Stuck in the Filter: January’s Angry Misses

It’s March, so, naturally, the time has come to reveal what precious ore hath been harvested from our ever-filthy filtration system… in January. Now backed by the full might of the Big Guy Himself (patent pending), the workforce maintaining this system of gunk upheaval and refuse retrieval grows, and deep intimidation and torture tactics lift heavy to get butts moving and fingers typing.

It’s with great pleasure, then, that we introduce the first almost-lost records of this, the year of our Jørn 2023, for your enjoyment and/or vilification. May your tastes remain ever questionable and your plebian opinions ever insignificant!

Angry Metal Guy‘s Germy Gems

Celestial Wizard // Winds of the Cosmos [January 20th, 2023 – Scarlet Records]

By rule, we don’t cover full-lengths that are essentially re-releases. And, unfortunately, we missed Celestial Wizard the first time they sent us this record in 2022. But with a re-release from Scarlet Records and the genre listed as “power death metal,” I thought Celestial Wizard was a candidate for potentially-overlooked-gem territory. Fortunately for you, I was right.

Winds of the Cosmos has a thrashy core that makes no bones about being direct. It also has a sense of whimsy—not in the Flub sense of whimsy, but rather just that these guys are clearly having a hell of a lot of fun. You can hear that most obviously on tracks like “Cyberhawk” where they quote “Holding Out for a Hero,”1 but in reality it simply permeates the entire album. With tracks this loaded in classic metal riffs at 180 bpm (“Steel Chrysalis”) or straight Björriffs (“Eternal Scourge”) with solid hooks, it’s tough not to find yourself nodding your head along. And when they really distinguish themselves—like the harmonized, staccato bridge in “Undead Renegate”—you just have to tip your hat. Winds of the Cosmos is good and we missed out on it.  The concept of power death metal—which shoulders right up to Æther Realm in vibe, but with clean vocals reminiscent of Angus McFife—could easily go over like a lead balloon. Yet, Winds of the Cosmos keeps that balloon afloat by being a heavy, driving, fun album from a band with chops a genuine vibe.

Verikalpa // Tunturihauta [January 21st, 2022 – Scarlet Records]

Back in 2020, I really enjoyed Verikalpa’s sophomore record Tuoppitanssi, which I suggested was really good because it was fast, it was fun, and it carried on the tradition of folk metal in the vein of Finntroll and Korpiklaani without feeling tired. Two years later, I missed out on their triumphant return with Scarlet Records’ follow-up. Tunturihauta picks up right where these unheralded Finns left off; in the spirit of their forebears, but with their very own vibe. Tuoppitanssi is a raucous romp through borderline melodic black metal with a classic folk metal twist (chaser?) that humppas its way right through every track from start to finish. What Verikalpa lacks in inventive instrumentation—unlike, say, later Finntroll records—they make up with the hunger of a young band with fresh melodies, great songs and a short and sweet 47-minute runtime that won’t stay too late and drink the good beers. I wrote in my TYMHM of their previous album that “Verikalpa’s contribution is to carry the accordion of tradition to the sauna of the metal gods, so that we might have something new to listen to while we drink,” and I stand by this. But don’t let that deter you from listening to some great new(ish) metal. So, if you enjoy metal, vodka, and a melodic black metal core with folky accents, surely, you’ll like Tunturihauta.

TheKenWord‘s Crusty Clutches

Don Bolo // Desde Mi Privilegio [January 13th, 2023 – BlowJob Records]

This marks the first time I’ve covered the same act twice for the Filter. Eventually, Ecuador’s Don Bolo will wise up and send us proper promo. For now, I am all too happy to report that their follow-up to the insane BAHAMUTDesde Mi Privilegio, is yet another wet and wild burst of metallic punk. While BAHAMUT was bizarre to the point of crossing the line into avant-garde territory, Desde Mi Privilegio is a more straightforward and aggressive affair, though no less fun. Between the blackened D-beat of “Buenos Diaz Coketas,” the slamming death-punk oddity of the title track, the brutal hammering of “1234” and “Lamento Ecuatoriano,” and the blackened screamo of “Ungoliant,” Don Bolo take no prisoners in the name of crazy compositions. And yet, everything remains cohesive and engaging throughout Desde’s tight twenty-three minute runtime. It’s a rare feat, and by this point, Don Bolo qualify as certified experts in that particular approach.

Sagen // Roots of Proctor [January 7th, 2023 – Self-Released]

Hailing from semi-local Raleigh, NC, Sagen dropped out of fucking nowhere early in the year to deliver a sick slab of riff-forward deathcore-by-way-of-Gojira, named Roots of Proctor. Opener proper “Flood Gates” landed the first slot for Song of the Year contender in the year’s first week, with an awesome riff and energizing pacing collaborating tightly enough to hype me up for an entire fifty minutes. Deceivingly dynamic songwriting, an utter lack of shitty breakdowns, and a flair for the melodic on the part of the guitars seal the deal, with highlights “One of Us,” “In Oaths They Conjure,” “Pressed to Death,” and “Winter of 1692” all providing memorable snippets to take with you when you part. Of course, fifty minutes is a heavy investment for this style, and I feel that investment in full. This suggests that between seven and ten minutes’ worth of trimming would only strengthen an already compelling slab of melodic deathcore. Nonetheless, if Roots of Proctor telegraphs the trajectory of Sagen’s sound, I look forward to hearing what comes next in the saga!

Maddog‘s Obscure Oversights

Slog // Divination [January 13th, 2023 – Morbid and Miserable Records]

I harvested Divination from the comment section, and I’m glad I did.2 Slog’s “painfully slow death doom” is an oversimplification. Divination is indeed a platter of crawling doom chords interspersed with faster death metal jams, but it doesn’t resemble standard death-doom. While this is partly a result of blackened influences in the riffs (“Synthesis Sequencer”), it’s mostly because of how unsettling Divination is. The dissonant riffing, wailing background leads, and grimy cavernous production establish a clear but surprising parallel to Suffering Hour’s fantastic last album. Slog’s greatest strength is their ability to hop cleanly among energetic death metal, lumbering doom, and terrifying dissonance at a moment’s notice (“Self Value That Utilizes Them”). The album does falter when it settles into more monotonous staccato doom (“Illuminated Expansion,” “Eucharistic Purification”), causing songs to bleed together in my mind. Put simply, Slog is better at death than doom. Even so, Divination is rock-solid fun unlike anything else I’ve heard this year.

KOLLAPS\E // Phantom Centre [January 13th, 2023 – Trepanation Recordings]

Yeah, it’s not a great band name. I believe they took a Breach album title, made it all caps, and added an errant backslash, the most elusive, powerful, and evil of special characters. The music makes up for it. KOLLAPS\E’s brand of sludge is familiar but compelling. Phantom Centre’s barrage of thick, crunchy riffs and slithering leads sounds like a heavier version of Dvne. The album’s most striking feature is its dogged focus on rhythm, inspired by Cult of Luna. The bass runs the show, and each track revolves around a rhythm that reels you in and serves as an unbreakable skeleton. This backbone allows KOLLAPS\E to alternate between crushing riffs and minimalist synth-led atmosphere without sounding abrupt, lending an enthralling dynamism to the album. Best of all, Phantom Centre’s 37-minute length is 83 percent shorter than the average sludge record. As a result, even though the album does feel like it runs out of tricks by the end, it doesn’t continue to bore you after doing so. Although KOLLAPS\E has room to grow in terms of musical variety, Phantom Centre is 2023’s first solid slab of sludge.

Carcharodon‘s Charnel Crumbs

Ὁπλίτης (Hoplite) /// Ψ​ε​υ​δ​ο​μ​έ​ν​η (I Lied) [January 1st, 2023 – Self-Released]

I initially investigated Ὁπλίτης (Hoplite) because the artwork vaguely reminded me of Koldovstvo’s Ни царя, ни бога, and, when combined with the Greek script, made me wonder if there might be some Spectral Lore worship to be had. Appearances can be deceiving, however, as it turns out Ὁπλίτης is a one-man Chinese outfit. But I was in no way disappointed by my foray, as Ψ​ε​υ​δ​ο​μ​έ​ν​η (I Lied) is a destructive, dense and dissonant sliver of black metal. Opening salvo rises, slowly, from a barely audible chaotic whisper into an all-out assault, which barely lets up for the rest of album’s run. Falling somewhere between harsh, relentlessness of Spectral Wound and the dissonant mayhem of Serpent Column, you are not going to get an easy ride out of Ὁπλίτης. Challenging, restless and progressive are just some of the adjectives that can be applied to this avant-garde creation, which rips into you from start to finish. There are moments of absolute jarring, skirling insanity scattered across Ψ​ε​υ​δ​ο​μ​έ​ν​η (see the opening to “Μάρτυς”, for example), paired with drone adjacent, almost introspective portions (middle section of “Θελκτήριον”), the combination of which balances out the whole into something uniquely itself.

Dolphin Whisperer’s Beached Banger

Scalp // Black Tar [January 20th, 2023 – Closed Casket Activities]

12 minutes—Black Tar runs only 12 minutes through ugly, hardcore-crusted groovy deathgrind with full intent to leave you chained and headless as the phased-out phantom on display. Recalling both the glazed-eyed grooves of Jarhead Fertilizer against the nihilistic intensity of Nails, Scalp scrapes sanity away with billowing feedback (“Endless Relapse”), floor-clearing slams (“Jesus God”), and lacerated laryngeal lamentations (“Black Tar”). A few moments of psychosis-smattered samples (“Yin,” “Consumer Ethics”) make up the least abrasive breaths that Black Tar shakily exhales, and that’s just enough downtime to let each forthcoming breakdown be all the more impactful. Though full of treble energy packed perilously in a tight master, the caustic mix never becomes so abrasive that you can’t crank these viciously concise tunes well past the point of comfort—and you will. The snare rides centered and booming, Cole Rodgers’ vitriol-filled howls pop against the sound ceiling—far from elegance, Scalp stretches unforgivingly this short runtime in a way that many bands can’t seem to do in twice, thrice or however many multiples that lesser albums may drone on. Full force, mic blown, fingers bloodied, Black Tar demands your body not your brain.

Twelve’s Tardy Tidbit

Silver Bullet // Shadowfall [January 20th, 2023 – Reaper Entertainment]

On the off chance any of you are wondering where I’ve been—it’s been a busy start to the year! Unfortunately, that means I missed the release of one Shadowfall from Silver Bullet, whose terrific sophomore album was the first review I wrote for this site as a staff writer. I was distressed when I realized—Mooncult was a bombastic explosion of symphonic power metal, and I’ve been eager to hear a followup ever since. The short version is more bombast, more symphonic, and more power! Shadowfall is a veritable smorgasbord of its style. “Shadow of a Curse” could be a (modern-sounding) bonus track off of Nightwish’s Wishmaster album, while “The Ones to Fall” is peak Avantasia, cheesy symphony and all (on “Creatures of the Night,” singer Hannes Horma actually sounds like Tobias Sammet). “Nighthunter” makes me think fondly of Stratovarius, and the list could go on. Slick, speedy guitar solos, huge orchestrations, and a big vocal performance makes the 45 minutes fly by, while mid-tempo bangers like the ominously cool “Dusk of Dawn” help pace the album out. Shadowfall is a bit of nostalgia, a lot of bombast, and a great addition to modern symphonic metal.

Dear Hollow’s Muggy Morass

Рожь // В​с​ё [January 2nd, 2023 – Self-Released]

It’s easy to write off Russian one-man project Рожь as just another post-black trainwreck a la Deafheaven or Alcest, but mastermind Vladimir Frith saturates his sophomore full-length with atmosphere and patience. Funeral doom and dark ambient partner with ominous crescendos, making В​с​ё a swallowing force of both heart-wrenching melody and menacing tones with the needed corridors between the shifting lines of madness. Wielded with the mighty scepter of funeral doom, recalling acts like Elysian Blaze or Ethereal Shroud, Рожь offers majesty and pitch-black vistas aplenty. Acts like Voidsphere and Darkspace are easy comparisons in ambient aesthetics, just as much as the warm wild cloaks of Altar of Plagues and Negură Bunget, although Рожь‘s unyielding intensity interwoven with gentleness is far too notable for easy comparisons. Balancing patient tempos with blistering second-wave intensity, В​с​ё is just as jagged and abstract as this cover and as human as a desperate mind looking for light in the endless dark – a soundtrack of contemplating the approaching namelessness at the edge of the void.


Steel Druhm‘s Morose Maladroit

Sorrowful Land // Faded Anchors of the Past (January 27th, 2023 – Black Lion Records)

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and one look at this gloomy album art clues you into what you can expect on Faded Anchors of the Past, Sorrowful Land’s third release. This Ukrainian one-man doom-death act revels in the depressive, swimming in the same waters as Swallow the Sun, Celestial Season, and Doom: VS, with lengthy compositions wallowing in primal grief and despair. You’ve heard this recipe before, but founder, Max Molodtsov has quite the knack for gripping doom set pieces full of genuine emotion and pathos. Songs like mammoth opener “As Long as We Breathe” are captivating and crushing in turn, leveraging smart pacing and dynamics to keep you marching behind the casket. There’s genuine weight and pressure to the songs, with the plod of the title track feeling burdensome and massive. Top-notch doom craftsmanship carries you away to sad lands and there’s just enough melody infused through beautiful harmonies and effective clean singing to offset the harsh death roaring. Even back-to-back 10-plus minute monstrosities like “Small Lost Moments” and “As I Behold Them Once Again” hold you in thrall to the sweet, sweet misery. Faded Anchors is good enough to make me wonder how I missed Sorrowful Land’s earlier works and I am now compelled to explore them more fully. You will be too. Weigh this fucking anchor!

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Well, to be fair, “Holding Out for a Hero” is quoting Jim Steinman’s unfortunately inferior “Stark Raving Love” from 1981’s Bad for Good, which was supposed to be Bat Out of Hell II, but Mr. Loaf had apparently developed some habits that made him impossible to work with. Why yes, I do know way too much about this topic.
  2. I can’t remember which one of you lovable losers recommended this. Show yourself! I think it was Zipser? Disgusting.
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