Fiadh Means Many Things

Fiadh Means Many Things

Inevitable, the debut album from Summer Haze ’99, begins with a simple nostalgic piano melody, a careful, cautiously hopeful innocence echoing from a distant memory. Lightly touched keys are soon joined by sparse drumming that reverberates in the silence of a studio, and an ethereal warbling comes in on high, gently unsettling a serene flow. Just as it finds an easy groove, it all comes to a halt with a crash, a dream taking a sharp turn from a surreal, tranquil ebb to a powerful, life-affirming rush of vigor heralded by trilling, heroic guitars. A black metal beast emerges, but one dressed in resplendent color, raging onward in doomed, blazing glory.

What follows from there could only come from the mind of Erech Leleth, the virtuoso behind the atmospheric black metal project Ancient Mastery, the romantic, medieval rock and metal entity Bergfried, and many more genre tag-busting entities. Built on a black metal foundation, Summer Haze ’99 bring loungey jazz, post-hardcore, blazing Helloween-esque guitars, and so much more to bear to an utterly unique release. It’s hard to categorize and hard to imagine a single label that could be home to both Summer Haze ’99 and Bergried — unless you’re familiar with Fiadh Productions, the New York City label run by Bariann Tuite.

“The musical style was hard for me to categorize, and I didn’t know how to handle the release,” Leleth wrote to me, speaking of Bergfried’s Romantik I and Inevitable. “But Bariann knew.”

In under two years, Fiadh has become a low-key prolific powerhouse in the world of underground black metal, punk, dungeon synth, ambient, and even more sounds that stretch the spectrum of metal. There are few guardrails on what fits on the label’s roster other than the taste of Tuite, the label’s founder and one-woman show, who has a sixth sense for how to put together a community of artists bound by more than sonic similarity. Tuite has positioned Fiadh as a different kind of label, with a set of posted values in the bio: “Promoting all that is wild, dark & enchanting 🦌Supporting animal rescue, rights & welfare 🐾 Female-run & antifascist,” the last in that list addressing small but persistent thorns of extremism that have long plagued metal, in particular black metal.

Other aspects of the label further set it apart, too — a commitment to publishing artists of diverse backgrounds and identities; charitable donations from revenues; a special connection to Ireland and the Irish metal scene; and a co-label partnership with the like-minded, Spanish-based, also female-run label Vita Detestabilis. Channeling the causes she cared about into her business plan and leaning into those Irish connections — Tuite’s mother is Irish and has family there, she is currently pursuing a Master’s in Irish history with a focus on food and animal studies at NYU, and she is closely connected with the Irish metal scene — she chose to name her label Fiadh.

“If you go to Ireland, it’s actually one of the most popular girls’ names. So it would be like calling the label ‘Emily Productions’ here,” Tuite said. “But it has a really ambiguous meaning. It means ‘wilderness’ and ‘respect,’ but also ‘deer,’ and it’s female. And those are four things that are perfect.”

“I think, first of all, I wanted Fiadh to be a safe space because obviously being a woman in metal sucks. But what sucks more is being trans in metal, or being queer,” Tuite told me. “There’s no representation or visibility. I wanted a place where people could be comfortable sharing whatever they wanted.”

“Artists can come to me with, like, frog synth or turtle synth — which is a thing,” she said. “I never want to close the door to anything.”

Frog synth and turtle synth are indeed things, and you’ll find them on Fiadh — the label put out Frog Concert’s Quiet Snore Of The Dream Peeper and Slumbering Sounds Of The Frog Fellowship, as well as the Gentleman Terrapin’s self-titled album. Tuite’s appreciation for what was being overlooked by the tone-setting metal labels of the last few decades began during an internship at Earache Records’ New York office in college when she sat near a towering pile of unopened submissions. As she learned the ropes of how a label runs from top to bottom, she also worked full-time doing public relations for a large no-kill animal shelter. And she was meeting more and more bands outside the Earache office that were unable to get a record deal, and she got curious about those piled-high demos. When she took some home, listened, and did her research, she’d often find that the bands had thrown in the towel years earlier, never hitting the ears of an A&R.

“I just saw all these bands that were so good, but just didn’t know the first thing about the industry or PR and getting stuff in front of labels, which is incredibly difficult if you don’t know anyone,” Tuite said. “I just didn’t feel like that was fair, you know. It’s not someone’s fault if they don’t know anyone in the industry.”

“So I was like, ‘Hey, I kind of know how this works now.’ I just contacted a few bands and was like, ‘Let me see if I could give you this chance that you might not get with a major label.'”

Tuite’s first label, Broken Limbs Recordings, launched in 2012. She co-ran it with her partner at the time, who is Irish, and they started things off with a bang with Vattnet Viskar’s groundbreaking post-black metal self-titled EP as the label’s first release. Broken Limbs quickly gained a reputation for being at the forefront of some of the most exciting movements in underground metal, working with bands like Caïna, Cara Neir, Laster, Wolvhammer, Vile Creature, and many others. The roster reflected experimental sounds as well as consciously progressive positions that contrasted with many of the entrenched tastes and attitudes that had previously shaped extreme metal.

All along and to this day, Tuite had been doing PR for animal rights shelters and organizations — she thanked her mother, who, when Tuite was growing up, would take in strays and wounded animals, as an early influence for her lifelong commitment to animal welfare. “I had so many dogs growing up,” she laughed. “Dogs have been such a huge part of my life. I just always liked animals more than people, a little bit.”

An early internship at a nonprofit PR firm focused on animal welfare turned a passion into a future career. “I saw that animals need PR too,” Tuite said. “They need help! They need representation. They need someone to speak up for them.”

At this point, it’s worth noting that if you’re unfamiliar with Broken Limbs or Fiadh, you may have nevertheless come across both Tuite’s work with animals and in metal before without realizing it. Tuite wrote the intro to the 2014 book Metal Cats, a photo book featuring metal artists posing with their cats, a juxtaposition that “combines two amazing subjects: the extreme personalities of the hardcore metal music scene and their adorable kitties.” (Metal and cats do pair well.) In support of the book launch, Tuite organized several shows featuring Broken Limbs bands that raised money for animal welfare groups.

Eventually, though, after 81 releases over five years, Broken Limbs came to an end in 2017. Tuite was label-less for a stretch, but during the pandemic, the itch to run one returned, and Fiadh was born.

Since May 2022, Fiadh has put out more than 135 releases, including a 40+ band compilation to benefit Transform A Street Dog, a nonprofit removing animals from active war zones in Ukraine. (Before we spoke, Tuite had warned that our call would likely be interrupted by barking from one or more of her rescue dogs: Shea, Finn, Jet, and Dougal.) The dizzying pace of releases is made possible by a lean approach — digital on Bandcamp, plus small-run pressings of mostly cassettes in some, but not all, cases. Since launch, Fiadh has supported dozens of different animal welfare organizations and charities, with each artist given the option of supporting a charity of their choice if they would like to. If they do, digital sales on Fiadh’s Bandcamp are set to “name your price,” and proceeds are considered donations. Still, if the artist would prefer the revenue, the price on Fiadh’s Bandcamp is set at a very high number, and buyers are directed to purchase a download directly from the artist’s page. It relies on goodwill from artists and customers, and both have bought into the concept — in a recent week alone, Frog Concert’s latest raised over $500 for Raptor Education Group, a care, rehab, and educational organization benefiting injured birds.

Andrew Mckenna, a Belfast-based artist, channels Irish mythology and topography to create ripping atmospheric black metal as Dratna, and for his latest release, he chose to donate proceeds from his album Fom​ó​raigh to Heartstone Veganic Sanctuary in County Sligo. The sanctuary provides a safe haven for rescued animals for life — their Instagram is full of cows and the occasional horse and dog doing cow, horse, and dog things on an idyllic farm: eating, lounging, going for a stroll. “They do incredible work with animals,” he wrote to me.

For Mckenna, Fiadh was an obvious choice for his music. “Our metal scene here is thriving, yet it has often been overlooked for years,” he wrote. In Bariann, he found someone committed to providing a platform for Irish bands and a kindred spirit. After the release of Fom​ó​raigh, he turned down an offer to sign a deal with another label to stick with Fiadh.

“Bariann and I share similar values, and this holds true for many of the individuals associated with the label. We believe in being decent human beings, treating others with kindness and respect regardless of their background or gender,” he wrote. “Our love for animals and the importance of having a furry companion further aligns us. It felt like it was meant to be.”

While Fiadh primarily supports animal welfare organizations, donating to an animal welfare charity isn’t a requirement. Eleanor Harper plays caustic, wild-eyed black metal as Lust Hag, and her latest release (not counting a split with Abscynthe), Mistress In The Mirror, is a gothic, candelabra-lit whirlwind that rips and haunts in equal measure. Harper, who is a transgender woman living in Montana, chose to donate proceeds from her releases to TransVisible Montana, a coalition that promotes awareness and education on issues affecting transgender, non-binary, and two-spirit Montanans. When Montana recently was moving to pass legislation to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, TransVisible Montana moved to support the transgender legislator, Zooey Zephyr, who spoke out in opposition and was subsequently banned from speaking in session.

“They were on the front lines of the protests during our legislative session,” Harper wrote. “Within 48 hours after Zooey Zephyr was silenced on the legislative floor, they organized a rally with a turnout of over 1,000 people.”

In addition to the charitable component of Fiadh’s business, Harper appreciates the creative freedom Fiadh offers artists. “I get to pick out the tape shell color, design my own art, choose which charity my digital proceeds are donated to, and basically release whatever I want,” Harper wrote. “She was sort of the first person to ever, like, take a chance on me and my music after I’ve been doing this for about 8-9 years, and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Fiadh has opened the door to wider audiences for dozens of artists, making it easier for them to reach trans-Atlantic listeners. Through a label partnership with Vita Detestabilis, an antifascist extreme metal label based in Spain, both labels can co-market releases to local markets, share costs, and grow a community. More than a distribution arrangement, there’s a culture, mission statement, and DIY alignment that binds the two labels.

“As women who have been involved in the music world for almost two decades now and were about to take a deeper dive by opening an antifascist label, we thought the best ally we could find was another woman with the same ethics and values,” Vita Detestabilis co-founder Irene López wrote me on behalf of her and her business partner, Lucia Macip. “We were looking into working towards some sort of community where we could give the bands a wider exposure and a safe place for them and for us to work in, and that’s exactly what we have been doing.”

Together, Vita Detestabilis and Fiadh have put out releases from Kuolevan Rukous, Spagyria, Skognatt, This White Mountain, and more, tapping into local talent pools and amplifying their reach.

“Partner labels, co-releases, distribution associates…it is a really good way to reach different audiences, it’s music sharing, and having these releases available in other countries without excessively crazy shipping prices,” López wrote.

If you’ve been to a metal show in the last 50 years and noted the ratio of men to everyone else, you can probably imagine how rare a woman-run label is in the world of metal. For Tuite, a female-run label offers a different experience for artists and fans, and, having been considered outsiders in a male-heavy scene, a willingness to open the doors to new players, sounds, and styles.

“I’m a hetero woman, but [we have] our own kind of discrimination, which I think makes us a little more sympathetic towards other groups and oppressed voices,” Tuite said. “I think we’re a little more patient, we’re a little more sensitive to what artists and fans go through. We know firsthand the problems that we’ve seen. I think we know how we want to be treated, and that’s how we treat our artists.”

“I think I don’t have to be as serious,” she added. “We can be feminine, we can use pink and purple and not feel weird, and not have just black and white, xeroxed, boring art.”

“Metal can be for everyone and Fiadh makes it a more inclusive space, which I think is super important,” Erech Leleth of Summer Haze ’99 and Bergfried wrote. “Not only for political reasons, but also for the genre as a whole, because new people mean new influences and new genre crossovers, aesthetics and vibes, which are desperately needed.”

The approach resonates with both artists and fans, and it’s produced some incredible music. Fiadh releases have been featured in this column many times — Bergfried, Dratna, Homeskin, and several projects from the prolific, boundary-pushing Mexican artist Victoria Carmilla Hazemaze, to name a few. And the label continues to attract a wide range of artists seeking it out for cultural reasons and the willingness to embrace different sounds, sounds that, for many fans of the wide world of metal, are currently sought out across the Bandcamp universe but in Fiadh have found a home under one roof.

Tuite keeps it all going herself, listening to new submissions (she encourages them) and bringing new artists into the fold, preparing releases, carting boxes of vinyl and cassettes to and fro, packaging them, shipping them from her mailbox out her front door, handling PR. When we spoke, a conversation scheduled between her animal welfare PR day job, running the label, and going to school, Tuite casually mentioned that she was eight months pregnant with her second child. Last week, her daughter arrived a bit early.

“I gave her a catalog number 😂,” Tuite wrote. She named her Fiadh. –Wyatt Marshall


10. Trichomoniasis – “Detrital Bog”

Location: California
Subgenre: brutal death metal

In all senses, “Detrital Bog” is Makeshift Crematoria’s sickest moment. If you’ve been keeping track of Trichomoniasis, you knew this duo would one day sink to these depths. After all, Hunter Petersen (vocals, guitar, bass) and Faustino (drums) have already been pushing the limits of this style. And we sickos have noticed. “Epically crass, sardonic brutal death metal squashed messily into a grind template,” Doug Moore wrote about the aptly titled Terminal Inversion. “Nothing going on here sounds like a rock instrument. Don’t image search this band name.”

All that still applies, but Makeshift Crematoria, Trichomoniasis’ full-length debut, goes deeper in search of unexplored extremities. Petersen, who has made a career out of coaxing outrageous sounds out of his guitar in the G3 fusion grind of Potion, death metal miasma of Chloroma, and Sarpanitum-challenging melodeath in Ophanim, lets loose with his wildest wiggling, writhing, reeking riffs across these 19 tracks. Sometimes those riffs are in service of songs that have progressive intentions, or, at the very least, a hankering to bork your brain.

Case in point, “Predacious Stylet” is one of the most baffling things I’ve heard on a brutal death metal album. It features Faustino’s clattering blasts that are like a giant millipede running through a drum factory and Petersen growling over cryptic bass rattles that might as well be Victor Wooten spending his last moments trying to shut off the Event Horizon. More commonly, though, Trichomoniasis sets its BDM for total destruction. “Detrital Bog”‘s opening anti-groove sounds like Makeshift Crematoria collapsing in on itself. Goddamn, what a din. That Petersen starts conjuring distressed whale noises would be cool if I still had an unexploded head with which to make sense of them.

So, yeah, welcome back to Lil’ Ian’s Goo Emporium. What do I have to do to get you into some goo today? Look, I know that you just read a superlative Wyatt intro, but you’re not getting rid of me that easily. And yeah, I realize that, to most people, Trichomoniasis will sound like a garbage disposal fighting a toilet. That is to say, I should restrain myself from using finite column real estate to support it. But I think all these goo bands are doing fascinating work. Encenathrakh’s improvisational obliteration and Effluence and Tantric Bile’s extremely hard bop inspire other artists to break free of old-school restrictions. Trichomoniasis, which is like Disgorge (Mex) hearing Lurid Panacea and using that as a template to transcribe cadaveric spasms, also trafficks in sublime spates of genre-busting, especially when Petersen is off on some of that Frippertronics but Lovecraft guitar manipulation stuff. In other words, my addiction to hearing new noises brings me here. However, my lizard-brain desire to be pulverized by ping keeps me listening to these albums. That’s the push and pull: art and annihilation. If you’re one of the few, the proud, the goo, here’s one that will crunch you up real good. [From Makeshift Crematoria, out now via New Standard Elite.]Ian Chainey

9. Calligram – “Ostranenie”

Location: London, United Kingdom
Subgenre: black metal

Calligram play razor-sharp black metal crossed with various branches of hardcore, and their songs hit like precision pain instruments. “Ostranenie” opens with hyper-tuned machine blasting that pummels all in its path, with a dread, off-kilter guitar lead that steers the beast on a twisted, craggy route. This would be all and well on its own, but Calligram are also masters of looming, suspended dread. They introduce it slowly, seeding ominous doubt that festers and takes on a life of its own. The back half of “Ostranenie” is given over to this creeping concern, and as it continues into dark, lonely caverns, you’re left to wonder which is more unsettling. It all ties together in crushing fashion, but it’s quite a journey, full of controlled chaos and growing uncertainty. Calligram are based in London but features members from the UK, France, Italy, and Brazil, so this is a multinational effort in excellent haunting, blackened metal. [From POSITION | MOMENTUM, out 7/14 via Prosthetic Records.]Wyatt Marshall

8. Garoted – “Unfathomable Manifestation”

Location: Kansas City, KS
Subgenre: death metal

Garoted goes. If there’s one trait of this death metal quartet worth taking away from this write-up, it is that. Bewitchment Of The Dark Ages, Garoted’s fourth full-length, is stuffed with classic death metal elements: hell-inferno guitars, blast-maniac drums, and beast-summoning growls. That said, Garoted push everything harder and faster. Long, labyrinthine transitions? God no. There’s no time for that. Instead, these songs have transitions in the same way a car transitions when you dump the clutch. If you like death metal, it feels great.

“Unfathomable Manifestation” is a fine example of Garoted’s uninterest in delaying the death metal inevitable. Some bands might spend minutes trying to find a way to link the first two sections. Garoted are quick. At 1:11, they stitch in a riff that sounds like someone getting warped to hell in a nightmare, and that’s it. Boom. Done. “Unfathomable Manifestation” doesn’t even have time for tangents, doing all of its exploring during a solo section with a whammy bar dive that sounds like a horse in peril. That desire to simply get on with it makes Bewitchment Of The Dark Ages extra frantic.

But, really, this stuff works because Garoted have an inherent bloodthirstiness and fully formed identity. “We never really sought out to stay pigeon-holed on one sound,” guitarist Drew Frerking said to the Daily Nebraskan in 2014. “This is the stuff that comes naturally to us.”

If Bewitchment Of The Dark Ages were the work of copycats, made by obsessive template-followers forcing themselves to check boxes with certain riffs, I don’t think this material would sound this fluid. So, while I would categorize it amongst like-minded souls such as Conjureth, that being bands that could cut a successor to Deicide’s Legion, Garoted’s unrestrained energy is theirs alone. (I don’t even know what you’d call these bands anyway. Legionnaires? The Caco-Cadre? Deiciders is out because it sounds like a scrapped Samuel Adams promotion.) And there’s probably a lesson in there for younger death metal bands: If you do your thing and go hard as hell, it’ll work out. [From Bewitchment of the Dark Ages, out now via Lavadome Productions.]Ian Chainey

7. Unfurl – “Entity Reunion In The Sky”

Location: Pittsburgh. PA
Subgenre: post-hardcore / grindcore

Unfurl describe their sound as “introspective post-hardcore funneled through a black hole,” and I’m not sure you could sum it up more succinctly. The Pittsburgh four-piece brings together an impressive and lengthy ingredient list in their works of violent beauty, and “Entity Reunion In The Sky” has it all. Built on a death-y, grindy base, the eight-minute track shifts gears seamlessly across passages of turbulent chug and stops, building uneasy tension through mounting dissonance. What makes Unfurl’s tracks hit so hard is that they’re all aiming toward an epic, overarching narrative, and in that narrative, there are moments of more straightforward, emotional story-building. Black metal-inspired, blasting pullbacks serve as stepping stones, and starstruck instrumental chapters that bring in soulful, folksy clean vocals would be the envy of any atmospheric black metal band. When the screams return, you may note the post-hardcore tag a bit more, but because it’s couched so immersively across such a rich tableau of heavy, distorted sounds and dancing guitar work, you’ll never quite pin it down. Stay on your toes and let it leave you shocked and awed. [From Ascension, out now via the band.]Wyatt Marshall

6. U SCO – “Abyssal Hymn”

Location: Portland, OR
Subgenre: prog / post-rock

If you don’t think U SCO are metal enough to be here, try cranking the volume. It has worked for the trio in the past. “When we play out of town and play more DIY punk shows, the sheer volume of our band alone is enough to get us noticed even though the playing is much more obscure and disjointed,” bassist Jon Scheid said to Willamette Week in 2014.

Like other experimental post-whatever bands that share a sonic resemblance to This Heat, such as Laddio Bolocko, the Psychic Paramount, and Aluk Todolo, U SCO transcend limited descriptors. Loud, obscure, and disjointed, sure, but always so much more. Really, Ryan Miller (guitar), Phil Cleary (drums), and Scheid work with an expansive palette of tones and rhythms that they use to paint wide-ranging aural landscapes that can swallow listeners up.

The genesis of Catchin’ Heat, U SCO’s fourth release and first since 2016’s TUSKFLOWER, was slightly different than past works: the band started jamming together more. “A lot of movements on the new one didn’t come from any one of us,” Scheid recently told the Portland Mercury. “It was all of us in the same room, working it out for years. It’s hard to tell the origin of any of those songs, and that’s what makes it special. We’re not looking to necessarily challenge ourselves at every turn. We want to feel something, too.”

The key to Catchin’ Heat is that, as a listener, it challenges and makes you feel something. The opener “high and rising,” with its tricky circular math rock riffs, seems to build an impossible amount of tension before a crescendo tears it all down only for U SCO to start building it up again. It’s not Sisyphean in the least. You wish they’d do it forever. Part of that is because the individual elements are so good: Miller’s guitar is a siren’s scream for goosebumps, Cleary’s drums hustle and bustle with unbelievable intensity, and Scheid’s bass skillfully connects the dots, either as a primal throb or melodic lead. The other part is that the songwriting is exceptional and offers an immersive experience.

“Abyssal hymn,” the slightly more meditative eleven-minute closer, with guest Jonathan Sielaff on bass clarinet and the trio adding synths to their CVs, is the one I can’t take off repeat. Like an extra aggressive Jaga Jazzist that keeps replaying the same idea in its head, “abyssal hymn” is a damn topographic map compared to most songs. Its rise and fall feel like hills and valleys. I disappear into it. I don’t even need to turn it up. [From Catchin’ Heat, out now via the band.]Ian Chainey

5. Project: Roenwolfe – “Project: Roenwolfe”

Location: Arizona
Subgenre: power metal / thrash

Project: Roenwolfe’s “Project: Roenwolfe” from the album Project: Roenwolfe rips. Like the rest of the release, this power/thrash trifecta reminds me of the power hybrids of yore, such as the similarly sci-fi-inclined Liege Lord, freshened up for modern sensibilities. Alicia Cordisco (guitars) and Leona Hayward (bass) shred through tough, technical riffs imbued with an anthemic spirit. Ernie Topran (drums) propels the band forward with the horsepower of a stampede. And Patrick Parris (vocals) has that perfect prog/power voice that can soar and punch you in the gut equally. Want more? You got it: Guest soloist Acea Lashley unleashes a face-melter for good measure.

After releasing its solid debut Neverwhere Dreamscape in 2013, Project: Roenwolfe was put on ice until it was thawed out for 2021’s excellent Edge Of Saturn, another ripper that refocused the prog/power of Control Denied by viewing it through the thrash lens of Forbidden. Undeniably potent sonically, the album also packed an emotional wallop. Underneath the sci-fi sheen were lyrics that dealt with more terrestrial themes, such as systemic injustice and denied selfhood. In that sense, it was a true marriage of power and thrash.

“The thing that really appealed to me in power metal was the escapism,” Cordisco said to Angry Metal Guy in 2022. “And it’s the same reason I like fantasy. Because yes, it may not be directly political or directly allegorical, but the cool thing about power metal is that it explores those themes of being in a situation or world or society where there is some kind of evil or corrupted power that feels unconquerable or all-encompassing, and it gives you a safe place to explore what it would be like to overcome that.” Later in that interview, Cordisco expanded on that point: “It’s a pick me up, honestly. It’s a way to explore those things in a way that makes you feel better. It’s like the audio equivalent of watching Lord of the Rings or reading Lord of the Rings. That sense of ‘we can do the thing and little, insignificant people matter, too.'”

Project: Roenwolfe picks up where Edge Of Saturn left off, picking you up with its crackling energy and even catchier hooks. As an example, opener “Boundless” is a Helloween-quality hard-charger. Hayward and Lashley trade nimble solos, while Cordisco and Topran construct quickly shifting beds of righteous metal rhythms. “Boundless — you are who you are,” Parris sings in the chorus, streaking across the song like a comet and turning that affirmation into an earworm. And that’s it: At their ripping best, Project: Roenwolfe make you feel like you matter. [From Project: Roenwolfe, out now via Syrup Moose Records.]Ian Chainey

4. Nithing – “The Seeping Pus Of Ancient Wounds”

Location: California
Subgenre: brutal death metal

Nithing will make you see some things. More accurately, when you try to describe this brutal death metal band to someone else, they’ll think you’ve seen some things. Why? Traditional music and metal descriptors don’t do Nithing’s debut full-length Agonal Hymns justice. For instance, the image it conjures for me is a bunch of giant spiders dodging laser beams fired by blast-mechs as the warring parties skitter across a jagged alien landscape. That’s to say, even with quite a few spacey bands now inhabiting the brutal death…uh…space, Nithing are pretty far out there. To that end, Agonal Hymns is like an episode of a sci-fi show where a long-thought-missing ship re-emerges, and the unconceivable challenges of uncharted space have forever changed its crew into…hideous, ravenous space spiders with jukes better than Barry Sanders. You can have that one, Strange New Worlds.

Anyway, who needs traditional music and metal descriptors, I write as every music educator has a meltdown. Forget the spiders, we can use another band to help orient ourselves. That group is sole member Matt Kilner’s other project, Iniquitous Deeds, the technical spectacle Kilner co-founded with guitar wiz Niko Kalajaki. Iniquitous Deeds has been in stasis since 2015’s Incessant Hallucinations, one of the great brutal death metal albums, a fact I bring up not to make a public appeal for a follow-up, because I am not the kind of person who would use a metal column for such things, but simply to prove Nithing’s outstanding provenance. Indeed, Agonal Hymns riffs are reminiscent of Kalajaki’s quasar guitars, but Kilner dials the tempo up to Malignancy-having-a-panic-attack speeds. Heck, even Nithing’s chugs seem to hurtle toward oblivion.

In an already excellent year for brutal death metal, “The Seeping Pus Of Ancient Wounds” will soak up a serious amount of plays. Its energetic churn showcases the cream of what Nithing has to offer. And it’s the little moments that stick with you: the divebomb opening that sinks faster than a falcon having a heart attack, the blasting middle that shifts like a chameleon breaking the sound barrier, and the delirious ending when Kilner surveys the destruction with echolocation leads. Even the lyrics are cool. (“What have I done wrong? What crime could fit this punishment?” Kilner growls. Yes. I say this to myself every day at work, my friend.) That I’m left describing this song like I licked an exceptionally damp psychoactive toad makes sense as soon as you hear it. [From Agonal Hyms, out now via New Standard Elite.]Ian Chainey

3. To Be Gentle – “Summer Snow”

Location: Eugene, OR
Subgenre: post-hardcore / atmospheric black metal

To Be Gentle have made a name for themselves by crafting memorable, raw screamo that incorporates atmospheric black metal and ambient, and doing so at scale. Since 2018, the three-piece, led by Eve Beeker, has put out 66 separate releases on Bandcamp – singles, EPs, albums, compilations, and more, including three this past month. That puts To Be Gentle in the category of other hyper-prolific luminaries of the wider genre spectrum with golden touches, such as Damián Ojeda of Sadness and Trha et al. and Victoria Carmilla Hazemaze, but To Be Gentle are a trio, while the former fly solo. (It’s worth mentioning that both To Be Gentle and Hazemaze’s Oculi Melancholiarum have done splits with Sadness.)

“Summer Snow” kicks off What Keeps Me Here, and it’s a tour de force full of pounded-out desperation and moments of tender introspection, all set into overarching epics full of heart-swelling, climactic melodies. Black metal technique — trilling guitars, blasts — unlocks another gear, heightening the emotional intensity that To Be Gentle can apply at will. Similarly, the band often pulls from Beeker’s work as a solo experimental and ambient artist, giving it a special power for immersive melody, enriching an already captivating, cinematic scope. Get hooked now and dive into the back catalog full of joy, sorrow, desperation, hope, and resolve. [From What Keeps Me Here, out now via the band.]Wyatt Marshall

2. Rainer Landfermann – “Originalstimme”

Location: Bonn, Germany
Subgenre: avant-garde

OK. “Originalstimme” opens with a John Tardy-esque growl quickly shot from both sides by panned screeches. As drums somehow pound and flutter with the precision of a seasoned mountaineer summiting Everest and unexpectedly seeing their crush, an exceptionally askew riff rises and falls like a malfunctioning Harrier jet. So far, “Originalstimme” sounds like Autechre remixing Atheist. And guess what? We’re not going to be here long. Following a transition that could be a mad scientist’s attempt at making a rocket engine that runs on fuel synthesized from liquified modern classical choirs, the song crash lands into a gothic trudge, complete with Pure Moods monastic moans, that will be the envy of any DSBM band. How do you follow that? With a bass solo so blazing that the solo itself has been offered a full ride to Berklee. Then, the death metal returns, and the choir engine fires again. Except this time, we touch down in a brief chamber classical movement that ends with something akin to a gentle musical inhale, subverting your expectations for a bombastic sendoff. Fin. That’s “Originalstimme,” the second track on Rainer Landfermann’s new two-song EP, Mehr Licht. OK. I need to lie down.

If exploring the edges of artistic ingenuity is your thing, rest assured you’ll eventually run into Rainer Landfermann. While his discography has fewer entries than a raffle held in a ghost town, what he has released is more than memorable. Heck, that might even be an understatement. Back when I was cutting my teeth and trying to form inchoate heavy metal opinions, Bethlehem’s Dictius Te Necare was a watershed moment for many metallers, with Landfermann’s incomparable howl setting a new standard for black metal vocals. Landfermann also played bass in Pavor, a technical death metal marvel he described to Luxi Lahtinen as “…sheer and utmost brutality in an offensive exhibition of superiority — a perfect optimum of nonstop aggressive grimness and superlative virtuosic finesse.” But, following Pavor’s 2003 comeback Furioso, a winningly ridiculous album that is a swarm of death metal widdles and bass twiddles that kicks off with a song titled “Inflictor of Grimness,” Landfermann left music to pursue other interests. In 2011, a guest spot on Anaal Nathrakh’s “Tod huetet uebel” proved he was still kicking, and the howl was as ravishingly grim as ever. And then, with an out-of-nowhere 2018 single suddenly heralding a solo full-length, Landfermann was back.

“Music has always been vital and important for me, but it took a back seat for some years,” Landfermann told my bud Jon Rosenthal during a 2019 interview published in Decibel detailing that solo full-length, Mein Wort in Deiner Dunkelheit. “It then re-emerged strongly, though, and after an attempt to get together for a new PAVOR release came to nothing, I decided to work on a solo album, intensified by the urge to also sing again. It took me a while to clearly define that project, and write songs for it – the earliest song parts on my upcoming album are from 2008 – but I wasn’t in a hurry. During that period, I wasn’t even sure if I would go public with the material or just compose and record it for myself. But when the album took shape and everything began to fall into place, it became clear to me that I wanted – and needed – to share it with the world.”

Good thing Landfermann did. As soon as you catch a glimpse of Mein Wort In Deiner Dunkelheit’s album art, featuring ballerina Anna Grigoryan shot by photographer Daria Chenikova, you know it will be like few things in metal. And the music doesn’t disappoint. Despite Mein Wort In Deiner Dunkelheit being out for three years, it still makes my head spin. And Mehr Licht is even more dizzying, providing Landfermann with an evocative bed of avant-garde amalgamations to scream his over.

“My vocals are pure self-realization and -expression, combined with a passion of being creative, exploring extremes and going over the top,” Landfermann said to Rosenthal. “I like it when extreme vocals are expressive and full of emotion, transporting and augmenting the energy of the song, and are multifaceted and multidimensional instead of providing not much more than a rhythm. When performing or arranging vocals, I get inspired by the music and the lyrics, enter the respective mood and atmosphere, and the rest just comes natural.”

And that’s the thing: While Mehr Licht, like its predecessor, is all over the place, smash-cutting between beguiling and bizarre musical experiments, it does feel natural. Landfermann’s personality shines through, a charismatic throughline imparting something like cohesive logic. Instead of focusing on an aspect of himself, Mehr Licht feels like the totality of his musical interests. I get why Landfermann’s solo endeavors are emblazoned with his name. What else would you call it? [From Mehr Licht, out now via the artist.]Ian Chainey

1. Oromet – “Diluvium”

Location: Sacramento, CA
Subgenre: doom

Oromet’s debut self-titled is a brilliant work of atmospheric doom metal from a tag team of Dan Aguilar and Patrick Hills, both of whom do duty in fellow California doom crushers Occlith and with Hills formerly of King Woman. On “Diluvium,” the middle track of a three-song album that clocks in above 40 minutes, Oromet pile crushing funereal riff upon crushing funereal riff, but they cast it all in brilliant rays of bright light from a kaleidoscopic projector of continually dancing lead guitars. It all comes together in wondrous fashion, searing leads cautiously and pensively building until it breaks open, with Aguilar’s throaty rasp joining in at what might be considered a doom baritone while Hills hits a high tenor in backing screams. There are lots of moments when searing guitars are left to linger in the air, burning sunset ambiance that morphs and melds in often mournful ways, with an occasionally watery quality as you might expect from “Diluvium.”

Oromet, a name taken from Tolkien (a craggy hill topped with a tower with a sad backstory, pictured on the cover art), bring a heroic aspect to the melody, and subtle backing synths add additional depth to the palette. Fantastic doom for fans of Drown, Esoteric, and other doom workers who have a special knack for atmospheric melody. [From Oromet, out now via Transylvanian Tapes.]Wyatt Marshall

Bonus. Auriferous Flame – “Thaumaturgical Irresolutions”

Location: Athens, Greece
Subgenre: black metal

Forest Summoner, the “green metal” label we covered last year, has released a new compilation supporting Ox Sam Camp, “an Indigenous-led prayer camp at Peehee Mu’huh (aka Thacker Pass) in Northern Nevada” protesting an impending lithium mine. Named after “one of the only survivors of the 1865 Thacker Pass Massacre, a man who was the direct ancestor of several of the folks gathered in prayerful resistance,” Ox Sam Camp was raided and shut down by authorities earlier this month. With legal fees mounting, Forest Summoner promises “100% of album sales will be donated directly to Ox Sam Camp” and matched $300 in donations.

“To me, environmentalism seems like the obvious path forward for black metal,” label head Teo Acosta writes in an email. “Church burnings are too dated and only scare the grannies. Fighting GM and Tesla head-on is the most brutal thing you can do, imo.”

The compilation contains tracks from 22 bands, including familiar names to the Black Market faithful, such as Blackbraid, Mutilated Tyrant, Nechochwen, Dawn of Oroboros, Iravu, and Mycorrhizal. We’re spotlighting a selection from Greece’s Auriferous Flame, one of Ayloss‘s many projects. Like its 2022-released fiery full-length debut, The Great Mist Within, Auriferous Flame’s “Thaumaturgical Irresolutions” rages riffily by immolating everything with trems and blasts. It’s a rush, that old-school black metal kind of malevolence. It also has an undeterred indefatigability, journeying until it has a scenic view of panoramic progressions worthy of purple-album-cover majesties. [From Ox Sam Camp – Fundraiser Compilation Album, out now via Forest Summoner.]Ian Chainey


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