Mortiferum – Preserved in Torment (Profound Lore)
Hailing from Olympia, Washington, Mortiferum was formed by death metal aficionados. Featuring members of funeral doom overlords Eos and death/grind powerhouse Caustic Wound, Mortiferum dwells in the old-school doom/death territory. Traveling to times before the Peaceville Three emerged, Mortiferum worshipped the heavy, death ritualism forged by the likes of Winter. And so they went on to produce their terrifying 2017 debut, Disgorged From Psychotic Depths. Now they emerge once again with their sophomore album Preserved in Torment.
There really are no surprises to be found here. Mortiferum follow their old-school ethos and the start of “Eternal Procession” oozes with the stench of the glorious, good old days. Here, there is not much room for sentimentality. This is a punishing offering, carrying the lineage of Into Darkness and the temperament of the Finnish death scene, especially the likes of underground legends Rippikoulou. Detours still occur of course, at times the perspective shifts to the punishing early days of Cathedral. “Seraphic Extinction” carries that groove alongside the necessary Celtic Frost spirit. And then at other times, it becomes hazier sprouting beneath the fumes of heavy distortion on “Mephitis of Disease”.
However, the key point to Mortiferum is their understanding of the hybrid doom/death state. Many fall into the mode of doom riffs with death metal vocals, but not these guys. Their death metal pedigree shines brightly through the punishing ferocity of “Incubus of Bloodstained Visions”. The almost grind imbued presence in “Exhumed from Mortal Spheres” further encapsulates this mode. It takes on the inspiration from the early, sadistic visions of dISEMBOWLMENT and twists the death metal form to no end. It is this dedication and understanding of doom/death that makes Preserved in Torment shine. – Spyros Stasis
Mystras – Empires Vanquished and Dismantled (I, Voidhanger)
The work of Greek musician Ayloss spreads over several disparate one-person bands connected by a particular compositional idiom and a thin thread of shared black metal aesthetics. Among them, Spectral Lore is perhaps the most well-known. Indeed, Ayloss’s expansive black metal explorations projected on a cosmic canvas have been documented extensively on the pages of this very column.
While Spectral Lore looks to the universe, the scope of his project Mystras turns its gaze closer to the ground, tracing the lives and struggles of the oppressed. The atmosphere of majesty and purpose is as great here as among the stars, but the stakes seem so much higher. A very outspoken antifascist, Ayloss narrates feudalism through a contemporary prism, connecting the dots of a system that we today deem inhumane with a system equally unjust and corrupt that we’ve been programmed to understand as unavoidable status quo.
Similar to the likes of Dawn Ray’d and other RABM (Red and Anarchist Black Metal) bands, this allegorical approach allows Ayloss to draw from an undisputed space of past injustice to mount a rebellion in the present. The music on Empires Vanquished and Dismantled is thus fiery and purposeful: a maelstrom of second-wave black metal augmented with Eastern European folk flourishes and interspersed with minstrel-like acoustic intermezzos. These are as crucial as the black metal they glue together. They make us the protagonists of these stories and invite us to heed calls to arms. The ancient despotism remains just as alive today. Essential listening. – Antonio Poscic
Noise Trail Immersion – Curia (I, Voidhanger)
Noise Trail Immersion’s foundation has always been the mathcore fury and the post-metal teachings. While this is not necessarily considered adventurous nowadays, what separates is the way they take advantage of the black metal form. In recent years, acts like Plebeian Grandstand (also featured in this month’s MetalMatters) and Serpent Column have tapped into this strange space. This Converge-inspired blackened, post-hardcore realm. And Noise Trail Immersion have been exploring this side for a while, and their latest escapades are now presented with their third full-length Curia.
The complexity and fervent spirit that define Curia, is what allows for the full brutality of Noise Trail Immersion to shine. “Demiurgo del non rit…” feels like chaos unleashed as dissonant chords and blastbeats fill the space. From here on, Noise Trail Immersion open up further portals. The venomous black metal spirit emerges with its characteristic lead work. And then the ending of “Dimorare nella carne” sees the endeavor tilting towards the hazy and psychedelic. It is a bitter procession, and Noise Trail Immersion add a further ceremonial twist to it. The slow pace of “Eclissi unanime” and its overwhelming approach provides a sense of grandeur. It feels like an ecclesiastical ceremony is taking place, as the mysterious melodies weave the narrative.
Of course, running beneath all the urgency and angst is the post-metal mindset. Even though Noise Trail Immersion do not abide to many of the genre’s norm, the underlying philosophy is still there. The punishing groove of “Dimorare nella carne”, with the sudden switches from mental mathcore to angry sludge still prevails. Digging even deeper, the electronic-inspired rhythmic patterns of “Vanente” create a proper mindfuck. And the descent into dark folk ambiances with the “Riesistere” parts, see Noise Trail Immersion traverse into new territory. It all makes Curia a nice blend of concepts and sounds, and there is no denying the meticulous work that the band has put into the record to achieve this end. – Spyros Stasis
The Ocean – Phanerozoic Live (Pelagic)
It might seem a strange thing to write about a band whose career is now two-decades-long and situated in a genre—a fusion of progressive, sludge, and post-metal—whose heyday was some time ago, but Robin Staps’s The Ocean feels as if they have just reached their creative peak. Both 2018’s Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic and 2020’s Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic are majestic pieces of music, cinematic and visceral.
As the title implies, Phanerozoic Live is The Ocean playing those two records in full in a pandemic kind of live setting. Spread over two CDs or three LPs, the album collects recordings from two distinct performances. The first part, streamed live from a port hall in Bremen, features a proper concert production—missing only an actual audience from their explosive show. The second part was recorded for the online edition of the Roadburn Festival and traded the imposing industrial space for a small studio, imbuing it with an intimate, rehearsal-like vibe.
But despite the difference in ambiance, the band absolutely blazes with the same intensity through both performances, rendering the already awesome songs with fire and passion, elevating them above their studio versions. As such, Phanerozoic Live is an essential listen for fans of the band, but also a fantastic starting point for those yet unfamiliar with the German group’s work. – Antonio Poscic
Outre-Tombe – Abysse mortifère (Temple of Mystery)
Quebec quartet Outre-Tombe play some of the filthiest, rawest death metal imaginable. Throughout their work, a sense of dripping grime and gnarly dread reigns supreme and defines them completely. It permeates all components of their sound, from the absolutely sickening guitar tone, through the spastic drumming, to the raspy growls that rise from a place of agony and despair. Like their previous two records—2018’s Nécrovortex and 2015’s Répurgation—Abysse mortifère is brutal and unrelenting from start to finish, even when cuts like “Desossé” slow the otherwise animalistic, unhinged mixture of classic death metal styles down to a bumbling crawl. This is the stuff of nightmares that parents warn their children about. – Antonio Poscic