Friday, December 24, 2021

Bandcamp Picks: 2021 Stocking Stuffer Edition

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

DoC faves Blattaria clearly didn't spend their pandemic time watching Tiger King and baking bread. They Seek Power, the roach-obsessed project's latest EP, is another dose of nighmarish psychedelia that traverses the realms of death, black, and grind. A unique vision of underground music's six-legged future.

Since the splintering of the Fallen Empire Records roster, it's been business as usual for Blattaria's former label mates in the clandestine Prava Kollektiv. Arkhtinn's latest 2-song opus, 二度目の災害 ("The Second Disaster", according to Google Translate) is 40 minutes of ambient black metal that evokes the chaos and grandeur of Emperor's Nightside opus, which elevated the genre beyond the purview of role-playing teenage satanists.

Another atmospheric black metal project from The Kollektiv, Voidsphere, issued its own two song EP to help you endure/enjoy the winter months. As was the case with its four preceding albums, To Overtake | To Overcome is divided into two epic 20 minute tracks, each one bringing the listener closer to understanding "The Void" (the project's stated raison d'être).

The most notworthy debut I heard this year came from Brazil's Fossilization. On He Whose Name Was Long Forgotten, the duo draw from their time in doom metal band Jupiterian to create death metal that's rich in atmosphere but doesn't forsake the almighty blastbeat.

There's little I can tell you about the mysterious individuals who call themselves Coffin Breath, except that they like their metal slow, simple, and old school. Over the course of its two song, 20 minute run time, The Tenebrous Mist makes the most of its restrained tempos and sinister riffing, conjuring the spectre of Samael's seminal early albums.

Phrenelith represent a surging Danish scene that's often overshadowed by its Northern neighbours. Their latest album, Chimaera, showcases the band's slick assemblage of twisted riffs and chaotic blasts, as well as their superior understanding of pacing and tempo. The band have also made the rest of their impressive discography available as "NYP" downloads.

When Sepultura played Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1992, they became one of the first prominent metal bands to come to South East Asia; as a result, they've had an outsized influence on the region ever since. Yogyakarta's Exhumation wear that influence proudly, and their sophomore album Opus Death, is a barrage of no-nonsense death/thrash that would have been right at home in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte circa 1990. Originally released in 2014 by a small Indonesian label, Transylvanian Tapes recently made the album available worldwide.

Like Thaw and Blaze of Perdition, Krakow's Dormant Ordeal represent the evolution of the Polish death/black metal sound. The Grand Scheme of Things doesn't shy away from blasting and tendonitis-inducing shredding, but fleshes out its speed with unorthodox rhythms, progressive melodies and atonal riffs. Their previous albums are also available as "NYP" downloads, and well worth checking out.

A new release from Spain's Bile Noire label (which is also responsible for the Délirant and Negativa projects), the debut album from Hässlig is sandpaper for your ears. Guillotine revisits black metal's abrasive punk/thrash roots, with little regard for melody, atmosphere, or production values. I can remember a time when most black metal sounded like this.

There's little info to be found about (presumable) one man band Koldovstvo, but the project's place on the Extraconscious Records/ Entropic Recordings roster (run by Mare Cognitum's Jacob Buczarski) should be enough to spark the interest of atmospheric black metal aficionados. The production on Ни царя, ни бога recalls the proto-blackgaze ambiguity of early Satyricon, while the folky rhythms and melodies further the comparison.

Lhaäd are also part of the Entropic/Extraconscious family. Formed by Filip Dupont (aka "Lykormas", a past and present member of about a dozen bands in the Belgian scene), the project's debut offering Below layers cosmic keyboards over aggressive riffing, giving the listener the best of the "progressive" and "black metal" worlds.

Matsunaga Was Right pay tribute to Japanese pro wrestling legend, Mitsuhiro Matsunaga, whose "hardcore" matches incorporated barbed wire, nails, and (in one infamous instance) piranhas. Kings of the Deathmatch flies off the top rope with 16 tracks of drum machine grind in almost half as many minutes, possibly allaying any ANb withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing.

I have immense faith in Nerve Altar for their ability to pick the best grindcore and power violence bands emerging from the underground; I have them to thank for introducing me to Nashville's Bled To Submission. Their latest EP, Bury Them in the Graves They Dug For You, doesn't mess around with its abrasive mix of sludge, noise, and grind, putting the "ow" back in "power violence".

The borders between doom, drone, and ambient music have long been fluid, as DoC friends Nadja demonstrated over their long career. On their recent split with Disrotted, the duo blur those lines even further, with guitars that could be mistaken for either synths or background noise at a busy manufacturing plant, along with vocals that emerge from the fuzz, reverberate briefly, then disappear into the mix. On their end, Chicago's Disrotted stretch their feedback-riddled sludge riffs to the point of disintegration, letting their insistance on repetition and minimalism take the listener into a realm that's equal parts meditation and provocation.

Prolific multi-instrumetalist Déhà (also of the black metal supergroup Acathexis) has had a productive 2021, having released no less than 16 EPs of studio and live/improvised material. The 43 minute Ave Maria II is a sequel to a 2011 album from Deha's atmospheric/experimental doom metal project, Yhdarl. Where the original composition emerged slowly from eerie dischordance before bombarding the listener with grim chords, its successor is an appreciably more grandiose affair, wasting little time in unleashing Déhà's oppressive guitar before dialing back down to operatic vocals; before long, the two are integrated, and the album builds, deflates, and rebuilds from those incongruous elements. If nothing else, Ave Maria II is a masterclass in composition and dynamics, exemplifying the use of tension and release to pull the listener in.

Boston's Moon Machine play prog rock in the vein of more recent additions to the progressive canon like Opeth, Cynic, and Cave In. But the trio's eponymous debut doesn't shy away from the genre's history with flutes and moog keyboards, making the album a trippy, heavy, and unpredictable listen.

Florida's Dragbody were early adherents of the "chaotic hardcore" style, and their music was strongly reminiscent of the mighty Deadguy. They released a great album (Flip The Killswitch) as well as a few enjoyable EPs, but despite being early adopters of a soon-to-be-inescapable sound, they never accrued the same levels of interest as their peers in the Northeastern US. Their entire discography is now available on Bandcamp for the benefit of completists, as well as anyone who's interested in seeing a snapshot of the metal/hardcore/noise rock hybridization movement before it became overrun by Converge plagiarists.