Friday, May 5, 2023

Bandcamp Friday Picks [May 2023]

Since today will be the last Bandcamp Friday until August, try to help out some independent artists by buying either an album or some merch. Here are some recent releases that are eroding my already compromised hearing.

If you've been visiting this site for any period of time, you'll know the special place I have in my heart for Brazilian death metal. Grave Desecrator are a more recent addition to that gloriously bestial history, but they're no less feral and unrelenting than the legends that come before them. Immundissime Spiritus is the fourth in a line of fast, unrelenting, and blasphemous albums; and as a long time fan, I'm beyond satisfied. Horns up, crosses down.

On the surface, there doesn't seem to be much that separates Liquid Flesh from any number of bands that surfaced in the wake of old school death metal's newfound popularity. But listen closely to the French band's third album, and it becomes clear that their self-described "melting death metal" is more than just an excuse to lift sections from their favourite Carcass and Pestilence albums; rather, Dolores displays a musical ability, a knack for songcraft, and a willingness to take risks that separates the band from most of their peers. Not sure what to make of the strange chirping that periodically pops up throughout, but it definitely makes the album unique.

As their countrymen Decapitated did almost 20 years ago, Godslut update the classic thrashy Polish metal style with djenty grooves and a modern production. On their debut album Procreation Of God, blast meets groove head on in a way that doesn't sound contrived or schizophrenic - though, to be fair, the blueprint they're faithfully following has been proven to be successful.

Denver's Cronos Compulsion are wise not to get too stuck in any particular sub-genre or "worship" category. Malicious Regression, their 5 track debut, is utterly guttural, mid-paced Nineties death that stands at the border of slam without going full mosh-bro.

Vomitory never quite fit in with what was happening other parts of Sweden; being neither particularly melodic or sounding like Entombed. All Heads Are Gonna Roll, their reunion album (after calling quits a decade ago), shows why the band deserved more credit for their mix of death, proto-black, and grindcore than they received the first time around.

Lunar Chamber are another addition the the sub-sub-genre of progressive death metal that I like to call "yoga metal" (see also: Inanimate Existence and Cynic). Their debut Shambhallic Vibrations is an ambitious progressive and technical opus, but for all its new agey synths and noodly fretless bass, and spoken word new aginess that never loses sight of the fact that the best death metal is fast and brutal.

Ascended Dead will take you through a tour of Seven Churches on their way to worship at an Altar of Madness. Their second album Evenfall of the Apocalypse is a stellar example of the chaotic blend of death/black/thrash that's usually paired with a bullet belt.

With their seventh album, Tokyo's Defiled have created one of the more confounding and idiosyncratic death metal albums I've heard in recent years. The Highest Level will batter your senses with its evershifting rhythms, over-stimulated drum performance, and some truly painful sounding yowling. I'm not going to pretend I understand what's going on here - but as someone who's constantly wishing metal bands would take more chances, I'm glad this mindfuck of an album exists.

If San Jose's Spinebreaker have some kind of background as finger-pointing, spin-kicking hardcore kids, it's not apparent to me - they sound as well-versed in the tropes of Nineties death metal as any other band that emerged from the Bay Area in the last decade. Likewise, there's scant evidence of there being three guitarists on their second album Cavern of Inoculated Cognition, which keeps the fretboard histrionics to a minimum, and puts all its faith in the power of a good, hooky riff (of which there are plenty).

Part of the mysterious dutch collective known as Haeresis Noviomagi (who are also involved in Lubbert Das, Turia, and Iskandr), SOLAR TEMPLE's last release Fertile Descent was one of my favourite black metal releases of the last five years. The duo's latest album The Great Star Above Provides sees them shedding most of the "kvlt" aspects of their sound, while still employing repetition and atmosphere that made them so intriguing. They may have more in common with the kraut and space rockers of the Seventies than with the black metal of the Nineties, but the iconoclastic spirit of both eras remains.

What happens to our bodies after we die and are laid to rest are of severe interest to Muskeg Charnel. But while these themes may sound more in line with an old school death/grind band, Decomposition Part 3: Rigor Mortis is a fairly straightforward USBM album - albeit the kind with more headbanging and less shoegazing.

A decade is a long time to go without releasing new music; though perhaps when you name your band The End Of Six Thousand Years, you think of time in a different way. Featuring three new songs and a Today Is The Day cover, the simply titled EP 2023 has a decidedly "core-ish" flavour to it, bringing in shades of crust and screamo to a second wave black metal.

UMBILICHAOS is a long-running project from the Brazilian multi-instrumentalist known as Anna Chaos, who utilizes a drum machine and plays all the instruments on the recordings. As can be expected, the combination of dragging tempos, crushing guitars, numbing repetition and programmed drums on Mourning Carnivals From Now On brings to mind classic Godflesh; as does the production, and Anna's extremely Broadrick-ish roar. The only fault I've ever found with the Pure album is that Godflesh only made one; so I appreciate Anna's attempt to ameliorate that imbalance.

Points to Ugly (who count Brandon Hayden of Endorphins Lost in its line-up) for unpredictablity. On their second album Autograph, the Arizona-based outfit goes out of its way to be anything but another sludge album by utilizing spoken word passages, clean vocals, synths, noise, and Neubauten-esque percussion - all the while keeping their feet planted in the realm of slow, punishing metal.

Norwegian ensemble Seven Impale may be my new favourite prog rock band. Summit, their third album (and first after a long hiatus), is surprisingly heavy and has plenty of nods to classic King Crimson: Unpredictable tempo shifts, confounding riffs and unabashed saxophone/keyboard flexing. Maybe it's a sign that I've reached the final form of an insufferable music nerd/snob; but this hits me in all the ways that the average metal album rarely does anymore.

Following up their collaborative release with The Cosmic Dead, DoC friends GIÖBIA ride the Winds of Hawk into their sixth full-length. Acid Disorder is a shoegazing, psychedelic opus that sees keyboardist Melissa and guitarist Bazu sharing vocal duties, and makes retro synths an integral component of the band's spacey sound.

As part of my mission to cover more noise/experimental/drone on this site, I present Danish multi-instrumentalist Trine Paaschburg and her dark ambient project Mouth Wound. Nothing Will Belong To Us runs Paaschburg's forlorn vocals and screams through various effects, and then layers them against a backdrop of droning feedback, buzzing noise, and anxiety-inducing soundscapes. Not bedtime listening, unless you're The Man From Another Place.