Extispex / Maeglin – Built in Sanguine Eclipse [US, Dungeon Synth / Raw Black] (2023)

Standard

Witchcult Records | 2-1-23

I have a suspicion that most of the releases from Witchcult Records are from the same circle of artists and / or have album covers all done by one artist. There is a symmetry in each of the J-Card designs that dates back to 2019 and it is glorious. Built in Sanguine Eclipse is different though as one of the artists has a Metal Archives link and with releases on the DS based Ithildin Tape Productions. Built in Sanguine Eclipse is a split between the Extispex and Maeglin, two acts who mix synth and black metal. Both entities are wonderful and exist as a balance to each other. Where on the one side you have a somber ridden 132 minute soliloquy which breaks into black metal and on the other a black metal composition garnished with symphonic synth. Built in Sanguine Eclipse serves as an introduction to two acts who could have remained in the shadows but for this moment have decided to come out and haunt the dreams of its listeners.

The Visceral Madness Condition – Amb​à​scia [Italy, Sludge Doom] (2023)

Standard

Self Released | 1-24-23

It is my intention to start branching out from raw black and death reviews but we will see how this goes. I enjoy sludge despite the genre being saturated by tropes regarding sound and subject matter. I also say the same thing about other genres but I usually can listen to similar raw death for days. The Visceral Madness Condition is an Italian group who is continually complex the more one looks into their music. From odd looking band photos to the fact their song titles share the name with popular acid house songs from 10 years ago, The Visceral Madness Condition seems like it should be understood with a quick glance but weird things keep ones interest. Amb​à​scia is the band’s third release and continues their love for bands like Eyehategod, Sleep, and Acid Bath but this time around has them singing in Italian. If there is something I love it is native language used in popular forms of music. This combined with an odd woodblock print for the cover which looks like a black metal demo, Amb​à​scia holds enough interest to be fucking weird around you and gets one to think about it long after the record stops playing. The Visceral Madness Condition is the strange group your friends invite to the party but never leave and most likely drink all of your beer and ask for more.

8bitdkhd – Now, See Me [Australia, Noise] (2023)

Standard

Self Released | 1-5-23

This might not really be heavy metal. This might not really be anything. From a previous release last year, 8bitdkhd described the 2022 release, Psychward Burt Newton (Jan​-​July) as follows

Artist/drone discovers that is possible to record themselves. Proceeds to buy the cheapest audio to computer interface and record whatever nonsense occurred to them in 6-months. This is to be considered embryonic, masturbatory (but free) self-indulgence-core. Instrumentation is provided by some guitar, some synth but mostly feedback experimentation with the most obscure guitar pedals. Occasionally a beat occurs ala ‘shaking’, which thumps along to the gimp inside your head whispering sweet nothings, it encourages the fool to play.

These releases are released on the internet but with little expectation to be heard or even cared about. The artist seems to take an antithetical approach to craft in trying to produce the ugliest thing possible. this is beyond tortured beauty or misunderstood genius rather 8bitdkhd creates things no one should hear and releases are akin to nuclear waste that are buried in mines far below ground. Now, See Me is weird and very ugly yet despite the potential intentions of the artist it is also fascinating. A short fever dream of echoing guitar and reverb vocals which border on stream of thought and violent gibberish. An appreciation for this goes beyond outsider fetishism, though stumbling on something that is only linked to a small social media is exciting. The world of 8bitdkhd is psychedelic and resides int eh space where your trip starts to get a little weird and uncomfortable. You are not in a full blown panic just quite yet but things are not going well and you have to plan your exit in the most normal way possible. Now, See Me drinks from the font of the strange and maybe submerges their head beneath its waters. It is without form, or function, or description.

Celestial Rot – A Chain Around Eternity’s Throat [??, Raw Black] (2023)

Standard

The Ensemble of Black Magic by Doulos | 1-3-23

This is a great way to wake up in 2023. Celestial Rot is connected to The Ensemble of Black Magic, a label (?) which hosts projects by dark ambient and raw black acts with awesome names like Phantom Staircase, Bleak Exit, and Isolated Aster Wizard. Celestial Rot is perhaps one of the most harsh acts out of the shadowy troupe and falls in step with the other cool internet atmospheric black metal that sounds like it was run over on the highway a few times. We can all make jokes about production but nailing the raw black sound is sometimes an art and Celestial Rot does it so effortlessly that the songs titles like “Fucking The Black Fingers Mixed In Soot,” feel ominous rather than bizarre even though it still is sort of bizarre. A Chain Around Eternity’s Throat is a premiere example of the “mysterious black metal that could vanish without notice so you probably should talk about it before it goes away” aesthetic.

Corvus Neblus – Strahd’s Possession [Greece, Dungeon Synth] (1999-2001)

Standard

Self Released (1999-2001)

Oh yes, this is where the cool people live. At the moment, The Dungeons and Dragon module The Curse of Strahd is one of the most famous campaigns made possible by the collaboration between a famous adventure setting originally published in 1983, multiple campaigns and associated novels, and perhaps most importantly, robust community support in making the story more coherent. Ravenloft and the lands of Barovia have stoked the imagination of people for decades. Nowhere is this more evident than dungeon synth records inspired by the campaign setting in a time when it the world was still inaccessible to most except for the most learned of the fandom.

Corvus Neblus has released two EPs. Strahd’s Possession Chapter I in 1999 with a followup Chapter II in 2001. Both releases provide a soundtrack to the world of Ravenloft made at a time when the gothic setting was used in multiple related media. Chapter I was packaged with not only an introduction about the main character, the half elf fighter/mage Nebulus, but also came with a character sheet with ability scores. These facts might lead to the creator of Corvus Neblus using an actual game of Dungeons and Dragons as inspiration for a dungeon synth album or just an adventure setting as a ready made world for a story. Whatever the case, Strahd’s Possession is an early example of escapism made into a world of sound with the entirety of the two releases made into backdrops for a gothic pageant.

Corvus Neblus is better known as Alexandros Antoniou also the participant in black metal projects such as Macabre Omen and Lvcifyre. Alexandros Antoniou’s work in these bands has created a separate reputation with his dark ambient and dungeon synth projects intended as hidden gems for those traveling deep within the mines of records. Strahd’s Possession is a monument for those looking at the origins and tracing the history of dungeon synth from the 1990’s to 2010s. Here is a set of releases which would be on Bandcamp in 2022 but instead is an obscure artifact from a well known black metal musician. The care and calculation heard in the first chapter mixed with the shoehorned dialogue in the second chapter is both fascinating as well as amusing.

Strix – Obscurent Nos Tenebrae [Italy, Black] (2022)

Standard

Dolomia Nera | 10-31-22

If there is anything that can be said about Strix, outside of having a cool name, is their longevity. Formed in the mid 00’s this black metal duo has weathered over a decade of existence with one full length, one EP, two demos, and now two splits. Strix releases are nothing but glacial and one would think this void of production would lead to a 2022 split that would be average. Obscurent Nos Tenebrae is anything but with 12 minutes of misanthropic rain which pours from the its black skies. These two songs are so deft in their execution it is a wonder why this act only releases something once a decade. The two songs are accompanied by a band called Inverno. I would mention more about their contribution but there seems to be nothing on Bandcamp. Regardless the sheer presentation of Strix out of almost a decade of silence is impressive and combined with stunning artwork makes this split one for a desolate night.

Burgfried – Geistertum [Germany, Raw Black] (2022)

Standard

Narbentage Produktionen | 7-1-22

“BURGFRIEDs 2nd strike of Primitive Franconian Black Metal. Dedicated to the chivalric specters that roam the Upper Franconian valleys & hillsides.” I love this line which is on the Bandcamp for Burgfried’s Geistertum. It is near absurd but is unique enough to be evocative. The images of ghost knights roaming the hills of the French country side is something that feels comfy to imagine. Add to the the crashing sounds of shredded black metal and one has an evening of terror and abject horror. Geistertum is the second release from Burgfriend following the equally gripping and hilariously named 1631 which I am sure is the date of some obscure French atrocity. Burgfried brings history, or at least the flavor of history, to the table and messily mixes it with black metal producing something that may not be novel but is undoubtley effective. Chivalric specters certainly carry the banners for these dead rulers which seem to ride into battle on horses that are probably also ghosts or some shade of dead.

檳榔袋鼠 Betelnut Kangaroo – 天地頌 [Taiwan, Ambient] (2022)

Standard

The Tidal Charm | 7-10-22

Complete the treasure map and solve its accompanying puzzle before Season 1 ends to find the hidden treasure TCX001, a private album on BC exclusively available to these treasure hunters.

.

Absolutely charming. I wrote about a compilation from The Tidal Charm earlier this year mostly because I fell in love with it and if it was a school yard, I would be following this label around asking to be their best friend. We are going to be stepping outside the bounds of even dungeon synth but I feel this is where the spirit lies. Somewhere between ambient, new age, vaporwave, slushwave, and a dozen other names that only exist inside the internet, The Tidal Charm is a marketplace of the dreaming where tapes are made for people seeking dreamwave music. 檳榔袋鼠 Betelnut Kangaroo is listed as a Taiwanese artist making music in Guitar Pro 5 ( a popular tracker software in 2005). 天地頌 is a hidden wonderland of surreal synth, ambient landscapes, and enough sincerity that nothing feels like a farce. 天地頌 is a 2021 release but comes in a tape packaged together (?) with 浮咒 which doesn’t seem to be listed anywhere on the artists Bandcamp page. The tape comes with a quarter of a treasure map which seems to be a hidden album listed as TCX001. The Tidal Charm continues the tradition of esoteric puzzle music and even puts a time limit on the game which makes me wonder how many dreamy treasure hunters are out there. I will absolutely support ventures like this and hope there are more liminal games that are pushed out into the real world warping the fabric of reality.

SCUMSLAUGHT – Knives and Amphetamines [France, Thrash] (2022)

Standard

Caligari Records | 6-23-22

Baptized In Piss.

I think when I opened up my email and saw the name SCUMSLAUGHT, I was immediately sold to whatever style of music these three were selling. Whatever it was, it was going to come with the force of a toppling building. Knives and Amphetamines is the debut EP following a 2020 demo which was rightfully called High on Death. Scumslaught in in the same gross orbit as other French death / thrash bands including Sépulcre, Skelethal, Cadaveric Fumes, and Repugnizer. Its all disgusting and they are probably all waiting for us outside. Knives and Amphetamines takes a giant step in terms of production brining out the energy which was buried under the floorboards during their demo. Now the band is inside the house and they are wielding horrid instruments of destruction. Thrash might be in a weird time period in 2022 but I am glad it is being nurtured by loving and tender maniacs.

Sinistrum – Trichotomy of Death [US, Death / Thrash] (2022)

Standard

Self Released | 7-11-22

Hell Yes. Thrashing Death! I would like to thank Sinistrum for allowing me to research the history of death metal originating from Elizabethtown Kentucky. Without this band, I would not have found the other related bands including Sarcoma and Abominant which seems to make up the foundation for 1990’s Elizabethtown death metal. Trichotomy of Death is the debut EP for Sinistrum and while some of its members date back decades, the entire presentations feels fresh and new. From a stellar cover and logo that would go great on a sleeveless shirt to a ripping sound that is full of riffs and energy, Sinistrum feels like a punch to the side of the face that stings but maybe feels refreshing.