(Sacramento-based writer DGR pulled together the following reviews of albums that surfaced over the last 30 days.)
The tour through the world of heavy metal continues, this time covering a good portion of the planet as we carve our way from Canada through the States and land in Australia for three suitably intense and mind-scarringly mean experiences that saw recent release. We begin with names familiar to longtime NCS readers and end on someone new but a group that’ll instantly appeal to the wall-punchers as decorative artists among our readers.
Tribe Of Pazuzu – Blasphemous Prophecies
It hadn’t occurred to us around here that it had been close to three years for the Canadian crew Tribe Of Pazuzu when it came to the gap between releases, nor the fact that Blasphemous Prophecies represents the group’s official first full-length album.
For those who haven’t been wandering around these fetid halls for a while, Tribe Of Pazuzu unleashed two EPs in late 2019 and early 2020 entitled Heretical Uprising and King Of All Demons. With the year-over-year churn on those particular EPs and each of them clocking in at a stocky five songs and near-twenty minutes each, it felt like the combination of the two together – which the band would eventually release in 2021 – was their debut full-length.
Their penchant for higher-tempo, steamroller-style death metal with a taste for the infernal notched the band firmly within a solid ‘go-to’ camp. Tribe Of Pazuzu were not a group you went to for the high-minded artistry but instead because of their singular focus for remaining at high-rpm and mowing down everything in front of them with reckless abandon. Blasphemous Prophecies – which saw release in early-March of this year – is the latest step forward into that specific world, providing plenty a near-half-hour’s worth of music that hews as close to the Tribe Of Pazuzu formula as you could imagine.
Blasphemous Prophecies is the sort of release where anyone with any sense of familiarity with the band are going to recognize what they’re in for from the moment “We Serve Under No God” begins. This is a full-length statement by a band who saw no reason to alter the formula for anything at all, meaning that the eight songs here are just as punchy as anything the Tribe had put out on their EPs. If you’re the type who loves an album full of guitar leads and guitar solos that come screeching in like they’re escaping hell, forward-driven drumming assaults, and vocals that are constantly locked in with whatever fast percussing rhythm may be tearing through a particular song at the moment, then the thirty minutes here will leave you plenty satisfied.
Songs like the titular “Blasphemous Prophecies”, “Invocation of The Ancients”, the impressively vicious “The Trial And Prosecution of The Scorned Prophet”, and the more groove-oriented – for the briefest of moments – “Born Of A Jackal” are worth the price of admission on their own here. You couldn’t fault anyone for sticking it out for the whole ride anyway, given that every song stays furiously close to its three-to-four minute, all in and all out attack style of songwriting. It’s how you wind up with a song like “Towards Oppressors” closing things out at seemingly the exact same amount of fire as what opened the album with nothing lost along the way.
Now with a full-length and two EPs under their belt, Tribe Of Pazuzu have made themselves a solid fixture in their high-speed death metal world, one where pretense is left behind and subtlety incinerated.
Sarcoptes – Prayers To Oblivion
Sacramento’s Sarcoptes unleashed their second album Prayers To Oblivion in February, and although their release schedule has the frequency of Earth’s occasional comet visitor, there is at least a standard of quality already established with the group. Sarcoptes could easily make some serious headway among the fanatical black/thrash devotees amongst us, and it’s why we’ve covered nearly everything they’ve done – they’re a band who always seem to pick up another collective of people with each release, slowly building up a foundation dedicated to long-form black metal with light symphonic accompaniment.
Sarcoptes have a knack for holding a listener’s attention, long established in the days of Songs And Dances Of Death back in 2016. Even when the 2020 EP Plague Hymns punched in at two songs that totaled for about seventeen and a half minutes worth of music, no one was complaining about how the band would go on full hellish adventures before finally cycling back around to close things out nearly eight-mintues later. It’s why it doesn’t shock that Prayers To Oblivion is laid out like it is: five songs total, and over fifty minutes worth of music. Three of those songs? Over thirteen minutes easily. The two in between? Short blasters by Sarcoptes standards; still well within the four-to-five minute range.
Sacroptes sought to use the atrocities of war for subject matter this time around, after having spent an album and EP well esconced within the worlds of disease. The subject matter may have changed but the spectacular intensity of the band remains firmly in place. Prayers To Oblivion is delivered blade-sharp and with a sheen to it that could blind people two states over.
There is, of course, some appreciation for the fact that Prayers To Oblivion is only five songs long, and like Oak‘s Disintegrate earlier this year punching in at only one, it immediately plants a bullet between the eyes of the usual ‘here’s some highlight tracks’ exercise we try to do for people. “Spanish Flu” is a pretty good encapsulation of the Sarcoptes sound, and as the shortest on the album, will serve as a good teaser for those who might be interested in making the longer adventure. It’s a little bit more conventional, as the foot-to-the-floor and light-guitar-on-fire songs seem to be, but there is always going to be room in the black metal world for another scorcher of a track and “Spanish Flu” more than suitably fills that gap.
“Trenches” and “Dead Silence” surrounding it do an excellent job of guiding people through the band’s wider musical world, and the opening line of the album being a shrill and throat-tearing “Dig The Trenches/Dig Your Own Graves” will make for one of the better musical moments of 2023. The band make no pretense of trying to hide the fact that they use a light symphonic element to handle a lot of the melodic work, where guitarist Sean Zimmerman is more often attempting to break the damn thing by sheer velocity, but he’s also backed by a weapon on the drum kit in Garrett Garvey, who has been a long-time fixture in the musical world out here.
The two carve a molten path of destruction across the fifty minutes of Prayers To Oblivion, and it is likely that the group’s steady growth should continue here. They’re one of the easier recommendations in the mix this time, as their thrashier black metal hybrid adventures always make for a hell of a listening experience.
Tongue Scum – Callously Formed
Give it to the grind bands for maintaining heavy metal’s obsession with the mouth and how gross it actually is. While we continue to add chalk mark after chalk mark to the tracker for bands with some permutation of ‘Teeth’ finding their way into the mix, Australia comes in from just outside of left field and a couple of time zones ahead of the glorious – and soaked – United States West Coast with Tongue Scum and their newly released EP Callously Formed.
Tongue Scum are a trio whose music is going to be instantly recognizable for those who’ve caught the NoCleanSinging penchant for grind/powerviolence as we’ve covered it over the past few years. We love us some music with feet planted firmly in the world of one-to-two minute blasters with the sort of manic execution that seems to insure that every song plays out like not only the listener holding on to the song as it spins, attempting to throw them off, but the band itself doing the same.
Callously Formed is suitably mean in that regard, making for a quick twelve minutes of high-speed and steadily ratcheting intensity that hits the punch clock with enough force to send it flying through the wall and knock the Cronos servers offline for another seven or eight hours and leaves just as fast. Case presented: Callously Formed is one of those EPs wherein the intro paragraph to this particular writeup has already seen two and a half-loops of it and will likely get another one during the editing pass to make sure we look suitably stupid and not any more than what you already might expect.
Could it be made any more clear what Tongue Scum are trying to do when the opening song is just called “Shutup And Listen”? At only a minute long, “Shutup And Listen” is likely to leave you in stunned silence as the Callously Formed mission statement is laid out before you. This is going to be an EP of blastbeats and circle-pit riffs, made for chaos and delivered via rail-gun launch. These are the style of songs that don’t stretch long not only because they don’t need to, but also because it’s highly likely everyone would pass out before making it to the end of the track.
A song like “Error In Lyf” has so much energy coursing through it that you can almost feel just how goddamned hot and humid the venue gets when the song is done live and that’s only on an audio pass. “No Fear No Pain” and its steady hXc punk influence comes as a welcome change of pace as the blurring of those lines within the prefix-core genres assures there’ll be at least one good breakdown-beating, even in a grindcore mountain-blaster style of song. Tongue Scum do flex their muscles a bit on that front, with the middle of Callously Formed being where the band let a little bit of groove and ballsy guitar-lead drive the sound for a while, before returning back to the drowning-well of planet enders with “Prestige Or Parasite”.
There’s a joy to be found in the sort of release that plays its hand early and then just laughs as it immolates said hand – and itself – in front of you as well. Callously Formed is fireball volley after fireball volley, the twelve some-odd minutes leaving craters in the ground every time.