We’ve had a number of albums that are worthy of your attention burning on the back burner for quite awhile. (Well, these short blasts have been languishing in my inbox for quite awhile; my apologies.) Without further ado, “Play ball!”
• • • • •
CHURCH OF MISERY – AND THEN THERE WERE NONE…
All that remains of Church of Misery is bassist and band founder Tatsu Mikami. Frankly, that’s enough as Mikami has gathered around him the perfect guest lineup for And Then There Were None… Guitarist David Szulkin of Blood Farmers, drummer Eric Little of Earthride, and notably, Scott Carlson of Repulsion on vocals join Mikumi in crafting what is probably the most early Black Sabbath-y Church of Misery album from a band (well, at least, Mikami) that worships early Black Sabbath. Cases in point: “River Demon” is almost directly lifted from the self titled debut from Black Sabbath, and “Suicide Journey” is probably the spookiest mellow jam on a doom metal album since “Planet Caravan.” “Suicide Journey,” in particular, resonates, as it’s based upon one of the stranger episodes in the recent history of religious stupidity, the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult. Oh, yeah, and Carlson’s vocals are a perfect fit, as is the man himself. More times than not, when I see him at a concert in Los Angeles, he’s sporting a Black Sabbath t-shirt.
• • • • •
INVERLOCH – DISTANCE | COLLAPSED
2/4 of the legendary (the term is warranted in doom circles) diSEMBOWELMENT returns as Inverloch with Distance | Collapsed, its first full-length. An EP was released in 2012, which I’ve not heard, but Inverloch gained a great deal of attention last year as part of last year’s lineup at MDF (even though they dropped off before the festival began). Still, tongues were wagging, at least amongst my circle of friends. Distance | Collapsed is a seamless mixture of death and doom metal with a sound that moves away a bit from classic early diSEMBOWELMENT and toward that of, maybe, latter day Evoken. Riffs, and more riffs trodden down with a glacial pace are the name of the game, but Inverloch picks it up here and there with a gallop. Take Evoken, toss in some Incantation, and you’re in the ballpark. Add some atmospherics as a garnish, and serve.
• • • • •
PRISONER OF WAR – ROT
As you might expect from the name, New Zealand’s Prisoner of War plays war-themed death metal. The group’s debut EP, Rot, is filthy and cavernous, a la Autopsy, which the band covers with “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay,” but there are other obvious nods to classic death bands like Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, and Morbid Angel, making Rot a groovy but aggressive affair. The band’s most unique aspect, however, is its judicious application of dynamic and often torturous lead guitar –think Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” with a death metal makeover – which provides the perfect twist of the knife to this brutal assault.
• • • • •
BARBARIAN – CULT OF THE EMPTY GRAVE
A sweeter cover could ne’er be achieved by even a career dungeon master with a full set of 120 colored pencils. This Italian power-trio has been rocking the underground with their Manowar-inspired heavy metal since 2009 but had yet to see any release on what could be deemed a “major” metal label. Cult of the Empty Grave is the band’s most aggressive work to date. By slightly dropping the pace the band has upped their aggression game. Tracks like “Whores of Redemption” and “Bone Knife” clearly show a band that is uncompromisingly aggressive in their assault. By modernizing early heavy metal (with a fantasy edge) and sprinkling in a Venom-like amount of black and thrash influences, Barbarian has put together an album that is certainly upbeat and aggressive yet jovial. With distorted bass lines, drums that sound like they are being beaten with the bones of the enemy and a double-tracked guitar that both synchronize and harmonize its assault, Barbarian deliver an album as fit for murdering your enemies as it is to chugging beers with your pals.
• • • • •
SKAPHE – SKAPHE2
Philadelphia-by-way-of-Iceland black metal duo Skaphe make some seriously dark music. Really dark, with huge threads of Aosoth, Blut Aus Nord, and Deathspell Omega present, only without the uh… hooks of those bands. Sophomore album Skaphe2 has very little of Aosoth’s pummeling death metal influence, zero of Blut Aus Nord’s entrancing industrial groove (or folk-inspired melody, if you prefer that mode), and only occasionally touches DsO’s technical storm.
But what it lacks in immediate magnetism it makes up for in its constantly unsettling vibe crafted through pummeling drums, bottom-feeding rhythm guitars, and extremely echoed vocals. Perhaps most important to this vibe are the seemingly free form leads. At times they warble and drift with the rest of the music, and at other times they stab violently through the vastness, piercing everything in their way. When all put together, Skaphe offers the kind of corrupted atmosphere at which Leviathan excels, and on occasion offers a similar, hidden beauty. As stated, however, don’t expect to be immediately hooked as you would be by influences such as Wrest. But given time, the odd appeal and uncompromising disturbance present within Skaphe2 will begin to take hold. This is not fun stuff, but it is quite good stuff.
• • • • •
MAGRUDERGRIND – II
I’m a bit behind in covering this one, but it’s because I couldn’t come up with muchmore interesting to say about Magrudergrind’s II than simply “It’s pretty good. It’s fun.” II sees Magrudergrind squarely in grindcore territory, albeit the punkier and more powerviolent end of that spectrum, and though that’s certainly nothing new, this one’s a more “serious” affair than some of their earlier efforts. Nevertheless, it’s grinding and good in the classic sense, even if it isn’t entirely memorable. When it clicks, it hits hard – “Hara-Kiri,” “Sacrificial Hire,” “Unit 731” – but the rest flies by in a wash of blastbeats and growling. energetic but not quite distinct. One could certainly do worse than II, but for 2016 grinders, it was almost immediately eclipsed by Gadget, and then completely leveled by Rotten Sound, so in the end, all I’ve got is: “It’s pretty good. It’s fun.”
• • • • •
UNNATURAL – THE PATH TO RUIN
In the vein of pure death metal acts such as Undergang, the debut EP from Chicago based Unnatural features five unadulterated, pulverising tracks of classic death metal. Featuring ex-members of Morgue and Temporal Bleed, Unnatural pairs Bolt Thrower style vocals with a mix of Cannibal Corpse, Asphyx and Coffins to create their destructive brand of old school assault. Expect repetitive riffs that build into groovy outros supported by uncomplicated and homiletic drumming across the entirety of The Path to Ruin. Unnatural is a raw band full of upbeat riffs and straight-forward death metal. Fans of the new and the old should be drooling at the purity of the death metal outfit bereft of useless technicalities and flares.