Sigh. Yet another week when I didn’t have enough time, or didn’t set aside enough, to do even one round-up of new music. I did do a lot of listening last night and this morning, and found enough promising new black metal to fill a two-part SHADES OF BLACK post tomorrow, and then narrowed down other things I found into this post. As the title suggests, it leans mainly into death metal or blackened death of various kinds.
There are four complete releases in the following collection, which I book-ended with singles from forthcoming records.
JUST BEFORE DAWN
One of my favorite practitioners of Swedish death metal, Just Before Dawn, will be returning on September 25th with a new 45-minute soundtrack from the warzones of the last global conflict. The title is An Army At Dawn, and Raw Skull Recordz will handle the release. Once again, JBD riff-meister Anders Biazzi has enlisted a platoon of guests — 10 guest vocalists and three guest guitar soloists, if my count is correct — along with his steadfast JBD allies Gustav Myrin (guitar/bass) and Jon Rudin (drums).
The first track combines an introductory instrumental (“Paths of Armor”) and a song called “To the Last Tiger”. The strength of the instrumental is the ringing guitar solo, which reminds us (as JBD always does) that war is as much about sorrow as it is about the fury of conflict.
“To the Last Tiger“, on the other hand, is a hard-charging battle tank whose surging riffage and skull-smashing drumwork get the adrenaline pumping, and guest vocalist Ralf Hauber (Revel in Flesh) gives the song an extra dose of ravenous ferocity. Yet the song also slows and takes on an air of grim misery, with a guitar solo that recalls the mood of the introductory piece.
Here’s a roster of the album’s guests:
Ralf Hauber – (Revel in Flesh) Vocals on track 1
Matias Nastolin – (Decaying) Vocals on track 2
Jonny Pettersson – (Wombbath / Gods Forsaken / JBD) Vocals on track 3
Daimen Terry – (Envig) Vocals on track 4 and 6
Thomas Clifford – (Abscission) Vocals on track 5
Gustav Myrin – (Gods Forsaken / JBD) Vocals on track 5
David Nilsson – (Feral) Vocals on track 7 and 9
Andreas Stenlund – (HarmDaud) Vocals on track 7
Mattias Parkkila – (Blood Mortized) Vocals on track 8
Jacob Bjôrnfot – (Kvaen) solo on track 2
Matias Nastolin – (Decaying) solo on track 2
Daniel Gustavsson – (Demonical / Tormention) solo on track 5
JUST BEFORE DAWN:
Seemingly out of nowhere this Chilean band released a debut album (Desperatio) slightly more than a week ago that blew the top of my head off. It’s even more impressive given that it’s the work of only one man, Alfredo Torres, whose resume includes bass and backing vocals with the excellent black/thrash/heavy-metal band Degotten (read up on them here).
Grisvelos pulls from a deep well of death and black metal influences, perhaps Morbid Angel, Immolation and Marduk most of all, but adds more modern elements of unnerving dissonance and suffocating dread that bring Ulcerate to mind, and the result is a black/death powerhouse. It will brutally jackhammer your spine into splinters, create sensations of pestilence and degradation, and light you up like a Roman candle with flurries of vicious ecstasy and imperious grandeur.
The music’s combination of bone-smashing rhythms, grinding cruelty, evocative melody, and frightening atmosphere is enormously successful, and made even better by the monstrous extravagance of the roaring and howling vocals. The songs further benefit from the dynamism of the songwriting and the plenitude of sinister hooks scattered among them, with the result that even though the album is nearly 50 minutes long there’s no temptation to drift away.
This isn’t to say that all the songs have the same appeal — “Buzzards”, the surprisingly entrancing “Unknown”, and the anthemic “Nostalgia” (which is book-ended by the softest and most beguiling music on the album) are the best in my book — but none of them is a throw-away.
I’m also a big fan of the album’s cover art, which is an oil painting by Fernando Vargas.
It was only after I had listened to this next album, and had picked my jaw up from the floor, that I tried to find out more about this Ukrainian group. I discovered that although Tectonics is their debut full-length they released a pair of EPs in 2014 and 2016. I also discovered that the three members are also the majority of Drudkh and Rattenfänger, which helps explain why Tectonics is so good.
“Cryogenian“, which was the album’s first single, is the best of a good bunch. It’s thunderous, eviscerating, and does have the heaviness of tectonic plates grinding against each other, albeit at dramatically greater speed. And while the song is strikingly powerful and destructive, the moody melodies in the high-whir riffing make the music even more magnetic. The jaw-dropping drum performance and the vocal tandem of horrid bellows and unhinged shrieking add to the song’s high-voltage impact.
The remaining songs aren’t far away in quality from “Cryogenian”, and don’t stray far from the ingredients found there either. As a result, there’s a tendency for the songs to blend into each other, but the music’s breathtaking explosiveness, sweeping scale, and variations in the degrees of pain (and grandeur) channeled by the melodies were enough to keep me chained in place for the full run — and then to buy this. (I confess that I was also attracted by the album’s conceptual focus on geologic history.)
Tectonics was released just yesterday by the Finnish label Primitive Reaction.
Unlike the preceding two bands in this collection, Boston-based Innumerable Forms have received quite a lot of attention at NCS over the years (as you’ll discover here), including Andy Synn‘s review of their 2018 full-length Punishment In Flesh, which he described as “an impressive debut album of grim ‘n’ gloomy, Incantation-inspired death-dirges which, despite its somewhat derivative nature, should still succeed in putting a horrible, rictus grin, on all your pretty faces.”
Their new release (which also appeared just yesterday) is a two track demo named Despotic Rule. The first of those, “Philosophical Collapse” comes out of the gate as morbid and savagely mangling and mauling, slows into an amalgam of horror and heartbreak, and finishes in a flurry of berserker mayhem. The title track is equally hybridized in its construction, delivering both crushing and wailing doom on the one hand, and on the other juxtaposing that intensely oppressive wretchedness with pulse-pounding, knee-capping, trem-picked depravity.
The next item I’ve chosen is a recently released 2020 promo by the Danish old-school death-dealers Deiquisitor for a forthcoming 6-track EP named Humanoid. With cavernous, gruesome growls adding to the music’s monstrosity, both tracks deliver thick, toxic, mutilating riffs, eye-popping drumwork, lunatic soloing, and a general mood of turbocharged horror (it might seem easy to run from lurching zombies, but there’s no escaping whatever blood-curdling grotesqueries are flying out of hell on the bat wings of these tracks).
I should add that these two beasts are also merciless skull-busters, and pretty addictive too.
Humanoid is projected for release this coming fall/winter. Thanks go to Rennie (starkweather) for cluing me in about this demo.
Now we come to the other single-song bookend for this collection. It’s a track named “Voiceless Predictions” off an album entitled Death Comes Supreme by the Italian duo Affliction Vector (former or current members of Ooze, Grime, and The Secret). They claim inspiration from the likes of Mayhem, Bolt Thrower, and Voivod.
It takes a little while for this track to get fully engaged, but the build-up is great. It’s like the sensation of heating madness — heating until it boils over and screams, and along the way it sounds like megaton warheads are reaching their targets, which are increasingly closer to where you’ve parked yourself. When the song does become fully engaged, in a storm of maniacal blastbeats, dense gales of torrid, writhing riffage, and scorched-earth vocals, it may leave the whites of your eyes showing.
But there’s more going on here than white-hot dementia and lights-out drumming. Tucked away in the conflagration is some groovy riffing and galloping beats, and a finale that’s downright apocalyptic — the bombs go off again, the chords moan in utter agony, the voice cries out like the lone survivor in a family butchered with knives.
Death Comes Supreme will be released by Argento Records on September 25th.