PICK OF THE WEEK: The Sabbathian push past doom convention on stunning debut ‘Latum Alterum’

Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen

If you see the band name The Sabbathian with no details or history of the people involved, what would you immediately think? Abject devotion and worship of the heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath? That would be a great guess, and way to go on that, but you’d only partially be correct. There’s actually a lot more involved, as you’ll find when visiting their debut record “Latum Alterum.”

The duo that comprises this band will be no strangers to most people. Vocalist Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen worked with notable bands such as Nàttsòl and Mandylion, while multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis has been a part of groups including Hour of 13, Mountain of Judgement, the Ritualist and plenty more, and their creative union here started in 2012, with their first offering coming two years later on the “Ritual Rites” EP. But that’s all we got from the band as far as recorded content is concerned until their first full-length “Latum Alterum,” which is being released by Svart Records. Back to that sound you may have anticipated. Sure, there are nods to Sabbath on this record for certain. But their genuflection before doom goes far beyond that as they explore all kinds of textures and atmospheres, never holding themselves back from stretching their muscles but always staying true to the doom spirit. This seven-track, nearly 45-minute record is packed with gloomy spirit and dark majesty, while the themes of the songs revolve around the passing over of one’s soul to the other side, hence the title of “Latum Alterum” that translates to “on the other side.” The record is a journey that will take you there, but it also will keep your emotions charging along the way.

“Requiem … Intro” starts the album with the music floating magically and Gulbrandsen singing of “requiem eternal,” before everything moves into “The Brightest Light” that starts with gut-punch riffs and doom power. “I had to leave this world,” Gulbrandsen laments, as the song pushes into territory that reminds of fallen The Devil’s Blood, and the chorus takes off, with her calling, “All I leave behind, all because of you.” The track continues to haunt, while the guitars buzz, and the song has a crescendoing finish. “Liti Kjersti” has guitars barreling in, while the singing takes on an operatic vastness, later sweltering with dark undertones. The song later gets icy, with Gulbrandsen continuing to lead the mission into a mesmerizing gaze that swims in murk. “Head of a Traitor” begins as if in a dream state, with speaking fluttering, and the track later pushing open. “Are you with me?” Gulbrandsen wails, as riffs compound and twist, with the melodies stirring and striking. The singing reaches for the skies again, as an angelic fury spreads it wings, guitars swirl, and the track ends in a pool of sound.

“One Night of Cruelty” gets going with swaggering guitars that bring added attitude, with the singing feeling more abrasive, and the tempo bathing in filth. Gulbrandsen sings of the stench of rotting flesh, adding to the gore factor of the song, while the intensity is increased, and the guitar work chews. Then things get dreamier, as Gulbrandsen sings of “a place where daylight never enters,” before the song is swallowed by mystery. “Embrace the Dark” is the one track where the Sabbath influence is felt the most, especially in the guitars, while the singing snakes through the murk, and a bruising, yet simple chorus makes its mark. The riffs take off, with the singing pushing into the clouds, leaving odd echoes and eventually psyche-laced soloing that makes your head soak in the chaos. Closer “Evil Hvile/Libera Me …Outro” is immersed in riffs, as Gulbrandsen sings in her native tongue, as a humid feel coats your face with condensation. A mystical fog slowly rises, as the track is enshrouded in clouds, organs emerge, and Gulbrandsen’s voice leads us to the beyond, where life changes forever.

With doom’s borders constantly expanding, bands such as The Sabbathian that are both traditional and seeking to push their reach are going to help keep the sub-genre’s blood healthy. “Latum Alterum” is stirring and emotionally impactful, and you can’t help but feel like you’re transferring over to a new level of understanding along with their music. This is a wholly satisfying debut record pitting two of metal’s often unsung warriors here to prove the power contained within them.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.svartrecords.com/product/latum-alterum/

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

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Blistering death metal crushers Ectovoid halt silence, tear into muscle with mucky ‘Inner Death’

It’s been a long week already, and it seems like as good a time as any to dig into something a little smaller yet just as heavy and weighty as anything else. There’s merit to putting on a more compact collection that can get inside of you, break some bones, and leave you heaving on the floor.

Alabama-based death metal horde Ectovoid are back with a three-track EP (out on 7” vinyl and cassette) “Inner Death,” their first music since a split effort in 2016 and their last full-length “Dark Abstraction,” released in 2015, and it still finds them grinding away with dark, muddy death that leaves ample bruising. The three cuts here, spread over an economical 12 minutes, are more of an appetizer before we hopefully get another full record from the band, and despite it being a smaller serving, it still will leave you filled up for the time being. The band—bassist/vocalist C.B., guitarist C.S., and drummer C.M.—haven’t lost an ounce of their intensity and violent proclivities, and this new EP will make anyone happy who cares to dine on the rotting carcass of true death metal.

“Internal Inversion” is a blast of a start, as it gets right at your throat immediately with echoed growls and an assault that comes right for you. The music sounds like crusty old death, as chaos bleeds from the cracks, and everything ends abruptly. “Archaic Memories Unearthed” smashes open with the leads blistering and growls destroying before the pace changes on a dime, with the guitars surging into the mud. The trudging continues over the body of the song, releasing cavernous power and eventually a burst of speed that thrashes to its finish. Closer “Isolation in Mind Continuum” has guitars firing up, with the music bubbling and smothering, blasting in classic death-style soloing that’ll burn your blood. The vocals strangle as the song settles into a death groove, punching away as the track fades into eerie strangeness, odd chants, and misery.

It’s been nearly a half decade since Ectovoid dropped a full-length record on our skulls, but this EP “Inner Death” is a strong tide-you-over release until they conjure a complete album. Hey, we’re not bitter, as these things take time if you’re going to do it right, so it’s nice having something in which to sink our teeth for now. This is a mangling blast that’ll hammer you before you’re even aware of it.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://helterskelterproductions.bandcamp.com/album/inner-death

For more on the label, go here: http://www.helterskelterproductions.se/

And here: https://www.bloodharvest.se/

Astrophobos continues to add juicy, melodic madness to black metal with ‘Malice of Antiquity’

There is a lot of black metal out there. I’ll go ahead and say it: There is too much of it and too many bands doing the same thing that it’s hard to get excited about newer artists because I’m at complete overload. But this comes with the job, and it’s great when you can put on a record and get your blood going as soon as the music strikes.

That exact thing happened the first time I put on “Malice of Antiquity,” the second full-length from Swedish black metal horrors Astrophobos, the first complete offering since their 2014 debut. OK, so this isn’t exactly a new band, but they’re one that’s working its way back into the conversation, and we were pretty fired up about their 2016 EP “Enthroned in Flesh,” so we did have some working knowledge going into this. But for real, as soon as this thing gets started, it checks every box of what we’re hoping for from a quality black metal band, from the pure savagery, to the darkened melodies, to the complete show of force they unleash. The record is a blast from start to finish, and the band—vocalist/bassist Mikael Broman and guitarists Jonas Ehlin and Martin Andersson (drums were handled by session player Giuseppe Orlando of The Foreshadowing. Former drummer Jocke Wallgren now plays with Amon Amarth)—returns to remind you they belong in the conversation when discussing some of the better black metal bands that have flown under radars.

“Fire of Catharsis” starts the record with a slash to the chest as raw growls blast and the track heads into pure black metal hell. That’s the immediate sign I was talking about earlier that this record would be a keeper. It continues from there with Broman wailing, “Mountainous leviathan is rising from the past, black miasmas slowly spread,” with the track coming to a fiery finish. “Begotten in Black” has riffs exploding as vicious growls strike, and killer melodies pave the way to the chorus. From there, the words are practically spat out, the playing rattles your brain, and the track ends suddenly. “Descending Shadows” has a strong bassline rolling in, guitars rising, and a slow-driving pace leaving welts. The growls scrape along as the horror builds, and after a brief stretch of cold, the madness strikes again, and everything fades out in blood. “Abattoir for Flesh and Faith” has riffs igniting, the vocals carving a path, and the tempo rattling cages. The verses are creaky and well crafted, while a foray into the fog arrives at another assault complete with fierce growls, melody flooding, and a grim, morbid conclusion.

“The Summoning Call” starts in acoustics before a terror tale unfolds, and the band sets up a heavy, engaging atmosphere in which to pummel you as they do right up until the track fades out into mystery. “The Wolves Between the Stars” has fast, catchy riffs right away, with growls rupturing the peace, and the chaos having a European folk essence to it, even though it’s purely volcanic black metal that destroys you right up to its sudden end. “Until the Red of Dawn” also bathes in acoustics to start before the track opens up fully and swallows you whole. The chorus is crazed and manic yet also super catchy, while the final section bites back harder, with Broman envisioning “feasting upon human flesh,” before mercy finally arrives. “The Nourishing Hate” gets going with fluid riffs and Broman calling, “The coming of the night, the arbiter of all,” amid gushing melodies. That intensity continues through a battery of fire and blood before coming to a massive end. “Imperator Noctis” closes the album and arrives with quiet acoustics and whispery vocals before the track levels up with stirring guitars and exploding stars. Once again, it feels like Euro folk is in the DNA of this firebreather, as the riffs storm the gates, the drums quake, and some choral sections breathe different life into the chorus. The drama continues to build to a dangerous level, leading to a heart-rushing, smothering finish that’ll leave you in the blackness.

If you want a seriously drubbing, satisfying slab of honest black metal, you don’t have to look further than “Malice of Antiquity.” Astrophobos hopefully will turn more heads with this nine-track stomper, and each visit with the record has been a bloodbath of chaos we’ve been happy to experience. This is a crushing record that has the makings of one of this year’s breakout metal albums and should push them into forefront of a bustling black metal scene that they could put in a chokehold.

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

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

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

Masters of surprise Krallice return with warped, prog-fed EP ‘Wolf’ that’ll finish you off

I woke up New Year’s Day morning, and I went straight to the Bandcamp app to see if there were any surprise releases that day. It all stems from when I arose Jan. 1, 2016, to find a new Krallice EP “Hyperion” had dropped suddenly, with no prior warning, so I’m trying very hard not to get fooled again.

Lo and behold, the NYC black metal experimentalists waited nine days longer than I anticipated to deliver another surprise EP, as this time the band dropped “Wolf,” a five-track, 15-minute offering that finds the band as their most compact yet when it comes to compositions, as well as at their weirdest, which is saying something. You’ll definitely recognize the band as Krallice when you tackle these songs, but they are playing with your mind here, sometimes slowing things down, at other places cutting you off at the pass just when you think the adventure is starting. They still deliver mind-bending black metal that has become their calling card, and they do that better than anyone else, but the added wrinkles add another element of mystery from the guys—bassist/vocalist Nick McMaster, guitarist/vocalist Colin Marston, guitarist Mick Barr, and drummer Lev Weinstein—as they insist on remaining cosmically unpredictable and volatile.

The title track gets things started, and at 5:26, it’s the longest song on the record. Things begin spaciously, as sounds float on clouds before barked growls rip at the skin and start the bleeding. The pace is doomier than usual and moves slowly at times before the leads light up, and the song blends into the ether. The track is strange and hypnotic before unleashing a proggy burst that goes all over before the song ends. “The Mound” crushes and thrashes right away, as the vocals are roared, and the playing is tricky as hell. The song sends spew flying, as the playing bashes and corrodes, eventually dissolving into strange noise. “.:.” is a brief 15-second crush of prog fury, almost like you’re dipping in and out of a dream, before going into instrumental cut “Church” that has the bass slinking and the guitars slurring and spreading pain. The music spirals and expands, as guitars swirl in the air, and different melodies are poured into a blender and melded into one liquid. From there, ghostly winds arrive, giving an eerie feel that eventually folds into space “Time Rendered Omni” ends the exercise with a killer riff rising and killing, the song heading to the races, and your psyche being challenged. Death growls strike and gurgle, fueling the final minute of savagery that is dragged behind once the gas pedal is struck, with everything ending abruptly.

“Wolf” currently is a digital-only release found on Krallice’s Bandcamp, though Gilead Media announced a physical version will follow. This is yet another strange turn for the band, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise as they always seem to come back with something a little different. Krallice remain one of the most creative, ambitious bands on the planet, and as long as that trait remains, we’re always bound to get something captivating with each release.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://krallice.bandcamp.com/album/wolf-ep

PICK OF THE WEEK: Noctambulist’s furious death explores space on fiery ‘Atmosphere of Desolation’

What better way to go into a weekend than with a bludgeoning serving of death metal served up by a fairly mysterious new band from one of the hot beds of this style of music in the United States? This isn’t really telling you a lot, I know, and once you’re done reading this, you won’t know much more about the band than what their punishing first record sounds like.

Before the arrival of Noctambulist’s debut record “Atmosphere of Desolation” arrived in my email, the only thing I or most people knew about them was the one song they had released on their own Bandcamp page. That’s about it. Hard to get too worked up about what was to come on this six-track effort, but it didn’t take long after ripping into this music to discover the Rocky Mountain area is rife with this mind-altering, devastating death metal that makes you feel like you’re being chewed by a combine while your mind wanders outer space. Released by Blood Harvest Records along with Helter Skelter Productions, this blood-soaked, artistically aggressive collection comes your way in just a couple weeks’ time, so you have opportunity to adjust yourself for another death metal band that wants to push this style even further as far as ferocity and creativity are concerned. The initialed band members—vocalist S.M., guitarist A.T., bassist R.H., drummer M.N—deliver this album with earth-quaking intensity, and each visit with the music is another round in the fighting pit as you try to keep your head above the fray.

“Dimming Lights Illuminate” is a quick opener that dwells in doomy chaos as vicious wails are unleashed, sounds hang in the air, and the madness is swallowed by the dark. “Abnegation” starts in grinding death, as the fury builds its intensity, growls gurgle, and the playing smears soot and blood. The growls get more monstrous while the playing swelters, giving off thick humidity before fading into mystery. The cut is mucky and punishing, getting tricky and making your mind work overtime, while the band even digs into some hardcore-style lashing. The growls penetrate before the song goes clean and cold, conjuring fog before ramping back up, with shrieky vocals inducing fear. The noise sizzles, the growls pummel you, and the track dissolves into a noise bath.

“Jubilant Cataclisym” has gurgling growls bubbling under the surface before savagery erupts in whole, and heavy storming begins to chew up the surface. Guitars jar while layers of filth are laid down, only to have atmosphere emerge from behind the blazes before washing out in a dark haze. “Denial of Autonomy” is an immediate burst as it lurches and crushes like a beast, with smothering chaos slicing through bone, and wild screams piercing your hearing. The track melts into calm for a stretch before cymbals crash, riffs crawl, and the track ends in a devastating blast. “Habitual Falsehood” ends the record by bleeding in and launching grisly growls as the tempo blisters the body, guitars spiral, and the drums utterly destroy. The guitars slash away, while the ground rumbles underneath you, the pace thickens dangerously, and the song loosens its stranglehold as it disappears into the night.

2018 was a banner year for great death metal, and Noctambulist are making sure that momentum kicks into the new year on the strength of “Atmosphere of Desolation.” This is a record that wastes little time putting the boots to you, and throughout the meaty six songs, you’re in for a clash from which you won’t soon recover. Yet, there’s something more, elements buried deeper in the music that go beyond mere skullduggery, and it’ll take multiple visits for you to unearth each layer buried beneath the surface.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/noctambulist303/

To buy the album, go here: https://helterskelterproductions.bandcamp.com/album/atmosphere-of-desolation

For more on the label, go here: http://www.helterskelterproductions.se/

And here: https://www.bloodharvest.se/

Moondweller, Hænesy combine to take black metal into cosmos on gazey split ‘Earth and Space’

This isn’t a terribly easy time of the year for a site that tries to fill its pages with discussion about new music ready to hit the, um, shelves. Those shelves can be digital, you know. Anyway, it’s been tough sledding trying to find stuff these early days of January, so that took us to do some hunting for some things that were swimming underneath the surface.

Truth be told, I was at the gym last week between sets, scrolling through new metal releases on my Bandcamp app when I came across “Earth and Space,” a stunning split effort combining Russian atmospheric black metal band Moondweller with Hungarian black metal entity Hænesy. I decided to give it a go, dropped a few bucks for the music, and holy hell, was I ever happy I did that. Here I found four tracks, two by each band (I knew of neither before this), that are packed with power, emotion, and unquestionable melody, but smeared into a primitive black metal delivery that made the songs feel raw, yet energetic. There is precious little available about each band online, which also is kind of refreshing. It’s like falling into a universe you didn’t expect to visit, yet here you are, forced to find your way around. Hænesy formed in 2017 and have a demo from that year and last year’s full-length debut “Katruzsa,” that I have since visited and love. Moondweller’s history only can be tracked to last year, delivering their debut full-length “The Search” almost 12 months ago.

Hænesy’s portion begins with “Eternal Rest” that has a clean introduction that soars through atmospheric gaze before the thunder strikes. Right away, you can feel the emotion in the song as well as in the guttural screams, as the track gushes and then crashes into an ethereal fog, with a synth haze rising out of that. The song then bursts anew, with a speedier tempo, cries piercing the sky, and riffs taking over, leading the track on a daring, punchy collision before bleeding out into serenity. “An Onthology of Void” wraps their section as it spills open, blistering your senses before bringing on a penetrating chill. The track has gothic undertones, with wrenching wails and guitars firing up and cutting through its center. Growls build with intensity while the music hammers your mind, the vocals later reveal anguish, and the song flows out into calm.

Moondweller arrive with “World Entwined,” where they usher in dark menace countered by lush and atmospheric guitars. Sounds crash while melodies rain down, and cavernous growls jar you into the current. The pace later toughens as guitars chug away, and a spoken section slides underneath stormy synth before the track revamps with life. There’s a hugeness to the sound, which finally crests and washes away in waves. “Unknown Signals” is their finale, and right away the feel is heavier, as drums pound away, the vocals splatter, and a stormfront hangs overhead. Guitars swelter while the drums devastate, punching holes in any sense of calm, eventually working into slow-driving trudging. All along the way, the band’s playing leaves welts and bruising as they up the ante over the final moments before the chaos gives way and rests finally in a bed of plinking keys.

Now is a great time to go exploring for new music and bands that haven’t come to you yet, which is what led me to Moondweller and Hænesy. “Earth and Space” is an excellent, ridiculously affordable split putting together two bands with like-minded approaches but who translate their art much differently. This music is ideal for late-night sky-gazing, enjoying a dark ale during self-introspection, or simply for indulging in black metal that’s hungry to go beyond modern expectations.

For more on Moondweller, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Moondweller.Official

For more on Hænesy, go here: https://www.facebook.com/haenesy/

To buy the album, go here: https://blackmourningproductions.bandcamp.com/album/h-nesy-moondweller-earth-and-space

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

Meat Mead Metal: Best of December

Holy hell, YOU try to go on Spotify and put together a Best of December list. Not easy. OK, so there are bands I could not put on this list that put out awesome music in December. Looking at you Zealotry, Dødsferd, and Serpent Column. I tried! Oh, and Horehound’s record came out one day before December, but their album didn’t hit Spotify until December, so I included them here because their new one is great. And “The Kind” will kill you. Also, we didn’t get the promo for the Jarboe album, but she’s amazing, so here’s song from it. Anyway, enjoy this one.