Stuck in the Filter – June’s Angry Misses

There are days where I wonder how our industrial-grade filtration system is still operational. The AMG team is a filth-ridden, muck-wallowing, gunk-guzzling sort. We spend altogether too much time swimming in the chaff and a disproportionately small amount of time with worthwhile projects, and the waste byproduct of that misdirected energy is vast. Yet, the Filter putters onward, inexorably churning out rubble to reveal shiny little gems that it isn’t able to grind to dust.

Today, you bear witness to the fruits of our June collection team’s labor. Behold! Albums that don’t suck that we never received (or merely missed) promo for!

Kenstrosity’s Engorged Absorptions

Nithing // Agonal Hymns [June 13th, 2023 – New Standard Elite]

Remember when Devourment’s Obscene Majesty was the heaviest thing ever put to tape? Kenstrosity remembers. Rest assured, it’s still the heaviest, most crushingest album I’ve ever heard, but California one-man brutal death pongslinger Nithing just snagged second banana with debut full-length Agonal Hymns. This is the second-heaviest, but definitely the ugliest, record of all time, marinated in the murky swamps of horror and absurd violence. Built on chunky, crunchy, and horrifying riff sequences (“Cystic Ovarian Burial Ground,” “Charred Dermal Crust,” album highlight “Wreathed in Sores”), delightfully eerie synth effects (“Emetic Rapture,” “Of Those Immortal, Longing for Decease”), subterranean gutturals (the whole album, obviously), and a brassy pong snare (again, the whole album), Agonal Hymns is one-hundred-percent the wrong one to fuck with. As serrated and congealed as this unhinged brutality undoubtedly is, there’s a remarkable clarity and definition to it that for some may only surface with repeat spins. But for this sponge, it was an immediate, self-evident truth, and it caused this murderdeathkilling greathammer to crit-hit with fatal bludgeoning damage. Amazingly, Agonal Hymns also flows like a gentle stream (of rotten blood, naturally) from one crazy assault into the next across its tight twenty-four minute runtime, making each chapter utterly inseparable from the whole. Put simply, Nithing quite literally crushed it with Agonal Hymns, and you owe it to yourselves to get crushed by it, too.

Gravefields // Tetragrammaton [June 29th, 2023 – Satanath Records]

Folks around these parts are well aware of my love for Celestial Swarm’s awesome Gateway to the Necroverse, and especially of vocalist Thomas Blanc’s (aka DM) unique, throat-shredding style. Well, it turns out that I had heard him before, on Gravefield’s debut record Embrace the Void and Zetar’s Devouring Darkness. Well, now the French-Irish duo Gravefields is back at it again with epic follow-up Tetragrammaton, and it takes everything Embrace the Void did and cranks it up to eleven. These songs are bold, brutal, and blistering, stuffed to the gills with eldritch riffs, vicious blasts, inhuman roars, and foreboding melodies. Fans of Celestial Swarm and Sulphur Aeon should find a lot to love from the get-go, opener “Forbidden Psalms” and companion “The Ascendency” ripping the skin from your face in short order. Despite being as long as Embrace the Void at a well-fed forty-nine minutes, Tetragrammaton’s songwriting is significantly more engaging and consistent, leading to a more fluid and reliable album experience chock full of cool songs with great passages (“The Great Pariah,” “Pilgrims of Amirah”). As always, DM’s vocals are a highlight, his monstrous growl evil and his rasps fiery (“Pilgrims of Amirah,” “Seraphim”). Not to be outshone, multi-instrumentalist Alan Hurley upped his game significantly in the five years since Gravefields’ debut, with song structure and dynamics improving dramatically as well as the brute strengths of his riffs, leads, and percussive flow (“Archmessiah,” “Schasm,” “Our Allegiance”). There’s a lot to love in Tetragrammaton’s unholy tomes, and yet it still feels like Gravefields only just scraped the surface of their potential. Why nobody is talking about this release is a mystery to me, but if you have any sense at all, you’ll heed my words. Check this out. It rules!

Thus Spoke’s Hidden Horrors

VEXED // Negative Energy [June 23rd 2023 – Napalm Records]

UK hardcore/deathcore/angry bunch VEXED have smashed their way back onto the scene. Once again, they take no prisoners. Following on from their 2020 debut Culling Culture, Negative Energy similarly deals with trauma, abuse, and grief in an extremely vulnerable and honest fashion. Vocalist Megan Targett hammers home every anguished, resentful, and furious word with savage growls and powerful cleans. And as serious as the subject matter is, this album is still great fun. Mileage varies on the djentification of -core, but there are some utterly irresistible grooves here (see “Anti-Fetish,” “We don’t talk about it,” and “Trauma Euphoria”). Not to mention some rabid beatdowns, cut with just enough fragility and melody to be memorable (“Panic attack,” “Lay down your flowers,“—featuring Lochie Keogh of Alpha Wolf—and “Nepotism”). On the cleaner songs, like the heartfelt “It’s not the end,” the evolution of Targett’s singing is marked. So too is the honesty of not knowing whether there’s any greater meaning (“X my <3 (Hope to die)“), and yet the hope that arises in the loss of a loved one (“It’s not the end”). Admittedly, some parts of the record strike a bit awkward. I could have done without the robotic spoken word in “Anti-Fetish,” and “X my <3 (Hope to die).” Some lyrics also feel a tad childish, or on the nose, but, then again, they’re clearly coming from a sincere place. These little things don’t stop Negative Energy from being a thoroughly enjoyable anger outlet that you should definitely hear if you like anything remotely -core.

Dear Hollow’s Missed Trash Day (Oof)

Creeping Death // Boundless Domain [June 16th, 2023 – Self-Released]

While Denton, Texas’ Creeping Death is a lot like the death metal and hardcore fusions of Fuming Mouth and Gatecreeper, there’s an otherworldly plane that Boundless Domain rests upon. While unrelenting OSDM riffs dominate with enough solos to effectively melt your face (i.e. “Looming”), and a hardcore meatheadedness readily pummels the soul like a good game of Whack-a-Mole, Boundless Domain is a triumph of songwriting. Corpsesgrinder appears in “Intestinal Wrap” to remind you that these Texans mean business, but riffs that would make Dyscarnate jealous transition with seamless fluidity across the face of the colossal – an album of relentless brutality. Tracks like “Vitrified Earth,” “Creators Turned Into Prey,” and “The Common Breed” benefit from thick Vader-meets-Bolt Thrower-meets-Hate Eternal worship, while concrete-thick doom blends with ruthless hardcore chugs in mammoth tracks like “The Parthian Shot” and “Cursed.” With the conjuring of foreign lands in mind and an ominous melodic palette at hand, Boundless Domain is nonetheless a no-frills death metal assault with the greats in mind and a weaponized hardcore edge that maximizes brutality. Get wrecked.

Wormreign // Abyssus [June 11th, 2023 – Self-Released]

While undeniably rooted in the dissonant stylings of Dodecahedron and Gorguts, Sudbury, Ontario quartet Wormreign features a barbed style reminiscent of city-mates Drowstorm or Denmark’s Dysgnostic. While “Writhe” features a dissonance-heavy slog that twists itself into intriguing knots to be untangled, the second-wave worship through thrashy know-how of “Maelstrom of Unbeing” shows a willingness to explore the walls of the void. Alternating between contemplative and devastating, vocals are tossed to the way back, letting the layers of instrumentation do the talking. Effective crescendos of “Imperium Infernum” and “Chao Doctrina” slither from walls of pummeling weight to dark ambiance and plucking passages and back again, while the closer “Incorporeal Return” is unyielding in its layers of abyssal abuse. Ultimately, Wormreign’s triumph lies in the intricacy of its instrumentation: while it offers little new to the dark sphere of dissonant extreme metal and vocals are missed periodically, it will undoubtedly sink you into the void in its layers of jagged intensity.

A.M.E.N. // The Book of Lies – Liber I [June 16th, 2023 – I, Voidhanger Records]

Vittorio Sabelli and I have beef. I gave he and his clarinet in Dawn of a Dark Age’s La Tavola Osca a 1.5. His new project A.M.E.N. then decides to embrace the weird, and we’ve got an black/death-jazz album with a healthy dose of grind, thrash, and ambiance. In service to the devil, A.M.E.N. hits hard and fast in a rite of pure unhinged insanity that hits just right. While kickass blackened thrash riffs and vicious growls get the head bobbing in “The Cry of the Hawk,” “Dinosaur,” “The Blind Webster”, and “Pilgrim Talk,” you can’t miss the jaunty piano breakdowns, electronic beeboops, Bohren-esque jazz passages, polka throwdowns, or bizarre vocal chants that infect alongside Sabelli’s unlikely metallic weapon: clarinet doodles. Grind pushes “The Smoking Dog,” “Samson,” and “Mulberry Tops” to their breaking point alongside tasty groove and clarinet noodles, while ambiance and occult spoken word harangues in “The Sabbath of the Goat” and “Waratah Blossoms” tether the dark theme to some semblance of sanity. There’s a little something for everyone in Liber I, as it hits with the subtlety a Satanic swarm of bees with jazz hands and a swing in their hips. Hallelujah, A.M.E.N., motherfucker.

Dolphin Whisperer’s Dead Zone Delights

Passéisme // Alternance [June 19th, 2023 – Antiq Records]

A great deal of melodic black metal fails to differentiate itself much from others who push the triumphant tremolo-driven melodies that inspire fantastical adventures distinctly different from power metal adventures. Passéisme has one thing going for them though—you probably hate the upfront and abrasive hardcore-tinged rabid-dog bark that Konstantin Korolev (Paroxysm Unit, Wombripper) forces upon you. I love it though. His aggression throughout Alternance simple moves everything around it. In fact, between Andrey Petrov’s (Wombripper) lightning-charged kit, Korolev’s buoyant and slapping bass, and Ivan Markin’s (ex-Wombripper) treble-scraping string work, Passéisme at its quickest (“Rhapsodic Annoyance Chant,” ‘Stubborn Zeal Chant”) feels like a stumble of the highest quality training, always with one foot just enough in front of the other. Quite eloquently our own Doom et Al described these Russians masquerading as coked-out French medieval stampeders as “permanently dialed up to 11, and paired with music juiced to the max” on their debut Eminence—that hasn’t changed. Passéisme, though, has taken their whiplash saga of castle siege charges and rest-day jigs to the capable hands of Colin Marston, who has allowed the rush to rumble low and pierce high. Felt most on the middle opus “Ominous Bravure Chant,” the ominously layered synths, the Krallice-like shrill tremolo weaving with a math rock swing, the grandiose and swirling crescendo that falls into the delicate carry of “Opulent Sepulchre Chant,” Alternance wields the two heads of this sound like two proud banners riding valiantly onward. The enemies of this ripping black metal troupe can hear the growing chants of war from afar and pulse with fear in a new calculated calm.

Vile Ritual // Caverns of Occultic Hatred [June 16th, 2023 – Sentient Ruin]

If not by the slinky industrial clanking that opens “Formless,” the animalistic reverb frothing of “Gyromancy” and “Void” will have you darting eyes back and forth while scamper about trying to find when you’ve had your last rabies update. Sentient Ruin has a knack for hosting bands who push the envelope in the synth-including metal world that cares little for dragons and swords unless been they’ve left to fester and rot over, and Vile Ritual is no different with this debut Caverns of Occultic Hatred. Fashioned equally from low-end carved riffs and ayahuasca-informed levels of echoing effects, Vile Ritual delivers track after track of unsettling, supremely tripped-out death metal. You could throw a cursory nod to the bass-throttled groove of Bolt Thrower (“Manifestation”) or the doom-addled crawl of Incantation (“Black Chrism”) to paint a sonic picture here, but there’s a strong possibility this one man act (Liam McMahon of Ninth Realm, Sulfuric Hatred) conjured this sound with more psychedelic fuel than either of those acts combined. And while the oppressive and flighty synth hauntings dance about the background of Caverns, the blackened brutality too grows war-like with riff-led machines “Aimless” and “Chapel” leading to the final charge of “Void.” As detailed as the soundscape that Vile Ritual manifests is, the small details of found/natural sounds (“Aimless,” “Manifestation,” “Living Hell”) remind you that you haven’t left the world you thought you did—we’re all deep, deep in this mess. And Vile Ritual is fighting.

Maddog’s Death Metal Disasters

Moral Collapse // Divine Prosthetics [June 2nd, 2023 – Subcontinental Records]

Dolphin Whisperer described Bangalore’s Moral Collapse best: “Ugh dude I still have that first riff from their last album living in my head rent-free.” He’s not alone. Moral Collapse’s self-titled 2021 debut turned heads with its blend of rock-solid death metal and progressive flourishes. Indeed, as Dolph gushes, “Abandoned Rooms of Misspelled Agony” opens with one of my favorite riffs of the last five years. The fiery beginning of Divine Prosthetics’ “Precise Incision” is nearly as dazzling, and the rest of the record follows suit. Despite self-describing as “avant-garde,” Moral Collapse’s greatest strength is that they goddamn rock. Even at its most serpentine, Moral Collapse’s combination of crushing riffs and memorable melodic leads is a recipe for neck-snapping fun. Arun Natarajan’s excellent lead bass shines through Hannes Grossmann’s mix, while Grossmann’s own drumming is impressive as always. In a world filled with musical bloat, Divine Prosthetics’ main flaw is that it’s too little of a good thing. Half the tracks on Divine Prosthetics are ambient instrumentals, which don’t land nearly as well as their death metal counterparts. As a result, Moral Collapse’s sophomore release feels too much like a 3-song EP padded with ambient filler. But that 3-song EP is so stellar that Divine Prosthetics is well worth your time.

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