The first month of summer has delivered some excellent extreme music to cool us down a bit. Technical extreme metal takes the lion’s share in June with Artificial Brain, Inexorum, Esoctrilihum, Bekor Qilish, and Verberis, while down in the black metal dungeons, Merihem, Khold and Mortuus continue to weave their orthodox visions. And then of course the melting pots of Axioma and Werewolves, the blackened drones of Am Himmel, and the synthetic post-metal of Final Light open up the experimental pathways. Further beyond, Cinemartyr amaze with their overarching noise rock vision, and High Castle Teleorkestra unleash nostalgia for the jazz/metal crossovers. That and much more, so dig in!
Am Himmel – As Eternal As the Starless Kingdom of Sorrow (Burning World)
A new mysterious entity is rising in the booming extreme metal underground of the Netherlands. Am Himmel, the project of the mysterious JMKP, defines a vision that combines black metal, shoegaze, and funeral doom towards building a reverse ecclesiastical procession. So, As Eternal As The Starless Kingdom of Sorrow arrives, shrouded in a thick atmospheric veil surrounded by distortion and grandeur.
It is the procession that defines Am Himmel’s debut. The funeral tone settles immediately with “Bleared By the Infinite Wings”. It is as excruciating as it is graphic, this otherworldly sense taking a ritualistic form. “The Virgin Wages Celestial War in the Seraphim” further drives this point, making the whole endeavor truly feel like a religious ceremony, albeit one that walks the left-hand path. Here, black metal is contorted to inhibit a doom-inspired and shoegaze-defined space. Harsh vocals escape behind the walls of noise. However, this approach gives an almost soothing effect to the proceedings, the distorted instrumentation somehow adding a fragile quality to “The Patience And Silence of a Saint’s Death”.
Even though Am Himmel stand firmly on the black metal ground, their overall approach is actually further away from the likes of Lurker of Chalice of Urfaust and actually closer to The Angelic Process. “The Fumes Of Thy Preposterous Torment” carries much of this noisy, overwhelming DNA, but instead of the dreamlike essence of the great US act, there is this nightmarish offering. It is this adherence to drone and funeral elements that elevate As Eternal As the Starless Kingdom of Sorrow higher, and even though it is not on the same par with works like Weighing Souls With Sand, it looks like JMKP is heading down the right direction. – Spyros Stasis
Artificial Brain – Artificial Brain (Profound Lore)
Artificial Brain took the extreme metal scene by storm in 2014. Their debut record, Labyrinth Constellation was an ecstatic ride through the dark side of technical/progressive death metal. What really set it apart was that Artificial Brain did not regurgitate the olden sound; they instead stepped boldly into this new death metal frontier. Sure, elements of great works of old like Demilich and Suffocation still appeared, but their adherence to discordance had something from the latter days of Gorguts and the blackened aura of Ulcerate. In 2017, Artificial Brain returned with Infrared Horizon, a solid effort that was however lacking the inspiration of their debut. Now, they complete this trilogy of sorts with their self-titled work and absolutely get back on track.
Artificial Brain does not hold back. It is a work driven by a brutal and erratic spirit, appearing in its terrifying form from the get-go with the self-titled track. This manic nature keeps on exploding, leading to absolute havoc in tracks like “A Lofty Grave” and “Tome of the Exiled Engineer.” It is an experience that can only be described as a mauling, even the groovier parts riding this complex narrative. The brutal takedowns of “Glitch Cannon” speak volumes to that effect, and the incorporation of jazzy themes within the brutal weight of “Insects and Android Eyes” feels like a force of nature.
The other side that captivates the attention in Artificial Brain is this dissonance, coming from a blackened perspective. It carries much of the Voivod-ian DNA, by way of Ved Buens Ende and is projected into the death metal sphere by the likes of Gorguts. It is a defining characteristic of Artificial Brain, and it is used to the full extent. It augments the brutality of “Glitch Cannon,” and it creates a completely nauseating experience when it takes the lead in “Celestial Cyst.” Yet, the most impressive aspect is the grandeur that this mode transmits. “Embalmed With Magma” and “Last Words of the Wobbling Sun” feel monumental through this cacophony. But the standout moment is “Cryogenic Dreamworld,” the dissonance acting as a portal from the death metal stampede to a psychedelically inclined altered state. It is this inventiveness and adherence to one’s craft that truly delivers for Artificial Brain. – Spyros Stasis
Axioma – Sepsis (Translation Loss)
Sepsis, the sophomore release by Axioma, is one of the more unique post-black metal releases in recent memory. Building on top of their excellent Crown from 2019, the Cleveland, Ohio quartet play a variation on the genre that is simultaneously suffocating and intriguing. Sludge, death metal, black metal, post-metal, death ‘n’ roll, and even doom elements come together into a whole that’s larger than just a list of influences. They make for truly awesome and furious music in which start-stop sections, crunchy breaks, and ephemeral post-metal crescendos frame relentless attacks immersed in death and black metal.
In the progressive death epic “God Extraction”, they seem to channel Individual Thought Patterns era of Death. Elsewhere, “The Tower” accelerates droning, huge crests of sludge into swirling, blast beat fuelled blackened thrash. Throughout the album, the musicianship on display is fascinating, with Jon Vinson’s inspired, octopus-like drumming style often stealing the limelight, while the performance of his colleagues follows closely behind. – Antonio Poscic
Bekor Qilish – Throes of Death From the Dreamed Nihilism (I, Voidhanger)
Perhaps the easiest way of describing the madness that is Andrea Bruzzone’s one-person band Bekor Qilish is to simply write: “it’s on I, Voidhanger”. For the past 14 years, Luciano Gaglio’s label has been home to some of the most adventurous and truly avant-garde metal attempts around, bringing to light musicians and groups that would otherwise go unnoticed; too weird for mainstream outlets and too strange for orthodox underground labels. After Gaglio’s brush with death this past winter, it’s worth emphasizing the importance of his work once again. Long may it continue.
In the case of Bekor Qilish, the signature I, Voidhanger strangeness manifests itself as an intricate and self-collapsing maelstrom of black and death metal riffs, rumbling drum patterns, and frantic synthetic orchestration battling for supremacy on a progressive battleground. The resulting music is simultaneously melodic and gratingly brutal, beautifully simple, and technically convoluted. Here, machine-gun riffing flows into wells of melody before exploding into screeching riffs and otherworldly ambiance like something from the Unseen Worlds label.
There are a number of bands that Bekor Qilish’s genre-spanning idiom brings to mind, from Jute Gyte, Obscura, and Krallice–Colin Marston has a guest spot on the album along with several other tech/prog/avant metal luminaries–to Skáphe, but Throes of Death From the Dreamed Nihilism is ultimately very much its own, quite excellent thing. – Antonio Poscic
Cinemartyr – Opt Out (Light Sleeper)
It is really difficult to know what to expect from Cinemartyr. Throughout their musical endeavors, the New York act has gone through various and very diverse phases. Cinematic ambiance, synthwave applications, indie and folk, full-blown noise, everything seems to be fair game. Still, their 2020 record, Death of the First Person, found them leaning towards a more rigid rock form, which they continue to pursue with Opt Out .
With Opt Out, Cinemartyr move across the no-wave board with ease. “Terms and Conditions” comes in with a deviant playful streak on its noise rock theme. The pressure persists, an industrial-esque precision coming into view with “Meth of The Masses,” where the metallic components elevate the angst further. Cinemartyr move between a primal instinct, something reminiscent of the early Swans period, before driving into mathcore-like infusions in “I Want A Gun” and “Dead Influencer.”
Cinemartyr have this playground approach that makes Opt Out so enticing. Their punk influence is clear, yet they project it through melodic inclinations. The mutated d-beat of “No Legacy” is such an instance, while the piano at the end of the track opens up new possibilities. Then, this playfulness moves into the abstract, “Delete Yourself” switching to a serene indie mode with a slight psychedelic twist. This otherworldly essence is further felt in “Cancellation Policy,” here the voice-over adds a film noir touch to the cinematic (pun intended) scenery. This is where the underlying truth is revealed. Because, even though Cinemartyr move between these different modes seemingly on a whim, everything in Opt Out is thoroughly conceived and worked out. This is an ambitious vision that has been nearly perfectly executed. – Spyros Stasis