The Month In Metal – February 2021

The Month In Metal – February 2021

Hey. I am feeling under the weather once again. Sorry. Sucks. This intro is an expanded and updated version of an intro I wanted to run last year but banished to personal blog purgatory instead. I’ve got some good stuff brewing for the next couple months.

Gather ‘round, I am going to tell you the best running joke in goregrind. Like all good jokes, it, ahem, requires a long setup? And, uh, I’m going to need your help with the punchline? We’ll get to that. First, though, there’s this band named Last Days Of Humanity.

On its early recordings, the Dutch institution moistened a then-inchoate goregrind substyle. As LDOH (d)evolved, they would end up pioneering a variant that I’ve lovingly described as “ultra ping turbo goregrind.” At the time, that mix of brown-note timbres, stupidly fast pinging drums, and straight-up noise sounded like the end of metal, the very edge of what this genre could produce. And it was the end, for LDOH at least. Their 2006 swansong, the absolutely bonkers Putrefaction in Progress, described as “Reign In Blood for goregrind,” ending up blasting the band to bits.

Now, LDOH are back. They rejoin a scene that includes a more experimental, gooey form that glooped forth in LDOH’s absence, a form that found a way to continually iterate upon and redefine what I once considered a dead end, the mountaintop for metal’s escalation of extremity. Some of those obsessives have got some real good jokes, too. But in order to get the gag, and figure out why there are obsessives in the first place, you need to get LDOH. And to get LDOH, we need to start at the beginning of the last days.

“[In] Autumn 1989, Erwin (de Wit) and me (Hans) often came together in Soos Plock,” LDOH co-founder Hans Smits told Braindead Zine in 2008, “that was [and] still is a sort of youth center where you could hang out, drink a lot of beer, and see some cool bands.” Those bands? “Blood, Agathocles, and Dreft.” Further inspired by Fear Of God, Napalm Death, and other early grinders, Smits and de Wit wanted to make their own racket. They wouldn’t have to wait long for their chance.

“When Erwin organized a gig with Drudge, Agathocles, and some other bands [on] December 30, 1989 in Plock, he saw the opportunity to add our own noise project to the bill,” Smits said. “Last Days Of Humanity was born.”

But LDOH wasn’t quite … LDOH yet. “Last Days Of Humanity at this time consisted of only two singers (Erwin and Hans),” Smits remembered. “The ‘music’ was made by two screaming voices that were deformed by a guitar pitch-shifter.” Imagine that at karaoke.

Following its dueling-gurgle live debut, LDOH eventually expanded into a band, releasing a self-titled demo in 1992. It’s … rough. And not in a good way. Future drummer Marc Palmen once referred to this era as “the worst crap even I have ever heard!”

Still, amid the mess, Smits unlocked a key ingredient of the LDOH sound. “I came across a Digitech Whammy FX pedal that could bring down the vocals with one or two octaves,” Smits said to Braindead. “Man, this is what I was looking for, vocals that sounded like a screaming pig!” In a 2015 interview with Good Guys Go Grind, he detailed the settings: “I put this device on 75 percent of one octave down, so not too low because then you get a more ‘round’ sound and I like the sharp edges on the vocals. Also, I not only do deep growls, but also high-pitched screams, and if that goes through that Whammy, you get a very nice effect.”

The nice effects started to show on LDOH’s second demo, Human Atrocity. For one, it has songs. And it gave the group something to build upon. And build they did. Over the next few years, LDOH streamlined their sound by churning through EPs and splits, eventually recording The Sound Of Rancid Juices Sloshing Around Your Coffin, their debut full-length, in 1996. (Starting here, assume every link in the remainder of this intro is NSFW/life due to gnarly gore artwork.) Smits on vocals, de Wit on bass, Anne van de Burgt and William van de Ven on guitars, and Glenn Jagers on drums. Thanks to a dodgy label deal, it sat on the shelf until 1998 when it was rescued by France’s Bones Brigade Records.

The reason Coffin works better than its predecessors is because it sprints foolhardily in two opposing directions. On the one hand, it’s brutal, blasty, and gutter-gunk disgusting. On the other, it has legit hooks, pushing the catchiness to the forefront.

In that way, Coffin fit in with the burgeoning goregrind sound that burbled up like a clogged drain after Carcass and their followers like General Surgery, Necrony, and Pathologist. In place of those bands’ cutting proto-melo eruptions, LDOH and their peers preferred more of the mincecore of Agathocles, punkiness of Autopsy, and gravediggers-on-a-humid-day stench of Repulsion. The riffs are rounder, more leaden, favoring the same drinking-song hummability present in two other landmarks: Dead Infection’s A Chapter Of Accidents (1995) and Regurgitate’s Effortless Regurgitation Of Bright Red Blood (1994).

But there’s something else within Coffin, an irresistible blood lust for metallic noise and campy, pitch-shifted roars. You can hear it in the Impetigo-esque blast n’ grooves: LDOH has riffs and LDOH loves that it has riffs. Simple, headbangable, immediate riffs. And, the band wasn’t coy about where it sourced some of those riffs.

“The first track on the CD sounds a lot like Swiss [band] Exulceration,” a zine writer named “Martin/Gowap” asked in this old scan. “Aren’t you afraid that other people are going to see Last Days … as a band who stole other band’s ideas?” “Yes, that’s true,” Smits answered, “it’s some kind of tribute to them as you can read on our thanx list. It’s not a cover, but we used one of their godly riffs. And no, I don’t think that people are going to say that we stole something ’cause if you listen good to other grindcore bands, than you always hear riffs from Napalm Death and Repulsion.”

(Two things: (1) Jeez, did time ever forget Exulceration. 20 years after they broke up, their best work was finally released as a 2012 split with Embalming Theatre. (2) That same zine includes this priceless riposte from Smits: “Well, Last Days’ main influences today are mostly grindcore and brutal death metal. I haven’t got any lyrics. I just growl something with lots of gggrrrlllzzz and aaaarrrrgggghhhh, but the growls in a song are always the same.”)

That accessible simplicity, along with the odd hand-me-down riff, might be a byproduct of the time crunch that the band experienced while recording Coffins. Smits, to Braindead: “Somewhere in 1996 we got our first record deal! Who could imagine that! We booked two studio days to record our first album. On the first day Erwin forgot to take his bass guitar to the studio. Luckily, he didn’t forget his beer. After one day of recording, we only got something like 12 minutes of music, way too short for a full-length CD. We had a problem: We had to come up with about 18 minutes of new material in less than 24 hours! But hey, for professional musicians like us that was no problem. The next day, the rest of the album was recorded.”

In 2000, the professionals released their sophomore LP, Hymns Of Indigestible Suppuration. The album mirrors its truly gross art, a literal blown mind, exponentially expanding upon Coffin. The blasts are more blasty, the gurgles more gurgley, but LDOH still hangs its depravity upon hooks. That said, it sounds like a different band. It kind of was. Smits left to take over his dad’s business and was replaced by Bart Bouwmans; Anne van de Burgt was out on guitar; and, perhaps most crucially, Marc Palmen assumed drum duties from Jagers, who left to join the Hells Angels.

Personnel flux would be nothing new for LDOH. Their Discogs page lists 20 members. (Encyclopaedia Metallum won’t accept LDOH for … reasons. I’m over it. It’s their site.) However, it never seemed to have a diminishing effect. If anything, the new blood only seemed to hasten the band’s evolution.

“LDOH had many line-up changes but 90 percent of the members are close friends,” Smits told Braindead, “they almost all left in good friendship and most of the members and ex-members saw each other every week at the local bar or at gigs. With new members there were new influences.”

Those new influences manifested in a commitment to get noisier. Across a series of splits, the most notable being the exposure-broadening Dutch Assault that was released by Relapse Records, LDOH slowly turned the dials towards 11. And then came The Xtc Of Swallowing L.D.O.H. Feaces, the band’s 2004 live album. At this point, the outfit was out of original members, with Palmen and Van de Ven being the lone vets and remaining links to the past. Joining them were Erwin De Groot on borks, Bas van Geffen on guitar, and Rogier Kuzee on bass and secondary vocals. Not only is Xtc noisier, it’s nuttier.

You can hear the difference between this LDOH and the old LDOH on “48th Cut,” provided that you can hear anything on Xtc at all. The Hymns version is 75 seconds of chunky grooves with some light blast seasoning. Xtc tears through the track in 25 seconds, layering vocals like they’re a second set of guitars. The big thing, though, is that the song is now driven by Palmen’s need for speed and his buckshot-on-steel-drum snare tone. Ping.

That glorious ping took center stage on the band’s next work, 2005’s In Advanced Haemorrhaging Conditions. Ten tracks, a touch over seven minutes, with a significant chunk of that runtime given over to samples from Bleeders, a schlocky B-flick starring Rutger Hauer.

Shrinking back down to a quartet after van Geffen’s brief exit, LDOH transferred their Xtc live sound to the studio. The jet-engine stage mix was given some depth thanks to Oscar Broekhuizen’s mastering. That said, the guitar and bass are pretty much there solely as a texture. Instead of LDOH’s riffs, you now key into two things: Palmen’s aggressive, manic drumming and the vocal hooks.

As a classic example of the latter, check out the burping vocal break on the 12-second “Fungating Sexual Orifice.” “Ree ree ree ree BRAP BRAP.” It sticks in your head, like the way a good MC can wiggle an earworm into your brain with only a vocal cadence. Palmen’s drumming, too, is suffused with a kind of drumline catchiness, where his blasts key into extremely tappable rhythms. I can’t recall the amount of times one of his blasts has surfaced in my subconscious.

What always grabs my attention is the way the drumming plus the three vocalists unite to form some neat polyrhythms. In Advanced Haemorrhaging Conditions is not technical, per se, although it would be hard to cover it. But it is adventurous in the way it plops many rhythms on top of one another. It’s like the goregrind equivalent of xenochrony, though I expect that all of these songs are actually fairly composed. In my mind, it’s the band’s masterwork. It might’ve push this version of LDOH past their breaking point. In order to finish their next record, LDOH needed some help from their past.

“Yes, then Putrefaction in Progress happened,” Smits told Le Scribe Du Rock in 2019. “They recorded the album without me, without vocals. When the album was ready (rough mix), they came to me with the question if I could do the vocals. It would be vocals for the album only, no gigs or tour. The was the last thing Last Days would do. After that they would split up. Everybody had enough of it. Bones Brigade Records asked if they could do just one last studio album. So they did. They wanted to do one last killer release that would blast everything away. When I heard what they recorded, I was super excited. This what I wanted to create in 1989 but did not have the resources to do. Now I had the opportunity. When the album was completed, I was very happy with the result. This was so fucking brutal without being just some random noise. Somebody told me once ‘this is the Reign in Blood for goregrind, the most brutal album there is.’ I must say I felt honored.”

As an exercise in ridiculousness, it’s hard to top Putrefaction. Forty-one tracks, with the closer, “A Divine Proclamation Of Finishing The Present Existence,” running a particularly batshit three minutes and 11 seconds. Play fast, die young, leave one hell of a mutilated corpse.

Of course, like metal legends before and since, LDOH wouldn’t stay dead for long. In 2010, they reformed for festivals, hitting the Obscene Extreme stage the next year with Melanie Stamp on bass. It didn’t mind updating their discography, either, cleaning the decks of leftover material from the Putrefaction sessions and packaging it in splits with FUBAR and PLF. And then, last year, LDOH resurfaced with new material.

“The songs we now have are somewhere in between of The Sound Of Rancid Juices and Putrefaction In Progress,” Smits said. A three-way split with two bands with names I won’t try to enter into the Stereogum tag database (is this … adulthood?) was released in March 2020 and offered a preview. LDOH’s side, and their side alone, is pretty good. The band — now Smits (vocals), Bas van Geffen (guitar/bass), and Paul Niessen (Drums) — is back to a groovier, riffier basic goregrind sound. I will pitch you “Ectomy Of Festering Misogyny Excrement From Life,” which is just good advice all around, really.

(While LDOH has occasionally dipped into a couple song titles/split partners that sit uncomfortably close to the hateful garbage that’s endemic in sketchier parts of the scene, Smits’ stints, as shown by the song title above, are better than most in that regard. Still, it’s a low bar. Metal, particularly this branch of metal, has earned its rep thanks to a persistent infestation of dipshit Seth Putnams. The virulent incel sector of pornogrind should be launched into the sun. I hate it. I don’t think anyone should be asked to tolerate it. For what it’s worth, I think of Smits’ LDOH as more of an outgrowth of the punk/crust that birthed Napalm Death, Carcass, Agathocles, Nuclear Death, etc. I might be naive. That’s to say, I try to catch this stuff and sometimes don’t. No excuses. I’m happy to be fact-checked on it.)

A LDOH comeback full-length, tentatively titled Compositions Of Decomposition, was planned for 2020, but hasn’t hit the streets yet. In the interim, other DOHers have tried to fill the gap.

Oh, yeah. The running joke. Here we go.

First Days Of Humanity released Caves in February 2019. The Phoenix-based project — featuring Tapo, a member of Oozing Pus and Bouquet, the Victory Garden of goregrind bands — dragged LDOH back to prehistory. Over 13 subsequent releases, FDOH has offered some curveballs, such as the Atari/NES-inspired Pixel Death EPs and the solo piano(!) excursions of Somewhat Discernible Forms and Towering Entity Of Relentless Joy. (I think At Melancholy’s Edifice is a harpsichord.) But, for the most part, it sticks to the bit: early hominid goregrind. Its December 2020 winter-themed split with Costectomy is the best the band has sounded, racing towards Putrefaction speeds while two additional vocalists spew their guts.

First? Check. Last? Check. Hm. Last month, Empty Inside’s Pedro Bezerra Machado dropped Holy Inquisition, the debut of Middle Days Of Humanity. “MIDDLE AGE THEMED GOREGRIND From Fortaleza-CE, Brazil,” goes the bio. This one is more Coffins/Hymns in sound, exploring an Inquisition torture theme that would make Brodequin and Baalsebub proud.

Needless to say, I am here for these DOH punchlines. Extremely my shit. And here’s what I’m thinking: Readers, we can probably crowdsource another DOH. Your old helmsman, Doug Moore, has already offered Mondays Of Humanity, Garfield Minus Garfield goregrind blasting away about the iniquities of the worst day of the workweek. Frequent Black Market interviewee Avinash Mittur added that the album cover should be a destroyed plate of lasagna. If Exhumed is reading this, maybe it’s time to resurrect Gorefield? If you got something better, definitely put it in the comments. Because, really, it has never been a better time to be into goo.

While ultra ping turbo goregrind has always had its creative side and its share of characters willing to go the extra blargh, such as Big Frog’s “amphibian worshiping” Phyllomedusa and Mulk’s haunted-modem cybergrind freakout, a number of recent albums have also been pushing the boundaries that LDOH initially set, both on the fun, why-not side and the stomach-churning, horrifying side.

As an example of the former, there’s MOVIEREVIEW, Colin Marston’s blown-out ode to cinema. Liner notes: “all lyrics by RogerEbert.com.” It sounds like At The Movies was filmed on the deck of the Event Horizon. Then, there are the projects under the ЅⱣДҀЄↁФЦГ ΛВӘ umbrella. That Bandcamp includes Royal Jelly, pinging blasts about bees (whispers softly: the bees are back, the bees are back), and ΔΔΔ, which combines ultra ping with vaporwave. Finally, if you liked the ostrich-themed brutal death metal of Shinda Saibo No Katamari, flick your tongue at Komodonesia, an Indonesian one-man-band that channels the psyche of Komodo dragons.

If you prefer something more primal, we’ve covered two in the past. Sulfuric Cautery, an all-in grinder from Dayton, Ohio, that began blasting in 2015, made my year-end list in 2019 on the strength of Chainsaws Clogged With The Underdeveloped Brain Matter Of Xenophobes. (Also solid advice.) That one featured the physics-defying playing of drummer Isaac Horne, who laid out his ping approach in a 2018 interview with Procrastinate Zine:

Step 1: Acquire a snare made of metal, preferably a large deep one.
Step 2: Put a clear head on it. Coated heads sound too traditional and not annoying enough.
Step 3: Tune the top head up as tight as you physically can.
Step 4: Get someone stronger than you to tune it EVEN TIGHTER!
Step 5: Don’t be a featherblaster!!!

Sulfuric Cautery just cut a split with Cystgurgle, a tinnitus-inducing duo from Thailand. Early appraisal: Rips. I hope we’ll be talking more about it soon. No featherblasting there.

The other band we covered was Naegleria Fowleri, the Russian nutters with members of Bowel Leakage and Hydrocele. I described Odes To The Adorable Essence Of Putrefaction, Naegleria Fowleri’s full-length debut, as “finding a way to inject hooks into the chaos where you’d least expect them.” I took particular note of drummer Aleksej Popov, who “can do the requisite speedy blasts, but his drumming is also delightfully loose and … dare I say … groovy?” If anything, Odes should go viral as a test of endurance. To me? It demonstrated that, even at the edge of metal, there’s still a lot left to explore. —Ian Chainey

10

Bocc – “La Culla, 1923”

Location: Barcelona, Spain
Subgenre: death metal

One for the spuds. Bocc’s second EP, Santa Eulàlia, is a groovy crusher that earns its comparisons to Autopsy and Coffins. Opener “La Culla, 1923” immediately seals the deal with a swinging, midpaced wallop that could easily place in an Ola Englund “Will it Chug?” contest. Bocc then spackle on the kind of punky crust that caked Severed Survival. Not breaking the mold, but hey, it’s a good mold. Since forming in 2019, the Spanish quartet has strengthened the doom in its death. The centerpiece, the seven-minute “Pels Camins De La Vesània,” shows off the band’s labors. The creeping tempo and discordant, screaming lead reminds me of when fellow Barcelonian Graveyard slams on the breaks. And the vocals, a thick, from-the-chest roar, never fail to add that extra bit of oomph. A slow-cooked tasty tuber. [From Santa Eulàlia, out now via Pesta Negra Records.]Ian Chainey

09

Monochromatic Residua – “Repurposed Behemoth”

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Subgenre: death metal

Aaron Myers-Brooks, of AUTOREPLICANT and Night Vapor, owns a 17-tone guitar and he’s going to shred it. Dude is capable. Myers-Brooks’ solo page includes a collection of Orthrelm covers that live up to Mick Barr’s nimbly played miniature originals. And yet, even after doing the requisite reconnaissance, Monochromatic Residua still fakes me out. The best way I can explain this single, Myers-Brooks’ first with flesh-and-blood drummer Stephen Klunk following a programmed 2018 LP, is that it’s like Dim Mak warped into Jute Gyte. For all of its twisted dissonance, there’s kind of an old death metal classicalism here, as if Ron Jarzombek lost his mind to Atheist and jumped on a tour with Disharmonic Orchestra. The widdles are what you pay for, but I love that descending squelching riff that keeps pulling this track back to earth. Even if the song feels a little slight, it’s a tantalizing glimpse at this band’s potential. And, really, it’s a great tasting pour of the kind of experimental metal that’s floating around Bandcamp right now. I haven’t had as much time to check them out, but Skin Tension, Kurushimi, and the all-star Containor all seem like they'll fill out the rest of the mixtape. [From Repurposed Behemoth, out now via the band.]Ian Chainey

08

Crossspitter – “The Bloody Work”

Location: United States
Subgenre: death metal

Getting message notifications from Crossspitter is one of my favorite things. “THIS IS 4 SIDED AND COMPLETELY INSULTING!!” goes the Bandcamp sales copy on a longsleeve shirt. “ALERT THE ENEMY OF YOUR AGENDA!! MAKE YOUR MALICE CLEAR AND STOP HIDING!!!” Someone should code a Crossspitter text generator. Anyway, that is kind of what you get with these three songs from this three-piece, a tribute to thrashing, first-wave death metal. Dry & Grinding Mouth, Crossspitter’s first demo, is like a gem you’d uncover by randomly googling openers listed on old Morbid Saint tour flyers. Norman (“Ammonium Nitrate Megabass, Crosssplintering Conversations”), Donna Violence (“Void-guitar, Cruelty, Emulsified Taunts”), and Ricky Spitter (“Frenzied Death-throbbings, Afterlifeless Provings, Sneers”), clear their throats with “The Bloody Work,” a blackened thrasher that hocks up nasty loogies for a little over a minute and a half. I’m guessing one of the sources of inspiration here is demo legends Necrovore, much like the similar-sounding Malicious that dropped a banger last year. In terms of timbre and sheer force, though, and this might be a stretch, this reminds me of a more death metal-centered version of bands in the Kolbotn Thrashers Union clique. That’s to say, it’s energized by an unstoppable power. Or, as Spitter put it in an interview with Decibel, “You’re gonna need a big fuckin’ towel to mop this shit up, freaks. Yeah, go get the towel!!!” Indeed. [From Dry & Grinding Mouth, out now via Stygian Black Hand.]Ian Chainey

07

Divide and Dissolve – “Oblique”

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Subgenre: doom

In a Quietus interview that ran last month, drummer Sylvie Nehill said this: “When we’re soundchecking, if my teeth are tickling me, I’ll know that’s the right level. Our music is designed to affect people’s bodies. We’ll use whichever frequencies and paces and textures convey our ideas most effectively.” “Oblique,” the opening track on Divide and Dissolve’s third full-length, Gas Lit, is a galaxy of tones and feelings. Takiaya Reed’s layered saxophone lines are pretty, but they also ache with something incredibly familiar and yet indescribable, an extra weight. Even when Reed’s crushing guitars enter, the saxophone remains. Nehill’s booming drums don’t drive it away, either. It’s heavy. “The spectrum of prettiness and heaviness is reflective of us as people,” Nehill said to NME. “We need to create music that reflects the spectrum of us. We’re really chill [but] we also love talking about what’s going in the world.” For a “mostly instrumental” record, Gas Lit makes their voice heard. The song titles might as well be the prominent terms in a word cloud of people trying to back out of “tough” conversations. And then there’s the album title itself. Reed, again to NME: “There are all these experiences people have that they might struggle to put words to, [like] not being able to connect with your culture, your ancestors – feeling isolated, lonely, brokenhearted. Experiencing the woes of colonial governance. So Gas Lit is creating that spaciousness for those experiences. You might be being impacted by colonisation, white supremacy [and] genocide, and society will tell you, ‘No, you’re not. You’re fine’, when everything is not OK.” [From Gas Lit, out now via Invada Records.]Ian Chainey

06

Aara – “Naufragus”

Location: Switzerland
Subgenre: atmospheric black metal

Aara’s haunted chapel atmospheric black metal thrives on excess. Almost everything about it is over the top — the big bold trilling guitar tone that drives throughout, the ceaseless big-hit drums with fills aplenty, the very serious operatic chorus, and the shrieks, hysterical even in a genre where they are standard. And this is to say nothing of the fact that the duo has forsaken the already heavy-handed black metal costume of corpse paint and spikes in favor of crimson robes and Venetian carnival masks. All that said, Aara are undeniably awesome, capable of whipping up a fantastical whirlwind rich in frigid grandeur and sprinkled with a bit of winking magic. Remarkably, Aara have put out an LP a year since 2019, when the band released their debut that included the jaw-dropping, (nearly) eponymous gauntlet toss of a single “Aare.” May the annual streak continue, and it looks to — the new album seems to be the opening salvo of a trilogy. [From Triade I: Eos, out 3/26 via Debemur Morti Productions.]Wyatt Marshall

05

Starcave Nebula – “When The Ego Succumbs To Death...”

Location: Victoria, Canada
Subgenre: black metal

When Starcave Nebula’s early discography gets the LP reissue treatment, I request this on the RIYL sticker: If Turia and Weakling teamed up and stole Cosmic Church’s bag of shrooms. This Victoria, BC, duo – Outerspace Woman (drums, vox) and Outerspace Man (guitars, vox) – play a heart-racing, space-cold, riff-forward brand of shrieking black metal. It’s also improvised. “I’ve always loved how improvised compositions flow,” Outerspace Woman told me in an interview earlier this month, “a steady stream of ideas that occasionally confuse the listener, but never really gets boring.” There’s your other sticker for “When The Ego Succumbs To Death...,” I guess. True to that statement, this nearly 15-minute track covers a ton of ground without ever flagging. I especially like how, at the nine-minute mark, Outerspace Man revisits an old riff but twists it into something almost jazzily ugly. Outerspace Woman immediately senses the switch-up and pulls back on the blasts to let it take center stage. Keep in mind, all of this was recorded in an, uhhh, altered state, which is even more incredible. I smoked a bowl one time and forgot how to walk.

Anyway, the real treat of finding a band like Starcave Nedbula is the scene that opens up around it. Raven Moyer, aka Outerspace Woman, also runs Food For Dogs Productions, a low-run tape label that has provided an outlet for local black metal, such as the equally engaging Thermokarst. Another, Mandragora, counts Alys Stobbart as a member. Stobbart, a true guitar badass, released a bracing blast of streetwise speed metal last year as Mötörwölf on Esquimalt Hardcore. I regret that we missed that one. When you realize that all of these bands are kicking around the Victoria area, it kickstarts the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon. Oh, there’s Altered Dead, a solid spud that just released its second record on Memento Mori. And there’s Amnesian, a crusty grinder that dropped the self-released Trespass Into Annihilation during the December deadzone. Maybe Victoria is having a moment. Or maybe Starcave Nebula is the reason I’m finally seeing it. [From When The Ego Succumbs To Death..., out now via Food for Dogs Productions.]Ian Chainey

04

Kauan – “Raivo”

Location: Talinn, Estonia
Subgenre: atmospheric black metal / post-doom

Kauan’s Anton Belov has been fascinated by the tragic and mysterious for some time, turning to real but otherworldly historical events as inspiration for the narrative foundations for his often stunning works. On 2015’s Sorni Nai, Kauan trekked the doomed path of the group of hikers who were lost in what became known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. The hikers perished in gruesome fashion — one suffered major skull damage, two were missing eyes, one missing a tongue, one had lost eyebrows. Some have posited aliens and abominable snowmen were to blame, but the Russian government attributed it to a "compelling natural force" – recent science, published last month, has suggested a slab avalanche. On the forthcoming Ice Fleet, Kauan conjure the story of the grisly discovery of a flotilla of frozen, cursed ships off the northern coast of the USSR by a team of archeologists in the 1930s. The tale Belov tells remains to be told, but on “Raivo,” as serene guitars give way to crashing devastation and back again, you’ll get more than a taste of the frigid allure of unnaturally still arctic waters and the building dread and horror found within. Full disclosure, I wrote some press material for Kauan’s 2017 album Kaiho, which saw the band venture more clearly into the realm of atmospheric rock, and for some of Anton Belov’s solo piano compositions. Before that and since, I’ve always felt the best of Kauan seems to exist just out of reach on the edge of a dream, where equal parts hope, wonder, and despair are all possible. [From Ice Fleet, out 4/9 via Artoffact Records.]Wyatt Marshall

03

Qwälen – “Hän Ei Tule Koskaan”

Location: Oulu, Finland
Subgenre: black metal / punk

There’s a dirty snarling bite to Qwälen, the kind driven by the hunger of disaffected youth, and that gritty punk edge elevates what would be a rock solid black metal track in “Hän Ei Tule Koskaan” to a different level. Too often when the genres meet, the dark grandeur of black metal can be lost in the thick of punk’s crusty, noisy turmoil. But Qwalen finds the sweet spot, carving out big melodic riffs with rusted chainsaws while riding surf-style grooves into battle. It’s often bruising, but it’s also ornate stuff at times – Qwälen rarely take the easy way out, and even though the mix is frayed at the edges, it’s covering up laser-cut precision. The band, a four-piece, is making their better-publicized debut this month following an excellent 2018 demo. The band has a great deal ahead of them. [From Unohdan Sinut, out now via Time To Kill Records.]Wyatt Marshall

02

Carcinoma – “Senescence”

Location: Plymouth, United Kingdom
Subgenre: death metal

There are 107 bands listed under Portal’s “similar artists” tab on its Encyclopaedia Metallum page. It’s low-key incredible that an experimental death metal band drenched in dissonance and fronted by a grandfather clock gasping about eldritch horrors has had that wide of an influence. (To be clear, I love me some Portal.) But, when you dig into the list, you see that few of these bands are true sonic equivalents. Instead, while they run the subgenre gamut, they exude the same vibe: stretching death metal to its breaking point without losing its essence. That’s a long windup to say that Carcinoma could be the 108th. The on-the-surface Portalian resemblances on Labascation, this trio’s full-length debut, are there: tricky drumming; heaving, discordant riffs; buried vocals; abstract songwriting; that kind of thing. Two of the Carcinoma’s members are also in the live band for Abyssal, another blackened, doomy, death metal nasty that counts Portal as its highest-rated similar artist. But, as I often write, this is something else. Labascation’s main mode of riffment is the avalanche style that Altarage employ: a roar that grows more intense the longer it goes. The vocals, a mid scream and low growl, are like something out of the ‘00s Relapse playbook, especially as the scream is occasionally whipped up into a frenzied J.R. Hayes shout. And the songwriting is varied. The earthy trudge of “Senescence”’s back half is the most convincing post-metal I’ve heard in ages. (The track on deck, “Bloated Parasites,” goes back-to-back in that regard. Kind of like a distilled, Rauschenberged Rune?) That’s the sneaky impressive thing about Labascation, how Carcinoma are able to utilize classic push/pull death metal songwriting under so many guises. Not unlike Portal’s similar artists tab itself, really. [From Labascation, out now via Rat King Records.]Ian Chainey

01

Midnight Odyssey – “Rise Of Thunder”

Location: Brisbane, Australia
Subgenre: atmospheric black metal

Midnight Odyssey has never been one for cliff notes. As Aaron noted in our internal chat, the new album is a “casual 102 minutes” and features an opening track that breaks the third of an hour mark. Physical copies of Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb, a follow up to 2019’s part the first, are available as either a 3xLP set or a double CD. But the slow build on “Rise Of Thunder,” which begins as a sort of clean vocal, operatic doom, rewards richly, pulling you into a lush tapestry of driven and memorable epic black metal. The stately procession, loaded with effects galore — subterranean chants, an army of synths, and illuminating embellishments of all kinds — is a fitting tribute to the stellar inspiration behind the album. Strap in for a strange, otherworldly listen. [From Biolume Part 2 - The Golden Orb, out 3/19 via I, Voidhanger Records.]Wyatt Marshall

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