Transcending Obscurity 2022 Label Sampler (2022)

Here it is, the official preview of the upcoming year in heavy music from Transcending Obscurity Records: the 2022 label sampler.

An independent record label headquartered in India, Transcending Obscurity has been quietly growing in catalogue and international reach since its inception in 2005. Now, albums from them routinely hit the top ten annual lists in every heavy music corner of the world. If you are a regular reader of this column then you know a lot about them already because I write about TO all the time as they have been one of my favorite records labels for many years. I reviewed twenty-five of their albums last year for Flying Fiddlesticks – more than any other, nudging out even Ripple Music in the stats.

Hit the links below to see the full contributor list. Bandcamp is the easiest route and that is the place to pick up the collection itself for free. To give you some idea of how it all breaks down, here is the categorization provided by the label for what is included in the sampler: Tracks 1-12 – death metal; Tracks 13-15 – black metal; Tracks 16-30 – dissonant/ brutal/ atmospheric/ experimental death metal; Tracks 30-33 – grindcore; Tracks 34-35 – doom/ sludge metal.

You can tell the music is tilted in the death metal direction, but whatever persuasion of heavy music fan you are, there is a metric ton of music here to enjoy. There are many familiar names on the roster – Wombbath, Lurk, Veilburner, Replicant, Imperlialist – and many more I know less about that I can’t wait to hear. The sampler is massive, and it is free.

You cannot go wrong with Transcending Obscurity. I have been an avid follower of the label for a good long while and I never miss an album they put out because I know the quality is going to be there. Count on reading about many of the records as they come out this year and, meanwhile, grab the sampler and hear what you are in for. And if you like merch, you cannot do better than the product line Transcending Obscurity offers. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://transcendingobscurity.bandcamp.com/album/label-sampler-2022

US Store, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Main Website, https://tometal.com/

Transcending Obscurity 2022 Label Sampler (2022)

Necrophagous, In Chaos Ascend (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

The debut album from Swedish death metal band Necrophagous tells terrifying tales with blast beats, growls, and tsunamic guitar riffs.

The band is comprised of Visceral Bleeding and Entrails members Tommy Carlsson (vocals, guitar), Jocke Svensson (bass), and Martin Michaelsson (drums). The music they have created for In Chaos Ascend embraces the baseline assumptions of the accepted death metal canon and then bends and folds fresh new ideas into the primordial maavu. The result is consistently impressive and revealing.

There are ten tracks on the new album, plus an intro segment. The seal is broken by “Order Of The Lion,” and the hammers swing meaty on this one. A consistent pattern of heaving hitting, groovy riffs and rambunctious percussion continues as you traverse the shadows and shifting landscape, all the while serenaded by gruff, coarse singing.

The title track is a stand-out for its consciousness-clearing shifts and juts. The rambler steady-on riff is a faithful raft on a raging river. “Blood On The Stone Of Thee Monuments” also captured my imagination. The bass lines are a big part of all the songs on the album and the bass really eats your lunch here. And then there is “The Plague And The Arts” which is a shocking affair that will stand for no nonsense. It shakes your pockets empty.

The closer is “Wreaker Of Pain,” a clandestine apothecary of metal abundance. It bellows and howls in a magnificent statement that declares Necrophagous a band to be reckoned with in any discussion of heavy music in 2022. This album is a great way for death metal fans to kick off the new year. Recommended.

In Chaos Ascend is out through Transcending Obscurity Records on Friday, January 7th. Check out the label’s US on-line store or Bandcamp for the goods.

Links.

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/necrophagous.sweden/

Transcending Obscurity Records, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Necrophagous, In Chaos Ascend (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Wombbath, Agma (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Thirty years in, Swedish death metal band Wombbath create an amazing new album that is one of the best they have ever released: Agma.

Wombbath started in 1990 and released the first EP of the band’s canon in 1992, Several Shapes. Having gained experience and popularity in the initial run through 1995, the musicians took a break for a couple of decades. Reforming in 2014, the band has been on a tear ever since, producing four long-players and five splits since, not including the new album. The writing is stronger and more inventive than ever, and Wombbath has positioned itself as a pivotal player in the international heavy music scene. The band includes founding member Håkan Stuvemark (guitar) with Jonny Pettersson (guitar and vocals), Thomas von Wachenfeldt (guitar and violin), Jon Rudin (drums), and Matt Davidson (bass).

Agma is a double album with sixteen tracks. The baseline is old school death metal, and you hear that in every track. In addition, most are augmented with surprising additions and twists that deepen the metal experience. For example, “At The Giant’s Feet” has unexpected high-pitch harmony vocals that drop from the sky and startle you. This song is followed by a string of punishing death metal songs, and then you hear “Blindly They Follow” with its soaring vocal pairing to go along with the blast beats and ravaging guitars. “Breathe In the Flames” rolls out at hyper-speed and also has a beautiful violin segment. The album is a sprawling forest of wonder.

Songs that stand out for me include “Misantropi Och Förakt” for its explosive moments and “The Age Of Death” for the sheer unlikeliness of its construction – elements work together that I would never have thought to join up. “In Decay They All Shall Fester” is another one that achieves unity by combining seemingly disparate constituents. The list of strand-outs could be a lot longer. Indeed, Agma might just be my favorite Wombbath album. Highly recommended.

Agma is out today through Transcending Obscurity Records. Check out the links below to see the stunning variety of merch, variants, and bundles that are available for this release. Transcending Obscurity is unmatched on this front – they always have incredible options for collectors.

Band painting by Benny Moberg.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wombbathdeath.bandcamp.com/album/agma-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

FFMB review of Tales Of Madness, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/12/18/wombbath-tales-of-madness-transcending-obscurity-2020/

Wombbath, Agma (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Cutterred Flesh, Sharing Is Caring (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The new Cutterred Flesh album has a deceptively calm title to go along with the brutally revealing cover art.

From Czechia, Cuttered Flesh is a death metal band that wears dastardly themes on its sleeve. Over twenty years and four previous albums they have made their intentions known so there is no mistake about what is in store for you when you drop the needle on one of their records. The band is Jiri Krs (vocals), Vitali Novak (guitar), David Krombholz (guitar), Zdenek Hnizdil (bass), Frantisek Drazdansky (drums).

“Vibrio Vulnificus” begins loud and fast with a punitive hammering. Shouting, growling vocals overpower any resistance, and the occasional momentary respite in the driving percussion offers no actual rest. This is plowing, punishing death metal. The tempo is in the upper-mid range and the sentiment is savage. The very next song is “Black Aura,” which begins with a lullaby melody concatenated with blast beats and dark dramatic guitars. The vocals are vile and displeased. We’re off and running toward the tortures of the damned.

There is no place to hide in any song from this set. Battering percussion is always in there whether the track begins slow or fast. The veils and distractions are sleights of hand that serve more to enhance the brutality of the music than offer a look away. A good example is “Knife Is Not The Enemy.” The pace at the open does not seem sustainable – it leaves you breathless. The doors you go through while experiencing the music that follows open up to spyglasses and mirrors and so you see different things but you never truly escape the dungeon you started in. Fans of brutal death metal will welcome this new addition to the canon. Recommended.

Sharing Is Caring is out now through Transcending Obscurity Records. Check out the label’s US store below or hit up the always-reliable Bandcamp for the goods.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://cutterredfleshband.bandcamp.com/album/sharing-is-caring-brutal-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity Records, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Cutterred Flesh, Sharing Is Caring (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Vahrzaw, The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian death metal band Vahrzaw continues its impressive run of drastic music with The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men.

Formed under a different (and evolving) name in the early 1990s, Vahrzaw released the first full-length album, Defiant, in 2009. That is a long journey and a fascinating tale, I am willing to bet. Once the flag had been unfurled, new LPs rolled out on the regular with Twin Suns and Wolves’ Tongues in 2018, followed by Husk four years later. The music is fundamentally death metal with black metal cross-over features and seeds of thrash and prog. The new album is vibrant and tenacious and not to be ignored.

There are five primary tracks on The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men, plus an acoustic intro and outro. You can hear “Death Of An Unknown Architect” approaching in the distance, pushing nearer with a relentless surety as the volume ramps up. Inescapable. The guitars strike a sour note above the battering percussion then rip into merciless speed and crunch. This is a prog death tune from the land beyond. “Waiting With The Wolves” swings in on a groove that quickly twirls into something more hideous, signaled early with a black metal hiss in the collateral vocal. The changes are too numerous to delineate and they are almost entirely unexpected. It is a stitching of disparate parts, somehow becoming fluid in the collective.

“As Ships Upon Shores” is a plaintive, doom-laden call. It is a beautifully dark song that rises steadily in tempo then drifts off to quietude in the distance at the end. “Vultures” could be a single with its catchy opening riff if only the composers had married the desire to be approachable to the masses. Soon enough the music is off on an absolute black metal rampage. “The Pessimist” is a nine-minute journey into a twilit realm of despair and incontrovertible angst. All the pieces are revisited and renewed, engorged on the endless creativity of the musicians. This is an album clearly marked for greatest in the annals of heavy music. Highly recommended.

The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men is out now. In the US, orders are easy at Bandcamp, or buy directly from Transcending Obscurity Records at their on-line store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://vahrzawband.bandcamp.com/album/the-trembling-voices-of-conquered-men-death-black-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Vahrzaw, The Trembling Voices Of Conquered Men (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Imperialist, Zenith (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Sci-Fi Black Metal band Imperialist have crafted an amazing new album, Zenith.

From Monrovia, California, the band is Sergio Soto (guitar, vocals), Bryant Quinones (guitar), Joshua Alvarez (bass), and Rodney Quinones (drums). In 2015 they released an EP, Quantum Annexation, and followed that up with the well-received long-player Cipher (2018). The new album is a big next step, embracing science fiction narratives and infusing them with diabolical Black Metal. The amazing dark chemistry of the creation cannot be denied.

The album begins with extremely creepy tones and murky, ominous music on the intro piece. Talk about setting the stage. The trepidation builds leading into “The Maw,” a savage, hammering track. The howling continues with “Parallax Descends,” a confoundingly catchy track. And that is something about this music that sets it apart – it is hard driving, technical Black Metal that somehow also has enough groove in it to transport you on the surface as well as trigger your deeper menacing central dread with the harsher metal. That is so difficult to do that you almost never hear it, but here it is on Zenith.

The back half of the album delivers just as strongly as the front. “Majesty of the Void” first reminds you of the sinister mystical nature of the creature you face then tramples you with beating rhythm and weight-of-the-universe guitars. The story continues in the galactic perspective and so has an infinite space to mine ideas. “Terminal Odyssey” soars in its sounds and sights and revelations, and the final track, “Beyond the Celestial Veil,” spares no emotion or action. By the time the cooldown comes you know you have been through it – you also know you are ready to go again. Highly recommended.

Zenith will be directly overhead on Friday, November 26th through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Links.

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

Bandcamp, https://imperialistus.bandcamp.com/album/zenith-sci-fi-black-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Imperialist, Zenith (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Abscession, Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Swedish death metal band Abscession takes another merciless swing with Rot Of Ages.

The demo Death Incarnate was the band’s first issue in 2010. Grave Offerings came five years later, their first full-length album. Right on schedule, Rot Of Ages is ready for fan consumption a little over one lustrum later. There is not a lot to go on when thinking about what to expect on the new record, but as it turns out the music is a rewarding avalanche of heavy metal surety. The band is comprised of Thomas Clifford (vocals), Skaldir (guitar, bass, keys), and Markus Porsklev (drums).

“Rat King Crawl” explodes at the jump in a race to the end of all things. It slams and pounds all the way through, not changing pace as much as it changes expression in the fourth quarter. It’s a killer. “Theater Of Pain” is more frantic and that’s fine because your blood is flowing fast from the opener. “Dead Man’s Hate” is a heavy metal breather with slightly less pace but just as much weight. The structure of the song allows for twists and turns, rushes and halts.

“Rains Of Death” is a blasting frenzy, capping the fairly short songs on Side 1, leading to the longer title track. “Rot Of Ages” rakes you over the coals for two straight minutes then abruptly drops into a beautiful solo piano aside, joined by clean vocals – for about a minute. Then the rampage returns, softened at the end by a piano callback.

The flip side has more delights in store, and the energy does not diminish at all. My favorite tracks on the back half are “When The Guillotine Falls” and “Prometheus Unbound,” both because of the way they deliver on expectations while jangling a couple of surprises in the mix. The music here is solid death metal at high speed, clinically structural rhythm, and a whole lot more. Recommended.

Rot Of Ages is out on Friday November 19th through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://abscessiondeath.bandcamp.com/album/rot-of-ages-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity Records, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Abscession, Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Heads For The Dead, Slash ‘N’ Roll (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Heads For The Dead veer off their usual path into straight-up horror with their new EP Slash ‘N’ Roll.

Heads For The Dead is a band with an international cast, hailing from Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands. The musicians are veterans of the heavy music scene who have come together for this project and have released two previous records, Serpent’s Curse (2018) and Into The Red (2020). The music they create has always had a strong horror and cinematic angle so this new EP might be seen as inevitable. The players are Jonny Pettersson (guitars, bass, and keys), Ralf Hauber (vocals), and Ed Warby (drums).

Slash ‘N’ Roll has three original songs and two covers, all horror-themed. “Maniac” is a playful punk tune cast for a broad audience. “Halloween” begins with John Carpenter’s classic theme from the movie and takes off from there. There is more death metal content in this song than the first but there is still plenty of punk in the corners here, too, along with the recurrence of the cinematic theme. “The Thing” continues the movie title motif and is suitably otherworldly, not to mention ethereal. It also includes a short dialogue capture from the film.

The covers are “Skulls,” originally by the Misfits, and the Ramones’ horror movie theme song “Pet Sematary.” The main beats are there and the songs are recognizable, but there is a profound Heads For The Dead stamp on these renditions. While it might be tempting to think of this set as a disposable one-off, I believe instead that it will become a much sought-after collector’s item in the physical forms. These tunes are a lot of fun for metalheads and they are hitting the street at the exact right time of year. Recommended.

Slash ‘N’ Roll dropped early, on Halloween, so it is out now. Links are below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://headsforthedead.bandcamp.com/album/slash-n-roll-horror-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Heads For The Dead, Slash ‘N’ Roll (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Noltem, Illusions In The Wake (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Connecticut metal mystics Noltem release their first full-length album, Illusions In The Wake.

Noltem began in the early 2000s, releasing their first demo in 2005. It was ten years later that their inaugural EP emerged, Mannaz. And now in 2021, the first long-player. They clearly take their time with musical constructions and that care pays off because Illusions In The Wake is exceptional. The band is Max Johnson, John Kerr, and Shalin Shah. Guest soloists for the album include Zach Miller (Pyrithe), Jordan Guerette (Falls of Rauros), and Aaron Carey (Nechochwen).

The primary description of Noltem’s music is Atmospheric Black Metal, and that is not wrong but, as with any shorthand label, it misses the nuance. The compositional clarity and depth of these songs is hard to overstate. There are big, theatrical moments and gorgeous, quiet, acoustic passages. The range of expression is truly impressive.

Illusions In The Wake has five long tracks and one short transition piece. The first song is “Figment,” and in it you can see the future. Big metal riffs, coarse vocals, and complex constructions highlighted by elegant, simply moments. This track places you in Noltem’s world so you can be prepared for the rest of the music.

“Illusions in the Wake” displays a scope almost too large to take in, and then “Beneath the Dreaming Blue” shuffles in very understated, in a casual way that entirely changes the mood. When it drops the boom directly on your head the impact make you see stars. The space for personal imagination is enormous.

“Submerged” is a light, short bridge leading to the grand “Ruse” and the sweeping “On Shores of Glass.” That final song truly serves to inculcate the magnificence of the musical accomplishment of this album. This is a metal album, a metal album painted on a limitless canvas in the finest detail and with the deepest palette. Recommended.

Illusions In The Wake makes its full digital appearance on October 10th with physicals shipping a few days later through Transcending Obscurity.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://noltemband.bandcamp.com/album/illusions-in-the-wake-atmospheric-black-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Noltem, Illusions In The Wake (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Norse, Ascetic (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian dissonant Black Metallers Norse release their fourth full-length album, Ascetic.

Norse is a duo that has been haunting the landscape since 2006. Their focus has always been on Black Metal, but the execution of the musical endeavor has changed over the years. The new album works a penetrating brand of dissonance that enhances the chaos of the songs’ narrative themes.

There are eight tracks on the album, most of them tipping over the five minute mark. The title track has what I would call strong doom influences to go along with the more central dissonant black metal orientation and it opens the set with howl. “Parasite Warmongers” is very clanging, noisy, and operates a clearly defined dissonance. I know I am over-using the word, but an intentional grating quality is so much a part of this album that it is difficult to avoid.

Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of variation. “Fearless Filth Seeker” has a shrill distortion to it gliding along with the melodic vocals. “Radical Depression” sounds like a march played in a cocktail lounge at the beginning, quiet and sultry; insinuating. After a couple of minutes a wall of sound kicks in and pushes you over until toward the end when the snare returns. There are many corners and crannies to explore.

“Useless” is the final mail in the coffin, and it seems to be offering a way through. But to where? The afterlife? Maybe. I hear it as a parable of the ultimate pointlessness of a life of struggle when the end is predetermined: death. That might be too on the nose. Whatever the intent, it is one the most engaging tracks of the set and it is properly fitted at the end. It is also one of the main reasons I am recommending the album.

Ascetic is out through Transcending Obscurity on Friday, October 8th, gatherable at Bandcamp or the label’s US store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://norsebm.bandcamp.com/album/ascetic-dissonant-black-metal

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/norse.official

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Norse, Ascetic (Transcending Obscurity 2021)