In which Richie HR dives into the maelstrom of abstract Metal, Noise and Ambient, and comes back up with something awful…
If you’re going to pick a name like Morbid Evils, you’re going to need to make sure you sound as horrifying and ridiculous as that suggests – fortunately, they have. Deceases (Svart) combines broken, demented Doom riffing with early-Godflesh levels of dissonance and repetition to create a sound that fits the artwork. The clichés and conventions of Doom, along with any notion of groove, are largely left at the door, creating music that sounds like a parallel evolution, both familiar and yet distinct from pre-existing tropes. Likely to be one of the year’s standouts in horrible, slow Metal. [8.0]
I had a… difficult relationship with Altarage’s first album, 2016’s NIHL (Doomentia). By blending Portal’s eldritch madness with a more orthodox, accessible approach they created a sound that was both compelling and – to me, at least – oddly disappointing, like not wanting to admit that you like shandy as much as beer. Endinghent (Season of Mist) confuses things even further by co-opting a chunk of Impetuous Ritual’s writhing, light-speed madness, while still keeping a solid grasp of recognisable riffs and grooves, and the effect this time is not a dilution but a sharpening. A weaponisation. If Portal are Azathoth squatting blind at the centre of the Universe then Altarage are Nyarlathotep the crawling chaos – more human and comprehensible, but more deadly for it [9.0]
Take a moment to imagine what a band called Cryptic Fog sound like. Then be grateful that they don’t. With not a keyboard instrumental or nocturnal forest video in sight, Staring Through The Veil (Independent) instead offers five twisting, headbanging tracks of crunchy, riff-heavy Death Fucking Metal that manages to keep punching you in the face for eight minutes at a time without getting boring. Straddling the line between old-school and contemporary without being too much of anything, Cryptic Fog don’t offer anything new, but tie all the familiar elements into such an engaging display of guitar worship that it’s hard to argue with them. [7.0]
The phrase “Instrumental Post-Metal” conjures up images of pretentious fifteen-minute soundscapes and pseudo-jazz noodling, but two recent examples show that it doesn’t always need to go that way. Briqueville’s II (Independent) takes a leap into the cosmic, mixing their almost Meshuggah-like syrupy riffing with ambiance and dissonant passages to achieve both horrific and strangely meditative results. Groovier than we’d normally bother with here, but with a depth that makes it stand out [7.0]. The horribly named Loincloth are also well-acquainted with groove, but disdain Briqueville’s cosmic meandering for pure lumpen bludgeon. At its least interesting, Psalms Of The Morbid Whore (Southern Lord) could almost be a collection of unreleased Pantera breakdowns, but over the course of the album they transform these often crude pummellings into something oddly compelling [6.0].
“Melodic” has never exactly been my favourite adjective, especially in Black Metal, but Der Wig Einer Freiheit are one of the few bands who manage to combine fiery, air-punching melodies with savage, ripping Black Metal without losing the impact of either. Their third album Finisterre (Season Of Mist) ups the violence and savagery of their previous two, the guitars in particular sharpened to a razor point, but they’ve combined it with a grasp of songwriting that normally comes at the expense of power in Extreme Metal – both sides are highlighted in the enormous two-part ‘Skepsis’, which also shows their ability to construct an effectively noisy instrumental piece. Melodic Black Metal for people who normally wouldn’t have anything to do with those words together [8.0]
Someone should tell Flames Of Genesis that they’ve chosen a name, font and album cover from the Wanky Progressive Metal box by mistake. In spite of all the visual clues, not to mention its name, Transmigration Part I: A Bridge To Further Realms (Minotauro) is a collection of synth-heavy, orthodox Dark Ambient with a cosmic aesthetic. The production is perhaps a little thin in places, with some of the synths sounding less like the heart of a black hole and more like… well… synths, but the composition is full and varied, with the skills required to make this kind of straightforward Dark Ambient interesting audibly in place. If things aren’t fully in place yet, there’s album evidence that they will be in the future [6.0]. Already on their third album for Cryo Chamber, cosmic space monks Metatron Omega occupy a similar space, but clearly highlight the difference between amateurs and professionals. As you’d expect from Cryo Chamber, the sound of Illuminatio is deep and all-consuming, rich, polyphonic drones merging with transcendent chantings and otherworldly sounds to create music that at its best steps outside reality and describes something alien and compelling. Lacking the variety and depth of some of their labelmates, Illuminatio is perhaps not the best starting point for the curious, but for anyone who knows the power of deep, resonant drones it’s likely to be irresistible [8.0].