(It’s the end of the fourth month, so here’s Andy Synn with four killer cuts you may have missed)
As we come towards the end of the month… I take a look at my life, and realise there’s nothing left.
No, wait, sorry, that’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. Let me start again.
As with every month, April was filled with delights, disappointments, and a diverse array of albums which we simply didn’t have time to cover.
So, in what may or may not end up becoming something of a regular feature, I wanted to dedicate today’s article to providing some short but sweet summations of a handful of high-quality records which might have flown under your radar over the past several weeks.
BODY VOID – BURY ME BENEATH THIS ROTTING EARTH
I’ve been a fan of devastating Sludge/Doom duo Body Void for quite some time now, long enough to be able to say, with no small amount of confidence, that they’re one of those bands who only get nastier and gnarlier with every release… which, therefore, makes Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth their nastiest, gnarlier, and all-round ugliest record yet.
Clocking in at a weighty fifty-one-and-a-half minutes, this is one seriously hefty slab – “slab” being the operative word here, considering the sheer sonic density of songs like “Wound” and “Laying Down In A Forest Fire” – of bowel-loosening lows, nerve-scraping shrieks, and abrasive, anxiety-inducing distortion,
It’s not a record for the faint of heart or those short on patience by any means. It’s a grisly, uncompromising piece of work, drawn-out and demanding and seemingly designed to upset your humours and dredge up past traumas (and probably cause tumours in laboratory mice too).
It’s the sort of album that you’re not meant to enjoy, you’re simply meant to endure, in the hope that the resultant catharsis – the spitting, puking, gut-wrenching purge of mental bile and negative emotion – will be worth it… and I’m here to tell you that it definitely is, and that you shouldn’t be surprised to see this one rearing its ugly head on multiple ‘Best of 2021’ lists come year’s end.
CRYPTS OF DESPAIR – ALL LIGHT SWALLOWED
Deep within the murky no-man’s land between Death and Black Metal there dwell a multitude of motley, disparate tribes – not quite one thing or another – whose sole purpose is to destroy, devastate, and dominate, through the strategic deployment of strafing blasts and stunning salvos of high-yield riffage.
Lithuanian quartet Crypts of Despair are one such band, asking no quarter and giving none in return, and their new album, All Light Swallowed, is a perfect example of the level of annihilation that can be achieved by the crossbreeding of these two savage styles.
From the blast-fuelled bombardment of opener “Being – Erased” and its arguably even more extreme follow-up, “Anguished Exhale”, through the bone-grinding, gut-churning chug of “The Great End”, all the way to the eerie, post-apocalyptic atmosphere of “Bleak View”, it’s a record that pulls no punches and takes no prisoners.
With its plethora of absolutely massive riffs and gruesome, guttural vocals, it offers more than enough red meat to satisfy the Death Metal masses, but seasons every thick, bloodsoaked cut with a lethal layer of charred, blackened melody, as well as a gloomy, doom-laden undercurrent which, when it kicks in (such as during the aptly named “Excruciating Weight”) somehow makes the whole affair sound even more crushing.
Perfectly formed and absolutely punishing from start to finish, All Light Swallowed is the sort of highly-evolved, apex predator that doesn’t really need to do anything particularly new or revolutionary to achieve its goals – it simply kills and kills and kills again, without remorse or restraint.
INTONATE – SEVERED WITHIN
It’s always interesting when (and why) a band switch musical direction between releases, especially in a case like this, where there’s a definite possibility that people might accuse Canadian Technical/Progressive Death Metal quartet Intonate of jumping on the Disso-Death bandwagon.
The thing is, while the Ulcerate comparisons are, of course, inevitable (and not unwarranted), I actually like this version of the band better than their more stereotypically “Tech Death” incarnation, who delivered a technically-impressive but not altogether distinctive debut album back in 2016 that fit the group firmly in the post-Obscura/Beyond Creation mould but didn’t really offer anything particularly new or unique.
There’s just something about Severed Within, however, that feels much more natural and organic. The band aren’t just following in other people’s footsteps any more, and while they’re definitely still ploughing forwards down a path which, yes, others may have walked before them, they’re definitely marching to the beat of their own drum.
That’s not to say there aren’t still clear comparisons which could be made now and then. There’s a fair bit of Morbid–Angel-via-Gojira influence (or is that Gojira-via-Morbid–Angel?) in songs like opening pair “Sever” and “Within”, for example, as well as the occasional moment (such as during “Wander”) where they lean in hard towards the more Immolation-inspired side of things (which, to be clear, is definitely not a criticism).
Quite honestly, when compared to their debut, Severed Within basically sounds like the product of an entirely different band (the one thing they’ve retained is a particularly prominent and loose-limbed bass presence) and, in my opinion, is all the better for it, especially during longer, more labyrinthine numbers like “Yearn” and “Prolong”, where you can really hear Intonate stretching their songwriting skills to the absolute limit.
STERBEFALL – VERLORENE ZEIT
Don’t tell him, but I do actually read (and listen to) some of the things that Islander writes about every now and then. And Verlorene Zeit is just the latest one of his recommendations (the second one from Russia this year, in fact) to have gone right up my flagpole.
On a purely superficial level Sterbefall deal in the same sort of powerful-yet-poignant “Post-Black Metal” that has made me such a fan of bands like Agrypnie, Anomalie, Harakiri For The Sky, and their ilk, producing a sound that’s equal parts heavy guitars, haunting melody, and heightened emotion.
Of course, I understand that the term “Post-Black Metal” is pretty divisive (and, honestly, I’m not always sure it’s that helpful – how about we start referring to bands like these as Bleak Metal instead?) so it might help to clarify exactly what I mean in this particular case.
Blending sweeping, electrifying tremolo lines and punchy, rhythmic riffs (all bolstered by one seriously beefy and bombastic guitar tone), with passages of moody, atmospheric eloquence (and the occasional blast of face-melting fury), songs like “Einsamkeit” and “Stirb Nicht” strike a precise and pristine balance between heavy, hooky, and hypnotising as they rise and fall, ebb and flow, from one extreme to the next.
What sets Sterbefall somewhat apart from the other bands working in a similar style is their darker, doomier outlook, which is most prominent during tracks such as “Negativ” and back-to-back heart-breakers “Verbogene Grass” and “Augenblick”, where the band’s signature combination of humongous guitars and brooding melodies reaches its absolute apotheosis.
Keep an eye, and an ear, on this one, as there’s a good chance I’ll be singing its praises again come December.