MetalMatters March 2021

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of March 2021

This month in metal, Grindcore explorers Genghis Tron return, Krallice and Mare Cognitum push black metal to the extremes and sludge pioneers Eyehategod strike again.

Manslaughter 777 – World Vision Perfect Harmony (Thrill Jockey)

The inherent connection of The Body with electronic music is undeniable. Throughout the duo’s vast discography it is not only the extreme notions of noise and power electronics that prevail but an underlying affection towards the dub aesthetics and their trademark breakbeats. And so one half of The Body, drummer Lee Buford joins forces with fellow drummer Zac Jones under the Manslaughter 777 moniker, to explore the depths of electronic music freed from its metallic extensions.

Hellbent on digging into the most obscure and bleaker aspects of rhythm-driven music, Buford and Jones unleash a hellish landscape of disfigured samples, heavy bass frequencies, and off-kilter experimentation with debut World Vision Perfect Harmony. It is a frantic recital that kicks off with “No Man Curse”, as Manslaughter 777 infect the straightforward rhythmic progression with an array of sharp synths, busy effects, and otherworldly pads. From there on it is fair game, as Jones and Buford employ addictive breakbeats and a soulful vocal delivery in “Jump and Spread” before moving to the strangely romantic heavy bass of “I Can Not Tell You How I Feel”.

Dub and jungle mix in these mystical endeavors, constructing mind-altering experiences in “What Is Joke To You Is Dead To Me” and pseudo-martial marches in “Mag Tech”, while the erratic application of breakbeats destroys all notion of rhythm and progression in “ARC”. Some might see Manslaughter 777 as the metal-less manifestation of The Body, but that would be a shallow remark. In their obsession with pacing and progression, Manslaughter 777 have explored a vast rhythmic territory tackling an extensive mix of electronica. – Spyros Stasis

Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm (I, Voidhanger)

Mare Cognitum’s 2020 split with Spectral Lore Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine was one of the most ambitious and awe-inspiring metal releases of the year. Were it not for Jacob Buczarski’s acute sense of world-building, its solo followup Solar Paroxysm could have easily fallen as a victim of trying to reproduce the universe-spanning breadth and scope of that album. Instead, Buczarski’s gaze falls to the ground here. No longer preoccupied with far spiritual expanses, he explores the cosmology of our own world.

As he spins a web of sprawling, otherworldly, and often discordant atmospheric black metal, his metaphors become tethered to painfully real manifestations, rooted in the ecological and sociological degeneration of the Earth. From these sentiments arise moments of soul-crushing melancholy encapsulated within ambient inflections. Right beside them, rebellious angst is carried by buzzing tremolos and blast beats. Considered together, they sound off zealous warnings and ultimate recognitions of defeat. – Antonio Poscic

Mork – Katedralen (Peaceville)

The heir apartments to a dynasty. Recent days have seen black metal stretched far beyond what many could imagine. Post-metal influences, shoegaze injections, and post-punk aesthetics have become commonplace. Yet, while the raw and eerie quality of the genre has opened the doors to these exquisite mutations, there is still a rich traditional heritage to build upon. That has been the purpose of Thomas Eriksen’s project Mork, which is carefully amassing a daunting discography, with Katedralen now being the latest entry.

Katedralen is a work that travels back to the inception of the genre, the times when Darkthrone’s cataclysmic riffs and Satyricon’s venomous concepts were first let loose upon the world. Eerie and ominous ambiances are enacted, pummeling drums and repetitive riffs circling the listener in their slithering progression. And here Mork really expose the full glory of the genre, from its energetic facade with the hectic outbreak and cacophonous onslaught of  “Dodsmarsjen” to the rock ‘n’ roll inspired “Svartmalt”.

But while the cyclonic riffs guide the way in moments like “De Fortapte Sjelers Katedral” and the polemic progression awakens a thrash spirit, there is always a progressive element hovering over Katedralen. The clean vocals filling the space in “Arv” create an epic representation, while the larger the life chorus of “Det Siste Gode I Meg” reveals an uncanny ability for crafting excellent hooks. If you are looking for a modern black metal opus that stays true to the genre’s roots, then look no further. – Spyros Stasis  

Nazxul – Irkalla (Seance)

With information traveling so fast today, it is difficult to picture how this would occur three decades ago. At its inception, the second black metal wave was honed in the Scandinavian scene and primarily Norway. Yet, it managed to travel throughout the continent, infect the States and finally reach remote destinations. While Sigh was rising in Japan, it was Nazxul that was ruling the land down under. The occult outfit from Sydney fully embraced the blasphemous black metal teachings, unleashing their debut record Totem in 1995. In its raw and uncompromising form, Totem was a diamond in the rough obscured through the lo-fi production. Not being the most active of bands, it would take 14 years for Nazxul to return with another pivotal work in Iconoclast, further fanning the flames of their cult black metal. Today they finally return, 12 years after Iconoclast, completing the trifecta with Irkalla.

For Nazxul the essence of black metal is in balancing between the raw and the atmospheric. That has always been the case for the Aussies and so is the story with Irkalla. The beginning is found in the ambient realm, as echoing guitar lines fill the space. This facade undertakes a quick transformation, the blastbeats rising from the abyss, the traditional black metal riffing creating a cyclonic effect, and the all-devouring vocals making a terrifying appearance. It is a devastating experience, projected through a relentless attitude.

Yet, even within this haze of brutality, Nazxul still look to expand this confrontation. The keyboards are essential to this process, taking over with their expansive padding. It is this duality between the complete devotion to the occult, on one side striving for the brutal, direct, and animalistic as in “Inferno”, while still reaching for the epic and majestic, as in “Stygian”. It is a bittersweet experience listening to a new Nazxul album. Sweet because you are reminded of their overwhelming approach and their boundless potential, while the bitter taste of having to wait another decade hovers over your mind. – Spyros Stasis  

Nightfall – At Night We Prey (Season of Mist)

The early 1990s saw the rise of the extreme metal scene in Greece through three pivotal acts in Nightfall, Septicflesh, and Rotting Christ. And in 1993 while Rotting Christ was introducing metalheads to their trademark black metal sound with Thy Mighty Contact, Nightfall was plunging the world in their bitter brew of majestic doom/death with Macabre Sunsets. The progression for Nightfall was meteoric, carrying on with Athenian Echoes before the experimentation took hold and gothic influences signaled an evolution. Diva Futura, I Am Jesus and Lyssa explored Nightfall’s inquiring appetite, but the 2010s saw the act take a step back towards a point of origin. Astron Black And The Thirty Tyrants and Cassiopeia found Nightfall reaching for their melodicidentity, fueling a traditional heavy metal sound to unleash some of their finest moments. It has now been seven years since the exquisite Cassiopeia was released, and Nightfall make their long-awaited return with At Night We Prey.

And for their tenth full-length, Nightfall take a turn towards the extreme. The goth influences of the late 1990s and 2000s have dissipated, while the heavy metal tradition highlighted in Cassiopeia is dwindling. At Night We Prey is a record baptized in the melodic death metal tradition, where the astonishing lead guitars of “Killing Moon” combine with the thrashoid and proto-death impressions of “Darkness Forever”. The doom elements are not far behind either, as the ritualistic pacing of “Witches” slithers along, exploding in fits of black metal anguish, while the reconfigured melodic lines of “Giants of Anger” light up with their intrinsic cacophony.

Nightfall have always been an act enamored with a romantically darker sound, something that they have carried throughout their many transformations. Here, it is this essence that comes to the forefront with the ethereal applications in “Temenos”, the stunning hooks of “Martyrs of the Cult of the Dead”, the unforgiving title track, and of course the bulldozing sound of closer “Wolves in Thy Head”. And so, not only excellent work from Nightfall but a most welcome surprise turn towards their melodic death metal self. – Spyros Stasis  

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