Draconian, Under A Godless Veil (Napalm Records 2020)

After a five year gap, Draconian gives us a solemn gothic album of sadness and reflection.

From the small town of Säffle, Sweden, the band coalesced from the art and intention of local musicians Johan Ericson, Jesper Stolpe, Andy Hindenäs, and Anders Jacobsson. Modulating a melodic Death Metal sound with a somber Gothicism resulted in a specific land of Doom that Draconian has helmed ever since. The sound has changed somewhat over the years, and so has the lineup, from time to time. The new album is particularly gloomy and less heavy than earlier sets. Following 2015’s Sovran, this is the second album with singer Heike Langhans, and her influence on the music has strengthened.

There are ten tracks on the new album, ranging from radio length to nearly nine minutes. Langhans’ beautiful, haunting voice is the preëminent element in the pieces, surrounded by layers of synth and guitar and juxtaposed with Anders Jacobsson’s gruffer singing. From “Sorrow of Sophia” to “Ascend Into Darkness,” shadows and demise are made alluring and unavoidable by the voluptuous Gothic entrenchment of the compositions. The music is uniformly infused by a dark forest mist of emotional hunger is unrelenting, encompassing, consuming. There are songs that have stronger Doom elements, like “Moon Over Saboath,” where the mood is more sinister and eerie, but they are in the minority. In the main, these songs come across to me as more human than fantastical. If the guitars have diminished somewhat on this album the impact of the music has not. Recommended.

Under A Godless Veil is available now – see the links below for the digital, physical, and merch.

Links.

Draconian website, https://draconianofficial.com/

Draconian Bandcamp, https://draconian.bandcamp.com/

Draconian Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/draconianofficial

Napalm Records, https://napalmrecords.com/english/draconian/

Draconian, Under A Godless Veil (Napalm Records 2020)

Wombbath, Tales Of Madness (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Back for a second round this year, Wombbath honors the past and looks to the future with Tales Of Madness.

Sweden’s highly regarded Death Metal band Wombbath came together in the early 1990s. Their first LP in 1993, Internal Caustic Torments, made a solid impression and the future looked more than merely promising. Events conspired to sidetrack the band, but the return came in 2015 with furious energy, releasing Downfall Rising, a resurrection to be sure. Since then they have been on a rampage. The Great Desolation came out in 2018, and earlier this year, Choirs Of The Fallen. And now, driving the final nail in 2020’s coffin, we have Tales Of Madness, a collection of re-recorded classics alongside new songs. The lineup has evolved over time, too. Originator Håkan Stuvemark is joined by Jonny Pettersson, Thomas Von Wachenfeldt, Jon Rudin, and Matthew Davidson.

There are eight tracks on the new album. Some of the re-recorded songs go back to the band’s earliest demo, Brutal Mights (1992), including “Tales From The Dark Side,” “Brutal Mights,” and “Unholy Madness.” One of my favorites from way back when is there, too, “Lavatory Suicide Remains” from the 1994 EP Lavatory. The newly worked versions are true to the original intentions, with an upgraded, fuller sound. Several bands have made this move on their older material, with varying degrees of accomplishment. Here it is a great success.

Among the new pieces, “The Fleshly Existence Of Man” stands out for me because of its intensity and penetrating opening guitar line that curls around your inner ear and stays there. It includes a haunting violin and whispering sinister choir segment that serves to drives the hard music in deeper. Overall, it is astonishing how well the new versions of the old songs match up with the current music created by the band. The clear arc between the past and the now bodes well for the future – new music has already been announced for next year. I can’t wait to hear it. Recommended.

Tales Of Madness is available now from Transcending Obscurity through their on-line shop(s) and other outlets as well, like Bandcamp. The digital is instant gratification, and if you are into solid objects, no label has greater variety or more impressive products than Transcending Obscurity.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wombbathdeath.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-madness-death-metal

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Wombbath

Transcending Obscurity, https://tometal.com/

US Store, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Wombbath, Tales Of Madness (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Three Eyes Left, Legione (Delomelanicon Records 2020)

Italian Doom veterans offer Legione here at year’s end, the fifth longplayer in their catalogue.

While they might not be as well known in the US as they are in Europe, Three Eyes Left have been on the scene for more than ten years. Want to know a little more about them, like where the band name comes from? Here is a bit from their Facebook page that explains it. “Three dancing eyes chasing the night idol, a sound bending at the magical sphinxes of times ready to explode in millions of vivid and dying butterflies. A needles storm enveloping more distant minds’ sleep to fecundate the first handmaid’s ancient womb. A psychic and interrupted rock, a multitude of words weaved together with a string made of stones and gems. Three eyes left is the dance before the word and the word before del colour, and now waits for the harvest refulgence to gather and offer the livid germ of its roots.” OK?

The music is Doom, certainly. Three Eyes Left do a lot of the same things you see with other bands, but the end result is very different. The vocals alternate between coarse and clean, which is not uncommon, but the gruff singing here is toward the Death Metal end while the more melodic work has a very heavy blues feeling to it. The guitar parts are loaded with heavy riffs, sure, but there are surprising layers cooked in there and the music takes unpredictable directions. It is a different experience from the run-of-the-mill heavy we often encounter.

The album is nine tracks, running more than an hour. There is a Black Metal attitude in there, and a desert wanderlust. This new album rounds out a trilogy – I suggest listening to it backwards, starting here. See how that goes down.

Legione is out now on digital platforms, with hardcopies to follow in due course. Expand your horizons if you have not heard Three Eyes Left before and lend them your ear. Recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://threeeyesleft.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/3eyesleft

Delomelanicon Records, https://www.facebook.com/delorec/

Three Eyes Left, Legione (Delomelanicon Records 2020)

Wreck-Defy, Powers That Be (Punishment 18 Records 2020)

Canadian Thrash super crushers unload their third album on the unsuspecting cosmos with devastating effect.

If you don’t know about Wreck-Defy, it is time to catch up. Peopled by Aaron Randall (vocals), Matt Hanchuck (guitars), Greg Christian (bass), and Dave O’Neal (drums), this band is a juggernaut. There are a lot of great heavy music created in Canada that flies under the radar in the US – don’t let that happen here.

Fragments Of Anger was the opening volley in 2017, followed by Remnants of Pain two years later. This music laid the groundwork for the new album, which is my favorite so far. Loaded with inventive riffs and lashing lead breaks, Powers That Be has staying power.

There are nine songs and an outro piece, all starting with the ripper, “Beyond H8.” A catchy guitar flips the switch and then the roiling speed kicks in. An innuendo here, an homage there, and blistering guitars all around. The title track follows up on the opening aggression, settling in for the long haul with steady determination. Every track is a demonstration and a display of technical acumen and creative resourcefulness. Choosing favorites isn’t easy, but I am going with “Space Urchin” for its blatant disregard of the seen world and “Scumlord” for exactly the opposite reason. The themes and stories are different from one song to the next, but the Thrash lives in every corner (except for the last track, which is a melancholy wave goodbye). No beats are missed here – high marks all around.

The digital is out, and there is vinyl to be had as well. Links below. If you are making a 2020 Thrash list, this album better be on it. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wreck-defy.bandcamp.com/album/powers-that-be

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Underground4560/

Punishment 18 Records, http://www.punishment18records.com/

SubLevel Records, https://sublevelrecords.bandcamp.com/

Doc Gator Records, https://www.docgator.com/

Wreck-Defy, Powers That Be (Punishment 18 Records 2020)

Evangelist, Ad Mortem Festinamus (Nine Records 2020)

Anonymous Epic Doom Metal band from Poland Evangelist returns with a third full-length album, Ad Mortem Festinamus.

The title of the album comes from a well-known fourteenth century song. According to common interpretations of it (translated into English, that is), the song suggests that death is inevitable (we knew that already) and that people should stop sinning. It was a devotional, unsurprisingly. The death part makes good fodder for Doom music – not so much the stop sinning bit.

Evangelist is a band from Kraków, according to the Metal Archives, that keeps its member roster secret. They, whoever they are, have been releasing music since 2011 with the inaugural In Partibus Infidelium. Consistent production followed, with singles, LPs, and now the EP at hand. The new album is a bit of a collection in that it includes three tracks recorded during the Deus Vult sessions couple of years back, a cover song (the closer, “Mystification”), and two new songs.

The musical style is Epic Doom, with means big, rich guitar riffs and theatrical vocals that sound like Ronnie James Dio performing Andrew Lloyd Weber. The first song, “Perceval,” is Grail lore, and it begins with a spoken word narrative. The music is very well produced and sounds excellent. In a way, some of it reminds me of a slowed down take on Iron Maiden. After a stroll through the story of the Grail, next stop is ancient Egypt with “Anubis.” The style of the music shifts appropriately, and you feel that you have moved through time and geography while remaining firmly in the Doom realm. Throughout the six pieces included in this set, the expert musicianship and compositional art of Evangelist are on full display. Fans of the band are going to be more than satisfied and newcomers can get a nice sampling of Evangelist’s musical idiom. Recommended.

Ad Mortem Festinamus is available this Friday, December 18th. The easiest way to get it in the US is through Bandcamp at the links below.

Links.

Evangelist Bandcamp, https://evangelistdoom.bandcamp.com/

Evangelist Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/evangelistmetal/

Nine Records Bandcamp, https://ninerecords.bandcamp.com/

Nine Records Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/NineRecords/

Evangelist, Ad Mortem Festinamus (Nine Records 2020)

Mortiferum ~ Hyperdontia, Split 7 (Carbonized Records 2020)

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the new Doom split by Mortiferum and Hyperdontia.

This split release was meant to be a companion EP for a tour the two bands were going to do together in 2020. We all know what happened to every tour this year. Still, the split exists and is being released now at the end of the year as a sort of prelude to the tour that will happen as soon as live music rises from its temporary grave.

One side is Mortiferum, a Washington state Death Metal band that made big waves with their album Disgorged From Psychotic Depths last year. Playing to the Doom side of the field, they contribute “Abhorrent Genesis,” a lurker drenched in cemetery fog. The beautiful distortion and foreboding riffs slowly squeeze the life out of you for a minute and a half or so until the tempo lurches forward and escape is clearly no longer possible. The low register vocals are a surrounding force and the noticeable lead guitar work is a defining characteristic of the band.

Mortiferum

Another side is Hyperdontia, whose members come from Turkey and Denmark. Their first full-length appeared in 2018, Nexus Of Teeth, and they have issued a bevy of EPs and singles as well in the past few years. The Doom lives in the ever-present background of “Punctured Soul,” encircling the Black and Death Metal centerpieces in a dark cloak. The music is aggressive and understandable; the sentiments and intentions, joinable. Whirring guitar work and determined drumming are interspersing agents in the caustic dankness of the music. It is a whetstone for your imagination.

Hyperdontia

Available now at the links below, this seven inch will definitely get you into the appropriate headspace for the holidays. Recommended.

Mortiferum band photo by Carter Murdoch.

Links.

Mortiferum, http://mortiferum.bandcamp.com

Hyperdontia Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/hyperdontia

Hyperdontia Bandcamp, http://hyperdontiaofficial.bandcamp.com

Carbonized Bandcamp, http://www.carbonizedrecords.bandcamp.com

Me Saco Un Ojo, http://www.mesacounojo.com

Me Saco Un Ojo Bandcamp, http://www.mesacounojo.bandcamp.com

Mortiferum ~ Hyperdontia, Split 7 (Carbonized Records 2020)

Heads for the Dead, Into The Red (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

The hallowed hand of fate delivers a reckoning through the second album from Heads For The Dead, Into The Red.

The band is Jonny Pettersson (strings and keys), Ed Warbie (drums), and Ralf Hauber (vocals). I am guessing those names ring some bells as Heads For The Dead is a trio of heavy music all-stars. Combined as they are in this form, they are creating some of their best work to date. Lurking in the neighborhood of old school Death Metal, these compositions mind no narrow parameters. Elements of speed and doom work with the black and death principles in symbiotic fealty.

The themes have a solid foundation in horror, laying on the menace to coalesce in constant unease. Songs like the explosive “At The Dead Of Night” give way to the tension of “Horror Injection” then press on to epic constructs such as “The Séance,” which is a swaying ship finding its reckless way through the ether and spiritual chaos. Short, eager pieces live among meatier juggernauts in the harmony of a renaissance port city.

The final two songs of the set are the longest, anchoring the effort with their magnitude and scope. “Transilvanian Hunger” is a bloody affair, opening with a riotous peal – and sustaining it for six minutes with enough mass to create its own weather. “Creatures Of The Monolith” is a doom-ridden happening, with opening riffs like granite cliffs. Halfway through the tempo gets dialed up and the guitar weaves a spell that is a melodious consort to the directive vocals. An excellent finale. This album deserves a spot on anyone’s Best of 2020 list. Highly recommended.

Out now from the indefatigable Transcending Obscurity, the many forms and functions of Into The Red await your pleasure. The excellence of the new album suggests a need for the earlier one, too – Serpent’s Curse can be had.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://headsforthedead.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/headsforthedead

Label, https://tometal.com/

US label shop, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Heads for the Dead, Into The Red (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Demonstealer, And This Too Shall Pass (2020)

Demonstealer is handing you a flaming ball of Death Metal with And This Too Shall Pass.

Sahil Makhija, who goes by the name Demonstealer, is the engine behind this solo project. He is a well-known veteran of the metal scene, not just in India but around the world. For And This Too Shall Pass, he executed every element in the musical process to produce four killer tracks. The pandemic has made everything more difficult in all corners of the globe, and in these grim circumstances Makhija decided to not only create the music on his own but also self-release the EP, gaining sponsorship through crowd funding. That is a lot of extra work but you do what you have to do.

“This Crumbling Earth” opens the set with a steady threat in the percussion and the heavy riff before launching into a roaring display of brutal Death Metal. The vocals shift in degree of coarseness for different moments in the piece, layering the narrative. “A Festering Wound” starts with a punch in the face and continues with the unforgiving pummeling for four satisfying minutes, with only one short breath in the middle. “Systemic Failure” has a riff that sounds like the theme music to a spy novel while “From Flesh To Ashes” features cleaner vocals and a somewhat quieter tone. These four songs are a nice introduction and opening into the music Demonstealer creates, encouraging you to see what else he has been doing.

December 11th is the day the full set appears digitally. You can hear the first song now if you want to get a jump on it. A recording of an earlier livestream is up on YouTube as well if you want a preview and would like to get to hear Sahil Makhija talk about the music, his channels, merch, and other things. Recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://demonstealer.bandcamp.com/

YouTube Livestream Replay, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HDGD_qhP2k

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Demonstealer

Demonic Resurrection, https://demonicresurrection.bandcamp.com/

Demonstealer, And This Too Shall Pass (2020)

Black Soul Horde, Land of Demise (2020)

Heavy riffs are pulsing from the Greek Islands as Black Soul Horde release their second album.

It has been a while since we heard new music from Athens heavy metal band Black Soul Horde. Their first album, Tales Of The Ancient Ones, came out in 2013. There have been a lot of twists and turns since then, but, whatever road had to be traveled, the journey was a success because the new album is a showcase of old school metal. The primary driving force in the band is John Tsiakopoulos (guitars and bass), who also did all the producing and technical studio work. John is joined on Land of Demise by Jim Kotsis (vocals) and Costas Papaspyrou (guitar solos), with session drumming by Vasilis Nanos.

The musical style is a classic brand of heavy metal with clear New Wave Of British Heavy Metal roots. You can hear this in the vocals particularly but also in the rhythm and riffs. The percussion is more on the contemporary metal side and this overall combination seasons the songs for a crossover palate.

“Stone Giants” gets things started with a confident thumping tick and growing feedback consolidating into a theatrical opening (ala Vivian Campbell on Holy Diver, say). You start to get a sense of the scale of the musical composition as early as the second song “Into The Badlands,” where elements of epic metal show through, the drums really start roar, and a generous lead break makes its appearance.

Fantasy strands are persistent in the narrative themes and they shape the overall feel of the album. The songs are held in the four minute range, making them confrontable. The final songs are every bit as strong as the ones in the middle and the beginning. Indeed, the lead work winds up to new levels near the end in “Lord Of All Darkness” and, the closer, “Iron Will,” is a raging torrent with sinister outro. This album is definitely throwing up sparks. Recommended.

Land Of Demise had been delayed for a little while because of the pandemic. The digital is out now, with a CD release slated for December 14th, followed by the vinyl early in February.

Links.

Bandcamp, http://blacksoulhorde.bandcamp.com

Facebook, http://facebook.com/blacksoulhorde

Black Soul Horde, Land of Demise (2020)

Inhalement, Live Resin (HPGD 2020)

Boston Death Metal smokers Inhalement push out their third EP, Live Resin.

In the throes of the public health-induced slowdown, Boston’s own Inhalement got together in October to record a live in the studio album. According to the press notes, the music was “Captured in one take – no edits, no overdubs, no punch ins and plenty of mistakes – to document the experience of Inhalement in the most primal form.” A very punk, DIY approach, and an accurate description.

There are five songs in the set, starting with “Charred and Stale” and then two each from Eternally Stoned and Grotesque Inhalement. The first song is a good warm up for the frenzy that follows. It really does sound like a live play through, and, maybe because of the mic placement, it has a dingy club sonic presence. You can almost feel the pit and smell the sweat. One song boils into the next, and they are “Exhumed for Edibles,” “Drowning in Reclaim,” “MJ Ultra,” and “Bong Rip Execution.” Every heavy thing we like about this band comes out in growling elegance.

Rolling up on twenty minutes of aggressive menace, the new Inhalement album might not cure you of all your ills, but it will help you forget some of your troubles for a while. Recommended.

December 11th is the drop date for Live Resin. Get yourself together by then so you are ready to crank it up when the clock strikes.

Links.

Inhalement Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Inhalementdeathmetal/

Inhalement Bandcamp, https://inhalement.bandcamp.com/

HPGD, http://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

HPGD Bandcamp, http://hpgd.bandcamp.com/

HPGD Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pg/horrorpaingoredeath/posts/

Inhalement, Live Resin (HPGD 2020)