October Roundup: Death Metal, Dungeon Synth & Stargazery
The latest and, for someone, greatest from Gorephilia, Invincible Force, Vetus Supulcrum and Stargazery. And not a single D.
Gorephilia – In the Eye of Nothing
October 2nd | Dark Descent/Me Saco Un Ojo
Hometown heroes Gorephilia‘s third full-length marks the first time the band went into the studio without founding vocalist Henri Kuula, who passed away in 2018, by his own hand. Guitarist Jukka Aho has taken over the vocal duties and though Kuula will be sorely missed, Aho’s performance is good enough for it not be felt sorest here. His style is very reminiscent of Kuula’s, the lows perhaps half a step more discernible and a quarter step less guttural, the higher range flashed in “Devotion Upon the Worm”, and the closer, underutilized. The production is somewhat chunkier and less inhospitable than Severed Monolith‘s, but murkier than on the debut, which, with the even and separating mix, give In the Eye of Nothing a soft, but not too slick edge.
Of the two instrumentals, the noisier half-way mark, “Consensus” seems, above all, unnecessary but the penultimate “Death Dream” affects the mood of the record and works as a brief moment of respite and preparation before wandering unto the closer “Ark of the Indecipherable”. As far as length is concerned, there’s not so much of a difference between it and “Devotion Upon the Worm” or “Perpetual Procession” as there were between the epics that closed Ascend to Chaos, Severed Monolith or even Embodiment of Death, but its comparatively adventurous structure, tightening riffs and forays into doom still earn it that crown.
In the Eye of Nothing builds upon the foundation of infectious and multifaceted death metal from its predecessor and makes up for its limited range of influences with dynamic songwriting. The groove isn’t limited to the mid-tempo parts, neither high nor low tempos claim dominance, the transitions between instrumentalists and sections are smooth and the hints of menacing melodies scattered throughout add depth to the immersion. In the Eye of Nothing is a more consistent record than its predecessor, but suffers as much for it, as Severed Monolith did for its lack thereof. That’s to say, not greatly, but clearly. If previously there was a steep hill between the finest cuts and the less memorable material in between, now there’s almost none, and as Gorephilia’s range of influences continues to narrow down, the songs become more and more alike. Though the more important difference is that what once was infectious has now become barely memorable and what once was memorable, is now merely catchy. It is difficult to find not only stand-out moments from In the Eye of Nothing, it is difficult to find moments to stand out from it. And when something does stand out, it does so in spite of Gorephilia.
It is not unusual for a death metal band to draw inspiration from Morbid Angel, and it is not lamentable when some choose to do so. It’s also nothing new for Gorephilia, but as the years have passed, the inspiration has taken a clearer form, impossible to avert from. And as it has, it’s begun to strangulate the roots of the other blooms. The precedent was set on Severed Monolith, but the deed is done here. It’s not that In the Eye of Nothing would be a bowl of blatant MA aping, it’s just that there isn’t much left of what made Gorephilia sound like themselves first, even when the inspiration was at its clearest before. Especially the part of their sound that made them sound like Gorephilia amidst all their influences, that which linked them to Finnish death metal in particular is gone. Not perhaps altogether, but mostly, and so what now represents Gorephilia among an even clearer and rigid set of inspirations is alien and distant to all whom were not there when it was forged, to all who did not partake in its creation. And so it is the Morbid Angel aspect that defines In the Eye of Nothing, and not the Gorephilia aspect.
3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Vetus Supulcrum – Windswept Canyons of Thule
October 23rd | Burning World Records
I’ve not heard of “Mories” de Jong’s Vetus Supulcrum before, but considering the man’s never-ending output that’s less than a surprise, in fact Windswept… is already Vetus Supulcrum’s 4th album, not counting smaller releases, in little over a year. There are a good number of great albums in Gnaw Their Tongues‘ discography alone, but I’ve always found myself preferring when it drew more inspiration from black metal, something it shan’t be doing anymore, if Mories is to be believed. Age is hardly slowing him down, as GNT alone has released 4 full-lengths, two EPs and a collaboration with Crowhurst since the beginning of 2018. After GNT’s redefined focus and Cloak of Altering‘s decline over the last couple records, the man hasn’t been making as many appearances on my radar, even if I recognize his more lately active projects, ones that have put out music this year, Dodenbzweerder, Hagetisse and The Sombre and though I’ve sampled them, I can recall nothing. The waning of my interest in his massive catalog has been accelerated by his habit of bringing his trademark sound, or parts thereof, into each project to a degree that has in the past often made them seem only like versions of each other.
There is one detail though that separates Vetus Supulcrum from Mories’ body of work, on a mental level, and has partially renewed my interest in his art. It strips away not only the metal but also the harsher industrial tones and the noise. And leaves only dungeon synth. Though Windswept Canyons of Thule embarks on a journey through medieval times, it is neither bright nor playful. It does not evoke the festivities and colors that we have come to affiliate with medieval-minded music in modern times, nor does it reach high towards the earnest devotion that in truth is as representative, but often forgotten. Though its attempt to veil itself in a more mystic nature than the one it reveals pieces of, draw closer to the latter than the former. It is a grandiose album where walls of grandiose keyboards do battle as if their duel would shape the landmasses around them, soft percussion that keeps it grounded when it desires to fly away and distortion with which portals to malevolent realms are kept open.
There is familiarity here, lines to be drawn to many of de Jong’s other projects, especially the less hectic ones that are heavy on the keyboards and effects. Many of these lines could lead into Gnaw Their Tongues itself, but for the first time in a long time that I can recall, it has been stripped of its clothes, its bare essence filtered through layers of mutating essences. Much is also familiar from elsewhere but condensed through Mories himself. I would call it a return to purpose, but I doubt Mories ever lost his, I just didn’t think it significant enough anymore. Apparently, I might yet be persuaded.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Invincible Force – Decomposed Sacramentum
October 22nd | Dark Descent
Founded in Chile around 13 years ago, Invincible Force took their name from a Destruction song. As one might deduce, their style of choice was violent thrash metal that grew in time to include a malevolent, blackened strain, or perhaps, in these times which have seen the growth of a revivalist movement for the revivalist movement of pizza thrash, we have begun to label any such band that would cultivate the aggression and darkness that birthed it, as having the strain, regardless of its actual status. This did not matter to Invincible Force.
Nor did blind loyalty to their origins. By the time 2015’s excellent Satan – Rebellion – Metal, rolled around things had irrevocably changed. It wasn’t a change that always felt like a gargantuan one, but the envelope had been pushed, the aggression was changing and the extremity grew to include a precedent for death metal to come. If you’re not familiar with it, I suggest you spend the next 25 minutes of your life delving into its mysteries.
It was quickly followed by the four-way split Hell’s Damnation, closer to their roots than the debut full-length had been, or at least retrospectively seems to have been, but the following 5 years have been a long and arduous wait. It hasn’t been all silence in the Invincible Force camp since though—they’ve got a new bassist/vocalist in Cristián “Pasa” Contreras and guitarist Dead Goat & drummer Cristobal are both members of the death metal band Ancient Crypts, who released a new EP earlier this year. And sometime in 2016, a new EP, Nocturnal Path was announced and a preview track “Midnight Catechism” released. The EP did not materialize. Instead we got a few more years of waiting until Decomposed Sacramentum, the band’s sophomore full-length, finally saw fit to drop.
In between they’ve “left behind their more scholarly aspirations in favour of something more sinister”, which “Doomed by the Vision” will waste no time telling you means relentless beating in a whirlwind of tremolo-riffs, blasting and frenetic thrash that have mutated to resemble Morbid Angel‘s Abominations/Altars -era. Technically, it does waste 38 seconds before informing you of its nature, but I digress. The 9 songs that make up Decomposed Sacramentum are packed into two-to-three minute pieces of barely contained fury. A few songs, the penultimate title track, “The Shadow over Canaan”, “Midnight Catechism’s” rebirth as “Illusion of Truth” and the closing “Hopeless Mortality” temper their approach for a moment or two, making for that much more balanced record, but at 27 minutes, there’s still no fear of Invincible Force overstaying their welcome. You know you need more thrashing death in your life, and though it seems lately we’ve seen more greatness in that style than I’ve grown accustomed to receiving, Decomposed Sacramentum is no doubt among the best.
4/5 Flaming toilets ov Hell
Stargazery – Constellation
May 29th | Pure Steel Records
Stargazery is one of several, similar bands led by guitarist/vocalist Pete Ahonen. The differences between the three major names have often been left minor, but generally speaking Burning Point is maybe more flowery and melodic than the dark-ish Ghost Machinery and Stargazery is more hard rock-influenced, while also letting Ahonen’s neoclassical influence from BP bloom. Naturally much of these band’s identities have coiled around their respective vocalists, although Ahonen’s best material is featured on the earlier albums of Burning Point, when he still fronted the band as well. The band pushed themselves further from their origin during the tenure of ex-Battle Beast vocalist Nitte Valo, managing some fairly fine power metal while removing the most of the neoclassical influence. And as far as Ghost Machinery is concerned I barely bother outside Out for Blood, their lone album with vocalist Taage Laiho of Kilpi.
Stargazery is a little more removed from the two others and also the most distant of Ahonen’s bands for myself. Fronted from the start by Jari Tiura, known previously from his short involvements in Michael Schenker’s projects, and for his considerably hard rock-like timbre, eventually came to resemble as much his beginnings as Ahonen’s and coupled with a rhythm group that seemed wont to play in the usual power metal fashion, the latter often became pushed to the background, especially on Stars Aligned.
But as members have come and gone besides Ahonen and Tiura, little of their original flavours remain. 5 years between albums might have done wonders for another group, but Ahonen pushed out records from both of his other major outputs between the records and Tiura took the time to release a solo record of indifferent nature, and after spinning Constellation I’m dying to believe the duo wasted all their decent ideas elsewhere. Straddling the line between power metal and melodic hard rock, it’s dominated by a lethargic tempo and a flaccid beat, Ahonen seems disinterested in playing outside his solos, leaving little in the way of riffs or leads, most of which are awkwardly reminiscent of a better composition. Keyboardist Pasi Hiltula attempts to pick up the slack as best he can, adding a little oomph to an album categorically devoid of power, but even so Constellation sounds like the slightly demo-ish debut from an up-n-coming band not yet familiar with their skills or welded together as a group, not the third of a band with a couple dozen records in the collective pocket.
Though almost all of the new members have already played in one of Ahonen’s other bands, and have experience from the likes of Embraze, Kalmah, Altaria and Eternal Tears of Sorrow, and give firm, professional performances, they’re every bit as bland, tepid and forgettable as the songwriting. Tiura still seems to love what he does though and elevates Constellation a couple of notches upwards, but no matter how hardcore a fan of the style you may be, you’d be better off skipping it.
1/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell