LLNN – Unmaker (Pelagic)
The Psyke Project was an act that defined the underground post-metal and hardcore scenes. Even though it flew more under the radar than it should, the act from Copenhagen released a series of excellent records, including Aikini, Apnea, and swan song Guillotine. Their demise left a hole in the post-metal scene, but thankfully the Psyke Project members Rasmus Sejersen and Christian Bonnesen established LLNN. Much of the blackened post-metal of the Psyke Project now lives and further evolves through the works of LLNN. And now, returning with their third full-length Unmaker, they fully show their teeth.
It is a bit of a throwback to the post-metal scene of the 2000s. Sludge guitars immediately pummel through opener “Imperial”, as shouts rush out from inhuman throats, and that hardcore groove rules all. It brings to mind the grit and dirt of “Partisan” from the Psyke Project’s Guillotine. It is a mode that is called upon often, with the brutality reaching heights in “Scion” and sowing pure destruction with “Division”. Further explorations awaken the work of fellow giants of the scene. The chaotic dissonance near the end of “Forger” arrives with a Neurosis-infused fervor, the melancholic “Interloper” has something of the magic of ISIS, and the terror and glory wrap “Tethers” in a Cult of Luna influenced veil of mystery.
Where things further evolve for LLNN is in their use of atmospherics. Sure, post-metal acts are known for their ability to conjure these moments of restrained grandeur, but here it is performed in an off-kilter manner. Instead of the esoteric and introverted approach of The Psyke Project, LLNN craft an open alien scenery. “Imperial” sees these synths act as a counterweight to the harrowing instrumentation. At the same time, the noise injections in “Desecrator” fill the space with a post-apocalyptic sense. LLNN take things even further with the field recordings working in tandem with the synths in “Obsidian” to provide more depth to the narrative. And finally, industrial inclinations move forth with a cold Godflesh-ian touch in “Forger”. It is great to see that the Danish harsh hardcore scene still wages war on all, and its latest victory is Unmaker. – Spyros Stasis
Lvcifyre – The Broken Seal (NoEvDia/Dark Descent)
Infernal, there is no other way to describe it. Despite the cheesy choice of name, Lvcifyre take their craft extremely seriously. There are no gimmicks to be found in any of the records the act from London has produced. From the raw black/death of their 2011 debut, The Calling Depths, Lvcifyre was devoted to the darker side of extreme metal. That inclination would come to perfect fruition with Sun Eater, a devastating record combining the old-school death metal perspective with the hellish black metal narrative. It has been seven years since Sun Eater, and finally, Lvcifyre return to complete their trifecta with The Broken Seal.
The Broken Seal finds Lvcifyre in great form. The ominous start of “Gods Await Us” conjuring the damned scenery, a void of fire and darkness. Despite their black/death nature, the gaze of Lvcifyre is fixed on the darkest death metal of olds. The Morbid Angel influence is strong throughout The Broken Seal, twisting the death metal to this strange, contorted form. Dissonant lead work fills the title track, proof of the Azagthoth-ian legacy. There is even a psychedelic tinge sprouting forth from the dissonance, leading to a dark hallucinatory experience in the likes of “The Last Archon”.
Similarly, the brute progression arrives with relentless dedication, mirroring much of the glory of Immolation and newer death metal acts like Dead Congregation. This element breathes in the complex and fervent rhythmic spirit of the record. The pacing is unstoppable, arriving with no remorse. It is precise and devastating in its striking. “Tribe of Khem” is a raging example of the versatility Lvcifyre possess, blastbeats reigning before the groove shifts to moments of mid-tempo grandeur. Perfect havoc is unleashed with “Headless Rite”, a chase through the dark corridors of the mind is presented in “The Wolf of The Great Dark”, and a polemic hymn narrative makes “Blood of Az” stand out.
Of course, through the way, Lvcifyre take upon them many of the teachings of the original black/death innovators. Their ferocious assaults recall much of Blasphemy’s early teachings, bringing them closer to current kindred spirits like Teitanblood. These dim visions come in complete form with “Black Beneath the Sun”, the pace reaching a peak devastatingly. The closer “Black Mass” sees a slithering form navigate through slower, doom-infused parts but still spitting its chthonic rage to all. The seal has been broken, and the end times are upon us! – Spyros Stasis
Mastiff – Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth (eOne)
Unlike the brutal opening of their 2019 album Plague, Mastiff launch their third LP with a muted mass of noise, distortion, and drum hits that sound as if played underwater while surging through the muck. “The Hiss” is akin to a sludge texture in an almost literal sense that consumes guitars and voices as they try to disentangle and break free. Then the noise surges and saturates the sonic image and lets “Fail” detonate an explosive mixture.
From that point onward, Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth becomes a vicious and filthy battery of hardcore-tinged sludge whose beats are not only heard but felt as heavy thumping upon one’s chest. Their salvos of fast attacks border on grindcore and get constantly destroyed and rebuilt, morphing the music into expansive drones and doom segments before accelerating again. Throughout the eight massive cuts, blazing bouts of riffs and pounding drums assemble around vicious mantras. “Same old shit/nothing’s changed,” they scream. “Endless suffering/endless pain,” they roar, just as a stream of swirling tremolos takes it all away, obliterating any chance of catharsis. – Antonio Poscic
Mehenet – Ng’ambu (Prosthetic)
While I’m no stranger to hyperbole and overly effusive proclamations of excellence, I’m quite serious when I say that with Ng’ambu, Mehenet have forged one of the most exceptional black metal albums of the year. What separates the New Orleans five-piece’s sophomore release from other equally accomplished 2021 black metal albums (and we’ve had quite a few this year) is the presence of deeply rooted New Orleanian influences and its corresponding sense of mystique.
Their music is imbued and permeated with the Afro-Brazilian diasporic belief system Quimbanda, which surfaces in samples and snippets of rituals. That also informs how their fiery black metal flows in and out of melodies, blasting sections and esoterically tinged sound samples. Unlike many other black metal bands that use Satanism as a prop, there is a sense of earnest spiritism on Ng’ambu that guides the band members on their journey. Meanwhile, ghosts of Quimbanda haunt and exalt every dark folk growl, collapsing riff, and pummeling drum blast. “Quimbanda is the fire by which we forge our iron and the strangling plants that cure disease. Quimbanda is both the pox and the inoculation.” Best consumed in one take without intermissions, Ng’ambu is half an hour of intense musical perfection. – Antonio Poscic
Mono – Pilgrimage of the Soul (Temporary Residence)
Prolific as ever, everyone knows that every new Mono album is just two years away. The historic post-rock act from Japan released in 2019 their tenth full-length record, Nowhere Now Here, and it is now ready to follow this up with Pilgrimage of the Soul. Since the days of Under the Pipal Tree and One More Step And You Die, Mono have been exploring the soundscapes first uncovered by post-rock icons Mogwai and shoegaze legends like My Bloody Valentine. Yet, through all this time, Mono’s focus was not on the evolution of a style but rather on honing their craft. Classical elements started to creep, the pull of electronica too hard to resist at times, but the core always remained the same. And here we are now, on the 11th record and Mono still sound as relevant as they did in 2001.
As with all post-rock music, it is all about the structure. Construction and deconstruction of sonic monuments. This is the recipe, and Mono have a lot of experience in that domain. With Pilgrimage of the Soul, they rush, going straight for the jugular with opener “Riptide”. Drawing upon the harsh shoegaze DNA the impact is imminent, resulting in glorious moments of heavy, pummeling breakdowns. Similar is the case with “Innocence”, the crescendo reaching a cathartic state, filling the space with brilliant colors of distortion. But still, this is the tempest, and soon enough, the calm joins in. “Imperfect Things” steps away from the blasting, heavy riffs and dives into the serene. Even the noise rock injections do not allow the illusion to falter. Similarly, the elusive exploration of “To See a World” crafts a cinematic panorama through guitars and electronics. It is a mechanism that opens up the music, capable of performing impressive build-ups like “The Auguries”.
Mono’s music has always had a comforting effect. Whether it is emotions of sadness or joy that they are hashing out, their delicate implementation always leaves a sense of solace. The ambient bliss of “Heaven in a Wild Flower” sees this warm sensation rising to the surface, the strings aiding to elevate this delicate perspective. The William Blake influence then carries on with “Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand”, one of the pivotal moments of the record. Mono traverse various modes through the 12-minute opus, offering abstract bliss or explosive crescendos. Yet, the underlying feeling is always the same: a sense of fulfillment and serenity. As the record finally drifts off with “And Eternity in an Hour”, the retrospective question arises. Is this really something new from Mono? Probably not. But is it worth a listen? Most definitely. – Spyros Stasis