Goat Torment – Forked Tongues (Season of Mist)
Formed by veterans of the underground extreme metal scene, Goat Torment started its roam of terror in the late 2000s. However, in the early 2010s, main man Kwel began to unleash the full extent of his black/death fury. That marked a busy period with Goat Torment releasing, between 2012 and 2015, two full-length records, one EP, and a split with raw black metal act the Beast. However, that creative fire did not last long, and Goat Torment started to fade into the unknown. Thankfully, the project did not dissipate into the aether, and it is now returning stronger than ever with their Season of Mist debut, Forked Tongues.
Goat Torment complement their chaotic black/death essence with clean production. They do not relish in the lo-fi motif, rather moving closer to the presentation adopted by Necros Christos and Teitanblood. The resulting, no bullshit attitude echoes from the very start of “Pantheon of Devourment”. The furious introduction carries much of the death metal DNA, which also comes to the front when the mid-tempo stampedes arrive. “Profanation” and “Ravenous Ghouls” feature moments of such grandeur, while “Deceitful Faith” throws in some recorded voice samples to add to the brutality. And it is with such aesthetic choices that the black metal self is indeed revealed. The twisted lead crafts a hellish ambiance, particularly menacing in the likes of “Channel Houses”.
Goat Torment are part of a greater lineage, and their body of works speaks to that fact. Sure, black/death has a rich current scene, but these guys do not forget about the genre’s forefathers. The solo work oozes with the schizoid essence of early Slayer and the dark concepts unearthed by Possessed. But of course, as is the case with Goat Torment’s previous works, Forked Tongues is also refined to be a record of the present. So even though there is not much novelty to be found here, Goat Torment are honing their craft and have just released their strongest work to date. – Spyros Stasis
Illudium – Ash of the Womb (Prophecy)
The first introduction to Shantel Amundson’s project Illudium came back in 2016 with the debut record Septem. Vaguely fitting within the post-metal sphere, Illudium showcased a need not to be pigeonholed. Because while the components of Amundson’s visions were audible, the combination had something fresh and original. Dark atmospherics tilting towards doom metal, a harshness at times that echoes with the black metal spirit, yet Illudium was far removed from these. Add a strange hazy quality pointing towards stoner rock, along with an over-the-top use of distortion that hails the shoegaze scene. Septem was the first promise of things to come.
Now Amundson returns with Illudium’s sophomore record in Ash of the Womb. It feels like in these five years, Illudium have undergone a process of maturity. There are still raging moments, at times recalling a stoner rock directness as with hazy opener “Aster”. The punk roots are never forgotten as “Where Death and Dreams Manifest” lets on. However, the deepness that defined the more introspective moments of Septem and the overarching dusky quality prevail. The big outbreaks, post-metal storms in “Aster” feature this hybrid metallic/shoegaze form. For the most part, the weight tilts more towards the metallic self with a doom twist. It arrives with a fierce, almost elemental form, in moments like “Atopa” and “Madrigal”.
Then at times, Illudium will move more towards the traditional extreme indie implementation, diving into the overwhelming pathways of “Soma Sema”. But beauty is not just found in this heavy majesty, and Amundson adds a few twists with a dark folk injection. “Sempervirens” reveals this side of Illudium, featuring a more earthy and romantic touch, while “Atopa” similarly implements the delicate guitar lines for a hypnotic effect. These changes elevate Illudium, and even though it feels like there are more discoveries that Amundson will make in the future, for now, Ash of the Womb is a wonderful specimen of what dark, hazy and heavy music should sound like. – Spyros Stasis
Knivad – Insidans Ärrvävnad (Suicide)
The Swedes have one hell of a tradition when it comes to punk bands. Anything from 1980s underground legends like Anti-Climax and modern-day crust aficionados Disfear to innovators of the scene like Refused. And so from the underground of Gothenburg Knivad arrives, taking much of the lineage of their native scene and putting it to good use in their latest offering Insidans Ärrvävnad.
From the get-go, the punk mentality shines through with a pedal to the metal aggression. “Avdelning 369” sees the ’80s spirit rising, the D-beat taking over with its groove. At times it is an almost war-like mentality, a clash against all, aptly detailed in polemic quality with “Ett övergrepp”. It is also where Knivad do not hold back at the slightest. Suddenly exploding into full-blown blastbeats, flirting with a grind presence. It is a sudden drop to a harsh reality, a beautiful albeit short Nasum-like outbreak in “Sömnlösa nätter”. This is also where the metallic component to Knivad’s crust punk really flourishes. These guys are not shying away from their melodic inclinations, making full use of them to awaken a range of emotions.
Hints of melancholia come into view with “Deras Hat”, while the influence of their native Gothenburg’s extreme metal scene shows clear signs in “Förbrukad”. It is a quality that brings to mind a couple of Thomas Lindberg’s projects. Disfear being the obvious close relative, but the haunting melodies of “Häktad (skriv att jag är skyldig)” brings to mind the venomous touch of The Great Deceiver. Of course, they also travel further, with “Dricka för att glömma” setting a scenery not far remote from the darkest visions of Tragedy.
But still, what really boils it down for Insidans Ärrvävnad is its passion. A crust album can incorporate whatever elements, but if it is lacking purpose it is nulled. Here, the performance is just unreal. Brutal vocals keep a harrowing presence, every word a knife aimed at the world. The energy arising from the drums is equally impressive, setting the pace and never letting go. At the time, guitars are just navigating such a wide space, always coming with conviction. It can be a bitter fast part, a melodic hook, or the grand and impressive manifestation and psychedelic leanings of “Talet”. No matter the case, Knivad has delivered an excellent specimen of crust punk ethos, with a few twists. – Spyros Stasis
Light of the Morning Star – Charnel Noir (Debemur Morti)
There’s no denying that fusing darkwave with metal is a well-trusted recipe. The two scenes go well together, fusing the gloom of gothic with the heavy distortion and grit of metal. The list of artists that have embraced that hybrid side is way too long to include here. But, one of the newer and more promising acts arrives from London, in Light of the Morning Star. With a debut EP in Cemetary Glow, quickly followed by a very promising record in Nocta, the mysterious entities behind the project have revealed their full intentions. Heavy but deeply melodic, emotive but at the same time cold, there is a dichotomy that defines Light of the Morning Star. And this is what they further explore now with their sophomore full-length Charnel Noir.
Heavy inclinations have always been part of Light of the Morning Star’s modus operandi. Here, they push them forward from the start, as the title track fiercely comes in. The metallic weight is alive and well, offering moments of intense pressure in the likes of “Lid a Casket”. It also acts as the segway towards the doom/goth state. The slower and processional movements of “Our Night Hours” carry some of the edge and mysticism of early Moonspell. And at times it further builds to more oppressive ceremonies, as is the case with “Endless Procession to the Guillotine”. And then, this is where the more elusive side comes in to compliment the metallic weight. “Hymn to Hemlock” sees the deathrock presence come into view, relishing on the Sisters of Mercy lineage.
Caught in this state between metal and darkwave does open up a well of melodic potential. And this is where Light of the Morning Star truly shines, as they unleash a plethora of hooks. “There Are Many Shadows” is a stellar example, the dark and ominous presence tied to a magnificent chorus. Similarly, closer “Fangs in the Tree of Life” balances between the light and the darkness, combining a sense of dread with a stunning vocal delivery. There are still more venomous moments lurking about. The acidic quality of “Ghost Moon” sees a slight dissonance, possibly stemming from a black metal influence, while the cinematic effects of “Hymn of Hemlock” and “Spectres” augment the experience. It is not like Light of the Morning Star is breaking much new ground with Charnel Noir, but they rather more deeply explore and perfect their craft. – Spyros Stasis
Necrofier – Prophecies of Eternal Darkness (Season of Mist)
Necrofier’s debut full-length should be seen as an oasis in the middle of the desert for anyone in search of melodic black metal in the vein of Dissection, Naglfar, and Watain. The twist? Instead of the cold north of Europe, this quartet hails from America’s warm south. Indeed, within the harsh exteriors of their blazing music ticks a dark but welcoming Houstonian heart, while tinges of Southern darkness and gothic malaise turn black metal idioms into melodic lamentations.
This fusion of cultures makes Prophecies of Eternal Darkness a curiously varied album where swirling tremolos can coexist with roaring thrash riffs, and gorgeous atmospheric sections follow in the wake of bumbling attacks and shrieking solos. Those with a keen ear will also detect traces of death-doom in certain passages and a sense of melancholy in the songs reminiscent of Oceans of Slumber, a band that bassist Mat Aleman and drummer Dobber Beverly are also members of. And while the album as a whole is executed splendidly, it’s especially Beverly that thrives here, the higher tempos allowing him to conduct the cuts with his nimble and often thrilling style of drumming. – Antonio Poscic