In early 2014, New Jersey-based black metal band Hercyn sent me a copy of their debut release, the excellent Magda. To say that I was blown away by the twenty-four minute, single track demo would be an understatement; this was the kind of gloomy, neo folk-tinged black metal I had been yearning for more of ever since Agalloch released their classic The Mantle back in 2002. A subsequent split with Thera Roya spoke to the band’s dedication to continuing to refine their sound, but it also left me wanting more. Fortunately I don’t have to wait any longer, as Hercyn are about to release Dust and Ages. Indeed, the band’s first full length makes good on the promise of the their previous shorter releases, delivering a pair of epic tracks (plus an intro and outro) that are easily the band’s most accomplished and fully-realized works to date. Curious to know more about the band’s inner workings and the creation of Dust and Ages, I sent the band a slew of questions which they graciously answered in great depth via e-mail.
2015 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.
Philly’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.
If 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.
When darkwave legends Lycia returned from the musical wilderness with Quiet Moments in 2013, it was widely hailed as a stellar comeback for the band. While I certainly enjoyed the album, I couldn’t help but feel that they were just warming up. Quiet Moments is unquestionably a good record, a great record even, but it also struck me as the work of an artist attempting to fully regain their footing after some fairly lengthy gaps between releases (seven years between Empty Space and the Fifth Sun EP, three years between Fifth Sun and QM).
Last year, Gainesville, FL’s Ars Phoenix put out one of the best darkwave albums I’ve heard in quite some time in the form of Violent Rain, a release that combined robotic synths with an icy, sinister vibe to create a delightfully dark yet catchy and at times even danceable take on the genre. I revisit the album often, so I was quite excited when the band e-mailed to inform me that they had some new material out in the form of a split with fellow Floridians Burnt Hair titled Shinju (“double suicide” in Japanese).
I haven’t really heard much straight-up death metal that tickles my fancy in 2015, so it was a pleasant surprise to get a copy of Negative Vortex’s Tomb Absolute in the mail from the ever-reliable Caligari Records. Indeed, the Oakland, CA-based quartet kicks up quite the storm of burly ‘n’ bulldozing DM on their debut demo, which will surely appeal to fans who can’t get enough of the genre at its most crushingly traditional.
Caligari Records has only been active since 2013, but in that time the label has released an ungodly slew of excellent metal with no allegiance to any particular subgenre. Indeed, the only thread that seems to tie Caligari’s releases together is an ear for quality, and that quality continues to run over the cassette label competition, this time in the form of No Life, the second demo (first EP?) from Boston black metal bruisers Human Bodies.
Many moons ago Relapse Records introduced me to noise. That’s probably a bit hard to imagine for younger folks that only know the label as the beard metal stronghold it is today, but trust me, way back when Relapse was releasing some seriously bonkers shit. You see, Relapse used to have a sub-label called Release Entertainment and it was to noise, dark ambient and experimental music what Relapse once was to death metal, grindcore and the like.