Stuck in the Filter – June’s Angry Misses

Another month, another filter to scrape clean. We really should invest in a better air filtration system, or we should fire Holdeneye and Steel Druhm. Those two beefy hairballs of sweat and questionable odors really clog things up around here. But I digress…1

As we claw our way back to marginally acceptable air quality, the grime and grit collected gets sifted through, just in case any trinkets that missed the main promo hole survived. Lo and behold, trinkets abound. We’re feeling generous, so we wanna share them with you. For the right price, of course!

TheKenWord’s Septic Scraps

Sacrimonia – Anthems of Eclipse

I’ve had my eye closely trained on Polish symphonic black metal upstarts Sacrimonia since their vicious 2016 EP New World Ascension. That little shard of icy blackness hinted at a band destined for greatness. Equal parts drama, vigor, and bloodlust, the infernal quintet incantated hellish riffs bolstered by ominous choirs, plucky pianos and counterpoint string sections. After waiting for seven fucking years, debut full-length Anthems of Eclipse finally dropped. And it’s good. Hooky melodies and Danny Elfman-esque arrangements leaveth my opulent ceremonial goblet overflowing with black blood that can freezer-burn your skin right off. To that end, look no further than standout tracks “Mirror for the Faceless,” “A Storm I Seek,” “Into Darkness My Soul Descends,” and album highlight “Katabasis.” As a band with little to speak of as of yet, it’s understandable that greatness escapes their grasp, but not by a lot. Give them another record or two, and I predict you’ll see Sacrimonia on year-end lists for many a black metal fan. It’s only a matter of time.

Soreption – Jord

Nobody fucking talks about these guys. Sure, Soreption might not be the best tech-death the world has ever seen, but they reliably bring unhinged riffs to the table every time. The Swedish troupe’s fourth full-length, Jord, is yet another clinic in hooky riffing and technical prowess. Riding an upswing after the addicting Monument of the End, this latest installment takes the groove-laden Soreption formula and slice-and-dices it into chunky bits. That’s normally the exact opposite of what I like to hear, but even the admittedly robotic opener “The Artificial North” sticks the landing for me. The cool thing about their particular approach to tech-death is that wankery and arbitrary speed aren’t goals here. It’s all about memorable, heavy barbs that dig into your skin whether you want them or not. Jord is a prickly beast, a lithe and lean flail of a record. If my Word isn’t enough to convince you of that, just listen to “The Forever Born,” “Each Death More Hollow,” “A Story Never Told,” and “The Nether Realm’s Machinery.”

Dear Hollow’s Fleshy Finds

Desiccation – The Cold Dead Earth

Black/doom is a tired genre of plenty Nortt-isms and Beverast-ics, but California’s Desiccation has managed to inject a vivacious and haunting lucidity to the aptly named The Cold Dead Earth. Both crushing and scathing in equal measure, it also injects a menacing post-metal patience that recalls acts like Obscure Sphinx and Rosetta. Expertly balancing retro synth-work and scathing tremolo a la Evilfeast, Dolorian’s unforgiving density, and a meditative quality like Wolves in the Throne Room. While crushing doom swallows “Beneath Crumbling Skies of Flesh and Bone” and “Unknown Monoliths,” gentle melancholy and profound meditation a la Bell Witch provide the backbone of “The Fall” and “Depths Sown by Sorrow.” The Cold Dead Earth reflects the funeral procession of a world devastated by rampant capitalism and climate change’s brutal consequences and represents Desiccation’s stellar breakout that feels fresh and vivacious in a scene that often feels cold and dead.

Light Dweller – Lucid Offering

To portray the fear of possession and demonic activity in the form of a story is no easy metal feat. While acts like Altars and Imperial Triumphant offer a crawling approach to dissonant death or black metal, Arizona’s Light Dweller opts for blasting your face off to fit this arc. Perhaps not as unhinged as Encenathraakh or Dischordia, Lucid Offering is an organically fluid and overwhelmingly claustrophobic beast, creating a tangibly punishing but tantalizingly abstract listen. Composed with ugliness in mind, tracks like “Succumb,” “Incantation Upon a Withered Entity,” and “Hominal” kick ass with manic riffs galore highlighted by scorching dissonant shred, but Light Dweller does not neglect moments of beautiful clarity. Album climax “Kaleidoscope of Thorns,” like a golden instance of clarity in the grime, presents a sobering conclusion, aptly followed by the slow-burning “Spiritual Eclipse.” As Lucid Offering concludes on this morose note, its narrator realizes that the demon has been him all along. A knotted, ugly album expertly concocted with an intriguing story in mind.

Sergeant Thunderhoof – This Sceptred Veil

I first heard of these fuzzy Brits back in their 2020 split with Howling Giant, and I was impressed with their showstopping tenor and slammin’ stoner grooves. Although hindered slightly by its massive length, fourth full-length This Sceptred Veil offers a potpourri of kickass riffs and a honed sense of dynamics, not unlike those of Black Tusk or Om. While “You’ve Stolen the Words” and “Show Don’t Tell” offer tasty riff after tasty riff that you can’t help but bob along to, “Absolute Blue” and “Foreigner” inject both surreal psychedelia and sobering melancholia aplenty. Sergeant Thunderhoof’s best assets are appropriately summed up in the massive two-part closer “Avon & Avalon,” a long-form experiment not attempted since “Goat Mushroom” off of 2015 debut Ride of the Hoof. It’s nearly twenty minutes of crushing grooves and contemplative passages, written with seamless grace. With enough ambition and showmanship, This Sceptred Veil will kick your ass with relentless riffs, then serenade your soul with silky-smooth vocals and of course, DA FUZZ.

Maddog’s Meathead Mistake

Defiatory – Apokalyps

I’ll always have a soft spot for Hexen. While 1980s California thrash was my gateway into metal, 2008’s State of Insurgency ripped me a new one, infusing thrash with melodies galore while doubling the energy level. Sweden’s Defiatory seems to share my feelings. The band’s third album Apokalyps is a belligerent thrash-fest that marries Testament and Forbidden riffs with melodic leads that would make Hexen blush. Apokalyps stands out by way of its unfettered energy, like the irresistible “Only War” and the scorching opening of aptly-named “Belligerent and Hostile.” Lest you worry, Apokalyps isn’t lazy 80s worship. Defiatory plays thrash with flair, including neoclassical melodies (“Apocalypse”), sing-along melodeath choruses (“Let Them Burn,” “Assassinate”), and 70s-tinged traditional metal solos (“Into the Unknown”) that sound fresh in 2022. And the folks in Defiatory know how to handle their instruments, with the drums in particular providing pitch-perfect accompaniment to the shape-shifting guitars throughout. Apokalyps has room for improvement, and some of its lackluster midsection riffs pale in comparison with its barnburner bookends. But if you have a pulse and love thrash (which are synonymous), Apokalyps is well worth your time.

Thus Spoke’s Digitized Divulgements

The Algorithm – Data Renaissance

The Algorithm isn’t really metal, but I’m going to tell you about this album anyway because it’s good. The less synthwavey, more sprawling answer to Master Boost Record, The Algorithm has seen a bit of a dip in quality recently. Those in the know will be aware that Kronos didn’t take too kindly to 2018’s Compiler Optimization Techniques. Data Renaissance is a step (however small) back in the glitchy, more experimental direction that made earlier records great. It’s no Polymorphic Code, but the shift towards shorter compositions and more hyperactive tonal and rhythmic changes is like a better version of Brute Force. There’s renewed mystique and muscularity to the yearning melodies that rise from fluttering sounds, and grinding drum-and-bass riffing. The former holds a satisfying beauty (“Segmentation Fault,” “Interrupt Handler”), while at the other extreme, “Inline Assembly” wields the kind of hardstyle aggression capable of stirring up mosh pits. “Segmentation Fault” and “Readonly” present juicy examples of the beginnings of a full-fledged return to form, in all its clicky, slightly unhinged, full-throttle goodness. Data Renaissance is well-named. Rémi Gallego is making a strong comeback.

Dolphin Whisperer’s Rotted Rescues

Dir en Grey – PHALARIS

Rid of their brutal nu metal schtick with shock vocals and a goth doll, edgelord aesthetic, Dir en Grey has evolved with PHALARIS to meet a new generation of potential fans. Somewhere in between Vulgar and PHALARIS, Dir en Grey learned to craft long format progressive groove metal epics kissed with a touch of blackened death fury, all topped with Kyo’s trademarked, range-defying demonic screams (“Shadenfraude,” “Kamuy (カムイ)”). Between these adventurous book-ends, Dir en Grey plays around with a myriad of experimental styles. Like a more baroque-inspired Deftones, they can churn out hypnotizing, dreamy alt-rock (”13,“ “Hibiki (響)”). Distilling their nu leaning past through a melodeath sieve, Dir en Grey also threatens with frightening, trem-heavy grooves (“The Perfume of Sins,” “Eddie“). They even pick up the pace with a skronky, J-rock feel for a couple tracks, hitting the same target as moodier 9mm Parabellum Bullet tracks while retaining their idiosyncratic vocal stylings (“Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau (現、忘我を喰らう),” “Mouai ni Shosu (盲愛に処す)”). Some bands, after achieving enough success to have an image to lean on, tend simply to dial in more of what the fans want… or lazily switch costumes to try and capture a few more (staring right at you Amon Amarth). If you’re approximately my age and grew up enjoying the finer things in life—anime, MMORPGs, GBA ROMs with translation patches for Japan-only releases—you’ve probably at least heard of Dir en Grey, but you’ve never heard them quite like this.

Knoll- Metempiric

It takes 10 seconds into “Clepsydra” before Jamie Eubanks pierces the mix with his shrieking madness. This ear-splitting tone will either cause you to auto-eject (and go listen to Fellowship, presumably), or it will cause immediate mouth frothing and arm swinging until Eubanks finally calms down into a tortured gurgle or knuckle-dragging murmur. Eventually, once you make it past the awe of Eubanks’ worrisome vocal performance, you’ll begin to dial in on the catastrophic flow between finger-flicking, down-tuned, scale riffs and bass-scraping, brainless chugs (“Felled Plume,” “Gild of Blotted Lucre”) that Knoll guitar trio pulls off. And yes, you did read that right, there are three guitarists here, but that’s because in the midst of all the chaos, like a growing thunderstorm in the middle of a swampy summer, third axeman Ryan Cook whips out a trumpet to break the potentially murky monotony of Metempiric’s deeply oppressive architecture (“Throe of Upheaval,” “Dislimned“). Between, Eubanks’ vicious throat sacrifice, math-leaning guitar freakouts (“Flux of Knowing”), and traditional skin pounding (“Gild of Blotted Lucre”), Knoll wouldn’t need anything more to lower the ceiling on their claustrophobic atmospheres. You would be wrong though, as Eubanks also provides moody and grating synth layers to ensure any ear wax you have remaining turns to blood (“The Dwelt Withe,” “Tome”). These young deathgrinders still could learn a thing or two about how to piece their wild act together, but with energy like this, it won’t be long before they do.

Petrol Girls – Baby

A little bit mathy, a little bit skramzy, and a lotta bit angry, these Austrian instigators have pumped out a number of socially-charged scurries since their debut in 2014. Baby continues to read us the riot grrrl act with ravenous choruses over a growing noise rock influence (“Clowns,” “One or the Other”) often recalling the bouncy, bitcrushed melodies of early Minus the Bear. Other waltzing, cutting leads accented by bright bass-work and playful drum melodies (“Feed My Fire,” “Unsettle,” “Sick & Tired”) continue to push the Petrol Girls sound into At the Drive In territory. Most importantly, though, lead vocalist Ren Aldridge underscores the whimsy and punk simplicity of many tracks by vaulting from a twangy, dangling diatribe to an increasingly scathing fulmination (“Preachers,” “Baby, I Had an Abortion”)—a tone she has damn near perfected in the face of the persistent issues over which she stands tall and loud. Everything they’ve been working toward comes to an emotional and musical peak with “Fight for Our Lives,” a righteous, rowdy, fuzzed-out rant that refuses to let down until the final chord fizzles out. There’s some of you who may have checked out at the second sentence of this blurb. If so, fuck you. If, instead, you’ve chosen to give this heavy-handed, emotional-loaded, yet still song-minded outing a go, then thank you for giving Petrol Girls your ears for just a moment before you write them off.

Steel Druhm’s Slimy Sundries

Las Cruces – Cosmic Tears

After a 12-year hiatus, Texas-based retro doomsters Las Cruces made their slow-motion return in June with fourth album Cosmic Tears. With a new vocalist and bassist in tow, this is still the same burly, gritty, quasi-biker doom heard on platters like Ringmaster. There’s also a strong 70s psych rock vibe present and the title track will make you bust out the lava lamps and black light posters as you drift on groovy grooves and airy hippitude. Meaner cuts like “Stay” are much more in the biker doom mode with simple, bruising riffage and a bad attitude prevailing. The overall quality of what Las Cruces bring to the doom table is kept high and song after song delivers what doom fans seek – big riffs that hit the 70s/80s target and solid enough writing to balance the sometimes lengthy runtimes. Spin the chunky “Wizard From the North” or the mammoth “Reverend Trask” and you’ll have a good idea where this thing is headed. They’re spiritual cousins to Pale Divine but skew a bit heavier, and there’s enough Saint Vitus and Place of Skulls in their DNA to feel familiar even on the first spin. Not a groundbreaking doom opus by any means, but a very solid one that grows on you with each crushing exposure. Nice to see these guys back on the doom market.

Show 1 footnote

  1. My hygiene is beyond reproach for an ape. – Steel
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