Jun 032023

This past week has been a recovery week. After the conclusion of Northwest Terror Fest last weekend I was elated by the experience but also badly in need of rest, and got some of that. I also had to catch up on both paying work and stuff on the home front that I had neglected during five days living out of a hotel in Seattle while working on the fest. I also managed to set aside a full afternoon and evening for one last chance to hang out with Andy Synn and DGR before they jetted back to their homes yesterday.

Put all that together, and I had to dial back what I’d be doing at a normal week for NCS. One big thing I dialed back was looking at e-mails that landed in the site’s in-box. I sure as fuck didn’t count them, but just eye-balling the mass, I’d guess that more than 1,500 arrived over the last week. Based on past averages, I’d also guess that if time had allowed, I’d have at least skimmed through those and found dozens of new songs and videos I’d want to check out in whole or in part.

But I didn’t do that. I only tried to look for subject lines which seemed like the messages were specifically intended just for us, and more specifically for messages exploring the idea of future NCS premieres. Everything else I just flew past like a swallow in rutting season.

So what the hell to do for this roundup? I could have spent hours trying to plow through what I missed, but that idea was so dull and daunting that I needed some other answer. Sometimes the best way to deal with a complex problem is to apply a blunt instrument (what Alexander did with the Gordian knot also comes to mind). So I just paid attention to e-mails from the last 24 hours (only 202 of them), and a small collection of other song links that a few friends and acquaintances had sent me. From that, I picked what now follows.



Ageless Summoning goes first because they and/or Dark Descent Records got Paolo Girardi to paint the cover art for the band’s debut album Corrupting the Entempled Plane, and like a dog I’ll run after that car every damned time. What I was just fast enough to catch up with was the album’s first single, “Epoch of Souls“.

Prepare for a bamboozling sonic brawl, packed with sudden percussive variations, abrasive riffing that whines, pulsates, claws, and drags, augmented by hungry-animal roars and soloing that wails, screams, and maniacally swirls. It’s all sinister, weird, and unnerving, seemingly calculated to play havoc with your sense of balance, but so fascinating that there’s a great temptation when it ends to go back to the beginning and start again, attempting to better discern what the fuck they just did.

Ageless Summoning may be relatively new to the scene (they did release a very good demo five years ago), but the band includes veteran members of such U.K. acts as Of Spire & Throne, Haar, Úir, Scordatura, and Abyssal. Corrupting the Entempled Plane is set for release by Dark Descent on July 21st.




SOMNIATE (Czechia)

Next up is the intriguingly named “Black Soundless Sugar“, a song off the forthcoming second album by this Czech band, whose lineup includes current or former members of Heaving Earth, Brutally Deceased, Et Moriemur, and Sól.

Lavadome Productions describes the album as “a psychedelic mixture of harmony and dissonance, both unpolished and elegant; black metal visions from the realm behind our eyelids”. I don’t yet know about the rest of the album, but those words ring true in the case of this first single.

Subdued, noirish, and strangely seductive at first, led by proggy guitar and bass soloing, the song slowly comes to a boil as the riffing begins to sear. After a brief pause, the fretwork becomes more demented, the double-bass goes off in bursts, and maddened vocals growl, yell, and scream.

The song follows no straight path, suddenly accelerating and slowing in its momentum and deluging the mind with manifold contortions of the guitars, which include riotous spasms over blasting drums and expressions of sheer lunatic ecstasy. What holds this avant-garde hallucination together is a weirdly warbling guitar motif that rings high and clear.

The new album is named We Have Proved Death. It was inspired by Richard G. Brautigan‘s 1968 post-apocalyptic novel In Watermelon Sugar, and it’s set for release by Lavadome on July 14th. It was mixed and mastered by V. Santura (Triptykon, Dark Fortress).





About six weeks ago in another one of these round-ups I shared the wonderful news that this Greek melodic death metal band were returning with a new album, six years after their fantastic full-length debut The Untamed Wilderness. They said that this marks “the start of a new era for Aetherian“, and it appears that they’ve added a couple of new guitarists to an already formidable lineup.

The first sign of what the new album brings was a lyric video for the song “Army of Gaia“, and a week ago they released a fantasy-themed post-apocalyptic animated video (made by HK Visual Creations) for another new song — “ΠΥΡ ΑΕΝΑΟΝ“.

Though this generally hard-charging song is jolting and fiery, there’s a sense of desperation and even anguish in the buzzing, jabbing, and darting riffage, feelings magnified by the vocals’ harrowing intensity, bursts of hyper-speed drumwork, and wisps of mournful melody. Yet as tension-filled and aggressive as the song is, it also sweeps and soars, reaching its crescendo in a beautifully sorrowful guitar solo at the end.

The new album, At Storm’s Edge, will be released on July 14th by Lifeforce Records.





Surprise, surprise, just as I was headed off to Seattle last week to begin work on Northwest Terror Fest I got word about a new two-song EP named Path Of The Rotten released by a new death metal project named Fractured, a collaboration between Rogga Johansson (vocals, guitars and bass) and Håkan Stuvemark (vocals, guitars, lead guitar, and keys), both of whom have a lot of other well-known bands on their resumes.

What have these two veterans gotten up to under this new banner? Well, the EP’s title song turns out to be a dynamic affair — a big shaggy stomping beast that gets spurred into a jolting gallop, segmented by bursts of grisly tremolo’d frenzy. Cavernous roars and wild yells ride the beast, which periodically slows its pace to allow the guitars to buzz and wail in misery. A freaked-out fret-melter of a solo sends it to a fever pitch, but the finale becomes a looming black monument of horror.

The second song, “Flogged In the Gauntlet“, is freaked-out from the start, but quickly launches into a barbaric war-charge of hammering drums, berserker riffing-ferocity, and haughty growls that segue into head-back screams. Adrenaline-fueled ferocity is the hallmark of this one, but an exotic, reverberating guitar solo gives it an added (and mesmerizing) occult dimension as well.





Although Whalesong are moving toward the release of their third album (Leaving A Dream), I don’t remember ever encountering their music before. I paid attention to the first advance song from that new album (“Struggle“) mainly because of the band’s name, and the fact that it’s being released by the Old Temple label.

The band’s name made sense when I heard the eerie wailing vocals in “Struggle” — and experienced the humongous heaving immensity of the song’s grim, abrasive chords. The skull-smacking and spine-booming drum beats and bowel-loosening bass tones enhance the song’s immediately gripping impact. And all of that makes the sudden appearance of discordant piano arpeggios even more surprising. But I guess it was a good idea to add something, however brief, as a diversion from the increasingly pulverizing impact of this onslaught.

And make no mistake, the song really is goddamned pulverizing, and the vocals don’t stay in whalesong mode all the way through, but ratchet up into harrowing growls and wrenching screams to match the intensity of the music. The piano continues re-surfacing, creating a kind of confused oddity in the midst of calamity, but things get even stranger than that at the end.

This is a massive album. According to what I read, it’s two hours long. It will be released by Old Temple and Zoharum on July 21st (2CD and digital), with a tape version coming in the fall in cooperation with Three Moons Records.




WHITE HAT (Czechia)

Regular visitors know that sometimes I throw curveballs at the end of these round-ups. This is one of those times.

Unlike everything else in today’s collection, “Mind Defender” isn’t a brand new song. It came out in February. I’ve forgotten when I came across it, but it stuck with me. I have fun going back to it because it’s such a head-spinner. Finally, I’ve remembered to include it here.

When you hear the song’s snappy drum beats and shimmering synth-waves, and even when heavy grinding gears come in, you might think you’re in for some kind of mutated New Wave experience, but then you find the words being expelled like a goblin that’s being strangled. The song gets the pulse jumping and the mind whirling, and there’s just enough ugliness in the music to appeal to more extreme tastes.

Plus, there are more surprises to come, including distorted voices that seem like radio transmissions from an orbital craft, pastoral cinematic drifts of sound that soar to celestial heights, more of that lo-frequency heaviness, and vehement proclamations about wearing your hat, protecting your mind, and enjoying the power of might.

It turns out that while I’ve been sitting on “Mind Defender” the last couple of months White Hat released another single, in mid-May. The newer one is named “81 Trips“. It fucks with your mind even more than “Mind Defender“, beginning with the feedback-laden torturing of a bass guitar and a cacophony of demented voices. When the drums come in, it’s in a kind of lurching bounce, and the riffing gouges and screams.

Though the main vocals are no less goblin-like than before, the song also includes gloomy Peter Steele-esque cleans (and soaring voices too), and the collage of instruments creates a more sinister and psychedelic experience. Your head can still jump up and down when listening, but this one is a trip (maybe 81 of them) through a haunted house of horrors.


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