Mini-Reviews From Around the Bowl (2/18/22)


Friday. Normal review too big for caveman brain. Mini reviews instead.

Negativa – 04
Mystískaos/Dissociative Visions/Nebular Carcoma | January 28, 2022

Negativa thrives in that hadal zone of black metal where no weight is placed on names, faces, or titles. The overall sound on 04 doesn’t diverge much from 03, but the vocal production is more refined, the plunge into darkness less restrained. We’ve covered Negativa before—whether or not this music is the product of intuitive composition as their earlier work was, it feels deliberate, careful, and cunning. “XXIV” is a 6/8 dance with death wrapped in harrowing guitar. “XXVII” is a gallop through an obsidian labyrinth. 04 is satisfying and well-curated front to back. Get this in your earholes if you want to get lost in the darkness. – Theophrastus Bombastus

Precariat – Ποιήματα για επώδυνες Διαδικασίες
Independent | February 13, 2022

Greece’s Precariat have released a searing EP, (see above), which translates to Poems about Painful Procedures. Not only does this little record live up to the title, it also reaches beyond metal for its content. Essentially, Poems is a gesamtkunstwerk, sourcing its album art and lyrics from poet Antigoni Iliadi. There’s little context on Precariat’s Bandcamp page, but the poems’ translations speak for themselves:

they are babies filled with hay
no place for them in a family
soulless, they photosynthesize rather than live
and nurture secret love for statues and the dead.

Cryptic and beguiling, much like this series of sub-three-minute black metal songs as a whole. Poems is a dense record despite its size, and it’s worth some close reading for maximum effect. – Theophrastus Bombastus

Calico Bonnet – S/T
Independent | July 17, 2021

We here around the Toilet ‘preciate and admire the blackened death ballads crafted by our Texan pals Haunter. It’s also no secret that every once in awhile we like to whip out our finest bolo ties and belt buckles for a little boot scootin’. So consider us sold when Haunter (and friends) go full country western under the moniker of Calico Bonnet with an EP of honky tonk ready tunes. Odes to road dogging, loves lost, and having one drink too many that’ll have you two stepping in no time. I’m now holding out hope for some pedal steel in the next Haunter LP. — Megachiles

SvärdGrimosón Latino
Independent | December 1, 2021

Usually the concept of black’n’roll sounds much better to me than its execution, but something about this thing eliminated all hesitation when Bandcamp asked me to pull the trigger earlier today. Perhaps it’s because there seems to be slightly more to the band’s premise. There’s certainly a healthy dose of mean, rocking swagger in the opening tracks; it’s impossible to listen to “Lightning” without picturing leather jackets and big sunglasses. But right after that, “Ablaze” shifts gears to highlight Svärd’s love of dirty, raging, blackened crust, and this isn’t the last metamorphosis of their sound, as both “Satanass” (heh) and “Strafe” find time to delve into a more pensive and even slightly melancholic sound. In six relatively short tracks, there’s a surprising amount to discover, without the end result coming off as incoherent. And as if that wasn’t enough, the bass guitar sounds fucking awesome. — Hans

Out of PityNIX
Independent | February 1, 2022

Looks like crusty black metal from Latin America is my thing for today. Out of Pity might be wearing slightly smaller sunglasses, but make up for it by sounding more raw, leaning slightly more on the black metal side of things, and sounding more deranged overall, probably due to adding that most magical of ingredients to the mix: psychedelics. Nothing here is likely to make you want to tie dye your shirts, but there are several abrupt turns into smoke-filled chambers where you catch glimpses of obscure rituals before being yanked out again. All throughout, there’s also a palpable sense of freedom as the band approach both black metal and crust from a variety of angles in pursuit of nothing in particular apart from doing their own thing. They still sound consistently pissed off and grim, but their curiosity and willingness to follow their mind wherever it goes next somehow add a positive spin. In short: it’s fun! — Hans

Hellfrost And FireFire, Frost and Hell
Transcending Obscurity | March 18, 2022

I can’t remember which of these is the album name and which is the band name. It doesn’t really matter. None of this matters. Dave Ingram, huh? What a pinch hitter, truly the Edgar Martinez of death metal, swapping in when he’s needed and hitting a couple of homers to keep things moving. This is the third (!) band featuring Ingram’s vocal talents to pop up on Transcending Obscurity Records, although near as I can tell it’s the first where Ingram is the main attraction, since his strings and drums are coming from near-unknowns. Tempted as I am to write this off as a space filler for a vocalist more suited for guest appearances, I think Dave actually does bring a robust presence to these songs that they might be missing without him. The riffs and songwriting won’t hit you with a surprise left hook, but they do make a great backdrop for Ingram to just do what he clearly enjoys doing, and you get sucked into how up-front and earnest it can all be. Plus, I like some hammer-and-anvil fantasy in my knucklehead death metal, and Ingram’s clearly been browsing at the back of the used bookstore. — A Spooky Mansion

As The World Dies – Agonist
Transcending Obscurity | March 25, 2022

I do have to strain a little bit to find distinct things to say about Agonist, since it does hit all the marks for grandiose, tremolo-driven, broad strokes death metal. I will give props for the way As The World Dies mix up their sense of pacing, using long pulls of strained high notes against rowdy, even racing riffs to suggest a vastness around the frenzy that is immediate to the ear. “Dawn Of Terror” has kind of a cool opening lead/rhythm juxtaposition, and “Red Death” has a simply enormous overture that powers the entire thing. While not what I would call ‘doomy’, As The World Dies seems to play best when they slow it down and just let their chords sound huge for a few beats, especially when placed at fertile spots as in the break from “The Tempest”, which suits the tremendous dread and sorrow connoted by their name. It’s a very huge downer out there, and as much as you want to run, you might just be compelled to take a seat and drink it all in.

Wait, Scott Fairfax did solos on this and on FireHell FrostFire HellFrost? Is he just like, the Phantom Of Transcending Obscurity? — A Spooky Mansion

Et MoriemurTamashii no Yama
Transcending Obscurity | April 8, 2022

Peace comes from the breath. The reticence, the deliberate construction and unity of vision, the careful plotting of motifs portending one another and recalling their forebears. Tamashii No Yama was written with patience, a cerebral angle to convey meditative depth. The guitars rarely whirl into any shape more distinct than a dry fog from which the vocals seem to emanate as if disembodied. The instrumental details are filled with violins, piano, flutes, but it doesn’t feel tediously folky or faux-Romantic. It’s almost Byronic, peaceful and yet overwrought with woe, which only becomes thicker as it progresses. Probably going to be difficult to tour on, but well worth a quiet evening in, lying on your carpet and wondering about all the things you could have been. Maybe this record just came to me at the right time. — A Spooky Mansion

Hallux ValgusReflections of Distant Dreams
Edged Circle Productions | March 25, 2022

Uncanny Norwegian death metal by way of Chile? It’s more likely than you think! Hallux Valgus dropped Reflections of Distant Dreams last spring, but Edged Circle is giving it that classic “worldwide vinyl reissue with updated truculent cat cover art” treatment we all know and love. If the members of Sweven and Tøronto overcame their creative differences and melded their wyrd prog death and speed metal mischief to pull a Pet Sematary with Morbus Chron, Reflections of Distant Dreams would be their reunion album. Hallux Valgus bring a death n’ roll swagger to the disorienting, shambling creeping creepy creep riffs and swirling, thrashing solos of the Nordic sound. Unique moments include “Echoes of the Dead”, which sounds like a long lost Sister-era In Solitude track, and a gen-u-ine, authentic death metal Hammond organ solo that would make Jon Lord proud in closer “Internal Cryptic Gathering”. FFO: Inculter, Obliteration, Morbus Chron, fatally wounding yourself in the Cordillera Paine to feed the Andean Condors. — Megachiles

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