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Monthly Soundscapes: March 2020

Code Orange – Underneath (Roadrunner Records)

The brand-new and highly-anticipated record by Pittsburgh hardcore stalwarts Code Orange is a dangerous record – dangerous for its willingness to blend various music genres into one tight package. Throughout this intense, 14-track journey you get everything from savage guitar breakdowns, thrashing drum pummels, futuristic electronic sounds and the deranged howls of Eric “Shade” Balderose, all hitting at the same time and without warning, creating this disorienting atmosphere that leaves the listener wondering what the hell just hit them. While there are a couple of contrasting moments with nonabrasive passages that serve as a form of respite in the midst of the storm, Underneath as a whole is an experimentalist’s wet dream, which will leave an indelible mark on those who dare listen to it in full. There is something in this record for everyone and if you are a fan of endless streams of chaotic aggressiveness, then this record is for you. [7.2]

Highlighted tracks: In Fear; You and You Alone; Cold.Metal.Place; Sulfur Surrounding



Demonic Death Judge – The Trail (Suicide Records)

Ever since their induction in 2009, Demonic Death Judge have been a band that, despite not being on a lot of people’s radar, have been releasing a steady stream of great releases. Personally, I’ve been following them since their 2010 EP Kneel, and I’m always happy to hear new stuff from the Finnish quartet. This new full-length, entitled The Trail, is another demonstration of the group’s predilection for massive, blues-inspired stoner riffs that are submerged in distortion and fuzz. One thing that immediately jumps to my attention as the album starts playing is how much better and cleaner their production is in comparison to their previous records, something that is definitely a plus. Long gone is the lo-fi stoner production filled with haze – now it’s all about that crystal clear goodness that let’s the listener breathe in the riffage. Do not be alarmed, however, as despite the clearer production value, this is still Demonic Death Judge as they have always been. It’s a powerful record, filled with great moments that combine the blues-inspired stoner sound with the stomach-punching agressiveness of sludge, while still retaining that hint of psychedelic goodness. [7.5]

Highlighted tracks: Filthy as Charged; Hardship; Shapeshifting Serpents; The Trail



Deranged – Deeds of Ruthless Violence (Agonia Records)

In the realm of death metal, there have been a number of bands to rise from the ranks in recent years and one such band is the Swedish quartet Deranged. Founded in 1991, these veterans have always appeared to be unnoticed by the majority of the metal community, but their most recent release is here to prove that they should no longer be in such a position. Entitled Deeds of Ruthless Violence, this eight-track brutal offering is the band’s tenth full-length and one that solidifies the band’s position in the higher ranks of not just Swedish death metal, but that of the entire world as well. It’s a fast-paced and groovy record that contains the well-beloved, down-tuned sound that is synonymous with the genre, but one that isn’t afraid to show experimentation here and there, something demonstrated by the hints of a more technical style in some of the tracks – a clear sign of the evolution of Deranged’s sound and where it is most likely headed. If you’re a fan of relentlessly brutal death metal, than this record is for you. But a fair warning – it ain’t for the faint of heart. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Engulfed by Hate I Stab to Kill; Carnal Provision for the Rotten Masses; Quarantine Required for Living Entities



Hilary Woods – Birthmarks (Sacred Bones Records)

Describing her brand-new record as a labor of intensity and intuition written over the course of two years, Birthmarks is Hilary Woods’s most ambitious release to date, recorded during the final period of the Irish singer-songwriter’s pregnancy. In a more direct comparison to her previous record, Colt, this new offering is a darker and more exploratory facet of Hilary Woods, that shows us that mutation and renewal is not always a pretty process. There is a clear nod of inspiration to the works of her peers, most notably that of Chelsea Wolfe and perhaps Marissa Nadler, but what Hilary Woods tries and succeeds in doing is to not only accept those influences as being a part of her, but also push the envelope with her own experiences of motherhood and the hardships of bearing a child. There is a very David Lynch-esque vibe to the record, especially in tracks such as “Orange Tree” and “Through the Dark, Love” that transports us to a isolated place full of mysteries to uncover, with Hilary’s somber yet delicate voice serving as both comfort and warning. Birthmarks is a rebirth of sorts by Hilary Woods and one that is not shy to show its flaws, accepting them as being part of the process of creation. A beautiful record that might just be one of the best this year. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Tongues of Wild Boar; Orange Tree; Through the Dark, Love; Mud and Stones; The Mouth



Igorrr – Spirituality And Distortion (Metal Blade Records)

Bizarre and extreme are just some of the adjectives that could be used to describe the work of Igorrr, the pseudonym of French artist Gautier Serre, known for his abstract and dissonant work in the metal and electronic music genres. Since Nostril, his first full-length release in 2010, Igorrr has been mixing everything from black metal, classical music, trip hop and more in a mishmash of sonorities that sound both insane and brilliant. Spirtuality and Distortion is a continuation of Igorrr’s endless voyage through the subconscious musings of a mad man, where he not only makes use of the help of Laurent Lunoir (Öxxö Xööx), Laure Le Prunenec (Rïcïnn, Corpo-Mente), Erlend Caspersen (Abhorrent, ex-Blood Red Throne) and Sylvain Bouvier (Trepalium), but also an array of other musicians including a cellist, an accordionist, guitarists and one George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher of Cannibal Corpse fame. The end result is once again a grotesque and weird but strangely accessible record that will keep even the more elitist of metal fans headbanging and thrashing around to the avant-garde beats and hyperactive melodies that Igorrr provides. A definitive release by the French mad scientist. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Nervous Waltz; Hollow Tree; Camel Dancefloor; Himalaya Massive Ritual; Lost in Introspection; Kung-Fu Chèvre



Lychgate – Also sprach Futura (Debemur Morti Productions)

For a band that is relatively new to the scene, Lychgate already has quite the following. Founded in 2011, the British trio led by Greg Chandler (Esoteric), employs a dissonant sound that combines elements of black metal, doom metal and classical music with an avant-garde twist. Neglecting the typical symphonic passages typically associated with the aforementioned metal genres, Lychgate make use of disconcerting organ sounds and unusual rhythms that are paired with the violence of black metal and the despair of doom metal. The result is chaotic and off-putting, but that is the end goal. In this new EP, entitled Also sprach Futura – a marriage between Latin and German that roughly translates to “thus spoke the future” -, Lychgate continue their journey through a futuristic dystopia where man and machine are one, pulling ideas and influences from the works of Jean Baudrillard, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and, dare I say, Fritz Lang. Both philosophical and hypothetical, this new EP mantains what is now the staple sound of Lychgate – abrasive riffs, tumultuous drum hits, operating and unsettling organ overtures and vocal evocations that are both ferocious and premonitory of the future to come. If you are into the overarching chaos of avant-garde metal and its cacophonous symphonies, this is a release for you. Another highlight in Lychgate’s career. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Progeny of the Singularity; Simulacrum



Lucifer – Lucifer III (Century Media Records)

Created by the charismatic Johanna Sadonis after the splitting of The Oath – a band she formed with guitarist Linnéa Olsson –, Lucifer started by picking up the best parts of what makes occult rock a well-beloved genre and mix them with a good dosage of doom metal. Since their debut record, this formula has changed, in part due to the band’s lineup having been altered over the years, but ever since Nicke Andersson (The Hellacopters, Entombed) came into the picture, the band achieved an alchemical sound that transports the listener to dream-like state full of psychedelia and visions of dark ceremonial rituals filled with black magic. With their past two records, Lucifer I and Lucifer II, having received high praise from both critics and fans alike, their third offering was, naturally, a highly-anticipated affair. Continuing where the band left off, Lucifer III contains the same ethereal and mystical vocal stylings of Sadonis, the steady groove of Nicke Andersson’s drums and the simple yet well-written guitar riffs that are intertwined by superb guitar solos. It’s much of the same, but at the same time, it has enough differences that grasp our attention and make us come back for another listen. Fans of the band will appreciate this new entry in the band’s discography, while those still discovering the band will most likely become followers of the cult of Lucifer. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Midnight Phantom; Leather Demon; Pacific Blues; Cemetery Eyes



My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion (Nuclear Blast)

Returning five years after their last full-length release, the British My Dying Bride deliver what I’d say is one of the most important records of their vast career. Described by the band as a more linear and accessible record, The Ghost of Orion comes as a remainder of why grief is crucial in the process of loss, but why we should also have joy to combat those same dreadful times. A lot has happened in the My Dying Bride camp since Feel the Misery – between lineup and label changes, and a near-death battle against cancer, the band was going through some rough times, so it’s no wonder they chose to relieve some of that pain with a record that, despite its instrumental intricacies and atmospheric sorrowfulness, demonstrates a focus on keeping things simple and straightforward to help convey the message. Aaron Stainthorpe once again delivers a vocal performance that sends chills down our spine – with harsh vocals that call back to the band’s more death metal oriented years -, which are complemented nicely by haunting guitar harmonies, the ever-present, ghostly cello of Jo Quail and even the eerily beautiful voice of Lindy-Fay Hella (Wardruna), who joins the band on “The Solace”. As mentioned above, The Ghost of Orion stands as a remainder of the importance of family and perseverance, grief and joy. It’s an incredibly important record, especially in these hard times we currently live in, and one that will forever be a mark on the band’s career. [8.2]

Highlighted tracks: Your Broken Shore; Tired of Tears; The Solace; The Long Black Land



Myrkur – Folkesange (Relapse Records)

When it comes to controversies, leave it to the black metal community to stir up the fiery stove. Yet, none have suffered harsher criticisms from the so-called “trves” than Amalie Brunn, the woman behind the black metal project Myrkur. Originally involved in the indie pop music scene, Amalie jumped ship to bring her eerie voice to a more extreme form of music. Despite the criticisms, Myrkur stands firms as an example of the exploration that can be done in a harsh musical environment and over the years, Amalie has mixed the rabid combativeness of black metal with the subtlety and beauty of folk music. In Folkesange, however, Amalie shifts gears once again to deliver unto us a more folk oriented record, deeply rooted in Scandinavian folk, that tries to convey darkness and mysticism through other means that are not as limited as the distorted guitars, fast drums and vocal howling triple combo. There is an obvious Wardruna and Heilung influence throughout the record – easily explained by the presence of Christopher Juul of the latter international folk collective -, and although this change of direction is an appreciated one, its one that is not all that impressive and may feel somewhat lackluster to some, especially in comparison to what other names are doing in the same genre nowadays. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable record to listen to, especially in these austere pandemic times where the need to become one with nature is more important than ever before. [6.0]

Highlighted tracks: Fager som en Ros; Leaves of Yggdrasil; Harpens Kraft



Old Man Gloom – Seminar IX: Darkness of Being (Profound Lore Records)

Old Man Gloom have done it again. After the release of 2014s The Ape of God, which were actually two releases just to fuck up with journalists and reviewers, the Santa Fe supergroup composed by members of Sumac, Cave In, Converge and Zozobra, where to release a new record in May, but only this time, because they didn’t want to wait so long for us to hear their new stuff, they decided to release a second one to help kill the time. Crazy, right? But that’s what Old Man Gloom stand for: absolute insanity. Including guest appearances by vocalist and keyboardist Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer, House of Low Culture, guitarist Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord, Wear Your Wounds, Umbra Vitae) and drummer JR Conners (Cave In, Pet Genius), Seminar IX: Darkness of Being is as unorthodox and uncompromising as sludge can be, without forgoing the noisy aspects of OMG’s music, courtesy of the band members predilection for all things clamorous. It is also a homage to the memory of Caleb Scoffield, the late bassist of both Cave In and Old Man Gloom, as it features some of his vocals and bass lines, recorded before he passed away two years ago. More somber in tone, this new record contains the same monolithic sludge riffage and jagged growling that the group has accustomed us to, evident from the first moments of “Procession of the Wounded”, the album’s first track, but also the more hardcore-influenced moments present in tracks like “Heel to Toe” and even an acoustic passage in “Death Rhymes” that serves as a dedication to Caleb. There is a vulnerability aspect to this record, but also a healing element that empowers the listener and makes them understand that despite all the hardships the band has endured these past couple of years, they are still as relentless and crushing as they have ever been. Let’s see how its twin fares in May. [7.7]

Highlighted tracks: Procession of the Wounded; Heel to Toe; Death Rhymes; Love is Bravery



Sorcia – Sorcia

A new band to come up on the doom metal scene, the Seattle-based Sorcia are a band that isn’t shy to show its many influences in the genre. Combining blues-laden heavy riffs with the distinct heaviness of doom metal and a dynamic of dual vocals, the trio unleashed their own take on the genre with their self-titled debut, produced by Tad Doyle (Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Lumbar). At first glance, it sounds a little bit too similar to the early works of some of the greats, most notably Electric Wizard, with the voices and riffs evoking that same occultist vibe and sonority. However, Sorcia give it a twist by stirring the pot with some good ol’ blues-inspired melodies and drum play that transform the whole scenario into a western-like dystopia. Although their main influences are very clear and, to some extent, it might sound like an imitation with a slight difference, the truth is that Sorcia’s self-titled debut is an enjoyable record that should be put on during those long trips in the desert. It’s not an album that will push the envelope, but as a debut record, it’s not supposed to either. [6.6]

Highlighted tracks: In The Head; Nowhere But Up; Coffin Nails



Temple Of Void – The World That Was (Shadow Kingdom Records)

Temple Of Void is one of the many bands that have surfaced during the past decade with a strong dedication to the more cavernous side of death/doom. Hailing from Detroit, this quintet has adopted the slowest side of stuff like Hooded Menace and Runemagick, and joined it with the faster stuff by Asphyx and Autopsy. The result is a grueling and chasmal sound that slowly drags the listener into the depths of a never-ending void. In The World That Was, their third and most recent full-length, Temple Of Void continue to exercise their complete domination over the hellish and deliciously groovy side of death metal, while retaining that vibe of impending doom that is so characteristic with the genre. The vocals are brutal and menacing, the drums are slow-paced and methodical, the guitars and bass are as apocalyptic and powerful as one would expect and there is even a singular moment where the aggressiveness comes to a halt and is replaced by acoustic guitars and ethnic-like drumming. While it’s not as filthy as other releases in the genre, those who enjoy their death/doom with a tad more doom than death, will certainly enjoy this new offering by Temple Of Void. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: A Beast Among Us; Self-Schism; The World That Was



The Goners – Good Mourning (RidingEasy Records)

The Goners are a band that, despite being relatively new in the scene, is formed by veterans of the stoner and heavy rock genre. Founded by vocalist/guitarist Nate Gone (ex-Salem’s Pot), alongside former members of the Swedish rock band Yvonne, this quintet shares a passion for the 70s and emulate quite well the sound of garage rock and punk rock bands from that era, with heavy-sounding and groovy guitar riffs, fierce drum rhythms and melodic vocals that would make most singers in the psych rock scene jealous. That is all evident in the band’s debut full-length, Good Mourning, a record that, while not doing anything that is too much out of the ordinary, it still manages to grab our attention and breathe some much-needed fresh air into a genre that is getting more and more saturated with same-sounding bands.  [6.5]

Highlighted tracks: Are You Gone Yet; World of Decay; Good Ol’ Death; The Little Blue



Tulus – Old Old Death (Soulseller Records)

Thomas Berglie is a man of many projects. While his attention during these past few years has mainly been aimed towards the black/thrash supergroup Sarke, which he founded with Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone, there are two other projects that are also worthy of attention – Khold and Tulus. The latter, in particular, hasn’t seen a new full-length release since 2012s Olm og Bitter, but after having released yet another great Sarke record last year, Thomas decided that it was time to have a go at releasing another Tulus record. At first glance, Old Old Death sounds much like its predecessors – short but fast-paced songs born from the unholy marriage of black metal and thrash metal influences. The problem, however, is that the more you listen to it, the more apparent it becomes that the only difference between this record and Tulus’ previous works is the cleaner production, as apart from that, any semblance of evolution and creativity is lacking. It might be enough to satiate the appetite of some of Tulus’ fans, but it’s definitely not their strongest release by far. [4.5]

Highlighted tracks: I hinmannens hånd; Grunn grav



Windy & Carl – Allegiance and Conviction (Kranky)

Windy & Carl is a Michigan duo that has been steadily growing ever since the release of their 1995 debut LP, Portal. Founded by Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren, the duo floats between genres such as space rock, ambient drone, dream pop and shoegaze, a mixture that could very well be described as ethereal rock. The result is a dreamy and complex sound that is chockful of alluring soundscapes and vibrant ambient textures, with each song causing the imagination to float to unknown places ready to be discovered. Allegiance and Conviction, the duo’s first full-length in eight years and their most ambitious record to date, is composed by six carefully constructed songs that feature Carl’s signature droning guitar that switches between calmer and heavier passages, while Windy’s whispering voice soothes the listener with poetic passages about metamorphosis, solitude and escape. If you could imagine Enya whispering in your ear while waterfall sounds meld in on themselves and release a soothing mist that calms you down, that’s how I would describe this new record. Even on its heavier moments, it’s still pure tranquility and peace of mind, and you’d be hard-pressed not to feel lulled by its relaxing atmosphere. If anything, this record only serves as further proof that Windy & Carl should no longer be just a duo with a cult following but rather, one that deserves widespread praise. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: The Stranger; Moth to the Flame; Alone; Crossing Over

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