MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of December 2020

Post-rock legends Jesu return after seven years, chameleonic rockers Boris collaborate once more with noise fiend Merzbow, and Dan Barrett unleashes Black Wing’s sophomore record.

Kelly Moran / Prurient – Chain Reaction at Dusk (Hospital Productions)


Kelly Moran and Dominick Fernow are amongst the most daring experimental artists of our times. Through her stunning prepared piano, Moran has been creating amalgamations of minimalist compositions and ambient endeavors. On the other end of the spectrum, Fernow with Prurient has been exploring the harshest side of electronic music, combining noise and sonic collage. Therefore Chain Reaction at Dusk becomes a true meeting of the minds, as Moran and Fernow offer a hallucinatory trip through 25 minutes of avant-garde expeditions.

Moran’s side of the collaboration sees her once more combining the prepared piano teachings of pioneers like John Cage with a powerful ambient approach. The neoclassical introduction of “Red Storm” washes over the continuation of the Helix compositions, with “Helix III”. Retro electronic movements collapse on top of the pristine piano playing. It is a dreamlike scenery made real through the heavy drone foundation that takes over the sub-bass frequency region. The final piece “Hymn” closes this investigation in a minimal yet majestic tone, leading the way to Fernow’s side. It is a quite distinct turn here, as “Tokyo Exorcist” arrives, reminding that Prurient never really hold back. The disfigured Tubular Bells-like theme soon arrives, creating tension through every note and giving rise to a cinematic movement. It is a circular motion, one that surrounds everything as grim vocal lines fill the space.

The second and final offering for Prurient, “Help If I May Ask” takes an even darker turn, with Fernow combining noise, musique concrete, and sonic collage to disturbing effect. And so Chain Reaction at Dusk conducts a journey that starts in a nebulous, dreamlike scenery before being plunged into a digital hellscape, completing a perfect cycle. – Spyros Stasis

Nexul – Scythed Wings of Poisonous Decay (Iron Bonehead)


Hailing from El Paso and featuring members of the esteemed black/death/doom act Hellvetron, Nexul first started spreading its own black/death malice back in 2013 with their Nexulzifer demo. Taking their time, Nexul would return and unleash a work of pure darkness with the extremely volatile Paradigm of Chaos. Paying tribute to the old-school cult edge of black/death, without succumbing to a polished sound or a very refined end product, these Texans created a brutal and harsh work. And that is something that they now want to repeat with their new EP Scythed Wings of Poisonous Decay.

Much of Nexul’s inclinations are still present in this new EP. The blasphemous outcries, the schizoid lead work borrowing from the proto-death metal scene is causing absolute havoc in “Reflected in Glaring Eyes”, while the pummeling drum onslaught increases the bestiality of the EP in the likes of “Partitioned By Severity”. What has changed is the approach toward production. Do not worry, these fiends still rely on their lo-fi aesthetic but in contrast with Paradigm of Chaos, the new EP features a more dense and atmospheric tone. It is an asphyxiating quality that ties in majestically with their more downtempo moments in “T.M.I.P.L.”, while at the same time making their purposeful outbursts in “N.X.L.Z.F.R” that much more potent. An excellent follow-up that carries on Nexul’s legacy. – Spyros Stasis

Pneuma Hagion – Voidgazer (Nuclear War Now!)


Sustaining a truly prolific creative output, Ryan Wilson has been responsible for a number of underground gems in recent years. Be it through the blackened crust with Endless Disease, brutal death/grind madness in Intestinal Disgorge, or funeral doom with Excantation and the Howling Void, Wilson always showed an excellent touch for all these different flavors of extreme music. Now, Wilson returns with another project in Pneuma Hagion, venturing forth in the black/death metal realm and all its unholy offerings.

Having released a number of demos and EPs, Wilson expands the one-man project with the inclusion of drummer Shane Elwell to release Pneuma Hagion’s debut record Voidgazer. The plunge into the death metal abyss is immediate as the heavy bass lines of “Aeons of Slumber” arrive. While the guttural death metal stench is always present, it is being obscured by a cult methodology. The death metal of Pneuma Hagion does not sound so much as physical, instead being otherworldly. Alternating the pace between fast and unforgiving, filled with blastbeats that would make Suffocation proud, and then turning it down a couple of notches to attain a doom oriented perspective.

It is an approach that brings to mind the doom induced darkness of acts like Incantation, while the touch of the blackened atmospherics ties everything together in moments like “Summoning” and “Primordial”. Unapologetically dissonant, no bullshit terrifying and with a retro aesthetic, Pneuma Hagion truly arrive with Voidgazer. – Spyros Stasis

Yashira – Fail to Be (Good Fight Music)


The success of the doom, death, and noise rock imbued blend of sludge and post-metal played by Jacksonville’s Yashira hinges on one thing: emotion. Oftentimes compositionally simple, this style of music greatly relies on playing raw and unbridled. It builds from a sort of authenticity of delivery needed to elevate the roaring and shrieking riffs, crushing drum hits, and oozing low frequencies into something more, something that will speak to the dark corners of our souls. And, oh boy, do Yashira bring an overabundance of uncut anger, pain, and hopelessness to the table.

Channeled through a tortured and enraged amalgamation of vocals, this suffering and fury sculpt the quartet’s second full-length Fail to Be into a thing of powerful and awful beauty. Attacking, destroying, and huge, yes, but above all deeply human, complete with flaws and familiar struggles embedded into bits of blackgaze. As if all the turmoil of the world rested on their shoulders, Fail to Be encapsulates Yashira’s liberating, endless scream. – Antonio Poscic