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.

Spellbound in Black Majesty by Gramarye

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.

Dragon Hymns (EP) by Omnikinetic

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.

Cataclysm by Grinning Death’s Head

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

Bleeding Shroud – DEMO I [US, Raw Black / Neofolk] (2021)

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Self Released | 7-13-21

This came out today and I think I am the only one that listened to it thus far. This is noisy and offensive and it is wonderful. It is difficult sometimes to explain to people the aesthetic of things like this. Bleeding Shroud is a dungeon synth, black metal, and neofolk project with all of those elements twisted around each other and smudged with noise. There is certainly a level of mastery that goes into a production like this as it should be immersive for people without being repellent. Well, maybe a little repellent. The whole of DEMO I isn’t longer than 5 minutes and I have a feeling that it isn’t even finished as there are tracks that feel like they are cut off before finishing. This demo is a fucking mess and for a debut it is certainly a grand statement that is full of violent outburst and layers of complexity blurred under a collapse of noise. Come for raw black and stay for the car crash.

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.

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.

Kerasfóra – Denn Die Todten Reiten Schnell [Chile, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 7-7-21

As of this moment when typing this, there is no information for this band. I am sure things will change in the future but at this moment in time, Kerasfóra has one streaming track and the blackness of space around it. Even purchasing the album as of this moment only allows access to the preview track. Things are a mystery. This is a perfect place for this Chilean act to thrive as its music lends itself to intrigue. By the closing acoustic guitar of the track, “Night’s Symbol” one is left with more questions like what is the rest of the release going to sound like. Pulling tougher noisy black metal, ethereal soundscapes, and the hints of dungeon synth, this band managed to pulls in the ghosts of many sounds under the banner of a title which comes from Stokers novel Dracula. “For the dead travel fast” is a perfect place to start with as a vague overture to a sound which has yet to be defined yet is still enticing.

Ancient Tome – Final Tome [US, Black / Doom] (2021)

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Transylvanian Recordings | 7-27-21(?)

I sure hope that the 2027 release date is not a typo and stays up on the Bandcamp forever. I can safely say this is the best black / doom release of the late 2020’s. the combination of black and doom metal has come with a sense of wild abandonment when it comes to expectation of sound. Unlike black/death or death/thrash, there is no agreed upon meeting point and the combination can be any mixture of the elements. Final tome, the second Ep from US based Ancient Tome further complicates this with a 23 minute exploration into a landscape of slowed black metal with punctuations of violent outburst. Final Tome comes with the endorsement of Transylvanian Recordings which has ceased to be a reliable storyteller of horrid tales and a dealer for rotten sounding music. Whether or not this is coming out next month or in 6 years is little consequence since the clouds are gathering on the horizon and things are about to get fucking dismal.

Trhä – lhum jolhduc [?, Raw Black / Dark Folk / Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-26-21

Another release where I know next to nothing about anything. Trhä is an enigma. Searching the name of course only gives me Bandcamp and Metal Archives. But what’s more, searching the informational blurbs also gives me nothing. Whether that means it’s a conlang or a more obscure, less-spoken language is something up to debate. It certainly gives Trhä a deservingly mysterious aura, one bolstered by the vague band information that simply lists “Thét Älëf” as playing everything (occasionally written as “jaa”). I fear that the answer is obvious and I’m just ignorant. The music is 30 minutes of raw black metal with distinct melodic harmonies and almost constant shrieks, some of which curiously follow the leads’ notes. I appreciate the craterous snare, sounding like pieces of wood smashed together on “ëpfêrhäth”. Each of the tracks flow through different movements, some of which start or end on a dark folk meandering with distortion. Ever heard of Flying Saucer Attack? Think of the “Further” album, except raw black metal instead of shoegaze-avant-folk. This is a fascinating release, and I’m happy to recommend it.