A Lil’ Springtime Review Roundup
Bask in the ephemeral splendor of some of 2022’s earliest releases.
I thought spring had officially sprung, but it seems to be snowing as I write this. Prince warned me about this so I should know better, but I’m a poor listener.
In any case, amidst my neighbors’ shouts of “Why do we live here??” let’s shake off that seasonal affective funk and spin some of the coolest, obscurest, metal jams of Q1, shall we?
Aegult – The Pantheon of Insignificance
Independent | March 18, 2022
Avant-garde, hyper-human black metal in the vein of Solefald, Thy Catalfalque, and Sigh. While there’s undeniable quirkiness in the frenetic energy here—see the unexpected jungle and synthwave breaks—there are also plenty of solemn moments as well. For instance the hallucinatory black metal of tracks 2 and 4 at points break down into dreamy and melancholic lo-fi shoegaze passages that, at least to my ears, lend some vulnerability and earnestness without devolving into melodrama as so often is the case with the Solefalds, Arcturus’, and Sighs of the world. Engaging tweaks to the guitar, synth, and drum tones and the pacing throughout the record (e.g. 2:20 of “Understanding the Evidence Tree”) make for an engaging listen that never drags or blurs into homogeneity across its 9 tracks. With the longest song clocking in at just a hair over 4 minutes Pantheon almost understays its welcome. Granted this is a sub-sub-genre that’s known for its bloat and excessive theatrics, so let’s chalk that shorter run time up as a W. All this and it’s NYP on bandcamp! The Ws don’t stop coming folks.
FFO: Both eras of Ulver, Gonemage/Homeskin, Creature, Thy Catafalque, Parannoul
20 minutes of gud guttural grind extracted from the ooze by our pal Sam of Corretja. Low and slow, but with guitar licks that’ll get you movin’ and groovin’, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues…err groove gore? Blues slam? Look… just look at the BC tags, give it a spin, and get back to me with your own made up genre descriptors, nerds. Now downtuned, guttural, and grindy aren’t my usual cup of tea, but you bet I’ll down a piping hot cuppa that sloppy stuff when it has the added anesthetic quality of riffs only a few degrees of separation from the blues. Like some of these riffs are greasy enough to have been pulled straight from a Goatsnake record. Another aspect I enjoyed were the lyrics. Rather than reading like a cringe-worthy, hyperviolent screed (ew!) or a clinically detached, particularly gruesome medical report (yeah!) these lyrics subvert established gore-centric tropes and instead center on personal struggles, more akin to sludge, doom, and now that I think about it, The Blues. Granted that’s not easy to discern from these inhumanly low (and somehow not pitch-shifted!) gurgles and growls without the lyrics in hand. In any case, a neat first full length from Collapstomy that has taught me that it’s all the blues. Always has been. No astronaut betrayal memes needed. My only complaint is that it could use more banjo. Maybe next time.
FFO: Grief, Noothgrush, Fluids, Afterbirth, early Carcass, toilet sounds
Glyph – Remind Us of the Sun
WereGnome Records | February 18, 2022
When black metal is called a “ritual” or “ceremony” it should sound like Remind Us of the Sun. These are weirding incantations echoing through a peat bog from some lonesome tower. An unnatural thrumming as a one-eyed druid whispers into a doe’s skull and cloaks the moors in an unnatural mist. Grandiose and gothic guitar n’ bass melodies enrapture you before you realize something is a wee bit off. All is not as it seems. This place is not a place of honor. No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here. The slavering old evil that emerged from below the cairn drags you into the loamy, humid darkness as you marvel at the thick and luscious bass tone.
FFO: Ustalost/Yellow Eyes, Tribulation or Cloak, raw/lo-if black metal, dying earth fiction, haunted edifices and monuments
Moonlight Sorcery – Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity
Independent | February 18, 2022
This super-promising debut EP is the type of heavy metal to put a big stupid grin on your face. Unprecedented levels of shred, spicy leads, and slick solos, even for a melodic black metal band. I’m no musician, just some dummy who likes music, so I’ll say the guitar work has got yer squiddlies, widdlies, and squealies and leave it at that. That’s what we call that Finnish Finesse, boys. Second track “For Thy Light Is Ice” is probably the most fun I’ve had listening to music all year. Like hot dang this guy sounds like he would have given Alexei Laiho (RIP) a run for his money. I don’t think further descriptions of the album are warranted given the album art and the whooshing snow noises + crystalline cold piano of the opener. It’s right there on the tin, y’all.
FFO: Sacramentum, Children of Bodom, Wintersun, Vinterland, blue spooky castle black metal
Penny Coffin – ΣΚΕΛΕΤΙΚΟ ΣΚΟΤΑΔΙ
Dry Cough Records | January 22, 2022
Haunting emanations from beyond the grave, just like you like it. This Scottish/Greek four piece plays that echoing strain of death doom that reminds you that “oh shit, what if immeasurable nothingness is all that awaits us in death?”. The choice cut here is second track “Skeletal Darkness”, a bleak 8-minute trek into the collapsing void. A suffocating wall of riffs, snarling growls, and teeth-shattering low end punctuated with sinister, dirge-like leads. The howling, cacophonous darkness subsides to an echoing whisper for the briefest moment before erupting back with a crushing breakdown at 6:16 that builds up to the mournful final minute. In short: it’s rad. A brief, but delectably dour EP from some death doom dealers you’ll want to keep an eye on.
FFO: Void Rot, Mortiferum, Krypts, Spectral Voice, Irn-Bru
Homeskin – Each Day Orbital
Independent | April 1, 2022
Continuing my streak of reviewing albums with art featuring Felis catus, we have the latest from Garry Brents, who has somehow churned out like 8 albums since we last talked with him. Each Day Orbital is probably my fav from Homeskin, his newest black metal-oriented project, so far. An interesting compositional twist to this project is that they’ve each been composed over insanely brief intervals, like half a day in one case. So not quite live, improv’d black metal, but pretty darn close. Spontaneous black metal? Sure. Each Day Orbital, composed and recorded over a few days, represents a merger of sounds: the blistering, discordant, Serpent Column-esque black metal of previous Homeskin release Integument Crystallization Deranged spliced with the post-hardcore and screamo leanings of Cara Neir, and accented with glints of Gonemage’s esoteric chiptune and electronica. Homeskin as a whole is probably the most unsettling music of Garry’s recent work, but has become increasingly rewarding and rich with each permutation, be it the dynamic drum programming and sick outro guitar solo on “Backyard Hologram”, or the uplifting bass work and auto-tune vocals in the almost danceable “Tinker Toys with the Transmission”. Give this a spin and envelop yourself in the madness and horror of American suburbia.
Check out the past Homeskin releases and stream/buy Each Day Orbital this Friday on Bandcamp!
FFO: Serpent Column, Cara Neir, cats, pondering what a black metal cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions” would sound like
Cirkeln – A Song to Sorrow
True Cult Records | March 25, 2022
Battle-ready black metal in the proud tradition of Bathory and Summoning, featuring all of the triumphant riffing and mystical key-tickling that you know and love. Cirkeln journeys along paths well trodden, but they do it with such aplomb you can’t help but follow their march ever onward. This is a definite step up from 2020’s great Kingdom That No One Remembers on all fronts. Some highlights for me are the particularly badass outro riff at 3:16 of “Hills of Sorcery”, the gruff, chanting vocal approach of “Vandraren” that wouldn’t be out of place on Nordland or Blood on Ice, and the gorgeous dungeon synth intro to “Thine Winter Realm Enthroned” that makes me question whether mysterious sole member Våndarr is a chimeric clone of Protector and Silenius created by the Swedish government on behalf of King Carl XVI Gustaf after Austrian president Thomas Klestik gifted him a Dol Guldur cassette during a state visit back in ‘97.
FFO: Summoning, Bathory, Stangarigel, Moorcockian escapades, Tolkienisms, anti-fascist doots n’ toots
!!!Bonus late-breaking micro-review!!!
Lamp of Murmuur/Ebony Pendant – Plenilunar Requiems
Independent | March 24, 2022
Hell yeah new Lamp. Hell yeah new Ebony Pendant. Hell yeah guitar solos in black metal. Hell yeah Chopin cover. Hell yeah two of modern USBM’s foremost champions bringing that angel-piercing, spear of destiny-tier riffage to this NYP split. Hell yeah.
FFO: saying “hell yeah, bröther”, cool shit