KHNVM – Portals to Oblivion (Neckbreaker)
As far as death metal is concerned, KHNVM’s sophomore LP Portals to Oblivion opens with an unusual acoustic intro steeped in South Asian folk, with sitar and flute phrases tracing a path into darkness. What follows over the subsequent six cuts is more familiar-sounding but just as exciting. Bangladeshi Showmik Das (alias Obliterator) is joined by German musicians Martyr (bass) and Cassian (drums) in forging some of the meatiest, most brutal old-school death metal imaginable.
Here, they start with insane, Nile-like speeds, bumbling through labyrinths on “Portals to Oblivion”, reach “Heretic Ascension” with its melodic segments reminiscent of Carcass played by a thousand limbs, and plunge into the monumental grooves of “Baptized by the Father Befouled”. Throughout, the colossal guitar tone, filthy drum booms, and abyssal growls form a visceral feel as impressive as the songwriting fueling the tracks. Finally, as a coda to this stroll through the foulest of death metal takes, the trio settles into an almost doom-death crawl of spiraling, fuzzy riffs on “Spectral Chaos”, closing the album with a choir of wailing solos and leads. – Antonio Poscic
Malignant Altar – Realms of Exquisite Morbidity (Dark Descent)
A picture is worth a thousand words. Looking at the cover work for Malignant Altar’s debut record, it is only natural to assume that this is a throwback death metal ride. And sure enough, the Texans do not disappoint. Although founded in 2018, and with a couple of demos under their belt, Malignant Altar are veterans of the metal scene. Malignant Altar’s members also appear in Necrofier, who recently released their excellent debut in Prophecies of Eternal Darkness. But they are also active in the progressive intersection of rock and metal, some being members of Oceans of Slumber. Still, Malignant Altar is a different kind of beast, and Realms of Exquisite Morbidity offers a sickening vision of the genre’s guts.
At first, things get a bit cringy as the bell intro of “Channeling Impure Apparitions” arrives, the bells eerily sighing. It is a weapon used sparingly, yet it does provide an atmospheric boost. However, that is not the end goal here. Once the opener intro has settled, the death metal specter rises from the depths, calling upon the sadistic quality of Morbid Angel. This lineage shines in the Azagthoth-ian guitar work, beams of light flashing before you. And this is not the only stop in this old-school train. The guttural stench of Autopsy rears its ugly head, combined with the dropped pace of the great Incantation and the horrific visions of Coffins, Malignant Altar rampage through. The primal instinct of “Rite of Krasue” arrives with a steadfast presence, but the slower moments really do it here. Reaching an almost doom/death level, they revel in the pungent stench of “Usurping the Pantheon Crown” and the slight slam twist of “Belial Rebirth (Metempsychosis)”.
And yet, while focusing on the immediate, visceral effect, one might miss the technical aptitude of these musicians because Realms of Exquisite Morbidity is spectacularly structured and executed. The rhythmic patterns are just hellish; the drums in particular shine with a Pete Sandoval meets Mikko Virnes take. Similarly, the lead work is stellar, dissonant, and chaotic but always precise and on point. And the best thing about this is that it never outshines the most crucial quality of Realms of Exquisite Morbidity, its excellent songwriting. A rare example of a record that aptly hits all its targets. – Spyros Stasis
New Age Doom – Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide to the Universe (We Are Busy Bodies)
New Age Doom’s collaboration with Lee “Scratch” Perry is a cosmic concoction of jazz, dub, doom metal, ambient music, and progressive rock, simultaneously as heavy as a neutron star and fragile as stardust. It was also one of the Jamaican dub pioneer, producer, and singer’s final recorded appearances, making it that much likelier to attain legendary status in the future.
Compared to the Vancouver BC’s drone metal band’s 2020 release Himalayan Dream Techno, Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide to the Universe is a much more nuanced and daring release that flows from deconstructed dub, through patches of jazz skronk to pillars of doom. Throughout, Perry’s dreamy Afrofuturist narration anchors and expands the music, propelling it through dimensions. “Be faithful, be pure, be clean, listen to your dreams,” he invokes. “Life is an experiment.”
Along with Perry, guest contributions of bassist Tim Lefebvre, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom and others from the jazz/creative music scenes elevate the album further, filling breathless voids between dub beats with ethereal sound lines. As a whole, the album manifests as a fluid journey, reminiscent of the works of Rob Mazurek or the Heliocentrics—especially their works with Melvin van Peebles—but with a feel that’s quite their own. Outstanding. – Antonio Poscic
Ofermod – Mysterium Iniquitatis (Shadow/Regain)
The specters of the north. At the tail end of the 1990s, when the second black metal wave had spewed out most of its malice, it was the time for a change of guard. Taking the cue from their Norwegian neighbors, a number of entities rose in Sweden during the late ’90s and early 2000s. Malign and Triumphator were amongst the first to rise, opening the gateways for a new infernal interpretation. Around the same time, Ofermod came together, releasing in 1998 their debut EP, Mysterion Tes Anomias. Brutal and unyielding, this 14-minute-long work would partly set the foundation for the new wave of orthodox black metal.
Unfortunately for Ofermod, this EP would remain as their sole contribution to the scene until 2008, when the band released their debut full-length, Tiamtu. From there on, Ofermod have remained a strong force in the scene, unleashing two further records in Thaumiel and Sol Nox, as well as their original, planned debut album Pentagrammaton. Throughout time, Ofermod has always delivered bitter black metal of the highest quality. And they do so once more with Mysterium Iniquitatis.
Ofermod draw their inspiration from the darkest corners of the black metal spectrum. That much has been obvious since the release of Mysterion Tes Anomias, mirroring Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas both with regards to title and choice of artwork. To that end, they put their guitars to great use in unleashing a storm of eerie leadwork. The title track kicks things off in this chilling fashion, as dissonance awakens horror. This essence is further explored with the reverse ecclesiastical spirit in “Inax Ya Lil”, the chants arriving as if from a dark underground temple.
Of course, there cannot be an Ofermod record with the necessary bravado. To that end, Mysterium Iniquitatis unleashes its most punishing and brutal face. “Arteria Uterina” sees this groove come in full force, with the end of the track, in particular, approaching as an overwhelming blackened wave of hatred. Similar is the case with “Poraios De Rejectis”, the song fuming with malice and ill intent, constructed through some absolutely epic guitar lines. And yet, despite this brutality, Ofermod still feature some very well-placed hooks in their black metal brew. Do not expect full-blown melodies here, but there are some undeniably catchy parts. The graphic melodies of “When the Blacksmith Killed the Shepherd” stand out, beautifully weaving the tale of Cain (with a Tubal-Cain influence) and Abel. Similarly, the cacophonous bends in “Sacrosantus” and the disturbing pitch of “Consecration” wreak havoc.
Mysterium Iniquitatis is Ofermod in its most potent form. Eerie and atmospheric, disturbing and discordant, brutal and punishing. Does it break new ground? Not really, but it does not need to. This is simply a fantastic work of black metal ethos. – Spyros Stasis
Ossuaire – Triumvirate (Sepulchral)
Another assault from the Quebecois underground arrives through the legendary record label Sepulchral. Ossuaire are not entirely new to the scene. Founded in 2015, the black metal act has already released two fantastic works in Premiers Chants and Derniers Chants. Carrying much of their native scene’s DNA, the distinct influence of Akitsa is undeniable, and they also carry the spirit of the early-day Scandinavian scene. It is this juxtaposition that their latest EP, Triumvirate, highlights.
Ossuaire subscribe to many, if not all, of early black metal’s teachings. The first is the ambiance, with Triumvirate finding multiple ways of exploiting it. Moments of pure ambient bliss, minimal and slow, appear with the introduction, “À l’Aube de l’Impur”, setting the infernal atmospheric presence that introduces this work. Yet, even within their peak black metal wretchedness, Ossuaire find ways to incorporate acoustic parts, leading to moments of intricate dichotomy like “Ignipotentis”.
From there on, everything screams of the ethos of old. The old-school production is spot on, taking to heart the lo-fi spirit. From the moment “La Sainte Purge” kicks things off, you are lost in a maze of razor-sharp guitars. The traditional, distorted monotony of the Scandinavian scene fills the space as Ossuaire unveil an opus of torture and pain. But, within this black and white world, Ossuaire present a cornucopia of modes. Slowing down the tempo to achieve an infectious groove, speeding things up to relish in the angst and agony, they make every second of Triumvirate enticing. Their momentum feels unstoppable as the vocal delivery spits its vehemence. And still, they relish into some of Bathory’s earlier teachings, circa Blood Fire Death, with tracks like “Cénotaphe” seeing an epic representation take form. An excellent work overall to whet the appetite for their next full-length. – Spyros Stasis