This week’s reviews include releases from Birdflesh, Enragement, Exist, A Flourishing Scourge, Hollow, Necrot, Organ Dealer, Schammasch, Space Witch, Svartsyn and Walpyrgus.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Birdflesh/Organ Dealer – Split (HPGD)
Grindcore is not always the first genre you think of when you first hear Sweden and New Jersey, but Birdflesh and Organ Dealer do their very best to make you do just that. This split is full of high octane grind from start to finish. Technical aplomb is palpable throughout and once the split is over you finally have a chance to breathe.
Birdflesh have always played their style of grind with a tongue firmly in cheek, while Organ Dealer play fast and furious grind of the technical, Discordance Axis variety; their drummer Eric Schnee could be nearing Dave Witte territory soon. So if you need to whet your grind appetite, this is a faithful split that will have you wanting more.
Enragement – Burned, Barren, Bloodstained (Inverse)
Burned, Barren, Bloodstained is spruced-up Finnish death metal, a sleeker palette hiding any imperfections Enragement may have. An interesting development from this stunted release is the use of not one, not two, but three lead vocalists who grunt, growl and grate with and against each other.
Fifty minutes is way too much time in the company of this band, as the thinning songwriting starts to become inadequate before the album’s halfway mark. The conspicuous bass playing, which gets several chances to lead off songs or head into a mini-solo of its own, is the most distinguishable aspect of Burned, Barren, Bloodstained.
Exist – So True, So Bound (Prosthetic)
Exist could live up to their name by being steadfast with their prog-meets-technical death metal, but they succeed beyond that on So True, So Bound. These are musicians with experience playing with visionaries like Jeff Loomis and Paul Masvidal, and they use this to their benefit with instantly recognizable songs.
Though vocalist/guitarist Max Phelps has spent years paying tribute to Chuck Schuldiner in Death to All, this is no direct mock-up of a classic like Symbolic (though guitarist Bobby Koelble, who played on that album, makes an appearance on “To Sever the Strings”). Finely crafted singing, an innate sense of melody, and an element of danger gives So True, So Bound a seismic edge.
A Flourishing Scourge – A Flourishing Scourge (Begotten)
Recorded over the course of ten days in June 2016, A Flourishing Scourge’s self-titled first LP never lacks in reach. The album is given the leeway to pass through classically-tinged acoustic sections and symphonic wonderment, even as tempos boil within the distance.
The reach extends to the sheer volume of material the group trots out, as the record heads towards the hour mark with confidence. There’s never a dearth of musical exploration, all of which are soundly supported by a black/death metal base. It’s always a promising sign when a group sets out towards an imposing place on their debut album, as A Flourishing Scourge does here.
Hollow – Home Is Not Where The Heart Is (Self)
Home Is Not Where The Heart Is is the debut from the St. Louis metalcore band Hollow. They follow the genre template pretty closely and add in some electronic elements.
Josh Miller is a potent vocalist, delivering passionate and emotional harsh vocals. His melodic singing is effective, providing a contrast without being too slick or syrupy. They do a nice job creating atmosphere, with some tracks having a cinematic flavor. While many songs alternate the harsh and melodic vocals, there are some that keep the aggressive style throughout. Changing things up like that from time to time helps add variety. There are a few misfires, but overall it’s a promising debut.
Necrot – Blood Offerings (Tankcrimes)
After a compilation album of their demos was released last year, Oakland, Calfornia’s Necrot emerge with Blood Offerings, their full-length debut. Their lineup includes extreme metal veterans Luca Indrio (Acephalix, Vastum), Sonny Reinhardt (Saviours) and Chad Gailey (Atrament).
While their demos were good, they have taken a big step forward with Blood Offerings. The tracks are mostly in the five minute range, giving Necrot the chance to show their musical chops and songwriting range. There’s maximum groove, but they also periodically shift to dense extremity that verges on chaos before easing the throttle back. With their background, it’s not surprising, but this is a powerful and memorable death metal album.
Schammasch – The Maldorer Chants: Hermaphrodite (Prosthetic)
They released the massive 100 minute triple album Triangle last year, but the creative juices of the Swiss avant-garde band Schammasach are still flowing. The Maldorer Chants: Hermaphrodite is an EP, and moves them in a completely different direction.
It’s atmospheric with lengthy instrumental passages. It’s mellow and ambient at times, but the intensity ratchets up with urgent spoken word vocals on tracks like “Along The Road That Leads To Bedlam.” Based on the literary works that helped spawn the surrealist movement, Schammasch take the listener on a varied musical journey. Not everyone will want to go on this trip, but those who do will find some rewarding twists and turns.
Space Witch – Arcanum (HeviSike)
For their 10th band anniversary, English doom quartet Space Witch will release their second full-length record in Arcanum, a reverberating four-track deluge of asteroid-sized riffs and trip-the-dead-light-fantastic euphoria that follows up their beloved self-titled monstrosity with a more concise celestial trip, one that even adds vocals (unfortunately).
Arcanum, like its predecessor, booms and thrives when it takes its sweet, beautiful time smacking space dust off all passing Martians. The FX and electronics are again a highlight, adding a weird, almost sinister vibe to the surrounding cosmic doom. Aside from adding a lyrical narrative, the aforementioned vocals do little if anything for the album, which is a damn pity, especially considering how everything else is managed so deftly. The bookends of “Cosmonoid” and “Battle Hag” seize the day.
Svartsyn – In Death (Agonia)
Swedish wrath tyrant Ornias returns with his ninth Svartsyn album In Death, joined once again by the aptly named Hammerman on drums. Svartsyn play a ferocious whirlwind of black metal with all the classic nuances of the true dark past. Tracks like “Seven Headed Snake” and “Exile In Death” tear by relentlessly with all the scorn and bile that an album like this needs. Mid-paced tracks still pack venom in their bite with all praise going to the pure misanthropy Ornias injects into each movement.
While straightforward, its assault still decimates with sinister hits of grim guitar work spreading its vile disease throughout and incessantly bludgeoning blast beats cementing this album as one of this years most crushing.
Walpyrgus – Walpyrgus Nights (Cruz Del Sur)
Usually a band will release a few albums prior to issuing a live release. Not so with North Carolina’s Walpyrgus. They self-released two live albums over the past couple years, and are now signed with Cruz Del Sur Music for their debut studio album Walpyrgus Nights.
Made up of veterans of bands such as Twisted Tower Dire, Daylight Dies and Viper, their style is classic hard rock/metal. Jonny Aune has a power metal voice with plenty of range and vibrato, and many of the songs do lean toward the Iron Maiden side of the spectrum. Others have an ’80s arena rock style, and there’s a bit of prog in the mix as well. It’s a fun album with a throwback vibe and even a cover of the Witch Cross track “Light Of A Torch.”