Thursday, November 30, 2023

Bandcamp Friday Picks [Dec 2023]

It's the last Bandcamp Friday of 2023. Until Chris Grigg's new platform Ampwall is off and running, this is still the best way to support independent artists and labels. Here are some suggestions.

Cruciamentum is one of the more influential bands to emerge from the old school death metal revival, and has become a standard-bearer for the less technical and more atmospheric side of the genre. Their long-awaited second album Obsidian Refractions will please any long-time fan - even if the 8 year lag since their debut means that their more casual fans will have aged out of the scene by now.

For almost two decades, NECRONEMESIS have represented the oft-overlooked death metal scene in Puerto Rico. Following up their Rick Rozz-assisted first full-length, their latest release is the five song EP Warfield Forever, which encapsulates the band's love for old school death/thrash and classic horror films.

Melbourne's Revulsed add interesting wrinkles to a well-travelled sound. Though their sophomore album Cerebral Contamination is for the most part pure death metal in a (mostly) American way, the Aussies inject unorthodox scales and sudden tempo shifts to keep the brutality interesting.

EMPIRES OF EUPHRATES features former Dying Fetus drummer Kevin Talley and vocalist Vince Matthews. Despite lyrically treading through Pharoah Sanders territory, their debut EP Echoes Of Ancient Past doesn't resemble Nile as much as Talley's other former band, Misery Index - albeit more focused on mid-paced riffs, and with a prediliction for synth intros and some overly exuberant classic metal leads.

Italy's Feral Forms have certainly made a statement with their vicious debut EP. Premalignant is an unrepentantly caustic and noisey blend of black, death, and grind - with so much feedback included on the recording, you'll think a tea kettle was the band's fifth member.

Convocation are part of a proud Finnish tradition of pushing the limits on how slow you can go. With its maudlin string/choral accompaniment, glacial tempos, and ultra-guttural vocals, their third album No Dawn For The Caliginous Night is as good a funeral doom album as you'll hear. But if you're listening to it in one sitting, cancel all other plans.

Spanish duo TodoMal have the ingredients to be a breakout success. Progressive, atmospheric, but with a knack for crafting a catchy hook, their second album A Greater Good features well-crafted songs and legitimately good singing. Plus, how can you go wrong with a song called "Antichrist of Love"?

Nyrst hail from the hotbed that is the Icelandic black metal scene (and I mean that literally - Reykjavik is near several active volcanoes). Their second album Völ sees the band layering tremolo guitars and anguished vocals over mid-paced tempos, atmospheric and epic.

Fellow Icelanders Helfró combine black, death and thrash to come up with their own aggressive take on svartmetal. The duo's sophomore full-length Tálgröf combines a high level of musicianship with blistering speed and progressive song arrangements, rivalling the best black metal albums of the Nineties in scope and ambition.

Newcomers Domhain are a band that all fans of progressive and avant metal should remember in the years to come. The Dublin ensemble's excellent three song debut Nimue channels prime Tchort by combining black metal, prog, and neo-classical into an entrancing half hour that will stimulate your higher brain functions (or maybe just provide a suitable soundtrack to getting high).

Void is the brainchild of London-based multi-instrumentalist Matt Jarman, who has long combined black metal sensibilities with a progressive mindset. The genre-phobic work of Dodheimsgard and Arcturus are probably the closest kin to Jadjow, which demonstrates that black metal can be technical even as it loosens itself from restrictions like shrieking vocals and blastbeats.

I can't think of a description that would prepare you for Montreal's perfectly-named Disorientation. On their three-song EP Survival Mode, the duo's avant/prog/metal freakouts provide a suitably unpredictable backdrop for vocalist/oboist/English Horn player Marie-Claude Fleury to shriek, wail, and shout over. Somewhere, Mike Patton is swooning.

Just because Bandcamp Fridays benefit independent musicians and labels doesn't mean they can't in turn use it to benefit someone else. Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings has released the 30 song Diadhánach compilation as a fundraiser for for the Heartstone Animal Sanctuary. Among the contributers are DoC friends Burial and Code, and other rising stars of the UK's underground death/black scene. Black hearts bleed too.