead, you’ll take a raucous and often serene trip that’s unlike anything else in metal and only capable by Urfaust.

urfaust-coverWhile the band has been in operation since 2003, this is only the fourth full-length record in Urfaust’s existence. Not that they haven’t been plenty busy, as they’ve offered up split releases and smaller efforts over their 13 years as a group. The band—guitarist/vocalist IX, drummer VRDRBR—never shows the same face or personality twice. At times, they’ve been fully metallic, while other releases have been floating in the atmosphere, feeling like the soundtrack to a non-linear dream. Never knowing what to expect every time Urfaust come back at us is one of the things that makes them so interesting and, thus, has helped them create that unique personality that is theirs alone and unlike any other metal bands in their environment.

All the songs are called “Meditatum” and numbered I through VI, and everything blends together, beginning with “I” that has noise unfurling and weird chants swirling. A dreamy haze melody awakens, and it weaves its way through the entire record, and after wooshing through the outer reaches of space, we’re into “II” that begins with wild howls that switch to horrifying screams. That synth melody slides in here, as the harsh vocals turn into bellowing singing that sometimes reminds of Mike Patton without the psychopathic derangement. The chaos later spills again, as the wails go wild, the music rumbles into a cosmic glaze, and the track swims into lucid dreams, making its way for “III.” Damaged sounds whirl and dizzy, driving slowly and pouring more singing into the mix, feeling like it is exorcising demons. Creepy and bizarre sounds smear its blood, while terrifying wails and spacey organs mix and trance out.

“Meditatum IV” simmers in throat chants as it starts, and then it drives massively, with evil laughs and spooky organs chilling your flesh. The heart-swelling singing punches at your chest, making your heart race, with the hypnosis sinking into your brain. “V” starts with unsettling clanging before the guitars begin to breathe fire, and strange singing causes your temperature to go up. As the track reaches its finish, it brings out the weaponry, as the song is punching, crunching, and willing to do heavy bruising. The closing cut “Meditatum VI” has an Indian flavor to it, as sitars join up with a soundscape and team up with wordless calls. The track then unleashes its power, causing your head to spin, and then we enter a chamber of total hypnosis, with the synth line swimming back into the mix, resurfacing as the record’s spine. That pathway continually loops and, along with the record, floats off into the distance.

“Empty Space Meditation” is another incredible journey through Urfaust’s mind-set and creative galaxy, and they embrace a path that is only theirs and that no one should dare tread. This is an incredible album that could transport you somewhere else and have you feeling like you’re traveling outside your body, which is an exhilarating experience. This band might not shower us with full-length records, but when they do return with one, it’s always a journey like no others.

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

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/

Black metal collective Urzeit mix up words, put self-hatred into focus on ashen ‘Anmoksha’

urzeit-coverI never trust people who seem permanently, unflappably happy. It’s not that I reject people feeling good about themselves or expressing joy, but when there’s only one mode, I’m perpetually annoyed. I don’t know why that is. I never feel this sense of everlasting happiness, and I don’t think I ever want to.

I’ve always wondered if I hate parts of myself and am permanently annoyed with my shortcomings, which is why therapy is such a great tool. I don’t know where I stand yet on this matter, but I hold that it could be true. So never mind if I detest you for being happy. It’s not you, it’s me. That idea of self-hatred is what initially intrigued me when I got the promo and background material for “Anmoksha,” the debut record from Urzeit. The music examines these dark, internally festering ideas of self-hatred and unrest, that quivering feeling where you think you could claw your way out of your own body. But the record also balances that with the knowledge that we have positive aspects about ourselves, leading to a great internal struggle between dual characters. That probably sounds insane to people who walk around with smiles pasted on their faces. For the rest of us, it makes sense.

Urzeit, which is based in Portland, Oregon, has been around for the past three years, releasing a couple demos, a compilation release, and a split with Akatharsia. “Anmoksha” is the first full effort for the band—drummer/vocalist A.L.N. (Mizmor), guitarist R.F. (Ash Borer, Triumvir Foul), bassist M (also of Ash Borer and Triumvir Foul)—who are members of the Vrasubatlat circle and have used reconstructed words to create the album name and the song titles contained within. For example, the title of the record “Anmoksha” is made from English an (without) and Hindu term Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth, leading to ultimate peace) to create a word that means no rest/no peace. The music pays that off, as it is feral, fiery, and often primitive sounding, with vocals that feel like they’re paying the price for all humankind’s wrong deeds and bad turns.

urzeitlogo1“Imnagas” is a blood-curdling instrumental opener, where thick basslines suffocate, wordless shrieks lacerate the senses, and savage chaos bleeds its way into the title cut, where guitars start in a blaze. Pained shrieks and engorged growls mix, mashing together over lines such as, “The fool, marked and sentenced, tossed about as their toy,” as the pace settles into purposely repetitious guitars that drub your mind. Horrible wails and infernal playing that melts brains pushes and stretches into “Exeris,” which blows up from the start into a passage of heavy-as-fuck punishment. The growls and shrieks thicken, sounding like they’re being delivered during the exact moment of existential crisis. The howl of, “I tear at my skin … would that I ripped it off! My reddened eyes beg to be scratched out,” conveys the physical aspect of that torment, as the song ends in feedback and screams. “Nascphanin” unloads the pain right off the bat, as the drums rumble, the bass clobbers, and shouts of, “My self-hatred is unmistakably clear, but why I even give a fuck, why I seek out standards I conceive of, leaves me crawling on the ground,” that has the essence of grinding one’s knuckles into the cement just to divert the source of the pain. The melodies during this one are confounding and swirling, with the tempo grinding violently before finally giving way to silence. “Bellisunya” has riffs tearing out of control before the drums unload a ton of bricks. The vocals scrape, tearing at its own psyche by lamenting, “An empty hide bag represents me,” while the flow turns hypnotic, sickening your stomach and making your eyes turn before a final punk-infused blast is buried in noise.

“Illartha” is massive and thrashy from the start, as crazed madness spreads itself over everything, and deep growls and manic shrieks deliver the bloodied message. This track pelts your temples relentlessly before giving way to “Autmomus” and its huge riffs and feeling that the earth is imploding. Spindling guitars, a speedier pace, and gurgled growls are part of this recipe that warps any sense of reality you have left and buries you even deeper into the machine. “Migrakama” launches with a startling cry, with the pace breathing fire, and the riffs making themselves an indefensible force. Hellish horrors bleeds into the picture, and the tempo never lets up, beating you and removing submission as an option. “Gravivek” toys with the notion of trying to do the same thing over and over and getting nowhere. “To bash one’s head against a wall without end, and hope to see less than total gore,” hammers that part home amid slow-driving misery and added horrible cries. After a calculated drubbing, the song tears open in earnest, devastating with speed, grim growls, and a menacing disposition, bringing the hammer down repeatedly, leaving bits of flesh and blood speckled everywhere. Closer “Entitiksha” is filled with noise and grimness before turning into a complete decimation. The playing loops, playing games with your mind, while the smoke builds and slowly chokes you. Cries of, “All is selfishness and woe! I’m found a coward, nursing myself, unable to cope and be alive,” as the song builds toward the desire to crush this cycle and find freedom. As it goes, noises crackle, the assault slows but doesn’t relent, and the psychological wasteland that’s behind blows up ash and sparks from the battle that took place.

Urzeit play with the notion of seeking betterment in a world that has no purpose, and that’s another feeling that’s all too prominent right now. “Anmoksha” is the ideal vessel for absorbing one’s negative opinions about oneself and either understanding them or letting them fester. This record feels like it’s paying its debt to the idea of lack of peace and rest in every ounce of the music, making for an experience that isn’t just another metal album, but also a sobering examination of life and purpose.

For more on the band or for a digital version, go here: https://urzeit.bandcamp.com/

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

Or here: http://mizmor.bigcartel.com/

Legendary Darkthrone smash giant serving of riffs, classic metal fire into ‘Arctic Thunder’

Photo by Ester Segarra

Photo by Ester Segarra

There are those characters, be it people in your lives, figures from television shows or movies, or folks you read about in books that, no matter what, you cannot help but like them. I’m a big wrestling fan, and every time the New Day comes out, I have a great time. I don’t care if people think their act is tired.

When it comes to metal, we have many of those figures as well, including that beloved Darkthrone duo Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. I know there are a division of fans who can’t get beyond “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and want them to be heathen black metal warriors forever. But long ago it was clear the two fellows who make up this band don’t feel that way, and shouldn’t that be the bottom line? So, over time, the band has served us black metal, death metal, thrash, and their latest amalgamation that mixes all those things together, with a nice, crusty 80s flavor. That spills over again on the band’s 14th record “Arctic Thunder,” another dose of good stuff for those of us who followed this band’s insane ride, no matter what sounds they threw at us from album to album.

darkthrone-coverOne thing that’s supplied in major portions on this record is the riff. They are smooshed all over these songs, which, again, sounds like the band letting loose in their basement and playing whatever comes to their metallic heart. Unlike usual, Culto handles just all the vocals, save for a yell here or there from Fenriz, your friendly neighborhood politician against his will, while the drumming is skull bashing and frenetic. Part of the reason for that raw sound is the band recorded the album in their old rehearsal space The Bomb Shelter, where they worked to scuff up and dirty these songs as much as possible.

“Tundra Leech” sounds dirty and raspy from the start, with killer riffs, a pace that chugs along, and Culto’s grim growls. There’s a really old-style feel here, which obviously permeates the entire record, and later there’s a nice change of tempo that shifts. The guys thrash away, with Fenriz’s calculated drumming, only to mash fingers again at the end. “Burial Bliss” is fast and punchy at the start, with the growls scraping and cries of, “The circle will not be broken!” sounding more like an oath. The track is punishing and catchy, fading out at the end. “Boreal Fiends” starts with Culto howling, “Against the wind!” as you pretty much can envision battling against an icy assault. An outright killer riff wraps itself around this song like a snake, with clean calls blurting out, and eventually the pace hitting a sludgy skid. From there, slow-driving fury and a maniacal cowbell call out, while the soloing begins to scorch minds before the song fades. “Inbred Vermin” starts with, you guessed it, another killer riff, as the song lights up and blasts its way through, with Culto vowing, “We will ride the winds of the thunder god!” This song also slows down toward the end for the band to grind you through the mud.

The title track gets off to a raucous start, with the riffs pummeling, vile and creaky wails dropping, and guitars lighting the blaze with a thick 1980s sheen. By the way, the record, and this song as a result, is named after a Norwegian metal band from the 80s that Fenriz loves. Because of course. “Throw Me Through the Marshes” is situated in a doomy haze, with throaty howls crushing and speed driving through later and blowing everything to bits. The back end of the song gets eerie and foggy, staying that way until it bleeds into the night. “Deeplake Trespass” starts with black metal-flavored melodies, with the band throwing haymakers and bloodying lips. The pace jerks to a different track later, as guitars go exploring into the wilderness, with the track blinding and startling as it concludes. Closer “The Wyoming Distance” has riffs, slowly delivered fury, and a huge blasting end. It’s not the most dynamic song of the bunch, but it’s fun enough, and it ends with our Darkthrone heroes laughing in the distance, aware they’ve destroyed us all over again.

At this point, most people know what to expect from Darkthrone, and for someone like me who has pretty much enjoyed every era, it’s more destructive ear candy full of fun and substance. Fenriz and Culto have no one to please but themselves, and they sure as shit sound happy and smothering on “Arctic Thunder.” If these guys keep digging back to what makes them happy and only serving their own whims, these guys will stay young at heart and metal to the core well after we’re all but memories on this earth.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Darkthrone-101075189934422

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

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

Anagnorisis delve into singer’s own childhood, aftermath with scarred and painful ‘Peripeteia’

anagnorisisOne’s childhood can be an amazing place, filled with colorful memories that bring us through our lives and transform us into better people. Bad ones can scar us for life and prevent us from ever climbing back from the damage done during that time. There also are those that don’t really reveal themselves to us until we’re much older and trying to retrace where we’ve been and how we’ve developed.

Zachary Kerr, vocalist and lyricist for black metal squadron Anagnorisis, has gone through quite a discovery of self the past few years, and that bleeds into the band’s incredible new record “Peripeteia,” which acts as his autobiography. The word itself stands for a sudden reversal of fortunes or change in circumstances that typically occurs after a moment of self-recognition (also known as anagnorisis), and things start moving their way toward their conclusion. For Kerr, much of this was spawned after finding two cassettes from his childhood, one from 1982 and one from 1987, where he basically is interviewed and discussed, a strange dissection of a kid’s psyche at such a fragile age. As it goes on, the other voices on the tape, I assume his mother and late father, can be heard giving advice to, admonishing, and praising young Kerr, all of which is looped throughout the record and moves the narrative. This story is interwoven into the themes of their last record, 2013’s tremendous “Beyond All Light” (we reviewed it here), as the first six tracks act as that album’s prequel, the final two as the prequel.

anagnorisis-coverAnagnorisis, who hail from Louisville, have been making some of the most dynamic and interesting black metal in the entire United States scene. Eschewing Satan and death and blood, this band instead has turned their focus inward, exploding things that create true misery and blackness. Along with Kerr are guitarist Zak Denham, bassist Josh Mumford, and keyboardist/sax player/ programmer Samuel Hartman, and they’ve created a dramatic, heart-stopping record that feels even larger and more impactful considering these songs were pulled from Kerr’s life and development as a human. Yeah, the playing is unreal and impressive, but the emotional content is just as rich.

“Transparent -” opens the record with quiet chiming and glorious melodies, introducing us for the first time to the young Kerr and his life. “Disgust and Remorse Part I” then rips open, as savagery unfolds, fierce vocals pierce the flesh, and melodies flood everywhere. More dialog from the tapes works its way through, while the music starts to dizzy and disorient. “Stripped of all defenses!” Kerr howls, as the emotion and tragedy collide, spilling into “Disgust and Remorse Part II.” There, strong black metal-style guitars tear out, with Kerr acknowledging, “My biggest weakness is my strongest enemy,” that later paves the way toward the heartbreaking, and all-too-close-to-home line, “Without the ownership of guilt, I have nothing else to cling to.” Strong soloing fans the flames, as the track gets uglier and more scar-infested as it goes on. “5306 Morningside” has guitars awakening, and more dialog from the tapes spills into the picture. The bulk of the track is destructive and smears heart content all over the place. “Night Skies Over Nothingness” has noise loops, quiet guitars, and eerie keyboards that bleed through the impending chaos. Once the track gets going, it’s crunchy and violent, but when Kerr’s dialog as a child breaks in, he sounds confused and unsteady. Riffs spiral and pay off that imbalance, while the growls crush and grind, with everything ending with a heartbeat. Then comes the title track, with Kerr’s mother reflecting on her own mother’s death and hauntingly singing “Cruising Down the River.” It feels like a dream. Out of that, the track explodes, with punishing harsh growls from Kerr, as he wails his heart out. The track actually gets kind of catchy in spots, as choral sections spiral into the void and start-stop mashing leaves bruises. “I now know myself and trust no one!” Kerr howls, suddenly enlightened, and the end has organs spilling and soloing scalding, leading to the sequel section.

“Metamorphosis” has more of a rock feel to it and it unleashes, though eventually the rage rises up and boils over, and the track feels like a bloodletting. “Time reigns supreme, yet no wounds heal,” Kerr levels, and then strings rise up and sweep in the drama. The track is engulfed with chaos, as the guitars start to breathe fire, and the song explodes completely. The playing is blinding, as it feels like trying to withstand a hurricane, only to fold. “Staring into the eyes of the enemy, which is me!” Kerr belts, making an indefinite wound on your psyche, and that punishment gives way and heads toward finale, “Transparent +.” The interview clips slip in again, as strange music flows, and cleanly sung lines swell. The song then lights up fully, as roared vocals push violently, and the same chimed lines that greeted us at the start brings the record to its end. But if you listen on repeat, you’ll notice the finish essentially loops back to the start.

If it was understanding, closure, or healing Kerr has been seeking all of this time, hopefully he found what he was looking for. The music and themes on “Peripeteia” are as jarring and massive as anything this band has done before, and the heart of the matter is what has become of one of the band’s central members and where he goes from here. This is a record that should retain its relevance well into the future, because these are themes that make up all of us in one way or another, and it could become a companion for us when we experience our own awakenings.

For more on the band, go here: http://666.anagnorisis.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://vendettarecords.wordpress.com/shop-webstore/

For more on the label, go here: https://vendettarecords.wordpress.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Khemmis delve into fantasy and expanded doom hemispheres with great ‘Hunted’

Photo by Travis Heacock

Photo by Travis Heacock

There’s likely not a healthier sub-genre of metal right now than doom. Yeah, we’re inundated with a shit ton of death and black metal bands, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those scenes are healthy through and through. Way too much waste. But doom is thriving, and the faucet is running heavily.

The latest in the line of unreal doom bands is Denver’s Khemmis, who in barely a year’s time have released two great records, the latest being their awesome second release “Hunted.” As many great new and long-standing doom bands have been crushing us with great music, Khemmis is beginning to rise to the top of that field, and this record should keep their momentum steamrolling. The band’s melodic side is strong and alive, expanding even further with some absolutely killer choruses on these five tracks. They also have pushed the boundaries of their song limits without losing any steam, as their move toward epic has proved to fit them expertly. For all the people who have fawned over Pallbearer the past few years, and we’re among them, it’s only fair if the same amount of attention is showered on these guys, because they exist on the same level.

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}The record has a heavy nautical theme to its, as water and battles with great bodies of liquid are splashed all over this thing. Fantasy and human struggle are very present, and the way they move you into these songs carries you through the 43-minute record with force. The band—vocalist/guitarist Phil, guitarist/vocalist Ben, bassist Dan, and drummer Zach—have come a huge way from their debut “Absolution,” itself a damn great record, and now this new powerhouse should charge up their reputation and keep putting their name on plenty more people’s tongues. The more I listen to this record, the more infectious it gets, and the melodies just won’t release my brain from their clutches. Not that I’m seeking that.

The record kicks off with “Above the Water,” where elegant melodies unfurl and the tempo begins to rumble. Strong, burly riffs unload, while the chorus is strong and effective, with a call of, “I won’t die, it isn’t my time,” striking with grit and determination. Twin leads join up, the soloing burns, and this harrowing trip at sea burns off into mist. “Candlelight” is murky with really strong singing and another killer chorus. As the song goes on, the bottom drops out and lurching growls surface for the first time. Soloing slips out of a haunting passage, as the song bursts to life again, and the vocals soar as the track slowly marches away. “Three Gates” gallops heavily, reminding a bit of High on Fire, and the vocals are a decimating growl over the verses. The chorus slips in and stuns, with the lamentation of, “Wash away my ashes in the sea,” swelling with emotion. Later, a half-growled, half-sung line, “The skies hold no salvation,” pierces the skin, while the track crushes with heavy waves before fading out.

“Beyond the Door” runs nine minutes and starts with sorrowful guitars and the revelation, “No light beyond the door,” before the track catches fire. Fantasy elements mix in with bouts of sadness, as the song plays with myriad heavy emotions. Later on, the soloing breathes fire, with growls and heartfelt singing joining up and fighting alongside one another, and the guitars leading the charge to the other side of the door. The 13:31 closing title cut trudges as it starts, laying into you with punches and making the bruising surface. “Every night, there is a dream I can’t contain,” Phil calls, as soloing bubbles up, and riffs out of the Thin Lizzy playbook blow through. The rhythms shuffle, while soloing flexes its muscles and the power absolutely erupts. As the track winds to its end, a cold, calm passage leads into the guitars trampling again, blazing passionately as sounds stretch out, the mind comes back to reality, and everything fades into the last remnants of your night’s dreams.

Khemmis are one of the best new young bands in metal, and “Hunted” is another solid building block and they crush their way through’s doom’s kingdoms. The songs are heavy and fun, melodic and destructive, and it’s going to be remembered as one of the best metal records of 2016. Their live reputation is stellar, and now they have two great albums to their name. There appears to be no boundaries for this band, and it’s going to be a blast to watch them crash through gates and bring their music to more and more people.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

For more on the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

Death metal alchemists Auroch find fresh ways to tangle your nerve endings with ‘Mute Books’

Photo by Max Montesi

Photo by Max Montesi

Have you ever gotten to the point of exhaustion delirium, where the work never seems to end and it feels like you actually get to decompress for, like, an hour every couple days or so? That’s no good for the human body or psyche, but sometimes it is required, and you must just bite your tongue and power through the madness.

That’s how things have been over here, to the point where hours and days bleed together and nights of sleep seem to last five minutes. Luckily, I’ve had “Mute Books,” the inhumanly destructive third album from Auroch to keep me somewhat tuned out of reality enough to get things done. We’ve talked about Auroch in the past, as they’re one of the death metal bands always on the tip of our tongues when discussing who is making the most exciting, violent music in the sub-genre. But something on this new platter makes the band seem more dangerous and bloodier than ever, as they go way past just being a technically astonishing band to being one that also can make you feel like you’re having an out-of-body experience. They’re essentially upping the ante on themselves.

auroch-coverAuroch have been grinding minds since 2008 (though they existed under a different banner since 2006), and as time has gone on, their agenda and sound have gotten more aggressive and enthralling. Starting off with “From Forgotten Worlds” in 2012, the band really made its mark two years later on their stunning Profound Lore debut “Taman Shud.” Their sound has twisted and morphed, making some think of bands such as Gorguts, Mitochondrion (with whom they share members), and labelmates Grave Miasma as they combine stunning playing with explosive intent. Here, the band—vocalist/guitarist Sebastian Montesi, vocalist/bassist Shawn Haché, and drummer Zack Chandler—encapsulates their range and strangeness into a tight, perfectly dosed 30-minute record that is blazing and eye-opening, making you understand that you’re in the midst of savagery that’s still forming into whatever beast it’s intended to become.

“Billowing Vervain” starts with eerie chiming that spreads over the first minute or so before the earth is engorged, and the band starts melting faces. Guitar lines burn over top of everything, while deep growls lurch, the pace stomps heavily, and later speed ignites. Griff growls, an old death-style sound, and blinding soloing bring the track to its finish. “He Wreathes the Cross” is fast and grim, with the tempo bruising and the soloing absolutely taking off. Spacey, proggy transmissions make their way in, with the song coming to a chaotic end. “Say Nothing” has choral drone spinning as the song opens slowly and unleashes the heat. Once the song erupts, hisses and growls leave bloody scratches, and guitars begin to churn and wail, as the band mauls violently, and a woman delivers an alien-like monolog over a sci-fi-style finish.

“Tipharethairion” begins trickling gently before the album tears apart. Tricky melodies and guitar work that’ll scramble your brain arrive, with the band demonstrating their scary technical prowess. Savage growls meet up with stirring soloing, slipping into strange beds of sound, echoey laughter, and a total trance state. “The Keeping” lets noise ring out before the drums join up and drive, and the guitars get off to a fiery start. The growls are guttural and hellish as the melodies spill and dash all over, with the track bleeding right into “Her Bidding.” There, chilling guitars lap over your flesh, with chant-like howls situated behind the growls and soloing stampeding. The back end is filled with unforgiving carnage, with the growls rumbling away and the track heading right toward closer “Cup of Hemlock” and its meaty strikes. Deep-chested grunts and group chants make for a mesmerizing ambiance, while the melodies confound the senses. The pace continues to roar with power as the band unleashes their final assault, and it all ends in a haze of brain-altering chants.

Auroch’s claim to one of the upper echelon seats in all of death metal is made even stronger with “Mute Books.” This is a challenging, numbing record that, even at your most stressed and helpless, can let you escape that and get swallowed into a vortex of terror. As time goes on, this band gets better and more insane, with this record being their high point of the creativity and weirdness. For now, at least.

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

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

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

Splitsville: Oterbor, Oskoreien combine nature, chaos; Spectral Voice, Phrenelith destroy lives



We live in a fairly distracted society, where it’s tough for people to concentrate on one thing for too long before moving onto something else. But that’s what you get when people have devices to which they’re attached, so much so that walking out into traffic isn’t too uncommon. I think this is why the split release works so well for people.

That’s not to speak ill of the split. I love them. It’s a nice taste of two (or more) different things and doesn’t require quite the amount of dedication as a full album. Today we have two strong ones—the first a pairing of two remarkably interesting bands, the other a 7-inch release that hits hard and fast and also spotlights two groups that should be wrecking psyches well into the future.

There should be no second guessing how we feel about Botanist around here, the project of the shadowy Otrebor that’s drum-and-hammered-dulcimer-led fury that takes to task humankind’s disregard for our surrounding nature. On Botanist albums, the plants are goddamn doing something about this and are plotting their revenge deep within the Verdant Realm. No band sounds like Botanist, and no group should try. They’re back with “EP III: Green Metal,” their side of a split with Oskoreien, and it continues the campaign perfectly, expanding both the botanical universe as well as this project’s sound. On the other side, L.A.-based black metal project Oskoreien (led solely by multi-instrumentalist Jay Valena) smears their noise-infested, hauntingly spooky sound over two tracks, one a cover that you might not even recognize, it’s been so wonderfully disfigured. The other cool thing about this, other than the music being tremendous, is each band has their own special vinyl version, so you pick which sounds best to you.

botanist-coverOn the Botanist side, we start with “Amorphophallus Titanum,” which stings with drum kicks and dulcimer strikes, as dark, tortured wails rip away at your skin. A cold sci-fi-esque melody rings out, as drums rumble and everything crumbles away. “Clathrus Columnatus” has keys pounding, the drums encircling its prey, and disorienting screams joining up with the hissed whispers (those being from Azalea, the vengeful force of nature who is whispering into the Botanist’s ear). The pace is kind of playful at times, whether that’s intentional or not, and later guttural screams spill in to do more damage. “Varkoor” has the dulcimer making zany melodies, like your viewpoint has been warped, and the playing is really strong. It’s easy to be infected by what’s going on here, as pained howls and more whispered instructions melt together, the melodies push like waves, as what seems like a near-joyous outburst is mangled by misery-inducing roars. “Saprophyte” has the dulcimers pushing aggressively while the whispers and growls combine to damn “the enemies of nature.” Every element melds nicely here, bursting with colors and bringing this really strong song to a finish. Weird closer “Dracula Vampira” plinks open, like bloodlets dripping down, while the song lurches and strikes. The Botanist and Azalea mash their messages together again, wailing the title over and over before the track comes to a smothering end. These are some of Botanist’s most realized songs yet, as this project continue to morph into something greater.



oskoreien-coverWhere Botanist play with light and dark, Oskoreien mash together different shades of black. They open their portion, called “Deterministic Chaos,” with the title track, a 12:59 show of force that feels like an all-out machine assault. Static-laden beats stretch into doom, black metal, and noise, with synth stabbing behind for good measure. Guitar melodies stretch out over the haze, while unhinged shrieks plaster your insides and leave you feeling all liquidy. Later, mournful soloing burns its way through, leaving a painful pall. Synth arises again, leaving a creepy midnight 1985 essence that torments you. In fact, some of this reminds me of Pinkish Black at their psychologically ruptured best, as this track pours the thick fog and bleeds to its conclusion. Their half ends with “Without You, I’m Nothing,” one of the most unrecognizable Placebo covers you’re ever going to hear. Their approach to the track is to dress it in frightening shadows, thick helpings of darkwave, and the vocals delivered in blistering wails. In fact, when Valena cries, “Without you, I’m nothing,” over and over, he might be using someone else’s words, but he delivers them from the gaping pit in his own chest. The track sizzles out with cracking synth, leaving the same scar on his heart emblazoned on your own.

For more on Botanist, go here: http://www.botanist.nu/

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

To buy the album, go here: https://verdant-realm-botanist.bandcamp.com/album/botanist-oskoreien-ep3-green-metal-deterministic-chaos-botanist-version-saprophyte-yellow-gold-splatter-colored-vinyl-backpatch-pre-order-bonus

Or here: http://oskoreien.com/

spectral-phrenelirth-coverWhile death metal is awfully saturated with a lot of bands doing to same thing over and over, there remains rich pools of filth in the underground keeping things guttural. Two of them are featured on a new 7” effort jointly released by Iron Bonehead and Dark Descent (themselves two of the most reliable labels in metal), that being Denver’s infernally brutal Spectral Voice and Denmark’s mangling Phrenelith. Spectral Voice featured three quarters of the much-vaunted Blood Incantation (who put out one of the year’s best death metal albums) and have released a slew of smaller releases and a couple splits. Their music is eerie and brutal, which generally leaves me a little lightheaded and disoriented. On the other side, Phrenelith sounds like a walking, breathing dinosaur monster ready to eat cities. This group also is pretty new to the world, combining members of bands such as Undergang, Alucarda, Eldjudnir, Wormridden, and plenty others. They, too, have yet to release a full-length effort, but seemingly it’s only a matter of time before they decimate us on an entire record.

Spectral Voice’s contribution “Peeled Veins” sounds painful simply from its title, and once you dig into the track, it just gets bloodier. A flurry of playing and deep growls erupt, taking things into the infernal chaos, and from there, slowly delivered misery bubbles to the surface. The pace lurches and bruises before things unexpectedly fade. But out of that pit comes a single bassline that brings the muscle, and then things reopen and maul shit. The growls are caked in soot, strange guitars stymie, and things come to a scary, brutal end. Phrenelith arrive with “Once Fertile Soil,” where the fire blisters from the start, and monstrous growls not of this Earth bring the misery. The drums are absolutely demolished, while the guitars go exploring the oddest stretches of outer space. Things then take a feral turn for the guttural, as vitriolic death smears all of your hopes, while the final moments ramp up and scorch every living creature in front out if out of existence.

For more on Spectral Voice, go here: http://www.necroticdoom.com/

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

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

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

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

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

The more I wrote about these two releases, the more fired up I got about them. All four of these bands deserve a place on any respectable listener’s record shelf, and they’re collectively making some of the most interesting music in all of metal. Whether you get one or both (get both), you’re going to be armed with sounds that will frighten the uninhibited and make you a scarier person to be around.