Nachtzeit buries melody, harsh growls beneath layers of dirt, noise on new EP ‘Sagor I Natten’

nachtzeitThe age-old argument of how black metal is supposed to sound like will burn on until the end of time. Or until the style of music burns itself to the ground once and for all. For many, only a rough, crude sound that seems barely produced will work. But we’ve progressed, and a smoother, cleaner sound has become more accepted.

For Nachtzeit, he tends to stretch in each direction, depending on his project. For his dreamier Lustre, you get a flush of sound, a rush of textures that surround you and carry you into space. But on his self-named band, we’re into basement aesthetics, the grimiest of the grime, where you must struggle and claw to hear all the elements mixed into each other. On his great new EP “Sagor I Natten,” he mashes all kinds of madness into four tracks that last about 16 minutes combined. It sounds like utter chaos if you simply put in on in the background and don’t pay attention. Don’t make that mistake. There is a lot of melody and nuance hidden within the mire, and while it might not be an easy listen first time around, the layers open each time you go in.

nachtzeit-cover“Ett Fjärran Minne” gets the EP off to gruff, brutal start, as wild, animalistic howls can be heard penetrating the thick noise cloud, and those get more feral as they go on. The aforementioned strong melodies are there, lying beneath a ton of muck as they loop away and spiral a hole to the bottom of this thing. “De Färdas Genom Natten” tears right open and gushes colors everywhere. Even amid the soot and dirt, various shades help thin lasers of hues push into the picture, while a death haze arrives and takes over. Melodies lap underneath, sinking into infectious noises that warm your blood, even if the rest of you is freezing, and the back end storms heavily right up to its conclusion. “Över Myr Och Mark” is a quick interlude of dungeon synth, as visions of sharpened swords and shields being prepared to hunt dragons spill into the mind. At least it did into mine. Closer “Där Allting Har Sin Början” is the longest song at 6:48, and it gets off to a raucous start, charging hard and bringing with it harsh noises and creaky growls. Melodies drive and coat the skin like a spring storm, while the track continues to unload, with weird, monstrous fires blazing, the vocals sounding like they originate from a creature in a lost cavern, and the remnants of the track washing away.

Nachtzeit has only given us two EPs under his solo moniker, and both have been sooty, smothering affairs. Whatever his reason for choosing this approach must be a good one, because he sure isn’t trying to hide a lack of skill or fascinating ideas on “Sagor I Natten.” This is an EP that might sound best amid a total whiteout snow storm, where your senses already are heightened trying to figure out what’s around you.

For more on the band, go here: https://lustre.bandcamp.com/

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

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

Death metal veterans Echelon bring war-scorched chaos on ‘The Brimstone Aggrandizement’

echelonSometimes if you want something done right, you have to go to the experts. We’ve heard the kids piddling around with death metal, and truth be told, many of them are pretty damn good at it. But you want something war-torn, bloodied, and true, it never hurts to gather together a group of well-traveled veterans to let them have their way with the stuff.

That takes us to international superpower Echelon and their clobbering second record “The Brimstone Aggrandizement.” OK, look, it’s a mouthful to say. We’ll admit it right off the bat. But beyond that you uncover death metal the way it was meant to made, that being right off the battlefield with body parts still burning and the blood flowing fresh. In this unit, we find a slew of hardened dudes who have been around and seen some shit making this thunderous eight-track record, the follow-up to last year’s word soupy “Indulgence Over Abstinence Behind the Obsidian Veil,” itself a fucking crusher. This lineup, and get ready for this, consisting of vocalist Dave Ingram (current Hail of Bullets frontman, who also headed Benediction and Bolt Thrower), guitarists Kjetl Lynghaug (Mordenial, Paganizer) and Rogga Johansson (Down Among the Dead Men, Johansson & Speckmann, his duo with Master vocalist Paul Speckmann, and formerly of Soulburn, Foreboding, Bloodgut, and like a zillion other bands), bassist Johan Berglund (Demiurg, The Grotesquery), and drummer Travis Ruvo (Among the Decayed, Cropsy Maniac, Wormfood) has insane resumes, in case the past 90 lines were unclear, and bring all of their violence and power to this killer band.

echelon-cover“Plague of the Altruistic” kicks off the record heavily, and from the title alone, you should not expect anywhere to run and hide. The track is instant death, as Ingram unleashes his growls, and furious leads cut through the track. The bass bubbles, as Ingram wails about “a sacrifice to your unforgiving god,” feeling punishing and threatening all at once. “The Forbidden Industry” has a tempered start before it rips open. The chorus is a mauler that’ll stick with you, while weird robotic speaking strikes near the end, and the cut comes to a destructive finish. “Lex Talionis” starts with Ingram howling, “Let the punishment fit the crime!” before a thrashy assault starts, further growls gurgle, and the soloing scorches. The back end has a classic death metal flavor, finishing with Ingram vowing “a tooth for a tooth.” “Of Warlocks and Wolves” has hounds snarling and an Amon Amarth-style approach, striking a nice balance between melodic and murderous. The playing is strong and channeled, with the guitars ruling and a nice dose of crunch landing.

The title cut has a flurry of guitars, as the lead work surges, and a fast, crushing pace begins breaking bones. “Weld the power of autonomy!” Ingram howls, delivering his battle cry to rally the troops, and the song keeps punching on all cylinders before it races toward the finish line. “Vital Existence” greets you with strange voices before the song erupts and heads your way. A grindy, fiery tempo brings pain, while creaky growls and all guns blazing come to an abrupt, breath-robbing end. “The Feared Religion” heads down the left-hand path, with thrashy playing and things heading toward the fires. The soloing spirals out of control, dragging you on an unpredictable trip, while the band stands tall, chugging and giving off chest-caving smoke. Closer “Monsters in the Gene Pool/Sonic Vortex” starts with a Vincent Price cackle and the song taking a different road than the ones before. The pace is more rock-oriented, though Ingram howls like a beast, and the guitars are allowed to smear and show off a little more here. About halfway through, the song fades out, and in its place are whimsical sounds and dialog clips that bring this to a really strange conclusion.

There’s no doubting Echelon’s heart and bloodied hands on “The Brimstone Aggrandizement,” as they’ve been there, conquered, and still are telling their filthy war tales. This record is a punishing, yet fun reminder of death metal’s hungry early days when fires were freshly burning, and a whole new world was out there to discover. The history has been written, the scars have hardened, but we’re lucky to still have veteran musicians such as the ones from Echelon to remind us of what death metal means in the first place.

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

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

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

Virginia’s Bearstorm concoct own brand of metallic oddity with strong new EP ‘Biophobia’

bearstormI’ll be honest: It’s late in the year, and we start our best of 2016 stuff next week. Finding things to fill out this final week never is an easy task. Usually there’s a lot of barrel scraping involved. Weirdly, that’s not the case this year. These final few days of 2016 reviews contain some really intriguing stuff, starting with today’s record that might twist up your brain.

We visited with Virginia-based maulers Bearstorm last year for their “Americanus” release (a re-recording of the 2013 record of the same name), and even then we knew this would be a band we’d need to follow into the future. Now with their burly new EP “Biophobia,” they have proved that assertion true. These guys play with a lot of sounds fairly common in the metal terrain—black metal, death, doom, prog—but it in a unique way. Their approach is both brutal and fun, meaning you can lose some blood listening to their stuff, but you’ll be enjoying yourself too much to worry about it. These five songs (technically four full tracks and an intro piece) establish how creative this band is, and the music is such that every time you visit, something new reveals itself.

bearstorm-coverBearstorm got started as a band in 2009, immediately mixing their weirdness and heaviness right off the bat. Their debut record “Horribilus” reached the world two years later, and then in 2013, they issued their first stab at “Americanus.” Two years later, after piquing the interest of Grimoire Records, the band did the aforementioned re-do of that album, and that version started turning more heads. The band—vocalist Michael Edwards, guitarists Kelsey Miller and Greg Bates, bassist/keyboardist Jay Lindsey, drummer Patrick DeRoche—now have offered this new EP to give everyone a taste of where they are right now and likely whet our appetites for their new full-length.

“Dawn Chorus” is a quick intro cut that has birds chirping and a strange buzzing noise that makes it feel like you’re locked in a bizarre dream. Then it’s into the title track, where an infusion of melody strikes right away and locks horns with heavy guitars chugging. Edwards’ raspy growls begin to land shots, and then it’s into doom land, with a thick bassline driving hard and stoner-style leads burning brightly. “Get down on your knees!” Edwards commands, while the song goes into a foggy haze and then a death spiral. “Cravers of a Second Birth” has a clean start before heading into prog star fields, then erupting. The track sprawls through tricky playing, creaky vocals, and a thrashy assault before it shifts yet again. From there, the playing is tough and dizzying, the growls gurgle, and the finish smolders. “Agaric Catechism” is an instrumental that starts with clean playing before Southern rock-style fumes rise and give the song a kick in the ass. From there, the playing gushes and chars, heading right toward closer “Cryptobiotic Filth Destroyer.” The cut begins with jerky guitars and bloody growls, simmering both in prog and Mastodon-style grit. Later, calm arrives, and the band goes in a jazzier direction, with soloing so smooth you could slip on it. Maiden-inspired leads mix in with dirty southern attitude before the song disappears into a cloud of noise.

It’s clear that Bearstorm remain in the experimentation phase, and if they keep coming up with stuff as bizarre and heavy as “Biophobia,” that’s totally fine. They do a lot of things really well, and their sound actually could pull in some listeners who have been hanging on the mainstream periphery but could stand to dine on something heavier.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/biophobia

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Soothsayer’s atmosphere-filled doom metal travels on ‘At This Great Depth’

soothsayerWe’ve taken a lot of spacious, atmospheric adventures this year in metal, and that’s been one of the saving graces of what’s been an awful year. I didn’t purposely set out to mention 2016 sucking in every review this week, but it just worked out that way. Anyway, here in the final weeks of the year, another trip into the stratosphere is very welcome.

You’ll have to wait until the very last day of this year to get a copy in your hands, but Irish doom band Soothsayer (not to be confused with the band of the same name from Pittsburgh) is unleashing their second overall recording “At This Great Depth,” out on Transcending Obscurity. While it’s considered a full record, the effort contains two songs that last about 25 minutes combined, but, make no mistake, this is a massive effort, as substantive and satisfying as a record twice its length. This is the follow-up to last year’s “The Soothsayer,” a three-track effort that ran about 37 minutes, so they now have a little over an hour of material with which to overwhelm you.

soothsayer-coverSoothsayer came to form in the closing days of 2013, rising from the rubble of doom band Íweriú. The group looked to continue their dark, bleak path into the future under this new banner, bonding with members of now-defunct melodic death metal band Days of Night. The band—vocalist Liam Hughes, guitarists Marc O’Grady and Con Doyle, bassist Steve Quinn, and drummer Will Fahey—certainly continued to blacken their ways, which is clear from their first release. But over time, they’ve also added dreamier, more oxygen-infused elements into their music, making them equally brutal and mind enhancing. Their music can bash your senses, but it also can help you float away with them and see the carnage in some sort of out-of-body manner.

Opener “Umpire” is the longest track at 16 minutes, and it washes in on weird noises, faded-out guitars, and a desolate gasp into space. The melodies bleed and fold onto each other, as eeriness spreads, and odd voices call out from the distance. The song begins to stretch itself pretty far, and then it snaps, with the heaviness unloading, and cavernous growls leaving craters. The track pounds heavily and toys with the emotions, sometimes giving you a boost in airy, yet cosmic terrain, and at others burying you into the soil. As the track travels on, the cut continues bursting, with wild yells bellowing, intergalactic doom weighing down on you, and the melodies bleeding away. “Of Locusts and Moths” is the closer, getting off to a solemn start, as chants and whispered words form a vortex. The ambiance gets morbid and chilling, with the pace hitting a higher gear, stomping and kicking as a variety of colors mix into the background. The vocals wrench while guitars gaze hard, and then things turn ugly and death-ridden. Yes, there remains a sense of melody, but all of that is engulfed by total darkness and a destructive final stretch that brings the record to a sudden end.

Soothsayer still are operating deep on an underground level, and that’s fine for now. If they keep coming up with records as strong as “At This Great Depth,” it won’t be long until more ears are tuned into their spacious, yet devastating brand of doom. Their run the past year has helped strengthen their core, and as this effort proves, Soothsayer have a lot to give the metal world and are more than willing to take us all on one last adventure in 2016.

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

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

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

Finnish beasts Sepulchral Curse blacken their death metal with fiery ‘At the Onset of Extinction’

Photo by Kakkonen Mustavalko

Photo by Kakkonen Mustavalko

The status of Finnish metal is pretty damn solid, and you don’t need a dork like me to tell you that. From Demilich to Abhorrence to Convulse to Amorphis, that land has done the genre quite well, and really, there’d be no argument if the folks from that country took it easy for a while and enjoyed their country’s well-earned success.

Yet, the well never stops flooding over, and now we have a new death unit Sepulchral Curse raiding the land and spreading their gurgling chaos all over. It’s always a shame when these releases drop so late in the year, because they tend to get lost in the sea, but their new EP “At the Onset of Extinction” is a crusher, and it’s bound to satisfy any fan of Finnish metal … or metal in general. The band only has been active for the past three years, and we’re getting a follow-up to their 2014 “A Birth in Death” two weeks before this cursed year gasps its last. The band—Kari Kankaanpää (vocals) Jaakko Riihimäki and Aleksi Luukka (guitars), Niilas Nissilä (bass), Tommi Ilmanen (drums/vocals)—also adds flourishes of black and doom metal and sounds ferocious and violently aggressive on these four songs.

sepulchral-curse-cover“Envisioned in Scars” gets the collection off to a brutal start, with all elements boiling with a fury and Kankaanpää’s gurgling growls unleashing blood and tar. Actually, as strong as the growls are, they tend to overpower the music at times, though it’s a minor issue. Melodies are pressed beneath the din, while wild blasts rip out, the riffs chug, and the track comes to an abrupt finish. “In Purifying Essence” is speedy at the front end, with the bass bouncing around, and the growls are chased with crazed howls. Classic-style death guitars take over, as the band hits a massive groove, and a destructive spiral brings outright obliteration.

“Gospel of Bones” is built on strong riffs and a tempo that absolutely reeks of doom. The song bursts out of its seams, as fierce shouts and a stomping assault start accumulating a body count. The playing grinds and burns, spiraling into vile pools. Closer “Disrupting Lights of Extinction” is beefy at 9:46, and it slowly comes to life, bringing heaviness but delivering it in a calculated manner. Doom clouds return as the cut gets going, and a few minutes into the humidity, the band unleashes it power. The riffs are muddy and ugly, while the growls are gruesome, and as the song gets dizzying and disorienting, Kankaanpää wails over the madness. The music keeps lapping over and over, continuing to deliver massive body blows, while the final minutes slip into cold gloom, bringing the track to a pounding finish.

Sepulchral Curse are proving blood still flows in the land of the thousand lakes, and their “At the Onset of Extinction” EP shows the band more willing than ever to go for the guts. But there’s a technicality and artistry to what they do as well, so it’s not just violence for violence sake. They’ve spent the past few years trying to find the right sound to convey their blackness, so let’s see what they can do with a full-length release.

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

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

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

Blood Tyrant expand Wampyric black metal into depths of hell on raw ‘Aristocracy of Twilight’

blood-tyrantWhen you think about black metal, it’s natural if your mind goes right to blood. Why not? Bloodshed is a major factor when it comes to this kind of music, and that essential life fluid is smeared all over the history of this style of metal.

So, when it comes to “Aristocracy of Twilight,” the debut record from Blood Tyrant, you can’t help but be consumed with plasma. The band burns the torches of wampyric black metal, so you know that delving in blood is something that isn’t just a part of their name, but also is factored into their DNA. This, the band’s first record, takes you back to the primal, raw days where black metal wasn’t polished and presented in pristine light. This music sounds like it was created and recorded in a cave, which adds to its charm, and what you hear here could transport you elsewhere. The mysterious duo—Baron Yrch Malachi and The Wampyric Specter—combine to create a sound that’s dark and bloodthirsty but also pounds heavily on your psyche. By the way, I have no idea who does what for this Dutch unit, so let it all meld together and take over your mind.

12Jacket_3mm_spine_all_sides.indd“Dawn of a New Supremacy” begins the record with a wave of synth and the sounds of swords clashing in the background. As a horse stampedes through, the track gets going, with raw growls and shouts, chaotic drum madness, and charging guitars. The final moments of the song hit the gas pedal, and wild cackles erupt, leading the way toward “The False Heresy” and its heavy dose of hypnosis. The tempo thrashes relentlessly, as throat-scraping vocals and a burst of violence create a dangerous title wave. Raw power bursts through, as the senses are clobbered, and a haze of noise spirals away. “Undying Iron Will” starts with oppressive weirdness and crazed howls, as the song unleashes a dangerous assault that’s made that much eerier by the choral calls floating in the back. The tempo shreds, while a madness-drenched stretch arrives and knocks for you a loop.

“Barbaric Wampyrism” is a fiery black metal storm, with an assault that feels like it’s trying to live up to its name. The drums are crushed, while the band hits a mind-altering level, with the sounds droning in circles and bringing disorientation. “Clandestine Bloodmists” is murky and creepy before it gets speedy and drubbing. Raw growls cut deep wounds into your flesh, and a strange sense of catchiness slips into what’s otherwise a blinding war. “Engulfed By Purifying Flames” is fast, thrashy, and fierce, with the growls cutting through the flesh, and the playing making your head spin. The band hammers hard while it has you in its grasp, with the growls conveying ancient evils and the track winding up in a massive fury. Closer “Inertia Meditation” is a brief instrumental comedown, as strange synth rolls in, and the feeling that an ominous spirit is lurking in the mists is something that’s impossible to shake.

Blood Tyrant’s heavily anticipated debut “Aristocracy of Twilight” pays off that built-up interest because it takes black metal back to its formative years, but in a way that pushes the genre forward while keeping the roots intact. These seven songs do a number on you, and the more I listened, the more I kept getting lost in their nightmarish fury. Nothing’s polished or neatly preserved. Everything is choked with blood, which only makes a world of sense.

For more on the band, go here: https://bloodtyrant.bandcamp.com/releases

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

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

7″ City: Barghest, Black Cilice show diametrically opposing black metal on new efforts

barghestThis is a ridiculously tough time to fill sites like these with content. Decent full-lengths are hard to find, though they’re out there, and lots of times, we find ourselves scrambling to get worthy material featured before we dive neck deep into year-end territory.

That’s not to suggest you can’t find nice late-year gems, and we have a couple of 7” releases that could make the end of this disgusting year a little more violently pleasing. Both releases are not for the faint of heart, and anyone out for sugary melody and widespread accessibility can go back to whatever big-box chains still sell metal albums. You should find yourself nice and comfy there with no hints of challenge whatsoever. Whoever’s left, get ready to have your eardrums charred.

barghest-coverWe start with Baton Rouge, La., black metal tyrants Barghest and their new release “Born of Tooth and Talon,” out on Elder Magick Records. The two tracks here were released a little earlier this autumn on a split with Teeth, but this is a nice way to have a compact collection of some of the best stuff on that effort. Those who have followed the band during their journey will notice a more violent, crusty production, almost as if the band thought they had to make their music scarier and meaner. They totally didn’t have to do that, but the band—vocalist Daemontis, guitarists Dallas Smith and Jason Horning, bassist Qutaybah, drummer Philth—went uglier anyway, as these guys sound like they’re plowing through hell and showing what true terror is all about. Also, this is a limited release, so if you want to grab a copy, you better move fast.

The title track opens the thing, with rains soaking the ground, dogs howling in the background, and even doom horns pumping, making this sound like the start of a horror film. When the song erupts, shrapnel spreads all over the place, with horrifying vocals darkening the already blackened picture, and the song delving into speed and chaos. The song gets insanely vicious, peeling back your skin and pouring gallons of salt in your already-fresh wounds. “Sterile Initiates” is the flip side, wasting no time to get the demolition on its way with spindly riffs, throat-mangling growls, and a heaping dose of filth. Strong lead guitar work creates a blinding blaze in the din, while the vocals continue to scathe, and the intensity somehow finds a new level in which to operate. The back end becomes more raucous and unforgiving, unleashing fury until it comes to an abrupt, soul-obliterating conclusion.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/eldermagickrecs/

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

DOOM062_jacket.inddBlack Cilice remain one of the creepiest, most mysterious entities of all black metal. It’s really hard to even describe what this Portuguese band actually does as far as their music is concerned. It’s noisy and marred with chaos, elements are buried in the fog, and their work often feels like you’re being buried in dense layers of static. Their new 7” “Nocturnal Mysticism” is considered an EP, and at a run time of a little more than 15 minutes, it’s definitely beefier than what we normally get from a release this size. It’s also another strong entry from this mysterious group—the band’s membership remains unknown—on a resume that contains three full-lengths and a number of smaller releases, containing a bunch of demos, EP, and split efforts. This one does their brand of darkness a great deal of good. Oh, and this release also goes hand in hand with Black Cilice’s first live performance, set for Dec 16 in the Netherlands, so that’s a pretty big deal.

“Nocturnal Mysticism Part I” begins with a ghoulish, chilling wind moving in and freezing the blood in your veins. Static-stained clean playing begins to trickle through the fog, while atmosphere filled with smoke begins to coat lungs, with the vocals absolutely buried beneath everything. The tempo rattles, while the drums clash, and haunting howling slips through like a ghost, dragging you into “Part II.” There, troubling pounding jars you awake, while off-kilter melodies that sound like they’re drunkenly staggering begin down their path. Melody drizzles, while roars cut in through the void, bringing with them an uncomfortable sense of panic. The music overwhelms and drubs the mind, as hypnotic and sweltering melodies bubble to the surface, and a frigid weather patterns situates itself over all. Finally, winds begin to whip hard, while the song drains to its finish amid a blustery assault.

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

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

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

Both these 7” releases are bloody and riveting, though each make their mark in much different ways. Barghest go for the jugular in their effort to eradicate the planet of, well, everyone, while Black Cilice swarm your sense with strangeness and peculiar transmissions. Each of these might not speak to the same black metal audience, necessarily, but both are worth your time and the further deterioration of your fragile hearing.