Kia ora, cuz. Spring has sprung in Aotearoa New Zealand. Although, you wouldn’t know it given the howling wind and freezing rain currently trying to destroy my Hobbit hole. Still, miserable weather seems like a perfect fit for the three wretched NZ metal releases below.
Before you dig into the guts of those releases, I want to give a quick nod to Scorn Coalescence, the stiff-necked four-track split featuring notorious NZ bruisers Heresiarch and Trepanation, and Sri Lankan groups Serpents Athirst and Genocide Shrines. Digital and CD editions of Scorn Coalescence were released a few months back by Indian label Cyclopean Eye Productions, and US stalwarts Dark Descent have recently released a 12” version of the split.
Not to play favorites, but I think hot-blooded metaphysical battles always sound more gruesome and profound on vinyl, right? In any case, if you’re a fan of defiant bands making militant metal—and indulging in all manner of malignant musical mayhem—Scorn Coalescence awaits. Recommended for malcontents, misanthropes, and grim-faced prophets of doom.
Now, onto the rest of the horrible NZ noise.
Distant Fear – Mortal Column
Distant Fear sound like tooled up thugs set on wreaking fucking havoc, which isn’t too surprising given the Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) band features members from Shallow Grave, Prisoner of War, and occult colossus Witchrist. Like those groups, Distant Fear show an instinctive awareness of how to dispense primitive audio violence, and the band often ratchet up the tension, before dropping the battering ram.
On stage, Distant Fear hit like a sledgehammer. But the dark depths of their songs reveal subtle structures, meaning the band’s brute-force death metal is shrewder than first impressions. At home, fans have been expectantly awaiting Distant Fear’s debut, and while the band’s Mortal Column demo only contains three songs, Distant Fear provide plenty of barbaric bang for your buck.
Mortal Column is only around 16 minutes long, but it bludgeons and batters with plenty of sadistic resolve. Tim Leth (bass/voice/guitar noise), James Bakker (drums), and Alexander Brown (guitar/voice) carve out a bulldozing wall of (formidable) noise that falls somewhere between getting crushed under tank tracks and torn apart by a tornado. In truth, it’d be nigh on impossible to capture Distant Fear’s live intensity on record, but crank the volume on Mortal Column and you’ll get a strong sense of the band’s aesthetic power and prowess.
Mortal Column kicks off with “Crude Sanctum”, which sees a slow-burning storm of distortion morph into a pulverizing doom-choked churn. The demo’s title track feeds jagged-edged instrumentation into a swirling pitch-black vortex, with barking vocals echoing in the catacombs below. Final track, “Fatal Displeasure,” features a barrage of hope-crushing deathcrust, before ice-cold hallucinatory riffs arrive, bringing black metal’s wrath to the fore.
Devotees of murky and merciless NZ death metal will revel in Distant Fear’s punishing noise. But admirers of bombarding crust and stenchcore will find plenty to enjoy too. Distant Fear plow through subgenre boundaries, making zero accommodations, and the band’s cacophonous tracks ooze plenty of promise, even if Distant Fear’s music is anything but hopeful.
Mortal Column is dense, visceral, and as bleak as a funeral. The best demos ramp up our expectations, and Mortal Column is definitely a tantalizing onslaught. Sure, Distant Fear’s debut only features 16 minutes of music. But the band make every decimating second count.
Fingers crossed there’s (a lot) more destructive noise to come.
Malevolence – Unending Death
Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) crew Malevolence have been serving up a gruesome stew of grindcore and noxious black and death metal since 1992. Vocalist and guitarist Dero (aka Daryl Tapsell) has fronted the band since day one, and Malevolence have shared the stage with the likes of Primate, Brutal Truth, Pungent Stench, Dismember, Napalm Death and more.
Malevolence’s latest EP, Unending Death, follows on from their well-received and equally aggressive second full-length, Relentless Entropy. Unending Death features two frenzied cover tracks – “Double Standard” (Disorder), and “Hymn III – Wolf and Hatred” ( Ulver) – which not only offer a glimpse of Malevolence’s influences but also underscore the band’s crossover appeal at home.
Malevolence’s fanbase has always featured as many feral punks as diehard rivetheads and noiseniks. The band’s resolutely DIY attitude is heavily ingrained in Malevolence’s sound and vision, and their crude underground charisma essentially extinguishes scene subdivisions.
Unending Death tracks like “Terminal”, “One God Further” and “Let Them Die” detail humanity’s failings while mixing maelstrom metal with gutter grind, which often leaves a crusty aftertaste. Dero’s put his audio engineering skills (and his Blackdoor Studio) to good use over the years, working with numerous bands, including well-known NZ ne’er-do-wells like Witchrist and Winter Deluge. Dero doesn’t tinker with Unending Death too much though. The EP’s edges are left raw and ragged, meaning tracks like “The Wheel” and “Flies Around Shit” sound all the more monstrous.
Malevolence have sounded increasingly focused since drummer Ben Parker (Vassafor) joined Dero and longtime bassist Julz in 2005. Truth is, after 27 years toiling away in the trenches of underground metal, you’d forgive Malevolence for drifting into the cruising lane now and then. However, Unending Death shows no signs of weariness, weakness, or lack of determination.
In fact, these days, Malevolence are making some of their harshest, heaviest, and most savage music yet. No question, Unending Death is a brutal statement of intent. Who knows what’s inspired Malevolence to keep fighting for all these years? I’m guessing it’s some kind of high-octane blend of bile, spite, and a stubbornly enduring compulsion to forge obliterating music.
One thing’s for certain: Unending Death proves there’s plenty of fuel left in Malevolence’s creative engine.
All hail the old dogs. As rabid and tenacious as ever.
Kruor Noctis – Craven Whispers
Recently, Last Rites published a feature packed with some of the rawest and most villainous black metal around: see Black-Raw-Bleeding. Trio Kruor Noctis would’ve slotted nicely into that list. The band’s second release, Craven Whispers, features two lengthy tracks filled with lo-fi riffs, throat-slit vocals, and blastbeaten music buried in a blizzard of abrasiveness. With sinister-sounding contributions from dungeon synth wizard Visions of Ulnahar, Craven Whispers‘ atmospheric tracks are chock-a-block with necro nastiness, and even more glacial bitterness.
Kruor Noctis follow a dimly lit path into the depths of misanthropy on “Opprime Hostem Tuum”, which features hypothermic riffs, croaking vocals, and unrelenting percussion scurrying about in a pitch-black crypt. An unearthly ambient outro bleeds into Craven Whispers‘ 22-minute title track, which summons more morbid magick with its red-raw riffing and ghoulish howls awash in a corrosive squall.
If you enjoy the nerve-shredding output of Pa Vesh En – or the acid-burn harshness of raw black metal maestro Black Cilice – you might also relish how Kruor Noctis’ caustic instrumentation works its way under your skin. Craven Whispers will definitely spark your interest if you’re a fan of unfathomable levels of malevolence coupled with subzero production, nails-on-a-chalkboard vocals, and shadowy soundscapes.
Evil should sound evil. Hate should sound hateful.
Kruor Noctis definitely tick both of those boxes.