Ritual Laceration’s “I” demo was one of my favorites of 2019, so hearing that this “dual bass bestial black metal” group had another one out was an insta-sell for someone who likes to blend his death metal with noise and whey protein. And wow, this is noisy. The first demo was a strong delivery of two bass guitars where each track steadily increased to maximum controlled cacophony (not unlike the Italians in Thecodontion). “Putrid Womb” adds shards of glass to the mix with a distinct overdrive that contrasts with the previous demo’s relative cleanliness. Not that this band was ever “clean” – maybe in the sense of how a wound can be clean in the hands of a responsible scalpel-holder. In that case, the metaphor here is the rats on the cover: an infesting mix of the harshest drive where redlining is a feature, not a bug. “Putrid Womb” also features some excellent Diocletian-sounding manic solos that are barely demonstrative of normal musical ability and instead have that wonderful “ready to explode” aesthetic. And indeed it does explode – the indistinct vocals samples come in and out of the mix at the most (in)opportune time, sliding in and out of varying levels of discord. If you’re into chaos (and I have a feeling you are if you read Tape Wyrm), then grab “Putrid Womb”.
UK death metal has always had a strong history and its current scene is continuing a legacy that has already been written in blood. When I first heard the name Mortuary Spawn and saw the cover art for their debut EP, I had a feeling it would be craved by a certain fan of heavy metal. This fan might be undead and with ravenous claws which make their way out of cracked coffin. If all of this sounds silly and ridiculous, wait until you are sent down a rollercoaster of riffs with the tension gripping the back of your neck. For 15 minutes, you are at the whims of revenants who mean to entertain you with bloody magic tricks which ends in one person cackling and the other sickened. Mortuary Spawn worships at the altar of old school death metal with a tribute to its looming atmospheres which rolls over cemeteries like fog. This is a sound which will be familiar for some and pleasing to many as it focuses on the parts which makes death metal so successful. If the black and white cover that looks like old Dungeons and Dragons modules is any indication, Spawned From the Mortuary is going to be a party for some but those are going to be the ones chasing others down blood splattered halls.
“Death metal made by hardcore kids” is a bit of a pejorative nowadays, but it’s also a pretty good descriptor for a select group of bands. It’s worth mentioning that “deathcore” may technically be an accurate tag, although whether it’s responsible to call it so might be more questionable. Human is a three-piece from the sunny (yet suffocating?) land of Orlando, Florida. The demo features a great smattering of punk-infused death metal, with potential appeal for those who have enjoyed recent releases from Fuming Mouth, Anthropophagous, and perhaps even Black Breath. Note that I am excepting Swedish death-n-roll hybrids; there’s a distinct Floridian riffing here that lurks beneath the punky aesthetic. Like if Obituary decided they were really into DC hardcore. Speaking of which, hardcore punk’s socially-minded lyrical themes are a huge part, lest the sardonically-named “Brown Scare” and “White Jesus” give it away. Protest songs for the death metallers, and that intersection remains in genre melding and proceeds going to black activist organizations. “Days of Rage” and “M.Y.O.E.” have short bursts of rapid-fire chaotic solos that recall early 80s thrash metal in their fall-apart charm. This demo ends on a hard mid-tempo groove and extended drums breakdown through the title track, finishing a powerful 20 minutes of bass-heavy death metal/hardcore. Oh, it was mastered by James Plotkin? Makes sense – the chunky depth of sound is impressive!
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.
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.
We are going to mention this album, which is the second full length from La Ballade des Rats came out last year in May. The band though decided to tag this as a 2021 release on Bandcamp so who am I to argue? It is okay since we get to include La Ballade des Rats in 2021 and the creators opus on misery and rat infestation. La Ballade des Rats is the work of a few French musicians who seems to be operating in the tunnels which snake under the city of Toulon. If Rattus Furax sounds like anything then it is the half flooded underground passages which sport all matter of disease and the denizens which inhabits its kingdom. Vermin, disease, and decay are the aesthetics of this release and La Ballade des Rats is its pestilent bard.
Caligari always comes through in terms of pulling me back into a world of rot and despair. At this time of writing this review, this band has no Metal Archives entry, nor any other Bandcamp page, nor anything on the internet about its existence. This band exists only as an ugly six minute black metal track which feels like it was birthed in a witches hut and now is running towards the nearest town gibbering unholy speech. This preview track is a grotesques sound and the tone of the raw production combined with the lack of information gives this release the amount of excitement and potential dismay it deserves. I thank Caligari for being there for me reaching a hand in a cauldron and pulling out something that should never had existed.
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.
I do not think Effuvium ever intended to make dungeon synth but got caught running around with contemporary classical and noise music to really care what time curfew was. Symphony #1 is dedicated to Dimitri Shostakovich with a quote the feels like it is attributed to the Russian pianist but is another false flag in a theater of odd red herrings. Walking a line of experimental and apocalyptic sounds, Effluvium makes music much in the same way people wake up from night terrors.
This was a review I did of Effluvium’s 2017 release Symphony #1. This was also the release which solidified my love for dungeon synth which had trouble hiding its weirdness. In fact, it was a closing entry in a short lived Best of the Weird collection for 2017. Effluvium was something special for me and recently I heard my reviews were something special for its creator. It was only this year I learned of the passing of Jake Dunwoody (J. R. D.) and Symphony No. 2 was a posthumous construction of the last piece he composing. Even outside this personal connection for me, Effluvium has always represented an avatar of weird in this genre and urges listeners to be as strange as they want to be. Without limits or bounds, Symphony No. 2 is an overture to the frightening freedom of chaos, a procession for all of the idiosyncrasies and predilections one possesses but never shares. IT is a march of the strange and for J. R. D., it is a coda to a wonderful life. I thank everyone involved in this process for I know it means the world to to those who knew him and oddly those many who just knew him in music.
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.