(Andy Synn has again assembled reviews and streams of new albums for this release-day Friday that might not be getting the attention they deserve elsewhere.)
People seemed to enjoy this the last time I did it, so I thought to myself… why not keep the streak alive?
So here we go, trying to go two for two, with another quick round-up of releases which you may otherwise have missed!
CATALEPSIA – INHERITANCE
There have been some really great Doom albums released already this year (I’ll be reviewing one of the very best next week), but one which hasn’t received enough attention is the second album from Latvian quartet Catalepsia.
Striking a balance between the dark, prog-tinged sound of latter-day In the Woods… (opener “Transference” almost feels like an unheard b-side from 2016’s stellar Pure) and the gothic gloom and deathly grit of Novembers Doom (the majestic, monolithic “Oppression” being a perfect example), Inheritance doesn’t necessarily set out to break the mould, but still manages to offer a thrillingly moody and subtly creative take on what Doom is, and can be.
Oh, it’s got its flaws, there’s no denying that.
It’s far too long, for one thing, clocking in at a ridiculous seventy-seven-and-a-half minutes, with the last two tracks alone accounting for almost a full half hour of music.
But in the moment it’s incredibly easy to forget (and forgive) this, especially when the stomping riffs, anguished vocals, and ethereal keyboards of a song like “Possession” are simultaneously plucking at your heartstrings and drowning your soul in despair.
The keys in particular play a prominent role in enhancing the melancholy mood of the album, and while I have no intention of downplaying the importance of the guitar work, either at its most sombre (“Defeat”) or its heaviest (“Becoming”), or the vital role of the vocals (which occasionally recall last year’s phenomenal Fvneral Fvkk debut), it’s become clear to me over time that the chilling atmosphere provided by the keyboards is absolutely key to the band’s success.
It’s not perfect by any means, but Inheritance is still a striking and attention-grabbing album, one with more than enough muscle and misery to capture the heart of even the most jaded Doom fan.
ENDLESS FORMS MOST GRUESOME – ENDLESS FORMS MOST GRUESOME
The self-titled debut from this Finnish duo has the distinct honour of being the only truly “new” album (i.e., the only album actually being released today) on this list.
Some of you (hopefully most of you) will likely recognise the names of the two musicians behind this heaving morass of Sludge/Doom sickness, as Endless Forms Most Gruesome is the nom de plume of Juuso Raatikainen (Swallow the Sun) and Manne Ikonen (Ghost Brigade) who, together, have crafted one of the grimmest, grisliest… and, yes, most gruesome… albums of the year so far.
Musically and atmospherically, songs like the mesmerising, morbidly heavy “The Watchers”, the staggering, sludge-stomp of “Goat”, and the devastatingly desolate “Incinerate Me”, meld the oppressive heaviness of Monotheist-era Celtic Frost with the gut-churning grooves of the aforementioned Ghost Brigade at their darkest.
That’s not all they have to offer, of course, as there’s a blackness and a bleakness to tracks such as “A Thousand Years In Hell” and “The Usual Catastrophe” which betray a subtle influence from Finnish Black Metal, while the low-tuned, bass-driven grooves of tracks like “Death Wish” and “Viral Bloodlust” exhibit, dare I say it, a touch of Korn at their heftiest and heaviest.
To match the increased nastiness of the music Ikonen has added an extra layer of venom to his vocals too. He’s always possessed a gritty, gravel-throated growl, but his performance on this album is even more caustic, and even those moments where he dips into his clean range exhibit a darker, doomier hue.
So if you want to hear one of the most unexpectedly intense, emotionally wrenching, albums of 2020, then give this one a listen right now.
HADOPELAGIAL – HADOPELAGIAL
Next time you’re looking to get your face melted by a blast-fuelled blitzkrieg of blackened belligerence you might want to check out the self-titled debut album from this German duo (both ex-members of Humanitas Error Est).
Landing somewhere between the streamlined, quicksilver quickness of Der Weg Einer Freiheit and the lurid, lightning fast assault of early Anaal Nathrakh (albeit with more of a pure Black Metal focus and significantly less Grind influence), Hadopelagial don’t pull any punches with these eight tracks of unrelenting extremity.
And while the drums do deliver all the bone-rattling blasting and flurries of furious foot work that you might expect (and demand) from this sort of music, the guitars are just as blistering in their own right, all scorching, strangled tremolo lines (“Helios”) and eerie melodic malevolence (“For the New Path”).
This scalding sonic stew is topped off with some seriously throat-ripping vocals (check out late album highlight “Amunre” for a perfect example), which means that what Hadopelagial might lack in originality it more than makes up for in pure, unflinching ferocity.
RELIC POINT – SELF PUNISHMENT
When Islander asked for recommendations of “vile, abrasive music” a few days ago, my mind immediately jumped to this Russian band, even though I knew we’d be publishing this review later in the week.
After all, when the music is this vile, this abrasive, this insufferably dense and disgustingly heavy, it should to be heard by as many people as possible.
With its blend of Sludge, Drone, Doom, and Black Metal influences, Self Punishment draws (and deserves) comparisons with similarly savage and suffocating records from bands like Phantom Winter, Lord Mantis, Withered, etc, and delivers the sort of gruesome, grim-faced audio nihilism that ought to come with a hazard warning printed on it.
It’s not an easy listening experience – in fact, it’s a very uneasy listening experience to be quite honest – but it’s a hideously compelling one all the same, and well worth digging into the next time you’re in the mood for something truly ugly and horrifyingly human in the best possible way.
RITUAL CONTRITION – HANG THE MOON
There’s been a lot of great, underground Death Metal released over the past couple of years, and the debut from Ritual Contrition has already, in my mind at least, earned its place amongst them.
Reminiscent of hybrid Black/Death deviants Stargazer or a more Death Metal influenced version of dearly-departed Prog-Metal maestros Cormorant, this Colorado quartet (currently in the market for a new bass player) deal in a powerful blend of proggy noodling and full-force riffing which draws heavy influence from some of extreme and/or avant-garde Metal’s most seminal acts – Atheist, Voivod, Edge of Sanity, etc. – while also showing off some impressively fluid and nimble bass-work and some seriously high-voltage, thrash-edged riffery.
Above and beyond their ability to fuse these multiple inspirations, influences, and ideas, into a crushingly cohesive whole, what really marks Ritual Contrition out as future contenders is the band’s keen grasp of dynamics – their intuitive knowledge of when to groove, when to blast, when to thrash, and when to rest, whatever the song requires – and their clever, enviably twisted songwriting skills, which keep the whole album moving along at a volatile velocity even when the music takes a more moody and introverted turn.
Mark my words, if this is how good the band are on their debut then who knows how much further they could go?
SKYEATER – DESCENT
It’s always nice to see/hear bands developing and realising their full potential, isn’t it?
Case in point, I first stumbled across the debut album from California’s Skyeater well after its initial release, and although I liked what I heard, I couldn’t help but feel like the band still weren’t quite fully formed.
The pieces were all there, that’s for sure – the humongously heavy Doom riffs, the scorching blackened savagery, the subtle splashes of bleak beauty and mesmerising melody – they just weren’t quite as cohesive as they could be.
Descent, however, is a much more unfettered and unrestrained album, one where it feels like the band have thrown caution to the wind and loosened the reins in order to let their music run wild.
As a result it’s a much more organic experience, with the flow between blasting ferocity, haunting ambience, and gargantuan gloom now feeling like a natural and unforced development of the band’s earlier sound.
The eerie gothic overtones of the group’s debut have largely been cast aside too, allowing more room for a dramatic increase in both doomy heaviness and apoplectic intensity, from the tangled tremolo and poisoned melodies of merciless opener “Scrying Hammer” to the dirge-like misery of climactic closer “Descent”.
It’s not a nice album by any means, but it’s as real and as raw and as visceral as they come, as nerve-shredding as it is neck-wrecking, and bound to strike a thunderous chord with many of our readers.