Music

MetalMatters: August 2019 - A Quiet Month to Enjoy Loud Music

For what is generally considered to be quiet month, the unearthly forces of the underground have produced a surprising amount of excellent works, with death metal and its black/death extension taking the lion's share.

August is generally a quiet month. Everything seems to slow down, and that generally also goes for record releases. Looking at this month's records, one might initially assume that there is not much going on. The albums that instantly pop out are of course Russian Circles, with the post-metal/post-rock instrumental trio returning re-invigorated with Blood Year. August also marks the return of the mighty slam death metal pioneers Devourment who return to form with one of their nastiest offerings in Obscene Majesty.

Still, beneath the surface, deep underground, there is some interesting movement afoot. There is of course 20 Buck Spin's death metal takeover, which seems to be going on a rampage this year. To complement this year's Tomb Mold, Ossuarium, and Superstition releases, the label carries on with the old-school, corpse scented Cerebral Rot debut Odious Descent Into Decay. 20 Buck Spin also traverses into the black/death territory, with one of this year's most intriguing releases by Swedish mystic specters Mylingar in their second full-length Doda Sjalar.

August is a good month for the black/death hybrid acts, with both Diocletian making a return with Profound Lore debut Amongst the Flames of a Burning God and Vorum alumni joining forces in Concrete Winds with debut Primitive Force, rekindling the fires of war metal. Things are a bit quieter on the black metal front. But Crimson Moon perform a mighty return three years after the fantastic Oneironaut, giving rise to their unique take on the traditional black metal approach with Mors Vincit Omnia.

The strange uncategorized section of the month also gets represented with three intriguing records from metallic punksters Cliterati, Ledge's unification of doom, sludge and extreme metal, and of course the mighty OXX, who are pretty nearly impossible to describe. Good tunes for a more laid back month before the madness of September rushes in! Enjoy! – Spyros Stasis

Cerebral Rot - Odious Descent Into Decay (20 Buck Spin)

It seems that Pittsburgh's 20 Buck Spin label is intent on collecting and releasing the best death metal. This month, they have not one but two excellent records in hand: Witch Vomit's Buried Deep in a Bottomless Grave and Cerebral Rot's Odious Descent into Decay. Of the two, the latter's flirtations with sludge, thrash, and prog make it especially intriguing. The Seattle quartet switches tempos and rhythms continually, moving from brutal death metal strides into sections dominated by Hanneman/King-flavored dissonant solos and leads.

On "Swamped in Festering Excrementia", a collapsing rhythm stumbles forward in lockstep with a dramatic groove before it transitions into a sustained frenzy of tremolos and blast beats. The following two tracks, "Reeking Septic Mass" and "Cerebral Rot", find a more stable, driven gallop that's interrupted only by occasional breaks and discordant guitar acrobatics. All the while, their riffs leave a grimy, exquisitely disgusting trail behind them, as if cutting through tar. Finally, tunes like "Sardonic Repentance" and "Foul Stench of Ruination" opt for crawling, but extra heavy, ruminating rhythms that soon accelerate into brutally propulsive attacks and complete an excellent debut. – Antonio Poscic

Cliterati - Ugly Truths / Beautiful Lies (Tankcrimes)

In an age dominated by lies, ambiguity, and malicious meta, Portland's Cliterati are a refreshing prospect. Their amalgamation of D-beat, crust, and punk is all frills, no bullshit, and backed by a refreshingly direct and earnest message. After the opening instrumental "Slow Burn" drifts out with slow groove and metallic hardcore, Ugly Truths / Beautiful Lies explodes into a maelstrom of conviction. Throughout the remaining 14 tracks, the quartet entertain and smash socio-political themes. The private and the political, the USA, and the world. Nothing is off-limits as rage alternates with idealism and empathy.

Cuts like "Unfuck the System", "Tribal Politics", and "Latinx Taken" make Ami Lawless's voice break as she screams in anger, backed by Melissa White's buzzing, fierce riffs and Maika Brummett and Coleman Hamilton fast, incisive rhythm section. In contrast, "Trans Is Beautiful" and "In Crust We Trust" thrash and roar with a sense of optimism as if trying to light a fire. "Fox news, self-abuse," the lyrics warn us. "Trans is beautiful, Let yr light shine," they empower us. – Antonio Poscic

Concrete Winds - Primitive Force (Sepulchral Voice)

At the dawn of the 2010s, a primal death metal force sprout forth in the Finnish extreme music scene. Vorum was an act that went all in, and never held back. Despite their relatively short existence, Vorum went on to produce gems of underground glory highlighted especially in their full-length Poisoned Void and the exquisite Current Mouth EP. Even though all came to an abrupt end, a spiritual continuation of Vorum is now set loose with Concrete Winds.

Concrete Winds arrive with Primitive Force, carrying over many of the winning qualities of Vorum but also making certain strategic deviations. As "Infant Gallow" blasts through, Concrete Winds display their kinship to the war metal scene, configuring and patching together thrash progression notions, proto-black metal grit, and death metal paradigms to create an exhilarating ride. Through the subsequent pathways, the erratic switches of "Sulphuric Upheaval" and the schizoid guitar work of "White Cut Manifest", they continue to drive the blade home. What quickly becomes apparent is that while Vorum thrived in a darkened, occult-esque form, Concrete Winds excel through a sense of bestial celebration. Their offerings are darkened and grim, but they also carry intoxicating rhythms and fiery hooks, as in "Tyrant Pulse" without forgetting their relentless ethos shining in "Angelic Laceration". – Spyros Stasis

Crimson Moon - Mors Vincit Omnia (Debemur Morti)

While traditional black metal elements—exquisite second-wave riffs, chthonian growls, and furious blast beats—reside at the core of Crimson Moon's Mors Vincit Omnia, it's what's constructed around them that makes the band's fourth full-length so striking. Haunted souls chant eerie invocations while their clanking, grinding chains follow rhythms dictated by a pipe organ's requiem. Engrossing melodies appear from within tightly woven textures of blast beats and tremolos. It's a rich and occult sound that conjures a damned sacral mood. A soundtrack for a forbidden rite. A song for a witches' sabbath. Music quite worthy of Azrael, the Angel of Death, Destruction, and Renewal, to whom the album is dedicated.

Whether it's a faster, propulsive cut like "Upon the Pale Horse" or a medium-paced stand-out like "Parcae - Trinity of Fates", with its hints of early Agalloch's mournfulness, Crimson Moon demonstrate how masterful atmospheres can elevate otherwise tired black metal idioms. With a career stretching over two decades, two continents, and numerous collaborations, Crimson Moon's mastermind Scorpios Androctonus has crafted his personal pièce de résistance. – Antonio Poscic

Devourment - Obscene Majesty (Relapse)

Devourment took the death metal scene by storm with their debut record Molesting the Decapitated, a work fueled and fed in the gutters of the American death metal scene that quickly became a landmark album for extreme metal. Encapsulating all the teachings of brutal death metal, by way of Suffocation, the band focused its energy on the technical side of the genre, but also combined its immediacy with a healthy dose of hardcore-esque influences, leading to the birth of slam death metal.

The journey of Devourment has been strenuous, filled with disbandments, reunions. Despite this seemingly rinse and repeat process through the years, Devourment have built an impressive discography without ever needing to reinvent themselves. This is a band that knows what they do best and focus on that, with Obscene Majesty being the latest result of this process.

From the get-go, a perfect storm is unleashed with the thunderous blastbeats of "A Virulent Strain of Retaliation" appearing. Even though Devourment are at their best when their heavy groove is fully exposed, their faster parts are equally potent, as can be felt from "Xenoglossia", "Arterial Spray Patterns", and "Modum Sui Morte". Yet, it is their slower pace that sees all the ugliness and gore spirit shine through. The pacing of "Dysmorphic Autophagia" is simply terrifying. Meanwhile, the slow beating of closer "Truculent Antipathy" brings forth the innermost primal and animalistic essence of Devourment. It is this exact feeling that has seen Devourment rise to the death metal pantheon, and they reawaken it with Obscene Majesty. – Spyros Stasis

Diocletian - Amongst the Flames of a Burning God (Profound Lore)

Diocletian is a prime example of a band putting in the time and discipline to perfect their craft. Much like their namesake, Diocletian's rise through the extreme metal underground has been meticulous and constant. They paved their way with a series of impressive records in Doom Cult and War Against All before reaching a peak with 2014's Gesundrian. Following such a devastating record is not a simple matter, and Diocletian hit a hard reset with founder Brendan Southwell being now joined with a completely new line-up for Amongst the Flames of a Burning God.

This defining change has resulted in Diocletian returning with an overpowering record. Experiencing Amongst the Flames of a Burning God feels like navigating through a warzone, with the band's forceful black/death bastardization pummeling through. The cacophonous lead work of "Invincibility Through Strife" awaken the first black metal wave metal spirit. Meanwhile, the utter chaos that is unleashed through the relentless drumming of "Repel The Attack" defines the very essence of Diocletian.

The core of the band relies on relentless energy, and even though for most of this work they implement a furious and ruthless facade, they also allow for towering moments of heavy groove induced grandeur with "Berserker Rights" and "Plundered By Hyenas". It is this combination that provides Amongst the Flames of a Burning God with its bitter dystopian sense, imagining a battleground shaped under the guise of a nuclear winter. – Spyros Stasis

Ledge - All I Hope For (Translation Loss)

On his sophomore release as Ledge, Chicago-based, ex-Weekend Nachos vocalist John Hoffman creates an unfathomable monster. All I Hope For is a monumental concoction of sludge, doom, and hardcore: at times as sluggish as funeral doom, at others fast as grindcore. Capable of immersing itself in doom's mournful atmospheres just before transforming into aggressive and bludgeoning sludge. All of it bathed in a filthy production.

On standout "Deform", a tasty groove opens the cut and leads into a restless hardcore attack. Hoffman growls and howls in anguish accompanied by strangely appealing droning noises—like a submarine's echoing sonar—and fleeting, creepy binaural voices. "Hanged" then digs a deep grave with an organ-reorganizing bass line and dissonant guitar riffs, only for "We Suffer" to thrash us around on a grindcore roller coaster ride. The eighth songs leave no doubt: Hoffman is enraged with the world and All I Hope For is here to snap us out from our lethargic mundanity. To convince us of its ugly reality. – Antonio Poscic

Mylingar - Döda Själar (20 Buck Spin/Amor Fati)

It is interesting to see this renaissance of cult black/death metal further shape. Rediscovering the teachings of Beherit and Blasphemy from eons passed, and guided further by luminaries such as Portal, there has been a tremendous number of bands that embraced this dark, damned sound. New to the fold is a mysterious entity from Sweden known as Mylingar. They have already independently released an EP and a debut full-length. Their brutal sound caught the attention of 20 Buck Spin and Amor Fati who are now unleashing to the world Mylingar's sophomore record Döda Själar.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here. This would be a very accurate description of Mylingar's approach and vision. This record is baptized in the essence of black/death and its lo-fi, obscure aesthetics. From the opening track "Obalansen" you are confronted with a constant, all-devouring vortex, as blastbeats reign and sharp riffs construct an asphyxiating wall of sound. Paranoid lead work and deep, gritty vocals make an appearance, dimming the world in further darkness before a Lovecraftian eeriness settles in. "Nedstigningen" carries on with this unstoppable pummeling.

"Offret" sees the band go into a mid-tempo, heavy groove overture, masterfully washing over "Blandningen". The final treat arrives with closer "Forlusten", with Mylingar showing an ambition that reaches beyond the traditional boundaries of black/death, as they experiment further with a minimalist setting creating drone-like soundscapes through their excruciating guitars. It is the final touch that plunges the record to the depths of the abyss, further exposing the raw potential of this act. – Spyros Stasis

OXX - The Skeleton Is Just a Coat Hanger; These Are the Black Strings That Make You Dance (Nefarious Industries)

Math rock, death metal, noise, sludge, crust, and a pinch of avant-metal tropes. Take all of that, put it in a mixer, and blend until homogeneous. Dress with infernal guttural vocals and sharp shrieks at will. Does it sound insane? Over the top? Impossible? That's the sound of Denmark's OXX trio on The Skeleton Is Just a Coat Hanger; These Are the Black Strings That Make You Dance.

Wild and unpredictable, but oh so charmingly deranged. Music created in the spur of an eternal moment. Twisted riffs fight their way through weird effects of undefined origin and blaring saxophones while following lyrics that are cluttered with random paraphernalia rather than meaning. Tempo and rhythm changes abound. But there is always sense in this nonsense. Clusterfuck-core, they call it and invite us to breathe it in deep. – Antonio Poscic

Russian Circles - Blood Year (Sargent House)

Navigating the seas between post-metal and post-rock might be trickier business than most realize. On the one hand, there stands the heavy, sludge infused weight of the metallic approach, yet on the other end, there is the ethereal touch of its more subtle brethren. Russian Circles has always been an act that stood steadfast between these two worlds, allowing their heavy guitars to flourish not on the expense of atmosphere, and vice versa. Three years after the potent Guidance, Russian Circles return with one of their more furious offerings in Blood Year.

Blood Year excels through its organic sound and fluid narrative. Working again with Kurt Ballou, but this time recording most of their work in Steve Albini's Electrical Audio, Russian Circles have funneled the energy of live recording towards a devastating result. The rhythm section of Brian Cook and David Turncratz feels humongous, right away from the first drum hits of "Arluck" to the cathartic end of "Quartered", which is easily one of the most relentless tracks the band has ever produced. The dizzying melodies of Mike Sullivan are once more front and center, either thriving in their off-kilter, experimental-esque renditions in "Arluck", providing the subtle atmospherics of "Hunter Moon", the melodic edge of "Ghost On High" or the haunting ambiances of "Kohokia". For a band on its 15th year, Russian Circles prove that subtle changes can produce a core reinvigoration of a collective's identity and produce an exhilarating piece of work. – Spyros Stasis

Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2018 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.