Something (a few months) old, something new, something hallowed, something… fuck you. Releases from Xantam, Ectovoid and Cadaveric Fumes coming out through Blood Harvest Records.
First thing’s first, Ectovoid’s album Dark Abstraction from 2015 is deservedly getting a vinyl pressing through Blood Harvest on the 28th of March. Originally released through Hellthrasher Productions on CD, this beast of death made its way on to a few end of year lists including one of our much vaunted guest lists (Ryan from Cemetery Filth). Looking around, it seems that the record somehow managed to escape both forms of review (mini & morbidly obese) and even eluded a This Toilet Tuesday write-up, so I’ll give it a brief summary now before getting into the other blood that hasn’t had time to coagulate just yet. How much OSDM is too much? Well, considering the Merck Index has not assigned it an LD50 value, I guess you could say scientifically that one can never have too much OSDM.
Dark Abstraction is a solid piece of early 90’s death-worship, full of staunch riffs and exactly 1.822m of dirt. The 8 tracks are all around the 4 – 5 minute range and offer a welcome blend of tempos; while mostly mid-paced, there are some punishing slower passages along with a couple of hastier moments. The vocals have that familiar throaty growl, and the drums pound you in all the right places, as does the bass. The riffs remain interesting without ever seeming like they’re supposed to be the focal point of the song, and there are a couple of leads throughout the album just to cap things off. Personally, I would have liked a few more solo spots to break things up a bit, but that’s just me. Knowing how some people feel about guitar solos it might be for the best, although these guys clearly have the chops so I think a few eerie leads wouldn’t go astray. FFO: Derkéta, Autopsy, Triumvir Foul.
A mournful symphonic intro belies 3 tracks of lo-fi blackened death metal courtesy of California’s Xantam. Released independently in 2015, Xantam’s LifeDeathBeyond demo was picked up for a cassette release earlier this year by Blood Harvest Records. The three tracks have a run time of just over 25 minutes and will please fans of both black and death metal alike. Don’t let the raw production aesthetic fool you. The riffs on display are not sloppily composed by any means and are woven with memorable melodies and a dash of wretched harmony. The aforementioned grief-laden symphonic element returns to bookend each track and serves as an interesting segue, bridging the gaps between the controlled chaos. The guitar tones are unpolished and have a little twang to them in parts, bringing to mind those of Volahn (reviewed here) and new label mates VoidCeremony (featured here).
There are traces of both the 1st and 2nd wave black metal scenes scattered throughout this release, along with the prevailing 90’s death metal influences. The combination isn’t jarring and feels pretty damn natural. By the time the third and final track “Realm of Vile Lamentations (Echoes from Within)” hits its strides, I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the skill of Xantam the Beholder, the sole-member. After 8 years of pounding the skins for previous band Abscission, he decided to embark on a lone journey to satiate a desire to create his own material. Following learning keyboard and guitar, he created the three tracks on display here. Recombining with former bandmates from Abscission to create a live lineup, along with Arturo from Morbid Gods on drums, Xantam plan to be more than a mere solo-studio project by playing more live shows in the future. Citing Zyklon, The Chasm, Morbid Angel and Limbonic Art (among others) as influences, this release has the potential for quite a wide appeal and has been relentlessly swirling around in my mind for the past few weeks. With a debut LP titled Astral Dominion scheduled to surface mid-way through 2016, this would be a good time to get in on ground level.
Last but not least is the upcoming EP titled Dimensions Obscure from French band Cadaveric Fumes. So far having just a demo (2011) and a split with Demonic Oath (2014), the band are set to release the 3 track/25 minute offering of unique death metal on the 2nd of May, 2016.
The French scene has been through what could be described as a renaissance period in recent years, though predominantly in the field of innovative and deeply compelling black metal, the progressive approach which challenges the prevailing paradigms may now be diffusing through the adjacent scenes. This can only be a good thing. While this album is most certainly deeply rooted in the dark abundant forest that is death metal, there is an element about the overall sound which is immediately noticeable and deserves to be mentioned, moreover, applauded. That aspect is guitarist Wencelslas Carrieu’s warm and natural guitar tone. Spare for a few isolated times here and there have I heard this type of organic sound applied in the context of a contemporary death metal release. A bunch of you are probably saying “Tone? Who cares, does it riff?” The answer is a resounding fuck and yes! Sure, there is little to no distortion, yet Carrieu manages to convey the same level of menace as those who stomp down the sunken path of high-gain and the infamous bane of over-compression. The resulting sound forms a thick and gnarled trunk from which the rest of the band can branch out, twisting and contorting the common conventions of modern death. The bass rumbles through the buttress, weaving itself fittingly around the maturely composed percussion while the vocals are mostly hoarsely barked assaults that take turns basking in the moonlight in alternation with the riffs. The leads are suitably distinct and have some off-the-wall moments which further maintain engagement with the listener.
The final impression of this EP is of resounding success. Sadly, it’s all too often that a band will release what could have been a great record only for it to fall short on one key area; however, this is not the case with Dimensions Obscure. Cadaveric Fumes manage to carve out a niche through intelligently crafted compositions that balance intrigue alongside aggression, with production that, while being raw in nature, carries enough clarity to remain coherent. Dimensions Obscure will please those of you looking for a fresh scent to burn atop your standard weekend pyre. As I previously mentioned, this doesn’t drop until early May, but in the mean time you can check out their split with Demonic Oath from 2014 or their debut Macabre Exaltation from 2012 (here). Although those releases feature a more standard sound than the one I described above, they’re still a worthwhile listen to tide you over until the end of Spring.