The Black Market

The Black Market: The Month In Metal – February 2019

I’ve always wanted to be in a death metal band. Problem: I am an untalented, antisocial loser. So, a question has long simmered in the dimmer regions of my dumb brain: Is it possible to form a decent death metal band without being able to play an instrument? Or sing, scream, or gurgle? Or, uh, do any of the things a legitimate band might require? In fact, what is the least amount of work I could do in order to live out my death metal fantasies? I created an account on the “freelance marketplace” Fiverr to find out.

My plan was simple: I would buy “gigs” offered by sellers on Fiverr and try to middle-manage a cohesive death metal song into existence. To increase the stakes, I added some rules:

  • I would start on February 1 and finish on February 27. Surely, that would be enough time to get a song made. Please tell Jari Mäenpää not to read this.
  • My budget would be $200.
  • I would supply the band name and lyrics. I would also give my employed metallers a general sense of direction. Otherwise, my only creative contribution would be clicking the order button.

With the governing particulars set, it was time to become Bill Belichug (or…*shudders*…Jon Br00den?) and coach my way to death metal infamy. And, thanks to Aaron, the band already had a name. Black Marketers, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to…Fatty Carbuncle. Glory, glory, halleblurgah. It still brings a tear to my eye. The next step? Performing another metal rite of passage. Yep, this spud needed a logo. It was time to clear my first Fiverr hurdle.

Wait…ah hell, metalheads are on this platform, right?

I was relieved to find that the number of Fiverr sellers offering metal-centric services runs deeper than expected, particularly in the gruesome, indecipherable nametag department. Hailing from the brutal death metal hotbed of Indonesia, I tapped bekaelproject as my designer.

I filled bekaelproject in on who I was and my future plans (something I did for all participants either before or at the beginning of orders). My instructions were to aim for Unleashed, replacing the cross with something oozier and appropriately carbuncular. In two days, my vague concept became a real logo…and…oh my god, it really needs to see a doctor. Wow, I’m going to get fired, Wyatt’s writing your intro next month. Given the medical textbook specificity of the anatomy nestled within the lettering, it’s…a little too hot for Stereogum. I’ve hidden the bits beneath a cutout of Thor’s head. (You can see the undesecrated, NSFW deal here. I hope it terrifies and irritates misogynists eternally.) Before Fiverr’s fees, this cost $20:

Countryman reisyaibrahim then worked on the cover art that would adorn Fatty Carbuncle’s debut. I sent along samples of recent beauties by Thanamagus, Sulaco, and Massive Retaliation, somehow bravely fighting off the temptation to include Attack Against Gnomes. Ready for something spooky? Reisyaibrahim drew me. This is legit what my driver’s license looks like:

“Forgive me for following you home, but you appear to have dropped this back in that dark parking garage.” Reisyaibrahim’s Portrait Of The Writer rang in at $30.

Throughout Fatty Carbuncle’s gestation, the relative affordability of these gigs never failed to surprise me. But, for the freelancers behind them, simply getting paid for their fringe expertise is a different sort of calculus. “It is the same as session work,” Karl Casey wrote to me. The proprietor of White Bat Audio in Canada, Casey’s Fiverr gigs include “I Will Provide Horror Music For Video Games, Podcast And Film,” “I Will Write You A Thrash Metal Song,” and the one I ordered: “I Will Write You An Old School Death Metal Song.” “You’re hired to play/write a song and you get paid for your work. It beats being in 1,000 bands that earn you nothing and it keeps you writing consistently, so you are improving your skills while getting paid at the same time!”

Casey has been playing guitar for 16 years. He has been composing for almost as long, releasing music with Vice Girl and his solo project Patient X. He chose Fiverr as a hub for session work because he “liked the simplicity of making a profile and people coming to [him] for orders.” And come they have. To that end, I was a little disappointed that Fatty Carbuncle wasn’t the weirdest thing someone has asked him to create, bested by, among other oddities, “a doom metal version of ‘Jingle Bells’.”

Still, my request of an opening Butcher ABC march followed by Incubus/Opprobrium death/thrash and Cause of Death buttchugs all HM-2’d to heck probably wasn’t the easiest commission. That’s…a lot for $55. Regardless, Casey forged a four-minute instrumental, one that I’ll be saving for the full song reveal. (Stop scrolling, you false!) I had death metal. Now I needed vocals.

Of course, unless I wanted to go full Slowly We Rot John Tardy, I also needed lyrics. With only 12 days left before my deadline, my options were limited to (a) using one of the metal lyric services on Fiverr, (b) loading Botnik Studios’s predictive text engine with every Nile song, or (c) driving an impenetrable inside joke into the goddamn ground. Which one do you think I chose?

Yeahhh. If you give Fatty Carbuncle’s lyrics a read later, you might catch Death Metal English references to the “intense blebination” of our monthly list-making process. (Translation: We write blurbs about heavy metal albums. Begone, outsider.) The rest? Well, one of our behind-the-scenes pastimes is marveling at the casual nihilism of People Magazine’s online crime blotter. Holy shit, this thing. It’s pure misery exploitation. The Black Market team has decided that it’s written by an AI programmed by cenobites. Here’s a horrifying example that’s actually…little more than a logroll for an in-house TV show. WE HAVE SO MANY EXCLUSIVE CLIPS TO SHOW YOU. A real person really died for that. Guh. The clickbait interests of mainstream America are far more depraved than any metal band could hope to be.

With the lyrics in the can, this is where I figured the band would hit a bottleneck. I mean, asking a stranger to deliver deeply derpy lyrics that only make sense to three people was the least of my worries. (That’s actually…pretty metal, even when it’s not.) No, I needed to find someone who could perform suitably brutal vokills. As you no doubt know thanks to your normo friends trying to make fun of your Morbid Angel mixtape, a death metal roar is not a skill casual listeners tend to possess. Hell, despite my obsessiveness, I can’t even come close to imitating Chris Barnes without spraining my esophagus. Did Fiverr have an answer?

Laur Lindmäe is a singer from Estonia who caught the music bug early, starting out on guitar at age 7. “As a teenager I was in countless local bands, playing guitar, drums, or bass, and occasionally I was on backing vocals,” Lindmäe wrote. “At some point when all the bands died, I learned that I could do some Lemmy-like vocals.” He soon jumped to the front of Pharmer, a band he formed with his brother which has an EP on the horizon.

Over the years, Lindmäe’s vocal prowess continued to grow as he experimented with YouTube covers and sharpened his skills via Alex Terrible’s courses. During a lull in his professional life, he “stumbled upon Fiverr.” As there was no one offering decent metal vocals on the platform at the time, he signed up. “I’m glad I started it. I have a pretty good reputation. It would be a lot harder if I started doing this now. I have made a lot of friends all over the world thanks to Fiverr, and I am glad to be a part of so many long-lasting music projects.”

Obviously, like a lot of us freelancers, Lindmäe has said yes to some out-there gigs. “I remember doing a Lamb Of God — ‘Redneck’ cover for [someone’s] Christmas present. All of the lyrics were changed. The chorus went something like, ‘THIS IS A MOTHERF*ing INSULATION! The only gift you could ever need!’ [His] family decided to gift him insulation for his house and blast this track while presenting [him with] the gift.”

And now he’s a Carbuncle. For $70, Laur Lindmäe gave our song a true voice, and his guitarist homie Olle Nõmm chipped in a solo to boot. Just like that, we finally had an honest-to-Deicide death metal song. And I still had $25 to play with. Hmmm….

In order to maximize the chances that someone might submit Fatty Carbuncle to Encyclopaedia Metallum (ahem), I wanted to expand the release from just a song into a single by adding an intro or outro. And why not have some fun, reaching beyond the typical skippable sample and maybe even outside the realm of metal itself? There are oodles of atypical-to-death-metal services floating around Fiverr offered by top-notch musicians, including…an ethereal recorder? For the love of god, don’t show that to any of the anime dungeon synth bands.

Anyway, I have long wanted to pair death metal with the kind of dissonance found in Penderecki’s Cello Concerto No. 1, because I am a nerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. I ordered a 90-second composition from jennycranecello for $30. Yes, I blew my budget, but I did it for the kind of cello con carnage that appears on her Soundcloud. We agree, Weeping Sores: death metal needs more strings. And, you’ll be able to hear those brutiful cello lines *drum roll* next month. Yes, we couldn’t get it in before February 27, so consider it a treat if you want to duck back into the Bandcamp in a few weeks.

Oh, a Bandcamp you say? Indeed, here’s the EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE of Fatty Carbuncle. Behold!

How’d we do? To see if it passed the smell test, I kinda, sorta lied and had my bud Chris Redar write up a bio blind with no knowledge of the concept:

“The track ‘Prurient Emissions Of Pernicious Lubricious Enormity’ steers the wheel as close to the old-school death metal center line all the chumps seem to be into these days without driving off the cliff of boredom.”

Verdict: We had ourselves a spud. And you can have it too, if you want. I’ve set the free download to creative commons so you can drop it on mixes and comps as long as you credit the artists that had a hand in creating it. For the record, that would not be me.

Let’s talk about that. First, let me say that I have conflicting feelings about all of this. On the one hand, this is rad. It’s incredible that Fatty Carbuncle actually exists. I cannot express enough thanks for the time and effort of everyone involved. On the other, jeez, I can’t stop thinking about the downsides of the gig economy.

Am I the Threatin of the temp death metal world? No, wait, Threatin can actually play stuff. Let’s face it, I didn’t do a goddamn thing and the people who did barely got compensated for the effort they put in. While this is an iniquity as old as time, that a person/institution of means can take advantage of the often-involuntary availability of the less-privileged, its longevity doesn’t absolve it of its ickiness. That goes double for any platform that chooses to profit off of it.

In 2017, Fiverr rolled out an ad campaign centered on its “doers,” spinning the shittier, life-consuming aspects of grinding gigs as heroic. It was rightfully burninated, none more thoroughly than by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker. “At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system,” Tolentino wrote of the gig economy at large. “The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear.”

To Fiverr’s credit, it appears to be aware of its reputation. It loosened its hold on the $5 base price that gave the company its name in 2015, allowing sellers to set their own prices. Recently, it has worked to raise its Better Business Bureau rating from a Wikipedia-reported F in 2018 to today’s C+. But Fiverr isn’t really the issue, even if its more devious tendencies do occasionally metastasize into the self-parodic Randian cancer some fear the gig economy has become. As Tolentino wrote, this goes deeper.

Yes, this took a turn. Yes, this is the most me thing. I hate to smudge our fun little intro with this kind of stuff, but it’s hard for me not to interrogate my complicity in the dubious magic of competitive pricing and the race-to-the-bottom side-effects of globalization. (Regarding the latter, Fatty Carbuncle is a thoroughly international band, outsourced to Canada, Estonia, and Indonesia. Please don’t tell the U.S. Government or the local NYDM chapter.) It was disturbing how often I would see a seller offering a low rate for a service and think, Oh, that’s a deal! It’s like I’ve been trained to only consider how the gig might benefit me.

All of this reads as obvious, but it’s hard to see it in the moment, largely because the knock-on effects of that thought process feel like boons to consumers. But those effects can degrade the perceived value of creatives, especially if the humanity of the creative is deemphasized. Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, of all people, recently shared his perspective on the state of the music industry with The Liquid Conversations podcast. Quoting from the Consequence Of Sound piece that aggregated it:

“The thing that sucks the most about it is that everybody steals music,” he responded. “You spend thousands and thousands of dollars to make a record and all of these scumbags are just stealing it. And then they want more, and then you’re a dick because you’re doing a meet-and-greet for 50 fucking bucks to make up for it, which you don’t want to do. You think I want to meet all these fucking people? I don’t. When I’m done, I just want to take a shower and go to bed.”

Doyle, who once said “Do these people think songs fall out of the fucking sky?”, might be the most no-bullshit artist advocate out there. To me, his take rings true: It takes more and more work to make less and less money. But, keep in mind, Doyle is viewing all of this from the vantage point of having “made” it.

If you’re trying to break in, what other option do you have but to grind and eat a lot of shit? That’s the eternal quandary: Do you hold out for what you’re worth or get something, anything now? Fiverr offers a promise of gigs without the monetary cost of buying a website/SEO optimization and the psychic cost of getting turned down. It’s the path of least resistance. In that way, can you blame anyone for seeing Fiverr as a viable stream of income? As someone who has a lot of hustle irons in the gig fire, I can relate. It’s hard to pass up something when you’re usually offered nothing, even if that something ends up setting your market and devaluing your abilities. And, if you want to keep your sanity while staying in business, there are less cynical ways to look at all of this.

“Basically, I want to see how successful I can become working as a musician,” Casey wrote. “I see this as an opportunity to really develop my songwriting and production skills, which I carry over into my bands and solo projects. I compose horror/synthesizer scores as well, so I’d eventually like to make music for Hollywood films, major video games, etc. I want to meet and work with as many people as possible!”

Lindmäe was also positive regarding his longterm goals: “I want to master as many different vocal styles as I can, working on Fiverr helps me keep my voice in shape. And almost every track I record I can try out something different!” That said, regarding whether someone could make a living on Fiverr, he recognized that people coming into an overcrowded market will have an uphill climb. “For an example, there are too many graphic artists on Fiverr, tons of them, I don’t think any new guys can make it big any time soon. But if you find your niche, a more original service, and put enough time in it I think there is a possibility to live off of this.”

I’ve been thinking about all of the Carbuncles a lot. It’s weird. We’ve never met, we’re probably never going to meet, but I feel connected to them in a way that…feels like a band. Like, we made songs together! They’re good songs! And maybe they’re good because the buyer/seller relationship freed us up to “get shit done,” not unlike what Elif Batuman experienced in her brilliant piece on Japan’s rental family services. Or maybe, much like I have and will continue to do again, a creative freelancer will feel compelled to go above and beyond in order to live up to their own standards, whether the market rewards that or not.

So yeah, to answer my question, $205 will get you a death metal band for not a lot of your work. You can bet someone worked hard, though. –Ian Chainey

10. The Moth Gatherer – “The Drone Kingdom”

Location: Sweden
Subgenre: post-metal

Full disclosure, I debated between several things for this slot. My long list had around 50 tracks (as usual), but a handful of doomy things scratched a particular itch, and all seemed to vie for inclusion. Two that narrowly missed out: Asphodelus — rough and raw melodic death/doom from Finland, like a crusty mix of early Katatonia and Varathron — and Maestus — funeral doom from Portland, like Shape of Despair with some interesting blackened bits. Both are good, likely to fly below the radar, and worthy of your dollars. Meanwhile, I can’t help circling back to a terribly named post-metal band. I typically have no trouble avoiding writing about bands with stupid moth names, but sometimes the riffs get the best of me, what can I say. The Moth Gatherer (oof, it’s hard to type that) plays post-millennial post-metal straight up, the way we rarely hear these days, yet the execution is so strong it helps them slip out from under the shadow of the painfully obvious influences (Isis, Cult of Luna, Breach, etc., ad nauseam). It might be more accurate to say that they boil those influences down into something so pure and riff-centric that it actually works in 2019, whereas some of those bands barely hold up to revisitation, which is a strange thought. What “The Drone Kingdom” lacks in cleverness of title (a theme emerges), it makes up for in riffs, atmosphere, and basic gravitational force, and it’s somehow made even better by the fact that the video improbably does not suck. The structure is almost painfully simple, but that simplicity can break you down if you let it. A long, droning intro sets up the inevitable FAT RIFF that hits just so, which leads to the inevitable QUIET VERSE that lets tension build like a distant storm cloud, which leads to the inevitable DYNAMIC CRUSH as we return to the now-sacred FAT RIFF, which still feels appropriately fat and bowel-shaking. Fortunately, the bridge spins an interesting twist by adding of wordless female vocals, lifting a suspiciously well-executed page from “The Great Gig in the Sky” that has no business working as well as it does. Then, of course, the DYNAMIC CRUSH returns with a DIFFERENT FAT RIFF, the wailing banshee voice returns, and it all crescendos in a post-orgasmic mess of post-everything postyness. (Does anyone even read these blurbs anymore? I hope not.) The rest of the album is surprisingly good, too; give it a whirl. [From Esoteric Oppression, out now via Agonia Records.]Aaron Lariviere

9. Lustre – “The Ardour Of Autumn (Part 1)”

Location: Östersund, Sweden
Subgenre: black metal

Lustre is an O.G. in the world of black metal-tinged ambient music built to soundtrack episodes of nocturnal wonder. Before inspiring a host of others to turn their gazes skywards, Lustre was picking out ethereal synth tones — washy blues and greens and watery drops of starlight — that would form his palette. Since, his works have ranged in their degrees of darkness, turning up the rasp factor on some tracks while focusing on instrumental kaleidoscopic beauty on others. But all along, that core set of underlying droning tones and synth bleeps and bloops have tied it all together. “The Ardour Of Autumn (Part 1)” is an unreleased track from 2013, a look back in time to the first half of Lustre’s catalogue. That was the year the Black Market launched, and we featured Lustre’s “Green Worlds” on the column. I just gave it another listen, and it’s just as magical and strangely inspiring now as it was then. [From Another Time, Another Place (Chapter One), out 3/29 via Marrowless Music.]Wyatt Mashall

8. Ossuarium – “Writhing In Emptiness”

Location: Portland, OR
Subgenre: death metal

From the first glimpse of the grim and grimy green cover art, you know we’re in the death zone, and the first groaning THUD of a subterranean chord confirms our hopes and fears: this is, undeniably, death metal. Shocking! An ossuarium, you see, is a charmingly archaic term for ossuary, as in a place or receptacle for the bones of the dead, not dissimilar from a tomb, crypt, grave, burial urn, catacomb, mausoleum, or sepulcher (but slightly more obscure, therefore more brutal). Accordingly, the first album from the Portlandian death squad is named Living Tomb. (A theme emerges.) Countless bands have trod this funerary path — this is OSDM, after all: the simplest, purest, dumbest, and best form of death metal, and also the most familiar. Familiarity, when not breeding contempt, leads to comfort, and that’s the case here. Press play on your internet machine and the first riff of “Writhing in Emptiness” hits like a bladed shovel in loose soil, which feels like a warm embrace for ears attuned to morbid sounds. Dark tones, thick production, brainless riffs to embludgeon your embiggened skull: what more does a death fiend need? Glad you asked. We need variety, no matter how subtly delivered. This is where Ossuarium best displays its mortuarial gifts. A hint of squealing lead guitar suggests these guys might have more up their sleeves than sluggish rhythm riffs, and it turns out that’s just a taste: halfway through, harmonized leads cut a ragged swath through the rampant chugs, before dropping out for a clean passage that takes us someplace much more interesting. Suddenly we’re floating, disembodied and disconnected from earthly concerns as melancholic doom washes away the filth of existence. Ossuarium loads its songs with left-hand turns, imbuing the swampy brutality with an air of haunted psychedelia — an otherworldly glow behind all the mortal decay. [From Living Tomb, out now via 20 Buck Spin.]Aaron Lariviere

7. Fange – “Il Reconnaîtra Les Sienes”

Location: Rennes, France
Subgenre: sludge / doom / death metal

Nudging out two choice sludge splits by Coltsblood/Un and Primitive Man/Hell this month is another Black Market staple and oft-cited example of heaviosity. This is the third time we’ve covered France’s Fange, a four-piece that has set up camp at the intersection of many genres without feeling the need to establish residency in any of them. New LP Punir, is no different, laying down a strong foundation of sludge, doom, black metal, death metal, noise, and other brutal building blocks. I’d usually make a rote “wall of sound” allusion here, but fuck that, because Fange isn’t your usual. Indeed, what separates them from other dabblers that want to be the entire metal vending machine is…well, a lot of things, but let’s narrow it down to three: (1) Fange is uncommonly good at whatever style it touches, (2) it’s willing to dodge expected progressions in order to fulfill its own ends instead, and, most importantly, (3) shit just crushes. Punir’s hotfix to past releases is its impeccable flow, which makes the 38 minutes speed by with nary a mushy spot. That might be thanks to the slightly more patient build-ups, delivering payoffs that last a little longer. That said, let me emphasize the “slightly” there. HM-2s still grind hideously while multiple vocalists imperil their vocal cords in order to be heard over the tremendous percussive wallop. Like, I doubt anyone outside of diehards will tell you this sounds “patient.” “Il Reconnaîtra Les Sienes” is a good example of that patience, though, burning through a killer Swedeath section complete with an OOGH! cherry on top before branching out into legit-palatable noise and pummeling sludge. These common elements are reinvigorated in Fange’s hands, enlivened by the outfit’s ability to refresh them without resorting to too-clever deconstruction. Also, yes, shit just crushes. You’re right. [From Punir, out 3/1 via Throatruiner Ṙecords.]Ian Chainey

6. Vaura – “The Ruins (Hymne)”

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Subgenre: post-metal

Vaura’s last, 2013’s The Missing, introduced a stylish take on a kind of post-metal that seemed to borrow as much from the likes of Joy Division as it did black metal. The album riffed and blasted away, to be sure, but that might give the wrong idea — the end result was more like the product of shooting light through a sort of metal, goth-y prism and watching dark brilliance emerge on the far-side. But Vaura, featuring Toby Driver (Kayo Dot, Maudlin of the Well) and Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia, Gorguts, Sabbath Assembly), have never seemed like the kind of band content to stay siloed. “The Ruins (Hymne)” shows a more introspective, sensual, and measured Vaura. I’m not sure you can call it metal, but here, on this spacious, moving song that doesn’t need to rely on brute force, a better picture emerges of the full-spectrum of their dark inspiration. [From Sables, out 4/26 via Profound Lore Records.]Wyatt Marshall

5. Helium Horse Fly – “Happiness”

Location: Liège, Belgium
Subgenre: prog / noise rock

This is the kind of year it’s gonna be, eh? It’s only February and I’ve already shown everyone my bear-rat ass, meaning you’re in for a long season of re-reading the following sentence: Sooo, I missed this one. Apologies, then, to Helium Horse Fly, a Belgian prog quartet that actually streamed “Happiness” back in…December. Great. However, I guess it’s here now, even if I had to bump a bunch of February bangers (what up, Gargoyl?) in order to list it. My justification? Normal music nerd shit: I can’t stop listening to it. To go a little deeper because I guess that’s my job or whatever, Hollowed, the band’s fourth album, pulls off something rare: It inventively incorporates the darkness and jagged edges of metal without slipping into sleepytime goofball territory. To be clear, Helium Horse Fly isn’t really metal. It’s prog and jazz and noise rock, which is heavy but not necessarily heavy metal, ya know? That said, I challenge the trve to make it through “Happiness” without catching the creeps because it sustains pure dread for six uncompromising minutes. The neat thing is that Helium Horse Fly maintains that level of apprehension throughout, though the neighboring tracks are dynamically different. For instance, “Algeny” is “Happiness”‘s equal in the way it makes you feel, but pulls off that trick with negative space. Hey, sometimes a wide-open expanse also makes you feel claustrophobic. Now, sonically? This is doing some things that are sure to be palatable to the more adventurous Marketers. To crib a line from some guy named Doug, it sounds like Madder Mortem suffered a psychotic break and then went to art school. And, like you’d expect from that description, the performances are tippity top notch. Marie Billy’s voice is halfway between Agnete M. Kirkevaag and Scott Walker, somehow indomitably strong and weighted down by despondency. Stéphane Dupont flips manically between jazzy swells a la darker Fripp and noise rock freakouts that recall anything from Laddio Bolocko to Krallice. The rhythm section of Dimitri Iannello (bass) and Gil Chevigné (drums) lay down titanic grooves and evasive skitters, seemingly simultaneously in the pocket and all around it. So, yeah…don’t, uh, miss this one. [From Hollowed, out now via Dipole Experiment Records.]Ian Chainey

4. Violet Cold – “kOsmik”

Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Subgenre: post-black metal

A new year, a new Violet Cold release. I don’t mean that derisively, but the crazy-prolific one-man act from Emin Guliyev puts out such a dizzying amount of material — assuming various styles that are all linked in the marrow — it can be hard to keep up. Somehow, the quality never suffers, and, in fact, the polished intricacy that characterizes Guliyev’s material boggles the mind. “kOsmik,” the title track of Violet Cold’s new full-length, continues the line of heart-bursting post-black metal rippers the project is best known for. Passage after passage of shimmering guitar fireworks and seemingly exhausting drumming drive the track, reaching a state of constant crescendo before tying it all together. There at the end, a woman’s voice comes in, shouting out a sort of defining rallying cry that makes for one of the more awesome moments in music I’ve come across in some time. Last year, Violet Cold released three full-length albums and a single. But last year the first Violet Cold release didn’t appear until May. It’s only February, so let’s see if Violet Cold can beat 2018’s high-water mark. Perhaps there’s some truth in the project’s listed bio: “Violet Cold is an experimental AI simulated music project from 40°22’37.7″N 49°50’51.6″E.”

P.S. – good headphones a must. [From kOsmik, out now via the band.]Wyatt Marshall

3. Funereal Presence – “Wherein Achatius Is Awakened And Called Upon”

Location: New York
Subgenre: black metal

It’s abundantly clear by now that the gods of limber black chaos known as Negative Plane are content to leave their hordes of worshipers in the lurch, having deprived us of a new album for eight cold years since the release of the charnel delight that was Stained Glass Revelations. That’s setting aside, of course, the extremely random instrumental track they released in 2012, which consists of less than three minutes of clean guitars and skittering drums, released as part of an extremely random split 7″ with Rotting Christ as a soundtrack for a doctoral dissertation on “conceptions of sexual intercourse with nature spirits and demons in 17th and 18th century Sweden.” In case you were wondering what kind of band we’re dealing with. Anyway. It’s been seven years since we’ve heard a recorded* peep, and the godless hordes demand more. (*The internet tells me they continue to play live, more proof the dark one stirs but does not wake.) Fortunately, the drummer of Negative Plane — known by his glorious nom de guerre “Bestial Devotion” — marches on with his own similarly delightful project: Funereal Presence. (Pay no mind to the fact that Funereal Presence has only one member, and that his chosen name is Bestial Devotion, and that he doesn’t just release albums under that name; worthy metal is complicated.) On this, his second full-length diversion, Bestial Devotion carries the fallen mantle of Negative Plane to slightly more traditional shores, summoning a lunatic incarnation of heavy metal flecked with bits of occult rock, and all filtered through the grimy lens of rough-and-tumble black-and-roll. Riffs alternately blaze and chime and squeal like dying cattle, whereas the vocals scrape the bowels of hell like a cancerous lung come to life. And yet…a pervasive sense of fun seeps through the proceedings. When our man Bestial Devotion reaches for his accursed cowbell, we achieve maximum stygian majesty, and I’m done for. [From Achatius, out now via Sepulchral Voice Records.]Aaron Lariviere

2. Aoratos – “Thresher”

Location: Colorado
Subgenre: black metal

Cast aside your lesser metals — the new LP from Aoratos, Gods Without Name, plumbs the void and punches through the other side to rip so much harder than anything else I’ve heard in 2019. For some quick context and an instant idea of what these guys sound like, just know that Aoratos is the latest in a line of worthy Nightbringer side-projects, along with Akhlys and Bestia Arcana, all of which feature singer, guitarist, and archfiend Naas (definitively not god’s son) Alcameth, and all of which unconditionally slay. This is orthodox black metal of a particularly vicious American bent, subtly distinct from the European varietals, drawing from hellish drone and dark ambient without relinquishing a faint flame of melody. Drums crash with orchestral weight when they’re not outright blasting, and a choir of synths and screams seethes in and out of key, casting everything through a prism of hellish light. Meanwhile, the riffs…painfully precise and weirdly clean considering the milieu, yet jagged and warped, like a mirror held over flame until it melts. The first single, “Thresher,” lives up to its name: like a swarm of razors that never lets up, what starts as a blast furnace of pain gets progressively sharper as it goes. A classic trick carried over from Nightbringer is to flay the listener’s senses with these insane bursts of tremolo-induced treble, and Naas Alcameth shows no mercy here, screeching to the top of the fretboard to slice eardrums and cauterize the holes. Add it all together: the drums, the leads, the pain, the absurd bellow of “I AM THE THRESHER,” and it’s pure cacophony, and a hell of a song, and nowhere near the best thing on the album. (Just wait for “Holy Mother of Terror” or the title track; nothing else compares.) Preorder with extreme prejudice. [From Gods Without Name, out 3/22 via Debemur Morti Productions.]Aaron Lariviere

1. Idle Hands – “Give Me To The Night”

Location: Portland, OR
Subgenre: heavy metal / goth

“Give Me To The Night” is the ripper of the year so far, an absolutely righteous track that nails the divide between trad metal and goth with style. It’s heavy metal distillate — a track running on leather and flying hair and a bit of sleaze. I guess we missed the band’s debut EP last year, which is a bummer. It rocks, big, and currently the semi-ballad “Can You Hear The Rain” has wormed its way into my ear. “Give Me To The Night” scratches the same retro itch, but it’s shot through with an extra dose of horsepower, moving on the double quick and opening up the riff attack. In under three minutes, “Give Me To The Night” bottles so much energy. This track deserves a music video. [From Mana, out 5/10 via Eisenwald.]Wyatt Marshall