I know it has been a pretty hefty amount of time since I last touched bases here at NCS. I’ve found that the queue of reviews continues to build up and I fell victim to it, allowing the tremendous amount of stuff that I wanted to talk about to become absolutely paralyzing, to the point where I just couldn’t cohere thoughts anymore. In this case, it was because a handful of releases were clogging up the works — discs that I had been enjoying for the better part of half a year now but for some reason or another we just never got around to talking about.
So, this collection of smaller reviews is an experiment, an opportunity to try writing something briefer and more concise. Much as I love to dissect an album and romp around in its innards until I’m a gore-soaked mess from time to time, I also feel like this is a collection of discs that I need to get out there, especially as we draw closer and closer to the year-end collections, when there’s a good chance that some of these discs will be popping up on there. At the very least, I want to get these bands out there for people to listen to, as some of these are flying under the radar and absolutely shouldn’t.
So, here’s the first of a planned collection of shorter reviews. I hope to have another collection again here soon, with even more bands that I’ve been meaning to check out.
This time around, these releases come from a period of discovery during the end of April to the first couple weeks of May, with one that I noticed came out in the middle of October helping to break things up. Plus, in that latter band’s case, I really enjoy splattering that group’s artwork on the website, for it is the stuff of terror.
Chronolyth – Atrophy
We begin this shorter review tour with Australia’s Chronolyth and their album Atrophy — which, like many of its compatriots in this review collection, hit earlier this year, in this case at the tail end of April.
Atrophy is Chronolyth’s second album, having a three-year-older sibling in a disc known as Sovereign. Chronolyth occupy a very interesting space in music, one composed of three genres that are in equal parts: metalcore, melodeath, and thrash. It’s the same realm a band like Sylosis have travelled over the past few years and one that has held a significant amount of appeal for listeners such as myself, mostly because I happen to enjoy that unholy trinity of genres seperately, so the combination of them tends to create a very specific niche that feels tailor-made for my listening patterns — hence, the almost immediate attraction to them on my end when I found their video for “Revenants” ages back.
Atrophy clocks in at a pretty beefy eleven songs and one intro (12 total, it’s okay, math was difficult for me, too, it’s why I chose to write instead), and that keeps things at a fairly standard forty-seven minutes, with most of the songs bouncing between three-to-five minutes in length.
On Atrophy, Chronolyth aren’t really seeking to break any boundaries. There’s an old grind about how sometimes creativity can work better with boundaries in place, and in the case of Chronolyth, the band hew very close to their specific brand of melo-death/metalcore hybrid. The group jump seamlessly on a dime from some of the best chugging guitar riffs to some really good ye-olde-Gothenburg-two-step, and Atrophy feels like a modernized version of that.
The album is filled with anthemic tracks built around shout-choruses and the occasional ignorant-as-hell breakdown (meant as a compliment, of course, more for the sake of how blatant and up-front they are), including a faster one that has the whole group yelling ‘Shut the fuck up’. The occasional angular guitar riff, like the fret-bender that is the opening of “Revenants”, helps break things up, and vocalist Hamish McSorley has some impressive range, including a strong high-scream — as demonstrated by the opening of “Facing The Ash”.
There are times on Atrophy when Chronolyth sound like they jumped out of the early 2010s metalcore scene, and then other times when the band could be ripped from today’s headlines, for lack of a better descriptor. The group spend Atrophy using each song as a chance to explore the chimera that makes up their current genre-descriptor, and it helps keep the band increasingly dynamic over Atrophy’s twelve songs. While there isn’t a hugely self-evident overall theme, as a collection of super-strong singles Atrophy feels like it was forged in one huge block and then hewn down, with all the fat and sinew removed, producing the sleek beast that it is right now.
Chronolyth have created a strong album to just toss on and rock out to from time-to-time, and Atrophy is near-perfect in that respect, acting to light a fire under listeners’ asses and keep them moving for the forty-seven-plus minutes of time that it spends with you.
Malevolentia – Rèpublique
Continuing along with the trend of albums that came out way earlier in the year, we find ourselves at the condemned doorstep of France’s Malevolentia.
Somewhere along the line we here at NCS became good friends with the more obscure side of the French black metal scene. While not so much recently, earlier on in the year we had a huge block of incredibly interesting work that was equal parts abrasive and fascinating — for lack of a better term.
That’s actually how I found out about Malevolentia, basically falling down a YouTube rabbit hole through those bands and landing on an album entitled Rèpublique (typeset Repvbliqve, because of course), which, given the group’s name and the penchant for subtituting the letter ‘v’ for ‘u’ should’ve set off a mllion alarms already, but at the very least necessitated a deeper dive, made all the more fun because I knew nothing about the group themselves other than a name and some extremely spartan cover art.
Rèpublique is an ambitious work; it is Malevolentia’s third album (marking a notch in a seeming ‘every five years’ release schedule, their first and second discs hit in 2006 and 2011) and one which sees them tackling some charged subject matter; given the current political season, that feels insanely apt. It’s an album that I am prone to describing as dense, mostly because it is one of those discs where every song feels packed to the gills — eleven tracks and about an hour’s worth of music — and then cranked up on the acceleration scale.
Malevolentia make use of a heavy orchestration that runs in the background of all their songs, meaning that on top of a furious collection of blasts, quickly picked guitars, and vocals that rotate between a sharp howl and a deep yelp, the band still leave space for some symphonic pyrotechnics to slowly bleed through the granite cliff face that is most of their music.
As much as it is a trope to lock me in with a disc on the first few songs, I’m not going to deny that the opening scream of “Annuit Coeptis” didn’t perk my ears up from moment one. In fact, the first time I crossed paths with Rèpublique, it was the opening four or five songs that really locked me in with the album as a whole. “Völuspá” is a massive seven-minute journey that morphs form multiple times and always on the edge of falling apart, so that even when you hit the brief middle section with the operatic vocals, things are clearly just on the edge of being completely unhinged.
Follower “Etemenanki” continues on the path its previous sibling traveled, also staying at close to seven minutes in length. It is one of the more straightforward and abrasive seven minutes you’ll spend on the disc. It is one of the few songs where everything stays permanently cranked at top speed for its full run, and coming in right after “Völuspá” it kind of fulfills the previous track’s promise of ‘well, these things fall apart’. The whole symphonic chunk of “Etemenanki” just feels like a keyboard being beaten to hell and back with how often the brass section is blasted throughout the song.
A large part of Rèpublique is like the opening twenty minutes of the disc. Many black metal bands tend to have their symphonic sections intertwine with their music to the point where it feels like black metal in name, but mostly because the musicians just happen to like really fast guitar sections and high vocals. In the case of Malevolentia, the band have all the traits of a black metal band nailed down pat and the symphonic section is layered on top of it, and the music is about as loud and maddening as it could go. If most of Malevolentia choose to spend the whole song being ear-shredding and abrasive, so too does the symphonic segment of the band choose to go down that same path of obliteration.
Even though we’re coming to Rèpublique insanely late in comparison to its release date, it is still a disc that I have been consistently checking out, because as I have found with many of these ‘denser’ albums, there is always something to discover within each song, oftentimes long after you’ve given a track a ton of listens. Rèpublique is one of those albums that is just as much fun to listen to as it is to dissect.
Kinnefret – The Coming Of Age
I know that I am not a fantastic prognosticator, but to my mind few bands out there are as perfectly poised to get huge quickly quite like Kinnefret. Their debut full-length The Coming Of Age is an excellent demonstration why.
Kinnefret seemingly came out of nowhere, and have provided an album that has become one of the many constant spins in my album rotations. More like Chronolyth above and less like Malevolentia, The Coming Of Age is more a collection of strong songs than a seeming throughline-concept sort of disc — the one throughline being that Kinnefret have an incredible sense for a death metal groove, with most of the songs outside of their handful of instrumental segues containing some sort of tailor-made-for-headbanging moment.
“A Far Cry For Freedom” plants a massive rhythmic section right in the center of its chorus, further punctuating an already bouncy-feeling song from the get-go. “Losing Grips To Gain Grips” is another, with a fist-pumping section midway through the song, which comes after an absolutely ferocious opening bit that wipes away the brief moment of quiet and pensive guitar playing. Kinnefret are big fans of the quiet opener that is quickly scoured off the face of the Earth via orbital strike and they use it a handful of times throughout The Coming Of Age. Truth be told, I was a sucker for it every time.
The straightforward melo-death assault that is “Victim Eyes” is one of the highlight tracks, which for some groups could be a bit risky putting right up-front, but the song serves as an explosive way to kick off the album — and yes, like many metal discs, it plays into the opening-scream-and-lightspeed-tempo approach.
As the first real introduction to the band, “Victim Eyes” accomplishes quite a few goals, which include introducing the style of death metal that Kinnefret play: a recognizably modern hybrid of the current tech-death scene, alongside a rich sense of rhythm and groove, and the speed and tempo of a proper melodeath band.
In small moments the group slip into something resembling Arch Enemy’s Wages Of Sin-era sound on The Coming Of Age, specifically toward the back half of the album where the drumming shifts out of a straightforward and hyper fast blast-beat assault into one favoring more tom work, lending a lot of primal and pulse-pounding rhythm to the album. The song “Salvation”, for instance, comes off as a hyper-intense blast-fest for the opening run of its time, making Kinnefret into this mountain of a death metal juggernaut that sees multiple vocal attacks interweaving their way throughout the whole song, before settling into a delicious groove that, as in the previously mentioned tracks, feels written specifically to get folks moving.
“Bleed Out The Sickness” and “Eternal Damnation” make for a great pairing at the mid-point of the album, following the aforementioned “A Far Cry For Freedom”. The two songs serve well to highlight Kinnefret’s seemingly constant genre battle, with “Bleed Out The Sickness” going for the death-and-groove approach in its opening before being propelled forward by a bombing run on the drumming front. It is one of a handful of ‘groover’ songs on The Coming Of Age and also includes one of the few -core oriented stuttering riffs spread throughout the disc, though the band themselves quickly go more for a movie-quality version of the apocalypse on the instrumental front instead, putting a lead riff and solo segment over a massive rhythm section in the background.
“Eternal Damnation” is one of the tom-heavy drum songs in its opening and is one of the more melo-death flavored tracks on the disc. But like its predecessor, it shifts through a multitude of different ‘moods’ before reaching its end point.
Even though The Coming Of Age has the ‘strong collection of songs’ style of writing going for it, every track is dynamic enough to keep a listener interested, so outside of the small couple of quiet and pensive instrumentals that the band use to lead into bigger songs — like the quiet pulse of the song “Death” leading into the almost-Testament opening of “The Prophets” — there’s always something new on the horizon of that specific song.
You can just sense that if the right people heard The Coming of Age, this band would be off to the races. It is an impressively strong debut, thick with guitar riffs and headbang-quality rhythms to die for, and one that pulls off the rare feat of always locking the listener in over the course of the song, They seem to have a sixth sense for knowing just when to pick things up a bit and always having an excellent death metal riff in the pocket just to remind you that this collection of musicians can burn through a blast section with the best of them.
Everything on The Coming Of Age feels like it has been hammered on forever, into the statuesque state in which each song exists in today. Everything rings through with impressive clarity, with a hefty production focus on the low-end so that no matter which track you pick, from “The Warrior” to the titular “Coming Of Age” song, each track causes enough booming devastation to leave a sound system smoking in its wake.
The Coming Of Age is a release that shouldn’t be flying under people’s radars, but is instead one that needs to be spilling out of a lot more metalhead speakers, because it is undeniable how hard it is to prevent oneself from just rocking out for the majority of this disc. That makes it absolutely worth your time.
Ovaryrot – Forbidden Innate Inherence
We now move from a trio of discs that came out super-early in the year to one that only came out a handful of weeks ago, in only the middle of October. I figure that closing out with this one will offer some fun contrast to the more polished death metal and the terrifying theatrics of the symphonic black that have made up the bulk of this article.
You might recognize Ovaryrot from a scant few months ago, when I reviewed Suicide Ideation and, to put it politely, found that the whole disc sounded like a nightmare. Now the group have returned with one more dispatch from the realms of death and despair entitled Forbidden Innate Inherence, a fourteen-minute communication of misery and inhuman grinding machinery that purports to be a composed song.
Forbidden Innate Inherence consists of one song, with the slide-right-off-the-tongue title of “Salutation/Prophecy/Ritual Abidance/Resurfacing Surfaces/Baptism/Wanderlust” that I will now keep permanently saved as my copy+paste for the course of this review, lest I somehow become the first recorded death of wrist pain in known human history. Although obviously, given Ovaryrot’s sense of songwriting, it quickly becomes clear that “Salutation/Prophecy/Ritual Abidance/Resurfacing Surfaces/Baptism/Wanderlust” isn’t all ‘one track’ but instead several songs being smashed into each other with the sort of artistry that a butcher on LSD might perform his day job.
Forbidden Innate Inherence picks up the ball right where Suicide Ideation left off, filled to the brim with wall-to-wall echoing vocals that howl over the top of some increasingly intense and discordant death metal. There’s your fair share of terrifyingly fast grind peppered throughout, but Ovaryrot actually take time to breathe on this one and just let the vocals do the work, which, granted, then quickly spills into a blast and grind section.
Forbidden is part song and part performance art, since there are numerous gaps in each song branch where the vocals are echoing over themselves and continuing the trend of an Ovaryrot listen being the soundtrack to your worst terrors. At fifteen minutes, Forbidden actually kind of flies by. It’s a little bit over half the length of the group’s last release, but since Suicide Ideation was like an all-out assault on the senses, Forbidden feels more like the miserable sibling of that — Suicide Ideation gone doom of a sort.
If you aren’t familiar with the Ovaryrot crew, boy are you in for a surprise. If you caught the Suicide Ideation release a few months prior and dug that, then Forbidden is a lot of the ideas from that disc expanded upon and made even more abrasive than before. The artwork, vocals, and music within continue to remain just as terrifying as they were before.