Innumerable Forms – Philosophical Collapse (Profound Lore)
The brutality of death metal coupled with the grandeur of doom. Many have experimented with this collision of styles, some taking a primal stance while others divulging into a state of romanticism. Innumerable Forms subscribe to the former group, taking on many of the old-school death metal teachings of Autopsy and their etudes in pacing. The start of the title in their latest album, Philosophical Collapse, oozes with this rotten spirit. It is not a static form; the grooves switch and alter. At one point they take on a polemic quality, unleashing hell with the likes of “Built on Wrought” and then appear as a force of nature with “Lifeless Harvest”. On the other hand, then they take on a punk-ish demeanor, relishing on the in-your-face approach of “Incremental” and especially the schizoid, thrash-infused assault in “Deified Tyrants”.
Yet, Innumerable Forms travel to a much darker corner. Their material draws upon the death metal of olds, going deep into the Finnish scene’s obscure secrets. Aspects of Demigod make an appearance with the purposeful stampede of “Thrall”. Here, the doom element is further exposed, and the realm of Winter rises to the surface. “Philosophical Collapse” sees this form become terrifying, while the towering manifestation alongside the slithering pace makes moments like “Bleeding Time” and “Despotic Rule” feel relentless. Slight sugarcoating this oppressive facade, Innumerable Forms do look into the early days of the Peaceville Three. The dark and yet romantic lead work of “Lifeless Harvest” sees this side come forth, acting as a counterweight to the devastating darkness that radiates from “Sleeping in Light”. It’s this mentality that makes Philosophical Collapse an excellent specimen of old-school mentality. – Spyros Stasis
Kathaaria – To Be Shunned By All… As Centers of Pestilence (NoEvDia)
With an origin that can be traced back to the early 2000s, Kathaaria came into prominence in 2008 with the release of their debut record The Complex Void of Negativity. The duo shared many of the principles of the technical black metal scene, but they added a few twists to their sound. In a way, they approached black metal with a traditional heavy metal approach, at the time partly obscured by the raw production. Still, the gem they uncovered in 2008 is now revisited with the release of their sophomore record To Be Shunned By All… As Centers of Pestilence. Technical aptitude defines the very foundations of the work. “The Last Act of Rebellion” arrives in spectacular fashion, the guitar work moving with great flow through the dissonant and the melodic. It is a delicate balance, and one that Kathaaria call upon multiple times in “Never Dead Enough”.
From there on, there is a tendency to mirror the dissonant black metal scene. The pressurized response, a jerk reaction towards an external nuisance unleashes a venomous assault. Blastbeats blaze through this thunderous onslaught, as parts of “The Judas Principle” reveal. The ethereal, imbalanced malice that Ved Buens Ende first ushered into this world is also a point of focus for Kathaaria. Slight clean parts add great depth to “Agenda Nihil”, while “Degenerate Encapsulate” undergoes a complete descent into this abyss.
Yet, it is the traditional metallic aspects that still prevail, this time around really shining through the excellent production. First, the doom touch adds an infernal and processional dimension, an excellent way to start in epic fashion with “Agenda Nihil”. But also to close the record with a mournful quality in “Apathetic”. Yet, the lead work is still so much more defined by the 1980s heavy metal tradition, and it shows through the incredible phrases and solos. Just listen to the guitar in “The Judas Principle” hiding an abundance of an NWOBHM pedigree through the layers of eerie and darkened black metal. It is this mindset that has allowed Kathaaria to provide such a wonderful alternative to the current black metal scene, and at the same time to release an equally wonderful work. – Spyros Stasis
Labyrinth of Stars – Spectrum Xenomorph (Translation Loss)
Formed by Christian Kolf of Valborg, Marcus Siegenhort of Lantlos, and Dirk Stark, Labyrinth of Stars is a much more brutal and intense offering than one might expect. Their debut record, Spectrum Xenomorph, relishes the otherworldly spirit of death metal. It is something that they dive into immediately through the intense kickoff in “Star Pervetor”. The blazing blastbeats and the commanding voice bring to mind the early Steve Tucker period of Morbid Angel, something that they return to with a vengeance in “Dissolving Into the Eternal Nothingness”.
Yet, the approach that Labyrinth of Stars undertake actually brings them closer to another stargazing extreme metal outfit: Nocturnus. The sci-fi subject matter aids in that regard, but the progressive mindset and the usage of synthesizers leave no doubt, as “Aethereal Solitude” comes in and the guitar leads of “Galactic Ritual” take over.
Still, Labyrinth of Stars combine this death metal essence with a relentless technical aptitude. It is not the flashy solos type of approach, but rather the unyielding continuous pummeling that acts like Meshuggah implement. “Ancient Machines of Authority” and “Vacuum” both devastate with this mentality. Yet, there are also fragments of ambiance that survives this onslaught. Post-metallic elements roam in “Aethereal Solitude”, the crystalline melodies becoming captivating, while ambient passages aid in the transitions.
Either in the form of short interludes, as is the case with “Long Gamma – Orphan With an Abstract Face”, or in the complete 12-minute descent into the dark and ominous, synth-based journey of “Transmission Delta – Exile”, Labyrinth of Stars make excellent use of this approach to create harrowing ambiances. The approach of Spectrum Xenomorph is varied and very well worked out, making for a great first step, even though it feels like the duration of this work could be stretched further. Half an hour of cosmic death metal appears a touch too short. – Spyros Stasis
Live Burial – Curse of the Forlorn (Transcending Obscurity)
There is a certain unhinged energy in Live Burial’s take on death metal, equally indebted to old-school acts and contemporary colleagues. That volatile edge is especially obvious during the cacophonous and nervous bridges, guitar leads, and solos that sound as if their wheels are about to come off and their structures might completely fall apart at any moment.
This unshackled, Slayeresque aspect of the Newcastle group’s music elevates the already excellent traditional death metal tropes around them, making them sound even more intriguing. Some of these segments descend into muddy doom-death. Others find a higher gear and lunge down labyrinths of hooks and tremolo-sustained brutality reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse. Regardless of whether it finds itself in dissonance or groove, Curse of the Forlorn slays. – Antonio Poscic
Medieval Demon – Black Coven (Hells Headbangers)
Black Coven is the third and undoubtedly best post-reformation album by the Greek band Medieval Demon. Rooted in that particularly luscious Hellenic strain of black metal (cue Rotting Christ and Varathron), their music drips with occultism, horror, sensual gothic darkness, and dangerous melody, resulting in some of the most cinematic and viscerally enthralling takes on the genre.
Listening to Black Coven is akin to immersing yourself in the atmosphere of a 1970s horror flick, where pillars of organ vibrato and theremin-like synths set the stage. Here, supremely tasty riffs and blazing drum fills play out their parts in narratives of witches, demons, and Satanic rituals. An anachronistic yet timeless quality and a bit of retro camp are embedded in each of the seven songs. These peculiarities might make the pieces seem like a niche pleasure for horror aficionados, but the quality of the music is worth a listen even if you don’t consider yourself a part of that group. – Antonio Poscic