Epoch of Unlight – At War With the Multiverse (Dark Horizon)
Today, Epoch of Unlight is no longer the same band that released the awesome The Continuum Hypothesis in 2005 on the then equally awesome The End Records. And their mind-melting progressive black/technical death metal style is not quite so intricate either. However, At War With the Multiverse is more than just an excellent comeback, it is one of the best technically inclined, melodically tinged black/death records in recent memory.
Throughout this new material, the Memphis, Tennessee group elegantly slip between grooving bits of melodeath embellished with hints of tech and brutal slam, then shuffle into stretches of blazing riffing, growls that are delivered with utmost conviction, metronomically precise quavering blast beats, and subdued brutality. These fluid transitions are supported by very strong songwriting that incorporates all the elements into wholes, demonstrating the playing ability and exercises in extremity as well as unfurling exquisite self-contained musical stories. Awesome stuff. – Antonio Poscic
Gaerea – Mirage (Season of Mist)
Gaerea have a keen understanding of the balance that is required in modern black metal. It is a quality they have been developing through the years, one that has resulted in their astounding sophomore work Limbo. Now, two years after Limbo the Portuguese act returns, further honing their sound and vision, with Mirage. Their black metal edge arrives in cataclysmic fashion, as opener “Memoir” suggests, showing an allure for the teachings of Mgla and Behemoth. It is this dichotomy between melody and dissonance, staying true to the tradition and history of black metal while allowing for a direct and catchy perspective.
But, what really makes Mirage work is its sense of purpose. It can be felt through the entire record, the movement and progression are inescapable. “Salve” and “Mantle” feel perfectly backbreaking, while “Arson” unleashes a true stampede. This is where the underlying epic characteristic rises to the surface, being exposed through the slower tempo of “Deluge” and the bonus track “Dormant”. Switching then to the otherworldly, Gaera weave clean melodies to mesmerizing effect with the start of “Memoir”, augmenting the despair of their blackened brew.
To top it all off, everything shines through the incredible production, crystal clear and providing a great definition for each individual element. The melodic inclinations pierce through, revealing a slight touch of a classic metallic lineage, while the venomous ideas of the title track drip their poison in a caustic manner. It is this combination of maturity and craftsmanship that elevates Mirage even further, making it the peak release among an already strong discography. – Spyros Stasis
Gutvoid – Durance of Lightless Horizons (Blood Harvest)
It is a form of poetic justice that the works of the tech-death masters Demilich and criminally underrated atmospheric death metal act Timeghoul finally get their due. Their descendants are many, and now Gutvoid join their ranks. The grand, atmospheric perspective is obvious from the beginning as “Coils of Gas-Hewn Filament” comes forth, elements of a death/doom quality taking over in the likes of “The One Who Dwells Beyond Time”. Yet, it is the slithering start of the epic closer “Wandering Dungeon” that establishes that spine-tingling effect.
Grooves intersect, the pace altering between ultra-fast blastbeats and steady processions. The manner in which Gutvoid intertwine these modes in the opener and “In Caverns It Lurks” is astounding. It augments the Lovecraft-ian story-telling, hitting a higher gear with “Skeletal Glyph”. Of course, this duality does not stop at the pacing of this work. But, it is rather established in Gutvoid’s melodic and dissonant selves. At times they descend into a cyclonic state, off-kilter grooves merging with discordance to nauseating effect.
Yet, there are moments when their lead work becomes graphic. Excellent hooks are introduced throughout, altering between the rotten in “Coils of Gas-Hewn Filament”, to the disturbing clean overtures of “In Caverns It Lurks” to the completely infernal with “Wandering Dungeon”. Durance of the Lightless Horizons is an excellent introduction to Gutvoid and their multifaceted death metal. – Spyros Stasis
Hadopelagyal – Nereidean Seismic End (Ván/Amor Fati)
Nereidean Seismic End, the debut by the mysterious German duo of Hekla (guitars/vocals) and Augur (drums), is a prime cut of the deepest and most suffocating trenches of black metal expressions. Enveloped in a bumbling, echoing shroud, the music appears as if emanating from a pit of tar at the bottom of the ocean, fighting for its life.
A mess of swirling, wailing tremolos, and resounding blast beats are locked in a battle with the pressure, writhing in rage and pain as they shift from hyperspeed attacks to sludge-like dirges. So thick and claustrophobic is Hadopelagyal’s style that although the attacking black metal elements sometimes crumble, coalesce, and become purely textural—almost blackgaze and drone-like in their appearance—they keep rolling forward without missing a step. What a punishing and pleasurable piece of music. – Antonio Poscic
Hail Conjurer – Earth Penetration (Signal Rex/Bestial Burst)
Harri Kuokkanen is best known as the current vocalist of Hooded Menace, but throughout the years he has explored a variety of sounds and tropes. From the drone/doom of Horse Latitudes to the experimental black metal of Ride For Revenger, Kuokkanen displays an adventurous spirit. With his solo project Hail Conjurer, Kuokkanen takes a descent into the black metal abyss. The focus here is the lo-fi tradition, the ritualism, and the ambiance of the genre’s early days, with a few twists along the way. This has been the recipe since the start of Hail Conjurer, and it remains the focus for the act’s sixth record Earth Penetration.
The old-school black metal spirit is smeared all over Earth Penetration, the guitars oozing with malice and eeriness. Majestic qualities arise in the opener “The Sin and the Sweat”, while epic contortions arrive with the lead work of “Come Alive”. The ambient leanings aid greatly to that end, prominent pads coming in for a mesmerizing effect in the likes of “Aghast”. This is where the deviation becomes that much more interesting. The ferocity combined with this minimal take creates an ambient presence. It is ritualism akin to the early, dark visions of Samael rising through the abyss with a ceremonial splendor in “Winter Death”, only to then turn to a chaotic and animalistic onslaught with the title track. It is an off-kilter approach to the fervent tradition, with Hail Conjurer crafting a work that is old-school and lo-fi, yet with a very nice alteration on its minimalism. – Spyros Stasis
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