(Andy Synn prepared this collection of reviews, all addressing fine albums that are being released today.)
It’s a very busy Friday for releases this week, both big and small. Some of them we’ve covered here already (Aodon, Perdition Temple, The Malice), some of them we’ll probably get to over the next couple of weeks… maybe… and some of them have already received significant coverage elsewhere.
The purpose of today’s column however is to highlight a handful of bands/albums which might not necessarily receive the same amount of attention and/or adoration as some of the bigger or more high-profile releases, beginning with… drum roll please…
AUTOMB – CHAOSOPHY
The second album from Pittsburgh punishers Automb (featuring current Morbid Angel/ex-Abysmal Dawn drummer Scott Fuller and ex-Necrophagia guitarist Serge Streltsov alongside vocalist/bassist Danielle Evans) is a visceral collection of blistering blackened fury that’s heavily indebted to the Dark Funeral, rapid-fire tremolo riffs and relentless blastbeats, style of Black Metal.
But what it may lack in innovation it more than makes up for in sheer, bloody-minded intensity and evil, malevolent melody, all of which makes Chaosophy more than capable of leaving its mark – both literally and metaphorically – on the wider Black Metal scene.
Early highlights include the terrific triptych of “Transmigration Omega”, “Chaosophy”, and “Serpent of the Night”, which together get the album off to a scorching start with their blend of face-melting fury, melodic menace, and unexpectedly haunting atmosphere (respectively), while the back-end of the album is buoyed up by the darker, doomier (though still percussively-driven) strains of “Cosmic Tyranny” and the epic extremity of closer “Ragnarok”.
I’ll grant you that the middle of the album isn’t quite as strong (“Hel” is a notable low point, though not unenjoyable for what it is) but that doesn’t prevent Chaosophy from rising above its few faults to achieve, if not quite apotheosis, then at least some measure of grim glory entirely on its own terms.
It’s not going to change the world, by any means, but I also don’t think it’s going to be swiftly forgotten either, and could well prove to be a dark horse entry when it comes to tallying up those end-of-year lists in December.
CHRONICLE – DEMONOLOGY
With its deft mix of razor-sharp Melodic Death Metal and riveting Black/Thrash influences – think The Black Dahlia Murder, Arsis, Mors Principium Est, etc – this one might just be my favourite out of all the albums featured here.
It probably helps that, in pretty much every respect, Demonology is a major step up from the band’s previous work, and finds them upping the energy levels, upping the aggression, and just sounding like they’re having the absolute time of their lives playing each and every one of these songs.
It probably also helps that it’s such an unpretentious, and in many ways uncomplicated, listen, with a heavy focus on high-voltage riffs and hellishly catchy hooks all designed to get your blood pumping and your body moving to the headbanging beat.
Of course, it’s not the most original album you’re going to hear this year (I made those comparisons at the beginning for a reason, after all) and, at a little over an hour long, it could do with losing a few tracks to bring it down to a more manageable length (I’d have dropped both “Perpetuation of Addiction” and “Human Instrumentality” at the very least, and I’m not convinced that “Living Hellscape” is all that necessary either), but when it’s on form it’s absolutely on fire.
Take the opening pairing of “They Have Returned” and “Nocturnality”, for example, both of which perfectly embody the band’s “all thrills, no frills” aesthetic. Or maybe the hideously infectious chugathon of “Embrace the Abyss” is more your thing?
Either way, it’s hard to deny that the band have a serious knack for delivering some shockingly effective riffs and furiously flashy lead parts (“R.R.D.” is absolutely full of them, for example), and I’d like to give extra credit to whoever decided to give bassist Jacob Wammen a proper place in the mix, as his work on tracks like “Reset to Zero”, “Infected” and “Malignance Personified” (the latter pair ending the album on a major high note) makes all the difference in the world.
So while there’s not necessarily anything here you won’t have heard before, you probably won’t have heard it delivered with this much gusto in a long time, and would do well to check it out if you’re interested in some high quality, high octane Melodic Death Metal.
NOMAD – TRANSMOGRIFICATION (PARTUS)
While often referred to as a “side-project” of Behemoth guitarist Seth (yes, I know he’s only a “live” guitarist, supposedly, but he’s been with them so long that he might as well be a permanent member), Poland’s Nomad are far, far more than that… not least since they’ve been dealing death since 1994(!) and have produced some pretty killer albums of their own during that time.
We’ve featured the band at NCS several times before, and were particularly keen on both their previous full length, Transmigration of Consciousness and its follow-up EP, Tetramorph, so it only seems right that we now get to heap some well-earned praise on their new album, Transmogrification (Partus).
Transmogrification is, in more ways than one, a much tighter and much more focussed record than its predecessor. It’s not just a shorter, more succinct, and more sinister album (see the spine-tingling ending to “Pantocrator” or the eerie ambience which infuses the visceral violence of “The Graceful Abyss”) than Transmigration… (which, lest we forget, is nine years old now) but also features a wealth of tighter and more technical riffs (early highlight “In the Hands of Progression” could almost pass for an Abysmal Dawn track in places) and a greater use of smarter, more streamlined songwriting.
Of course there’s still a few Behemoth-isms here and there (“Nomadeus” being the main offender), but even after only a few listens I can tell that Transmogrification is a more intense, more immersive, and more intelligent record than I Loved You At Your Darkest (and I say that as someone who enjoyed a handful of tracks from that album quite a bit) and one which is well worth adding to any collection.
PS – the deluxe edition of this album also includes an additional quartet of tracks, entitled Tetramorph II, which serve as an unexpected follow-up/companion piece to 2015’s Tetramorph EP, and hopefully I’ll be able to give that some additional coverage a little further down the line.
OMEGA INFINITY – SOLAR SPECTRE
Of all the albums featured here this is the one most likely to have received wider coverage, due to the record featuring vocals by Xenoyr (aka Marc Campbell) of Metal media darlings Ne Obliviscaris and instrumentation by Tentakel P. of the now sadly defunct (though not forgotten) Todgelichter.
Oddly enough, however, I’ve seen less hype about this one than I’d predicted, possibly because it’s harder to sell an album of icy, almost mechanistic Black Metal (with a penchant for cold, ambient atmospherics and pulsating, semi-industrial percussion) than it is the overly polished and ear-friendly Prog-Metal of Xenoyr’s main band, which is why I thought it deserved a place here.
The stylistic sub-genre which Omega Infinity have selected as their medium is a small, but not uninhabited one, which is both a blessing and a curse in some ways. On the one hand the relative dearth of Black Metal bands dealing with the vast expanse of space (at least when compared to those whose subject matter is more earth-bound) means that there’s less competition and fewer bands fighting over the same limited area. But, on the other, the fact that it is such a small niche means that it’s hard not to step on a few toes, and hit many of the same beats, when trying to find your own place in it.
The obvious godfathers of Omega Infinity’s sound, of course, would be Samael (particularly circa-Above/Lux Mundi), and there’s no doubt that tracks like “Venus” and “Saturn” owe a distinctive sonic debt to their Swiss forebears.
That being the case, there’s also no doubt that songs such as the oppressively intense “Mars” and the visceral “Terra” are significantly darker and more aggressive in nature, nor is there any doubt that Omega Infinity truly come into their own during the longer, more ominous and atmospheric numbers, with both the suitably massive “Jupiter” and the spine-chilling “Neptune” reaching an even higher level of cosmic consciousness than anything else on the record.
So while it doesn’t quite scale the same celestial heights as some of this sub-genre’s true greats – I’m thinking U.M.A., The Xun Protectorate, Ekpyrosis, and such – there’s no denying that Solar Spectre definitely has within it a spark of greatness, one which, hopefully, Omega Infinity will be able to harness and kindle to its full potential on their next release.
WARP CHAMBER – IMPLEMENTS OF EXCRUCIATION
It’s basically impossible, when talking about this album, not to cite some of the other, more well-known bands, currently producing a similarly old-school-influenced, yet forward-thinking, variant on Finnish-meets-Florida Death Metal, so let’s get it out of the way right now, shall we?
Yes, if you’re a fan of albums like Starspawn, Manor of Infinite Forms, Realms of Eternal Decay, etc, then you’re probably alsogoing to enjoy Implements of Excruciation. A lot.
But familiarity can only take a band, or an album, so far, so the real question is, do Warp Chamber offer enough here that’s unique, enough that’s distinctly warped, to make a long-lasting impression?
It definitely helps that the band’s aggression levels are cranked up towards maximum for the majority of …Excruciation, and this harder edge, and general lack of proggy ambitions (ignoring, for the moment, the surprising length and intricacy of each of the four songs which make up this album) positions them further away from the popular post-Demilich weirdness so currently en vogue and closer to a chunkier, chuggier, Suffocation-esque assault on the senses.
The impressive sharpness of the production – raw enough that you can still feel all the meat and muscle driving the record, yet clean enough to give the whole thing a sharp and nasty edge – helps too, as does the band’s preference for killer riffs over clever time shifts (though it still has its fair share of those), which often reminds me more of Blood Red Throne than it does Blood Incantation.
Honestly though, it’s less important whether or not …Excruciation ever reaches the same level of acclaim as those albums I mentioned earlier. What really matters is that the more I listen to this record (and I’ve been listening to it a lot recently) the more I love it, and the more it worms its way under my skin.
There’s just something about how utterly frantic it is – both “Harvesting The Life Force Of A Crumbling Orb” and “Exultant In Chthonic Blasphemy” may stretch to over nine and eight minutes, respectively, but such is the band’s “gift of riff”, effortlessly jumping from one to the next at just the right moment, that they never feel this long – that makes it impossible to switch off once it gets going.
Dare I say it, I even prefer it to highly-praised albums from last year like Hidden History… and Planetary Clairvoyance. For some reason it just ticks all my boxes. And maybe it will for you too.