Mar 262023

Into Darkness – photo by Nicolette A. Radoi

As I began making my way through my list of new music I might want to recommend for this Sunday’s column I had one mental WOW! after another. Some actual exclamatory sounds might have escaped my mouth, but the headphones were clamped on too tight for me to tell. After realizing that I’d already found more than enough to occupy this installment I had to make myself stop listening, even with lots of things left to check out,

Maybe I didn’t stop soon enough. There’s a lot here — four advance tracks from forthcoming records, two complete EPs, and one complete albums. To make all this a little more accessiblke, I’ve divided the recommendations into two Parts. I hope you’ll find time to delve into all of it instead of feeling overwhelmed, and that you get a few WOW‘s yourself.


After experiencing the weirdness of time seeming to slow down during the depths of pandemic lockdowns, it now seems that it’s speeding ahead faster than ever. That includes the release of new music, which whizzes by so fast that it almost becomes a blur. That makes it easy to overlook things, and I confess that as a result I missed the release of a new Into Darkness EP about 10 days ago. It certainly wasn’t for lack of interest, since I’ve written enthusiastically about every release by this Italian band since their first demo in 2012.

Thankfully, my eyes and ears were opened to the new EP, Cassini-Huygens, without losing too much time. It came as a fantastic surprise, since five years have elapsed since the band’s last release, the First Encounters demo in 2018. As the title conveys, the new EP is a “concept based on the Cassini-Huygens space mission to Saturn: an immersive journey in the most exciting interplanetary mission ever done”.

Unfolding over five tracks, the EP follows the journey of the Cassini spacecraft (a joint product of NASA and the Italian space agency ASI) from its launch in 1997 to the descent of the European Huygens lander that it carried to the largest Saturnian moon (Titan) on January 14, 2005, and the execution of the Cassini spacecraft’s “Grand Finale”, which culminated in its intentional self-destruction in Saturn’s upper atmosphere in 2017. (I found the details at NASA’s page here).

Refreshingly different subject matter for an extreme metal band, but how has this extraordinary journey been mapped onto the music? And are their alien monsters in this re-telling, as the cover art suggests?

The band describe the music as “old school Death Metal in the vein of Asphyx, Pentacle, early Soulburn“, but there’s enough charring in the blizzard-like riffing and the scalding howls of vocalist/guitarist Doomed Warrior that I felt fine including it in this column.

When firing on all cylinders, as the band do in “The Launch”, the music is electrifying. The drums batter and clobber, the bass rumbles the ground, and the superheated guitars blaze like rockets igniting, In that EP opener, the riffing also writhes and roils in menacing directions, and the soloing creates a feeling of unearthly wonder. There’s even a kind of dark grandeur in the booming backdrops that give the song its main grooves.

In the follow-on track, “Crossing The Asteroid Belt”, Into Darkness shift gears, slowing the pace into harrowing heaves and massive stomps, and unfurling melodies stricken with doom. It’s as cold as the void, but there’s still a feeling of daunting grandeur in the experience, as well as danger. From there, “Journey” initially maintains the steady stalking pace and the icy aura of a void-faring passage. It methodically inflicts spine-fracturing trauma, builds tension and fear, and eventually boils over into battering and broiling madness, punctuated by neck-ruining jackhammer-blows and soloing that’s alternately freakish and forlorn.

Then comes “Huygens Descent”, the point in the journey when the lander makes its way to Titan’s surface. That was a dramatic and no doubt anxiety-producing event in the lives of the humans who had worked so hard to guide the mission to that point. The song proves to be equally momentous.

Here, the riffage is brazen and blaring, and the song is also rhythmically explosive. The reverb-drenched vocals are crazed and exhilarating, and the soloing is a fret-burning spectacle. In keeping with the subject, there’s also tension and peril in the music, and the anxious fevers of jittery fretwork unfolding over skull-busting snare-work, plus a chilling climax that reminds us we have now entered an unfathomably alien world.

We know from the history of this excursion that as Cassini neared its end, it performed a number of risky passes through the gaps between Saturn and its inner rings, still collecting scientific data while positioning itself for self-immolation to prevent potential contamination of Saturn’s moons if Cassini were to unintentionally crash into them, when maneuvering the probe was no longer possible due to fuel loss.

In this closing track, the nimbleness of the bass seizes attention in the midst of rambunctious drumming and braying chords, and from there the song’s explosive impact builds and builds, pulsating with energy but also creating moods of eerie mystery. Once again, the music begins to tower in frightening grandeur and to convulse in scary spasms of tremolo-frenzied fretwork and rabid vocals. As vocal samples from the mission emerge, you can feel the ensuing incineration.

Well, I’ve gone on and on, far longer than necessary since you can listen to all of this now, but I couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a way of saying thanks for such a well-conceived and well-constructed EP, and one that proves every bit as exhilarating as the space-faring achievements it celebrates.

Cassini-Huygens has been released by Unholy Domain Records on CD, tape, and digital formats.




James Fogarty has been a very busy man. Performing under a variety of pseudonyms as well as the name on his birth certificate, he has been a key figure in a forthcoming album by Old Forest, the recent revival of Jaldaboath, and yet another forthcoming album by Nattehimmel, who are responsible for the next song in today’s collection.

In Nattehimmel he has joined forces with the brothers Christopher and Christian Botteri, with whom he performed in the lineup of In the Woods… for their 2016 comeback album Pure. None of the three are part of In the Woods… any more, but they’re together again in Nattehimmel, and in good company with drummer Sven Rothe and guitarist David Carter (so says Metal-Archives). Their debut album Mourningstar is the follow-up to a debut demo from last year, The Night Sky Beckons.

The first advance song from the new album, “Astrologer“, which comes with a cool video, uses swaths of scratchy guitars, rumbling bass, and head-hooking beats to set the stage for Fogarty‘s heroic singing. Aided by mystical keyboards and frantic guitar-work, the music swells in menacing magnificence as the vocals suddenly switch to goblin screams. Back and forth the vocals go, adding to both the chilling majesty and the viciousness of the music.

Gigantic drum-and-bass booms and slithering and swirling arpeggios double-down on both aspects of the music, creating moods both reptilian and rapturous, swathed in a supernatural (we might say infernal) atmosphere. Thanks to the keys and the ravaging intensity of the screams, the music rises to shining and shuddering heights, befitting the term “epic”.

Mourningstar will be released by Hammerheart Records on May 20th.




On March 25th Pest Productions released a second album by this Chinese black/death metal band. Entitled Step on the Path of Eternal Salvation, it’s a follow-up to the band’s self-titled full-length debut in 2020 (which I missed). I might have missed this one too, except I got a Bandcamp alert about it because I’ve bought from Pest before. Turned out to be a very welcome alert.

I’d like to write more about he album than I have time for. In an effort to tempt you, I’ll make just a few observations:

While the music is often undeniably warlike, it’s also surprising. Among other things, though the production of the music gives it a bone-jolting and head-swirling power, clarity is ever-present, in contrast with the kind of music that usually proceeds under the banner of “War metal”. So don’t think of this as “war metal”, despite its destructive hostility.

In addition, destructive hostility is perhaps the least notable feature of the songs. The band deliver gut-slugging heft and plenty of skull-rattling drum escapades, along with madhouse vocal intensity, but it’s the music’s elaborate and ever-changing permutations that make it stand out.

There are more guitar tones than you can shake a stick at, and they morph in mercurial ways, creating a multitude of moods, which are sometimes more celestial than they are the stuff of earth-bound mechanized attacks. There’s also enough hyper-speed drumming to keep adrenaline levels high.

Symphonic synths also play a leading role, as well as brief keyboard forays, and so, through those enhancements, the music becomes haughty, imperious, and stratospherically unearthly, in addition to encapsulating militaristic marches, brutish thuggery, blistering savagery, panoramic splendor, exultant madness, the agony of loss, and tragic remembrance.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.