Gridlink – Coronet Juniper (Willowtip)
The amount of riffs, rhythmic patterns, ingenious breaks, and musical ideas that guitarist extraordinaire Takafumi Matsubara and his colleagues from Gridlink can cram into a single minute is nothing short of astounding. Coronet Juniper is a triumphant comeback album for the group, one that arrives nine years after Matsubara suffered from a brain infection-induced hand paralysis that left his musical career in question. While we can only imagine the struggles the guitarist faced throughout this period, this latest album continues right where 2014’s Longhena left off. It manifests everything that makes Gridlink’s take on grindcore so unique, combining technical complexity with the genre’s trademark hyperspeed insanity and flickers of genuinely beautiful melodies and dissonance. Welcome back, Gridlink, we missed you dearly! – Antonio Poscic
Hexvessel – Polar Veil (Svart)
This latest album by Mat McNerney alias Kvohst’s Hexvessel is also the group’s strangest release yet, primarily thanks to just how different it sounds compared to anything they’ve released in the past. An unforgiving, gelid black metal luster now resides where once lived their trademark earthy, occult tones sourced from folk and progressive rock traditions. At the same time, the soul of the music feels profoundly familiar, emanating an arcane sense of mysticism that pulls you in deeper and deeper, instilling a feeling of sinking into a pit of Vantablack tar.
While previous albums invited comparisons with the likes of Anna von Hausswolff and :Of the Wand & the Moon:, Polar Veil exists in the vicinity of raw and post-black metal. Each of the eight cuts surfaces from a lake of nervous tremolos and undulating modes, while Kvohst’s gentle, clean lines and diffused chants slide between shards of blackgazed, jagged riffs and blast beats. On “A Cabin in Montana”, these expressions veer closer to the classic black metal expressions of Immortal or Darkthrone, while “Crepuscular Creatures” and “Ring” slip into a grandiose, voluminous attire, adorned with death doom metal, perverted sludge, and riffs that come crashing down like crumbling ancient towers. Dauntingly beautiful stuff. – Antonio Poscic
KEN mode – VOID (Artoffact)
There are few works that capture the existential darkness as accurately as KEN mode’s 2022 record, NULL. Naturally, one record is not enough to cover the entirety of the subject, so VOID comes in as a companion piece. While NULL displayed a near distaste for the rock nature, VOID attempts to invert its form. “The Shrike” immediately comes in as a malformed, alternative rock anthem, direct and immediate in its approach. Further additions expand this viewpoint, be it through the Godflesh-ian influence of “I Cannot” or the animalistic punk ethos of “Painless”. Of course, the extreme pathways bloom towards the discordant and noise rock dimensions, with the second part of “A Reluctance of Being” achieving brutal heights through its repetitive motifs.
Yet, as was the case with NULL, it is the descent to the no-wave realm that elevates VOID. Once again the presence of Kathryn Kerr is pivotal, the saxophone magically transforming “Painless” and “I Cannot” with its improvisational chaos. It also opens up more atmospheric passages, as with the subdued “A Reluctance of Being”. Abstract territories and math-induced spasms do enough damage, but beneath it all the killer feature of KEN mode is their emotion. At times this is rooted in a deeply felt anguish, externalized brilliantly in the ending of “These Wires”.
Yet, as hard-hitting as these explosions are, it is the darker leaning on defeatist approach that reveals the blackest of hearts. The exhausted demeanor of “We’re Small Enough” or the tragic and soul-wrenching etude that is “He Was a Good Man, He Was a Taxpayer” is the stuff that great works of art are made of. – Spyros Stasis
Oros Kau – Thanatos (I, Voidhanger)
Neptunian Maximalism is not the sole creative endeavor CZLT. The artist’s adventurous spirit has also given life to Oros Kau, a project rooted in the extreme metal ethos. Following on the exquisite Imperii Templum Aries, CZLT returns with Thanatos. Much of this work finds inspiration in the black metal tradition. The cyclothymic riffs of “Nepthys”, the discordant characteristic of “Let Neptune Stike Ye Dead” and the cataclysmic effect of “Marbas” all drive this point home. But, in performing these excavations, Oros Kau find inspiration in other scenes. The sheer brutality of the work, the deep growls, and punishing grooves take on a death metal flavor. At the same time, the heavier guitars of “Baal” and the glacial pace speak of a doom touch.
All the above are just fragments of the self. What lies at the core of Oros Kau is the avant-garde black metal tradition. The technical aspect suggests as much, without going over the top. Yet, the applications of hazy psychedelia on top of the brutal delivery begin to peel off the external layers. Beneath it all is an act that is indebted equally to the ferocity of Aosoth and the grandeur of Arcturus. “Dawn of the Red Scorpio” is an excellent blueprint of this amalgamation, before the bizarro and semi-improvisational “Bios-Phos-Metis” causes everything to dissolve into deconstructed bliss. – Spyros Stasis
Ruin Lust – Dissimulant (20 Buck Spin)
Ruin Lust understand the need to tap into the primal self. A core aspect of their brand of black/death is to present the most brutal and animalistic manifestation conceivable. Their three previous LPs prove as much, and the tradition continues with Dissimulant. It is an offering of noise and chaos wrapped in cacophonous guitars and beating rhythms. The intensity is at a high with the opener of “Eden”, descending into the darkest depths to animate havoc. It is an approach that carries down from the death metal self in its archaic form. The piercing lead work of “Thrall” and the punishing grooves of “Imperium” showcase as much.
Still, more elements come together to complete Dissimulant. The black metal self is stretched to provide an epic sensation with “Cliname”, while the pace is tamed in “Purge” and “Chemical Wind” to unleash a proper sludge beatdown. And there always appears to be a punk-ish dedication lurking beneath the surface, subtly calling upon this boundless freedom toward destruction. The more simplistic and barbaric moments of the title track carry this form. Simply put, Ruin Lust perform an attack on all senses. A maniacal retort towards the world fueled by primordial hatred, obliging their compositions to seemingly become forces of nature. – Spyros Stasis
Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit (20 Buck Spin)
Thanks to a mysterious constellation of circumstances about which I’d rather not speculate, every once in a while a band or album from the (death) metal underground gets noticed by the wider public. In most cases, the ensuing hype is completely unwarranted. But Tomb Mold? Tomb Mold deserve all the success and attention they are currently enjoying.
Judging by The Enduring Spirit, in the four years since 2019’s excellent Planetary Clairvoyance, the Toronto band have further cultivated their variant of death metal into a careful balance of technical dexterity, cosmic atmospheres, utmost ferocity, and unexpected but tastefully infused non-metal flourishes. In short, the album is a triumph in all senses, whether melting faces and roaring ruthlessly (with just a touch of groove and mind-bending bass lines) like on “Angelic Fabrications” and “Flesh As Armour” or incorporating bits of guitarist Derrick Vella’s spacey ambiance from his side project Dream Unending (“The Enduring Spirit of Calamity”). Thoroughly recommended and a strong candidate for the title of death metal album of the year. – Antonio Poscic
Wormhole – Almost Human (Season of Mist)
Unlike certain contemporary music that have been evolving in leaps and bursts, metal—with all of its aesthetic offshoots—has matured more patiently and iteratively, carried by individual albums and the subsequent proliferation and further refinement of endemic new ideas. The vicissitude in the field of technical and brutal death metal and slam that the international group of misfits known as Wormhole bring to the table is thus a rare occurrence. Similar to their previous LPs, Almost Human manages to incorporate the most extreme facets of death metal into a strangely palatable package, flowing from melodic attacks to gut-exploding breakdowns.
Despite their jackhammer-like brutality, there’s a subtler and more nuanced touch at play here, guiding the tracks from intense start-and-stop bludgeoning (“Bleeding Teeth Fungus”) into looming sections reminiscent of sludge metal (“The Grand Oscillation”). Following in the footsteps of the latest Dying Fetus record reviewed elsewhere in this edition, this will be a real treat for connoisseurs of brutal and technical death metal, but also an excellent entry point for future fans. – Antonio Poscic