Not quite pancakes, but just as satisfying and without the regret. Usually. Bite into Goatcraft, Waxen, Violent Scum, Vex, Cough, Gutter Instinct, Kvelertak, Occult Burial, Close the Hatch and Nahvalr.
A gothic, shadowy blend of dungeon synth and Dimmu Borgir-esque piano interludes characterize this unique “necroclassical” release from Texas’ Goatcraft, where haunting and sinister baroque melodies are played out entirely via piano & synth. This is no passive, pensive piano noodling however, as these tracks clearly communicate as much anger, hatred and blackness as any band worth their corpse paint. Says the creator, “Every so often the world puts us back into our places by killing us off. Our frail flesh is no match against the elements in which we reside.” You can practically hear the unspoken lyrics from each composition screaming from the masterful stabbing of the ivories, pounding out classy renditions of evil-with-a-capital-E musical progressions. This is a piano cover version of a classically-influenced black metal album that never existed, and I mean that in the best possible way. Highly recommended for fans of dungeon synth, classical and villainous, Castlevania-esque video game music. — Vapeborg
Waxen is a one-man black metal project from Wyoming’s Toby Knapp. Rawer than a Sushi-bar’s grand opening meal and featuring more hiss than a pit full of lisping vipers trying to simultaneously pronounce “six thistles”, Weihung Auf Satan will appeal to those who suffer headaches at the slightest smell of polish. The riffing should please anyone who has ever enjoyed checking out the Slayer demos from Jeff Hanneman‘s garage, or those early Emperor demo tracks. As with many of these lone-contributor black metal albums, I’m almost certain there’s a drum machine at play here too, but it’s not particularly distracting and actually suits the general vibe of this release. The vocals can be a little overbearing at times but are made up for by the unexpectedly exquisite Malmsteen-esque virtuoso leads. FFO: Burzum, Hostium, Spite. — Lacertilian
Later this month Blood Harvest Records will continue their killer streak of death metal output with a re-up of the 2015 demo from Violent Scum, as the Chilean quartet’s debut Festering in Endless Decay has just been picked for a limited run of 150 cassettes. Previously self-released, these 3 tracks clock in at just over 10 minutes and waste no time getting their point across. The riffing is confined to the bare-essential genre staples of semitone power-chord slides, brief flurries of single-note picking and some bursts of chromatic legato. While it doesn’t descend into comical territory, it does have an earnest feel which you might find endearing. If you’re up for some meat and potatoes death with a little dab of gravy on the side, this should give you something to snack upon. FFO: Gruesome, Angel Corpse, things 4 years either side of 1990. – Lacertilian
Central Texas may not be the first place to come to mind when thinking of quality melodic death metal. In fact, it’s probably not the 20th or 30th thing that comes to mind when thinking of Central Texas, but I partially blame Vinnie Paul and his panini-press beard for absolutely destroying any open-mindedness when it comes to Texas. Apologies to the fine people of Austin and several TovH writers. On a positive note, Vex’s album Sky Exile sounds like it was written and recorded on a cold, bleak day somewhere in the outer reaches of Gothenburg. It’s actually refreshing to hear an American melodic death metal band not succumbing to the usual tropes and cliches of American metal sounds. Folk and progressive moments help Sky Exile break free from the monotony RIYL: Agalloch, Insomium, Omnium Gatherum. — 365
The masters of gritty slowness are back after six long years with no new music, and the very first thing that’s evident to me is that it sounds more like Electric Wizard than before; unsurprisingly it turns out that Jus Osborn was at the production helm for this record. Vocals are more of a secondary element here, which is fine because the guitars, bass and drums sound MASSIVE on their own and fill the sonic spectrum with an eeever-so-slightly melodic, overbearing darkness. The inclusion of some clean vocals and even organ on some tracks (like “The Wounding Hours”) cements the notion that this album leans more towards doom than towards sludge, while still being a of hybrid of both. All in all, this is a strong Cough album that will please their fans and anyone hankering for some hopefulness. — Moshito
I was quite enthusiastic over the dripping, nasty Swedish-style OSDM filth peddled by Gutter Instinct on their first EP, but believe me when I say Age of the Fanatics blows The Insurrection out of the water. On this full-length debut, the band have taken their patented sawmill riffs and jackhammer snares and sandwiched them between all sorts of surprising elements to make one hell of a tasty and unexpected entree. “Leper Beholder” features a creepy lead reminiscent of earlier Decapitated while “Age of the Fanatics” features weirdly asynchronous drumming to really lend the maniacal riffs a claustrophobic vibe. Other tracks feature insidious hints of dissonance (a la Immolation-esque tremolo riffs) here or monstrous groove there, lending to a diverse and engrossing listen that maintains a deranged momentum and psychotic pulse throughout. If you like cleaving riffs and a slightly more nuanced approach to relatively straightforward death metal song structures, look no further. — W.
Time to rock out with your corpsepaint out: your favorite party black metal band Kvelertak are back! Both of their previous albums are in my regular rotation any time I feel happy or excited (why I would when life is so consistently bleak is a different story), so I was even happier and exciteder when they announced a follow up to 2013’s Meir. The hype was real, and luckily Nattesferd lives up to every single one of my expectations: on a whole, this album might just be Kvelertak’s finest. The band have somehow found an even better balance to their blend of rock ‘n roll and black metal, with a rawer production that fits the material just right. I don’t know how else to describe this: just throw on some shades, jump in your sports car of choice and blast this while riding on a highway by the beach. In Norway, obviously. — Moshito
Occult Burial jump back in time to 1982 on their debut album Hideous Obscure. With one look at this album cover, you know what you’re in for. This is a no frills, stripped down, raw and in-your-face heavy metal album. Don’t let the production fool you however, it is merely a tool used for the atmosphere of the record. Masked behind this raw façade, Occult Burial have well articulated riffs that take the listener through classic speed and black metal tropes with ease and precision. Break-neck time shifts and blistering solos weave in and out of the torturous screams from front man and bassist Joel Thomas. Lyrically this album doesn’t cover any new ground, but that isn’t the point. I am perfectly content with songs about witches, jackals and darkness. Perhaps the best way to describe this album is with the opening line to my favorite song on the album, “A Witch Shall Be Born” which states “Uuuuuughh, evil metal!” You can’t get much better than that. FFO: Venom, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate. — Boss the Ross
File this one under “You Send Us Things, I Listen To Them.” Ohio’s Close The Hatch sent us a little message via Twitter asking us to give their album a listen. We just couldn’t say no, what with their big doe eyes and the fact that it wasn’t just a generic automated message asking us to follow them on Instagram or (shudder) ReverbNation. The US is filled with a lot of generic doom/stoner/post-metal bands. I know because we had to listen to a whole bunch for TovH’s “Best Unsigned Band In America” contest. Close The Hatch’s sound is familiar, but interesting, separating them from the pack of beard-wearing, sad-feeling bummer merchants that fill the dive bars across this country. The band’s 4-track EP Death & Resistance is a slow, steady head-nodder that makes you sink into the ground until you are one with the earth. With sludgey grooves and a harsh earnestness, Death & Resistance is waiting for a prominent place on your shelf. RIYL: The Atlas Moth, Cult of Luna. — 365
Dan. Barrett. Dan Barrett. If these two words are not enough to pique your interest, call your parents and apologize for what a disappointing child you have always been. Pretty much everything that comes out of this man is amazing. And no two of his projects sound alike. And yet they all sound like Dan Barrett. Which is something in and of itself. Nahvalr is (was?) his stab at black metal. Or blackened noise. Or noisened drone. Or industrial witch-core, which is now a thing. Dense, intricate, textured—and upsetting from start to finish. Fans of any of the words I have used so far in this mini-review should find something to love or just kind of like here. Here are some more Nahvalr-related words you might like: depression, ghosts, perdition. This is the soundtrack to your permanent vacation in hell. FFO: Dan Barrett, Gnaw Their Tongues, Sewer Goddess. — Richter