Venom Prison – Samsara
Although it is all to easy to become somewhat over-enthused when a new band emerges with such box-fresh conviction, the zeitgeist-defining heaviness that Venom Prison bring to the table unquestionably deserves any amount of hype afforded to them. Impressing across the board with the unhallowed onslaught of their debut LP Animus and their bone pulverising onstage power, these homegrown brutes always looked to be something beyond their underground peers, steering new fans towards the delights of blood-caked extremity whilst gleefully stoving in the patriarchal skull of death metal’s traditionally misogynistic underbelly. Labelled as ‘the next big thing’ they may be, yet Venom Prison could not sound any less interested in cross-over success, their remarkable sophomore effort Samsara attacking like the aural equivalent of a spree killer plunging their rusty scissors into every exposed throat within reach.
Squarely and unflinchingly a death metal record, the quintet eschew any contemporary sheen and modern polish in favour of an unhinged, stomach-churning sonic ethos that owes more to Dying Fetus or Suffocation than any of the over-precise new-breed, as the likes of furious opener ‘Matriphagy’ or the a twisted, multi-limbed ‘Implementing The Metaphysics Of Morals’ will attest to. Indeed, the sustained intensity of Samsara is staggering, Larissa Stupar’s piercing shrieks and thunderous lows seeped in a new-found vitriol whilst her band-mates churn out a boundless barrage of the mutantly complex and rhythmically destructive, with the album playing out in a series of hellish, veering leaps and taking in everything from Cryptopsy‘s fleet-footed deformity to Immolation at their darkest.
There is little denying that Samsara is significantly less accessible than Animus. By turns sickeningly technical and clinically savage, this is the sound of a young band not only vaulting stridently over any expectations and fulfilling their potential, but delving into the scabby, pulsating heart of death metal’s immortal essence and carving their name into its beating flesh. A smouldering monstrosity of a record.
Samsara is out now on Prosthetic Records. Purchase here.
Words: Tony Bliss
11PARANOIAS – Asterismal
London based psych-noise-doom trio 11PARANOIAS certainly push the boat out on their fifth and most recent release Asterismal. The group’s songwriting process thus far has usually consisted of recording their releases in one jam session – they decided to take a different approach to Asterismal, formulating tracks in a more premeditated manner, which lends excellently to the final product.
The record sees the band wade through long, droney and almost trance-inducing passages, yet Asterismal also shows that they are further progressing their hefty sonic presence, significantly improving in both writing and production sense. Of the eight tracks featured on the record, only two fall short of six minutes – the single, ‘Bloodless Crush’, alongside the prelude to the nine-minute epic that is ‘Slow Moon’. 11PARANOIAS have always shown their prowess with tracks of a longer nature. They allow the fuzz and distortion of guitar and bass to breathe and take listeners on a dark and abrasive journey, glued together by instances of rolling, pummelling drum work and vocals that intrigue and unsettle.
Standouts include ‘Quantitative Immortalities’ and the aforementioned ‘Slow Moon’, both see wailing guitars layered amongst the lamented vocals, resulting in a unique, slow, yet dynamic wall of sound. Not to mention closer ‘Acoustic Mirror’, a 25-minute two-parter that envelopes their distressing and wavy soundscape into an eventual barrage of pure dread. With Asterismal, the group have excelled in delivering an album that not only tops previous releases but also progresses the doom genre into more experimental territory.
Asterismal is out now on Ritual Productions. Purchase here.
Words: Ash Edmonds
Deafkids – Metaprogramação
Metaprogramação is the psychedelic noise-punk album you didn’t know you needed in your life. The third record from Brazil’s Deafkids is a rampage of tribal drumming, noise manipulation, ferocious guitars, and damaged vocals. And yet, as overwhelming as it is, there’s something about Metaprogramação that tends towards the joyous rather than the hostile; sure, it’s a difficult listen, but there’s something primal and fundamentally human about it – a casting off of chains; a stand again depersonalisation; a rejection of control. Tracks merge together, a flowing of ideas and momentum that transcends boundaries, all in service to the whole – as if the album were one living organism rather than separate parts. It’s one hell of a ride.
It would be easy to lapse into the hyperbolic when talking about Metaprogramação – about how life-affirming it is in its energy, how it stands as a sonic monument of defiance, and how it makes 99% of your record collection seem depressingly formulaic and stale – and such statements would be accurate. Though it might bring to mind the likes of L.O.T.I.O.N., Full Of Hell‘s more noise-drenched moments, and a host of raw punk bands, what Deafkids have created here feels unique. It’s far from an easy listen, but it’s a vital one. Get on this.
Metaprogramação is out now on Neurot Recordings. Purchase here.
Words: Stuart Wain
Grey Aura – 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd
Imagine a universe in which the defining black metal spirit was not drawn from the orthodoxy of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, or the monochrome of Transilvanian Hunger; but instead came from the outsider spirit of The Linear Scaffold or even 666 International. Such is the nature of 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd from Grey Aura. Based upon a novel by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ruben Wijlacker, on this second demo released in the run-up to their new album the Dutch trio have crafted a record steeped in Parisian decadence and madness, including professionally voice-acted segments that carry the narrative along. The songs at once both embrace and reject black metal convention, being rooted in the hallmarks of the genre whilst simultaneously twisting them into new, uncomfortable shapes.
As with fellow Dutch band Trezij de Horde, there’s more than a hint of post-hardcore here too, with the mid-section of ‘De Drenkeling’ in particular recalling the spirit of the more experimental bands of the Level Plane Records roster as much as it does experimental black metal – the movement around the 2:15 mark could have been taken from an Amanda Woodward record (to be clear, this is a Very Good Thing). As this suggests, 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd is a record that plays by no rules but its own, unconcerned with fitting into any particular mould. Grey Aura are pursuing their own unique vision, and the results are superb.
2: De Bezwijkende Deugd is out now on Tartarus Records. Purchase here.
Words: Stuart Wain
Fen – Stone And Sea
UK black metal trio Fen release this 20-minute EP, which was actually recorded back in 2015, before their magnificent 2017 opus, Winter. Stone And Sea showcases a point where Fen were dipping their feet even deeper into the realms of post-black metal, continuing their progression in sound. Opener and highlight ‘Tides Of Glass’ features some clean singing and melodic, shoegazy guitar, perhaps taking inspiration from Alcest, bar the ferociously heavy doomy section towards the end of the song. The title-track meanwhile acts as a folky, acoustic instrumental bridge into the gripping finale, ‘The Last Gravestone’, with riveting, pounding drums and a whiff of post-metal creeping through, perhaps reminiscent of Pelican.
Releasing this EP in 2019 doesn’t quite make sense in the pantheon of their discography. Neither the production or the scope of these compositions quite compare to their massive discography highlight, Winter, which really captures Fen at their most ambitious, boasting multi-faceted tracks averaging at fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, Stone And Sea is a satisfying release in its own right. Let’s hope it acts as a stop-gap release to lead into the next full-length album from these consistently underrated stars of the modern black metal landscape.
Stone & Sea is out now on Eisenwald.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Mystifier – Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia
Underground veterans will be familiar with the ornate extreme metal mastery of Mystifier, the Brazilian occultists garnering a fiercely dedicated fanbase with shards of black metal brilliance such as 1992 debut Wicca and the subterranean masterstroke Göetia just twelve months later. Re-emerging after an eighteen year gap, Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia evokes the spirit of their early nineties hey-day whilst reveling in a host of contemporary influences and making for a roiling cauldron of sonic evil.
Despite its occasionally ponderous pace, the record so often offers a touch of invention and dynamic free-wheeling amidst the primitive bludgeoning that any shortcomings are swiftly forgotten. Be it in the Krisiun-meets-funeral doom brutality of ‘Al Nakba (666 Days Of War)’, ‘Thanatopraxy’s putrid Autopsy/Obituary grooves or the grim allure of death-thrasher ‘Akhenaton (Son Mighty Sun)’, there’s an undercurrent of infernal wrongness and devilish dissonance. And Mercyful Fate-style textures and fiendish keys mean Mystifier sound not only as downright evil as they did thirty years ago, but also thoroughly tuned in to the pulsing diversity of the modern underground. A triumphant return.
Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia is out now on Season of Mist Underground Activists. Purchase here.
Words: Tony Bliss
Phobonoid – La Caduta Di Phobos
For the uninitiated, cosmic black metal could be described as the fruit of a happy union between symphonic black and industrial via a sci-fi surrogate, and with established acts such as Mesarthim and Darkspace under its sympathetic aegis, Milan’s Avantgarde is among those leading the flotilla. Adding to the label’s already-impressive output so far this year, one-man cosmo-black concept act Phobonoid now sets off on his sophomore full-length voyage with La Caduta Di Phobos (“The Fall of Phobos”).
After escaping Mars’s doomed larger satellite – ultimately destined for collision with its parent – this genre-warping experiment sees our hero embarking on an essentially vain quest for meaning spanning thousands of light years. Most of the tracks are named after exoplanets and act as vignettes orbiting the philosophical notion of “eternal return” – that in an infinite universe of finite things, the same events must re-occur.
Fittingly for an album themed around a concept Nietzsche called “the greatest burden,” the sound here is unrelentingly claustrophobic, pounding with death-doom riffing underpinned by cold, experimental drums while, from somewhere deep below the surface, gargling vocals emanate. Unlike brighter-sounding cosmic acts, La Caduta doesn’t trip the light synthtastic in any way, being more of a piece with particle physics-based project Strigae, or industrial doom namebuddies P.H.O.B.O.S. If melody is a storybearer, its sparsity can be used to evoke the sense of futility and circularity, which Phobonoid drive home by bringing us back to where we were by the end of the album. A standout release from a stellar month.
La Caduta Di Phobos is out now on Avantgarde Music. Purchase here.
Words: Jordan Summers Young
Suplington – After Life
There’s a certain point in a music producer’s life when they just want you to hear their synths. They work very, very hard on them and it’s about bloody time you all fucking appreciated them. Sod the drums, sod the standard structure, movements and gestures galore as it all fractally breaks down into the ambient.
Suplington‘s new release is a plethora of synthesized sound sculptures punctuated with pleasantly jarring bells heralding straight from a gamelan orchestra (GCSE music was a strange and beautiful place for those who remember). ‘Chimerical Recital’ (what a name) raises the intensity to the precipice of the uncomfortable, a technique that acts as an always welcome mirror to the quiet, near oriental feeling to much of the rest of the album.
This is one for lovers of found sounds and foley work, mixing in the organic with the synthetic to create a hybridized harmonic soundscape that’s the aural equivalent of walking through a zen garden. Ambient has always had a high brow feel to it as well, so if any of your mates question it you can just say they don’t understand and they’ll think you’re turbo edgy and shiz. So relax, stare at the stars, question why you have intrusive thoughts about attacking random members of the general populous…
World’s yours buddy.
After Life is out now on Youngbloods. Purchase here.
Words: James Clarke
Leather Glove – Perpetual Animation
Greg Wilkinson is a well-known name in the extreme metal scene, being the head man at Earhammer Studios in Oakland CA and having several Grammy-winning records under his belt. Leather Glove is a new solo project to be added to an already impressive resume. Previously having worked with names such as Necrot, Noothgrush and High On Fire, amongst many others, and with his personal involvement of being in Brainoil, Graves At Sea, Deathgrave and Laudanum, Perpetual Animation is most definitely the sum of years’ of extensive experience. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Wilkinson and recruiting the notable talents of members of Autopsy, Apraxic, Engorged, Ghoul, Atrament, Pleasure Cross, Impaled, Vastum, Ulthar, Extremity and Abcess on drums and guitars, the resulting carnage is a gloriously barbaric mixture of death metal, doom, industrial, crust, d-beat and sludge.
If you’ve ever wondered how the relentlessly neanderthal death metal approach of Undergang and Coffins and the unhinged sonic madness of more noise-orientated music such as Zeni Geva Godflesh and Swans would turn out if stitched together into a frankenstein monstrosity of pessimistic filth, then Perpetual Animation is for you. Much akin to being strapped onto the business end of a mining drilling-rig and being ground into oblivion against a rock-face in pitch darkness, everything about it is unapologetically intense however still incredibly cleanly produced without losing any of the visceral bite intended in it’s composition. Tracks of particular note which demonstrate the splicing of deranged sonic experimentalism with the more savage end of the spectrum are ‘Last Moments Of Fortification’ and ‘Embrace These Grim Decisions’. A truly deviant and sanity destroying amalgamation of varied influences, this album comes highly recommended if you love creatively off-kilter depravity of the nth degree.
Perpetual Animation is out now on Sentient Ruin Laboratories. Purchase here.
Words: Josh Langford Coxon
Oozing Wound – High Anxiety
Oozing Wound‘s take on thrash metal is quite unorthodox. Your average thrashers with Megadeth and Metallica tattoos are likely to turn their nose up at the sounds of this Chicago-based trio. Whilst they can certainly riff fast and chug hard, the trio come at thrash with a loose approach, favouring the punkier roots of the genre over technical proficiency and flash. In fact their way of playing sometimes owes more to noise rock and hardcore, and can be reminiscent of some of speedier moments in the discography of Melvins or Dinosaur Jr.
This very much makes High Anxiety a thrash metal record for people who don’t like thrash. Oozing Wound’s fantastic song titles kind of spell it out for you; ‘Surrounded By Fucking Idiots’, ‘Tween Shitbag’, and the album’s piece-de-resistance, ‘Birth Of A Flat Earther’, slowing down to a sludgier pace. Recorded by Steve Albini in their hometown at Electrical Audio, the album boasts a sweet sonic pallet, with drums that pound, guitars full of feedback and vocalist Zack Weil’s raging shrieks are exquisite. What you hear is very much what you get. Oozing Wound are no nonsense, no bullshit, no thrills, just raw, ripping and full of riffs.
High Anxiety is out now on Thrill Jockey. Purchase here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Bong-Ra – Antediluvian
Calling your band Bong-Ra does carry a certain implicit expectancy, musically speaking. Few would expect taut Vulfpeck-isms or gleaming pop, and those that might are going to be rather disappointed as they press play on Antediluvian, a slow-motion detonation of a record. Following the slyly bewitching opening seconds of ‘Kheper – Pharaoh’s Serpent’, Antediluvian sounds exactly like trudging in grim countenance across the Sahara, with every footstep falling on an ancient landmine. Far from just a pillar of sandy riffs, there’s an abundance of shrill, shrieking jazz and hovering menace permeating ‘Precession Of The Equinoxes’, but it’s the punishing dirge of album closer ‘Aton – Mind Machine’ that drives this album into your brain.
Even a casual listen is mesmerising, but passing through a number of times truly gives this towering shadow of a record its weight. It’s often a tough sell to have no conventional vocals and this much fuzz, but Antediluvian doesn’t tire. The drumming, production, layers and feel of this behemoth have been properly considered, and these four tracks make up a half-hour of cyclonic, brooding doom, bandage-wrapped and ibis-headed. You won’t need a bong for this, but one would imagine such a combination would be quite engaging.
Antediluvian is out now on Svart Lava/Tartarus Records. Purchase here.
Words: John Tron Davidson
Noisem – Cease To Exist
Following a four-year hiatus after their second LP Blossoming Decay and a highly acclaimed tour with Gorguts and The Black Dahlia Murder, Baltimore’s Noisem step back into the spotlight with their blistering new album Cease To Exist. With time collectively spent in other highly lauded groups such as Necropsy, Incite, Castle Freak and Exhumed, they once again bring to the table their shared skills in the art of scathingly in-your-face aggression. Sitting somewhere in the middle ground of grindcore, death metal, hardcore and thrash, this is a searingly cacophonous release guaranteed to inspire listeners to start anarchically throwing bins and elbows into the surrounding vicinity with militant vehemence.
The high quality of production is instantly noticeable but retains the group’s pedal-to the-metal trademark style, sounding like being mauled by wild boars in high definition after barely surviving a high-speed crash. Although altogether a consistently ruthless LP, notable tracks are ‘Downer Hound’ and ‘Eyes Pried Open’. Fans of Carcass, Napalm Death, Nasum, Nihilist, Terrorizer, Repulsion, Drop Dead and Mammoth Grinder will hear elements reminiscent of all those influences brought together with a touch of old school Slayer. With an upcoming tour to deliver their latest offering to audiences supported by DC’s notorious No/Más, this is a long awaited return from the shadows –Noisem should definitely be paid attention to if ferocious intensity is what you’re looking for.
Cease To Exist is released March 15th on 20 Buck Spin. Purchase here.
Words: Josh Langford Coxon
Misandr/Whitephosphorous – This Can Not Continue
What more could you want out of life than some harsh noise out on fantastic nazi-hating label Tridroid Records? Well, other than a world that doesn’t appear to be falling apart at its capitalist seams. Thankfully, Misandr and Whitephosphorous are here to tell us that This Can Not Continue. Such a bold statement may instantly take away any escapist element that you normally retreat to this sort of leftfield music for, but it also helps the release in its aim of acting as a pessimistic (scratch that – honest) overture of modern society.
Whitephosphorous’ three comparatively punchier numbers conclude the split, with the focal point being the fuzz and buzz of closer ‘Dachau In Texas’ – perhaps their most impressive contribution. It’s straightforward but shrewd in its subtlety, accompanied by a droning wail that penetrates your ear canals like the sirens and alarms that will no doubt signal the collapse of modern society. Before this, though, Misandr’s eight-minute ‘Overtures Of Annihilation’ is our entry-point. The track churns and stutters forward at a pace that refuses to either rush or drag, eventually descending into a cacophonous swirl of impenetrable harsh noise.
When done right, atmosphere-heavy genres like noise have an uncanny ability to paint a picture and set the scene for the listener, and the split certainly excels in this regard, with both artists making good use of samples and distressing noise to adopt a confrontational tone that’s apt given the subject matter.
This Can Not Continue is out now on Tridroid Records. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr