My usual mission, and it’s usually an obvious one, is to compile these round-ups of new music in a way that presents diversity. When I make my own playlists of music, I prefer to have one track vary (stylistically) from the next to the next to the next. And that’s in the back of my head when I make these SEEN AND HEARD collections; I think of them as playlists of what I would like to listen to, with the added benefit that because the sounds vary, even listeners who have very pronounced preferences might find at least one thing that grabs them, even if they don’t like everything else.
Having said that, what I’ve collected today is particularly all over the place. It starts within the red zone of insanity, and winds up there again, and there are some other zones of insanity in between, zones of very different colors. I don’t expect all of you to like all of this. If you did… well… you would be me, and wouldn’t that be weird? (Obviously, I’ve divided the collection into two Parts, with the second to arrive later today.)
On this day (July 30) the Dutch black metal band Sammath celebrate their 25th birthday, and they have done that by releasing a stream of the first song from their new album, Across The Rhine Is Only Death, via a DECIBEL premiere. As the name suggests, and as the band explain, the album is “a true tale of death and destruction”, conceptually focused on the final months of World War II when Germany desperately tried to hold the Rhine as its western border. Far from a celebration of war, it represents an effort to summon the horrific annihilation that humanity is capable of inflicting on itself — and this new song is utterly annihilating in its own right.
“Bitter fighting amongst the dead” really is spectacularly violent, from the maniacal decimation of the drum assault to the incendiary quality of the crazed shrieking, from the blistering quality of the riffing to the thunderous impact of the bass (which sounds like massed artillery firing faster than has ever been witnessed in a war zone). There are moments when the rampant speed of the assault abates, or when the drum rhythms change gears, but even then you still feel like you’re in the middle of catastrophic combat. The screaming leads and frantic fretwork very effectively summon images of fear and mass carnage, a ferocious fight for life and a determination to inflict death without hesitation.
The subject matter may be grim, but the music is exhilarating. You might want to have an oxygen mask handy before you press Play.
Across The Rhine Is Only Death will be released by Hammerheart Records on October 7th, on CD, LP, cassette tape, and digitally. (There are some special physical editions, and having gotten an advance peak at them, I’m confident they will blow your mind.) The digital pre-order is available now at Bandcamp. Check the other links below for news about pre-orders for the physical releases.
HOUR OF PENANCE
I apologize for inserting this next item. It was a last-minute addition. And I’m apologizing because you probably thought I was sharing a new Hour of Penance song, and I’m not, because we don’t have one to share yet. But I couldn’t resist posting the cover art for this band’s next album, Misotheism (which was created by Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsàk), and the news that it will be released by Agonia Records on October 25th. Based on the track list, God will not be treated kindly. And although I don’t have any music to share yet, I have no doubt it will be insane.
Okay, after that last head-fake let’s get back to some actual music. This is the title track to a new four-song “Maxi Single” by the Danish death dealers in Undergang — Ufrivillig Donation Af Vitale Organer — which will be released by Dark Descent on CD and by Me Saco Un Ojo Records on vinyl. The band describe the release as “a teaser of what’s to come on the next, yet to be titled, full length album that’ll be recorded during the death of Autumn of 2019”.
This title song is prime Undergang material — bone-breaking and gruesome, gnarly and filth-encrusted, viciously destructive and also punk-like in its romping moments. At times it’s a tank attack, at others a grisly stomp, and at others a savage cutting circle saw. The mood is dismal, preternatural, and ferocious, and it will do a fine job kicking your adrenaline into gear. The vocals are of course monstrous gutturals, of cavernous depth. Hopefully the rest of this EP will become available soon!
I fell prey to this next item through a recommendation from my long-time NCS comrade TheMadIsraeli. It’s a video (beautifully shot and edited by Long Grass Studios, with beautiful lighting by Fine Era Productions) for a song called “Encompass” by the band Abounding from Florence, Alabama. The song is included on an album named When Sought, which was released on July 19th.
“Progressive death metal” might be the best genre description for this song, though you’ll detect other genre elements in this hybridized extremity. “Encompass” is certainly heavy and mauling, with a grim, bruising, cruelty in its most destructive moments, and a delirious quality in the fretwork that accompanies those assaults. On the other hand, once the band have firmly established the song’s main melodic throughline they switch gears, and the atmosphere becomes haunting. The ringing guitar notes become mesmerizing, just before the dual vocalists begin howling and screaming in a raw fury. The music ramps up in intensity again, but more instrumental variations and mood changes lie ahead, and they’re all very engrossing. Through all the twists and turns, the song remains a cohesive whole, and it doesn’t wear out its welcome (nor does the video).
I haven’t yet checked out the entire album on which this song appears, but I’ve included a stream of it after the video. It’s available now on Bandcamp.
To close Part 1 of this round-up, I’m getting back into the red zone of insanity, with a stream of a new EP by Spurn, who hail from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Entitled At The Precipice Of Excitation, it was released on July 26th. One of the commenters on Bandcamp characterizes the album as “the perfect lovechild of Converge and Ulcerate“, and that’s not a bad way to begin introducing the music, but there are a lot of other ingredients in play as well.
This isn’t our first encounter with Spurn. My pal DGR has sung their praises on two previous occasions (included here), most recently in connection with their 2016 album Comfort In Nothing. So yeah, it’s been a good three years since the band’s last output. This EP proves to be a very welcome return.
Spurn still prove themselves capable of meting out impressive levels of bone-splintering violence, and twisting your cranial neurons into knots with freakish string torture and bouts of dissonance. The music slugs hard enough to leave ugly yellow bruises, and the bursts of blaring and shrieking melody and drum mania are demented enough to strike fear in small children and household pets (and unsuspecting adults). To make the music even more destabilizing, the pacing and rhythms are in constant flux, yet not so chaotic as to lose the music’s tight grip on the listener’s attention (they provide doses of neck-wrecking groove often enough to avoid that). Meanwhile, the vocals are the kind of furious blood-spraying screams that make you wonder whether the vocalist’s recording session was followed by a trip to the ER.
It’s maniacal music for maniacal minds, but performed with razor-sharp technical skill, and the explosive energy is highly addictive.
I’ll also share the thoughts of Rennie from starkweather, who brought this new release to my attention: “Spurn come from Calgary with dissonant grind… the ferocity of Atka matched with the angularity of Steeve Hurdle. Hearing the undertow involved one may even feel the pull of Ion Dissonance, Gravemind, Frontierer but Spurn are far more unhinged and threatening collapse. The bass tone is absolutely fried beyond normal distortion. The guitar work constantly feels as if it is being pulled backwards, like someone putting a finger on a turntable warping sound and speed similar to kenose era Deathspell Omega, Baring Teeth and, again, the Steeve Hurdle riffing style from Purulence and Gorguts through Negativa. Beneath the stringed din is a maniacal drummer pounding staggering old school Dale Crover beats and matching them with Dave Witte blasts”.