Throes - Disassociation

Just when I thought I might not have anything post-worthy today, I decided to spin this recommendation that has been sitting in my cue for a few days.  Somewhere, in an odd niche between Ulcerate's ominous tech death and Behemoth's riff-heavy blackened death, lives this album. It's a nice marriage of the two, managing to enjoy the best qualities of each. Throes sport some impressive musicianship without being impenetrable. Just listen to those guitars and drums.  No seriously, go listen.  Very cheap on bandcamp as an added plus.



Arcturus - Arcturian

Another group that is not exactly unknown, but this being a solid release and their first in 10 years...

Arcturus is a group from Norway that dropped its first LP in 1995...roughly 19 years before I even got around to listening to a single one. While this is sad on my part, it is worth noting that they have not released anything since 2005's Sideshow Symphonies. Despite not being a long time fan, Arcturian fills me with a sense of nostalgia. I get the same feeling from this album that I did listening to my first Dark Tranquillity CD's in high school. This may be in part due to the contributions from ICS Vortex, a musician I have respected since my formative metal years listening to Dimmu Borgir. While musicianship is a good indicator of an album's quality, it is often these elusive, qualitative aspects that will stand the test of time.

Even so, this is certainly not to say that Arcturus is lacking in the songwriting department. To the contrary, the many elements at play are quite remarkable. The plentiful string arrangements throughout deserve particular attention. Tracks like “Angst” and “Pale” showcase a level of pomp that is dark and foreboding without a hint of cliche. Similarly, the subtle synth and electronic elements take songs to new heights of atmosphere and appeal as with “The Arcturian Sign,” “The Journey,” and “Warp.”

While the guitars and drums often do little more than help fill out the sound and create a heavier aesthetic, they too have the occasional spotlight moment. “Game Over” features a fittingly classy solo while “Crashland” and the opening track have their share of thunderous double bass, tom fills, and snare rolls. But the real accolades here go to Mr. Vortex. I have often said that this man is possibly the most talented vocalist in metal today, and his work here with Arcturus is no less impressive than classic contributions to Death Cult Armageddon or Borknagar's The Archaic Course. His voice is operatic in its sheer power and command of melody without ever becoming gimmicky. And while there are not many harsh vocals to be found in Arcturian, Vortex's presence is no less imposing.

Alas, similar to Sigh's Graveward, the only major problem I have with Arcturian as an album is that the production feels rather flat in comparison to its lively compositions. The more “classical” moments (i.e. the first half of “Bane”) really pop, but it seems like things go wrong whenever the guitars gain prominence. Crunchy distortion seems to bulldoze peaks and valleys into a uniform plain that lacks grandiosity. The drums feel particularly lackluster in these times, but I think that the most egregious crime is that the stunning vocal performance is not given the depth it deserves. With all of the posh ambiance, I crave a sound that feels more nuanced and vital.

Fortunately, the clear passion and professionalism exuding from the very pores of this LP are more than enough to forgive issues in the studio. Advertised as “The new magnum opus from Arcturus,” Arcturian is the rare comeback album that delivers on its promise. Between the tasteful classical elements and perhaps best vocal performance so far of 2015, one would be foolish to pass on at least a few spins of this accomplished piece of art. Coming May 8th, don't be one of those fools.



Karst - Lime Veins Bleed Rust 

Hey folks! I'm once again a free man (for the time being) now that my dreaded exams have come to an end. If all things go according to plan, I will be able to write a little more frequently.

Without further ado, I bring you Karst. It's quite the feat to release an album itself but one that is self-released, and in cassette format  can often be a risk most bands aren't willing to take. This risk however has definitely paid off for the likes of Karst. With their unique mixture of Black Metal, Garage Rock like influences and Progressive undertones they create a refreshing sound that piques your interest. They pull the style off with seemingly ease where other bands may find difficulty in mixing the jazzy interludes and other interesting influences. If you're all about the groovy, unconventional Black Metal, and lyrics sung in a different language this may be right up your alley.


The Number Twelve Looks Like You - Worse Than Alone

Celebrating an underrated classic today.  This album is a 10 in every sense.  It's innovative, it's an amazing piece of musicianship, and most importantly; it's a blast.  I recommend you listen to the full playlist on youtube rather than simply listening to a track, but two of my favorites are below if you feel so inclined.  Delightful fusion of so many styles that wouldn't seem to work, but do.  Yes, it's a foundation of mathcore, but it transcends into a fairly progressive, and wholly impressive, amalgamation.  Sadly, this was the group's swan song.  I had the pleasure of seeing them twice touring with this album, once with Dillinger Escape Plan.  They were just as good, if not better live.


Purchase Update

For those wondering if us reviewers actually put our money where our mouths are, consider this exhibit A.  In addition to the many digital bandcamp purchases I have made recently to support growing bands, I do still partake in some physical purchases.  Despite both Wovoka and Frosthelm gracing me with free digital promos, I loved the music and artwork so much that I wanted them to join the pantheon on my shelf.  Frosthelm even went the extra mile with a sticker, patch, and guitar pick.  Support your local artists!

The Crinn - Shadowbreather

Time for a little technical grindcore to break up the action.  I see The Crinn as Calculating Infinity-era Dillinger Escape Plan mixed with some Converge and put on fast-forward. The musicianship is pretty jaw-dropping, albeit occasionally at the sacrifice of solid hooks and compositions. But I think the point of this is mainly just to drag you to the floor and beat you to death with calculators in various time signatures. Fun stuff.




 Veld Daemonic The Art of Dantalion

It is not wise for a man to judge a book by it’s cover (or in this case, an album by its album art). Then again, I don’t claim to be a wise man and looking at the demon spawn suckling on the teats of the masked goat creature, I could not resist checking out ‘Daemonic: The Art of Dantalian’. This is fourth full length from Belarus based death metal unit Veld, out on Lacerated Enemy Records. This is sturdy piece of death metal that carries a lot of influence from the European bands and it’s pretty straight forward in its approach.

Veld have a strong Polish death metal influence in their sound and the blackened sound provides adequate amounts of evil feeling in the music. The sound can be compared to the early days of Behemoth. There is also a smidgen of technicality thrown into the mix and the combination, though not entirely fresh, is adequately entertaining. From beginning to the end, the brutality and heaviness is constant, only broken up by a beautiful instrumental interlude to keep things interesting.
The guitar riffs carry a certain level of technicality, all the while maintaining the constant heaviness that is characteristic of a death metal album. I like the fact that the technical stuff is not too over the top and it can be enjoyed without breaking your head trying to figure out how they pulled it off. Melody is also present in the form of subtle orchestral touches and it is emphasised upon during the guitar solos.

Veld borrow a bit of every facet of death metal and put it together to create an interesting album. The sound carries the blackened touch with technicality, symphonic touches, a wee bit of a melody and enough brutality to sound relentlessly heavy. None of these elements outshines the other. They work in tandem to create an entertaining mix.
The album ends on a high note with ‘Annihilation of Divinity / Trust Upon Ignorance’ which is the longest track on the record. The track features a section with childish female vocals singing along to distorted riffs, ending things on an experimental note. The production is a big high point in the record. The top notch production quality leaves nothing to be desired.
‘Daemonic: The Art of Dantalian’ is slab of death metal that one should explore to experience all things good in the genre.



Akhlys - The Dreaming I

I don't know why it has taken me so long to put this one up.  This album succeeds in creating a  palpable atmosphere: one that is inspired by the nightmares of Naas Alcameth (Nightbringer). Despite having only a few tracks, there are some great ups and downs and real progressions within their meaty runtimes. While I would have liked to see just a little more finesse in the guitar-work, there were some truly chilling uses of simplistic hooks as with the high-pitched ringing tones that recur throughout personal favorite, "Consummation." The synth work is also very layered and quite beautiful. Repeat listens definitely led this to grow on me. I would be more than happy to throw down for its bandcamp digital pricetag of 6.66 Euro, but I am personally holding out for an affordable copy of the digipack for this gorgeous cover art.  I'm in the US, so it's only the shipping that kills me.  You may see a full review for this at some point.



Forefather - Curse of the Cwelled

This frequently reminded me of late, folk-era Rotting Christ. Very similar riffs and vocals, both of which are quite fetching in their own right. My main problem with this album has a lot to do with the production. The vocals are buried and muffled and everything just seems a little bit off. A little more finesse with the mixing job and this could have been a pretty standout piece of work. Even so, it's not bad in the sense that it hurts the ears like some other albums I have heard.  Still definitely worth a listen.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Check it out HERE.



Monolord - Vaenir

I normally don't go in for doom metal, particularly stoner doom.  But damned if Monolord didn't just write one of the best albums I have heard in the style to date.  I absolutely love the vocals. The trippy effects over them create a really unique sound that is both refreshingly modern and wonderfully nostalgic. Then there's the hooks. My god, the hooks. Those crunchy, stoner riffs are so juicy I want to put them in a bun with cheese and add a side of fries. My main complaint is that songs tend to overstay their welcome by a minute or two, and I'm not particularly a fan of "Nuclear Death." The result is that the album lost a little steam for me about midway, but the very Black Sabbath, "Solitude"-influenced "The Cosmic Silence" and crushing titular closer helped to bring me back. Excellent doom, even for someone like me who is not particularly fond of the genre. You can hear the whole thing HERE and visit their bandcamp HERE.  $7.55 to buy digital.



Full Review: Murg's Varg and Björn

After some extended time with this album, I felt the need to give it a much more deserving review:

I initially listened to Murg on a whim after seeing it on a Tuesday release list. Bandcamp and I have become good friends, so seeing they had a stream available didn't hurt either. I was further intrigued by the promise of black metal from the “days of old” in the album description. While my initial reaction to the music itself was mixed, I found myself drawn back to Varg and Björn regularly in the weeks that followed.

So what was so intriguing? Well for starters, there's “Massvandring & blodbad.” This bouncy, somewhat folky tune instantly made my list of top songs for 2015. Those familiar with Taake may agree that the guitar work and tone are more than reminiscent of their later work. The rest of the album is similarly soaked in Hoest's ear for melody while maintaining a grim atmosphere and edgy production.

It is in these similarities that Murg truly delivers in its promise of 2nd wave nostalgia. On each listen, I am reminded of early Darkthrone, Mayhem, and Satyricon. The anguished tremolos, pounding blastbeats, and tormented vocals are all here in spades. But at what point do throwbacks become redundant? Those who listen to a similar wealth of black metal may hesitate to ask “why not just listen to the classics?”

For a time, I was thrown by this very question. But ultimately, Murg's keen sense of melodic hooks and expert production is unquestionable. Of Swedish descent, it may very well be written in their blood to fuse the dark and melodic while maintaining tight, memorable compositions. And so, despite similarities, Varg and Björn is less evil but more mournful than Mayhem. It takes Darkthrone-style tremolos to new heights of sorrow. The reverb-drenched soundscapes and crushing drums rival anything Satyricon put out in their early years. In short, Varg and Björn innovates just enough to differentiate as it celebrates.

In the end, I threw down the measly 50 SEK with no regrets. Murg earwormed their way into my collection and proved in a short time that their work is just as worthy as anything from the 90's. The thunderous bass drum impacts, catchy melodies, and spot-on grim vocals have been regular in my rotation ever since. I look forward to see what the future holds.



Abiotic - Casuistry

Surprise!  More tech death.  As you may have noticed, I am much more inclined towards BM than DM, but every now and then something catches my ear.  Much like the previously reviewed Infinite Fields, this is quite melodic and hooky.  Just remove the symphonics and make it a touch more brutal and you get Casuistry.  The guitar work is, as should be expected, quite accomplished as is the drumming.  The vocals are nothing new, but don't fail to bring the highs and lows.  This does a nice job of walking the line between the musicianship of technical death and the mainstream appeal of deathcore.  Abiotic drop their latest effort tomorrow.  I suggest you give it a listen.  Death metal fans should have their wallets ready.


Gouge - Beyond Death

Norway may go down in history as the land of black metal, but they've got some pretty good death metal bands up there too. For proof, one only needs to look at 'Beyond Death' by Gouge, which came out recently on Hell's Headbangers Record. If you're familiar with this label, then you know what you're in for. For the uninitiated, 'Beyond Death' is a collection of no nonsense, old school, primitive sounding death metal from start to finish. The music here can be summed up in a few words like savage, heavy and primal. But that may cause a misconception that this album is only about savagery. The riffs and song writing here are of very good quality.Though the album is murky, thick and carries that old school effect, the guitar riffs are audible and one could tell the quality in the writing.

There is an inherent catchiness and groove to the riffs, just like the bands used to have in the good old days. The drumming is mostly composed of double bass action and the constant cymbal crashes. It's nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. The vocals are grimy, but the lyrics are quite discernible which is a big plus in my books.

There is no room for breathing in this album as the tracks continue to pound the listener one after the other. The pace of album is almost constant and the tracks have a thrash metal like speed. This may cause monotony when listening to it on repeat, but if pure death metal is all you crave, then look no further than this. 


Sigh - Graveward

Let's cut to the chase: this is some weird, wild stuff. Heavy metal, brass-heavy symphonics, black metal, occasionally 80's thrash-sounding hooks, neo-classical solos, JPop, saxophone solos...This has a little bit of everything, and you never really know when or where it is going to happen. "The Tombfiller" is a great example of just how well Sigh manages to tie all of these elements together into a deliciously enjoyable chaos. I am truly in awe of these compositions.

Given its tendency to change drastically on a whim, trying to give an in-depth description of Graveward's sound is no easy feat. One might best compare it to a piece of modern art: No matter how off-the-wall the end result might be, every painting needs a canvas and every sculpture a structurally-sound foundation. Sigh's is crunchy, squealy riff-driven guitar work, black metal vocals, and some pretty basic drumming.

That in place, Sigh proceeds to fling paint and slap clay like Jackson Pollock. But not unlike the artist, no action is haphazard. Take the first single, “Out of the Grave” for instance. On the surface the middle-eastern instrumentation, baroque horn flourishes, back-up vocals, and sax seem to be a nihilistic romp through the avant garde. But repeat listens reveal a detailed order to the various movements and changes. In fact, the carnival-like facades often conceal a traditional (and catchy) rock structure.

I have only one major complaint about this album: the production is constantly bugging my ears. It most closely reminds me of Nokturnal Mortum's Nechrist. Various parts seem to slide back and forth in the mix. Vocals will become overly loud while drums and guitar become muddy. Most sinfully, the gorgeous brass and synth work lack depth. Such masterful ordering of chaos deserves an organic space to work in rather than being trapped in the 2 dimensions of the phantom zone.

Final word: one of the most equally innovative and enjoyable albums you will hear in 2015. Furthermore, Graveward is a step up from previous albums in both scope and consistency. While some groups in the avant garde camp are happy to be weird for the sake of weird, Sigh makes the argument that the bizarre need not be inaccessible. Much like Leviathan's Scar Sighted, Graveward has earned Sigh a new fan through mastery of the unconventional.  The album drops just in time for 4/20, but you can hear several tracks and pre-order HERE right now.


Antiversum - Total Vacuum

If you like Portal, and you dig Malthusian, meet the halfway point.  A bit noisier than the latter, but still more orderly than the former; these (also) Irish blackened death metallers are true to their demo's title.  Total Vacuum seems to suck all of the air from the immediate surroundings and replace it with utter nothingness. I am not even going to rate this, because I honestly don't know how to.  You'll just have to LISTEN for yourself.


Update - New Mendel In The Works

Did you enjoy the neo-classical monster, Mendel, that I posted a few weeks back?  If so, good news:  there is a new album slated for release this year.  You can hear the first single and pre-order HERE.  For those who are not in the know, Mendel is an instrumental shred-god who has a Name-Your-Price DOUBLE LP that you should definitely check out.  He is also one of the guitarists for death metal band, Aborted.



 The Putrid Smell Within cover art

You there, yes you, the naive uninformed Joe. Have you any idea of what Blastomycosis is? Well I'll tell you. Blastomycosis is a fungal infection of humans caused by the organism Blastomyces dermatitidis. Fear not though, as incidence of this fatal disease is rather rare. On a slightly more reassuring note in a morbid sense, Blastomycosis are a Brutal Death Metal band hailing from Toronto. They aren't your standard run of the mill Brutal Death Metal relying on relentless chugging to create a "heavy" sound. They combine quality clean death metal while giving off vibes of the oldschool that so many of us enjoy. If bands like Jungle Rot, Morbid Angel and  Suffucation were to procreate, Blastomycosis would be the lovely end result. With their new album set to be released anytime now (So I've been told) It will be a joy to listen to some quality tunes.

Awe / Vacantfield / End - Moerae

Three groups, three songs, roughly 17 minutes each. All great Greek black metal inspired by the 3 Fates who are also wonderfully depicted on the cover.  Awe's track sucked me in with a startling variety of pacing, intensity, darkness, and beauty that Greece's BM is known for. Stellar song. Vacantfield is decidedly more blunt-force trauma in the vein of Mayhem/Darkthrone. But even this is deceptive with the sudden break into pure ambient noise that in turn morphs into something...else. Something slightly more melodic and a little oddball. It will leave you guessing. Finally, End's track is a foreboding closer heavy on the bass and perhaps a touch slower in tempo. Plenty of earworm tremolo runs and reverb-soaked vocals. Check it out HERE and be sure to check out each band's individual pages linked there as well.



Malthusian - Below The Hengiform

If you asked Portal to write a pop song, the end result wouldn't be far from Malthusian. Fitting somewhere between the catchy, riff-driven ugliness of Lord Mantis and harrowing, technical death metal of Ulcerate; this quartet knows how to walk the tightrope between solid hooks and challenging compositions. After being introduced to their first demo a few months back, I was eager to hear more of what the band describes as “Cavernous murk. Echoing poison. Claustrophobic hallucinations.”

However, unlike Demo MMXIII, Below the Hengiform is not as readily accessible. Of course I use that word in the loosest possible sense, but the fact remains that the band's latest EP is a bit more mentally taxing than its counterpart. The memorable qualities that immediately drew me into their debut are still present, but buried beneath further layers of Irish fog. Instantly recognizable guitar lines as on “The Mother's Blade” have been traded in favor of something far more sinister and mysterious.

Fortunately, perseverance will be rewarded. I argue that the term “grower” ceases to have meaning if one must listen 10+ times to “get it.” There comes a point where connections are forged out of sheer force and fatigue. Not so with Below the Hengiform. It was only between my second and third attempt that these constantly twisting, tentacled compositions began to take firm hold and squeeze. The drumming is as strong as ever with plenty puzzling time signature changes. Trying to count along is being Jack Torrance lost in the frozen labyrinth and always thirty paces behind. There are some slower moments of note as well, particularly the pulsating final minutes of “Forms Become Vapor.”

Meanwhile, the guitars and vocals assault the senses with broken glass and razor blades. There is something about these bending, discordant melodies that must be experienced rather than simply described. They worm their way into the flesh with doom, sludge, black, and death metal seemingly all at once. Screams alternate between guttural death howls and blackened retches, sometimes overlapping the two with spine chilling results. If Zev Dea can give Portal's “Curtain” the Poe treatment in “The Conqueror Worm,” then “The Gasless Billows” should represent the undulations of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Final word: worth the wait. While I am still more inclined towards Malthusian's soul-shattering demo, Below the Hengiform represents a group willing to explore the depths of “extreme music” without sacrificing the latter half of the phrase. I also respect their sentiment that continued short releases allows time to hone their craft rather than rushing into a full length album. You can find the album for pre-order on BANDCAMP and also stream it HERE. It's only 5 Euro.



Bosse-De-Nage - All Fours

I'm going to slap the next hipster, post-hardcore band that calls itself black metal.  That being said, Bosse-De-Nage have built themselves a fine album of particularly ferocious post-hardcore.  As apparent from the album cover, All Fours is not interested in engaging the BM tropes they claim to share a genre space with.  But enough with the superficial.  The sound here is lush and emotionally potent.  Those DRUMS!  Clearly the highlight throughout the album, this is one of the most live mixtures of the energetic, technical, and fast kit work I have ever heard.  The gritty production adds to the frenetic qualities while disparing, jangly guitars, rumbly bass, and tortured vocals come together forming a Voltron of sorrow.  It's only 7 CAD on bandcamp.



Valve - Apnee

Continuing to bring the sludge, Valve has a little more of a blackened edge.  Honestly though, it feels more like a half-speed Converge.  In my mind, this is a good thing.  They share a similar vocal style as well as noisy, yet insanely catchy riffs that mix punk, progressive, alternative, and post-metal.  At around 35 minutes, the album sticks around just long enough to make an impression and leave you ready for another spin.  Even the one lengthy (13 minute) track maintains interest throughout with hook after hook of sludgy goodness.  It's only 3 Euro on BANDCAMP.



100 Posts!

I occasionally like to give brief updates regarding the blog and what not. It looks as if DCLXVI Psalms has arrived at quite the milestone. This is 100th official post here after a lengthy 4 years, and a couple of hiatuses. I would like to thank everyone (wherever you are in the world) for reading what my reviewers and me have written. And of course, reaching 100 posts probably would not have been possible had it not been for the dedication  of  Icarus Im Flug and Satan Spawn of Metal Gallows for their quality reviews. Thanks all, and of course stay tuned for more reviews!



Wovoka - Saros

Los Angeles, California.  Home to sunshine, beaches, and hundreds of wealthy, beautiful people.  Surfing, shopping, smiling people.  Wovoka has come to change all of that.  They have come to slap the latte out of your hand and break those perfectly capped teeth.  Most closely comparable to works from Alaskan, Saros is a brutal piece of sludge metal determined to break down the façade and leave a wake of destruction.  Yet the coming storm is not without its own magnificence.
Guitars simply crush with a dual attack of crunchy, groovy chord progressions and melodic, effects-laden leads.  Utilizing everything from delay pedals to heavy reverb, Wovoka’s sound is dense.  Perhaps even more impressive are the drums, which are like waves of cascading cymbals and toms.  Every bass and snare hit seem to surround you with a tangible, live quality.  Between these slow, head-bob inducing rhythms, meaty bass lines, and sludgy riffs; I reached a level of zen: a peaceful acceptance of overwhelming grief and wretchedness. 
This relationship between the depressive and the blissful is only further emphasized by the vocals.  The pipes on this guy.  Somebody get him some tea and a throat lozenge, at least once he is done completely devastating the introduction to “Trials.”  Chills.  Every time.  With the deep tone of half-speed hardcore and unabashed honesty of Henry Rollins, Saros captivates and decimates.  The final words of the near-14 minute closing track are fitting: “There is nothing!”  Don’t expect this album to fill you with anything but self-righteous contempt.
In the end, Wovoka’s debut album is a captivating and emotionally-charged success.  While Saros does little in the way of exploring the boundaries of sludge or post-metal, it takes the blueprint to an absolute high point.  The consistent atmosphere, stellar production, and engaging songwriting never left me feeling anything less than mesmerized.  There is a track available for stream on their bandcamp, where you also can (and should) pre-order this monster.  Watch for it on April 14th.  Bring bandages.



Infinite Fields - Irreversible Mechanism

Excellent tech death rooted firmly in the atmosphere and aesthetic of melodeath and symphonic. Very consistent with absolutely stellar riffing that never sacrifices hooks for showmanship. One of the better takes on tech death I have heard in a while, and one of the few death albums that impressed me so far this year period. I bought this on bandcamp as a name your own price, but please at least give a dollar or two instead of being a mooch.



Murg - Varg & Björn

Swedish black metal a la early second wave, albeit a bit more melodious like Taake. Nothing new, but executed quite well. "Massvandring & blodbad" in particular just screams Hoest from its slight folky swing to the harmonies and vocal cadence. This and Black Flame both scratch an itch without doing all that much to write home about. But they scratch it so nice that I forgive them. Maybe not on par with Corpus Christii, but still solid start to finish. Very cheap on bandcamp.