Legends of old across the spectrum, from black metal to sludge, carry down a true and trusted path. Pioneers of the genre, be it through avant trajectories, electronic implementations, or alternative means, make a return. Many a dreaded hiatus come to an end, delivering on promises made in years past. It has been an excellent month, filled with extreme, forward-thinking and adventurous offerings, so go ahead and dig in. – Spyros Stasis
Aara – Triade I: Eos (Debemur Morti)
Experience comes with activity and age. That’s why it is so astonishing when a new band comes together, and in a short period, they can align their vision with their sound. That is exactly the case with Aara, with the duo coming together in 2018 and, through its prolific output, have been able to sound like veterans of atmospheric black metal. Two excellent works initiated this journey in So Fallen Alle Tempel and 2019’s En Ergo Einai and Eos now marks the start of an ambitious trilogy entitled Triade.
Drawing inspiration from Charles Maturin’s Faustian gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, Aara carefully structure their work in a very intricate fashion. Storytelling has always been a major factor in Aara’s work, and this shines through Eos as the ambient start of “Fathum” appears. Enshrined in a veil of darkness, the black metal onslaught soon rears its ugly head. Chaotic and uncontrollable, it personifies the genre’s raw emotion before the plunge into an acoustic overture ensues. It is a daunting composition, with Aara’s firm hand making sure it does not diverge from its path.
From there on, the dissonant edges are augmented through melodic injections, with the duo crafting excellent hooks with their lead work in the likes of “Das Wunder”. Taking it even further, they allow a classical influence to infect darkly contrived structures, as the choirs in “Naufragus” and the grand applications of “Effugium”. A great opening to this trilogy, and considering that Aara like to push black metal’s boundaries, it’s exciting to see where the next two installments will take them. – Spyros Stasis
Autarkh – Form in Motion (Season of Mist)
It’s the early 2010s, Alcest are on the rise, and their post-punk and shoegaze fused black metal is taking over. Deafheaven have released Roads to Judah and are about to drop a true bomb with Sunbather. These releases will change the meaning of the term “post-black metal”. However, at the same time in Tilburg, Netherlands, there is one act that subscribes to the vision of early avant-garde black metal visionaries. Dodecahedron were not the most prolific of acts, having released just two full-length records before calling it quits in 2020. And despite not drawing the spotlight, their output was nothing less than stellar. Harnessing the dissonance of Ved Buens Ende, the complex structures of Dodheimsgard, all combined with a fervently extreme and technical brew, was what made Dodecahedron stand out. Still, despite the demise of Dodecahedron, there’s now a new force rising from the ashes in Autarkh, releasing their debut record Form in Motion through Season of Mist.
Autarkh is the natural evolution of Dodecahedron. Many of the former’s outfit characteristics remain and echo through the dark corridors of Form In Motion. This is a starless record with a razor-sharp edge. The cacophony is front and center from the moment “Turbulence” kicks in, as repetitive patterns entwine with a brutal progression that does not reveal any signs of remorse. Math-informed structures and breaks take over, while the heavy layering makes this a very dense offering. And yet, within all this, Autark turn their attention outwards, looking beyond black metal and into the electronic domain.
The rhythmic backbone of this work carries a heavy dose of IDM, while the cold, detached and mechanical outlook is perfected through an industrial injection. And yet, this is not where all the weirdness stops, as bizarre dance motifs fit in “Introspectum”, dark ambient and abstract electronica feature in the record’s interludes, and a rap-like delivery in “Lost in Sight” is an absolute scene-stealer. This combination makes Form in Motion a formidable record, one that draws influence from the best that the experimental side of the black metal scene had to offer. What is even more daunting is that despite the richness and quality of this work, it feels that Autarkh still have ground to cover. We’ll just have to wait and see how they can surpass themselves. – Spyros Stasis
Baest – Necro Sapiens (Century Media)
The third LP by the Danish Baest is the death metal equivalent of a chef’s kiss. Just, just right! While rooted in old-school death metal akin to the retro-adoration of Bloodbath or originals such as Hypocrisy, Grave, and Entombed, their style is allowed to blossom into much more throughout the ten cuts on Necro Sapiens. Starting from a big, enveloping sound that is not afraid of flirting with pretty melodies on “Genesis”, they soon evolve an affecting rumble sprinkled with progressive twists on the title track.
Later, they find some of Melechesh’s folk elements on “Czar” and ambush technical death metal with angular riffs on “Towers of Suffocation”. “Sea of Vomit” ultimately wraps everything up with meaty attacks à la Morbid Angel. If all of this feels like a bit too much or a jumble of styles, fret not. Baest are masters of turning their myriad of death metal influences into a fluid, meaningful, and above all, modern-sounding whole. – Antonio Poscic
Demiser – Through the Gate Eternal (Boris)
Let me tell you a little secret: I’m a big fan of bands who fuse black and thrash elements into unholy alloys. That is especially true if the music is then played with a frolicking type of energy and perhaps imbued with a bit of humor. In the case of South Carolina’s quintet Demiser, all of these requirements are satisfied. Their debut Through the Gate Eternal brings forward 34 insanely fun minutes of bumbling black-thrash metal. This is a lean and mean album whose continuous sense of groove is as indebted to Defiler’s plump bass lines and Infestor’s rolling fills as it is to Gravepisser and Phalomancer’s grrring tremolos and Demiser the Demiser’s shrieks. Fitting for an album without a moment out of place from start to finish, even the usually throwaway acoustic interlude “Song of Byleth” finds a true purpose here! – Antonio Poscic
Enforced – Kill Grid (Century Media)
Enforced’s 2019 debut At the Walls was an incredibly well-crafted, high-powered take on thrash-cum-hardcore crossover in the vein of High Command, Power Trip, and Iron Age. Their sophomore release Kill Grid takes everything that made that record excellent and gears it up a notch. Knox Colby is again a star with a convincing and perhaps even fiercer vocal delivery, dealing with literary metaphors or sober societal issues. Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan’s spiraling riff machines are somehow faster and sharper. The sense of pacing in Ethan Gensurowsky and Alex Bishop’s rhythm section is at the same time extremely precise and feral, capable of pushing most of the cuts down the stairs of intense madness. And when they collectively decide it’s time for the accumulated energy to explode, they venture into terrific Slayeresque overdrives. Stunning stuff. – Antonio Poscic