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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Kafirun – Death Worship and Essene – demo (Sol y Nieve, 2014)

KAFIRUNOf the handful of cassette-centric labels I’ve developed relationships with over the past few years, Sol y Nieve is surely one of the most exciting.  While they aren’t the most prolific, they stress quality over quantity, and their passion is evident in every aspect of every release, from the music itself on down to the often elaborate packaging.  The label was recently gracious enough to send me a parcel overflowing with releases including the debut demos from Kafirun and Essene.

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Pale Chalice – Negate the Infinite and Miraculous (Gilead Media, 2015)

relic67Things up to now have been quiet for San Francisco’s Pale Chalice.  The band released their debut EP Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation via The Flenser back in 2011, and I think we can all agree that in today’s metal climate four years is a freakin’ eternity between releases.  But give just one listen to Negate the Infinite and Miraculous, the quintet’s inaugural full-length for new label home Gilead Media, and it will become readily apparent that Pale Chalice favors quality over quantity.

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False – Untitled (Gilead Media, 2015)

relic58Since 2010, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s False has been quietly making some of the best USBM in the game. Their split with the equally excellent Barghest, as well as their untitled 2012 EP were both great slabs of atmospheric black metal that remain largely unnoticed, or at the very least woefully underrated by the metal community at large. With the release of their untitled debut full length on the ever-reliable Gilead Media however, False is poised to bid farewell to their under-the-the-radar status once and for all.

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Devilspit – Grim, Hateful and Drunk (Caligari Records, 2015)

a2394422930_10With an album title like Grim, Hateful and Drunk, it’s pretty easy to guess what you’re getting from France’s Devilspit.  Filthy, punk-influenced black metal is the name of the game here, so if you’re into similarly scuzzy shit such as Whipstriker and DeathCult, you best grab a bottle or twelve of your favorite rotgut and cuddle up with this disgusting tape, which is currently being peddled in a limited edition of two hundred by our pals at the venerable Caligari Records.

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Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus – The Child Must Die (Infernal Kommando, 2015)

a4120209567_10Philadelphia, PA’s Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus first came to my attention early last year when I received the band’s excellent debut full length Synkkä Tuuli for review along with the equally great Väinämöinen EP. The young band’s grim yet sweeping and melodic brand of icy black metal instantly grabbed my attention; it’s the kind of black metal that sinks its claws in instantly and drags you kicking and screaming into its frostbitten world, something that’s becoming increasingly rare as the scene continues to splinter in innumerable directions, often losing sight of what made it such a powerful form of expression in the process.

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Heathen – s/t (Caligari Records, 2015)

a2755489943_10Not to be confused with the long-running Bay Area thrash/speed metal band of the same name, Norway’s Heathen is an obscure black metal entity that recently released its debut full length via the mighty Caligari Records.  The first thing that struck me about Heathen is that there is literally no information on them to be found; nothing is known about the band’s lineup, their online presence is meager to say the very least, and they’ve already developed a penchant for self-titling multiple releases. Indeed, there is an air of mystery that surrounds Heathen, but if this excellent tape is anything to go by, rest assured that they have much more than an esoteric image going for them.

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