There is a lot of death metal this month! Transcending Obscurity continues to put out some excellent underground acts, focusing more on the technical side of the genre. Both the new Orphalis and Dead and Dripping records are spectacular and worth your attention. On the more traditional side, Dripping Decay relish the guttural history of the genre with their debut, while Werewolves take a cue from the often underrated central European death metal scene, wrapped around a technical blackened sense, for their latest work.
In the cross sections, Crypta build upon a strong debut with an excellent follow-up, their death/thrash as poignant as ever. While in the slower territories, Nott inform their sludge/metalcore with fragments of death metal, and Hallucinate get lost in their potent mix of blackened psychedelic death metal.
In this otherworldly side, Urfaust unleash their swan song in the hazy yet epic Untergang, while further in the obscure dark ambient space you will find Pavor Nocturnus. Still, the traditional route is still well traveled. On the speed metal front Knife produce an exhilarating work with Heaven Into Dust, Godthrymm continue to make their way towards the doom metal pantheon, and of course Spirit Adrift keep hammering on their love for traditional heavy metal. That and much more, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis
Anti-God Hand – Blight Year (American Dreams)
Back in 2021, City and i.o released an exquisite work of experimental music with Chaos Is God Neighbor. Now City, the alias of guitarist Will Ballantyne, returns with the sophomore record of his black metal project Anti-God Hand. The follow-up to 2021’s Wretch, Blight Year is an intense trip through the landscape of modern post-black metal, with Ballantyne re-interpreting many of the traditional attributes of the genre. Instead of textural characteristics, Blight Year features a well-defined and complex approach. The raw perspective melts into this intricate and complicated structure, akin to classical compositions in “Barge of Light”. It is an aspect also mirrored in the progression, with “The Horde at the End of Language” imbued with a strong sense of drive and purpose. Similarly, the grasp on the dynamics from Ballantyne is near flawless, knowing exactly when to apply tension and when to offer a respite.
Hand in hand with this comes the transcendental, modern-day interpretation of the genre, with moments like “Hyperincursion of the Theocentre” and “Held” relishing the early Liturgy energy. It is a quality that opens up further experimentation, as Ballantyne takes on a krautrock approach. The application of atmospherics and further sound design build a crystalline monument, one capable of exploding in a myriad of colors in moments like “Chaoscene Hell”. To balance things out, Anti-God Hand still offer grueling and oppressive moments. The continuous beating in “Endless Brightness”, the in-your-face assault of “Demon Sniper” and the complete nihilism of “Warped and Opalescent Swords” are examples of this modus operandi. It all results in a very technically sound, forward-thinking, and beautifully balanced work of extreme music. – Spyros Stasis
Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium: Nahab (Debemur Morti)
Continuing with their exploration of Lovecraftian horror, Blut Aus Nord return with their second entry in the Disharomonium era, following 2022’s Undreamable Abysses. In that way, Nahab feels like a natural continuation of the canon. The dissonant edge is pivotal, arriving with venomous intent. Going through different modes, there are times when the pressure and tension take over completely, resulting in sadistic offerings like “The Crowning Horror” or moments of virtuosic avant-garde in “The Black Vortex”.
The roots obviously travel back to the feverish dreams of Ved Buens Ende, their hallucinogenic approach being felt in “The Endless Multitude”. Similarly, Blut Aus Nord have this uncanny ability to invert their melodies, contorting them to a nightmare form. For example, “Queen of the Dead Dimension” carries an out-of-place harmonious attitude, but it is stretched beyond recognition to a sickening form. However, there are still moments of genuine melodic intent, with “Nameless Rites”, taking a cue possibly from Hallucinogen and unleashing some excellent hooks. Still, the chilling effect is always present, and when you add the layered atmospherics of “Hideous Dream Opus” and the complete sonic disorder of “The Ultimate Void of Chaos”, the amorphous malice of the great old ones is palpable. – Spyros Stasis
Creak – Depth Perception (Prosthetic)
A locomotive menacingly approaches, and then it is lights out. That is the experience of opener “Crossroads”, from Creak’s debut record Depth Perception. But, after the initial impact has died down this work keeps on unfolding. Sure, much of the recipe is based on the hardcore and metalcore sound. “The Early Hours Know My Secrets” takes the best lessons from Machine Heads’s The More Things Change, while the inclusion of clean vocals in “Left To Heaven” unearths an emotional depth. Within this mold, the nu metal sensibility feels natural. The groove it brings does not feel tacky, but refined and meaningful, appearing modernized and potent in “Restless Dreams.”
All of the above would be enough for a good record, but Depth Perception is not a good record. It is an excellent one. The reason is that Creak leave no stone unturned. Within this direct motif, they are incredibly creative. Their rhythmic patterns are unconventional, extremely precise, and meticulously structured, reaching for a Messhugah-like intensity. In the same breath, their experimentation with the guitars is uncanny. The manner in which they morph the sound, not just to add the off-kilter dissonance, as in “Hare in the Woods”, but to actually create bizarre, novel timbre. On top of all that, it is the ridiculous atmospherics. It feels like Creak have absorbed these from marathons of Twin Peaks. The harrowing essence of “I’m Not Alone In The Dark” and the synth pads of “Cold Shoulder” extend the dimensionality of Depth Perception. It is unreal that this is a debut full-length. – Spyros Stasis
Crypta – Shades of Sorrow (Napalm)
When I reviewed Crypta’s Echoes of the Soul in the June 2021 edition of this column, I declared the album as one of the best old-school death metal releases of the year. Two years and one lead guitarist swap later – Jéssica Falchi replaced Sonia Anubis in 2022 – and the São Paulo-based quartet have done it again. Shades of Sorrow is every bit as good if not better than their debut, while the group’s range of (not only) death metal tricks has been significantly expanded.
Take, for example, the stomping, swirling “Dark Clouds”, which alternates galloping death blasts and thrashing grooves, or the airier, black metal-influenced “Poisonous Apathy” that sees Luana Dametto do her best Dying Fetus-era Kevin Talley impression with pumping intricate drum lines. Each cut entertains its own distinct style and executes it to perfection, but also manages to incorporate these disparate strains into a cohesive, very compact whole. In turn, this allows the brutal, Morbid Angel evoking “Agents of Chaos” to exist side-by-side with the Death-like melodic flow and atmospheric parts of “The Other Side of Anger”, underscoring the record’s long-lasting appeal. – Antonio Poscic
Darsombra – Dumesday Book (Pnictogen)
While Darsombra’s Brian Daniloski and Ann Everton played “Call the Doctor” in the middle of a desert in Utah, the massive Factory Butte providing an awe-inspiring backdrop, their music is only loosely related to desert rock. Instead, the vast, open spaces the Baltimore, Maryland duo’s music explores and evokes lie somewhere beyond the sky. Dumesday Book, which features a shortened version of the aforementioned, mesmerizing “Call the Doctor”, is not simple space rock either, but rather a fusion of styles chosen to center their listeners and themselves within a specific atmosphere and ambiance.
Elements of progressive rock, field recordings, Krautrock, drone, dark ambient, avant pop, and doom metal swirl around and from each other, surfacing and subsiding from movement to movement in expansive synth textures, fuzzy riffs, meandering guitar solos, and the occasional mundanely but profound-feeling chant. Throughout the album’s 75-minute-long psychedelic journey, the music rises higher and higher, becoming almost transcendental, all the while reflecting a very down-to-earth story of pandemic isolation. It might take a specific state of mind for this music to properly click, but once it does, it becomes nigh transformative. – Antonio Poscic