The sophomore full-length album from Venom, Inc. is an unwavering menace: There’s Only Black.
Venom is the iconic band that brought us Welcome To Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982), essentially creating Black Metal from punk and speed metal. Since then, black metal itself has evolved in a particular direction while Venom had other ideas. At War With Satan (1984) was on brand but it was clear that things were changing, and then Possessed (1985) was a noticeable, clear shift. The seas calmed a bit with Prime Evil (1987), but chaos was coming. The band paused, considered reforming, then split in twain.
Venom, Inc. emerged from the schism of the original band. Their debut album was Avé (2017), and I found it enthralling. That one will be hard to follow, but if any band can do it, Venom, Inc. is the one. The musicians are Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn, and Jeramie “War Machine” Kling.
You can hear the music coming from far away on the first track, “How Many Can Die.” It is a stylized punk attack with a hardcore head and intermittent hooks. The song works, and still this is a chancy approach for an opener – you have to really depend on the fans being in to what you are putting down. And I was. “Infinitum” is a stone cold killer with a battering mission. The lead guitar break will really wind you up. “Come To Me” is a chopper. I love the straight-forward, no nonsense musical construction. An excellent metal song where the vocals take the forefront while the riff and rhythm provide an indelible platform and the dark lead guitar work intoxicates.
I am having a hard time finding anything to complain about on this record. The title track is a stunningly superbly sinister metal song. “Don’t Feed Me Your Lies” begins on a contemplative foot and then turns into a ravager. “Rampant” is a race straight toward a sharp cliff. Every song has a unique appeal, and they all come together to create a solid set you will want to listen to over and again. Recommended.
There’s Only Black is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Links below.
Crypt Lurker is the new album from Seattle death metal band Deconsecration, their first full-length studio release.
Deconsecration is a new band, having its origins in the Pacific Northwest in 2019. They have been revving up the whole time with a demo, a live album, and a split with Re-Buried. Their music will spark OSDM nostalgia now and then, combined with fluid and caustic innovations that make it undeniably from our time. The band is Moises Pimentel (bass), H. Murder (drums), Dylan Benedict (guitar), Jordan Garcia (guitar), and Zach Raphael (vocals).
It all begins on a doom stroke with the title track. Weird noises and rattlings lead into deadly heavy riffs and ominously croaking vocals. The screws get turned and the tempo picks up soon enough. Instead of the feeling that you are wandering through a mist-shrouded forest after dark that you had when the song began, you now have the piercing sensation of being in an active torture chamber. If you survive and make it outside, “Cephalic Fermentation” is the next tombstone you trip over. It is a chaotic, panic-inducing thrashing from the very beginning. By the time “Putrescent Birth” rolls around, you start to believe you are in a dark, damp corner of an abandoned Cannibal Corpse castle.
The album is solid throughout. The interconnectedness of the old school death metal elements, the doom, and the periodic splash of blackened thrash is excellent. My favorite tracks come at the end. “Plague Cadaver” is beautifully cinematic with relentless percussion and “Bells Upon the Graves” is an enduring testament to hopelessness. Recommended.
Crypt Lurker is out now through Chaos Records in digital, CD, and vinyl. Stump Grinder Records will be issuing a cassette. Check it out at the links below.
If you are looking for speed, Wise Blood Records has a 4-way split for you featuring Wraith, Black Knife, Graveripper, and Unholy Night.
The label describes the record as “a compilation of black thrash and evil punk motored by hellfire. In the spirit of historic compilations like Warfare Noise and Speed Kills, this album assembles a murderer’s row of black thrash blasphemers: Wraith and Graveripper (both from Indiana) team up with Kentucky killers Black Knife, and Russian riff-demons Unholy Night.”
Each band contributes three songs, except Unholy Night who offers a pair. Wraith is up first. Their music is straight ahead blackened thrash – speeding guitars and ravaging percussion with gruff, threatening vocals. The tracks included are “Demons of Doubt,” “(Call Me) The Destroyer,” and “Seven Serpents.” Black Knife throws in a little more groove up front but that doesn’t slow down the riffs or the vile intent. They contribute “Land of the Dead,” “Gouge the Eyes Out, Steal the Soul,” and “Satanic Commander.”
Graveripper is a band I have been listening to a lot lately. I am currently enamored with their Radiated Remains EP. The music is sharp and precise thrash, and it is great. Graveripper’s songs are “Mind Filled With Dread,” “Night Frozen Black,” and “Tomb of the Oppressor.” Unholy Night closes the door on the four-way split with “Louder, Angrier” and “Ancient Rites.” It is an absolutely whirling menace, and it has the strongest black metal influence of the bunch. This is a killer record and a treasure trove for thrash fans. Recommended.
Faster Than the Fucking Devil is out on Friday, September 2nd through Wise Blood Records. Check out their website and go directly to the album at the Bandcamp link. Limited Edition vinyl is available from Wise Blood, Bonepick Records, and Husk Records. You can also get CDs, digital, and cassettes from Wise Blood. The digital will always be there, but the cassette and vinyl editions will probably sellout fast – get on it if you want one of those.
It was another amazing year at Psycho Las Vegas topped off by Mercyful Fate and Emperor.
Psycho Las Vegas is a standard stop for me. I haven’t been for a couple years because of the pandemic – the fest was cancelled in 2020 and I had to miss it at the last minute in 2021. Needless to say, I was ready to go this year. To make absolutely certain that I do not bury the lead, I will declare yet again that Psycho Las Vegas is the best heavy music festival in the US every year. No other festival has anything close to the variety and depth you see in Las Vegas. My advice: don’t ever miss it.
The bands I most wanted to see this year were Ruby The Hatchet, Mercyful Fate, Emperor, Monolord, Elder, and Mothership. Then there were at least twenty others I really, really wanted to see. The third level was chockful as well. This line-up was stacked (see the set times image to verify).
Psycho moved to a new location this year. For the past few years, the festival had been held at the Mandalay Bay. That was an excellent venue. Being in a casino allows you to stay out of the 100+ degree heat most of the time and really kick back to enjoy the music and booze and weed (recreational marijuana is legal in Las Vegas). There was a day club stage outside, but it played mostly at night, and even though the heat is brutal, without humidity, the weather outside is quite tolerable once the sun goes down. In 2020 at the Mandalay Bay, there was an event stage in an arena, a lounge stage, the House of Blues venue, and the outside stage in the evenings. Tons of music, easy to get to, all great.
This year, the festival moved to the Resorts World facility, which is only partially finished. There was an outside day club stage there, too. Then there were five other stages. The Rose Ballroom is what it sounds like – a stage set up in a giant room. The Dawg House is a sort of sports-bar-looking venue, and RedTail is another bar, a bit more serious in tone, with a small stage in it. There was also a stage set up in the food court. And finally, there was the event stage. The thing is, the event center hasn’t been built yet, to this was a huge tent –you know, with a metal fame, and imagine it forty feet high. It was big enough, surely. The main drawback was no seating; strictly SRO. Oh sure, there were a few chairs and stools in the VIP section, but not many. Indeed, this is my only real criticism of the event: the lack of seating. Of course, I am not as young as I used to be so maybe that’s why it got to me.
I did feel a little bit bad for people who were at the resort but not attending Psycho because at least four of these stages could be heard rumbling throughout the resort, well beyond the individual venue. That never really happened at Mandalay Bay because the one lounge stage in the casino area had a fairly laid back line-up. Not so this year. Can you imagine having booked vacation here not knowing Psycho was going on and having to listen to blaring metal for three days straight every time you tried to geta slice of pizza or go to the casino? Ugh. Hey, it was great for me as I was there for the music, but it didn’t go over very well for some of the other guests.
On Thursday before the festival there is Psycho Swim, which is basically a fourth day in front. Normally, this is held outside at the day club with just a few bands. This year, sets ran all day outside (it was pretty hot part of the time), and there was a parallel track at the RedTail venue. Psycho Swim is a separate ticket (for GA folks), but anybody could listen at RedTail, with or without a ticket. That is a nice bonus.
Ulver was a last-minute scratch we heard about on Thursday. It is unclear exactly what happened but, even though the visas were approved, there was some other problem that sprang up at the last second … “due to unforeseen circumstances with their local embassy, the band is unable to acquire necessary documents for all of its members to complete their travel and therefore won’t be able to perform.” That’s a bummer, and it is true that Satyricon also had dropped out fairly late in the game as well – another tough revelation. Still, I would stack this line-up against any festival this year.
The toughest choice on Thursday was Salem’s Bend started on the RedTail stage at 8:00PM and Elder started on the Ayu Dayclub Beach Club stage at 8:10PM. Brutal. But, Elder was slated to play again on Saturday on the Dawg House stage. Saved by the double set. As it turned out, it started raining and the Ayu stage was shut down during Elder’s set. That is something you definitely do not expect in Las Vegas. But that’s all right, too, because the music went on until 3:00AM or so at RedTail. And, Elder played elsewhere at 1:00AM anyway, so they got their set in. One big advantage of festivals in Las Vegas is that there are no curfews so playing late is not a big deal at all.
First band I wanted to on Friday was Sanguisugabogg at 11:00AM. Yes, in the morning. Mothership was the biggest surprise of the day for me. I like their music a lot, but had never seen them live. They put on an amazing show and moved right up to the top of my list of bands never to miss. The big story on the first night was Emperor, a band that hadn’t played in the US for sixteen years. It was absolute black metal mayhem in the big tent on Friday.
Behold The Monolith and Gatecreeper played at the same time on Saturday and that was a tough choice, to be sure. I flipped a coin and went to Behold! The Monolith. A tough choice but no losing options. The most important band on day two for me was Ruby The Hatchet. I absolutely love that band and somehow had never seen them perform in person. Jillian Taylor was incredible, and the entire band takes your breath away. I could have left at the end of their set and been happy with the weekend. The headliner on Saturday was Suicidal Tendencies, and I missed that show because I have seen them a half a dozen times in the past twelve months and, also, I had a few edibles over my limit and needed to sit down for a while. No seating in the event center so I went to the casino for an indeterminant amount of time.
Sunday was Mercyful Fate day. There is no way to overstate the anticipation. Melissa is one of my favorite albums to this day, and I started to listening to Mercyful Fate even before that, with their self-titled EP. I have seen King Diamond on stage many times, but never Mercyful Fate. Their performance is one I will remember on the last day, I swear it. It is what I remember most from Sunday, but there was a lot of other amazing music as well, like High On Fire and Monolord and Creeping Death. There was so much happening that day it is hard to keep it all in your head.
I try to always go to Psycho Las Vegas. For me, it is a vacation – I don’t photograph the festival or write articles about it. This right here that I am writing is a reminiscence as much for my benefit as anybody else’s, put down so I can look back on it later and remember it all again. I have already grabbed a ticket for Psycho Las Vegas 2023. I do not know where it will be held, but wherever it is, I will be there. See you then.
If you are looking for some steamy fuzz, Plasmodulated has the answer.
One-man-band from Gainesville, Florida, Plasmodulated, has released a self-titled demo. Myk Colby does it all on these five tracks, and achieves an impressively heavy result. The music is fuzzy and dooming, with enough variegated elements of multiple other heavy music sub-genre to keep your attention sharp. I am always a little dubious of singular generators, but it turns out there was no cause for concern in this case. Plasmodulated delivered the goods.
“Intolerable Stench Place.” If ever a piece of music fit the title better, I don’t know about it. This absolutely sounds like an intolerable stench. There is a constant thrumming that won’t leave your ears alone, and a distant guitar line that echoes the croaking vocals. This the real deal. “Gross Cave” blasts into your space and groans its affection, then kicks up the tempo and rolls you around. The ponderous doom that lands in the middle is cryptic and eerie.
“Microscopic Horror” is a matinee thriller that makes you wonder whether you are safe at any given point in time because of the unseen menace that might be ravaging you and you aren’t even aware of it. Yikes. The title track is a little frantic, and it has an otherworldly ambiance. The anchor is “Protoplasmic Transformation,” a tropical storm in a bathysphere. The sparkling lead guitar is an early highlight, and the rhythm section shines throughout. I love the peppery chop of the riff on the intervening moments, and the echoey return of the lead guitar is a welcome haunting. Recommended.
The physical CDs for Plasmodulated are out August 26th through Personal Records, and you can stream the digital now at Bandcamp and elsewhere.
The debut full-length album from Dublin’s Coscradh is a menacing dark wonder.
Formed in Ireland in 2015, Coscradh is a death metal band that integrates black metal and doom elements to produce profoundly heavy music. They have released a demo and a couple of EPs over the years, and now they present their first long-player, Nahanagan Stadial.
The title of the album refers to a time in history usually called the Younger Dryas in the US. It is thought to be a time of cataclysm, with meteor impacts and coronal mass ejections from the sun causing the sudden onset of a short-lived ice age that destroyed civilizations across the globe. In Ireland, these events wreaked havoc, decimating the population and driving them off. Keep this in mind when you listen to the album, because that is what it’s about.
The set opens with the title track. It sounds like a catastrophe is underway. You can hear and feel the destruction; if you close your eyes you can see it. Guitar riffs impact you like granite slabs dropped from a great height, pulverizing your senses. The vocalizations are warnings that come too late. The lead guitar describes the rending of reality, and the grimy end to your own existence. The track is ten minutes long and there is no respite at any point.
“Feast of the Epiphany” follows and it is more actively aggressive, like an attack. You might say this track leans more in on the death metal side than doom, and ends in screaming. “Plagues of Knowth” offers a similar pace, even faster, in fact. The music breaks into chaos in the second half and your ability to reason flees as well. “Cladh Hàlainn” is a black metal upheaval, a rattling so severe its echoes might never leave your ears.
The record ends on the twelve-minute epic “Feallaire Dóite.” The mass of the doom in this song has a planetary equivalent. There are pace changes throughout, and magnitude of the musical presence remains dense. For a time, you can hear the howling wind of the ice age grow and the whispering of lost souls freezing in their places of ethereal torment. The is album is a dark destructive wonder. Recommended.
Nahanagan Stadial is out on Friday, August 5th through Invictus productions. Stream sample tracks for free and buy the album at the Bandcamp link below.
Irish grindcore band Abaddon Incarnate release their sixth album, The Wretched Sermon.
Abaddon Incarnate started out in the early nineties, and even before that under a different name. They broke ground with black metal and death metal, evolving over time toward the grindcore side of the field. It has been eight years since their last long-player, Pessimist, and fans are more than ready for new music. The band is Steve Maher (vocals, guitar), Bill Whelan (guitar), Irene Siragusa (bass), and Olan Parkinson (drums).
There are thirteen tracks on the new album, mostly in the short and savage territory. To wit, “Rising Of The Lights,” which opens the show. It is bewilderingly aggressive at the jump, with screeching vocals and positively pummeling percussion. “Veritas,” at seventy-seven seconds, is even more to the point. It is amazing how much the musicians can pack into to such a compact delivery vessel, from the squealing guitar instantiations to the insistent pulsing bass, the music is designed to disrupt.
With so many short, fast, loud songs, you might worry they’ll all run together, but they absolutely don’t. “Gateways,” one of my top picks from the album, has a killer lead break and a dire, eerie atmosphere unique to it – no other track on the album sounds like it at all. “Parasite” breaks sour and twists you up while “Into The Maelstrom” is a slight of hand behind a dark veil that raises a sense of terror throughout. Great song. “Resurrected From A Mass Grave” has a delightfully caustic groove.
The brevity works to advantage, overall – get in, do it, get out. “Isolation And Decay” is a long piece that stands apart because of its size and, more importantly, due to its unique construction. The song contains a few movements and pace shifts, although the intent itself never dissipates even when the sounds move from valley to mountain to sea. The last word is “Silent Indifference,” and it takes the set out on a howl. Killer track.
If you haven’t heard Abaddon Incarnate yet, it is time to get with it. Start here, because this album will shake you up. Recommended.
The Wretched Sermon is out on Friday, August 5th through Transcending Obscurity Records. Touch the links below.
Hypervirulence Architecture is the new album from Hissing.
With three EPs and a long-player under their belt, Seattle’s Hissing brings out a new full-length album, Hypervirulence Architecture. Having begun only in 2015, this is a notable record of musical creation from the highly respected death and black metal band. The musicians are Zach Wise (bass, vocals), Joe O’Malley (guitar), and Sam Pickel (drums).
This new record is noticeably different from their debut album, Permanent Destitution (2018). The press release gets it right when it notes that, on Hypervirulence Architecture, “the trio take their sound into more nightmarish, trance-inducing, mercurial, and mind-altering sonic dominions.” They achieve a delicate balance between what we might think of as death metal and black metal, while making concerted use of ambient/noise moments constructed sometimes almost ritualistically. It is a sinister blend.
“Cells of Nonbeing” is the first of seven tracks. It sounds for all the world like a frantic casting about in a dark cave that might very well be an abyss. The farther in you go, the more mysterious it becomes. The guitars lean toward dissonance part of the time, and the vocals are not meant to be reassuring. “Hostile Absurdity” further loosens the moorings you thought were secure, leaving you to drift into dangerous regions. “Operant Extinction” is then unleashed, and it is the most impressive track on the album. An epic piece, running over ten minutes, it is fascinatingly doomy and filled in every space with dark and frightening looks.
The second half of the album starts with a transition piece, “Hypervirulence,” then kicks in the door with “Intrusion,” a song that builds tension to the bursting point. “Identical To Hunger” and “Meltdown” are reflected images – visions distorted by a warped onyx glass. Listening to these last two tracks, I began to feel appropriated by some existential object that could not be clearly discerned. This album will affect you. Recommended.
Hypervirulence Architecture is out now through Profound Lore Records. Have a look at the label’s website and/or pick the album up at Bandcamp.
Canadian death metal band Wake release their sixth album, Thought Form Descent.
From Calgary, Alberta, heavy music band Wake has built a career by being different, not just from other bands but also from their previous selves. Moving from grindcore and crust toward black and death metal, combining and fusing them, and adding whatever was right and deemed needed is a hallmark of Wake. Over the course of five previous long-players, a couple of EPs, and split, the music is as reliably earnest and unpredictable.
There are eight tracks on the new album. “Infinite Inward” opens like a melodic death metal song and travels on an arc that leads to more extreme environments. “Swallow The Light” has a rambler kind of feel to it in the opening bars, reminding me a little of Mastodon. “Mourning Dirge (Repose of the Dead)” completes the first triplet, sounding for all the universe like a battling starship in an uncertain scrap that could go either way.
After a transition piece, “Venerate (The Undoing of All)” leads the way into part two. The song is a big production with dramatic presentations throughout, pushing even more than the previous pieces, and that is saying something as, up to this point, the album has already been intense. “Observer to Master” plasters rage across the horizon, and then does it again, and then does it some more. “Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher” puts me in mind of sorcery and has me thinking the world is not what it seems to be on the surface. This is a steady one that climbs a mountain then explores the coastline on the other side. Unsatisfied, the music presses on to reveal horrors buried deep. That is where it leaves you. “The Translation of Deaths” is a short reflective cooldown.
I presumed this album would diverge from the previous one because the previous ones had done that very thing to their predecessors. The new album lived up to that expectation and, more than that, provided active entertainment, drama, and opportunities for introspection. Recommended.
Thought Form Descent is out through Metal Blade Records on Friday, July 22nd. Explore the possibilities at the links below.
Rotting in the Aftermath is the fourth full-length album from Edmonton’s Begrime Exemious.
Begrime Exemious is a Canadian heavy metal band that formed in 2005. They have had a rich recording career, counting three long-players, four EPs, a couple of splits, a demo, and even more than that. They have been a bit quiet on the recording front recently, with their previous full-length album, The Enslavement Conquest, coming out in 2016. The music is a kind of death metal ~ black metal crossover with plenty of catchy entreaties to draw your gaze. The band is Derek Orthner (vocals, guitar), Franky Thibaudeau (guitar, vocals), Alasdair Rintoul (bass), and Lee Norland (drums).
“Cruel Mistress” rolls out a serious presentation to get the set going. Determined, driving riffs swing the hook first to lay the groundwork for the growling vocals that follow. The lead guitar argument is convincing, then we are back onto the metal-forging framework. “Breach The Stronghold” follows, and the pace picks up a tick, as does the urgency. The rhythm inveigles and before you know it, you’re cooked. This is an excellent start and a good introduction to the band if you haven’t heard them before.
“Infected Mind” offers an extremely dreary view of the world gazing into the abyss (or the other way around, maybe). Doom tones cloak the sullen atmosphere while the guitars do their dastardly work. “As Bodies Collapse” has a more of dark theater to it, painting the edges with flourishes and sinister nods and creating an intricate design.
No matter the track, there is a nudging stroke in every song, propelling it forward and taking you along for the ride. You can count on a feast for your senses – both aural and mental – in every chapter of this book. Recommended.
Rotting in the Aftermath is out on Friday, July 8th through Dark Descent Records. Have a look at their on-line shop at the link below.