I’m really not entirely sure how I should view this album, and how I should go about reviewing it.
Thirteen Goats is a new name to me, and to the metal world at large, with little known about the band, other than they like heavy, extreme metal, they have a sense of humour, and ‘Servants Of The Outer Dark’ is their debut full-length offering. Comprised of three musicians, Graham K. Miles (vocals, lead and rhythm guitars), Rob Fitzgerald (lead and rhythm guitars, vocals), and Mike Redston (bass, vocals, acoustic guitar), this band is then rounded out in the live arena by drummer Leonid Verman, with the bass duties switching to Cody Lewichew. Together, this ensemble takes us into a world of death metal that is hard to definitively describe.
Apparently, according to the ‘fun facts’ presented within the accompanying press release Miles is a classically trained Shakespearian actor with a master’s degree in theatre from the New School for Drama in New York City. This goes some way to explain the more flamboyant elements to this album that show up throughout, although maybe some of it was an outlet for the frontman to turn his pain into something creative – Miles played all of his guitar solos with a broken finger and two sprained wrists following a motorbike accident midway through the recording process. This is some feat and perhaps helps to underline the apparent determination and hunger of Thirteen Goats to succeed where so many others have failed. Clearly, they are made of strong stuff up there in Canada.
The thing that threw me from the very beginning, and still does to some extent, is the way in which the opening title track differs so markedly from the remainder of the album. The band themselves admit that this is the most melodic song on the album, but that doesn’t really tell the full story because ‘Servants Of The Outer Dark’ is so much more catchy and immediate than the rest of the album. With a gentle acoustic guitar-led intro, clean vocals and a full-on melodic death metal hook-laden chorus, it becomes disconcerting to not hear anything of its like again within any of the subsequent eight songs. That isn’t to say that the remainder of the material isn’t good, it’s just that I feel I have to register the slight pang of disappointment I encountered when I realised that there was no similar output anywhere else on the album.
With time, I have been able to make peace with the initial feelings of disappointment, not least because there is some genuinely great material to be heard on the album if you take the time to listen and treat the songs on their own merits. For example, ‘Challenge The Executioner’ is a thunderous and aggressive beast of a death metal track, with an impressive array of technical-sounding riffs, vibrant bass work, and some truly bruising drumming. It’s a song that proves that these guys have the ability and the chops to succeed, whilst channelling bands like Lamb Of God into their output.
On the other hand, you have a song like ‘Return To Ruin’ that is part thrash-infused monster, and part groove fest. Again, it is heavy and aggressive with the speed to match when the pace is kicked up a notch, but equally, the slower sections are no shrinking violets either, with a steamroller-like, pounding groove. The juxtaposition works really well, too, making it a much more memorable and enjoyable affair than I first gave it credit for. The spoken-word part is a little hammed-up, but it further emphasises the thrash vibe, backed up by lyrics that touch on the political, talking about institutions that have failed this current generation. The political content is maintained elsewhere, such as within the more no-frills, dialled up to eleven attack of ‘Prisoner’s Anthem’.
And then you have songs with names like ‘Through the Meat Grinder…The Recipe’ which is about as serious as a clown on a unicycle. Mind you, the song itself is nothing to be laughed at, what with its slow doom-like intro that then explodes into full-on death metal territory before veering into all sorts of wild and wonderful places, the musical equivalent of a toddler searching high and low for the biscuit tin. And how about the opening to ‘Sub-being’ which begins with a twisted circus ringleader’s address to the audience – it’s a little incongruous, as is the ensuing ‘whoop, whoop’ declaration before a brutal slab of death metal kicks in to blow our heads off.
As I declared right at the start, this is a difficult album to review as it has a little bit of everything within it, without nailing any colours firmly to the mast. The death metal quota is highest and acts as the framework around which everything else congregates, but even after several weeks in the company of this album, I don’t instinctively think of it as a death metal album. And that’s because of the wide variety of influences at play and, dare I say it, a lack of genuine, true identity from the band. Instead, I’ll cop out slightly and refer to it as extreme metal where just about anything goes. Nevertheless, I’d urge you to take a listen to ‘Servants Of The Outer Dark’ because as debuts go, there is an awful lot to enjoy within it. I also have a strong sense when I listen, that there is plenty more to come from Thirteen Goats. I certainly hope so.
We’ve all been there – you wait for someone to pass you in the supermarket, and they blank you; you’re cut up by another driver on the road; someone acts in an antisocial manner on public transport. Well, instead of stooping to their level and acting inappropriately, I suggest you get hold of a copy of ‘Seething Malevolence’ because it is the utterly perfect soundtrack to help channel your rage in a much more constructive manner. Lay back on a sofa in a darkened room and with headphones or start a one-person mosh pit in your living room, whatever floats your boat. Either way, it’ll help with that pent up anger inside I can tell you. Your neighbours might not agree, especially with the latter option, but I think it’s a splendid idea quite honestly.
Hailing from Connecticut on the US East Coast, Vomit Forth is comprised of vocalist Kane Gelaznik, bassist Tyler Bidwell, drummer Nick Herrmann, and guitarist Ricky Bravall. They have built up a name for themselves in the death metal underground since their reasonably recent inception, releasing two EPs, ‘Inherent Laceration’ in 2018, followed by ‘Northeastern Deprivation’ the following year. Bookended by a couple of demos, their name and reputation caught the attention of Century Media Records and so we’re now presented with the quartet’s debut full-length album, ‘Seething Malevolence’.
The title of the record is well-placed too, because this album is about as disgustingly vile and malevolent as it is possible to be whilst still plundering the genre of death metal. Mind you, Vomit Forth are intent on demonstrating that they are more than just a brutal, uncompromising death metal band, as they lace their music with other influences and sounds in order to create something just a little bit different. To the casual observer, and me on a first listen, you could be mistaken for thinking that ‘Seething Malevolence’ is a 29-minute slab of thunderously heavy, bruising, and menacing riff-obsessed death metal, where there’s no space for frills, bells, or whistles, just cranium-busting aggression and groove. To an extent, that’s true and when you’re in the mood for it, there is definitely nothing wrong with that.
But, if you’re prepared to be constantly battered by repeated spins of ‘Seething Malevolence’, you begin to realise that there is more going on than you first thought. I’m not sufficiently well acquainted with the East Coast death metal scene to name drop bands at will, but the music here seems to fit the mould pretty well whilst adding a few nuances for good measure. For a start, I hear forays into grindcore ferocity at points, as well as deathcore slams and breakdowns, plus the band aren’t afraid to utilise electronic sounds on occasion too. And whilst I’m not normally a fan of the ‘core’ elements, it seems to work here, perhaps just because the music overall is just so filthy and violent.
To underline the band’s desire to try a few new things within their music, the opening track, ‘Untitled’ is an unnerving piece of brooding noise/ambience, composed by Vatican Shadow’s Prurient (Ian Dominick) after he reached out to Vomit Forth personally. It both fits well with what’s to come, and acts as a surprising beginning to the record. Either way, I have grown to quite like it, as brief as it is. And happily, there is a continuation of the opener which closes out the last couple of minutes of ‘Pious Killing Floor’ and indeed the entire album. In so doing, the album is bookended by the minimal sounds of what feels like a suspenseful horror film.
In between though, Vomit Forth deliver nine and a half blistering tracks of savagery that essentially bash my skull in with a meat cleaver, beginning with the ultra-sadistic and weighty slab of death entitled ‘Eucharist Intact’. The guitars sound like slabs of granite being thrown at your ears, whilst the drums and bass shake the foundations with a thunderous, yet dextrous attack. The guttural vocals meanwhile, gurgle and growl impressively, occasionally plummeting to depths that feel like they should be impossible to reach. The song manages to sound unbelievably extreme, but also groovy as hell, with some haunting sounds at the death to increase the sense of unease.
The groovy riffs continue from the outset of ‘Pain Tolerance’, as it lurches forward with all the subtlety of a hand grenade thrust down your trousers. The slams that I’d normally bemoan here actually enhance the track, whilst the sounds of agonised screams in the background towards the end only add to the evil nature of the music that I find myself listening to here.
Pinched harmonics and an increased pace signal the onslaught of ‘Tortured Sacrament’, although once again, we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of a stomping behemoth as the foot is applied effectively to the brake pedal to completely alter the dynamics of the song. The only thing that devalues the composition is the slightly lazy fadeout at the end.
‘Unrecognizable’ is a personal favourite as it is a little longer, nearly hitting the dizzy heights of four minutes. In that time, the quartet once again toy with the listener by mixing up the frenzied, speedy charge with sections of slower groove. We’re even treated to a gloriously dirty and vaguely melodic lead guitar solo which I thoroughly enjoy but then find myself bemoaning the lack of solos elsewhere. Double-edged sword.
The title track offers something a little different, as Kane Gelaznik experiments with higher-pitched, black metal-esque rasps, as well as a slightly cleaner tone where you can almost hear the words that he is spitting out with feverish intent. The song also offers a little more by way of overt melody, or at least a slightly more immediate hue, as ‘melody’ seems completely the wrong descriptor here.
Meanwhile, ‘Severely Wounded’ is a two-minute blast of sheer unadulterated power that sees the vocals veering into grindcore ‘pig squealing’ realms, whilst ‘Carniverous Incantation’ has a twisted, almost progressive feel to the off-kilter riffing unless I am gravely mistaken.
I still get the feeling that there is more to come from Vomit Forth in the years ahead, that perhaps the material on this debut album is merely scratching the surface. Only time will tell on that front. In the here and now, it is very difficult for me to reach anything other than a positive conclusion. It may last for less than half an hour, but there is so much packed into ‘Seething Malevolence’ that you never feel short-changed. And given how extreme the music undoubtedly is, any longer and the effect and intensity of the output may have suffered. As it is, I feel wounded and violated, but in a good way thanks to ‘Seething Malevolence’, the debut long-player from Vomit Forth.
I can’t quite believe that it has been over four years since I first wrapped my ears around ‘Mire’, the debut album from UK-based metal band Conjurer. Despite being described as a sludge/post-metal outfit with strong doom leanings, I had to give them a go at the time because of the hyperbole and excitement about them in the metal community. And you know what? I loved the album, lavishing a 9.5/10 score. Admittedly, I may have been a touch too overzealous with my marking, because hindsight would suggest that I have not listened to ‘Mire’ quite as much as I thought I would after its release. Nevertheless, the debut was undoubtedly hugely impressive and so I have been looking forward to investigating the long-awaited follow-up, ‘Páthos’.
Four years on and whilst there have, inevitably, been one or two changes to life in general, Conjurer have withstood it all and remain fully intact. This means that both guitarists and vocalists Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale remain in place alongside bassist Conor Marshall and drummer Jan Krause. As we heard with ‘Mire’, this quartet can create a fearsome noise when they want to, and it was my fervent hope that this would continue with ‘Páthos’. It definitely works in their favour that they are unchanged, because there was a definite magic to this quartet’s debut; it felt like they were a well-honed unit, able to work as a team to create some truly powerful music. You’ll not be overly surprised to learn then, that the same sentiment can be levelled at the sophomore outing.
However, the magic manifests itself in a slightly different manner this time around, as ‘Páthos’ is very much an album that seeks to expand the sound of the quartet in a number of ways. As with the debut, listeners are not denied the sheer Earth-shaking force of Conjurers huge riffs and walls of sound. However, it is clear that the band wanted to explore other avenues as well, to take their music in a number of different directions in the process. As a result, you’ll hear some supremely heavy and intimidating music that contains Conjurer’s usual blend of sludge, doom, death, and post-metal. But these sections are more overtly interspersed and laced with various influences, quieter moments of contemplation, a greater sense of the progressive, and also (unless I’m terribly mistaken) a dash more melody too. Whereas the debut was akin to being attacked by a blunt tool to the head, ‘Páthos’ is more of an attack by a Swiss Army Knife, or at least a nifty multitool. For the avoidance of doubt, it’ll still hurt, but the attack will have slightly more finesse about it.
The first witness to all this isn’t slow in coming forward, being the first of the album’s eight songs, ‘It Dwells’. Opening with vibrant acoustic guitar strumming and gentle but dark electronic samples we’re lulled into a false sense of security that’s soon obliterated by a savage attack; bulldozing drums, monolithic bass, and heavy guitars combine with some bestial growls and caustic shrieks to send the listener reeling. It isn’t long though until we’re dealt some groove and a deeply shrouded, almost hidden melody that becomes more pronounced as the song unfolds. The music becomes positively beautiful when the aggression is replaced for a short while with a gorgeous, almost whimsical section, full of acoustic guitar picking, and chilled percussion. Later in the piece Conjurer experiment with more lurching rhythmic riffs, and a much more doom-infused approach borne out by the lumbering pace but overlaid by a surprisingly poignant lead guitar line. The sheer complexity of the song, coupled with the masterful ebb and flow has me salivating over what’s to come next.
The answer is ‘Rot’, a dense, suffocating affair that seeks to terrify the listener with its dark, cloying atmospheres and uncomfortable yet compelling dissonance. This is not a song for lovers of easy-listening music but there is something about it that makes it impossible to pull away. Instead, I get drawn into the calculated horror that’s created and which comes seeping out of the speakers with a twisted malevolence. I’m not normally a fan of music like this, but so brilliantly executed is it, that I am pulled in willingly.
Quite possibly my favourite of all of the compositions comes next in the form of ‘All You Will Remember’. For the first time on ‘Páthos’, we hear some clean vocals, and they are devastatingly delivered, sending shivers down my spine every time they emerge. The song has a greater quota of melody within it too, which works well with the clean vocals and, at the death, the spoken-word female voice of guest musician Alice Zawadzki. In fact, the combination of the sorrowful melodies, heartfelt vocals and the melancholy subject matter all ensure that this is quite possibly the most poignant and moving composition that Conjurer have ever written. Of course, there are some impossibly heavy moments within the song, but the heaviest thing of all here, is the emotion that runs through the music like a rich vein of intoxicating misery.
The drumming that features within ‘Basilisk’ is literally thunderous, the monstrous double-pedal assault creating a clever juxtaposition with the gentleness of the song’s opening minute or so. But, again, the melodic sensibilities are clear for all to hear, and they just serve to raise the song even higher in my estimations; it would have been so easy to just bludgeon the listener with a relentless blast of power and barely contained noise, but the musicians here are far too talented and intelligent to allow that to happen.
Staking a strong claim for my favourite song alongside ‘All You Will Remember’ is the scintillating ‘Those Years, Condemned’ a supremely weighty and bruising composition that hits the sweet spot between punishing doom-laden heaviness and melody, cleverly abutted to ‘Suffer Alone’, a sub three minute blitz of fast-paced intensity with an almost punk attitude buried within it.
‘Páthos’ is rounded out by arguably the doomiest of them all, ‘In Your Wake’, and then the atmospheric splendour of ‘Cracks In The Pyre’, which carries all of the grandeur that a closer to an album of this magnitude demands and more besides. I could say an awful lot more about each, but for the sake of brevity and in an effort to give you something to discover for yourselves, I’ll leave the descriptions there. Suffice to say that if my descriptions of the previous six have piqued your interest, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in the final portion of the album, too.
With the debut, ‘Mire’, I was completely blindsided as I knew not what to expect. The situation is different this time around, but I find myself no less impressed, or in awe. And that’s a tribute to the skill, vision, and bravery of the four musicians here in Conjurer; even though I knew roughly what to expect, I didn’t expect it to be this good. And I love the fact that the band have kept their core sound intact whilst willingly experimenting and pushing the boundaries that little bit further. The added melody, the increased variety, and the extra experimentation all conspire to create an album that will rightly receive huge plaudits from across the metal spectrum. Don’t dither, don’t dally, just part with your cash now and immerse yourself in a true extreme metal highlight of 2022.
We’re halfway through 2022 already. How on Earth did that happen? It’s true what they say, that the older you get, the faster time seems to fly by.
However, the good news is that it gives me an excuse to bring you a round-up post of my favourite albums that have been released in the second quarter of the year, between April and June.
In the same way as my post for the first three months of the year (click here to read that), I have listed the releases chronologically. The task of ordering them will come at the end of the year with my mammoth ‘Album Of The Year’ countdown.
On that note, here goes…
Atomic Fire Records
“…you hopefully get the idea just how varied and dynamic this record truly is, and why I like it more than any other Meshuggah record in their now nine-deep discography. It may be a little too long but that’s literally the only gripe I have. In every other way, it’s Meshuggah. But more than that, it’s Meshuggah at their glorious best. And that means that with ‘Immutable’, we’re in the presence of heavy metal greatness.”
“It’ll be interesting to see what others come up with over the next few months but, as it currently stands, ‘The Endgame’ is far and away the best melodic hard rock album of 2022 so far. And it’ll take an awful lot for it to be beaten, that’s for sure.”
“I’m so glad I was introduced to Soledad, because the French quartet have impressed me immensely with their ambitious, bold, eclectic, and slightly eccentric musical vision…listen to ‘XIII’ and, I hope, prepare to be entertained and captivated like I have been. This is easily one of the best progressive records of 2022 so far.”
“…the album takes me back in time and fills me with an infectious nostalgia, and for all the right reasons. This album reminds me in glorious technicolour exactly why I fell for this kind of music in the first place. And it does this because it is lovingly crafted and is of an incredibly high standard throughout.”
“‘A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)’ is anything but Evergrey’s unlucky thirteenth record. Instead, it only helps to further underline their utter dominance and superiority in my mind, and hopefully in the minds of other fans too. A companion of mine for the last few months, the music on this album has given me strength, support, and the knowledge that I am not alone on this tumultuous journey called ‘life’.”
“…the six songs are chock full of exemplary musicianship from guitar, bass, drums, and vocals alike, just as we would all hope and expect from a band with the reputation that they historically have. To be honest, I’m just delighted that Zero Hour are back. The fact that they bring with them such an enjoyable feast for the ears is just the icing on the cake. Welcome back gents…”
“As extreme metal albums go, ‘Cancer Culture’ has to be up there with the very best that 2022 has had to offer so far. Everything from the slightly disturbing cover artwork to the performances, and from the production to the songs themselves, Decapitated have returned with one hell of a bang. But crucially, the bang is not only thunderous, but it is intelligent, varied, and completely engaging from start to finish.”
“It may have taken 14 years to see the light of day but as far as I’m concerned, it has been more than worth the wait. I absolutely love this album and, if quality black metal is a favourite of yours, then you will too. Without doubt, with ‘Rapture’, Lord Belial have released my favourite out-and-out black metal record of the year so far.”
“It really is hard to fault ‘Hate Über Alles’ when all is said and done, because Kreator have well and truly delivered the goods once again. Power, aggression, venom, and spite collide superbly with expert songwriting, memorable melody, and irresistible catchiness to produce easily one of my favourite thrash records of the past couple of years.”
“Ultimately, I’m just delighted that Seventh Wonder continue to write new music. The fact that they have created another excellent body of music is the icing on the cake…it is so refreshing to hear Tommy Karevik once again unshackled and able to put his own unique talent to full use. When he is in full flow, there are few better vocalists out there…But alongside him are four more supremely talented individuals…As a result, ‘The Testament’ is, quite simply, a joy to listen to from start to finish.”
“With ‘Liminal Rite’, American quartet Kardashev have pulled the rug out from under me and sent me reeling. I said earlier that I feel like this record is a game changer for me, and I truly mean it. I love heavy music and I also adore strong melody; Kardashev have managed to combine the two in a way that I’ve never really heard before and I am left stunned and in awe of this album.”
“I had a feeling that ‘Tiktaalika’ would be good, but I wasn’t banking on it being quite this good if I’m being brutally honest. There is much to enjoy about Charlie Griffith’s debut solo effort, and I keep discovering new things with each passing listen too. No doubt it’ll appeal first and foremost to lovers of the guitar and the almighty riff, but given the diversity of the material and the quality of the songs themselves, I’m certain that the appeal of ‘Tiktaalika’ will be much wider, and rightly so.”
“Add to the package some seriously cool cover artwork, and a production that is crystal clear without detracting from the sheer power and technicality of the music, and you’re staring at one hell of an album. I love the way that bands like Exocrine have managed to open my mind fully to the magnificence of technical and progressive extreme metal, because it is a genuine thrill ride when you get to listen to music that’s this intense, this intricate, and this memorable.”
“…I am delighted to be able to say that ‘Inhuman Spirits’ shows that this quintet have lost none of their ability, hunger, or bite. All that remains is my now heightened ambition to see the Swedes on a stage as I’ve never had the pleasure to date. In the meantime, won’t you all please stop what you are doing and wrap your ears around ‘Inhuman Spirits’, as Darkane are well and truly back.”
Welcome one and all to another instalment of ‘Matt drops the ball’, or as I prefer to call it, my review of Swedish death metal stalwarts Paganizer’s twelfth full length release, ‘Behind The Macabre’. It feels like the more music I review, the more I need to discover, because more and more, I notice great big gaping holes in my knowledge and appreciation of heavy metal in all its forms. Admittedly, straight-up brutal death metal is always going to throw up plenty of examples given my relatively recent conversion to the genre, but to know almost nothing of a band that has been around since 1998 and have a back catalogue longer than my arm is more than a little chastening. Turn it around, though, and the positive is that I have another clear candidate to be explored and added to my album collection.
Enough of that though – let’s get down to business and talk about the latest album to emerge from Sweden at the hands of Rogga Johansson (vocals and guitars), Matthias Fiebig (drums), Martin Klasén (bass), and Kjetil Lynghaug (lead guitars). And what a great beast ‘Behind The Macabre’ is. If, like me, you’re a fan of dirty and pulverising death metal that’s loosely based on the ‘Stockholm sound’ and is blessed with some gnarly riffs and just the right amount of well-placed melody and groove, then pay attention because you won’t want to miss this.
The moment that the spiralling leads duel with a heavy, dirty riff and uncompromising rhythm section within the opening seconds of ‘Down The Path Of Decay’, you can tell this could be a really fun ride. The vocals of Rogga Johansson are deliciously deep and gravelly, just as the ugly music demands, but the pace of the song is varied, from fast sections to more measured and slower groovy parts. And even though the pace never reaches the warp speed seen with other bands within the death metal scene, it’s never meant to. Instead, the angle of attack is in the depravity of the material, as well as the pulverising strength.
Mind you, ‘Left Behind To Rot’ is a generally faster track, full of energetic drumming and fast-picked riffs that come close to knocking on the door of the black metal scene. But again, the pace is cleverly varied, and whether fast or slow, the song is laced with a surprising amount of catchy melody to counteract the heaviness. There’s almost none of that to be found on the hilariously named ‘Meatpacker’ which decides to just pummel us into the ground with sheer strength of the riff and blast beats. Nevertheless, I love the end product because it’s just so unapologetically brutal and groovy in a steamroller kind of way.
If there’s a negative, it’s that there are what feels to be a couple of fillers at the heart of the album, or at least a couple of songs that don’t hit the mark quite as powerfully as others; to call anything a filler on an album as strong overall as this feels perhaps a bit unfair.
Unsurprisingly, my favourite tracks are those that dabble with a little more melody, such as the excellent ‘Sleepwalker’. It batters my ears with a frenzied double-pronged attack of drums and guitars at the beginning before injecting a lot more atmosphere, albeit dark and evil atmosphere which feels intense and claustrophobic. But the melodic lead guitar solo that pierces through the gloom alongside a more upbeat and catchier riff is marvellous.
The closing stages in particular of ‘Raving Rhymes Of Rot’ bring with them a whole heap of enjoyment in the form of rampaging melodies alongside the naked aggression of Paganizer’s more standard death metal depravity. ‘Menschenfresser’ by contrast delivers all of the groove in a song that’s pulverising, but a whole heap of fun too, whether or not it is meant to be ‘fun’.
The unequivocal star of the show, however, is the fantastic ‘You Are What You Devour’. Purists may argue that this song sees Paganizer pushing the envelope too far, but I would disagree for what it’s worth. None of the sheer power and menace is lost, as large portions of this song seeks to attack the listener with ferocity. But this is blended with far and away the most melodic and earworm laden material to be found on ‘Behind The Macabre’. It even features a key change for added potency, whilst the lead guitar melodies overlaying a chugging riff near the end are utterly delicious, especially when blended with a blood curdling scream from Johansson.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the final track on the album, ‘Unpeaceful End’ features a guest vocal appearance from Bolt Thrower’s Karl Willets. It’s a fitting collaboration because the unmistakeable tone of Willets’ growl dovetails perfectly with what is a much slower, more doom-infused death metal stomper of a track that’s also the longest single composition on the entire album.
I fully appreciate that dirty and gruesome death metal won’t be to everyone’s taste, but then what’s new at manofmuchmetal.com hey? I like to bring readers a bit of everything that I like, so expect the beautiful and the ugly to mingle side-by-side. If you’re a fan of the more extreme side of the heavy metal spectrum, I can highly recommend this latest effort from Paganizer because ‘Behind The Macabre’ is a truly excellent album that hits the sweet spot between old school brutality and memorable songwriting. I just wish that I’d dived into death metal more deeply in years gone by because it feels more and more that I missed out on some great bands and super music. Better late than never though, and I’m delighted to have finally joined the Paganizer fan club.
Ever since I discovered ‘Expanding Senses’ back in 2002 or thereabouts, I have had a soft spot for Swedish band Darkane. At a time when I was still very heavily into exploring everything that the melodic death metal genre had to offer, I stumbled across their third album and never looked back. What attracted me to Darkane was the fact that they were always just a little bit different from everyone else in the densely populated scene. Whilst others were experimenting with loads of clean vocals, going ultra-melodic, or completely the opposite direction, here was a band that had a much more pronounced thrash metal element to their output, alongside some great riffs, and savagery blended with a sense of the epic and grandiose. I also liked the vaguely progressive edge that they had, meaning that you had to work a little harder to fully appreciate their output. To me, this was a great mix which led to my becoming a firm fan of the quintet.
And then, after they released album number six, ‘The Sinister Supremacy’ in 2013, everything went very quiet. And it isn’t clear why. But no matter, because 2022 is the year that Darkane have retuned, and I for one am happy about this. With one of the most stable line-ups in extreme metal, the original core quartet who came together in 1998 remain present and correct. This means that the guitars are handled by Klas Ideberg and Christofer Malmström, Jörgen Löfberg is the bassist, and Peter Wildoer remains on the drum stool. The vocalist is the only person that has changed over the years, but original singer Lawrence Mackrory fronts ‘Inhuman Spirits’, his second album appearance since his return in 2011.
After such a prolonged hiatus, their return could have gone one of several ways. The resultant album could have been a pale shadow of their past offerings, it could have seen their modus operandi change with a pronounced identity shift, or the quintet could have come back hungrier than ever, or with no real appreciable change to their core identity. Thankfully, it is the latter that has transpired, and this has made me even happier.
It takes precisely 2.5 seconds before I start to smile. The opening song is also the title track and in classic Darkane style, it comes roaring out of the blocks with intensity, heaviness, and a grandiose bombast that only they can deliver. The drums mete out a punishing beat, ably assisted by a rumbling bass and strong riffs, all coated in some excellent, rich orchestration. Darkane are back, peeps! From there, Lawrence Mackrory takes centre stage with his familiar aggressive, gritty, snarling delivery whilst the energetic hybrid of death and thrash metal alongside him cuts and scythes with precise intensity. The chorus, however, when it arrives, is a magnificent thing of thunderous and melodic beauty. It takes a few spins to fully make its mark, but when it lodges itself in your brain, it will not let go.
Up next is ‘Awakening’ and whilst it is still unmistakeably Darkane, the approach is slightly different. It’s much more death metal-centric, with Mackrory unleashing a deeper growl that is less decipherable. That is, until the chorus, which is a stomping, groove-laden beast that builds upon the far less orchestrated, and far more muscular, chunky riff-laden affair that you hear in the verses. As the song develops, there’s a return to the cleaner vocals, plus there’s a large dollop of melody within the lead guitar solos that emerge later in the track.
The more I listen to ‘Inhuman Spirits’, the more I come to the conclusion that the album could very well be neatly split into two halves. Opener aside, the first few songs feel a little more spiky, incisive, and aggressive; there is still melody and groove, of that there’s no doubt, but the songs feel a little more confrontational and extreme, if I can use that descriptor. The second half however, is markedly more catchy and more melodic overall. Unless my ears are playing tricks on me of course.
And then track five, ‘Inhaling Mental Chaos’ kicks in. It still deploys a pleasing amount of strong and tight riffs, not sacrificing the heaviness one iota, but after a frenetic introduction, the melody feels more immediate and pronounced. Those that know me will know that this is a very positive thing indeed, so the combination of memorable riffs and melodically tinged cleaner vocals of Mackrory satisfy my needs perfectly. The ensuing lead solos and harmonic leads are delicious too, bringing that wicked smile to my lips once again.
I could pick any number of songs to thrust under the spotlight, but the truth is that ‘Inhuman Spirits’ is a remarkably consistent creation, with not one of the ten songs falling short, not even the slightly strange and unexpected final instrumental that’s just piano and atmospherics to end the record in moody fashion. It won’t be everyone’s preferred way of ending the album, but thanks to the darkness and the melancholy within the central melody, I rather like it.
Back to the heavier songs though, and ‘Mansion Of Torture’ is a snarling, frothing monster of a track that blends savagery and attitude with a huge chorus that once again sees some pronounced symphonic orchestration to inject that sense of majestic opulence to the material, culminating in a full-on cinematic film score outro.
In a slight change of pace, the intro to ‘The Quintessence Of…’ is a much slower affair, that shows the way in which Darkane can, if the need arises, offer a sense of more measured drama and slow build to their material. I love the way that the music builds from all corners of the band over the course of a minute or more, taking its time to come to full fruition. Whilst the pace does quicken slightly within the verses, it is a slower-paced composition overall, revelling in a big, grandstand chorus via a wonderfully groovy riff that will test those neck muscles whether or not you want it to. Alongside the title track, this is where Darkane are at their most gloriously epic and it’s at this point that I suddenly realise how much I love this band and how much I have missed them over the past near decade.
‘A Spiral To Nothing’ is a catchy and upbeat song, whose opening riff and melody reminds me a little of Arch Enemy, albeit in their early days when they wrote their best material by a million miles. There’s also a hint of early Megadeth too, particularly in the chorus that mimics the song title by cleverly spiralling down as it goes along. But don’t be fooled, because this is still 100% Darkane.
The only disappointment that I have is that I singularly failed in my attempt to bring this review to you before the album’s release. However, being such an important band for me and many others, and with such expectation after their hiatus, I felt I owed it to Darkane to get this review right, and to give the music as much time to fully resonate as possible. Having done that, I am delighted to be able to say that ‘Inhuman Spirits’ shows that this quintet have lost none of their ability, hunger, or bite. All that remains is my now heightened ambition to see the Swedes on a stage as I’ve never had the pleasure to date. In the meantime, won’t you all please stop what you are doing and wrap your ears around ‘Inhuman Spirits’, as Darkane are well and truly back.
“The album is a definitive punch in your face… or maybe we could say a hammer in your forehead! A mixture of open evil chords with blastbeats finding a defined yet tormenting growling vocal. The song themes are very precise, and lyrics brings a subjective aspect of humans mental conflicts from a darker angle. It’s right there, aggression, darkness, heaviness, a critical sound mass with huge personality, not to mention its fine production.”
For once, I thought I’d let the band themselves describe their music, so this is the quote from Brutta, a brand-new band that seeks to channel the heavier end of the death metal spectrum, add in some black metal, and ensure that listeners are left in no doubt that they are in the presence of something truly uncompromising. Brutta is the name given to this collaboration of three musicians that was sparked very recently by drummer Gledson Gonçalves. Having worked with ex-Haken bassist Tom MacLean and Adriano Ribiero (guitars and vocals) as a session drummer for their Athemon project, Gledson put forth the idea to both that perhaps they should work together again. And the rest, as they say, is history, and we can now hear the fruit of their labours in the form of their self-titled debut album.
‘Brutta’ is everything that has been described above in what is a pretty accurate summation. For just over half-an-hour (33 minutes to be exact), the trio of musicians seem to take a perverse delight in bludgeoning the listener with a particularly nasty brand of extreme metal that has its roots firmly buried in the death metal genre. However, with Gonçalves’ appreciation for black metal, the music manages to fuse the two rather proficiently. I’m reminded most of the likes of Satyricon, Dark Funeral and Bloodbath, but many more references may be heard by each listener depending on your own vantage point or knowledge of the two extreme metal genres. Suffice to say that there’s precious little let up throughout this debut.
At the outset, I was going to bemoan a lack of variety and also a lack of memorability within the eight tracks. But with further familiarisation, this initial view has been found wanting, as there’s far more going on within the music than I first appreciated. Admittedly, the early spins will have you reeling and perhaps only noticing the crushing, uncompromising heaviness. But give it some time because if you do, the rewards are there to be discovered.
The opening riff of the opening track, ‘Brutta’ is a beast and sets the tone for the album really well. It’s a hypnotic and evil-sounding riff that’s then joined by bruising double pedal drumming, Tom MacLean’s consummate bass playing, and growls that are gritty and spiteful, but decipherable which is a positive, meaning that you can explore the lyrical content more closely. The lead guitar notes have a dissonance, but weirdly add to the memorability of the song, whilst the contrast between the fast-paced ‘chorus’ and the slightly slower verses works well. Mind you, I’m saying this after listening to it many times over.
The sound of buzzing flies at the opening of ‘Mortem’ conjures up a mental image of the original ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ film, as it displays a similar kind of discomfort, as well as an oppressive, claustrophobic feel. I hear a great deal of the ‘Stockholm’ death metal sound within the song too, as it is a reasonably straight-forward heavy riffing death metal song, but with an intriguing couple of moments in the middle that mix things up just a little.
‘Frgmntd’ is a savage proposition, where walls of heavy sound clash with vocals that are much more spiteful, attitude-laden, and possessed. A certain amount of robust groove is injected, but for the most part, this is easily one of the more extreme and confrontational tracks on ‘Brutta’.
My favourite song of them all has to be the seriously cool ‘Inferno’ though. It makes a blistering start, full of pace and energy before I’m hit with arguably the closest Brutta ever get to real overt melody and accessibility. The chorus hits and it hits hard as a result; dark and penetrating, it has a twisted and malevolent pull that’s hard to resist, the thundering guitars at their very best.
If I have any slight misgivings about ‘Brutta’, it’d be that I am less keen on a couple of the closing tracks. And primarily, that’s because I don’t get on quite as well with the vocals which, in the case of ‘Devon’, are a cross between tribal moaning, and a tormented groan to accompany the more familiar growl of Ribiero. And musically, it’s an unrelenting battery with precious little respite. It’s a similar story with ‘Cristus’, although the cleaner vocals come across as a bit off-key, probably entirely deliberately though. The song itself calls to mind the likes of Rotting Christ or Moonspell at their heaviest and least melodic. They both remain interesting songs, but just not the best on this album.
Nevertheless, this minor quibble aside, I have no qualms in recommending Brutta to fans of extreme metal. It does exactly what it sets out to do, namely pummel the listener into the ground and in a way in which the musicians seem to take great delight too. It isn’t the most sophisticated dose of music you’ll hear this year, but it is hard-hitting and very satisfying all the same, whilst being executed professionally and, when given time, more nuanced than you might think at the outset. All-in-all, ‘Brutta’ is a more than solid affair that’s well worth checking out.
It wasn’t until I was doing my research ahead of this release, that I realised just how many bands that fall into the black/death/thrash arena hail from Australia. The most famous of these is arguably Deströyer 666, about which I am at least slightly familiar. However, the list also includes the likes of Nocturnal Graves, Impious Baptism, and Destruktor to name but a few. And to that list, we must also add Denouncement Pyre. I’ll admit that I wasn’t familiar at all with the name, but I figured I’d give the fourth album of this Melbourne-based quartet a listen. It was a decision, if I’m honest, based on a combination of the cover artwork, illegible logo, and the fact that ‘Forever Burning’ finds itself on the relatively reliable Agonia Records.
As with many bands of their ilk, the quartet that makes up Denouncement Pyre are cloaked in anonymity. Mercifully they don’t have names like ‘Bludgeoner’ or ‘Havokwreaker’ – instead, it’s simply initials, namely D (vocals and guitars), T (guitars), R (bass and backing vocals), and drummer L. They talk a good fight, stating that the music on this album “represents a fiery will that cannot be broken…a homage to the triumph and tribulations of those who walk the path of fire. With the limitations of the mundane world fiercely aligned against us, we charge forth, unwavering, unbound! Forever Burning!”
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is essentially a middle finger attitude, aimed at all those that might seek to oppose the band and their brand of music. And as it turns out, the attitude and the music go hand in hand because ‘Forever Burning’ is a 40-minute barrage of unbridled menace, aggression, and bristling attitude. Not that this should come as any kind of surprise though, because none of us listen to this kind of music to learn more about fluffy animals or the delicate charms of garden fairies. Music that incorporates death, black, and thrash metal is meant to be nasty and full of spite. So strike one for Denouncement Pyre.
There is a great deal to like within ‘Forever Burning’, but if I am going to be 100% fair and honest, there’s just something ever so slightly missing overall which impedes some of my enjoyment. What you do get is plenty of cold, icy riffs in the minor key, lots of brisk and unrelenting blastbeats, a nicely rumbling bass, wild lead breaks and wailing guitars, and caustic, venomous rasping growls. There are even times when the music veers into slightly slower, more groove-oriented passages, or the band deliver a melody or two. It sounds like a great combination on paper, and the reality isn’t bad either. But it isn’t absolutely knocking my socks off and that’s a little disappointing.
After further reflection in an effort to untangle my thoughts on this record, I think there are a couple of reasons why ‘Forever Burning’ is just ‘good’ and not essential in my opinion. Firstly, I find the general unrelenting nature of the music, coupled with the production to be a little wearing. Even at the halfway mark, it feels like I’ve been listening for a lot longer than I actually have. And by the end, I need to give my ears a bit of a rest. That’s not because the music is too insanely heavy or overly extreme for my tastes. But when you take the rather abrasive-sounding production and add in fast-picked riffs and incessant double pedal drumming, it creates no small amount of fatigue within me.
I also think things would be far more enjoyable with greater variety woven into the music. When there’s a hint of melody or a slower, groovier section, I find the material resonates with me just a little more, creating some extra memorability. Take the opening title track as an example of all that is so right about Denouncement Pyre. It kicks off at a brisk pace with the black metal elements most prominent, especially when the lead guitar lines come in to add some frosty melody. But there’s a demonstrable thrash attitude which further manifests itself in a fast, wailing lead guitar solo. And later, the band inject a really cool groove that gets my head nodding appreciatively.
There’s a lovely melody-tinged solo buried deep within ‘Tongues Stretched For Salvation’ but the bulk of the song does little for me, even when some sampled voices are added to the quieter section to provide something a little different. The best song on ‘Forever Burning’ as far as I’m concerned is the charmingly titled ‘Burn This World And Start Again’ which benefits from a much greater degree of groove and has some melodic refrains and leads that prove that these Aussies can do it when they want to. I just wish they’d want to do it a little more often throughout this record.
Therefore, as solid and uncompromising as ‘Forever Burning’ undeniably is, I find that I am left just a little cold by it. I have literally no doubt that real afficionados of this style of music will rubbish my review and love every sadistic, hate-filled note. But I speak as I find and aside from a few of the tracks on offer, I don’t hear enough to allow me to wax lyrical about this album, or to add it to my collection.
The opportunity to review a debut album and an independent release is something I always struggle to refuse, and so here I am reviewing ‘Through the Vale Of Earthly Torment’, the first full-length record to see the light of day from Truent, a progressive/technical death metal band hailing from Vancouver, Canada. As you’re no doubt aware, I’ve been developing quite the taste for prog/tech death of late, so this is another tick in the box that made a review of this album a certainty.
To add a little more background context to the review, Truent have been around for a few years now, releasing a couple of EPs in 2017 (‘Faith In The Forgotten’) and 2018 (‘To End An Ancient Way Of Life’). They are a quintet comprised of vocalist and acoustic guitarist John Roodenrys, guitarists Daniel Clark (rhythm) and Matthew Pancoust (lead/rhythm), bassist Spence McIntosh, and drummer Nic Landry. They are also not the first outfit to cite the pandemic as the catalyst for the writing and recording of this venture, expressing the fact that it was a form of escapism for them during difficult times. The result is ‘Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment’, an eight-track 32-minute affair that the band declare as being their most diverse offering to date.
The first thing that I can confirm is that the band members can all play their instruments to a high standard – to play technical death metal, that’s more of an implied expectation rather than hopeful optimism though. Nevertheless, it’s a box that can be ticked accordingly. The second comment to make is that ‘Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment’ is heavily reliant on a core of chunky and groovy riffing, rather than a barrage of impossibly fast but precise instrumentalism. Put another way, this is more of a 44-tonne articulated lorry than a helicopter gunship.
Within the material provided with the promo, there are quotes from the band stating:
“There’s a wide mix of subgenres and sounds we explore throughout the album, often within the same song. We incorporate elements of everything from tech death to thrash metal to metallic hardcore into the records core sound of groove-filled progressive death metal.”
If you listen closely, then Truent are not wrong with their assertions; there are a number of different influences on offer within this half-hour record. But, and here’s my problem with this record, it all sounds a little bit forgettable. In a day and age where the quality within this subgenre is off the scale thanks to the likes of Archspire and so forth, this kind of music needs to really sizzle in order to make a big impression on me. The music on ‘The Vale Of Earthly Torment’ is perfectly well played and there are moments that do stand out. However, I don’t get the rush of excitement listening to this album that I do with others within the genre. Ultimately, the song writing just isn’t consistently strong enough engaging enough to hold my attention and excite me.
There are some high points though, starting with ‘Scathe Of Branches’ which has a Gojira vibe mixed with maybe even an early Soilwork or Darkane accent or two, especially when the music goes a little thrashier and the vocals are slightly cleaner and more of a gritty, soaring nature than the normal guttural growls. Then there’s ‘This Verdant Coil’ which is easily the most memorable of all the songs on the album. It features some cool drumming in the early stages in particular, but it’s the groove and the ensuing melodies woven in that make the greatest impact, topped off with a nice lead guitar sound, that’s akin to an air raid siren in a manner of speaking. Of all of the songs by Truent, this is the one that I remember once the disc has finished playing.
Mind you, the acoustic intro of ‘Blood And Dust’ is short but very sweet, whilst the ensuing four-and-a-bit minutes are arguably the most technical of all the material here, a bit of a problem when it’s also the opening track. It also signals the prevalence of chugging, down-tuned djent-like guitar tones which are used throughout the record, an aspect of the music that I need to be stellar in order to really hit my sweet spot.
I realise that I sound particularly harsh towards Truent, and I guess I am. But I also want the criticism to be as constructive as possible, so that the next release from these guys knocks me sideways. They have the talent and the ability to succeed, so I really hope their sophomore release realises their potential. By that, I mean that I want to hear music that is properly memorable, and which carries more of a unique edge to it. Focus on the songs themselves, improve in that area, and maybe cut out a few of the gratuitous chugs while you’re at it. Nevertheless, I would urge fans of this style of music to take a listen to ‘Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment’ just in case I’m way off the mark here.
When was the last time you sat down and listened to an artist about which you previously knew nothing and had your world turned upside down? Well, it has happened to me here. Deathgaze – I didn’t even realise the subgenre existed, but I do now. Equally, I didn’t even realise a band by the name of Kardashev existed until a week or two ago. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t anyone shout their name to me at any point over the last decade since their inception back in 2012? It’s too late to go back in time and put right this massive faux pas, but at least I am here now, and have seen the light.
For those of you who are still in the dark, Kardashev are a quartet from Arizona who play a style of music that’s referred to as deathgaze amongst other things. Progressive death metal, atmospheric, post-metal; these are all descriptions with merit as well, but for me, deathgaze resonates best. Two original founding members remain in place, in the form of vocalist Mark Garrett and guitarist Nico Mirolla, with bassist Alex Rieth and drummer Sean Lang both joining the ranks in 2019. In their decade of existence thus far, Kardashev have released a demo, three EPs and one full-length album, ‘Peripety’ in 2015. That’s a lot of music that I’ve missed, but I’ll track it down and devour it, of that make no mistake.
The reason why I like the term ‘deathgaze’ so much is because, when you distil Kardashev’s music down to fundamentals, you’re left with adjectives like ‘crushing’ and ‘monumentally heavy’ sitting alongside ‘fragile’, ‘poignant’, and ‘achingly beautiful’. In much the same way as blackgaze goes about its business, Kardashev merge the delicate beauty of shoegaze with an uncompromisingly ferocious and weighty brand of death metal. And it works. No, that’s not doing the music justice. The music on ‘Liminal Rite’ has floored me. It isn’t overstating things to say that the discovery of this band and this album has been profound, a game changer if you will. I have literally no qualms in likening this discovery to those heady days as a teenager in a pre-Internet world when I’d take a blind punt on a record based on the cover art or record label alone, only to find that I’d found a gem. Dimmu Borgir, Anathema, and My Dying Bride are three that immediately spring to mind. Remember that rush of giddy excitement? I have that here in spades.
In terms of negative comments, I only have two. Firstly, at a full hour in length, ‘Liminal Rite’ is a little on the long side. Mind you, I’m only saying this because I feel that I have to for reasons of consistency, because in reality, I don’t really mind at all. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing, but not on this occasion. Secondly, the final song on the album, the gargantuan ‘Beyond The Passage Of Embers’ features a guest musician, Christoph Clöser, the saxophonist from ambient/jazz band Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. You all know ad nauseum what I think of this wretched instrument, and yet it doesn’t ruin the final offering. In fact, through gritted teeth and with bile rising in my throat, I must concede that the song is enhanced thanks to Clöser’s inclusion.
So, in reality, I don’t have anything truly negative to say, and what’s more, everything else about this album is approaching perfection. Unnecessary hyperbole, I hear you cry. No, not a bit of it. It now falls upon me to back this up, so I shall take my best shot…
Argh, I don’t know where to start. Normally, I tend to go track-by-track, but to a certain extent it’s a fruitless exercise here because the whole album is wonderful and should be enjoyed as such. To skip a song is to risk missing a slice of magic, and to shuffle this album is akin to adding a mixer or ice to a glass of neat 18-year-old single malt whisky. It shouldn’t be done. Ever. And that’s because ‘Liminal Rite’ has been carefully and lovingly crafted by the quartet to flow in a certain way and flow it does. If you listen from start to finish as I have done on countless occasions, you realise that everything fits together perfectly. Nothing is out of place, it just feels right as you listen to it, quite the feat when you consider just how different and contradictory some of the passages are to each other. It should sound clunky or jarring. Instead, it sounds smooth and completely natural.
As early as the first 20 seconds of opening piece, ‘The Approaching Of Atonement’, I get a tingling because of the delicate, atmospheric feel, accented by an equally delicate melody from the synths whilst Mark Garrett, I assume, delivers a melancholy spoken-word monologue. From there, ‘Silver Shadows’ takes over and it’s like being hit by a truck carrying several tonnes of feathers. Frantic blastbeats and fast-picked riffs assault the senses, but the onslaught is softened somewhat by a sublime, elegance and melodic intensity, whilst the bass playfully frolics within the song’s framework. I don’t mind admitting that the sheer power and beauty has moved me near to tears on more than one occasion. When the vocals emerge alongside chunky death metal riffs, they are clean and ethereal, adding to the overall impact. It isn’t until a minute or more has passed before we get to hear Garrett’s higher-pitched rasping delivery, and then his guttural growl hits and it’s incredible – it’s so low and bestial, it’s fantastic. As the song progresses, Kardashev demonstrate that they are not afraid to strip everything back to minimal ambience one minute, only to raze the tranquillity down to the ground with a truly thunderous death metal attack. But those melodic guitar leads from Nico Mirolla which remind me a little of MØL return alongside the soaring clean vocals to ensure that as heavy as the music gets, it is laced liberally with an air of grandiose majesty combined with heartbreaking poignancy. Apparently, this song falls just shy of eight minutes but feels like two, ending with a dramatic, cinematic soundscape that’s eerie and dystopian in tone.
‘Apparitions In Candlelight’ follows and it begins with an explosion of death metal fury, with a hint of deathcore around the edges. The multi-layered vocals create a menacing presence before, out of nowhere, one of the most heartrending melodies I’ve heard in a while appears. I love the way in which Garrett’s various vocal styles are cleverly interwoven to provide numerous emotions to accompany the music. Within the quieter, more reflective and insular mid-section of the song, the sound of clean guitars is accompanied by some reserved drumming and truly resonant bass work to offer something different once again. Towards the end, the blastbeats continue unabated whilst Garrett returns to his stunning clean approach, joined to devastating effect by a whimsical yet melancholy lead guitar line. The sheer emotion and feeling that comes across is almost too much to bear, but in a good way.
I’m beginning to run out of superlatives and yet I’ve barely scratched the surface of this album. Tracks like the captivating ‘Lavender Calligraphy’ defy words…well, my pathetically inarticulate words anyway. Whatever I write will not be enough to convey the brilliance of the song. Suffice to say that I adore the way in which the music is both insanely heavy and melodic at the same time – the deep, guttural vocals sound inspired against the unashamedly glorious melodies, ensuring that the whole listening experience is simply magnetic and utterly irresistible.
If you’re looking for some chugging death metal groove, I urge you to listen to the bulldozing ‘Compost Grave-Song’. If you are hankering for something more heavily inspired by the machinations of the death/doom sound, then the aforementioned closer ‘Beyond The Pale Embers’ is where you’ll have your craving sufficiently sated.
In between, you’ll find the trio of ‘Cellar Of Ghosts’, ‘Glass Phantoms’, and ‘A Vagabond’s Lament’. All three songs have their own identities and are bathed in genius. The first features some killer melodies and soaring clean vocals from Garrett, whilst ‘Glass Phantoms’ has to be one of the most abrasive tracks whilst also managing to be one of the most emotional and angst fuelled. It is a heady combination, but these gents have made it seem so easy and effortless, complimenting an all-out black/death attack with resonant melodies and a mesmeric performance from Garrett as he literally pleads to the heavens as he sings.
‘A Vagabond’s Lament’ is the perfect antidote to the bruising predecessor in that it spends the first half or more of the song exploring much more ambient soundscapes. Delicate yet striking drumming, and whimsical bass playing join ethereal, dreamlike surroundings bathed in synth-led melodies, although over the ensuing minutes, there’s an ebb and flow that builds in intensity, hinting at something else to come. And that something else is a controlled and measured eruption of heaviness overlaid by clean vocals predominantly whilst the central melodic sensibilities very much remain intact.
I could continue to wax lyrical about this stunning album, but I hope by now that I have made my point forcefully enough. With ‘Liminal Rite’, American quartet Kardashev have pulled the rug out from under me and sent me reeling. I said earlier that I feel like this record is a game changer for me, and I truly mean it. I love heavy music and I also adore strong melody; Kardashev have managed to combine the two in a way that I’ve never really heard before and I am left stunned and in awe of this album. All of a sudden, the usual suspects have a fight on their hands for the number one spot in my end-of-year ‘best of’ list, and I couldn’t be happier about it because I feel like a teenager again, full of that wide-eyed wonder at a new, very special discovery.