We have a few “holiday leftovers” for you as we begin a new year at Last Rites. If you’re well sick-and-tired of ham or turkey sandwiches at this point (but your father STILL hasn’t taken down the tree), here are a few morsels that we overlooked as 2015 came to a close.
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HARVEST GULGALTHA – I
Nuclear War Now! recently signed mysterious trio (I think) Harvest Gulgaltha, and has reissued the band’s 2012 demo, I, on the label’s Bandcamp page. I was originally issued as a cassette on Aphotic Sonance with a very limited print run; but, Nuclear War Now! is getting ready to issue a new full-length from Harvest Gulgaltha and is streaming the demo in anticipation. Harvest Gulgaltha resides at that perfect intersection between death and black metal with just a hint of doom to go along. This doesn’t sound all that groundbreaking, and it’s not, but Harvest Gulgaltha hits the sweet spot. A crushing weight and a hugely powerful production combines with just the right amount of catchiness to the riffs, a hint of melody, and well written songs. There’s a certain something about Harvest Gulgaltha that just screams potential.
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INSANITY – VISIONS OF APOCALYPSE
Thanks to a tape-traded 1985 rehearsal demo, Insanity made enough of an early impact to attain cult status. They’re sometimes cited as originators of the blastbeat, fighting for that credit with better known bands like Repulsion and Napalm Death. Alongside Possessed, Insanity took thrash farther, turning the intensity up another notch, laying the groundwork for what came after. In the twenty-one years since their first album, drummer Bud Mills succumbed to cancer. Mills’ frantic drumming was a large part of their sound; he was the chaotic energy that defined them. With Visions Of Apocalypse, Insanity has shifted from one side of death/ thrash to the other – whereas Death After Death’s death/thrash was thrash pushed up to the intensity of death, Visions Of Apocalypse is more akin to straightforward death. It’s tighter, slightly slower, more controlled. Still, the rest of the formula remains – it’s old school, chunky riff and hyperspeed crash, from the groove of “Sacrefixion” to the epic title track. A solid (and long overdue) sophomore effort.
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WITH THE DEAD
The voice of Cathedral (Lee Dorrian) meets the original rhythm section of Electric Wizard/ Ramesses (Mark Greening and Tim Bagshaw). If that sounds like a winning combination to you, then you’re right. Dorrian’s voice isn’t a perfect for the fuzzed-out wall of sound, but the contrast has its own unique appeal (or perhaps I’m just a huge Dorrian fanboy.) It’s the doomiest he’s sounded since Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, yet a bit more rock than we’re used to hearing from Greening and Bagshaw. It may take multiple spins to sink in, but soon the methodical, hypnotic riffing will break you down – to your knees. HAIL DOOM.
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STIGMATA – THE ASCETIC PARADOX
Up until recently, the only Sri Lankan metal I was fully aware of came at the hands of Genocide Shrines, a dismal, esoteric black/death metal outfit that leans heavily on all things murky. But if you’re at all familiar with this particular island nation directly off the southern tip of India, you probably understand that it’s a notably multicultural country with a full range of influences bombarding inward from a bevy of angles, which is precisely the sort of lead-in that’s befitting a band like Stigmata.
While chiefly rooted in a particularly potent brand of heavy/power metal, a record like The Ascetic Paradox (the band’s fourth full-length) finds inspiration from progressive, thrash, jazz and a handful of other decidedly more extreme metal channels, occasionally to an almost schizophrenic degree. Vocalist Suresh De Silva has an absurd range that’s thoroughly tested throughout the full hour’s worth of material, and he’s backed by a crew of instrumentalists who are equally as intrepid in their approach to pushing boundaries. Melodic, aggressive and above all else, fearless, The Ascetic Paradox is an ideal choice for those who enjoy smart, severe progressive metal that demands one’s full attention.
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DARKEST ERA – GODS AND ORIGINS
With their first two albums, Darkest Era have established themselves as Ireland’s other great melodrama-loving metal act. A trad metal yin to Primordial’s blackened, desperation-fueled yang, if you will, but with no less emphasis on sorrow. To follow up the masterful Severence, the band is reflecting on 10 years of making music with the 7” EP Gods And Origins. The A-side of the 7” is “An Dagda,” a rerecorded version of one of the group’s earliest songs, written when they were still known as Nemesis. And it’s a ripper, delivering all of the momentum, guitar harmonies, and gripping vocal melodies for which the band has become known. (Also features a fun wailing scream to kick off the vocals.) Following is the acoustic “Elohim,” which obviously lacks the heft and emotional weight of the first song, but is quite pleasant in its own right, fully indulging in the band’s Irish folk roots. This little stopgap release achieves both things that little stopgap releases are supposed to achieve: It holds me over while also building anticipation for whatever this criminally underrated band does next.
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AFFLICTION GATE – DYING ALONE
“THIS IS TRUE DEATH METAL, YOU BASTARDS”
Martin van Drunen belched out the above decree four years ago at the beginning of “Deathhammer” as a defiant stand against… Well, I assume in defiance of the over-dilution of brutality in death metal. I’d be willing to bet Martin would appreciate Affliction Gate, however, as this French foursome has spent the better part of the last decade slowly belting out the sort of death metal Dan Seagrave would’ve jumped at the chance to beautify back in the early 90s. Dying Alone, this edition’s sole 2016 release, is a hefty, straight-forward EP of brutality with just enough melodic lead-play to dab a touch of Swanö on the canvas, and the band’s recent merger with Transcending Obscurity Records opens the door to a productive and savage future.