Mammoth Grinder and more...
The clue to Mammoth Grinder’s squalid sound is right there in the band’s name—ie expect proboscidean-sized gutter-punk/metal crushers. The Austin, Texas-based four-piece’s new album, Underworlds—its first full-length since 2009’s Extinction of Humanity—is the very definition of the trusty (and in this case, extremely crusty) truism, all killer, no filler.
Clocking in at 28 minutes, with not a second wasted, Underworlds stacks grindcore atop of thrash, d-beat, and down and dirty Stockholm-influenced death metal. Fans of Wolfbrigade, Nails, Vastum, Napalm Death, Tragedy (and all their ruthless and scabrous brethren) will find a lot to enjoy here. Mammoth Grinder charges head-first through 10 tracks, with the most ‘epic’ of the lot barely passing the four-minute mark. Call-backs to the birth of death metal and grindcore are heard, with Possessed and Autopsy lingering about as Mammoth Grinder bulldozes through a bass- and distortion-heavy mix of sludgy, seething, and violently concussive maelstroms. Shock and awe, all round.
Enharmonic Intervals is the first in a proposed series of collaborations between entrancing sound/art project Mamiffer (Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner) and Finnish master of the mercurial, Circle. Recorded in a 19th century stone church in Finland, on a single day, Enharmonic Intervals sees the artists involved explore improvised, liturgical drones—where the heavy use of Paschen Organ results in substantial cerebral and spiritual weight.
Enharmonic Intervals‘s seven tracks cycle through deep channels of psych-flecked experimentalism, with feedback and hallucinogenic howls set against soothing lilts and a fair amount of synthesized mayhem. Outbreaks of blissful and brutish noise are the result, and the site-specific minimalism of the album’s recording location is woven in as dramatic laminations rise and fall.
Enharmonic Intervals is reflective and spacious, in parts, although garbled sonics aplenty bring the thundercloud atmospherics. Much like Mamiffer’s stunning collaboration with Locrian on Bless Them that Curse You, Enharmonic Intervals benefits enormously from artists willing to serve the song, and not their own agendas. For those with an open mind, there’s some fine outsider art to get entangled in here.
Salt Lake City doom band SubRosa found fame off the back of its sophomore album, 2011’s No Help for the Mighty Ones, where frontwoman Rebecca Vernon’s tales of woe were spun around dual electric violins, 10-foot thick guitars and bass, and authoritative percussion. The band’s latest release, More Constant than the Gods, offers much of the same dynamically, but so much more creatively—and its 68 minutes are overflowing with mammoth and moving suites.
More Constant than the Gods goes deeper than SubRosa’s past recordings, traveling further into gothic heaviness on monstrous tracks like “Ghosts of a Dead Empire” and “Affliction”. Journeys back in time feature too, as folkloric tales are wrapped in monolithic riffs on “Cosey Mo” and “Fat of the Ram”. More Constant than the Gods is a hulking piece of staggering artistry overall, where divine threads of ethereal and neo-classical sounds are woven into huge battering canvases—making for a truly unique and powerful release. Transcendent, and undeniably captivating, More Constant than the Gods combines the sweetest melodies with colossal feedback-fed dirges, contains a heart-wrenchingly finale in the majestic “No Safe Harbor”, and is utterly bruising—both sonically and emotionally. Lets call it what it is: perfection.
You’ve got two very clear choices when it comes to listening to metal produced by the Heathen hordes. You could check out the antics of Turisas or Týr, for bit of chest-beating action. Or, alternatively, for something with actual meaning, bands like Moonsorrow, Árstíðir Lífsins, and Falkenbach (the Düsseldorf-based project of Vratyas Vakyas) await. It’s the oeuvre of those latter warriors that you really want to explore, with albums like Moonsorrow’s Verisäkeet, Árstíðir Lífsins’ Vápna lækjar eldr and Falkenbach’s Heralding…The Fireblade being thematically and musically thunderous, while nuanced and highly evocative.
Asa is the latest (and sixth release overall) from Falkenbach, and like the band’s previous releases it is meticulously composed, and filled with atmospheric odes conjuring misty forests and cloud-covered fjords. Harsh and gentler vocals are sung in an almost extinct West Germanic dialect, and as you’d expect from Falkenbach, folk instrumentation is exquisitely blended with melodic black metal throughout.
Grand tracks like “Ufirstanan Folk”, “Eweroun” and “Vaer Stjernar Vaerdan” nestle around the fire alongside driving, folk-fuelled assaults like “Stikke Wound” and “Wulfarweijd”. Asa is a return to the fiery passion and expressive pastures of Falkenbach’s prime years, and it’s an album that teaches those more banal folk metal bands a thing or two about authenticity, and true craftsmanship.
It’s been turbulent times in Sutekh Hexen’s ranks this year, with one member exiting under a very bitter cloud. Still, if there’s one band where emotionally corrosive exchanges form a crucial sonic and thematic component, then Sutekh Hexen is it. The band’s entire output thus far has been one gigantic psychological battle, and its latest EP, Monument of Decay, is yet another challenging piece of avant-blackened noise that drills straight into the cortex with malevolent glee.
Featuring four tracks that take extreme ritualised sound to the point where ‘unnerving’ is a vast understatement, Monument of Decay explores demonic ambience, power electronics, gnawing noise, and feedback-soaked black metal. The “abyss architects” in Sutekh Hexen have always engineered works that amplify dread while holding a reverence for the ritual magic inherent in nightmare-inducing layers of noise, and with the band having a more fully-fleshed line-up on Monument of Decay, the EP peers into a multitude of Mephistophelian corners simultaneously. Like the work of kindred sorcerers of horror, such as Gnaw Their Tongues or Theologian, Monument of Decay is highly recommended for all your morbidly esoteric and conjuring endeavors this anti-Christmas.