Trace Amount – Anti Body Language (Federal Prisoner)
Brandon Gallagher’s origins lie in the punk scene, where he thrived as drummer for hardcore act Old Wounds. Yet, the interests of the musician and visual artist would not be contained within a singular scene. So, lo and behold Gallagher started his personal project Trace Amount, through which he dwells in the darkest corners of industrial music. And to aid in his debut album, Anti Body Language, Gallagher gets help from heavyweights of the scene. Fade Keiner (Statiqbloom, Batillus) acts as the record’s co-producer, with Ben Greenberg of Uniform mixing and Kris Lapke (Alberich) mastering the record.
The electronic component is pivotal. And Gallagher makes excellent use of all its breadth. EBM applications drive the impact, punching you silly as “Anxious Awakenings” arrives. This constant pummeling is exhilarating, the repetition in “Pixelated Premonitions” becoming sickening. It all stems from this disfigured dance floor motif, as the second half of the title track reveals. These elements are projected through this cyberpunk lens, draining away any color and producing an ominous result. The laid-back tonality in “Digitized Exile” or “No Reality” does not tamper with this obtuse quality, instead providing a volatile quality to the proceedings.
Gallagher, like many artists of the current industrial scene, balances the mechanized precision and the noise creativity. On one hand, the meticulous synthetic rhythm section sets the pillars of this world. And on the other, the noise expression creates a hostile environment in “Anti Body Language”, processing the vocals and making them appear as a demon is howling through the source code of the Matrix. Yet, beneath the debris, there lies a still-beating heart. “Tone And Tenor” reveal that sensitivity, the vocals of KANGA filling the space and crafting this beautiful scenery. Similarly, the jazz introductions and saxophone in closer “Suspect” conclude this work in a stunning visual representation. Making Anti Body Language a great introduction to Trace Amount. – Spyros Stasis
Tyrannus – Unslayable (Independent)
Despite all the musically intriguing mutations and permutations that black metal underwent in the past decade or two, the most important change in the genre has been a non-musical one. Bubbling up in recent years, we are still witnessing the rise of Red and Anarchist Black Metal and a number of other bands that are finding ways to subvert black metal tropes for anti-fascist purposes. This turning of black metal towards the left is, of course, met by intense resistance from the orthodox black metal crowd, but is all the more important because of it. And like in a wider societal context, the fascism these bands fight against is not that of caricatural nazis stuck in time, but one that instead hides in misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, class injustice, and other often normalized atrocities.
And while RABM is more an ethos than a style, it just so happens that many bands in the genre adopt a crust, hardcore, and atmospheric post-metal take on black metal (see: Iskra). Unlike them, Scotland’s Tyrannus play a more compact and rounded type of black metal—infused with thrash and death metal, as the band themselves note—driven and bumbling as it crushes on. So while “A Cruel Dream” opens Unslayable with guitar feedback and noisy ambiance, it soon ramps up into a furor of crunchy riffs and brazen attacks on “A Worse Reality.” Yet, Tyrannus have more than that one trick in the sleeve, with progressive parts, atmospheric ECM-like guitar solos, and haunting atmospherics occasionally breaking up the barrage of riffs, blasts, and growls. Ultimately, this is an album that burns with anger and righteous fury. As it should. – Antonio Poscic
Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise From the Grave (Prosthetic)
When a band finds great success with their first album proper like Rochester’s Undeath did with 2020’s Lesions of a Different Kind, there’s always a chance they’ll succumb to expectations and deliver a formulaic copy of their breakthrough or, even worse, try mixing things up for the sake of mixing them up. Luckily, Undeath made neither of those two mistakes with their sophomore release It’s Time… To Rise From the Grave.
Still rooted in good old old-school death metal (try saying that five times fast), these ten new songs are as good as any on their already excellent debut, but mixed with bits of technicality and increased structural and instrumental intricacies. Take the opening “Fiend for Corpses”, for example, which hints at Cannibal Corpse with more than its title by letting a burrowing concoction of riffs, drums, bass lines, and growls tumble downstairs, collecting dissonant leads and even solos into their unhinged roll. Elsewhere, there are traces of Morbid Angel, Suffocation, and even Immolation that appear as tasteful nods to these classics, but the music itself remains fresh and not rehashed, as epitomized by the aggressive drive and roaring insanity of “Human Chandelier”. – Antonio Poscic
Vimur – Transcendental Violence (Boris Records)
The notion of identity and belonging has always been clear for Vimur. Since their inception, the act from Atlanta had made abundantly clear that they subscribed to the old-school extreme metal ethos. Their worship of the black metal sound first appeared with debut record Traversing the Ethereal Current, an excellent first specimen. Only to be topped by one of the best black metal records of 2019, Triumphant Master of Fates. Following up on such a record can be daunting, but with Transcendental Violence, Vimur show no signs of slowing down or rethinking their recipe. Instead, they double down on what they do best.
It is a combination of deep knowledge and appreciation of extreme metal, coupled with a high technical aptitude. The trip down memory lane starts with “Aeonic Upheaval” calling upon the late first phase and early epic phase of Bathory, echoing with the grandeur of Blood Fire Death. It is a call to arms, signaling the start of this massacre. Soon enough, grandeur subsides and what takes its place is renewed fervor. Blastbeats take over and the title track explores, Vimur drawing upon the black/death scene and its thrash extensions. It is an absolute slaughter, an epic storm as tracks like “Emanations from the Sun Behind” and closer “The Warrior Seers” are brought in. This is where the technical ability of Vimur plays such an important role. It is not used to solely dazzle, but to encapsulate further ideas into the structures. The dissonant edge is such an inclusion, with a Voivod-ian tilt infecting “Infallible Contra Animus”. The disharmony slithers through the progression, introducing eerie riffs and exceptional lead moments in “The Greatest Dying”.
As Transcendental Violence concludes, a few different thoughts surface. The first is simply the observation of how good a handle Vimur have over their vision. It is not just that everything has its place, but rather that there is a passion with which the band performs. This is not a forced offering, it is something that has arrived naturally with all the angst and dread that black metal has to offer. On the other hand, there is not much breaking of new ground. The black metal core still prevails, death metal extensions offer some variety and a few off-kilter additions in clean parts, and the doom divergence of “The Greatest Dying” stands out. Still, that does not take away anything from the quality of Transcendental Violence. – Spyros Stasis