For those of you just now joining this series about Maryland Deathfest XIV, I’m in the process of highlighting the bands whose performances were the best of the ones I saw and heard in Baltimore beginning on Wednesday of last week.
Rather than doing a day-by-day recap, I’ve organized the bands into four somewhat loosely defined categories. Yesterday’s feature was a “Shades of Black” collection of black metal bands, and before that was one under the heading “Swedish (and Dutch) Death Metal Supremacy”. I’m calling today’s celebration “The Black Death“, not only because that describes the general style of music performed by the following six bands, but also because they all spread a lethal kind of auditory plague.
Presented in the order in which I witnessed the performances over 5 nights and 4 days, and I’ve again included my photos of each band (most of which are gathered at the end of this post).
Here are a few new things I spied over the last 24 hours that I thought you might like, because I sure as hell did.
There’s been a running joke in the comment sections of our annual LISTMANIA series over the last few years. It dates back to a comment left in December 2013 when I re-posted a list from Rolling Stone that named Deafheaven’s Sunbather as the best album of 2013. Not having paid attention to the title of the post or the text that also identified Rolling Stone as the source of the list, some nitwit wrote: “Deafhaven. That’s laughable. Gorguts put out the best METAL album this year – don’t deny it. Stop trying to be different – you’re only appealing to hipsters. Have fun with that. I thought I’d found a credible metal music site to frequent – apparently not. Laters.”
That comment has now jokingly been repeated in our comment section so many times in the subsequent years that I can almost recite it from memory. I shudder to think how often it will appear this December, when there actually IS a new Gorguts release in the year-end running — as it surely will be.
Odori Sepulcrorum, the debut album by London’s Grave Miasma, is easily one of the best blackened/death/doom albums of the year. Although it is very difficult to compare albums across all the manifold sub-genres of death metal, it surely must also be considered among the best death metal albums of 2013 regardless of category, because the band so masterfully achieve what they set out to do. But it’s one of those albums where reviewers will get a lot more mileage out of reaching for metaphors to describe its dense, dank atmosphere than by detailing the mechanics of what the band do to produce it. Because what they do, at least on the surface, may seem very simple, very primitive, perhaps even neolithic. I’ll show you what I mean:
The album was produced in a way that drenches the vocals and instruments in delay and reverb effects, creating a dense, thick sound in the guitars and bass and a massive (though quite natural) tone in the drums. The vocals in particular come with a decaying echo, as if recorded in a crypt — and they’re so deep and ghastly that they would give Disma’s Craig Pillard a run for his money in the sweepstakes for cavernous bestiality.
The guitars and bass are tuned down and distorted to near-Dismember levels of corrosiveness. Almost all the guitar parts are executed with tremolo picking, producing an even more impenetrable, roaring maelstrom of evil, grinding sound. You can imagine the pick hands flying in a frenzy, although the chord progressions generally move in massive, almost overwhelming waves, in keeping with the generally slow or mid-paced rhythms of this utterly doomed music.
The drumming, which accounts for a significant part of the music’s variety, is bone shattering in its tone. The double-bass eruptions feel like earthquakes, the methodical blast-beats like cannon fire, the tribal-style progressions like the prelude to a sacrificial ritual.
Shit. I’m already reaching for the metaphors before even finishing a description of the mechanics.
To start the weekend, I’ve collected new death metal in this post that I strongly recommend, from three very good bands.
This UK band made quite an impact with the two EPs they’ve released to date — 2009’s Exalted Emanation and 2010’s Realm of Evoked Doom — and now they’ve completed a debut album entitled Odori Sepulcrorum that’s due for release on September 13 (September 17 in NorthAm) by Profound Lore and the German label Sepulchral Voice. It was reportedly recorded on analog format using vintage equipment, and it features wonderful cover art (above), painted with acrylics on glass by Denis Forkas.
So far I’ve only heard one of the new tracks, “Ovation To A Thousand Lost Reveries”. It made me think of the song we streamed earlier this week from Ulcerate’s new album. It’s a roaring storm of ancient blackened death metal, the riffs moaning and grinding and oozing with putrescence. The drum tone is titanic, and the barbaric vocals echo like roars of the awakened dead across the vault of dank crypts.
Like Ulcerate, Grave Miasma prove that there is still fertile ground for creative growth in the graveyard of wholly dominating death metal. The song is wonderfully inventive while remaining rotten to the core. Stupendous stuff.