Oct 2, 2022

Autopsy - Morbidity Triumphant (2022)

Macabre Eternal was a fabulous comeback. As a living legend of death metal, a band that has not been completely immune to miss-steps in the past, Autopsy really taught us how such a huge band properly returns into activity and released a series of pretty damn awesome records in the early 10's. It's now been seven years since their last full length album Skull Grinder, and while this could also count as a mini comeback, it seems to me that we have a band that is unaffected by time. Morbidity Triumphant is Autopsy's latest offering and if by any chance you were listening to their back catalog yesterday, here is another brick that will seamlessly fit on the same wall. This approach works wonderfully, they have a claim by themselves completely, and unlike other returning bands from the past, it feels natural for them to keep producing such amazing material. You'll get all your money's worth and exactly what you asked for, a set of death metal pieces with a lot of doomy passages, slight nuances of stoner, murky grooves and tight production, with all the different elements nicely bound together. When present, the tracks are also dressed with great guitar solos and of course, the gratifying vocals of Chris Reifert, are as characteristic as Autopsy's music. Morbidity Triumphant is not the most stomping death metal album you will ever hear, especially to extents some newer bands take their sound and their atmosphere, making it impossible to discern a thing. Instead, all points made in this record are clear, it has a coherent flow, full of seemingly simple but totally enjoyable moments and the most traditional death metal lyrical subjects you can find. After all, this is one of the founding bands of this style and it's a pleasure to see they have not been broken by the weight of the decades on their backs or their fame. Some of the record's highlights include the ominous, slow-paced moments of "Your Eyes Will Turn to Dust", the faster "Stab the Brain" and "Knife Slice, Axe Chop", the fairly catchy riffs of "The Voracious One", and the Autopsy 101 pieces like "Skin by Skin" or Flesh Strewn Temple". [4/5 - Excellent]

Origin: United States
Label: Peaceville Records
Release date: 30.09.2022
Listen: Spotify

Oct 1, 2022

Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon (2003)

The turn of the millenium saw Dimmu Borgir going with orchestral elements, clean production and pumped epicness, full bore. What was originally some murky symphonic black metal elements in the early 90's had now turned into ambitious, grandiose compositions of the most polished sound possible, polarising the fans of the genre and standing even today as one of the most loved / hated bands throughout the years. The first thing to notice about Death Cult Armageddon is how much effort was not put in the cover art (even though the previous album's Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia choice, was decent...), which looks like something something one could make with the most generic editing software, using the most generic fonts possible. Apart from that, Dimmu Borgir kept on from where they had left two years earlier when it comes to music and lyrical content. For the latter, most of the texts in Death Cult Armageddon are quite decent, and all lyricists involved (mainly Silenoz & less, Shagrath) write well. As it was proven later when the band collaborated with the Norwegian National Orchestra, some tracks here and especially "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" are characteristics of their modern era and are generally solid tracks, appropriate of their own worth. As the track is in the first half of the record, it is part of the better material in Death Cult Armageddon, as later on tracks get really bland and boring, really fast (from "Blood Hunger Doctrine" and on). However, when a riff gets in the spotlight, it does sound great and the combination of symphonic instruments and guitars is great, all the instruments are audible and the combination of vocalists has always been, in my opinion, a positive element of Dimmu Borgir. Death Cult Armageddon has clear weaker points and a couple of filler tracks, yet also a few moments of quality from the band and despite their musical directions, they are all solid musicians. [2.5/5 - Average]

Origin: Norway
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: 08.09.2003
Listen: Spotify

Sep 25, 2022

Aura Mortis - Aion Teleos (2022)

It's been almost a decade that Aura Mortis have been active and it's just now that we get our hands on the band's debut full length album Aion Teleos, two years after they released Tractates of Initiation, a compilation of all their early material from the 10's. Their first complete statement features seven songs and 38 minutes of music, it's pretty clearly well made and with a composed direction. I hear several influences from orthodox black metal, fast paced Scandinavian structures, occult lyrical themes and plenty of fire in the songs of Aion Teleos, which initiates and moves on at this certain territory. The vocals are also wonderful and the tracks have nice changes, nice guitar work and several fairly memorable moments: "A Dove In Shackles" is an overall great piece, "Towards True Providence" is quite powerful and wonderful melodies unravel in "Mirroring the Maladies", which had me thinking that this band is also quite well expressed in terms of lyrical content. There are some moments of minimal dark ambient / noise passages, like the introduction "The All-Shrine" and the middle part of the longest track "In Being Engraved", which add a bit to the flow and don't disturb the otherwise straightforward black metal palette of the band. The presented approach has all the needed elements at a decent level, and Aura Mortis finally put a whole album together, that hopefully will generate some more friction. There is not much to complain about in Aion Teleos, which is quite solid release and representative of the current state of black metal in its traditional form, and if it doesn't totally win you over, it will definitely at least make its case for the time it lasts. It has a fine production, great tracks and of course, a wonderful cover art! [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Serbia
Label: Schattenkult Produktionen
Release date: 04.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sep 10, 2022

Bones - Sombre Opulence (2022)

After a series of really well-marked mini albums and after a decade of activity, the debut full length album of Belgian band Bones is finally here and it weighs well. Deeply rooted old school death metal, Sombre Opulence channels forces a la early Morbid Angel, with a continuous streak of scourging riffs, explosive solos and heavy growls through its organic production. The record is technical enough but doesn't overdo it, its thick sound and interesting twists and turns of the compositions make it rather interesting to listen to and totally enjoyable for what it is, as if you still know what you're going to listen to but keep getting surprised by how well and by the quality of the ideas. Most of the tracks run up to three or four minutes, and they are pumped with energy and anger as Bones and this genre is characterised by. Still, there are two pieces that run quite longer and they are both brilliant: "Deserts of Eternity" and "Great Altars of Ascension", where Bones exert pressure through sometimes slower or middle paced lines and by putting even more emphasis to soloing and a bit of groove, before jumping into high speed madness again. The only more quiet but still ominous moment in Sombre Opulence is its two minute interlude "Withering", which could have also worked as a nice introduction for the album and leaving the rest of the material compact, but there's full mode chaos before and after that. Tracks like "Execration Rites", "Primordial Idolatry" or "Composite Deities" are just a treat to listen to, while the closing track "Formulas of Condemnation" leaves the place in pieces. Sombre Opulence is a fine crafted old school death metal record, excessively offering great ideas and what the fans would love the most: unadulterated brutality. Bones showed positive hints up to this point and they not simply continue on the right track, but they have put together one of the best death metal releases of the year. [4/5 - Excellent]

Origin: Belgium
Label: Invictus Records
Release date: 09.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sep 8, 2022

Vermin Womb - Retaliation (2022)

It's been six years since Vermin Womb's relatively decent but undeniably heavy debut Decline, and the band has returned with a vengeance in 2022 with an equally smashing work. Retaliation clocks at just 18 minutes (shorter than before), and takes no breaks, as all weapons in their arsenal are thrown at once from the first second. I am not sure if such approach has been more and more common among new bands that attempt extremity in their sound the last few years, or that I have been oblivious before, yet there's nothing less than non-stop hammering of violent riffs, ugly growls and background noise throughout the whole of Retaliation, which feels like the tree trunk feels when going through the wood chipper. Once you dig behind the aural malevolence, the guitar work is not groundbreaking, consisting of simplistic black / death / war metal lines, sometimes in irregular timestamps, the vocals - while brutal enough - barely change and the drums sometimes miss out, which clears out a tactic followed in Retaliation, the use of the production. The aim of this work is to create a thick layer of fast, uncomfortable and stressing music, making it more of a texture rather than a set of compositional undulations, and that's why the record can often sound a bit flat or indifferent if you look at it closely. I understand Vermin Womb have clear goals in their mind and negativity blisters everywhere in the essence of their work, which should go hand in hand with the material itself, yet I would have seriously prefered more insight in terms of musicianship. That being said, Retaliation has everything to be praised by fans of this extreme style, but do a test for yourself: play the tracks in shuffle and then see if you can tell one from the other. Nevertheless, the band's latest work keeps it up and is a solid effort that is worth listening, but if you enjoy it, then maybe you missed the point. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: United States
Label: Closed Casket Activities
Release date: 02.09.2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Sep 4, 2022

Necrohell - Ravishing Funerals (2022)

For some bands, time is frozen at a specific moment in the past. While Ungod is a pretty active individual in the Greek underground scene, with projects and an independent label, he is always punctual with a new Necrohell record every four to five years, maintaining an audience through a network with a chosen direction, instead of complete promotion everywhere with a hope of as much listens as possible. That's why I almost tend to miss their new albums, yet it's always one that I will go through when I get the chance. With Ravishing Funerals, you should immediately know what you're getting with half a glance, but there are a number of points that I enjoyed more this time than the average Necrohell albums. Yes, it's pure second wave black metal with strong Norwegian influences and early Darkthrone written all over it, both in the aesthetics, in the titles and the compositions. The production is a major plus this time, as it provides great sound for all instruments and especially the bass, the tracks levitate between melodic and more melancholic parts, with a lot of tremolo picking and of course, as characteristic vocals as you can imagine (including a handful of moments with cleans). There's nothing new introduced in Ravishing Funerals, as it serves its only purpose decently: being a solid black metal record made more from fans of the genre than musical visionaries. All the tunes are enjoyable (with some nice highlights in the flow of "A Grave in the Vast Forest") and it is clearly aimed for people who enjoy black metal rather than experimentation or new twists in the existing, well-known formulas. There is overall better material in Ravishing Funerals than older Necrohell albums, some of which were more prone to dullness, yet this time Ungod hit a good one. Again, you are not going to be surprised and you shouldn't be. The album doesn't fall flat despite its predictability, while still being extremely defined within certain borders. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: Greece
Label: Christhunt Productions
Release date: February 27th, 2022
Listen: Youtube

Aug 26, 2022

Lustre - A Thirst for Summer Rain (2022)

I have left Lustre at Wonder, which is a point in the project's discography that is almost a decade ago so there is some catching up to do. Nevertheless, it is one of the cases where the produced material has a pretty well defined structure and one can be positive of no gross diversions at any point or album, so essentially, it's like I haven't missed a day. A Thirst for Summer Rain, apart from a slightly more optimistic title and color palette, doesn't surprise in terms of music either, as it features characteristic Lustre material standing on dreamy, slow compositions, pale keyboard melodies and distant whispering / screaming vocals that generally wouldn't even come close to anything extreme related. The tracks have an almost nostalgic / romantic atmosphere that hints the album's concept, and they all keep the same tempo and the same attitude at all times, sometimes too much. The introduction of the first track "Quiescence" is basically the reversed melody of the introduction of the third track "Thirst", which for a moment, along the rest of the compositions which feel strikingly similar, had me wondering if Lustre actually has any inspiration left. Yet, A Thirst for Summer Rain is too innocent to be mad at, and an overall pleasing background album to go through, and I'm sure the fans won't ask for anything else than exactly this. The last piece "Alleviation" hardly has any distortion even, which makes this record very light to listen to, and almost completely departing from the realm of metal. Even like that, Lustre maintain and still present their own sound. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: Sweden
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Release date: August 26th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Aug 23, 2022

Wormrot - Hiss (2022)

Throughout all these years of obsessively listening to countless albums after albums, the times when I was blown away to this extent by something have been as rare as crossing paths with a unicorn. It is the case of a band with a really clear upwards trajectory, steadily for over a decade, offering the musically richest and most intriguing material of the genre they are devoted to. And finally, all planets align, all of their little flaws are not just erased but boosted with the opposite sign, to create Hiss, Wormrot's best record to date and one of the best pieces of grindcore ever made. I believe this is how a genre defining work should be, glorifying the highest qualities of that music style, while shedding light on why it is not mere noise or aggressiveness. It exemplifies grindcore's best self, a rapidly paced bludgeoning of endless ideas molded into short durations, with multiple unexpected turns, excellent musicianship, overwhelming compositional inspiration and my goodness, how great are these aesthetics, the concept and the lyrics. All the tracks are perfect, the record flows like a pristine river despite all of its acute content and changes in sense, there are scarce clean vocals, brilliant violin use, slight black metal hints (as they have had in the past) and generally, there is no better musicianship in grindcore right now. Wormrot surpassed themselves, and this organic production fully helps with the outcome this time, while a sector that was not ideal so far is maybe another of the highlights of Hiss: the demonic drum playing. It is impossible to not recognize the sheer magnificence of this band's effort at the moment, whether you are a fan of the genre or not, and I don't think Hiss will be ever overlooked in the future when discussions arise about this kind of extreme metal. I hope the record proves to become a modern classic and Wormrot placed among the best bands of the trade. Just congratulations. [5/5 - Masterpiece]

Origin: Singapore
Label: Earache Records
Release date: July 8th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Aug 16, 2022

Exaltation - Under Blind Reasoning (2022)

I am trying to make up my mind about this album and it constantly proves to be not so straightforward. It's fairly clear that this band has its heart at the right place when it comes to playing death metal, with its thick, stomping production, the cavernous growls (plus some sparse moments of painful screaming), and slithering guitar lines that bypass all temptations of modernity but instead root themselves in the old school, violent form of the genre, somewhere between Sadistic Intent and Incantation. Under Blind Reasoning has some bangers too, like "Fate Revolt" and "Impious Massacre", which are tracks short in duration and quite entertaining to listen to, mainly where most of Exaltation's potency lies. At the same time, the band's serious weak point is often its slower moments, as it takes more than just playing notes slowly to be efficient when one goes to such territories, and unfortunately many parts of the compositions feel like there was uncertainty on how to continue, so a filler slow part was added. "Ascension" is a dreadful example of this, where all riffs are really mediocre, and for this reason the album as a whole starts with a rather anti climactic way ("Iron Rebellion" and "Impending Decease" are both on the weaker side of the scale). Across the board, I didn't receive the expected heaviness or intensity from the band, neither from the musicianship nor from the sound, as one that dominates let's say, in a Dead Congregation album. Since Exaltation are molded from this kind of clay, and their work is not overly sub par, after a few listens there's several points in terms of song writing as well as structure that they could improve, in order to actually create a competent album. Under Blind Reasoning is the kind of release I always hope that I will like before listening to it, as it lies close to my taste radars, yet Exaltation didn't knock my socks off at the end of the day. A couple of good tunes and a generally acceptable presence save the record from a complete slump. [2.5/5 - Average]

Origin: New Zealand
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Release date: July 29th, 2022
Listen: Spotify

Aug 13, 2022

Grimdor - The Land of Shadow (2022)

I think I had been reading information about an actual Grimdor full length album as far back as two years ago, yet it seemed like something quite distant since the project is ridiculously active with releases, not only under this moniker but through many. This year alone, they already have four more EPs with Grimdor and I am sure there's more to come, while they constantly make short tape runs of their long back catalog. Nevertheless, the band's debut release is finally reality and there's a few points to note compared to their usual activities: there is by now colorized, proper digitally designed artwork (made by Silvana Massa), all the tracks are longer than usual and they have aimed for a generally cleaner sound in both parts of the record. The Land of Shadow, as always, heavily referencing Tolkien's universe, is made of two distinct sections: the first four tracks of monotonous raw black metal and the last three, of the distinctive dungeon synth style of Grimdor. Elements of one side do not interfere with the other, and could have been separate releases in another world, yet as a whole this falls 100% inside the ballpark of what a Grimdor fan would expect. Now, their black metal tunes are basically Burzum of the self-titled album era. The structure and the feeling, the riffs, even the style of playing is almost identical sometimes, with an only difference that Varg's vocals at the time were vastly better than the vocals here, yet the outcome is not completely lousy. It manages enough to just recognize a fine job of a worship act. On the dungeon synth side, as Grimdor are used to 1-2 minute pieces, there is a lot of repetition of a few melodies in each track to reach a needed duration length. I don't mind that at all, in fact I strongly prefer simplistic ambient to this seemingly grandiose dungeon synth artists that are out there, yet now that the production has been cleared, the verdict is also easier too see: an average record that gets 0.5 extra because I like Lord of the Rings. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: United States / Germany
Label: Self-released
Release date: August 9th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Aug 7, 2022

Guyođ & Lehm - Alluvial Soil [Split] (2022)

There is a certain quite interesting nature in both newborn bands featured in Alluvial Soil, a split release directly from the Austrian underground, between obscure death metallers Guyođ and sludge / post-metal project Lehm. And while the latter has already released a full length three years ago, Guyođ's side stands as the very first material of the act and Alluvial Soil, practically being their debut release, stands as a bold and daring statement that reeks of potential. Each band contributes two tracks, and the duration and the split opens with Guyođ's murky, thick guitar sound, drawing inspiration from aquatic concepts with several references to the ocean and the depths, their music is mostly built on slow / middle paced patterns with some far-flung Ulcerate hints, an ounce of doom metal and wonderful and varied vocals. It is an extremely well articulated band in terms of lyrics as well, and both their tracks, clocking above seven minutes each, present enough compositional proficiency that makes the listener take notes to not forget this strangely named band and be alerted for when they put out a full length album. Lehm don't dare to play any faster, yet they move in more distinct sludgy / post-metal melodies and a fuzzy, painful guitar sound with subtle echo that makes you feel like you're listening to them live in a basement somewhere. Nice guitar work, with really solid riffing / soloing especially in "Weeping Willow", they deliver their part of the split constitute to a mini-album that has bands of different genres, but with very well clicking music that provides a seamless experience. I mostly went into Alluvial Soil by quite quickly being hooked to Guyođ's work, yet there is essence and quality scattered all over this little gem of a split. I bet these guys will make a louder impact when full releases are put out to the world, judging from this first, short taste. [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Austria / Austria
Label: Self-released
Release date: January 23rd, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Aug 6, 2022

Altars - Ascetic Reflection (2022)

This is not good. Nine years is a long time, and that's how long it took Altars to put a second album together, after the fairly successful and competent Paramnesia in 2013. The band's body of work is based on stomping death metal, with a lot of angular song writing that brings Portal to mind, with passages that also remind of something between Gorguts and distant Ulcerate, but the base constantly being Morbid Angel. If you liked Paramnesia, I bet you will like Ascetic Reflection too, yet for me both records feel the same: they tackle themselves right at the point when it is about to get enjoyable. First things first, don't get fooled by this unconventional songwriting, there is really nothing intrinsically special or unique in the music of Altars, and it doesn't even come close to the actual genius behind a band like Portal for example, with which I have seen several comparisons being drawn around. Altars hold back too much, the compositions often stall too long and parts of the record can become basically empty and uninspiring, and at these times it's when a listener who is not so familiar with death metal music, or tries to critique it, will think this band is amazing. But it's not. In tracks like "Luminous Jar", the self-titled piece, or "Perverse Entity", actually solid material is being presented. The sense of coherence is still not there between different ideas, and to just abruptly stop playing a part to move to the next doesn't make you a good composer, yet there is still an amount of good moments. On the other hand, "Inauspicious Prayer" or "Black Light Upon Us" contain musical notions that amount to naught, and in between all tracks, Ascetic Reflection really aches in terms of flow. I don't like to think that this band is compared to behemoths of this style, like the aforementioned bands of this text. You can find better music than this and don't be fooled by it. [2/5 - Below Average]

Origin: Australia
Label: Everlasting Spew Records
Release date: July 8th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Aug 3, 2022

Fleshrot - Unburied Corpse (2022)

Fleshrot don't try to impress anyone, and in fact follow a rather standard death metal recipe without slightly diverging from it at any point. Unburied Corpse is their debut full length and it's all you would expect from a Texan band of the kind, slow to middle paced chugging riffs with a hefty amount of groove and echoing deep growls, going a bit faster at times but never really technical, while at the same time pretty enjoyable to listen to. The record is fine not because it is extraordinary, but just because it shows what it is really clearly and Fleshrot have enough variety in the song parts to avoid boredom, most of their scattered solos are really nice and it's not a release that is too long in duration. I picked the cover I liked the most from the two alternate ones that exist for the release, as it is the more old school one and fits the material of the band, which show that Fleshrot have their heart in the 90's and not in this day and and age. One could say that death metal like this is all rooted to somewhere between Autopsy and Bolt Thrower (for the mid tempo guitar lines and sometimes hyper slow moments), yet I wouldn't say this band produced something really remarkable here, yet it doesn't lack the elements to make it an enjoyable album for enjoying your breakfast on a nice Sunday. If they push their compositional arsenal a bit more outside their comfort zone, it could potentially result in a really good death metal album, but in the meantime with Unburied Corpse things seem to have gone smoothly for Fleshrot and they are worth your time. "Intricate Dissection", "Draining the Liquified Remains" and "Haunted of Sick Depravities" were the highlights for me, as I found the most interesting ideas of the band these tracks, yet the record (apart from a couple of moments) is at about the same frequency. [3/5 - Good]

Origin: United States
Label: Me Saco un Ojo Records
Release date: August 1st, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Jul 31, 2022

Lamashtu - Plaque des Enfers (2022)

Not a lot of information is known about this project, yet their debut album Plaque des Enfers already seems to have been noticed and getting a fair amount of exposure, self-released but soon in physical format too. There is a strong sense of genre traditionalism in this record, yet Lamashtu often pushes the music into even more frenetic ends than usual, without abusing high speeds and being constantly barbaric. With just three tracks and 28 minutes, one would say that it is a rather short full length but it's still worth its time and contains only passable material, while being a record that is not monotonous at all. The vocals in Plaque des Enfers are harsh, often in shrieks but also grunting somewhere between the styles of Attila and Dagon, while the production is semi-dusty but clear enough for the ongoing chaos. Using a deep echo in the drums, the atmosphere becomes more dominant especially in building up moments or part introductions, like in the opening track "Amuleth I". It starts fast and heavy, then through a middle paced riffing bridge and a ritualistic dark ambient short part, it arrives to a very intense ending right when you would think that's all with this piece. Similar roller coaster moments unravel in the record's two other tracks, which are 10 minutes each. Lamashtu combines scourging guitar lines with occult ambiance and a personal touch to their music, and they don't stretch different ideas that come and go in the songs. "Amuleth III" has a clean introduction that would also remind of some neofolk / pagan ambient band, but when the record goes into black metal, it does so full boar. Plaque des Enfers is indeed not that long, but a solid first introduction to Lamasthu, and it makes me eager for the future. [3.5/5 - Great]

Origin: Poland
Label: Self-released
Release date: July 27th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Jul 28, 2022

Panzerfaust - The Suns of Perdition - Chapter III: The Astral Drain (2022)

The third instalment in Panzerfaust's The Suns of Perdition series is (I think) the last part of what seems to be a conceptual trilogy that marks the return of the band and a much more serious and dominating musical presence in the underground. Chapter III: The Astrail Drain is the continuation of Render Unto Eden from 2020, a record that I found fascinating. Two years later, it seems like nothing has changed content except some compositional decisions the band has taken regarding the structure of their tracks. While listening to The Astral Drain, I am really missing the more intense moments that existed in the previous records and were even more violent in the first album of the trilogy. Most of the material in this new record is almost constantly middle paced, constantly waiting, with a few more distinct riffs appearing here and there, but never really taking off to levels of heaviness that it could reach. The opening track "Death Drive Projections" is basically an ultra long introduction to something, while the third track "B22: The Hive and the Hole" seems to just be afraid to open its wings, sounds too similar to parts of Render Unto Eden and makes such wholesome, fantastic vocals go to waste, because it would be an earthquake if they actually played heavy. There are a couple of short drone-ish / noise interludes that amount to nothing in the album's flow and the only time things get real in "The Far Bank at the River Styx", the main riff sounds too much like Mgła's "With Hearts Toward None VII". The last two tracks in The Astral Drain are almost skippable, making this album a serious miss for me. On the positive side, Panzerfaust somehow maintain a certain atmosphere and the drumming is decent. [2.5/5 - Average]

Origin: Canada
Label: Eisenwald
Release date: July 22nd, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

Jul 27, 2022

Astrofaes - Heritage (2002)

Most people should know Drudkh by now but there's several notable side projects their members have been involved in, one of them being the now defunct Astrofaes, who put together several full length albums and a few mini releases throughout a decade and a bit more before disbanding. And while Drudkh were formed in 2002, Thurios was pretty active releasing albums in Ukrainian and English version with Astrofaes and still an abundance of musical ideas he had not yet put on records that would come along later on in the 00's. Many of these Astrofaes releases have similar characteristics, all driven by his fairly characteristic guitar playing, which is bursting with one amazing riff after the other in literally every track on Heritage, yet there are no distinct growls in the vocals as in Drudkh, so one would say that this is even closer to the black metal formula of the times. The album exerts an atmosphere of nostalgic epicness, with mostly fast paced repetitive patterns that let the guitar melodies emerge and practically act as they want, beautiful lyrics of nature / folklore and a semi-dirty production that doesn't bother a bit, in fact it constitutes to this well-thought black metal work. "Awakening" and "Through Time of Memory" walk on more middle paced rhythms and is the one strongly reminding of the direction followed later with Drudkh, and the rest of Heritage just has steady, fairly potent tracks with great guitar work by Thurios, one of the composers that seem to have endless inspiration and integrity all these years. Highlights include "Forgotten Name" and "Ancestors' Shadows". [3.5/5 - Great] 

Origin: Ukraine
Label: Nykta Records
Release date: November 28th, 2002
Listen: Youtube

Jul 24, 2022

Triumvir Foul - Onslaught to Seraphim (2022)

I was not so drawn to this band’s earlier material, even though I have enormous respect for their band members, as it is essentially a side project of the same people behind Ash Borer (and also involved in Dagger Lust, Uškumgallu, Serum Dreg). Nevertheless, Triumvir Foul’s brand of death metal could be filed as one of the filthiest possible, especially when it comes to the music and less on how openly gross they have to be in order to fit the category. It is fortunate to realize that their latest release Onslaught to Seraphim finds them at their pinnacle and is one of the best death metal albums I have heard this year so far, as it is truly crushing in every aspect. They have finally found the right spot when it comes to their sound (production proved aching in previous works), actually helping the ideas to come out without coming across as less chaotic or more tender. The record takes no brakes and there is no deviation from this certain style, yet tempos change speed frequently and it does not repeat itself so much that it all sounds the same. Onslaught to Seraphim is what death metal should be: extremely brutal, with gargantuan riffing and frenetic short term solos here and there, cavernous growls and an overall injection of aggressiveness and brutality that comes from compositional mastery and not extraordinary technical playing. “Domini Befallen” is a masterpiece track of the genre, “Serpents' Gnash for War” has the fastest and slowest playing of the album, “Slither of Corruption”, the self-titled track and “Infected Virtue” are simply bulldozers. I can finally fully get behind Triumvir Foul and recommend this record to all fans of this style, a definite highlight! [4/5 - Excellent]

Origin: United States
Label: Vrasubatlat
Release date: July 29th, 2022
Listen: Bandcamp

May 29, 2022

Vengeance sown - Interview with Guyođ

New blood is boiling in the Austrian underground as dissonant / weight-of-the-ocean-heavy death metal band Guyođ introduce themselves with two tracks in their debut split release with Lehm, named Alluvial Soil. Drawing inspiration from the depths, initial listens evince a recipe of potent atmosphere, well-structured material and whole-hearted drive from people who take the project rather seriously. A small discussion between them and Arson Cafe reveals some of the band's background and intentions.

  • Welcome, feel free to give a short introduction of your band.

We are GUYOĐ from Graz, Austria. We summon our subaqueous Death Metal from the wet, dark depths of the oceans, where no light, no color, no man resides. 

  • What is the meaning behind your name? You are probably correcting everyone who is trying to pronounce it...

We wanted to come up with a term which describes our music and our lyrical topic briefly and precisely. We stumbled over the word ‘guyot’, which stands for a dead underwater volcano, abraded to a table mount by the tides. We simply changed the spelling to make the band’s name stand out more and create further confusion. There is not even full consent within the band as to how to pronounce our name. Pick your favorite version.

  • It seems Guyođ have lyrics mainly about aquatic subject matters. While a topic present in the underground metal scene (Ahab or Grond come to mind), it is still not one that tops popularity. What is your personal approach on this concept?

Our music is meant to evoke the feeling of being lost in the vastness of the great unknown and being subjected to powers beyond our imagination. Basically, that’s just what the oceans are, a terrifying, overwhelming ‘terra incognita’ – we know more about certain regions on the moon than about the deepest places in the oceans. It’s just an intriguing topic to delve into and deal with.

  • Alluvial Soil, your first split release with compatriots Lehm, has been out for a few months now. How has the feedback been so far?

We got some very favorable comments on this our first output. Nevertheless, there’s still work to be done to spread the word further. After all, our two songs on the split are just precursors to the storm that is gathering on the horizon.

  • There's a thick atmosphere and hints of more dissonant song writing in Guyođ. What are your musical influences?

Even though we do not sound much like most of the following bands, we get inspiration from the musical approaches and the atmosphere evoked by: Mayhem, Opeth, Marduk, Lvcifyre, Craft, Type O Negative, Immolation, Sulphur Aeon and many, many more.

  • Is Vepar, a name featured in your first track "Into the Temple of Vepar", a reference to the demon from Ars Goetia? What would be some literature suggestions you would give to a fan of your music?

Yes, it is exactly THAT Vepar! The idea was actually given to us by the wonderful artist behind the jewelry label ‘Temple of Vepar’.  Also, good question about literature. In order not to mention the usual suspects, try “Leviathan, or the Whale” by Philip Hoare, “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski, “Les Chants de Maldoror” by Lautréamont or the poems of Charles Baudelaire.

  • How does your material come together? Is it a linear procedure with equal contribution among all members, or you have a main composer?

Our guitarist Dohrn is the main songwriter who has been writing the basic ideas for all of our songs so far. He usually comes up with about 90%-finished songs, but in the rehearsal room we figure out collectively how these ideas work out in ‘real life’. Sometimes we change more, sometimes we change less, but the ultimate product is a collaborative one. Some of our lyrics so far have been written by Dohrn, others by our singer Ōjin. We also have some remnants from our early days, created by our former singer Miron.

  • What is the current status of the band, are you putting any new material together, that you can share with us? Is there an EP or full length in the works?

We are currently finishing the writing process for our first album, so we are planning on starting recording later this year. Most of these songs are finished and we play some of the material live already.

  • You have already taken part in some local shows in your hometown Graz in Austria. Are there any plans for further touring this year?

Meanwhile, we have played concerts in Vienna, Gleisdorf and Maribor, Slovenia - besides the mentioned ones in Graz, of course. Even though we are extremely hungry for the stage, we are currently focusing on getting the album to the finishing line. But reckon to hear from us in the near future…

  • Thank you for your time. Close the interview as you wish!

We are very grateful for the opportunity to introduce ourselves to your readers and answer some questions. Those interested are recommended “enjoying” our eerie music videos created by Cartismandua on Youtube, or simply listening to our music on Bandcamp. While there, get a hold of our tapes, while we still got some.

Listen on Bandcamp | Youtube

May 20, 2022

Blut Aus Nord - Disharmonium: Undreamable Abysses (2022)

I have this feeling that by now, Blut Aus Nord's music is driven by a pre-defined musical direction that serves the content itself, rather than an artistic cleansing of the mastermind behind it. Of course this project is massive, with a distinct presence in the black metal scene, and even when a disappointment comes along, you can't ignore the overflowing passion Vindsval has for his music. Yet, I realized recently that I haven't enjoyed Blut Aus Nord that much since 2014, and even before that, there is only sparse material through a maze of releases that are worth it.

Right of the bat, you will get what you want in Disharmonium: Undreamable Abysses. Thankfully, the bittersweet roaming that was ongoing in Hallucinogen has ended and this record is more focused this time. Fretless guitar torture has come back with a vengeance, and it's excessively used to create the haunting atmosphere Blut Aus Nord have been experts of for a couple of decades. Lyrics are almost not needed and rarely used, it's mostly these flowing, vivid riffs that continuously pummel their way through the ears, constituting a rather nightmarish listen in a good way. At least, that's what a new Blut Aus Nord listener will experience.

For me, the same everlasting issue is also carried along in Undreamable Abysses: once you listen to the first two tracks (which are the highlights, worthy of being in a Blut Aus Nord playlist and to be listened again), you have heard the best this record has to offer. It starts repeating itself, slowing down unnecessarily and too often, and what starts as a hellish storm fades out as a bland replica of itself, but just worse. Even the titles don't mean anything to me anymore, as it seems like these words together would sound cool for this kind of record, rather than Vindsval actually expressing something. I get this weird emptiness from the current face of the band, which I wouldn't feel in the past. I mean, listen to Dialogue with the Stars and tell me if it doesn't piledrives you to oblivion.

I expect a lot of praise for this record, and it has a few good elements. For example, one point that you can never take away from them, is the visuals. All art and designs are impeccable, I am going to buy this album just for the front cover. I don't know what Blut Aus Nord should do to become solid again as they seemingly continue strong, yet I can't recognize the greatness that once was and definitely can't feel an album such as Undreamable Abysses after the third track. Even a boring release from them is still something I might return to once in a while and it's hasn't ever been completely ineffectual (with a few exceptions), but my long standing opinion on Blut Aus Nord hasn't changed. They release something of greatness, only when Memoria Vetusta is used in the title.

DAMAGE: 2.5/5 [Average]

May 15, 2022

Sacred Son - The Foul Deth of Engelond (2022)

For the first time in their discography so far, Sacred Son make a significant stylistic change of heart when deciding for an album cover art, a topic that was on its own a topic of discussion up to now. We were used to seeing rather earthly, social media-like personal pictures so far, which not only didn't remind of a black metal band at all, they wouldn't fit (unlike the music) any category of the "extreme" scene or anything even remote to that. At the same time, that was the most eye-catching point of the band for me, as the music itself was, at the times when it wasn't just clear reproduction of already known atmospheric / black metal, just uninspiring.

To be fair, the cover of The Foul Deth of Engelond is now amazing. The story behind this conceptual album is also really intriguing, covering the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, an important event in the history of England, and with a clear social predilection that is still relevant today, and more and more vocal within extreme metal. In that sense, I am totally for the turn Sacred Son have taken with their latest album. However, the band's material is still carrying the same problematic ends I have found in their previous works, and while having a handful of potent moments, it is in general a rather mediocre effort.

All tracks (apart from an one minute introduction) are long in duration and have multiple segments stapled together. There is a sense of flow which isn't perfect, but not completely out of balance either, as there are dots connecting the different parts together. Sacred Son's formula is easy to follow, and one can listen to it in the album's first two tracks, which are basically identical: middle paced build up moments, intense fast tempos with pale keyboards in the back, and back to slow or too slow sections that sometimes overstay their welcome.

For example, the ending of the self-titled track is clearly too long and without any kind of change, filling up a couple of extra minutes for no apparent reason. At the same time, the earlier, faster part is decent, and the same goes for "La Blakheth", which has a really dull introduction but a bit more intriguing guitar activity towards the middle (yet, something you have definitely heard before), before going back to slow-tempos of too many repetitions. The vocals are generally weak, and these two tracks specifically, have a kind of whispering / breathing into the microphone technique that I thought was horrible.

The Foul Deth of Engelond continues with an equally turbulent track that is unsure in itself what atmosphere to evoke (a general problem of the album, it's clear and without a substantial atmosphere at any point despite the attempts). By "Vengeance I & II", the album's last track, Sacred Son have completely given up, that track is basically nine minutes of waiting for a main part that never comes. Apart from the rhythmic introduction with male / female clean vocals, which makes you want to listen to late Wolves in the Throne Room or Wardruna, this track is by far the weakest here.

From the record, I enjoyed the more violent moments. However, they are scrambled together with a lot of slow-paced monotony, too many smaller elements that don't add up (piano, samples, unfortunately don't work) and a clear weakness of understanding of how to take a certain approach. The Foul Deth of Engelond remains as another boring Sacred Son album that I'm not going to listen to again, yet I was satisfied that I saw such a nice design and tracks with interesting lyrics for once. That they know well.

DAMAGE: 2.5/5 [Average]

May 13, 2022

Primitive Man - Insurmountable EP (2022)

It has happened that I have turned off a Primitive Man record, especially their early material, just because of how empty and long the compositions were. At the same time, when they aim more accurately, their absolutely crushing side becomes more prevalent. 

While I enjoyed their last couple of albums, I still think a major issue of this band is the length and the monotony of their work, which is always too much for too little. Funnily enough, this EP is longer than their last full length Immersion, and it includes a Smashing Pumpkins cover of the song "Quiet", but you will not recognize it.

Insurmountable that the equally scourging production of their recent works, and the same musical approach, so not much have changed: the second track "Boiled" is a solid noise / dark ambient piece, "Cage Intimacy" is borderline boring but a certain fan pleaser, the opener "This Life" is the actually legit and enjoyable piece and "Quiet" surpasses the notion of a cover, it's vastly different, it didn't fully fit to my ears and just makes you want to listen to the actual Smashing Pumpkins

Therefore, this EP is a hit and miss for me, I'm taking away the first track and probably nothing more. But still, just for the average amount of heaviness they manage, it's a pass.

Label: Closed Casket Activities
Country: USA
Release date: May 13th, 2022
Website: Facebook

DAMAGE: 3/5 [Good]

May 8, 2022

Nechochwen - Kanawha Black (2022)

Nechochwen definitely take their time creating new material and their discography might be short but very efficient, as they have had a rather splendid series of full length albums since their debut, Algonkian Mythos in 2008, especially their latest work, 2015’s Heart of Akamon. I was also impressed by their side on the split with Panopticon in 2020, which made me re-run the band’s earlier records while waiting for their next chapter. Kanawha Black now arrives seven years after its predecessor, and not only doesn’t disappoint, but has some of the most well-worked Nechochwen have put together in the project’s lifetime.

Once started as a pure neofolk / acoustic band, such elements still resonate very strongly in Nechochwen’s music. The record has plenty of melodic, almost purely acoustic chunks with enjoyable clean vocals, which are sometimes used exclusively (for example, in “The Murky Deep” and “I Can Die But Once”) but also as parts of longer compositions. The production glorifies the band’s earthy sound and emphasizes the variety of melodies Nechochwen employ, in a record that is by no means down lifting but rather epic and of great conceptual concept. Apart from the slightly more surprising short piece “A Cure for the Winter Plagues”, which has the pattern and deep growls of a funeral doom metal track, most tempos in Kanawha Black are middle / fast paced and its flow is impeccable. 

When the tracks get more direct and closer to clear black metal, there is always a set of dominating, blistering guitars that completely lay on folk / atmospheric black directions, yet don’t imagine the use of extra instruments to achieve an atmosphere. Shrieked vocals are awesome and the song structures are especially appealing, as it is demonstrated in “Visions, Dreams and Signs” or the opening, self-titled. The last part of Kanawha Black features another set of two amazing pieces, “Generations of War” and “Across the Divide”, which include all the fine tools of the band’s arsenal combined together in a quite successful way. I would personally prefer more screaming than singing especially in the distorted guitar parts, yet that is only personal, it doesn't really take any merit from the final work away.

It has been proven before that Nechochwen a really powerful band and their newest work is surely compelling at all levels. Not the average folk black project, full of interesting ideas and intense compositions with great riffs and some soloing only when needed, and not as a means of making an impression of skill. Kanawha Black is, as their previous works, strongly connected to nature and would make great company for a short hike out in the woods. 

Label: Bindrune Recordings
Country: Canada
Release date: May 13th, 2022
Website: Facebook

DAMAGE: 4/5 [Excellent]

Apr 30, 2022

Watain - The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (2022)

Four years and some turbulence since Trident Wolf Eclipse, the most commercially successful black metal band of our time returns with a new installment to their discography, transparently called The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain just as a characterization of their lifestyle and music career up to this day. Once again recorded at Necromorbus Studio at their hometown, Watain's body of work has always been catered from start to finish by its own people and similar-minded disciples, and at the end of the day, even if you can have any studio you want on the planet, why change a winning team...

For starters, I prefer this artwork to the previous album. While The Wild Hunt had to me the best visuals Watain have ever done, there are times that I have not understood their choices in that district. A rework of their mid 00's logo, infused with an Impetigo / Merciless kind of chaotic font filling, in vivid red color above a chock-full design makes a good case of presenting the record along with the way the title is written on it. At the same time, I'm not sure how I feel about the title itself, and this extends to some track titles in the record. For a band that is quite capable of writing great lyrics, I imagine they spent too much time touring with Profanatica before coming up with "Black Cunt", and also, what is a funeral winter? Strictly speaking, that means nothing.

Sound wise, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain has a crystal clear production and a bombastic sound that won't let down fans of the band. The record is full of the quintessential, melodic structures Watain are known for, and shows a more distinct experimentation with different tempos within compositions, while at times being totally chaotic in high speed moments. I found Trident Wolf Eclipse to be a more direct album, as The Agony... shows a stronger propensity towards clearer melodies without missing thunderous turns of pumped energy that as a fan, you should be really eager to see live. For example, "Leper's Grace" is one of the most straightforward and heaviest tracks I have heard from Watain the last few years, it doesn't hold back for a second, and the same goes for the blasting opener "Ecstasies In Night Infinite" which serves as a great introduction to the album.

One of the singles put out prior to the full release, is a track that I feel can be the next big hit of the band and played around as frequently as a piece like "Malfeitor" or "Reaping Death". Built as the clearest example of what this band is, "The Howling" is what you should suggest to someone new to Watain if you want to show them the most typical sample of what they are about, and it's a pretty enjoyable banger as a whole, even though I don't like the very first two seconds, where that tiny opening riff should have been skipped completely. In some of its longer pieces, The Agony... showcases Watain's competency with creating impassioned guitar lines when they're not too busy playing fast and destructive, and "Before the Cataclysm" depicts exactly that.

Two guest appearances are featured in the record's 8th track "We Remain" (another title at the same level like "They Rode On"), specifically In Solitude's bassist Gottfrid Åhman and the frontman of The Devil's Blood, Farida Lemouchi. Watain have been in very good relations with both these bands and have paid their respect to The Devil's Blood in the past, which makes this collaboration totally reasonable, and it's the time when the band leaves the space open for these amazing female vocals to define this epic slow paced track, which has much stronger and better substance than the previous time when they tried clean vocals in The Wild Hunt. It is not a track I will be listening to that much, but I can tell its evocative nature and finally doesn't feel forced, and it fits well with the rest of the album.

With that being said, there is no point for the short piano piece "Nor sun nor man nor god" to be here, as it's overly simplistic and even includes some guitar playing. Why not make this the introduction of the next track for example? These choices of metal bands always baffle me. Weak moments also lie in the tracks "Serimosa" and the aforementioned "Black Cunt", with the latter being the most boring piece in the album, especially for this compositional pattern of abrupt starting and stopping of the guitars that is frequently used in it, which made it skippable for me. Luckily, it is just one track, and while "Serimosa" seemingly has nice melodies, I would have liked less repetition there too, and its timidness made it a bit unimpressive to me.

The Agony... concludes its piece well, with two really well written black metal pieces, "Funeral Winter" (... ok) and "Serpentrion". The glorious days of the past, when a whole Watain album was a hellish masterpiece, are gone. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear that the flame is still burning for this band and they have not strayed that much from their path, they are extremely skilled and capable of creating their own sound in black metal despite being so honorary towards their influences, and they have not been afraid to experiment. This album represents a fine next step to what they have been doing, and it has several really acute and potent moments, as well as some clear missteps for me. However, even the more fragile moments of the band are still very high in my preferences list, so...

"A cross has been carved in the place where we go to die
There they await, to draw every secret from you
And the blood of thy heart"

Label: Nuclear Blast
Country: Sweden
Release date: April 29th, 2022
Website: Instagram

DAMAGE: 4/5 [Excellent]

Apr 26, 2022

Corpsessed - Succumb to Rot (2022)

This Finnish band's acute sting is no wonder when taking into account its members, who are also active in projects like Lie In Ruins, Profetus, Tyranny and Concrete Winds, some of the most high quality extreme metal out of that country, considering everything (you heard me). Nevertheless, I never gave Corpsessed a proper listen except for 2018's Impetus of Death, which I had found more than entertaining, and now their fourth full length and first release in three years, Succumb to Rot, which is as bludgeoning as the title suggests.

While disregarding excess in technicality, the record thrives on potent, heavy riffing with numerous middle and slower paced moments, cavernous vocals and harsh but clear production that has admittedly taken a step or two forward compared to their previous material. There is a leveled amount of old school death metal groove in Succumb to Rot, as well as excellent drumming with an even more excellent sound, definitely one of the highlights for me that made the tracks even more pleasing throughout the listen. Corpsessed have a good sense of riff sequencing and are not afraid to switch tempos when needed, achieving a result that stands out for its amounts of the purest element of the genre, brutality.

It's not that Succumb to Rot is completely void of filler moments. Especially in the longer tracks of the record (such as "Profane Phlegm", "Sublime Indignation" or "Spiritual Malevolence"), I heard some moments that served as little too long bridges between actually solid parts in the composition, especially when the band decides to go almost towards doom / death territories. This little point can remain under the radar though and won't really annoy the ear of a listener who gives themselves up to the album, an otherwise wholesome experience. These tracks are also enjoyable, but I do think Corpsessed are flawless in their shortest pieces, especially "Relentless Entropy". I could also live without this two minute introduction, but it does somehow set a mood. Imagine though, the record starting with the massive second track!

Corpsessed explode just before the record ends with the longest piece in the record, "Pneuma Akathartos", meaning unclean spirit in Greek and slightly grammatically incorrect (the correct phrase would be pneuma akatharto). Here, one can hear actually efficient doom-ish passages in between completely crushing death metal that brought Desolate Shrine in mind, while Corpsessed are more of an Incantation / Disma kind of hellspawn. Succumb to Rot does not come lightly, it doesn't contain any tricks to sound as punishing as it does and it resembles the image of a giant boulder running over the house. All in all, it hits what death metal can and should hit.
Label: Dark Descent Records
Country: Finland
Release date: April 22nd, 2022
Website: Instagram

DAMAGE: 3.5/5 [Great]

Apr 15, 2022

Suppression - The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh (2022)

Band: Suppression
Country: Chile
Album: The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh
Label: Unspeakable Axe Records
Website: Facebook

What needs to be stressed when looking at this new Chilean band, with only a couple of demos and an EP under their belts so far, is that it consists of members who also play in the - also relatively new - death / thrash band Ripper. And over there, they have shown to have an excellent grip on creating fast and pumped, old school rooted, menacing metal with no elements of modernity, as with 2016's Experiment of Existence being to me, one of the best album of its kind for that decade. The same gifted individuals now take a turn towards purer death metal and the underground should be happy.

For people listening to this music more than just to find out what they like and pass their time, it's an ordeal to end up finding a band with substance, mainly because of the rate records are released and how different approaches sometimes miss core points. Once one tries to play it old school, one sounds worse than what we have already heard. Once one tries to go on cleaner and more modern playing, one puts oneself in danger of lacking meaning in the music for the sake of ultra complex technique. In the end, I am frustrated to listen to 90% of death metal bands with fancy album covers out there. Oh, what is this, another Swedish chainsaw sound record about death? Just what we needed.

Considering these side notes, Suppression is a breath of fresh air in a post-apocalyptic, barren and uninhabitable wasteland. This band understands the essence of the riff. The flow and structure of their tracks is perfect, every instrument is audible and has a purpose in the composition, and they dare to experiment more than once in this album. Production-wise, the same muddy sound of the Ripper albums is ongoing, but it shouldn't be anything other than that. There's a ton of bulldozing guitar melodies all over the place, wonderfully placed together in seamless changes of tempos and it's above all, naturally heavy. 

Of the two instrumentals, there is one short acoustic piece and a more elaborated piece "Unwinded Harmonies", in the same spirit like the rest of the record, only more abstract and experimental that reminds a bit of early technical death metal's unconventional side, but only in parts of it. I liked all the solos I heard in The Sorrow of Soul Through Flesh, which also features vocals very close to the style of Obituary, and it's the only minor drawback I could find. While there's nothing wrong with how the vocalist sounds, sometimes it gets to close to this way of singing (for example in the second track "Overfeeding Gaps"), which is already a bit particular.

Apart from that, the record is full of amazing death metal tracks. The opening "Lifelessness", as well as "Lost Eyes" and "Monochromatic Chambers" are highlights, for their glorious guitar and bass moments, with the latter having a vibrant presence in the album, as it should always be. The take home message here is the same as in the other band of these Chileans, that you can still play old school without boring the listener to death, and it can be worthy listening to even further away from the ears of the fanatics of traditional metal that don't go for anything else. As much as I like Ripper, I like Suppression now.

Release date: April 25th, 2022

1. Lifelessness
2. Overfeeding Gaps 
3. Monochromatic Chambers
4. Unperpetual Misery
5. Unwinding Harmonies
6. Lost Eyes
7. Misunderstanding Reality
8. Self-Eaten Alive
9. Arrowheads
10. Extortion Behaviors

Apr 2, 2022

E-L-R - Vexier (2022)

Band: E-L-R
Country: Switzerland
Album: Vexier
Label: Prophecy Productions
Website: Facebook

The second full length by Swiss doom / psychedelic rock / blackgaze / atmospheric-post metal band E-L-R sees the light of day three years after their promising debut Mænad, and proves that it is sometimes rather senseless to force a genre label to something, after this description surpasses two words. It is still a case of an artist that has, to me, quite clear musical leanings, yet I can't stick just one genre tag on them, and I was reminded of this through their latest installment, a brand new full length named Vexier

E-L-R is a concoction of a few but assertive elements: powerful middle-paced post-metal riffing (similar to which, you have heard from the giants of the genre), a few slow ritualistic passages, even fewer intense, black metal-ish moments and dominant atmosphere in reverb. They sure take their time with Vexier, as tracks repeat and repeat themselves and you catch yourself nodding without realizing it. This is a double edged sword though: the music works perfectly almost as a secondary presence, but might lose a more impatient listener, who doesn't focus on anything else at the time of listening, along the way. At the same time, Vexier has the complete skillset to absolutely captivate and let everything drawn in to its world, once the conditions are right.

For me, the record has enough variety to stay interesting even when they're pushing the boundaries of repetitiveness at times. Consider how quickly rhythms change in "Three Winds", which dances between a black metal introduction, post-rock clean guitars and atmospheric doom metal with impressive vocals (a point that I will come back to later). At the same time, the droning, funereal tracks "Fleurs of Decay" and "Seeds", barely change tone throughout their duration, bringing in mind the compositional approach of Indian to me, even though the music is of course not the same. "Fleurs of Decay" is great, as is the massive closer piece "Forêt". Its introduction, as if taken from a Wolves in The Throne Room record, builds up for almost six minutes before unraveling long one note melodies and a melancholic ending which goes hand in hand with how Vexier opens during the first seconds of "Opiate the Sun".

That track is also very characteristic of what E-L-R are doing, and the horsepower and weight of these riffs, really make them worthy of the name. In its 12 minutes of length, "Opiate the Sun" is a delight to listen to, exactly because of how heavy the melodies are, the organic production and even more, the ethereal female vocals. By far my favorite aspect of Vexier, which hardly has any lyrics (thank you), is the usage of chanting distant female vocals as layers of specific parts of the compositions, instead of having a leading role, and it works marvelously. I felt the message of the band being successfully conveyed through the tracks, and all the little additions like rain or flowing water samples just put even more force for the ink on the stamp to stay. 

I am all up for the nature oriented adaptation of the band and agree with most of their choices, musical and aesthetical. E-L-R left a good mark with their debut but didn't hook me back then, I think with Vexier I am seriously revisiting the band will be paying more close attention to their creations. As a person who can be easily alienated by uninspired post-metal, I think E-L-R let their ideas grow and construct their own realm in this genre, as a multi-faceted band with more to give than what you would perceive with just one quick listen. And to think I almost missed this!

Release date: March 11th, 2022

1. Opiate the Sun
2. Three Winds
3. Seeds
4. Fleurs of Decay
5. Forêt