September Roundup: Death, Black & Prog
Tonight we’ve got for you, as the latest offerings, the latest offerings from Thyrfing, Korgonthurus, Nunslaughter, Blood Spore, Coagulate, Gutvoid & Soul Devourment.
Blood Spore, Coagulate, Soul Devourment & Gutvoid – 4 Dimensions of Auditory Terror
Blood Harvest – May 14th
Maybe I’ve heard the name Blood Spore before, and maybe I’ve raved about how good they are since apparently they’re ascending as one of The Underground’s hottest bands right now. But I for sure can’t remember them. Based on their offering to this split, “Olfactory Cordycipitaeceae Ingress”, the 9-minute opener, they do at least have all the trademark murk, muck & filth required for such an ascent, and the vocalist’s bloody throat is something to listen to. Too bad they’ve got exactly 0 of the riffs required, is what I’d say if riffs were required.
All they have is 9 minutes of meandering slow-mo chords which I’m sure will make it all so very sinister and ominous and doomy, despite doom metal having once been the riffiest of all genres, just throw in a random chug or two and you’re done. Well done even. But who the fuck would eat a well done steak?
Coagulate on the other hand is a far more conservative street patrol; they believe that death metal ought to be built around the riff, even if it’s just one or two. Unfortunately “Up from the Vats”, the title of which will never not make me think of the original Fallout, is another 9-minuter. It’s not as if the band doesn’t know what to do with all the time they’ve been given and can keep things moving but I haven’t been able to shake the feeling they had the idea of a 9-minute epic first, and wrote the song second. Or maybe rather like the length was the goal, not the content therein.
Soul Devourment on the third hand had the good sense of leaving their song on the short side, compared to the rest of these contenders at least. At 5 minutes it’s the shortest of the bunch and spits ooze and brutish riffs like no other. That’s a guaranteed winner, right? Well, no. Somehow it’s the blandest of the 4, leaving no note of itself other than at least it’s not
Republican 9 minutes.
Gutvoid has been niggardly with new material ever since shaking my pants with their debut EP. I won’t lie, the charm has dwindled and last year’s single did too little to get me back on track. They were still the main reason I checked this split out, even though it didn’t turn out too well until this point, I remain(ed) hopeful. Fortunately they do serve as the highlight, as meaningless as the term is in this company, but they manage to convey cosmic dread through the spacious chords, haunting leads and drawn-back rhythms.
But its simplicity of songwriting, relative scarcity of riffs and repetitious arrangements can’t quite compete with what has annoyingly, but not inaccurately been described as astrodeath elsewhere. I enjoy what they are doing, or trying to do, or at least what I think they’re trying to do, but abiding by conventions is keeping their feet all too firmly on the ground to actually realize their ambition.
Nunslaughter – Red is the Color of Ripping Death
Hells Headbangers – August 27th
Nunslaughter have been around for virtually forever, putting out approximately 8 live albums, an EP and 6 splits each year. Most of these regurgitate the same material over and over again from different sessions, but sometimes Don an’ the Deadmen find the time to write and record a full-length. Or at least record one, you won’t catch me on trial swearing an oath it’s always been all new material.
Honestly, now that they’ve done it again for the 5th time, I’m a little surprised. I was pretty sure they called it quits after Jim Sadist’s passing, being the only member besides Don to really stick around. There’s been a dearth of material released since, as I and everybody’s mother knew there would be, so I never allowed that onslaught to persuade me otherwise either, but here we are with Red is the Color of Ripping Death.
If you’re unfamiliar with the sound of a nun’s laughter, I wouldn’t blame you given the apparent mass of their discography. They play a primitive strain of dry extreme metal with a lot of thrashy riffs and short songs, dipped in first wave black metal and because on a genetic level they’re all strongly linked, death metal. They themselves call their operation simply “devil metal.”
As stated, members around vocalist and sometimes bassist Don of the Dead have come and gone so I guess it shouldn’t be a big surprise he’d eventually choose to carry on. But the new drummer is unfortunately less hectic than Sadist was, and that was a big part of Nunslaughter’s charm. And when nothing on Red is… sounds truly unhinged, all of it sounds a little too much like the band’s running on routine.
The title track would be the longest they’ve ever penned, at least of the songs that made their way to a full-length, I’m not checking out everything just to be sure if “Dead in Ten” didn’t appear exactly 5 songs later, and 5 seconds longer. Overall there’s much less of a thrash influence, in the sense that it permeated Goat, sounding more akin to even a second wave clone at times. As far as their previous full-lengths go, this one’s closer to the Hell’s Unholy Fire debut, only cleaner sounding, if gratifyingly thick at least, but instead of its legitimately braindead, piledriving qualities, Red is… appears bored, and well, running on routine. If you have Goat, you still have everything. R.I.P Roky (and Jim).
Korgonthurus – XX
Woodcut Records – June 18th
Korgonthurus rose with the dawn of the 21st century, but to date have only released three albums. Those have been ripe with both stylistic and personnel changes, but have always kept to a fairly high quality level. The first 10 years or so were filled with a smattering of demos and EPs, before Marras, and the surrounding splits introduced a long-winded, atmospheric and even DSBM-leaning sound, possibly inspired by Corvus’ stay in Totalselfhatred.
Before Vuohen Siunaus‘ more melodic and sharp approach, the group released a few more short releases in the vein of the older, blunter, riff-heavier material. Last year’s Kuolleestasyntynyt adhered closer to their original style than the other albums, but had a few new tricks of its own. Between it and Vuohen Siunaus there lay nothing, perhaps because the band dissolved, for about a week in between, before being restarted as a studio project by Kryth and Corvus, who had found himself out of Totalselfhatred as well.
To celebrate the dawning of their third decade, the thing-in-itself that is Korgonthurus opted to release XX, an EP comprised of a noise-intro, successfully setting the mood, two new originals and a re-recording of “Kahlittu Huora Jumalan” from Ristillä Mädäntyen.
On Korgonthurus’ level, it is unfortunately low placing, with both of the new originals following a simple, straightforward, chorus-centric arrangement and recalling their olden days even more than Kuolleestasyntynyt, highlighted by the lack of difference to the re-recording.
Even though “Demonipaimen” would likely please the crowds at live shows, neither is particularly memorable and though Corvus sounds like his beastly self, the production choices bury the best and rawest of his vocal prowess. The greatest virtue of XX is introducing Korgonthurus’ new, full lineup, that’s begun to perform live again as well, including guitarist Insanis Xul, and the returning bassist Iniscura.
Thyrfing – Vanagandr
Despotz Records – August 27th
Their consistency and presence for the last 26 years has guaranteed Thyrfing a place in the viking/pagan metal pantheon. Simultaneously, their lack of lengthy tours, long intervals between records and, to be frank, preference of an overall atmosphere over singular, memorable or hooking motifs, has kept them from achieving the upper echelon.
Vanagandr, which began forming back in 2015, breaks an 8 year silence, and though I doubt it will change Thyrfing’s place in their chosen niche, it’s a fairly strong album that will likely please all but the most ravenous of the band’s crowd for a time.
In comparison to most of their ilk, Thyrfing has become increasingly symphonic over time, despite lacking a dedicated keyboardist. Many in the style take advantage of choirs and string arrangements to supplement their flutes and harps and groove-riffs, but Thyrfing builds much of their compositions on them, and because their songs are comparatively short for the style, 7 minutes being long, they’re forced to make constant use of them, instead of playing hide and seek with the guitars.
Opener “Döp dem i eld” is a jam-packed, groovy track filled with little leads, boastful strings and aggressive percussion, and when I say jam-packed I mean that most of these things are playing simultaneously, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it highlights some unfortunate mixing and mastering choices. There are many dynamics present whether the band is all guns blazing or not, yes, but Vanagandr is awfully stuffy and many of its details get buried in a mix that’s doing very few favours for the music to begin with.
The second song, “Undergångens länkar” is kind of a ballad and that’s really all that sticks about it, even after half a dozen spins and not least because it’s kind of annoying pacing to break a good groove immediately with a ballad, then trudge through several, similar mid-tempo stompers until another ballad in the end.
The closer, “Jordafärd” is the better of the two ballads, with a very pleasing solo and a distinct chorus, but on the very first bar(s), the strings never fail to remind me of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and that is never a good thing. But an even bigger issue is that between the opening and closing songs, there’s only “Håg och minne” that’s got anything fairly memorable going for it, with a symphonic stomp riff that’s not necessarily as good as it is memorable, and some good key-flute leads halfway through.
While the musical elements are the way they’ve pretty much always been, there’s more of everything on Vanagandr, and all of it is on all the time. Well I exaggerate, but only to make a point. In comparison, the much drier sounding Farsotstider makes much better and scarcer use of their elements, and I don’t mean between the loud and quiet, or between fast and slow, but between the keys, strings and guitars all blaring at full or not.
The other thing is, while Farsotstider is generally considered the band’s classic album, I like De Ödeslösa. I love the grandeur of the instantly recognizable string introduction to “Mot Helgrind” and I like being able to belt out the chorus with Jens Rydén. So I’d prefer it there were some memorable and more distinct sections in these songs. Vanagandr might be an album to sate the Thyrfingers’ appetites, but I doubt I’ll be coming back to it very much.