Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Devangelic - Xul Review

There is overpopulation in every extreme metal subgenre today, which makes it an even bigger relief to find a solid band among the tons of new music one can go through during each year. Such quality band is Devangelic from Rome, Italy, who have started their activities in 2012 and have offered a handful of highly enjoyable records in the brutal death metal territory, as it was executed by its founders 25 years ago. The band’s debut Resurrection Denied in 2014 had a strong blasphemous character, but since then they have switched to a more occult lyrical theme around Sumerian legends and mythology, which continues on the latest album, Xul

Devangelic draw arrows from the same quiver like they have done so far and they aim well, as this new work thrives upon compact heaviness and intimidating brutality. It is fairly technical in terms of musicianship, throwing multiple either perplexed, or straightforward groovy riffs, the solos are frequent and the tempos change often, making Xul complicated enough to show the merit of the band, but pleasing to follow without your head exploding. 

The production is less crystal clear than what it was on the previous record Ersetu in 2020 and this time, the band aims to feel a bit less modern than before, giving out a strong Disgorge worship here, adding enough samples and extra elements that would bring Nile in mind, or at least a brutal death metal version of them. I like this sound transition a lot, because it grants Xul a very potent presence, which is supported by the furious material it contains and presents an album almost of a different time, solid through and through, and amazingly barbarous. 

Vocals are almost solely limited to deep growling, with a few high pitched screams here and there, and sometimes it’s possible to follow the lyrics, but they perfectly fit the music on Xul altogether. Another excellent aspect is the drum work, which keeps up to whatever the guitars throw wonderfully, it maintains a healthy amount of blast beats and is varied enough throughout the record without showing off, but more like serving the composition itself. 

There is an abundance of parts at frenetic speed and some slower, almost breakdown-like intersections, while Devangelic often employ unusual time signatures as is characteristic in brutal death metal, all executed accurately. Xul reaches the higher steps of the ladder for this year’s competition in the genre, and is to me, their most complete work to date.

Out on April 7th, 2023 | Willowtip Records

DAMAGE: 4/5 [Excellent]

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Lamp of Murmuur - Saturnian Bloodstorm Review

Among the numerous underground, noisy raw black metal projects that make appearances and disappearances in the scene the last few years, one of the most talked about ones has definitely been Lamp of Murmuur. After a series of demos and a split with Revenant Marquis, this band captivated the audience with its grandiose debut Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism in 2020, a record that found its way even to more mainstream lists and ears despite its harsh nature. Undoubtedly, there was massive inspiration and merit in that release, which did not evaporate at the follow-up album Submission and Slavery in 2021, establishing the Lamp of Murmuur name for good as a newcomer to look out for in black metal. 

Up to now, everything has been bleached in black and white representation, which brought the first wave of shock in the form of the well-designed, colourful cover art of the new record Saturnian Bloodstorm (which is, as the title, actually delightful). I had been in waiting for the time Lamp of Murmuur will actually step outside of its shadow and aim bigger, this attempt coming now with this polished work that wants to take them closer to the spotlight. 

While I am all for band ambition, the discography on their shoulders is already quite heavy and for what it is, Saturnian Bloodstorm is surprisingly uninteresting and stale. It is clear that the band makes almost tribute albums to their music role models (Submission and Slavery was a love letter to Sisters of Mercy) and now this record looks Immortal straight in the eye. Taking a production even cleaner than At the Heart of Winter, a worrying chunk of this album feels and sounds like Immortal, their landmark guitar sound and riff structure. The guitar lines are too close to that (reeking examples in “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might”, “Seal of the Dominator” and “In Communion with the Wintermoon”, as in, wintermoon…) but the record lacks the energy, the pathos and the vitality of the previous Lamp of Murmuur works. 

It almost doesn’t feel like them, and what was unique and exciting to listen to before from this band, has now completely disappeared, them having turned into a Scandinavian norsecore clone with slim to none of their own identity. Saturnian Bloodstorm is fun to listen to, it is clean enough to not be annoying and has a couple of catchy moments. But this statement by itself, is a huge disappointment when talking about Lamp of Murmuur.

Out on March 26th, 2023 | Argento Records

DAMAGE: 2.5/5 [Average]

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Mork - Dypet Review

Two years ago, it was with Katedralen that I got a bit more convinced that Mork can actually meet its reputation. It has been a band with professionalism that shines through the building, all the right imagery properly placed almost like cancelling the genre’s original spontaneity, which is the reason for their success but also the source of my slight hesitation especially with a set of moderate releases between 2013 and 2019. However, Katedralen’s gripping material indicated that the band looked slightly further than just being another Norwegian black metal band and explored, in their way, fresh directions. 

While this should not mislead the reader that Mork actually experiments towards something completely new, yet they have started to incorporate small sounds, little elements as well as a more personal compositional structure for that record, as well as the newest work Dypet. It is by no means the fiercest or coldest black metal album out of their territories, instead it mostly employs expressive, poignant melodies, it takes its time by setting basic layers and building upon them with beautiful guitar riffs, bass lines and distinctive shrieked vocals. 

The artwork, as the music, is still colourless, but Mork have grown to be a rather easy to listen black metal band. The tracks in Dypet are fairly accessible but at the same time not boring, and with such a smoothened production, this record can stand as an example of what black metal is, in a discussion with an audience that is not actually seasoned in the genre, and an entry level release before diving into bands of a more violent nature. 

Highlights include the moving riffs of “Bortgang”, the accompanying clean vocals in “Svik” and “Hoye Murer” that features Hjelvik of Kvelertak. Exquisite details form the introductions of “Forfort av kulden” and the closing track “Tillbake til opprinelsen”, but Mork are smart enough to use just a few seconds for them before going on.  Their heavier side can be found in the more ominous piece “Avskum” but that’s about it, I would generally like the band to have an overall more assertive presence with Dypet, as all instruments feel like holding back a bit, especially the drumming. Nevertheless, it is clear that it is what Mork intended and they have several assets to show that make the record worth listening to and owning, especially looking at this cover.

Out on March 24th, 2023 | Peaceville Records

DAMAGE: 3.5/5 [Great]

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Spectral Lore - 11 Days EP Review

Spectral Lore’s mailman Ayloss has been quite vocal about societal topics and issues on various platforms online in the past, but it had never really entered the thematics of this specific project, apart from maybe the cover of “No Excuses for Fascist Sympathy” by Book of Sand in a single release back in 2019. With his latest work, which is 43 minutes long but can still be considered an EP for Spectral Lore release duration standards, he takes a stand on a receptive and critical problem, that of established regulations regarding refugees in Europe. 

This time, the subject also contributes to the formation of the music, hence a concept release, with allegories drawn from references to various religions and mythological points and a suggestive artwork to go along with it. Musically, the play style of Ayloss is vibrant throughout the whole duration, laying somewhere between the more intense Spectral Lore patterns and the ferocity of a project like Mystras. In 11 Days, the composer manages to convey his anger through the tracks, as the material actually sounds more enraged and more irritated than in recent, more dreamlike albums (e.g. the phenomenal Ετερόφωτος from 2021). 

It balances between two black metal pieces and two dark ambient pieces with one of each type placed consecutively, providing an engaging experience of excellent story telling that can convey the spectrum of struggles it refers to. Opening with animosity and “Moloch”, the synth lines and samples of “Fortitude/Sunrise” can really drag the listener through the angst of being lost at sea with the way forward uncertain and the way back in ruins. “Adro Onzi” features middle-paced ominous guitar melodies that differ from the usual, perplexed fast riff handling of Spectral Lore, and the closer “Tremor/Kalunga Line” features narrating vocals, interlude sections that slightly remind of the prog, non-singing side of current Enslaved, and an almost warmhearted, more epic ending that can leave an aftertaste of hope instead of despair. 

11 Days is a remarkable release by an already remarkable musician, it contains the feel of Spectral Lore at a great form and picks a side. Perfect flow allows for these 40 minutes to feel like a much shorter time, and its more concise dimensions do not allow of any waste of content. Ayloss, as always, is more than capable of creating a work that speaks for itself, and on substantial ground.

Out on March 21st, 2023 | Stellar Auditorium Productions

DAMAGE: 4/5 [Excellent]

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Downfall of Gaia - Silhouettes of Disgust Review

I remember my surprise when this band signed up with Metal Blade Records right after their debut album Epos in 2010. They have polished and restructured their sound and performance since then, having had a relatively successful journey with a series of solid records of what can be discerned as a quite modern approach to underground metal. Fusing crust, post-metal and sludge, along with an attenuated conception of what black metal might be in this day and age, Downfall of Gaia’s latest work Silhouettes of Disgust is anxious and affecting, of assorted taste, with its merits but also its weaknesses.

The tracks of the album are well-worked and diverse enough, moving from heavy fast paced parts (which are executed wonderfully), clean guitar sections, female clean vocal narrations as well as the characteristic main shrieked screams of the band, tempo changes and and an overall charged atmosphere that manages not to diffuse away as things progress. The band gets its hands dirty in various moments, like in “Final Vows” or “The Whir of Flies”, both highlights of the record. D-beat playing arrises in several parts of Silhouettes of Disgust, in more impassioned than harsh guitar lines that show how Downfall of Gaia expresses neocrust, especially obvious in the last two pieces “Unredeemable” and “Optograms of Disgust”. 

Opening with a hefty, sizeable tune like “Existence of Awe”, the stage is set properly for the record. On the downside, it seems like after 10 years of activity and 5 albums since their debut, the music of Downfall of Gaia grows to be a little bit predictable even if it combines several elements, and it is not monotonous. The production has given a fairly loud sound to the snare drums as well, which might reach and annoy the ears of the more demanding audio listeners. 

During the middle-paced, stripped down interjection parts of the album, when the band slows down and builds up the next heated section with simple guitar riffs, it may feel like an almost filler moment for some, even though the overall flow of the record is there. Lastly, Silhouettes of Disgust is in a general manner, not as sharp as their last album Ethic of Radical Finitude, which already felt like a record they had written before. The band, while still sounding relevant, would make good use of a stream of new inspiration for future releases if they want to avoid stalling.

Out on March 17th, 2023 | Metal Blade Records

DAMAGE: 3/5 [Good]

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Afsky - Om hundrede år Review

This project has taken significant traction already from its first steps with 2015's self-titled EP, and the first two -especially the second- full length albums, Sorg in 2018 and Ofte jeg drømmer mig død in 2020, have had considerable success with the audience. Afsky's atmospheric black metal is strongly emotional, wreaks of despair and elegantly expresses its melancholic beauty so much with its moving works, as well as the catered lyrical themes and artworks. 

The new record Om hundred år maintains the same path with a masterful front cover by Kris Verwimp, reminiscent of the project’s style, and it has the music to go along with it. With a semi-dusty, organic sound, Afsky do not lose track of the goal in this newest release, which still blisters with wonderful atmospheric / depressive black metal, filled with gripping, expressive guitar melodies and harrowing vocals. Mostly present are middle-paced pieces, with an addition of faster, more intensified moments and extra usage of wonderful acoustic guitar parts, especially as connection points between parts of compositions. 

A point where Om hundred år really flourishes is the memorability of the tracks, as most of them have quite clearly articulated riffs, but also the overall feelings remain after the listening session is through. At the same time, it doesn’t last forever, just at 43 minutes instead of a more unnecessarily elaborate release, which could be the case for atmospheric black metal. Opening track “Stormfulde has” contains all the aforementioned elements highlighted, and such notable points can be identified all over the album, which is well-written and flows smoothly. 

For me personally, Afsky’s performances are usually on point and stand out from the pack, up to a certain level of admiration which, however, doesn’t overshoot to extreme heights. During the record’s more repetitive moments, or the abrupt section changes from one to the next, there lies a little opportunity for improvement for this project, but such a flaw is minor and almost invisible when in the mood to fully let yourself embrace the experience. Om hundrede år is a fine atmospheric black metal release, by now characteristic of Afsky and will be cherished, which is in itself an accomplishment. 

Out on March 15th, 2023 / Vendetta Records

DAMAGE: 3.5/5 [Great]

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Hyperdontia - Deranged EP Review

For some bands, it is the case that you’re simply happy they’re around. Such is the situation with Danish / Turkish death metal powerhouse Hyperdontia, who have been consistently offering gruesome, top-notch material for the last five years and the debut Nexus of Teeth in 2018. Their second work Hideous Entity from 2021 was an evenly pleasing jewel of the genre, and finally there’s some more material with the new EP, titled Deranged

Four tracks and a little bit more than 20 minutes of music (apart from being the ideal duration for this physical format) can go a long way when they’re so well executed as Hyperdontia keep on grinding on the formulas they excel at. This mini-album is like a protein boosted power bar, it contains all the best qualities of death metal at the ideal dose and purest form, just enough to cleanse the thirst for the listener and smash the surroundings. 

Guitars hammer down colossal riffs and furious solos constantly, the tempos change as often as needed, bass lines are perfectly audible and the vocals are impressive, constituting to a fantastic EP release by Hyperdontia, who is a death metal tour de force currently. Deranged strongly reminds of 90’s classic US death metal and gives out some Deicide hints sometimes, it is void of filler moments and simply doesn’t slow down, except for the more middle-paced introduction of the last track “Degradations of the Flesh”.

“Nauseting Hallucinations” and “Deluded” are both flawless bangers and the band gets more adventurous with soloing in “Gagging in Convulsion” through different tempos, as Deranged has excellent song structure across all compositions. The EP is also highly repeatable and the excitement doesn’t wear out after a few listens, working wonderfully for Hyperdontia as a truly remarkable mini-release for the year. More amazing material added to an already amazing back catalogue.


DAMAGE: 4/5 [Excellent]


Release date: 15 Mar 2023
Release label: Dark Descent Records / Me Saco un Ojo Records
Website: Facebook
Listen: Bandcamp

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Suicide Silence - Remember... You Must Die Review

Things have not always been smooth throughout the career of Suicide Silence, with the death of  their original frontman Mitch Lucker being a clear point of division of the pre- and post- era of the band. Even while being one of the most influential names in the deathcore scene, their discography always floats around the average mark with some extremely weak points and only a handful of notable moments. 

The new record Remember… You Must Die comes after a couple of generally skippable (or worse) previous releases of the last five years and finds the band still deep in the struggle. Tracks feast on constantly ongoing chugging, down-tuned grooves, with an actual riff making an appearance here and there throughout a streamline of breakdown after breakdown as if the band is on complete autopilot and doesn’t have to think anymore for new material. It amazes me how the current singer Hernan Hermida, always sounds much worse than the times when he was in All Shall Perish, a fairly respectable deathcore band. 

As the vocals in Remember… You Must Die are mediocre, it is painfully annoying in terms of it textual work. This album title, most of the track titles, as well as the lyrics are dull, superficial and of seriously low quality, as are bits and bytes of the compositions too, apart from the obvious breakdown abuse. Slightly interesting is the middle paced, baleful part of “God Be Damned” which gives a slightly different note but unfortunately only last some seconds. Other than that, all the rest of the music in the record is poorly made, unimaginative, it fails to achieve essential heaviness even when the band tries to be even more intense (for example in “Endless Dark”). 

It might just be that the fate of Suicide Silence is like that, and coming from someone who once listened to the band a lot, I enjoy some of their work while acknowledging that it can’t reach the bar compared to serious-minded extreme metal artists. Remember… You Must Die doesn’t have tracks even to serve as guilty pleasures, it carries all the sins of its genre and can’t seem to escape its own formula, by now re-chewed and served to you as fresh. The last song this band wrote was “Human Violence”, and that remains true for now.


DAMAGE: 1.5/5 [Bad]


Release date: 10 Mar 2023
Release label: Napalm Records
Listen: Spotify

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Full of Hell & Primitive Man - Suffocating Hallucination Review

Through different practices of establishing oppressive darkness, it is not unreasonable to consider Primitive Man and Full of Hell were actually churned out of the same furnace. The main distinction is of course the speed of each band's material, the former stomps an overwhelmingly heavy and slow doom metal palette, while the latter skins sound to its extreme with fast paced grindcore. Common ground is found - which is also what distinguishes both from the larger part of the aforementioned genre families - in the excessive use of noise and power electronics. 

Once noticing a collaboration album between these two artists, it feels like such an act was just bound to happen eventually, especially among such like-minded individuals. Suffocating Hallucination is characterised by a thick, impenetrable, ugly and intimidating atmosphere, as it is met in the works of both bands. 

It is a record that features both their capabilities under the same blanket, yet each respective identity somehow stays intact, and you can be pretty sure of what material was written by which of the two. The vocals also swap between Primitive Man’s growls and Full of Hell’s screaming, but in terms of tempo compromises, most of the record is middle to slow paced with a few distinct faster moments. 

The listener gets what was promised with Suffocating Hallucination, as it ticks boxes for: an ultra speedy, 25 second track “Bludgeon” as the stamp of Full of Hell, a dark ambient / noise texture interlude “Dwindling Will”, a painfully decelerated Primitive Man anthem “Trepanation of Future Joys” and the clearest amalgam of the two projects, “Rubble Home”. At the longest piece, the closing “Tunnels to God”, it is the first time we witness these otherwise gruesome bands adopts more melancholic nuances through the fog and the noise, as the song slowly progresses and deconstructs itself. 

Such attempts substantiate the inspirational drive behind the creation of Suffocating Hallucination and save the record from being obsolete, as all the pieces are here, hideously refreshed and promptly served on a plate. As a follower of Primitive Man and Full of Hell by now, I see merit in both sides and acknowledge this work, as one of the better collaboration examples lately.

DAMAGE: 3.75/5 [Great]

Release date: 03 Mar 2023
Release label: Closed Casket Activities
Listen: Bandcamp

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Enslaved - Heimdal Review

The previous decade mostly had me hooked with Enslaved and all of their recent records, maybe except the admittedly quite solid Utgard in 2018, which was received warmly by the fans despite my own final verdict. All of the band’s works have a lot to discover when engaging with them, and while the same goes with the latest offering Heimdal, it is also a quick eye catcher regardless. The familiar blend of black metal, 70’s progressive rock and slight psychedelia, still resonates all across this album, but they gratefully cater heavier and more unconventional (even jazzy) patterns here and there, showing the everlasting calibre of the band. 

Grutle’s vocal work is impeccable, with excellent clean voice parts in chorus-like sections or in forms of narration, and powerful screams when the tracks dictate so. The gallery of melodies in Heimdal is vast, taking trips to prog directions through the lens of the band and not the genre, with a rhythmic complexity that is apparent but still easy to comprehend and enjoy as the album unfolds. 

Enslaved also employ little recurring elements in the compositions, like the use of synth keys in a few instances especially in “Forest Dweller”, which features keyboards similar to “The Sacred Son” from the album E and texture-like synth sounds similar to “Forsaken” from the album RIITIIR

The band’s more combative nature lies in parts of “Kingdom”, which also has instant attention grabbing guitar work in the introduction, the wondrous and intriguing highlight “Mongolia” and in “Caravan to the Outer Worlds” and towards the end of “The Eternal Sea”. Heimdal opens with the sound of water flowing, and a deep sounding horn, executed Eilif Gundersen from Wardruna, which ensures everyone of us that these guys are real vikings. Even though that opening track “Behind the Mirror” would be on the less aggressive side of Heimdal, it sets the tone perfectly as a starter and sets the foundation of this wondrous album. 

Enslaved still marches forward after thirty years of activity in the scene, with a firm background and interesting innovative touches that would attract metal and non-metal fans alike. Heimdal’s musical quality is indisputable, what’s left is only for the listener to appreciate it.

DAMAGE: 4.75/5 [Brilliant]

Release date: 03 Mar 2023
Release label: Nuclear Blast
Listen: Bandcamp