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.

Revolted Excrescence – Ritual Violence [US, Death / Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 7-29-21

Dirty, filthy, destructive death metal demo that sounds like it’s straight out of the Midwest USA in 1991. The production is grating (and took me a second to get used to), but at the end I felt like I listened a modern band that gets as close to the sound of Necrovore and Rottrevore as the best of them. It’s astoundingly captured that raw basement death metal feeling, from the gory dual-growls and caustic slow guitar leads. It never feels its 20-minute length either; the title track alone deserved immediate replays after its eight minutes are up. I love that – a death metal release that isn’t afraid to capital-D doom in context of Sempiternal Deathreign, Torture Rack, or Cianide as opposed to reliance on far-far-downtuning guitars. Each dirge on “Lord of Misery” hits like a grimy brick; the spoken word intro and mid-song skank beat of the title track inspire violent head-nodding; the deep snarl and dungeon-guitar solos on “Homocidal Erotic Torment” slay. These guys need to be watched for future execrations.

Eternal Sword – The Cursed Land [?, Raw Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 5-22-21

I’ve listened to this release five times. I still don’t know what to write. Not that it’s bad – in fact far from it. This is one of the best demos I’ve heard this year regardless of genre. “The Cursed Land” is the (thus far known) first demo from the anonymous Eternal Sword, released on a certain day to uncertain parents. It’s a 31-minute romp of two tracks, both of which have plenty of extraordinarily riff-centric melodies with tupa-tupa-tupa percussion (that endearingly lags behind the guitars) and buried shrieks. One could call this “atmospheric” in the sense of being encompassingly produced. The midway riffs on the second track recall the best, most fervent parts of Weakling’s “Dead As Dreams” or Misþyrming’s “Söngvar elds og óreiðu”. Yet this is an autumnal album; “Dead As Dreams” is synthy and depressive, and “Söngvar elds og óreiðu” is hollow and scorching. “The Cursed Land” feels effervescent, pouring out grand and bombastic melodies that resolve into each other as the tracks bring back previous movements after sidewinder escapades to form wonderfully cohesive closers. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Perilaxe Occlusion – Raytraces of Death [US, Death] (2021)

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Self Released | 6-25-21

This is one of those releases I can’t believe exists. Perilaxe Occlusion is a death metal band out of Canada that’s centered around 3D rendering techniques, computer modeling, and optics. The “Raytraces of Death” demo appears soon to blow up (so long as it’s not my disk drive, ha ha !), getting multiple physical releases through Epidemia, Blood Harvest, and Rotted Life. These three tracks are sweet HM-2-ish death with some doom influences and slightly dissonant. There’s a strong flavor of Swedeath as well, throwing harsh wrenches in the gears of the computing machine. Ah, these puns are terrible. Anyway – lots of mid-tempo grooves and breakdowns to be found, potentially agreeing with fans of Caustic Vomit and similar demos from the last few years. When this band blows up on their next demo (or LP), remember your buds at Tape Wyrm.

Gramarye – Spellbound in Black Majesty [US, Black] (2021)

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Signal Rex | 6-18-21

Gramarye is a new band on the scene from Minneapolis, Minnesota – a land that rivals much of North America in its cold winters. Given that Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are pretty darn far inland, it’s no wonder they get some extreme temperatures on both sides of the equation. (See also: Fairbanks, Alaska – where 100 degree Fahrenheit days are not uncommon.) This is Gramarye’s second demo, released just several months after the first one. It’s 21 minutes of raw black metal and echoing vocals, with the guitar fuzz taking center-stage. Lord Ülzetaere (awesome name) roars on this one, throwing all kinds of manic vocal approximations of shrieking ghouls, bellowing ghosts, and associated distorted mayhem. There are some cool little bookends that make each track unique – with “Vomit from the Serpent’s Mouth” finishes in that curious noise akin to some Portal tracks in their early albums. The title track ends with swirling synths and dungeon-esque effects, recalling the creepier side of Paysage d’Hiver’s “Kerker”. Only three months til Halloween.

Omnikinetic – Dragon Hymns [US, Black / Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 1-6-21

Omnikinetic is a prolific one-man extreme metal project from Portland, Oregon headed by VXR. He first came to my attention last year with the release of several war metal-adjacent EPs and demos that excited my ears in a year that was fairly lacking in that genre. “Kinesis” and “Submerged” both had some serious firepower in low-to-middle-fi. Not to mention what interested me in the first place: the black and purple flowers that adorn the cover art “Kinesis”. “Dragon Hymns” continues that destructive yet quirky approach to black death. This three-track demo starts and ends with dungeon synth elements that recall the genre’s proclivity for fantasy. It then dives straight into what one might expect from a dragon: death, harshness, and destruction, with resonant yells and multi-tracked guitars streaming overhead as the synths occasionally peak their heads out among charred homes and melted rock. Firm, intense, and firmly intense black / death of harrowing experience it would be to actually be near a fire-breathing, malevolent dragon instead of a typical fantasy experience.

Grinning Death’s Head – Cataclysm [US, Black / Death] (2021)

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Youth Attack | 5-14-21

We’re on fire now. “Cataclysm” is a two-song EP of black metal plus some crust punk influences and cool use of underpinning synths. Grinning Death’s Head has two LPs so far, both apparently about “misanthropy” and “anarchy” according to Ye Olde Archives. Jason Wood is the only member of this band, hailing from Georgia. Fittingly, Jason has a strong background in noise music and power electronics, in addition to fusing noise into several of his other projects and demos. Grinning Death’s Head seems to be the primary one though, with this EP exploring one’s eventual decline into the “true purpose […] our denouement” of death. The melodic synths strongly elevate this release, giving it an occult hit in black / death fashion. No noise to be found here – this is a singularly clean yet dirty EP.

Torturers’ Lobby – Again [US, Black / Punk] (2021)

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Self Released | 1-23-21

Upon reviewing my list of so-far-listened releases in the first half of 2021, I noticed that I had missed writing on one of my favorite demos so far. Torturers’ Lobby is certainly an evocative name for a band – let alone a photo of a half-decapitated (strangled, perhaps?) dove. The group comes from the hot and humid land of Tampa (though not as bad as Tallahassee, lemme tell ya from experience). The sweat and grime is all over this 18-ish minute demo, throwing screamed black / punk vocals and some serious guitar licks. “Pro War” has a psuedo call-and-response break to it that ends in a dive bomb before blasting back into the fray. Love it. The four-minute outro is nice as well, being a slow burn of guitar feedback, cycling clean-ish progressions, and percussion going on the down side. Lots of that intense, manic black / punk on “Again” – the kind of raw fury that keeps me focused on furiously typing those Tape Wyrm reviews. Get at the power, get at the sound. It rips. Do you? Yes, you do. Believe in yourself, you cad.

AGAIN -DEMO- by TORTURERS’ LOBBY

Fossilization – He Whose Name Was Long Forgotten [Brazil, Death] (2021)

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Transylvanian Tapes | 3-21-21

More EPs! It’s a thing, y’know. This debut demo from the Brazilians of Fossilization is an excellent death EP with doom undertones and a crunchy, bassy production. I’m always going to be into a layered guitar aesthetic in death metal (quick, in how many reviews can I put “aesthetic” until Kaptain Carbon calls me out for it). Fossilization delivers on that front. This hits the same spot as a lot of those Vrasubatlat bands such as Triumvir Foul, in addition to the Mylingar LPs from the last few years. While literal vomit vocals aren’t there, we do have those deep roars that slowly build into a foggy hollow. Midway through “Caronte” shows this best, with a slow build in the gloaming resound that builds alongside frenetic guitars. The break toward the end resolves into a slow lament and a strange backing of feedback. That track is one of my favorites of the year so far in death metal. Check this out if you’re into the death / doom aesthetic (there it is again!) that’s really popped up in the last few years. Transylvanian Tapes says it’s for fans of Dead Congregation and Portal. That’s a fair cop.

Cruel Master – Repeat Offender [US, Black / Punk] (2021)

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Self Released | 1-22-21

Black / Punk hybrids often fall into a trap. The inherit rawness of the fusion’s forebears in Ildjarn plus the contemporary sounds of Bone Awl (et al.) have inspired lots of bands to record the harshest sound they can make with sticks-and-stones instrumentation. Which is fine, there’s absolutely a base for that – in addition to the axiom that artists should make the music they want to make. And (not “but”), I hugely enjoy hearing a black / punk artist who pushes a little out of that murk. As the album and track titles demonstrate, “Repeat Offender” is a bit scarier, a bit more disturbing – bringing in abuse, harsh sex, and stalking. I don’t mean to imply voyeurism. If anything, Cruel Master sounds like a band that actually can pull off the “this stuff is pretty horrible, and it’s actually disturbing” aesthetic. If you’re not on board with that, then I can absolutely understand.