Aug 292023

(What we have here is DGRs review of a new EP by Worm Shepherd, which was released about 10 days ago by Unique Leader Records.)

We’ve covered the east-coast deathcore crew Worm Shepherd before but we would be remiss not to check in with them again now. The band, who have remained something of a fascination over here, are now two albums deep into a career that has seen them ensconced firmly within the rafters of the Unique Leader core-cathedral and their latest addition, The Sleeping Sun, adds an EP to the mix.

Partially due to having undergone some lineup changes between releases but also in search of a broader artistic vision, the Worm Shepherd that appears here is a different beast than it had been previously – now down to to two members handing near-everything in their writing. However, one of the other reasons we check in with the band is that Worm Shepherd are something of a bellweather when it comes to the deathcore scene as it exists at any particular moment. Continue reading »

Aug 252023

(Here’s DGR‘s review of the comeback album by Finland’s Before the Dawn, which Napalm Records released at the end of June.)

When you follow music for a long time there are bands that after a while you figure are well and truly done — even though this is proving to be less of the case year by year — their logical conclusion reached or the fuel behind that particular project redirected into other forms.

When it came to Before The Dawn, it seemed like all of the energy driving the band had been redirected well into other directions when the group finally hung up its hat. Tuomas Saukkonen had multiple projects going at that point, and after Rise Of The Phoenix — which honestly is starting to feel more and more like invoking a curse, since naming your album something after a phoenix following a drastic lineup shift almost seems to doom future endeavors — closed up shop on nearly everything he had going and folded it into what would become Wolfheart.

However, after returning with Dawn Of Solace — another project that would’ve figured to be wrapped — in January of 2022, it seemed like the embers for all of those earlier projects hadn’t quite burned out like we thought. Continue reading »

Aug 242023

(Today we present DGR‘s review of the new album by the Finnish band Slow Fall, which was released a couple months ago.)

It is always toughest reviewing the straight-shooters. They have a tendency to gum up the brainworks factory when you least need them to. Most of the time it’s because those albums are generally enjoyable but you find yourself constantly stumbling about an empty maze searching for a better way to describe ‘why’ rather than just the part where the band happens to excel at pushing the buttons to unleash good brain chemicals.

While we tug at that same thread though, there is also that sensibility that some of those groups are scraping up against the glass ceiling of releasing something exceptional and you can already see the signs of it in your current subject, it just isn’t quite there yet.

The halls of those who are cramming up against that breakthrough point are increasingly packed, and it’s an area we’ve often trawled over the years as we dig through the underground. Sometimes we get lucky and get to watch a band shoot through to bigger things. As always though, it ties back into the part where you can see exactly what the band are doing at that particular moment in time. There’s no mystery to the blueprint they follow, only how well they execute it.

Finland’s Slow Fall are one such group, whose early-June release of Obsidian Waves is scraping up so hard against the pathway to greatness that you can almost hear the glass cracking. Straight-shooting as they may be, there’s always room for a little bit more keyboard-inflected melodeath in the world. Continue reading »

Aug 222023

(Our man DGR takes on the new album by the Swedish death metal group Grand Cadaver in the following extensive review, just a few days before the record’s August 25 release by Majestic Mountain Records.)

Grand Cadaver are one of a large handful of throwback Swede-death metal projects that popped up over the last couple years. The stars must’ve aligned just right for the combination of the ‘thirty-year nostalgia cycle’, the trapped-at-home anxiousness of much of the pandemic, and the general creative explosion that seems to have emerged from a lot of people determined not to let Bloodbath have all the fun over the past few years, that we’ve wound up with quite the resurgence of that particular style.

You can always argue that it never stopped, and like much of heavy metal, there is never going to be any one style that actually fully ‘stops’. Given the genre’s obsession with corpses, murder, and the shambling dead therein, it would make sense that it would also continue to lurch along in the underground while the spotlight focuses on other trends.

The recent uptick of such bands, however, also includes groups of seasoned musicians who’ve largely made a career out of other styles of music coming back around to what they grew up with and cut their teeth on, which is largely why it seems like lately you’ve been able to see bands with incredible resumes to their varying parts. Grand Cadaver are one of those,  and they’ve kept pretty busy since launching in 2020, having issued one album and an EP up until now, and now this year we’re being treated to the group’s second full-length, Deities Of Deathlike Sleep. Continue reading »

Aug 212023

(In the review below, DGR explains at length why he has had so much dumb fun with the latest Werewolves album, which Prosthetic Records released earlier this month.)

Credit where credit is due: Werewolves know exactly what they’re doing in their year-over year churn to see just how much the metal community is willing to let them get away with.

They continue their hot streak of fantastic album titles with their newest release entitled My Enemies Look And Sound Like Me, and when you open one of your videos with a set of knuckles being literally dragged across the ground, the ability to plead the fifth on the accusation of having fun with just how dumb they make their music flies right out the window. Continue reading »

Aug 012023

(Here’s DGR‘s review of the new second album by L.A.-based The Zenith Passage, recently released by Metal Blade Records.)

A few specters are hovering around tech-death group The Zenith Passage and their newest release Datalysium. One of them is the surprising amount of time that it took for The Zenith Passage to reach their sophomore full-length release. In what seems to be a recurring theme with 2023, a large block of time has passed between releases here; the group’s prior album Solipsist arrived in 2016 and it is only now at a little over seven years later that the band are on their second album.

The second specter is something that everyone is going to bring up at one point or another when discussing them. Given the group’s pedigree, it is hard not to imagine this playing out as one of the background narratives surrounding the record: When three of the four musicians involved in a new release were at one point or another involved in the revolving door of The Faceless over the years, it’s difficult to avoid drawing comparisons. Continue reading »

Jul 242023

(In the following review DGR takes a very deep dive into the new album by the German band Mental Cruelty, which was released near the end of June by Century Media Records.)

The deathcore genre is one that has absorbed so much over the years in the nuclear arms race for ‘heavy’ that we’ve gone beyond being able to track down any particular list of influences or context being provided. We’re layers upon layers deep at this point, and much as it was opined in our writeup for Worm Shepherd‘s latest, it seems like the genre has folded in on itself enough times that at this point it’s just short of a few tempering baths and a sharpening stone that it could be morphed into a sharp blade.

Lately, groups have made use of these insanely multi-talented vocalists, adding their own multitude of vocals on top of it, so that the attack comes from multiple directions, embraced backing symphonics, and cranked the tempo up to near-lightspeed at all times. It has become a genre of ‘a lot’, and a lot is thrown at you any time you’re listening to such a group. Many, it seems, have warmed to the idea of getting by on sheer bombast alone. However, some impressive groups within that sphere have managed to make use of the ever-increasing multitude of weapons offered to them, and Germany’s Mental Cruelty are one such group.

Germany is already pretty skilled at making brutal death and slam music, so it wasn’t too shocking that Mental Cruelty‘s earlier works were born out of and were fully within that vein, but the group made a massive leap in that symphonics-backed brutal-death direction on their 2021 album A Hill To Die Upon. Of course, not long after the group would lose a vocalist as sexual assault allegations came to light post-signing to Century Media, because that seemingly inevitable sword that hovers above all -core group’s heads came collecting. Continue reading »

Jul 132023

(The Dutch band Black Rabbit released their debut album in March, and given our past attentions it would be a surprise if we didn’t say something about it. Finally we have, thanks to the following extensive commentary by DGR.)

You’ll have noticed over the years that one of the ongoing threads we like to pluck at around this site is the idea that there are certain albums we just can’t let go by, even though we’re long after release and the sort of ‘cultural moment’ that a disc may have had has passed – whether measured in nanoseconds or months. There are always albums that seem to steadily hover around the surface of the great musical scrying pool that we often pull our review subjects from, and at a certain point it just doesn’t seem to matter anymore the reason why we’re writing about them, just that we must, because at some point we’re completing some imaginary story arc that has drilled itself into our skulls.

Black Rabbit’s debut album Hypnosomnia is one of those. Honestly, it has been surprising that we’ve never really closed out the initial thread we started with our coverage of these death metal groove monsters ages ago by covering their first-full length. Its equally surprising that it seems that this one has been stealth-flying on a lot of people’s musical radars, given the metal public’s current seemingly insatiable appetite for big, meaty riffs and thudding rotating snare drum/bass drum one-two rhythms that bore their way under your skin until they become part of you.

If nothing else, we can close our own personal musical arc with the band, rectifying at least one of those two situations, by checking in with Hypnosomnia now. Continue reading »

Jul 112023

(In June Nuclear Blast released Scar Symmetry‘s first studio album in nine years. DGR was in no great hurry to review it. And you’d better be in no great hurry to read the review, because he has a lot of thoughts about it.)

Ever since its early June release, I’ve thought a lot about Scar Symmetry‘s newest album The Singulary (Phase II – Xenotaph) and what it means for the band, the limits of artist freedom, the effect of a long wait between albums, Scar Symmetry‘s place within the overall heavy metal world, and just how much the naming of an album really matters in relation to the music within.

Long story short, for an album that is recognizably one of the most Scar Symmetry albums that could’ve feasibly been conceived, it sure has set the old brain muscles aflame, and for better or for worse not all of that relates to the quality of music contained within Xenotaph‘s near hour of run time. Because what does it mean for a band like Scar Symmetry to essentially vanish, go dormant for nine-plus years and then reappear with an album that sounds like it too was placed within stasis itself and basically continues right where the band left off from their previous adventures – though it takes a few songs to get there? Continue reading »

Jul 072023

(As you’ll see from the following review, DGR got his grind tank fully fueled up by the new album from the Greek one-person operation Konsensus that came out last month.)

The opportunity to open a review or writeup with ‘wow, it sure is a great time such and such genre’ is always an appreciated one. Cards on the table though, one of the best parts about being a grind fan and writing about grind music whenever the chance strikes is that it is generally always a good time for grind because the formula is so honed down and about as high or low stakes as you want it to be that someone out there, somewhere, will have picked up on the punk-as-fuck ethos of ‘what if we just play really fast and beat the hell out of the instruments behind it’ and more often than not, be pretty dang good at it.

There are obviously highlight releases every year – for fucks sake, this a Rotten Sound year – but if you likes you a good ole’ fashioned circle-pit riff and a whole bunch of energy being expelled outwards in a direction that boils down to ‘everywhere’, the hyperspeed musicians who make their grind out of all things blastbeats, heavy and fast, are able to provide. Greece’s one-man show Konsensus was one of those highlight releases back in 2021. Bravely launched during the glory years of endless frustration at people’s damned near-malicious ignorance and brilliantly armed to the teeth, New Age Of Terror was a solid hit to the system that promised a whole lot of fury for music in the future, and now in 2023 we have that in the form of a full-length under the title of Life Deprived. Continue reading »