Black Void, Antithesis (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The flipped coin lands on the Black Void side with Antithesis.

Norwegian band White Void plays a luxurious sort of heavy music; bright and melodic. Black Void is looking at the world from a different perspective. Not like Janus, not to me anyway. These two forces exist together. I read this description of Black Void: “a musical equivalent of a punk with a Mohawk fighting a dude in corpse paint.” I’ll take that one, too. White Void put out a successful album last year, and now we have this alternate look on the world from Black Void, Antithesis. The band is Jostein Thomassen (guitar), Tobias Øymo Solbakk (drums), and Lars Are Nedland (vocals, bass).

The music is described more formally as a combination of black metal and punk. Whenever I hear those two mentioned together my mind immediately skips to Venom, but that is not where Black Void goes. There is a punk sensibility throughout, and you can hear black metal twinges, but they are much more subdued. There are many hooks and catchy moments, and there are also frequent melodic passages. The perfect example is “Tenebrism Of Life,” which has gruff vocals and an aggressive guitar attack. I also offers singable moments and toys with pop-punk catchiness. It is an excellent hard-edged song that gets right in your head.

Top picks for me on the album are “It’s Not Surgery, It’s A Knife Fight” and “Void.” Both of these have the kind of punkitude that brightened me up and made me want to punch the air. The final two songs on the set are heavy hitters, too: “Nihil” and “Dadaist Disgust.” The band has talked about the nihilist aspects (Nietzsche) and the influence of Dadaism on this set. If you are looking for it, go to the end and work your way back toward the beginning. You will not be disappointed. I don’t know what White Void fans will think of Black Void, but I think this record is great. Recommended.

Antithesis is out on Friday, May 27th through Nuclear Blast Records. More info at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://blckvod.bandcamp.com/album/antithesis

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

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/black-void-antithesis.html

© Wayne Edwards

Black Void, Antithesis (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Predatory Light, Death And The Twilight Hours (20 Buck Spin 2022)

The second full-length album from Predatory Light will shatter your expectations about technical blackened doom: Death And The Twilight Hours.

It has been six years since Predatory Light released their self-titled debut long-player. That is a tough wait for fans, but they have truly come through on the new one, which is one of the best albums I have heard so far this year. The musicians in the band seem to prefer going by initials alone, so we don’t know that much about them, except what we can discern by listening to their compositions. When we do we find elements of black metal, doom, and technical expressions that cannot be achieved by just anyone. The alchemy they practice is rare indeed.

“The Three Living And The Three Dead” is like a walk through a deadly carnival. Bright lights and dark delights splash at you at first, but eventually you see deeper in and the doom descends. The metal does not relent despite the nearly fourteen minute running time. This is a decadent suite of sinister wonders. The next track, “Wracked By Sacred Fires,” is very different in tone and execution, even though the first bars seemed like a callback. It is more explicitly in the black metal mold, and still the differences that Predatory Light own are astonishing. The music is aggressively engaging, but not with hooks or even riffs, really. Still, it is the construction of the guitar parts that pushes the songs to the next level.

“Death And The Twilight Hours” rolls out the doom at the front with sweeping, lead-heavy riffs and ponderous percussion. A minute and a half deep, the growling comes in and that indefatigable guitar, asserting and claiming new ground. The doom does return but does not overtake the established reality for long. And then there is the final track, “To Plead Like Angels,” which commits at the jump to pace and ingenuity. This exceptional album surprised me at every turn, on each and every one of its four tracks. Excellent. Highly recommended.

Death And The Twilight Hours is out today, Friday, May 20th through 20 Buck Spin. The quick snap is Bandcamp, and you can also get it at the label’s website. Links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/death-and-the-twilight-hours

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

© Wayne Edwards

Predatory Light, Death And The Twilight Hours (20 Buck Spin 2022)

Bog Body, Cryonic Crevasse Cult (Profound Lore 2022)

Bog Body brings forth their first full-length album, Cryonic Crevasse Cult.

Not your typical death metal band, Bog Body is made up entirely of vocals, bass, and percussion generated from two musicians. Putting out a demo in 2018, Through the Burial Bog, and a split with Primitive Warfare in 2020, The Gate Of Grief, you might wonder if they have anything else to say. It turns out that’s a yes.

Think about it for a minute. Bass and drums and vocals. Is that enough? It is certainly a lane, and the limiting choice of instruments narrows the avenues for expression. Then again, it requires the composers to be especially creative if they are to achieve anything fans want to hear. I think they have done it.

The music is death metal, heavy on the sludge, and it leans toward black metal sentience, metered down a bit. The bass lines are doing some heavy lifting here, as you might expect. Speed comes from the percussion first in the absence of guitar, and the bass line keeps up. The vocals exist in a muted blackened doom metal realm.

There is a welcome variety in the music as we roll through. “Ice Stained Kurgan” has a deep, mysterious formulation to it, while songs like the title track are high velocity poundings. The set opens on “Paralytic Pit of Swallowed Graves” and closes with “The Graveyard Of Dead Cratons,” two songs that, musically, stand well apart. Indeed, while “Paralytic” is a mood-setter and serves to orient expectations for the rest of the album, “Graveyard” is my favorite track for its firm stance on its own identity. The commitment to heavy music is present throughout, and I can say no other band sounds quite like Bog Body. Recommended.

Cryonic Crevasse Cult is out on Friday, May 20th through Profound Lore Records in digital and on CD.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://bog-body.bandcamp.com/

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

Profound Lore Records, https://profoundlorerecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Bog Body, Cryonic Crevasse Cult (Profound Lore 2022)

Haunter, Discarnate Ails (Profound Lore 2022)

Texas death metal band Haunter pull out the stops on their new album, Discarnate Ails.

Centered in Austin, Haunter came together in 2013. The music they make is a fusion of black and death metal elevated by progressive percolations. Combining subgenres is not new, of course, but the level of success achieved depends on the way the mixing is done. Haunter always gets it right, and they are top-of-the-line experts if their last record, Sacramental Death Qualia (2019), is any measure. There is an arc to the band’s career that, given Discarnate Ails, appears to be heading upward. Listed musicians on the new album are Bradley Tiffin (vocals, guitar), Enrique Bonilla (guitar), and Cole Tucker (bass).

There are three long tracks on the album. “Overgrown With The Moss” opens the set with gentle discovery. It is as if you are wandering through a forest that slowly turns darkly magical as you pass through it. You notice a raised placed in the earth. You go over to investigate and, brushing aside the overgrowth, you unleash something unimaginable. The black metal is there, and the wonder of progressive ingenuity is too – that is what supports the ten-minute-plus running time and maintains your interest through all the valleys and crypts and plains.

“Spiritual Illness” clangs out brusquely, and has the feeling of an attack. “Chained At The Helm Of The Eschaton,” on the other hand, is filled with mystery and wonder in its opening melody and has a resonating cooldown that is beautiful to hear. All three tracks have their own unique postures and progressions, and they all are mesmerizing. Recommended.

Discarnate Ails is out on Friday, May 6th through Profound Lore Records. Take note also that Haunter is scheduled to perform at Fire In The Mountains this year, a unique music festival held at the Heart Six Ranch in the Tetons. If you can get there, definitely do it because it will be an experience like no other. Links to the record and the festival appear below.

Band photo by Oscar Moreno.

Links.

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

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

Profound Lore Records, https://profoundlorerecords.com/

Fire In The Mountains Festival, https://fitmfest.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Haunter, Discarnate Ails (Profound Lore 2022)

Watain, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Notorious black metal band Watain release their seventh studio album on an unsuspecting world, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain.

It has been almost twenty-five years that Watain has stalked the earth now. This black metal band from Sweden has a reputation like no other, building loyal fans from all over the world by creating unique dark music with no compromises. Their first full-length album, Rabid Death’s Curse (2000), was a sign to anyone who wanted to read it, and the promises made then are fulfilled with every new set.

Anyone who has seen Watain live surely has a story about the experience. It is a journey bathed in darkness. The band has found a way to capture the live experience more essentially than ever before with the new album, which was itself recorded live in the studio, where founding members Erik Danielsson, Håkan Jonsson, and Pelle Forsberg, were joined by Alvaro Lillo, Hampus Eriksson, and Emil Forcas.

“Ecstasies In Night Infinite” breaks through the veil first with an unrelenting, monstrous assault. The combination of the roaring speed with cascading riffs overlaid by a black lace of cogent lyrical hooks is a structure that stands up to the many twists and turns presented. The vocals are coarse and intimately discernable; the lead breaks are savage and crackling. Watain stands alone in the way they combine dark, heavy elements into music that is approachable in the groove and complex on every individual layer as well as in the spaces between them. Just listen and you will hear it in every song.

“The Howling” is next, and it offers us more of everything from other angles we hadn’t contemplated before. The groove is seductive and black metal is razor sharp. “Serimosa” shows a down-shifted tempo perspective with theatrical balancing, further demonstrating the variety and complexity of the music Watain presents on this album. “Leper’s Grace” is another example of the unexpected in rhythm and pace – it is one of my favorites from the set as it left me tipsy by the halfway mark.

“Before The Cataclysm” is especially eerie, and that is saying something in the context of this music. Here again, it is the fascinating combination of elements that are themselves individually stunning and somehow, in their amalgamation, rise to another place altogether. “Septentrion” brings the curtain down in a grand fashion, hearkening to the mystery and wonder of the spaces in the cold dark north. It is an enduring culmination.

This music is not meant for the weak of heart or mind. The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain is out through Nuclear Blast Records on Friday, April 29th. Recommended.

Live photos by Wayne Edwards, Webster Theater, Hartford, 2019.

Links.

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

Bandcamp, https://watainsom.bandcamp.com/album/the-agony-ecstasy-of-watain

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/watain

© Wayne Edwards

Watain, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast 2022)

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)

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)

Abhorrent Expanse, Gateways To Resplendence (Amalgam Music /Lurker Bias 2022)

The debut album from Abhorrent Expanse is a heavy music exploration that challenges accurate description: Gateways To Resplendence.

Abhorrent Expanse is an “avant/improvisational metal quartet” that combines a variety of ideas to form unusual heavy music shapes. This manner of musical creation often has hit-or-miss outcomes with listeners and not much middle ground. Essentially, you have to listen yourself and see what you think. Recommendations are of little use. On this set, the band is Luke Polipnick (vocals, guitar), Erik Fratzke (guitar, bass, keys), Brian Courage (bass, organ pedals), and Tim Glenn (drums, percussion).

It has been said in the promo materials that this album “articulates the unspeakable dread which dwells in the sepulchral caverns of the mind. A grotesquely improvised manifesto plumbing from the depths of blackened death, funeral doom, noise, and free jazz, it defies the listener to decipher its riddles and confront its paradoxes.” I was looking out for all this while I listened. My ears were up for funeral doom especially. It is all in there.

Remember the first time you heard Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma and you read the title of the song “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” and then you listened to the music and wondered what the fuck the one thing had to do with the other? Same thing here, except with a mad mash-up of heavy music ideas.

There are ten tracks on the album, ranging from the quite short to the more-than-fourteen-minute variety. Black Metal lives here and emerges on a recurring basis in the longer pieces. The improvisational jazz aspects come up on the regular as well to clap your ears. There are two big pieces – “Annihilation Operators” and “Arcturian Nano Diamonds from the Tranquil Abyss” – along with a considerable collection of interstitial material. The big events are complex and fascinating. They take you through all manner of emotions and experiences. Strap in because they are a ride.

Of the shorter tracks, I especially like “Frost Suffocation” as it feels like the title is happening to you while you listen. It is hectic and frightening at times, and also has long passages most drear. Excellent. Also, “Against the Churning Void, Apparitions of a Lost and Glorious Starscape,” which I found quite lithe with deepening edges.

This is certainly not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and heavy music fans searching for the edges of the genre will like the journey, too. I am always up for an adventure so this one gets a recommendation from me.

The story unfolds on Friday, April 8th through Amalgam Music on CD and digital, and Lurker Bias has the cassette. Check out the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://music.amalgamusic.org/album/gateways-to-resplendence

Lurker Bias, https://lurkerbias.bandcamp.com/

Amalgam Music, https://www.amalgamusic.org/

© Wayne Edwards.

Abhorrent Expanse, Gateways To Resplendence (Amalgam Music /Lurker Bias 2022)

Stricken, From A Well Of Emptiness, A Stygian Serpent Born (HPGD 2022)

Heavy doomers Stricken shake the Seattle mist off to throw out a new long-player, From A Well Of Emptiness, A Stygian Serpent Born.

Stricken materialized in the Pacific Northwest around 2017, releasing a three-song demo the following year. Sometimes described as blackened doom metal, their music sounds more like a death metal / doom metal crossover to me – but what’s in a title anyway? The songs are heavy and grim in the best possible way. The Metal Archives tells us the musicians are Rob Ropkins (bass and vocals), Chris Wozniak (drums), and Nick Charlton (guitar).

Over the course of seven big tracks, Stricken puts suffering, misery, and hopelessness to music. To wit, the aptly titled opener “Consuming Misery” is an avalanche of mourning. Surprisingly peppy percussion channels the heavy riffs into a primordial swirl. “Divine Appointment” follows with shuddering drama. Ropkins’ vocals are strong, and project a soaring quality. You have to admire the consistency and enthusiasm of the pummeling rhythm.

“Sacrifice” is the heaviest song of the first side, and that gives it an elevated position in my mind. I can’t get enough doom, and this one lays down three strong merciless minutes of it then picks up the pace a bit and steamrolls on.

Every track has something particularly notable about it from the great buried hook in “Eon” to echoing tragedy of “Dishonored In Death” to penetrating inevitability of “Sudden Fall.” The closer is the epic “Beyond The Void,” hoisting metal heavy enough to smother any remaining resistance from you. This new Stricken album needs to be in heavy rotation. Recommended.

From A Well Of Emptiness, A Stygian Serpent Born is out on Friday, March 25th through Horror Pain Gore Death Productions on digital and limited-run CD. You can also grab a shirt if the spirit moves you.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/from-a-well-of-emptiness-a-stygian-serpent-born

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/stricken.seattle

Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, https://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Stricken, From A Well Of Emptiness, A Stygian Serpent Born (HPGD 2022)