Grimtone, Polaris (Void Wanderer 2022)

Darkness convenes on the new Grimtone album, Polaris.

With origins marked in 2015, Sweden’s black metal maelstrom Grimtone plies a regimen of oblique, inky metal. The band is Michael Lang, who broke out of the gates in a flurry of recording, with three full-length albums between 2017 and 2019: Memento Mori, Morte in Vitam, and Hymner till döden. Just last year Grimtone appeared on the five-way split Mourning in Autumn and also released an EP, The Awakening. And now there is Polaris – he must have a lot to say. After all, it is not just Grimtone, is it? There is also Arsonists of Lucifer, Dommedag, etc. Prolificity by thy name.

The standard is set by the first track, “Creed Of Hate.” A rapid, raking riff sets up a steady percussive entry and the gloomy, distanced vocals. It is a murky affair, with a solid hook. The order is more apparent here than the chaos in this black metal statement. “Streams Of Polaris” waken slumbering denizens with a callous affront that is curiously salved in the coming bars, creating a salubrious avenue for mental ingestion. It is a surprising choice that works exceptionally well.

There is no pivot to look out for as the music flows over you. Certainly there is variation and there are angular takes, as in the elegance of the opening of “Burning The Rye” and the furtive ending to “Calls Of The Bells.” Even with these textures in the landscape, the dedication to evoked principles never wanes. My favorite track is perhaps “Haunt The Realm” as it makes me feel chased and at risk, but every track has a culminating insight. This my first experience with Grimtone, and I am impressed. Recommended.

Polaris is out now. Void Wanderer Productions has the cassette (limited to 50) and digital. War Productions has a CD version (limited to 100).

Links.

Bandcamp, https://voidwandererproductions.bandcamp.com/album/polaris

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

Void Wanderer Productions, https://voidwanderer.com/product/grimtone-polaris-mc/

War Productions, https://war-productions.org/warproductions/

© Wayne Edwards

Grimtone, Polaris (Void Wanderer 2022)

Cancer Bats, Psychic Jailbreak (New Damage Records 2022)

Canadian hardcore band Cancer Bats continue a winning streak with their seventh studio album, Psychic Jailbreak.

One of the great things about the Heavy Montreal festival is, coming from the states, you get to see a lot of bands that don’t always play at the US festivals. I saw Cancer Bats there for the first time in 2019 (I put a couple photos from that show at the bottom of the article). They were fantastic, and I have had an eye out for them ever since. As a result, I was pretty excited when I heard they had a new album on the way.

The band had a steady line-up of Jaye Schwarzer, Liam Cormier, Mike Peters, and Scott Middleton for more than a decade. Just last year, Middleton exited the band and the remaining three have continued on. Over the years they have released six previous studio albums, the most recent being 2018’s The Spark That Moves. Cancer Bats’ music is almost always labeled hardcore, and that fits. You will find as you listen all manners and shades – fast, slow, heavy, light, and dark. There is a corridor in their music for all types of heavy music fan.

The new album has eleven churning tracks, cracking the egg on “Radiate.” It is a stomper, driving the idea into your head with delectable repetition and a short pointed lead break toward the end. Do your stretches before this one because it will get you going. “The Hoof” follows and ramps the tempo up even higher. This is an early keeper. I love the driving force of it and the plunging inertia it creates.

“Lonely Bong” has a lot of plays on Spotify, as does the title track. The bong song is a trooper and a metric ton of fun to bounce around with. “Psychic Jailbreak” has a more serious tone to it, and more apparent aggression in the riffs and vocalizations. It is a menacing creeper toward the finish and definitely memorable – just the kind of song you want to go out on.

Other stand-outs for me are “Hammering On,” which is a laid back number with a big pounce to go along with the impressive vocals, and “Shadow Of Mercury” because of its straight-head clobbering approach to musical construction. “Pressure Mind” and “Rolling Threes” is a tasty pairing, too. They are the kind of songs you want to hear in the second half that keep the pace, energy, and inventiveness hitting hard as you roll toward the finish. This new Cancer Bats album delivers the goods. Recommended.

Psychic Jailbreak is out now through New Damage Records. Check out the links below.

Band photo by Sid Tang.

Links.

Website, https://www.cancerbats.com/

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

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

New Damage Records, http://newdamagerecords.com/

Live photos by Wayne Edwards from Heavy Montreal in 2019.

© Wayne Edwards

Cancer Bats, Psychic Jailbreak (New Damage Records 2022)

Ruby The Hatchet, Live At EarthQuaker (Magnetic Eye Records 2022)

Ruby The Hatchet drops a 7-inch teaser – Live At EarthQuaker – anticipating a new album later this year.

Love at first listen is the way I would describe what I think of Ruby The Hatchet. The first music I heard from the band was Valley of the Snake (2015) and it sent me down the rabbit hole to find everything else that existed by them. The music is lush psychedelic rock, heavy and smooth and soulful. Jillian Taylor’s vocals are haunting and unforgettable, and the guitar-driven environment is one of a kind. The most recent long-player was Planetary Space Child (2017) and that one also still gets heavy rotation at the Shardik Media offices, I can tell you.

The new record has three songs. Two of the tracks are early versions of songs that will be on the upcoming album emerging later this year, and they were recorded live in Akron, Ohio at EarthQuaker Devices – that’s the maker of the pedals Ruby The Hatchet and so many other bands use for tone and effect. The third is a cover of the Uriah Heep standard “Easy Livin’.”

“1000 Years” opens quietly and has a steady build with endearing plateaus. The guitar line is a somber affair, urging drama toward the end. “Primitive Man” is a trippy number that lays on the smooth and rolls up a few rapid punches for you, too. Apparently, these are initial versions of songs that will be on the upcoming album, but they sound finished to me – more great Ruby The Hatchet music.

“Easy Livin’” popped up in 2019 as a stand-alone single. You know the song and, while you can probably imagine what it might sound like when Ruby The Hatchet sings it, the real thing is even better. It is nice to have this take wrapped in with the two new tracks.

Live at EarthQuaker is out now through Magnetic Eye Records in CD, vinyl, and digital. Ruby the Hatchet is on a mini tour right now, bookending with shows opening for Candlemass. See them whenever you can, and make sure you get to Las Vegas this year for Psycho Las Vegas as their performance is certain to be a highlight.

Links.

Website, http://www.rubythehatchet.com/

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

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

Magnetic Eye Records, https://us.merhq.net/us/Artists/Ruby-The-Hatchet/Ruby-the-Hatchet-Live-at-Earthquaker.html

Ruby The Hatchet at EarthQuaker, https://www.earthquakerdevices.com/ruby-the-hatchet

© Wayne Edwards

Ruby The Hatchet, Live At EarthQuaker (Magnetic Eye Records 2022)

Corpsessed, Succumb To Rot (Dark Descent 2022)

For their fifteenth anniversary, Finland’s Corpsessed release their fourth full-length album, Succumb To Rot.

Back in 2007, Corpsessed came together in Finland. The Metal Archives tells us that the current lineup is Jussi-Pekka Manner (drums), Jyri Lustig (guitar), Matti Mäkelä (guitar), Niko Matilainen (vocals), and Tuomas Kulmala (bass). Creating death metal along a traditional path in the context of their own interests, the band’s early music had a growling quality to it, as on their EP The Dagger & the Chalice (2011). Later releases like Impetus of Death (2018) are more polished and exploratory, while maintaining the signature sound Corpsessed has been developing all along. There is an apparent trajectory and the new album continues the arc.

There are eight tracks on Succumb To Rot, beginning with the titular song, which serves as a short introduction to the set. “Relentless Entropy” in many ways captures the essence of the album, and, really, the cycle of music that has been in motion for the last few years – an endless, relentless destruction and emergence of something else in its place. You can hear this in the music and you can see it in life and the universe.

There are cavernous passages throughout sponsored by the fabulously dark vocals. Rattling percussion and battering rhythm always return at pace to give you skull a good solid crack. Songs like “Spiritual Malevolence” are sinister in their brooding darkness, measured out carefully and then dispensed with aggression. Tracks like “Sublime Indignation,” on the other hand, have a more upfront ferocity with periodic easing and even the occasional groove in there for a bit.

Closing on “Pneuma Akathartos,” creates a powerful anchor for the album. All the music is heavy, of course, but this track has the most finality to it in my ears. It is grievously dreary, dark and treacherous. Make sure you hear this album now because it is going to be talked about for a long time to come. Recommended.

Succumb To Rot is out on Friday, April 22nd through Dark Descent Records.

Links.

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

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

Dark Descent Records, https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/

© Wayne Edwards.

Corpsessed, Succumb To Rot (Dark Descent 2022)

Bodysnatcher, Bleed-Abide (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The third album from Florida deathcore band Bodysnatcher is out this week, Bleed-Abide.

Bodysnatcher came together in 2014. They put an EP out in 2015, and their first long-player, Death Of Me, followed in 2017. It was probably their second album, This Heavy Void, that brought them the most attention, and their fan base has been on the uptick all along. The band is Kyle Medina (vocals), Kyle Carter (guitar), Kyle Shope (bass), and Chris Whited (drums).

Talking about the album, Kyle Medina tells us, “Bleed-Abide is the ultimate culmination of what the band has been building for years, and I believe the best material to date. The instrumentals have matured and become heavier hitting and the lyrics dig deeper personally and more relatable than even This Heavy Void. There is something for everyone in this album: slam riffs, breakdowns, two steps, choruses that stick…”

There are thirteen mostly short, hard-hitting tracks on the new album. After the intro piece “Bleed,” the clubbing begins with “Abide.” Savage aggression ensues. Growling, bristling vocals descend to croaks now and then, and the percussion beats your senses senseless. The intentionality is ever-present, pushing the musical ideas forward.

There is plentiful speed here, but acceleration is not the whole story. “Smashed Perceptions” disturbs perceptions of pace, and you hear this on many tracks. “Flatline,” for example, does it in a different way. Instead of relying entirely on speed and volume, the change ups and hanging moments add tension and drama, maybe also anxiety, to the music.

The last four songs taken together are a menace to reason and sanity. “Wired For Destruction,” “Hollow Shell,” “Behind The Crowd,” and “The Question” work together in my head even if they weren’t meant to – they are a suite of destruction at the end that brings it all together. Recommended.

Bleed-Abide is out on Friday, April 22nd through MNRK Heavy. There are lots of formats to choose from at the links below.

Links.

Website, https://bodysnatcherofficial.com/

Bandcamp, https://bodysnatcherfl.bandcamp.com/album/bleed-abide

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/bodysnatcher

© Wayne Edwards.

Bodysnatcher, Bleed-Abide (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Epitaphe, II (Aesthetic Death 2022)

French progressive doom band Epitaphe head off into new territory with their sophomore long-player, II.

Epitaphe began as far back as 2009. They released a demo in 2018, and their debut full-length album the following year, appropriately titled I. The musical style has elements of progressive death metal and funeral doom, usually rolled out in long movements. The first album had more of the latter, while this new one relies less on funeral doom. There is no mistaking that it is the same band, however, and the fans they have gathered so far will be grandly fulfilled by the new music.

There are three tracks that hover around the nineteen minute mark, plus an introductory movement and an outro. “Sycomore” begins the session sweetly, leaving you completely unprepared for the full-on assault that is “Celestial.” The ravaging brutality of this blistering metal affront is complicated by melodic vocals that materialize only to be devour by course growls. There are reinforced shocks throughout and, eventually, you can sense that disruptions are in the offing but they always still startle you when they hit.

“Melancholia” dives in with percussive creations that are tectonic, elemental. The compositional structure flattens out at times, allowing familiarity to lull you toward the ordinary, but it never stays that way long enough to give a firm footing. You only think you know what is next. This middle portion is my favorite of the set, and I especially appreciate the lead guitar work and, later, the funeral doom.

“Insignificant” recalls the intro piece with its initial gentleness, like a minstrel who has wandered into a dark, sinister forest and only slowly begins to realize what has happened. The metal here has a theatrical feel to it, and a sense of story is strong throughout. “Merging Within Nothingness” is a short cooldown. How you feel about it will depend on how you experienced the rest of the album. For me, I had a moment to realize, at least partially, the significance of what I had just listened to.

There is an arc here. Listening from beginning to end is more important with this album than with many. The full procession is the way to go. Highly recommended.

II is out on April 11th in digital, on CD through Aesthetic Death, and Gurgling Gore has the cassette.

Links.

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

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

Aesthetic Death, https://www.aestheticdeath.com/

Gurgling Gore, https://www.gurglinggore.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Epitaphe, II (Aesthetic Death 2022)

Nonsun, Blood & Spirit (Dunk!records 2022)

Ukrainian band Nonsun release their second full-length doom album, Blood & Spirit.

From Lviv, Ukraine, Nonsun has been creating doom metal for more than ten years. The musicians go by Goatooth (guitar, keys, vocals), Alex (bass), and Alpha (drums), and they have released a couple of EPs plus the full-length album Black Snow Desert (2016/18). Recorded over several months from 2017-2020, the new album, Blood & Spirit, covers fresh ground while maintaining the basic principles the band has established in their earlier work.

Regarding the new music, the band remarks, “The album title refers to spiritual struggles through the bloodiest of times. The five tracks, in a sense, are yearnings, or prayers, thrown into the void. What doesn’t kill you… Does it make you stronger? Or leave you even more crippled? When all magic is gone… Is wisdom worth a thing? It’s about raising questions rather than giving answers. As the rational mind [and] willpower fail, a spiritual quest begins.”

Most tracks are over ten minutes long; the shortest nears eight. Each has its own identity and exists alone. “A Wizard Grieving Over the Loss of Magic” opens the set with beautiful, quiet longing. Even when the guitars drop, the powerful wave of sound is still beautiful. The piece is moody, and reflective, demonstrating musical notions that match perfectly the emotions of the character in the title. In “That Which Does Not Kill” the sounds are dire at the front, dripping dread and fiery warning and signaling a manifest catastrophe. You might see a glimmer of light toward the end, but you would have to be an optimist to make it out.

“Days of Thunder Bring New Wisdom” offers extended moments of mantra-like refrain. Toward the middle there is chaos and confusion, followed by a long march out. “Guilt, Disgust, Disaster” strikes a surprisingly buoyant tone at the start that becomes terribly serious and regretful. Later in the song, the music is positively frightening. There is a sort of serenity that is reached near the end, but it has come at a cost.

The final song is “In Your Eyes I’m a Cripple.” To my ears, this music is the saddest of all. The quietude is no respite and I welcomed the louder, more active passages. It is a fitting end to this excellent set. Doom fans and those who appreciate touches of avant-garde and post-metal will find treasures here. Recommended.

Blood & Spirit is out on Friday, April 15th on digital at Bandcamp and elsewhere. A vinyl version is being released through Dunk!records. On the band’s Bandcamp page, they write: Please consider supporting Ukraine in these dire times: standforukraine.com and linktr.ee/HowToHelpUkraine2022

Links.

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

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

Dunk!records, https://dunkrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Nonsun, Blood & Spirit (Dunk!records 2022)

Mistcavern, Into Twilight (Iron Bonehead 2022)

Dark metal band Mistcavern foist musical menace upon the world with Into Twilight.

Mistcavern is a heavy metal band from Hungary. Formed a few short years ago, their first demo was released in 2019, Winds Of Misery. They are back now with a “mini-album,” which I will call an EP, of four songs. The musicians use stage names and the band is composed of the sturdy arrangement of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, deploying keys liberally as well when the need and desire arises.

“Towards the Eclipse” opts for an eerie opening, quiet and distant; swelling. There is a dank stillness that is fostered, surrounding the action with a thick fog. A slow, weighty base is interrupted by screeches and sudden shatterings, destined to return to solemnity. “The Shielding Twilight” begins with a roar, setting it immediately apart from the opening track. The music is determined and speeding, swollen with ill intent. Upon this realm silence breaks, and reverent music awakens. The feeling turns toward cavernous night and plays there for the duration.

“To the Starless Domain” poses an early question about existence with a short-lived, echoing intro. Familiar fast-paced black metal standards take over and wash you in the threat of terrible violence. With “Dissolving in Infinite Despair” the title is realized immediately and never lets up in the slightest. Throughout the song you feel as if heavy, thick liquid is rising around you with the clear intent of both crushing and drowning. The sensation is all-consuming.

This Mistcavern set is a mystical field of dark wonder. If you let it saturate you, you will receive the full effect. Recommended.

Into Twilight appears on Friday, April 15th through Iron Bonehead Productions in digital, CD, and vinyl. Links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://mistcavern.bandcamp.com/releases

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

Iron Bonehead Productions, https://shop.ironbonehead.de/en/

© Wayne Edwards.

Mistcavern, Into Twilight (Iron Bonehead 2022)

Viande, L’abîme dévore les âmes (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

The debut full-length album from Viande is a contentious black metal rendering, L’abîme dévore les âmes.

Viande began in France nearly ten years ago. They have released a demo and an EP in the interval, so the recorded material is not large – making the new long-player an important event for fans. Membership in the band is something of a mystery with the musicians preferring to get by on an initial rather than a full disclosure, preserving a sense of the uncanny. The musical style is, generally speaking, black metal. This category is known for brutal renderings and you can put Viande on the rough side of the room as far as that goes. The songs are savage and loud, fierce and tearing.

L’abîme dévore les âmes (in English, “the abyss devours souls”) holds eight tracks. The first song of an album is usually either a signal or a warning. “Les Dents Du Gouffre” is both. It is a red flag of terror showing clearly that devastation lies ahead. This is monstrous, eerie black metal that lays a blade against your throat while it brings an iron hammer down on your skull.

If, like me, you don’t speak French, pass some of these titles through an on-line translator and you’ll get a quick idea of the themes: “La Tombe Avide,” “Traitre A La Vie,” and “Le Souffle Des Os.” True enough, these notions are not exclusive to Vainde and they are regularly deployed by black metal bands, and other purveyors of extreme music. Here, however, the essence is treated differently, with greater attention to otherworldliness, to eldritch lore, at least in the feeling of the composition. Dramatic ambient and doom-heavy passages allow dread to soak through to your bones and siphon off your breath steadily, deliberately, completely. Each songs is a new terror.

If you like dark metal with a poisonous attitude and no regard for the stability of your state of mind, then this album is for you. Recommended.

L’abîme dévore les âmes is out on Friday, April 15th through Transcending Obscurity Records. Have a look at the possibilities at the links below.

Links.

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/viande666/

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

© Wayne Edwards.

Viande, L’abîme dévore les âmes (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Qaalm, Resilience & Despair (Hypaethral Records 2022)

Los Angeles doom band Qaalm present their debut full-length album, Resilience & Despair.

Qaalm was formed in 2017 and gelled over the ensuing years. The new album brings together two songs released as singles in the past couple of years along with new music not published before. The musical style is along the line of funeral doom, with expansions and explorations that combine to form a more animated whole. The band is Pete Majors (vocals), Henry Derek Elis (guitar), Brock Elmore (guitar), David Huet (bass), and Dave Ferrara (drums); cello performance by Kakophonix.

There are four long tracks on the album. Each demonstrates incredible depth and spatial awareness, and each is very different. “Reflections Doubt” constructs a beautiful, melancholy soundscape. The croaking vocals at three and a half minutes are a shock, and they take on a distinct life as Pete Majors continues to evolve his vocalizations throughout the song. Melodic singing combines and extends the narrative ideas, and the guitars and rhythm grow larger and become fiercer. Ebb and flow follows, casting you adrift and periodically rippling your serenity.

“Existence Asunder” begins on the wind. A distant menace makes itself known through the cavernous environment. The darkness is dense and beautiful in the classically formed funeral doom passages. In “Cosmic Descent,” the initial tones land more hopefully, while clearly breathing melancholy. The guitars are an active force, and belief in a possible positive outcome fades as the misty cloak thickens toward the inevitable end.

“Lurking Death” is the final composition on the album. Clear vocalizations stand first, signaling demise. The path is replete with sadness and splendor, recollections and horrors. The dark beauty of the music on this album is overwhelming at times, and fans of funeral doom and melodic doom will feel at home here. Recommended.

Resilience & Despair is out on Friday, April 15th through Hypaethral Records digitally and on vinyl. Trepanation Recordings will have CD and cassette editions.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://listen.hypaethralrecords.com/album/resilience-despair

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

Hypaethral Records, https://hypaethralrecords.com/

Trepanation Recordings, https://trepanationrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/resilience-despair

© Wayne Edwards.

Qaalm, Resilience & Despair (Hypaethral Records 2022)