Mar 052024

(Daniel Barkasi returns with another collection of album reviews and streams today, focusing on records that dropped in February 2024.)

Surprise – we’re back like Legia Warsaw Ultras! What in the hell am I talking about? Quite simply the height of professional level trolling, performed by Polish football Ultras. These groups can be extreme (to put it mildly), but credit is due for a move this epic. Me returning for February can’t come close, but hopefully we’ll be able to leave you with some music that you won’t soon forget.

‘Tis been an excellent month, as you’ve seen by the plethora of quality releases covered here at NCS. The end of winter is slowly approaching, and the release schedule only gets more packed in from here. Counting Hours brought the dim melancholy, Keres crushed us with a death metal onslaught, Borknagar is still soldering on at a high level, and Solbrud put out the musical equivalent of a full marathon (way less physical exertion required).

This month brings quite a sampling that’s a tad heavy on the post-black atmospheric variety, but variety is indeed the spice of metal happiness, so there’s also a mix of progressive, death, black and doom in various forms to gnaw into like a Mackinaw Peach. Just don’t lose your taste buds when they’re in season. Buford’s got your back, though.


Vægtløs – Aftryk

Release Date: February 2, 2024

Music that emits raw emotion poignantly and cathartically resonates with these ears more so than most other methodologies. Danish post-black merchants Vægtløs tick all of those boxes, along with something extra, on their debut full-length Aftryk. An album that tackles topics such as sudden loss, alcoholism, loss of a parent, and the heroic battle to ultimately overcome what seemed unconquerable as a tribute to the beauty of life, all from the perspective of real-life experiences of vocalist Troels H. Sørensen. It’s gutsy to put oneself out there like this, and it’s translated into an album that’s overflowing with heart and packs an unrelenting sonic punch.

Vægtløs stands for “weightless” in Danish, and it’s an apt title, as the band’s music can give the feel of floating in an unending abyss, while tugging hard on the listener’s heartstrings simultaneously. Take the opening track “Ingenting kan forhindre at små struber skælver en forårsnat” for instance. Beginning with ethereal, simple clean guitars and poetic spoken words, leading into the raw, primal screams of Sørensen. This setup is heavy in a soulful sense – a constant theme of Aftryk.

Events soon explode into a wall of furious post-metal riffing that gave this writer goosebumps on first listen, dazzlingly traversing between gorgeous minimalistic pieces and outright energy. Turns out this track was penned about Sørensen’s sister-in-law, who was sadly lost to cancer, more specifically written for her young daughter regarding the tragic beauty of life and the memories of those we hold dearest. As previously stated – this is heavy stuff in every sense – with each track rocking one’s core in a comparable fashion.

There’s a very morose yet beautiful story to each of the four songs on Aftryk, which we summarized briefly earlier and is described in depth via the lyrical content on their Bandcamp page if you’d like to read more. Musically, Vægtløs hits as hard as the subject matter, which is hard to fathom, but done with grace and vigor. No doubt an album that oozes heart, intensity, and allure that many strive to achieve, but few attain like Aftryk does.


Bipolar Architecture – Metaphysicize

Release Date: February 2, 2024

Further delving into the land of post soundscapes, Bipolar Architecture mashes together elements from death metal, hardcore, thrash, and even a smidgeon of djent inside their formative musical explorations. Their latest Metaphysicize represents the band’s best effort by some margin – a weighty, forward-thinking extreme record that’s focused and eclectic in its construction. It’s also crushingly heavy and is an absolute joy to take in, being absolutely impossible for this head to not nod along in approval.

Songs such as the title track dazzle with guitar wizardry while containing a cache of catchiness and slick songwriting skill. On the other end of the spectrum, “Disillusioned” and “Alienated” pummel ardently with huge riffs and robust, guttural screams, fully representing the beefy powertrain behind Bipolar Architecture’s otherwise artfully nuanced song structures. Absolutely cerebral in many ways, but not so much that they lose the aggressiveness and face-melting instrumentation required to make music of this type click. There’s plenty of emotive tracks as well to provide balance, such as the soaring “Kaygı” and “Immor(t)al” and all of its progressive-yet-chilling vibes.

Quite the statement of expressive, profound extreme music is to be had with Metaphysicize. It’s hard to imagine not gaining something from this multifaceted quartet of musicians. I connect with this record more on each rotation. Absolutely worthy of giving a spin for yourself, and they even have it up as a free download, so what’s there to lose?


Obsidian Tongue – The Stone Heart

Release Date: February 2, 2024

Our first experience with Obsidian Tongue and their brand of earthy atmospheric black metal was via their second album A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time over a decade ago. Having also been lucky enough to see them open for the mighty Agalloch in 2014 in Cleveland, they made this dude a fan with that evening’s inspiring performance. They’ve been quite consistent since, and their latest being an EP titled The Stone Heart, which may end up as one of the best short players this year.

Made up of three songs (one of which an instrumental outro), what’s here bellows with majesty and precision. There’s always been legitimate craftsmanship in Obsidian Tongue’s output, and this presentation is as focused as anything previous. The title track twirls hypnotically, luring your ear in closer before obliterating all in their path with waves of black metal atmospheres that are felt deep in one’s bones. “Winter Child” showcases a different angle, boasting a measured approach that weaves a yarn that is simply made for a relaxing stroll in a nearby forest.

Hopefully a new full-length isn’t too far off, with The Stone Heart serving as quite the delectable teaser. The world needs more Obsidian Tongue. No pressure! In the meantime, this EP will absolutely satiate.


Amimia – Amimia

Release Date: February 3, 2024

Proficient and shrouded in the mysterious, Amimia emerge from nowhere to unfurl a black metal album that’s dripping with immeasurable quantities of atmosphere and keen songwriting prowess. The six-track self-titled jaunt is the kind of introduction to the world that many don’t attain, and it’s unrealistic to expect. But damn it, expectations are meant to be smashed.

Emotive guitar work and progressively immersive compositions reminiscent of Afsky in dreary scope are the characteristics that stand out most, being consistent qualities that never waver. Afsky is just about the best in depressive blackened soundscapes these days, so any comparison to the genius of Mr. Luk is the highest of praise. From the deeply moving opener “A Home” to the utter bleakness of “Exhaustion,” it’s impossible to escape Amimia’s deft grasp. Not that we’re looking to get away, mind you.

The closing track “Amimia” (band, album, and song synergy representing) contains an alluring piano intro that smoothly transitions to a soulful solo, bobbing and weaving with blackened doom energy that amount to a prolific track that many scene vets haven’t pulled off this well. No doubt a fitting conclusion to what may amount to a depressive classic.


Triste – Scapegoats

Release Date: February 15, 2024

Another debutant incoming, this time in the form of Germany’s Triste and their album Scapegoats. Their attack of choice is an unrelenting leveling of gritty death/doom, with tiny bits of crust aggressive tendencies for good measure. The first thought in my brain when I came across this was to imagine if Bolt Thrower decided to dial the tempo down a bit. When doing further research, we saw that the band describe themselves as “Bolt Throwerish but slower & lower” via their Facebook page. Great minds, and all that jazz.

The riffs on display via Scapegoats are disgustingly foul in the best way, while never giving a second for air. Take on title track “Scapegoats” for a non-stop battering of guitar-driven menace; three minutes of a hammer to the cranium. Some cuts have a slight sludgy quality – “Civilizations Come and Go” comes to mind – whereas “Death Cult” and “Denial” remind of the mighty Hail of Bullets in pure tonality.

If thick and grimy death metal with a few other well-conceived flavors is one’s cup of tea, you’ll want to guzzle the whole pot of what Triste is brewing. There’s enough doom moments to give a differing view, but be assured that Scapegoats is a death metal mauling from beginning to end.


Acrid Death – Abominable Presence of Blight

Release Date: February 16, 2024

Keeping the death metal train rolling is Acrid Death, with yes, another first album represented in this column in Abominable Presence of Blight. Containing members of All Its Grace – a very solid melodic death metal-core act reminiscent of Caliban – this is quite the departure from what we’re accustomed to from that act. Expect down and dirty, pure death metal filth from this five-piece. The resultant album is a fiery colossus.

Acrid Death bow to the altar of the riff, and this brisk 27 minutes is chock-full of chainsaw goodness. Add in vocalist Tobias Keller’s keen ability to transition between deep growls and rageful screams to superb effect, and there’s enough variance to make this record stand out. Choice cuts include a buzzing inferno in “Presence” to the chunky “Negative Space”; though it’s difficult to go wrong with any of the selections on offer.

As much as this writer enjoys a long musical expedition, it’s also fun to dive into an album that gets in, trounces the ever-loving crap out of anyone brave enough to listen, and gets out just as quickly. Acrid Death pulls this off successfully and then some, leaving a defined mark or two along the way. If you enjoy what bands like Kommand dish out, or just plain great death metal in general, immediately buy what Abominable Presence of Blight is selling.


Bonestorm – Under the Sight of Time

Release Date: February 17, 2024

We travel to South America for our next foray in our trilogy of death metal insanity. This time, we have Columbian stalwarts Bonestorm and their latest full-length Under the Sight of Time. They’ve been at it since 2006 without much fanfare, but hopefully those fortunes change, as they’ve put together a certified storm of old school ferocity.

There’s Incantation inspiration present, as well as the grit of Morpheus Descends, and the relentlessness of Dismember throughout their sound profile. This is classic death metal executed with gusto. Even the cover artwork feels like it could come right out of the early ’90s. The downpicked start-stop chug of “Origin” almost forces a bit of neck strain, where “Under the Sight of Time” stomps away with breakneck pace and squealing leads that simply rip away with little regard.

Bonestorm know what they’re doing, administering an extra large dosage of death metal that any fan of the genre is sure to appreciate. No unnecessary frills with Under the Sight of Time, just as this particular stylization craves. Blast this and do your best to not smash up your place.


Calgacus – Nothing Should Exist

Release Date: February 29, 2024

We’re going to finish off with an album whose anniversary can be celebrated every four years. Whether Swiss death metal dealers Calgacus dropped this on Leap Day intentionally is anybody’s guess, but their second album Nothing Should Exist is a release that we’re actually quite happy does exist. For admirers of cavernous, maniacally heavy death/doom, chances are we’ll have a point of full agreement.

Calgacus doesn’t mince words, so let’s get to the point – this record is a monolith of downtuned, forceful, and significantly disturbing death metal. The dark sonic cloud they create is vicious, with a notable amount of influences that make up their murky sound profile. Discordant riffs dominate tracks such as “Prophetic Dissonance” to create a nightmarish aural chasm, layered with echoing snarls and grunts to complete the dismal picture. “Fractal Abyss” enters into blackened doom territory with drawn-out rhythms and a hint of sludginess. “Acensionist” turns up the tempo with a fiery black/death melting of faces, and the aptly titled “Isolation Chamber” is a dizzying avant-garde slice of slow, agonizing doom that creeps into the pores of your psyche. The unnamed vocalist owns quite the range of bone curdling voicings, too, always giving the tone each song requires with aplomb.

Calgacus can be compared favorably with heavyweights like Spectral Voice, but rest assured that this band of unknown artists walk their own depraved path. Nothing Should Exist is without doubt one of the most ominous and vexing albums these ears have had the pleasure of taking in the still early days of the year. Leap to it, pick up this monstrosity, and celebrate its first birthday with me in 2028.

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