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Monthly Soundscapes: February 2021

Ad Nauseam – Imperative Imperceptible Impulse (Avantgarde Music)

This year is shaping up to be teeming with great tech death metal releases and this one will surely bound to join that pile. Released in mid-February, Imperative Imperceptible Impulse is the sophomore record of Italian tech death masters Ad Nauseam, a band that employs the same brutality and abrasiveness that is synonymous with bands such as Ulcerate, Deathspell Omega and Gorguts. Comparative to their 2015 debut, this new record sounds much more refined and dynamic, entrancing us in highly-textured and complex sonorities that demonstrate the tremendous creative growth of the band. And despite the fact that their influences are very clear from the get-go, Ad Nauseam go beyond mere tributes and homages, exceeding all expectations and delivering a record that is sure to be up there with the greatest the genre has to offer. An extraordinary release all throughout. [8.5]

Highlighted tracks: Sub Specie Aeternitatis; Inexorably Ousted Sente; Horror Vacui; Human Interface To No God


Blockdata – Vacuum Decay (Ohm Resistance)

Here is something quite different from what is usually covered in these articles. Hailing from the UK, Blockdata is the brainchild of sound designer Gavin Hislop, a man that has long been on the radar of the electronic music scene thanks to his performances under the moniker Babyshaker. As Blockdata, Hislop shift gears a little bit to deliver us an intelligently-crafted display of electronic demolition via high voltage drum n’ bass and breakcore soundscapes that invoke Noisia, Black Sun Empire and Cybernetika. Vacuum Decay encapsulates that crushing intensity that is ever-present in the faster-paced electronic subgenres and will be very much appreciated by fans of all things electronically insane and neckbreaking. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Tertiary; Exas


Cult of Luna – The Raging River (Red Creek)

Over the years, it has become increasingly more difficult to classify and catalog the music of Cult of Luna under just one genre. Trailing between post-metal, sludge, post-hardcore and even doom metal – if only ever so slightly -, I figured some time ago that the only possible way to describe Cult of Luna is that they sound like Cult of Luna. That may seem a bit redundant, but the fact of the matter is that the Swedish collective possess such a unique sound that grouping them into any specific genre is mistakenly ignoring the metamorphosis they have been going through since day one. The Raging River is the next step in that transformation. Born from the studio sessions of A Dawn To Fear and serving as both a continuation to their previous work and as a bridge to their next venture, this new EP features some of the heaviest stuff the band has to offer and also some of the calmer passages in their entire catalogue. The monolithic and overwhelming passages of songs such as “Three Bridges” and “What I Leave Behind” are nicely contrasted with the soothing ambiences found on “Inside of a Dream”, a song that features the legendary Mark Lanegan on guest vocals. Overall, this is another tremendous release by Cult of Luna and one of the best in their career, without a doubt. [9.0]

Highlighted tracks: What I Leave Behind; I Remember; Wave After Wave


Culted – Nous (Season of Mist)

What if you mixed the slab dragging riffage of doom metal with the howling madness of black metal and the cold and calculated devastation of industrial metal? That’s the recipe offered by Culted, a Canadian-Swedish quartet that just released their third and perhaps most ambitious offering yet. Born from a team up with Season of Mist, Nous stands as its creators attempt to destroy the ego and all that stands in the way of achieving a state of pure consciousness. Featuring a cascade of barbarically chaotic guitar riffs, bone-crushing drum pummels, twisted howls and horror-inducing intros, Nous is a devastating collection of nine songs that incorporate all the above elements in great fashion, perhaps only suffering from an overall sense of repetitiveness. Nevertheless, it’s a record that will deserve your undivided attention. [7.5]

Highlighted tracks: Lowest Class; Lifers; Ankle Deep; The Grid


Emptiness – Vide (Season of Mist)

From black/death metal to post-punk, Emptiness have come a long way since their inception in ’98. Long gone are the explosive death metal riffs and grim ambience that defined their sound in the early days – today, the band is all about the eerie and uneasiness of post-punk’s synth escapades. And while this might please those that are content with seeing a band evolve their sound – after all, their previous record, Not for Music, was a brilliant step forward for a band that was tipping their toes outside the conventions of metal music -, Vide feels much like a step in the wrong direction. The immersive and hypnotizing atmospheres are still there, but there are so many things happening at once that you will feel confused and disoriented by it all and not in a good way. Not only that, the entire record is strung together by a mishmash of lackluster melodies and dull, out of place and overly loud vocals, making this a record that is unsure of itself and of what it wants to be. I won’t tell you to avoid this release, but if you don’t, be careful not to zone out completely while listening to it. [5.0]

Highlighted tracks: None.


Ephemerald – Between the Glimpses of Hope (Inverse Records)

Finland is a country known for being a prolific breeding ground for new and exciting metal bands, especially in the folk, symphonic and melodic death metal side of things. And what happens when those three genres are blended together? Enter Ephemerald, a relatively new band in the scene that does just that. Combining folky soundscapes and the potency of death metal with elegant and epic orchestrations, Ephemerald brew a stylish and over-the-top concoction in their debut record that is filled with mouth-watering and striking moments, something that will surely please fans of bands such as Wintersun, Graveworm and even Nightwish. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: I Bear Fire; Lost; Reborn; No Fall Is Too Deep


Final Void – Visions of Fear (Inverse Records)

I just mentioned how Finland is a breeding ground for new and exciting bands, but there is also the other side of that spectrum – the exception to the rule, if you will. If on occasion, the Finnish metal scene has left an indelible mark in the underground metal scene with its panoply of great bands, it’s also true that it has missed its mark more than once. An example of this is Final Void. Now, you might be thinking that this is a very cliché name in a genre packed with cliché names, but you are correct in that assessment. If only their sound wasn’t so dreadfully obvious, I would be happy to tell you how wrong you are. But sadly, Visions of Fear feels much like “yet another record” in the gothic metal genre, complete with tedious vocals and half-baked riff ideas. A major pass in my book. [4.0]

Highlighted tracks: None


Five The Hierophant – Through Aureate Void (Dark Essence Records)

Bizarre, eccentric, exploratory and unrestrained; these are just some adjectives that one could use to describe the music of Five The Hierophant, a trio of avant-garde musicians from the UK that love all things jazzy, ambient and deconstructive. Infusing a progressive variant of post-metal with the experimental leanings of jazz, Five The Hierophant employ somber and psychedelic sonorities that hypnotize the listener and make them wonder the dark deserts of the mental realm. Soft saxophone passages, dancing guitars and pulsating drums join in a ménage of sound that is both sensual and deadly, marking Through Aureate Void a must-listen for all fans of the weirder side of metal. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Leaf in the Current; Fire From Frozen Cloud; Berceuse


Harakiri For The Sky – Mære (AOP Records)

It was not until recently that I have started to truly pay attention to what Harakiri For The Sky have been doing during this past decade and for that, I feel terribly ashamed. To make amends, I decided that I would give my total and undivided attention to their fifth opus, Mære, which after having been delayed last month, as finally arrived for our earing pleasure. And what a record this is. Fast-paced blast beats, ripping guitar riffs and despairing howls compose most of this lengthy double record, which also features a guest appearance by Neige on “Sing For The Damage We’ve Done”, and even a cover of Placebo’s “Song to Say Goodbye” at the very end, which is a nice touch, albeit a bit unnecessary. But then again, I’m biased as I’m not very fond of cover songs in records. All in all, this is a very impressive and emotionally-driven record that displays the band’s prowess and will to impress with each release and hopefully, this is a trend they never let go of. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: I, Pallbearer; Sing For The Damage We’ve Done; Us Against December Skies; Silver Needle // Golden Dawn


Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde (Unique Leader Records)

Brutality is an inherent quality of any good deathcore band. The colossal breakdowns, groovy drum patterns and earth-shaking growls are part of the genre’s DNA makeup and you can’t really do without them. But what you can do is add stuff to the mix and make it even more crushing. And that’s exactly what Humanity’s Last Breath do in their latest record, Välde, adding layers of bleak synth orchestrations and abyssal black metal ambiences to a very djenty and slamming sound. The result is a claustrophobic and caustic blend of unforgiving sonorities that will keep you chained to the bottom of an endless ocean, relentlessly pummeling you into submission. A must-listen for all fans of the genre, for sure. [7.5]

Highlighted tracks: Glutton; Earthless; Descent; Dehumanize


Melvins – Working With God (Ipecac Recordings)

There is no band quite like the Melvins. Pioneers of grunge and sludge metal thanks to early records such as Gluey Porch Treatments, Ozma and Bullhead, the Melvins have dabbled in many a musical genre over the years, spanning an immensely varied and enviable discography. But on this new record, they have essentially decided to go back to their roots and back to their 1983 formation. Dubbed Melvins 1983, this offshoot of sorts sees Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover reunite with original drummer Mike Dillard for a release that attempts to portray what the band is all about. And if that seems like a cool idea, more often than not, it falls short. Don’t get me wrong, this is very much a Melvins record as they have gotten us used to. But therein lies the problem; it ultimately feels like yet another Melvins release that doesn’t really stray away from the same ideas and the same riffs the band has been creating for the past decade or so. And that perhaps is a sign of the years catching up to a band that is running out of creative fuel. A lackluster release all around. [5.0]

Highlighted tracks: None.


Ominous Ruin – Amidst Voices That Echo In Stone (Willowtip Records)

Here comes one highly anticipated debut. Hailing from San Francisco, California, Ominous Ruin is a death metal quintet that has been around since the beginning of this past decade but only now have they put their collective minds at work to release a debut record. And quite an explosive debut, it is. Taking all the best and nastiest ingredients from technical and brutal death metal and blending them all together, Ominous Ruin deliver a nonstop, bone-grinding barrage of punishing riffs, insanely fast and precise drum hits, groovy-as-fuck bass lines and gruesome growls – which not only include vocalist Adam Rosado but also guest vocal appearances ranging from Jade Ordonez (Arcane Existence, Deliria) to Kris Cana (Symbiotic) -, making this a much-appreciated release. As far as the genre is concerned, you won’t be necessarily surprised by most of the record, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the hell out of it either. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Ritual; Deception; Labyrinthine Torment


Revulsion – Revulsion (Transcending Obscurity Records)

From one death metal debut to the next, this one comes all the way from Finland and again, it’s from a band that has been around for quite a while, having released a demo in 2010 and an EP in 2011. Fast forward ten years and Revulsion have finally pulled the veil on their highly-anticipated debut and I feel the wait was totally worth it. Opening the record with unrelenting and vicious grooves that call back to bands such as Dying Fetus, Suffocation and Morbid Angel, Revulsion keep the pressure on throughout the entirety of their debut, ceaselessly assaulting our eardrums with bulldozing drumming, commanding death growls and massive riffage, all incredibly well-crafted and well-executed. It is a hulking release full of ear-melting moments that will keep you on your knees and begging for more punishment. And while it may not bring anything necessarily new to the table, I cannot wait to see what more carnage these guys unleash in the future. [7.5]

Highlighted tracks: Pyre; Walls; Lihaan Sidottu Kirja; Unravel


Spelljammer – Abyssal Trip (RidingEasy Records)

It has been a while since I last heard of Spelljammer. Their debut record, Ancient of Days, was released back in 2015 and it was quite the psychedelic stoner trip. Six years later, the Swedish trio of vocalist/guitarist Niklas Olsson, guitarist Robert Sörling and drummer Jonatan Rimsbo return for another dosage of hypnotic sonic escapades overflown with walls of fuzzy guitars, hard-hitting drums and otherworldly vocals. Switching back and forth between slow and hefty, Sabbath-like soundscapes and more intense, galloping and lively riffage, Spelljammer deliver unto us a blistering and monolithic sonic journey that feels incredibly expansive and mesmerizing, something that will certainly whet the appetite of those that are more inclined to the distortion-filled side of psychedelic stoner metal. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Bellweather; Lake, Among the Holy; Silent Rift


Spire – Temple of Khronos (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)

It wasn’t until very recently that I became aware of Spire and part of that was due to the impending release of their sophomore record, Temple of Khronos. As soon as I gave this record a spin – metaphorically speaking, as I was enjoying a good listen of the digital version -, I immediately felt awestruck and stunned by the sheer volume and layered complexity of Spire’s sound. Atmospheric guitar passages and blasting drum beats are intertwined with beautifully eerie vocals that range from ominous chanted choruses, reciting clean vocals and frenzied, bellowing howls that feel like they come from the deepest bowels of Erebus. It is an immensely provocative and breathtaking release, full of mysticism and massive walls of sound that will grab you by the throat and demand your undying attention and devotion. Prepare for timeless oblivion and annihilation, all who dare seek the Temple of Khronos. [9.0]

Highlighted tracks: Hymn I – Tyrant ; Hymn II – Tormentor ; Hymn III – Harbinger; Hymn IV – Puissant


Suffering Hour – The Cyclic Reckoning (Profound Lore)

Cavernous old school death metal is always welcomed and appreciated, and Suffering Hour are here to deliver that in the filthiest and most decadent manner possible. After an exciting debut record in 2017, the North American trio return for a second round of head-splitting, gut-punching death metal with blackened inclinations. Serving as a continuation of their previous record, The Cyclic Reckoning stands as a true representation of what Suffering Hour are truly about – seething and spacious riffs, brutally precise drumming, menacing growls and unpredictable atmospheric passages that envelop the listener and soul-suck them out of this world. The end result is a fascinating, abrasive and savage record that deserves to be played countless times. And if this is how the band chooses to go forward from here on out, I will anxiously await for their next bloodthirsty offering. [8.5]

Highlighted tracks: Strongholds Of Awakening; Transcending Antecedent Visions; The Abrasive Black Dust Part II


Terminal Bliss – Brute Err/ata (Relapse Records)

Featuring members of Pg. 99, Mammoth Grinder and Suppression, and inspired by the likes of Born Against, Black Flag and Negative Approach, Terminal Bliss dropped their debut EP a few days ago and it’s as chaotic and destructive as you can possibly imagine. Clocking in at almost 11 minutes, Brute Err/ata is a satisfactory selection of 10 incredibly fast and merciless tracks that are drenched in cacophony and deal with themes that range from consumerism and environmental destruction to the apathy of a droning populace and the inefficiency of the American healthcare system. It’s a quick, punishing and spitefully brutal release filled with dissonant electronics, vocals that are both raw and threatening, and a clamour of obscene guitar riffs that will grind your whole body to dust. Do you like grinding noise? If so, Terminal Bliss are about to become your best fucking friends. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Clean Bill Of Wealth; Anthropodmorbid; Small One Time Fee; March Of The Grieving Droid


The Ruins Of Beverast – The Thule Grimoires (Ván Records)

Ambition can make or break anyone. Sometimes you try to take a big step forward and are left with nothing but disappointment and a “back to square one” sort of feeling. The same holds true for music in general – more often than not, one sees an artist trying to shake things up by employing other musical stylings which ultimately causes them to lose track of their own identity, of what made them special in the first place. But there are, of course, exceptions to that rule and The Ruins of Beverast – the brainchild of Alexander von Meilenwald -, is among them and proof of that is his latest release, entitled The Thule Grimoires. Always looking ahead, Meilenwald keeps improving his sonic prowess by adding elements that elevate Beverast’s music even further and this time around his focus lies heavily on gothic, industrial and doom, channeling Type O Negative and Triptykon at any given opportunity. This works well in his favour, as Meilenwald pulls from his inner Peter Steele and Tom G. Warrior to deliver a vocal performance that is both ethereal and gloomy, without forgetting the rich and monumental instrumental sections that are so expertly crafted all by himself and that have always been a signature of his sound. The Thule Grimoires feels like a journey into the vast wastelands of the psyche and fans of the band will be immensely pleased by this new offering. [8.0]

Highlighted tracks: Ropes Into Eden; Kromlec’h Knell; Mammothpolis; Anchoress In Furs


Vøidwomb – Altars of Cosmic Devotion (Iron Bonehead Productions)

Much like January, this month was also full of debut releases ranging from different metal subgenres. One that looked quite promising was the debut release of Vøidwomb, a newly-formed Portuguese band with a mission to distill the most vile and grim form of blackened death metal possible. Coming in the form of an EP, Altars of Cosmic Devotion is composed of four tracks that are filled with ferocious blast beats, a panoply of pulsating riffs and harsh growling that is interweaved with the occasional chanted incantation, without forgetting the passable intro track right at the beginning. In general, what Vøidwomb are doing here is nothing out of the extraordinary, but they do it well enough that it deserves the attention of all black and death metal lovers. And sometimes, that’s all you can ask for. [7.0]

Highlighted tracks: Descent to Ersetu; Architects of World Demise

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