Friday, December 23, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - 2016 Stocking Stuffer Edition

[All albums listed are available as name your price downloads]

Overlooked members of the British death/grind scene, Brighton's Necrosanct were ostensibly lost in the early 90's death metal glut. Which is a shame; Incarnate and Desolate (their second and third albums, originally released by Black Mark in '92 and 93, respectively) combine the chaos of peers like Bolt Thrower with the jackhammer intensity of South American death/thrash in a way that foreshadows the "war metal" to come. In many ways, a band that was both behind and ahead of the times.

DoC friends eyeswithoutaface were one of this blog's first ever Bandcamp Picks, and their phenomenal Warguts album almost single-handedly resuscitating my faith in heavy industrial music. Their last release, a split with fellow Toronto residents IRN, showcases their ability to fuse slab-heavy riffs with unsettling noise and electronica. All their releases are available on their bandcamp page as "name your price" downloads.

Similarly, Second Grave are a band I've been plugging in this space for years. Their debut album, Blacken the Sky, is unfortunately also their swansong; but showcases their knack for memorable hooks, in a way that recalls both the Obsessed and Soundgarden.

Montreal's Dopethrone have had a busy year, following up last year's Hochelaga album with a split with Fister and the three song EP 1312. One of the best up and coming sludge bands, they keep the riffs catchy even as their drug-laden subject matter gets increasingly bleak. As of this writing, everything on their bandcamp page is available as a "name your price" download.

Some of the most intriguing metal I've heard in the past few years has come out of Iceland, and arguably none more impressive than Rekjavik's Naðra. They can blast with the best of black metal's Scandinavian second wave, but pull in folk melodies, atmospheric interludes, and full-on horns-in-the-air hesherdom. As "Icelandic black metal" becomes its own descriptor, there's no better place to start exploring the scene than here.

I don't know much about Ohio's Vit, aside from the two albums they have on their Bandcamp page. Banjos and violins give their Dry Season album an atmosphere and sonic texture quite unlike most sludge releases. Their debut, recently remastered, also makes good use of traditional folk sections, though the haphazard drumming somewhat dulls the impact. Both albums are available as "name your price" downloads.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Vader, Kratornas, Escarnium, Id

It's normal for aging heshers to get nostalgic for their roots; Vader, nearing 3 decades (!) of death metal service, ease off the pedal on their 11th thus allowing more of their early influences to shine through. The Empire contains plenty of nods to Celtic Frost, Judas Priest, and early Metallica to go along with the band's usual  distillation of Slayer and Morbid Angel. An album for both tapping toes and banging heads. [$6]

Anyone with a fondness for the death/thrash hybridization that Vader pioneered could do worse than checking out Kratornas. Devoured by Damnation sees the Filipino (via Canada) duo playing black metal with grindcore relentlessness, but also putting a surprising amount of thought into their arrangements. Fans of Impiety and Deiphago will find a lot to love here. [$5]

Brazil's Escarnium made a name for themselves with a lo-fi and bludgeoning approach that set them apart from most their countrymen. Interitus is a major upgrade from their previous releases in terms of production, allowing the band's riffs to take center stage and proving that beneath the filth was a knack for hooks and atmosphere. Not what you'd expect from Brazilian death metal, but taking no prisoners while giving no fucks nonetheless. [$8]

Austin's Id sure know how to push this blog's buttons. Tiniebias, their third release overall, is equal parts technical and brutal, with the production leaving plenty of rough edges on the razor sharp performances. Blast-driven and riff-heavy, this is the perfect distillation of American death metal. [$4.44]

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Setentia, Burial in the Sky, Virvum, Mausoleum

In the wake of Ulcerate's success, more bands from New Zealand are gaining traction worldwide; witness Auckland's Setentia, who were snapped up by Blood Music Records earlier this year. Darkness Transcend is more straight-forward than anything their more famous countrmen are known for,  but shares a similar knack for tricky riffing, atmospheric interludes and dizzying drumwork. Things are definitely heating up "south of heaven". The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Can death metal be both brutal and uplifting? Pennsylvania's Burial in the Sky make a strong case that it can. Their debut full-length Persistence of Thought is as cerebral as anything to come out of the tech/death hemisphere while avoiding the djenty pitfalls that plague the genre. A thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly modern death metal album. [$6]

Zurich's Virvum play death metal as clean and precise as a Swiss watch. Illuminance divides its time between hyperspeed blasts, proggy leads, and spacey keyboards, arriving at a point that's almost "post-death". If you ever wanted a mash-up between Decrepit Birth and Explosions in the Sky, this will probably hit your sweet spot. [$9]

I haven't been able to dig up much info about Leeds band Mausoleum - except that they're one of a dozen metal bands to share that name. Which is unfortunate, because their self-titled debut EP is definitely not run of the mill,  throwing Pantera-esque grooves and keyboards into their death/thrash assault - impeccably produced and flawlessly executed. Hopefully they'll put as much thought into a name-change as they do their music. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Anaal Nathrakh, Deathspell Omega, Cara Neir, Veilburner

Nine albums in and Anaal Nathrakh still do what they wilt, while the rest just wilt. The Whole of the Law mixes up the band's usual distillation of face-searing death/black metal and Dave Hunt's unhinged vocals with some electronic flourishes. Few surprises, except a more obvious attempt at crafting anthems and a terrifying re-working of Maiden's "Powerslave" that ends the album in suitably mangling fashion. Slaves to the power of death. [$9.99] 

Deathspell Omega's unique take on black metal has caused tectonic shifts in the genre. But for all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, The Synarchy of Molten Bones is as uncompromising and unsettling as anything released at the onset of black metal's second wave. Even at just four songs, there's a lot of meat on these bones. [€7]

It's been a busy year for Texans Cara Neir; with their recent (and very good) split with Wildspeaker serving as an appetizer, the follow-up is a hell of a main course. On Perpetual Despair is the Human Condition, the Dallas band force black metal, dark crust and shoegaze together for an album that is just as rewarding for its abrasive speed as its solemn atmosphere. A virtual Bingo card of everything that's great about American black metal right now. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

With the conclusion of a trilogy they began with their debut, Pennsylvania duo Veilburner defy categorization. The Obscene Rite, their third album in three years, contains plenty of nods to the likes of Arcturus and Dodheimsgard, but strays from even that wide canvas with moments of bleak industrial and the occasional metal Ren Faire section. With the wealth of ideas and influences on hand, this is a band that lacks nothing except focus. [$5]

Monday, November 7, 2016

Second Grave Interview

Second Grave has popped up on this blog for years now; their debut EP was an early Bandcamp Pick, and their hook-heavy doom metal has only gotten better since then. Sadly, the band called it quits a few months ago, shortly after releasing their first full length Blacken the Sky. Nevertheless, drummer Chuck Ferreira and guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder were kind enough to answer my extremely tardy questions about their history and their releases.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Bandcamp Picks: Ulcerate, Polyptych, Barghest/Teeth, Our Place of Worship is Silence

Few bands have been as successful in reshaping a genre in their own image as New Zealand's Ulcerate. Shrines of Paralysis both encompasses and transcends death, black and doom metal, and is exhausting in its commitment to the kiwi band's unique vision of metal. The last two Ulcerate albums were a window into death metal's future as newer bands tripped over themselves in their rush to emulate; no doubt this new release will inspire a whole new wave of imitators. [$9.99]

The problem with making death metal with a progressive mindset is that straying too far in one direction means losing sight of the other. Not so with Chicago's Polyptych, whose third album Defying the Metastasis strikes a balance between twisted riffs, jagged Voivod-esque rhythms and pure aggression. A band whose talent and originality should earmark them for the discerning death metal fan. [$7.99]

Barely 6 months after their 7" with Fister, DoC friends Teeth return with a new split cassette courtesy of Cvlt Nation. On the 20 minute track "The Hell That Whispers In My Bones", they push their slow dissonant style as far as they've ever taken it, netting them their strongest material to date. Louisiana's Barghest hold up their end by taking the express train from "black" to "metal", only making stops at "kvlt", "trve", and "grim". [$6]

If 20 minutes of sanity eroding death sludge isn't enough for you, Our Place of Worship Is Silence share not only members with Teeth but their atonal approach as well. Their aptly titled debut The Embodiment of Hate is dark and unrelenting, a maelstrom of churning riffs and pounding drums. More straightforward than their other band but a fitting companion nonetheless. [$7]

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sanitys Dawn Interview

My trips to NY aren't complete without cornering a bunch of bands for interviews. To whit: Hanover's Sanitys Dawn, who I saw on a night at Saint Vitus packed with grindcore goodness [courtesy of Catbomb NYC]. I snagged them that night to do an interview for my podcast, but after they told me that it was the first interview they'd done in 6 years, I promised them a follow-up. Here it is, finally, the second Sanitys Dawn interview in 6 years, which vocalist Tobias "Topsy" Sarnetzki and drummer Sven "Holm" Horl took turns answering.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Neurosis, Sea of Bones/Ramlord, Subrosa, Crowhurst

It shows how disconnected I am these days - I had no idea a Neurosis album was in the works for this year, let alone that it was already out. Fires Within Fires picks up where the band left off four years ago, their pioneering use of seething dynamics on full display, snaking riffs giving way to oppressive fury and vice versa. Neurosis will probably never recapture the claustrophobic intensity of Through Silver in Blood (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and still regarded as the band's high water mark), but with everything they've accomplished, it's reassuring to know that one of the most important bands in heavy music still has this kind of fire. [$8]

It would be impossible to overstate the influence Neurosis has had on metal - certainly a band like Sea of Bones wouldn't be here without them. On their recent split with Ramlord, the trio utilize slab heavy riffs, a multiple vocalist attack, and the occasional noise ambient interlude - all the hallmarks of dedicated Neurosis worship. Meanwhile, New Hampshire's Ramlord base their blackened doom racket around some Hellhammer/Celtic Frost minimalism. Two bands unafraid to wear their influences on their sleeve(less jackets). [$2]

Salt Lake City's Subrosa also sprung from the well that Neurosis dug, specializing in the same kind of loud/soft interplay. With its forlorn strings, heavy riffs, and the triple vocal assault of Rebecca Vernon, Sarah Pendleton, and Kim Pack, For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages is akin to a more metal version of frequent Neurosis collaborators Amber Asylum. With four of six songs stretching past the 10 minute mark, this is a master's class in both "tension" and "release".  [$8.99 CAD]

Anyone who likes their music atmospheric and filthy will get their fill of both with LA's Crowhurst. Simply titled II, their second album takes Unsane's skronking heft into sludgy depths, then combines the whole thing with discordant black metal and some truly unpleasant psychedelia. A bouillabaisse of mind-rotting heaviness - combine with mind altering substances at your own risk. [$5]

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - In The Woods..., Second Grave, Dopethrone, Black Tar Prophet/Iron Gavel

There are few bands I regard as highly as Norway's IN THE WOODS. Pure, their first album in 17 years, is more akin to mainman C.M Botteri' work with Green Carnation than their transcendental Omnio album, eschewing most of the band's experimental proclivities and settling in to a fairly restrained mix of prog, goth, and Eurocentric doom. Synne Larsen's delicate soprano (arguably a major part of the band's identity) is sorely missed; but all the same, I couldn't be happier to have a new In The Woods album. [€7.77]

DoC faves Second Grave unleash their first full length, and it's their strongest batch of songs yet. Like The Obsessed and Soundgarden getting cozy in Geezer Butler's rec room, Blacken the Sky is a throwback to a different generation of slow and heavy bands, filled with hooks that work into your brain and can't be shook free. Sterling. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Like Hunter S. Thompson, Montreal's Dopethrone make a free-wheeling drug-fueled lifestyle seem like a mixed bag. The three songs on their latest EP 1312, powered by oily riffs and venomous rasps, would make the perfect accomplice for Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo as they drank and snorted their way through the desert. Wait till you see those goddamn bats. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

If filth is your thing but you can do without the screaming, Black Limb Records have you covered with a split between two instrumental bands. Nashville duo Black Tar Prophet unleash a bass-heavy assault with rumbling so deep it deserves its own Alka Seltzer commercial. On their end, PA's Iron Gavel keep the riffs simple but heavy, occasionally launching into some pure hesher shredding. Anyone missing the great Boston band 5ive will find a lot to love here. [$7]

Monday, September 19, 2016

An Interview with Demonical

Of the recent crop of Swedish death metal bands, few have been praised on this blog as highly and as regularly as Demonical. I discovered them quite by accident while in Prague in 2008, and since then their albums have been a reliable staple of my year end lists. After seeing them again at this year's Maryland Deathfest, it seemed long past time to get them on this blog. I e-mailed some questions to the band, which bassist Martin Schulman was kind enough to answer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Coma Cluster Void, Unmerciful, Grave Desecrator, Ghoul

As implausible as it seems, when I saw Cryptopsy back in 1998, Mike DiSalvo projected his vocals with such force I swore I heard him over the PA. A roar like that is too good to retire, and luckily the man is back fronting pan-continental newcomers Coma Cluster Void. With Mind Cemetaries, the band traverses a math-centric territory somewhere between Gorguts and Meshuggah while DiSalvo experiments with various grunts, growls, and gravelly spoken word performances. Clearly a group with no shortage of talent and ideas. [$8]

Featuring past members of mighty Origin, Unmerciful are not a band to take lightly. Ravenous Impulse shares several strands of DNA with Origin's self-titled debut - namely, a predilection for venomous speed, teeth-rattling blastbeats and fingerprint-obliterating riffs. Less cosmic in scope than their more established friends, but just as enjoyable. [$9]

You can always rely on Brazilian death metal to take no prisoners and give no fucks, and that's certainly true of Grave Desecrator. Dust to Lust, their first album for Season of Mist (and third overall) sees them celebrating Brazil's history of thrashing death metal, particularly early Sepultura and Sarcofago. As per their name, this is a band that lives to dig up the past. [$9.99]

Get a raincoat and a change of clothes - DoC friends Ghoul are back (and presumably hungry). Dungeon Bastards continues the saga of the costumed lunatics and their cannibal antics, one catchy thrash anthem at a time. So much fun, I've forgotten all about them killing and eating me. [$7]

Monday, August 29, 2016


Toronto's eyeswithoutaface were one of the first bands I interviewed for this blog - but don't hold that against them. Their eclectic style fuses music from opposite ends of the spectrum, and is never less than gut-wrenchingly heavy. With a new split EP out and a new album in the works, it felt like a good time to hit them up again and see what they've been up to all this while. I fired off some questions, which vocalist Max Deneau and guitarist Mike Szarejko were kind enough to answer. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

An Interview with DreamLongDead

As someone weirdly obsessed with the idea of R'lyehan death metal, Athens' DreamLongDead were quite a find. As evidenced by their last album AriseHowlingDarkness: Of Cyclopean Masonry & Non-Euclidean Geometry, the band has both a unique vision and some top notch songwriting; a study in creepy atmospherics as curated by HP Lovecraft and Autopsy. Vocalist/guitarist Tassos was kind enough to answer my questions and indulge my increasing Lovecraft fixation. Cthulhu Ftagn!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

An Interview with REBAELLIUN

Rebaelliun were part of a wave of bands that emerged at the tail end of the millennium, re-establishing death metal at the top of the metal landscape, as well as Brazil's prominence at the forefront of death metal...taking no prisoners and giving no fucks along the way. After a more than a decade, the band has returned with a brand new album - great news for fans of the true brutal daeth matel. Guitarist Fabiano Penna was kind enough to bring me up to speed over e-mail.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Withered, Howls of Ebb, Mortichnia, Zhrine

After a 6 year hiatus, Withered return, joined by Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man and Colin Marston of Dysrhythmia/Gorguts. Grief Relic sees the band doing what they do best, adding lots of atmosphere and nuance to the filth. With their unique mix of bestial and thoughtful, it's good to have Withered back. [$9.99]

Like a classic horror movie, Howls of Ebb keep things lo fi and creepy. Cursus Impasse is a take on psychedelic black/death quite unlike anything I've heard before, filled with discordant parts that wouldn't be out of place on an old Am Rep record, and lots of unsettling atmospheric interludes. One of the more intriguing bands I've heard in recent years. [€7]

It's rare that I feel compelled to listen to an album immediately after finishing it, but the debut by Ireland's Mortichnia kept reeling me back in. Heir To Scoria And Ash mixes black metal melodies, doom metal tempos and post metal nuance. A pitch black streak through the Emerald Isle. [£5]

Coming from Iceland, ZHRINE surely know a thing or two about cold and dark. Unortheta is atmospheric and expansive, but unrelenting in its bleakness. Icelandic black metal is quickly becoming the hot new thing, bands like Zhrine show that the scene isn't limited in its scope.  [$9.99]

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Swans, Terra Tenebrosa, eyeswithoutaface/IRN, Endless Floods

The current incarnation of Swans is coming to an end, but apparently not in any kind of hurry. With most songs running over 10 minutes - and a couple well over 20 - The Glowing Man is a testament to Michael Gira's scope and ambition. Swans have always utilized minimalism and repetition (not to mention Gira's imperious baritone) to maximum effect, only now that effect is restrained and meditative; though I have no doubt that it'll be delivered at ear-wrecking levels in concert. As unlikely as it seemed a decade ago that Swans would reform and deliver four albums as good and as relevant as their Eighties output, it now seems equally hard to believe that this is the last we'll hear from them. But it would be a hell of a high note to go out on. [$15.99]

It was big news for me when members of my beloved Breach resurfaced in Terra Tenebrosa. Ignoring all musical boundaries, third album The Reverses sees them integrating Breach's driving rhythms and discordance with sinister atmospherics, topped by Tomas Hallbom's hellish rasp. Even without the costumes and mystery, this is one of the most intriguing bands active right now. [€7.77]

It's been a while since we checked in with our friends eyeswithoutaface, and all has not been quiet. On their recent split with IRN, they punish the listener with four bleak new noise and electronics-tinged dirges; this is what the robots will be playing when they finally rise against us. For their part, IRN contribute one sludgy original as well as covers of Electric Wizard and that old hesher standard "Combat Swine", slathered in feedback and bad intentions. Death and hatred to mankind all around. The split is available as a "name your price" download.

Say this about Endless Floods - they're committed to the idea of doom. On their self-titled debut EP, the Bordeaux trio shuffles along like a funeral march, one oppressive chord after another and not a bong or Seventies riff in sight. An audio suicide note. [€3]

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mixtape 31 - Nights at Saint Vitus with Black Fast, Artificial Brain, and Sanitys Dawn

Here is the 31st installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast, featuring interviews with Black Fast's Aaron Akin, Artificial Brain's William Smith, and Topsy and Holm of Sanitys Dawn. These were recorded over three different nights during three different shows at Saint Vitus Bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Gorguts, Mitochondrion/Auroch, Archaic Decapitator, Cadaveric Fumes

Nearly 25 years after they first started eroding sanity, Gorguts are still pushing death metal to its outer limits with their latest album/single/headfuck. Over the course of half an hour, Pleiades' Dust takes the listener on a journey, ebbing and flowing through discordance and polyharmonies, with tricky time signatures and multiple tempo changes throughout. It's a work of staggering vision and ambition, and the line for album of the year starts here. [$9.99]

Expectations are high for the next Mitochondrion full-length; in the meantime, they have a new split with sister band Auroch. If their contribution to In Cronian Hour is any indication, Mitochondrion haven't lost their knack for churning riffs and mutating rhythms, all topped by their unique multi-vocalist assault. On the other side of the split, Auroch keeps things atmospheric and unsettling with leads that sound like they were recorded in another dimension. I can't pretend I always understand what these two bands are doing, but I appreciate that it's never what I expect. [$6.66 CAD]

Connecticut isn't particularly known for its technical death metal, and Archaic Decapitator probably won't change that. But Light of a Different Sun is still a shining example of the style, integrating neo-classical melodies and proggy bass lines with shredding riffs and pure blast. With two EPs already under their belts, the band sound like they're ready for a full length. I know I am. [$6.99 ]

The old school revival is in its death throes, and from its corpse emerges far more interesting things like Cadaveric Fumes. On Dimensions Obscure, the French band combines old school death metal with even older school prog rock. Anyone mourning the loss of Morbus Chron should find consolation here. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

An Interview with Sun Worship

Berlin's Sun Worship are one of the more interesting bands to come out of Germany in the last few years, taking black metal into shoegazing territory without letting it lose its primal power. Their new album Pale Dawn is out now for anyone who likes their metal both unrelenting and atmospheric. Guitarist Lars Ennsen was kind enough to answer my questions over e-mail.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Catching up with Kevin Hufnagel

Few people can match the prolific output of Kevin Hufnagel. In addition to his solo work, the guitar maestro is also a member of  Sabbath Assembly, Vaura, Dysrhythmia and Gorguts. With recent releases by Gorguts and Sabbath Assembly astounding and confounding, and an upcoming Dysrhythmia album scheduled for 2016, it seemed like a good time to catch up with the man. Kevin was kind enough to fill me in over e-mail.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hate Eternal, Vital Remains, Black Fast, Inanimate Existence @ Saint Vitus

Pure death metal shows have become a rarity for me - what with living in a clueless theocracy and all. And so even with Deathfest looming, I couldn't turn down a whole night full of the heaviest of heavy metals.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Obsessed, Karma To Burn, and The Atomic Bitchwax @ Saint Vitus Bar

Apparently if you're a bald guy of a certain build and you stand in front of a club with your hands in your pockets, people will just assume you're the doorman. If there was some advantage to kids warily pulling out their IDs for me and punks-turned-yuppies condescendingly telling me they're "on the list", I'd have some fun with this newfound knowledge; alas, all I gained was sympathy for the people who have to to this for real. (Fun fact: a lot of door men in NYC are actually off-duty cops. Antagonize them at your own peril.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dylan Carlson, Stephen Brodsky, and Kevin Hufnagel @ Saint Vitus

A trio of guitarists playing solo sets was an unlikely choice for my first show back in NY, but the guitarists in question - Earth's Dylan Carlson, Cave In's Stephen Brodsky, and Gorguts' Kevin Hufnagel - are as metal as all get out. Plus, a night where a group of musicians stripped their musical identities down to the bare essentials was appealing to me since I believe that art should be separated from artifice, and that too many metalheads confuse the presentation with the actual music. And hell, now that all my friends are responsible adults with wives and kids, what else could I do on a Sunday night except hang out with all the other aging heshers unmoored by family obligations?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A (half) Month of Sundays

I booked my flight to NY for Friday the 13th. I tried not to let the date bother me, but the weeks leading up to the trip were plagued with bad luck - my bank account was put on hold, my iPod died, and my computer has been shutting down suddenly and without warning. So I was preparing for more of the same.

My flight arrived at Newark Int'l in the middle of a rain storm, and the overcast sky seemed like an ominous sign; but almost immediately after leaving Malaysia and setting foot on US soil, things took a turn for the better. Along with the usual stern demeanor and no-nonsense questions, the immigration officer wished me a happy birthday; and when I arrived in Queens, a huge rainbow stretched over the city. [Ronnie James Dio, patron saint of gypsy heshers, and friend to Wizards everywhere: I see you up there.]

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bandcamp Pick - Abnormality, VHS, Fister/TEETH, Nucleus

There are few things I've been looking forward to as much as the sophomore album by MA's Abnormality - and thankfully it doesn't disappoint. Their first release for Metal Blade, Mechanisms of Omniscience is transcendent - a showcase of brutality, technicality and riffcraft that will drive fans of Suffocation, Cryptopsy and Origin into a frenzy. The next big thing in American death metal. [$9.99]

I was also eager to see where DoC friends TEETH would go from their commendable debut. On this new split EP from Broken Limbs, the band continue down the path of making death metal as unsettling and dischordant as possible. That makes them an interesting foil for Fister, whose own sludgy contribution comes with a dose of melody that makes it almost uplifting. A trilogy that raises you up only to drag you back down screaming. [ $3]

Grab some Jolt Cola and load up on karo syrup for the first full-length by DoC friends VHS. As per its title, Screaming Mad Gore is horror-themed thrashing death metal, strongly indebted to early Death but with a punk-like commitment to fun and brevity. More gleeful mayhem than a Troma marathon. [$8 CAD]

Sci-fi death metal gets a labyrinthine update courtesy of Colorado's Nucleus. Sentient is the Voivod/Immolation mash up you never knew you needed, combining the jagged rhythms of the former with the lurching riffs of the latter. A bright light on the prog/death horizon. [$6]

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Hesher Canon

I have few regrets about my musical journey. I got to witness some of the most exciting developments in metal's history: Thrash gave way to death metal, which forced itself beyond its initial boundaries only to implode soon after; black metal took its place at metal's vanguard, before becoming overly commercial and predictable; death metal arose from the ashes, faster and more brutal than before; and in between those bullet points, I was around to experience seminal moments for grindcore and doom metal and everything in between.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Desaster, Sun Worship, UNRU, Krater

At a time when bandwagon-hoppers mindlessly braying "Thrash or Die!" actually had me preferring the latter, Desaster were one of the few bands demonstrating that the genre was capable of more than simple plagiarism. The Oath of an Iron Ritual  throws fast and catchy Teutonic thrash into the fire to give it a keen blackened finish. Nearly 20 years into their career, Desaster may be one of the best examples of a band setting a course and maintaining it no matter how the fickle winds of public taste blow. [$9.99]

Since their previous album Elder Giants is one of my favourites of the last few years, I had high expectations for the return of Berlin's Sun Worship. Thankfully, their new album Pale Dawn is more of the same: Unrelenting, uncompromising black metal delivered with ruthless efficiency. 4 songs in almost 40 minutes and not a second of it wasted. Unglaublich! [€5]

Fellow Berliners UNRU impress with their own 4 song, nearly 40 minute long EP. Buried in the chaos of Als Tier ist der Mensch Nichts is an understanding of how to employ dynamics and minimalism to maximum effect. The murky production, usually a sign that a band is trying to obscure some shoddy performances, in this case elevates the music's avant sensibility. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

Krater aren't fucking around in their pursuit of total fucking darkness. On the stellar Urere, facemelting speed, killer riffs and malevolent atmospherics are combined for an album that recalls Naglfar at their best. A case could be made that these days Teutonic black metal is as exciting as its Scandinavian cousin. [€6.90]

Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Interview with Holy Grove

With their massive riffs and choruses that burrow into your skull, Holy Grove are one of the best new bands from the metal hot bed that is Portland, Oregon. Their self-titled debut, newly released through Heavy Psych Sounds Records, will quickly make a fan of anyone who likes their music heavy and hook-laden. I reached out to the band for the lowdown; bassist Gregg Emley took the time to  answer my questions, with an assist by vocalist Andrea Vidal and guitarist Trent Jacobs.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Wode, Palace of Worms, Rorcal, Sulphur

If UKBM has a reputation for silly costumes and twee affectations, it's well-deserved; but Manchester's Wode gleefully defy expectations. The 6 tracks on their self-titled debut deliver frozen melodies at blistering speeds, and are never less than utterly heavy. No frilly shirts here. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Oakland's Palace of Worms make black metal that is green, and, it has to be said, uniquely American. The Ladder casts several shades of Agalloch in its assimilation of neo-folk, prog, and indie influences, never quite going where you'd expect. "Cascadian" in all but location. [$7]

At what point does fast become slow? Swiss band Rorcal take black metal riffs and stretch them out to sludge tempos. A concept album based on the Greek Tragedy Antigone (with titles named after the main player, in Cyrillic even), CREON's six songs will test your attention span as they punish your speakers/earbuds. "Tragic" in the oldest, truest sense of the word. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

"Technical blackened death metal" is how Bergen's Sulphur describe themselves, but for all their razor sharp riffing and flawless musicianship, to these ears they fall more in line with Norway's proud tradition of progressive black metal. In particular, Omens of Doom shares many facets with Enslaved - though without the soaring tenor or spacey keyboards, and with a focus on pure speed. Maybe "progressive technical deathened black metal" is too long a descriptor? [€10]

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mixtape 30 - Impaled

Here is the 30th installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast, featuring an interview with Doktor Ross Sewage of Impaled.

Miasmal Interview

As someone who spent most of his teen years enthralled by Entombed and Dismember, I eagerly embraced Gothenburg's Miasmal when I first discovered them back in 2011. They helped usher in the return to prominence of old school Swedish death metal, taking the classic Sunlight Studios sound and adding a measure of their own crusty grit into the mix. 5 years on, they've just released their 3rd album through Century Media, and show no signs of slowing down. I reached out to the band to find out more, and vocalist/guitarist Pontus was kind enough to answer my questions.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - The Body, Holy Grove, Deadsmoke, Son of a Witch

Few bands I've seen live can top the body when it comes to sheer volume. [Right now I can only think of two: Sleep and The Swans]. But for all its suffocating weight, No One Deserves Happiness spends as much time exploring the band's (relative) softer side, with actual singing (provided by Chrissy Wolpert of The Assembly of Light Choir) and plenty of ambient moments. It goes some ways in backing up the band's insistence that they're more noise than metal. [$9]

The difference between a good band and a great band is often the difference between a good singer and a great one; lucky then for Portland's Holy Grove that they have the latter. On their self-titled debut, their groovy Obsessed style of doom gets a considerable lift from the searing vocals of singer Andrea Vidal, who knows her way around a good vocal hook. I've heard a lot of stoner and doom metal albums this year, but few as memorable as this. [€7]

On their own self-titled debut, Italian trio Deadsmoke keep things as monolithic as possible. The 5 songs herein approach Godflesh levels of crushing heaviness - a comparison helped along by some pitiless (you might even say Merciless) machine-like drumming. Not stoned, just stone cold. [€7]

All doom metal bands owe their existence to Sabbath in some way, but few make a point of that fact as brazenly as Brazil's Son Of A Witch. Thrones In The Sky announces its roots immediately with the "Electric Funeral" swipe on its title track, and continues from there with nods to Down and Orange Goblin. It's a familiar journey, but Son of a Witch make it enjoyable all the same. [$7]

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Interview with Creeping

Creeping may be new to many (outside their New Zealand home, at least) but the band has been in existence for over a decade, playing an unsettling style of slow atmospheric metal that forces death, black and doom to co-exist in a way I can only describe as "R'leyehan." Their most recent album Revenant, recorded by Jamie St Merat of Ulcerate, was one of my Bandcamp Picks a few months back and a damn fine listen to boot. Needing to know more, I reached out to the band for an interview, and bassist/vocalist Marko Pavlovic cut right to the chase with his answers.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Deformatory, Deviant Process, Desolator [Swe], Altarage

DoC friends Deformatory kicked off 2016 with a brand new album. [It would have been nice to get a head's up, but you know, whatever...] Malediction is death metal in the most Canadian of ways: technical with lots of melody and no shortage of blast beats. Like bacon dripped in maple syrup, it's a combination that just works. [$8 CAD]

In nearby Quebec, Deviant Process have a similar approach to technical death metal. Remarkable for its focus and maturity, their first full-length Paroxysm recalls their countrymen Quo Vadis and Neuraxis in its combination of melody, brutality, and fretboard wizardry. A reminder, if one is needed, that Canada is home to both Rush and Cryptopsy. [$7]

If, like me, you love Swedish death metal but the endless procession of soulless Grave knock-offs is HM-2 much for you, Stockholm's Desolator will come as a welcome relief. The four song EP Spawn of Misanthropy combines elements of thrash and death metal in an attempt to carve out its own niche, not unlike similar scene outliers Hypocrisy and The Crown. A mix of old, new, borrowed, and true. [56 SEK]

Spaniards Altarage probably don't care much about impressing anyone with their musical abilities - they're much too focused on obliterating everything in their path. The unrelenting barrage of Nihil sounds like Hate Eternal employing the eerie (one might even say R'leyahan) atmospherics of Portal, Ulcerate et al. Simultaneously spacey and claustrophobic. [€7]

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

An [Almost] Interview with Bastardizer

Good foreign bands stop by Malaysia only infrequently; when one does, I try to snag them for an interview. Sometimes I make a podcast out of it, as I did with Full of Hell and Necrowretch. A few times I've recorded an interview with plans to transcribe and post it on the blog soon after. This was the case when Sidney's Bastardizer played Not A Fest XV in September of 2015. I spoke with drummer Andrew Craig and bassist Ray McGill after their set, and planned to have the interview up within a few weeks. Clearly I overestimated my own initiative and underestimated how tedious and time-consuming transcribing interviews can be. Since then, both Andrew and Ray have moved on; so now it's technically not an interview with anyone in the band Bastardizer anymore.

Still, it was an incredibly fun interview, and I enjoyed talking to them so much that I feel it would be a waste not to post this. So almost half a year later, here's an "almost" interview with Bastardizer.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Primitive Man/Northless, Atrament, Totem Skin, Cease

Primitive Man continue on their quest to release the grimiest, most misanthropic sludge imaginable on a new split. "Empty Husk" is 15 minutes of caveman chords and feedback; the sound of every migraine you've ever had joining forces. Milwaukee's Northless contribute three sludge tracks of their own that bring back fond memories of nights spent at CBGBs seeing bands like Cattlepress and Anodyne make the barriers between metal and hardcore porous and irrelevant. [$7]

Oakland's Atrament takes crust into a place so dark it verges on black. Their full-length debut Eternal Downfall isn't content to just conjure up some crushing d-beat a la Skitsystem, but pushes forward into grind and church-burning riffs; not to mention the bestial vocals of Mattia Alagna, which make most recent death metal bands sound puny by comparison. Heavier than every crust band that's followed in Tragedy's wake. [$5]

Intentionally or not, Swedish five-piece Totem Skin provide as complete a picture of what it means to be a "hardcore" band in this decade as you're going to get. Weltschmerz is a bouillabaisse of power violence fury, screamo melody and post-hardcore discordance, along with plenty of rousing class HC moments. The digital version is available as a "name your price" download; in addition, my new friends at Halo of Flies are handling the vinyl release.

Joining the likes of Nails and Trap Them, Fresno's Cease bond surly hardcore with a gnarly Swedish death metal edge. Their latest EP Unfold has 3 originals and an Entombed cover, all showing the band's commitment to steamroller riffs and swathes of feedback. How long before Southern Lord snaps them up? [$4]

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Checking in with Deformatory

Readers should know by now that I love me some Canadian death metal. So I was excited to find out that DoC friends Deformatory released a new album at the beginning of the year, the stellar Malediction. That seemed like a good enough excuse to check in with the band. Vocalist/guitarist Charlie Leduc and drummer Neil Grandy were kind enough to answer my questions.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Odyssey, Divine Realm, Oranssi Pazuzu, Aloft

Spokane instrumental trio Odyssey return with possibly their best album yet. As per the band's name, each song on Voids feels like a journey and an epic tale of its own - not unlike recent Cynic [sans the lovesick robot vocals]. But when they pick up the pace (as on the Voivod-esque "Before There Were Eyes"), it's apparent their hesher roots run deep. [$7]

Divine Realm aren't beyond showing off a little. Halfway between Steve Vai and Fredrick Thorendal, Tectum Argent is stubbornly idiosyncratic and wonderfully unpredictable. It's all a bit too "djenty" for this aging curmudgeon of a hesher, but the album is still laudable for its ambition. [$7 CAD]

Oranssi Pazuzu remain as committed to darkness as ever in their own psychedelic way. Doom, black metal, kraut rock and psychedelia are thown into the cement mixer they call Värähtelijä, and the results are as compelling as they are frightening. [€6.50]

Atmosphere is key for Texans Aloft. Their cosmic-minded debut Dark Energy combines classic prog and psych rock with some trippy electronica and even the occasional twangy rockabilly moment. This is begging for a laser show at a local science center; or at the very least, a black light poster. [$7]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Ulver, Entropia, Spektr, Aluk Todolo

After the invitation to nap that their collaboration with Sunn O))) ended up being, Ulver returns with something actually good. As the cover suggests, ATGCLVLSSCAP's mostly instrumental, ostensibly improvised "soundscapes" (because of course Ulver no longer perform anything as prosaic as "songs") show Garm is expanding from his black origins to explore infinite other shades. This is the most engaging Ulver album since Shadows of the Sun. [€7]

Following up their stellar (and still free) debut Vesper, Entropia deliver another dose of forward thinking black metal. For all the psychedelic overtones on Ufonaut, it's never less than utterly heavy. This joins recent albums by Thaw and Blaze of Perdition in making Poland one of the most exciting black metal scenes around. [$7.90]

French duo Spektr aren't afraid to take a bat to the black metal paradigm. The Art To Disappear re-contextualizes the dissonant scales and razor sharp riffing that characterized the second wave, and reassembles it alongside trip hop beats and shoegazing ambiance. But don't let their avant sensibilities turn you away; this is as dark as anything 1349 have done. [$7.90]

Speaking of French duos and breaking paradigms, Aluk Todolo have been redefining what it means to be a metal band for over a decade now. Essentially a single song broken up into 6 parts, Voix is an immaculate display of tension and release, creating drama through pace and dynamics. Layering skronking guitars over a driving rhythm section, this is what a film score would sound like if you let Unsane do it. [€7]