Featuring members of the almighty Ofermod and Malign comes the soon-to-be-known Mephorash with their fourth studio album, aptly titled Shem Ha Mephorash. An unorthodox take on orthodox black metal, the monumental album is a welcome departure from the stereotypical blast beats and primal aggression that often seem to over-saturate the esoteric scene, opting for a more calculated theatrical approach.
Shem Ha Mephorash takes its name from the Kabbalah, a reference to the 72 fold explicit name for the one eternal God, a term that has also been attributed to the forgotten occult knowledge of the ancient Israelite king and later used in various walks of Satanism for ritual purposes. A felicitous title, Shem Ha Mephorash relies more on atmosphere than any of the previous releases, and as a whole feels more like a crepuscular ceremony than a metal album.
Tracks like “King of King, Lord of Lords” and “777: Third Woe” are reminiscent of the group’s more traditional sound, complete with churning blast beats and the soaring primal chaos we have come to expect from the genre, whilst hidden gems like “Sanguinem” and “Epitome I, Bottomless Infinite” (my personal favorite) follow a path less traveled with haunting female solo melodies and booming kettle drums resulting in a caliginous experience more often reserved for the more illustrious subsects of doom metal. At times Shem Ha Mephorash sounds like a cabalistic rendition of Shape of Despair, a record that obscures classifications and transcends subgenres whilst still managing to distinguish itself as its own original entity, a feat not to be taken lightly and an accomplishment many bands struggle to achieve throughout their entire career. This all comes to a head with Shem Ha Mephorash, the title track and epic conclusion to this metaphysical foray into the uncharted depths of orthodox black metal.
A must for fans of black metal, doom metal, and occult enthusiasts alike, Shem Ha Mephorash is a conceptual marvel and the outfit’s finest work to date, a welcome reminder that black metal and its respective subgenres are still alive and thriving, and that we have still just barely begun to scratch the surface. Shem Ha Mephorash is a complex masterpiece that brings something to the table for all metal enthusiasts.
Taking part in Drastus’ latest colossus of an album, Le Croix De Sang, is to risk consumption of the mind and spirit in the shadow of a cosmic malice. Demanding as much as it gives back in return to the listener, Le Croix De Sang pulls no punches in its debilitating nature.
Perpetuating the French legacy of inhuman extremity, Drastus seem to have tapped into precarious energies with which to infuse their art, conceiving an utterly malefic atmosphere through instrumentation that in itself wears on the psyche in its unyielding nature. But for those willing and able to traverse the scathing landscape of cancer that Drastus have presented, there is a promise of bleak satisfaction, if not empowerment.
With ceremonial thunder, Drastus quickly reveal their true nature, pushing the listener from the initial foundations of the mid tempo and into lightless depths of sound that embody forces elemental. And by the end of the album opener, “Nihil Sine Polum”, the newcomer to Le Croix De Sang is forced to reconcile the strength of their will to continue on, only to be instantly swept back up in the utter chaos of “Ashura” without a moment’s respite.
Drastus’ guitars form less a wall of sound and more a gaping maw by which the listener is gradually swallowed. Atmosphere takes prominence over technicality in the way of the guitar, opting for drawn out riffing that seems to dance with one another in a hellish swirl. Much like a locust swarm, frenzied within the maelstrom of the string section, the drumming is nearly constant in its unrelenting attack, reaching such heights of dexterity and stamina that it seems more likely a force of nature than what any human could manage. The drums’ thundering pace oft – times achieves a weightlessness that interweaves with the guitar into a singular gust.
Like a parasitic wraith, the vocals hiss steadily and utterly bereft of melody, perfecting the inhospitality of this realm that Drastus inhabit. There is no mind for respite, no thought for the mental constitution of the beholder. Much like some unearthed wellspring of Lovecraftian knowledge, the contents are as intoxicating as they are destructive in the extent to which they push you.
“Crawling Fire” seems an apt song title for the third track, which begins in an almost militaristic war march across plains of ash. Le Croix De Sang pervades an overall operatic grandiosity, but it is in “Crawling Fire” that we first hear the vocals shift to match it, changing from hellish keening to a woeful melody that not only offers a newfound element to the mix, but is a precious respite from the raw vitriol of all else.
Whereas the beginnings of Le Croix De Sang were spent in a furious plummet, “The Crown Of Death” seems to have met the bottom of the abyss, casting us to the ground and wandering across a wasted landscape overshadowed with the dark outlines of gothic superstructures. This track in particular plays on a sense of foreboding more than immediate crisis. Yet another demonstration of Drastus’ vocal range is put into use here, as the vocalist’s voice ululates hopelessly, bringing to mind some lost and damned wretch in Dante’s vision of Hell.
The precious and short lived harmony of “Hermetic Silence” is downright crushed under the entrance of “Occisor”, which is the closest Drastus gets to a traditional black metal track on Le Croix De Sang. The later half of the album reflects a noticeable shift in atmosphere, what feels like a progression towards an ultimate end that is “Constrictor Torrents”. The song emotes a strong aura of finality in the form of a ritualistic majesty. It is clear that this is the end of a journey, and somehow, “Constrictor Torrents” makes all that has come before that much sweeter, coloring it all with a glaze of added meaning, that everything was building to this.
The kind of music that Drastus articulate, along with other contemporaries like Bestia Arcana, tends to have more in common with classical orchestration than much modern metal. In earnest these bands are able to pull off the sonic equivalent of a mythical epic. Each song is in itself an expanse of nightmarish feeling, bereft of any traditional songwriting structure, as it plods ever onward, never turning back. The instrumental components blend into something intangible, and whereas the tendency of heavy music is in the more earthen, primal impact, Drastus conjure the ethereal in its blackest form.
Mz.412 are purveyors of sonic terror; a noise cult of devious intent. Most of their work is labeled as “blackened industrial”, and this release certainly could be described this way as well, although it occasionally ventures into other territory.
Having been at it since at least 1988, Mz.412 have honed their craft into something truly remarkable, and as such, their latest offering, Svartmyrkr, is a powerful, primal piece of music that manages to be both intimate and cosmic in scale. A work that feels immediate and current, but also timeless.
The production carries a pristine clarity and punch which lends all that much more aggression to the distorted sounds. This is beyond production, and into the realm of sound design. There is a cohesive, well-paced, narrative sort of structure within the mix itself. What opens with just a few tracks conveying an intimate setting unfolds and expands into a multi-tracked monstrosity, a veritable titan of tracking awash in swirling, gnawing waves of sound, pulverized and dragged along by its own sonic undertow. Somehow throughout all this, every nuance and detail is heard, every piece of the story loud and clear. Often with releases of this nature, there is a quality of mystery present in the mix, with so much subtle layering and so on, but Svartmyrkr feels like a bold statement, a fully realized vision laid before us in startling detail. The fact that this is a self produced release is impressive to say the least.
Svartmyrkr is a work of unrelenting and ever increasing dread. An album that manages to grab your attention and hold it for the space of forty-eight minutes, without a single riff or hook. Dynamic, and escalation of dread are the keys to this feat, and the resulting work feels cinematic in its scope.
The album opens with what amounts to a teaser track. An ominous, tribal rhythm that seems to approach out of the dark, drawing near our campfire to bludgeon us with one primal crash across the head. This is a portent of what is to come: a series of other grinding, pounding horrors that seem to approach from the burning horizon ahead of us, and disappear into the dark behind us.
This album is a vast collection of sounds that seem to encompass any and all cultures and esoteric traditions. In a time when every buffoon with a microphone and a modulator pedal is releasing albums of “occult ambient” and “ritual noise” material through bandcamp, daily, a work with real intent and focus behind it such as this one is a deft and commanding display of potency. This stuff makes you feel, and quite often not subtly so. This is real magick.
Sonically, Svartmyrkr feels like a truly timeless work.
Tribal drums, growling vocals, and the crackling of a fire…one is given the impression of impending doom, of an approaching threat beyond comprehension, a destructive force that is uncompromising and totalitarian in the scale of the ruin it implies.
Thunderous sounds of war, replete with booming horns, cryptic chanting and the screeching of hawks…here now is the sound of the end of the civilized world, an horrific and violent razing of the walls of our false safety. The end is not sightly, no. And as such, it is a blessing that Svartmyrkr is an album, and not a film (although your humble writer would certainly pay to see such an apocalyptic and hypnotic piece of cinema) …
Erosion…chopped and sliced samples, awash in icy, grim, synthesizer tones and echoing bells…like a cold and cavernous death knell for all of mankind, horrific and jarring …
An intimate and immediate feeling acoustic section that draws you in and gives you brief respite from the horror, like wandering away from a corpse-strewn and blasted battle ground and right up to a campfire with a friendly stranger and their guitar. There is peace here, and solace, but not for long …
The grinding sound of the end of absolutely everything is accompanied by tribal drums and coarse shouting, and an unmistakable reverence. This is the sound of a people meeting their end with strength, humility, and awe …
Your humble writer has not spent a single moment looking up any information on this release (purposefully), and as such, is left with only the music as reference point for the ideas behind the work. With that in mind, these are my ultimate impressions of the work and its focus:
The listener is placed on the wild, elemental fringes of the world, and made witness to the fall of Empire. There is fear, horror, revelry, triumph, and finality. The shiny, brittle world we have built around us is ground into dust by the gnawing of world eating machinery and all is made wild again. The final sound heard is a rattling croak, a death cry. It is a reverent sound. It is with reverence that those of us still standing meet the end.
Then again, the story is only over if we assume it was about us.
Svartmyrkr was released into the wild by COLD SPRING RECORDS on CD and LP formats. It is the first MZ.412 studio album in 13 years.
It is at this interstice that Covenant is proud to release the long awaited first volume of the music of Aos Sí. Concisely titled Volume I, the band has meticulously honed and shaped this release over the last two years.
Featuring music firmly routed in the realms of mythology, dream, and the fantastic, Volume I is an album that explores the worlds that lie beyond the senses, conjuring images of hosts of phantoms, sprawling landscapes, old spells, and other dimensions.
In these 6 songs, totaling 24 minutes, the band takes you on a journey that is filled all at once with whimsical highs, ensnaring lows, and ultimately the triumph of the Hero’s Journey -in which both the adept and the listener are transported in mythic process.
Sayeth vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Culain of the album:
Scrying the roots of our collective Ancestors, Aos Sí’s journey begins in Volume One (V.I) with the experimental weaving of estranged myths, dreams, psychedelic rituals, and our alchemical reality, all flown by and through gripping folk instrumentation and otherworldly voices, to encapsulate an experience of self discovery in the face of the wholly other.
The artistic direction of the album was handled by none other than Mexican legend Arturo Albarran of the Cold Poison Design institute. On top of carefully crafting a brilliant and evocative cover for the record, so too has he pieced together a visually stunning music video for the song ‘Oratio Draconis’.
While the band handled all the recording and mixing of the record themselves, mastering was taken care of by X.T. of Studio Tehom in Montreal, providing a robust, rich, and immersive finish to the songs.
The band will be making their first ever live performance in a collaborative effort with Night Profound at Covenant Festival V in Vancouver.
Aos Sí Volume I is out now digitally on Covenant Records on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, and of course available on the band’s BandCamp page.
On the heels of our massive interview with Suffering Hour, we wanted to also dedicate full focus to their juggernaut EP Dwell. Be sure to check out the band’s explanation of the hidden motivations behind this twisted tune after this review!
The idea of contrast is a foundational virtue of storytelling that encompasses every art form, as it not only provides welcome variation, but effectively highlights the individual features of the elements contained within. Without the foil to a driving force, there is no drama that we as a culture so fervently hunger for. In their latest expansive single, Dwell, the trio of blackened death weird-craft, Suffering Hour, exploit this idea of contrast, to the benefit of their crushing heaviness, and to also invest this one song EP with a multifaceted persona that disregards its own singular nature.
To associate a genre like death metal with the idea of beauty seems strange, even antithetical, on paper, but nonetheless, such an opposition of the elegant and the ugly is perhaps the shining attribute that defines Dwell. This is demonstrated from the very first second, as the isolated guitar strings lure the listener into a state of exquisite melancholy, which quickly morphs into a hurried tremolo before the whole of the band explode into a doom-infused funereal crawl toward the imminent maelstrom, letting the listener hang on the edge of a sky flung precipice before promptly letting them fall.
The sublime nature of the opening is quickly overtaken by a more familiar aura of mind bending aggression. The guitars seem to curdle instantaneously, bending and whining in defiance of all musical norms, as the drums lay into an almost march-like foundation of blast beats. The drumming is deceptively simple beneath the swirling vortex of the guitar, but rather than feel out of place, the continuous, thundering heartbeat of the rhythm section maintains a more earthen, even human element amidst the tangled and etheric chaos of the guitar, which itself breeds anxiety and urgency in the listener.
The mark of great art, regardless of the medium, is its ability to tempt feeling in its audience. It’s surprising how many bands can forget this. But to evoke true emotion is no small feat, either, and demands an understanding that goes beyond any technicality of musicianship. Even the most progressive, mind bending ability on an instrument is ultimately hollow if there is no persona underneath, however depraved or monstrous. But in Dwell, Suffering Hour craft a tapestry of drama that changes and returns throughout its hulking, nearly 20 minute run time.
Precious moments of delicacy are infused with tragedy, washing over the listener with a sweet sadness, and even as the band dig into the more brutal sections of the song, there remains an element of heartbreak inside the fuming barbarity that few could pull off effectively.
As Dwell comes to a close, one feels as if though they have experienced a grand rise and fall, felt the blood of enemies on their hands, as well as known mourning at the death of friends. Suffering Hour encompass a spectrum of drama through masterful songwriting that evolves as much as it turns back on itself, and a willingness to explore the broader reaches of what this extreme genre can achieve. Where the majority of death metal is primarily uniform in its grotesquery, what makes groups like Gorguts or Deathspell Omega so impactful is their divergence from the norm. In this way, Suffering Hour, too, triumphs.
Dwell not only reminds us of Suffering Hour’s legitimacy as one of the newer, quality bands in extreme metal, but also tempts imagination and anticipation for what their next full length endeavor will achieve.
BLOOD HARVEST RECORDS (distributed & marketed by REGAIN RECORDS) is proud to present a massive new EP from SUFFERING HOUR, titled Dwell, on CD, 12″ vinyl, and cassette tape formats. The vinyl version shall be one-sided, with art etching on Side B.
The obsession with obscurity is the metal curse and blessing. On one hand it can lead to fulfillment on an otherworldly level to discover a hidden gem that was lost to the sands of time, and on the other hand it can become a rabid addiction to find the next sound to satisfy the frantic craving. We give in and indulge as much as possible, seeking that next high. Then the next step and major part of the obsession is to then share the coveted find with fellow addicts.
But it’s all subjective. Which is why we have sourced 5 of the most obscure, yet foundational, demos from the backs of our cavernous, filth-covered minds.
The criterion was simple. We chose demos that we believe were either not given adequate praise, represent a key turning point in metal’s history, or were seemingly collectively forgotten by the masses. Of course these are our opinions alone, but if we can shine even the smallest spotlight on these gems then it’s a mission: accomplished. Let the Light shine …
BLOOD SPILL – Demo ’88
When seeking the gestation of chaotic and cruel sounds many metal historians will cite Necrovore’s 1987 demo as the earliest and most extreme example of black/death metal as we know it. While dubbed to death and worth of infinite praise, it isn’t the island that many consider it to be. Fellow Texans Blood Spill would come forth merely a year later with a fear-inducing sound capable of unsettling the hardest headbangers.
Without a title at the time, the 1988 demo would be re-released as Demonic Plague over 30 years later, revealing a world of horror that had been hidden for decades. Lead by the inhuman screeches of Bloody Freddy Rodriguez, these Texan teenagers managed to evoke a sound that gave Sarcofago, Pentagram (Chile), and Morbid Angel a run for their money. The band literally cites that only Possessed, Sodom, Bathory, and Death were known to them at the time, and it shows! Blood Spill wrote absurdly long songs for the medium and the age they were working in, simply providing us now with more time to listen to a bygone age.
The creeping darkness achieved on this angular tape further enforces the idea that chaotic black/death metal was a global phenomenon, regardless of place and connection. Blood Spill’s demo stands as an 80’s time capsule and reveals another layer to black and death metal’s incubation. The spores were dispersed by the original masters and the putrid results took root.
The days of youthful recklessness working in a near solipsistic bubble – An almost impossibility in our internet age.
DECAPITATED – Cemeteral Gardens
Perhaps because of their continual foray in to a different “scene” of death metal, perhaps because we here at Covenant have no taste and are so wildly off the mark, perhaps because it came out in the deadzone of the mid 90s, or perhaps (and most likely) because simply not enough people have heard it. Decapitated‘s utterly mind-blowing Cemeteral Gardens is one of the most underappreciated releases in death metal.
Featuring a sound that is nothing like the whirlwind madness of Winds Of Creation, and certainly nothing like the modern style of razor-sharp (albeit a dull razor…) tech-death that they graduated to later, this demo is a charnel house of morbid and macabre riffs and ideas that would not be out of place in early Entombed, Dismember, Nihilist, nor Carnage, neither would it they be remotely foreign on the records of similarly boundary-pushing-yet-old-school-minded luminaries of today like Obliteration, Taphos, Excoriate, or Necrot.
Constantly showing hints of the potent and skilled musicians they would become, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that when this demo dropped, the two founding members, Vogg and Vitek, were 16 and 13 respectively. It’s a staggering fact that moves the digestion of the execution of this demo from impressive in to the realms of the otherworldly.
Nothing we can say is going to possibly touch just how phenomenal this release is, as music will always be higher than words, so stop reading, shut the fuck up, press play, and start wondering why this demo does not get the same adoration as Feasting The Beast or Abominations Of Desolation.
SLAUGHTER LORD – Taste of Blood
We’re coming to a consensus that the phenomenon of extreme metal organically grew concurrently across the globe. What was this spark of inspiration that drove teenage maniacs during the 80’s into a hyper rage of chaos? It’s like a collective switch was thrown that drove harder guitars, faster drums, thicker productions, and more vicious sounds.
If you know the history of Australia’s metal scene, then you know it’s one of extremes. Always feral, always uncompromising, and always full fucking speed. It’s a signature madness that fueled the sounds of bands like Bestial Warlust, Vomitor, Destroyer 666, Gospel of the Horns, Abominator, Destruktor, and several others. Somewhere between “blackthrash”, “metal of death”, and “war metal” is the Aussie sound. And it can be argued that this is where it all truly began …
Slaughter Lord‘s Taste for Blood demo came screaming into the Earth in 1986 somewhere on the savage streets of Sidney, Australia. With a dense impenetrability balanced out by a genuinely nasty production, this was a tape that managed to harness the most wretched elements in the metalhead’s arsenal at the time. Where the path was laid by Bathory and the Teutonic thrashers’ first albums, the young Aussie demons pushed the sound harder and faster. Devious guitar tones, blast beats, intricate passages, and hellish vocals. And, while the demo is easily considered a thrash classic, it is clear that the music was deeply wading into the death metal and black metal territory, possibly unknowingly.
The music of Slaughter Lord would come to the popular consciousness through Invictus Production’s first catalog release. The Thrash ‘til Death compilation gathered material recorded between 86’ and 87’, and presented the world with a refined, sharper sound from the virtually unknown band. The label took tracks from the first demo and expanded it to practically a full album release, with a slick mastering job that brought fresh life into the ancient hymns. It stood as further proof that no matter which corner of the globe, there was a band of demonic maniacs scheming pure hell that must have come from a sadistic collective unconsciousness.
CREMATION – Welcome
Anyone familiar with the state of modern black metal is aware of the name Revenge. Canada’s most bestial band has taken a long and complex road from obscure filth mongers and graveyard dwellers to the juggernaut force they are today. The past is ever alive in their sound, but the band itself is infused with the past work from potent acts like Conqueror, Sacramentary Abolishment, and Cremation. Not much is known about J. Read’s first band, nor of its earliest days outside of the most sickening sounds conjured on a spread of technical, malevolent, and vile demos. And even then, we still only know so much.
In 2009, Nuclear War Now! Productions released the Black Death Cult compilation of Cremation’s most hideous demos. This harrowing collection included the gut wrenching trinity of Pire Gah Hoath Raclir Od Ialpor (’93), Hail the Rise of Med Pe Gal (’94), and The Flames of an Elite Age (’95). But namely absent from this set was the very first demo, 1992’s Welcome. While prior to this release most of these songs were relegated to the darkest fringes of file sharing sites and services, though still attainable. However, the tracks off of the inaugural demo were practically thrown into the abyss of time itself. Rarely heard from at all.
If you are lucky enough to have heard Welcome, then you know how tragic it is that this piece of Canadian metal history has been swept aside. What lies on this filthy tape could have stood shoulder to shoulder with the output coming from the swamps of Florida, the gutters of New York, and the gloom of Birmingham at the time. You will discover that it is an old school American death metal and early British grindcore sound that some of the most infamous black metal villains cut their teeth upon.
While most likely unknown outside of Western Canadian circles and utter Ross Bay fanaticism, the Welcome demo represents a band in their infancy who are capable of greatness. With the level of mastery on display here, it is little wonder that on their subsequent demos Cremation achieved levels of extremity almost never matched again. Their descent into truly sickening and crepuscular territory made them the thing of legends. Although, their origins still deserve a place out of the shadows of neglect, even if only among the most fanatical black/death metal maniacs.
CYNIC – Demo 1991
Cynic‘s 1991 demo represents an interesting and singular time in the band’s discography. Shedding the thrash metal sound of the their first four demos, this release saw the band move on to a sound- or perhaps through a sound- that was completely its own. Far too harsh to draw distinct connections to 1993’s Focus (despite sharing 2 of the same songs), and far too merciless to be recognizable as the band that released the interesting, but far less mature demos just some years earlier, Demo 1991 genuinely showcases a moment in death metal’s development where the rules were not yet set in stone, and the ethics were still being invented.
At points sounding like a more violent version of Death, and others not unlike the early Montreal death metal scene or the early Deicide releases, the release features a primitive production to juxtapose the wild technicality, that wouldn’t be out of a place on a Portal or modern black/death metal release. While the release has a very well executed remaster available on YouTube that is worth checking out for those already familiar, it is the surprising savagery and shocking bestial sound of the original that lends it a unique and sinister charm.
As the barrage of off-kilter and impossible riffs rain down, it’s the moments of contrast like the tiny hints of vocoder vocals (a sign of things to come), the brief acoustic instrumentation, and disgustingly accurate guitar solos that destroy any semblance of listening to any one cohesive thing. The solos would still be considered of the highest standard on a modern release, and the level of brutality and atmosphere on par with anything being dished out now. It is because of this that this demo remains an obscure classic.
Cut from the fertile Irish bog that has produced Malthusian, Unyielding Love, From the Bogs of Aughiska, and Vircolac in recent years, Dublin trio Sacrilegia offer up a furious half-hour of no-frills, no-mercy blackened thrash via Invictus Productions.
Masterfully recorded at Devil’s Mark (Destroyer 666, Demonomancy) in the eternal city of Rome, The Triclavian Advent is a pummelling debut record that only ever tightens the leash with the occasional mid-tempo deathmarch. Opener “Relics of Oncoming Doom” charges out of the speakers like a sledgehammer through a tombstone; anyone who fails to heed this warning will be trampled under hoof by the equally-ferocious “Beyond the Fouler’s Snare” and “On Herding of Swine.”
Unashamedly channeling the spirit of Possessed and early Bathory, The Triclavian Advent displays a talent for crafting rabid, snarling music without entering into the realms of mind-bending song structures, suffocating riffs, dissonant leads and atypical time signatures. Everything on this record is designed to keep heads banging, and “The Unhallowed,” with its early Slayer-esque riff, is the epitome of this. At three minutes it squeezes maximum efficiency from a verse-chorus arrangement packed with intensity, asking no questions and taking no prisoners.
The savage closing pair of “Unheeded Warnings” and “As With Spears We Come” is devastating, despite the latter ending on an anti-climactic fade-out just as it is hitting its stride with another crushing riff. Sacrilegia can now add an unforgiving studio effort to a growing live reputation, earned in just four shows since debuting last June as a late replacement at an Invictus anniversary show. Rounded out with some excellent artwork from Chris Kiesling (Sargeist, Uada, Sadistic Intent), The Triclavian Advent is a frightening debut and a harbinger of exciting things to come from a band who have just elbowed their way to the top table of Irish metal.
INVICTUS PRODUCTIONS is proud to present SACRILEGIA’s striking debut album, The Triclavian Advent on CD, black LP, and splatter LP.
Aoratos is the latest endeavor of Naas Alcameth, the blackened mastermind that gave us Akhlys and Nightbringer, and is described by their label as a “reflection of the eidola and egregore arisen from the liminal thresholds”. Indeed, Gods Without Name feels like a logical transcendence from these previous endeavors, exhibiting the same chaotic darkness we have grown to expect from Naas but newly inculcated with increased emotion and primal rage, amounting to a new breed of wretchedness that can best be described as malefic black metal.
When I first heard Akhlys I remember being taken aback by the atmosphere of raw emotion, their ability to present their music as a force capable of transcending conventional black metal tropes, a craft Naas has refined to perfection with Aoratos. Gods Without Name feels more like a crepuscular descent into the darkest of minds than a metal album, a work of art that lingers in the shadowy corners of the subconscious long after conclusion.
The album starts with “Parallax I”, a dark ambient track that sets the tone for the rest of the album with haunting melodies that will reappear in variation across the entire album. From here the album moves into “Holy Mother of Terror”, an aptly named introduction into the chaotic horror that resides within and a crushing display of malevolent black metal in its own right. At this point the album goes on to further obscure the lines between the genres of dark ambient and chaotic black metal, ultimately amounting in a some manifestation of beautiful, formless chaos. Tracks such as “The Watcher on The Threshold” and “Of Harvest, Scythe and Sickle Moon” combine strong influences from Naas’s previous projects with less traditional pieces like “Thresher” and the aforementioned “Holy Mother of Terror” to ultimately result in a brand new breed of wretched malevolence.
This new beast truly rears its head for the first time in the title track “Gods Without Name” before returning for one final moment of horror with the doomy “Dread Spirit of the Place”, my two personal favorites. Lastly, the album closes out with “Parallax II” an atmospheric conclusion to a flawless, blackened monument.
At the end of the day Gods Without Name is a thing of beauty, a primal foray into the darkest depths of sound, a haunting masterpiece that raises the bar for the entire genre and an album that will be in my heavy rotation for a very long time.
On March 22nd Aoratos will release their first full length Gods Without Name via DEBEMUR MORTI PRODUCTIONS, available for pre-order on CD and Vinyl at both label’s website and digitally on Bandcamp.
In the worship of death there are innumerable fossils smothered in dust. Uncover one and there may be fresh blood still pulsating within. Grave Infestation‘s demo Infesticide showers you with a burst of fresh gore from an encrusted corpse, revitalizing a classic sound with a rush of vigor. Forgotten today is the production that brought such abhorrent visions to our mentality, in favor of a crisper sound. Grave Infestation throws that notion to the gutter and rises from the grave with an intense fervor.
The intro to the album is filled with mystique and total mystery of what could come next, then quickly transitions to an audial bludgeoning ripped straight from the days of former glory. Blindsided by a chunky, catchy riff battering blows to your head, the drums lead with a bestial d-beat with cymbals that shred your cochlea. A guitar solo wails in the distant background like a haunted choir from the sky, and the bass chugs with a deep and aggressive resonance that you feel in the pit of your stomach. The entire sound is a perfect altar to the production of the late 80s dripping with fresh blood. Each track has a similar eerie intro that lessens your feeling of security while continuing to blitz after with one neck breaking riff after the other. The final two songs “Sudden Death” and “Still Birth…. Still Life…” lengthen the form of each song, progressing slowly without losing any of the aggression in the faster songs previous, creating a spectacular closer in a flurry of blades.
Not every EP can breathe fresh life into a genre by using forgotten ideas, but Grave Infestation not only creates a wretched experience with superior production but the intense delivery as well. It sounds as if it was directly recorded by the likes of Börje Forsberg with all the vitriol and violence of a group of Scandinavian teenagers.
Fans of death metal often forget that once upon a time no matter how much cleaner production of metal advanced, true heads still worshiped the demos which gave the genre life. Where it shines, is how Grave Infestation takes such an archaic sound and blends it with fresh ideas that did not exist back in ‘89, creating a new meaning to brutality.
Grave Infestation’s independent press of the tape is now long sold out. However, INVICTUS PRODUCTIONS has reissued the demo on CD, LP, and pro tapes, and PARASITIC RECORDS will handle an additional US tape run.
It can be a bit of a risk for a young band to drastically change their sound when moving from their debut to their sophomore album, but in the case of Minnesota’s Suffering Hour, this evolution (or perhaps mutation is a better word), saw them become truly developed as a band. The proggy, thrash metal roots that sprung forth on their first album grew into chaotic blackened death metal that only further matured on Dwell, their newly released EP and third effort to date. It’s one 18-minute long piece that sounds like wading through the dense atmosphere on some uninhabitable planet.
Such a profound change has profound reasons, besides a change in taste and simple musical evolution it didn’t seem like their first incarnation was really conveying what they wanted it to. “Practically everything we do in regards to Suffering Hour comes from the fact that in different ways the three of us are tortured people,” says lead guitarist and vocalist YhA. “One way or another our pasts and our presents are scarred by trauma and/or mental illness, it’s a lot of what brought us together even as friends. A lot of what drives us forward in life and in our music career is that we were all burdened with the empty weight of the universe at early ages. It’s something we need to get off our chests for the sake of survival, and there’s really no good way to push that message without the music sounding like the massive chaotic nothing we all exist in,” he says. “From the standpoint we were coming from it wasn’t the right platform to channel our frustration and distaste of living onto.”
“I feel it’s important for us to establish right off the bat that we’re going to be an ever evolving band and we’re not afraid to push certain boundaries within our own sound,” says drummer and vocalist IsN. “We don’t want people to always expect the same thing with every release.”
Needless to say, it was not a straightforward process, and their second album took nearly three years from inception to release. “In Passing Ascension was kind of a nightmare to get off the ground,” says IsN. “The writing process took a while because YhA really wanted to perfect the sound he wanted on it. He started writing it as a teenager and we finished recording it in his early 20s. I was 19 when I recorded the drums on that record and sometimes it’s easy to forget that, since the songs still feel so fresh to me when we play them. Then there was label hunting, which was a process that took months and then when we finally landed on Blood Harvest there was contract negotiation, sorting out formats etc,.
But what took the absolute longest was our artwork. It took 8 months until the cover and the layout were done. It really set us back with the release, however I think ended up working in our favor because I feel like it was released during a really good time. It was released on May 26th, 2017 and we played Maryland Deathfest exactly 366 days later. So I’m really thankful for how much that record was able to change the course of the band.”
And indeed, In Passing Ascension caught a lot of people’s attention and was highly lauded upon its release. The time it took to put together the album seems to have been well spent and presented the sound that has defined Suffering Hour. One often compared to Deathspell Omega (with good reason) but still distinct, the move forward to their next EP was far more fluid with the experience under their belt.
We strive to be absolute best at what we do and to stand apart while doing it because our sanity is completely reliant on what we do within the confines of the Suffering Hour banner. We don’t have the convenience of half-assing anything we do and feeling okay enough about it to sleep at night. – YhA, guitarist of Suffering Hour
“Dwell was miles easier,” says IsN. “YhA took a few months to put together this song, then I went in and came up with a decent amount of my own drum parts and changed things here and there, DgS wrote the lyrics and then we recorded. The art was done quickly and everything came together a lot smoother. Granted we learned A LOT from the whole process with In Passing Ascension. We were brand new, but now we know what to expect and know how to handle ourselves better and more professionally.”
Bassist and vocalist DgS also writes the lyrics for the group, which are evocative of a hopeless cosmic underworld that reads as real as it does fantastical. “My lyrics usually come entirely from somewhere in my own head, usually without a whole lot of outside influence,” he says. “Most of my lyrics are a culmination of very personal ideas and how I think about life and living on this earth. They are also filled with a lot of other emotions and ideas other than just straight up nihilism, and expressed through very metaphoric contexts. I like to take a very visual, and sometimes simple idea or concept, and elude it to something more physical and earthly. I also express it through a lens that I also feel fits with the vibes that emanates from YhA’s music.”
The artwork for Dwell was also conveyed through DgS’ visions, and if you’re familiar with his lyrics that much is very obvious when you see the album cover. “The art was done by Cold Poison, who we actually got in contact through you guys at the Covenant, he says. “I had read the interview you guys did with him a long time back and knew from hearing him describe his process and use of synesthesia when working on art for bands that he would be a great fit. From the get-go when I’m choosing an artist to work with I’m choosing them because I trust that they will properly interpret it into something I can also see fit. The music and lyrics is our vision and the art is theirs. It definitely felt as if he turned my words directly into visuals, making a very fitting and evocative piece.”
With the seemingly never ending influx of new bands in extreme music who all want to make their mark, listeners face a lot of ancestor-worship as well as earnest attempts at innovation that don’t quite hit the spot. The true pleasure lies where you find a group of people that breathe new life into familiar forms. Suffering Hour is part of a new generation of bands that, in the face of all that’s already been done in heavy music, has to show us that there’s still much more to hear.
“I personally think that the amount of branching out that took place between the eighties and early nineties was more than anything has branched out in the 20+ years since,” says YhA. “In the beginning between the early extreme metal bands, a lot of it did sound the same. I only think that’s because they were such new concepts that they had to establish a proper fitting. Regardless with a lot of those early bands you knew which ones were which just by listening to them. When Forbidden is on you know it’s Forbidden, and when Pestilence is on you know it’s them. While the roots of everything going on around said genres were very similar, all of these bands contributed their own ideas to what eventually became the “generic” concepts of said genres they were a part of,” he elaborates. “Flash forward to the present, particularly in death metal. The ripping off of these old school bands is not only encouraged but worshiped, musicians are okay in letting their sound slip into a gigantic abyss of bands that sound just like them, and these bands are celebrated as being revolutionary and bringing their respective genres to new heights. When I can listen to a band and practically name the album every riff they play came off of, there’s nothing revolutionary going on. At all. The true spirit of what made old school metal so special has been killed off by the embrace of heaviness, “trueness” to the root of a band’s genre, and a surrender of revolution in favor of sounding like every other band people enjoy within their respected subgenres. It’s honestly gotten painful to watch. There’s a very big difference between ripping bands from a certain genre and understanding where they were coming from and figuring out how one would advance that mission from their own point of view.
YhA continues, “The amount of non-metal influences with these bands is dwindling too, and the self-created ouroborus in the scene that is the endless loop of metal inspired solely by metal is another cancer that has to be ridded of as well. Putting blinders to other genres up to one’s eyes does is limit one’s ability to find new ideas and atmospheres one wouldn’t have found otherwise. Metal isn’t a special offshoot of music, it’s music. To think ignorantly staying away from certain music genres enhances one’s dedication to a genre is a simply pathetic move that hinders expression. There are, as with everything, exceptions. Relatively newer bands like Jordablod, Negative Plane, Supersition, Chapel of Disease, Gentry Lord, and many of the bands part of your Covenant, have proven that staying true to the roots of a genre while bringing new, fresh ideas to the table is possible. That’s where I’d like to see metal go, and that’s where I try to take it.”
“Suffering Hour for me is my spin on the mission statements laid down by extreme and not-so-extreme bands decades before me as well as bands of recent times. Whether or not what we make people find original is up to the listener, but I’ve spent over 15 years writing music trying to develop a sound that’s my own, and this is it,” says YhA. “I know very well that I sound extremely elitist and I apologize to any friends that I may have up in arms while reading this, but for the three of us this band is what keeps us stable. We strive to be absolute best at what we do and to stand apart while doing it because our sanity is completely reliant on what we do within the confines of the Suffering Hour banner. We don’t have the convenience of half-assing anything we do and feeling okay enough about it to sleep at night. It’s something that although to a degree is a curse for us is something I wish I would see more bands do, but the current climate makes mediocrity an okay thing to strive for.”
For musicians to take it upon themselves to try and forge some kind of new path in such a heavily saturated genre can for many be a fool’s errand and for those who do find success, the rewards are undefined. But we can be grateful there are still those bands that do it regardless and surprise us when we come across them – Suffering Hour very much included.
BLOOD HARVEST RECORDS is proud to present the new Dwell EP on CD, 12″ vinyl, and cassette tape formats. The vinyl version shall be one-sided, with art etching on Side B.