Your Heavy Metal Hits For November

In her first Columnus Metallicus, Cheryl Carter aka our new harbinger of doom-tunes proffers Aosoth, Cannibal Corpse, All Pigs Must Die and more.

Hi there. I’m new to this column and perhaps to you, reader. However, I’m not new to writing (although I hone my craft every time I write) and I hope to capture a good chunk of the releases you’ll be interested in while also shining a light on things you may not have noticed before.

November’s column comes to you from cold, gloomy Switzerland and fittingly, the releases we talk about this month epitomise all of that dreary darkness. Usually this time of year calls for scores of super cold, frosty black metal, but we’re heading down a more human route and looking at how each band finds their way in the pitch black.

From APMD’s political slant, to Tchornobog’s doomed journey into the mountains and Converge’s take on angst – there are a lot of different routes into the darkness. Metal has always embraced the shadows and this month each band grabs their fears with both hands and pushes them out into the world for all of us to enjoy.

All Pigs Must Die – Hostage Animal

(Southern Lord Recordings)

Rage has long been a staple influence on the hardcore scene and for APMD that anger is still as strong as it was when they burst into life seven years ago. Something of a supergroup, with members of The Hope Conspiracy, Converge, Bloodhorse and now scene peers Trap Them (Brian Izzi has recently joined on guitar), APMD were perhaps intended to be a side project, but their passion became clear early on and three records later they are hailed as leaders.

Bile and spite is their manifesto and on third full-length Hostage Animal they channel all the fiery aggression possible in just over half an hour. Vocalist Kevin Baker (The Hope Conspiracy) is a whirlwind of hostility; his voice drips with malevolence at every turn.

Musically the record builds on its predecessors: metallic hardcore is filtered through the lens of the modern world which only serves to add power to its filthy dimensions. The band have found themselves living in strange and horrifying times and it’s in with knowledge that APMD find their voice. Converge’s Ben Koller is deliciously precise on drums, adding texture and strength to the band’s sound; closing track ‘Heathen Reign’ puts his talent centrestage while the guitars sound incredibly rich and full, each riff so alive that you can almost reach out and touch them.

It’s not all fear and fury, though – Hostage Animal features some gorgeous segues away from the hardcore thread woven through the record. ‘Cruelty Incarnate’ plays with softer textures and discordant notes to create small glimpses of light before Baker’s scream pours scorn on the idea that hope could exist in such harsh landscapes. The guitars ring with righteous sorrow in the closing minute, giving the song a cloaked sadness and APMD a little edge over the competition. ‘End Without End’ plays with slower paced and harder edged tones that give a doom-like feel to the track before spinning out into cosmically painful feedback.

Aosoth – V: The Inside Scriptures

(Agonia Records)

France’s Aosoth have been pushing the envelope for their entire career – founder and vocalist MkM giving each release a heady atmosphere that speaks of the otherworld with precision. V: The Inside Scriptures is no different and the album opens on the furiously paced ‘A Heart to Judge’, a track that fires through nearly nine minutes with hardly a pause for breath. It’s intoxicating in its dissonance and that feeling is carried throughout a record that is steeped in turmoil, human agony and the pain of life.

Predecessor IV: Arrow in Heart from 2013 was an instant classic and V: The Inside Scriptures follows suit. The discordant atmospheres are ramped up and there’s a tremendous amount of personal suffering included, and as such V: The Inside Scriptures has an introspective tone, particularly during the title track. The song moves on buzzsawing guitars that writhe with tension while the rich, warm drums pummel the background into dust. MkM’s vocals are slightly hidden behind the music giving the song a cloaked feeling that shrouds it in darkness.

Where MkM’s first project Antaeus carries more of the orthodox elements of black metal, it’s in Aosoth that he lets other influences creep into the textures of the songs. Doomy elements colour the title track and ‘Contaminating All Tongues’ and its curious avant-garde intro and cyclic riffs draw you into the maelstrom with a hypnotic rhythms. The pace is slowed down a little in the guitars although the drums still blast away before all gives way to a deep bass riff and guttural vocals. It’s a necessary moment for air in a record that is otherwise delirious in its energy despite being ruled by darkness.

Blut Aus Nord – Deus Salutis Meæ

(Debemur Morti Productions)

Blut Aus Nord have never been a band to do things by the book and their music never follows any set patterns or rules. Albums either fall into the black metal camp of the Memoria Vestuta series, or the dissonant structures of The Work Which Transforms God or into the weirdo industrial slant of almost everything else – but Blut Aus Nord don’t easily belong in any one category and it’s this that makes them so special.

The French band is also notoriously secretive – but strangely prolific alongside that – and the announcement of Deus Salutis Meæ came with little fanfare. Combining all elements of their sound for this album, Blut Aus Nord once again shows that they are true masters of their craft with a record that is monstrous in its darkness. Short instrumental pieces bridge the gaps between songs yet they are cloaked in mystery themselves, all shadowy echoes and smoky sounds. First track proper, ‘Chorea Macchabeorum’ moves on disharmonic guitars and an off-kilter rhythm that burrows under the skin and lodges there, giving off waves of sickness as the song progresses towards its doomed end.

Spiritualism has long been a staple of the Blut Aus Nord sound and for founder Vindsval the band acts as a vehicle for expressing those metaphysical interests. There’s always an unusual undercurrent of ritualism in the cyclic guitar sounds, their repetition becoming deathly hypnotising as the music progresses and in ‘Apostatis’ the guitars work towards mesmerising and oppressive atmosphere. Vocals drone behind the instruments with layers built upon each other to signal the ceremonial feel of the song – they are a chorus of the dead.

Vortices of sound pour through ‘Revelatio’ with industrial beats giving a slyly mechanical feel to the song, as though it’s made of metal itself, while sawing guitars buzz with electricity pushing the vocals into the shadows and allowing the voice to become ever more enigmatic as time goes on. ‘Ex Tenebrae Lucis’ is a frightening trip into the cosmos with suffocating, layered sounds promising you’ll never return from the outer reaches.

Deus Salutis Meæ is another entry into Blut Aus Nord’s practically flawless catalogue. They are a band that treads the avant-garde path so sublimely that they’ve become a genre unto themselves over the twenty plus years they have been active. To still have a keen ear for experimentation is incredible and to still be making beguiling and terrifying sounds is more wondrous still. Blut Aus Nord gets more fascinating with each release and with the possibility of more music to come next year – rumour has it that entry IV of the Memoria Vestuta series is on the horizon – they show no signs of slowing down or giving up the surreal black metal crown.

Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black

(Metal Blade Records)

Having been a band for the best part of thirty years, Cannibal Corpse have been around longer than most of their fans have been alive (probably). It’s no mean feat to be so beloved after such a long time but Cannibal Corpse have been so consistent and solid throughout their career that for most people they are the pinnacle of death metal and a band that many young up-and-comers will cite as a big influence.

To continue to make music that sounds fresh and vital in the modern sphere is a tricky task, but Cannibal Corpse are masters and Red Before Black is a genuinely good record – one you’ll enjoy from front to back before hitting play for another round of punishing death.

‘Only One Will Die’ kicks things off with a terrific burst of energy that serve to highlight the immediacy and aggression of this veteran band. Frontman George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher utilises a generous dose of guttural intensity to push forward the vocals while the band slice through the darkness with taught, precise guitars and super quick drums.

‘Firestorm Vengeance’ takes a tiny step back from speed at times and incorporates a groove that is difficult to ignore, the beats pulsing through the vocals while your body tries and fails to no respond. It’s a thrilling point in the record not least because of the squalling guitar leads that overlay delicious old school riffs towards the final moments. It’s classic moves like this that keep Cannibal Corpse so entrenched in the scene and the album is full of all of that experience.

Red Before Black isn’t a record that’s about to break down any genre barriers, but it’s solid and exciting and so much glorious fun that you’ll keep going back for more.

Code – Under the Subgleam

(Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings)

England’s Code have been a long-standing presence on the London scene and are often seen as a vehicle for Grave Pleasures vocalist Kvohst first, then as a separate entity second. There’s no doubt that Kvohst put on the map but having left the band in 2011, it seems silly to constantly refer back to those days as the pinnacle of their work. Newest vocalist Wacian has been a member for six years at this point and his work since Augur Nox in 2013 is stunning. On Under the Subgleam his confidence is apparent and the band themselves are on fire, feeling much more aggressive here that on the intriguing and rewarding Mut two years ago.

All weird experimental phrases, screams and crooning vocals, this EP allows Code the chance to explore the stranger territories of black metal – something they’ve been doing since the beginning – while honing their particular sound away from the pressures of a full length record. Mut was somewhat of a departure for their sound but Under the Subgleam pulls back the black metal influence and imbues the EP with a deadly force.

It’s dark, sure, but also incredibly interesting with two tracks that punch with all the might of the avant-garde – ‘Plot of Skinned Heavens’ and ‘Pollution Vigil’ – while the bookends are characterised by experimental flourishes and curious palettes of sound. Wacian’s voice moves from harsh screams to gorgeous clean passages with barely any warning giving the music a twisting, turning atmosphere that builds images of opposition in the darkness.

Converge – The Dusk in Us

(Deathwish and Epitaph)

The Converge pedigree is one known the metal world over, whether they’re to your taste or not, you probably know the name and will certainly be aware of their seminal album, Jane Doe from 2001. Frontman Jacob Bannon is revered within the metalcore scene and for the 2018 edition of the renowned Roadburn Festival; he’s a curator already making his mark on the weekend.

For the band and their music, each record is a chance to shine a light on themselves and for Bannon and his lyrics in particular, that light is always marred by darkness. The Dusk in Us is coloured by personal experiences as well as by the state of our modern world and what we, as humanity, have doomed ourselves to.

‘A Single Tear’ sets out the album and its manifesto on driving drums and Bannon’s furious bile which culminate in screams and cries of “A chance to be someone who deserved love.” It’s a song about fatherhood and how being a parent changes your entire perspective on the world and that survival for this person is imperative. The Dusk in Us is one of the most personal records Converge have produced and with life changing quickly for its main writer, the band are now becoming mature in different ways. Musically it’s still Converge through and through, although their recent collaborative project Blood Moon has given them a chance to reach out into slightly different territory which reflects on The Dusk in Us on the slower more dramatic pieces.

The title track is one such piece; the song moves on precise guitar strikes and echoing sounds that overlay Bannon’s initial spoken word style before it builds a little more and the clean, almost sang vocals drop into view. It’s a doomy, moody song that reverberates with darkness and the knowledge that it is always with us.

The Dusk in Us is a record that Converge have always been on the precipice of making; the maturity on show is welcome and for a band who have been regulars on the scene for almost thirty years. A lot changed in even a short space of time and Converge have never gone back and instead have consistently look forwards in terms of the sound. Alas, darkness is omnipresent and it’s in their music that the band, and their fans, finds their solace.

Ghold – Stoic

(Crypt of the Wizard Records)

Recording in a 17th century chapel suits London’s Ghold and their sonics perfectly and on Stoic they utilise the building’s acoustics to marvellous effect. Sounds are rich and bounce off each other with ease. Vocals are layered and doomed, each band member in the trio adding their voice to the chorus in order to create multiple voices for the narrative and giving their style of sludge an even filthier atmosphere. It’s a clever trick that opening track ‘Nothing Dreamt’ showcases perfectly. The aural movements are dramatic with even the quieter moments towards the end feeling weighty and oppressive despite their relative silence – there is theatre in allowing the audience to think there is safety within that quiet.

‘Blue Robe’s’ beginning is deathly beautiful; shifting drones loop around each other in waves of gorgeously sorrowful melancholy, the instrumental track adding a touch of bittersweet reminiscence to proceedings and building to the painful noise of ‘Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand).’ Stoic doesn’t shy away from the hardships and instead embraces them as rumbling bass and powerfully bellowed words from the band.

The off-kilter ‘Faeder Ure’ and it’s inhuman cries come across like lost recordings from an asylum, giving a disgusting and claustrophobic slant to the sounds that Ghold produce. They’ve come a long way in the five or so years of being a band and with Stoic there’s a sense that they have finally hit upon the sound that has always been promised.

Tchornobog – Tchornobog

(Fallen Empire Records)

Tchornobog’s debut came at the height of summer; however the vinyl release is currently under pre-order hence the inclusion here in November’s column. Plus, we missed it first time round and it’s really bloody good. Death/doom at its core and permeated with inflections of black metal and even the occasional glimpse of beauty, Tchornobog is the brainchild of Markov Soroka (a man who has at least two other projects currently) and was recorded in Iceland two years ago.

Despite running a little over one hour, Tchornobog never outstays its welcome. Instead, the four tracks here move through abyssal death metal, gorgeous piano, rich saxophone and the blackest recesses of the mind. Soroka may have spent a while constructing this ode to the night but that time was extraordinarily spent. Opening on the ‘I: The Vomiting Tchornobog (Slithering Gods of Cognitive Dissonance)’ the record sets out its manifesto early on.

All clashing riffs and cavernous vocals – some contributed by Esoteric’s Greg Chandler – the song is twenty minutes of pure lamentation. Soroka is adept at creating landscapes with his music and on Tchornobog he allows the sounds to build mountains around the mind, feeding on the claustrophobic elements of the song and permeating the subconscious with images of madness.

‘III: Non-Existence’s Warmth (Infinite Natality Psychosis)’ begins on stripped back drums and rumbling drones, the song building on layers of dissonance and echoing, inhuman howls before bittersweet melancholy breaks through the shadows and a truly sorrowful guitar line is pushed to the foreground. It’s a beautifully sad moment that only serves to heighten the tension held elsewhere. Saxophone reminiscent of Bohren und der Club of Gore shines with anguish while vocals are guttural and laced with pain, spreading out in waves of utter despair over the warm strings that add to the drama. It’s a highlight in a record teeming with spectacular moments and if you feel like having a little cry, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

The Body & Full of Hell – Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light

(Thrill Jockey Records)

Are The Body one of the hardest working bands around at the moment? Do they ever stop touring or releasing music? Their catalogue is vast and it feels like every few months a new release is laid at our feet. This time the due collaborate with fellow hard workers, Full of Hell, to create Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light and a release that features the best parts of each band.

The weird, experiment electronica of The Body’s latter day work melds with Full of Hell’s hardcore/grindcore/black metal hybrid in ways that seem almost impossible. Chip King’s (The Body) voice is extraordinary and his high-pitched screams filter through the harsh beats of ‘Earth is a Cage’ while Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker fires his spite through a sheen of hardcore influences. This isn’t the first time the two acts have collaborated and they build on the foundations laid down by 2016s One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache while also bringing an even harsher tone to proceedings.

‘Didn’t the Night End’ moves in cyclic beats that feed dual vocals – vocals that play off the harshness of each other and the filthy glitches beneath before ‘Our Love Conducted With Shields Aloft’ breaks the rhythm with crushing noise and inhuman screams. ‘Master’s Story’ strides on an almost tribal beat that seeps into the subconscious, melting into the darkness and the hypnotic, repetitive vocals and in ‘Farewell, Man’ Full of Hell take the lead with a furious, grinding outlook that assures no light can be seen.

Both of these bands are thrilling on their own but together they create music that is on another plane of destruction.

Ulver – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi EP

(House of Mythology)

Surprise! Ulver have a new release! Albeit an EP, but a new Ulver release is an exciting day. Dropping with no prior warning, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi EP follows on from the wonderful The Assassination of Julius Caesar from earlier this year and feature two tracks cut from the original album and a cover version of an 80s track so perfect it hurts.

At this point Ulver are certainly not a metal band but the scene loves them still and there’s a myriad of darkness to be found in their synth-pop of late. ‘Echo Chamber (Room of Tears)’ continues where its parent record left off with gorgeous synthesised lines creating the backbone of the track while Kristoffer Rygg’s voice lays over it all with heightened grace. ‘Bring our Your Dead’ sounds like something lost from the new romantic era with slick beats permeating the strings that lead the track from the ether.

It’s Ulver’s version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love’ that really impresses, though. Of course their original material is sublime but this song seems made for their current sound and Ulver bring themselves entirely to the song. Rygg’s voice soars with emotion and the band captures the mood of the original whilst also adding mountains more sadness and allowing the lyrics to form the centrepiece of the song. It’s another step on the road to Ulver’s transformation which has been fascinating to watch.

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