Qrixkuor – Zoetrope (Invictus Productions / Dark Descent)
Thanks to year-end lists, holidays, and everything else that goes along with that, December in general is not quite the ideal time for a band to release their next magnum opus. As a result, the month is fairly barren and mostly populated by stopgap EPs that serve as announcements of full-length albums to be released at a more opportune time. Yet Qrixkuor’s Zoetrope feels anything but a half-assed affair or passing thought. While only 24-odd minutes long, the EP is packed to the brim with the London duo’s signature dissonant, avant-garde take on death metal.
Its single, eponymous cut is a densely layered and sequenced piece of music that continues where 2021’s Poison Palinopsia left off, but feels even more experimental and out there. Bookended by dissonance risen out of blackened death metal and nephilim choirs, the EP encompasses sprawling sections of black metal concoctions as heavy as neutron stars, bouts of grooving death metal, and even a few bottomless pits of pure doom metal. As a whole, it makes for a harrowing, but oh-so-rewarding experience. – Antonio Poscic
T.O.M.B. – Terror Winds (Dark Essence)
The music of Pennsylvania’s T.O.M.B. (Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) is permeated by a feeling of trembling unease. A sort of existential disquiet seeps in deeper and deeper with each industrial and noise-infused raw black metal twist and turn, from the scuzzy tremolos and subhuman growls of the opening “Terror Winds” to the brutal power electronics and noise that swirl in the funeral doom wake of closer “Reincarnation”. Unlike their past few records which surfaced a brazenly chaotic vision of this dissonant fusion—sometimes dissolving into pure abstractions—Terror Winds stays truer to old-school black metal roots while simultaneously feeling more threatening and genuinely disquieting than any of its traditional representatives. Music from hell. – Antonio Poscic
Veilburner – VLBRNR (Transcending Obscurity)
There is something uncanny in the music of the Pennsylvania duo Veilburner. Perhaps thanks to their programmed drums or the idiosyncratic textures that cradle familiar black and death metal elements, VLBRNR sounds as if Gorguts met Necrophagist and Dominion-era Morbid Angel somewhere deep in the catacombs and ossuaries that stretch for kilometers.
Across the ten cuts, the exact mixture of styles changes wildly. The black metal rumble of “Envexomous Hex” is possessed by theremin-like wails and demonic chants, “Burning the Veil” is a dusty, country and folk-tinged near-ballad, “Unorthodoxagon” embraces the gothic allure of death, and “Ruin” dishes out blackened thrash insanity. Yet all of these tracks fit together perfectly, indulging in a common atmosphere of mischievous despair and metallic malevolence. The resulting ambiance feels like the end of the world, but instead of despair, you have a ticket to the best party in town. – Antonio Poscic
Woods of Desolation – The Falling Tide (Season of Mist)
Eight years of silence have ensued since the release of Woods of Desolation’s third full-length, As the Stars. Initially, Woods of Desolation embraced the raw ethos of the genre, the lo-fi production aiding their quest for atmospheric solace. Through the years, post-rock motifs became part of the act’s core, leading to their new record The Falling Tide. The combination of black metal and post-rock is by no means new at this stage, yet Woods of Desolation perform this union in great fashion. The sentimentality of post-rock becomes apparent from early on with “Far From Here”, the soothing melodies leading the way to the overwhelming riff barrage.
The Falling Tide is a ride through emotions, angst, and despair highlighted by the black metal past, yet they are balanced out by the ethereal and beautiful presence of post-rock. This site unfolds through forceful means, as with “Illumination” or “Anew”. Woods of Desolation contort this duality, blurring the lines between the extreme and the melodic. The grey post-rock structures of “Beneath a Sea of Stars” appear grim, while the blackened perspective of the title track is surprisingly uplifting. Thus the journey carries on, and slight deviations to rocking form or folk passages, as in “The Passing”, put the final bow on this very solid work. – Spyros Stasis