Kneel, Ailment review (Raging Planet 2020)

Kneel has released a new album after many years of reckoning and introspection. At least, that is what Ailment seems like.

Kneel is Pedro Mau, with vocals by Filipe Correia. Mau handles all the other instruments and composition. The earlier album from Kneel is 2013’s Interstice, and the new one follows a similar Hardcore / Mathcore tranche. The music is a settled, punishing groove that keeps jumping the tracks.

Each song has a single word for a title which encapsulates the idea or feeling or story. Even more precisely (and generally) than that, Pedro Mau comments on the album, in part, this way: “The accumulation of small problems in our lives can lead us, sooner or later, to situations that can get out of our control.” Some of the songs build this into their own microcosm, and you can also see it as an arc throughout the entire set. It is a long run arc in the sense that your anxiety mounts the longer you listen – the only door you can see rattles on it hinges but instead of flying open to allow for escape it is fusing shut a little more with each passing song.

The halfway point, “Raptorial,” is so harsh and upsetting you start wondering if this is the mental equivalent of a cardiac stress test. But that is the hump, and once over it you have become one of the inhabitants of the world. By the time you get to the closer, “Acuity,” you are unshaken by the rage of the tortuous waves. It is no longer a cacophony. It starts to seem merely like the truth. In a fascinating way, it is the exact opposite of the quotation above – instead of the music spinning out of control, it has become more understandable.

Available now from Raging Planet (Portugal) and Planet K Records (Italy), conveniently sourced through Bandcamp, Ailment will not make you feel better, but it might help you get on with it.

Links.

Kneel Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/seekinsideyourself

Kneel Bandcamp, https://kneel.bandcamp.com/

Raging Planet, http://www.ragingplanet.pt

Planet K Records, https://planetkrecords.bandcamp.com/

Kneel, Ailment review (Raging Planet 2020)

Furnace, Dark Vistas review (Soulseller Records 2020)

Swedish Death Metal band Furnace release their second album this year, Dark Vistas.

Rogga Johansson (guitars, lead vocals) and Peter Svensson (bass, backing vocals) are joined by drummer Lars Demoké for the concept album Dark Vistas. It is astonishing to have a second album this year from Furnace (according to the Metal Archives), most particularly because it is essentially one big story. That is a lot of music, taken together. Maybe it is just a release timing coincidence. In any case, it is great to have both albums out now. The other album is Black Stone Church, and make sure you give it a listen, too. It is very good.

The primary themes on the new one are in the Cthulhu Mythos H. P. Lovecraft created. The dark, magical world of decadence and suffering is the perfect place for Death Metal, and Furnace make the most of the complementarities.

The music is on the Heavy Metal side of Death Metal – that is, melodic and broad with enough of an edge to know there is a knife. The vocals are coarse and decipherable while the tempo hovers in the midrange. Cinematic I would call it.

If you have read Lovecraft, then you will slide right into the narrative of the album. If not, you can catch up as you go along. The music is riff-heavy, leaning on the vocals and guitar harmony rather than big lead breaks. Some of my favorite tracks include “From The Blackest Void” which manages to be dreary and upbeat at the same time, and “The Calling” (released as a single) for its grand scope and its insistent percussion. There is a through line binding the entire set together and so you will hear recurring elements until it is all resolved in the end.

Dark Vistas is out now and available from Soulseller Records. You can also get it at Bandcamp.

Links.

Furnace Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blackstonechurch666/

Soulseller Records Bandcamp, https://soulsellerrecords.bandcamp.com/

Soulseller website, http://www.soulsellerrecords.com/

Furnace, Dark Vistas review (Soulseller Records 2020)

Kira, Peccatum et Blasphemia review (Ossuary Records 2020)

Black Metal band Kira release their second album, Peccatum et Blasphemia.

From the Opoczno, Poland, Kira has quickly built a solid reputation in the heavy music world. Their first album, Ancient Lies, was very straight forward hardcore in its approach. Most songs were three minutes or so long (several shorter) so the musical ideas came in fierce bursts. On the new album, the concepts are somewhat larger and more fully developed, with more elements of doom. The songs are generally longer with a couple over the seven and eight minute mark, allowing for more latitude in composition variety and execution.

“The Fearful One” starts the set off with a wall of threat – a massive coordinated push to make way for the distinctive, demonic vocals. “In the Devil’s Embrace” is a grinding wheel that crushes you with its persistence. “Lord of Hallucinations” begins with a shriek and then opens the door to a Doom Metal clarifier. The song resolves in an absolute frenetic explosion. “Lucifer’s Herald” is yet another perspective with its chopping rhythm and tortured guitar lead.

Throughout the album stories are told in a classic Death and Black Metal style augmented by clever appropriations that are far ranging, from theatrical to sweeping orchestral movements to quieter moments. Songs like “One Gram of Your Soul” border on Funeral Doom while “Necroscience” sets a blistering pace. “Temple of Suffering” could have been written by Danny Elfman if he crossed over to the dark side and started composing Black Metal music. The occult and dark fantasy themes are interesting and engaging, complementing the music. This album will be high on my list for 2020 releases. Highly recommended.

Peccatum et Blasphemia is available now. You can get the album at Ossuary Records or Bandcamp (links below).

Links.

Band Bandcamp, https://kira666.bandcamp.com/

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/KIRANAMELESS

Label, http://ossuaryrecords.com/en/

Kira, Peccatum et Blasphemia review (Ossuary Records 2020)

The Troops of Doom, The Rise of Heresy review (Blood Blast Distribution 2020)

The debut release from Troops of Doom is a Heavy Metal eruption that will be heard in every corner of the Earth.

The band is from Brazil: Jairo “Tormentor” Guedz (guitar), Alex Kafer (bass and vocals), Marcelo Vasco (guitar), and Alexandre Oliveira (drums). You certainly recognize the first person on that list as an original guitarist for Sepultura. The sound of The Troops of Doom has its starting point in early (classic) Death Metal, and from there it grows into its own beast.

The new EP has four original songs and two covers of well-known Sepultura songs. First the originals. “Whispering Dead Words” has an orchestral opening with big brass horns and the full complement. The strangling starts right past the one minute mark. “Inspired by hate / Existence fades away / Burn those bastards / To Infernal flames.” “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is a ripper – fast and furious, with a catchy clomping riff in the middle. “The Confessional” has that steady head banging momentum as well, leading into the title song, which is the track that’s stands out the most for me. “The Rise of Heresy” displays punishing percussion and fierce rhythm riffs standing shoulder to shoulder with the grizzly vocals.

The covers are “Bestial Devastation” from the Bestial Devastation (1985) EP and “Troops of Doom” from Morbid Visions (1986). The new versions certainly sound better given the more recent recording capabilities and the covers are consistent musically with the originals. It is nice to hear them updated and they ring as true in their new incarnations as they did back in the mid-1980s originals.

The Rise of Heresy is available now in the digital and you can get it at Amazon Music and stream it at Spotify. Physical versions are on the horizon and are popping up in various forms around the globe. Think of tracking them down as a quest. Whatever way you consume this music, if you are a fan of Sepultura, you are bound to like The Troops of Doom. Recommended.

Links.

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/thetroopsofdoom/

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkmgbCkDR4PohSI89P14pLg

Blood Blast, http://www.bloodblast.com

Blood Blast Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/BloodBlastDistribution

Amazon Music, https://www.amazon.com/music

The Troops of Doom, The Rise of Heresy review (Blood Blast Distribution 2020)

Kataklysm, Unconquered review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)

The 14th album from Canadian Death Metallers Kataklysm is Unconquered, a massive earth shaker that will pin your ears back and squeeze your brain.

Kataklysm is a band that has been creating music since 1991, and they are mainstays in the heavy scene. Their catalogue is huge, with not only more than a dozen studio albums but also numerous splits, compilations, and live releases as well. Fans have always had something new to look forward to with this band. The musical style has evolved over the years but they have stayed in the heavy lane.

Founders Maurizio Iacono (vocals) and Jean-François Dagenais (guitar) are joined by longtime bass player Stéphane Barbe and Olivier Beaudoin on drums (according to The Metal Archives, James Payne has since taken over on drums). The new album has similarities to the earlier work of the band, and in that way might seem like an homage to the past. The renewed sound has a sustainability to my ear, a strong tint of permanence, pointing more toward a new direction than a nostalgic episode.

A hazy photo of Kataklysm at Heavy Montréal 2019 (photo by Wayne Edwards)

“The Killshot” opens the set, beginning ominously with a quietude we know cannot last. Sure enough. Aggressive drumming blasts ravage even as guitar rhythms offer a stabilizing reassurance that is itself shaken by rare discordant clangs. The vocals are strong and coarse, easily understood, thereby becoming a narrative instrument as well as a musical one. It is a savage start, and rolls right into “Cut Me Down” for more hostility. There is a quiet melody to this song that is lurking in the background, and that makes it even more disturbing.

There is no letting up in this album. Any airy component is accompanied by a frenzied partner that keeps you on edge throughout. This characteristic is exemplified explicitly by “Focused To Destroy You” and more implicitly with songs like “The Way Back Home,” which have plainer lyrical elements living with musical gunfire and lyrics like this: “I’ll dig your grave on my way back home / I’ll gut you out like the pig that you are.” There is no waffling there, or anywhere else throughout. I will renew my prediction that this ferocity is here to stay. Recommended.

Unconquered is out now. Nuclear Blast is offering many versions and bundles – there has to be something there for every fan.

Links.

The band’s site, https://www.kataklysm.ca/

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

Ordering from Nuclear Blast, https://www.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/discography/overview/70940.kataklysm.html

Kataklysm, Unconquered review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)

Plague Years, Circle of Darkness review (eOne Music 2020)

Speed and mayhem are alive and well in Circle of Darkness, the new full-length release from Michigan metallers Plague Years.

From the beginning notes of the band’s first EP, these four Detroit musicians threw down the gauntlet in a clear sign to the world they were here to create hard, fast, crunching metal. Labeled as a crossover band, you can definitely hear Hardcore, Thrash, and Death Metal elements throughout. The new album is a continuation of 2018’s Unholy Infestation, except even faster and darker. The band on Circle of Darkness is Tim Engelhardt (vocals), Eric Lauder (guitar), Rian Staber (bass), and Mike Jurysta (drums).

There isn’t a single band to compare them to because Plague Years combines so many styles and their music shifts and moves in and across the songs in the album. They show a lot of chopping steady guitar rhythms at a mid-tempo speed in narrative moments of songs, then click into phantom blasts and thrashing ramps to sink the spikes in deeper. From the new album, songs like “Eternal Fire” rest on a modulated pace overall but have mystical lead breaks and surprising percussion eruptions that are not externalities but instead are essential elements in the composition. Flat out raging numbers are there too like “Circle of Darkness” and “Play The Victim” – and in these pieces the tempo is set high but there are also echoing ethereal moments and fascinating transition bridges.

Plague Years will get a hook into any metal fan because the range of expression and the variety of their musical appeal allows them to fit in on practically any heavy title card. Recommended.

Circle of Darkness is out this Friday, September 18. You can hear a couple singles already, and preorder the download or a hardcopy in different forms now. Their previous EP Unholy Infestation is on Spotify right now so you can go listen to that to tide you over for a couple of days

Band photo by Rian Staber.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/plagueyearsdet

https://plagueyears.bandcamp.com/

http://www.entertainmentone.com

http://www.facebook.com/eOneMusicUS

Plague Years, Circle of Darkness review (eOne Music 2020)

Jupiterian, Protosapien review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Jupiterian brings another round of atmospheric doom into the world straight from the heart of South America.

The four-piece metal band from São Paulo has been building its reputation in the heavy scene brick by brick over the last five years. Their first album, Aphotic (2015), is an impressive entry into the musical world. It oscillates between a traditional Doom Metal approach and Funeral Doom, pressing forth with a gargantuan heaviness. Terraforming (2017) begins like an ayahuasca chant with “Matriarch” and pushes on to turn and rise like a lumbering, impossibly tall giant tilling the planet for its on purpose and design. These two albums were early signs of things to come – the first two steps.

The latest release begins with heavy brass horns blaring threatening blasts and what sounds the distance metallic pounding of an enormous hammer against the hull of an ancient, derelict spaceship. Dripping water, buzzing insects, and then “Mere Humans” takes off. The sound has a sharp edge along with the weight of the vocal, guitar, and rhythm space. “Voidborn” thrums your sensibilities into raw strips with its insistent, insidious probing, turning almost frantic in the second half. “Capricorn” brings a stormfront of distortion that resolves in a blistering lightning storm, and “Starless” feels like an incarnation of hopelessness. The final song is “Earthling Bloodline.” It is the essence of “Protosapien” and the plain expression of album’s theme. Drawn out, deep growls (as if from the depths of the earth) surrounded and infused by thundering bass and guitar motions, kept on track by relentless, inexorable percussion.

Doom Metal is the organic center of the music from Jupiterian, enhanced by related genres at the command of the composers. Across their three albums there is a movement in the music’s complexity and presence. With the latest release, having heard the first two, you can detect a clairvoyance in the entity that is the music the band has created. Highly recommended.

Protosapien is out now. Transcending Obscurity has some amazing format variants and merch – the vinyl is a genuine showcase for the cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski. The download is available through Bandcamp and other fine vendors.

Band photo by William van der Voort.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/jupiteriansect/

https://jupiterian.bandcamp.com/

https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Jupiterian, Protosapien review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Church of the Dead, Church of the Dead review (Stay Heavy Records 2020)

A few years ago, Church of the Dead was slinging EPs out left, right, and center. Now they are back with a new lead singer and a full-length album.

Operating out of Helsinki, Finland, Church of the Dead has enjoyed a respected place in the local heavy music scene. The band released five EPs between 2013 and 2015: Stay Out of My Grave (2013), Terror Tales (2013), Rave to the Grave (2013), Meet Me in the Tomb (2014), and Forever Dead (2015). Things were quiet for a while after that, until the 2019 single “Rat King” which had a reimagining of “Reanimating the Flesh of the Damned” on the B-side. With all this work and experience under their collective belt, it was clearly time for a full length album.

The musical style is a classic brand of Death Metal – think Celtic Frost with gruffer vocals and you are on the right path. Bolt Thrower is another style similarity. Church of the Dead has additional influences, stylistic nuances, and differences that set them well apart. The line-up now is the same as it has been all along except for the new singer: Jussi Salminen (vocals), Kride Lahti (guitar), Antti Poutanen (bass), and Tommi Makkonen-Viheriälehto (drums).

The music relies on riff and rhythm, and the lead guitar appearances are low key or play a harmony role. Stand-out tracks are “Coffincraft,” which made me nostalgic and wrapped me like a hoary cloak, “Nekrovulture,” because it creates a stout, roaring presence that absolutely rips, and “The Abyss” – the last one being the keystone that holds together the essence of the music in the set and acts like the banner a warring army waves on the battlefield as it advances.

Church of the Dead is out now. The quickest grab is Bandcamp. Most of the earlier EPs are available on Spotify and other streaming services if you want to give them a listen as well. The band’s entire canon is solid. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/ChurchOfTheDead/

https://churchofthedead.bandcamp.com/album/church-of-the-dead

Church of the Dead, Church of the Dead review (Stay Heavy Records 2020)

Oxalate, Infatuating Sickness review (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions 2020)

Oxalate’s latest is an EP that’s a flash of dark conjuring that will close your eyes and poison your mind.

Oxalate is a New York / New Jersey Metal band – The Metal Archives lists them as Death Metal and the occult angle they have makes you think about the darker end of that musical spectrum. The band is (again, from The Metal Archives) Devon Ray (bass, vocals), Jackeline Betancourt (drums, vocals), Chris Albertsen (guitar), and Zakk Mild (guitar). They released the single Dank Sepulchrum in 2018, and independently pushed out Infatuating Sickness in 2019. This year they are on a split with Perpetuated, Blood Spore, and Vivisect, and Infatuating Sickness is getting a new release.

Infatuating Sickness is trudging Black Metal that delivers a consistent eleven minutes and eleven seconds of dire hopelessness. The music relies heavily on the rhythm section and compelling vocals. The guitars get to shine in short lead flurries in “Unwholesome Revelation” and “Dark Ritual,” while they are more prominent parts of “Blood and Sulphur” and right at the end of the title track. I have only heard five songs from this band and I like all of them. I am aching for more. Recommended.

The download for Infatuating Sickness has been out for a while at the band’s Bandcamp page, and the CD, a new download, and merch will be available Friday, September 4 from Horror Pain Gore Death (second link below). The band was also selling a tape and t-shirt bundle through their Facebook page (third link below) earlier this week – check in there and see if any remain.

Links.

https://oxalate.bandcamp.com/

https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/infatuating-sickness

https://www.facebook.com/Oxalateband

http://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

Oxalate, Infatuating Sickness review (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions 2020)

Cult of Lilith, Mara review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Cult of Lilith release their first full-length album, Mara, in a stunning display of far reaching creativity and Prog Metal exploration.

Bands from Reykjavík, Iceland, might have faced isolation obstacles in the past, but in the modern world the distance from and to everywhere else is easily overcome and their music can be accessed and heard by everyone. Cult of Lilith could tell you that. Formed in 2015, they released their first EP, Arkanum, the following year. After adding a new singer from abroad (Spain), the creative forces solidified and the creation of Mara began. The band is Mario Infantes (vocals), Daníel Þór Hannesson (guitar), Kristján Jóhann Júlíusson (guitar), Samúel Örn Böðvarsson (bass), and Kjartan Harðarson (drums).

The music is described as “Necromechanical baroque.” It is a fusion of Death Metal in the tempos and rhythm with Prog Metal in the guitars interlaced with a wide variety of other musical influences ranging from classical to jazz and beyond. The lead guitar work has the speed and technical precision that rivals virtuoso metal bands like Exmortus. That is the Prog side coming out, the extraordinarily high level of musicianship required of the complex compositions. The other elements are expertly laced throughout into a seamless whole.

The album opens with 20 seconds of solo harpsichord before punching out blast beats under a monster guitar riff supporting rapidly shifting vocals, from death-coarse to melodic, all in the first minute. That is “Cosmic Maelstrom.” The lead guitar in the opener is lyrical and swirling, and the song ends in a mad rush. The next song is “Purple Tide,” and it does make you feel like you are at sea. It has a more serious and sinister tone than the previous song, including an almost maniacal screaming and whispering from Infantes. What you start to realize is that, while the compositions are wildly diverse and approach technical perfection, the vocals lead and direct the emotion of the songs. The music remains mostly fast and variegated throughout. Some songs have a slower tempo, like “Atlas,” but that does not stop them from being surprising and filled with creative changes and dodges. And then there are songs like “Profeta Paloma,” which have significant passages that are soft, acoustic moments of quiet and beauty surrounded by chaos. There is no chance to get comfortable listening to this album because there is too much going on. Cult of Lilith truly is a unique experience. Recommended.

While you are waiting for Friday to come, you could go to Spotify and listen to the Arkanum EP. It is exceptional, and a good launching point to get ready for the new (even with the different vocalist, Jón Haukur Pétursson). Plus, two singles are available now in advance of the full set dropping in a couple days on September 4. Metal Blade is offering CDs, vinyl, and downloads, and a t-shirt as well.

Links.

http://www.cultoflilith.com/

https://cultoflilith.bandcamp.com/album/mara

https://www.facebook.com/cultoflilithband

https://metalblade.com/cultoflilith/

Cult of Lilith, Mara review (Metal Blade Records 2020)