The new year, and the new decade, kick things off in the most promising way possible as a combination of newcomers and established acts produce amazing works across death, black, metalcore, power and thrash metal.
We made it! It was exactly one year ago that the first issue of MetalMatters was unveiled, and 12 months later we are still going. While January 2019 was slightly slim in terms of release, the same cannot be said for 2020. We are lucky to see several excellent up and coming bands come in the death metal realm with Coffin Curse, Konvent, and Proscrito, all keeping alive the flame of old-school ethos in the debut records as obscure Japanese duo Mortal Incantation drop their devastating first demo. At the same time, black metallers Vaeok make a statement with their throwback debut EP and the always adventurous Jordablod return with their sophomore full-length.
On the side of the veterans, the mighty Kawir return with their third Iron Bonehead release, a perfect specimen of the Hellenic black metal flavor. Meanwhile, experimental journeymen Lotus Thief, Unreqvited, and Thy Catafalque showcase why they are some of the more interesting dissidents of the genre. On a league of their own are Mancunian powerhouse Leeched, producing a shattering work that modernizes extreme metalcore. Last but not least, thrash and power metal records get to shine this month through the works of Surgical Strike and Temperance. So dig in, and here's to another great year!
Coffin Curse - Ceased to Be (Memento Mori)
The honor of "Best (Old School) Death Metal Album" this month goes to Chile's Coffin Curse. The Santiago duo fronted by guitarist, bassist, and vocalist Max Neira play an especially vile and contorted take on classic death metal, channeling Tomb Mold's gritty intricacies through meandering songwriting and structures reminiscent of Domination-era Morbid Angel. On their full-length debut Ceased to Be, they launch headfirst into the speed and thrash-influenced romp "Where Sickness Thrives". They collapse into the guttural rumbles of "Descend into Abhorrence" and get swallowed by doom quagmires on "Feeding on Perpetual Disgrace" and "Extinct". And they ultimately rise again with the progressive and dynamic "Deep in Streams of Purifying Dirt". All of this is then imbued in gore vibes to make for some depraved, tasty music. – Antonio Poscic
Jordablod - The Cabinet of Numinous Song (Iron Bonehead)
The newly formed entity answering to the name Jordablod might only count five years of existence, but they appears wiser beyond their years. The band's debut record, Upon My Creation Pyre illustrated the fact marvelously, displaying a DNA drenched with the ethics of the late '80s and early '90s black metal. In incorporating both the teachings of early days Bathory and enhancing these with the stripped-down, minimal ethos of the Scandinavian black metal scene, Jordablod unleashed a forceful assault. One that could phase between modes, from the straightforward, continuous, and unyielding riffage of "Liberator of Eden", to moments of impressive extravagance with the hallucinatory "Chants for the Black One".
The return of Jordablod with The Cabinet of Numinous Song further explores the entropic realm first unveiled in their debut record. Dedicated to their multifaceted approach, they introduce this work in a sinister bluesy fashion with the lead work of "A Grand Unveiling" before the heavy weight is brought upon to create an unearthly groove. Pace tactics interchange, with the traditional black metal methodology switching out for a heavier groove, while at every twist and turn, there is a realm of psychedelia just waiting to bloom. The mesmerizing "Hin Ondes Mystart" and "The Beauty of Every Wound" both traverse this mystical trajectory, while the title track takes a devastating trip towards the cosmic domain before "To Bleed Gold" concludes this work in pure bitter fashion. – Spyros Stasis
Kawir - Adrasteia (Iron Bonehead)
There is an argument to be made about how Rotting Christ became victims of their success. In deciding to stick with a tried and proven melodic black metal style for too long, they have led themselves to stagnation. Enter Kawir, another Hellenic band which nurtures a similar voice, but approaches it more adventurously, expanding its basic elements in various directions. Take the opening "Tydeus", for example, which leads with the familiar chanted harmonies before ascending into a maelstrom of meaty, twirling tremolos and hymnal passages. On "Atalanti" and "Limniades", a piccolo and bagpipes sprinkle folk flourishes in the otherwise aggressive, ramping black metal, only for the ferocity to be dispelled by the acoustic semi-ballad "Colchis". Possessing just the right balance between melody and bellicose tempers, Adrasteia is well worth a listen. – Antonio Poscic
Konvent - Puritan Masochism (Napalm)
While English doomsters Electric Wizard have found themselves in a weird place recently, acts such as Denmark's Konvent step into their witchy shoes and become more than worthy surrogates. Starting from the baseline of sludge and a stylish fascination with occultism, Konvent's music develops through traditional doom and death doom loops, gaining mass and impact with each pass. The nine songs on the full-length debut Puritan Masochism are fairly stable, mid-tempo marches built around a core of Heidi Withington Brink's burrowing bass lines and Julie Simonsen's steady rhythms. Like in a ritual, Sara Helena Nørregaard's mammoth riffs and Rikke Emilie List's convinced, guttural growls dance on top of them. This is simple music, reliant on atmosphere and utter sonic heaviness, and is all the better for it. – Antonio Poscic
Leeched - To Dull the Blades of Your Abuse (Prosthetic)
Recent years have seen a much necessary push of sonic boundaries in extreme music. The Body have pushed their doom/sludge core through a woodchipper of noise and industrial machinations. Full of Hell have perfectly incorporated noise ethics within their grindcore/death mix, and Nails have injected power violence into the very veins of their hardcore/grindcore scope. The lesser-known Mancunian trio Leeched is performing a similar experiment, in an attempt to modernize metalcore and hardcore music, in the process unleashing a very promising EP in Nothing Will Grow from the Rotten Ground and an excellent debut record You Took the Sun When You Left.
The world of Leeched is dim and filled with bleakness, and their new record, To Dull the Blades of Your Abuse, perfectly encapsulates this sense. The harrowing effect of "Now It Ends" feels like a sharp pendulum tilting heavily from side to side, cutting through flesh with each pass. Noise and effects give shape to this endless void, with the screaming vocals seemingly echoing through eternity. It is these deconstructionist moments, like "Let Me Die" and "Burn With Me" that find Leeched at their most abusive, losing their form and becoming an obscure, abstract entity. Yet, this is not all that Leeched are here to present.
Their opening track, "The Hound's Jaw", is an excellent specimen of modern metalcore music. Once the dust of the intro has settled, the weight of the riffs takes over, with the industrial overtone dominating in its precise and mechanical essence. It is an exercise on balance that Leeched attempt here, and they come through with flying colors, as tracks like "I, Flatline", "Praise Your Blades", and "Famine at the Gates" are able to retain their metalcore perspective while pushing the genre's boundaries forward. – Spyros Stasis
Lotus Thief - Oresteia (Prophecy)
Otrebor is probably best known from the avant-garde, dulcimer aficionados/black metal rebels Botanist, who have released some astounding works of forward thinking extreme music. Yet, at some point in time Otrebor and fellow Botanist member Bezaelith started a new project, Lotus Thief. While stepping away from the distinct sound of Botanist is a challenge on its own, Lotus Thief managed to become its own entity focusing on a strange trajectory between post-black metal, doom and psychedelic music. Drawing influence from ancient texts, and describing their music as "text metal", Lotus Thief produced two excellent records of deep emotive quality in Rervm and Gramarye.
In their previous works Lotus Thief found influence in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, Homer's Odyssey, the Egyptian Book of The Dead and Aleister Crowley's Book of Lies among more. This time around their main topic is Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, concerning the bloody history of the house of Atreus. Using this tale as their starting point, Lotus Thief perform a majestic trip through spacious soundscapes, beginning with the imposing tones of "Agamemnon" merging a doom pace with the fantastic ethereal vocal delivery. The result is sweet and highly emotive, and the black metal explosion that later ensues appears to burn it all down to ashes, before a psychedelic lead takes over.
The delivery becomes more forceful and potent with "Libation Bearers", the lead work once more transferring this act from the earthly domain to a space rock trajectory in a commanding manner, before the minimalist black metal assault of "The Furies" drenches this work in temporary darkness. The descent to the abyss is intricate, filled with electronic components but the way out is masterfully bridged with the intimate "Sister in Silence". Lotus Thief have perfectly presented this bitter story and modernized it for today's world. – Spyros Stasis
Mortal Incarnation - Lunar Radiant Dawn (Sentient Ruin)
The initial onslaught that ensues in the first minute of opener "Infinite Consciousness Unchained from the Mortal Incarnation" might suggest that this Japanese duo is simply enamoured with a lo-fi, old-school death metal sound. But that is simply scratching the surface of Mortal Incantation, for there are layers to this act. Soon enough the blastbeats dissolve and the chthonic death metal approach is replaced by a fuming doom perspective. Yet, once more there are deeper elements that slowly unfold as Mortal Incarnation do not simply indulge in doom/death rendition, but instead awaken an underlying majesty and a cosmic, progressively informed essence.
Lunar Radiant Dawn, Mortal Incarnation's debut demo showcases an act that understands the capabilities of awakening the psychedelic core of their death metal allure. They are twisting the violence and anguish of the genre, enriching its aggressive outbreaks with an obscure aura. At the same time building complex, multi-layered structures that follow an almost chaotic narrative, as in the 10-minute long opus "A Dismal Propagation into Decay", they prove that this is an act that we need to keep an eye on. – Spyros Stasis
Proscrito - Llagas Y Estigmas (Memento Mori)
The majority of death metal relies on a ruthless sense of aggression, usually arriving through a storm of blastbeats and faster than lightning riffs. Yet, from early on certain visionaries discovered the infinite punishment that dropping down the pace and awakening the heavy underlying groove could bring. Early works of Autopsy and Winter speak to these possibilities, and through the years they have given birth to the doom/death field. Hailing from Spain, Proscripto subscribe to this notion, creating guttural works of throwback doom/death.
Following a very promising debut in El Calvario, Proscrito return with their debut full-length. Keeping true to their original vision, Proscrito don't temper with their core sound to make it appear more grand or atmospheric. They are interested in the flesh and bones of the sound, crafting a pummeling rendition of heavy riffs that come crushing down in the opening moments of "Persistiendo". The groove is uncanny, resulting in a horrifying drunken recital of rotten riffs and thunderous drum hits, with no bullshit. For Proscrito want to keep things pure, relying on the simple power of their groove to make a statement.
The mid-part breakdown of "Tronos de Oprobio" and the Celtic Frost-ian march in "Marcado por la Pezuna" are testaments to this approach, while the faster, almost awkward, attack in "Exequias" reconnects them with the early, thrash days of death metal. Through these qualities Proscrito are marvelously turning back the clock to an era past. – Spyros Stasis
Surgical Strike - Part of a Sick World (Metalville)
Tired of rethrash and classic thrash revivals? Try Surgical Strike! Active, in one form or another, since 1993 (!), Part of a Sick World is the German quintet's first full-length and it's a proper scorcher. While their approach could roughly be classified within genre boundaries familiar from their compatriot thrash powerhouses like Destruction or Kreator, they write songs and play with a flair that separates them from the rest of the copycats riding the retro wave these days.
Their style is both extremely melodic and aggressive, adorned with technical prowess and fiery licks. As if Exodus met Coroner in some small underground club and played for a sweaty, twirling mass of bodies. Their approach is classic yet modern, raw but never without a sense of sophistication. And the riffs! Digging on "Below Zero", blazing on "Not in This Life", harmonizing on "Confrontation", and massively grumbling on "Sorrow of War", they make Part of a Sick World an utter thrill. – Antonio Poscic
Temperance - Viridian (Napalm)
Looking back at the 12 editions of MetalMatters, it's easy to notice a severe lack of power and symphonic metal albums. In our defense, this is not a conscious decision nor the result of bias and general distaste towards the genre. Instead, it's a consequence of a style that has become stale over the past decade, forgotten in a sort of creative stasis and pushed aside. But every once in a while, a record like Temperance's Viridian comes along and, at least temporarily, reignites the fire.
While the Italian quintet is in no way revolutionary, they write simultaneously catchy, intricate, and majestic cuts and then execute them with gusto. There are no fillers nor orchestral intermezzos here, just energetic symphonic power metal with an elegant pop tinge, filled with wonderfully interwoven male and female vocal harmonies, excellent riffs, and a general sense of groove and purposefulness. The introductory, surprisingly heavy "Mission Impossible", the Trans-Siberian Orchestra evoking "Lost in the Christmas Dream", and the ballad "Scent of Dye" make this a worthy listen alone. – Antonio Poscic
Thy Catafalque - Naiv (Season of Mist)
Tamás Kátai's Thy Catafalque is a constant and consistent mystery in the metal world. With a discography spanning more than two decades, there isn't a single style nor connecting narrative that could be attributed to the project's releases outside of reaching for vague "avant-garde" and "black metal" adjectives. Naiv is no different in this regard, as it shifts from folk-infused, progressive black metal roars on "A bolyongás ideje" through particles of post-punk and new wave (complete with saxophone solos) on "Tsitsushka" to stringed psychedelic explorations on "Számtalan színek".
And while its style is mercurial, nigh impossible to pinpoint, the album in its entirety feels cohesive, logical, and structured, based on painstakingly thought out composition techniques, and performed superbly by Kátai and his numerous collaborators. Observed as a whole, the disparate cuts all fit together and share an unspoken affinity, a creative knack for encapsulating melody in experimentation and a common spirit of curiosity. In other words, Naiv is a typical and unmistakable Thy Catafalque album just because of how atypical it sounds. Unique and beautiful music. – Antonio Poscic
Unreqvited - Mosaic II: La deteste and la detresse (Prophecy)
It has always been an inherent attribute of black metal to look outwards. After the first explosion of the Scandinavian scene there have been acts that started to wonder further, towards the great beyond. Switzerland's Darkspace were amongst those pioneers, and this tradition has spawned many excellent acts in the likes of Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum. And with the explosion of post-black metal it is not surprising that this cosmic outlook would find its way in the modernization of the genre. That is exactly where Canada's Unreqvited come in. Having already released three excellent full-length records, they now return with their Prophecy debut in Mosaic II: La deteste and la detresse.
The world of Unreqvited is split. In a way it is an almost schizoid realm that attempts to balance between opposite forces. Yet, instead of being lost in flux, Unreqvited masterfully navigate through the thick of it all. The core element that holds everything together here is the melodic inclination of this act, shining through the early lead work of "Nightfall" while at the same time also presenting the electronic background that they make use of. From that point on the ride becomes increasingly more interesting, laying down an all out assault with "Wasteland". The synths help retain the melodic core here, but Unreqvited really push the track to its edge as they drop the early groove for the cataclysmic black metal assault.
Depressive black metal notions begin to appear, reminiscent of Shining's finest moments, while the quasi-progressive rock bliss as in "Pale" complete this gloomy landscape. The descent into the ambient with the "Transience" trilogy concludes this work, showcasing the vast scope of Unreqvited, yet it is uncanny how this act is able to keep all their influences and ideas concretely unified in just under 50 minutes. – Spyros Stasis
Vaeok - Vaeok (W.T.C)
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw a new generation of black metal bands arriving to carry the torch from the second wave of black metal. US bands in the likes of Kvlt of Azazel (originally just Azazel) and Nightbringer, as well as Finnish powerhouse Sargeist displayed a strong dedication to this tradition and through the years produced excellent works of blackened potency. Two members of such acts, VJS of Sargeist and Nightbringer and MS of Kvlt of Azazel now join forces and create their brainchild in Vaeok, unleashing their debut EP.
Vaeok's heritage comes directly from the cold, detached side of the black metal spectrum. The riffs cut through as icy winds, while the vocals arrive as coming from a spectre. "Souls Void" aptly traverses this desolate and obscure landscape in melancholic fashion. It is an intricate moment, where Vaeok choose to not go for a full-blown assault, but rather take a step back and allow their dissonant lead work to build an eerie domain. The same however cannot be said for "Atrox", with the icy winds giving way to a fiery sense as blastbeats relentlessly attack and the schizoid riffing has no end in sight. Equally unyielding is their approach with "Malaesthete" with the fast pace slowly melting into a mid pace groove, with sinister leads drenching the soundscapes in their venom, showcasing the full extent of Vaeok's arsenal. – Spyros Stasis
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