Nov 042023

Vitriol – photo by Peter Beste

It’s been a hell of a week for yours truly, emphasis on hell. In an average week now, the release of new metal is a deluge. This past week, another Bandcamp Friday pushed the storm-surge higher. Fittingly, as I write this, the rain is coming down outside like a fucking monsoon, a rarity here in the usually drizzly Pacific Northwest.

On top of that I decided to get the latest covid vaccine and the latest flu shot on the same day early in the week. When you have as much gray hair as I do and have spent the majority of your life smoking, getting both of those shots was strongly recommended. In hindsight, getting them both at the same time was a dumbass move.

Sore arms for a few days, of course, and all my energy also evaporated for a few days too, as it did with every previous covid jab. But this time my head and lungs got congested like someone had flooded them with concrete slurry and my nose ran like a leaky faucet. That has slowly improved, but I’m still congested and damned tired of that.

The combination of a big flood-tide of new music and a misery-clogged head isn’t a great combination for this usual Saturday column. Although I’m still happy with today’s picks, there should have been more. At least you can’t hear me hacking and snorting, so that’s one blessing. More blessings to follow….



The first time I saw Vitriol play live was when they opened the second day of Northwest Terror Fest 2019 on the main stage. Having been left slack-jawed and dumb-struck by their 2017 debut EP Pain Will Define Their Death, I had high expectations. I still wasn’t prepared for the hurricane-strength intensity of that live set. It was so goddamned ferocious that it sucked the air from my lungs. To this day, 4 1/2 years later, it’s one of the most dominant impressions of that festival that still survives in my memory.

Vitriol‘s newest song, “The Flowers of Sadism“, isn’t quite the same kind of hurricane. As my friend DGR remarked, “It’s built around a big, slow groove” and reminded him a lot of “The Rope Calls You Brother” from Vitriol‘s powerhouse debut album To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice, which came out a few months after their blistering Terror Fest performance.

The new song does include some slow, hard-slugging grooves, but that’s not the main thing I took away from it. What I took away is that the music is intensely unsettling — like an emotional hurricane — thanks to dissonant, roiling guitars that seem to scream, electrifying bursts of light-speed drumming, and harsh vocals that are wrenching to hear.

The music’s unsettling feverishness boils higher into the red zone thanks to a freakish guitar solo and other episodes of intricate fretwork mania, though the song also administers a brutal beating, and ethereal synths also waft above the elaborate instrumental spasms, chilling the skin.

The Flowers of Sadism” is from Vitriol‘s second album, Suffer & Become, which is due for release on January 26th via Century Media Records. The attention-grabbing cover art is the work of Dylan Humphries.

The press release we received from CM‘s publicist reports that, “From the onset of the opening track, ‘Shame and Its Afterbirth,’ there’s a new sense of openness, grandeur, and occasional beauty in VITRIOL‘s aural arsenal.” It also included this statement from Vitriol‘s Kyle Rasmussen:

“I wanted to have an album that had a stark duality to it. Very high highs and very low lows. We’re very familiar with the lows but not so much with the triumphant highs. I wanted the album to have more of a sense of optimism to it, both lyrically and musically. I wanted the album to convey a sense of optimism that probably gets lost in the black maelstrom that is the first album.”



SAASTA (Finland)

That Vitriol song was inspired by a personal tale of mental illness, in which sadistic behavior was used as a way of surviving early developmental trauma. The next song I chose also seems to grapple with mental illness — it’s name is “Sickness“.

The music is a changing amalgam. It hits damned hard, hard enough to trigger muscle reflexes, and the abrading riffage rages and roils as the vocalist expels the words in torrid growls and howls. But Saasta also briefly interweave softer and more mysterious moods, as well as riffing that seems disturbingly hallucinatory.

As generally unnerving as the music is, however, the song is a visceral head-mover, and those deleterious riffs also turn out to be damned infectious. Like Vitriol‘s new song, this one also arrived with a good video.

The song is taken from an EP named Black|Death|Doom, which will be out on December 5th via Inverse Records.



RUDRA (Singapore)

Over the course of Rudra‘s 30-year career they’ve amassed a discography that includes 10 studio albums. The most recent is 2022’s Eight Mahavidyas. I didn’t devote nearly enough attention to it at NCS, but I have an occasion to remind people about it because Rudra have provided their own reminder, in the form of a new video for a song from that album named “Awakened and Skyclad“.

The video is thoroughly engrossing, and so is the song. The album as a whole drew upon Hindu legends, specifically the Hindu goddesses known as the Mahavidyas, but the album used the mythology as a way of honoring eight women who were historical figures, from ancient times up until the 18th century, women “who broke stereotypes and became outstanding teachers of wisdom”.

In its crystalline melodies, which work their way into the mind, “Awakened and Skyclad” is mysterious and exotic, but the thrashy riffing feverishly skitters and throbs with a vivid pulse, and the tale is told through blackened snarls. It’s a very effective complement between visceral, electric energy and otherworldly mysticism, and the riveting guitar solos bring those contrasts together.

Based on the quotation that ends the video, I think the subject of this song is the woman described as follows in The Font of All Human Knowledge:

Lalleshwari, also known locally as Lal Ded (1320–1392), was a Kashmiri mystic of the Kashmir Shaivism school of Hindu philosophy. She was the creator of the style of mystic poetry called vatsun or Vakhs, literally “speech” (from Sanskrit vāc). Known as Lal Vakhs, her verses are the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language and are an important part in the history of modern Kashmiri literature.




I mentioned in my navel-gazing intro to this column that the last week brought an unusually high storm-surge of new music and video to my doorstep. I did leave out one thing that contributed to the flood: After a hiatus, Rennie Resmini‘s starkweather SubStack returned with a bunch of new recommendations (here).

I knew some of them (I actually premiered one of them), but as usual I got reminders of things I needed to check out and introductions to other things I didn’t know existed. One of Rennie‘s reminders was this one:

I’ve long championed Pestilength. Now the duo have Vindsval and Debemur Morti legitimacy and the opportunity to truly run amok over the world. Slime encrusted Ulcerate Portal defects across An Axis of Perdition. New album in 2024. New song now.

That new song, “Suhbem Legm“, arrived with DMP‘s own vivid descriptive verbiage:

The track slithers serpentine in an avant-horror mindfuck of untethered percussion, garrotted vocals and smears of abraded melody. A twisted mini-epic of through-composed, frighteningly unique corrosive Death Metal.

That’s all probably enough of an intro, but I’ll add this: The manifold guitar contortions, often given a gleaming tone, are indeed very twisted. The bass clangs like a crowbar striking girders. The drums thunder and chop with ruthless efficiency. The vocals are certifiably insane, and at one point seem to blend into freaked-out soloing to create a shrill cacophony of madness.

The whole song is certifiably insane, even the part where the band bring out their jackhammers just before a diseased convulsion, and it’s no more predictable than the flight of flies drawn to rotting meat. It’s all utterly macabre and utterly fascinating. Even crazier that it’s just two people from the Basque Country doing this.



SAN LEO (Italy)

Not being familiar with San Leo, I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to check out the video for their new song “J!OY“. I mean, I did read that their new album Aves Raras was supposed to be an “analog slag of tribal ritual music, bold guitar riffs, shimmering layers of synths. Frantic grooves, ghostly vocals, dazzling walls of noise and pastoral tonal passages – the ultimate call to enlightenment through euphoria” — which was intriguing enough that I did check it out.

What I found, apart from a beautifully trippy video, was a song driven by a pounding drum-gallop and a frantically hurtling bass, both of which punch up the listener’s pulse from nearly the beginning to nearly the end. While the rhythm section race headlong, the guitars and synths sizzle, glimmer, and swirl, creating cascades of both abrasion and celestial splendor.

Those contrasts occur in the vocals as well, which conjoin distorted, maniacal snarls and crazed screams with drifting angelic singing. The music’s intensity mounts and levitates, and I was so caught up in it that I felt crestfallen when it ended too soon.

At Bandcamp there’s a second song from the new album, “FUTURA 2000“, which I’ve included below. It’s much longer — 11 1/2 minutes.

The fleet percussion in this one is also hugely appealing, and does have a tribal influence, augmented by big booming strikes, darting flute-like tones, and the slithering sounds of something like a cross between a didgeridoo and an accordion.

San Leo layer in lots of other instrumental sensations as the minutes pass, and ethereal wailing vocals, but rarely quell the frantic percussive clatter or those heart-beat booms. The rhythmic patterns do change, speeding up, but never release their grip on our primeval instincts. What goes on around them changes too, becoming more mysterious and “cosmic” (for want of a better word).

There comes a point when the drums do fall silent, passing the baton of their feverishness to fleet-fingered fretwork. Droning tones with a gritty edge rise up, along with weirdly warbling sounds and horrid teeth-gnashing screams, collectively creating moods of menace. Slow drifts of spacey synths radiate outward again, and you get one more dose of heart-beat low frequencies. The entire experience is so hypnotic that I didn’t notice the minutes passing.

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