MetalMatters May 2021

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Albums of May 2021

Lockdowns are slowly easing, the heatwave is getting closer, and May fully delivered with an abundance of heavy releases.

Jordfäst – Hädanefter (Nordvis)

One of the Swedish extreme metal scene’s trademark qualities is retaining the classic heavy metal sense of melody. While Norwegian black metal was trailing into dissonance, acts from Sweden were evolving the magic of the ‘80s heavy metal scene. Dissection is their standard-bearer, and a myriad of exquisite acts join along. Some are criminally overlooked to this day, like Unanimated and Dawn. And this is a tradition that has lasted through the ages, and it has further evolved. Its latest stage is the newfound duo of Jordfäst, arriving with two long-form epics in debut record Hädanefter.

What Jordfäst do so well is combining the direct, melodic approach of the Swedish black metal scene with a more free-flowing and atmospheric element. As a result, this provides the record with a distinctly melodic edge on one hand. The opening of “Buren av loppor” highlights this fact from the get-go, while the rocking tone they establish is really working wonders for them. Solos come out of the darkness, while the pace aids Jordfäst in awakening this feeling of grandeur.

This is also where their second strongest element comes to life, which is no other than the atmosphere. Epic tinges, flourishing with the inclusion of nice touches like the choirs in “Hadanford”, bring this cinematic quality to life. It is an eerie and icy scenery, where freezing winds have crystallized everything. It is quite astounding that Jordfäst have been able to balance between these two traditions and come up with something as cohesive and majestic as Hädanefter. – Spyros Stasis 

Kosmodemonic – Liminal Light (Transylvanian Tapes)

According to the promo blurb for Liminal Light, New York’s Kosmodemonic are a “doomy black metal band.” While accents of those genres are easily heard in the quartet’s sound, it’s the avant aesthetics of bands such as Voivod and Virus that come to mind first. Like those two cult groups, Kosmodemonic deal with a loose and jangly sound too unstable to fit neatly into any given category. Rather, their approach is stupendously unpredictable, incapable of remaining anchored to one genre for too long, and happy to continuously reorient itself between the Killing Joke brand of post-punk and idiosyncratic variations of extreme metal.

Take, for example, “Drown in Drone”, on which grooving, buzzsawing riffs, deep-pounding tom hits, and spectral vocal lines dissipate into shimmering synth atmospherics. Or “Hidden Light” and “Ipomoea” that stack more traditional metal elements upon each other like Jenga pieces but never reach a plateau and instead devolve into entropy. Black and doom metal? Sure, but from an alien dimension. – Antonio Poscic 

Lunar Mantra – Psychosomatika (Invictus)

Body and mind are intrinsically connected. To the degree that when the mind is under distress, the body can falter as a result. This is a duality that Lunar Mantra from Glasgow deeply understand, to the extent that they name their latest EP after this well-known fact. While using black metal as an assault on the body, highlighted masterfully in its raw form with their Genesis EP, they use ambience and ritualism to attack the mind. Case in point, the long-form Tibetan-infused opus that is their Drolṃā single, seeing Lunar Mantra crawling through the ritualistic space. Now, after almost a year of existing solely in digital form, Invictus are finally giving Psychosomatika its physical form.

The amorphous tentacles of Psychosomatika arrive in their ambient form in opener “Preliminary”. Soon, the trip turns tumultuous as two monstrous black metal offerings are exposed. The venomous lead work of “Nexicthon” sets the tone as the vocals rise through the fumes to create a hallucinatory experience. Despite the brutal presentation, there is a distinctly oneiric element that rises through the black metal stench. A bitter taste is completed when the second black metal assault arrives in “Azothic Pyres”. Dissonance and melody combine to complete this darkest form before the plunge into the ritualistic abyss with “Aghora”. Oriental and middle-eastern elements arise to expand this mystical scenery, closing the record in welcoming elusive fashion, completing Lunar Mantra’s dual assault. – Spyros Stasis 

Nadja – Luminous Rot (Southern Lord)

Prolific does not begin to describe the constant output that Nadja have been offering since their inception back in 2003. The duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff have found their sweet spot, crafting an intricate amalgamation of doom metal and drone while tapping into the off-kilter quality of no-wave, the direct approach of post-punk, and the distorted applications of shoegaze. Every record from Nadja is an epic sonic trip, filled with wonder and grandeur, and the release of Luminous Rot is no different. 

There is a fine dichotomy that Nadja traverse. On the one hand, there are the overwhelming qualities that come hand in hand with combining doom metal with drone music. This is something that makes Luminous Rot appear immense, the wooly distortion encompassing the entire horizon and giving birth to colorful soundscapes. The slow and pensive progression of “Starres” sees a mutated Sabbathian gene projected through a post-metallic lens and a drone-rock sensibility. This is also where Nadja differ. While most applications of drone/doom tend towards asphyxiating and torturous, Nadja opt for the ethereal and hopeful.

Beneath the fuzziness of “Fruiting Bodies”, a slight stoner-rock aspect creates a lighter sense. Sourcing post-punk energy while also employing some no-wave practices when it comes to the guitars, Nadja retain their weight and approach the listener straightforwardly and honestly. The title track is a perfect example of this approach, retaining a constant hook through its glacial development. At the same time, the prevailing use of effects sees Baker and Buckareff showcase their shoegaze credentials, crafting a fuzzy yet dreamy application through the end part of “Cuts on Your Hand”.

The gloom and weight, the chaos of audio effects are all tamed under Nadja’s touch, granting Luminous Rot the strange combination of a record that is direct yet elusive, heavy but also subdued. Something we have come to expect from Baker and Buckareff. – Spyros Stasis 

Oriflamme – L’égide ardente (Sepulchral)

Featuring veterans of the underground in Xavier Berthiaume of fellow black metal icons Gevurah and extreme doom/death overlords Atramentus, and Verbouc former bassist of black metal Ossuaire, the pedigree of the Oriflamme is highly promising. And man, do they deliver with their debut record L’égide ardente.

Oriflamme subscribe to the extreme modus operandi of their native underground black metal scene. Establishing an obscured ambiance, tearing through the void with devastating cataclysmic assaults but still finding moments of bliss and beauty amongst the ruins. Echoes of Akitsa’s influence on the scene radiate through the title track, with Oriflamme furiously taking over and unleashing hell with their wrath and angst. But, Oriflamme do not remain contained in a single gear approach, brutally dropping the pace and offering some truly torturous moments of mid-tempo havoc as in the ending of “Un Mal Ancien”.

Still, no matter the mode that takes them over, Oriflamme are always able to awaken a feeling of grandeur, of music that is epic and endless. They take their time with their compositions, allowing them to evolve slowly into long-form structures. And it is within these explorations that they uncover moments of extreme brutality, as in the onslaught that is “Sacrifices!”, or through moments of introspective beauty as with the stellar “Ultime Rempart”. Yes, Belgian black metal has arrived in full force with L’égide ardente and has offered one of the strongest releases of the year. – Spyros Stasis