Jul 222021

(Andy Synn once again presents you with his take on three upcoming albums from the UK Metal underground – come for the awesome artwork, stay for the magnificent music)

One of the most depressing things to observe as a Metal writer is how, every year, it seems like there’s less and less room for nuance in the way we talk about new albums – everything is either “absolute garbage” or “absolutely perfect”, and this polarisation is then amplified by a media landscape which increasingly favours only the loudest, most obnoxious voices and harshest, most extreme viewpoints.

This issue is then exacerbated by the fact that, because there’s just so many different sites/zines out there now whose lack of ethics (or quality control) means they’ll basically throw a 10/10 at anything, it seems like some bands (and their fans) have been actively conditioned to expect fawning praise whenever they release something, and often react quite badly to even the mildest criticism.

The thing is… no band or album is perfect. There’s always room for improvement in everything, and it doesn’t do “the scene” any good when those who write about it are more interested in brown-nosing and boot-licking in order to burnish their own “brand” than they are actually offering up an honest opinion.

So let me be clear – while I fully recommend all these albums, each of which represents a slightly different facet of the fertile UK underground, I’m also going to be offering some constructive criticism where I see fit.

And, if you can’t accept that then, well, maybe this isn’t the site for you.

Continue reading »

Jul 222021


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the second album by the Australian band Crypt Crawler, which which was first released in June 2021 (digital and CD), with a vinyl release set for August 6th via Bitter Loss.)

Death metal often worships at the altar of era. Roots in the genre’s beginnings give a needed reverence when creating new offerings, though this should not lead to a slavish devotion that creates cover bands.

This Australian band set themselves apart right from the bass riff leading into the opening song (“The Mouth of Death”). They also avoid creating a sonic monochrome of hyper aggression. This track might warrant the label progressive death metal, if the term goes beyond a tendency to obsess over wanky mathematics. The more adventurous side of their songwriting is at times subtle and their aggression rooted more in a taut thrashing. Continue reading »

Jul 202021

(Andy Synn discovers that an old dog can learn new tricks, courtesy of the brand new album from Lantlôs, set for release on 30 July via Prophecy Productions)

There’s an ongoing (and rather interesting) debate happening in certain corners of the Metal-sphere (yes, I know spheres don’t have corners – work with me here) about how much of an influence Pop music, and pop-culture, should have over here in the more “Extreme” part of the music world.

The problem with this debate is that, as usual, it’s mostly the loudest, most obnoxious voices dominating the conversation – from the reactionary “defenders of the faith” on one side, so committed to the idea of Metal’s inherent superiority that to even suggest it could learn anything from other genres is tantamount to blasphemy, to the weirdly self-conscious and shamefaced “pseudo-fans” on the other, who seem to spend more time apologising for Metal’s perceived failings, insisting that it needs to start emulating whatever’s popular and successful instead, than they do celebrating it on its own terms.

What both sides seem to be unaware, or wilfully ignorant, of is the fact that Metal has always taken influence from across the Pop landscape, it’s just that there’s a big difference between simply doing it… and doing it well.

And, oh my, does this album do it very, very well indeed.

Continue reading »

Jul 192021


What we have for you today is the complete premiere stream of one of the most exhilarating and explosive albums of the year so far. Anyone who’s heard this Barcelona band’s 2017 debut EP Burning Torches won’t be shocked to hear that, but even devoted fans of that EP are going to have their eyes opened wider and their jaws dropped lower by what Krossfyre have achieved on the rip-roaring Rites of Extermination.

Once again, the band have stewed together a host of metal styles in a boiling cauldron, with black metal, thrash, and death metal being the most prominent. Benefitting from a more clear and cutting production, the music creates blowtorch heat and black powder explosiveness, whirling-dervish wildness and feral savagery, hellish grandeur and dire melancholy — and all of these experiences, save perhaps the last of them, simultaneously radiate an atmosphere of unchained devilry, of a coven of witches and warlocks spinning and levitating in the throes of diabolical possession. Continue reading »

Jul 192021


(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by San Francisco-based King Woman, which will be released on July 30 by Relapse Records.)

Unlike the interviews of the average metal band Kristina Esfandiari does not say this album is going in a much heavier direction than our first one, she just does it. The band’s first full-length, Created in the Image of Suffering, was heavy only by the sheer magnitude of melancholy churned from the sludgey blues it summoned. This new album, Celestial Blues, not only bears a greater emotional weight but carries a more metallic malice.

Sure many of the riffs are depressing at times, which I of course love since darkness and sonic heaviness are what I seek out in music. They lure you in with the introspective title track, teasing a few punchy dynamics. Then slowly the aggression begins to leak from the cracks of the songs. Continue reading »

Jul 152021

(Andy Synn travels to Russia once more and returns with one of his favourite albums of the year)

I know I’ve said it before, but it probably needs reiterating – June was so packed with releases that I feel like it’s going to take me all of July just to catch up with everything I/we missed.

Of course, that means that I’ll have to spend August catching up on July, and September catching up on August, so… maybe some hard decisions are going to have to be made regarding what does and what doesn’t get written about just so I don’t fall even further behind.

But there was absolutely zero chance that I wasn’t going to write about this one, as Present Serpent – the debut album from one-man “Blackened Dream Sludge” outfit Moanhand (aka Moscow-based multi-instrumentalist Roman Filatov) – has swiftly become, for me at least, one of the defining albums of 2021.

Continue reading »

Jul 142021


The allure of some metal releases begins and intensifies even before you hear a single note. Sometimes that allure is even more intense when you don’t have a previous musical repertoire from the band that would more concretely tell you what to expect, which is the case with Hell Strike‘s debut EP Hellstrike.

In the case of this writer, the allure and the intrigue were first kindled by the pedigree of Hell Strike‘s line-up, which features members of Ascended Dead, Ritual Necromancy, and Bloodsoaked. And then it intensified upon seeing the EP’s cover art by Misanthropic Art (which turns out to be an effective visual rendering of the diabolical atmosphere of the sounds). And then the allure became greater still upon seeing comparative references in the press materials to the likes of Sadistic Intent, Grotesque (Sweden), The Chasm, Necrophobic, Mortem (Peru), and Order From Chaos.

Sometimes after becoming intensely enticed in such ways, we’re left downcast and disappointed after listening to the music. But as you’ve no doubt already guessed from our hosting of the EP’s full streaming premiere a couple days before its release, all the excited expectations were not merely fulfilled, but exceeded. Continue reading »

Jul 142021


(Today we have a guest review by Lonegoat from the Necroclassical project Goatcraft and the host of the podcast Necropolis, and he’s spreading the word about the debut album by the Ukrainian band LAVA.)

Cut from a similar cloth as Panzerfaust, Sacrificial Ritual of Primordial Fire, the debut album from the Ukrainian band LAVA, centers upon its design a powerful exterior. A blend of modern death metal and black metal susceptibilities, namely the worship of intense chord tension, LAVA presents itself as a formidable new project worth paying attention to.

Although this kind of black/death hybrid music generally focuses on its textural components, LAVA allow the chord tension to wane enough so that fierce riffs have room to emerge, at times with flashes of high melodicism. Songs have distinctive flow, permitting bleak themes to materialize and develop in relentless fashion. Venerableness is on display with the addition of angular bass tintinnabulations, which in turn grant the music surprising depth. Continue reading »

Jul 132021

(Andy Synn goes fishing in the Tech Death scene and comes back with a hell of a catch)

If there’s one common theme which unites these three albums – you know, apart from the fact that they’re all brand new additions to the ever-expanding Tech Death canon – it’s that each of them finds the band in question working hard, struggling some might say (though certainly not in vain), to carve out a space, a niche, an identity, for themselves in an already saturated scene.

Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of super-speed shredmasters out there all vying to be the fastest, the most complex, the most ridiculous, and this year alone has already delivered a bumper crop of both killer and filler releases running the gamut from the heaviest to the most histrionic (and everything in between).

One thing that I think we can all agree on though – and which, to a greater or lesser extent, all of today’s selections clearly demonstrate – is that technical talent is nothing without the songwriting skill to match it, because once the initial dopamine rush of being bombarded with a thousand notes a second wears off it’s the structural hooks, the infectious melodies, the subtle repetitions, that trigger the brain’s innate pattern recognition algorithms and ensure that what you’ve just heard gets filed away in your long-term memory, rather than just flying in one ear and out the other.

So let’s see if this particular trio have what it takes to make a lasting impression, shall we?

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Jul 132021


Who doesn’t love a breathtaking surprise? The sight of meteor showers blazing at night, a sudden murmuration of starlings overhead, the penetration of sun rays through heavy clouds… such things create a sense of wonder. Other surprises are more frightening and destructive — earthquakes, flash floods, gunfire going off in crowded gatherings, bombs raining on villages.

Such thoughts have come to mind in listening to World of Sorrows, the debut album of the death metal band Dungeon Serpent from Vancouver, British Columbia. It comes out of left field, preceded only by a two-track 2020 demo (though the demo itself was a very promising surprise). And like those other contrasting surprises mentioned above, it both inspires a sense of wonder and also inflicts breathtaking levels of sonic obliteration. The music is morbid, mauling, and merciless, but also home to both emotionally evocative melodies and the kind of pyrotechnic guitar mastery that drops jaws.

And there’s an especially big surprise at the end.

Little wonder that we leaped at the chance to present a full stream of the album today in advance of its July 16 release by Nameless Grave Records. Continue reading »