Let me set the scene. It’s 20 below here in the Sleeping Village, but I’m safely hiding from the frigid environs, cloistered in the lofty confines of my Ivory Tower. The lamps are burning. The quill is sharp. It's a comfortable existence, but the parchment stares blankly. This will not do.
To fully submerse oneself in the dismal strains of Gather, All Ye Hellions--the recent demo from Vredensdal, Northern Wisconsin's representative for the New Wave of USBM--one requires an equally dismal atmosphere. It is with this mindset that I head outdoors into the cold and the bitter wind, seeking the physical manifestation of Vredensdal's frostbitten sound. Flesh stings as the naturalistic ambiance and somber chanting of "Ved Midnatt..." sets in, followed by distortion, forthright tremolo, and the comforting swells of (surprisingly hefty) underlying riffage. And then the vocals fall in place, and it all becomes apparent: Gather, All Ye Hellions isn't the product of your run-of-the-mill black metal wannabe. Nor is it a half-baked call to arms. Vredensdal means business.
While the general hoarfrost'd ambiance is obviously influenced by your favorite Norwegian black metallers, the willingness of the guitar throughout to weave in the occasional doom-inspired riff or lick seems subtly akin to Rebel Wizard. A distinctly gloomy and melodic current is evident throughout the entire package, with the doomy undertones showing an ugly mug most willingly on "Die By The Sword." If forced to choose, this is my favorite here--although that honor is fiercely contested by the title track.
Even to the chilblained ear, the vocals are highly decipherable. As a highly personal project that--in the artist's words--reflects "the struggle of human existence and how life itself is a burden," these lyrics leave a significant mark, and their delivery is the true star of this demo's show. Vrednesdal's voice is, simply put, fantastic. From a contemplative standpoint, it remains a prime blend of harsh naturalism, and the steadfast, world-weary confidence of someone who has seen their fair share of woes. As a result, the only real critique I have of this demo is that the vocals could stand to be louder in the mix. They deserve to be heard loud and clear.
Gather, All Ye Hellions feels significant, greater than the sum of its short runtime. It feels like the beginnings of something larger, and, given the current (justified) air of confidence Vrednesdal brings to the table, I'm quite excited to see where this is headed. If you find yourself out in the cold--or perhaps, whilst in the midst of comfort, have found the need for a little darkness--Gather, All Ye Hellions comes highly recommended.
Written by: Tales_of_Deception
The beginning of my journey with metal started nearly two decades ago. Possessed, Testament, Overkill and Death were my life force at the time. I was a strapping young lad with zero spark on what my future would hold. All I knew was that I enjoyed the hell out of the bands mentioned above and couldn't get enough of them. As time went on, I slowly experimented with different genres of music and for some reason, the passion I had for pure thrash metal or head crushing death just sort of went the fuck out of the window. Flash forward to present day and I may have found the saving grace that has more potential to drag me out of the pits when it comes to thrash/death metal than I've heard in nearly a decade.
Suffering In Diseases is the debut record from Germany's own Toxic Trap. At first listen, I was a little on the boarder of "really enjoying this record" and "it could use some work in spaces". By the end, I was in bliss and didn't want to come out of whatever I was in. The opening track, "Black Death," really hits the nail on the head when it comes to embracing the roots of the founding fathers of thrash. A slow melodic, creeping intro for a mere 30-seconds is what you get until the flesh from your ears is ripped apart from the throttling bass and addictive speed of the drums. It might start there but it most definitely does not end at that point. Track by track Toxic Trap does everything they can to hold the listeners attention.
To be honest, it seems that they have it all figured out. When it's time for one track to end and the next to begin, you prepare yourself for the same thing on repeat for damn near 47-minutes. At least that's usually the case with most of the thrash/death records I've heard in the past. Spoiler alert! Suffering In Diseases isn't that! It's a record that can be repeated a hundred times on a loop and you will hear something brand new every single time. Just look at the track below, "Burned To Death." It's a whirlpool of destruction that consistently slaps you right in the fucking mouth but then graciously doctors the wounds it just pounded into your skull. Best of both worlds, right?
In closing, the thought and depth that the guys from Toxic Trap put into this whole project is very welcomed and loved, at least by me. All the words in the world couldn't begin to explain how pleased I am with this record as a whole. From front to back and every inch in between, this record is exactly what I want from a thrash/death record, if you couldn't tell from the above paragraphs. Don't take my opinion for facts, give it a listen and support it if you enjoy it.
Country of Origin: Germany | Genres: Thrash/Death Metal | Record Type: Full-Length | Release Date: September, 2018
Sorry to break it to ye, hopeful peasantry: life here at the Sleeping Village is, alas, generally a little mundane. Cobblestones must be swept, crude chamber-pots must be chucked from second story windows, plague pits must be dug. Day in, day out. Thus, when something unexpected enters our humble township, must fanfare must be made.
The unexpected article in question? Vol III, the debut album from Kansas City doom rockers Inner Altar. Bearing a minimalist album cover and a distinct lack of adjectives in their promo material, Inner Altar seem like masters of understatement. From the onset, who knew that their debut album contains such an impressively well-conceived and well-articulated breadth of sights and sounds?
Vocally, Inner Altar’s approach reminds, fairly significantly, of Domkraft’s expansive stylings. Howl-into-the-void vocals are certainly coming into their own as of late, and while the echo and deliberate weightlessness are certainly a continuation of modern doom’s spaced-out leanings, they feel somewhat rooted in the distantly melancholic whine of the immortal Terry Jones, or even early-era Liebling. The Pagan Altar connection doesn’t end there--the momentous central motif on the paganic Altar, for example, would feel at home on a Vol III highlight such as "Undine’s Kiss." It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Inner Altar’s subtle shapeshifting goth-rock tendencies give them an edge in a sea of amp worshipers. While the guitar tone is certainly present, hefty, and otherwise effective, riffs don’t ever feel like the sole focus. Significant attention is given to melody, to percussion, and, most especially, to the transitions between passages. While they never truly approach the post-punk accessibility of, say, The Chameleons, a regard for gothic introspection is apparent across the board, particularly in the refreshing approach to hooks. If you’re looking for more namedrops, Demon Head’s folksy leanings seem fairly apt. But at the end of the day, these guys sound like their own damn band, not a simple knockoff. Credit where credit is due.
Doom lives or dies by its ability to keep things fresh and intriguing. To their great credit, Inner Altar take this challenge in stride, and interesting moments abound. Take, for example, the tempo shifts in "Pagan Rays | Numbered Days." The pseudo-pastoral baroque on "Prelude." The balls-to-the-wall Sabbathian riffage that (appropriately) busts the door and storms in on "Castle Storm." The brief percussive march thrown into "Dethroned & Fugitive," which breaks up plaintive wails and hefty bass with a certain grace. Not to be undone, the title track features a notably aggressive vocal stance. While remaining utterly unlike anything else the album offers, fits the bill incredibly well. Moments like these maintain my vested interest in a given track--and thus, the album as a whole. All told, Vol III consistently displays songwriting that deliberately avoids fatigue. Evoke a gloomy mood without boring your audience: usually much, much harder said than done. Not so here.
The most difficult aspect of reviewing this album has been consideration of its staying power. It’s an unusual conundrum, yet one that garners Inner Altar a net zero negative points. While time spent listening to Vol III is completely satisfying in its immersive quality, I found time after time that as the title track’s droning outro fade, I struggle to remember distinct moments from the album--riffs, hooks, melodies. They seem to exist entirely within the confines of the albums runtime, and while this ultimately makes for a genuinely excellent experience in the moment, there is little that carries over when Inner Altar isn’t actively filling airspace. With that said, a tangible side effect is that the past few weeks have born multiple instances of turning to Vol III, simply because the listening experience is so supremely gratifying in the moment.
With surprising variety in genre influence, and clear attention given to composition, Vol III is a complex album. More than that, it is a distinct triumph. Whatever they are doing down in Kansas City’s doom department is working inordinately well, with Inner Altar being further proof of actualized potential. Vol III is, quite simply, a wonderful effort. Highly recommended.
Inner Altar - Vol III was released Jan. 18th from The Company
Evidently raised on a diet of Twilight Zone reruns, fantasy, monster flicks, and Iommi riffs, Chicago’s Sacred Monster is, first and foremost, a pretty unique outfit. Take the campy and otherwise nerdy jubilance of Gloryhammer, splice it through the sludgy riff-driven aesthetic of Time Traveling Blues-era Orange Goblin, and enjoy the resulting concoction whilst having your molars removed in the damp confines of a medieval dungeon. Ah, hell. Throw in an aggressive vocal tone accented with Them-worthy shrieks for good measure. That (in an appropriately weird nutshell) is what you get with Sacred Monster’s debut LP. Worship the Weird is, without a doubt, the single-most entertaining album I’ve heard this year, and I’m very, very excited for its release on March 1st.
Fear not: We’ll be writing a full review of Worship the Weird in good time. Today, however, is all about lead single High Confessor, which can be streamed below. Taking inspiration from the sneering Sand dan Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, the track follows a torturer and his victim through the inevitable grisly affair. “Go ahead,” the protagonist growls in his cruelly contemptuous tone. “Beg God for mercy... but He doesn’t hold the pliers down here.” High Confessor is a track that ratchets up the riff-centric intensity--both thematically and sonically--with shameless abandon. The result? A wildly groovy and aggressive ride.
I could blather all day. But let’s get to the music, shall we? Check out High Confessor...and if you are equally smitten, take it upon yourself to check out that pre-order.
Written by: Loveloth
Portal's monstrous shadow inspired many a band to push the boundaries of extreme music, and Basque's Altarage is one of many that follow the Aussies' sinister footsteps. Shrouded in anonymity, the three (formerly four) masked figures exploded on the scene with Nihl in 2016 and caused quite a ruckus. The band wasted no time and released Endinghent just a year and a half later, and here is where I found out about them. I found the record decent, basically a more accessible and stripped-down version of Portal, which is OK but not enough. Cue The Approaching Roar that was released last Friday. I have to say, my opinion on this band has changed. Let me explain.
While the Portal influence is undoubtedly here, The Approaching Roar is more or less (more on that later) its own beast. Vile dissonance, inhuman howls, spastic drumming and angular riffs are still all the rage but, unlike Endinghent, is overall a more memorable and diverse experience. Things start off hellishly great with "Sighting," where you are greeted by a few unpleasant guitar plucks before a wall of noise encircles you. It's swift, vicious, and overwhelming. The best course of action is to stop resisting and simply give in and let the band guide you through their carefully crafted and terrifying soundscapes. However, these alone do not make this record shine, it's firstly the fact Altarage decided to mix things up and I realized this with the arrival of "Urn". Its initial churns and bellows are more akin to Sunn O))) or early Earth, and not only does this change the pace but also continues the sonic onslaught. It also attacks you differently, and I feel that this was lacking in Endinghent.
Like the songwriting, the quality of the production also improved and is surely one of my highlights, as the record walks a very thin line between being disgustingly dense and murky, yet somehow crisp and clear enough for you to properly hear what's exactly happening. Funnily enough Portal did the same thing with ION last year but for my money, this sounds better. I mentioned songwriting and I have to commend the guys for doing an excellent job, although some parts like that outro in "Cyclopean Clash" linger for too long and some songs can be hard to distinguish from one another, but you can only do so much with this style of death metal and Altarage mostly succeed. As for the individual performances, I only have praise. The vocals are gnarly, guttural and perfectly complement the absolute chaos that are those angular and dirty riffs and astonishingly fast and precise drumming that will make fans of Deathspell Omega or Ulcerate very pleased.
Overall, The Approaching Roar is a seemingly infinite abyss that was carved by a band I now think of seriously. I am completely aware how many times I namedropped Portal but make no mistake, Altarage are carving their sound before our very eyes. Expect seeing this record popping up on some year-end death metal lists as its content, no matter how bleak and seemingly impenetrable, hides many treats for you to discover. You only need to be brave or insane enough to dive deep into the approaching roar of Altarage.
Altarage - The Approaching Roar was released Jan. 25th from Season of Mist Underground Activists
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.