Catacomb Ventures – Exhumation of the Obscure
Sepulcrustacean continues his dig into the depths of obscurity with 5 more killer releases you need to wrap your head around.
Many of us grow tired of watching the media circus surrounding well established classic acts and, many of which passed their artistic expiry date a few decades ago, and their newer counterparts are often only fleeting in their appeal before a promising and popular idea becomes run into the ground and mundane. However there have always been those who existed at the fringes and in the depths offering an alternate idea on what extreme metal could be beyond odes to have-beens and shallow novelties. Here are five such releases (old and new) to familiarize yourself with –
Kommand – Demo 2018 (Independent)
Stripped down death metal barbarity from Los Angeles, Kommand’s second demo reinforces the armoured framework of their 2016 material with an even beefier production job and better variety in songwriting. The kind of death metal present might be bare bones technically with each song starting off in a seemingly ordinary manner of rolling tremolo patterns, hammering layers of repetitious riffing one another in colossal slow-boiling conflict. The battle lines formed by this consistent barrage fracture and a wider array of rhythm and harmony is introduced by storming through the break in tension, tying up loose ends and building upon the carnage promised by opening themes. Bolt Thrower is an obvious point of reference in the single string tremolo portions and the tendency to fall into slower double-kick heavy patterns that break and allow for hypnotic leads to rise like smoke from wreckage. It’s reminiscent of The IVth Crusade in that sense though they have considerably less repetition and a willingness to use quite a few blast beats. The more streamlined tremolo portions have the densely melodic vibe Demigod did on Slumber of Sullen Eyes and they tend to contrast it with chunkier segments in a fairly similar manner. You can listen to and download both demos for free on their official website.
Wampyrinacht – We Will Be Watching – Le Cultes De Satan Et Les Mystères De La Mort (Zazen Sounds, 2017)
Like its namesake, this album goes the long route when it goes to songwriting, not unusual for classic Greek black metal such as Varathron, Necromantia, Tatir, and Rotting Christ. However compared to the classic works of those bands, Wampryinacht have much stronger Norwegian overtones with their blizzard-strum riffing and tendency for using wide brush strokes of abstracted melodies in lengthy, semi-ambient structures. Classic heavy metal influences are present in spades though they’re delivered with a technically enhanced aggression at times almost like a second wave black metal interpretation of Helstar. Typically, those sections break up the longer tremolo strum portions, allowing them to home in on and develop fairly acrobatic melodic interludes and vary up the vocabulary of phrasing present. Songs use this dynamic contrast to work through a wide selection of melodic phrasing as they move through areas of unrelenting intensity and resolve them with sharply defined riffs in a combination of 80’s melodic metal charisma and 90’s black metal vastness of scope. Inevitably it does drag at some points and feel padded out during others. At only five songs, it’s not very long either. Mind you, this album was originally finished writing in 1999 and the final part of the recording, drums, were taken care of in 2002. It’s not likely we’ll see another album of theirs sadly because with a bit of fine tuning this could be among the very best of black metal.
Abhorrent – Start Point (Independent, 1996)
Thrash metal was a wasteland by the time Abhorrent’s debut album arrived but that didn’t stop these Chileans from one of the few highly ambitious releases in genre during those grim times. Abhorrent played a technical, death metal tinged approach to the genre that would have been more at home between 1988 and 1992. You can hear the post-Master of Puppets tendency for complex multi-part epics on this short album’s 13 and seven-minute tracks especially well, heightened with the stop-on-a-dime musicianship of Piece of Time era Atheist and Swallowed in Black by Sadus. It’s comparable to their country’s most influential extreme metal band, Pentagram, with a notable upgrade to their chops which helps them further explore gradually unwinding structure. Songs more frequently break their motion with abrupt changes in tempo and allow for quick displays of streamlined technicality, simple by today’s standards but fulfilling their purpose of enhancing impact and enriching harmony. It’s in this structuring that the album comes closer to death metal less by raw technique and more by its underlying approach to arrangement. There’s numerous twists and turns with little repetition. Multi-faceted maze-like songs self-dissect and fragment through interjections of new riffing and shifting tempo, using variety in speed and riffing choices to examine themselves from a variety of angles. Sadly, they ditched this sound by the time of their 2011 follow-up. Hopefully this album can see a proper remaster for CD and vinyl with the preceding demos as bonus tracks.
Ravager – Naxzgul Rising (Osmose Productions, 2004)
After the turn of the millennium it seems all death metal wanted to up the raw intensity whether it was in technicality, speed, or the sheer number of riffs they could throw at the listener. A lot of the nuance and variety in songwriting that informed the genre’s golden era went out of style but there were some bands that managed to keep the old school mindset alive albeit often within more modern framework. The follow-up to the solid if a little clumsy Storm of Sin from 2002, Ravager’s sophomore effort reaches levels of inhuman barbarity easily going beyond the brutal and technical death metal making waves then, roughly the equal of war metal like Revenge and Proclamation. However it does all of this while rooted in a darker, evocative kind of death-black hybrid mindset somewhere between The Chasm’s Procession to the Infraworld, Incantation’s Diabolical Conquest, and Angelcorpse’s Exterminate. Similar ideas would be touched upon by the related bands Demonized on their only album released the same year and Hacavitz’s 2005 debut (both bands shared members with Ravager) but Naxzgul Rising was easily the best of the three. I’d g so far as to put it as one of the top 10 for black-death fusions.
Riffing is frequently fired off in hyper-fast bursts of twisted tremolo patterns and sharply angled riffs jutting out from these lightning fast streams of discordant and sometimes dissonant mayhem. While phrases are longer and focused more on eerie mood like in an older death metal band they aren’t afraid to implement melody as well, something that becomes quite prominent at the slower and even doomy moments, often with half-time stompy black/thrash riffs and looming single note doom leads for moments of militaristic intensity or foreboding suspense. They’re able to fit all of these ideas with very abrupt shifts in tempo, working through longer winded structures that shift momentum and the levels of activity but rarely truly letting up, sounding equally foreboding at slower tempos. There’s little repetition and they inevitably do frequently rely on sheer energy to tie much of it together but the emphasis on the infernal tremolo churn and fitting various contrasting chord shapes, tied together frequently by various breaks in pacing, subtly making this feel closer to classic Morbid Angel rather than Vital Remains in its underlying mindset. If you want some incredibly savage metal that casually blurs the boundaries between death and black metal by virtue of its unbridled bloodthirst hunt this down.
Cemetary – An Evil Shade of Grey (Black Mark Production, 1992)
While Sweden is mostly associated with boneheaded HM2 abusing death metal, it did produce quite a few bands in the 90’s who refused to follow as obediently in the wake of bands like Entombed and Unleashed as modern practitioners such as Revel in Flesh and Entrails would. Cemetary are one of the best examples of this. While much of their playing is akin to something like an atmospheric and melodic version of Carnage and Grave, their songwriting has a sombre and ghostly sound hinting at the gothic/doom direction they would take for future albums. Creeping tremolo patterns crawl over carefully paced drumming, keeping tempos varied as sinister and doomy melodies emerge during breaks in speed and flesh out a song’s tonal character. Songs move through these sections of creeping, stalking motions carried by more active and traditional riffing patterns and the slower portions relying on more expressive lead guitar to rise fog-like and swamp tracks in forlorn minor-key expressionism, slowly progressing towards nefarious resolutions that capitalize on this slowly rising thematic tension before returning to end through repeating the earlier portions of a track.
Frequently they’ll let a few simple chords ring out, gradually drawing out shape and harmony from just a few simple notes, but they don’t shy away from using sudden blast beats at a few specific intervals. Occasionally synths and even clean guitar come into play usually for the purpose of harmonic flavouring and smoothing over a few transitions, adding to the pseudo-gothic atmosphere. There’s also a strange warbly squeal that tends to mirror the guitars during the tremolo portions, something I found annoying at first but it adds a likely unintentional layer of some sinister, supernatural presence. All of this combined results in what you could call “atmospheric swedeath” or even make a case for this being an early case of Unanimated or debut-era Intestine Baalism style melodic death metal. If it has one problem is that the album doesn’t feel like it always explores the full range of potential of its aesthetic, leaving some sections feeling a bit plain, but that’s more of an issue of scope than composition. Excellent listening for fans of early Septic Flesh, Dismember, and Horrified (UK) alike.
Cover image courtesy of Karmazid.