Volume Five, March MMXXI


CLEANSE OF LETHE Demo (Expansion Abyss)

Named for the memory-erasing river visited by Dante in Purgatorio, otherwise only scant information is available regarding this new act. Their brief debut recording offers two tracks of psyche-piercingly aggressive black metal. The production is a bit cleaner than what many contemporary adherents of the underground scene may be accustomed to as CoL trades in gaudy atmosphere for a sound that is brutal and to the point. The variance and dexterity of the drum performance is appreciated when many new projects are opting for programmed percussion. Presented in exceptionally high quality packaging, this tape is recommended for those wishing to explore stylistic territory outside current trends and fashions. -R.L.

Cleanse of Lethe <i>Demo</i>

FABLES Demo One (Red Door)

Fables’ demo represents the first new release from one of the weirdest musicians to ever grace the halls of USBM, the one known as Vereörmihi, of the now-dormant Voltaic Omen. But let’s not get caught up in the past because even fans of Voltaic Omen’s patent unpredictability couldn’t have seen Fables coming. Each of the five tracks that make up Demo One simultaneously sound like they were pored over for years but also created in manic fits of inspiration and moon sickness. These tracks run full but not long, energetic yet baroque. For all its layers of madness, mind-bending riffs, dimension-piercing solos, and, of course, those deranged King Diamond impersonator vocals, Fables’ debut is easily the most unique demo to come from the American black metal underground in years. - J. Proust

Fables <i>Demo One</i>

GRAMARYE Necroprophecy (Stygian Black Hand)

Necroprophecy is the debut offering from Minneapolis’s black metal outfit, Gramarye. From a stylistic standpoint this release stays true to the roots of the genre, as it is packed with numerous nods to the various iterations of black metal. Make no mistake, though. There is nothing derivative about this release. Instead, Gramarye carve out their own corner of the black metal underground by fusing these stylistic trends together to form their own brand of evil. Bestial incantations weave in and around a torrent of both mid- and fast-paced tempos. The riffs are masterfully crafted as searing, ferocious leads that on occasion venture into the realm of epic. As their name suggests, the overall vibe of this release is steeped in a chilling worship of esoteric and occult practice. I look forward to the future offerings from this necromantic duo. - G.H.

Gramarye <i>Necroprophecy</i>

GREENWITCH CosmoSteelBlood Trinity (Caligari Records)

Los Angeles-based quintet Greenwitch are the latest outfit to uphold Caligari’s tradition of releasing outré death metal excellence. On their debut full-length, CosmoSteelBlood Trinity, Greenwitch deliver six tracks of dynamic, but unanimously hard-hitting cosmic death metal. Musically speaking, Greenwitch sound like Autopsy paying tribute to Nocturnus’ The Key for all their straight-foward pulverizing of otherwise unorthodox song structures and unique themes. In short, CosmoSteelBlood Trinity succeeds in offering a fresh take on the old metal of death without careening and crash-landing in self-indulgent territory. Sincere, confident, brutal (especially “Celestial Tomb”) and totally weird, this tape has in abundance all the stuff that true death metal is made of. - J. Proust

Greenwitch <i>CosmoSteelBlood Trinity</i>

ISHTOC N’dema Wulf (Old Spire)

This 42-minute-long demonstration of deranged black metal and black magick ambient from “the shadowiest figures” of the GraveLight Order has flown tragically under the radar, even among those initiated into the dreadful transpirings of Old Spire. Excepting the Nigrum Mortem compilation they also released last year, Ishtoc’s sole release stands as the best tape Old Spire has done yet. Supposedly passed between parties of the Maryland-based collective, N’dema Wulf indeed plays out like a compilation of gathered material from rituals held over an indeterminate, but appreciable span of time. Tracks like crude tunnels clawed through hallowed ground, riffs that curl in on themselves infinitely and slowly like climbing smoke silhouetted against lycanthropic episodes of barreling, blasting black metal rage. Rehearsal-raw yet captured poignantly and drenched in a palpable evil, and N’dema Wulf is all the more elite for its cruel scarcity. - J. Proust

Ishtoc <i>N'dema Wulf</i>

LAMENTUM The Suffering Stature (Black Gangrene Productions)

The Suffering Stature is yet another supreme release from Black Gangrene Productions. Hailing from the frozen shadows of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lamentum’s The Suffering Stature conjures up two epic tracks of icy and depressive black metal. Of particular note is the first track, “Phase One - The Descent.” The repetitive and plodding structure of this song is both entrancing and seductive. The fervent drive of the main riff seems to crest endlessly like a perpetual wave that will never crash. The forlorn spirit of Lamentum’s unnamed member sends forth a stream of chilling howls and cries that paint a truly tortured existence. Overall, this release is an intoxicating journey through vast realms of ceaseless sorrow and unremitting despair. - G.H.

Lametum <i>The Suffering Stature</i>

MOULDERYAWN From Whence The Woods (Old Mill Artifacts)

From Whence The Woods is a musical and visual chronicle of an ill-fated, nameless soul’s perilous travel through an enchanted wood of legend, and his eventual fate in falling victim to the wood’s evils and succumbing to timeless, enchanted dreams. In sleep, this soul becomes known as Aldersop, The Wanderer of Dreams, with subsequent Moulderyawn releases dedicated to his experiences. From Whence The Woods presents six episodes of creeping, moss-laden atmospheric black metal through which grow great tendrils of intimate and sometimes whimsical dungeon synth ambiance. Arresting moments of great stillness and gloom, channeled through soporifically heavy guitars and far-off, tortured vocals wend their way over the better part of an hour which elapses as if it were one of Aldersop’s dreams itself. - N.B.

Moulderyawn <i>From Whence The Woods</i>

OLD NICK Witch Lymph/Flying Ointment (Grime Stone Records)

I know, I know, I've covered Old Nick before, but hear me out. Listening to this band on tape—yes, even with their harsh, digital sound—is exactly how it was meant to be heard. Vocalist and Grime Stone Records proprietor Abysmal Specter called Olde Nik the “political cartoon of black metal,” and that certainly rings true for these early releases. Ye Old Nikk’s wacky, almost Mark Mothersbaugh-esque take on the grumpiest genre known to music pushes the envelope in a truer way than just musical experiments; Ol’ Nicke’s furthering of black metal’s aesthetics into the cartoonish is pure postmodern bliss, and this reinventing of the wheel feels so much more radical than most black metal on the market. - J.R.

Old Nick <i>Witch Lymph/Flying Ointment</i>

OSSEMENTS Ossements (Les Fleurs du Mal Productions)

Ossement’s second self-titled full length (containing tracks III & IV) is one of 2020’s most exceptional albums. This haunting release guides the listener through two tracks of lurid and lo-fi black metal. Clocking in at just over thirty-five minutes these hypnotic passages ebb and flow with a nightmarish energy that leaves you bereft of any semblance of sanity. As you drift between somber melodies and demonic dirges, you feel as though you are wandering the dim, cerebral corridors of some twisted and psychotic mind. The genius of this release lies in how it is both avant-garde and yet thoroughly genuine. “Artistic” attempts within the black metal genre are oftentimes full of pomp and pretension, but Ossements dodges these pitfalls to provide the listener with a truly unique and dark experience. - G.H.

Ossements <i>Ossements</i>

PHARMAKEIA Ternary Curse (Amor Fati Productions)

The follow up to 2019’s revelatorily suffocating self-titled release, this ПРАВА Коллектив powerhouse stealthily erupted from the void with Ternary Curse late last year. Those already privy to ПРАВА’s faceless confederation of projects will immediately recognize its unique, cosmically oppressive style of black (verging on black/death in this case) metal, imploding on itself here with greater energy than ever before. Comparisons to projects beyond the collective eternally fall flat, so imagine the relentless warp-speed blasting and vastness of Voidsphere (who also released an excellent album in this batch) colliding with the downtuned massivity of Mahr. There are uniquely few (even amongst ПРАВА projects) tinges of melody here, or indeed any relent from the cavernous dissonance whatsoever—only the pure stifling blackness of space. - N.B.

Pharmakeia <i>Ternary Curse</i>

SMORZANDO Smrad (Self-released)

I would first like to preface this with a thank you to aQuarius Records mastermind Andee Connors, without whom my presence on this website or really any publication wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t have this tape about which I can really gush. I first read about mysterious Swiss black metal isolate Smorzando in an aQ ‘record of the week’ column (or something similar) and Andee’s description (which I have since forgotten) was so convincing that it led me to tracking down a copy and importing it from Japan shortly thereafter. The dense, what others might call ‘shoegazey’ music jangles uncomfortably and buzzes familiarly. I was immediately taken with the packaging: some sort of hard plastic clamshell that didn’t fit alongside my other tapes, which is fitting. Smrad is interesting: both unsettling and cozy at the same time. I understand the artist has quietly made a Bandcamp for his old project, which shouldn't be hard to find. - J.R.

Smorzando <i>Smrad</i>

SPEAR OF TEUTA Spear of Teuta (Esfinge de la Calavera)

Executed with such mastery it makes one wonder why this melding of styles hasn’t yet been explored more thoroughly, Spear of Teuta combines black metal and gothic post-punk with staggering elegance. Neither the metal or goth elements feel diluted or disingenuous, resulting in a true synthesis of the genres rather than cheap stylistic window dressing. The somewhat unlikely topic of thematic influence is ancient Balkan history as the artist hails from the land of Illyria (modern day Croatia). Not only totally satisfying to well-seasoned listeners of black metal, this is paradoxically a project that may appeal to newer devotees as the inherently more melodic and danceable aspects of gothic rock make for an easily digestible listen. Heartiest possible recommendation, this unification of creative ingenuity and adherence to tradition does not rear its head often enough. - R.L.

Spear of Teuta <i>Spear of Teuta</i>

TORTURER’S LOBBY Crisis of Faith Reh. (Promulgator)

Veteran of the long abandoned “dark guy hardcore” scene, Evan Dawson returns blazing forth with a new project: Torturer’s Lobby. Combining influences and elements from just about any extreme genre of music you can possibly imagine, Torturer’s Lobby puts forth an absolute hammerclaw-to-the-brain blast of intensity. Hardcore, thrash, death metal and black metal all seem to play an equal role in this quarter-hour whirlwind rehearsal recording. Seemingly a lengthy and bewildered screed against the dehumanizing horrors of modernity, Torturer’s Lobby channels their global disappointment into an arm-swinging, headbanging burst of undeniable excitement. Concludes with a very worthy Death cover. - R.L.

Torturer's Lobby <i>Crisis of Faith Reh.</i>

UNGL’UNL’RRLH’CHCHCH Ungl'unl'rrlh'chchch (Dungeon Tapes)

This was actually one of my earliest distinctly underground music discoveries. Having just gotten into drone music through the usual suspects, it was this Trollmann av Ildtoppberg-related project which pulled me southward. Now known with the “dungeon drone” tag, I wasn’t really sure what to call this when I was 14—all I knew was that this tape’s spooky, cranky, subterranean sounds appealed to me in a way music hadn’t before. When this was reissued on the then-burgeoning Dungeon Tapes label in 2014 or so, a piece of my own musical history from a decade prior found its way back to me. Fun fact: it was also this demo which, long ago, got me to read HP Lovecraft for the first time. - J.R.

Ungl'unl'rrlh'chchch <i>Ungl'unl'rrlh'chchch</i>

VORVADOSS/MAGIC FIND Moondrawn, Foul-Crescent Rapture (Attic Shrines)

January of this year saw this curious but perfectly-fitting pair reunite once again for another gem of a split (2018’s Starlit Dominions, recently repressed, is also mandatory listening). Vorvadoss’ brand of dream-like, intimate-yet-epic and completely transportive old-school fantasy DS is in its most refined form to date on the 15-minute “Drifting Through The Necrosphere.” The artist’s sparse synth selection is masterful and tasteful, extracting every last ounce of nostalgia from each instrument. What lurks on the flip side, however, is a similarly long study in abject decrepitude by Magic Find. This untitled opus demonstrates incredible contrast and cohesiveness with its split partner at every turn: intimate but in an unnerving manner, hair-raisingly muffled and distorted, evocative of strange chthonic entities slowly corrupting the listener’s mind through repeated musical messages. - N.B.

Vorvadoss/Magic Find <i>Moondrawn, Foul-Crescent Rapture</i>