Thursday, December 24, 2020

Bandcamp Picks: 2020 Stocking Stuffer Edition

[All releases were available as "name your price" downloads at the time of posting.]

One of the most original bands to emerge from the American underground, solo project Blattaria has released three albums in as many years and shows no signs of slowing down. Dream, Dwell, Die marries the projects uniquely atonal, skittering riffing style to equeally umpredictable drum parts, creating a disorienting swirl of an album that owes as much to jazz as it does to grindcore. Imagine if Greg Ginn started a death metal band, then named it after roaches instead of roach spray.

A collaboration between Chaos Moon's Alex Poole of and Wormlust's Dagur Gíslason (who are also the men behind the Mystískaos label), Skaphe expands the dissonant ouevre of its creators. The third full-length under this particular name, Skáphe³ is a paranoia-inducing take on psychedelic black metal - a world apart from the comparitive calming "Black Floyd" of Arcturus.

Not everything from Mystískaos is avant or psychedelic weirdness - Vonlaus sound like they want nothing more than to rock out. Following up their eponymous demo, Röð slæmra ákvarðana hammers dissonant chords into midpaced stomp and catchy hooks, a la Craft or fellow Icelanders Naðra.

Serpent Column are an odd fit for the Mystískaos family, even if they are fellow Fallen Empire Records alumni. On Kathodos, the chaotic hardcore of Converge and Orchid is given a black/thrash make-over; the discordance is entirely at home with their labelmates, with twangy guitars serving as a vestigial tail of their punkier roots.

I had barely gotten through the slew of new Mystiskaos releases when a batch of albums were releaased by The Prava Kollektiv (another Fallen Empire splinter sect).

Possibly the leaast accessible of the Kollective, the recordings of HWWAUOCH have more in common with noise artists than their black/death peers. As its title suggests, their third album Protest Against Sanity is a direct assault on the senses, with unsettling melodies and mechanical noises buried under impenetrable layers of overdriven guitars.

Voidsphere are nothing if not consistent. Like its predecessors, their fourth paean to the void, To Sense | To Perceive contains two twenty minute tracks, haunting melodies woven through the chaos. Void - 4, Mankind - 0.

While most of the bands that emerge from the PK fold can be described as "avant garde" or "atmospheric", Pharmakeia employs very little of either. Ternary Curse, their second album, verges on war metal with its speed and stubborn refusal of melody. Single-minded in its pursuit of total darkness.

The latest release from Arkhtinn sees the Prava mainstay sharing space (no pun intended) with American cosmic black metal entity Starless Domain. Arkhtinn's contribution to the split, "Astrofobia", employs John Carpenter-esque synths and four on the floor beats, adding some new tools to Arkhtinn's usual style of atmospheric black metal. On their end, Starless Domain keep their black metal simple with minimalist melodies and hypnotic repetition (and a looped shriek that, frankly, quickly gets tiresome).

Following up the overpowering Soulmare EPs, the second Mahr album sees the project returning to the relative normalcy (for them at least) of 10 minute songs. The aptly titled Maelstrom is a throwback to a time when death and black metal were an impressionistic experience - good luck trying to identify and isolate riffs or lyrics in this reverb-heavy cacophony. But if you're looking to relive the worst fever-drenched drug trip of your life, jump right in.

Not affiliated with the Fallen Empire, Mystískaos, or Prava Kollektiv camps (as far as I know), German project Imperceptum nonetheless shares many similarities - namely, a fondness for atmosphere, dissonance, and songs that stretch into infinity. At its fastest, Entity of Undead Stars (the project's seventh release in four years) replicates the lo-fi obnoxiousness of a second wave rehearsal demo, complete with cymbals dominating the mix, and guitars that are more suggested than recorded. But when the songs slow down to a crawl, the project really comes into its own, emulating the austere death/doom/drone of Ego Depths and Sol.

Yet another project from Déhà (of Slow and DoC friends Acathexis), Silver Knife sees the prolific Belgian multi-instrumentalist collaborating with members of the clandestine Dutch black metal collective Haeresis Noviomagi. As could be expected from the pairing, UNYIELDING / UNSEEING is an enjoyable melodic shoegazing black metal, with the occasional forlorn classical guitar interlude breaking up the icy chord progressions.

Formed by two members of Italian sludge band Grime, Affliction Vector goes to the opposite extreme. The duo's 5 song debut Death Comes Supreme is a storming slice of black/death/thrash, with some nice ride cymbal work guiding the chaos.

I don't think anyone made doom drone as heavy (or as well) as New Zealand's Black Boned Angel. BBA's mainman Campbell Kneale has made a number of releases available for free on his Bandcamp page, including the albums The Endless Coming Into Life and Bliss and Void Inseparable, as well as his collaboration with Nadja. Hours of soul crushing fun.