(Andy Synn offers up three bite-sized yet blistering chunks of British Metal)
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I’ve not written about many EPs so far this year, instead choosing to focus my increasingly limited time on getting as many full-length albums written about as possible each month (and, even then, I’ve still fallen woefully behind on my “to do” list).
It’s a real shame, as the humble EP so often gets overlooked already, despite the fact that the format is where a lot of bands do their best work.
Today, however, I get to make up for this oversight – at least a little bit – while also adding yet another string of excellent releases to my ongoing “Best of British” series in the form of a triptych of terrific EPs from Grief Ritual, Iron Tomb, and Peasant.
GRIEF RITUAL – SPIRITUAL DISEASE
Grief Ritual‘s debut EP is one seriously nasty and unflinchingly ugly slab of Blackened Hardcore-meets-Sludge Metal that goes straight for the throat right from the start (opener “Dissolution” being four ferocious and unforgiving minutes of nothing but charred, chunky riffs, brutish, bone-grinding rhythms, and seething, blackened fury) and rarely offers the listener even a momentary reprieve from its abrasive assault.
And even those rare moments where the band do temper their uber-aggressive attack a little – the doom-laden, atmosphere heavy denouement of “Immurement”, the unsettling ambient mid-section of “Pareidola” – are still so redolent with simmering menace and a nihilistic sense of despair that they’re clearly not designed to let you relax but instead to continue to foster a growing sense of dread about what’s coming next.
Having seen the band compared (and not inaccurately) to similarly savage artists like Leeched (for their occasional excursions into slower, heavier as well as their infrequent flirtations with darker, doomier vibes) and Nails (due to their shared approach to shameless brutal, kick-in-the-teeth catharsis) I kind of already knew what to expect going into this EP (and was not disappointed).
But while Grief Ritual aren’t necessarily doing anything new on Spiritual Disease, they’re still doing it very, very well… and the periodic presence of some more out-and-out Black Metal moments suggests that there’s still a lot of room for growth and expansion of the band’s already impressive sound.
IRON TOMB – VILE RETRIBUTION
I have to issue a quick apology to the Iron Tombsters before we get started – I could have sworn that we’d covered this EP already here at NCS, but… apparently we didn’t?
Still, at least I get to make up for this mistake now. Better late than never, right?
Let me make things very clear right now – Vile Retribution is Death Metal done the old way, and done right, with just enough modern juice (think Black Breath, Gatecreeper, etc) to give it some extra oomph.
Whether via the rolling riffs and bone-rattling rhythms of “Pagan Rule”, the speedier, stompier (and subtly thrashier) strains of “Wretched Dread”, the brutally hooky, blast-propelled “Death Immortal” (easily the MVP of the EP), or the chompy, choppy, axe-wielding assault of the closing title-track, this is one record that should remind you of exactly why you love Death Metal in the first place.
It’s also more than just a collection of grisly growls and buzzsaw riffs – there’s a keen intelligence behind the music, with the band knowing just when to shift gears, when to layer in some moody melody or rip-out a quick, killer solo, and when to really seize their moment and go “all in”, that marks the group as superior songwriters when compared to some of the more infamous (and, in my opinion, overrated) artists currently being championed as part of this latest wave of OSDM revivalists.
But you don’t need to just take my word for it – give it a spin ASAP and then keep your eyes and ears open for the band’s full-length debut… I’m sure it’ll be one to remember!
PEASANT – THE LONEWOLF
Last, but by no means least, the debut EP from the devilish duo known as Peasant offers up an authentically abrasive throwback to the time of very early Darkthrone/Mayhem/Satyricon that blends luridly lo-fi Black Metal with a pissed-off, punky attitude and lyrics which offer a mix of lurid folk-horror and spiteful socio-political commentary on the devastating decline of the post-industrial North.
Opener “The Lonewolf” is five-and-a-half minutes of grimy grooves and harsh distortion, topped off with a litany of cadaverous, croaking vocals and harrowing, banshee howls, and underpinned by a deliciously raw and ramshackle percussive backbone equally at home with heavy, headbanging beats as bitter, blistering blasts.
“Ghosts of the Mines” adds an extra helping of aggression to the band’s punchy, punky blackened brew, upping the ante, pushing the tempo, and leaning into the chaos just that little bit more, while also using some clever sleight-of-hand to conceal the fact that there’s an unexpected undercurrent of sinister melody hidden beneath all the filthy distortion and howling invective.
Closing with the even darker, doomier, and more ambitious strains of “Under the Curse” – eight minutes of bleak, baleful leads, creepy, crawling rhythms, and grim, grimy vocals that slowly, but surely, builds to a madcap crescendo – this EP should, if there’s any justice or fairness in the world (and, I’ll grant you, that doesn’t always seem to be the case) put the band’s name on the map as the prime purveyors of (in their own words) “toil, anguish, and pure northern grit”.