There is so much going on in the underground worlds of Black and Death Metal, be it brutal, kvlt, heavy, introspective, or just generally interesting. Last year saw a raft of stellar releases, and the trend is set to continue at the onset of new year. Both genres seem to be experiencing a renaissance at the same time, and the result is genuinely exciting for underground Extreme Metal, with everything from standouts in each genre to amazing crossover projects. In our second underground spotlight of 2019, we here at Ghost Cult we have highlighted a few releases you should definitely have your eye on as we head through the winter months.
Desecravity – Anathema (Willowtip)
Recorded at Unisound Studio by the master of the clinical production, Dan Swanö, Desecravity have made a name for themselves for meshing the type chaotic of fretboard gymnastics that only the truly proficient can achieve with effective Death Metal churn – the chug two-minutes into ‘Impure Confrontation’ is grimace-inducing satisfaction.
There is a thin dividing line between hot mess of narcissistic widdle and effective technicality that impresses, and Desecravity know how to retain both brutality and hook and stay the right side of sensory overload, while not ignoring the need for a good headbanging groove, ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ in particular delivering on that front. ‘Ominous Harbinger’ is the album highlight, showcases their complete arsenal from the machete Melodeath introduction, via the bazooka of the grooving, sprawling middle-eight, to the shrapnel burst of pinching, slicing, speeding guitar scythery.
Who said Technical Death Metal is dead? This Japanese powerhouse knows how to churn out the heavy, technical fury, and they hold nothing back. While Tech Death is a somewhat niche genre because not everyone is into the heaviness mixed with the noodling, Desecravity will hold the attention of even those who don’t normally dig the genre. 8 / 10
Entheogen – Without Veil, Nor Self (I, Voidhanger)
As is typical of other releases on I, Voidhanger, Entheogen offers something a bit more than your typical Black Metal act. Fueled by psychedelic visions and a deeper understanding of the terror that lies beyond, they play a special brand of Black Metal that isn’t for the faint of heart, but is completely awesome. Torn asunder by crafting disfigured shards into disorienting splinters rent from a Deathspell Omega influence, is a collection of creations that challenge and never allow you to settle. Interestingly for Black Metal, the production gives room and space to the underpinning bass runs of Bradley Tiffin to provide an interesting additional element that enhances the album. A year after its initial vinyl release, Without Veil, Nor Self is worth the additional attention it’s re-release should garner. 7 / 10
Dødsfall – Døden Skal Ikke Vente (Osmose Productions)
These guys are not up-and-comers by any means; they have been solidifying their unique sound for a while now. Their most recent record still features what the band is known for anger, aggression, and inspired riffs. While cultivating a frost-bitten furrow that has oft been ploughed before may not result in any new or unexpected crops, nonetheless, Døden Skal Ikke Vente produces a plentiful harvest of everything we’ve come to know and expect Metal, and you can’t serve a decent stew without a hearty accompaniment of potatoes.
There is a welcome Bathory groove to ‘Takefjell’, and some icy Dissection runs and throughout, most prevalent in ‘Svarta Drömmar’, which also spurts off a wicked melodic solo. There are more imaginative and challenging takes on Black Metal out there, but Dødsfall holds the centre-ground with aplomb and Døden… is a thoroughly decent album. 6 / 10
Ars Magna Umbrae – Lunar Ascension (I, Voidhanger)
This one-man Black Metal band stands out from the rest with a unique take on the dark, occult sounds of the genre. First getting their start in 2017, they fit right in of tempo changes, insanely executed chord progressions, and lyrics about the mysteries behind the cosmos and the deconstruction of religion.
While such lyrics may be commonplace within blackened realms, taking their lead from the unrelenting awkwardness of Blut Aus Nord and stalking the discordant, nauseating corridors of discomfort, Ars Magna Umbrae’s first full length doesn’t rely on pace or raw aggression like many of their contemporaries, seeking to carve their own bloodied niche. Insidious, ominous passages, holding back the rage and building the tension, utilizing ambient and extended building passages to plant its dark seeds of terror is the weapon of choice, which isn’t to say there aren’t more aggressive moments, such as the more traditional Black Metal hurtling of the first half of ‘Daugher Of Endless Light’, but Lunar Ascension is at its best when it borders on the unhinged. 7 / 10
Der Rote Milan – Moritat (Unholy Conspiracy Deathwork )
Der Rote Milan play Melodic Black Metal that tells stories of German folklore through their long and epic songs. Fans of melodic, introspective, and thought-provoking metal should definitely give this a listen, especially since the songs are all crafted in the band’s native tongue of German. While matters suffer from a limiting production that buries some of the classy guitar work, Der Rote Milan craft strong moments, especially when they mix things up, such as on the slower, crawling centre-piece ‘Gnosis der Vanganglichkeit’. 6 / 10
Master’s Call – Morbid Black Trinity (self-released)
If your preference is Black Metal that is a little more in the traditional, straightforward camp, than Master’s Call is for you. Don’t mistake that description to mean the band is boring, however. They are ripping, heavy, and can keep up with the best of them, and they’ve also got a really interesting backstory. Shayan, the vocalist, was born in Iran and faced persecution and even death for making anti-religious music. Now, he is located in the U.K. where he can pursue his craft freely. Definitely worth a listen. 6 / 10
ADDISON HERRON-WHEELER / STEVE TOVEY