End of the summer, and once again August does not feel quiet, not one bit, when it comes to heavy releases. This time, tradition meets experimentalism. On one hand, Conan and Blacklab go to the roots of doom/sludge, relishing the treasures of the past while Jason Köhnen’s Bong-Ra injects more influences into the defined spine of the genre. The same is true in the black metal genre, as atmospheric traditionalists Liminal Shroud and Ayloss’ Auriferous Flame create an intriguing contrast against the avant-gardisms of Sigh or Red Rot, and the dark ambient bleakness of Adaestuo. The same is true on the hardcore front, where Wolfbrigade and Hive take up the banners of the old-school ethos, while Hexis and Thoughtcrimes open gateways to a bright future.
What is more? The ever-shifting Boris revisit one of their most famed moments and Locrian return after a long hiatus, with what could very well be their best work to date. Progressive powerhouses Dreadnought and Motorpsycho still escape many of the genre’s clichés, while in the outskirts there is the fascinating work of Bloodbox, smearing juxtaposing grindcore with breakbeats. To close it all off, the descent into the death metal realm is complete with excellent new works from Aronious and a touch of doom/death with Morbid Evils. So go ahead and dig in! – Spyros Stasis
Adaestuo – Purge of the Night Cloak (WTC)
One to push back against the norm, Adaestuo have been challenging the black metal tradition since their 2016 debut EP Tacent Semitae. Retaining all the eeriness and the intrinsic malice of the genre, Adaestuo looked inwards for further augmentations. Dark ambient passages and choral overtures made an appearance, while industrial beats and noise injections were also thrown into the mix. After two excellent full-length records, they still carry the same boundless mentality in their latest EP, Purge of the Night Cloak.
The black metal side still defines the sound, traveling back to unearth the early sonic palette of Emperor. The point in time when grandeur and darkness lived side by side, is perfectly defined in “Act II.” The procession however shifts through protean forms. “Act I” sees an industrial backbone coming to view, applying intense pressure while the chilling riffs march on. It is a ceremonial affair, with Adaestuo shining light on a vast sonic space with “Act III.” The slower tempo further drives the proceedings, granting a towering and yet despairing quality. Spiraling out of control, the solid rock-infused form gives way to abstract shapes. The dark ambient ending of “Act I” sees harrowing vocals combined with a surreal ambiance, something that the vocal choirs of “The Hydra” then take to a whole other level. After the 22 minutes of this EP one thing is clear; Purge of the Night Cloak is a dark procession for the soul. – Spyros Stasis
Aronious – Irkalla (The Artisan Era)
Aronious’s debut LP, 2020’s Perspicacity, was a nearly perfect technical death metal album, with the Green Bay, Wisconsin group just barely missing the mark by going a bit too long and a bit too repetitive. Irkalla fixes those issues and continues building towards an exemplary expression of the genre.
Not only is the record, clocking at 40 minutes, of the right length, but the significantly improved songwriting is now surprisingly varied and on par with the excellent instrumental performance. Outside the electronic intro and outro driven by grave piano stabs and broken electronic figures, the six central cuts are virtuosic yet tasty slabs of technical and progressive death metal, which veer from brutal grooving sections that remind of Necrophagist to bouts of dissonance straight from the Gorguts tradition. The space between them is occupied by angular djent reminiscent of Meshuggah and swirls of Mesopotamian mantras that bring Nile to mind, but those elements—like everything else on the records—feel anything but uninspired copies of the originals. This is Aronious’s music through and through. And it is awesome. – Antonio Poscic
Auriferous Flame – The Great Mist Within (True Cult)
Each of Ayloss’s projects like Spectral Lore seems set to explore a particular strain of (black) metal by stretching the idiom in often unexpected directions. Auriferous Flame, the latest in the Greek polymath musician’s line of one-person bands, bears the closest resemblance to the atmospheric, decidedly 1990s black metal of Mystras, but is stripped from all the medieval folk influences and lore.
While on paper it might sound that what’s left is pure black metal retro-fetishism, in reality, Ayloss recombines the DNA of that particular style, reshaping its intrinsic melodies, aggression, and atmosphere into nigh abstract layers. Then, he lets these sheets of sound intertwine, weaving them into an undulating, deliberately lo-fi fabric of riffs, growls, and blast beats. The resulting music is simultaneously fragile like gossamer and as brutal as a maelstrom, while a grandiose, foreboding atmosphere enshrouds everything, whether trodding along “Ancient Corridors” or whooshing down “Mass of Ice”. – Antonio Poscic
Blacklab – In a Bizarre Dream (New Heavy Sounds)
All the way down to the sludge pit we go. Osaka’s doom duo Blacklab have been exploring the heavy intersections of doom and hardcore for a while. Bred and raised in the great Japanese underground scene that has spawned great heavy acts like Church of Misery and Corrupted, Blacklab display a keen understanding of this tradition. Starting off with a DIY ethic, self-releasing their works, the band would eventually find a home in New Heavy Sounds, through which they are now unleashing their third full-length record, In A Bizarre Dream.
The game plan here is straightforward. Blacklab rely on their heavy Black Sabbathian spirit, which at times arrives in a purist form. Parts of “Cold Rain” carry much of this DNA, as does the unstoppable progression, slow and drunkenly moving through space in “Monochrome Rainbow”. Further augmentations arrive in a quasi-psychedelic form, first with the fumes of “Evil 2” and then with the mesmerizing “Crows, Sparrows and Cats” featuring Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab.
But, still where Blacklab thrive is the domain between doom and hardcore. The cutthroat vocals of “Cold Rain” make this abundantly clear, while the duo’s destructive prowess takes things further in “Abyss Woods” and the monstrous “Evil 1″. They even carry some of the very early Pelican dirt in closer “Collapse”, just for good measure. Add to all this the rocking attitude, bringing in the punk-ish groove in “Dark Clouds” and the southern rock twang in “Lost”, and you cannot really ask for much more. – Spyros Stasis
Bloodbox – Post Human Disorder (Headwound Recordingz)
New Zealand trio Bloodbox (aka instrumentalist CyZERNOBrG and Megalith X plus vocalist Sacrist D’Aeth) call their style breakbeat grindcore. Give their new album, Post Human Disorder, a listen and you’ll surely conclude that they aren’t too far off with that description. Their music is, above all, totally bonkers and accompanied by visual and thematic elements that might have just as well been taken straight from the universe of the equally bonkers flick Psycho Goreman.
While the fusion of electronic music styles like jungle and drum’n’bass with hardcore has been done to death by the likes of Venetian Snares and Igorrr, Post Human Disorder brings something new to the table by interleaving grindcore with aggressive electronics but leaving plenty breathing space for each of the individual idiomatic elements. You don’t need to listen further than the opening “Project 19” for a prime example of this approach. The cut opens with a bout of cookie-cutter grindcore, then starts falling apart in physically impossible ways, only for it to suddenly get implanted with a bionic backbone and made to erupt into a cyber mashup of breakcore and extreme digital noise.
The remaining nine songs are equally insane, as booming electronics make way for Slayer-like thrashing and sampled guitars clash with distorted shrieks, scuzzy pads, bouncy drums, and spikes of noise. Yet, the most beautiful and perplexing thing appears between the segments of insanity, when lovely dubstep drops, bits of New Age pop (think Enigma), and angelic synth textures shimmer out of the darkness, only to get suffocated again. Awesomely deranged stuff. – Antonio Poscic