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

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.