Cavernous Gate – Voices From a Fathomless Realm (Lupus Lounge)
Cavernous Gate is the solo black-cum-doom metal project by Helrunar’s Sebastian Körkemeier alias Alsvartr. A master of atmosphere building, he crafts his debut Voices From a Fathomless Realm around moods and folk swirls that appear like distilled versions of those same elements sometimes found in Helrunar’s pagan black metal. Although it might be strange to frame a review of a metal album around its intros and interludes, the ones featured here are truly extraordinary, capable of dictating the tone of the whole record.
Ghostly chants, resounding tom hits, and fluttering chimes illuminate the darkness on “That Night… (Intro)”, “Watcher of the Vast” swells with dense textural noise, “Skeleton Path (Outro)” goes almost full-on dungeon synth, and the opening section of “The Turning Veil” unfurls awash in faux trumpets and synthetic bass. Each of these pieces stands on its own as a wonderful miniature, but also provides a narrative for the towering doom riffs, inhuman growls, eerie plainchant, progressive twists, and bursts of brutality in between. The cuts teeter between death-doom not too far removed from Green Carnation (“Old Graves Stir”), aggressive, blackened melodic death in the vein of Dark Tranquility (“Through the Morass”), and gothic-tinged metal in the vein of Paradise Lost and Tristania (“Conjuration”). Exquisite stuff. – Antonio Poscic
Cloud Rat – Threshold (Artoffact)
Cloud Rat need no introduction. The act from Michigan has been a force to be reckoned with in the extreme music scene, mainly through their grindcore manifestation but also through some off-kilter experimentations. The latest addition in this excellent, expanding discography is Threshold, which finds Cloud Rat at their most precise and vigorous. On one hand, there is an admiration towards the punk origin. The D-beat adjacent progression occasionally takes over, leading to a recital of pain and anguish. The caveman-like beating of “Listening Ear”, the frantic beatdown of “Shepherd” and the energetic, primal, and yet technically sound energy of “Persocom” and “Corset” are just some of the instances where this tradition shines.
Yet, the hardcore self is a gateway towards the absolute frenzy that only grindcore can offer. Urgent and immediate, Cloud Rat gain impressive momentum with “Inner Controller,” becoming unstoppable. This exhilaration leads to moments where the desperation and exasperation are palpable, where the relentlessness of “Crusp” and the death growls of “Imaging Order” shine. Pushing through to heavier breakdowns, there is a flirtation with the sludge domain. Doom motifs rise in “12-22-09” and “Aluminum Branches”, while the breakdowns of “Babahaz” reach a seismic level. A few small injections are more than welcome.
The melodic inclinations create an interesting contrast with the aggression, “Imaging Order” and “Ribbon Boot” toying with some very enticing ideas. Sprinkles of ambiance come together adding to the atmosphere in “Ursitory” and some synth notions in “Kaleidoscope” see Cloud Rat reach for something different. Even though they do not go anywhere near full Do Not Let Me Off the Cliff, it is still a very nice addition. Threshold finds Cloud Rat at a moment of evolution. Their identity is set, yet elements of their past are augmented. The technical prowess is expanded, the live feeling is established and slight alterations find their place in the grand scheme. Excellent work indeed. – Spyros Stasis
Daeva – Through Sheer Will and Black Magic (20 Buck Spin)
In a twist of sorts, three members of epic doomsters Crypt Sermon are behind the black/thrash entity Daeva. Steve Jansson, Frank Chin, and Enrique Sagarnaga are joined by vocalist Edward Gonet to revive the satanic spirit and pure malice of 1980s thrash and proto-black metal. An initial taste was given back in 2017 with Daeva’s EP Pulsing Dark Absorptions and now the band is back with their first full-length Through Sheer Will and Black Magic.
Daeva do as expected, unleashing with full force a barrage of old-school extreme metal. The chaotic invocations of early thrash are front and center, as “The Architect and The Monument” call upon the Slayer spirit, circa Hell Awaits. Volatile and unstoppable, they carry on with the disturbing and bacchian influence of first-era Bathory, the sense of urgency in “Loosen the Tongues of the Dead” shining through this Scandinavian lens. Additional touches provide more depth, be it through the sharp and precise lead work, revealing a depth of technical aptitude and not just brutality.
Similarly, the black metal eeriness takes hold, crafting claustrophobic moments in “Passion Under the Hammer” and “Fragmenting In Ritual Spendor” with the clean guitar parts. In the end though, when the recipe is preserved and unchanged, it’s the attitude and purpose that Daeva bring that defines this record. The drive is key, with the band exploiting every little bit of influence to build this momentum in the likes of “Itch of the Bottle”, and craft masterworks like “Luciferian Return”. – Spyros Stasis
Desbot – Pass of Change (Art As Catharsis)
While elsewhere in this column I praised bands for sticking to their formulas (as long as the results are enjoyable), post-metal as a genre has gotten particularly stale and tiresome, while outstanding acts are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Enter New Zealanders Desbot, whose debut provides a new, excitingly fresh take on the genre.
In lieu of endless buildups and pointless crescendos, the music of the guitarless trio—Tom Pierard on drums, Nick Blow on keyboards/synths, Maurice Beckett on bass—is driven by groove and a rocking sludge backbone, but also augmented with a myriad of flourishes collected across the music world. After the atmospheric albeit dynamic “Moonlit Forest” opens the album, they drop into dreamy shoegaze on “Crying Eyes” and let “Eclipsed” dissolve into almost pure electronics, complete with hi-hats, claps, and beats as a prelude to a post-metal explosion. And even when they do visit one of the genre’s typical tropes, engaging in a patient crescendo or dishing out texturally expansive riffs like on “The Wind and Rain”, they do so with conviction and an energetic poise reminiscent of the best of the genre. A stellar first outing. – Antonio Poscic
Embrace of Thorns – Entropy Dynamics (Nuclear War)
The Greek blackened death metal outfit Embrace of Thorns has been around for more than two decades now, yet by listening to their sixth full-length, you’d think that they were a band that just started out, filled with fresh ideas and overflowing with energy. Right from the opening cut “Blackest Orthodoxy Perpetuated”, Entropy Dynamics dishes out servings upon servings of sweltering black/death metal, simultaneously brutal to the levels of early Nile and tinged with an engrossing medieval-sounding atmosphere in the vein of Novembers Doom.
While technically belonging under the Hellenic metal banner and showing occasional glimpses of Rotting Christ influence, Embrace of Thorns very much do their own thing, a style of blackened death reminiscent of bands like Spain’s Teitanblood rather than any compatriots. If you need proof of quality, look no further than the whirlwind of riffs and growls and blasts on “The Breath of the Beast” and the amazing melodies and riffing on “Transformation into a Celestial Ghoul”. – Antonio Poscic