Chat Pile – God’s Country (The Flenser)
There is a certain subsection of the punk scene that has evolved to fully depict the devastation of reality. Chat Pile proudly enter this tradition, splattering their punk lineage with everything from sludge and industrial to grunge and eerie blackened metal. With their debut record, God’s Country, Chat Pile don’t hold back. The toxic fumes rising in “Why” alongside the spoken word passages are impossibly condensing an infinite amount of anger into a three-minute track. The punk spirit roams free and causes chaos, erupting in anguish with “Tropical Beaches, Inc.” and then through a bastardized post-punk application in “Wicked Puppet Dance”. The heavier elements, by way of a sludge injection, further increase the pressure. Thus “Slaughterhouse” and “The Mask” become monuments of oppressive despair, while “Pamela” takes an extreme metal detour to become something even more wretched.
Still, as impressive as the layers of influences and the creativity of Chat Pile are, there is something else that defines this work. That is the emotion. Anger and frustration are relished in every drum hit, dread, and despair are highlighted through guitar leads. Disorientation and frustration through the bass lines and then all of the above in the marvelous vocal delivery. What makes this feel more real is that Chat Pile are honest about their perception of reality and the world around them. That is the true impact that God’s Country leaves behind. A cold, industrial world taking a form first introduced through the early, animalistic visions of Swans, is now complete. This is easily one of the most oppressive and hard-hitting works of the year so far. It is a brutal record and a near-perfect introduction for Chat Pile. – Spyros Stasis
Ernia – How to Deal With Life and Fail (Transcending Obscurity)
While one of the easiest selling points for Ernia is to mention that they feature two of Wormed’s newest members, Daniel Valcázar on guitar and Gabriel Valcázar on drums and bass, reducing the Spanish grindcore outfit to this perspective means to do them a great disservice. Even if the brotherly duo do bring a breeze of technical insanity to the table, the music on How to Deal With Life and Fail occupies its own little niche, far removed from suffocating brutal death metal and lodged somewhere between the single-minded onrush of grindcore and the intricate meanderings of math rock.
Beyond just the stellar musicianship, Ernia’s sophomore album showcases the group’s knack for writing absurdly fun songs. Each of the cuts is like a new, couple of minutes long aphorism, filled to the brim with whiplash-inducing breaks, exploding grooves, tempo-shifts, tasty riffs played at hyper speeds, and an excellent, from growls to shrieks, vocal performance (courtesy of Omar I. Sanchez) that gives it all a whimsical, deranged edge. – Antonio Poscic
Fellowship – The Saberlight Chronicles (Avalon/Scarlet)
On their Bandcamp page, the Harwich, Essex-based outfit Fellowship state their mission as making “classic guitarey power metal in a way that doesn’t make us cringe too hard”. But if you go see them play, sing, and dance dressed like hobbits across wide plains in the video for their debut album’s lead single – the energetic, uppity and synth and string-laden “Until the Fires Die” – you might start questioning their and your own sanity.
Not taking oneself too seriously is crucial for good power metal, of course, but although this over-the-top approach makes for an ear-catching start, The Saberlight Chronicles has much more to offer than just another novelty take. As soon as the second track “Atlas” kicks in, things get serious and downtuned. The atmosphere turns dark as if shadowing a band of hobbits leaving their home in the blissful Shire to explore the perilous world outside.
While they retain the same jovial spirit and virtuosity in playing, the remaining eleven cuts thus often veer on the bittersweet, wrapping high and mid-tempo swirls of the most epic, explosive power metal imaginable around heartfelt themes. Outside the blistering attacks of the Euro power hymn “Oak and Ash”, Fellowship leave the genre’s comfort zone with great success, but, crucially, never let the riffs subside. Even when it’s time for the usual piano-led pseudo ballads like “Hearts Upon the Hill” and “Silhouette” or the gorgeous pop sensibilities of “Scars and Shrapnel Wounds”, the undercurrent remains unmistakably metallic, arranged and performed with peerless gusto, and assembled into a magnificent whole. – Antonio Poscic
Hissing – Hypervirulence Architecture (Profound Lore)
While the cult black/death renaissance has seen a return to its roots, the scene at the same time has produced some very forward-thinking material. Portal is an obvious example, and Antediluvian’s The Divine Punishment is an exquisite offering from that mold. Seattle’s Hissing share the same vision, and they perform a deep dive with their sophomore record. Hypervirulence Architecture feels like black/death on overdrive. The sickening visions of Morbid Angel are twisted beyond recognition in “Cells of Nonbeing”. At the same time, the traditional eerie black metal riffing is further disfigured in “Hostile Absurdity” reaching new levels of discordance.
But, this is not where Hypervirulence Architecture stops. The underlying Voivod-ian vision is key, latching unto the black/death expression to unleash chaos and havoc. Still, Hissing take this further and introduce elements of a noise rock origin, shining in “Intrusion”. And that is all before they descend into their no-wave mantle with “Identical to Hunger.” The exploration is not complete yet, as the trio steps outside the metal domain and into the abstract ambient. The tribal rhythms of “Hypervirulence” are haunting, while the jazz inclinations of “Hostile Absurdity” and the ten-minute long opus “Operant Extinction” stretch the aural horizons. It is acts like Hissing that manage to keep genres from becoming stale. – Spyros Stasis
Imperial Triumphant – Spirit of Ecstasy (Century Media)
The escapades of Imperial Triumphant, peaking with Vile Luxury and Alphaville, have modernized the well-known recipe of combining jazz applications with extreme metal. This modernist lens has served them well, and their latest offering Spirit of Ecstasy does not aim to change that. The awkward rhythms and discordant chords erupt with “Chump Change”, seeing the Azagthoth-ian spirit twisted beyond recognition. With a nasty and maniacal streak, Imperial Triumphant carry on, going full Portal-esque with “Tower of Glory, City of Shame”. Within this mode, they still find moments of underlying grandeur. The keys and choirs in “Merkurius Gilded” build an impressive background, while “Bezumnaya” sees them descend to a fully ambient territory.
Of course, it is all about the modal configurations that Imperial Triumphant fit through their jazz component. The interludes of the opener and “Tower of Glory, City of Shame” see the extreme metal side subside, leaving in its stead a hellish lounge. Intricate solos begin to appear, completely altering the scenery. The sudden switch to complete jazz mode is stunning, with the interlude of “In the Pleasure of Their Company”. It sees a move from the apocalyptic onslaught, straight into the dystopian backdrop. Yet, it is the combination of these two aspects that is really telling. “Maximalist Scream” balances between an animalistic urgency and an intellectual demeanor, while “Death on a Highway” encapsulates the brutal death metal weight with a John Coltrane-induced sensibility. At this stage, Imperial Triumphant are simply navigating the realm they have birthed into existence. We await to see what else they will uncover. – Spyros Stasis