Albionic Hermeticism – Brittonic Ways [France, Black] (2021)

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The Hermetic Order of Ytene | 10-15-21

The Hermetic Order of Ytene is a collective of black metal and experimental music bands based out of the UK and France. Naturally, their lyrical themes primarily explore esotericism with a distinctly UK volkisch bent. As far as can be told, the primary creator behind most of these projects goes by the pseudonym “O.W.G.A.” – of which Auld Ridge’s Consanguineous Tales of Bloodshed and Treachery has ended up being one of my favorites of the year with its blend of furiously riffy black metal and neofolk. Albionic Hermeticism is another (awesome) part of the Order – though this band plays more straightforward black metal with some minor death metal influences. Where Auld Ridge is sublime, Albionic Hermeticism is raucous; this release has far more discord and way less gorgeous melody compared to Auld Ridge, though still firmly within “classic” black metal aesthetics. Two stand-out tracks include “Ciele Uppan Fells” with its tupa-tupa beat and “Summon’d Orlaeg” in the brash 11 minutes of fire.

Memorandum – Menhirs… Affres [Canada, Funeral Doom] (2021)

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Self Released | 6-27-21

Did you find that Tardus Mortem album too long? Well, time for some funeral doom! That’s not a joke (for real this time). Memorandum is funeral doom metal, but it’s the most bite-sized funeral doom out there. Menhirs… Affres is a two-track release in under 30 minutes that fits right in with Worship and Ahab. This is a one-man project from Caleb Simard – and if you’re willing to feel bad about your life so far, he’s only 17 right now. Yep, 17, and put out what I currently think is one of the best funeral doom metal albums of the year. The second track brings in a wonderfully dirge-esque piano lead. That can sound hokey when does poorly, but – as both Skepticism and Memorandum demonstrates – when pulled off, it’s pulled off well. Try this out if you’re interested or already into funeral doom but you don’t want to carve out a weekend to finish an album. One can only imagine where Caleb will be in five years, let alone ten or twenty.

Menhirs… Affres by Memorandum

Tardus Mortem – Armageddon [Denmark, Death] (2021)

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Emanzipation Productions | 9-17-21

Well y’all, we’ve got just half a month left in the year. And since the holidays are fast approaching, you know what that means – more time to read Internet blogs about dungeon synth and metal. Yeah, your true family! Let’s top off the start of the end with Tardus Mortem, an utterly bizarre death metal band from Denmark. Now Danish death metal often conjures up images of Undergang and Sulphurous, but this is not just in a different ballpark – it’s in a completely different volcano. Armageddon is pure death metal with five tracks in 52 minutes. Yes, and it’s not death / doom. This includes a 23-minute centerpiece. It is very, very rare for any metal subgenre to have tracks stretching greater than seven or eight minutes and them not having doom or atmospheric black metal influence. This is not that – Armageddon is a thundering production filled with solos like early Destruction and Possessed, acidic vocal performances, and manic drumming. Frequently, the album is held together at the barest of threads; I occasionally feel like the percussion takes a page from the Vomitor school of music, where the tempo is more of a light suggestion. That extreme length is going to put off a lot of listeners, but I can’t help but be somewhat enamored by such an adversarial album in a genre where “confrontational” is passé.

Armageddon by Tardus Mortem

Occulsed – Crepitation of Phlegethon [USA, Death] (2021)

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Everlasting Spew | 9-17-21

We all have our heuristics in pre-judging music, and one of mine is “does the album art evoke Zdzisław Beksiński”. If the answer is “yes”, then there’s a baseline 20 percent chance that I’m going to enjoy it regardless of anything else. Yeah, I’m basic, so what? It’s not like I’m only into drip coffee and indie Metroidvanias or something. Anyway, Occulsed’s choice of album art was a must-listen for me – and it did not disappoint at all. This is primarily the brainchild of Jared Moran and Justin Stubbs – both of whom have been in a metric fuckton of bands (e.g. Encoffination, Father Befouled, and Draug). This is completely early 90s death metal: there’s that off-kilter and unsettlingly airy production style, a brutal death metal-lite style of songwriting that recalls NY death metal, and a stitched-together approach to songwriting that occasionally sounds more like a collection of distinct riffs than cohesive compositions. I don’t mean that third one in a bad way: I love that kind of sound. It’s half of why I’m so obsessed with the year 1992 (the other being Sister Act). Kenneth Parker’s vocals match the style of music with his breathy approach to deep, deep growls. An album like this is practically tailor-made to my interests; if you’re picking up what I’m putting down in the least bit, then give Occulsed a listen.

Crepitation Of Phlegethon by Occulsed

θoʊθ – Ruins of Gubla [?, Death / Doom / Sludge] (2021)

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Kellerassel Records | 2-1-21

Let’s see if I can get through this review without using the word “goobly”. The enigmatic θoʊθ (purported to be an ancient name for the god Toth) plays “ancient death metal” with a Phoenician and Babylonian lyrical bent. “Ancient’ is certainly a good self-descriptor: there’s no lack of dust on this production. Note that I use the word “dust” instead of “filth” or “grime” – it’s tempting to interchangeably use those words, but I think “dust” better demonstrates the thick, brow-beating grotesqueness. I would go so far as to call some of these riffs positively stoner – the very beginning has that kind of hypotuned chunkiness I closely associate with Sleep. Most of the demo is the kind of death / sludge embodied by Boy Body (pun intended!), though with a less caustic affect. Track three (“Trumpets of None Ѭ Kingdom of All”, very nice) brings back that stoner-doom quality again with all the grinding criticality that good death metal evokes. This is the kind of release that perfectly fits the demo aesthetic, and I can only hope this isn’t a one-off release; hence why I am making sure there’s a Tape Wyrm write-up for this prior to end of the year shenanigans. There, I did it.

θoʊθ – Ruins of Gubla by Kellerassel Records

Perdizione – Descend Without Fortune [USA, Black / Punk] (2021)

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Spiritual Disease | 4-16-21

A Xeroxed photo of a hanging as the album art? Tell me, is this black metal or a Controlled Bleeding demo from 1984? Oh, it’s black metal – and oh boy is it spooky. This year, there’s a plethora of black metal and punk rock hybrids that are immensely unsettling. Not that the hybrid has ever been amiss from disturbing subject matter – I’m not going to play Bone Awl at my little brother’s wedding – but it tends to be more intense in visual art and subject matter than the sound itself. Perdizione is an example of a demo where it’s just straight-up unnerving. Diavolo Odioso (translation: “Hateful/Hated Devil”, implying both qualities at once) presents 17 minutes of pain to music. Did you check out the Grinning Death’s Head EP from earlier this year? Like that, but as a demo, and far more misanthropic. There’s a delay effect to the vocals that I’m not usually into within extreme metal, but it works here for a similar reason to Arckanum; almost like a more evil, intense, and obscene version of that band. Recommended for fans of the aforementioned Grinning Death’s Head as well as the Леший demo from this year.

ꙂꙨѮŮӜŮѮꙨꙂ – ŶᾦϚӾѺᾦѺӾϚᾦŶ [Iceland, Experimental Black / Death] (2021)

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Self Released | 10-8-21

Alright, I’ll be frank: I hate the aesthetic here. Esoteric letter-dumps make me think of hard drive failures, not occultism. Anyone can use alt codes! But if this demo were judged on cover alone, then it would be a mistake; this is some serious experimental shit. When people hear the phrase “Icelandic black metal”, they’ll either think “oh you mean hollow, dissonant black metal with complex song structures” or “what’s a black metal, and what are you doing in my kitchen”. ꙂꙨѮŮӜŮѮꙨꙂ (please don’t crash my browser) hits different: instead, we have lo-fi black / death with significant drone influence. Imagine a Sunn O))) and Ride for Revenge crossover album (at the risk of entertaining Pitchfork-esque analogiers): you have the drone and hoarse vocal collaborations taken by the former and the Tartarean black metal of the latter. Bassy chomps serve as the analogue to guitars, with filtered protestations serving what can only be loosely described as a vocal mix. This demo is far up there for anyone even remotely interested in the “experimental” tag, and at 28 minutes it’s the perfect length for wanting more without having less. Tracks 3, 4, and 7 are the most awesomely unsettling; but that’s like asking “which episode of The Prisoner should we watch tonight”. It’s going to be weird no matter what.

ŶᾦϚӾѺᾦѺӾϚᾦŶ by ꙂꙨѮŮӜŮѮꙨꙂ

Exsanguinated – Millions of Tortured Souls [USA, Death] (2021)

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Self-Released | 11-3-21

New York death metal’s brutal, pummeling aesthetic comes to the forefront on Exsanguinated’s first-ever release. This two-track demo recalls the hollow horror in the production of Immolation and Morpheus Descends, but with a spacious (though I wouldn’t say cavernous) approach to death metal songwriting that’s distinctly contemporary death metal. “Demon Infested Tomb” is like Pan.Thy.Monium after listening to too much Cop-era Swans; perhaps not industrial, but definitely churning, and with the open-throated hoarse growl that invoked Raagoonshinaah. Pinch harmonics buried under dust abound, as if the metal is entombed beneath the cemetery’s centerpiece. In nine minutes, Exsanguinated hits the autumnal nature of things ending; or perhaps here, they’re already rotted.

Millions Of Tortured Souls by Exsanguinated

Vaticinal Rites – Vaticinal Rites [UK, Death] (2021)

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Caligari Records / Dry Cough Records | 11-12-21

A little birdie told me (read: one of my fellow death metal nerds and I exchanged links on Discord) about how there’s a hell of an underground death metal scene in the UK right now – especially in Leeds and London. Well, I guess there’s always been a hell of a scene in London: and Vaticinal Rites is a next-level addition to that pedigree. This debut EP take significant influence from South Florida death metal circa-1993; not so much your Morbid Angels, but definitely your Monstrosities, Malevolent Creations, and Brutalities. It’s all wrapped up in crunchy production that lends itself well to dive bombs and guitar squelches, as awesomely shown on “Burning Elysium”. Like this year’s Antediluvian LP, this release is even cooler given that it’s a bit of a product of information sharing: two of the members live in southwest England within Devon (according to Ye Olde Metal Archives), so the release was primarily recorded through sharing tracks back-and-forth. And here I thought my Top 50 demos/EPs/splits was firmly established; here comes four tracks that completely shook down the rest.

Self-Titled EP by VATICINAL RITES

Thecodontion / Vessel of Iniquity – The Permian-Triassic Extinction Event [Italy / UK, Death / Black / Noise] (2021)

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I, Voidhanger | 9-3-21

The Permian-Triassic boundary is a great mystery of geological science: an event in which over 83 percent of all genera died. This period separates the Paleozoic Era from the Mesozoic Era – two of the great eras in our planet’s history. If you were a 6-year-old obsessed with dinosaurs like I was (or a 29-year-old like me now for whom that obsession still lives!), you might recall that the Mesozoic Era was when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. So what better two bands to explore this event than Thecodontion and Vessel of Iniquity? Thecodontion brings two black-and-death metal tracks from the Supercontinent recording sessions, which was my #4 album of 2020. These explore two taxa that emerged after the extinction, heralding the start of the Age of Reptiles, using dead-serious and extraordinarily researched history of both species’ classification schemes. Both tracks feature the band’s characteristic drum-and-bass approach to death metal with octave pedals to produce a unique, clean “lead guitar” tone. They’re riffy, clean, and filled with evocative solos that will click for fans of last year’s LP. And yet for this life to have flourished, death first occurred – that’s where Vessel of Iniquity comes in. “The Great Dying” is another name for the extinction event, and Vessel of Iniquity’s mixture of black metal and noise is perfectly suited for the harrowing, slow death brought to tens of millions of species. The track’s eleven minutes begin with a roaring wall-of-noise that gradually settles into a slow dread, later culminating in SP White’s layered shrieks and mournful guitar strums. Two stories of the same history – one of life, one of death – and an excellent split for all fans of extreme metal.