Effluence – Ballistic Bloodspray [US, Brutal Death / Grind / Noise] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-9-21

I can’t imagine a better title to this EP: this is a ballistic spray of blood. No question. The Czech deathgrind band Contrastic notably merged totally non-metal instruments into their self-titled LP (the one with The Little Mermaid on the cover); but if they were the fun one in the family, then Effluence is like the unhinged younger brother who took his sibling’s imagery a bit too far. This 12-minute EP is an absolutely bonkers mix of technical death metal, brutal death metal, grindcore, and noise. There’s the slightest bit of remaining wonkyness that hints at a sense of humor(???), like the piano on “Unending Separation” and the clarinet on both “Unholy Liquid” and “Miasma of Entrails”. It’s weird, experimental, and intense music – similar to what Genophobic Perversion is doing, and this feels a little more polish in perversity. Celebrate in good vibes.

Natürgeist – Reinvigorated Terror [US, Raw Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 5-21-21

Morris Kolontyrsky is a busy man. The member of Blood Incantation/Black Curse/Spectral Voice/etc./et seq./ad inf. now has a raw black metal project to add to this repertoire in the way of Natürgeist. The “Reinvigorated Terror” EP is a new two-track demo of the layered extreme metal that characterized 2020’s Black Curse LP (which was one of my top five albums of its year). Starting off with a powerful, Weakling-inspired style of US riffing, this demo slowly incorporates more studio tricks than raw black metal usually hits, with layering and slight psychedelia hitting at the end of both tracks. Low-tempo clean guitar leads contrast with that fast-paced black metal tremolo to cool effect. Those deep in the raw black sauce might hear this as another cash-in and dislike how obviously careful the production really is, but I find it immensely successful for that same reason that Black Curse release did the same for me. Plus, it’s obviously a bit crazier than the other Denver bands – penis metal notwithstanding. Give this a hit of mystical, cold, black hell.

Æumbra – Æumbra [US, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 5-26-21

A search for “Æumbra metal” reveals exactly nine results, none of which tell me much about this band. From what I can tell, they’re a fresh US black metal act with at least one member. I don’t believe we’re at the point of deep fakes for raw black metal. This demo features 21 minutes of strongly melodic raw black metal more so than the punk- and/or noise-inspired strain. Vocals are a constant high-pitched screech but not annoyingly so; more like Silenius from the early Abigor releases in that raspy affect. There’s a ton of wonderfully written tremolo leads that hearken back to the early second-wave Norwegian black metal aesthetic, but in no way does it sound tired. In fact, the paunchy bass lines give this a slight “oomph” where the rawer-than-your-average-bear production really bolsters the melodic sound. While most of them follow root notes, they bolster the leads ever so slightly to make the demo stand as a sonically impressing work. If you can’t tell, I really like this – and the higher-pitched vocals round out the sound to make everything sound dynamic in a way I can’t describe without sounding like a goober or a pedant. Basically (hah!), there’s serious promise for an LP, and I hope they keep that semi-raw sound for the future. It does well.

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.

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!

Brainspoon – Monstrous Chains [Finland, Death] (2021)

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Self Released | 2-12-2021

Ah, this one almost passed me by. If Ye Olde Metal Archives are to go by, then Brainspoon has been around for almost a full decade with two EPs and two demos to their name. “Monstrous Chains” is the second emo – three tracks demo of monstrous Finndeath with slight crossover elements. Dirty and sloppy, but in the way I’m into. And with a name like Brainspoon, you know well what to expect: hoarse vocals, Autopsy-esque production, and punky rhythms that are firmly grounded in death riffing. This is a great example of a demo with more ideas in 12 minutes than what others do in 40; the nigh-3 minute “Graveside” swaps between Sempiternal Deathreign-style death/doom elements (read: not just quarter-speed riffs!), fast as hell switch-ups, and even a couple quick solos for good measure. There’s a slight hollow production to the sound that gives an extra paunch not usually heard in this type of death metal; I like it, beat the bloated corpse. The title and closing track matches cycling solos alongside chugging-engine rhythms. So come on! Do it!

Vorvadoss / Magic Find – Moondrawn, Foul​-​Crescent Rapture [US / Australia, Dungeon Synth / Dark Ambient] (2021)

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Attic Shrines | 1-21-21

When I found Attic Shrines, I knew I wanted to highlight this tape label. Lucky for me, there was only one release this year which makes it easy to frame in terms of releases since this is the best Attic Shrines release in 2021. I have always had an interest in drone/noise/ritual ambient and find its relation to dungeon synth fascinating since this type of synth is always lying underneath other genres like some interconnected catacomb that anyone can enter if they get lost enough. Attic Shrines may release more infrequently to the average dungeon synth artist yet their tapes are from some of the more intriguing artists. This combined with a underground black metal aesthetic and one has dungeon synth that has been left in crypts for centuries. Moondrawn, Foul​-​Crescent Rapture is a split between Australian Vorvadoss and US Magic Find. both tracks which equal to around 30 minutes are a wonderful blend of depressive noise and dissonant memories which float through ruined cathedrals at dawn. I look forward to following this label even though they remain ghostly and elusive. Dungeon synth comes in many varieties and it is always wonderful to find more to be haunted by.

Skadalv – Demo II [US, Raw Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 5-4-21

In an effort to get focus on the the most horrid of black and death metal, I seek music that could come from the astral plane. Skadalv is from the US and with only two demos from the past few years, this act only has a few sold out cassette demos to their name. With the release of the second Demo, Skadalv continues to write a chapter in an apocalyptical book which is full of spectral hauntings and psychic ruin. Though the demo only totals about 11 minutes, that time spent with Skadalv is one that is oppressive with its noise and exhilarating with the energy. Not a lot of information is available regarding this band outside of Metal Archives page which lists the lyrical themes as “Death, Mysticism and Reincarnation.” I feel the elusive nature of the band combined with the abstract lyrical themes allows this release to be something special for some very weird listeners. It is a sound which is not for everyone but those of us who are here to worship at the alter of death couldn’t ask for anything more.

KNIFE WRAITH – Into the Undercity Dungeons [Germany, Dungeon Synth] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-25-21

Listen, I understand this is hard to look at. It is nauseating and I feel this is the perfect place to start. Knife Wraith is a German artist whose love and devotion to old Dungeons and Dragons modules as well as the 8-bit sounds of yesteryear collide in a stereoscopic dream of nostalgia and idiosyncratic joy. One can almost feel being baked in the glow of a living room television sitting on the carpet while sending your adventure through dark caves in search of magical artifacts. The monsters in vivid flat colors emerge from shaded shadow to inflict terror and health damage upon your character. These are the sounds of your quest and your eventual victory over the pixelated evils of the world.

Howling Nightwinds – Demo II [Austrilia, Raw Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 3-15-21

I absolutely love that most of these songs just start out with the listeners falling down a hill marred with jagged rocks. Howling Nightwinds is new and with two demos full of raw violence that doesn’t seem to care about proper etiquette. In the span of around 15 minutes, Howling Nightwinds makes a grand declaration of uncaring with a demo full of black metal mixed with punk and also dungeon synth for bookends. This is a demo which is crude and unpolished and perhaps will never be invited for a formal dinner. It is perfect for basements and graveyards and perhaps other haunted places of dismay.