Deeper Graves – The Colossal Sleep (Disorder)
Jeff Wilson is one of the most important guitarists of the US black metal scene. Even though he is not solely associated with a single entity, his presence has always been a catalyst. Nachtmystium’s Black Meddle records are defined by Wilson’s melodic psychedelia, and his presence in Wolvhammer for the best of a decade infected the outfit’s blackened sludgecore. Staying busy, Wilson has gone on to work with a rich array of pivotal bands, including Abigail Williams, Krieg, and Chrome Waves. Yet, while the central area of exploration is black metal, Wilson’s interests run deeper. And so, lo and behold, his solo project, Deeper Graves, is about to release their second full-length in The Colossal Sleep.
As was the case with 2020’s Open Roads, The Colossal Sleep sees Wilson navigating his non-metallic influences. Drenching the album in an overwhelming atmosphere, Deeper Graves proceed in a smooth post-rock fashion while borrowing subtle psychedelic elements. That much is true for “Feverish Dreams”, the slow and hazy soundscapes coming together under a shoegaze guise. Similar is the case with the dreamy essence of “15000 Lives” as it slowly unfolds through the steady progression. Heavier moments do arrive, moving the endeavor towards a post-metal sphere, as “Distant Fires” awakens a cinematic quality.
And while post-rock/metal can provide the mystical grandeur, Wilson’s work is established on top of an additional pillar. For this, Deeper Graves travels to the 1980s post-punk ethos, infecting the groove and progression of The Colossal Sleep. “Escape Velocity” feels like an anthem from that era, as the prominent bassline and the steady drums extend. The vocal delivery further mirrors darkwave heroes, tinges of the Sisters of Mercy and the Fields of the Nephilim coming into view under the Joy Division banner. Further augmentations help along the way. The distorted vocal delivery of “In Cold Blood” and the edgy progression of “Corridors” all awaken the new wave spirit.
Deeper Graves sees Wilson unshackled from the black metal sound. And with The Colossal Sleep, he is free to roam all of his additional interests. It is all there: the darkwave melodies, the shoegaze experimentation, post-metal grandeur, and post-punk infectious progression. – Spyros Stasis
Enterprise Earth – The Chosen (MNRK Heavy)
After a brief period under the mainstream spotlight during the 2010s, deathcore has disappeared beneath the underground along with its forefather metalcore. Today, it exists in vestiges, pockets of the genre either frozen in time or playing a minor part in larger stylistic stories. Fronted by vocalist Dan Watson, Washington’s Enterprise Earth are one of the few remaining bands still trying to evolve the genre in this deserted landscape.
Their latest release, The Chosen, sounds like a demonstration of what could have been had deathcore retained interest and vitality. Joined by guitarist Gabe Mangold and drummer Brandon Zackey, Watson crafts an album epic in length and musical ambition. Much more than just your standard deathcore, The Chosen navigates around old-school, brutal, melodic, and slamming death metal. It then suddenly veers off into sympho-tinged blizzards akin to Fleshgod Apocalypse, crunchy thrash of American pedigree (think Exodus), and even Cephalic Carnage-inspired dissonant grindcore. All the while, they build a coherent overarching structure that relies on ambiance and storytelling as much as forward drive. That is to say, The Chosen is capable of grooving, chugging, and djenting, but also of finding moments of solemn beauty amongst this brutal chaos. – Antonio Poscic
The Mist From the Mountains – Monumental: The Temple of Twilight (Primitive Reaction)
A chill passes through you as whirlwinds of thumping drums, plinking guitars, and recordings of natural elements open Monumental. It’s a mystical, almost occult sensation—a feeling of walking through the forest at night in the depth of winter, while hundreds of curious, glowing eyes observe you as you tread along the snow-covered trail. Composed of veterans from the Finnish metal scene, the self-descriptively named quintet the Mist from the Mountains spend much of their debut full-length trying to channel this atmosphere through striking black metal shapes.
But while the freezing tension is relentless in their delivery, the layers of music beneath it live a much more vibrant life. Encased in pagan black metal, the band unleash barrages of alternating black metal styles. At times, they reach for avant-garde and symphonic flourishes in the vein of Borknagar or Dimmu Borgir, while their dissonant riffs swirl around blast beats like flames around a campfire. At others, they tumble down progressive structures reminiscent of Vintersorg and Amorphis, only to find themselves locked into melodic attacks somewhere on the Dissection-Naglfar axis. While not entirely original, this formula of ambiance fused with raw black metal works surprisingly well here. – Antonio Poscic
Mizmor – Wit’s End (Gilead Media)
A.L.N, the sole member of Mizmor, has been meticulously expanding the extreme act’s vision since 2012. Establishing the sound within the desperation of extreme doom/death with a slight black metal twist, Mizmor has gone on to unleash some incredible offerings. Following their auspicious self-titled debut, A.L.N capitalized with the incredible Yodh in 2016, to only then surpass with 2019’s Cairn. What makes this possible for Mizmor is a deeper understanding of extreme doom/death, the realization that the glacial pace and heavy riffs alone are not enough to make an impact. And so, further additions come in. The careful structuring of ambiance and the inclusion of blackened outbreaks increase the brutality. And above all, the varied songwriting with A.L.N not being afraid to take risks.
So, the new chapter for Mizmor in this already rich tradition arrives with Wit’s End. It finds A.L.N at an exciting crossroads. Coming out of the collaborative work with Andrew Black in Dialetheia, it feels like this process has affected the sound of Mizmor. With Dialetheia, the focus shifted more towards the elusive and the atmospheric, and that much is especially the case with Wit’s End second offering, “Pareidolia”. The heavy structures are stripped here, and Mizmor leave behind much of the distorted riffs, desperate vocals, and glacial pace. In their stead is a freezing landscape, defined by its ethereal progression and abstracted away from its funereal form. It is as if a specter has risen, allowing a sense of strange calmness to come together. Reversed voice and subtle feedback build this shadowy monument to deconstruction, while minimal melodic inclinations add color to this emptiness.
On the other hand, the title track sees A.L.N within his usual habitat. Turning the pressure to 11, the extreme doom/death mold takes over, crushing riffs make an appearance, and the slow progression turns everything to dust. Dissonance merges with desperation, and the feedback feels like waves crashing on the shore. It is a moment of majesty, as Mizmor merge harshness with emotion to great effect. Still, A.L.N does not venture into the extreme outbreaks that Yodh and Cairn featured, focusing instead on the ambiance. Subtle atmospheric flourishes and clean guitars fill the space, vocal samples rising in the distance to perfect this dreamy vision of melancholy.
It is an impressive work, even without the blackened outbreaks that Mizmor used to provide. Wit’s End sees Mizmor slightly let go of their oppressive narrative, focusing more on their elusive form. And it is that evolution that feels like Mizmor have reached a new stage of maturity, and it finds A.L.N at his most transcendental. – Spyros Stasis
Μνήμα – Disciples of Excremental Liturgies (Phantom Lure/Independent)
Purist or a new breed? The underground black metal mystics from Greece, Μνήμα has been releasing a flurry of EPs, demos, and split collaborations since their inception in 2017. The influence of contemporary raw black metal acts like Black Cilice and Sortilegia is undeniable. And yet, they simultaneously travel back to the original teachings of the Norwegian black metal scene while including a fierce noise presence in their work. This unearthly brew has been maturing for a while now, and Μνήμα are unleashing their full force with their debut record in Disciples of Excremental Liturgies.
Setting the scenery, “The Key of 1000 Spirits” arrives with a strange ambiance, the noise veil drawn back while the focus shifts towards a distorted view of dungeon synth ethos. Still, the lo-fi characteristic is already making things uncomfortable, something mirrored in closing outro “Abyssal Curses”, albeit in a more industrial form. As subtle as these moments are, they allow for a mystical essence to rise from the depths, complimenting the main course nicely.
Fierce assaults of raw black metal roam here as soon as “Cosmic Lunacy” arrives. It is an entirely overwhelming presence, as Μνήμα take on the minimal Darkthrone methodology and contort to monstrous ends. Still, beneath the chaos and ruin of sharp guitars and ear-piercing cymbals, the spirit of the Norwegian scene lives on. However, it does not stand alone, as “Νεκροσάβανο” sees a Bathory-ian element rise to the front with its epic underpinnings. Despite this adherence to the tradition of olds, it’s the injections of noise that cause the greatest damage. Shattering the lo-fi black metal world, these moments prove the sovereignty of power electronics. An exhilarating force that peaks with the black metal/noise hybrid state in “Νεκροσάβανο”, and the truly terrifying start of “Suicidal Necromancy”.
What is really telling here is that beneath all the rubble and the wreckage, Μνήμα still presents songwriting prowess. Their riffs are very well placed, and the cacophony and the occasional melody cut through the debris. So, the deconstruction that they present does not leave Disciples of Excremental Liturgies devoid of its soul. It might be a soul that has been torn apart, but it is still there, gleaming brightly in its obsidian form. – Spyros Stasis