May 202023


I began this morning like I’ve begun every morning since the start of the pandemic: sitting on the deck of my home in the forest drinking a triple-espresso, smoking cigarettes, and reading the local, national, and international news on my phone.

It’s not something I can recommend in good conscience. Smoking is bad for you and the news is almost invariably depressing. But today the birds around me were in full song and the news included a story about a woman who had a “loud and full body orgasm” during the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony as performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The article where I learned about this included a link to a list of “The 10 Best Orgasm Symphonies”, compiled by British music journalist Norman Lebrecht in celebration of the woman’s scream. The article also quoted opera soprano Renée Fleming: “Let’s not forget that the word ‘climax’ is a common musical term. It has to do with musical tension and its release.”

With this in mind, I started making my way through my gigantic list of new songs and videos from the past week or two, listening for climaxes. If you get one while listening to what follows, just keep that to yourself. (Joking of course — I want to hear all about it!)




My social networks were abuzz yesterday with the news of a new Khanate album. Understandably so, since 14 years have passed since Alan Dubin, Stephen O’Malley, James Plotkin, and Tim Wyskida put out the last Khanate album, and that new album (To Be Cruel) popped up digitally in full bloom overnight without advance warning.

Regarding the album’s themes, a press release shared this comment from Dubin: “The album viscerally and metaphorically portrays a self-immolating destiny that perhaps ironically blames outside entities. There is a need for revenge but… against who and why?”

The album unfolds in three apocalyptic tracks and lasts an hour. I’ve just listened once. It’s so devastatingly and horrifyingly bleak that it’s not the kind of thing any self-protective listener would listen to back-to-back.

There are climaxes to be found within these three long songs, moments where the suffocating gloom and nerve-racking tension break in spasms of madness. But I would say that gloom and tension are the music’s main sensations — rendered with harrowing and hallucinatory intensity — along with experiences of slowly drowning in black waters too thick and toxic for even fish to breathe, heaving like a maimed body crossing barren plains beneath a starless night sky, becoming wound tight on a torture rack or made the subject of a methodical autopsy while still alive, or glimpsing ephemeral visions of things that have escaped hell and longily want to bring you back there with them.

Khanate find other ways to break up their devastating, droning crawls — with sudden bomb-like percussive detonations, abrasive shrieks of string torture, human shrieks and cracked wails of utmost agony, creep-crawly spoken words and ghastly whispers, emerging swaths of poisonous musical mist, and scattered seconds of silence. What stays unbroken is the atmosphere of world-ending horror and incurable despair.

This is a relentlessly nihilistic album. I guess I’m recommending it because it’s such a monumental achievement of its mind-ruining objectives. There’s something to be said for a work that’s so consummate in realizing its mission, even if its mission delivers an emotional catharsis that’s this sadistic.




For my second choice today I decided to stay with venerable and venerated names, and also remain on the same spot in the alphabet. I also thought that if you managed to survive Khanate, you might need a kick in the ass to get your heart beating normally again.

Kataklysm didn’t wait nearly as long as Khanate to release a new album. Their new one, Goliath, follows the last one, Unconquered, by only three years. It was announced yesterday with an advance single and accompanying video named “Bringer Of Vengeance“. Maurizio Iacono described the song’s theme this way:

“The ‘Bringer of Vengeance‘ single’s main idea is about a carefully and patiently plotted revenge. The song is inspired by the events surrounding the assassination of King Richard I ‘The Lionheart’ and the idea that it might take time but, one day justice will always be served”.

Kataklysm tell the tale with a song that’s partly a brutish, pavement-splitting jackhammer fest and partly a barbaric attack of savagery, replete with scorch-the-earth vocals and with bits of flowing moody melody spliced in. Definitely red meat for headbangers, which is its main attraction, but laced with portrayals of tragedy.

Goliath will be released on August 11th by Nuclear Blast.



If you want more music from venerable and venerated names, Voivod, Sigh, and Cadaver also released new songs and videos last week. You can find them here, here, and here, respectively.




I couldn’t resist including this next song, “The Plague“, because it gave me a reason to include a painting by Paolo Girardi. I probably would have included it even if the music had sounded like a gasoline-powered leaf-blower. Fortunately for you, it doesn’t.

What it sounds like instead is a gruesome death metal monster — hulking and harrowing, hammering and eviscerating, stinking of rot and shrouded in supernatural strangeness. The throat-ruining howls are spine-tingling, the filaments of melody are exotic and esoteric, the soloing sounds like sorcery, and the whole thing is catchier than covid.

The song is from a new Temple of Dread album named Beyond Acheron. It includes guest-contributions by former Morgoth and Insidious Disease vocalist Marc Grewe (he added his voice to “The Plague”) and God Dethroned‘s Henri Sattler (who provided a guitar solo on the title track). The album will be released on August 11th by Testimony Records.




Yesterday we got another song off Blackbraid‘s next album, and a video along with it — a chance to see Blackbraid‘s Sgah’gahsowáh and his live bandmates knocking out the song in a barren desert setting.

The Spirit Returns” sounds more death metal than black metal. It thunders and hammers, makes room for some jolting chugs, and attacks with ferocious firestorms of vicious and vengeful riffing. Of course, the vocals bring blackened scalding intensity, but the song also begins to rise and flow as mustangs gallop, creating an expansive sonic vista of melancholy grandeur. Or we might call it a climax.

Blackbraid‘s upcoming second full-length, Blackbraid II, will be self-released on July 7th. You can find the new song’s lyrics, which match the spirit of the music, at Bandcamp.




“5 different music tastes fiercely clash to spawn Sludge-infused songs that explore Gothic undertones, Death Metal forces, Progressive tints, classic Rock drumming, a fair amount of Psychedelia and many more hidden influences”. That’s how a press release from the Wormholedeath label described the music of this Spanish band’s forthcoming album Obloquy, and I fell for it, ignoring the adage that curiosity can kill the cat.

The most recent taste-test is a song named “This Winding Path” that debuted with a lyric video two days ago. I can’t place all of those influences in this one song, but certainly some of them are there. I’d venture to say it sounds like pagan death metal with an atmosphere of gothic doom.

As it dismally stalks and stomps we see a passage from Virgil’s Aeneid (kudos for literacy), enunciated in deathly growls — which soon turn to inflamed screams of rage. The song’s gloomy, dragging riffs, staggering momentum, and wailing melodies well-suit its tale of deceived ancient warriors. Especially because of those morose piercing melodies, but also because of the prominent bass perambulations, the effect is hypnotic.

Warlike chants and primitive booming drums strengthen the song’s ancient atmosphere, and a slithering lead-guitar tuned to sound like an old bowed instrument gives it an aspect that’s both mythic and intriguing, but also miserable. These doomed warriors learn in devastating fashion that there is no god, anywhere. (No real climax here, except for those hair-raising screams, just a mesmerizing kind of desolation.)




Anima Hereticae‘s new video-embellished single “Kraken” was certainly well-named. From the very beginning it creates an atmosphere of monstrous menace and blood-freezing unearthliness (well, krakens do exist, but they are rarely seen).

The song steadily builds tension, adding choral screams to mighty subterranean growls, and frightening symphonic synths to the music’s big rumbling heaviness. The tension breaks in flurries of battering drums and maniacally roiling riffage, but the song also recedes into melodies of misery even as the rhythm section continue to kick up a storm. The beast seems to rise again in a musical crescendo of sweeping but daunting magnificence.

This is the kind of song, like its namesake, that’s capable of swallowing a listener whole. It’s from a forthcoming debut album named Descended From the Mountains that will be released by Inverse Records on September 22nd. You can find a preceding single named “Cimmerian Darkness” at Bandcamp here.

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