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

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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.

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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.

Middle Ages – Reclaiming the Throne [International, Dungeon Synth] (2022)

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This whole thing comes with a paragraph of explanation. Reclaiming the Throne is a reissue / compilation of demoscene tracks that were ripped from a website in the 1990’s and put onto a tape. The tape gained a following and was known as “Caduceus – Middle Ages.” It wasn’t until 2020, that the true nature of this music became known to the internet record keepers and extensive work was put into tracking down the three musicians behind this work. The work formally known as Ranger Rick, Mateus, and Blackwolf. Reading the Youtube link for the original Caduceus rip, Blackwolf responds with:

This has been wild – I wrote “Seeds of Desire” for a demoscene music competition in 1995 (it placed 19th in the rookie division of MC3 out of…I don’t know how many, maybe 100?) and then find out 26 years later that it was put on a cassette that has a cult following in a genre I hadn’t really heard of.

This whole affair from the subterfuge, the longstanding misunderstanding to the internet reconciliation is made even better with the Dungeon Deep reissue which rightfully credits the artists and adds bonus tracks and write ups to the presentation. The joyous tracker based synth music makes the whole event feel like the closing credits to some lost Super Nintendo RPG and through arduous strife, the rightful rulers take the throne and suddenly the stormy lo-fi clouds part. Part of my love for this scene of music not only comes from the sound itself but the intesnse desire to archive and catalog music from the past decades. Dungeon synth has laid in the shadows and things like a bootlegged tape that gained popularity feels right when a group of fans reconstruct and credit the true musicians. This entire thing is wholesome and makes me smile all day long.

L A N D S R A A D – Fate; The Inevitability Thereof [UK, Dungeon Synth] (2022)

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Self Released | 8-1-22

Last year, I raved about L A N D S R A A D and their debut The Golden Path. This release kicked off a potential long series of Dune inspired dungeon synth which not only showed excellency in terms of composition and production but also a new avenue in terms of thematic source material. Dungeon synth is not relegated to the earth and the silent foundations of Berlin School / Kosmiche Musik becomes more apparent with each release filed under its name. the dungeon is just the beginning for a brave new world of space based progressive ambient. Fate; The Inevitability Thereof takes its inspiration, and namesake from the themes of Dune Messiah, Frank Herbet’s second book in the Dune series. More than just Dune DS, L A N D S R A A D feels like it is guided by the principles and precepts of Herbert’s universe. Fate, prophecy, power, and the zeal of faith all drive the topics of this record making it not just a tribute album but rather a space ambient record which shares the interests which constructed the book series. Fate; The Inevitability Thereof is a fantastic dungeon synth record which continues an interesting series that I felt was a novel idea at first but is quickly becoming something with unforeseen importance.

Astral Coroner – Leaching the Ancient Void [US/ Canada, Death] (2022)

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Self Released | 6-22-22

This is my everything. Deathgrind obsessed with topics such as aliens, skinwalkers, and quantum suicide. If this was a book, it would already be on my shelf but here we are and these topics comes through a death ray aimed at the listeners chest. Astral Coroner is from both the US and Canada with no members listed so if we were in the conspiratorial mindset, we could assume it is the work of other death metal luminaries making even more underground music. Even if this group is a bunch of Coast to Coast AM weirodos who probably have some documentaries about The Goblin Universe, Leaching the Ancient Void is a punch to the throat which never stops being fun.

Corroder – Tombs of Terror [Norway, Thrash] (2022)

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Self Released | 1-14-22

Corroder is when thrash metal rediscovers its punk roots. This is mad, this is pissed, this is angry. Tombs of Terror is five tracks that takes the three-chords-and-the-truth aesthetic of punk rock and rolls with all the punches and glass bottles one can take. It’s like Morbid Saint had a really bad day (and decided their drummer could scream) – a boilingly bad day, like the kind that opens up Falling Down. “At One with Chaos” drops plenty of f-bombs for any punkier take on thrash metal in lyrics as well as sound, and the tupa-tupa beats of “Death Throes” are a great match to the air siren lead guitar. The rhythm guitar cycles through simple yet effectively destroying compositions, with each vocal invective sending a new arrow in the heart. This is a hard listen, as if thrash metal decided to go back into the deepest CBGB underground rather than pivot to so much post-grunge alt-rock in the early 90s. “Kicking, squirming, dying” indeed.

Tombs of Terror by Corroder

Dødskvad – Krønike II [Norway, Death] (2022)

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Horses gallop into the maw of battle… therein lies Dødskvad. I hesitate to compare this to the two most over-compared bands in death metal, but to my ears, Krønike II blends Bolt Thrower and Timeghoul. Of the former, we have the chunky riffs and bass-heavy production – plus a warfare-hardened aesthetic. From Timeghoul, it’s all in the vocals: bassist/keyboardist Erlend Rønning has this strikingly enunciated roar-bellow that’s a dead ringer for “Coda Infinity”. Come to think of it, the band also has the middle-fidelity production that calls to mind NVNM – but I digress in analogies. This demo is hard but not harsh; at no points does it lapse into noise or black metal. There’s a deep aggressiveness that’s most demonstrated on “Etterlatt Til Ulver”, where Rønning uses his voice as an additional layer of percussion in the trotting guitars and dashing kick drums. The slight technical-yet-thrashy edge on “Jakten” leads into an absolute FUKK moment where guitar squelches become a veritable compositional element that culminates in Rønning’s demented laughter. Absolute must-grab.

Krønike II by DøDSKVAD

Dripping Decay – Watching You Rot [US, Death] (2021)

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Self Released | 12-31-21

Never discount the end of the year. It’s tempting to call it quits in mid-November, but there’s always something that could come out day-of that shakes it up. Dripping Decay is from Portland, OR – a region that’s developed one hell of a death metal pedigree these last few years. The Watching You Rot demo is seven tracks of rolling and ripping death metal with a significant grind aesthetic and intense barked growls. Torture Rack’s also from Portland, and I had to check if they had members in Dripping Decay given how both bands excel in writing short death metal songs that aren’t always entirely deathgrind. Short and sweet but oh so sweet, like putrid maggots. The half-chug breakdown midway through “Sadistic Excruciator” is the highlight.

Watching You Rot by Dripping Decay

Void Column – Quiescence [Canada, Death] (2022)

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Mouth of Madness | 1-15-22

Ha! Another Void Column. I know just what to do with you – snatch it from Kap before he can write it up first. All hail death and grime, indeed. Quiescence is Void Column’s second demo, and it’s a three-headed beast from front to back. This is an ugly, ugly album, with a maw that drips acid. This demo exhumes riffs previously described as “subterranean”, giving each track unlife and intensity that is positively overwhelming even for a sub-ten minute runtime. In contrast, the vocals are so buried that you’d be forgiven for thinking Quiescence is an instrumental death metal release. But no, they’re there, and they’ve been waiting for you. Whereas the first demo felt like it had a bit of a doom metal influence, this one is all pure frightful death metal – and maybe even with the slightest of grind thrown in on the ending, self-titled track. It finishes out with one hell of a breakdown; listening to Void Column is directly associated with increases in the paychecks of nearby masons. I foresee these guys being a band to watch out for over the next few years – if Quiescence and The Chasmic Death portend a scant half year of activity, then one can only imagine what a fully realized LP would bring.

Quiescence (demo II) by Void Column

Vintlechkeit – Is Vidder… [Norway, Black / Ambient / Drone] (2022)

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Self Released | 1-18-22

It’s been a weird week in the Chesapeake Bay. While we had a lovely month of suitably winter weather (with not a few days getting down in the single digits at night), we’ve been slapped in the face by weather that sadly can no longer be called “unseasonable”. And next week it’ll only be weirder, with highs like a late spring and lows like an late autumn. In times like these, I stick to my frozen vegetables: Paysage d’Hiver, DarkSpace, Arkhtinn, and Lunar Aurora – anything that can trick me into believing it’s actually a frosty wonderland outside (there’s a reason I no longer live in Florida). We can also add Vintlechkeit to that mix. Is Vidder… is just one part of a very, very large discography of instrumental black metal + ambient music – like a low-key (and lo-fi) version of Paysage d’Hiver’s Einsamkeit. These three Norwegians specialize in that kind of slow-burn (or slow-freeze?) type of dirge-ish but not necessarily depressive black metal, being more a long gaze toward an obfuscated sun. The first track is more guitar-oriented, whereas the second track is oscillating drone. It’s icicles made from frozen tears all the way down.

Is Vidder… (demo) by Vintlechkeit

Penny Coffin – ΤΕΦΡΑ / ΣΚΕΛΕΤΙΚΟ ΣΚΟΤΑΔΙ [Scotland / Greece, Death / Doom] (2021 / 2022)

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Dry Cough Records | 1-15-22

ΤΕΦΡΑ / ΣΚΕΛΕΤΙΚΟ ΣΚΟΤΑΔΙ is kind of a compilation, kind of bonus material: it comprises Penny Coffin’s first two demos, but the second demo just so happened to be concurrently self-released by the band when this release was issued. Dry Cough Records thoroughly impressed me last year with incredible releases from Vaticinal Rites (my non-LP of the year), Slimelord, Plague Patrol, and Gouger; this is only another addition in an already stellar catalogue. Penny Coffin exhibits what I like to call “dissolving death metal”: death metal with hollow production, hoarse vocals, and huge layered guitars; as if one is being dissolved in acid. The first half demonstrates that caustic, primitive attitude most readily, while the second half introduces hyper-fast riffing and roar vocals. Though from two completely different recording sessions, the compilation flows strongly – the second half’s gradual introduction of gear-grinding guitars works perfectly as augmented doom. “Confinement” from the first demo and “Skeletal Darkness” from the second are the compilation’s two strongest tracks, with the latter’s fading three-note pulse eerily peering out from the gloom.

ΤΕΦΡΑ / ΣΚΕΛΕΤΙΚΟ ΣΚΟΤΑΔΙ by Penny Coffin