This year things off in a furious manner with some of the nastiest underground black metal from mysterious Greek act Μνήμα alongside the bitter sense of Spanish one-person act Negativa. On the more traditional fringes, Aegrus and the Mist From the Mountains depict two very different sides of the Finnish black metal scene. The former is raw and rigid, the latter melodic and atmospheric. Alongside the lines of the Mist From the Mountains, France’s Silhouette arrive, taking things to a further depressive level with their folk-informed black metal. And then, in a category of their own lie Wiegedood, the Church of Ra members taking on a more adventurous approach to their black metal.
From there on, doom/death had an excellent representation with Mizmor’s latest EP, Wit’s End, and Verbum’s old-school debut. In the more traditional domain, Dark Meditation thrive in their heavy metal rejuvenation glorifying the darker sounds of the 1980s. However, Nocturnal Graves shine a different light on the proto-extreme sound of the same decade. Away from both, Enterprise Earth turns to a more recent phenomenon, relishing the deathcore days and offering a very refreshing work with The Chosen. Then on the outer edges, Jeff Wilson continues to explore the post-metal world with Deeper Graves, Boris strip the sludge form of No with their return in W, and Bye Bye Tsunami add to the rich jazz-metal schizo tradition with their debut. And much more, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis
Aegrus – The Carnal Temples (Osmose)
Aegrus have been a force in the ever-expanding, nearly endless Finnish black metal scene. Founded in 2005, the act from Kouvola forges their black metal in their country’s long-standing tradition. With this vision in mind, they have produced three fierce works in Devotion for the Devil, Thy Numinous Darkness, and In Manus Satanas, along with a plethora of EPs. The latest of which arrives now in The Carnal Temples.
There are no surprises to be found here. Aegrus’ lineage stems from the early black metal days, by way of the adamant punkish spirit, slight rock ‘n’ roll touches, to then take its Scandinavian form. The title track sees them traverse through all these modes, with the second wave scorching riffs unleashing havoc. It is the mode that Aegrus calls upon most often, relishing in the outbreaks of “In Death Rapture” and with the devilish Mayhem-esque lead work in closer “Flesh and Blood”.
The other part of the puzzle is their native scene, where they call upon the crystallized incantations of Behexen and Sargeist. Their cacophony and deviance roam, covering all in their dark smoke. The pure desperation at the start of “In Death Rapture” is sublime, and when coupled with subtle melodic twists, as in “Moonlit Coffinspirit”, the inherent eeriness of Aegrus rushes to the surface. Along with a touch of Bathory-inspired epic, melancholic overludes in “The Carnal Temples” and “In Death Rupture”, this EP is all you can ask for when looking for some well-played traditional black metal. – Spyros Stasis
Boris – W (Sacred Bones)
It was only a matter of time. Boris are one of the most prolific acts out there, probably the only one rivaling Melvins. In any case, the Japanese uncategorizable powerhouse released independently No in 2020 amidst the pandemic. Ever morphing, they decided to take a more traditional route, opting for the weight and slow pace of doom and sludge, along with a healthy dose of punk and noise rock elements. The result was excellent, showcasing Boris’ versatility and adherence to certain root concepts. Staying busy as always, they released a shelved album entitled New Album 2009 in 2021 and are now resuming the work they started in No with W, their Sacred Bones debut.
Where No was a fiery statement, a wave of anger aimed at the anguish of our times, W is an abstracted response. Here Boris mostly turn away from the doom/sludge of their 2020 release and instead dive into a free-form style of ambient rock. Kicking things off with “I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…”, which takes a cue from No closer “Interlude”, Boris set a minimal scenery. Heavy drums and an array of sound effects fill the space as the trio create a post-rock essence with ambient touches and the necessary alternative elements. And for the majority of W, Boris traverse this abstract space through weaving melodies. It awakens a chamber music attribute, as the relaxed, icy quality of “Icelina” appears, or the soothing and emotive response of “Beyond Good And Evil”.
But of course, this is Boris, and things are bound to get weirder and heavier. On the heavy side, the sound of No is revisited, first with “The Fallen”. Sludge guitars jump straight out, resulting in complete devastation. The ending of “Old Projector” similarly calls upon this mode, while “You Will Know (Ohayo Version)” starts in the same manner but slowly transforms to a more ethereal presence. Then on the weird side, there is the strange electronic incorporation of “Drowning By Numbers”. The repetitive beat points towards a dance-oriented ethos as feedback and distorted drums come together. Still, Boris continues to dig further, presenting “Old Projector” through a cinematic lens, setting up this dystopian, western-like scenery through a disfigured shoegaze soundscape.
With No Boris presented the raw foundation of their sound. The manic and fuzzy elements provide energy and movement to their work. It is the earthy aspect of their sound. Now W completes this dichotomy by presenting the ever-elusive and adventurous ethos of Boris. An excellent conclusion, and a record of our times, since No + W = Now. – Spyros Stasis
Bye Bye Tsunami – Bye Bye Tsunami (Nefarious Industries)
One of the main pitch points for the debut EP by the power trio Bye Bye Tsunami—Lorenzo Colocci, Søren Høi, and Uldis Vitols hailing either from Denmark or the planet 無, depending on who you ask—is based around Colocci’s DIY instrument flaubosax. Allegedly, this “self-built futuristic wind” was used to compose the EP. Yet, like many other things on this release, it is a misdirection.
Because the main strength of Bye Bye Tsunami does not lie in any gimmick, but in its unpredictable nature that, despite all the aleatoric craziness going on, results in a self-coherent vision. Anchored by a jazz-metal approach in the vein of Zu or the Thing, the music is fractured and haunted by a bizarro-world sort of humor, like something you would expect from masters of absurdity like Ted Milton’s Blurt or Eric Andre.
Free jazz skronking and winds squeaking violently fall on the ground and shatter into vague rock silhouettes. Bouts of Lightning Bolt-evoking attacks turn into big beats that would make the Prodigy quiver. Blurry IDM and pop go insane and start hearing vocoder-ed voices and cartoonish woodwinds in their heads. It sounds like complete chaos, but the more you listen to it, the more it all makes sense. Perhaps you begin to decipher the music, folding it neatly into existing genres. Or, maybe and quite certainly, it is your mind that starts going. Going. Gone. – Antonio Poscic
Dark Meditation – Polluted Temples (Satanik Royalty)
The revival of old-school heavy metal has been in full force for the past few years. In that time, it has yielded excellent releases that either strived to recapture the genre’s original sound as if extracting it from amber or decided to augment it through fusion with contemporary variants. But unlike most of these revivalist outfits that situated their music within the epic, fantasy, and often nostalgic contexts, Dark Meditation tapped into an appropriately darker and quite present source of inspiration.
Rather than NWOBHM and doom metal, the music of the Seattle-based quintet is gritty and raw, sourced from a reality that has not improved much from the heyday of the genre, with social disparity and injustice ever on the increase. The band describe their approach as a mixture of Venom and Judas Priest in the accompanying publicity. Perhaps, if you can imagine those bands coming up in Southern California during the 1980s.
There is a sweltering heat and sense of danger in the ten cuts featured on their debut LP. A heavy atmosphere hangs in the music, making it sound like Satanic panic’s wet dream and the perfect slasher horror soundtrack. Here, mid-tempo hymns are born from occult heavy metal in the vein of Danzig or Mercyful Fate, then sprinkled with Killing Joke’s post-punk gravity, goth rock vibes, and the occasional synth highlight. Taken together, it makes for an intoxicating listen. – Antonio Poscic