Enforced – War Remains (Century Media)
Richmond, Virginia’s Enforced are one of the fiercest, most intense contemporary thrash metal bands, and this new full-length might be their strongest one yet. Arising from a scene that has become synonymous with daring musical forms in recent years—like the various offshoots of the Richmond Avant Improv Collective—the thrash metal demonstrated on War Remains has few peers. Infected with the most out-there forms of hardcore and noise, this is music that sounds like a maddening tumble down spiraling stairs. From the first to the last second, the ten cuts take no prisoners, blistering through wall of death/circle pit sections with incandescent energy (“The Quickening”) but also displaying a virtuosic brilliance in its slightly slower moments (“Avarice”), sections of grooving thrash (“Empire”), and swirling guitar screams (“Ultra-Violence”). Music to bang and/or lose your head to. – Antonio Poscic
Fires in the Distance – Air Not Meant for Us (Prosthetic)
Considering the ongoing efforts at reinventing metal genres and the resulting endless stream of releases, it was only a matter of time before melodic death metal would again get its five minutes in the spotlight. The US quintet Fires in the Distance are among the most interesting bands in this space. Their music straddles the divide between the epic, towering expressions of doom metal and the driven euphony of melodeath for a gorgeous effect. In this sense, Air Not Meant For Us perfects the approach they had already demonstrated on their 2020 debut, Echoes From Deep November.
Their songcraft is tighter here and reaches an even greater sense of pathos and gravitas when piano and violin licks clash with monumental riffs (“Wisdom of the Falling Leaves”), aggressive Old School Death Metal heaviness (“Adrift, Beneath the Listless Waves”), and poignant growled, shrieked, and screamed vocal delivery (“Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind”). Ultimately, the harrowing emotional weight and forlorn poise render Air even more irresistible, almost cathartic in its entirety. – Antonio Poscic
Jesus Piece – So Unknown (Century Media)
One of the most devastating releases of metallic hardcore came at the end of the 2010s, as Jesus Piece unleashed their punishing debut Only Self. Today, they return with the same fervor and urgency in their sophomore work and Century Media debut, So Unknown. Hardcore and metal again unite in the most extreme of forms. The beatdown and stomping grooves of “In Constraints” reveal this spite and meanness. The grueling pace inherited from a sludge lineage crafts a brutal and destructive experience as “Tunnel Vision” comes through.
The extreme metal fills the aggression, allowing a schizoid sense to tamper with the band’s core. “Fear of Failure” adds unpredictability, “Profane” with its Slayer-ized lead work, destroys the equilibrium, and “FTBS” cuts through like a sharp blade in anger and anguish. At the same time, darker inclinations flourish as the eerie passages of “Silver Lining” are exposed. But, it is a story that always ends in devastation, be it through the disfigured D-beat energy of “Gates of Horn”, the East Coast style beatdown of “An Offering to the Night”, or the sludge malice of “Stolen Life”. Jesus Piece prove to be a band of our times, and So Unknown perfectly encapsulates the state of reality. – Spyros Stasis
King Yosef – An Underlying Hum (Bleakhouse)
Sneakingly traversing various genres, King Yosef is able to build a multifaceted profile. With a riddled back catalog featuring one EP, one full-length, a collaboration with Youth Code, and some intriguing standalone outings (that Sepultura cover was insane) and King Yosef now present An Underlying Hum. A record that encompasses a rich diversity of musical styles, with the corrosive post-hardcore and its all-devouring noise spawning standing out in “Frame.” The manic perspective is key, becoming overwhelming in “110817” as its hectic progression devours everything.
Yet, the post-hardcore slowly melts into a hypnotic alter-self, with moments like “Echo” bringing to mind the more sentimental aspects of Code Orange. The immediate contradicts with the otherworldly, eventually giving rise to full atmospheric passages like “Adrienne” and “Pulling at a Thread”. But, there is another deeper level that King Yosef reaches for. The hip-hop element is unmistakable, taking on cloud rap aspects in “Drift Below” and “The Crevice – Light Seeps In”. The final contortions that arrive with the inclusion of electronica and industrial in moments like “Cascade of Doubt” and “Nameless” complete An Underlying Hum, a fantastic record through a plethora of motifs. – Spyros Stasis
Lord Mortvm – Dead Christ Baptism (Regain)
While melding black metal elements with thrash, speed, and heavy metal has been done to death at this point, Lord Mortvm’s Dead Christ Baptism is one of the rare successful amalgams of these common black metal tropes with doom metal. The skeleton of the Norwegian one-person project’s sophomore LP is found in traditional doom metal and occult rock—file under Candlemass, Electric Wizard, and the Devil’s Blood—while black metal’s filthy vocals, riffs, and bleak textures are draped over it like rotten flesh. It makes for a simultaneously gnarly and beguiling aesthetic infused with an equally mischievous, dungeon synth-underscored occult atmosphere. Part camp, part earnest horror, but totally enthralling. – Antonio Poscic
Lunar Chamber – Shambhallic Vibrations (20 Buck Spin)
A brand new entity, Lunar Chamber deliver a fiery, progressively minded death metal work. Their first EP, Shambhallic Vibrations, is rooted in the forward-thinking death metal philosophy, incorporating all the technical prowess and brutal manifestations. The spiritual essence of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death lives on, as the intro balances between a furious death metal storm and a laid-back jazz motif. This equilibrium is uncanny at times, like “Spirit Body and the Seeing Self” gracefully standing between an unyielding, brutal precision and a cosmic projection.
While this approach might appear old-school, Lunar Chamber inject further modernizations into the mix. The ambient quality is a stellar example of this mode, the serene atmospheric leanings crafting a very different scenery. The clean, narrating vocals amidst the havoc of “The Bodhi Tree” are just such a mind-bending addition. But, it is the closer that drives the point home. The descent into a doom/death abyss, traveling through the labyrinthine passages of death, jazz, and ambient music, is just astonishing. It is the final piece to this meditative presence. At a time when Blood Incantation are exploring the cosmos, it is bands like Lunar Chamber that can continue to explore the self. While this is happening, the state of death metal is looking that much more enticing. – Spyros Stasis
Poison Ruïn – Härvest (Relapse)
Well, there’s nostalgia, and then there’s Poison Ruïn. The act from Philadelphia return with their Relapse debut after a very nice introduction in their self-released, self-titled album. As is the case with nostalgia and an idealistic view of the past, Poison Ruïn do not look to alter the recipe. Härvest relishes the 1980s punk sound via way of post-punk and no-wave infusions. The eruption in “Pinnacle of Ecstasy” brings some of these aspects to light. At the same time, the darkwave-infused approach of “Tome Of Illusion” and the dreamlike quality of “Slowly Through The Dark” play variations on that theme.
Still, despite these atmospheric leanings and the nicely placed synth-led moments, the core retains its punk spirit. “Torture Chamber” is just an absolute menace, disfigured through the high distortion that brings to mind the great Wipers. At the same time, the darkness that Poison Ruïn radiate projects an injected negative take on Hüsker Dü’s frenetic energy with “Augur Die”. Coupled with the all-encompassing lo-fi aesthetic, Poison Ruïn preserve all the preciousness that existed at the very origin of punk music. While they do not necessarily offer something novel, the fact that they have retained this sense of wonder in Härvest makes this a very enjoyable ride. – Spyros Stasis
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