Predatory Light – Death and the Twilight Hours (20 Buck Spin)
Predatory Light relish the days of old. The underground spirit of extreme metal, the blurring of the lines between black and death. And since their debut demo, MMXIV, they have embraced the chaos and havoc that can only be found in these corners of the underground. Their weapon of choice: a combination of black metal with a doom essence. And a few sprinkles of proto-death metal and thrash to help along the way. So, six years after their self-titled debut full-length, they return with a vengeance in Death and the Twilight Hours.
What defines Predatory Light is their guitar work. Twisting the proto-black/deathcore results in an inherent dissonance. It is a heritage carried through the ages, uncovered by masters such as Sarcofago, and today distilled and refined by contemporaries like Negative Plane. Here, the lead work just haunts you. The dissonant edge of “The Three Living and the Three Dead” is horrifying. The thrashy turns of “Plead Like Angels” further embrace that mode, giving an urgency to the proceedings. And this is where the glorious contradiction comes full circle, with Predatory Light embracing a heavier sound. The doom moments are grand and inescapable. The Sabbath-ian lineage in the final parts of the opener is crushing. Even more impressive is the title track, as Predatory Light channel a Pentagram circa Day of Reckoning, to further stretch their devilish touch.
It is the combination of these two aspects that feels almost impossible. The frantic extreme metal state and the rigid doom quality. The connecting link comes from the dissonance, which Predatory Light have always been masters of molding. Death and the Twilight Hours revels on this quality, mixing eeriness with majesty, with “Wrecked By Sacred Fires” being the perfect example of this duality. But it is the flow that seals it, and the long-form nature of the music that allows for full exploration. Black/death parts lead to doom pathways, aggression is met with an infernal haze. It is a path that Predatory Light has always walked, and will hopefully keep at it. – Spyros Stasis
This Is Oblivion – This Is Oblivion (Silent Pendulum)
While its phenotype filled with screeching violin bows, drum hits laced with distortion, and haunting vocals might bring to mind various industrial, noise, and neofolk bands, there is something different pumping through the heart of This Is Oblivion’s debut. As if you took the majestic ambient abstractions that close My Dying Bride’s “The Cry of Mankind” and draped them over a doom and drone metal skeleton, Lulu Black and Michael Kadnar create music that is simultaneously haunting and unbearably beautiful.
Take the opening “Invocation”, where swells of discordant strings and a harpsichord falling down into an abyss come together and flesh out an atmosphere of utter dread. Or “The Truth”, on which Black’s deadpan delivery—”I want you to ruin me, I want you to run from me,” she growls—shuffles from spike to spike of sludgy violin riffs and huge drum hits, only for “Elegy” to open things up with bristled drum caresses, chimes, and gentle violin plucks.
There is no single specific musical style that would connect these three and the following five tracks. Rather, the songs share an appreciation for texture and mood—a common intangible thread somewhere between emotion and ghostly narrative, equally likely to manifest as earthy folk, haunting lullabies, or a post-metal crescendo of noise and drums. – Antonio Poscic
Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons (Prosthetic)
The debut by Atlanta, Georgia’s Kyle Walburn (guitars and vocals), and Brandon Iacovella (guitars, vocals, and double bass) under the Tómarúm flag is one of those albums that feel both like an announcement and a definitive statement. Starting from a baseline of morose atmospheric black metal, the duo and their guests soon start pushing and deforming the genre’s homogeneous fabric, using its textures as fuel for intricate progressions.
Throughout the seven songs, melodic, solemnly gorgeous passages and contrastingly shrieked and growled vocals that appear plucked from a depressive black metal album make way for sections of contorted guitar work backed by equally intriguing drum fills (courtesy of Inferi’s Spencer Moore) and Arran McSporran’s slithering patterns on fretless bass. As if Sylvaine’s ethereal fragility met Cynic’s transcendent complexity, there is a constant tension between chaos and peacefulness at play on Ash in Realms of Stone Icons, gifting the music with an ethos unlike any other. – Antonio Poscic
Vaamatar – Medievalgeist (Iron Bonehead)
It’s back in 2014 that this story begins. In the San Francisco underground a black/death act under the name of Cloak has just appeared. Their legacy is just one demo, entitled Succumb. The three members of Cloak would eventually turn towards their death metal inclinations forming one of the most exciting acts in the genre, (surprise, surprise) the mighty Succumb. But in the process, drummer Nicole D. would leave Cloak and follow a different path. In 2020 she would form Vaamatar, alongside co-conspirator Wicked Procreator.
An initial introduction to the duo in their Evil Witching Black Metal demo set the rules. Everything around the demo oozed with the black metal spirit of old. From the artwork, the photos, the traditional guitar sound, the riffs, and of course the blastbeats. Now, they return with their first complete offering in Medievalgeist and they do not alter the recipe one bit. It is an old-school retrospective, drawing upon the cold, detached quality of the Norwegian scene. In almost Pure Holocaust fashion, Vaamatar explode in the title track. It is an all-out assault, echoing with the urgency and polemic nature of some of the most famed acts of the scene, but without forgetting some of its unsung heroes. “Hallowed Flesh” sees a very early Dodheimsgard tone come in, the dissonance and misanthropic outlook front and center. The dropped pace and towering perspective of “Spit & Gravel” evoke the early days of Hades and Again Shall Be, the cacophonous riffs plunging the work in eternal darkness.
Vaamatar still take the extra mile here. Lo-fi introductions with chants and harrowing screams in “Medievalgeist”, and acoustic passages in “Midnight Montpelier” are very welcomed additions. Homages to an even earlier black metal sound are also nurtured. A slight rock ‘n’ roll tone, reminiscing on Darktrhone’s “In The Shadow of the Horns” is a nice touch in “Plundering Claws”. While the thrash elements in “Hallowed Flesh” also further elevate Medievalgeist as a whole. Wrap it all together in the excellent production from Greg Wilkinson, clean and crisp but still true to the genre’s ethos, and you really cannot ask much more for a nostalgic ride. – Spyros Stasis
Vital Spirit – Still As the Night, Cold As the Wind (Vendetta/Hidden Tribe)
Founded by members of the esteemed black metal/crust act Wormwitch, whose latest record Wolf Hex is definitely worth your attention, Vital Spirit take a different direction for their blackened sound. The duo of Israel Langlais and Kyle Tavares let go of their crust inclinations while doubling down on the genre’s old-school ethos. And sure, the early Norwegian and Swedish scenes make up for much of the pedigree of Vital Spirit, but there is more brewing beneath the surface.
There is a dichotomy to Vital Spirit’s vision in Still As the Night, Cold As the Wind. With their debut, they open up to many of the recipes of old. Venomous lead work and pummeling drum breaks introduce “Blood and Smoke”, a perspective that becomes brutal in “Bad Hand” and thunderous with “Dawn of Liberty”. This is where the melodic inclinations arrive, taking a page from the Dissection circa The Somberlain era. The second part of “Dawn of Liberty” finds the space to explore these ideas, adding brilliant hooks to their furious recipe. Why stop there? Vital Spirit depart Scandinavia, traveling to the Mediterrane with the ending of “Lord of the Plains” invoking some of the traditional metallic influences that Rotting Christ originally twisted to blackened perfection.
But through all these travels, it is in their native America that Vital Spirit most feel like home. In this regard, they fill their music with a folk-infused heritage. In this way, their closest kin is Wayfarer, the western perspective highlighted through Still As the Night, Cold As the Wind. “The Long Walk” sees this cinematic vision come to full view evoking Ennio Morricone, while “Saccharine Sky” adds the necessary dose of sweet melancholy to the proceedings. At times they morph into a state reminiscent of Osi and The Jupiter and then contort for a blackened heavy metal take that brings to mind the great Cobalt. What is the winning attribute here is that Vital Spirit create a record that works on layers. On the surface, Still As the Night, Cold As the Wind feels simple and immediate, but look a bit deeper and you see the precision to detail that has been applied to get all these cogs working together. – Spyros Stasis
Wachenfeldt – Faustian Awakening (Threeman)
Sweden’s Wachenfeldt are an honest to Satan melting pot of extreme metal styles. Take a stock of death metal, add a copious amount of black metal, sprinkle a bit of thrash metal, and spice with symphonic elements to taste. But rather than descend into the sometimes confusing entropy of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Faustian Awakening maintains an elegant blend of all these influences, shaping them into roaring, epic cuts that sound and feel coherent. They shift from mid-era Behemoth-like attacks and Nile-like mystical atmospheres to the groovier sides of Morbid Angel, enriching everything with an undercurrent of synth orchestration while maintaining a sense of purposeful songwriting, not just a string of random excesses. A thrilling sophomore outing. – Antonio Poscic