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Monthly Soundscapes: May 2020

…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother (Season of Mist)

It has been a really long time since …And Oceans released an album. After having a name change midway through their career, the Finnish sextet returned to their original name and have finally graced us with a new offering of dim philosophical contours. Paying homage to each of their phases and distinct career paths – from symphonic black metal to their more industrial and electronically focused sound -, …And Oceans bring forth in Cosmic World Mother all the flavorful elements that enriched their career throughout the ages. Even though the fast-paced black metal hostility takes prevalence in this new record, the electronic and industrial sonorities and ambiences are still very much present and everything feels well-balanced and well-executed, which is all one can really ask for. A triumphal return by a band that hasn’t forgotten its roots but is always looking towards the horizon of new sounds. [7.8]

Highlighted tracks: The Dissolution of Mind and Matter; Five of Swords; As the After Becomes the Before; Apokatastasis



Árstíðir Lífsins – Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir (Ván Records)

I remember when I first heard of Árstíðir Lífsins. Eternally searching and rummaging for new sounds, I came upon Ván Records’ catalogue which, at the time, included stuff like The Ruins of Beverast, Urfaust and Castle. The one band that struck me with a bolt of extreme curiosity, however, was Árstíðir Lífsins and their Fragments split with Helrunar, as well as their 2012 full-length, Vápna lækjar eldr – I was instantly hooked to this band and their historical and druidic approach to pagan black metal. In Eigi fjǫll né firðir, the second part of their Saga á tveim tungum, the Icelandic/German trio continue their exploration of pagan folk sonorities and the visceral chaos of black metal, blending both together to perfection. From the tranquil vocal chants and acoustic musings of songs like “Ek býð þik velkominn”, “Bróðir, var þat þín hǫnd” and “Heiftum skal mána kveðja” to the explosive and savage howling riffage present in tracks such as “Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita” and “Er hin gullna stjarna skýjar slóðar rennr rauð”, this is a record that further cements Árstíðir Lífsins’s legacy as one of the most interesting bands out there and fans of both the band and the genre alike will surely enjoy this new offering. [8.5]

Highlighted tracks: Ek býð þik velkominn; Bróðir, var þat þín hǫnd; Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita; Heiftum skal mána kveðja; Er hin gullna stjarna skýjar slóðar rennr rauð



Aural Hallucinations – Alucinações Auditivas (Space Rock Productions)

Dr. Space is a man that is always looking for new ways to experiment with analog modular synthesizers and create spacy sounds that take the listener to new and weird worlds of impossible colours and even crazier physics. In Alucinações Auditivas, he takes charge of a bunch of synths and is joined by Matt Louco (Kind, ex-Elder), who takes care of drum, guitar and vocal duties, and together they create and manipulate sounds that conjure odd and intense soundscapes and atmospheres. While this is a definitive deviation from Dr. Space’s previous outings and contributions – especially those in Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle and even his solo Alien Planet Trip offerings -, Alucinações Auditivas is a nice record if you are looking for some meditative music that will clear your headspace and make you travel through your own mental cosmos. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Formigas; Spore Cloud Dispersion; Surreal InhiVisions; Escape From Time



Biesy – Transsatanizm (Godz ov War Productions)

The black metal scene is filled with bands that give praises to the dark lord through blasphemous chants and imposing riffs. Every once in a while, however, a band emerges in the scene and turns it upside-down with experimentalism and the fusion of musical styles, breathing in the genre some much-needed fresh air. Case in point, Biesy, the one-person project of Faustyna IHS Moreau that delves deep into black metal’s nihilistic fantasies from the provocative point-of-view of drag and smashes bigotry with high heel shoes and a barrage of electronic beats and soundscapes, asperous vocals and pensive riffs. Transsatanizm is a work of art and dark beauty that is so rarely found in the world of black metal nowadays and is a must listen to anyone interested in expanding their musical horizons and challenge their own view of the world that surrounds them. [9.0]

Highlighted tracks: IHS; Golgota 2045; Karolina23



Cosmic Putrefaction – The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers (I, Voidhanger Records)

In recent years, there has been an emergence of bands that follow the path of a distinctive and absolutely obliterating death metal filled with crushing drums, ripping and tearing guitar riffs, and battle-charging vocals that come from the deepest bowls of Hell. Cosmic Putrefaction is one such band, employing a cadaverous and cavernous form of death metal that invokes the horrors of finality and is filled with ravenous hunger and wrath that will make your blood boil and crack open some skulls. That is exactly the feeling I get when listening to their sophomore record, The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers, a continuous, merciless and blasphemous punch to the face and guts that breaks bones and grinds them to dust. Technical, brutal and devastating, do yourself a favour and listen to this absolute beast of a record. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Between Awe and Fear upon the Burst of the Ominous Star; The Glooming Murk of His Telluric Shrieks; Abysmal Resonance Projection; The Arcane Soothsayer Carefully Sculpted His Demise



Cryptic Shift – Visitations From Enceladus (Blood Harvest Records)

Up until the release of their debut record, I had never heard of Cryptic Shift. Hailing from the city of Leeds, this stunning quartet has been releasing music since the beginning of the past decade, invoking strong Voivod-esque vibes with their highly technical and intensely progressive mixture of thrash and death metal. With Vision From Enceladus, the band goes further into their musical influences and sci-fi inspirations, as evidenced by the opening track, “Moonbelt Immolator”, an almost 26 minutes long epic that is divided in six chapters – bearing names such as Detached From The Xenoverse, Lair Of The Time-Ghouls and Progeny Echoes -, which creates a very horror sci-fi inspired atmosphere. Reverberating and colossal guitar riffs, groovy as fuck bass lines and extraordinary drum play are executed perfectly and complemented with deep space ominous vocals, making this a highly ambitious record by the band and one that is incredibly well-crafted and deserving of many spins. [8.6]

Highlighted tracks: Moonbelt Immolator; The Arctic Chasm; Planetary Hypnosis



Dr Space – Alien Planet Trip Vol 4 – Space with Bass (Space Rock Productions)

As was mentioned above, Dr. Space is a man that doesn’t stay idle for too long and proof of that fact is that this is his second release just this month. Being the fourth volume of his Alien Planet Trip series, one can already figure out what to expect from this record, and while it does sound like much of the same material he released in previous Trips, it is still a pretty cool sounding record. From “Vermis Ex Deus Primero” to “Lament for the Wicked”, one can feel vibing somewhere in deep space, in some unknown and unnamed foreign planet, absorbing the sequenced analog improvisation that Dr. Space is so well-known for. Strange and exotic at the same time, Alien Planet Trip Vol 4 – Space with Bass is a record that you will want accompanying on those long journeys at night when returning home or when drifting off in your mental space. [6.8]

Highlighted tracks: Vermis Ex Deus Primero; BlackCloud; Bass Karma



Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear (Season of Mist)

If there is one comeback that no one ever saw coming, it was that of Green Carnation. Formed back in ye olde 90s as both a predecessor and a natural successor of experimental metal group In The Woods, the Norwegian collective have always been a cult band in the gothic/doom metal scene thanks to records such as Journey to the End of the Night and Light of Day, Day of Darkness. After an hiatus that lasted for seven years, the band reformed in 2014 with the promise of performing live once again, but what people were really anxious about was the possibility of a new record by the band. Anxiety and fear, as more often than not, a band that returns after so long does not match the quality of the past and releases a subpar record that does not hold a candle to its predecessors. In the case of Green Carnation, however, that is the complete opposite and Leaves of Yesteryear proves to not only match the quality of the band’s past efforts but also surpasses them in may ways. The tracks “Leaves of Yesteryear” and “Sentinels” demonstrate how well the band has matured over the years and how well it adapted to a new era of sound technology, even going as far as re-recording “My Dark Reflection of Life and Death” from the band’s debut record – and a better version at that, as well. While the album’s finish is a tad weaker than its amazing start – I’ll say that the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude” is a bit unnecessary -, it does not take away from the fact that this is the true comeback of the year and that Green Carnation are bound to give us many more wonderous music in the years to come. [7.8]

Highlighted tracks: Leaves of Yesteryear; Sentinels; My Dark Reflections of Life and Death



KŁY – Wyrzyny (Pagan Records)

The Polish metal scene has demonstrated to be quite strong this year with its myriad of releases. Having a clear preference for the musings of black metal than those of any other genre, the Polish have founded in recent years a very rich and explorative community. KŁY are a band that will soon join the ranks of the greatest and their latest release, Wyrzyny, is living proof of that. Employing a decidedly more atmospheric form of black metal, this anonymous group of musicians mix contemplative instrumental interludes with dissonant, gnarly and sonorous passages, tormented vocal howls and a clean production that will be the envy of many. The end result is a record that goes beyond the usual sacrilegious presentation and contemplates reality in a philosophical, esoteric and cinematic manner. If you are on the lookout for black metal in the same vein of Furia or Mgła, this is the record for you. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Burza (My rozgwiazdy); Nadwołkowyjskiej nocy liczba pojedyńcza; Gwiezdny wiatr; Zakorzenienie



Mrs. Piss – Self-Surgery (Sargent House)

Collaborations are, more often than not, a bit of a gamble. Putting together artists that have either worked together before or seem to be on the same page as far as sound and ideas go can be a risky business. A good example of this is Mrs. Piss, a brand-new project formed by Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie that seeks to create discomfort and uneasiness via a myriad of influences that range from metal and punk to industrial and gothic. And while on paper it seems like an excellent idea – Wolfe and Gowrie have performed together in some of the former’s records, including Mistake in Parting, Hiss Spun and the more recent Birth of Violence -,  the actual execution of the record is a bit lacking and all over the place at the same time. It doesn’t feel like there is a cohesive thread that connects the previous song to the next, it all feels disconnected as if both artists where trying to do a lot of things at the same time, without coming to a conclusion on what kind of sound to pursue. Despite some incredibly vivid and distorted moments that may please some fans of both artists, such as “Knelt” and “Nobody Wants To Party With Us”, Self-Surgery feels like a mishmash of genres and ideas that resulted from a jam session and ultimately did not work as well as intended. Whether intentional or not, it feels like a misstep in both artists’ careers and I can only hope the next one is more focused. [5.0]

Highlighted tracks: Knelt; Nobody Wants To Party With Us



Noctu – Gelidae Mortis Imago (Transcending Obscurity Records)

If there is a label out there that has been releasing some of the most interesting death and doom metal records in recent memory, its Transcending Obscurity. From Live Burial and Colosso to Xpus – the latter of which you can read about further into this article -, the label seems to be on fire this year and Noctu might be their best kept secret weapon. Hailing from Italy, Noctu is a one-man operation that delves deep into funeral doom and transports the listener to a world of sorrow and negativity, where darkness is abound and suicide is the only option. Starting off with an eerily fractured rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Gelidae Mortis Imago sees Noctu go into a more monolithic and dreadfully overpowering sound that summons intense feelings of isolation with its slow-paced ethereal guitars, minimal and mesmerizing drums, and the decaying howls of a soul damned to an eternity of torment. Despite not being a fan of lo-fi production, especially when it is intentional, the low-end melodies and echoes fit incredibly well with the atmosphere of  the record. It is a bloody delicious venture and you sure as hell need this album in your life. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Fitte tenebre (Le radici dell’ inferno); Lucida oscurita senziente; Isolato da un mondo senza speranza



Odraza – Rzeczom (Godz ov War Productions)

Returning once more to the increasingly powerful Polish music scene, the duo known as Odraza released their sophomore record after a six-year long sleep. Entitled Rzeczom, this new opus blends in the typical black metal concept of fast and aggressive blast beats, shrieking guitar wails and anguished vocals with jazz-inspired drum patterns and fills, and chord progression so often found in prog rock revival bands. While being nothing out of the extraordinary or even too inventive, as the band never leans towards a path that is too experimental, Rzeczom is still a very dynamic and compelling record within the modern black metal scene and one that fans of the genre will surely enjoy. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Schadenfreude; Rzeczom; W godzinie wilka



Okkultokrati – La Ilden Lyse (Southern Lord Recordings)

Ever since their formation back in 2008, Okkultokrati have been pushing the boundaries of black metal by fusing the genre with various musical influences that range from crust and hardcore punk to doom and sludge metal. On their fifth full-length, La Ilden Lyse, the Norwegian sextet find themselves on the apex of their creativity, unleashing a massively hostile and layered sonic violence that crawls under your skin and punches you hard in the guts with a vicious rhythmic section and gnarly screams. There is an abundancy of chaotic energy and non-conforming vitality all throughout the record, making this another great release by a band that has nothing left to prove but still has a lot of ideas left to explore. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Thelemic Threat; Grimoire Luciferian Dream; Loathe Forever; Cold and Cruel



Old Man Gloom – Seminar VIII: Light Of Meaning (Profound Lore Records)

Not content with releasing just one album this year, the crazy bastards from Old Man Gloom had to release two. And if Seminar IX was the prequel, this one is the real deal, the one that was supposed to be released before the supergroup decided to fuck with everyone’s minds and wallets yet again. Once more including recorded material from the late Caleb Scoffield, the The Old Man Gloom Alien Simian Defence League have in Seminar VIII: Light Of Meaning a collection of their best riffs that are mixed in with the dark and odd humour the band has accustomed us to. As unorthodox and unrelenting as their previous opus, this record contains those same hardcore-influenced moments derived from Cave In and Converge and the heavily dronish passages from Sumac, as well as that same healing element that empowers both the band and the listener. In many ways, it is both a predecessor and successor to Seminar IX and some might feel a bit disappointed because of it. But consider it a sister record, two sides of the same coin that have the same purpose – to honour the life of Caleb Scoffield. And in that, Old Man Gloom have succeeded beautifully. [7.3]

Highlighted tracks: EMF; Calling You Home; By Love All Is Healed



Sílení – All Heavens Rejoice (Noctivagant)

One year ago I reviewed Sílení’s then brand-new record Thereafter and named it one of the best releases in the dark ambient genre as a whole. That wasn’t an understatement as he continues to push the boundaries of sound and drone, creating complex and gloomy soundscapes that give a sense of urgency and takes us ever so deeper into his own bizarre world of twisted melodies and abstract characters. Featuring guest appearances by Uzbazur, Moloch Conspiracy and Xerxes The Dark – all known names in the scene -, All Heavens Rejoice sees Sílení take a detour into a more chasmal and bleak part of his world by way of sprawling premonitory soundscapes, echoing horror samples and electronic loops that bring to mind the Deus Ex game series – more specifically, Human Revolution -, which once again shows well where most of Sílení’s influences lay and his desire to make his own music sound more cinematic and atmospheric. Another great release by the Portuguese dark ambient genius. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: I Twice Witnessed My Funeral; A Mere Prejudice; A Boundless Favor; The World Is Transfigured



Umbra Vitae – Shadow of Life (Deathwish Inc.)

If you have been following me since the beginning, you know how I look upon most supergroups – the tendency is always to be a bit doubtful of what such an endeavour will really bring to the table as most often than not, either no one is happy with the end result or a few fans will be extremely disappointed. However, I have been mostly surprised as of late when it comes to supergroups and I think I should say straight away that Umbra Vitae is another name to add to that list. Formed by members of Converge, Wear Your Wounds, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Wormwood and The Red Chord, you might this is all a weird-ass combination of artists from different musical backgrounds and you would be right to assume that. But right from the get-go, you will be struck with a mean aggressiveness that is so rarely seen these days. Clocking just shy of 26 minutes, Shadow of Life shows that Umbra Vitae is not merely a supergroup of members that decided to jam one day but rather a collective of like-minded artists that got together with one single purpose: destroy and erase everything and everyone in their path with their utterly annihilating, blitzkrieg of a sound. This is not a record for the faint of heart. [7.5]

Highlighted tracks: Ethereal Emptiness; Atheist Aesthetic; Fear Is A Fossil; Return To Zero



Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn (Candlelight Records)

Winterfylleth have done so much over the years when it comes to their artistic output. From neofolk acoustic records to atmospheric black metal records that spring to mind bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Saor, Fen and Wodensthrone, the British group has been experimenting with so many facets of music that one is left to wonder if there is anything left for the band to improve upon when it comes to metal’s most extreme and infamous genre. The answer is a simple no but the fact of the matter is that Winterfylleth do not need to be preoccupied with that anymore. In The Reckoning Dawn, the band does not go further in the exploration of melodies than they have before, preferring to sit still and do what they do best in a more comfortable position without being pressure to innovate or create something that is vastly different from their past material. And sometimes that is all you want from a band, the same energy and the same formula that always works and always looks and sounds good. [7.2]

Highlighted tracks: Misdeeds Of Faith; A Hostile Fate (The Wayfarer Pt. 4); A Greatness Undone



Xibalba – Años En Infierno (Southern Lord Recordings)

Named after the Mayan underworld which roughly translates to “place of fear” and mixing the viciousness of death metal with the combativeness of hardcore punk and portentousness of doom, Xibalba returned this year with Años En Infierno, their fourth full-length with an apparently renewed vitality. Wrathful, merciless and keen on keeping their cultural message intact, Xibalba showcase a brutal sound that is entirely their own that starts to feel dated and lackluster. Despite the infernal aggressiveness presented, Años En Infierno feels a lot like business as usual, which is disappointing considering the band’s predilection for mixing great musical stylings and freshening them up. A clearer focus on the death metal side of things may have proven to be the wrong direction for a band that excels in mixing things up. [4.0]

Highlighted tracks: None.



Xpus – In Umbra Mortis Sedent (Transcending Obscurity Records)

I did mention Xpus earlier in this article and I didn’t forget about them. Remember when I said that Transcending Obscurity were on fire this year? Xpus’ brand-new death metal offering, In Umbra Mortis Sedent, is one other reason why I feel that way. Made specifically for fanatics of old-school death metal potency, this record emanates the same vile stench as Morbid Angel, Autopsy or Incantation, with cavernous riffs, rapid-fire drum hits and deep growls. While not necessarily bringing anything new or innovative to the genre, In Umbra Mortis Sedent is an awesome sounding record that will be much appreciated by those that have a craving for mosh pits and the oldest form of the deadliest metal subgenre. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Into The Sphere of Madness; Blood Rite of Liberation; Broken Is The Seal Of Equilibrium

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