After a lapse last week this column re-takes its usual place on the weekly calendar to blacken the sabbath. I’ll quickly confess that I bit off more than I can chew in the writing, and more than most of you will have time to hear in the listening: I’ve picked two complete albums and mixed them together with four new singles. Despite the challenges to myself and to you, I felt so strongly about all these choices that I couldn’t resist.
As is often the case, I haven’t lived with either of the albums long enough to do more than provide scattered notes about them. That’s the consequence of needing to write about something new every day. Settling in gives way to scurrying. But you’ll have a better chance to settle in with these releases, and I hope you will. All the singles sound fantastic too.
Death Siege is the fifth full-length from this talented band, who are charging toward us after a six-year interval following the last album. The new one is 40 minutes long, and the cover art by Abomination Hammer alone would make most people want to find out what’s going on in the music. My friend Andy‘s Synn Report about the band’s discography back in 2016 would provide more reasons.
What Hierophant say about the music is this: “”With Death Siege, we crossed the gateway to the abyss. Nihilism will overcome, when the sky will burn in fire. Death, Chaos, Annihilation.”
Last week brought a video for the new album’s title track, which forcefully backs up the band’s words. Flames blaze in the night-side video, and the music is also a gale-force conflagration of superheated riffing, febrile soloing, booming and battering drums, and unhinged screams and roars. The ferocity is wild and electrifying, only slightly interrupted by a percussive thunderstorm, high searing chords, and a bit of bass noodling, which lead the music into a mood of frightening desolation.
Death Siege is set for release on August 26th by Season of Mist.
LIMINAL SHROUD (Canada)
This band from Victoria, BC, made quite a striking impression with their 2018 self-titled demo (which we reviewed here), and then followed that in 2020 with an even more eye-popping debut album, Through the False Narrows (we premiered a track from that one, with commentary about the album as a whole). It’s a happy development that we haven’t had to wait forever for something new, because the band’s next album is now set for release by their new label Willowtip Records on August 5th.
This new one, All Virtues Ablaze, is devoted to four long tracks, which include the two parts that make up “Transmigration”, a monolith that’s more than 21 minutes long when you add the parts together. Regarding the record’s themes, the band say, “this album represents and captures a process of rejection, annihilation and regeneration of the self and contemplates the cyclical forces of futility that shape our condition”. As before, the natural world around them in the beautiful region they call home provided inspiration.
The album’s first single, “Hypoxic“, is the album opener and the shortest piece of the four, though it nears the eight-minute mark. After a dose of mauling abrasion, the opening riff rings out in a way that pierces the mind, immediately creating a mood of fear and despair, soon joined by obliterating blast-beats and scalding vocal savagery. The drumwork remains explosive even as it changes, and the intensity of the riffing stays at an equally high level, blazing, swirling, and slashing in displays of shattering, senses’ consuming extravagance.
Beleaguered and crestfallen moods eventually emerge through the ringing melodies, together with sensations of both flailing confusion and ferocious defiance. Those melodies pack a strong emotional punch, and elevate to heights of bleak, imposing grandeur.
This is one of those thoroughly riveting songs where I had no sense of time passing, and even at nearly eight minutes it ended sooner than I wanted it to.
The third single in today’s collection is a dynamic one from the long-running Israeli band Arallu, whose discography has swelled to seven full-lengths, plus a live album and assorted shorter releases, over a quarter-century career. The song below, “Desert Shadow will Rise“, is the first selection from a new album named Death Covenant (with frightening cover art by Nir Doliner) that will be available on CD/LP/Digital at Hammerheart Records in November.
Both tension and mystery build in the song’s opening, and the riffing is still ominous and frightening after the drums begin hurtling and the vocals explode in utterly savage tirades. The music scathes like a sandstorm but the guitars also swirl in magical and exotic fashion, and there’s a break in the intensity where the drums vanish, the vocals turn to ominous spoken words, and the music becomes even more instrumentally exotic.
That break proves to be a bridge to a segment of jolting guitars, tumbling percussion, and wildly extravagant singing. The guitars gloriously swirl again as the layered vocals seem even more possessed by evil spirits, and the riffing then turns into a menacing and malicious fever with a very dark mood.
VERBERIS (New Zealand/Germany)
Now I’m turning to the first of the two full-lengths I chose for today’s column. Entitled Adumbration of the Veiled Logos, it’s the second album by this New Zealand band (one or more of whom now seem to be in Germany), and follows their debut album Vexamen by a long six years (with the excellent Vorant Gnosis EP in between). It was released by NoEvDia on June 17th without a lot of advance fanfare. The immediately arresting cover art was created by Ars Alchymiae.
The album is a massive one, 58 minutes in length, culminating in a 20-minute closing track. Trying to sum it up succinctly would be a fool’s errand, especially because it draws together so many arresting genre ingredients. I’ll simply give you a few initial impressions:
At full throttle (as in the opening track “Sepulchre of Shattered Saints”), the music is breathtaking in its adrenaline-fueled intensity, but even in the opener the band reveal the dynamism of their songwriting, and their capacity for inspiring the imagination as well as smashing bones and scorching flesh. The music rings in wondrous but unearthly tones, becoming mesmerizing as well as frightening, and the echoing vocals are stunningly vicious. The opener also includes a sharp change near the end, where the pace slows and the song becomes ethereal and enthralling.
The elaborate, momentum-shifting and mood-changing, patterns of the band’s songcraft are hallmarks of all the other tracks. To be sure, the songs pack a muscular, visceral punch, but they’re equally effective in creating mind-expanding and blood-freezing atmospheres, rising to rarefied heights of terrifying exaltation and descending into planes of vast desolation. Feverish frenzies unnerve the senses in paroxysms of derangement and despair, and languid, mercurial movements dazzle with their eerie and esoteric magic.
Throughout all the intricate and often mind-bending twists and turns, the rhythm section nearly steal the show over and over again with inventive, unpredictable, and often technically eye-popping collaborations. Indeed, some of the passages seem consciously constructed to allow the drummer (Ulcerate‘s Jamie Saint Merat) to take the spotlight, with repeating riff motifs gleaming and glittering in the background rather than occupying center-stage.
Astutely, the production of the music favors clarity over distortion, and thereby allows all the captivating and convulsing moving parts to command attention in their distinct roles as well as to join together in creating one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Despite its monumental length, Adumbration of the Veiled Logos will keep you on the edge of your seats from beginning to end.
The second album I picked for today’s column is the sophomore full-length by the Dutch band Wrang. Entitled De vaendrig, it’s been out since June 3rd. It’s not quite as massive as the new Verberis record, but at 43 minutes it’s still a substantial body of work.
Again, I’m only able to give you a few impressions — the most dominant of which is that this is a treasure-house of electrifying and mood-altering riffs, one gripping and blood-pumping riff after another, usually accompanied by head-spinning solos. As a close second I’ll add that the songs are fantastically heavy-grooved, well-calculated to get their claws into your reptile brain (or whatever the hell it is that makes us move reflexively). They take us on feral punk-like romps, hell-for-leather gallops, back-beat-driven convulsions, and stately marches.
As for the moods of the music, it’s often a blend of wild-eyed ecstasy and brazen grandiosity, but in the second track the band throw in organ chords and reverent, soaring choral voices that carry the mind back to a long-lost age before Wrang unleash a spine-tingling sonic typhoon that’s both warlike and bleak, and then launch the song into a sweeping panorama of majestic but melancholy splendor. The music also swings and swirls in expressions of heart-pounding jubilation.
The band seem to be operating on a grand scale almost all the time, and there’s not much room to take deep breaths — and I must also mention that the vocals are never less than unhinged in their raw intensity — but I never felt the need to take a break. It’s just too thrilling of a thrill-ride for that. Take your own deep breaths now, and then press play below.
To conclude, I’m recommending the first single revealed from a new EP named Eutropia by this one-person Spanish project, which will be released by Xenoglossy Productions on July 1st. The label describes the EP as “two tracks of magical realism-infused doomy raw black metal and a dark ambient closing piece called ‘The Island at Noon'”, with lyrics influenced by Italo Calvino‘s 1972 novel Invisible Cities and Julio Cortázar‘s short stories. I would have investigated the music based on those lyrical influences alone.
The song now available for streaming is the opening song “Horizontal Continuity“. The music is so scary that it chills to the bone. The sound is murky and obscure, the vocals a sequence of hideous rasping screams, the drums a muffled patter, and it all seems to flow into the mind like poisonous ichor. Yet eerie gleaming tones ring through the ghastly mists in portrayals of abject misery, but casting an uneasy spell as they proceed.