Friday, April 7, 2023

Bandcamp Friday Picks [Apr 2023]

Bandcamp Fridays keep rolling, so I sifted through the avalanche of new releases that landed in my inbox to find the ones most deserving of your attention. The platform is waiving its fees for all purchases made today, so it's a great day to hand some independent artists your cash.

Steve Peacock of Ulthar is the brainchild behind Spirit Possession. Built on a love of speed and the hammer-on, their second album Of The Sign... seemingly draws from every period of black, death, and thrash metal - with the obvious exception of the extremely untrve and unloved Nineties groove/nu era.

Oslo's Tilintetgjort have an intriguing take on True Norsk Black Metal. Their debut In Death I Shall Arise is somehow punky, proggy, and kvlt all at once - rejecting black metal's self-imposed limitations while making good use of its back-to-basics simplicity and basement recording aesthetic.

A solo project from Genovese multi-instrumentalist (and Brucia Records owner) Giorgio Barroccu, Derhead approaches black metal with an experimental mindset. Still, for all its avant sensibilities, the six songs on The Grey Zone Phobia never stray from black metal's core tenets of misanthropy, nihilism, and total darkness.

Harboured are definitely not one for the kvlt kids. The self-titled debut is largely a post and prog metal affair, but the band (formed by members of Allegaeon and Vimana) can shred and blast effortlessly when it suits them.

L.A.'s Kommand want all us Nineties kids to know how wrong we were for letting death metal grow up. With their sophomore album Death Age, the L.A. band's love for Bolt Thrower and early Finnish death metal continues unabated while their songwriting and performance chops continue to grow.

Milan's Vision Deprived may have single-handedly restored my faith that death metal can still move somewhere other than just backward. Tight, fast, and unpredictable, Self Elevating, Deep Inside The Void is a remarkably assured and accomplished debut, demonstrating a love for the genre's history and brutality (with a particular fondness for the mathy proclivities of later Pestilence), as well as the skill and focus it takes to master it. This is a band to keep an eye on.

Continuing what Chuck Schuldiner started with the later Death albums is very much the raison d'être for Miscreance. The Venetian band's debut Convergence sounds like the sequel to Individual Thought Patterns (apologies to Gruesome), with plenty of nods to Coroner, Atheist and Cynic so you get your money's worth of proggy Nineties metal. These days, fret-burning is more kvlt than church burning.

Oakland's Larvae are another example of the Bay Area scene's desire to excavate and recreate the early Nineties. Their second album Entitled To Death scrapes the excess HM-2 off their previous EP, but retains a love for classic Swedish death metal riffs, which go as well with the band's Peaceville-style death/doom as chocolate does with peanut butter.

Featuring death metal super producer Greg Wilkinson in its line-up, Deathgrave has Autopsy's filthy DNA all over them - unsurprising, since Wilkinson is now a member of that band as well. But this is no "worship" act; to the contrary, their second full-length It's Only Midnight takes a bat to the deathgrind formula and reassembles it with odd time signatures and earplitting dissonance worthy of an AmRep band.

Polish grinders Straight Hate know that you can't make a memorable grindcore album with speed alone. Their third album Slaves Of Falseness uses speed judiciously, keeps the listener guessing with regular tempo shifts, and is embiggened by a gnarly guitar tone straight outta Sunlight Studios.

Make sure you have some extra strength Ritalin before engaging with the brain-twisting tech grind/mathcore of Cave Moth. With 8 songs that last about as many minutes (and not a dull or repetitive moment among them), Paralytic Love packs a whole lot of fretburning and kit abuse into its ADHD onslaught.

Legends in their own way, Swedish oddballs Birdflesh have been mainstays of the grindcore scene for decades. Their umpteenth release/sixth full-length album Sickness In The North is what fans have come to expect - fast, irreverent, and as inclined to assimilate the tropes of metal's various subgenres as it is to poke fun at them.

I'd love to see North Carolina's Mesmur do a split release with the similarly named, equally slow Portland OR project Mizmor, if only for the "Who's on first" type confusion it would elicit. The NC band's fourth release Chthonic layers icey synths over glacial tempos and ominous chords, managing to sound both majestic and tragic at the same time.

The appeal of Russian trio Megalith Levitation is in their unvarnished honesty. Their third album Obscure Fire doesn't waste time fine-tuning its rumbling psychedelic doom, and seethes with the unbridled energy of a band that loves to play live and has no use for the pedantic micro-managing of click tracks and DAWs.

Three albums into their career, Sardinian trio 1782 are in a rut that they're happy to be stuck in. Clamor Luciferi shows the band is as uninterested in deviating from their brand of slow and fuzzy doom as vocalist Marco Nieddu is in varying his plaintive wail.

Sharp-eyed/eared readers will remember Argentenian group The Crooked Whispers from their inclusion on past DoC mixtapes. Their second album Funeral Blues mostly sticks to a template of classic doom, classed up with organs and some NWOBHM flourishes. Anthony Gaglia's croaking vocals are something of an acquired taste, but grow on you over time.

Acid King are overlooked veterans in the world of stoner metal, despite having been around since the mid-Nineties. Their surprisingly heavy fifth album Beyond Vision pulls the tempos back on their fuzzy riffs until they reach Dope(smoker)/(throne) levels of droning doom, with Lori Steinberg's doleful vocals providing a strong shoegazing element to the songs.

Sermon is a British outfit that has drummer James Stewart (previously with Vader and Decapitated) joining the project's mysterious founder/vocalist, who is referred to only as Him. Their second album Of Golden Verse seems destined to put the band on the map; its hooky riffs and Him's soaring vocals evoke bands like Tool, Katatonia, and Opeth that similarly found a balance between heavy, progressive, and accessible.

With their first full-length release, Boston-area apocalyptic folk project The Infinity Ring have created a work of sublime melancholy. Nemesis & Nativity is built on a love of minimalism, repetition, and barre chords that come crashing down like polar ice sheets; against that austere backdrop, the band layers forlorn strings and folky chanting.

Even Hell Has Its Heroes, the long-awaited documentary about Earth, finally premiered this past March in Copenhagen; among the film's surprises is that the band (with some of their many longtime collaborators, like Lori Goldston and Mell Dettmer) recorded a custom soundtrack for it. Along with a few re-recordings of old favourites are new compositions, all done in the band's twangy-yet-sombre style of drone metal. Earth's doomy instrumentals always felt like a soundtrack to an epic tale of struggle, loss and triumph - so it's only appropriate that they created the score to their own.