Gorod – The Orb (Independent)
Bordeaux’s Gorod have nothing left to prove to anyone and The Orb cements them as a crucial member of technical death metal’s pantheon. Like their previous releases, this latest record is another attack on the senses, delivering blow after blow of aggressive, insanely complex death metal squeezed between quirky but welcoming lighter shapes. Take the eponymous “The Orb” and “Savitri” as an example of these inspired segues. First, they turn to neon-drenched synthwave and entertain a post-rock crescendo, building towards but never reaching the usual grandiose plateau. Then, in a swift motion, they start slamming and grooving, dispelling and pulverizing that bit of constructed atmosphere. Instead, they chase after a lovely melody, following it through a maze of spastic drum fills, subhuman growls, and seesawing riffs, unfurling just one of many dazzling sequences on an all-around impressive record. – Antonio Poscic
Isole – Anesidora (Hammerheart)
The output of Swedish metallers Isole has remained notably consistent and strong over their now two-decades-long career. In this sense, Anesidora continues carrying the torch of a morose, darkly romantic strain of doom metal, with progressive ornaments sprinkled between towering riffs, reverberating organ lines, and impassioned singing. In some ways, their past and current style is reminiscent of late Katatonia. While their Swedish compatriots had to grow into this sound, Isole have always felt at home in it. In turn, this mastery of the genre allows them to explore beyond its confines, often leading them down remarkable paths of traditional, Candlemass-evoking doom metal (“Monotonic Scream”), proggy doom-death in the style of Akercocke or Green Carnation (“Twisted Games”), and majestic hymns tinged with Gothic overtones (“Open Your Mind”). – Antonio Poscic
Kommand – Death Age (20 Buck Spin)
Kommand drew first blood in 2020 with their war-induced debut Terrorscape. Beneath the rough production, the brutal sense carried much of the spirit of Bolt Thrower. Polemic themes combined with a heavy groove, explosive outbreaks arriving like rapid fire. Their sophomore does not change much of this recipe other than a stronger, more crisp production. The Bolt Thrower circa Realm of Chaos and War Master still defines their work. The mid-tempo groove of “Final Virus” and the graphic stampede of “Chimera Soldiers” showcase this. As do the incredible, melodically inclined lead work, shining with this epic sense.
There is still further ground that Kommand explore, the more recent outings of the US scene are quite obvious. The sickening lead work of “Polar Holdout” carries the familiar guttural sense of Tomb Mold, while some of the Florida scene’s DNA has crept into the mix. This becomes more obvious as Death Age unfolds, with the final two tracks, “Fleeing Western Territories” and “Collapse Metropolis” moving from the European scene’s groove to the American scene’s ferocity. It is a good transition, very nicely done within a concise time span, revealing a great take on the genre’s lineage. – Spyros Stasis
Lamp of Murmuur – Saturnian Bloodstorm (Argento/Not Kvlt)
The elusive M. keeps adorning different masks for Lamp of Murmuur. In 2021, Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism saw raw black metal and dungeon synth combine. In 2022, Submission and Slavery put darkwave front and center. Now, Saturnian Bloodstorm descend into a different darkness. At first, a storm of frenzy riffs appears, an Emperor-esque motif rising in “Conqueror Beyond the Frenzied Fog.” The keyboard flourishes in “Seal of the Dominator”, and the title track further establishes this majestic identity. The Scandinavian scene is further evoked through the bitter steel of Immortal’s lineage, and the sharp riffs of “In Communion With the Wintermoon” further push this narrative. Within this space the atmospheric dedication still prevails, the weaving lead work of the opener drawing from the post-punk scene. Similarly, the dungeon synth aspect plunges the work to unearthly depths, “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might” crafting a bleak oasis.
While all this is familiar, the entire record is packaged with a more poignant traditional metallic approach. Lamp of Murmurr drive head first into this mold, the sharp riffs screaming with heavy metal fury presented through a blackened lens. The melodic solo piece at the end of the opener is such a stunning embrace of the classic heavy metal form. At the same time, Lamp of Murmuur don’t forget the origins of black metal, the rhythmic patterns of “Hymns of Death, Rays of Might” bringing to mind the very early days of Bathory and the attitude of Celtic Frost. Lamp of Murmuur masterfully coalesce these elements, embracing the heavy metal lineage similarly to how Immortal viewed the genre. But, they do it in their own way, still pushing a multitude of tastes and scenes in Saturnian Bloodstorm. – Spyros Stasis
Liturgy – 93696 (Thrill Jockey)
While it might be easier and neater to frame each Liturgy release as a discrete work to be judged against others in the group’s discography, perhaps the better way to understand Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix‘s art is to see them as ephemeral snapshots of an otherwise fluid, uninterrupted oeuvre. In this context, 93696 becomes more than just Hunt-Hendrix’s latest outing, but the embroidered result of everything that came before it, from Renihilation‘s lo-fi harshness to the daring experimentalism of H.A.Q.Q., and the philosophical undercurrents shadowing the music.
Contemplated as such, the album becomes a sprawling, ambitious piece that spans almost an hour and a half of music and incorporates elements as disparate as Appalachian folk, a cappella chants, turntable scratches, and breakbeats into a cohesive, utterly affecting whole. While eclectic, the metaphysical narrative, which forms and drives the album, results in movements that flow naturally into one another, even as they bridge acoustic guitar, flute, and electric piano soliloquies with pummeling black metal attacks. Because of its structure and complexity, 93696 might never be truly understood or fully untangled, but that is all that more mesmerizing because of the hermetic conundrum behind it. – Antonio Poscic
Majesties – Vast Reaches Unclaimed (20 Buck Spin)
For the past three decades, many have tried and failed to recapture the scintillating magic and fiery energy of the early, so-called Gothenburg style of melodic death metal. The long list of missteps often included even the original three. In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and At the Gates went searching for flourishes and spices to add to the trademark style, only to forget what made their music great. Perhaps it’s the fact that Minneapolis’s Majesties are a side project—featuring members of Inexorum, Antiverse, and Obsequiae—that allows them to be so awesome in recreating melodic death metal’s original sound and feel.
From the opening, The Jester Race-indebted “In Yearning, Alive”—complete with Maidenesque guitar harmonies—to the more aggressive, black metal and thrash-tinged “The World Unseen” and “Our Gracious Captors”, Vast Reaches Unclaimed is the roar of a group that decided to disregard imperatives of originality and instead let rip their worship of Gothenburg sound. While each of the cuts here sounds utterly familiar—the guitar tone, the growls, the structures, and the overarching flow—they are also imbued with authentic passion and intensity, then played with absolute gusto. Excellent even when considered individually, they add up to a ridiculously fun yet strangely fresh album. – Antonio Poscic
Necropanther – Betrayal (Independent)
Denver, Colorado’s Necropanther can do no wrong. Album after album, the four-piece keep delivering prime cuts of thrashing, slightly blackened melodic death metal, equal parts Skeletonwitch, Vektor, and At the Gates. For those who have heard their previous scorchers such as 2018’s Eyes of Blue Light or 2019’s The Doomed City, the Warriors-themed Betrayal will hold very few surprises. But this is a band that sounds and feels so confident in their familiar robes that there can hardly be any better news than that.
From the rumbling attacks of opener “One and Only” to the crunchy Dark Tranquillity on steroids vibes of “Betrayal”, the album delivers and then some. Newcomers and fans alike will find an abundance of Necropanther’s best features here: twin guitar harmonies and frolicking leads, battles between shrieked and deep guttural growls, rollercoaster-like blast beats, and superb songwriting that ties it all together. – Antonio Poscic
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