Hive – Spiritual Poverty (Translation Loss)
Formed in the mid-2010s, Hive subscribe to the dark and oppressive sound of hardcore punk and crust. Since their inception, their works oozed a sense of urgency. A volatile perspective, an attack on everything and everyone. Through the years things have not really changed for Hive. The Minneapolis act still goes at it hard, this time around with their Translation Loss debut album, Spiritual Poverty. They reach across the ages, the D-beat lineage living alongside the darkness of Tragedy, as “With Roots In Hell” bashes through the door. It is a violent process, “Order As Law” causing absolute devastation. Yet, there is a certain catchiness that comes with all that. The progression of “So It is Done” is intoxicating and the rocky attitude of “Protection” cannot be denied.
Despite all the energy and immediacy, Hive radiate an oppressive essence. They offer a no-bullshit attitude depicting the state of reality. A touch of a blackened spirit goes some way, but it is the sludge moments that drive this home. “Parallel Lines” sees this transformation, but it is “Metamorphosis” that completes it. A Sabbathian carcass has crawled through the floor, putting a heavy veil of darkness over the visual field. It is this ability to craft such a claustrophobic work, a record that despite its intrinsic energy thrives in the darkness that makes Hive shine so bright. – Spyros Stasis
Liminal Shroud – All Virtues Ablaze (Willowtip)
Liminal Shroud play the sort of atmospheric black metal that is intended to be harsh and oppressive, both musically and philosophically, but that carries such bittersweet melodies and a fragile sense of world-building that you can’t help but want to get lost in the pain of it all.
The Canadian trio’s sophomore release All Virtues Ablaze follows in the path of their solid 2020 record Through the False Narrows while improving upon all of its elements. If this music is the aural equivalent of a walk through a foggy forest, then the fog is thicker and the forest is more imposing here, as the underlying atmo black metal figures become bolder and move from acoustic ambient sections into scorching dirges. Although the latter’s inherent lyricism, occasional post-metal breaks and buildups, and haunting melodies are reminiscent of the dusky, folk-tinged black metal of Agalloch, Panopticon, and Wolves in the Throne Room, Liminal Shroud walk through a world all their own. – Antonio Poscic
Locrian – New Catastrophism (Profound Lore)
Can a hiatus act like a cocoon? Can a period of inactivity actually nurture the next evolutionary step of an artist? This appears to be the case with Locrian and their return after a seven-year-long hiatus. The prolific extreme/experimental act had built an impressive discography reaching a peak with their latest works in Return to Annihilation and Infinite Dissolution. Molding post-rock and drone, alongside black metal and post-metal tropes, Locrian used all their influences to the full extent. Yet, while their return sees them still moving between genres, this time around they arrive with a laser-sharp focus.
The progression of New Catastrophism is thus the most impressive aspect of the record. The slow build-up in the drone domain with “Mortichnia” sets the scenery, feedback roaring and creating this harrowing space. Fragments of dark ambient rise to the surface, causing sonic specters to appear in the distant background. The doom implosion finally comes in with “The Glare Is Everywhere and Nowhere,” as distorted guitars and cutthroat vocals fill the space. This is where the slight change ensues, the post-rock lineage taking over with its ethereal melodies in “Incomplete Map of Voids”.
It is the counterweight to the earlier bleakness, offering a glimmer of hope before the epic, organic form of “Cenotaphs to the Final Glacier” concludes this work. The bonus pieces of the Ghost Frontiers EP act as a long-form outro, the two inverted structures of “Witness the Collapse of Geologic Time” and “The Chasm of the Future” revealing the drone majesty. Still, New Catastrophism is more than able to stand in its own right, seeing a much more mature version of Locrian come to the forefront, releasing what is arguably their best work to date. – Spyros Stasis
Morbid Evils – Supernaturals (Transcending Obscurity)
Helmed by Rotten Sound’s vocalist Keijo Niinimaa, Finnish outfit Morbid Evils play an almost unbearably filthy and heavy fusion of doom, death, and sludge metal. However, rather than simply drenching their guitars and bass with feedback and noise and slowing down to a crawl, the trio find inspiration in the oppressive dynamic between elements plucked from each of the three genres.
The four cuts featured on the band’s third LP are long, patient affairs, and spend most of their duration meandering between gradations of a sustained, oppressive mood. In the opening “Fearless”, a monument of the gnarliest sludge arises from a sea of feedback, then roars forward, picking up the pace until it’s become a rolling thrash-death romp. A few minutes later, “Anxious” counters by digging into the bittersweet and the emotional, evoking the raw sludge, doom, and drone of early Neurosis and YOB, before things spiral out of control and find a tasty death metal groove on “Tormented”. Ultimately, the hair-raising progressions of “Supernatural” descend into the deepest pit of funeral doom and despair, never to surface again. – Antonio Poscic
Motorpsycho – Ancient Astronauts (Rune Grammofon/Stickman)
Motorpsycho have had such a long and fruitful career on the fringes of progressive and avant-rock that a summary wouldn’t fit into three MetalMatters columns. Even with that context in mind, Ancient Astronauts counts among the Norwegian band’s most accomplished releases.
As if manifesting 1970s progressive rock (think Canterbury scene) for contemporary times, on Ancient Astronauts Motorpsycho take the gentle, slightly psychedelic, and folk-infused sound of a bygone era that defined early King Crimson—complete with yearning faux strings and sliding guitars—and fuse it with scrunching drones and powerful, expansive post-metal. Then, they use this new language to narrate pieces whose sonic threads are intricate, but oh so easy on the ears, with each of them providing a piece of a larger mystical sci-fi story. – Antonio Poscic