Funeral Mist explode back with chaotic black metal ferocity on mentally devastating ‘Hekatomb’

It’s not easy to rein in true chaos, especially when it’s made by someone who knows the medium quite well. It’s better, then, to stand aside and watch the madness unfold, trying to keep yourself out of harm’s way so that you’re not physically overcome by the immense and morbid power.

That’s a sense I always get when taking on anything from Funeral Mist, which carries over into the beast’s latest and third record “Hekatomb.” This is the one-man project of Arioch, who also is at the helm of long-running black metal power Marduk under the name Mortuus (the band coincidentally also has a new record out in the form of “Viktoria” that you can get via Century Media. It’s … OK). Over the course of 25 years, Arioch has shed members until it all came down to him and also put out some of the most devastating and fascinating records in all of black metal, his latest one included. It certainly differs sonically from 2009’s awesome “Maranatha,” and it slices and chews its way into your chest like a runaway chainsaw. Over the course of eight tracks and 43 minutes, Arioch goes for relentless, mesmerizing, and violent black metal that sounds fresh, inspired, and absolutely bloodthirsty.

“In Nomine Domini” begins with battle cries before guitars slink over the eerie silence, and a prodding bassline accompanies it. Then it bursts, sending blood and guts in your mouth, while wild cries and panic are unleashed, and guitars chug away. A voice cries out in a crowd, as the song gets heavier and more maniacal, and eventually the cut scrapes out on that naked guitar line. “Naught But Death” has a wall of chants behind the madness, while Arioch snarls his way through with monstrous growls. Chants pick up as the guitars bleed along, while screams add an exclamation point before an abrupt end. “Shedding Skin” is off to the races right away, as a delirious riff and crazed howls of, “Here is your Messiah, worship it!” pound you in the chest. Hellish riffs arrive from there, as the song spirals and sickens on its departure. “Cockatrice” has miasmic panic, as cold, hypnotic keys create an icy shadow, and then the guitars go for your throat. The pace chars, while the keys add coolness to the horrible burns before all is swallowed into the belly of a black hole.

“Metamorphosis” is led in by aggressive drumming before guitars ramp up, and speed becomes a factor. Later, things are pulled back, as a chilling, pastoral chorus sweeps in before piercing cries penetrate the darkness. Again, violence smashes into calm, choral chants return, and all ends in a warbling storm. “Within the Without” is insanity, as the tempo goes off the rails, and a brief period of calm is signaled by a chime before hell returns again. Grisly growls and a thunderous start bring havoc before the track ends in a neck jerk. “Hosanna” has guitars rifling before its body is torn apart, as harsh growls tumble, and the music obliterates the senses. Gurgling cries and a reckless pace lead to a face-destroying crash. “Pallor Mortis” closes the coffin with a slow-driving crawl, with guitar haze coating your face, and the growls cutting through to the bone. At one point, a kid’s voice can be heard yelling (same voice as Marduk’s “Werwolf” from their new one?) before the bewildering assault continues. Everything pelts down with force, pushing you to your limit before it finally fades away.

Funeral Mist may be just what we need in these times when the chaos around us is caused by other people and corrupt governments who have never been more out for themselves. “Hekatomb” definitely won’t bring you peace of mind, and it’ll do fuck-all for your anxiety, but it also might give you a glimpse into a different, more all-encompassing type of darkness. This is brutal, harsh reality served to you on the edge of a bloody blade.

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New Jersey black metal horde Mortum’s ‘Eheieh Chaos’ given wider reach on cassette reissue

Not every record gets its just due when it is released. With the alarming volume of music that’s being unleashed in the metal realm, it’s only natural some will slip through the cracks for whatever reason (sometimes it’s because they deserve to fade out). So, it’s nice when something noteworthy gets a chance to breathe new life and find more followers.

Fólkvangr Records quickly has become one of our favorite labels over here, and they’ve been known to shine a new light on albums that are worthy and powerful but perhaps didn’t find the audience they should have. They’re at it again by offering cassette treatment to New Jersey-based black metal unit Mortum and their fine “Eheieh Chaos,” the band’s second record that was released last year independently. Put simply, this is a damn good record. There are riffs on top of riffs, and for as grim as it is, the melodies go on for days, making this as fun a listen as it is violent. These seven tracks that tear by in a little under 42 minutes likely will find their way into your dark soul and turn it into a pile of ash. The band—vocalist/guitarist/bassist Ominous and drummer Mystic Yautja—pour all of their intensity into these songs, their first full-length offering since 2011’s “The Rites of Depopulation,” and if this record is any indication as to where their heads are at, we’re just at the start of a bloody reign.

“Scourge of Suffering” opens with an eerie essence before guitars fire up, and creaky growls are unleashed. Some of those great melodies come rushing to the forefront, while the back end of the track is charred, spirited, and bloody. “As Cold Winds Blow Amidst Winter Dusk” is blistering, with savage growls that sound inhuman, and riffs that add to the power source. The track is thrashy and punishing, with everything ending in a colorful cloud of menace. “Occult Redemption” is storming and skull smashing from the start, with the vocals lurching and the riffs encircling. The band lands a ton more punches before everything comes to a shocking, abrupt end.

“An Elegiac Hymn to Death” is the second-longest song, registering 7:12, and it fades in from the night. The track starts slow-driving and hypnotic, as the growls mesmerize, and the music carves its way into the earth. Guitars surge, the pace picks up, and a grisly, violent explosion takes this song to its end. “Black Sickle” has riffs flooding the ground, and a hammering, melodic pace that really powers this thing. “Shadows From a Forgotten Past” starts with a wild cry and then a riff burst, as the growls destroy sanity, and the melodies surge. The track is strong and engaging, ending with a final blast before it fades away. “Pitch Black Waters” is your closer, a 7:58-long basher that has tremendous riffs and some different nuances. The vocals creak and burn, as the guitars well up and punish, and shit gets crazily emotional. The song spirals and sets blood charging, while the track fades into the strange night, and pastoral chants take its ghost to its final resting place.

If you’re new to Mortum and haven’t sunk your teeth into “Eheieh Chaos” just yet (and full disclosure, I hadn’t until this promo arrived), definitely check this out. This band is savage and melodic, and their black metal fury is not to be questioned. This is a storming effort that hopefully will find more lost and wandering souls.

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Mortuous launch death metal madness, doom-infested chaos on sooty ‘Through Wilderness’

There’s not much of a sure thing anymore in metal, especially when it comes to bands serving up their first slice of what they have to offer. But when you hear that members of bands such as Exhumed, Repulsion, Necrot, and others are behind the music, that’s a pretty good indication you should put aside your concerns and just listen to what they’ve cooked up.

That’s very much the case with Mortuous and their debut full-length “Through Wilderness,” an eight-track, 36-minute pounder created by current and former members of the bands listed above that pays off nicely when you dine on this thing. They don’t waste your time at all, getting right into the meat of the music and delivering total devastation. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Colin Tarvin (who also plays in Disinhibition and Funerealm), guitarist/vocalist Mike Beams (who also played in Nothing Left and Noothgrush), bassist Clint Roach (also of Augurs and Cartilage) and drummer Chad Gailey (also of Atrament and formerly of Vastum), these veterans have pulled together their resources and delivered a tried-and-true platter of death metal with a generous side of doom that should scratch every itch you have when it comes to those sounds. There also are guest spots from Chris Riefert and Danny Coralles from Autopsy, Derrel Houdashelt of Dekapitator, and Teresa Wallace of Dreaming Dead, Cartilage, and others, as she contributes flute (she plays a savage guitar in her bands).

“Beyond Flesh” starts the record with acoustic strains before it tears things apart, and ferocious growls erupt. Tricky soloing makes your head spin, and then they’re right back to the pit of early 1990s death, with the guitars screaming terror over a fiery finish. “Bitterness” is punishing and doom-smeared, as the track gets thrashy and devastating, and the leads just go off. The pace is set to crush, while the guitars come off like war sirens, and the track comes to a bone-crushing end. “Crysalis of Sorrow” is sludgy and ugly at first, with somber melodies spilling and snaking through everything. Grim growls scrape before the band hits full chugging mode, as the soloing burns the flesh. Strong howls and a blast of danger give this song added muscle, while the tempo rips, and fierce growls add to the crushing finish. “The Dead Yet Dream’ is ominous and doomy, as it trudges along before it lands body blows. The vocals have a gurgly feel, sort of like Demilich, and then everything gets nuts, coming to a mauling end.

“Anguish and Insanity” has a slow start on purpose, setting up the mood, before the punishment is unleashed, and the track gets gruesome. The playing later gets strange and cold, with the guitars piling on and adding hell, and throaty growls rubbing salt in the wounds. The title track storms open with vicious growls, and pure fury and disgust. The guitars are dizzying, with the soloing cutting in, and things getting even more violent. The leads then spiral away, as the track ends in a cloud of dust. “Prisoner Unto Past” is volcanic from the start, a fast and mean cut that stomps hard and then gets humid and sticky. The panic hangs in the air before the pace reignites, and the track comes to a crushing close. “Screaming Headless” ends the record with a jolt of viciousness, as gross growls work their way into the mix, and the relentless storyline rolls out its horrific intent. Slow doom emerges, as it bleeds methodically, and warm guitars begin to boil and wilt the flesh. The final moments trickle, leaving a grimy stream behind as acoustics return and bring the record to a murky end.

It’s not like these guys are reinventing the wheel or anything on “Through Wilderness,” but Mortuous weren’t tasked with that anyway. They do what they do very well, and this record is a first full burst that should get them into the awareness of those who enjoy rolling in the chaos and filth of true death metal. This is a strong debut outing, and don’t be surprised to hear more people singing its praises once it reaches more ears.

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Swedish black metal punishers Craft finally return with fiery ‘White Noise and Black Metal’

Photo by Ester Segarra

Black metal used to be an intimidating, terrifying force, a thing that made people shudder and listeners to less harsh forms of metal cower in a corner. It’s not so much like that anymore (and some of that is for the better), but there remain bands that when they approach you, it’s best you look away or else pay the consequences.

Long-running Swedish black metal force Craft maintain the reputation of being a monster you don’t want to look in the eyes. Their music hardly is there to make you feel warm and toasty inside (unless you considering burning alive your comfort zone), and any band with a record called “Fuck the Universe” to their credit probably would make the uninhibited shake in their shoes. We hadn’t heard from the band in seven long years since their Carnal Records-issued 2011 album “Void,” but they’ve finally answered the call for more with “White Noise and Black Metal,” their first for Season of Mist. This eight-track, 42-minute record actually is a little short on the white noise, but it makes up for that with hellacious servings of their brand of black metal. The band—vocalist Nox, guitarist/electronics wizard Joakim, guitarist John Doe, and bassist Alex, (Daniel Moilanen handled drums for the album)—spill more hatred and hellfire into the mix, striking fear and chaos in the hearts of anyone who dare go near them.

“The Cosmic Sphere Falls” has riffs swirling, drums crushing, and Nox’s gurgling growls bubbling over and smearing blood with piss. The track pulls back later, letting your head swim in the madness, before the black metal spills like rain, and the grimness spirals away. “Again” has mangling riffs and crunching fury, as the growls boil and give off noxious steam. The guitars have a filthy swagger to them, while the vocals are gurgled, and everything ends in a bed of noise. “Undone” has drums plastering, while the guitars charge and unleash speed, and a creaky space sound sends chills down your spine. Nox keeps warbling about “when I die” over and over, and the relentless punishment eventually drowns out in corrosion. “Tragedy of Pointless Games” has riffs charging the engine, while a grimy stomp, and fever-inducing wails make this hypnotic and terrifying. Later, the pace is torn apart, while the vocals crunch teeth on skin, and everything grinds away.

“Darkness Falls” has more of a black n roll feel to it, and it’s the one track here that still hasn’t grabbed me quite yet. Grimy growls and a punchy pace make this feel swollen, while more swagger emerges, and creepy synth murk settles behind the beast. “Crimson” has mesmerizing tones, as melodic fire emerges, and it feels like the entire land is set ablaze. The track calms and gets sleepy, as strange warbling can be heard behind the wall of horrors, and a trudging burst brings this instrumental cut to an end. “YHVH’s Shadow” wages war, as the guitars sear and glimmer, and then the pace speeds up dangerously. Nox’s vocals mangle, while the guitars send lapping waves that choke your lungs, and suddenly you’re sick to your stomach. Strangulating cries pelt with shrapnel, as the track thrashes out in a pool of blood. Closer “White Noise” unleashes threatening riffs, as the tempo bashes skulls together, and harsh growls force you to pay the price. The punishment continues with ill intent, while the growls gurgle, and the guitars send everything in a molten tunnel to hell.

Craft’s utter negativity and pure devotion to blackness is what makes them such a dangerous band with which to contend, and they prove that again on “White Noise and Black Metal.” This long-awaited return has some new twists and turns, but it’s no less deadly than anything else in their catalog. Craft remain a mean, evil force, and it’s hard to imagine accepting them any other way.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Anicon stretch black metal, scrape dark human experiences on ‘Entropy Mantra’

Being a living, breathing human being isn’t easy, especially as you get older. Responsibilities, work difficulties, navigating relationships through all of this, and just trying to interact as a member of one’s community aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. That’s not even considering political and societal woes we encounter every day which, piled on top, can make the world feel like utter blackness.

When it comes to black metal, those are not topics heavily gleaned for content, no matter how close to the human spirit they cut. Yet, NYC quartet Anicon never have been your typical band, and their amazing new record “Entropy Mantra” captures that brilliantly and explosively. On this, their second full-length and follow-up to 2016’s phenomenal “Exegeses,” the band spreads their personal affectations over seven tracks that certainly have the black metal spirit musically but also blast beyond those boundaries into so much more. Elements of prog, death metal, and classic heavy metal can be heard throughout this album, and the band—vocalist/guitarist Owen Rundquist, guitarist/vocalist Nolan Voss, bassist Alexander DeMaria, and drummer Lev Weinstein—seems content to present themselves in a fuller, more dynamic way mostly musically and philosophically on this record.

“Feeding Hand” begins the record punching its way into the room, with riffs and drums trembling, and wild yells and shouts mixing together. The heat dissipates for a spell before hot soloing rushes in, menacing growls provide quaking emotion, and the back end is thrashy, tricky, and hypnotic.  “Wither and Waste” has proggy bass swaggering before the leads unleash their rage and punishment. The vocals scrape like a rusty razor over agitated flesh, while all elements combine to form a tornadic pressure. The melody speeds up and hammers the senses, while harsh growls and fury bring the track to a punishing close. “Drowned in the Mirage” opens with rain pounding before the tempo explodes, and melodic storming continues. The tempo shakes the room, while feverish cries send splinters flying, and the playing gets delirious. The leads explode, sending the track into bone-powdering drums and a clean ending that trickles away.

“Names Written in Tar” has Weinstein’s drums tearing down the walls, riffs coming to life, and a classic metal feel emerging. The song begins to surge and pummel, with vocals bruising and the melodies soaring out of that. The track comes to a clobbering end, with the drums book-ending this demolition. “Tarnish on the Emblems of Ardor” has speedy riffs, a dangerous outlook, and guitar work that makes your head spin in dizzying chaos. The growls gurgle, while your senses are flooded with power, with the band setting a riveting, stirring backbone that drives hard. Tension stretches, with the hairs from your arms scorched. “Blood From a Road” runs nine minutes and chars right off the bat. Riffs push and dice, but eventually they let a fog envelop. The track is savage and disorienting, with the tempo poking and prodding, guttural grunts going for your veins, and a blazing finish. Closer “Paling Terrain” is the longest song by four seconds at 9:04, and a bed of static and squeaks leads into drums smashing boundaries and guitars feasting on your psyche. Melodies trickle heartily amid crazed growls, while the punchy playing opens into a sea of lightning-flash guitars. The song caterwauls, as if it’s reaching its apex, and it is, as the flood of sound overwhelms, and the track drills out into the lonely dark.

Anicon’s music always has been challenging and thought provoking, even at their most vicious, with “Entropy Mantra” being another huge step in the direction of being one of black metal’s most intelligent acts. They tackle topics here to which most people can relate, and to some (me included), the idea of panic and anxiety always is scarier than some make-believe devil. This album represents a dark, shadowy creature that’s real and can eat away at your very soul.

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Texas death squad Morgengrau grind bodies, bloody faces with devastating new ‘Blood Oracle’

I listen to a lot of podcasts at the gym, because why not? It helps to pass the time. But usually when I finish my daily pro wrestling podcast I still have time left, and it’s onto something to get me through the rest of the grind. Oh, this isn’t going to be a macho dude gym shitfest. I hate that stuff. It’s just that now and again I need a way to power through, thus death metal being the answer.

I usually load my phone with stuff upcoming that I plan to write about, and a few weeks back, in a moment of needed push, I dug into “Blood Oracle,” the destructive new record from Texas-based death unit Morgengrau, and it didn’t take long for it to become something I listened to on repeat no matter where I was. There’s something about this thing, the follow-up to their 2013 debut “Extrinsic Pathway,”  that just hits all the right buttons. It’s brutal, heavy, and creative, and each visit has been a run of demolition on my puny body and brain. The band responsible for this horror—vocalist/guitarist Erika Morgengrau (she also previously played in Autumn Tears and Ignitor), guitarist Nick Norris, and bassist Jacob Holmes (a session drummer handled the kit work)—rips your world apart with every drop of this eight-track, 36-minute album that is perfectly portioned and always relentless. There’s no official band photo, by the way, so go ahead and enjoy the stunning Nick Keller artwork above. The record is totally devastating, bringing to mind the old guard of classic death metal, but there also is plenty of future movement that it’s not stuck in any realm. It’s its own thing.

The title track gets things started, pushing open and lighting the fires immediately, with Morgengrau wailing, “All hail the darkness that burns across the sky!” The track drives harder and harder, with the vocals getting grittier along the way, and after a strong solo, the chaos ends in a pile of cinders. “Wolves of Thirteen” is a total crusher, with Morgengrau growling, “Come to thee, my wolves,” and as we travel further, the band fucking kills you with a thrashy section that could shatter bones. Throaty, droning calls disorient, while the end smashes your face. “Progression” has more strong guitars surging, bone-powdering playing, and a thick bassline that leaves a trail of oil sludge. Atmosphere enters before it’s marred in muck, while razor-sharp soloing cuts into the guts, as we approach a war-torn finish. “Poised at the Precipice of Doom” starts with spacious guitars, and everything heats up about two minutes in, as the vocals burst to life and bring malice, calling every force to action as the music splatters plasma.

“Forced Exodus” starts with a killer riff, thick bass work, and the band pounding the detonation button, with Morgengrau howling, “Drive them out into the night!” The bass keeps throbbing, while the guitars work to agitate the fight even further, with the declaration of, “The day of battle is drawing nigh.” “Invert the Marker” chugs heavily, as more wounds are opened that flow into the dirt, leaving everything stained crimson. Once again, it appears like we’re headed back into the gears of the machine, with Morgengrau’s mean, gruff vocals, and a finish that feels like the earth being torn to shreds. “Incipit Bellum” is an interlude-style instrumental that conjures plucked strings and whirring noise, leading into closer “Evocation of the Wheel.” There, the band unloads more steady riffs, as the tempo swirls dangerously, threatening to swallow you whole. The vocals are grinding, the soloing fluid, and the track wraps up having left you ugly bruises and oozing wounds.

Morgengrau’s punishing energy and deathly violence make “Blood Oracle” a smothering, satisfying listen that likely will pull you back for repeat visits. Their playing is channeled and bloody, and the songs waste no time trying to finish you off in short order. This is a hell of a record, one of the finest underground slabs of death we’ve had the pleasure to tangle with this year.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Khemmis’ claim to heavy metal throne swells with glorious opus ‘Desolation’

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

Metal doesn’t really get big anymore. Decades past, metal bands still cold play big sheds and arenas without compromising their sound. They simply kept building an audience on top of strong release after landmark record, and as they strengthened their resume, the crowd swelled with that. You saw that very thing happen with legendary acts including Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, and so on.

It’s about time that Colorado-based metal band Khemmis move up in the world and be recognized by more than just a larger underground audience for how good they really are. Their new record “Desolation,” their third, follows the same path those classic bands did by creating one awesome album after another, with this being the best thing they’ve done so far. You’ve heard that before. Fucking listen to it and find out. As they’ve gone on, they’ve also expanded their sound, as they can’t just be pigeonholed as a melodic doom band anymore. These guys—vocalist/guitarist Phil Pendergast, guitarist/vocalist Ben Hutcherson, bassist Daniel Beiers, and drummer Zach Coleman—also delve into classic heavy metal, NWOBHM, power metal, you name it, to create a more full-bodied, dynamic album that’s one of the best of the year. I have so many great memories as a kid of indulging in my countless metal tapes every warm summer day, and “Desolation” would have fit right alongside those classics that I still listen to now.

“Bloodletting” begins the record with solid riffs and tremendous singing from Pendergast, who is at the top of his game on this record. “The noose is gripping at my neck with every breath,” he wails, as a growled yelp takes us into a different progression before things kick back up, increasing the atmosphere. More growls emerge at the end, as the track goes out in flames. “Isolation” kicks in with killer guitar work, as Pendergast calls, “The endless days bleed into nights,” giving off the feeling of never-ending monotony. Luckily that sentiment doesn’t bleed into the music, which has a classic power metal feel the way it punches. There’s some grittiness, as the band trudges through mud, but before long, they lean into steely harmonies and smoking guitar work. “Flesh to Nothing” has a killer dual guitar assault, feeling like it flashed out of the late 1970s, and the deeper singing on the chorus and blunt growls add some muscle. Searing soloing flashes before your eyes, while the storm meets up with an acoustic outro that ends the song on a calming note.

“The Sear” brings more twin guitars that cause an early burst, but then we’re into a slower pace, though one no less heavy. Melodies cut through, while shrieked lines induce panic, and the guitars chug and stomp into the mist. The final minute is moodier but also glorious, as we end having punches thrown at us. “Maw of Time” has speedier riffs greeting you at the gate, while the growled shouts of, “Cast out!” cut into your skin. Gnarly howls mix with driving singing over the chorus, with Pendergast howling, “The sky is burning red,” amid the accumulation of smoke and ash. The heaviness never relents, as the band kicks up mud and mangled vocals before the track fades away. “From Ruin” closes the record, a 9:27-long song that runs the gamut of emotion and sound. “So here I rest, I’ve come undone,” Pendergast notes early on, while the band unloads the heaviest test of doom so far before things get darker and solemn. “There’s a fire set ablaze in my heart!” Pendergast declares, as the band hits an old-school gallop that brings a rush of nostalgia and sharp leads. “I find the strength to carry on,” Pendergast calls, as the band fires up one last blaze of glory before the track burns away.

Khemmis’ sound, songwriting, and power never have been as strong as they are on “Desolation,” and as great as “Absolution” and “Hunted” were before, this record puts the band on the next level. There’s serious crossover potential with this record, which is ideal considering how bad the mainstream metal picture is, and they deserve to be playing larger rooms that could handle their might. Khemmis is one of the great hopes for metal’s future, and the further they travel down their path, the more impressive and infectious this band becomes.

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