PICK OF THE WEEK: Doom, chaos explode into Desolate Shrine’s death on filthy ‘…Godless Void’

It’s been dark and dreary here the past few days, just weeks after I complained in one of these very opening paragraphs that it was way too bright and warm for this far into the autumn. Now, cold rains fall, the skies are thick and ashy, and it’s time soon for hibernation while the darkness envelops everything, and the lush green shrivels and dies.

These morbid times provide a perfect setting for dark, destructive music, and the new record from Finnish death metal unit Desolate Shrine is about to land in our laps. “Deliverance From the Godless Void” is the band’s fourth record in just a six-year span, and it continues their terrifying blackness and drilling far into the Earth’s crust. The band’s three members—vocalist/lyricist M.T., vocalist R.S., and multi-instrumentalist L.L.—have been the backbone of this unit ever since their 2011 debut “Tenebrous Towers,” and as they spill into this new record, their death gets deadlier, the doom elements are murkier, and there even are some forays into more adventurous terrain. These eight songs sprawl over nearly 57 minutes, and you are taken for a skull-bashing trip as they spread their horrifying tidings over songs that demand your attention and that do their best to maul you over their ample running times.

“The Primordial One” tears the roof off this record, as growls rumble and dark cloudy shifts make the earth move beneath you. The band then slides into a furious death groove, complete with murky crashing, wild yells behind the feral growls, and smearing death that disappears in a cosmic cloud. “Lord of the Three Realms” has a gruff, almost sludgy start, with guitars boiling over and the punishment coming due. Dark mashing leads its way into a blinding storm, while the guitars go off on an exploration, giving a proggy edge. From there, crazed growls and manic playing send the song out in terror. “Unmask the Face of False” is the longest cut, stretching over 10:15 and beginning with moaning guitars before the assault touches down. A doomy, funereal ambiance is laid out, while synth swells, and the feeling of morbidity is impossible to shake. Out of the shadows come spiraling guitars, grinding vocals, and an attack that just stops all of a sudden.  “The Waters of Man” is pulverizing and spindling, with the riffs chewing and disorienting, and the pace giving off steam. Guitars swim in the chaos, monstrous growls emerge, and the final moments crush the soul.

“The Graeae” is another beast at 9:06, with acoustics rising from the swamp and eerie whispers sending chills up the spine. The music smears soot, while the growls are vicious, and the pace swelters in a calculated heatwave. Melody and darkness mix as the band finds a new level of heaviness, flooding the violent ending with dark misery. “Demonic Evocation Prayer” has death riffs destroying, the pace pummeling, and an eerie cold coming in suddenly and leaving frost. But it’s not long until the temperature rises again, with the playing heading into sludgy death, the pace drilling, and a guttural strike bleeding away. “The Silent Star” releases disorienting playing and a mashing death assault, leading the song toward total obliteration. The band turns into a thrashy dose of death, while the vocals smother faces, a doomy path is taken, and the nightmare rushes out. Closer “…Of Hell” is spooky and unsettling at first, as it lets music drip like blood before things get ugly. The band goes in an unexpected trippy corner, with the growls lurching and getting strange, the horror piling up, and the music blending into a nightmare of noise and organs.

Desolate Shrine remain as beastly and dangerous as ever, and the songs on “Deliverance From Godless Void” sound like they originated in a black pit of goo filled with pestilence. They’ve been a rather prolific band since their formation, and each new chapter provides more violent twists and turns into oblivion. This is as ugly as Desolate Shrine have sunk, and this record will match those dark nights and frigid temperatures perfectly.

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

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

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

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Barrowlands’ progressive push colors their black metal, splits path toward nature on ‘Tyndir’

The worst thing that ever happened to Earth is the human race. Yeah, I know. All the technological advancements, the rise of the industrial age, all the things we have learned about ourselves and other worlds. Where would that be? It likely would be a place without wars, pollution, rising climate change, defaced forests, you name it. We kind of suck.

When we humans are out of here, the Earth likely will go through a phase of inactivity, when the land is unkempt and unseeded, a sort of recovery period after what we did with the place. Hopefully we leave something behind worth re-growing. The concept is called “Tyndir” in the old Norse language, and it’s the name of the second record from progressive black metal band Barrowlands. Formed six years ago from the remnants of black metal band Mary Shelley and prog-infused band Lykaia, this group formed about six years ago, and their debut record “Thane” was released in 2014. This new record is a five-track offering that enraptures your mind, violently at times, and allows you into their portal to be immersed in their world. The band—guitarist/vocalist David Hollingsworth, guitarist Jay Caruso, bassist Chris Gaye, cellist Ray Lorenz, and drummer Martti Hill—spreads their power over 43 minutes and mangles your guts, spinning back and forth from violence to introspection, chaos to melancholy.

“Hyperion” gets the record started with a prog-fueled black metal mind frame, as strong melodies and carving growls chew their way into the scene. The track then gets ugly and vicious, as the pace swims back and forth, and the guitar lines twist and turn, potentially giving you vertigo. Nasty vocals return as the hammer drops, and though a moment of calm rises at a point, we end in more pain and a tornadic final few moments. “Light of a Dead Star” opens calmly, letting you soak in serenity before everything bursts wide open. The pace enraptures, while the growls crush your soul, and from there, the guitars catch fire and begin revolving around you. Hollingsworth’s vocals scrape the ground, while the tempo just detonates and drubs harshly. The low end rumbles like a storm, but caught up in that are infectious melodies, guitars that just go off, and an assault that rips hard until it reaches its end point.

“Wind and Rain” begins a run of three nine-minute-plus songs that end the album, this one coming in on acoustics before the drums rumble, and the vocals tear holes all over again. The cello slips into and then behind the chaos, adding different textures, while the band group shouts behind Hollingworth’s fierce shrieks, which push this thing over the top. Atmospheric pressure returns, letting the music get spacious, and heavy emotion pours over the back end, as rustic beauty adds character, the leads cut through, and the melody flows away. “Woodland Rebirth” gives a chill at first before sunbeam-emblazoned lead guitars burst through, and then the bottom drops out. The band pushes their might forward, as the music floods the senses and destroys any hint of calm. The pace later changes and slips into a slow-driving mauling, as clean guitars drip over the pit of sludge and then catch fire and burn through that. The band hits hyperdrive for the final blast, ending in thunderous fashion. “Empty Hands Grasping” closes the record, getting off to a rousing start, as Hollingsworth’s growls lacerate, and the storm comes to a head. The intensity falls back a bit for a while, as the cello work rises, the melodies mesmerize, and then everything erupts anew. The vocals wrench while the music pummels, and their penchant for overwhelming you with melody again becomes a factor. Moody playing rolls in, the fires rage high, and the grisly power gives way to quiet acoustics and fades into the trees.

Barrowlands journey to where they are now hasn’t been the smoothest one, as they’ve re-sown their own field a few times to get where they are today. The band paints a volatile picture between nature and humankind on “Tyndir,” one that posits we are not long for this place in a struggle the Earth eventually will win over one of its main inhabitants. That, itself, is a morbid thing to think about, and this music adds volatility and imagination to that topic in a way that could have your senses quaking.

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

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

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

Icelandic black metal mashers AUƉN pour atmospheric chaos, emotion into ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’

I’ve never been to Iceland, but a lot of my friends have. From what I’ve been told, it’s a beautiful, picturesque country that gets in your head and makes you feel like you’re in a dream. That makes some sense when you hear the country’s brand of black metal. I know the music is supposed to be ugly and violent, but so much of the Icelandic brand arrests the heart.

That trend continues with AUƉN, another wise signing from Season of Mist and one that feels apropos coming to us right now. It feels like a fog is covering this entire record, one that enraptures you, tricks you, perhaps enlightens you. Maybe it really is their homeland, but black metal from this region always sounds interesting and emotionally invested, not always paying mind to violence and morbidity but instead using the style to expand their dream world. This band very much is the same, which they prove on their sprawling, powerful second record “Farvegir Fyrndar,” the follow-up to their 2014, self-titled debut. The band—vocalist Hjalti Sveinsson, guitarists Aðalsteinn Magnússon and Andri Björn Birgisson, bassist Hjálmar Gylfason and drummer Sigurður Kjartan Pálsson—creates sounds that should make your blood and mind soar, with their deep, spacious energy powering these nine songs forcefully.

“Veröld Hulin” begins with drums rumbling and clean guitars trickling before the eruption comes and sends rock and debris everywhere. The song takes on a Primordial feel, which is a great thing, as raspy growls, heavy atmosphere, and even some speed come into play. The clouds lower and get thicker, while strong soloing cuts in, and the song grinds out. “Lífvana Jörð” sounds like a black metal flood as it starts, with growls gashing, the drums crushing, and melodies ripping like a hurricane. A gazey fog hovers over the chorus, while the front holds up and saturates the ground. “Haldreipi Hugans” is like a cold, dreary morning before the tempo kicks into gear, and the shrieks begin to devastate. Heavy emotion plays a major role, but then things get chilly and aggravated. Out of the cold, wrenching growls chew into flesh, while the song blows apart, colors pour, and there’s a thunderous end. “Prísund” is a sound gush, as guitars begin to smear, and the growls come in hard. The music is compelling and huge, with the song kicking into high gear, raw howls carving, and the track blasting away.

“Ljósaslæður” has a drizzling, frosty beginning before the ground ruptures, and the band pounds the earth. Growls rip open gaping wounds, while the savagery meets up with a driving rain, and the intensity is applied in thick layers. The back end of the song is a monstrous display, leading toward “Blóðrauð Sól” and its glorious collection of riffs. Deeper growls give a meatier edge, while blood and violence spread, the guitars rouse the emotions, and the track comes to a sudden, bristling end. “Eilífar Nætur” starts like so many others, in a frigid gaze that reaches out its arms, letting the song blow up in your face. The music starts to destroy, while the growls sink in its teeth and gnaw away. A gazey deluge floods over, pouring toward a tidal wave of guitars and a gigantic finish. “Skuggar” spits energy, as the growls engorge, and the music overwhelms the senses. The music here is huge, with a heaving heart, and the song twists and contorts your senses as you writhe on the ground. Closer “Í Hálmstráið Held” has a relentless start, as melodies blister, the blood rushes, and the growls inflict pain. The massive assault eventually eases, while the journey approaches a trudging fog, settling into serenity. But that’s not for long. The song rages back to life, the band unleashes every ounce of their humanity, and the blazing continues until it finally fades into the background.

AUƉN provide even more promise from the Icelandic black metal scene, and “Farvegir Fyrndar” is a massive introduction to the band for newcomers, and a rousing new serving for those who have followed the entire path. The song rushes with atmospheric glory and dark emotions, and the music here is smothering and fiery. They do their homeland proud and prove that they can be one of the most formidable bands Iceland has produced the past few years.

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

To buy the album, go here (North America): https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): https://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Blaze of Perdition continue to survive, distribute black metal chaos on ‘Conscious Darkness’

Tragedy can have a lot of different effects on people, and everyone reacts to it in a different way. It’s something that could break you down and erode your strength, leaving you a shell of yourself. Or it can make you stronger emotionally and psychologically as you try to carry on and drag yourself to the top of the heap again.

Polish black metal power Blaze of Perdition have seen their share of challenges over their time together, but nothing compares to what befell the band in 2013. While traveling on tour in Austria, a road accident took the life of bassist Ikaroz, and the other members—vocalist S and drummer Vizun (XCIII also is a member, on guitars)—were left severely injured, themselves on the brink of demise. No one would have blinked an eye had they decided they’d had enough. It’s very similar to what happened to Baroness, and like that band, Blaze of Perdition decided their fires still raged, and they were hellbent to prove that. They did so on 2015’s “Near Death Revelations” and they continue that intensity on their new full-length “Conscious Darkness,” a four-track, 43-minute record that challenges you mind, body, and spirit. The shortest track here still is 7:58 long, so you can imagine what awaits you on the other three cuts that delve into death and its black hands, a force with which the band is all too familiar.

“A Glimpse of God” opens with a line speaking about getting to understand what god even is before the song opens up into boiling black metal and wild shrieks from S. Gruff singing snakes its way in, as the song goes back and forth from gruff to eerie, and it starts to feel like you’re being lured into the void. “Sacrifice is suffering!” S wails, as the anguish spills, and the song manages to get even uglier. Whispered growls and pained noise break through, while S writhes in torment as the trudging terror fades. “Ashes Remain” is the longest cut, spilling over 14:48 and starting with a violent blast. “Nothing survives the flame, the fire!” S howls, as melody and nastiness combine, and the storming assault begins to threaten the horizon. The band then settles into a filthy death groove as sickening wails get into your guts, the singing takes on a Tom Warrior morbidity, and the track rushes to the gates.

“Weight of the Shadow” is the aforementioned “short” song, beginning with the music surging, rough growls blackening eyes, and the band slashing away dramatically. The vocals crush while the pace tramples, and then the assault begins to penetrate your organs. Cold guitars pelt the ground with ice, while the track spirals into desolate space. “Detachment Brings Serenity” ends the record with a volcanic charge, as frosty melodies bring a wintry feel, but then we’re right into the heart of a relentless fire, as the growls rumble and a hazy melody covers everything with fog. Chaos stretches into the atmosphere, feeling cleansing and true, while the song tears into your heart and numbs your bones. Shadowy singing gives the song a proper New Wave feel, while the final minutes draw blood and eventually moan away.

Blaze of Perdition have come a long way since they nearly were ripped from existence, and “Conscious Darkness” is a harrowing, dark tunnel that swallows you and drags you through its sickening twists and turns. This is challenging black metal that pushes the limits of the genre and makes the listener stare down something uncomfortable. It’s coming for us all, death, and music like this only can serve to ease our path in nothingness.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.agoniarecords.com/index.php?lang=EN&pos=shop

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

Krallice keep giving surprises, team up with doom legend on mind-warping destroyer ‘Loüm’

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us three times? Come on now. There’s no such thing anymore as a surprise when it comes to NYC-based black metal experimentalists Krallice. They’ve lulled us to sleep too many times only to hit us with unexpected new music, so our guards are up now, you see.

Well, to their credit, the band did let us know this was coming. A new full-length record called “Loüm,” the band’s seventh album, was warned in social media posts by Krallice, but they didn’t say when they’d strike. Oh, and they did tell us they’d have a special guest on this one handling pretty much all of the vocals, that being Neurosis bassist Dave Edwardson. No big deal, you know? Just one of the most inventive black metal bands in existence teaming up with a doom demigod. Probably won’t be too many high expectations for this collection. So, this past Friday, there it was on their Bandcamp site, these gargantuan five new tracks along with one of the most intriguing guests spots ever, just waiting to be scrutinized. And wouldn’t you know it, but Krallice—guitarist/vocalist Mick Barr, guitarist Colin Marston, bassist/vocalist Nicholas McMaster, drummer Lev Weinstein—raised the bar yet again, and Edwardson fits right in with them, like a grisly, weathered glove. Make no mistake: This is decidedly a Krallice record, only with some extra layers of noise and a burlier voice out front. This is the next step in their evolution, one that should excite the piss out of all of their fans.

“Etemenanki” begins the record in the midst of a punishing tornado, as the pace blisters, and the bass playing rollicks. Edwardson’s furious growls then begin to pound away. “Consciousness resuming at a deeper level, forgotten realms remembered, false constructs revealed!” The music swims beneath that and fully disorients, while scathing cries and nasty shouts mix within a synth bath, giving off ample heat before the song comes to a gruff, but fiery, finish. “Rank Mankind” has guitars pouring generously, as a terrifying assault later is tempered so that control can be had momentarily. “Little man, you’re useless to me, I hate you, you have no value,” is shouted, a line that feels disgustingly spot on these days, while guitars spiral, and the tempo tramples. Synth rises out of that torment, finally floating off and glimmering on the horizon.

“Retrogenesis” is equally as pissed off and caustic, as tricky playing leads to delirium, and the song itself applies an ungodly amount of pressure to your tender temples. The bass flexes its muscles again while noise flutters, and then the thing is torn to shreds, coming to a devastating end. The title cut blasts from the gate, but it takes its time building its foundation, letting you take a beating for a while first. The vocals tear into the flesh of the song as the music goes cold, leaving chills all over your body. Screams and growls smear together, while the band unleashes a monster out of that calm pocket, and the playing gets even more dangerous and compelling. The speed increases, sounds hover, and the track stings right to its final moments. Closer “Kronus Deposed” has an insane beginning, as melodies twist, chaos spreads, and again, we’re trapped at the heart of the storm. Guitars create a thick fog, while the rhythms chop put of that, and a perplexing stretch picks up. The final few minutes of the song are some of the most exciting of any Krallice record as the elements combine and set off explosions, while lightning-fast guitar work lays in a beating, and your senses are drilled until you beg for submission.

Just so you know, there’s yet another new Krallice record expected before the year’s up, because apparently they have a lot of time to kill? But “Loüm” is our first stop, and it’s a hammering display that’s as inventive as it is fun. Krallice only knows how to destroy boundaries and obliterate expectations, and the fact they give us almost no warning makes it impossible to fully prepare.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/krallice

Or here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: APMD smother and unleash devastation with earth-blasting ‘Hostage Animal’

It’s the end of the week, so why not cap things off with a venomous burst of audio violence? I know we’re supposed to be getting to relax for the weekend and think of some fun Halloween shit to do, but you can’t shake the frustrations of the week that easily, right? Right.

So, it’s an ideal time for All Pigs Must Die to walk back into our lives after four years away. Their massive third record “Hostage Animal” is another feral blast of metal, hardcore, noise, and death, 10 tracks that’ll knock out your teeth and pour salt all over those gaping wounds. Recorded at Kurt Ballou’s GodCity Studios (naturally), this band of veterans has plied their trades in tons of bands you know and love and unleash savagery and chaos over this 35-minite album. The combination of vocalist Kevin Baker (The Hope Conspiracy), guitarists Brian Izzi (Trap Them) and Adam Wentworth (Bloodhorse, ex-The Red Chord), bassist Matt Woods (also of Bloodhorse), and drummer Ben Koller (Converge, Mutoid Man) just unloads on this record, an album that sets fire to the path they carved with “God Is War” and “Nothing Violates This Nature” and leaves shrapnel and blood behind. It’s a total demolition job, a record that’s perfect for helping alleviate the pressure building up in your brain.

The punishment begins with the title track, as the cut rips open, and Baker howls about “crawling in the cages of misery.” The band hits a thrashy burst, as the riffs ensnare, the drums blast, and everything comes to a dramatic finish. “A Caustic Vision” is packed with raspy shouts and relentless speed, as the band chops away and brings wind milling guitars. A final gallop from the band takes us into the collection’s shortest cut “Meditation of Violence,” a 52-second scorcher. Gnarly violence unfolds, as Baker shouts, “Total chaos unfolds!” a line that might as well be the song’s summary. “Slave Morality” has an eerie, ghostly start, and the song builds from there as the guitars heat up, and we’re full bore into the thing about two minutes into the track. The growls gut punch while the riffs sprawl, and a monstrous, metallic pace is the tidal wave that drags everything under. “End Without End” has drums rustling and throat-mangling growls, as the pace tempers, and the feedback spreads. Voices echo before the song turns a chilling clean, and mechanical guitars take over from there and push into a stunning haze of noise.

“Blood Wet Teeth” is a quick charger, demolishing everything in its way and setting the room on fire. Baker wails about a force that “devours all flesh” while the band hits a death-thrash groove and leaves bodies convulsing. “Moral Purge” is another quick one, lasting just 1:38 but packing enough insanity, explosive playing, and threatening madness to last you a few hours. “Cruelty Incarnate” simmers in doom at the start before wild shrieks pierce the curtain, and the tempo burns faces. “Let them burn!” Baker insists, while savagery and melody wage war over the final minute. “The Whip” is unhinged, tearing open and speeding toward the gates with reckless abandon. Baker shouts about “the lambs to the slaughter,” a common saying but one even more apropos considering what’s in the news and on social media every day. The back end of the track begins to liquify, flowing into its noise-marred end. “Heathen Reign” closes the album, and its 6:36 run time makes it the longest song here. A black metal boil generates heat, while the track begins to stomp bones. Baker screams of a “killing machine ready to die” as the guitars gain atmosphere before going ugly again. The band turns up the heat one last time, unleashing pain and charred emotions, as the song bleeds its way into the sewers.

A thunder-storming wave of power is perfect for getting us ready for a weekend after a tumultuous week, and All Pigs Must Die have the sickening fury to accomplish just that. “Hostage Animal” is another destructive building block in their jackhammering fortress, and a few years away only galvanized their chaotic hearts. This band continues to smash bones and smear blood, and their fires don’t appear anywhere near being extinguished.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://www.southernlord.com/store

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

Lustre thrust into fantastical realms, layer mind with murky dreamland on ‘Still Innocence’

A massive degree of heavy metal is ensconced with horrors, anger, sadness, and darkness, mostly because the times in which we live also are flooded with those things. It’s difficult to indulge in social media, watch the news, or even have conversations at work without talk going black in a hurry, and it’s a shame it’s come to that.

But it doesn’t have to be that way all the time when indulging into more extreme sounds, and long-running project Lustre has returned with a record that easily could take you out of the doldrums. “Still Innocence,” the new five-track, 35-minute record from sole creator Nachtzeit, who has helmed this journey ever since 2008, doesn’t mind pushing back against the anguish and violence of much of the music that surrounds him. Instead, he presents a record that might as well be a surging trip through a fantasy land that might only exist in your mind but still acts as an escape. The record purposely puts a murky sheen on the music, which reminds a bit of Alcest’s work, as this can enable you to return to a time when things weren’t so grim and life wasn’t a constant struggle. It might not sound extreme, but this heavy synth-laden music is the polar opposite of what so much of heavy music has become, that’s it’s downright rebellious. It’s also relaxing and wholly intoxicating.

“Dreaded Still” opens the record on a fantastical note, as cosmic weirdness and lush keys spread, while the vocal hiss sizzles under the music, with the words barely audible at all. Mystical keys and shimmering notes brighten the scene, while whispered calls emerge from the darkness, and the enrapturing melody slowly fades away. “Nestle Within” has magical keys and growls swirling amid the atmosphere. The hypnotic tones feel like a 1980s Saturday afternoon fantasy film, while loops of a baby crying dash more hints of the innocence ingrained in this piece. The music turns into a strange cloud, as growls lurch beneath, and the song’s essence transcends into the stars.

“Let Go Like Leaves of Fall” is lush and dreamy, a secret pocket from which a mysterious mist forms. Keys bounce through, while the music has an alien feel, and the swimming synth mixes into your subconscious and lulls you into slumber. “Reverence Road” is the longest cut, gushing over 10:15 and bringing synth that sounds like it arrived from decades passed, and an ambiance that makes your imagination swell. Voices again hiss below the surface, while a shiny coat is applied to the music, giving off gold beams, and then things rush open. The fantasy scape grows larger and bolder as it goes, enchanting its entire path and stretching its wonder to its washed-out finish. Closer “Without End” has synth glow, smearing melodies, and a glistening finish that shoots sparks. The track then sends you into a trance state, soothing the chaos in your mind and leaving you floating down a tributary to numbing solitude.

It might be a stretch to consider Nachtzeit’s work under the Lustre banner as metal, but certainly it crosses over into those boundaries and can have an impact on any apostle of whatever sub-genre you can name. Escaping the darkness can be healthy and necessary, and “Still Innocence” is a record that stands out from the rest of the extreme music pack simply by being its own thing. It’s a record that could soundtrack a fantasy videogame you indulge in all night while in a calm drunken haze, and the music is a refreshing change of pace from the pressures of harsh reality.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://nordvis.com/lustre-a-10

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