Cradle Of Filth, Existence Is Futile (Nuclear Blast 2021)

The new album from Cradle of Filth, Existence Is Futile, is one of the most savage an unsettling they have released in recent memory.

For thirty years Cradle of Filth has been ravaging the heavy music scene. The band’s discography is massive, with twelve previous studio albums, many live records, compilations, EPs, and early demos. Diehard fans know them all and those same fans will surely welcome this latest addition to the canon. The lineup has changed over the long career of Cradle of Filth, naturally, and musicians on Existence Is Futile are Dani Filth (vocals), Richard Shaw (guitar), Ashok (guitar), Daniel Firth (bass), Martin Skaroupka (drums), and Anabelle (vocals, keys, lyre, and orchestration).

The new album is almost schizophrenic in its richness, with absolutely mad extreme parts somehow perfectly coexisting with catchy moments and theatrical flourishes. The impact is overwhelming and entirely satisfying.

There are fourteen tracks (counting the bonus tracks) on the album, including three transition pieces. The opener is a big, eerie, dramatic orchestration designed to raise your hackles for the first big song, “Existential Terror.” When this music enters your ears it creates a picture in your brain vividly depicting both the atmosphere and the direct narrative. The lyrics tell us, “Time to embrace the inevitable / we’re all going to fucking die.” With this at the start of the album you have to expect that this is going to be a wild ride.

The next two songs were released as singles, “Necromantic Fantasies” and “Crawling King Chaos.” Great choices as advance teasers as they are in turns savage, dramatic, theatrical, and catchy – now and then sounding like a tortured Danny Elfman locked in a dungeon on acid. Later on, Doug Bradley (the actor who plays Pinhead in the Hellraiser movies) makes an appearance on two songs to reprise his earlier role on Midian, “Suffer Our Dominion” and “Sisters of the Mist.” His unmistakable voice is a pure narrative delight.

My favorite track is “Black Smoke Curling from the Lips of War” because, to my ears, it has everything. There are gruff vocals and lyrical ones, soft orchestrations and brutal percussion, and all along exceptional guitar riffs and amazing lead work. I point to this song, but all the others fall into the same category of excellence. This is an album you’ll listen to time and again. Highly recommended.

Existence Is Futile is out now through Nuclear Blast in a great variety of incarnations. The label link below is a good place to browse.

Links.

Cradle of Filth website, www.cradleoffilth.com

Facebook, www.facebook.com/cradleoffilth

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/cradle-of-filth-existence-is-futile.html

Cradle Of Filth, Existence Is Futile (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Massacre, Resurgence (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Florida death metal band Massacre roll out the Lovecraftian Resurgence, their fourth big album.

It has been a long road for Massacre. The band formed in 1984 and became well-known for a number of demos they released throughout the rest of that decade. Their first full-length album was From Beyond (1991), followed five years later by Promise. Things got quiet for about fifteen years after that. Back From Beyond was Massacre’s return to form in 2014 and now, seven years later, the latest installment in their history is Resurgence.

The music is straight-forward old school death metal with a strong reliance on H. P. Lovecraft for narrative content. Vocalist Kam Lee describes to new music this way. “lyrically it is basically about body horror of aquatic transmutation. Any deeper meaning than that is just speculative, but could simply be metaphor for our world’s current situation with the pandemic and other threats of the spreading of viral infection. Musically it’s just proper O.S.D.M. the way it’s meant to be played …”

The set begins with mystery and esoteric insinuations on the “Eldritch Prophecy” lead-in before turning to a heavy pounding riff and then taking off at speed. A vocal growl is the sign that death metal is kicking in. Ascending guitars rise above the pummeling percussion and a hiss harmony deepens the vocal attack. It is a great beginning.

Through the course of ten raging tracks, the story unfolds and the music takes a tour through recognizable Old School Death Metal stomping grounds, adding fresh blasts and turns to enhance the delivery. The pace ranges from mid- to up-tempo, spending a lot of time in the fast lane. Lead breaks and guitar pairings are reliably recurrent and the metal is heavy and solid. Could you ask for anything more? Recommended.

Resurgence rises to the surface on Friday, October 22nd through Nuclear Blast Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://massacre3.bandcamp.com/

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

Nuclear Blast, https://www.nuclearblast.com/massacre-resurgence

Massacre, Resurgence (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Worm, Foreverglade (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Florida gloom band Worm continues further down the path of deep dark doom on their third album, Foreverglade.

Formed around 2014, Worm’s early music was more oriented toward a straight-forward black metal tint. As they moved along, the doom emerged and quickly intensified into a lead-heavy oppression. Evocation of the Black Marsh came out in 2017, followed two years later by Gloomlord. The driving force behind Worm is an entity known as Phantom Slaughter whose work is enhanced on the new album by Nihilistic Manifesto, L. Dusk, and Equimanthorn. I wonder if those are their real names.

Foreverglade opens with the title track, sure in its stance and determined in its eeriness. It is a creeping combination of funereal guitar riffs, muffled death metal vocals, and ethereal, almost ritualistic sounds. On “Murk Above The Dark Moor” the composition has moments that are choir-like in their dirge and reverence, positioned against passages slightly paced up and massive in their density. And then, unexpectedly, there is a lead guitar break that is transportive. Side one closes with “Cloaked In Nightwinds,” the longest track on the album. It is a churning, clompy excavation of darkness.

“Empire Of The Necromancers” has an active beginning volley that is positively rapid compared to the tracks that came before. Excellent lead work early on in the song is a memorable highlight, as are the lyrical keys. “Subaqueous Funeral” is a single-length dark beauty with a pulse and flow that is engaging and mesmerizing in the guitar. “Centuries Of Ooze” brings the curtain down on the set, returning to the solemnness of the opening but even more mysteriously. I am a funeral doom fan and this music could fit in that category for its sheer heaviness, but it is more active than the typical strain and so creates its own description and enigma. Recommended.

Foreverglade is available on Friday, October 22nd through 20 Buck Spin. Ordering information can be found below at the label’s website and Bandcamp for the digital, CD, and cassette versions. There is a vinyl edition that is due January 28th, coming out later because of the well-known worldwide vinyl backlog.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wormgloom.bandcamp.com

20 Buck Spin, http://www.20buckspin.com

Worm, Foreverglade (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Los Angeles metal band Alcatrazz returns with their fifth long-player, simply titled V.

Alcatrazz started almost forty years ago in California. Its first phase lasted from about 1983 to 1987 when a hiatus ensued, but not before the band released three albums. Picking back up in 2007, a touring incarnation was in place for a few years. Most recently, Alcatrazz came together again on the edge of the pandemic, putting out the well-received Born Innocent album in 2020. And now, in rapid succession, we have V. The band is Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Gary Shea (bass), Doogie White (vocals), Joe Stump (guitar), and Mark Benquechea (drums).

The opening song “Guardian Angel” has a real Iron Maiden feel to it, and I mean that in a good way. The delivery lays over on the radio-ready side, even with the ripping guitar shreds. The music is heavily layered and produced, resulting a very polished final product. It goes down smooth. A fine way to start the album.

The keyboards have a large presence throughout the set and they work well with the vocal style. In some ways it is like the second phase of Deep Purple except, again, more in the pop lane. The singer Doogie White is well known, after all, for his vocal performances with Rainbow and Rising Force (among others) so you recognize his signature sound immediately and the compositions are designed with synergy in mind. For me, the music is solidly created and the existence of big lead breaks makes every song worthwhile. Witness “Nightwatch.”

While the music does operate in a definable universe, it offers considerably variety, too. One of my favorite songs is the bluesy “House Of Lies,” and then there is the solemn heavy ballad “Dark Day For My Soul.” Rollicking tunes abound as well as in “Blackheart” and “Target.” There is an old school sensibility here that is tuned into a contemporaneous awareness that results in a new and unique sound. Recommended.

The new album is out now through Silver Lining Music in digipak, digital, and streaming formations.

Band photo by Alex Solca.

Links.

Alcatrazz website, http://www.alcatrazzofficial.com/

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

Silver Lining Music, http://sl-music.net/en/releases/259-artists/releases-alcatrazz/984-v

Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Hate, Rugia (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Blackened death metal band Hate releases their twelfth full-length album, Rugia.

Since the mid-1990s, Polish band Hate has been has been issuing rock solid death metal. Their style has evolved somewhat over the years, moving from a strictly death metal approach toward an amalgam of black and death metal. Their lyrical themes have changed, too, concentrating in more recent years on mysticism and esoteric perambulations. Armed with a new drummer, the latest album is “a refreshing new chapter to our discography, composing nine truly sinister onslaughts of pure rage,” according to the band.

The set opens with the title track, offering an engaging percussion/riff combination before settling in with a thrumming death metal standard. The music is dramatic, even theatrical toward the end, dressing the stage for the deeper shades of dark to come. The question of where to place the title track (when there is one) has always fascinated me. It could be anywhere – the anchor position, sorted in the middle, or right up front. I think starting with “Rugia” is a blatant display of confidence, one that is well deserved.

Most tracks are relatively brief for this type of music, keeping the focus razor-sharp. Watch (listen) for “Exiles of Pantheon” especially, and “Resurgence,” for pummeling rhythm enhanced by unexpected turns in the harmony. “Sun Of Extinction” is a stand-out track for me because of its challenging, almost prog-ish, opening and determined follow-through. And “Awakening The Gods Within” has a cliff dropping shift from the doom laden opening to the savage assault that follows. These are all thrilling for their own reasons.

All the stops are pulled for the final track, “Sacred Dnieper.” It is a consolidated fury that sounds for all the world as if it spewed directly from the blackest void. This album is a roving, unrelenting menace that will dislodge your peace of mind. Recommended.

Rugia is available now through Metal Blade Records. Examine the varieties at the label link below.

Band photo by Daniel Rusilowicz.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hate.bandcamp.com/album/rugia

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

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

Hate, Rugia (Metal Blade Records 2021)

High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

Groovy, fuzzy, and ever soulful, High Desert Queen brings its music to the masses with Secrets of the Black Moon.

Austin, Texas desert rockers High Desert Queen are fairly new to the scene but have already landed a firm position in the melee. Mystery surrounds the band with only sparse photographic evidence and in-person experience to speak on their essence. Setting aside the who, what, and when, listening to their music is what really pays off.

There are seven songs and a quirky element on Secrets of the Black Moon. First up: “Heads Will Roll.” Confident riffs greet you along with a general fuzziness and a welcoming vocal entreaty – you gotta roll my head, it says. All right then. “The Mountain Vs. The Quake” is the story of achievement and “As We Roam” echoes a secret without revealing it completely. All of this is wrapped in an irresistible package of hypnotic guitar rhythm and lead. It is hard rock, indeed, and desert rock, for sure, and you might find there is a state-altering component too if you listen for it.

Side two road a little harder on me, and I liked it. “Skyscraper” offers up a very heavy riff at the start paired with gentle, coaxing vocals. “The Wheel” has the swing of doom, broadcasting as it does a deep and somber tone and vocal melancholia. “Bury The Queen,” an ode, churns slowly like the purposefully roiling of the primordial ocean, manifesting a formless creation to the endless wonder of a newly interested universe. The music can be thought provoking if you want to take it that way, or you can just ride along and let it be part of you. The choice is yours and there are no wrong answers. Recommended.

Secrets of the Black Moon is out now through Ripple Music. You can snag your copy from the label’s Big Cartel site or through the ever-ready Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/secrets-of-the-black-moon

High Desert Queen website, https://highdesertqueen.com/

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

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/high-desert-queen-secrets-of-the-black-moon-deluxe-vinyl-editions

High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

Aeon, God Ends Here (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Aeon’s fifth full-length album is a monumental work that rivals any other heavy album released this year.

Aeon is a band from Sweden peopled by Tommy Dahlström (vocals), Zeb Nilsson (guitars), Daniel Dlimi (guitars), and Tony Östman (bass), with Janne Jaloma on drums for the album. They released their first EP twenty years ago and have produce increasingly solid work thereafter. Their last longplayer was Aeons Black, released in 2012 and it was a highly regarded entry in the band’s canon. The new album, God Ends Here, is even better and will surely make year-end “best of” lists far and wide.

After a dramatic intro piece, the album kicks off with “Liar’s Den,” and it is a heavy hammer swung straight at your head. The song smashes together multiple styles ranging from 80s metal to modern death metal. Vocal depth and blast beats highlight and color the musical explosion. It is a lot to take in, and that is even before the rampaging lead guitar break. “Let It Burn” follows with a groove vibe in the front riff and a commanding vocal assertion. But then there is a lyrical transition piece that is light and eerie and theatrical right before “Church of Horror,” an aggressive, thrashy track that is one of my favorites on the album.

This brings me to the structure of the album, which is unusual. What you typically see is some kind of predictable regularity in the sequencing of tracks on the album. You know, maybe a couple of transition pieces with mainly longer songs, or just epic pieces alone, or all short ones. Maybe one outlier – a blip or a big anchor. God Ends Here is more variegated with a fuller range of expression. And, importantly, the “transition” pieces aren’t merely convenient functional tidbits. Instead they are integral in the overall work.

A good example of this is the triplet of the raging “Forsaker” delivered in a furious two-minute chunk followed by “Into The Void,” which is a one-minute chorale that sets up the title track, a big production with deep, integrated layering. These are three very different songs that work precisely together to create a larger suite that is itself an indispensable part of the even bigger chronicle. It is a fantastic achievement at every level. I hope that this album is a sign of even more music coming in the near future from Aeon. Highly recommended.

God Ends Here is out tomorrow, Friday October 15th through Metal Blade Records. Links below.

Band photo by Tony Östman.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://aeon666.bandcamp.com/album/god-ends-here

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/aeon666

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

Aeon, God Ends Here (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Illudium, Ash of the Womb (Prophecy Productions 2021)

The second album from California’s dark dreamgaze trio Illudium extends and embellishes the ideas of its predecessor.

Illudium is fronted by Shantel Amundson (guitar, vocals, synth), with Gregory Wesenfeld on drums and Josef Hossain-Kay on bass. Their first album, Septem, came out five years ago. The new album “was born in the fiery pandemonium of the burning season of 2020 when huge tracts of the sunshine state went up in flames, while skies glowed orange at night.” You can hear the creative destruction in the compositions as they demonstrate both clashing bursts and gradual progressions as a path for change.

Ash of the Womb is a six-track set of thoughtful ruminations, reflections, and explorations. Shantel Amundson’s voice is beautiful, filled with emotion and power. Her tone and delivery match the sentiment of the accompanying instruments at every turn and from the very beginning, with “Aster.” Shades of Tori Amos can be heard from time to time, tinging Amundson’s unique vocal delivery. Heavy guitar riffs push in over quieter acoustic layers only to retreat and live on as memories and echoes later in the songs and after the music has ended.

Every track has both heavy and lighter moments. On songs like “Madrigal,” the metal entry strains the continuum against the light and lyrical alternate expression. Elsewhere the transitions are more linear. Sounds of nature open for a couple of the songs, providing an elemental grounding from which the music grows.

“Where Death and Dreams Do Manifest” is the capstone and can serve as a sort of summary statement. I hesitate to declare a favorite because each song, while being self-contained, also is an essential and integral part of the whole. The album is an ethereal, melancholy and also insistent musical ecosystem in the macro sense, as well as in all its individual micro pieces. Recommended.

Ash of the Womb comes out on Friday, October 15th through Prophecy Productions. Bandcamp has the digital, too.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://illudium.bandcamp.com/album/ash-of-the-womb

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

Prophecy Productions, https://us.prophecy.de/artists/illudium/illudium-ash-of-the-womb.html

Illudium, Ash of the Womb (Prophecy Productions 2021)

Noltem, Illusions In The Wake (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Connecticut metal mystics Noltem release their first full-length album, Illusions In The Wake.

Noltem began in the early 2000s, releasing their first demo in 2005. It was ten years later that their inaugural EP emerged, Mannaz. And now in 2021, the first long-player. They clearly take their time with musical constructions and that care pays off because Illusions In The Wake is exceptional. The band is Max Johnson, John Kerr, and Shalin Shah. Guest soloists for the album include Zach Miller (Pyrithe), Jordan Guerette (Falls of Rauros), and Aaron Carey (Nechochwen).

The primary description of Noltem’s music is Atmospheric Black Metal, and that is not wrong but, as with any shorthand label, it misses the nuance. The compositional clarity and depth of these songs is hard to overstate. There are big, theatrical moments and gorgeous, quiet, acoustic passages. The range of expression is truly impressive.

Illusions In The Wake has five long tracks and one short transition piece. The first song is “Figment,” and in it you can see the future. Big metal riffs, coarse vocals, and complex constructions highlighted by elegant, simply moments. This track places you in Noltem’s world so you can be prepared for the rest of the music.

“Illusions in the Wake” displays a scope almost too large to take in, and then “Beneath the Dreaming Blue” shuffles in very understated, in a casual way that entirely changes the mood. When it drops the boom directly on your head the impact make you see stars. The space for personal imagination is enormous.

“Submerged” is a light, short bridge leading to the grand “Ruse” and the sweeping “On Shores of Glass.” That final song truly serves to inculcate the magnificence of the musical accomplishment of this album. This is a metal album, a metal album painted on a limitless canvas in the finest detail and with the deepest palette. Recommended.

Illusions In The Wake makes its full digital appearance on October 10th with physicals shipping a few days later through Transcending Obscurity.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://noltemband.bandcamp.com/album/illusions-in-the-wake-atmospheric-black-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Noltem, Illusions In The Wake (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Swarm of Spheres, Brother, Take Five (No Why Records 2021)

Canadian metal trio Swarm of Spheres is back with their first new music in eight years on Brother, Take Five.

The band – Mark McGee (drums), Jay Chapman (guitar and vocals), and Andrew Rashotte (bass and vocals) – came together a little over ten years ago as Swarm of Spheres. Their self-titled demo was released in 2011, followed by Invest in Your Death two years later. Since then it has been quiet on the recording front until now. The band’s musical style is “in the stoner/sludge metal neighbourhood, leaning more towards the busier, faster-paced side of the tracks.” That sounds good to me. Let’s take a listen to Brother, Take Five.

“All Piss, No Vinegar” is short and savage, a compact little rager that gets your blood up at the jump. Feedback is the starting gun for “A Heart of Gold & A Face Like Ray Liotta.” What a great title. This is a big, fast, loud song with crackling guitars and a good pound in the rhythm. The first taste of what I would call stoner elements are here too. “Life is Kyfe” has a kind of formal feeling to it, strained through a punk colander. It made me feel spikey.

“Blood, Swass & Tears” has a rambling riff at its musical core. The heavy trudging in the middle brings it all together for me. “Ibuprofen” is very doomy with some discordant elements, and “Brother, Take Five” is the anchor, bringing that in-your-face attitude to the front of the stage. The tempo slows in the middle, and the lead guitar that lives in there is inspirational. I really enjoyed this EP all the way through. I hadn’t heard Swarm of Spheres before and now I am glad to have made their acquaintance. Recommended.

Brother, Take Five is out in digital and on vinyl through No Why Records on Friday, October 15th. The always reliable Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up.

Links.

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Swarm-Of-Spheres-258028310927228/

No Why Records, https://nowhyrecords.bandcamp.com/

Swarm of Spheres, Brother, Take Five (No Why Records 2021)