Album Thoughts | Heads for the Dead: Serpent’s Curse

You know an album is good when it’s originally slated for the next Quick Album Thoughts post, but I end up having to give it a full review instead. That’s the case for this one for sure. It was going to go into my Mid-Year Catch-Up QAT post at the end of November, but one listen of it and BOOM! It earns it’s way onto the big stage and proves that it’s worthy of far more than a small paragraph. Heads for the Dead is a new Death Metal project, made up of 2 members, who play and have played in several other Death Metal bands, like Wombbath, Ashcloud, God’s Forsaken, Human Harvest and Vholdghast (Jonny Pettersson) and Revel in Flesh and Immortal Rites (Ralph Hauber). These 2 minds have come together to create something pleasantly surprising and just as good, if not better than those names mentioned. Serpent’s Curse is the duo’s debut full-length, released by the great Transcending Obscurity Records (expect a Label Latests on them in the future) and I should have listened to it much sooner than I did, as it came just in time for the Halloween season and was perfect for an October review. This is ghoulish and hard-hitting old school Death Metal, with some massively juicy riffs and an insanely hellish atmosphere to it. This is one of those albums that may not look like much to the naked eye, but comes out of nowhere and ravages your senses with one spin and shows you how good it is without effort. Even the most lesser-known of names in Death Metal are making their impact in 2018.

The title track begins this hellride, with thick, crushing chords raining down on you mercilessly, as rumbling double-bass drums tear through the ground beneath you as the assault begins. The track then speeds up into a violent, Thrashy groove, that batters you like a red-headed stepchild; the violent, rapid-fire pounding of the drums and sharp, swift chords are the backbone, while the harsh, cavernous growls are the heart and claws of this beast. Heads for the Dead follows with another violent blast of Thrashy riffs and hyper-fast, hammering drums. A lot of sharp, juicy riffs and even some mini-solos are present as well. It’s clear that one of the things that brought these 2 gentlemen together to make this project was the stellar musicianship between them. This track is proof positive of that. I’m not a big fan of tracks named after the band themselves, I think that’s pretty corny, but this one is a fucking banger and encompasses what this duo is all about. Then comes the slow and Doomy Deep Below, where the pace is slowed way the fuck down and begins to resemble any top-tier Death Doom name you can throw out off the top of your head. It’s a massively heavy track, with an early Asphyx feel to it. The double-bass drumming rumbles under hammering chords and searing tremolo picking and the growls fit it perfectly as they sear over it all. The tone and feel of this track is fucking epic and easily one of the most enjoyable of the batch. The Awakening is the very same way and just as well done; both tracks stand out and prove that these guys aren’t one-trick ponies.

Post Mortem Suffering is another one that rips through you with it’s vicious, blasting delivery, ranging from ferocious blast-beats and ripping chords to equally ripping Thrashy grooves. Sounds like something off of Bloodbath’s Nightmares Made Flesh, but much dirtier and harsher. Of Wrath and Vengeance is another somewhat Doomy one, but this time, strikes a nice middle-ground between that and the faster, more violent side; just crushing chords and sharp riffs galore, as is Gate Creeper. The album comes to it’s grueling, savage end, with Return to Fathomless Darkness and In Darkness You Feel No Regrets, both of which are intensely abrasive tracks that give you one last ruthless beating of bludgeoning chords and snare-pounding madness. Those tracks are what finalized my decision to give this album a full review, rather than a mini one. Just pure, old school, bullshit-devoid savagery, that slaps you in the face with the most violent of force. Both serve as the perfect closing to what the title track starts. I was shocked at how great this one turned out when it was over and it was going to be a QAT review because I just don’t have time to review EVERY goddamn thing that comes out, but I had to make time for this one, because it proved it was worthy of that time. Very rare does an album manage to do that, to the point where it makes it’s way off of a QAT. This album did it and should be fucking rewarded with recognition and support!

This is old school Death Metal of the ugliest and most ghoulish form. The 2 men behind this project clearly had a vision and they delivered on it splendidly. I hope it continues and we get some new stuff from them in the near future. I can’t think of the last time an album snuck up on me and caught me off guard like this one did. It’s certainly been a number of years at this point. Bottom line, definitely get this on your radar, give it a shot and let it’s violent, hellish aural force ravage your being from jugular to prostate. There’s no fucking way this isn’t going to make waves in the underground in the next few years if it keeps up. This is filthy, evil and head-smashing Death Metal done right and not a single modicum fucking less.

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Album Thoughts | Sargeist: Unbound

Just when you thought it was safe to start rounding out the year and getting your year-end lists ready, thinking there are no other albums left to anticipate from now until the end of December, BOOM! Another fucking curve ball is thrown our way, in the form of the long-awaited new full-length by the Finnish masters of cold, grim Blackened mastery! After 4 long years, Sargeist have returned with another haunting and shadowy ripper for us to indulge in and they haven’t missed a single step in bringing the scathing, unbridled fury that they’re known for having, under that familiar stormy atmosphere that feels like an unstoppable hurricane, engulfing you with it’s ferocious winds and throwing your equilibrium into disarray. Unbound is the 5th coming of said storm of Finnish blackened fury that make Sargeist one of the most notable bands from the Finnish scene, alongside Beherit, Behexen, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Goatmoon and all the other names that became Finland’s answer to Norway’s infamous bunch of the second wave. They also give themselves sort of a modern and furious twist on this one, that reminds me of Mgła or Urgehal. It may be the most interesting and out of character Sargeist release to date, but it’s still Sargeist being themselves and being good at it, which is what matters. This is some of their most abrasive and hyper-aggressive material yet, but it’s still very well-structured and said aggression doesn’t overshadow the musicianship in any way.

Starting off with the fast and stormy Psychosis Incarnate, a foggy, atmospheric barrage of blasting drums, searing tremolos and the howling shrieks of Profundus are thrown at you right out of the gate with no remorse or any time for a breather. The tone is set and the hurricane of sound is in full swing, as this is what’s in store for you for the next 47 minutes. To Wander the Night’s Eternal Path follows up on it splendidly, with another array of blasting, tremolo-filled madness. One of the first things I noticed right away on this album is the trem riffs are especially catchy. The Bosom of Wisdom and Madness paces things down a bit and has a solid groove to it and adds dramatic, chanty yells to the mix, while keeping the melodic, riffy elements in tack. Then comes the Punky Death’s Empath, which also has a nice groove to it, but with more attitude and harshness to it; reminds me of something Goatmoon would do at his more aggressive and Punky moments; definitely a highlight. The slower pace continues with Hunting Eyes, which is slow, atmospheric and crawling with haunting riffs and melodies. It has sort of a Kampfar feel to it, which may steer some away, but as someone who sees Kampfar as one of the only “Folk” Black Metal bands I can stomach, alongside Goatmoon, Peste Noire and Runespell, I dig it. It’s also the most old school Sargeist-ish track of the bunch, at least to me.

The pace quickens back up again with Her Mouth is an Open Grave, where the snare-blasting and searing tremolos are brought back into focus. Not too different from the first 2 tracks, but things are kept interesting and noticeably distinctive. Nothing is to be deemed generic on this one. The groove is brought back and the riffs get even catchier with the title track; this one is full of energy and makes for a fun listen, while still being laced in the darkness and haunting spirit that lurks the band’s sound. I feel like Sargeist is one of those anomaly bands who really knows how to make a Black Metal album that sounds as cold and mordant as a Black Metal album should sound and include well-written and well-executed riffs and not have to worry about relying too much on atmosphere and vibe, thus pleasing those looking for either or both. It’s pretty refreshing, really. As far as the last 3 tracks go, the biggest standout is easily Wake of the Compassionate, which paces things down again and puts the main focus on the riffs (which are great) and more melodic end of the spectrum. The blasts return for a time, but overall, it’s a groovy, riffy piece of Black Metal artistry. Excellent stuff! The other 2 are mostly just more of that blasting fury that dominates the album. Grail of the Pilgrim caps it off in the most furious and riffy way it can and does a swell job in doing so.

I don’t think this will go down as the most popular Sargeist release, mainly for the production and melodic overtones, but it’s still very much a Sargeist album and a very solid Black Metal album altogether. I, myself would prefer Satanic Black Devotion and Let the Devil In over this one, for sure, but this is definitely not one to sleep on. It’s still Finnish Black Metal at it’s finest, just with a slightly more modern twist and an increase in aggressive delivery. It’s versatile enough to not become stagnant after a few listens, melodic enough to be memorable and leave some of it’s riffs stained on your brain for an amount of time and make you come back for more. It accomplishes what it sets out to do and even though I wouldn’t consider it the best of the Sargeist catalog, it’s still very much worthy of all the praise it’s been getting since it’s release. Definitely a gem and not a turd; I don’t think these guys have produced many turds, at least not yet. Overall, a good piece of cold, grim and ferocious, riffy bliss to haunt your mind and ruin your hearing. Another winner for Black Metal in 2018.

Album Thoughts | Outer Heaven: Realms of Eternal Decay

Hype is a big thing nowadays. It can affect pretty much any new Extreme Metal release that comes out now and those affects can be either favorable of detrimental. It can either push people away from potential winners and favorites, when it gets too annoying and to the point where you can’t go a single day without hearing about it, and thus, can’t be bothered to give it a try, or it can intrigue one enough to give it a curious listen. It’s up to the band and the album themselves to deliver on that hype and prove themselves worthy. In the case of Outer Heaven, I was already a fan of their previous EP and was going to check this out anyway, but boy oh fucking boy, was this one hyped to the moon. These guys were becoming 2018’s Spectral Voice or Blood Incantation, with how much praise this album was getting. So, I cautiously gave it a listen, expecting a continuation of the Chaotic Hardcore-driven Death Metal of the EP, but holy fuck, was I wrong and am I fucking glad I was. Outer Heaven have finally unleashed their first full batch of tracks and they weren’t fucking around in looking to make an impact, which they damn sure did. Realms of Eternal Decay is one of those Death Metal albums that knows exactly where that middle ground is, between murky and cavernous, and massive and hard-hitting, it slaps you right in the face from the very jump and shows no shortage of malice in it’s delivery, and it damn sure doesn’t forget to bring the fucking riffs!

It’s been a pretty amazing year for Death Metal, and we already have so many album of the year-worthy bangers on our hands, but this one is already a lock for my list, for fucking sure. The hype was annoying, but goddamn real for this one. I was actually shocked at how good it turned out to be, from the second Vortex of Thought hit my ears through the headphones, I was floored at how dismal and crushing their new sound is, all the way down to the massive riffs and explosive, battering ram-like drums that sound like a bunch of car crashes happening in one, long sequence. There’s a good hint of Doom throughout this album too, nowhere near prominent, but definitely noticeable; What Lies Beneath is an absolute head-stomper that proves it, as does the mid-paced and massive Pulsating Swarm. A lot of the riffs resemble something you’d hear from Mournful Congregation or Evoken, but slightly sped up and set to the old school Death style. Not sure if I’ve heard that combination before, but if I have, this is sure as hell the best I’ve heard it done. Some might even say this is what those bands, or any good Death Doom band would sound like if they stripped away the Doom part and went full speed. Speaking of which, Echoes from Beyond is another example and sounds like something straight from mid to later-era Asphyx’s playbook. One of the best tracks, in my opinion.

Running down the rest of the creams of the crop here, Tortured Winds has a nice, riffy intro to it, before exploding into a barrage of blasting, bludgeoning fury; some good groove breaks in there too. Tortured Winds has a bit of a Death influence to it, with Human/Individual Thought Patterns-esque riffs and harmonic melodies, searing over the core brutality; another excellent standout, same can be said for Putrid Dwelling. The amount of 90s old school injected into this is almost overwhelming and it’s so fucking well done and masterfully structured. The assault comes to a close with Decaying Realms, which winds things down in the most massive and skull-shattering way possible, with one last blast of thick, juicy riffs, concrete-like drums and insanely dismal growls, laced in foggy reverb. I was left salivating for more when it was done and I couldn’t help but to listen to it again, several times over. I was so caught off guard by it, that I needed more and was left wishing there were more full-lengths by these guys, because fuck, this was good! I hope I don’t sound too corny or hyperbolic, but that’s how I felt. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve mentioned how good of a year it’s been for old school Death Metal, and not only is this another one for the books, but it’s one of the top tier ones of the fucking year; it may even be the best, period.

The is is probably the most enjoyable a blending of old school Death, Doom and a little Schuldiner worship can get. It’s well crafted and masterfully executed. Again, not to be hyperbolic or put this TOO over the top, but it’s good. Damn good. I know the hype and seeing it on your timeline every 10 minutes can get irritating, but don’t let it hinder the quality of this beast. The hype will pass, everyone will move on to the next thing and you’ll be able to enjoy it in peace in no time. As far as i’m concerned, this one goes right up there with the other elites that this year has brought us and it’s a well deserved spot. This is a fucking beast of an album and a band who has my undivided attention from here on out.

Album Thoughts | Haunt: Grimoires of Undead Power

After a year in slumber, as the cold, bleak seasons approach, the sinister entity that has been dwelling and making it’s presence known within the Black Metal underground, rears it’s hideous head once again, to wrap it’s cold, pale hands around you throat, feast on your pathetic, mortal soul and desecrate your senses, with it’s brand of dissonant, unforgiving audio terror, that most modern Black Metal acts can only wish to create themselves. The TRUE Haunt has returned from the depths aural Hell, to once again channel the deepest roots of Black Metal’s true essence and spread it’s wrath among the living and take the souls of countless ear-cells in the process! This is the kind of Black Metal that doesn’t give a single fuck about you as a listener and shows less than zero regard for your well-being and will get as dissonant and sonically unfriendly as it wants to be; that became evident when I legitimately thought I damaged my left ear after listening to this one. Haunt has once again brought modern Raw Black Metal to a deeper and more sinister depth of depravity and darkness of the most raw and honest form. As a result, we have another fucking ripper on our hands that no one should sleep on. This could have been an October review, but it came out mid-month and I was already working on other shit, but better late than never.

There was no way this was going to go unreviewed by yours truly. After hearing the first album, I knew what I was getting myself into here, needless to say, I was right, my left ear and the ear-cells inside of it that were mercilessly fucking slaughtered could agree too. The cold, rotten filth-fest that is Grimoires of Undead Power is every bit as dangerous and lethal as the self titled debut that Haunt unleashed on this unsuspecting planet last year and it doesn’t get any easier or lighter in delivery or any less dissonant or unsettling. Starting off with Where Your Grave Used to Be, where the sharp, scratching, blown out guitars and muddy drums slowly kick in and build into the first minute or so of the track, then explodes into a blasting assault of cacophonous rage, as the scathing howls of Perthro sear through the air like a cold, poisonous fog. Others have said this before, but he really is very reminiscent of Dead in a lot of ways; their sound still harkens back to the early incarnations of Mayhem, and other names like Gorgoroth and Darkthrone back in their earlier days. Then comes the title track, which further proves that sentiment, which is just sharp, piercing tremolo riffs, flowing continuously over muffled blast-beats and those same unforgivingly dismal vocals. This is where I think my ear really started feeling the wrath. Pure fucking dissonance.

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Among the Dead follows and shows a bit of an Under a Funeral Moon influence, bringing a 1st wave-ish, almost Punk feel to the table. Simple but very effective. The best thing about this is, it’s so old school and follows the traditional Black Metal formula so well, even more so than most Raw Black Metal bands out there do today, but doesn’t come off as generic or stale in the slightest bit. The filth and savagery in it’s sound speaks for itself and no extra bullshit is needed. That’s where a lot of bands who go for this sound fail; they try to capture the essence and darkness of the traditional Black Metal sound, but either just don’t have it in them, or just don’t know how to channel it properly and ultimately become complacent in their sound, witch usually turns out boring and dull. Haunt is anything but that. Back to the tracks, To Walk the Left Hand Path is basically an instrumental, with a slow, blaring riff that crawls through it, with whispers hovering over it. Sounds like something Mayhem would do in their early days. Then comes the highlight, The Silence of Death; easily the nastiest and most mean-spirited track of the 7, just slow, swampy and crawling in hatred and dismay. I love the loud, pounding bass drum that repeats throughout it, while the blown out guitars scratch over it. Incarnate is the most straightforward of them all, with almost non-stop blast-beats and tremolo picking and groove breaks in-between. Again, simple but very good.

Things end with Necrommunicating the Mausoleum, which is just a brief noise and ambient track with strange vocal musings. Very dark and eerie closer to the cold, scathing journey of filth, grime and hatred that was this album. My left ear barely survived the ordeal, but it recovered a couple hours later, so there was that. Short story short, this is Black Metal at it’s ugliest and truest, that would fit into the early 90s like a glove and Haunt would be right up there with the names that were at the forefront of the genre at that time and that people still talk about (true fans, newbie teenagers and fly-by-night Hipsters alike) to this day. This is some very unfriendly shit that has no issue audibly ripping you apart and leaving your remains for the crows to feast on. The entity known as Haunt is an act that newer Raw Black Metal acts can learn from and channel when making their own sounds. Some of them do it splendidly already, but if more did that, we’d possibly be headed for a new golden era of Black Metal. Maybe that’s just me being too naive, but if Haunt (and others like Obskuritatem, Candelabrum, Black Cilice, Lampir, Flešš, Orgy of Carrion, Akasha, Slavehouse and the likes) can pull it off and be successful in the current year, then why not have more? Bottom line, excellent Black Metal for only the elite and truly tormented. Lesser beings who dare to explore, tread lightly or suffer.

Album Thoughts | Bloodbath: The Arrow of Satan is Drawn

Let me start this one off by saying, and anyone who knows me, knows this: while I know it’s highly favored over the stuff without him, I am not a fan of Bloodbath with Mikael Akerfeldt at the helm. I always thought the albums with him on vocals, Resurrection Through Carnage and The Fathomless Mastery, were just dull and boring and they just never did much for me. When it comes to the stuff without him, however, the other guys who held his place at the microphone, most notably, Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy fame and currently, Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost fame, I enjoy that material far better. I feel like it allowed them to expand their horizons stylistically and unleash their more savage side. As a result, we’ve gotten Nightmares Made Flesh, which I consider a classic and the filth-fest that was Grand Morbid Funeral. Call me crazy, stupid or whatever, but I think those albums are leagues above the Akerfeldt ones, and in a time where everybody has a fucking hot take on everything and just LOVES to have an opinion opposing to the majority, that’s one of mine. This fucking beast of an album is no fucking different! The Arrow of Satan is Drawn is the long-awaited follow up to GMF and one of my most anticipated releases of recent months and while it’s not surprising in the least that it delivered, it surprised me even more with said delivery and how consistent they are with their nasty, muddy and unrelenting sound.

The filth and murk that Nick Holmes brings to the table carried over well from the last album and it’s just as good, if not, better. His style brings a unique dimension to the old school Death Metal sound; just something about it that makes things that much uglier and stomach-churning, he just sounds so spitefully evil and cunning in his delivery and the sound that the band surrounds him with really fits him like a glove and vice-versa. This isn’t the dirtiest of Death Metal albums production-wise and it won’t please some of you, but this is definitely one of the most enjoyable albums of the Bloodbath catalog, specifically the non-Akerfeldt albums. Nightmares Made Flesh is still my favorite, but this one is up there for sure. I knew I was in for some sick shit, but from the very start of Fleischmann, the pounding of muddy drums and murky, fast chords begins and wastes no time in pummeling you like an unexpected mudslide on a camping trip. The Black Metal-esque tremolo riffs then kick in, as Nick Holmes unleashes the wrath of his hellish throat onto your ear cells (after mine were already desecrated by the new Haunt album, which I listened to just hours before this one). Very good opener that lets you know right the fuck away, the punishment you’re in for. Bloodicide follows, with it’s equally abrasive and pummeling delivery, right from the first second on. More of those tremolos and other sweet, sinister riffs are used and executed masterfully and Nick Holmes again knocks it out of the part with his grotesque style and cadence.

A lot of these track are groove oriented as well, which again, won’t please the more underground folk, looking for something more cavernous and punishing (which I totally get), but I can accept it, as they keep that abrasive and murky style in tact. Tracks like Levitator and March of the Crucifiers have a very catchy but pounding groove to them, that’s less sterilized Pantera drivel and more true-to-the-roots Exhorder harshness, keeping the same muddy riffs and filthy chords present while spreading out into more melodic and catchy territory. Still absolute Death Metal bangers that mix things up quite nicely. I can also hear a fair amount of Paradise Lost-esque Gothic Metal influence buried within all the chaos. The only real gripe I have with this album, is that I wish they would just say ‘fuck it’ and go all the way with dirty, murky production and see how it sounds, instead of trying to make it seem dirtier than it actually is. Again, they do a good job with it, but if you’re going to do it, just go all the way with it; the final product would probably be a hundred times better than it already is and reach a lot more accepting ears and fucking murder them in higher numbers. It is what it is though and what this is, is just fine.

As far as other stand-out rippers on here go, Wayward Samaritan is a fun one with a Motorhead-like groove and a 2nd wave Black Metal vibe to it, especially in Nick’s vocal delivery. Deader brings a Thrash element to the table, with a fast, choppy intro, which leads into a slow, Sludgy passage and then right back to where it began. Morbid Antichrist is a slow and fucking nasty one, with crushing chords and downright evil riffs all throughout it; definitely one of my favorite tracks. Finally, Chainsaw Lullaby closes things out in the most appropriate way possible, with more brutally catchy grooves and solid riffs to boot. Not disappointing in the least. This was everything Grand Morbid Funeral was, just a little bit more aggressive and hard-hitting; dark, sweltering Swedish Death Metal done right. I just don’t understand what holds the band back when Akerfeldt is at the front, especially with a mind like his, you’d think they’d have more tricks up their sleeve than what those 2 albums have. Maybe it’s just me, but whatever. I want to like those albums, but I just can’t. This album only shows me why. There’s just something about Bloodbath, when Mikael isn’t involved, that just brings out the absolute beast in them and allows them to show what they’re truly capable of. With him, they’re just a tame version of themselves. It’s weird and maybe it’s just me, but The Arrow of Satan is Drawn is another testament of what I’m saying.

Overall, Bloodbath have done it again! In a year where Death Metal continues to run rampant, still in fucking November, these sinister Swedes (and (un)jolly ol’ Englishman) have once again proven that, as far as Death Metal goes, Mikael Akerfeldt can go fuck himself and stick with what he’s best at. This is another slab of rotten, aural misery in the form of old school Death Metal, with elements of Black, Doom, Groove and everything in-between. The arrow of Satan was surely drawn and it hit it’s target point fucking blank and without effort. If you like Grand Morbid Funeral or Nightmares Made Flesh, or even other names in the Swedish DM scene, like Grave, Entombed, Entrails, Dismember and blah blah blah, you know where I’m getting at, then pick this one the fuck up and let it ruin you. Pure Swedish blasphemy at it’s finest.

Album Thoughts | Behemoth: I Loved You at Your Darkest

Let’s get this over with… *sigh*

Right off the bat, I like Behemoth. I do. With everything from their early, straight up Black Metal outings like Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) and Grom, to the albums that showcased them at their absolute best and most ruthless and creative, like Thelma 6, Zos Kia Cultus and of course, Demigod, they were absolutely one of the head honchos of the Blackened Death Metal genre and were for quite a time. Then came Evangelion and the heightening of super squeaky-clean overproduction and needless, pretentious theatrics. I enjoyed that album back in 2009, when I was barely out of High School and didn’t know much better, then I grew a little and completely lost interest in it. Oh well. Then came 2010 and Nergal’s leukemia diagnosis, which put them on the shelf for a few years, which led to the short-haired, douchey, Instagram thot-magnet Nergal that we all know today. With that came The Satanist, which was an improvement from the previous one, but still had an abundance of theatrical drivel to it. That one is hit or miss for me, but I enjoy it more than Evangelion. My point is, as many others have said, Behemoth have proven themselves time and time again and have no doubt showcased their unbridled talent over the years and don’t need all of this extra shit. Which leads us to now and the new slab of overbearing, pompous slop that they just put out.

Now, I’m only going to address the music here. Nergal’s pompousness and Rockstar douchebaggery aside, he is a great musician, which is what makes this that much worse. I Loved You at Your Darkest is everything Evangelion and The Satanist were, but watered down to even more levels of boredom and dullness. The needless theatrics kick in right off the bat with Solve, where some children’s choir they hired, I don’t know it’s fucking name, chant away some slop about not forgiving Jesus for a minute and a half, which then leads right into Wolves ov Siberia, which is decent at first, with a pretty solid tremolo riff that flows through the first minute or so, over some snare-blasting, but doesn’t really go anywhere else and just gets stagnant real fast. Then comes the hilariously titled, God = Dog, which again, starts off promisingly, but goes nowhere. It’s just your typical Behemoth track of the more “Progressive” ilk, with the same harmonics and repetitive melodic drivel that we’ve heard from them time and time again at this point. Then comes one of the better tracks of the batch, Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica, which has a pretty nice, aggressive groove to it, coupled with some catchy riffs, but compared to the rest of this, that’s not really saying much. Same could have been said for Bartzabel, but the theatrics and annoying group-chanting got in the way of it.

Then comes the very meh If Crucifixion Was Not Enough, which reminds me of something Watain would do on The Wild Hunt, which as I’ve said before, was their weakest album. This track did absolutely jack shit for me. Some decent riffs and melodies here and there, but overall, just boring and too upbeat. It seems like the whole album suffers from failure to build upon anything decent or good that occurs and every attempt to do so just falling flat into boredom. A lot of these songs, maybe even the whole album could have been salvaged, but it just never reaches any high points; Sabbath Mater is another example of that. Throughout my entire first listen of this, I was waiting for things to pick up and get interesting, but it never did. This is Behemoth at their most seemingly uninspired and overly obsessed with trying to be Alice Cooper or King Diamond and trying dazzle you with pomp and circumstance, rather than keeping the music itself at a high standard. It’s unfortunate because like I said, The Satanist was a very decent album, this one could have been just as good, if not, better, if not or the way things just tell flat on it’s face. Production-wise, it’s pretty much on par with The Satanist, which is good, but boy oh boy, is it leagues beneath it in delivery. The Satanist was far more masterfully crafted and found a solid middle ground between the music itself and all the theatrics and other extra shit, whereas this album is just a fucking borefest that gets overshadowed by said theatrics far too often.

Don’t take this as a “I hate Behemoth just because their big now” or “only early Behemoth is good” type of thing, I don’t play that fucking game, I love the older stuff up to Demigod and I like The Satanist, this album just doesn’t live up to how great Behemoth could be and the creativity and musical prowess that they’ve proven countless times that they possess. I gave it multiple listens and I just couldn’t get into it, in fact, I was borderline falling asleep. As I said on Instagram after my first couple of listens, it’s audio NyQuil to me. It’s nothing special or exciting, it’s just another modern-day Behemoth album that once again falls victim to the over-achiever in Nergal and the need for it to be a big, grandiose presentation to mean something; just all fluff and no substance, as far as I’m concerned. It could have been another decent to good one, like the last one, but it didn’t do enough and the pretentiousness overshadowed the actual talent. Unfortunate, but true.

I Loved You at Your Darkest… so did I, Behemoth, so did I.

Label Latests | Profound Lore Records

When I started doing this feature, this label was at the top of my list to include. Well, the year is winding down and with all the stellar releases they’ve put out in the last 10 months of it, the time is now. It goes without saying that Profound Lore Records is one of the top underground Extreme Metal labels, who’ve been around for well over a decade now and have put out a wealth of quality releases by a plethora of names in the underground Extreme Metal scene through the years, including Krieg, Leviathan, A.M.S.G., Altar of Plagues, Ash Borer, Impetuous Ritual, Full of Hell, Loss, Pallbearer, Disma and a shit-ton more, later expanding to other genres, like Post-Punk, Dungeon Synth and so on. They also gave a lot of notable bands of today their start and probably some notable ones of tomorrow. Some of those names are definitely on this list and their albums that are featured here, may very well be they’re launching pads. Some of these albums are the most unique and interesting that I’ve heard this year, which some would even agree with me on. These are some of 2018’s most elite releases and they deserve to reach and desecrate more ears. So, let’s get to it and give them their just due.

These are PL’s 9 highlights of 2018 (so far):

Wayfarer: World’s Blood

We all know there are tons of themes that Black Metal has covered, lyrically and aesthetically, but this is a first for me, in terms of where a Black Metal band has gone, thematically. Instead of Satanism, the Occult, the grim, frostbitten cold, the cosmos or ancient civilizations, Wayfarer take their sound and channel the essence of the old American Southwest, to create their style of Folky Atmospheric Black Metal. This is unique stuff for sure and it’s honestly pretty stellar; just think Agalloch if they sang about life in the wild frontier, instead of snow and nature and stuff. This is very interesting stuff and a very unique theme to cover in Black Metal. We’ve seen this kinda done before with Cobalt (who I fucking love). but these guys do it in a much more complex, intricate and captivating way. There are so many memorable riffs and melodies, that flow through each track like a steady, flowing stream, and continue to do so when things get harsh and heavy, as the echoey, howling shrieks and foggy, paced drums flow with them. The way the melodic passages are harmonized is very well done too! Some may write this off as Cascadian drivel, but it’s far more than that; this is very well-crafted and masterfully executed and honestly may be one of the more interesting Black Metal releases this year. So, don’t write it off, give it a shot and let it enchant you with it’s spur-wearing, horse-riding, Blackened Western drawl. It’s worth it, this is great stuff!

Chthe’ilist: Passage into the Xexanotth

Canada’s Chthe’ilist are back after their solid 2016 debut, with this new, equally solid EP. This is 2 tracks and 10 minutes of dismal, atmospheric old school Death Metal, that goes for the REALLY murky and swampy tone, similar to the likes of Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice, but also implements the riffy aggression of early Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, blending it in a good bit. This was a quick, easy listen of quick, uneasy Death Metal and if this is a sign of what’s to come from these dudes, then I’m ready. Not quite the most powerful DM release I’ve heard this year, but definitely no slouch in what they do, if you’ve heard their debut album. Good stuff nonetheless that will hopefully be followed up on well.

Infernal Coil: Within a World Forgotten

Next, we have the highly anticipated debut full-length by Boise, Idaho purveyors of foggy, cavernous and ferocious Deathgrind, Infernal Coil. Needless to say, as you can probably tell from it’s reception, this album was damn well worth the wait and then some. This is absolutely crushing, fast paced Death Metal of the muddiest and audibly harshest variety, that picks up right where their last EP left off. It’s a fucking blast-fest for the most part, but has some really crushing moments when things get a little paced. The guitars are super sharp and churn out head-bashing chords and foggy riffs, the drums are muddy and fast, but pounding and the vocals are bellowing growls that are as cavernous and harsh as the howls and screams of a cave-dwelling neanderthal. Excellent debut by one of the more promising newer Death Metal/Deathgrind acts of 2018. No disappointments here when it comes to this one.

Innumerable Forms: Punishment in Flesh

Next, we have an interesting one. Innumerable Forms have been around for about 8 years now and have only now released their debut full-length. They put out a really good EP back in 2010, titled Dark Worship, but that was really their most significant release, up until now. Punishment in Flesh is their big debut and it was damn well worth the wait. This is punishing Death Metal in it’s most cavernous and barbaric form; the sound on this one is so filthily heavy and pummeling, that it skates the line somewhere between Incantation-style frantic, cavernous Death and early Amorphis-style crushing Death Doom; filled with riffs, both fast and harsh and slow and wailing, toned as hellishly low as humanly possible, echoy bellowing growls and muddy frantic drumming that sounds like an avalanche of rocks and boulders, caving in on you and trapping you in the same cave these monstrous growls are coming from. Pretty fucking nasty stuff and just as good as their previous EP. Definitely another ripper in 2018’s Death Metal department. Great stuff that took far too long to finally see the light of day.

Akitsa: Credo

The 6th album by one of Montreal, Quebec’s leading underground Black Metal acts is here after a 3-year wait and it is fucking phenomenal! Akitsa have once again hit the nail on the head, when it comes to capturing the essence of true, old school Black Metal, akin to the likes of early Darkthrone and Hellhammer, but with a good hint of Punk attitude injected into it. They use that attitude and grit to slap you in the face with a piercing, vicious force, while keeping things foggy and atmospheric all at once. The guitars are loud and sharp, the drums are fast and muddy and the vocals are fucking ear-shreddingly powerful and forceful. This is another reason why Canadian Black Metal is so underrated and under-appreciated. Another excellent outing by one of it’s best names that exceeded my expectations, which were kinda iffy, given the cover art, not being black and white for the first time. Great fucking stuff!

Hissing: Permanent Destitution

Continuing down the paths of Death Metal’s dismal caverns, this is the debut full-length by Seattle, Washington cave dwellers, Hissing. This is cavernous Death Metal on the weirder side of things, filled with weird riffs, spastic blasts and harsh, bellowing growls. The style of riffs and their delivery reminds me a bit of Deathspell Omega, which is interesting and unique for something like this. The uneasy atmosphere and filth-ridden production really adds to it too. It sticks to this formula and stays interesting all the way through and keeps you on edge with each passing second of crawling harshness and brutality. Definitely another great DM release in the books for 2018 and not one to sleep on. Very nasty stuff by a band that’s relatively new, but sure to make some waves in the coming years.

Bliss Signal: S/T

Now for something a bit different… okay, VERY different, both for me and Profound Lore. London’s Bliss Signal play a very experimental and out-there form of Black Metal, blended with Post-Metal, Industrial, Electronic, Ambient, Shoegaze and the likes. As we all know, I’m usually not a fan of this stuff and would normally put this in the Hipster category, but it is on the Profound Lore roster, so I trusted it to be at least some semblance of good or decent. Well, overall, it’s pretty decent for what it is. It’s full of different nuances that blend together to create a sound that reminds me of something Netra would do. You can classify it as Black Metal, but that’s only one of the elements present here. It’s spacey Industrial Post-Black that would make good background music at a planetarium or something. It’s spacey atmosphere, combined with weird, techno-y beats, ambient passages, some tremolo picking and Blackened riffs here and there and overall trancy vibe, makes for an interesting experience of a listen, but again, nothing i’d ever be in a hurry to put on. Pretty interesting concept overall, but not my favorite on this list.

Gevurah: Sulphur Soul

More stellar Black Metal from Canada! Montreal, Quebec’s Gevurah bring forth anther serving of atmospheric Luciferian madness with their second EP, which is just as good as their previous outings. This is just dark and ominous Black Metal, filled to the brim with tremolo picking and snare-blasting, immersed in a dismal and black cloud-like atmosphere. It’s a pretty straightforward sound but it’s so riddled in ominousness and malevolence, that it keeps things interesting all throughout it’s short but sweet 30-minute length. Some may find this a bit generic, but if you’re looking for atmosphere and straight darkness in aural form, them you’ve come to the right place. Simple but effective in every way. Canada has yet to fail me when it comes to bringing the Kvltness!

Soft Kill: Savior

Last, but not least, we have the most unique of this bunch; time for some dark, dreary, depressive Post-Punk, via Portland, Oregon’s top purveyors of such. Post-Punk has kinda been in the doldrums this year and I haven’t seen too many good new releases from it, so this is pretty refreshing. This is just what you’d expect and it’s pretty good; it’s the audio equivalent to being in said doldrums. It’s moody, hazy Post-Punk, filled with melody and laced in melancholia. You can hear a lot of influence from The Cure’s early works in this too, particularly Pornography. Even the vocals hit notes from time to time, that could easily be Robert Smith if you close your eyes and picture it. You’ll get a ton of great riffs and a lot of dreary melody from this too. Some tracks, like the title track, Missing and Dancing on Glass will have you dancing like the Goth Kids from South Park, with their hauntingly catchy, foggy and trance-inducing melody and delivery. Pretty exceptional stuff overall! A few dull moments here and there, but very catchy and depressively exciting as a whole.

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That does it for now. This is the creme of the crop as far as Profound Lore goes in 2018. The crazy thing is, it’s not even over yet, as the new fucking Evoken album is also on the horizon! Expect a full review on that one! There were a couple of release here that I wasn’t a fan of and left out, but all and all, The folks at PL have not disappointed in the least in 2018 and made some fine contributions to it’s endless supply of bangers. Still a true staple in the underground Metal realm and one of the driving forces of it, keeping nasty, murky, old school stuff alive. Not a bad year at all for these guys. A highlight post was inevitable and well-deserved.