Sonja, Loud Arriver (Cruz Del Sur Music 2022)

Loud Arriver is the full-length debut album from Philadelphia goth rockers Sonja.

The beginnings of Sonja stretch back to 2014, and the firm formation began a few years after that. Founder Melissa Moore (guitar, vocals) was known up to that point for her work with black metal band Absu, and before then with the thrash band Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. Sonja is musically quite different, moving more in the gothic rock lane. They released a two-song demo in 2018, and work on Loud Arriver started the next year. It is great to have the finished product available now. Moore is joined by Ben Brand (bass) and Grzesiek Czapla (drums) for the album.

There are eight tracks on the new record, getting going with “When The Candle Burns Low…” A haunting voice emerges from the mist, setting the mood. The music fully drops with a deep gothic attitude, surging guitars, and persistent percussion. Moore has an excellent voice for this kind of music and it is hard to believe this is the first time she has sung lead. “Nylon Nights” is a straight up hard rocker with a killer opening riff and a melody that sticks in your head. “Pink Fog” has a kind of club feel in the chorus while the slower movements are rather melancholy. The first triplet offers three very different looks at the band’s style.

Other songs to note are “Fuck, Then Die,” which, despite its aggressive title, is tantalizingly engrossing in the execution. “Moans From The Chapel” is a great song that is fast and sharp, and it is surely a crowd pleaser when played live. The title track anchors the set at the end. It opens acoustically with gentle vocals, then moves into a more rugged build. Ultimately, it takes off at a dead run. There is nice guitar work in the middle, and this song might be my favorite on the album, accomplishing, as it does, exceptional transitions and seamlessly melding together separate ideas into a unified composition. Fine work. All the tracks hold up well and I hope that this is the start of a long string of big albums. Recommended.

Loud Arriver is out on Friday, September 23rd through Cruz Del Sur Music in digital, CD, and vinyl. You can pick it up through the links below.

Band photo by Don Vincent Ortega.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sonjaband.bandcamp.com/album/loud-arriver

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

Cruz Del Sur Music, https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com

© Wayne Edwards

Sonja, Loud Arriver (Cruz Del Sur Music 2022)

Deconsecration, Crypt Lurker (Chaos Records 2022)

Crypt Lurker is the new album from Seattle death metal band Deconsecration, their first full-length studio release.

Deconsecration is a new band, having its origins in the Pacific Northwest in 2019. They have been revving up the whole time with a demo, a live album, and a split with Re-Buried. Their music will spark OSDM nostalgia now and then, combined with fluid and caustic innovations that make it undeniably from our time. The band is Moises Pimentel (bass), H. Murder (drums), Dylan Benedict (guitar), Jordan Garcia (guitar), and Zach Raphael (vocals).

It all begins on a doom stroke with the title track. Weird noises and rattlings lead into deadly heavy riffs and ominously croaking vocals. The screws get turned and the tempo picks up soon enough. Instead of the feeling that you are wandering through a mist-shrouded forest after dark that you had when the song began, you now have the piercing sensation of being in an active torture chamber. If you survive and make it outside, “Cephalic Fermentation” is the next tombstone you trip over. It is a chaotic, panic-inducing thrashing from the very beginning. By the time “Putrescent Birth” rolls around, you start to believe you are in a dark, damp corner of an abandoned Cannibal Corpse castle.

The album is solid throughout. The interconnectedness of the old school death metal elements, the doom, and the periodic splash of blackened thrash is excellent. My favorite tracks come at the end. “Plague Cadaver” is beautifully cinematic with relentless percussion and “Bells Upon the Graves” is an enduring testament to hopelessness. Recommended.

Crypt Lurker is out now through Chaos Records in digital, CD, and vinyl. Stump Grinder Records will be issuing a cassette. Check it out at the links below.

Links.

Deconsecration website, https://deconsecration.com/

Bandcamp, https://deconsecration.bandcamp.com/album/crypt-lurker

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

Stump Grinder Records, https://stumpgrinderrecords.bigcartel.com/

Chaos Records, https://www.chaos-records.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Deconsecration, Crypt Lurker (Chaos Records 2022)

Lust Witch, We All Die Alone (2022)

Indianapolis doom band Lust Witch unleash a sludgy new EP, We All Die Alone.

The band is Taylor Hoang (bass, vocals), Ian Gernhardt (guitar, vocals), and Mason Plummer (drums). The music they play is a doom/sludge integration that leans into the heavy riff and presses it to the blackout stage. We All Die Alone is their first album.

There are four songs on the EP, each labeled with a word from the title. “We,” then, is first. It offers a disorienting stance in the opening couple of minutes, with disconcerting staccato chants hurled that are surrounded by a sputtering generator of surges and recessions. A more ordered and persistent thrumming sets in and pushes toward the conclusion, leading into “All.” The second track is more cinematically dreary, like a Hammer horror movie with deep, rich tones. The pace accelerates and the vocals broaden in profile throughout the first half. The fatal chop returns and the listener faces enpummelment.

“Die,” the longest track on the album at nine-and-a-half minutes, continues the litany. The initial tone here strikes me as melancholy. The constant reminder of awaiting eternity bears down on you here, too, and by now it is really getting under your skin. In whatever tempo shift or transition we might find ourselves, there is that constancy waiting for us at the end, altogether unavoidable. And, ultimately, we face it “Alone,” as the final track drives home. Truly, these songs form a suite that is easily, arguably, a single piece. The final movement is smoothest around the edges and also the saddest because of the singular inevitability it describes.

This music was recorded live in the studio, and the band must have been channeling the ethereal muse because they have created a memorable, fundamental slab of doom. Give it a listen and then go see them live. Recommended.

We All Die Alone is out now. Pick it up at Bandcamp – link below.

Band photos by Wayne Edwards

Links.

Bandcamp, https://lustwitchdoom.bandcamp.com/album/we-all-die-alone

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Lust-Witch-110221191691214

© Wayne Edwards

Lust Witch, We All Die Alone (2022)

Dead Void, Volatile Forms (Dark Descent 2022)

Danish doom band Dead Void bring their debut album to the surface, Volatile Forms.

Dead Void is a band of mystery. There is virtually nothing about the personnel in the press materials. The band appears to be a trio – guitar, bass, drums – who started off at some indeterminate time in the past. The Metal Archives does list three demos from them having been released in 2017, 2018, and 2021, respectively. And now we have the new one, a full-length album that is probably the band’s long-player debut. Let’s give it a blind listen.

There are five thunderous tracks on the new album. “Atrophy” takes off with a slow, ominous strum, matched in time by bass and percussion. It is a dark, heavy doom that turns into funeral doom, deepened by treacherous vocals. The song is a warning of an eventual, slow-moving catastrophe. The strum does pick up and the music turns fast and fierce, almost avant-garde at times. Then it winds down and fades out. Contrariwise, “The Entrails of Chaos” starts like a hail of missiles with savage intensity. The doom comes in later, and a kind of groove walks in and out.

“Sadistic Mind” plays like slowed-down Black Sabbath. Absolutely crushing. Death metal tags in toward the middle then bows out. Similarly, “The Reptilian Drive” has a familiar overall arc, but no guiderails at all. Again, the groove in the middle is killer, and it offers a look you almost never get in this manner of music. The final track is “Perpetually Circling the Void.” How’s that for a title? Oh, this eleven-minute opus delivers on its titular promise, have no fear.

This album is excellent. I am a doom fan, and so I appreciate how well those elements are executed in the music. The additional layers of death and groove are what raises the compositions to the next level. Recommended.

Volatile Forms hits the streets through Dark Descent Records on September 15th in CD form, with vinyl provided by Me Saco Un Ojo.

Links.

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

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

Dark Descent Records, https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/product/dead-void-volatile-forms-cd/

Me Saco Un Ojo Records, https://www.mesacounojo.com/shop/dead-void-volatile-forms-lp/

© Wayne Edwards

Dead Void, Volatile Forms (Dark Descent 2022)

Somehow Jo, Scales And Details (Inverse Records 2022)

The third album from prog rock band Somehow Jo is out this week, Scales And Details.

Formed in 2009 in Tampere, Finland, Somehow Jo is a progressive rock/metal band that brings order from the jam. Their first album, Satans Of Swing, came out in 2015 and Tusk followed in 2018. The band is Christian Sauren (vocals, guitar), Eero Aaltonen (bass), Sakari Karjalainen (guitar, keys), and Lassi Peiponen (drums).

Talking about the process of creating the music for Scales And Details, the press release tells us that the “base material of the album is largely the best ideas selected from the jamming sessions and then worked into ready songs. The lyrical ideas have been written on the basis of images from the song demos.” This certainly sounds like what we might expect from a progressing rock act: music emerging from a process of exploration and refinement.

There are nine tracks on the new album, beginning with “Fata Morgana.” The music is surging and urgent, with melodic arcs that release some of the tension but never lose the sense that you are part of a caravan that is traveling through dangerous country. It reminds me a little of the band Camel on their more energetic songs. “Friend” has a quieter start and a more mysterious posture. Disturbing warbles and straining vocals push the idea of peril to the front of your mind where it sticks. The lead guitar work is compelling; it draws you in. “Cycle” is a demonic hoedown, like if the Squirrel Nut Zippers were a prog band. It is unusual and fascinating, and these first three songs demonstrate an impressive range, building expectations for the rest of the album that are largely fulfilled.

Other tracks that I like especially include “When It Falls,” which is not like anything else in the set, and the final song, “Mirror.” That last piece is particularly encouraging in its tone and construction. I mean, you get a very positive feeling from the music in a way that is quite different from the other songs even though many of the elements are similar. You can think of this album as a journey, or a thoughtful examination, or even a walking mediation. The guitar work is great, and if you are looking for prog metal/rock on the lighter side, this one will do it for you. Recommended.

Scales And Details is out through Inverse Records on Friday, September 16th.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://somehow-jo.bandcamp.com/

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

Inverse Records, https://www.inverse.fi/site/

© Wayne Edwards

Somehow Jo, Scales And Details (Inverse Records 2022)

The 69 Eyes, Drive (Atomic Fire 2022)

Goth ‘N’ Roll originators The 69 Eyes invite you to get into their car for a little trip on their new EP, Drive.

OK, look, maybe you know about the Helsinki Vampires and maybe you don’t. The 69 Eyes is a more recognized act outside the US, true, but whatever your perspective, you cannot deny their gravitational pull over thirty-three years and twelve albums, several of of which have gone platinum. From Helsinki, Finland, the band is Jyrki 69 (vocals), Bazie (guitar), Timo Timo (guitar), Archzie (bass), and Jussi 69 (drums).

Drive is a quick take, with three radio-length songs and a bonus live track on the physical formats. The title track is first, and it is pop rock gold with a light-hearted sinisterness in the vocal and an extra dose of catchiness so you won’t forget it. It is a little bit like a combination of Golden Earring and Type O Negative, if Peter Steele had toned it down and perked it up a lot. A delight.

“Call Me Snake” opens on muted mechanical noises, quickly introducing a nice fuzzy riff and then a guitar melody. Jyrki 69 steps in and rubs a healthy does of soft goth on it all. The reference is fairly obvious, and it makes me smile, as does the lead guitar break at the midpoint. “California” is the driving-est of the songs on Drive. You can feel the wind on your face as you drive your convertible out of the hills around Malibu and head toward the city. Spot on – vampires in LA.

“Two Horns Up” is a live track you only get when you buy one of the physical versions of the EP. It is a great song, and it is nice to hear what a live experience can be like. I think this brief collection of tunes from The 69 Eyes is the perfect introduction to the band for those who are new to their music. Long-time fans, of course, are always happy to have something more from this storied party band. Recommended.

Drive is out on Friday, September 16th through Atomic Fire Records.

Band photo by Marek Sabogal.

Links.

The 69 Eyes website, http://69eyes.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/the69eyes

Atomic Fire Records, https://www.atomicfire-records.com/products

© Wayne Edwards

The 69 Eyes, Drive (Atomic Fire 2022)

Revocation, Netherheaven (Metal Blade 2022)

Boston prog death metal band Revocation take you down a dark path on their new album, Netherheaven.

David Davidson (guitar, vocals), Brett Bamberger (bass, vocals), and Ash Pearson (drums) are Revocation. Since 2006 (and even before that as Cryptic Warning), this Boston metal band has been playing technical death metal to the escalating delight of their fans. They have released seven previous full-length albums, most recently The Outer Ones (2018). With what they have accomplished so far, they could have gone in any direction on their new record. They chose the dark, seething mythology of hell itself.

Talking about the new album, Davidson says, “We’re definitely in more of a death metal mindset than on earlier albums in our catalog. We’re focusing on how we can write the best death metal-centric album that we possibly can while still pushing our boundaries. The new songs on Netherheaven are evil and sinister but also have a progressive element to them to keep things interesting. It’s got our stamp on it, no question.”

There are nine crucial tracks on the new album. “Diabolical Majesty” sets the tone, and the tone is bewilderment. The music is almost overwhelming in its density. If you stand back a little you can catch the wave, and when the vocals kick in you will find your legs. The riff shifts are stabbing, the vocal changes are threatening. Prog elements add depth but also have a lifting quality to them that enormously enhances the music.

“Lessons In Occult Theft” is next. The percussion is a brutalizing affair, and the big guitar break is a fleeing spirit wandering the dark regions of a menaced space. It will make your head spin. Immediately following is “Nihilistic Violence,” which is every bit as trance-worthy as its predecessors.

The album does not let up at all. I particularly like the lyrical elegance of “Galleries of Morbid Artistry” and the extended guitar work of “The 9th Chasm.” Don’t miss “Re-Crucified,” either, because it features guest vocals by the late Trevor Strnad and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – it is a buzzsaw. Revocation has done it again. Recommended.

Netherheaven is out on Friday, September 9th through Metal Blade Records. Touch the links below to get the details.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://revocationband.bandcamp.com/album/netherheaven

Revocation website, https://www.revocationband.com/

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

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/revocation/

© Wayne Edwards

Revocation, Netherheaven (Metal Blade 2022)

I Am, Eternal Steel (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Texas death metal band I Am bring the heat on their new album, Eternal Steel.

I Am is a deathcore / death metal band from Texas that came to be around 2011. After the Momento Mori EP in 2015, I Am released two killer full-length albums, Life Through Torment (2017) and Hard 2 Kill (2018). Their music is notable not just for its power but also for speed. They have combined thrash and death metal elements with enough of a hook and a groove shining through to make the sound unique. The band is Andrew Hileman (vocals), Tom Reyes (guitar), Chris Burgess (guitar), Erik Rodriguez (bass), and Ian Scott (drums).

I Am gets their point across on the new album through eleven electrifying tracks. “The Primal Wave” poses the first question and introduces the heavy sound punctuated by rapid ripples and brought forth fully by Andrew Hileman’s menacing singing. “Surrender to the Blade” continues the campaign with a steady, driving riff that morphs into a dervish at exactly the right moment. The lead break is eerie and enticing and two thirds of the way through there is another shift. It is impressive how the initiated theme remains in place as it is put through its paces in such variety. “The Iron Gate” follows, a sorrowful, dooming affair, setting up the title track. “Eternal Steel” races through the open field, bewildering all who give it a glance. This song gives you a savage battering you won’t soon forget.

Other stand-out tracks include “Infernal Panther,” again along a doom lane with homage to early heavy metal icons you will recognize right away, and “Heaven On Earth,” a song that pushes on with unswerving confidence – it also has a fantastic lead guitar break. “Manic Cure” is the final statement, and here we go out on a bang when the speed, power, and groove all come together in a signature piece of work. This new album is exceptional, even better than Hard 2 Kill, I think. Go get yours. Recommended.

Eternal Steel is out through MNRK Heavy on Friday, September 9th in digital and an array of physicals.

Photos by Wayne Edwards, taken at Piere’s Entertainment Center, 2022.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://iamtxmusic.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-steel

I Am website, https://iam-eternalsteel.com/

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

© Wayne Edwards

I Am, Eternal Steel (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Sarcophagum, Conduits To The Underworld (Nuclear Winter 2022)

Newly minted dark metal band Sarcophagum release their debut EP, Conduits To The Underworld.

Comprised of members from the Australian death metal band Golgothan Remains, Sarcophagum is a doom-heavy death metal act. There is old school death metal at play hear, to be sure, as well as what I have been trying to call dark metal: an intentional dismalness that is more active than doom metal and can express itself in a variety of forms. There are three songs on the new record, and they are all quite impressive.

“Pits of Hate” is beautifully dark at its open. The growling, croaking vocals enter after the riffs pick up and the land is verily shaken free of care. This song smells like the plague and sounds like its title. The music pushes you right up to the edge of the abyss and makes you look over into the infinite, not at all concerned about the price you will pay.

“Netherengines” poses dissonance as a rendering of attitude, and carries it on to the next level. The sour clashing is a sign that things aren’t right. In due course, we find out the details. No amount of distracting reverie can transport you away from the reality expressed in the constricting musical space of this song.

“Between Two Worlds” is an ode to hopelessness, by the sound of it. The dreariness is oppressive; the weight of a cosmos presses on you from either side. The guitars play together, mournfully detailing the predicament. The vocals are a narration of your demise.

The metal on this EP is as heavy as a rational mind can contemplate. Well done. Recommended.

Conduits To The Underworld is out through Nuclear Winter Records on Monday, September 12th. You can get it at the label’s on-line shop or Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://nuclearwinterrecords.bandcamp.com/album/conduits-to-the-underworld

Nuclear Winter Records, https://nuclearwinterrecords.com/shop/

© Wayne Edwards

Sarcophagum, Conduits To The Underworld (Nuclear Winter 2022)

Mortuous, Upon Desolation (Carbonized 2022)

The mighty Mortuous lays waste to the world once more with Upon Desolation.

Mortuous is a death metal band from San Jose, California. Now in their thirteenth year, they have released a couple of demos and splits, and their intensely memorable first full-length album, Through Wilderness (2018), an record that still gets plenty of spins here at Shardik Media Headquarters. The unearthly devastation that their marauding death and doom metal proposes is unparalleled. I made a mental note that Mortuous is a must-see band before the end of the first song of theirs I ever heard. I’m a fan. The band is Colin Tarvin (guitar, vocals), Michael Beams (guitar, vocals, piano), Clint Roach (bass), and Chad Gailey (drums).

There are eight tracks on the new album beginning with “Carve.” Relentless pounding is initiated with the first note and continues at speed. There is step back for a few bars now and then, but that does not diminish the power of the musical stance. “Nothing” comes next and it squeezes you hard enough to make your eyes water. The blast beats are monumental and the riffs are titanic. There is an eerie and beautiful middle doom section with a melancholy violin signaling no hope is to be had. “Metamorphosis” opens on a slow tempo while “Days Of Grey” is all about a quick start. Here endeth side one.

The back four are every bit as monstrous as the front half. “Defiled By Fire” continues the combination of death and doom with a sweetly murderous section that shines a dark light on the heavier movements. “Burning Still…” wags an impossible lead guitar splash and “Ash And Dismay” has a fantastic clomping set-up. The final word is “Graveyard Rain” and it washes your brain in fetid blood, leaving no doubt that Mortuous is one of the very best heavy bands out there. Highly recommended.

Upon Desolation is out on Friday, September 16th through Carbonized Records. Tankcrimes has a special limited edition vinyl edition as well. Explore through the links below.

Band photo by Chris Johnston.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://mortuousdeath.bandcamp.com/album/upon-desolation

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

Carbonized Records, https://carbonizedrecords.com/

Tankcrimes, https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/distributed-music/vinyl/mortuous-upon-desolation-vinyl-lp/

© Wayne Edwards

Mortuous, Upon Desolation (Carbonized 2022)