The Silver – Ward of Roses (Gilead Media)
The Silver sees a diverse collection of artists come together. Founded by brothers Matt and Jamie Knox of progressive death metal overlords Horrendous, and Crypt Sermon drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, The Silver is a project aiming to dispute boundaries between genres. Extending the line-up to include vocalist Nick Duchemin, who is making his first professional appearance, The Silver aims to navigate the murky waters of extreme metal. In their debut record, Ward of Roses, anything is fair game. The progressive elements of Horrendous, the epic grandeur of Crypt Sermon, all tied around concepts as disparate as black metal and gothic.
As a result, it is very difficult to pinpoint The Silver into a specific style. For the most part, Ward of the Roses aims for the holistic extreme metal approach. “Fallow” sees this essence come together, as black metal explosions bind with technical death metal basslines through a thick and heavy distortion. This explosiveness is key in The Silver grabbing the listener’s attention. The sudden bursts in “Breathe” are oozing with a sense of purpose. Coupled with the progressive demeanor, something that Horrendous is famed for, this quality results in moments that break the mold. The bitter start of “Gatekeeper” sees The Silver move towards the bleak, while at the opposite end “Behold, Five Judges” features a more fervent tilt towards melody.
Yet, the Silver know how to balance their aggression. There is a true dichotomy that defines the album. While the black, and some death, metallic inclinations are key, these are accompanied by an arsenal of weapons. Taking a page from the epic perspective of Crypt Sermon, “Vapor” rises in a grand presentation carrying some of doom’s essence. Psychedelic applications add further to the ambiance, even the virtuosic guitar lines and free-flowing drums of “Breathe” provide a solid ambiance.
Combining the harsh vocal delivery with clean vocals fulfills the Silver’s potential. “Fallow” and “Ward of Roses” continue to carry the dissonance and harshness, but at the same time, they have an almost alternative metal sensibility. It is these concepts that reveal the potential of The Silver and Ward of Roses is the first solid step on this journey. Hopefully, more will follow. – Spyros Stasis
Threshing Spirit – The Crucible (American Decline/American Dreams)
Although the usage of black metal elements outside the genre itself has become a common touch in contemporary (not only) underground music, the aesthetic character of these tropes is so distinct that it can easily color and hijack one’s impression of a work. In the case of multi-faceted musician, music writer, and American Dreams label head Jordan Reyes’s full-length debut as Threshing Spirit, reducing the album to “black metal” means doing it a great disservice. There are many more details and design intricacies at work here below that obvious surface, with black metal affectations just a consequence of choices made much earlier in the process.
Primarily, The Crucible channels a profoundly internalized, vividly existential but always compassionate understanding of nature, the universe, and our place in it. At times, it hungrily breathes in the world around it, leaving behind shards of ambient country and halcyon guitar phrases akin to Reyes’s Sand Like Stardust album. At others, it sighs wistfully and opens up outwards, expressing a cosmic curiosity and sense of wonder using bouts of black metal that have been sliced open by synths and tingly guitar phrases.
The genre’s usual malevolent anger and aggression are missing in these segments, supplanted instead by a sense of empathy and gorgeous melody. Together, they build towards a strikingly beautiful paradox of styles and atmospheres that, much like the whole album, yields a unique experience. – Antonio Poscic
Witch Fever – Reincarnate (Music for Nations)
While it is, of course, a shift largely driven by profit incentives and market metrics, it warms my heart when I see how diligently Sony-owned imprints have started pushing bands with clear ideological and sociopolitical attitudes. Similar to Spanish duo Bala on Century Media, Witch Fever on Music for Nations are an all-female/non-binary band with a very no-nonsense feminist agenda wrapped in heavy, crunchy overtones. In both lyrical and musical senses, the Mancunians’ style is as if riot grrrl met sludge, doom, and stoner metal in a smokey club, then decided to thrash the place to shreds.
Out of the six cuts on the EP, the opening “Reincarnate” is the filthiest and most outspoken one—”I left you, and now I thrive / You won’t break me,” they scream—with its doom and sludge elements wrapped around a punk core. From then on, the songs become more melodic and fluid but lose none of their edge. At times, they roar in anger like prime Nirvana. At others, they groove like Clutch. Taken as a whole, Reincarnate makes for a really impressive debut release. – Antonio Poscic
Worm – Foreverglade (20 Buck Spin)
Wrapped in ambient sounds and gentle instrumentation, the first minute or so of Foreverglade is an awfully deceptive beast, similar to the optimistic calm that sets in just before a storm hits with its full power. As cymbals start crashing down and guitars twang, a roar of some entity that could only be emerging from hell consumes everything in its path. Then things really get going as from then on Worm deal only in suffocating pain and suffering, mixing death, doom, and black metal elements into an unholy concoction that shouldn’t and couldn’t possibly work, yet does so majestically.
The music undulates between funeral doom crawls and slightly faster death dirges, and the resonant impact of kick drums and bass lines send shockwaves through the forest of gnarly riffs. Like a clearing in the midst of a thick black forest, a melodic solo briefly cuts through the booming mass, only to make everything around it even darker and more menacing as its bright trail fades. What an album from the Floridians. – Antonio Poscic
Zornheym – The Zornheim Sleep Experiment (Noble Demon)
When symphonic black metal is done right, the orchestral elements are tightly woven in its core and not simply used as afterthoughts or effects tacked on as garnishes. Stockholm’s Zornheym excel at this approach, as the compositions on their sophomore LP The Zornheim Sleep Experiment are all made to follow dichotomous patterns, which seem simultaneously informed by the worlds of Western classical music and black metal. That is to say, you’re equally likely to headbang and listen attentively to this album. Add to that a penchant for the theatrical and a nifty dramatic narrative about the dismay of mental asylums, and the end result is a compact and quite accomplished piece of music. – Antonio Poscic