Rivers of Nihil, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The new album from Rivers of Nihil reaches out more broadly than any of their previous work.

Pennsylvania metal band Rivers of Nihil have been on a journey since 2009. Releasing a couple of EPs in the early days and then three increasingly complex long-players after that, they have always established their own direction and followed it, never appearing to take cues from the outside world. That approach has made them one of the most unique metal bands around, and their new album, The Work, plays into their strengths.

The opening track, “The Tower,” is melodic, sad, and beautiful. Slowly it turns darker, even deploying a saxophone for a deepening sense of melancholy. The guitars and coarse vocals do not appear until well past the halfway mark. This song is not an anomaly. The album traverses the known universe of musical expression.

“Dreaming Black Clockwork” is more what I expected to hear on the album – harsh, technical metal rolled out with persistent aggression. Once it gets its teeth into you it shakes you hard and doesn’t let go. There is a creepy, quiet section and a dissonant exit.

The third song is “Wait” and it is a ballad. Indeed, there is clean singing throughout to go along with the brutal vocals on heavier tracks. “Maybe One Day” is another example of a quiet song, and it is reminiscent of Pink Floyd in the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason days. There are a lot of different musical ideas ebbing, flowing, and combining on the album.

While my favorite tracks are the ones like “The Void from Which No Sound Escapes” that have savage, visceral elements interspersed with quieter, more contemplative passages, there is no track I would skip. From the straight-up ragers to the buttoned-down meditations, The Work promises a lot and delivers even more.

Since I first heard Rivers of Nihil at Heavy Montreal a couple years back, they have been high on my list of metal acts. They have never been easy to label and this new album is going to make it even harder to pigeonhole them. To me, that makes their music even more appealing. Recommended.

September 24th is the Friday when The Work appears. Snap it up at your local record store, the Metal Blade shop, or Bandcamp.

Band photo by Mike Truehart.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://riversofnihil.bandcamp.com/album/the-work

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

Rivers of Nihil website, https://www.riversofnihil.com/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/riversofnihil/

Rivers of Nihil, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Carcass, Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast 2021)

The new Carcass album is a raucous affair, filled with sinister chuckles and Torn Arteries.

Carcass is such a well-known band I don’t think much background is needed here. Their history is fascinating, being on the forefront of Death- and Goregrind, and later also being influential in the early days of Melodic Death Metal. The initial run was in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, then they reformed in 2007. Since that renaissance, they have released EPs, splits, and the full-length Surgical Steel in 2013. The new album is the band’s seventh long-player, if I counted right, and it is a rager.

The title track is the opener and it spins directly at you with a vigorous multifaceted attack. The vocals are gruff and full, the riffs and percussion are fireworks set on solid steel poles, and the lead work is aching and familiar. Without a breath, “Dance of Ixtab” whips in with active parallel rhythm that fosters direct and immediate catchiness. And then “Eleanor Rigor Mortis.” Come on. Is there any way you are not going to love a Carcass song with a title like this? No, no way. It is an excellent entry that features a vocal-lead guitar pairing. And we are still on side one.

“Under The Scalpel Blade” has a slower tempo up front, and “The Devil Rides Out” does Dennis Wheatley (and also Hammer Studios) proud. “Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited” is the longest track, landing at ten minutes, and it is a theatrical presentation with a compellingly dramatic arc that manages sorrow and anguish, terror and regret in the fullness of its articulation. The final strokes occur on “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing,” the fittingest of all possible closers.

It has been eight years since the last big album from Carcass so I expected Torn Arteries to be something special. It turns out I was right – it is instantly one of my favorites in their distinguished and storied catalogue. Highly recommended.

Torn Arteries is out through Nuclear Blast Records on Friday, September 17th. Join the fray.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://carcass.bandcamp.com/album/torn-arteries

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

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/vinyl/2lp/carcass-torn-arteries-red-.html

Carcass, Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast 2021)

At The Gates, The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media 2021)

The seventh studio album from At The Gates is a progressive take on the condition of existence.

For more than thirty years the Melodic Death Metal band from Sweden, At The Gates, has been a consistent creator of heavy music. From The Red in the Sky Is Ours (1994) to 2018’s To Drink from the Night Itself, you could always count on them for compelling new metal that rang out in ways you’d never heard before. And here we see that again on the new album, The Nightmare Of Being.

The band – Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Martin Larsson (guitar), Jonas Björler (bass), Adrian Erlandsson (drums), and Jonas Stålhammar (guitar) – expertly executes an expanded palette of composition that embraces progressive metal elements more extensively than fans might have anticipated. An outlying example is “Garden of Cyrus” which features a saxophone – not an instrument you hear on a lot of death metal albums, but one that fits perfectly in this song, complementing gruff vocals and lyrical guitars. Still, it was a surprise to hear it

Not every song is an oddity. Long-time fans and newcomers looking for heavy, crushing metal are going to find it here, too. In most cases, the songs have more than one movement that is reached through effluence or stark shift, each standing in seeming, if not actual, juxtaposition to its neighboring fellows. The complexity of the music is one of its most attractive features.

The new album does sound different in many ways compared to early work of the band. For me it is a fitting addition to the canon of At The Gates and it is a strong sign of the continuing vibrancy of the musicians. Recommended.

The Nightmare Of Being is out now from Century Media in a plethora of versions. You can get it all over.

Links.

Website, http://atthegates.se/

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

Century Media, https://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=729

At The Gates, The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media 2021)

Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Generated in a singularity, Dungeon Serpent’s new album World Of Sorrows is executed with aplomb.

The soul member of the band is Arawn, and he has to do it all from vocals to guitars to drum programming. That is a lot to ask and there are many examples of one-man-bands out there. Arawn, and Dungeon Serpent, is the exception, operating at the high end of the spectrum in composition and performance. World of Sorrows is the first album from the solo act, following an earlier two-song demo.

“Necroscope” starts the set off with a straight up death metal attack. Heavy and driving, this song should be the single. Fittingly, there is a YouTube video to go along with it and that makes sense because it is an excellent introduction to the album. “Decay” is next and it starts aggressively, too, but by the end the first melodic elements appear, and the ending is light and ethereal.

There is not much of a break as “Immortal Incubation” is a wild ride, while “Cosmic Sorcery,” my favorite track, offers moments of respite as part of the broader heavy. The closer is the longest song, the title track, “World of Sorrows.” It has an epic metal feel to it, big in its ideas and full in its production. The progression runs through the edge of doom to straight-up death metal to those gentler and spare melodic elements. In many ways it is like a suite, as we might expect in a long piece. It is just the right finale and nightcap.

World of Sorrows is out on Friday, July 16th through the ever-reliable Bandcamp as well as the Nameless Grave Records store. Recommended.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://dungeonserpentmdm.bandcamp.com/album/world-of-sorrows

Nameless Grave Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/NamelessGraveRecords

Nameless Grave Records, https://namelessgraverecords.com/

Dungeon Serpent YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChdc80haQRpzS_T4RXL92Rg

Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Assault, In Aevum Et Illustrata (Eastbreath Records 2021)

Singapore metallers bring the sophomore singe with their second album, In Aevum Et Illustrata.

Assault has been around for fifteen years. Their first EP, The Exceptions of the Rebellions, came out in 2011 and was followed in 2017 by the long-player, The Fallen Reich. Along the way they have been honing their skills and producing increasingly complex and memorable music. The band members are known by single names: Noh (guitar), Clarence (vocal),  Hanesh (guitar), Mitch (drums), and Syaz (bass).

The new album has nine tracks, including a short intro bit. The title is In Aevum Et Illustrata and can be translated into English as “In the Age of the Enlightened.” The first proper song starts off at a blistering pace, “Oration of Lies.” It has a very clippy riff and a standard structure, including a technically astute lead break just past the middle. The song diverges then from the regular with a pulsing attack from the rhythm section and an aggressive exit strategy. Innovative and well done. The next song, “MDCCLXXVI Novus Ordo Seclorum” throws in some keys, a soft acoustic section, and other surprises. And then comes “Age of Enlightenment” with its tense, nerve-rattling, rampaging guitar riffs. There is no rest to be had from start to finish on this album.

The music does fit into the category of melodic death metal, and it has a lot of thrash elements, too. The writing is refreshing and I appreciate the effective use of the bass throughout. There is a lot to take in on this set, and all of it is good. If you are new to Assault, this is a good jumping on point. Recommended.

In Aevum Et Illustrata is out now from Eastbreath Records on CD and digital. In the US, Bandcamp is the place to get it.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://eastbreathrecords.bandcamp.com/album/in-aevum-et-illustrata

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

Assault, In Aevum Et Illustrata (Eastbreath Records 2021)

The Absence, Coffinized (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The fifth album from Tampa, Florida metalists The Absence is a tour of dark imaginings.

Melodic Death Metal is a popular lane for heavy music these days, and one of the premiere bands creating it is The Absence. For nearly twenty years and through four previous albums, The Absence has charted its way through the mire of possibilities by producing music exactly the way they wanted to, and fans have responded. Now comes Coffinized, another chapter in the band’s growing legacy.

The album opens with the title track, and it is a dismal wind blowing arctic devastation that at first seems like a dirge but soon enough starts swinging a metal hammer. The compositional approach is compartmentalized ideas stitched seamlessly together that will turn you this way and that until the disequilibrium makes you see the truth in the void.

“Future Terminal” has a clever and catchy vocal/guitar duet in a the chorus that stays with you after the close, as does the explanatory lead break near the middle. The songs are heavy and driving, fast and churning. “Choirs of Sickness” is incredible in the way it establishes drama, while a song like “Black Providence” is much more eerie and sinister in its approach. “Discordia” screeches and “Faith In Uncreation” delivers speed and depth (and has a truly bizarre ending after a few moments of silence – it is better if you just hear it without me describing it in advance).

Every song is its own microcosm while being undeniably a part of the greater whole. I have listened to The Absence consistently through the years and always liked their music. This new album reinvigorates my interest and takes it to a new level. Recommended.

Coffinized comes out tomorrow, Friday, June 25th from M-Theory Audio.

Links.

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

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

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/

The Absence, Coffinized (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Eye Of Purgatory, The Lighthouse (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The sophomore album from Eye Of Purgatory achieves new levels of breadth and captivation.

The band’s first album, The Rotting Enigma, came out in 2018. Helmed by the indefatigable Rogga Johansson, that inaugural issue was a fiery burst of Death Metal remembered especially for the ten minute opus “The Hause on the Edge of Hell.” The new album is more expansive in its compositional idiom while staying true to the old school metal framework. Johansson is joined in the studio by Taylor Nordberg (drums, guitar, keys) and Jeramie Kling (bass).

There are eight tracks on The Lighthouse after the intro instrumental bit, most of them punching in at the four minute interval – they could all be singles. It is mid- and up-tempo work, notable and marked by the generous use of keyboards which, let’s face it, are not a Death Metal standard. On this album the keys fit right in and would be sorely missed if absent.

The roughened voice is a dominant force in every piece, sharing space and prominence on a revolving basis with the other instruments. Clever twiddles abound, always surround and bolstered by solid guitar riffs.

The narrative elements on the new album are more dark fantasy in origin compared to the earlier release which focused narrowly on horror ideas. I think the myth and mysteries fits the music a bit better and that makes me like this set even more. From the opening “The Lighthouse” to the final notes of the closer “Rebirth,” there is a constantly maneuvering maelstrom of metal that blends the wizened old school sensibility with a Melodic Death Metal tincture to produce a literary-lace musical theater. Rogga Johansson strikes again. Recommended.

The Lighthouse is out now from Transcending Obscurity. Bandcamp is the place to get it in all its forms.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://eyeofpurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/the-lighthouse-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity Records, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/band/eye-of-purgatory

Eye Of Purgatory, The Lighthouse (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Dark The Suns, Suru Raivosi Sydämeni Pimeydessä (Inverse Records 2021)

Finnish melodic Death Metal band Dark The Suns release their fourth full-length album.

According to the Microsoft translator, the album title Suru Raivosi Sydämeni Pimeydessä is “grief raged in the darkness of my heart” in English. That is the perfect theme for the style of music Dark The Suns creates. The band started as a solo project by Mikko Ojala in 2003, evolving into a duo with Inka Tuomaala. After releasing three albums over the years, the band split up in 2013. The new album is their first music together as Dark The Suns since then.

There are ten songs in the set. The music is theatrical and emotive, cascading between quiet, lyrical moments and big metal explosions. You can get a sharp image in your head while listening, created by the fullness of the composition. For example, the opening track can be described as what we might expect if Danny Elfman wrote Death Metal music. Imagine Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King in a tight frontal shot marching up that crazy hill pumping his arms and moving with purpose in The Nightmare Before Christmas. “Spirit in the Dark” is the perfect music for it. Very theatrical, very full, and a complete vision.

There are symphonic elements throughout, and progressive ones as well. Even with this kind of complexity and attention to drama and presentation the metal music is always still there. The songs land at about radio length, tightly formed and design for impact. In this album you will find power and angst in the loud moments as well as the quiet ones. Recommended.

Suru Raivosi Sydämeni Pimeydessä is out now. You can buy it at Bandcamp and listen through the usual streaming outlets.

Links.

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

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

Label, https://www.inverse.fi/site/

Dark The Suns, Suru Raivosi Sydämeni Pimeydessä (Inverse Records 2021)

Ulthima, Symphony of the Night (Inverse Records 2021)

The first full-length album from Ulthima was ten years in the making and now everyone can hear it.

The band was started in Mexico in 2010 by founders Antonio Valdés (bass) and Ricardo Escobar (guitar). They moved to Finland, the story goes, to pursue music in the environment where so many bands and musicians they admired were from. That is quite a commitment strategy. The originators are joined by Ville Nummisalo (drums), Jon Welti (guitars), Niko Sutinen (keys), and Tuomas Antila (vocals) for the new album.

The music is symphonic metal, really. This arena can contain a large variety of styles ranging from the epic to the operatic. Ulthima makes use of Death Metal ideas and sensibilities and employs keys to create a symphonic surrounding. This has the effect of making the music turn toward the prog side and the technical precision is there as well. Melodic Death Metal is the closest label if we need one for this music, I would say.

The album has nine tracks that have their origins throughout the ten year time span of the band. Listening to them, it is not at all obvious which ones are older and which ones newer as they all have a polished and compositionally mature sound. All the songs are up-tempo and theatrical in a very high-energy sense. I particularly liked “Eternity” and the title track for their creativeness and ingenuity as well as the sharp execution of the score by the band. If you are in a symphonic metal mood, this one is a winner. Recommended.

Symphony of the Night makes its full appearance on Friday, March 19th from Inverse Records. In the US, Bandcamp is the easy way to get the CD or download.

Links.

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

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

Label, https://www.facebook.com/inverserecords

Ulthima, Symphony of the Night (Inverse Records 2021)

Exanimis, Marionnettiste (Klonosphere Records 2021)

New French musical project Exanimis issue their first long-player, Marionnettiste.

The story is that the band “was created by former students of the Music Academy International, who all shared a passion for extreme and technical musical styles and set out to create a sound that merges the atmosphere of horror and fantasy soundtracks with the heaviness and technical intricacies of metal.” So far so good. Looking over the usual internet resources for info on the musicians in the band, not much comes up, suggesting a glistening newness. The only way to know is to listen.

There are nine tracks on the album, including an on- and off-ramp and one brief transition piece in the middle. After one pass, the target does seem to be Dream Theater, although the themes are more along the horror lines, or at the very least, darkening in that direction. The opening segment is a prelude, and it starts out quietly, as they do, building slowly and theatrically to include a bigger sound and a creepy chorus of voices. The first principal song is “The Wrathful Beast,” and it has a very Danny Elfman-esque structure, but even more elaborate and with rapid blasting percussion and big electrical guitar moments to go along with the orchestration. There are a lot of moving parts here, and the lead vocal is of a toned-down death metal variety (meaning not quite as harsh as you might encounter in a typically death metal band).

If it is complex arrangements you are looking for, this is the place. The sheer number of elements is sometimes overwhelming and can seem excessive. Sorting them all out will take more than one listening. And this is just the first relative short piece running only five minutes. The epic is “Cathedral” at the end, clocking in at over sixteen minutes, and it has rivals. This is beyond prog metal. It pushes into a land of its own creation that at times seems like an endless house of mirrors. The music is full, that’s for sure, and it has a heaping dose of metal and dark, edgy thematic constructions. All these things together lead me to recommend the album for the more adventurous métallurgistes out there.

Marionnettiste drops on Friday, March 5th at the label link or Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://weareexanimis.bandcamp.com/releases

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

Label, https://www.klonosphere.com/

Exanimis, Marionnettiste (Klonosphere Records 2021)