(Andy Synn chose three recent albums for this collection of reviews and complete music streams, stretching from Germany to Australia to the Upper Midwest of the U.S.)
The word “triage” is a medical term, most frequently deployed in cases of war or natural disaster, which describes the process of prioritising individual cases of illness or injury based upon the severity of their condition and the likelihood that treatment is going to be effective.
And, unfortunately, this often means that difficult choices need to be made about who lives, and who dies, for the greater good.
Now, thankfully, my current situation is nowhere near as serious or as severe as that, but I am increasingly finding myself in the position where I’m having to choose what bands do, and what bands don’t, get written about, due to the combined pressures of limited time and seemingly unlimited music to cover.
So, with that in mind, here are three selections from my ever-growing list of albums which I think deserve some extra effort and attention, with apologies to those many, many bands, who didn’t make the cut.
CARRION MOTHER – NOTHING REMAINS
The second album from Sludge-Doom despots Carrion Mother hit the streets like a filth-encrusted sledgehammer in mid-January, and it hit me hard enough that it’s taken until now to fully collect myself and get my thoughts in order.
Clocking in at just over fifty-three minutes long, but comprising only four mammoth tracks (the shortest of which runs for a brief 09:50, while the longest stretches out to a punishing 18:08), Nothing Remains is an ugly, uncompromising slab of suffocatingly dense riffage and asphyxiatingly heavy grooves that downplays much of the Post-Metal inflected approach of the band’s debut album in favour of an even darker, doomier assault on the senses.
Opener “Into the Death” combines the funereal thunder of bands like Ahab and Esoteric with a grimmer, grittier vibe that recalls Celtic Frost at their most disgustingly dirge-like, as well as a noticeably Neurosis-esque atmosphere (particularly during the song’s immense and imposing second half), to create something that’s as utterly oppressive in nature as it is oddly irresistible.
The colossal, lurching riffs of “Schwarzchild” bring some extra, Post-Metal density to the table, although the overall effect still remains devastatingly doomy, with the track swinging back and forth between bleak, miserable melody and churning heaviness over the course of its just-under-ten-minute run-time, after which the truly monstrous strains of “The Turning Goodbye” take the listener on an epic journey through a doom-laden and gloom-shrouded landscape of massive, mountainous guitars and shadowy valleys of chilling ambience, intercut here and there with passages of surprisingly heart-wrenching melody and soul-crushing, throat-rending vocals.
Closing with the aptly-named “All Is Lost”, which offers nearly fourteen minutes of dramatic Post-Sludge-Doom that’s designed to leave some seriously deep and long-lasting marks upon the listener’s psyche, Nothing Remains is the sort of album that demands (and deserves) total dedication and complete immersion from its audience, but which offers so much more in return.
It’s not an easy album to pick up, by any means, but it’s one I’ve found impossible to put down all the same.
DEADSPACE – DIRGE
“Surprise” launches of albums seems to be all the rage right now, and Australian Black Metal sextet Deadspace (who I’ve written about a few times before here at NCS) decided they wanted a piece of that action themselves when they suddenly unveiled their latest full-length album, Dirge, via Bandcamp at the end of last month.
Eschewing the gothy melodrama which afflicted some of their previous records, tracks like seething “Rapture” (which follows on nicely from scene-setting instrumental introduction “Divinity”) and the unsettlingly intense “Indoctrination” lean towards a much more aggressive, much more depressive, brand of claustrophobic, atmospheric Black Metal that’s as harsh as it is hypnotic, and this leaner, meaner approach makes Dirge easily the band’s best, and most focussed, work, since their brilliant 2016 EP, Gravity.
Equal parts devilish groove and blasting fury – and offset with a shadowy, synth-based aura courtesy of keyboard player John Pescod – songs like the appropriately doomy title-track and the suitably malevolent (not to mention melodic) “The Malevolence I’ve Born Unto Others” provide a captivating blend of clever songwriting and chilling atmosphere, showcasing both the striking variety and visceral potential of the band’s sound, while the unconventional, but undeniably effective, “Consigned to Oblivion” plays like some sort of Depressive Black Metal ballad… somewhat like Shining, but without the shock value.
And while the dreamlike, Post-Black stylings of “Hypnogogia” don’t necessarily make the strongest impression, devastatingly dynamic closer “O Sancta Simplicitus” more than makes up for this penultimate misstep by ending the album on a suitably scorching, sorrowful note.
It may have taken them a little while, but it definitely seems like Deadspace have finally found their groove with this album, and I look forward to listening to this one many more times over the course of the rest of the year (and beyond).
FERAL LIGHT – FEAR RIDES A SHADOW
If there’s one thing that Minneapolis misanthropes Feral Light have going for them, it’s attitude. And swagger. And riffs. And some seriously gnarly hooks.
Ok, they’ve got quite a lot going for them.
The band’s second album “dropped” (as the kids say) last Friday, to a surprisingly muted response from the metalsphere in general, which is unfortunate, as it’s one effortlessly well-realised example of groovesome, bombastic Black ‘n’ Roll at its very best.
The teasing intro of “Wake” transitions seamlessly into the heavyweight headbanger of “Arrow and Beast”, which immediately showcases both Andrew Reesen’s animalistic drumming style and Andy Schoengrund’s effortless grasp of righteous riffology, as the two-piece pump out enough blackened electricity to power an entire city block within the space of just over six savage minutes, after which the virulent (not to mention venomous) strains of “Spirit Inanimate” continue to give your neck a major work-out, while also scratching away at your soul at the same time.
Mid-album highlight “Psychic Dirt” is a haunting, hammering, churning, chattering, display of filthy Black Metal fury that’s equal parts emotional catharsis and barely-controlled chaos, while the spine-chilling “Cold Monochrome” is bleak and blistering enough to give Cobalt more than a few pangs of jealousy.
Hook-filled hate-anthem “Carbonic Dust” is the sort of song that crawls under your skin, lays its eggs in your brain, and then proceeds to eat you from the inside out… but is honestly a lot more enjoyable than that description might imply… after which the unflinching barrage of bitterness and belligerence that is the fittingly-titled “No Refuge, No Reprieve” closes the album in suitably scathing style.
Fans of bands like Tombs, Mantar, and Nachtmystium (as well as the previously-mentioned Cobalt) would do well to check this one out asap, as would anyone who’s after a new fix of highly-addictive, pitch-black poison.