Hunter’s Ground, Unsacred mangle metal influences on exciting new efforts

Hunter’s Ground

I can appreciate someone with diverse musical interests because I like to think I have those myself. I am pretty open to listening to just about any form of metal out there, and my record collection runs the gamut of musical styles. I mean, there’s no mainstream pop or anything, but I have some things in regular rotation that someone who runs a site such as this ordinarily wouldn’t be expected to own.

Same goes for record labels. I like ones that, even if they specialize in metal, can branch out those interests and cast a wide net. Relapse may have made its name with death metal and grindcore, but they have all kinds of bands now, from the awesome trad metal of Christian Mistress to the evil, menacing blackened death of Weapon. Profound Lore long has been known to include anything they deem to have deep artistic merit in the extreme music world. Flenser tends to do some really interesting things, and even Southern Lord has been able to step back from their drone and doom past to breathe new life into underground hardcore that’s gone pretty much unnoticed by the rest of the world. Variety keeps things fresh and exciting not only for the label but for the listener.

Broken Limbs, in a short amount of time as a label, also has been really receptive to all styles of metal. When I get their promos, I’m typically intrigued off the bat because I don’t know what kind of discovery they possibly could have made since last time I heard from them. And even if not every effort or band matches my personal tastes, I’ve never been bored by anything they released. In fact, two of their offerings — the much-discussed debut EP by Vattnet Viskar and the upcoming stunner by Oak Pantheon — make up some of my favorite music I’ve heard this year. Seriously, wait until you hear the new Oak Pantheon. Mind-blowing experience. I appreciate the lengths they go to shed a light on bands that other labels might not take a chance on, and as a result, they’ve given meaningful opportunities to very worthy bands to have their music heard.

We now have two more records from Broken Limbs that deserve examination, and as you probably expect from what I’ve written so far, neither release resembles the other. Yet, I easily could see how each band could cross over into the other’s audiences to a degree without ruffling too many feathers.

We’ll start with Hunter’s Ground, a Virginia band with a stranglehold on atmospheric black metal that sounds like it came right out of the woods. Well, that’s because it did, as the band used a generator to record their debut “No God But the Wild” in guitarist/vocalist Paul Waggener’s woods-based house, a setting that brought them great inspiration. Anyone into bands such as Wodensthrone, Celestial, and even early Immortal (especially vocally) can find a lot to like on this record, and it does an excellent job capturing the majesty of nature and a primitive expression of black metal that so few bands seem to truly capture these days. It’s a rough, raw album that the band completed in a little under a 24-hour cycle due to the limited power of the generator, and perhaps that short window was key to capturing such an explosive performance.

The record’s a mere 32 minutes long, but they make effective use of that time, weaving six tracks into the production that give a great indication of what this band does well.  “No God” kicks off with the gritty, epic “A Storm of Crows,” a song that’s both aggressive and thought-provoking , with Waggener howling the song title over and over as the tracks expires. “Their Hands Were Stained With Her Dripping Blood” is primal and emotional, with gruff vocals, spirited guitar work, and a surging undercurrent. “And Fed Their Flesh to the Vultures” has a blistering, crushing opening, and it’s one of the most violent songs on here, both musically and lyrically. It’s my favorite track on the record and never ceases to make my fists clench. “Speaking in the Tongues of Trees” changes the pace, as calm washes over, dissonant guitars ring out, clean calls and chants bleed in, and a relatively dreamy sequence is achieved. The final two cuts are the longest adventures, each lasting more than seven minutes with the title track boasting crunch and infectiousness, while closer “The Fireless Winter” is off kilter, with plenty of tempo shifts, thick atmosphere, and some thrashing chugging to keep things meaty and bruising.

Hunter’s Ground are raw and real, honest and heartfelt, and they appear to have a great future ahead of them. Time should only make this band stronger, and their next album really could be something to behold. Until then, “No God” is a solid step toward greatness.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/huntersgroundofficial

Unsacred

Also from Virginia, Unsacred also have a knack for black metal passages, but they pack just as much crusty hardcore thunder into what they do to make things interesting. Their amalgamation of these sounds makes for an unpredictable package, where the only thing that’s certain is you’ll be met with punishment and volume, full of power and passion. But unlike many hardcore bands, this stuff isn’t attitudinal and swaggering, doesn’t boast, and instead helps the band come off as human, not meat-headed humanoid. They remind me of a group off Deathwish, who have a giant roster of like-minded artists.

The band’s new EP “Three Sisters” is quite the disruptive little display. It’s but four songs long, but when it’s over, you’ll definitely have felt its impact. “I Carry the Weight Alone” has a black metal meltdown as it opens, feeling gloomy and doomy, but then the whole things blows up, and we’re off to the races, with a galloping tempo and raspy shouts. “Lethe” also is a throat mangler, but it has a lot of air wooshing through it and also sports some sleek guitar lines that would make the Nordic metal bands a little jealous. “Abatement, Loss, and Regret (Three Sisters)” is the shortest song of the bunch, managing to find time to be thorny and calm. Closer “Torch Circle” is the opposite, as it’s the longest song of the group at 7:30, and it allows the band to really branch out, lets notes and passages stretch out, and sets the stage for some really meaningful, cathartic playing. It’s a hell of a song and an indication of just what this band is capable of doing.

Honestly, I don’t get all that excited about straight-up hardcore (I grew up a metal kid), but when bands like Unsacred screw with the formula, that’s when I get on board. Like Hunter’s Ground, the band’s best days should be ahead of them, but they’re definitely working on something noteworthy here. This is one of the few hardcore-based bands I’d make a point to see live, and hopefully I don’t get punched in the face in the process. Wouldn’t be the first time.

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

To buy either album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.bigcartel.com/

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

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