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

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

Fossilization – He Whose Name Was Long Forgotten [Brazil, Death] (2021)

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Transylvanian Tapes | 3-21-21

More EPs! It’s a thing, y’know. This debut demo from the Brazilians of Fossilization is an excellent death EP with doom undertones and a crunchy, bassy production. I’m always going to be into a layered guitar aesthetic in death metal (quick, in how many reviews can I put “aesthetic” until Kaptain Carbon calls me out for it). Fossilization delivers on that front. This hits the same spot as a lot of those Vrasubatlat bands such as Triumvir Foul, in addition to the Mylingar LPs from the last few years. While literal vomit vocals aren’t there, we do have those deep roars that slowly build into a foggy hollow. Midway through “Caronte” shows this best, with a slow build in the gloaming resound that builds alongside frenetic guitars. The break toward the end resolves into a slow lament and a strange backing of feedback. That track is one of my favorites of the year so far in death metal. Check this out if you’re into the death / doom aesthetic (there it is again!) that’s really popped up in the last few years. Transylvanian Tapes says it’s for fans of Dead Congregation and Portal. That’s a fair cop.

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.

Leprophiliac / Concilio Cadavérico – La Carne Se Desprende De Los Huesos [Spain / Mexico, Death] (2021)

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Life After Death | 4-1-21

Ah death metal – how art thee in the year of our Bandcamp 2021? Apparently pretty good. Life After Death brings us by a commodius vicus of bloodecay recirculation to a split between two hispanohablante death metal bands. Leprophiliac is from Spain; Concilio Cadavérico, Mexico. Leprophiliac’s two tracks feature that old-school pseudo death-doom, especially on the dirge-esque start to “Flesh for the Beast”. These pick up fast in a tupa-tupa beat and hoarsely growled vocals. Concilio Cadavérico’s two tracks hit the grindier side, infused with HM-2 goodness. The Leprophiliac side will definitely be better for those who are thus far into the Anthropophagous LP and deliberate, not-pejoratively-simple death metal. The Concilio Cadavérico is for those who like it raw and wriggling.

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.

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.

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.

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.