PICK OF THE WEEK: Magic Circle hit metallic roots on the mark with sweltering new ‘Departed Souls’

Photo by Frank Huang

It’s a pretty great time when music can take you and transport you somewhere else, letting you soak in a different environment for a while. Music should be a sort of escape, right? At least some of it should be. That’s why when putting on a record and feeling your mind occupy a different space is such a ridiculously rewarding journey.

Boston traditional doom warriors Magic Circle pull that off expertly with their expansive new record “Departed Souls,” a collection that I’m not 100 percent convinced wasn’t created with help of a time machine, some 1970s herb to smoke, and vintage recording equipment that just so happened to find its way back to 2019 and 20 Buck Spin’s release schedule. This album makes me relive the days when I discovered NWOBHM (there are elements of that here as well) along with other bands who simply were lumped under the umbrella of “heavy metal” without all the sub-genre classifications. It’s actually nice to be old enough to remember that. Anyway, with these eight songs, Magic Circle (their members also play with bands such as Innumerable Forms, Sumerlands, and Lifeless Dark) leave you intoxicated, wondering if you’re really living in days passed four decades ago amid some bizarre vehicle that got your there. The band—vocalist Brendan Radigan, guitarists Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, bassist Justin DeTore, drummer Q—takes you even further into the clouds as they did on 2015’s “Journey Blind” and fully commit you to existing outside your headspace for 45 minutes. You’ll be happy you did.

“Departed Souls” kicks off the record with killer riffs, and early ’80s vibe, and Radigan’s voice reaching into the stratosphere, which it does often on this record. The song has a nice breakdown later with some great lead guitar work, fiery playing, and an ambiance that feels like an era long lost. “I’ve Found My Way to Die” has guitars charging, the rhythm buzzing and Radigan’s vocals sweltering. The chorus rushes through a psyche haze as Radigan later wails, “I will never die with the herd, I got to make my stand,” while the guitar work soars, and the cut bashes closed. “Valley of the Lepers” has doom-rich riffs that kick in and pace the song slowly. “Welcome to the depths, my friend,” Radigan warns as the guitars launch and give off echo. The tempo begins to trudge as the soloing soars into the scene, then psychedelic keys end everything in a fog. “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” begins clean before it gets trippy, with hand drumming adding to the atmosphere. Vocals then tear out into the night while keys blare, mind-numbing melodies swim, the drums get more rapid, and the intensity froths over.

“Nightland” has drums encircling before the riffs whip into shape, and a forceful tempo is unleashed, pushed by the driving singing. Dual guitars combine, a gong crashes, and the pace changes into something reflective for a stretch. Things then ramp up again as the guitars swagger with life, the soloing glimmers, and the track rides out into the night. “Gone Again” has bluesy keys slinking before the playing gets muddy, and teeth are sunk into the meat of the song. “She never comes here anymore,” Radigan calls while a spacey vibe settles in before guitar buzz cuts through that for a bit before the heavens open again, bringing starlight to the track’s storming end. “Bird City Blues” is an instrumental piece with guitars quivering and charges going down the spine, albeit gently, and that paves the way for closer “Hypnotized” and its jangling guitars and Radigan’s singing launching into the night. The track is slow driving yet chunky, with the singing keeping the calculated drive in tact before the guitars light the torches. From there, the playing is reflective but scarred, with light blinding your eyes before everything fades into the background.

Magic Circle already were a really stellar band before their third opus “Departed Souls” arrived, but this album takes them into rarified air as one of the modern era’s most imaginative classic doom bands. Every inch of this thing feels like a dream, a travel back to a time when we lived simply for the blood of metal and not for the arguments over the validity of offshoot sounds and movements. This is pure, real, and a savagely good time, something we don’t get enough of these days.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/departed-souls

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

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Triumvir Foul focus vitriolic fury toward godhead on filthy, nasty EP ‘Urine of Abomination’

Rage toward organized religion is likely at an all-time high. I’m not getting into the reasons because they’ve been all over the news and social media, so I’m not here to teach anyone. That carries over, to some, to the actual deity they’re worshipping, as what’s supposed to be a peaceful, pious effort many times turns into something hateful and used to oppress others.

There are plenty of ways to show rage against that concept, and metal has been turning their fury toward the godhead pretty much since the genre was born. But some do it more violently than others, with Triumvir Foul proving their blood thirst is as savage and dangerous as anyone’s. To prove this, they have a new four-track EP “Urine of Abomination” to unleash on their listeners that is as warped and noise-fucked as anything they’ve ever done before. The Portland, Ore., band has been turning the screws for five years now, with two full-length efforts to their credit, but this might be the most destructive music they’ve ever created. The duo behind this infernal project—vocalist/guitarist/bassist Ad Infinitum (also of Ash Borer, Serum Dreg, etc.) and drummer Cedentibus (also of both those bands as well as Dagger Lust and others)—pour all of their vitriol and hatred into this record, seeking nothing but blasphemy and chaos.

“Urine of Abomination I” begins with noises scraping and burning, feeling like a marred attack on the senses before the track fully opens, and the death machine bursts. The growls lurch while the pace hammers away, with ugly guitars sprawling, the pain bleeding, and nasty, crazed bursts letting loose amid gurgling growls and a blistering assault. “Urine II” launches dirty death riffs and muddy stomping, with the playing cutting through flesh and the guitars chugging. The leads go off and burn intensely, keeping that hell going and pushing into “Urine III” that feeds on the remnants of what came before it. The track is thrashy as hell while the vocals lay waste, stomping through mud and blood before the assault goes off. The track lays unprotected shots to the face while corrosion eats everything away. “Urine IV” ends the record with a smashing intensity that opens the song, shit burning down everywhere, and violent death spasms mauling at your psyche. The guitars ignite with the drumming bashing in your skull, the guitars chew at your brain wiring, and static rises while a sound storm melts away the remainder of your muscles and bones.

Anyone with any sensitivity toward music that tears apart your faith might be monumentally upset by Triumvir Foul’s vile and scathing new EP “Urine of Abomination.” I’m guessing this duo won’t give a fuck about your feelings as they’re pissing away at something they feel has been destructive toward the world. This is black as hell, a torture session that is relentless and choked with soot.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Triumvir-Foul-497099127297691/

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

Or here: https://invictusproductions.net/shop/

Or here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/urine-of-abomination

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

Or here: https://invictusproductions.net/

Or here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

Blackened hardcore smashers Totaled realize life is a pisshole, reveal that on horrific ‘Lament’

Nick Hancock

For many people, life doesn’t feel very good. It’s a constant struggle to get from sun up to sundown, and every step taken is like a fist right to the face. Depression and anxiety, two topics we seem to talk about at least once a week, are very real factors, plus there are other things that make living something that can feel like a cruel joke even on the best days.

Blackened hardcore bruisers Totaled have that idea nailed on their debut album “Lament,” an eight-track, 37-minute foray into confronting the end and bathing in the hell that is birth-life-death process we all face. So, yeah, this isn’t really party music, unless that bash is going to end in one’s own bloodshed. I don’t say these words with tongue implanted in cheek. We cover a wide array of dark, harrowing music on the regular, but there aren’t many times we encounter something this black and depressing that we need a break from the music after as single listen. Um, this album is good. I hope it isn’t taken that it isn’t, because it’s a goddamn fire-breather. But it hurts to endure, just like the life that’s detailed within this thing, which means they’ve achieved their goal with flying fucking colors. Normally this is the part where we introduce you to the members, but Totaled have chosen to remain anonymous, therefore we have just the music on which to focus. That’s the point anyway, isn’t it?

“Deplete” starts the record, a quick intro cut that combines noise and lonely acoustics before moving into “As Below” that explodes to life with black metal riffing and D-beat destruction. The growls smother while the guitars bask in morbid glory, rubbing your face in the pain. Wild howls erupt as the music plays tricks and delivers gut punches, then the guitars go off, the pace heats up, and everything ends in a smoking pile. “Eclipsed” ignites as the bass trudges in mud, and a speedy fury arrives to spit shrapnel. The drums maul while a speaking sample brings chilling fear, and a dark cloud hangs overhead while a tempered mid-section soaks in noise. Soloing rips into the picture, mixing with toxic sounds before coming to a stinging end. “Transience” rumbles open before launching itself into hardcore fury that gets melted in a blast furnace of power. Bass cuts through that while the track comes to a storming finish.

“Hypnosis” has riffs rounding up dangerous winds while the track begins hammering, and the growls deliver a nasty, unforgiving attitude. The pace is beastly, though it has its mesmerizing stretches, and screams and punishment combine to do a number on your sanity. A killer metallic solo torches flesh, sending heat and madness before retreating back to hell. “Desolate” starts with clean guitars before the body is opened fully, and the ground beneath it quakes with horror. Gruff growls combine with a massive tempo, spitting teeth and bleeding before the track gets thrashy and ends on a throbbing note. “Ominous” is a quick interlude with haunting guitar work and desolation, setting the stage for finale “Bereft” that starts with a tidal wave of emotion. The drums destroy while the growls pepper the body, as the sonic assault tears into dark soloing that instills fear. A path of sorrow is beaten as things calm down for a stretch, allowing the anxiety to marinate. Out of that, the pace kicks up again, the guitars aim to draw tears, and the track keeps burning until it runs out of fuel.

The epitome of hell and blackness penetrate every corner of “Lament,” as Totaled put every ounce of their pain and misery into these explosive eight songs. This record sounds like the frustrations and agonies of life being force-fed into a grinder and shat out the other end a mutilated, bloody pile. This is fury and panic mixed into the hellish meeting of black metal and hardcore, a record that hurts almost as much as actually being a person every day.

To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com/

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

Woe drop surprise, examine the terrifying strains of life with devastating EP ‘A Violent Dread’

Photo by Jonathan McPhail

I would imagine the anti-anxiety drug makers are doing pretty well about now. I’m on them. I know several other people who are on them. They’re practically necessary to survive what we face day to day, not just when we leave the house but when we get online and absorb ourselves in the hell pit that is social media. How could anyone make it without a little help from the benzos?

Brooklyn-based black metal band Woe are not immune to the daily cycle of death (both mental and physical damages) and the constant blame cycle. It’s a rough terrain out there that is unforgiving, and they turned more attention to that on their last LP, 2017’s “Hope Attrition.” Like a surprise visitor here to help you fight the battles, the band returned last week with a surprise EP “A Violent Dread” that continues to examine our relentless destruction of one another. The release is a two-track affair containing the title cut and a cover of a classic song by Dawn, a criminally underappreciated Swedish band whose discography was just reissued two years ago by Century Media. This EP is compact and devastating, and it’s another teeth sharpening by the band—guitarist/vocalist Chris Grigg, guitarist Matt Mewton, bassist/vocalist Grzesiek Czapla, drummer Lev Weinstein—that’s never pulled punches and likely won’t start anytime soon.

We start with the title track, a 9:15-long affair that gets off to a raucous start with riffs flooding and raspy shouts delivering blows. The track sludges and crushes, cutting a mean swath through chaos as the guitars build up and Griggs’ growls slice into meat. Things head off to the races, letting the intensity bubble and your heart to race a little faster. Later on, the drumming turns stone to dust, and a round of melodic riffs set up shop and keep your mind occupied during the fiery explosion. Growls burst and swim through the manic, yet channeled playing, and the track delivers a final kill shot before ending in rubble. The band’s take on “The Knell and the World,” the opening track  from Dawn’s 1998 “Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)”, is a pretty honest reading from the band, right down to the synth lines that create fog that rises throughout the song while they pay homage to a group that Grigg said stands as one of his favorites. It’s a really strong version of the song that hopefully will send more people checking out Dawn’s powerful, albeit small, catalog of work.

Life’s not going to improve anytime soon, if it ever does, so we may always need a little something to quell the anxiety and pain eating away at our souls at pretty much every turn. Woe’s music always has been a perfect partner for releasing your aggression, and “A Violent Dread” won’t make you feel better about existence but should harden your fist whenever the need to fight arises. This is music for a worrisome and worrying era, a voice in the hopeless night that’s at least insisting it has your back as long as you’re struggling for a just cause.

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

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

Or here: https://vendettarecords.bigcartel.com/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Aussie funeral doom maulers Illimitable Dolor inject melody into ‘Leaden Light’

It should be obvious to anyone that if you’re going to delve into something called funeral doom that you’re about to be caught up in a world of misery and pain, delivered torturously slowly so that you can feel every drip of remorse. The more emotional the music the better, which helps these long dirges stay in your heart and mind, battering you along the way.

Australian doom dreamers Illimitable Dolor only have been working on their soul-crushing craft for half a decade now, but the band already has two devastating documents to their credit, the latest in the form of “Leaden Light,” a record that will make you feel the depth of the shadows and darkness. The five-track, nearly 52-minute opus that sprawls before you is an engaging, harrowing experience that will swallow you whole the second the music drips out. The band—guitarist/vocalist Stuart Prickett, keyboard player Guy Moore, bassist Dan Garcia, drummer/vocalist Yonn McLaughlin—is comprised of member of other notable acts such as the Slow Death, Nazxul, and Horrisonous, but their work here is fully infused in pure doom and the thoughts of what lies beyond. But it’s not just a sullen drubbing into oblivion. The band employs a great share of melody and texture that provide a look beyond doom’s normal boundaries to places other bands of this type often don’t tread.

“Armed He Brings the Dawn” is the longest song on the album, running 14:50, and it cracks open with waves crashing, organs reigning, and melodies crashing down, while the growls crush all your hopes and dreams. Menace and sorrow color the guitars work, and after a brief cleansing, things go into a dark haze highlighted by some great lead work. The track opens up, while the growls overwhelm, emotional guitar work makes your blood rush, and elegant melodies bring the song to its end. “Soil She Bears” opens slowly but dramatically as growls lurch and pianos drip blood. The pace hulks and bruises, with the growls bringing added pressure, and its textured, sorrowful final minutes are enough to make your mind soar.

“Horses Pale and Four” stretches over 11:27 and bleeds into the scene, bringing with it stretching growls, an emotional toll that’s almost too heavy to pay, and then a brief foray into the land of dreams, as synth extends their wings before the track reaches its bursting point. The pace bashes away, as the vocals scrape behind, and a heavy simmer sends off steam as well as encircling organs. Guitars lap with sadness, the growls gurgle blood, and the track trickles into mystery. “Leaden Light Her Coils” runs a healthy 13:48 and begins with keys dropping, power trembling, and the growls punching through the earth. The playing is weighty, while the vocals have a dirty drawl that collects dirt, and the guitars glimmer brightly. As the song goes on, sanity is shredded while melodies gush, and the band continues to add intensity and never-ending solemnity. Keys rain as the growls crawl up your back, the playing swells, and a haze takes over and pulls you into the murk. The record ends with “2.12.14” that is neck deep in drone when it arrives, and then a fog hovers over the area, bringing with it mourning guitars, gently unfolding melodies, and speaking lines that fall into growls. That’s the gateway for the final dose of anguish that fills up your chest and makes you quiver and break as the song reaches its end.

Illimitable Dolor’s reign has been short so far, but they have two hefty documents that demonstrate their might and majesty, with “Leaden Light” being their most adventurous. It’s easy to fall victim to their art, to get pulled into the dark sojourn on which they’re on and take yourself into terrain you never dreamed you’d visit before. This is a stellar, surprisingly compact record for this genre, one that doesn’t demand too much of your time but still will leave you quaking inside.

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

To buy the album (U.S), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Or here: https://tometal.com/store/

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

Baltimore’s Noisem defy demise, regroup forces for splattering return offering ‘Cease to Exist’

Photo by Andrea Dieguez

Momentum doesn’t always mean anything. It can end in an instant because life and circumstances often get in the way, so just when you think you’re on top of the world, you can find things crumbling around you in an instant. What you do from there means a lot about your desire and hunger to get what you want, and sometimes people aren’t strong enough to endure and just give up.

Baltimore-based death-grind crushers Noisem seemed primed to break out as one of the most promising bands in a strong wave of underground thrash bands. Its members were high school age when their debut “Agony Defined” arrived in 2013 and made a massive impact, and things seemed even better when they followed that with “Blossoming Decay” two years later. But then things fell apart. Seemingly, anyway. Vocalist Tyler Carnes and bassist brother Billy fled the fold, leaving guitarist Sebastian Phillips and his drummer brother Harley to pick up the pieces. They did just that, reuniting with former fellow Necropsy member Ben Anft on bass and vocals, and they have stormed back with their third record “Cease to Exist,” an album that’s a step in a different direction, as well as forward. The thrashy strains remain, but the vocals are nastier, and they go more in a death grind direction, whipping out 10 tracks in an economic, but effective 21:31.

“Constricted Cognition” rips the record’s guts out with a thrashy feel that carries over a bit from their previous era, splattering growls, and the chorus killing before soloing rips in and burns things out. “Deplorable” takes control and buried bodies as gnarly growls and bone-splitting playing adds to the carnage. Some melodic sections blur into the madness before the cut bows out. “Penance for the Solipsist” is fast and mean with a nasty assault swinging for faces, the growls destroying, and drubbing playing leaving ample bruising, both mentally and physically. “Putrid Decadence” storms by with charging riffs, growls striking, and white-hot demolition that burns everything to the ground. “Filth and Style” is a 56-second blast of grind and twisted metallic gears that enact total violence.

“Eyes Pried Open” punches its way in with riffs smoking in a smothering, albeit catchy, assault. The guitars go off, scorching flesh alive, and the scream of, “Serotonin sickness, plaguing my existence,” hammers home the nauseating coffin nails. “Sensory Overload” rampages the gates with raspy growls and screams, devious menace, and bursts of speed that rush by you before you know you’ve been hit. “Downer Hound” crunches you within its teeth as a sweltering, yet utterly furious tempo wreaks havoc. The playing powders bones while the soloing ignites, ending in a burst of thunder. “So Below” already is blazing when it starts, sending shrapnel flying and loose metal into your eye sockets. Guitars light up while a sound cloud rises, leading into finale “Ode to Absolution,” where that noise melts into a slower, sludgier drive. The playing is ugly and doomy before the track is shredded, with speed and intensity multiplying before the terror is skyrocketed into space.

It will be interesting in a live setting to hear how Noisem pairs their older material with the deadly tracks that make up “Cease to Exist.” This is almost like hearing an altogether new band, albeit one with ties to a decaying body it left behind long ago. This new lease on life is something Noisem is using to their advantage, and they’ve never sounded quite as deadly as they do on this ripper of an album.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/

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

Irish death crew Vircolac put ax to showing false presentations on punchy debut album ‘Masque’

None of us are truly who we say we are. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all humankind is deceitful (well, it kind of is), but often times we show parts of ourselves that tend to be more positive or accepting for any numbers of reasons—making friends, finding lovers, getting jobs. There are masks that we wear, and no matter what we do, we’re often always wearing one.

That isn’t lost on Irish death crew Vircolac, whose tremendous debut album “Masque” examines those false faces we put on and the erosion of self that can occur if we do not free our faces from those misleading layers now and again. Their seven-track, 36-minute debut is an ideally portioned offering that’s crushing, exciting, and inventive, all the while examining the darkness within us or at least our insecurities that keep our true beings at arm’s length. The band’s name means werewolf in Romanian (it also reminds me of, like, an ED or hair loss drug name, but I’m an idiot), and they prowl through these songs that’ll definitely keep you at attention. The group is comprised of vocalist Laoghaire, guitarist BMC, bassist JK, and drummer NH, and they’re definitely going to have people buzzing once this music hits more ears, it’s that explosive and captivating. We need more bands like this.

“Titan” starts the record and gives a bit of a fantasy vibe, but in as brutal a means possible. The track gets off to a hammering start with gnarly growls and a splattering vibe. “Wield the ax, kneel before the titan!” Laoghaire howls as the soloing goes off, leading to brief calm and glowing keys, before the track comes to a speedy, crushing end. “Tether and Wane” has a channeled path as the bass churns and Laoghaire wails, “Soon the blood will run!” Dual guitars join up and cut, leading to a proggy section where the playing feels like it pays homage to space metal gods Voivod. That spirals into more weirdness that brings the track to a bizarre finish. “So I Hang From the Wretched Tree” has strange guitars and a humid pace before the song begins to lay waste. A mystical haze then arises, hurtling the track into psychosis before everything boils and goes out in a thick steam.

The title track begins with drums rumbling and an eerie sense of strangeness, as the growls tell the story, splattering, “The masque betrays,” as the point is jabbed home. The pace sprawls into hideous carnage, drubbing and drawing blood every step of the way. “Snake Among Man” has guitars taunting and the track charging ahead while the soloing melts faces. The track cakes mud but also settles into a more rock n roll feel, giving it some looseness, with the song ending abruptly. “The Long Trail” has a smashing start, racing and delivering savage howls and mounting a blazing attack. The vocals creak over a strange storm with guitars rushing while colorful melodies spill different textures, and the earth breaks apart from the pressure. “End of a Beginning” is a quick instrumental that wraps the bow tightly with spiraling post-rock playing, keys dripping, and the track being swallowed into deep space.

As long as we all shall live, we’re bound to continually try on new masks, discard old ones, or even revisit past faces just to make our journey through life seemingly easier. And Vircolac, who don’t deny these behavior of themselves, will be behind us, noting these moves and questioning our motives. “Masque” could be a helpful companion as we stomp our own personal paths and perhaps a reminder to show our real face every now and again, if only to prevent its decay.

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

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

Or here: http://www.sepulchralvoice.de/shop/

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

And here: http://www.sepulchralvoice.de/