Sxuperion – Auscultating Astral Monuments [US, Black / Death / Ambient] (2021)

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Sxuperion landed on my digital doorstep with last year’s “Omniscient Pulse”. I reductively described it to friends as “Darkspace but death metal”. In retrospect, that’s unfair; Matthew Schott certainly has some of Tobias Möckl’s proclivity for dark ambient and sci-fi samples, but there’s far more to the Sxuperion project. The project began as something akin to war metal with dark ambient, but upon the release of “Cosmic Void”, Matthew Schott began a multi-pronged series of releases based around the harshness and emptiness of space. Yeah, you know how so much space sci-fi is about the adventure of space? Sxuperion is more like experiencing the long period of utter, incomprehensible, nigh-complete emptiness that is most of the universe. Imagine floating in the Boötes Void – the Great Nothing – with the curious effects of relativity changing your perception of space-time, having you become your own Godhead by being the only form within the formless. With, of course, some of the strongest and coolest black and death metal echoing in your afterburners, be it the laser-effect on “Eyes of Gankhar” or the dissolving threads of “Philotic Astrogation”. Sxuperion’s newest LP is one of my favorites of the year so far, and hopefully it’ll be yours too.

Arna – Dragged to a Lunar Grave [Spain, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-23-2021

2020 and 2021 have been the dual years of wampyric black metal. There’s been a significant uptick in bands releasing short LPs or demos themed around erotic death, moonlit nights, and star-crossed romance (and often, all three at the same time). They’re evocative themes and ones that have rightly been a constant presence in the sturm und drang of the popular consciousness. Who doesn’t love a good story about fated love, especially when so many have experienced or nearly experienced it themselves? Well, back to the music: “Dragged to a Lunar Grave” is four tracks of black metal in 28 minutes. Though from Spain, it kinda reminds me of Nachtmystium’s “Demise” and some other mid-2000s US black metal. Fast, riffy, and layered – not at all as raw as the cover art may impress.

Fōr – The Life Feeding Flame [?, Black / Death / Doom] (2021)

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Nihilstic Noise Propaganda | 5-11-21

Ah, another entry in the “dissolving” extreme metal tag. What does that mean anyway? I use “dissolving” to describe that kind of caustic black, death, or doom with hollow vocals, percussion that’s stilted or curiously laborious, and guitars with a precipitated limestone crust. Allegorically, it’s the “I’m being dipped in the acid pools at Yellowstone” kind of metal. (Not that I know what that’s like.) And here’s one of those: the anonymous Fōr from who-knows-where and their 23-minute, 3-track release “The Life Feeding Flame”. This combines black, death, and doom metal in a way that recalls a cavernous Icelandic black metal album – and it’s nearly as scary. Dissonant and, yes, dissolving. The shorter runtime does it a ton of favors in hookability with its tempestuous yet mid-paced drums. Everything about this adds to a slow, creeping dread that is accurately demonstrated through the smouldering lake on the album art. The bass is a steady rumble under every percussive pummel; and the lyrics echo, overlay, and roll off each other in a conflagration. Give me more fire!

Mephitic Grave – Into the Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity [Hungary, Death] (2021)

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Carbonized | 5-7-21

Originally formed as Mothrot, Mephitic Grave is a Hungarian death metal band – a scene I admit to having next to no experience with. This is their first release, landing on the California label Carbonized Records. Here we’ve got something that sounds like a lost Finnish or Dutch death/doom LP from 1992. “Intro the Atrium…” is full of chunky, half-wonky riffing and extremely deep vocals half-buried under the mix. There’s also that slight punky influence that characterized so much of early death metal, which is especially prevalent on some of those groovy mid-tempo breakdowns as on “The Vault of Strangling Fear”. This is death/doom in the sense of incorporating doom metal influences in death metal riffing, with those slow and hard pick-ups into 1.5-times hitters. It’s the kind of roughness I get down, and one of those strong releases that reminds me of my time first exploring early nineties death metal and learning about all these magnificent versions of extremeness. That’s a bit poetic, but hey, it’s what I’m feeling.

Batholith – Alpine Tomb [US, Death / Doom] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-23-21

A batholith is an igneous rock formation that extends deep into the earth, like Half Dome at Yosemite. Neat! What’s not neat is dying on a mountain. This is precisely the concept behind “Alpine Tomb” from Batholith, the Connecticut duo’s debut LP after last year’s EP. This 40-ish minute album describes the slow, harrowing process of experiencing hypothermia, starvation, high-altitude sickness, and psychological terror that would occur with having an immobilizing accident on an alpine peak. This is paired with dissolving death/doom with a hollow vocal aesthetic that might appeal to fans of Cianide’s “The Dying Truth” or Infester’s “To the Depths, in Degradation”. The album ends with appropriately mournful clean leads that demonstrate the ign(eous)ominious ending to the body being slowly encased in ice as the deep freeze sets in. Enjoy your summer!

La Ballade des Rats – Rattus Furax [France, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-21-21

We are going to mention this album, which is the second full length from La Ballade des Rats came out last year in May. The band though decided to tag this as a 2021 release on Bandcamp so who am I to argue? It is okay since we get to include La Ballade des Rats in 2021 and the creators opus on misery and rat infestation. La Ballade des Rats is the work of a few French musicians who seems to be operating in the tunnels which snake under the city of Toulon. If Rattus Furax sounds like anything then it is the half flooded underground passages which sport all matter of disease and the denizens which inhabits its kingdom. Vermin, disease, and decay are the aesthetics of this release and La Ballade des Rats is its pestilent bard.

źmiarćvieły – čornaje połymia [?, Black] (2021)

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Caligari Records | 5-21-21

Caligari always comes through in terms of pulling me back into a world of rot and despair. At this time of writing this review, this band has no Metal Archives entry, nor any other Bandcamp page, nor anything on the internet about its existence. This band exists only as an ugly six minute black metal track which feels like it was birthed in a witches hut and now is running towards the nearest town gibbering unholy speech. This preview track is a grotesques sound and the tone of the raw production combined with the lack of information gives this release the amount of excitement and potential dismay it deserves. I thank Caligari for being there for me reaching a hand in a cauldron and pulling out something that should never had existed.

Uranium – An Exacting Punishment [US, Black / Death / Industrial] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-21-21

Yes, I am unsure about that band name as well at the logo. there are many things which make me wary to approach this US band first and foremost should be the rusty chains which drag behind this behemoth of a record. I say I am wary to approach this since the music and general disposition of Uranium is so caustic in nature I fear I will contract a disease or some sort of radiation burn. An Exacting Punishment is a grand display of torture through sound with black death drug through industrial soundscapes which is closer to noise than it is anything resembling dance. The band’s name and logo seem secondary to a world of nightmares which blink like strobe lights in dark warehouses. This is something that is horrifying and I am so glad is stalking me as the specter of industrial music should want to do.

Sepulchral Cult – Immurement, Spirits and Graveyard Chants [Poland, Death] (2021)

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Putrid Cult | 2-8-21

Yes. This is where I want to be today. I do not car how many times the riff rotten death metal with illegible logo and monochrome cover is done, I will probably listen to it. This is not to take away from the weight of Sepulchral Cult’s debut rather to put up front I will listen to this album and others like it until the end of eternity. Immurement, Spirits and Graveyard Chants is the debut from this Polish outfit which follows a 2020 demo which is surprising I missed given I was doing nothing else last year aside from listening to death metal demos. My surprise and pleasure at Immurement, Spirits and Graveyard Chants’ and its plunge into the crypt which is filled with ghouls that bear you ill will. Prepare thyself to be torn asunder.

Black Mass Pervertor – Sodomiittien seura [Black / Punk] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-21-21

Writting about this review is a reminder to myself to finish my black/punk — punk/black primer. I love this sound and the more I explore in the rotted afterparty of the fusion between black and punk, the more I find the sound as varied as something like death metal. Black Mass Pervertor leans towards a thrash driven speed style of black metal with an aura of perverted partying rather than occult rituals. With tags like “sodomite rock,” and themes such as blasphemous revelry both in the flesh and in spirit, Black Mass Pervertor continues to hold the soiled flag of black/punk as it chucks liquor bottles at the ones who are cheering them on.