Canadian black metal crushers Wilt examine frailty, Apocalypse on sobering second effort ‘Ruin’

We make so many references to Apocalypse on this site, it almost feels like it has become a creative crutch. With the current political climate especially here in the U.S. but also around the world, it feels like it could be any minute before we’re counting our days until the end of time.

A lot of this has to do with the music we cover and the absolute darkness that permeates so much of it. That same thing can be said for Canadian black metal band Wilt and their tremendous second record “Ruin.” The album is a concept piece about the frailty of mankind and is inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road about a father and son trying to make their way and survive after a global Armageddon-style event. At the same time, the band also is reflecting on the loss of a close friend during the recording process, and the music and words are racked with pain, loss, anxiety, and guilt. It’s not a smooth, easy listen as a result, and if some of this hits home for you like it did for me, you also might find yourself examining your mental makeup and some of the things that have caused life-long scars. The band—vocalist Jordan Dorge, guitarists Brett Goodchild and Jay Edwards, bassist Craig Peeples, and drummer Myke Lewis—have conjured something more immersive and much darker than what they revealed on their impressive 2015 debut “Moving Monoliths,” and this collection will push your concept of what it means to be a human being.

“Into the Unknown” starts the journey as the main character heads off into mystery, with no idea what lies ahead. The track starts slowly, with melody slowly bleeding in, and as creaked growls join the mix, the melody bursts. Wrenching howls and sweeping playing catches you up in the pit of emotion, while the final moments are dark, bleak, and a hint of what lies ahead. “We Read the World Wrong” is tumultuous from the start, pounding down with anger and scorn, with Dorge crying, “You’ll see what could have been, what should have been!” The track is both melodic and abrasive as hell, with gazey riffs raining down and capturing your senses, and everything flooding and rushing toward you without mercy. “Strings of a Lingering Heart” has drums pummeling, as Dorge unleashes hell, screaming, “I wish I could escape this!” Guitars continue to add pressure but also loop colors into the shadows, adding new hues to the deep sadness. “All is lost,” Dorge declares, as the sound pounds its way into the ground.

“Summons Has Come” is the longest track at 10:12, and it unleashes a gazey surge at the start, which eventually lets a deluge of guitars cascade and saturate the ground. The track churns and creates smoke, with the guitars smashing holes and letting in rays of light. Later, the song speeds up dangerously, with Dorge basically shredding his throat, howling, “I leave this world behind,” amid a storm of madness. “Veil of Gold” is one of the gnarliest songs here, and the pain and self-loathing is evident. The track feels doomy and heavy, with Dorge declaring, “I am the forgotten.” There’s a slower pace for a while, as the tumult builds, and Dorge unleashes one of his most telling lines of the story when he lashes, “I am a waste of flesh, bury me!” The track continues to descend into darkness from there, as the track bleeds away scornfully. Finale “Requiem” is a shorter, instrumental curtain closer, with solemn guitars buzzing, melody flowing, and the guitars developing atmosphere, with the track dissolving and disappearing.

Wilt have created a devastating, sobering piece with “Ruin,” as this six-track, 44-minute album brings heaviness both in the music and in the painful story it tells. Even if the world isn’t ending, there are people who face personal, seemingly life-ending crises every day, a there is a lot for them to cull from this record. We are fragile, vulnerable, and sometimes it takes a painful tribulation to remind us.

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Ritual Necromancy end silence, bring hellish punishment, sooty death with ‘Disinterred Horror’

I just got done reading a bunch of tweets from people who apparently live in an alternate version of the world where the events of the past two years, especially politically, never happened, and where everything is just fine. It makes me want to run my face into an industrial-sized blender but also just revel in the dreamworld these people are seeing.

This is why I, and the rest of the normal world, need death metal. Sometimes it’s the only thing that makes any sense. Right now, the band bringing that sense of violent normalcy is Ritual Necromancy, a band that likely never had their music described in that manner. Sorry about that. Part of the reason their music is what’s helping me cope is that they’re next up on the review schedule, and I’ve been listening to a ton of their hellish second record “Disinterred Horror.” The other is their music always hits that spot that desires ugly, blood-curdling madness that these guys dish out in buffet-sized portions. We haven’t gotten a full-length from the band since 2011’s “Oath of the Abyss,” so a complete beating from this group—bassist/vocalist JF, guitarists AW and JR, and drummer KS—is long overdue. Here, we get five monstrous tracks packed into an economically served 37:37 that reek of terror and pure death metal punishment. It’s heavy, it’s unforgiving, and it’s even a little bit weird at times, which makes this thing a blast to take on in full.

“To Raise the Writhing Shadows” is our beefy 7:07 opener, and it starts with doom bells chiming and a garbled backward message instilling a sense of evil. Lunching growls erupt, while the slow-paced death assault is on, pouring blood into the machine and bringing it to a grinding halt. Mucky violence and massive punishment unite, while the senses are just obliterated. The pace then speeds up, as the growls envelop, and the track comes to a smothering end. “Command the Sigil” is fast and gross right away, while the mucky growls revel in filth, and the leads catch fire and scorch the flesh. Utter chaos arrives, sending everything into a frenzy, while the final moments are dizzying and bruising.

“Discarnate Machination” has guitars marring, while the growls tears holes in the flesh. The pace trudges and brings deliberate heaviness, while the drumming decimates, and the growls are cavernous and haunting. The sinewy fury later spills into doom-heavy fire, killing everything in its path. “Cymbellum Eosphorous” runs 11 minutes and fades in like a slowly developing nightmare. The guitars swirls and smear, while hellish vocals lead into a sequence that utterly jackhammers. Pained moans and sweltering playing unite, with the guitar work turns jagged and the pace hulking. The mud just gets thicker from there, crushing to the very end. The title track ends the record with thrashy fury, the growls boiling, and the riffs swaggering and chewing. A doomy haze drops and puts you in a fog, while the track erupts again and tears away at the flesh. The guitars catch fire again and even glimmer for a stretch, while the final minutes cut you down, grind your face in the dirt, and deliver a final death blow.

Ritual Necromancy’s music might not be the cure to everyone’s day-to-day cataclysmic frustrations, but fuck if “Disinterred Horror” didn’t come along at the precise right time for me. This record is monstrous and will destroy your world if you’re not ready for its violence. Or, it’ll make all the dumb shits in the world seem like the harmless joke they are as these guys burn out the wiring in your own brain.

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World Untouched By Mankind reveal dungeon synth trip on ‘The Forests Are Old With Grief’

You’re swimming in a murk, unaware of your surroundings but not panicked or frightened. Instead, you’re calm and curious, as you make your way through inky waters and later into the mouth of a forest. This is an adventure, and there may be danger. But you keep on. You have to know what’s next.

That’s the feeling I get when immersing myself in “The Forests Are Old With Grief,” the first recording from World Untouched By Mankind, the ambient dungeon synth project helmed by sole member Night, also of equally strange black metal band Procer Veneficus. The music bleeds into your consciousness while absorbing these five tracks that actually were recorded a decade ago but only now were right to release into the world after they were remastered. Some of the time, these songs also feel like the dew-soaked bed of grass in which you awake after this trip you take, which can be physical or mental. Coming back to your proper surroundings may feel strange as you wonder where you’re been and how the experience will shape you going forward.

The title track starts the journey with eerie, strange synth, as sounds bubble to the surface, and we enter into a foggy fantasy world. “Beneath the Great Oak” is the longest cut at 9:05, and instantly things work their way even deeper into the mist, as melodies swirl and enrapture, and a weird coldness spreads over your body like the amalgamation of spirits. The track turns both woodsy and cosmic, feeling like a soundtrack to a dusty old B sci-fi or horror film, as its grip slowly releases you.

“The Earth Shall Be My Grave” has deep, chiming keys starting off, with laser lines cutting through, and the tempo plodding gently and spookily. The synth has an orchestral feel as it builds, with keys plinking like freezing rain, and the song fading out into mystery. “Cold Caverns of Time” has psyche melodies boiling, as organs swell in a pastoral manner, sending chills down your spine. You head will be floating in a medicine dream, while the pace swelters, and the thing spills into a haunting grave. Closer “Those Who Watched As the World Fell Silent” has passages that feel like they’ve stretched through the entire record and only revealed themselves now. A space haze arrives, as we swirl through a dreams scape, and sounds that remind of an airplane engine add a droning paralysis. The back end of the song feels like it plods through time, with the strangeness building and quietly fading away.

World Untouched By Mankind is a project that isn’t going to move everyone, but those who connect with “The Forests Are Old With Grief” are likely to digest the adventure we mentioned in the opening. You don’t have to travel in your mind to appreciate what’s going on here, but it sure enhances the record. Not sure what future this project has, if any, but this record is here right now to add a layer of experiential wonder unavailable on any body of music elsewhere in the world.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Wayfarer put burnt hues on black metal with West-splashed ‘World’s Blood’

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

There’s a richness in the music that comes from the Western parts of the United States. The real stuff, not the music that’s been captured and defaced by pop culture and what passes as the bulk of modern country music. Those who get it right cut right to the heart with art that feels like it should be splashed with dusk colors, strange noir, and a spiritual richness.

Denver-based black metal band Wayfarer bask in the very hues of their homeland and blend that into their sound. On their third record “World’s Blood,” their first for Profound Lore after having their first two issued by Prosthetic, the band even expands beyond their original sounds and push into sludge and atmospheric doom, albeit in small doses. The band—bassist/vocalist Jamie Hansen, guitarists Shane McCarthy and Joey Truscelli, and drummer Isaac Faulk—digs deep into their Denver roots and the suddenly bustling metallic pools that have gathered in that area, and they also pay homage to those whose footsteps once marked their corner of the earth, only to be forgotten by so many. The music here flows like tributaries of oranges and purples poured down darkened mountainsides, and their destructive strikes and that rage out of shadowy sections give the music a light/dark feeling that cuts to the core and splashes you with a gamut of emotions. It feels like a burnt portrait of the West.

“Animal Crown” kicks off the record with guitars echoing off in the distance before things stomp to life. Hansen’s hauled vocals combined with strong riffs push the thing forward, while the weight of the song causes pressure cracks. Later we hit a breezy calm, but that’s temporary with the assault that follows. The track rolls in atmosphere, with blood-curdling shrieks punching in before the cut’s abrupt end. “On Horseback They Carried Thunder” is the longest track, clocking in at 13:12. Initial serenity builds into gazey clouds that mar vision, and then that bursts into a full storm. A post-metal approach beckons, with growls rushing and your ribcage threatening to rupture. The guitars lead through the dust, as the track gets richer and moodier, and the drums rupture blood vessels. Later, the song goes cold and clean, washing the dirt away, before the assault begins anew. Shrieks and growls mix and maul, with the band hammering the rest of the way home.

“The Crows Ahead Cry War” pokes open and rambles through the mud and slowly increases the pace before we’re full blown into a vicious power surge. The tumult is mixed with some calm, chilling passages, and before long, the track explodes, and riffs are firing madly. The pace shakes the earth, as Hansen shrieks viciously before the song gets spacey and atmospheric, slowly fading out. “The Dreaming Plane” has a murky start, as inky strangeness passes into the water. The guitars sting and rupture, with the band heading a bit into sludgier terrain, and the vocals leaving a path of devastation. The band eases back into tranquility, letting the fog coverage arrive, and the song trickle gently. As expected, the explosion strikes, with the melodies leaving you disoriented, and the track heading out on an icy note. Closer “A Nation of Immigrants” is a mostly rustic acoustic number with clean singing buried under the surface, and a sense of homage being paid to those who first honed the land. Female singing can be heard under the din, while guitars moan, a dusty spirit rides, and the track dissolves into the earth.

Wayfarer have been putting their own touch on American black metal for the past seven years now, and they burst even further out of the crust and make their sound even more gigantic on “World’s Blood.” It’s easy to feel like you’re walking into the heart of a dust storm or the clutches of early evening as the sun sets during this record, and being able to slip into those moods makes this music even deeper. This isn’t black metal that dines on blood and guts; it’s an expression of their portion of America and the ghosts that helped etch history.

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Doom destroyers Witchsorrow revisit past tortures, call for world’s end on ‘Hexenhammer’

Photo by Ester Segarra

It’s great to be able to look at modern times and know that humankind no longer freaks out over things they don’t understand or people who are different from them, and we definitely don’t try to hurt or strip power from those people. Nope, not us. We’ve come a long way the past few centuries, and we’d never think to persecute someone with whom we don’t share the same way of life.

Obviously, that’s fucking bullshit, and in many ways, we’re no better than we were when we were burning and destroying so-called witches. The members of UK-based doom warrior Witchsorrow haven’t forgotten about it over the course of their four full-length records, the latest being the massive “Hexenhammer.” That term comes from another name given to Henricis Institoris’ infamous Malleus Maleficarum, which translated means “hammer of the witch.” That text essentially spelled out the means of torture and extermination of witches, yet another winning moment for Catholic faith. This has been a subject visited before by this band—guitarist/vocalist Necroskull, bassist Emily Witch, and drummer Wilbrahammer—and it leads to seven meaty tracks delivered in the faithful vein of Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Electric Wizard. In addition, Necroskull pours into this record his frustration over the world still not having ended, so you can imagine the fury is blood thick.

“Maleficus” starts the record, a slow-driving instrumental that bubbles over and bleeds right into the ominous title track, which unloads Sabbathy riffs and blistering doom, as one might expect. “It’s heresy, the work of god,” Necroskull wails, while soloing bleeds over, and wild shouts erupt. The band starts bludgeoning at a glacial pace, with the leads melting and leaving a trail of liquid metal. “The Devil’s Throne” is fast and punchy, with Necroskull shouting, “Fall to your knees, the tyrant is here!” The track is thick and fiery, with the soloing blinding as it takes off, the band later chugging so hard your chest is nearly crushed, and everything coming to a smothering end. “Demons of the Mind” mangles in drone, driving slowly through heavy riffs, and Necroskull even unleashes some melodic singing. The soloing scorches the flesh, while the room turns humid, and the heat spreads out from there. The band begins to pound savagely, with coarse yells, and the whole thing spiraling into hell.

“Eternal” is menacing as hell, with Necroskull wailing about “staring into the void again.” The track has a bit of a different approach to it, making for a change of pace, as the verses are catchy, and the pace thrashes. “Spit into the face of fear!” Necroskull howls, while the song speeds up again, cutting through and sludging out. “The Parish” packs sinewy riffs and an evil, bluesy haze that washes over the song. The track gets violent and muddy, with the guitars burning and smoking, and the vocals punishing your senses. The back-end slips into a psychedelic fog before it fades away. Closer “Like Sisyphus” boils at first, slowly building its doomy fires. Necroskull’s shouts remind of Tom G. Warrior’s, with the tempo smashing, and the soloing sparking flames. The track then lights up and sends rocks flying, as every element goes off, and the band mauls you senselessly as the assault bleeds away.

“Hexenhammer” is molten, violent, and punishing, and it’s one of the strongest pieces in Witchsorrow’s history. The band still is a little underappreciated, at least it seems to me, which is a shame since they always deliver the goods. This band realizes our failures to stop criminalizing that which we don’t understand, and unless Armageddon finally answers the band’s whims, they’re sure to be back to rub our faces in our failures once again.

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UK punchers Svalbard address matters within politics, society on fiery ‘It’s Hard to Have Hope’

Often, I have to look at the calendar to check out what four digits are showing that indicate year based on stuff I see on the news and consume over social media. I can’t believe we still are fighting for basic freedoms for so many people, and I say this as a white cis male who doesn’t have shit to worry about. I don’t understand how some people don’t just lose their minds on the regular.

The fact that women still have to struggle for basic needs and rights is fucking insane to me. The fact we’re still trying to litigate what rights women have and don’t have is nuts, and if men were put in the same position, they’d be doing all they can to ensure they don’t have to struggle. What? That already happens? Oh. By the way, if left politics give you the liquid stool, good. Also, you might want to tune out today. prob got some cool shit for you. Anyhow, these issues aren’t limited to America, as Bristol, England-based pounders Svalbard also are fighting the good fight, and their excellent second record “It’s Hard to Have Hope” is both aptly named as well as a punch in the face for anyone who wants to hold women at arm’s length. The band—guitarist/vocalist/lyricist Serena Cherry, guitarist/vocalist Liam Phelan, bassist Adam Parrish, drummer Mark Lilley—is blunt and aggressive with their views, and good for them because fuck passiveness and kindness when it comes to defending basic freedoms. Not only is this record a political and societal firebreather, it’s also a smothering musical display that’s super catchy and ultra-vitriolic.

“Unpaid Intern” gets things off to a volcanic start, as the track grinds with a hardcore-style assault, Cherry’s vocals are fiery as hell, and melody rains down. The vocals wrench while the song is fast and relentless, coming to a crushing end. “Revenge Porn” fights for women’s sexuality and against the aggression they face from people they had the audacity to not want to pursue a relationship with or fuck. “They assume it’s your fault for being a slut,” Cherry bristles, “But it’s not!” while the melodies gush from there, and the band storms hard. “Where is protection for women?” she demands, amid a storm of burning shrapnel. “Feminazi?!” blasts back against one of the most cowardly terms ever invented by a person whose name never will be printed on this site. Barked growls and a walls of power act as a shield against women who have the guts to speak up for themselves, only to be shouted down, and the track is utterly righteous in its rage. “Pro-Life?” asks the pressing question of if pregnant women, sometimes against their choosing, are a part of this. They’re not. It’s pretty clear. Black metal-dripped melodies strike and smear, while Cherry howls, “This body is mine, so the decision is mine!” while the band backs her with heartfelt chaos that hammers home its point.

“For the Sake of the Breed” is situated in aggression and melody, focusing on people’s obsession with pure-bred animals when so many shelter animals need homes (I have three shelter pets, and they’re awesome!). The yowled chorus blasts you in the guts, and Cherry later howls the title of song over and over with authority. Her singing then goes clean, while the playing remains emotional and slightly gazey. “How Do We Stop It?” has a rushing start, with Cherry fighting alongside those who have been inappropriately handled by someone against their will, even if in a mosh pit where the perpetrator thinks he can get away with it. “It’s still sexual assault, how do we fight it?” she calls, with the music punishing and leaving shrapnel behind. “Try Not to Die Until You’re Dead” is a track where the band goes more delicate, and for good reason, as Cherry’s words try to cope with devastation and defeat and tries to relate to others on the same path. The song gets tougher later musically, as Cherry vows, “I may be aching and exhausted, but life’s not over yet!” as she refuses to give in and plows on to the very end. “Iorek” is a quiet instrumental closer that allows you to come down from the chaos and galvanizing emotions you just witnessed, as it gushes and flows, ending on what sounds like a note of hope.

It would be cool if one day bands such as Svalbard could blast out music based on fantasy themes or historical battles or something like that, but until rights are equally distributed, this is going to be their pulpit. “It’s Hard to Have Hope” is a high-energy, punchy record that’s a fun listen but also frustrating as hell because it reminds you again the fight for freedom isn’t over. This band pulls no punches, so if you’re on the wrong side of history, your mouth has a good chance of getting bloodied.

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Witch Mountain breathe new life, deliver smoking, soulful vision on self-titled new opus

In music, as in all life, change is inevitable. It’s rare when a band goes its entire run and keeps its lineup fully intact, and it’s expected that parts are going to drop off here and there with the machine moving forward. Even metal’s great beasts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath dealt with this, so no one is immune.

In 2014, Witch Mountain fans were stunned to learn singer Uta Plotkin has decided to move on from the band to pursue other interests. They were coming off the heels of that year’s excellent “Mobile of Angels,” and it seemed like things were ready to take off. Nonetheless, the band kept moving forward, and they rang up another stunner when it was announced then-19-year-old singer Kayla Dixon was joining the fold to take Plotkin’s place. Dixon was an unknown entity at the time, and many wondered how and if she was capable of taking the reins from a singer with the power and charisma Plotkin had and form a new version of Witch Mountain with guitarist Rob Wrong, drummer Nathan Carson, and bassist Justin Brown. Those questions were buried in the rubble for anyone who saw this lineup live, as they sounded as strong as ever, and Dixon seemed to own her role with dominance. Now, with the band’s fifth record, a self-titled collection, ready to drop, any worries that Dixon isn’t the real deal will be blown to bits. This is a smokier, more soulful Witch Mountain, with a lot of credit heaped her way for her sweltering performance. This record easily should find favor with their longtime fans.

“Midnight” opens the record and is a destroyer, with the band blasting you with bluesy doom attitude, and Dixon taking command right away. “You can crawl all the way to your hole in the ground, I’ll help you down,” she wails, spitting venom all the way. The guitar work is strong and soars into the clouds, while their foggy doom visions rise up and come to a surprisingly grisly end. Then we’re into a punchy cover Spirit’s 1968 cut “Mechanical World,” one that gets treated with some Led Zep-style stomp that gives the track even more life (the guitars stand in for the horn pumps, basically). Dixon injects darkness into the lines, “Somebody tell my father that I died, somebody tell my mother that I cried,” as the band surrounds her with jolting guitar work, a trip later into dreamland, and then a final jarring blast.

“Burn You Down” has been out in the world for a bit, as it was released as a single in 2016, and it maintains its cosmic strangeness and slow-simmering aura. As the song moves on, so does the tempo, and Dixon’s voice reaches out, demanding, “Remember my name!” Later she delivers some sinister, gnarly growls, while the band stirs the pot and gives off an abundance of steam. “Break yourself down!” Dixon calls, while the guitars boil, and static takes us out. “Hellfire” is an interesting one, as it’s built on winds simmering, the track delivering a smooth jazz feel, and Dixon’s sultry singing that shows she’s capable of giving this band a far different personality. It’s short but sweet. Closer “Nighthawk” is the 14:17-long closer, as thick bass and echoing guitars greet you and drag you on the journey. The track pulls the tempo back and forth, sometimes bleeding slowly, and at others going for the throat. Dixon trades off between clean singing and hissed growls, with the song later slowing down and entering psychedelic tunnels. Dixon’s earthy cries and the band’s burning approach bring the heat, ending the record on a melting note.

It’s great to hear Witch Mountain sounding massive and swaggering after losing a vital member of the band, and with Dixon in the fold, they can take things in different directions. You can hear a lot of that on this record, and it’s going to be fun to hear how they shape and shift on future albums. This is a fun, blistering record that brings the humidity and leaves your skin a little scorched.

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