Missing Pieces: The Best Of What We Missed In 2020 So Far, Volume 1

So much music, so little time. Even though we do our damnedest to stay current and hit the high points (and sometimes the low ones, too), it’s inevitable that some musical jewels will fall through the cracks in the floor here at Last Rites World Headquarters. (We really should get that floor fixed. Donate to our Patreon account to help us put down some nice new linoleum tile.)

Anyway, now that we’re halfway through the blazing dumpster fire that is the year 2020, we’re going back and rounding up some of the releases that floated to the top of the heap and yet somehow we still manage to overlook in the last six months…

Better late than never, right?

METH LEPPARD – WOKE

released: April 20, 2020; Wise Grinds / Bloody Scythe (US), Psychocontrol (EU)

After a run of splits with the likes of Jack, BruceXCampbell, Blight Worms, and others, vicious grindcore duo Meth Leppard finally graces us with a full-length, and o! what a grand one it is. If you’ve been keeping up with these snarky Aussies, you should already know the drill here: riffs, blasts, riffs, grunts, blasts, and riffs, and all of it carved into one-minute-ish bursts of pure aggression. Woke slots firmly within that space, but now there’s more of it than would ever fit on a 7″, and a bonus cover of the Melvins’ “Honey Bucket” to boot…

Meth Leppard operates mostly on 10, going full blast almost the entirety of Woke‘s seventeen minutes — only in a scant few seconds does drummer Kieren Murray relax the blastbeats, most notably in the thrashy bits of “Surplus Or Die” or the somewhat (ahem) bouncy “Kangaroo Court” or in the rollicking Melvins cover. All three of those songs are standouts, not only because of those ephemeral deviations from the artillery barrage surrounding them, but also because each track sports catchy riffage from guitarist / vocalist Ryan Cheesman. Since Cheesman’s vocals tend to be relegated to sporadic rhythmic grunting, a similar attack from track to track, it’s in those riffs that Meth Leppard’s hooks truly lie, and there are plenty of them to go ’round: in the absolutely ripping “Down In A Hull” and its neck-snapping follow-up “Nuttelex” to the death-infected tremolo bits that pop out in “Boomer” and “Thrash Sucks” and beyond. Closing with that re-imagining of “Honey Bucket” — now with freshly added blastbeats and a run-time cut in half, but thankfully with its own brand of catchy sludgy guitar work left intact — this first Meth Leppard long-player is absolute barnburner, filled with carving riff and pounding beats from tip to toe.

Relentless, blistering, and eminently enjoyable, Woke is one of the most fun and strongest grind albums of 2020 so far, and baby, I’m not f-f-f-foolin’… [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

RAW – LANGUISH

released: March 31, 2020; Brutal Mind Records

Aditya Prakoso, one of the prime movers of the Indonesian brutal death metal scene and owner of Brutal Sick Alliance Production (home to snuggly outfits such as Scrumptious Putrescence, Disseminated Intravascular and the wonderfully monikered Removal Surgery), is certainly no stranger to crafting the sort of brutality that wafts across the senses like some sort of soundtrack for putrefaction, but he’s probably (possibly?) best known as the vocalist / guitarist of Gerogot, a very tender and affectionate band that produced 2016’s well-received and notably toxic Cruelty Vomit of Hatred.

RAW, however, is his baby and his baby alone, and the band’s intention, simply put, is to slime you from yet another putrid angle that gets the deadly deed done quickly, atrociously, and with a deep appreciation for all things related to the collapse and decomposition of the human form. That’s what ultimately puts us in the seats though, right? At least the portion of the population that finds a way to make impossibly savage, croaking BDM defy the odds and actually become beneficial to our health. Languish, RAW’s second full-length, delivers a blissfully brief 15-minutes (plus a 2.5-minute intro) of thick-riffed ferocity with vocals that aren’t so much toileted as they are Port-O-Pottied (you do NOT want to shine a light down the hole that’s spurting these pestilent burbles), and you will love it if your idea of rocket science involves studying the effects of missile detonation inside the colon of a mouldering blue whale.

Also, hails to Aesop Dekker for initially shining a spotlight on this release. [CAPTAIN]

AKURION – COME FORTH TO ME

released: April 10, 2020; Redefining Darkness

It was around my birthday when I got word that former Cryptopsy vocalist Mike DiSalvo was doing music again and had an album on the way with Akurion. What a great gift! I was excited to hear it and share with the world… and then along came COVID-19 and fucked up the rhythm I had finally established after so many months… which brings us to now.

I don’t know how much any of that matters, but I do like to own up to my misses when I can.

Anyway, I learned quickly that this was more than just DiSalvo getting back into things. Akurion is something of a Canadian supergroup also featuring past and present members of Neuraxis, Cattle Decapitation, and… Cryptopsy, again – and that’s just bassist Olivier Pinard. What’s more, Come Forth to Me features guest appearances by Luc Lemay (Gorguts), JM Leblanc (Vengeful), Genevieve DiSalvo (Mike’s wife), and… Lord Worm (Cryptopsy, again). Finally, the other former Cryptopsy vocalist, Martin Lacroix, did the artwork. OH, CANADA.

Oh, right… the music. The music is solid, firmly rooted in tech-death with elements from all of the bands mentioned and subgenres implied above. That feels like an oversimplification, but it will have to do in this limited space. I can tell you that the band damn near blows their entire wad on opening track “Leave Them Scars” by bringing all four vocalists together for 9+ minutes of exquisite Canadian death that brings together the chaos of Cryptopsy and the avant-garde death of Gorguts. Lemay returns for the equally impressive 11+ minute “Souvenir Gardens.” Don’t worry, they’ve got the ADD crowd covered with tracks like “Year of the Long Pig” that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on And Then You’ll Beg, the louder-faster-now crowd with “Bedsores to the Bone” and “Petals From a Rose Eventually Wither to Black,” and the Lord Worm Fan Club with closer “Kingdom Overcome.” After all that, you hosers will want to blame Canada for that headache and whiplash there, eh? [DAVE PIRTLE]

GRIFT – BUDET

released: March 20, 2020; Nordvis Produktion

Budet is the third full-length from Sweden’s one-man black metal act Grift, a thoroughly Nordvis-sounding group if ever there was one. Although Grift’s sound is black metal through and through, here, as with so many of the label’s other artists, tone is everything. Grift’s Erik Gärdefors dispenses almost entirely with icy bluster and ferocity in favor of a restrained, contemplative, and unavoidably rustic approach. On the opening track “Barn av ingenmansland,” for example, the verse features a simple but potent tremolo riff and a very basic drum pattern, clearing the space to focus on Gärdefors’s impassioned vocal delivery, but in the background, there’s a sound that’s difficult to discern picking out clean arpeggios which almost sound like a harp. The guitars are electrified but played almost entirely without distortion, and even on a track like “Ödets bortbytingar,” where things kick off immediately with a shuffling, almost-blast beat, the selling point of Budet is never its driving aggression, but rather its feeling of truly lived-in sorrow and paradoxical resoluteness.

The B-side opener “Väckelsebygd” is an engrossing bit of folk-leaning dark ambient soundscape, but at 10 minutes, it does seem to overstay its welcome slightly. Any qualms are swiftly pushed aside on the magnificent “Vita arkiv,” however, which features ColdWorld’s Georg Börner on violin accompaniment and spotlights some of Gärdefors’s most sweepingly emotive leads. Almost by design, Grift’s music is unassuming, and even when played at high volumes, it has a way of feeling like it’s retreating back into itself, not from uncertainty or lack of confidence, but because the music feels so deeply personal. But even more than that, the overwhelming feeling that emerges from the gorgeous, limpid tones throughout the record is that these sounds come from the land. And I don’t mean any particular land (although I suspect the rugged terrain of northern Sweden is quite influential), but land itself – earth. This music sounds like the smell of dirt and sweat on your brow, like the tentative promise of a grey spring that may never burgeon to summer bounty, like the hard-earned respect for a landscape that remains utterly indifferent to the life and work and struggle of the humans who pepper its wildness, but can never hope to tame it. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

SÖLICITÖR – SPECTRAL DEVASTATION

released: April 24, 2020; Gates Of Hell Records

Remember when heavy metal was tough? Not the bald headed Texas toughguy tough, but the leather-bound, chained up, long-haired rebel tough: spikes and blackjacks, switchblades and broken bottles, exhaust fumes and late nights on the backstreets of the big city swamped with a criminal element of outlaws, sex workers, drug peddlers, and other figures deemed by the “respectable” outside society as miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. The kind of heavy metal you’d find in the proverbial jukebox of some dive bar that launches the spirit of both fantasy and abject realism into a high-speed collision of riffs and speed and a sense of freedom from the outside world.

To sum up Sölicitör’s style with a single band would be their incredibly accurate, yet inspired nod to both the creative riffing and monumental momentum of Chastain — both guitarists Patrick Fry and Matt Vogan have ears for David Chastain’s near-unparalleled ability for creating riff after memorable riff, lead after searing lead of guitar fury, while vocalist Amy Lee Carlson hits the attitude and delivery of Leather Leone over the fast ‘n’ loud power of the music.

Album opener “Blood Revelations” holds no punches in letting the listener know what they’re in for with the band’s debut full-length. From the breakout riff, the band shifts straight from first to fifth gear with some catchy syncopated riffing that gives way to a teaser of the scorching leads that will rear their head throughout the course of the album. Carlson’s vocals break through the wall of sound like a bulldozer in full demolition mode with the power of her larynx dominating the mid range, commanding a presence with both talent and conviction of her delivery. It works in perfect harmony with the music, especially notable with how well she dances across the melodic undertones of the rhythm section on tracks like “Betrayer” and “Night Vision.” The thrasher feel of “Spectres Of War” keeps the energy going, pitching a fastball straight across the plate for album closer “Grip Of The Fist,” which returns with a creatively intricate bit of tremolo work and creative chord structures, ending Spectral Devastation with a feeling of restlessness and a touch of experimentation to Sölicitör’s usual formula.

Well, if that sort of thing is your bag (and it should be), Seattle’s Sölicitör have got you covered. Fast, furious, dripping sweat and oozing with attitude, Spectral Devastation has proven itself as one of the more exciting traditional speed releases of the year. [RYAN TYSINGER]

LAMENTARI – MISSA PRO DEFUNCTIS

released: March 25, 2020; independent release

Sometimes you hit play on a debut release and you hear something so polished, so professional, that you just know that the band members have to be seasoned veterans of the scene. Such is the case with Copenhagen’s Lamentari. Sure, they brought in a ton of seasoned orchestra and choir members to give Missa Pro Defunctis that Ultimate Grandiosity, but the two guys that wrote and arranged all these various parts? No apparent history on Metal-Archives.

You’d never know it. This EP ‒ which is based on a requiem mass ‒ is an absolute monster. The core is riff-centric and slightly proggy black/death metal that would be catchy enough on its own, but with the addition of the symphony becomes something thoroughly irresistible. (To hammer down the importance of the symphony, the digital release even includes orchestral versions of each of the three main songs.) Missa Pro Defunctis hits the listener with approximately 349,307 blazing tremolo riffs, brutal blasts, soaring string passages, heralding horns, venomous vocal deliveries, and thunderous tympani rolls. In “Lacrimosa,” choirs accent the biggest of the big hits, violins provide a drifting contrast to the metal pummelling, and piano almost seems to tumble down over all the ascending parts, only to briefly emerge as the feature. The 12.5-minute “Confutatis” is an exercise in extending damnation, misery, desperation, and a million other things, maintaining tension in both its quietest and most bombastic moments and providing the type of massive finish that makes the EP feel much bigger than a mere 26 minutes.

There is no way to exaggerate the sheer enormity of Lamentari’s music. There’s a true “more of everything!” vibe to the EP, but nothing ever feels frivolous. Missa Pro Defunctis is one of the finest examples of truly grandiose symphonic black metal since Death Cult Armageddon, and it’s a damn debut EP. [ZACH DUVALL]

ORANSSI PAZUZU – MESTARIN KYNSI

released: April 17, 2020; Nuclear Blast

Mestarin kynsi, Oranssi Pazuzu’s fifth full-length, is restless. Having flawlessly blended black metal and psychedelia on their third album, Valonielu, and then increased the menacing qualities of both on follow-up Värähtelijä, these Finns set the bar incredibly high. The 2017 Kevät/Värimyrsky EP felt like an extension of Värähtelijä, and it and the live Roadburn release were both welcome tastes of the menacing, otherworldly Oranssi Pazuzu sound, but where would these psychonauts take us next?

Into the abyss, duh. As with all of their releases, the joy is in the richness of the material. Synths and guitars blend seamlessly into undulating waves, creating atmosphere and ambiance more than traditional riffs. The gurgling, demonic vocals give extra malevolence to already unsettling sounds. The rhythm section forms the metallic skeleton that carries the rest of the band throughout the album, but the bass and drums are by no means conventional. Heaviness is a state of mind, after all. Or it’s a crushing wall of noise and pounding beats while keyboards shimmer and stab, with little regard for your expectations.

Oranssi Pazuzu is an album band, meant to be digested in one focused sitting. There are singles that convey the style and breadth of the band’s oeuvre (see the fantastic video below), but the real experience is total submission. Wait until nighttime. Turn off the lights. Prepare a drink and / or your favorite intoxicants. (your mind will be altered regardless; party in your own way.) Turn off your phone / shut the door / remove distractions. Mestarin kynsi demands your full attention. Oblige. “Drink Me” and descend the rabbit hole.

After working with underground labels like Svart Records and 20 Buck Spin since 2013’s Valonielu, Oranssi Pazuzu makes their Nuclear Blast debut with Mestarin kynsi, but there are no obvious major label influences here. Oranssi Pazuzu is one of those bands that can only be themselves, and Nuclear Blast seems to recognize the bottled lightning they have captured, allowing the band to explore the same artistic muses that have guided their decade of existence.

Mestarin kynsi has some incredible highlights, like at 6:13 of “Tyhjyyden sakramentti,” where some naked punk rock guitar launches out of the ether and sharp keyboards stab beneath it. Complacency is dangerous, and Oranssi Pazuzu lives to defy expectations. Even the simple hi-hat introduction of “Kuulen ääniä maan alta” can feel like a welcome reprieve from the madness, but as the beat continues, strange synth sounds and a trombone join the fray, reminding you that nothing is as it seems. Chaotic moments like the roaring stomp at 4:40 of “Uusi teknokratia” are telegraphed in advance, but are made all the more powerful by the expert foreshadowing.

In a word, this album is special. It is uniquely Oranssi Pazuzuzan, and it challenges both the band and the listener. Mestarin kynsi is another captivating, restless, and impeccable album that builds on their legacy. It rises above the high standards placed by the band’s continued exploration of hypnotic tension and visceral release. Get your mind right and climb aboard. Oranssi Pazuzu is one of the most exciting and challenging bands out there (waaaaay out there), and their trajectory aims ever upward. [FETUSGHOST]

COUCH SLUT – TAKE A CHANCE ON ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

released: May 1, 2020; Gilead Media

Chances are that you started listening to heavy music because somewhere along the way a riff, lead, fill, scream or breakdown hit your ears in such a way to put a shiver down your spine, raise the hairs on your neck or make your skin like that of a pimpled goose. Don’t lie, you’ve been chasing that dragon of sensation ever since.

From the tormented opening line of their debut album, My Life As A Woman, Couch Slut has been delivering that feeling, but it is due to their unnerving nature rather than anything close to the word fun. That’s not to say they don’t know how to put the rock in the noise rock tag they hold dear. “The Mouthwash Years” on Take a Chance On Rock ‘n’ Roll immediately establishes their ability to get your head bobbing. For every rocking moment, however, the band is just as eager to pierce your aural cavity with feedback, add notes that seem accidental/misplaced, have chords bend to disorient and otherwise devolve into the noise part of that very same tag.

What really sets this band apart is vocalist Megan Osztrosits and the lyrics she has the incredible fortitude to share. Her voice doesn’t sound professionally trained or fit a formal style, but rather will crack, break and bleed with the pain that inspired them. Her lyrics are even more uncomfortable than the voice that projects them. The content is so personal and open; you’ll feel like you’re snooping through the darkest moments of a personal diary. She shares stories of exchanging sexual favors for pills as a teen (“I’m 14”), the horrendous and all-too-common piss-poor response cops have to sexual assault (“In A Pig’s Eye”) and domestic violence that leads to self-harm (“The Stupid Man”). The album’s most disturbing moment may just be as Osztrosits reverses here normal approach for the deadpan delivery of a harrowing
story where she and her friends were drugged and assaulted in Ohio. This album will make you feel something and in a genre where lyrics are often considered to be secondary, Couch Slut has something to say and it’s well worth hearing. [SPENCER HOTZ]

CORDYCEPS – BETRAYAL

released: April 10, 2020; Unique Leader

Slammy slam slamz in your jammy jam jam. Get it? Last Rites is still thriving in the golden age of brutal death metal resurgence. Thankfully labels such as Unique Leader are riding that wave right along with us. While Defeated Sanity might steal the marquis headlines this year, and Devangelic’s Ersetu cannot be overlooked, Cordyceps is brutal.

Yes, you probably get that from the fact that I just called them brutal death metal. Riding a tight snare drum and thundering double bass rolls, Betrayal lurches and surges forward alternating between steam engine chugs and bullet train whirs and zings. If the current trend of thickly-layered, thematic brutal death metal is a bit much for you, then I might recommend getting the largest woofer you can imagine and blasting Betrayal from the top of the nearest mountain. This album is a lean, mean fighting machine full of neck-snapping slaps and back-breaking chumbawubs.

Tracks like “Comatose Subservient” belie their name by bringing a rather awake and dominating riff from which to craft their brutal tower. Snap! Crack! The snare bursts out sending the song into a vicious spiral of insanity. Anyways, adjectives are super-fun, and we could spend hours sitting here making up comic book sounds for everything on Betrayal, but that’s no substitute for actually listening to the damn thing, which is precisely what you should do. Strap on your adult diapers and descend into a nice wide squat. You’re about to thoroughly enjoy yourself. [MANNY-O-LITO]

WINTER DELUGE – DEGRADATION RENEWAL

released: April 24, 2020; Osmose Productions

Degradation Renewal is the latest misanthropic communiqué from surly Aotearoa New Zealand black metallers Winter Deluge. I originally wrote about the group’s first release for renowned label Osmose Productions a few months back, but Degradation Renewal‘s arrival coincided with a lot of online COVID-19 chaos, and my review got a little lost in all the noise. Because of this, I’m taking the opportunity to talk about the album once again because the EP’s temperament—and Winter Deluge’s sentiments—project plenty of existential menace, which certainly suits the mood of the times.

More importantly, Degradation Renewal is simply jam-packed with atavistic and antagonistic metal that deserves wider attention. The EP sounds pitilessly inhuman and Winter Deluge maintains a razor-edge focus throughout. (That said, for all the hate and hostility on display, Winter Deluge is also clearly a band only too happy to sink a few good-natured beers while cranking Thin Lizzy).

Expertly recorded and mixed at Dynamic Rage studio by Raj Singarajah and Cam Sinclair—see Sinclair’s work with well-known NZ black / death metal bands like Diocletian, Heresiarch, Bölzer, and Witchrist—Degradation Renewal combines spine-chilling instrumentation with nerve-shredding vocals. Winter Deluge deliver belligerent albeit dexterous songs thick with second wave influences, and primordial thrash and darker-than-dark death metal also feature heavily in the mix.

Scathing tracks like “Mass Grave,” “Within the Remnants of Humanity,” and “Cold War” combine icy melodicism and cut-throat intensity, with Winter Deluge’s orthodox audio violence seeing venomous vocals, scything riffs, and neck-snapping percussion battle it out over bleak terrain. Speed metal solos and thundering drums punch their way through bitterly cold walls of pitch-black riffs, with blistering guitars and snarls / sneers fueling tracks like “What We Leave Behind” and “Architects of Extinction”.

Degradation Renewal confirms there’s still plenty of vitriol to be mined from black metal’s original creative wellspring. And if you enjoy all the bile and corruption right here, make sure to track down Winter Deluge’s virulent full-lengths As the Earth Fades into Obscurity and Devolution – Decay, which also bear witness to equally withering levels of contempt and negativity.

Winter Deluge pour scorn on humanity at large, and Degradation Renewal is a clarion call both beckoning and welcoming our self-destruction. It’s a vile, villainous, and malevolent EP, overflowing with rancor and boiling oceans of spite. Definitive and triumphant black metal, par excellence. [CRAIG HAYES]

———

Did you enjoy that? Of course you did! And we have good news: There’s still ONE MORE MISSING PIECES FEATURE to come!  So tune back in tomorrow to read about all the other kick-ass records we didn’t get around to telling you about until now…

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

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