Or so begin the always welcome mailing list updates from Sentient Ruin Laboratories with news on upcoming releases, sales, and the usual kind of information one would expect from an independent record label. I always liked this address; to me it reads like an exposé read by Peter Cushing or Vincent Price in the horror days of old, inviting us to witness what terrors lay ahead. I would like to extend the same invitation to you today, Dear Reader, as we take a peek into the corridors of Sentient Ruin and see what sorts of mad experiments they’ve been releasing this year upon an unsuspecting world.
Ahead you’ll find portals to unfathomable inhuman states, light-devouring monstrosities designed to crush the spirit, worlds of disgustingly gory suffering, and nightmares crossing the plane of the conscious mind and into the physical world around us using nothing more than music and sound to manipulate your emotions and trigger the imagination. Some may click right away, others may test your limits as they seek to break barriers and worm their way into your subconscious. So I urge you, Dear Reader, to enter with an open mind, and prepare to have your senses utterly decimated, leaving your brain a quivering lump of mush in the living laboratory of Sentient Ruin. Transcend the world of life around you and remember, Mors Vincit Omnia:
Death conquers all.
Vessel Of Iniquity – Void Of Infinite Horror
Vessel Of Iniquity is an apt name for this black/death/noise terror abstract auditory ritualization and annihilation project hailing from Oxfordshire, England. As soon as the perverse Vessel is boarded for its journey through the Void Of Infinite Horror, it is instantly clear that this is going to be one hell of a punishing trip of aural exploitations of the senses. “Invocation Of The Heart Girt With A Serpent” bursts into full sonic warfare from the get go, busting through the sinister defenses with a Gatling gun firing shells of anticosmic energy the size of Long Island in the form of the overbearing drum machine blasts. While hints of the sound that lies beyond the hammering roar of the percussion penetrating the senses will come to fruition later in the album, the first track serves almost as a rite of passage into the deep, spacious, doom-heavy second track of “Babalon,” which almost certainly owes a debt of gratitude to Triptykon with it’s throaty, fuzz-drenched atmosphere of grief. The production is quite well handled, as the softer bits like the intro to “Void Of Infinite Sorrow” genuinely feel like they are occurring in some hollowed out bit of space, operating beyond the wall penetrated with the invocation of the first track. The Gatling gun of the heavily mechanized blast beats does pop up from time to time as needed to further mine deeper into the void, it becomes more and more subdued, as though succumbing to the vacuum that swallows it as the record progresses. By the time “Mother Of Abomination” arrives, it has found a place beneath the warped screams and hushed whispers, the frantic black metal riffs popping up between the layered synths and samples that paint a tapestry of indifference to anything human. Such is the very nature of Void Of Infinite Horror, as the final track itself begins to become lost in a fog of crushing darkness that has been suffocating the sound of the once powerful and unstoppable drums. Experienced best as a singular work, Vessel Of Iniquity delivers a voyage deep into a realm of malicious aural terror that gradually begins to swallow itself in its on its own weighted atmosphere.
Release date: January 25, 2019.
Altarage – The Approaching Roar
One of the heavy hitters in modern black/death metal, Altarage have a history with Sentient Ruin, the label having released the cassette version of band’s absolutely crushing 2016 debut, Nihl. The partnership returned earlier this year, with Sentient Ruin again releasing the cassette version of the band’s third full-length, The Approaching Roar.
Black metal and death metal have had a love/hate relationship throughout their histories. While both tend to cite similar godfathers (coUGH Celtic Frost coUGH), a large part of the second wave in the early 90s was a reaction against what death metal was becoming, eschewing clean production and technicality for mood, atmosphere, and aesthetic.
Then, in 1998, Canadian technical death metallers Gorguts released Obscura, melding – most likely unintentionally – the modern aspects of the two, utilizing tech death (and staying firmly in that realm) to create an atmosphere of nightmares. If Portal are the modern day death metal descendants of Obscura, then Altarage represent the more black metal side of the same coin. Utilizing the clashing, dissonant anti-melodicism to create a sense of drowning in nightmarish horror, Altarage surround the listener in a haze of weighted despair only penetrated by the ever-present pulse of the drums as they blast, groove, or keep the labored pace of unending torment found at the end of tracks such as “Urn.” “Cyclopean Clash” plucks at strings of discomfort as the bass-heavy rhythms collide with the discordant guitars in an epic, dirty, twisted warfare over the hallowed ground of the listener’s synapses. With The Approaching Roar, Altarage have delivered yet another step forward for the more surreal style of black/death metal, burdened with the weight of cast iron bonds as they pull the listener deep into the unfeeling, inhuman nightmares they have created.
Release date: January 25, 2019.
Cassette ONLY on Sentient Ruin, LP/CD/digital available via Season Of Mist
Miscarriage – Imminent Horror
For a band that’s only coming up on their third year of existence, Miscarriage have been extremely busy with four prior releases, three of them being the Homicidal Mania trilogy last year alone. Even in that short span of time, they have been evolving at the exponential rate of a mutant flesh-eating bacteria that develops resistance faster than antibodies can be produced. Going from the noisey, harsh death/grind approach of their Disposed Abomination debut, Miscarriage quickly doubled down on the more dissonant, chaotic elements and the benefits of a beefier production for the Homicidal Mania series – here it is apparent that the panicked walls of their sound are closing in. By the third installment, the band had notably slowed in areas, but the claustrophobic walls of their sound seemed to intensify—as though they were becoming further and further detached from any sense of melody or reality as the band painted their violent corridors of gut-wrenching terror.
Miscarriage embraced this claustrophobic feeling when they paired up with Sentient Ruin to release their latest offering, Imminent Horror. Abandoning the speedy, frenzied nature of their entire previous catalog, Imminent Horror embraces the slow, droning rhythms of sludge. This is not sludge in the sense of some over-fluffed, rebranded grunge, this is sludge pushing the aborted husk of a lovechild it had with Symphonies Of Sickness all over the record player as the thick, bloody, fetal juices warp the turntable to a crawling, unstable RPM. Clocking in at just over one hour, this abomination of perverted experimentation plays like an endurance test—the track numbers lose meaning as the impossibly dense sound closes around you, the wet gurglings of the vocals bubbling beneath the grating walls of inhumanity. There are riffs beneath it all, builds and changes and movements – and finding them amidst the onslaught of disgust makes for a rewarding listen for those patient enough to separate the layers of entrails that submerge Imminent Horror in total auditory gore.
Release date: February 22, 2019.
Leather Glove – Perpetual Animation
It would be easy to just fill this blurb with Greg Wilkinson’s credentials, both as a musician and a renowned sound engineer, but to do so would be a disservice to Leather Glove, Wilkinson’s solo death metal project. Leather Glove deserves to be judged on its own merit as an excellent example of modernized death/doom with deep roots wrapped firmly around the grimy heart of the genre. The album opener for the debut full-length, Perpetual Animation, “The Sand Slips,” comes out swinging for the knockout, battering through with a slew of fast and mid tempo riffs delivered beneath a drunken assault of noisy lead work that splashes feedback over the mix like blood spewn from a chainsaw ripping into the soft torsos of mindless human filth unworthy of its wasted life. The low rumble of the vocals will strike the bass frequencies in any self-respecting sound system, particularly on the more doom-heavy tracks like “A Cursed Role” or “A Viceral Notion Of Death.” Tracks like “Embrace These Grim Decisions” (a personal favorite) or “Last Moment Of Fortification” lock into grooves like an anaconda the size of a 40-car freight train around a modestly sized apartment building as it squeezes out every last bit of auditory guts to be consumed by the serpentine ears of death metal aficionados.
While pure death metal may not always be the bread and butter of Sentient Ruin, when they put out anything in this realm it’s a guaranteed win. With recent past releases including Petrification’s Hollow Of The Void, Acephalix’s Decreation, Necrot’s Blood Offerings, and Noose Rot’s The Creeping Unknown, Sentient Ruin’s ability to not only release but curate a genre currently overflowing with talent is in itself a valuable tool for sifting through the unending onslaught of new death metal being released every week.
Release date: March 8, 2019.
Sutekh Hexen – Sutekh Hexen
Oakland’s own Sutekh Hexen also have a history with Sentient Ruin, the label having released the cassette version of the band’s 2014 EP, Become (the label’s fifth release, SRUIN004), as well as their split with BLSPHM on 7” (SRUIN037) later that year. After five years, the static-wielders in the vein of artists like Paysage d’Hiver and Darkspace return to Sentient Ruin with a double LP (and naturally, a cassette) of their spaced out descent into a world that teeters between the fringes of raw black metal and the heart of charred, ambient noise. Distant, aggressive cries of an emotion that falls somewhere between anguish, aggression, and despair emerge from the razor-sharp fog of distortion as the listener is slowly hypnotized into a descent through the mad world of Sutekh Hexen on the first track of their self-titled album. The slow pace of the drums that doesn’t even appear until the second proper track lulls the listener further down into the abysmal waves of sound as repetitive, doom-laden riffs are strummed in cohesion with the singed tongue of the inhuman terror that serves as the vocal component. The track shifts to a build of tension that stretches and pulls, tugging and generally elasticizing the atmosphere into a tension not unlike that of a suspension bridge where the steel cables are being plucked from miles away by the hands of an inconceivably unsympathetic inhuman god. Atmosphere is the name of the game here, and Sutekh Hexen manipulate it well—when they need to be heard, they are heard, when the need to retreat to the shadows of soft, lurking ambiance arises they do so with grace and without leaving their presence unfelt. The layering here is marvelous; more ambient tracks like “Elemental Uproar” seem to pull from a limitless bag of sample manipulation, in contrast to the abrasive, more dissonant fleeting of harsh, raw black metal. Sutekh Hexen proves to be one of those records that balances the two well, exploring and experimenting between various combinations of both, adjusting the mood and levels beneath a blanket of cohesive uniformity that eludes the grasp of so many other would-be successors to the delicate mastery of the manipulation of sound waves on the human psyche.
Release date: March 29, 2019.
Hold Me Down – Hold Me Down
While not an important character to the plot per se, one of the most iconic characters of Mad Max: Fury Road was undoubtedly Coma-Doof Warrior, the flame-throwing guitarist who wore the flesh of his mother’s face as a mask as he performed the war marches (riffs) to rally Immortan Joe’s army of Warboys to battle. He himself suspended by flesh to the backyard-welded machine body of the Doof Wagon, the self-described “sonic carmeggeddon” artillery truck bolstering stacks upon stacks of speakers upon speakers, all nestled haphazardly atop a serious set of desert-burnin’ wheels. Now imagine all of this bursting through after the tone-setting, post-apocalyptic intro track of Hold Me Down’s eponymous debut (self-released earlier this year and quickly scooped up for cassette release in April by Sentient Ruin) and you’ll have an idea of what’s coming into play here on “Strapped.” The mechanical, industrial war drums beat beneath the riff before fading into an ominous sample that further paints the portrayal of the final days of resistance against Skynet—the futile days of resistance. The vocals and feedback splash against the unfeeling percussion like weak flesh and gore consumed by the programmed violent efficiency of the machines. Tracks like “Unknown Architect” are designed to build suspense, keeping the listener on their toes, fearing the presence of a patrol of life-annihilating machinery, while later tracks like “Spoils” play out like Ministry adding blast beats to The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste to keep the cybernetic deliverers of death entertained as they coldly transmit the final remnants of life on this planet to the great beyond. But there is no great beyond, because that requires hope. And there is no hope to be found on Hold Me Down, only senseless slaughter of a meaningless, organic existence.
Release date: January 27, 2019.
Decoherence – Decoherence
Easily the shortest release examined here today, Decoherence’s self-titled 7″ is a monstrosity, taking the relentless blizzard of sound of, say, Immortal’s Pure Holocaust or Battles In The North and pumping it full of steroids, creating a massive, ornery abomination. The riffs on the first track muscle for space as their grip tightens, pulling and straining as tension builds across the soundscape. The vocals sound muffled and distant behind a wall of impenetrable, otherworldly fury as they scrape against their prison walls of sound. A short gasp of air is allowed in the form of a mid-tempo breakout: the blasting of the drums lays back into a groove as the guitars find an eighth note drive, providing a gasp of air before the listener is again plunged into the cold, inhuman hurricane of dread.
The second track allows the drums to play a bit with more space, accentuating the deep hits as they clamber on against disharmonic washes of guitar teetering on the realms of madness. The sound swirls down to an even deeper level of despair as the feeling of drowning increases twofold; the U.K. act have a knack for smothering their listeners in punctuated waves of thick static. An ominous feeling is kindled and fed in the breakdown section before again unleashing the fury of their full might. As a debut release, Decoherence serves well as an introduction to a band unafraid of exploring just how suffocating black metal can be while retaining the spirit of such a pivotal time in the genre.
Release date: April 5, 2019.
夢遊病者 – Ѫ
It’s one thing to remember a dream, it’s another to only be left with the residual experience of one. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the music of 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker). It exists outside the realms of genre classification, harboring production aesthetic and atmospheric ties to black metal, of course, but the instrumentation has drifted into much further territories since 2015’s 統合失調症の飢餓 (Hunger For Schizophrenia) demo. While 2016’s 5772 and 2017’s 一期一会 (For This Time Only, Never Again) opened up and rapidly expanded on the band’s sound to incorporate elements of jazz fusion, Middle Eastern melody, and the percussive pulse of world music under the cohesion of a dreamlike state, for the first time in the band’s history it feels like they are moving laterally, at least stylistically speaking. For most bands, this would be registered as a negative, yet the contemplative nature of the band’s latest EP, Ѫ (Yus) seems to play out like a reflection of where it has come from. Relatively shorter than the band’s already concise LPs, it feels like an appropriate move for a band who has already said Never Again as they pause to consider which path to follow.
“First Utterance” is bookended with droplets of plucked notes amongst a humming electricity of free-form, lively musicianship blanketed in 夢遊病者’s trademark hushed incantations. The layers of sound come to life over the syncopated drums, the tattoo of additional percussion flickering like sparks over the coals. The individual instruments fire like neurons, seemingly on their own path, yet working together to form a coherent thought. The entire first track feels relatively mellow for the band, urging reflection on the album’s thesis of the revitalization of things once considered dead, or to perhaps never happen again.
The second, final utterance kicks off with the more panicked, confrontational side of 夢遊病者 before drifting off into the slower, more relaxed passages as the two begin to face one another in a waltz that feels familiar, yet different, seeing a story that’s been told before in the band’s previous effort (specifically “Never Ailment’s On Oneself”) told by different partners in the dance of the urgent, anxious night terror and the peaceful dream state that it disrupts. The question of re-purposing that arises from the EP – can something from a different time (a time thought to be the only time?) find a new interpretation – becomes the new purpose of the music; in essence Ѫ becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it can never work again.
Or can it?
Perhaps I’m grotesquely overthinking it, but that’s the beauty of 夢遊病者. It always feels like there’s more beneath the surface, just out of reach, like trying to remember the details of a dream after waking up in a cold, existential sweat.
Release date: April 19, 2019.
Suspiral – Chasm
While old sayings about judging books by their covers certainly can hold merit, one tried-and-true method of discovery is stumbling across some fantastic album art. Suspiral’s upcoming full-length effort, and their first release with Sentient Ruin (with the European release handled in conspiracy with Clavi Secretorum), reflects their chosen art well—the nightmarish castle of the netherworld emerging from the realm of shadows, both daunting and somehow inviting to those who crave flirtation with madness and despair. The band reflects this in their overall style, utilizing more primitive, decipherable riffs chained together in hypnotic repetition amongst the suffocating fog of sonic shadows to entice the listener into a phantasmagoric dreamlike state, siphoning deep-seated fears from the subconscious to the conscious state of mind. For instance, the album’s opener “Crown Of Chaos” begins with the aggression of an old school thrash record, with the second guitar emphasizing the accents of the main riff as the drums drive home the key points. Suspiral hold true to roots throughout, while shrouded in the noise and ambient elements – keys strike singularly on the build of the chanted “chaos… chaos…” whisper-by-way-of-scream vocals as the layers build over the blasting percussion, connected further by the entrancing bass betwixt the two – it somehow stays firmly rooted on the blackened side of more contemporary progressive black/death acts.
The layering on Chasm is marvelous, and credit is due to the production team on fitting everything just so to fully fill the sonic tapestry of horror. The noisy intro to “Boundless Waters,” which paints vivid colors of drowning in swirling eddies of terror, feels coated in a lacquer of unease as the song builds through its caverns of doom as the suspense fully peaks into a chamber of divebomb soloing grooving, mid-tempo blasting before falling again to the pit of despair, the ever-present feeling of dread petering off with a death rattle before the subsequent horror of “The Antithesis Of Time” can rear its ugly head.
By the time the fourth and final track comes in, it is apparent that Suspiral has come into their own as a band, progressing substantially in scope and execution since 2016’s still-noteworthy Delve Into The Mysteries Of Transcendence. They are further adding to their sonic palette and upping the intensity; the band is utilizing their full potential on Chasm as casters of cavernous cacophony nightmares to force the listener to reflect upon the deepest fears that dwell within the naturally anxious soul of those who seek a reflection of the darker realms of their own subconscious.
Release date: May 10, 2019.
If you’d like to check out more of the label’s past releases, most are available at their Bandcamp page (even if you don’t want to pay $1,000 to get that lossless copy of Hell). A few that our esteemed staff here at Last Rites have reviewed include:
american – Coping With Loss
“This probably won’t be the last you hear of american, or Sentient Ruin Laboratories, for that matter. Both entities represent all that’s good in the US in terms of young talent working hard at delivering something new, noisy and worthy of attention. So if you’re interested in jumping in on the ground floor, there’s no time like .” – Captain
Full review here
Necrot – The Labyrinth
“Still here? Or was your head nuked by the ruthless, mutilating, toxic, exterminating, voracious, calamitous, trampling, murderous, inhuman, ravaging, mammoth barbarism of Oakland, California’s most unmerciful death metal battalion, NECROT.” – Captain
Full review here
Alaric – End Of Mirrors
“…a very appropriate end to a splendid slice of dismal gothic/post-punk/deathrock produced by a band whose members have been entrenched in the punk scene for many years. And lucky for them, they’re delivering some of their strongest material right in the midst of a rabid gothic trend.” – Captain
Full review here
Cruz – Culto Abismal
“Like the straightforward death of a Dismember or latter day Bolt Thrower, this is a bulldozer beast of a record, filled with catchy riffs and relentless forward momentum, that one-two beat pushed to overdrive with gnarled guitar riffs on top.” – Andrew Edmunds
Full review here
Show Of Bedlam – Transfiguration
“…an oppressive sounding record, strongly aligned with the lyrical source matter, which often references uplifting topics such as mental illness, alienation, shame, and spending time in hospitals, among other things.” – Old Guard
Full review here
Acephalix – Decreation
“Fans of old school death metal, riffs and slamming their head into a wall will be excited to spin this one relentlessly, letting the riffs, rhythmic vocals, precise guitar work and energetic drumming keep them awake for weeks.” – Manny-O-War
Full review here
夢遊病者 – 5772
“The fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetic works in the band’s favor, blanketing 5772 in an atmosphere of mystery and warmth as the band navigates through beautiful dream states between barbarous, scathing nightmares.” – Ryan
Full review here
夢遊病者 – 一期一会
“Sleepwalker operate with skilled hands under the purpose of a singular mind as it explores wretched and beautiful corridors of the melatonin-soaked subconscious.” – Ryan
Full review here
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out our interview with the Sentient Ruin mastermind.