Ghastly, Mercurial Passages (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Death and doom boil to the surface in Ghastly’s newest album, Mercurial Passages.

Ghastly hails from Finland and Mercurial Passages is their third full-length album following Carrion Of Time (2015) and Death Velour (2018). As three-piece metal bands go, Ghastly creates a full and heavy sound than you might imagine possible, achieving unexpected penetration and breadth. Ten years in, they still seem to be gaining momentum.

There are seven tracks on the album. It starts off doom-centric with “Ouroborus,” a song that does give you a feeling of perpetual struggle. “Out of the Psychic Blue” follows and has a fast clip throughout thereby giving the listener a more direct taste of the Death Metal aspect of the band. It is “Sea of Light” that strikes me as the first song of the set that represents the core of the band and its compositional approach with its big builds, growling vocals, and frenetic outburst that punctuate and disrupt the steady state.

The album is anchored by two big tracks at the end, “Dawnless Dreams” and “Mirror Horizon.” The former is a dark story filled with Eldritch secrets and lurking, fell beasts while the latter is an even darker story with a saturating heaviness and hopelessness that drives you down into the endless abyss. The guitar in the second half of “Mirror Horizon” is playing you off into eternity and the dual vocal performance is hair-raising in its creepiness. This is the stuff of the most desolating, dreaded dreams. Recommended.

20 Buck Spin releases Mercurial Passages on Friday, May 28th. Look to the label website or Bandcamp for all the possibilities.

Band photo by S. Kujansuu.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/mercurial-passages

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

20 Buck Spin, https://www.20buckspin.com/products/ghastly-mercurial-passages-cd

Ghastly, Mercurial Passages (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Wode, Burn In Many Mirrors (20 Buck Spin 2021)

The third album from England’s Wode is a sinister voyage through eldritch knowledge and understanding revived for the twenty-first century.

Wode has been around for a decade, releasing their first full-length album in 2016 and its well-received follow-up, Servants of the Countercosmos, the next year. The music is Black Metal thematically, with a significant nod toward paganism. The musical style has a lot in common with old school metal, with discernable harmonies and progressive riffs contained in a song structure that can support stadium performance.

The new album has six tracks, all of the them solidly plotted and expertly delivered. The vocals are realized largely in a clear, brusk tone, and the noticeable but sparing use of keys and synths complement the straight-forward musicality.

It all starts with “Lunar Madness,” which sounds like an army marching into battle at the beginning. Episodes of chaos punctuate the narrative and the rolling rhythm. “Fire In The Hills” is ominous and filled with dread while “Sulphuric Glow” is more straight-up sinister and pushes the Black Metal buttons hard. “Vanish Beneath” is the track I remember most for its insistent pace especially and for the recurring rambling motif.

The anchor to the album is the nine minute suite, “Streams of Rapture.” It plays like a dark and mysterious mini-musical with a dramatic theatrical lead-in that is broken completely apart by hammering, relentless metal less than two minutes in. The performers are given space to flex here and the result is the perfect finale to the set.

Burn In Many Mirrors is out now. Check out its many parallel instances of tape, download, vinyl, and CD, not to mention merch, at the 20 Buck Spin label link below. Recommended.

Band photo by Phillip James Torriero.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wode.bandcamp.com/music

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

Label, https://www.20buckspin.com/

Wode, Burn In Many Mirrors (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Gravesend, Methods Of Human Disposal (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Freshly minted grindcore trio Gravesend open a massive crack in the earth with their debut full-length album Methods Of Human Disposal.

Fashionably semi-anonymous, the musicians in Gravesend are telling stories of mayhem and decline set to the soundtrack of chaos. Stalking the streets of New York City with malfeasance on their minds, the music they create is super charged with the darkest episodes and artifacts of society most drear. The attitude calls punk to the front of my brain and the application is grinding at the speed of metal with the elemental tools of the trade.

“Fear City” is the first song, and it opens like a soundtrack to Dark Shadows or some such, with quiet, creepy keys. Slowly a violent argument starts the narrative off and it is the second piece where the music really begins to drop, “STH-10,” with the breath of doom. Building, angrier and angrier, into “Methods of Human Disposal” for the first taste of the savage vocals. The title track is dripping with callous disregard for propriety, establishing a purpose all its own.

The music is up-tempo but it is not breakneck for the most part, letting the drums push the urgency while the other instruments slam down the heavy. Some songs, like “Subterranean Solitude,” do set a blistering pace and combine it with a downshifted walking riff in the middle. And then there is “Eye For An Eye,” which is basically a mood piece that might be about the mass torture of seagulls. Entirely unpredictable.

The back-to-back pummeling of “The Grave’s End” and “Scum Breeds Scum” (my favorite track, the latter) near the end tees up the closer perfectly: “Concrete Feet” is a hi-test thrumming with twenty seconds of silence at the end to allow you to gather your thoughts. This album shook me up and Gravesend is on my radar from now on. Recommended.

The album is out on Friday February 19th from 20 Buck Spin Records. Hit the links below for cassettes, LPs, CDs, and/or the digital.

Links.

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

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

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

Gravesend, Methods Of Human Disposal (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Black Magnet, Hallucination Scene review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

James Hammontree’s Black Magnet sees its inaugural release with Hallucination Scene, an homage to Industrial Metal of yore.

I always think of (later) Ministry first when the subject of Industrial Metal comes up, but of course it is Nine Inch Nails that flies the flag highest in this genre. Static-X, too, and KMFDM (again, later). Rammstein? Um, sure, and tons of others. It was a nineties thing, wasn’t it, and there were some good things that came out of that decade so taking a trip back in that direction isn’t all bad.

Black Magnet is the solo creation of James Hammontree who both wrote and performed all of the vocals, guitars, synthesizers, drum programming, and samples. It was all Hammontree in the studio. For live performances, a full band will be deployed.

The opening notes of the album burble up like an increasingly aggrieved whale cresting behind you and coming over the top. Angry, vessel-popping lyrical shouts are backed up by volleys of noisy musical pelting. “Anubis” is next, and it is a little more subdued by comparison, but it has just as much attitude. “Punishment Map” has a nice feedback squeal going for it, and it is a constructional nod in the general direction of Rob Zombie. “Trustfucker” is the highlight of the set for me. The lyrics and vocal presentations are fantastic, and the clomping rhythm is perfect for a wide variety of stomping and headbanging activities. This song put me on the path. The closer is “Walking In The Dark,” and it is perhaps the most dissonant and clanging of the set making it an excellent farewell punch. I am very interested to see how these compositions are replicated live – I bet it’ll be a great show.

The album is out now from 20 Buck Spin. Lineup for the metallic resonance and give your ears a good, solid ring. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/blckmgnt

https://blckmgnt.bandcamp.com

http://www.20buckspin.com

http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Black Magnet, Hallucination Scene review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Atramentus, Stygian review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

The debut album from Funeral Doom virtuosos Atramentus is called Stygian and it is a dark, nonpareil wonder.

Atramentus is from Longueuil, Québec, which is immediately east of Montréal across the river. If you are unfamiliar with the music scene in the beautiful Canadian city of Montréal you should acquaint yourself with the amazing variety of metal and the consistent quality of the bands.

It is worth listing the credits for the musicians in the band so you can get a sense of what sounds you will be hearing when you listen: Phil Tougas: throat, chants, screams, guitars; Claude Leduc: guitars; François Bilodeau: synths, piano, dark ambient elements; Antoine Daigneault: bass; and Xavier Berthiaume: drums. The basics you need for Doom are in there with the guitars and bass and drums, plus there are those others which surely contribute to the atmosphere such as well, “chants” and “dark ambient elements.”

The music is Funeral Doom, so you know it is ponderous and ominous. The album has three songs, two long pieces and a bridge (or chasm) piece sandwiched between. Here again let me list some information that clues you in to what the music is all about, the song titles: 1. Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness), 2. Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace Of The Howling Black Winds), and 3. Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes Of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards). The titles are like a libretto.

Each composition has its own separate theme and feel, while of course they are all dark and foreboding. Set on an alternate Earth, part of the story is, “Granted immortality through the gift of the God’s sword, the nameless knight eventually witnesses the death of the sun and the end of all life on Earth. Surviving the great deluge, he is left to wander amongst the ruins of a now frozen earth under a sunless sky for eternity, alone and unable to die even by the scorching-cold blizzard winds around him, enduring perpetual physical torture while haunted by the memories of his past life and everyone he once knew buried under miles of ice.” You can see this story in the song titles, and you can hear the progression of it in the music. Each entry carries the sentiment of the events that are occurring, the calamity of it all, and the crushing sense of loss and loneliness. And abandonment. Listening to this music requires openness and patience to appreciate fully, and it is well worth it. Recommended.

Available Friday, August 21 from 20 Buck Spin, there is the download plus many physical formats (although some of the vinyl variants are already sold out).

Links.

http://www.20buckspin.com

https://20buckspin.bandcamp.com/album/stygian

{An aside … if you are going to Heavy Montréal, here is a pro tip: stay in Longueuil because the hotels are cheaper than Montréal and it is only one Metro stop to Parc Jean-Drapeau from Station Longueuil – Universitié-de-Sherbrooke.}

Atramentus, Stygian review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Terminal Nation, Holocene Extinction review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Arkansas metal leaders Terminal Nation raise their voices to proclaim the next mass extinction is already underway.

A fairly recent entry into the heavy music arena, Terminal Nation has been releasing music since 2015. Their two EPs – Terminal Nation (2015) and Absolute Control (2017) – along with last year’s Neckbeard Deathcamp split One Party System laid the groundwork for Holocene Extinction and its thirteen slices of grievance.

The heaviness of the music does not rely on sudden bursts or blast beats for the most part. It is more on the traditional side, and even doom-edged now and then (“Expired Utopia”). The opener, “Cognitive Dissonance,” is a window into the album both thematically and musically. The guitars and drums are heavy thumps with a faster pace in the middle and the a less optimistic beginning and end. After declaring that what you see is not what you get (the title of the first song), the band drives straight into “Arsenic Earth.” It is about what it sounds like it would be about. The title track is next, and the droning inevitability of the vocals (“you cannot save the world”) and the rhythm is exactly how I imagine a mass extinction to occur – consistent misery over a long period of time. And we’re only three in – they’re just getting going.

The songs are mostly short, and the set has a punk feel to it and sometimes a punk sound. Political and firmly anti-establishment, just read through the song titles (links below) to gather up the messages. What I hear are statements about how hard it is in the world right now just to exist, and that it doesn’t have to be this way – it is being made to be this way. If you want to know what the band meant by these songs, there is a great Brooklyn Vegan article where they go track by track and tell you what was on their mind when putting it all together, and you should check that out. The music is a little smoother on this new album than the earlier EPs but it is every bit as heavy – the vocals sound great and the guitars are a spiked mace swinging at your head. The combination of the contemporaneous narrative intrigue and the metal/punk attitude sets this album apart from the others in the crowd.

Out now on 20 Buck Spin and buyable at Bandcamp, Holocene Extinction is 36 minutes of reality checks laid bare and wrought in metal. Recommended.

Band photo by Kurt Lunsford.

Links.

https://terminalnationhc.bandcamp.com

http://www.20buckspin.com

Brooklyn Vegan article, https://www.brooklynvegan.com/terminal-nation-discuss-every-track-on-their-killer-new-album-which-is-streaming/

Terminal Nation, Holocene Extinction review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Bedsore, Hypnagogic Hallucinations review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

The debut album from Bedsore, Hypnagogic Hallucinations, will warp your ideas about reality and Death Metal predispositions.

The start with, the band explains its name on Facebook by giving a definition of the word and indicating that choosing it follows in the tradition of bands like Autopsy and Carcass. More interestingly, the explanation goes on … “At the same time, ‘Bedsore’, read as ‘suffering of the bed’ also has a more veiled meaning. In this sense, the crib is the gate that ferry the human being into a universe dominated by its unconscious fears, dream-like visions, aberrant figures and grotesque manifestations, which are capable to leading the individual to total destruction, rotting the flesh and eroding the mind.” That last part gives you the best idea of where the band is coming from.

And to make sure I knew what “hypnagogic” meant, I looked it up – relating to the state immediately before falling asleep. We all know what that space is like, don’t we; that crazy half asleep / half wake world and the mad images that live there. If you combine the explanation of the name of the band with the meaning of the name of the album, you will be in the right frame of mind to experience the first full-length release from the Rome-based Death Metal band Bedsore.

The musicians are Jacopo Gianmaria Pepe (vocals, guitars, synthesizers), Stefano Allegretti (vocals, guitars, organ, other keyboards), Giulio Rimoli (bass), and Davide Itri (drums). They published a demo only two years ago, so they are just getting going as a band. The new release sounds like the work of seasoned veterans with its solid musical structure and it also has the creativity and spark of fresh minds at work on new ideas.

There are seven songs. Three fairly short pieces start the set, followed by four longer compositions. The first thing you hear is an eerie keyboard spell that rises for a second into a jazzy layer before the guitars begin push through and the power gets cranked up. The opener, “The Gate,” is presented in two parts, and it is a reconnoitering of the landscape. The first long song takes its title from H. P. Lovecraft, “At The Mountains of Madness.” Apropos. This track can be seen as an embodiment of the entire set in that it has all the elements that are so important to the whole: sorrowful, mournful keyboard passages, avalanche guitar riffs, vocals that convey an entombed mental torture, and lead guitar work that lays bare the toll of the life and time. “Cauliflower Growth” is next and has a more urgent and aggressive overall tone to it (and a guest appearance by Giorgio Trombino). “Disembowelment of the Souls” begins with an epic scale and ultimately transforms into a dirge in the final moments while the closer, “Brains On The Tarmac” is a lilting hallucination at the front and ultimately ends symphonically. If you listen to the entire program in order (turn the shuffle OFF), the effect is mesmerizing. This album is definitely one of the most memorable of the year so far. Highly recommended.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations drops in July 24. You can get it in many different forms from 20 Buck Spin and through Bandcamp.

Band photo by Void Revelations.

Links.

https://bedsoredeath.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/bedsoredeath

http://www.20buckspin.com

http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Bedsore, Hypnagogic Hallucinations review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Skeleton, Skeleton review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Loud and clanging, Skeleton’s their first album is gruff metal music with a punk attitude and a flare for the menacing.

This band from Austin, Texas is populated by David Skeleton (guitar), Victor Skeleton (drums and vocals), Cody Combs (bass), and Alex Guzman (guitar). I first listened to this set on a mountain in the Rockies and it fit right in with the granite surroundings. It is hard crushing metal in one hand and a slicing knife in the other.

The songs are short, typically under three minutes, and they are catchy in a ruinous sort of way. Every song is fast and battering with a transparent intention to bludgeon. From “Mark of Death” to “Toad” to “Taste of Blood” and particularly on the eponymous track, there is violence and damage in the vocals and all the other instruments, a general invitation to malefaction. Even in the transitional element “Victory,” which has a slow tempo, there is an insistent echoing threat that matches it perfectly with the rest of the album.

The exception to the short song rule is “Catacombs,” the closer, which clips along for coming up on five minutes. It winds its way around you, easing into your psyche with a quiet start. One minute in, you are hit by a barrage of machine gun fire guitars, followed by laments of the suffering damned. This song wraps it up, but the entire album is filled with foreboding and woe, and feels at times like the musical instantiation of a twisting knife. Absolutely drenched in the personified dark, it is the kind of haunt you want to have. Recommended.

Skeleton is out July 10 from 20 Buck Spin on CD, vinyl, and cassette. It will be streaming and downloadable too, of course, and you catch those versions at Bandcamp, amongst other places.

Band photo by Nark Garcia.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/Skeleton-1425382974369527

http://www.skeletonatx.bandcamp.com

http://www.20buckspin.com

http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Skeleton, Skeleton review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Ulthar, Providence review (20 Buck Spin, 2020)

Oakland’s own Ulthar release their second album, the Lovecraftian enterprise Providence, and by doing so demonstrate their commitment to shattering your nerves.

Ulthar is a trio peopled by Shelby Lermo, Steve Peacock, and Justin Ennis; guitar, bass, and drums. The name of the band is a reference to some of the writing of H. P. Lovecraft, and you can easily imagine this music being created along the mythical Miskatonic River in a cellar off the beaten path in the dodgy part of Arkham. The Great Old Ones would definitely approve.

The band’s first album, Cosmovore, was released in 2018 and established a viable energy and engaged aggression that was legitimate and intense. This new album is even harsher than the first one, less melodious. It is more overall along the lines of “Entropy-Atrophy” from Cosmovore than, say, “Dunwich Whore” from that same album, which had significant doom metal elements to it, especially up front and at the end. There is more chaos in Providence, more mayhem and musical violence. There is still the occasional thundering doom pause here and there, but the black and death metal characteristics are fully brilliant throughout.

“Churn” opens the album with a two minute punch in the throat. It reminds me of “Denial of Life” from Death’s Scream Bloody Gore for its ferocity, but the vocals on “Churn” are harsher. This short song is a Welcome To Providence announcement, an invitation, a menu, maybe, of what lies ahead. Let’s see, what are some highlights: “Undying Spear,” “Through Downward Dynasties,” and “Cudgel.” As you listen your way through the shattering musical landscape Ulthar has created, the message of suffering is increasingly clear. By the time you take the last two steps, “Narcissus Drowning” and “Humanoid Knot,” there is no apparatus of denial left to grasp. The music is intriguing, engaging, and punishing all at once. With two superior albums in a row, I have growing admiration for this band. Recommended.

20 Buck Spin has many formats of Providence available, and you can also get a download at Bandcamp.

Band photo by Melissa Petisa.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/Ulthar-386850314846106/

http://ulthar666.bandcamp.com

http://www.20buckspin.com

Ulthar, Providence review (20 Buck Spin, 2020)