Saturnian Mist – Chaos Magick (Candlelight, 2015)

Saturnian Mist_Chaos Magick_CANDLE490CDEvery few years, Candlelight Records releases a really cool black metal album and then does jack shit to promote it.  Back in 2013, it was Throne of Katarsis’ The Three Transcendental Keys.  This year it’s Chaos Magick, the second full length from Finland’s Saturnian Mist.

Granted, Saturnian Mist didn’t exactly set the black metal world on fire with their previous output, but trust me when I say these guys have stepped up their game immensely on Chaos Magick, screaming out of the gate with a singular approach to the genre that I quite frankly didn’t know they had in ’em.

But what is it that sets Saturnian Mist apart from the hordes, you ask?  For one thing, an ultra-burly approach to black metal that’s clearly influenced by death metal and the heavier, darker side of hardcore (think Integrity, Ringworm, etc) with its chunky guitar tone, deep, throaty vocals and pummeling, prominent drums.  There’s plenty of the requisite evil atmosphere happening here, but the band sounds more like they want to stomp you into the asphalt of some dark alley than use you for a ritual sacrifice.  In spite of these influences, Saturnian Mist still sound like a black metal band through and through, not that blackened hardcore nonsense all the kids cream their shorts over these days.

Many of the tracks feature a groovy, quasi-industrial vibe that’s difficult to describe, almost like mid-nineties Prong or Helmet playing black metal.  This is bound to throw off many a black metal fan, but Saturnian Mist successfully incorporate it into their approach and come out the other end sounding nothing like the industrial black metal you’re used to (see: Aborym, Mysticum, Blacklodge, etc).  It’s a combination that probably shouldn’t work, but as a fan of those bands I find it refreshing to see a black metal act taking the genre into this previously uncharted (to my knowledge) territory.

So why the hell is no one talking about Saturnian Mist when they’ve released what is arguably one of the most uniquely innovative black metal albums of 2015?  I don’t mean to throw so much shade on Candlelight Records as they’re a great label, but I think the only way I found out about this release is because I saw it pop up at a distro I frequent, it wasn’t until later on that I found the promo buried in a single multiple band press e-mail I received, never to be mentioned again.  Whatever the case, I encourage all fans of bizarre, inventive black metal to look beyond this year’s over-hyped releases from the usual suspects and explore the myriad depths of Chaos Magick.

http://www.saturnianmist.net/

Dark Realm Records

oThis past weekend, my wife and I ventured down to Anaheim to get our Disneyland fix. But the magic kingdom wasn’t the only destination on our agenda; Mrs. IG built some time into our busy itinerary to make a stop at the mighty Dark Realm Records.  For those unfamiliar, Dark Realm is the Los Angeles area’s only all-metal record store and is run by brothers Rick and Bay Cortez of the legendary Sadistic Intent.  I first visited the shop roughly six years ago and was blown away by the selection of CDs, shirts and various other heavy metal goodies, so I couldn’t wait to finally make my second pilgrimage.

Dark Realm has recently moved to a new location, but don’t let the blacked-out windows and lack of signage fool you, the store is very much open for business with a killer selection of all things metal.  This time around I was able to fill a glaring hole in my CD collection, picking up a copy of Blasphemy’s recently reissued classic Fallen Angel of Doom.  Additionally, I grabbed a cassette copy of Morbosidad’s Tortura EP, as well as a black vinyl copy of Sadistic Intent’s Reawakening of Horrid Thoughts EP and a sweet Sadistic Intent shirt.  I could’ve easily spent a fortune, but sadly I don’t have a fortune to spend, so I had to limit my purchases.

10868229_993855767296139_7561354637916016331_nBut what might have been the coolest part of my visit to Dark Realm was getting to spend a few minutes chatting with Sadistic Intent guitarist Rick Cortez.  It’s not every day that you buy a record and get to talk with someone from the band about how it was written and recorded!  It was a pleasure to listen to a veteran underground musician talk about his band and their craft, and it was obvious that Rick genuinely cares about the folks that visit the store and listen to Sadistic Intent.  A very cool experience all around.

I encourage any metalhead who ventures to the LA area to be sure and stop by Dark Realm.  You definitely won’t regret it; just don’t be surprised if you leave with an empty wallet and a bag full of awesome metal.

Profound Death

ProfoundLore_Logo2015 has been a damn fine year for death metal so far, and it appears that Profound Lore is looking to up the ante with their most recent salvo of releases.  Indeed, the label has in its hot little hands a pair of debut full-lengths from two up-and-coming bands who’s respective takes on death metal couldn’t be more different if they tried, yet both strive for excellence in their own way.

Pissgrave_Cover_750Philly’s Pissgrave first impressed the hell out of me with their self-titled 2014 demo, which was an exercise in old school DM at its most filthy and furious.  But make no mistake, the band haven’t cleaned up their sound in any way, shape or form for their big label debut; in fact I would go so far as to say that Suicide Euphoria sounds even nastier and more scathing than the demo.  Imagine Legion-era Deicide hitting the crack pipe and engaging in a blood-soaked brawl with Revenge and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what this feces-covered beast has to offer.

Suicide Euphoria is one the most wickedly corrosive slabs of death metal I’ve had the pleasure of soiling my ears with since… well, since I soiled my ears with their demo last year.  Underneath that grotesque production scheme are some equally sickening riffs, and songs such as “Impaled Vibration” and “Prevail in Hell” end up lodging themselves in your skull in spite of the unbelievably harsh execution; the band might have caked on even more dirt, grime and bodily fluids, but not at the expense of the craftsmanship they’ve exhibited since the beginning.

 

CoverLowResIf you were disappointed in Morbid Angel’s atrocity of a comeback album (anyone who says they weren’t is either lying to themselves or just being a contrary motherfucker) and/or got excited when you heard that Steve Tucker is back in Morbid Angel, look no further than Cruciamentum’s Charnel Passages for a twisted death metal fix until Tucker and Azagthoth unleash their next attack.  This isn’t to say that Cruciamentum is a straight-up MA clone, but rather the same unearthly, eldritch vibe that ran through Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Gateways to Annihilation also runs through the UK band’s debut.

Armed with seething, serpentine riffage and pummeling double bass, tracks such as “Tongues of Nightshade” and “Dissolution of Mortal Perception” are utterly bulldozing, but also strangely hypnotic and even catchy.  This, combined with Cruciamentum’s doggedly oldschool mentality and knack for dynamic songwriting, make for an album that sounds both familiar and fresh at the same time.  Much like the elder death metal bands they so obviously worship, Cruciamentum emphasize quality above all else, which in turn makes for a highly satisfying listening experience.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Cruciamentum’s approach to death metal couldn’t possibly be more different from Pissgrave’s, but both albums are thoroughly enjoyable, speaking to the extreme diversity and high level of craftsmanship that can be found within the genre’s current crop.  With veteran bands like Nile, Krisiun, Hate Eternal and Cattle Decapitation releasing albums this year, it’s good to see death metal’s next generation stepping up their game.

https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Visions from the Fractal Generator

5V3A5060As Isolation Grind continues to evolve and grow, I’m hoping to do more “round-up” style pieces such as the one you’re about to read.  The reasons for this are many, but the main ones are as follows:

1. I hope to be able to cover more ground.  Let’s face it, a metric fuck-ton of metal albums get released each year, and my lazy ass covers only a small handful of them, meaning that year after year there are tons of albums I’d like to cover that slip through the cracks.  Round-up style pieces seem like a pretty good option for spreading the love and giving more worthy albums some digital ink.

2. The more I listen to metal and write this blog, the more I’m starting to realize that not every album needs a five hundred word review.  It’s entirely possible that I’m running out of shit to say about metal, but I honestly think a lengthy, in-depth review is a bit of a time-waster when you can just go listen to the damn album yourselves with a few mouse clicks and form your own opinion.

3. I discover and re-discover old shit just as often as I listen to new shit.  I often want to write about the older music I’m listening to, but not every used CD score or re-discovery of an old album is worthy of a Top 100 Albums post.  I’m hoping that this will give me the opportunity to talk about older albums, be they universally recognized classics or hidden gems on a regular basis.

coverOk, enough house-keeping, lets get down to business.  First up is Fractal Generator, a band I discovered only a few days ago as of this writing thanks to a hot tip from my sometime partner in crime Expiring Sun.  These Canadians play thick and chunky death metal with a futuristic/sci-fi vibe ala Wormed, Across the Swarm and Sickening Horror, and I’m always down for more forward thinking bands to help stem the tide of retro-itis that has afflicted the genre for so long.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the shit out of oldschool, caveman death metal (more on that later), but I also recognize that the genre needs a kick in the ass to evolve, and this is what Fractal Generator provides with their debut album Apotheosynthesis.

Fractal Generator are ridiculously heavy and execute their music with terrifying precision, exuding a cold, mechanical atmosphere peppered with synths and samples. It’s the kind of music you imagine the T-1000 listening to while impaling pathetic humans with liquid metal blades.  The band aren’t overly technical, making for album that’s strangely catchy in spite of its killer-cyborgs-with-guitars demeanor.

T-1000_telling_sarah_to_call_for_connerUnbelievably, Fractal Generator are offering Apotheosynthesis as a pay-what-you-want download via Bandcamp.  That means you can get this mechanized beast for free if you want. Personally, I’d love to see a label like Willowtip pick these guys up, but I’m not sure if the world is ready for their mechanized death metal assault.

AP_cover1500x1500On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was pleased to learn recently that Unique Leader is reissuing The Anomalies of Artificial Origin, the second album from Russia’s Abominable Putridity.  This album had the misfortune of originally being released back in 2012 on Brutal Bands, arguably one of the sketchiest metal labels that ever existed, which means it wasn’t promoted for shit and good luck trying to find it at your local shop.  It’s a damn shame too, because this album might just be the absolute pinnacle of knuckle-dragging slam.

Basically, The Anomalies of Artificial Origin is just one massive mosh part, designed as an optimum soundtrack for mouth-breathers to beat the living shit out of each other to. It’s one of the most awesomely ignorant slam albums I’ve ever encountered and that’s what makes it such a ridiculously fun, not to mention neck-wrecking listen.  It’s also probably the best sounding slam album ever, with an absolutely huge production that just flat-out crushes everything in its path.

I think I’ve said this before, but I’d love to know what the hell is going on over in Russia; between these dudes, Katalepsy, Disfigurment of Flesh, Traumatomy and 7H. Target, they’ve got the brutal/slamming death metal thing on lock, even more so than the Japanese at this point.  The reissue of The Anomalies of Artificial Origin is out in October via Unique Leader, but in the meantime you can check the album out on Bandcamp.

PromoImage (2)It’s been a while since I last checked in with Cattle Decapitation in spite of being a fan of their earlier work; I somehow missed The Harvest Floor all-together, and I was put off by the overly robotic/triggered-sounding production on the one track I heard from 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity (whichever song had the gross video).  But I was prompted to come back to the band after seeing Wes Benscoter’s nifty cover art for The Anthropocene Extinction and was subsequently hooked when I heard “Manufactured Extinct.”

There’s much to enjoy about The Anthropocene Extinction, but for me the immediate highlights are the subtle black metal elements they’ve incorporated into their sound and Travis Ryan’s highly varied vocal performance.  There are some seriously burly black metal riffs that pop up from time to time on tracks such as “Circo Inhumanitas” and “Mammals in Babylon,” recalling the likes of Marduk and Dark Funeral, and this lends even more darkness to Cattle Decapitation’s already overwhelming assault to the senses.  Meanwhile, Ryan’s performance ranges from putrid gurgles to bizarre, quasi-clean croons and pretty much everything in-between, making the album as interesting vocally as it is musically.

Cattle Decapitation is one of those rare bands that evolves from album to album rather than continually putting out more of the same; I can’t say how much they’ve progressed from Harvest to Monolith to Anthropocene since I’ve not heard the former two, but I can say that their development since I last listened to them with regularity is both significant and impressive.  Better production, better songwriting, better performances; this is a band that has improved vastly in pretty much every way since their early days.  Cattle Decapitation always felt to me like a band that were on the cusp of releasing something great but could never quite reach that next level; with The Anthropocene Extinction they’ve blown the next level to bits.

Welp, that wraps it up for this time around.  Here are a few other albums that are currently yankin’ my crank…

Melvins – Nude with Boots (Ipecac, 2008)
Weezer – Pinkerton (DGC, 1996)
Krisiun – Forged in Fury (Century Media, 2015)
Hercyn – Dust and Ages (self-released, 2015)
Rollins Band – Weight (Imago, 1994)

Nocturnal Blood @ Starlite Lounge, Sacramento, CA 08/08/2015

11817267_1061987837159767_5049974786752808206_nSacramento gets a ton of great shows, but we’ve been more than a bit lacking in the black metal department of late.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the shit out of seeing the likes of Melt Banana, Ufomammut and -(16)-, but I’ve also been absolutely dying for the visceral experience that only a straight-up black metal show can bring.  So, I was extremely grateful to Wretched Earth Productions for treating us to this killer lineup of Cali-bred BM at Starlite Lounge, which is quickly turning into my go-to spot for kick-ass metal shows.

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Cradle of Filth – Hammer of the Witches (Nuclear Blast, 2015)

CoF HammerAfter years of listening to mainstream metal, Cradle of Filth were one of the first “extreme” bands I latched onto as a wee lad.  As such, it has pained me to watch them slowly but surely become a shadow of their former selves.  I’m not entirely sure what went wrong after Nymphetamine (some fans would argue that CoF went to pot well before that) but it seemed that Dani and the boys were damned to linger in the limbo of mediocrity forevermore following that last gasp of greatness, as evidenced by a lengthy string of tepid albums such as Thornography and The Manticore and Other Horrors.  The music was uninspired and Herr Filth’s voice sounded shot, leading me to largely turn my back on this once well-regarded symphonic/gothic/black metal institution.

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