(This is a collection of reviews and full-album streams assembled by Andy Synn.)
As everyone knows, the devil has all the best tunes, so today’s “Alternative Release Day Round-Up” has a demonic, Black/Death theme to it.
It also, for once, actually includes quite a few albums which are only just seeing the light of day today… although even the “oldest” albums featured here were all released within the last month or so.
ACÂRASH – DESCEND TO PURITY
The second album from Norwegian nihilists Acârash (released just at the end of last month) has quietly become one of my favourite records of the year, as its mix of groovy, riff-driven Black Metal and creepy, catchy Doom hits a real sweet spot in my listening tastes.
Whether it’s the predatory, prowling momentum of the brooding title-track, or the sinister Satyricon-meets-Sabbath swagger of “Satanic Obsession”, these guys quickly demonstrate that they know exactly how to grab and keep your attention, making sure that every track is as heavily laden with hooks as it is heavily weighted with rugged, rock-solid riffs.
Hell, the entire first half of the record is just one strutting, hard-rocking hit after another, with grim-faced groove-monger “Desecrate, Liberate” showcasing some virulently infectious guitar and brilliantly bombastic bass work at the same time, while mid-album highlight “Goat, Skull, Ritual Circle” doubles down on the Doom without losing an ounce of blackened ugliness, especially during its seductively simple and horrendously hooky chorus refrain.
The second half is just as good too. In fact, if I’m going to be brutally honest, there’s not a weak track here (and I’ve not even mentioned how disgustingly dark “Three Knives Cold” is, or the menacing melodic vibe of killer closer “Red Stone Betrayal”).
So my advice is to seriously consider giving these underground underdogs a try at the earliest opportunity. Just say that the devil made you do it.
AVERSIO HUMANITATIS – BEHOLD THE SILENT DWELLERS
If there’s one word I’d use to describe the new album from Spain’s Aversio Humanitatis (out now via Debemur Morti), it would be… intense.
The first three tracks alone are a violent, visceral, venomous barrage of breakneck blastbeats and eerie ambience (“The Weaver of Tendons”), mesmerising melodies and hypnotic percussive patterns (“The Presence in the Mist”), and tangled, dissonance-edged riffage (“The Sculptor of Thoughts”), all topped off with some suitably grisly and gravel-throated vocals.
Even during the occasional moments of relative calm (which, when they appear, add a brilliant sense of light and shade dynamic to the whole ugly affair) there’s still an overwhelming aura of threat and menace hanging over everything, meaning that even when the band ease off on the musical intensity, the atmosphere remains heavy with a sense of impending doom.
None of the tracks are just one thing either. “The Wanderer of Abstract Paths”, for example, is equal parts morbid melody, discordant grooves, and complex, creative drum work (reminiscent of Kriegsmaschine and Panzerfaust), while “The Watcher in the Walls” moves from thrashy, blasty belligerence to desolate, doom-laden atmosphere over the course of just under seven minutes.
Concluding with the impressively dynamic and intensely aggressive strains of “The Scribe of Dust”, Behold the Silent Dwellers excels and exceeds anything the band have done before, and stands out as one of the finest, fiercest Black Metal albums of the year so far.
DÈARTH – TO CROWN ALL BEFOULMENT
Goddamn… the just-released debut album from Californian crushers Dèarth (Sentient Ruin) is an utterly monstrous slab of bleak, bruising, and unflinchingly brutal Blackened Death Metal in the vein of Dead Congregation, Incantation, Profane Order, etc, make no mistake about it.
Delivering some of the densest riffage and most asphyxiating atmosphere I’ve heard this year (even outdoing the fantastic debut album from Black Curse), To Crown All Befoulment is the sound of a band setting out to make a serious statement and succeeding in sickening style.
But, for all their overwhelming intensity and utterly oppressive atmosphere, songs like “Autoasphyxia” and “The Reverence of Swine” demonstrate a keen eye for structure and a sharp ear for dynamic as well, with the former weaving in multiple threads of eerie, evil melody, and the latter dropping in some malevolent passages of simmering Death/Doom, all to accentuate the calculated chaos and devastating discordance which provides the main driving force for the band’s music.
Not only that, but it’s also shockingly well produced for an album which errs towards the crippled, contorted sound of War Metal, every instrument and vomitous vocal part cutting through the murk like a bone-saw through a cancerous femur, and it’s this blend of scalding rawness and lethal clarity which allows this record, from the abrasive opening assault of “Writhing in Cellophane Cages” to the maddening frenzy of closer “Blight”, to bloom and blossom into full anti-life.
FORNICUS – SULPHURIC OMNIPOTENCE
Featuring nine tracks of furious Bible-belt blasphemy and frenzied, hellfire-fuelled blastery, the new album from Fornicus finds the demonic duo leaning even further into the Black Metal side of their sound, without sacrificing the deathlier, doomier elements of their identity either.
Opener “Perdition’s Guiding Winds” is a perfect example of the band’s more blackened approach, moving from a choking, ominous intro to a whirlwind of scalding shrieks and scything blastbeats, writhing tremolo runs and grinding riffs, all building towards a penultimate passage of heaving doomery, before finally concluding in a sudden, explosive burst of pure metallic madness.
For such a hideously morbid and macabre album however, Sulphuric Omnipotence also displays a welcome amount of variety over the course of its forty-two filthy metallic minutes.
Songs like the title-track and the savage “One Mass Grave”, for example, incorporate an added layer of bleak, blizzard-like melody without sacrificing an ounce of acid-drenched intensity, while others – such as the vile “Vitriolic Proclamation” and the gut-churning “Tempestuous Flames” err a little more towards the Death Metal side of things, bombarding the listener with a deluge of gargantuan, groove-heavy riffs and gruesomely guttural vocals.
Simultaneously one of the nastiest, gnarliest, records of the year so far, but also disguising an undercurrent of subtly progressive songwriting (manifesting itself in moments such as the moody, atmospheric intro to “Inexorable Pantheon of Death” or the epic melodic outro of “Usurping the Throne”), Sulphuric Omnipotence is a real dark horse of an album which I fully expect to see make an appearance on quite a few end of year lists come December.
GRAVENCHALICE – APPARITION
My, oh my… Gravenchalice, where have you been all my life?
Granted, I can’t exactly blame the band themselves for my failing to listen to them before now (Apparition was, after all, only released at the beginning of last month), but I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting until now to check these guys out.
Clocking in at a stripped-down and straight-to-the-point thirty minutes, these five songs deliver some of the most thrilling, engaging, and immersive Black Metal – practically overflowing with shimmering, serpentine melody and primal percussive power – that I’ve heard all year.
Think a more muscular, more vehement Uada or a more brutal, blast-driven Mgla, or even an American version of Misþyrming’s blood-and-fire ferocity, and you’ll be in the right sort of ballpark, but that’s not to say that Gravenchalice don’t also take this sound and make it their own.
As utterly addictive as they are uncompromising and aggressive, songs like “Graviora Manent” and “Behind Her Veil” pull absolutely no punches and offer zero quarter, but also show off the trio’s intricate songwriting style, from the subtle harmonic layering of the former to the shifting, endlessly evolving rhythms of the latter.
“Apocalypsis”, on the other hand, trades in some of this subtlety for a blend of pure power and epic melody, all soaring leads and strafing drums, while “Missio Dei” is an absolute rager that pushes practically every aspect of the band’s sound into the red and rides it all the way to a truly explosive ending.
I honestly can’t say enough good things about this album, and by the time that you’ve listened all the way through to the mesmerisingly melodic, viscerally headbangable finale of “Vanitas”, I think a lot of you will have come round to my way of thinking too.
SXUPERION – OMNISCIENT PULSE
Last, but by no means least, we have something a little more off the beaten (though still thoroughly brutal) path courtesy of carbon-based Death Metal cosmonaut Sxuperion.
Rivetingly raw, yet possessing an abstract vision beyond the usual earthy confines of the genre, Omniscient Pulse sits somewhere between Morbid Angel and Mysticum on the Black/Death spectrum, melding massive riffs and pulverising percussion with twisted, tremolo-led drones and doomy, void-like ambience to create a singularly crushing yet cavernous sound.
Bookended by the slow-burn ambience and stunning riffage of “Owl” and the lurching, lacerating Blackened Death-Doom of “Myopian Release Frequency”, the chaotic, contorted tracks here pack in a ridiculous number of neckbreaking twists and heart-pounding turns into every single minute, all delivered at such a mind-bending velocity that the album just keeps on getting heavier and heaver as it approaches light speed.
In this sense it actually reminds me of a darker, dirtier version of mid-period Mithras, albeit with less of an emphasis on technicality and a greater focus on claustrophobic atmosphere, equally capable of juxtaposing the titanium-clad riffery of “Planet Crusher” against the vulgar vibrations of “Presque-vu” as it is contrasting the animalistic assault of “Bestial Catacombs” with the haunting horror of “A New Universe Awaits”.
As densely packed and richly layered as it is, Omniscient Pulse is the sort of album that only grows more rewarding (and more ravenous) with every listen, and once you cross a certain point with it you’ll neither want or be able to leave.