Mournful Congregation, The Exuviae Of Gods – Part I (20 Buck Spin 2022)

On the cusp of thirty years in, Mournful Congregation begin their two-part EP series with The Exuviae Of Gods – Part I.

Australian doom band Mournful Congregation is a pillar of the funeral doom mausoleum. From the very beginning with the Weeping demo in 1994, they have set their own boundaries. A second demo appeared the very next year then, a few years on, Tears From A Grieving Heart, their first full-length album. Since then, there has been a steady, well-paced flow of much-needed doom. The band is peopled by Damon Good (vocals and guitar), Justin Hartwig (guitar), Ben Newsome (bass), Ben Petch (guitar), and Tim Call (drums).

Exuviae Of Gods will be released in two parts, the second appearing later this year. Part I contains three long tracks starting with “Mountainous Shadows, Cast Through Time.” An organ fades in playing sinister tones leading in short order to a confrontation with a massive wall of guitar riffs. The vocals that ensue have a sound of distance in them, gruff and croaking. Slow and deliberate. The guitar solo enters in its own time and, when it does, it is genuinely enthralling.

“The Exuviae Of Gods” is a deeply moving instrumental piece soaked in sorrow. At merely seven minutes long, it is sandwiched between two behemoths. The vocalizations in “An Epic Dream Of Desire” are spoken word, offering unmuddled direction in the narrative. Halfway through, a lead guitar embarks on a deeply emotive dirge of mystical wonder. Beyond is the eventuality of existence and nonexistence. The space that Mournful Congregation inhabits in the land of funeral doom music is most compelling. Recommended.

The Exuviae Of Gods – Part I is out on Friday, May 27th through 20 Buck Spin digitally and on CD, with vinyl to follow a bit later on. Osmose Productions is handling the album outside of North America.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://mournfulcongregation.bandcamp.com/album/the-exuviae-of-gods-part-i

Website, https://www.mournfulcongregation.com

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Mournful Congregation, The Exuviae Of Gods – Part I (20 Buck Spin 2022)

Cryptivore, Celestial Extinction (Bitter Loss Records 2022)

Australian one man band Cryptivore rakes the earth with Celestial Extinction, the inaugural long-player.

Brisbane’s own Chris Anning handles all the instruments, including voice, for his project Cryptivore. Five years ago he released a demo called Unseen Divinity, and now we have ten new songs. There isn’t any inherent reason why one person cannot take on the complete burden of creation and performance, except that it is a lot to do – it’s an enormous task. Sometimes it turns out well and other times you really miss the third party perspective collaborators provide. In the case of Cryptivore, the end result is excellent and engaging death metal. Well done.

The ten songs on Celestial Extinction all fall in the two-to-three-minute range, and brevity is an opportunity for high impact. “Gate Of Dismal Torture” is an excellent example. Clocking in at just over two minutes, it has great hooks and is able to stimulate suspense with tempo changes and unexpected punches. The track the follows immediately, “The Ethereal Deceased,” has a convincing doom intro followed by a catchy hook then pressed on by a forceful death metal verse. There are many looks on this album – it is full of exploration.

The elements in the music are clear enough to see. The best part about the music is the way Anning combines them and puts his own unique flair and sensibility in the mix. The first bars of “Solemn Desolation” are like a call to dark meditation and that gets almost immediately juxtaposed with a ravaging death metal torrent but then on the way out there is a cooking groove. I got into this album immediately and stayed with it all the way through, from the opening wails of “Cocoon Hecatomb” to the closing dramatic bars of the anchoring title track. Recommended.

Celestial Extinction is out on March 15th through Bitter Loss Records on digital, CD, and vinyl.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://bitterlossrecords-au.bandcamp.com/album/celestial-extinction

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

Bitter Loss Records, https://www.bitterlossrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Cryptivore, Celestial Extinction (Bitter Loss Records 2022)

The Neptune Power Federation, Le Demon De L’Amour (Cruz Del Sur Music 2022)

The fifth album from The Neptune Power Federation is the best one yet: Le Demon De L’Amour.

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album from The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen (2019). Indeed, that one was the first I had heard from the Australian heavy rock band and it turned me all the way around. I vowed at the time to see them live as soon as humanly possible and I still haven’t done it yet – any US dates coming up? The music is an energetic hard rock that has some retro components but lives firmly in the here and now. The stage names of the musicians in the band are Screaming Loz Sutch (vocals), Search and DesTroy (guitar), Inverted CruciFox (guitar), Jaytanic Ritual (bass), and River Sticks (drums).

The song you might have heard already is “My Precious One” as it is the advance single and there is a video of it floating around YouTube. If you haven’t heard it yet, drop everything and listen now – it’s a banger. If that song doesn’t make you want to listen to the rest of the album then I don’t know what. Fast, hooky, with a great guitar in the riff and lead, and the fiercely emotive vocals combine to make this a radio hit (if there was still radio). It is a great song, and I would recommend the album on the strength of it alone, but there is more.

Le Demon De L’Amour is a set of eight hard-edge, deep-cutting love songs. While on the surface that might not sound so great for a metalhead like me, the actual music is incredible. Filled with heavy psych, hooks and breaks, and deeply soulful vocals, The Neptune Power Federation is taking the love song back for the heavy music crowd.

The album begins with the eight-minute epic “Weeping On The Morn.” It is a massive rock and roll homage that dips into many corners. The single “My Precious One” cracks next and then the funky “Baby You’re Mine” struts out. There are so many great looks in just the first three songs it is hard to count them all. All the tracks are up-tempo, and each one has its own intrigue. “Stay With Thee” is one of my favorites, “Madly In Love” appeals to my contrarian side. My full list of favorites would be eight songs long so I’ll just leave it there.

If you don’t know about them yet then you need to get your life together and listen to The Neptune Power Federation. Highly recommended.

Le Demon De L’Amour is out on February 18th through Cruz Del Sur Music. Bandcamp is the easy way to get it in the US.

Links.

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

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

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

The Neptune Power Federation, Le Demon De L’Amour (Cruz Del Sur Music 2022)

Descent, Order Of Chaos (Brilliant Emperor 2022)

The new album from Descent is step forward in their heavy music campaign.

Order Of Chaos is the second full-length album from Brisbane, Queensland death metal band Descent, following 2018’s Towers of Grandiosity and a demo three years before that. The music they play is a brutal mesh of death metal, black metal, and hardcore. According to the Metal Archives, the band is Jim Dandy (bass), Anthony Oliver (vocals), Kingsley Sugden (drums), Brendan Auld (guitar), and Josh Kane (guitar).

I wrote a book (pseudonymously ) a few years back titled The Sequence Of Random Events so I appreciate the concept of Order Of Chaos. You think about it for a while and there is always a pattern in there somewhere and meaning can be ascribed. Alternately, the chaos itself might be the order, eh – that’s a brain-pulsing notion on its own. Of course it could just be that there is never any order and searching for it is a waste of time so you might as well embrace the chaos. Or … we could just listen to the music.

The punishing begins at the jump with “Tempest” and carries through on all eight tracks. The gravely rawness of the vocals is hammered home by the relentless percussion and rhythm. The riffs carry both a violent menace and a patterning groove. The lead guitar is like close-up knife work that makes an art of the carving. Don’t drop the needle on this one if you are not ready for the rumble.

My favorite tracks are “Fester” and “Safe.” The former has a hook with a wicked barbed that attracted my gaze and then would not let go. The latter track is the shortest of the set and it is just a hard straight shot to the face. The album shook the ice out of my beard and got my blood up. Recommended.

Brilliant Emperor Records releases Order Of Chaos on Friday, January 14th. Redefining Darkness has the CD and Caligari Records offers up the cassette.

Links.

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

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

Brilliant Emperor Records, https://brilliantemperor.bigcartel.com/

Descent, Order Of Chaos (Brilliant Emperor 2022)

Vahrzaw, The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian death metal band Vahrzaw continues its impressive run of drastic music with The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men.

Formed under a different (and evolving) name in the early 1990s, Vahrzaw released the first full-length album, Defiant, in 2009. That is a long journey and a fascinating tale, I am willing to bet. Once the flag had been unfurled, new LPs rolled out on the regular with Twin Suns and Wolves’ Tongues in 2018, followed by Husk four years later. The music is fundamentally death metal with black metal cross-over features and seeds of thrash and prog. The new album is vibrant and tenacious and not to be ignored.

There are five primary tracks on The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men, plus an acoustic intro and outro. You can hear “Death Of An Unknown Architect” approaching in the distance, pushing nearer with a relentless surety as the volume ramps up. Inescapable. The guitars strike a sour note above the battering percussion then rip into merciless speed and crunch. This is a prog death tune from the land beyond. “Waiting With The Wolves” swings in on a groove that quickly twirls into something more hideous, signaled early with a black metal hiss in the collateral vocal. The changes are too numerous to delineate and they are almost entirely unexpected. It is a stitching of disparate parts, somehow becoming fluid in the collective.

“As Ships Upon Shores” is a plaintive, doom-laden call. It is a beautifully dark song that rises steadily in tempo then drifts off to quietude in the distance at the end. “Vultures” could be a single with its catchy opening riff if only the composers had married the desire to be approachable to the masses. Soon enough the music is off on an absolute black metal rampage. “The Pessimist” is a nine-minute journey into a twilit realm of despair and incontrovertible angst. All the pieces are revisited and renewed, engorged on the endless creativity of the musicians. This is an album clearly marked for greatest in the annals of heavy music. Highly recommended.

The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men is out now. In the US, orders are easy at Bandcamp, or buy directly from Transcending Obscurity Records at their on-line store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://vahrzawband.bandcamp.com/album/the-trembling-voices-of-conquered-men-death-black-metal

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

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

Vahrzaw, The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Norse, Ascetic (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian dissonant Black Metallers Norse release their fourth full-length album, Ascetic.

Norse is a duo that has been haunting the landscape since 2006. Their focus has always been on Black Metal, but the execution of the musical endeavor has changed over the years. The new album works a penetrating brand of dissonance that enhances the chaos of the songs’ narrative themes.

There are eight tracks on the album, most of them tipping over the five minute mark. The title track has what I would call strong doom influences to go along with the more central dissonant black metal orientation and it opens the set with howl. “Parasite Warmongers” is very clanging, noisy, and operates a clearly defined dissonance. I know I am over-using the word, but an intentional grating quality is so much a part of this album that it is difficult to avoid.

Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of variation. “Fearless Filth Seeker” has a shrill distortion to it gliding along with the melodic vocals. “Radical Depression” sounds like a march played in a cocktail lounge at the beginning, quiet and sultry; insinuating. After a couple of minutes a wall of sound kicks in and pushes you over until toward the end when the snare returns. There are many corners and crannies to explore.

“Useless” is the final mail in the coffin, and it seems to be offering a way through. But to where? The afterlife? Maybe. I hear it as a parable of the ultimate pointlessness of a life of struggle when the end is predetermined: death. That might be too on the nose. Whatever the intent, it is one the most engaging tracks of the set and it is properly fitted at the end. It is also one of the main reasons I am recommending the album.

Ascetic is out through Transcending Obscurity on Friday, October 8th, gatherable at Bandcamp or the label’s US store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://norsebm.bandcamp.com/album/ascetic-dissonant-black-metal

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/norse.official

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

Norse, Ascetic (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Nefariym, Morbid Delusions (Inverse Records 2021)

The debut full-length album from Nefariym tears open the fabric of musical reality: Morbid Delusions.

Coming together only two years ago, Melbourne, Australia’s Nefariym was created by veteran metallers Mark Kelson and Richie Poate. The music can generally be thought of as Death Metal with the duo’s own novel twists with plenty of Doom and Sludge in the mix as well. There have been a couple singles released by the band but this album is the first deep journey fans can listen to and assess.

The album contains an intro piece, nine new songs, and a cover of a metal classic. The first full track is “Succubus” and the band comes out blasting with a monstrous adrenaline-fueled assault from every instrument. Black/Death Metal hybrid vocals give the song the perfect tinge. “A Morbid Delusion” follows and it is another ripper – a high speed conundrum for your brain that’ll need a minute to process. The production lays together the rhythm with the vocals with a harmony guitar line that fills the entire available space, while an early lead break sounds like a madman railing against the injustices of existence.

Toward the end of “A Morbid Delusion” the tempo slows a bit and provides a perfect segue to “Tearing Flesh From The Bone” which has an excellent Sludge/Doom essence. This is my favorite track for its sheer heaviness and the unforgettable refrain. Throughout the album the alternating between high-tempo songs and slower doomers is enthralling. I found the entire set captivating, including the cover of Celtic Frost’s “Circle Of The Tyrants,” which both provides an anchor for the album and delivers an homage. Highly recommended.

Morbid Delusions hits the streets on Friday September 24th through Inverse Records.

Links.

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

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

Nefariym website, https://nefariym.com/

Inverse Records, https://www.inverse.fi/shop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=939

Nefariym, Morbid Delusions (Inverse Records 2021)

Plum Green, Somnambulistic (Nefarious Industries 2021)

Back with a new collection of beautifully dark songs, Plum Green releases Somnambulistic.

Plum Green is from Melbourne, Australia. She has released a string of captivating albums in the last decade that that convey solemnity, almost as a berceuse for the grave. This is especially true on the new album. The music is dark and quiet, and it leaves an impression.

The opening song begins with beautiful, soothing, lyrical passages, but in a way that could be the soundtrack to euthanasia. That first track, “Raspberry Vine,” is very much what I mean when I talk about Acoustic Doom. In the press materials, the music is described as “atmospheric dream folk,” and I like that description, too. It is the emotion that is heavy and that does not require loudness.

There are strong gothic elements here as well. In the second track, “Eyes Shut,” the vocalizations draw a strong eidolon of Johnette Napolitano without really sounding much like her. It is bewitching, this music. It takes you away with its gentleness and at the same time has an emotionally penetrating effect. Like the singing of a wraith that means you no harm – or appears to mean you no harm – you find yourself trusting the music to have a meaningful effect on you.

The strings on “Grave Snuggler” have a hypnotizing effect. And Green’s voice, of course. Every track is enchanting and mysterious. The vocal duet on “Belleza Nocturna” was a surprise and it fit in perfectly with the rest of the set. Eerie, engaging, and unforgettable, Plum Green is an artist you should know about. Start with this new album and work your way backward through the catalogue. What you will find might surprise you. Recommended.

Somnambulistic is available on September 17th through Nefarious Industries. Explore the links below.

Band photo by Zach Salar.

Links.

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

Plum Green website, http://www.plumgreenmusic.com/

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

Nefarious Industries, https://www.nefariousindustries.com/collections/new-releases/products/somnambulistic

Plum Green, Somnambulistic (Nefarious Industries 2021)

The Slow Death, Siege (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian atmospheric doom band The Slow Death return with their mournful fourth album, Siege.

The first album from The Slow Death was their self-titled entry in 2008, followed four years later by the aptly titled II. 2015 brought the charmed album Ark, and now Siege. They write and perform thoughtful, deliberate doom, typically in long form. The band is Mandy Andresen (vocals, keys), Stuart Prickett (guitar, keys), Yonn McLaughlin (drums), Dan Garcia (bass), and Gamaliel (vocals).

I would refer to this music as Funeral Doom, although many would find the Atmospheric Doom label more accurate, or perhaps simply more palatable. Given the subjects of the songs, the pace, and the haunting constructions, I am standing by my FD assessment.

There are four tracks on this album, two that are about twenty minutes long with the other two a bit more than half that. The first song is one of the long ones, “Tyranny.” The opening notes have a feeling of transition to them, like something has been happening for a while but we are just now becoming fully aware of it. The music is beautiful and melancholy. The first heavy guitar drop is fairly early in, about a minute and a half, and it raises the seriousness of the established emotion. There is a tempo change and then the first voice is heard, a lovely, comforting vocal and, later, a gruff one, both of which return. The narrative is fairly linear and the music moves with the story toward the solemn conclusion.

“Famine” follows, a shorter work running only about thirteen minutes. Given the title, you are not going in with hopes for a sunny afternoon. Indeed, the story is grim even as the music is compelling an uplifting – at first. The heavy, trouncing guitars and rhythm press in suddenly, conveying catastrophe and doom. Toward the end the inevitability, the fate, becomes clear, and the song ends dramatically.

“Pestilence” is Funeral Doom at the beginning the way I usually think of it: slow, dead slow; utterly hopeless. This track is the other long piece, and certainly it goes through a range of expressions and movements. The beginning passage is the one that stayed with me longest. The final song is “Ascent of the Flames” and it hit me as a sort of cool down – an opportunity to reflect on what has come before and a memorial wrap-up.

I am a fan of Funeral Doom and this sort of music has long appealed to me. As a result, I am always on the lookout for another band I can rely on to set the kind of tone I want to hear. The Slow Death has become one of my regulars and this new album is among their best. Recommended.

Siege is out from Transcending Obscurity Records on Friday, August 27th. Investigate all the possible variations in presentation at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://theslowdeathband.bandcamp.com/album/siege-atmospheric-death-doom-metal

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

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

The Slow Death, Siege (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Plasmodium, Towers Of Silence (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The caustic ululations from down under can only mean that Plasmodium has released a new album.

Australian chaos cohorts Plasmodium ripped the lid off of reason in 2016 with their first album, Entheognosis. The menace that began with those four songs continues on Towers Of Silence, another loose approximation to coherence.

There are five tracks on the new album. The first two are short, noisy explosions. I am not sure if they are meant to terrify the listener, but they could have that effect. The pace is furious and the direction of the music is more of a flurry than a path.

“Pseudocidal” is a free-form expression that lays an ambient bed and lets the drums run wild. Vocalizations are more subdued than they were in the openers and even become discernable after a few minutes. The percussion seems to be on about something and you find that reassuring in the otherwise worrisome surroundings.

The last two songs on the album a big ones, “Translucinophobia” and “Vertexginous,” having a running time over thirty minutes between them. The former is like an extended Alexandrian campaign in an unknown land and the latter is more like a journey through an extended purgatorial menace that ends badly. This is metal music, heavy music, dark music, but there is nothing to reliably compare it to because of the general lack of core elements. The thought of what Plasmodium might create next is a churning maelstrom of bewildering possibilities.

I have listened to about fifty releases from Transcending Obscurity over the last many months and this one is by far the strangest. If you are up for the challenge, Towers Of Silence is out now. There is no telling what door it might open for you.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://plasmodiumdeath.bandcamp.com/album/towers-of-silence-cosmic-black-death-metal

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

Plasmodium, Towers Of Silence (Transcending Obscurity 2021)