PICK OF THE WEEK: Immortal rise from ice of Blashyrkh on killer new opus ‘Northern Chaos Gods’

You can’t destroy the ice and snow. You can’t destroy Blashyrkh. Over decades together, Nordic black metal legends Immortal have faced their share of trials and tribulations that would decimate most bands, but this banner remains alive and well, with their flags deeply ensconced in the fantasy ice world that inspires their music.

Immortal’s very existence came into question three years ago when the band members were at odds over who owned the name and who controlled its existence. That led to longtime vocalist/bassist Abbath Doom Occulta, one of the most recognizable figures in black metal history, to split with his mates Demonaz Doom Occulta and drummer Horgh over ownership of the name, leading him to start his own project under the name Abbath. Not to be deterred and refusing to give up the struggles and travails of Blashyrkh, Demonaz and Horgh (along with Peter Tägtgren on bass) carried on and promised a new Immortal album, which we now have in the form of their ninth record “Northern Chaos Gods,” their first album in eight years. While Demonaz long was the creative force behind the band, despite his having to step away in 1997 because of tendonitis in his arm, Abbath’s buzzing voice always was the one that would signal you to battle alongside the group’s mammoth riffs. How would they fare without him and push this new vision into the future? It doesn’t take long on this savage, melodic, glorious, and somewhat basic record to let you know they’re alive, well, and ready to ride off into battle until the last limb has been severed.

The title track kicks off the record, and it’s a fire-breather right away, with heavy riffs, crushing blasts, and Demonaz’s razor-sharp growl hailing, “Now the time has come!” The song is packed with speed and chaos, and it’s the ideal opening salvo to signal Immortal are back. “Into Battle Ride” has guitars killing, gruff growls, and a majestic chorus that’s impactful but also fairly simple. That’s a theme on many of the songs here, and while that might be tiring for some, it’s actually a strong way to keep the listener involved and aware of when the high points are coming. “Gates to Blashyrkh” brings us back to the band’s primary inspiration, as clean guitars snake through the madness like an icy stream, and Demonaz paints pictures of ravens circling and fire consuming the sky. The track is heavy, fun, and a full dose of Immortal lore. “Grim and Dark” has riffs boiling, howls soaring, and a grisly pace that eventually becomes even tempered. The vocals scrape while the guitars drive the pace, and another strong chorus gives you something to shout back at them live.

“Called to Ice” is fast and punchy, with the tempo going for broke and the growls splattering the colors of battle. The pace stomps, never relenting, while melodic ferocity tears into you like an ice beast. “Where Mountains Rise” is as gem situated later in the record that’s the adrenaline rush of the second half. After a chilly open, we get a powerful burst, muscular riffs, and a memorable chorus that, as basic as it is on the surface, delivers in spades. Try to get it out of your head. You’ll fail every time. “Blacker of Worlds” has more chest-bruising riffs, yet another chorus that sticks to your ribs, and a blast of chilled air you can feel through your mouth, burning your lungs. Closer “Mighty Ravendark” ends the record on an epic note, as it runs 9:14 and makes the most of that time. After a cold, trickling start, we head into the mouth of the storm, as gigantic riffs blast through frozen rock, and the easy-to-recite chorus keeps your blood just surging enough for you to remain alive. The track has a true fantasy battle feel, as wars are waged in the dark, Demonaz unleashes the harsh cries of combat, and the track trickles off into the pages of Blashyrkh, etched forever for generations to come visit all over again.

After eight years away, the very existence of Immortal was a stake, but Demonaz and Horgh have done a devastating job reinvigorating the beast on “Northern Chaos Gods.” It’s a blistering, catchy record that delivers on what Immortal do so well, and acts as comfort food for all of those who hold this group close to their icy hearts. This band rides again, and with this new lease on life, hopefully it won’t be quite as long until we get even more frosty, bloody tales from Blashyrkh.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

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

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With the End in Mind’s stunning ‘Unraveling; Arising’ given new life on double LP/digital reissue

Can you imagine how many great records are sitting in the unknown, with only an intimate audience having discovered and absorbed it. There must be a ton of really strong bands and songs we’ll never hear simply because they don’t have the ability to spread their art to more people. Now and again, the pieces do find a light shine on them, showing the rest of the world they’ve been there all along waiting to be discovered.

Pacific Northwest-based one-man project With the End in Mind had their debut offering “Unraveling; Arising” out there for the past two years now, just waiting for people to stumble upon it. Luckily, the folks from Temple of Torturous found it, and they’re putting it out on double vinyl and digitally, which it absolutely deserves. It’s a fantastic five-track, 53-minute journey through all sorts of peaks and valleys. It’s atmospheric black metal at its heart, but there is so much more than that packed into these songs by sole creator Alex Freilich. The track brings emotional tidal waves, melodic devastation, and songs that rush in, grab you, and take you on a trip into the unknown with it. Musically, the Pacific Northwest influence is there, but it’s not oppressive at all. It’s a mere color stripe in a collection that flushes black metal with so many other hues and feelings.

“Sings the Sky,” running a healthy 14:53, opens the record with a long stretch of silence before the music quietly emerges, making it feel like it’s floating in the mid-morning sky. Freilich starts with cleaner calls, setting a foggy atmosphere, before the song bursts apart. Surging black metal joins pained growls, while the storm hangs overhead and unloads precipitation, as the drama gets into shoegazey space. The singing returns as the mood gets dimmer, and then a spacious deluge erupts, accompanied by wild cries, and a blast that slowly fades away. “Anguish Symmetry” is a 14:08 basher that unleashes crazed yells, blinding noise, and melodies that caterwaul dangerously. The blackness spills in rivers, cascading and threatening before rustic acoustics take over and bring calm. Keys join the mist, while the song lets sunbeams in to illuminate, and a dreamy texture coats everything. The track blasts open for one last gasp, as keys wash down, gazey playing spirals, and the wail of “Try to overcome!” pulls the curtains.

The title track is a quick instrumental piece that starts quietly and has noises floating into the atmosphere, as your head swims in the trance-inducing winds. “From the True Source” starts knee-deep in acoustics, taking on a Western feel as it lets powerful wails emerge, while the energy hits like a downpour. The guitars create fireworks that brighten the room, while it’s mind-numbing aura slowly bleeds away in the dark. Closer “Wheeling, Endlessly Wheeling” starts in an eerie place, as the track slowly unfurls, and a strange gust from the cosmos spreads psychedelic stardust. Guest singer Caitlin Fate lends her voice to the track, leading you into a numbing, hypnotic path. Keyboards emerge that push you into the chill of nighttime, as Freilich returns to singing before a final heavy rush. The melodies explode, anguished howls assault the evening air, and everything dissolves into a noise bath that simmers before fading away.

If you’re discovering With the End in Mind for the first time (admittedly, I am), you’ll find a lot to absorb with “Unraveling; Arising.” It’s homage to life puts the music in a different perspective than most black metal, which is refreshing, and the raw emotions flowing through the music are overwhelming in the best way. This is a powerful statement that stayed underground for too long and finally will get to unfurl itself in front of more people.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.wteim.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://templeoftorturous.com/shop/

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

Burial Invocation explore space, madness on heavily-anticipated, wiry debut record ‘Abiogenesis’

Not all good things happen overnight. Or in short order. Or even in medium order. Sometimes really good things take a long time to develop and make sense to its creators. Chaos gets in the way. So does life. So do other things you have to do when, all of a sudden, you realize years have passed, and people start standing around like impatient jerks wondering if you’re ever going to finish.

It’s been 10 long years since Turkish death metal force Burial Invocation first formed, and eight years since their first EP and—trivia time!—first-ever Dark Descent offering “Rituals of the Grotesque” got so many people excited over the future this band appeared to possess. But shit happens. The band split up for a while. Other projects took precedence. Life happened. But here we are, about halfway through 2018, and we finally can lay our hands on their first full-length record “Abiogenesis,” a record that’s absolutely worth the wait. This is a fucking perplexing, punishing, pulverizing trip that makes no bones about messing around with death metal’s DNA. Yeah, at its core, this is a death record, but it’s so much more than that. The band—guitarist/vocalist Cihan Akun, guitarist Can Yakay Darbaz, bassist Ozan Yildirim, and drummer Aberrant—stretch and lay waste to expectations. They take you into outer space, through hell, into other dimensions, all over the course of this five-track offering, and when it’s done, you’ll be left wondering what the hell just happened.

“Revival” kicks off with melodic thunder, as the song trudges along, and the vocals unleash guttural toxins. The guitars cut over the top and bring a proggy sense, with the song then turning brutal and scraping while it’s blowing your mind. Soloing soars as the song gets mesmerizing, and then it unloads a heaping serving of death. Rubbery guitars emerge and confound, while things blast into space, pulverizing and mangling before coming to its end. The title track is up next, a 12:10 mammoth that lurches and stomps, with techy guitar work bringing heat lightning. The song explores from there, with the vocals arriving in sinister growls, and the song heading toward the mud. Fiery guitars get the pace going again, and then shit goes off. The band comes unglued, delivering destruction, some classic death fireworks, and then a hole is torn in time, driving you through that to the beyond.

“Vision of the Hereafter” is caked in filth as it starts, with growls accompanying the heavy sludging, and grisly playing creating disorienting disorder. The senses are diced, though we get a brief respite of calm, and then a burst brings a burly, mauling end. “Phantasmagoric Transcendence” is one of the best song titles of the year so far, and it brings slicing guitars and a pace that erupts and threatens to swallow humanity whole. The drums send shrapnel flying, splintering the world into hell, and then things manage to find a new level of craziness, as the band gets utterly savage. The guitars shred and confound, with the pace swirling and bringing madness and the final moments drawing more blood. Closer “Tenebrous Horizons” is an instrumental, one that might have been better served placed a little earlier in the record, but it’s effective nonetheless. It closes the book on this record with acoustics, cosmic sentiments, and hazy strings that warn you that this just might be alien terrain.

Burial Invocation were meant to survive, and the accomplishment that is “Abiogenesis” is an accomplishment to behold. This is one of the finest, most interesting death metal records of the year so far, and it’s been a damn good year for that sub-genre. Rejoice that we finally have a record from Burial Invocation and that it’s so ridiculously good.

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

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

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

Runespell quickly follow debut delivering storming black metal with cagey ‘Order of Vengeance’

As I sit here, there’s a storm brewing on the horizon. It’s been threatening all day long. Dropping sheets of rain here and there and delivering some steady winds. But it’s not until right now, just as I’m going to write this piece, that natural violence is approaching, and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

It’s also rather fitting, because during the notes-taking portion of my visits with “Order of Vengeance,” the second full-length from Runespell, that the weather was the same. The trees outside were assaulted by rain and vicious winds, and it made so much sense sound tracked by these seven cuts that run about 47 minutes combined. Hailing from terrifying (yet lovely) Australia, where the spider and snake population always will keep me from visiting, comes this band and its heaping slab of black metal delivered about 10 months after dropping skull-mashing debut “Unhallowed Blood Oath.” Sole visionary Nightwolf (also of Blood Stronghold and Eternum) sounds like a person who constantly has ideas clashing in his head, with his other bands and with this prolific Runespell project. The music here is inspired and deadly, a perfect concoction to enjoy as the weather begins to batter the Earth’s brains.

We get started with “Retribution in Iron,” a track that slowly trickles in but doesn’t waste time getting terrifying. Animalistic, creaky growls rip away at fresh wounds, with the howl of, “See the world through our eyes!” channeling his wolfen blood. Melody rushes, but it’s cut with tyranny, with classic-style riffs giving the song a rousing end. “Destiny Over Discord” has spirited wordless calls driving the power, while throat-scarring vocals carve a brutal path. Riffs spiral into a pace change, coming out thrashy and aggressive, while strange speaking, glimmering guitar work, and a crushing pace sends the song out into the murk. “Claws of Fate” is speedy and punchy, with the growls aggravating scars, and strong melodies swelling like a river that’s taken on too much water. Later, the track delivers more bruising, as rains pick up and soak the ground, washing everything away.

“Night’s Gate” is an instrumental piece with eerie sounds, acoustic passages, and moody playing that conjures a thick fog. The track generates a deep hypnosis and leads you toward “Wolf.Axis” and its slow, foreboding beginning. Riffs swim while the growls simmer in filth, and the mid-tempo approach keeps things heavy and constantly bruising. Atmospheric riffs work their way in, as the humidity thickens, and the pace changes. Glorious playing rides over the top, with the song fading into the woods. “Blood Martyr” slithers into the picture, with melodic guitar work meeting up with coarse growls that sound like they’re gurgling plasma. The riffs are powerful and steady, with the track making significant impact before suddenly rushing away. Closer “Pray for Redemption—Redemption” is an oddball at first, sounding proggy and ambitious (though the tinny drum sound is a little distracting) before we head into a melodic prowl. The sounds of war pelt your temples, while the song picks up and delivers ample damage. Then, without warning, frosty, unforgiving winds arrive, laying waste to your prone flesh as you, along with the song, fade into unconsciousness.

Who’s to say if Nightwolf remains this active with Runespell, but if the music is as compelling and punishing as what he delivers on “Order of Vengeance,” we won’t be complaining. This record swirls with madness and devastation, and it’s black metal of the highest order. Now, I’m going to move away from this window before I get struck by lightning.

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

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Amarok punish senses, obliterate psyches with devastating debut LP ‘Devoured’

There are records you can feel when you listen to them. They creep inside you, bore their way into your chest, and set up shop there for the duration of the music so you can practically experience every drop of what’s coming out. Conceivably all music should make you feel something emotionally, but we’re talking physically, right down to your bones.

Tackling “Devoured,” the debut full-length effort from doom/sludge crew Amarok, is like going into battle alongside the band as they rehash the emotions and struggles that have woven their way into the music’s DNA. They are long, involved pieces, with two tracks closing in at more than 20 minutes each, and the other two both over the 10-minute mark. To experience this, you must invest, and that’s a lot to ask for a four-cut, nearly 70-minute opus, but it’s a commitment you’re likely to make with no hesitation after you take your first bite. While this is the band’s initial long player, listeners will notice we kick off with a track that starts with VI, in that it’s the sixth installment. That’s because you have to travel back with the band to find the first five tracks of their campaign, spread over splits and an EP, but you won’t feel out of place if you’re just dropping in for the first time. The band members behind this gargantuan effort—Brandon Squyres (bass, vocals), Kenny Ruggles (guitar, vocals), Nathan Collins (guitar), Colby Byrne (drums)—are channeled and emotionally on fire on this record, and it’s impossible not to feel the palpitations in your chest and the anxiety in your face and fingers as these songs wash over you.

“VI: Sorceress” opens the record, a monster at 21:03 yet not the longest song of the bunch! Play by play would be monotonous for these cuts, so we’ll highlight, as the song starts in a bed of acoustics and an extended introduction that floats along before it bursts about four minutes in. Crazed roars and atmospheric doom that rockets through clouds greet you, and from there we get into a section that lurches and bruises, allowing dark, mournful melodies to flood the place. The track keeps unloading, slithering into droning feedback, heading into a storm of harsh shrieks, and finishing with a numbing assault that scrapes away at your flesh. “VII: Rat Tower” is the longest track, a 23:03 epic that starts cold, letting everything quiver before the lid is torn off three minutes in. Growls and screams mix, creating an emotional tidal wave that never relents, while a heavy dose of solemnity grabs at your heart. Cries wrench as the noise rains down, with noise buzzing, and the fires of human tumult reaching emergency levels. Muddy pounding, savage growls, and a crushing crescendo ensure this song won’t leave you anytime soon.

“VIII: Skeleton” is the baby of the bunch, clocking in at a mere 11:14, which is longer than some grindcore records. It kicks right in and delivers body blows, eventually turning funereal and dragging a shadow over everything. Tortured wails and a chugging pace caused brush burns, while the noise wells up and threatens to overcome everything in its path. The tempo later slows and brings calculated misery, only to have the band pulverize you when you least expect it, dragging you with them into the void. Closer “IX: Devoured” runs a healthy 13:45, and it begins delicately, with tranquil guitars and a moment of peace before the track erupts suddenly. The vocals tower amid the fiery, yet solemn melodies, and the music twists at your guts, leaving you a pained mess. The song is later set to boil, with steam rising, and the growls becoming oddly infectious. From there, the momentum builds and pushes hard toward the end. The track gains steam as if it’s running recklessly downhill with no breaks, ending the trip in a pit of bludgeoning noise.

It took eight years for Amarok to deliver their first full-length, but the wait (and the weight of the material) is more than worth it based on “Devoured.” It’s not an easy listen, and it does require commitment, but you’ll be repaid in dividends with the way this impacts emotionally and physically. This is music that makes you pay a human toll, which makes the punishing journey you take with the band well worth your time, sweat, and blood.

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

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

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

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.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.noevdia.com/shop/

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

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.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.folkvangrrecords.com/products/619211-mortum-eheieh-chaos

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