Larvae, Entitled To Death (Fucking Kill Records 2023)

Bay area dooming death band Larvae let out their second full-length album, Entitled To Death.

Larvae came together in 2011 in Oakland, California, rolling out the doom and death and black metal that they soon became know for. They released a demo in 2012, then their first long-player in 2014, Grave Descent. Since then, there has been an EP (in 2019), but no other recordings, making the new record an occasion fans have been lined up for years on end. The band is Brad Kobylczak (guitar, vocals), Wyatt Culbertson (bass), and Eric Evert (drums).

The album opens on the title track to squawking sounds, like seagulls. I heavy, dread, doom riff rolls in and crushes whatever lay before it. A rugged trill gets folded in, and the deliberating percussion prepares your mind to the growling vocals. A forlorn lead guitar flows in near the third act and finishes the seven-minute track. Excellent. “Obscure Unknown” cranks the tempo up but dabs just as sinister. It is a wicked track filled with poison and spite. “Of Power and Loss” rides in and straining horses, kicking open a gate of suffering. The weight of the vocals here is oppressive – this song takes your breath away.

You don’t always get a song titled as well as “Open Tomb of Nightmares” – the music fits the bill. If you hear this in your dreams you will wake up screaming. “The Last of Living” put me immediately in mind of my favorite flavor of literature – last man novels, where civilization grinds to a halt because of a plague or some other disaster, and the population dwindles to, finally, a solitary person. This song is not necessarily about that … its tone and structure suits and end of life situation, too. I like the last man interpretation, though, and the crushing doom fits it well. The anchor piece is “The Stars Spelled Death.” This piece is spacey, perhaps ethereal. It is a thinker, and a go way to go out on this excellent doom album. Recommended.

Entitled To Death is out on Friday, April 7th from Fucking Kill Records. Hit the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://larvae.bandcamp.com/album/entitled-to-death

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

Fucking Kill Records, https://fuckingkillrecords.bandcamp.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Larvae, Entitled To Death (Fucking Kill Records 2023)

Owl, Geomancy (Lummox 2023)

California elementalists Owl make a bold return with their third album, Geomancy.

Owl coalesced into being around Oakland, California in the year 2007. Their music is immediately recognizable for its inventive connectiveness. You could call it prog metal, or you might place it in the stoner and heavy psych pods. Whatever the category, it is the engagement that will get you. Their first album came out in 2012, Owl, followed two years later by Screech. Since then, things have been relatively quiet on the recording front until now. The band is Axell Baechle (guitar, vocals, piano), Alexander Baechle (guitar, vocals), Clint Baechle (drums), and Jamie Sanitate (bass).

The album begins with the chaotic “Awaken The Mountain.” It is difficult to know which end is up on this song. In that way, there is a kind of Mothers of Invention calamity going on where the listener rides along the edge of a starburst, catching different elements as they sail by. “Runes” is more straight forward. There is a nice arcane sense to the riffs, and the heavy presence of the bass is a reassuring delight. The vocals are soulful here, luxurious. It is metalled-up rock with a theatrical twist. “Pyramid Builder” quiets things down, shifting into a rural tempo with a little folk witching to stitch it all together. The prog appears clearly first with “Minion Of The Amethyst Cave,” to my ears. If that is what you were waiting for, here it is. It was my favorite track to this point in the album, with its solid and earnest construction. I listened on.

Geomancy is odder than I expected it to be. While I generally do not like surprises, I was pleased to find it this way. There are so many paths to walk along here that you cannot get bored. I am a huge fan of long form structures like the ten-minute “A King For Every Mountain,” and its even longer kin, “Shadow Of Ehe Catl.” There is so much to experience in these dedicated pieces that you cannot get it all in one listening. The top prize, though, goes to “Jupiterean Ocean,” which is an intoxicating elixir from its first notes. The instrumentation is precise and crisp and, with no narrative distraction, the music goes straight to your brain. Whatever you might know about Owl, everything or nothing, the new album will shake you up. Recommended.

Geomancy is out on Friday, February 17th through Lummox Records. It can be had at the links below.

Links.

Owl website, http://www.owlbrotherhood.net/

Bandcamp, https://owlbrotherhood.bandcamp.com/album/geomancy

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

Lummox Records, https://lummoxrecords.bandcamp.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Owl, Geomancy (Lummox 2023)

Blackwülf, Thieves And Liars (Ripple 2023)

Blackwülf is starting off their second decade with a killer album, Thieves And Liars.

Heavy stoner band Blackwülf began in 2012 in Oakland, California. Dedicated to massive riffs and with an on-going nod to the past, they released their first record in 2014, Mind Traveler. Two more followed as the years passed and the reputation of the band grew ever stronger. It has been five years since the last one so fans are chomping at the bit for Thieves And Liars. The band is Scott Peterson (bass), Dave Pankenier (drums), Pete Holmes (guitars), and Alex Cunningham (vocals).

“Shadow” has a nice dark sound, and it gets the set rolling right. There is something very recognizable about this music. In fits and starts. You think you have a bead on it – as in, oh I know where that comes from – and then the music shifts and it’s something else. There is a presence here of 1970s metal and of 1970s rock, coming together in synergy rather conflict. “Seems to Me” pushes the hoary spike in deeper, and in this expression the path trends a bit more linear. Glorious fuzz and a dream-weaving leads further the declarations of the period vocals to the place where knowing and unknowing become indistinguishable. And then we have “Killing Kind,” which is a spellcaster if ever one existed. The music tells you what it is going to do and does it without delay. It is a witching little wonder that branches out on the guitar now and again.

You can find nostalgia in this album, or you could take the new music as a contemporary instantiation. Or both, which is what I suggest. Look out for “Failed Resistance” especially if you want to lean into the former, and “Psychonaut / Edge of Light” for a moody and ornamental avenue of the latter. For the sheer kickass rock and roll of it all, listen to “Brother.” There is something here that touches on each of our favorite things. Recommended.

Thieves And Liars is out now through Ripple Music. Snap it up at the links below.

Links.

Blackwülf website, https://www.blackwulfusa.com/

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/thieves-and-liars

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

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Blackwülf, Thieves And Liars (Ripple 2023)

Autopsy, Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville 2022)

Oakland death metal band Autopsy is back after eight years with a new full-length album, Morbidity Triumphant.

Autopsy stomped the earth in the first half of the nineties. Their first two albums, Severed Survival (1989) and Mental Funeral (1991), are considered by many to be standards even now. They were a band that cut deeply in the death metal scene, and left carnage in their wake. The band split in 1995, then reformed in 2008/9 and have been cracking on ever since. Their most recent full-length album came out in 2014, Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves, and there have been EPs and splits, compilations, and live albums aplenty along the way. Morbidity Triumphant is Autopsy’s eighth long-player. The band is Eric Cutler (guitar), Danny Coralles (guitar), Chris Reifert (vocals, drums), and Greg Wilkinson (bass).

Autopsy was different from other death bands in the way they used grindcore, punk, and doom in their musical constructions. You get this on the new album as well. The first song is “Stab the Brain.” What a great title. It sounds at first like a disturbed beehive, then a groove kicks in unexpectedly. The chaotic swirl tag teams the groove and hook, showing how well the two disparate ideas can work together. Clever moments of melody and lead guitar bursts elevate the composition to the next level. “Final Frost” is next, and it has an eastern mystical twinge and a moving doom posture walking it to a different space compared to the opener. The second movement of the song is straight up death metal, and then the doom comes back. “The Voracious One” is different still, starting on a groove with a great disarming riff. This one is a top pick for me from the set.

Every song is more than one thing on the new Autopsy album. It is filled with doom and mysticism, and also raging death metal. I particularly like “Tapestry of Scars” for the depths of its doom, and “Skin By Skin” in a similar vein. “Maggots in the Mirror” is a wonderfully stabby punk piece, and “Your Eyes Will Turn to Dust” is perfectly dreary closer. To me, Autopsy has struck exactly the right tone at every turn on this record. Highly recommended.

Morbidity Triumphant is out on Friday, September 30th through Peaceville Records in the customary forms. Check it out through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/album/morbidity-triumphant

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100050176223094

Peaceville Records, https://peaceville.com/bands/autopsy/

© Wayne Edwards

Autopsy, Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville 2022)

Machine Head, Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The tenth studio album from Oakland metal legends Machine Head is a masterpiece: Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn.

Robb Flynn brought Machine Head together in Oakland in 1991. In the early days, groove and nu-metal were the styles usually associated with the band, but after a decade or so the music leaned more clearly toward thrash. With nine previous long-players, and a mighty fistful of EPs, splits, and live albums, Machine Head has made an indelible mark on heavy music. For Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn, Flynn is joined by Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka (guitar), Jared MacEachern (bass), and Matt Alston (drums).

It all begins on a quiet, sincere note with “Slaughter The Martyr.” At first. The opening bars are melancholy, and the music builds slowly. A second voice joins and you can feel the cliff coming. Three minutes in you walk right over it and the rushing air around you is the ripping guitar and grinding vocals. The heavy groove element blends perfectly with the speeding riff, and the melodic moments that come and go are like a bird soaring between beating its wings. This song is a ten-minute slab of unmeasurable metal, a certifiable masterpiece, and it is only the first track. It is very unusual for a band to put a song like this up front, and so it is clear that Machine Head is taking no prisoners on Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn.

Many of the songs on the album have been released as singles leading up to the official album release, so we have already heard “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” and “Become The Firestorm,” for example. I hadn’t heard “Kill Thy Enemies” until now, and that one was an eye-opener, as was “Bloodshot.” Each of these songs has its own kind of screech that rakes you in entirely different ways. I felt that way all along, that each song has its own dominating presence and, while the set fits together seamlessly, each primary song stands on its own, too.

The album ends on “Arrows In Words From The Sky.” I had heard this one before, and I was delighted to listen again. Calling back the structure of the epic opening, the final track lulls at first and then decimates, but in a completely different way. The sinister nature of the middle of the song and the entrancing guitar solo it leads to is breathtaking. I expected a lot from the new Machine Head album going in, and I came away with more than I could have imagined. Highly recommended.

Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn is out now through Nuclear Blast Records in many varieties and forms.

Band photo by Travis Shinn and Paul Harries.

Links.

Machine Head website, https://www.machinehead1.com/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://label.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/about/3168273.machine-head.html

© Wayne Edwards

Machine Head, Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn (Nuclear Blast 2022)