I was chatting with DGR recently (yes, we do in fact keep in touch outside of the site) and we both agreed that we’ve now reached that point of the year (and it comes every year) where our list of potential/possible reviews has become so massive and unwieldy that we’re just going to have to cut our losses, accept that some of the stuff we’d dearly love to write about isn’t going to get covered, and focus instead on doing our best for those artists/albums which we do get a chance to write about.
So, in that spirit, here are three new albums, one from an old favourite, one from a current favourite, and one from a potential new favourite, all of whom are well worth checking out if you haven’t done so already.
ADVENT SORROW – KALI YUGA CROWN
Collectively we’ve written about Australian Black Metallers Advent Sorrow numerous times here at NCS, and I myself was particularly enamoured of their 2015 album, As All Light Leaves Her.
Unsurprisingly, then, the release of their new record, Kali Yuga Crown, on Bandcamp a little over a week ago was certainly cause for celebration on my part, although it’s taken a little while for me to fully process my feelings towards it.
The album kicks off with a strong opening statement of intent, with the nasty, nihilistic strains of “Verminblood” and its hellishly hooky companion, “Wolf & Weapon”, laying down a withering hail of visceral blackened guitar work and gargled, glass-chewing vocals whose mix of cruelly compelling melody and acid-drenched atmospherics recalls both Funeral Mist and Shining at their best.
This run of early quality continues through the groove-heavy, desolately downbeat strains of “Spearhead” and the electrifying, emotionally harrowing title-track, where the band continue to weave together multiple strands of seditious melody into something as moody as it is menacing.
In fact there’s rarely a moment where at least one guitar (and often both in harmony) isn’t slithering its way through a sequence of serpentine high notes, and the measured use of chiming keys and classical piano only serves to enhance the unexpectedly bleak beauty of the material.
It’s only really in the second half of the album, following the eerily infectious strains of “Pestilence Shall Come” and the utterly monstrous, doom-laden horror of “Caesar”, where this balance between melody and menace seems to slip a little, with the band sliding back into some of the more overt Dimmu Borgir-isms of their early material on tracks like “Wells of Poison Water” and surprisingly saccharine (not to mention linguistically suspect) closer “Death in Magic Antagonism”.
Even this minor identity crisis, however, doesn’t derail things entirely (“Wells…” for example, has some stunningly heavy moments), and the penultimate double-header of “Majesty Enshrined” and “With Conviction” both retain all the blood and fire and anguish of the album’s first half (the latter in particular would, arguably, have made an even more striking finale).
So while it may be, occasionally, guilty of over-sweetening the recipe with a tad too much melody, the fact remains that Kali Yuga Crown provides more than enough bleeding, blackened meat for even the most jaded of Black Metal fans to get their teeth into.
IRON FLESH – FORGED FAITH BLEEDING
Having written about both of Iron Flesh’s previous EPs (2017’s Worship the Necrogod and last year’s Scourge of Demonic Incantations) it would be downright negligent of me not to review their debut full-length, which comes highly recommended for fans of the Old-School Swedish style of Death Metal.
Short, sharp, and savage opener “Invade, Conquer & Dominate” has a gritty, almost blackened edge to it that recalls Penetralia-era Hypocrisy (albeit with a slightly meatier, though still rivetingly raw, production job), while the doomier metallic march of “Malignant Kingdom” focusses more on grim, Grave-style grooves, with a dash of Celtic Frost and/or early Paradise Lost influence added in for good measure.
“Ripping the Sacral” is two minutes and forty-two seconds of… well, ripping riffs and hammering snare beats that draws liberally from the well of classic Dismember, after which “Harbinger of Desolation” (which, at a shade under six minutes, is one of the longest, and best, tracks on the entire album) dives into full-on Death/Doom territory, with all the humongous, heaving guitars and morbidly majestic melodies which you might expect.
Of course with me throwing all these namedrops and references around it would be easy for some of you to conclude that Iron Flesh is, essentially, little more than a tribute act to a bygone era… a less famous (or infamous) version of Bloodbath, in all but name… but to do so would be to miss the point entirely.
Yes, there’s not that much which distinguishes something like “Celestial Disciple’s Incarnation” from its forebears but, by the same token, it’s evident that the foul French foursome who make up Iron Flesh aren’t just cosplaying as their idols, but are actively trying to follow in their footsteps by producing something which gets as close to the platonic ideal of Swedish Death Metal as humanly possible.
And it’s this obvious love for, and dedication to, their craft, which makes tracks like the ominously oppressive (and brilliantly titled) “Stench of Morbid Perversion” and its cruelly catchy cousins “Red Sky Aeon” and “To The Land of Darkness & Deep Shadow” (where I even hear a touch of Edge of Sanity influence leaking through) such a shameless joy to listen to. There’s no posturing, no pretension, no hidden agenda… nothing but pure, unadulterated Old School Death Metal in all its glory.
Closing with the brooding stomp and duelling guitars of “When Universes Collide” you can really tell that this album was a labour of love, through and through… although, that being said, it also sounds like it was a heck of a lot of fun to write and record too, so maybe the process wasn’t really all that laborious!
WARFORGED – I: VOICE
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the debut full-length album from Illinois Blackened/Technical/Progressive (delete as appropriate) Death Metal crew Warforged, and with good reason, as not only is it the long-awaited follow-up to the band’s highly-acclaimed 2014 EP, Essence of the Land, it’s also the group’s much anticipated first album for their new label, The Artisan Era, who’ve been throwing a fair bit of their weight into promoting this record for the last several months.
It probably doesn’t hurt that the band’s sound on I: Voice amalgamates numerous elements drawn from of some of the scene’s biggest and/or most infamous artists, blending the gnarly, angle-grinding riffage and rapid-fire percussive prowess of early Decapitated with a hefty amount of proggy technicality reminiscent of Planetary Duality-era The Faceless, alongside a willing disregard for standard song-structures that speaks to a prominent Gorguts influence.
That being said, for all the recognisable influences on display (there’s also several moments of moody ambience reminiscent of Fallujah, as well as a claustrophobic and dissonant vibe that frequently recalls a more tech-focussed Dodecahedron), I: Voice doesn’t trade much in accessibility, and its almost seventy-three minute run-time definitely makes for a demanding listening experience… for better or worse.
At their very best, tracks like complex opener “We’ve Been Here Before” and its even more intense companion, “Beneath the Forest Floor”, are as densely packed with chaotic, crushingly heavy riffs and exotic, unorthodox twists as anything else you’re likely to hear this year, and at some points it feels almost like Warforged have just decided to throw the entire kitchen sink at you, as songs twist and contort between passages of haunting melody, blasting, blackened dissonance, heaving chuggery, synth-led atmospherics, fret-melting lead work, and haunting, acoustic ambience… all while vocalist Adrian Perez shrieks and growls and snarls and howls like a man possessed.
And yet there’s a keen method to all this madness, ensuring that – whether it’s the calculated chaos of “Nightfall Came”, the gut-wrenching push-and-pull of “Voice”, or the cryptic metallic catharsis of late-album highlight “Eat Them While They Sleep” – the music always feels like it’s unfolding exactly as planned and exactly as the band had always intended.
It’s not, in fact, until the later stages of the album where the cracks really start to show (although I’ll admit that, for all its good points, “Cellar”, doesn’t necessarily hang together as well as it should) and the band’s ambitions start to outstrip their abilities a little, as neither “Willow” nor “Old Friend” sync together particularly well, making each one (especially the latter) feel more like a random arrangement of progressive pieces that never quite link up into a cohesive whole.
But even if the album itself sometimes feels overstuffed and overclocked to the point where it risks desensitising the listener (the last three tracks alone comprise a whopping thirty-one minutes of music, and I’d argue only the last nine or so are truly vital to the overall experience), it’s hard not to want to applaud the audacity and ambition which Warforged have displayed on I: Voice, especially when, on those occasions where everything lines up just right, several of these tracks really are pretty stunning.
And while they might not be quite finished progressing and developing, my money is on this band delivering something mindblowingly good a few years down the line, considering what they’re clearly already capable of!