Columnus Metallicus: January’s Heavy Metal Reviewed By Kez Whelan

Listen and understand, says Kez Whelan. Heavy metal is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop ever until you are banging your head to some sweet riffology

Mortiis portrait by Jeremy Saffer

Welcome to 2020, fellow riff addicts, and congratulations – you survived another year! It’s something a lot of us take for granted, but it’s worth reflecting on what an impressive achievement that really is – especially as we plough into January, the most depressing of all months. As per tradition, January’s release schedule isn’t quite as stacked as the rest of the year. Still, there’s been a lot of good stuff released lately regardless, and you’ll be pleased to hear that whilst you’ve been trying to shake that festive slump and systemically breaking all your new year’s resolutions, I’ve been diligently burrowing away to unearth the most succulent metal morsels the month has to offer.

You might notice there’s a lot of retro revivalism this month – but before ye, oh exalted tQ reader with both impeccable taste and a hunger to discover fresh new sounds, turn up your beautifully proportioned nose at this, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And besides, aren’t all music lovers driven by a bit of nostalgia to some extent? In a way, we’re all just chasing that first musical hit when we couldn’t understand what was happening, that joyous period in time before you could distinguish the sounds of different musical instruments and music was just this big, overwhelming morass of noise that swept you off your feet and left you wordless, mouth agape and mind blown. Eventually, of course, you train your ear up and before you know it, that wall of sound that once seemed so impenetrable and alien suddenly reveals itself to be a complex collage of individual noises that you can pick apart and dissect.

Learning to play an instrument yourself only magnifies this effect, and as endlessly fascinating and enjoyable as it to pick apart music and hear how different musicians play off one another to create it, there’s still a distant pining for those days when you couldn’t distinguish what the fuck was going on and music felt like some kind of unknowable cosmic entity rather than the sounds of several human beings working together. And whilst that leads some to try and painstakingly replicate the music that first had that effect on them as a youth, maybe that pining is also what drives the search for weird or “challenging” music, music that still has that alienating effect on your battle worn ears. If that sounds like a familiar affliction, then you’ve come to the right place…

Dragged Into Sunlight – Terminal Aggressor II


The sudden release of a brand new 28 minute track from Dragged Into Sunlight came as a big surprise this month – not least to the band themselves, who, in the midst of a messy break up with Prosthetic, had some stern words for their former label, alleging that they dropped this EP without discussion with the band. As of yet, Prosthetic has yet to respond to any of these claims, and DIS have urged fans to share the track around and listen to it regardless – so that’s what we’re going to do. It would be a shame if label politics overshadowed Terminal Aggressor II anyway, as this thing absolutely rips.

A sequel of sorts to the band’s debut EP of the same name, Terminal Aggressor II follows a similar structure, steadily and patiently creating a rich, noisy soundscape out of feedback, crackling distorted ambience and distant vomited vocal proclamations for the first half of its run time. Eventually, a thick, undulating bass line roars into earshot, gradually building into one of those suffocating, sensory overload style riffs that are this band’s speciality, a deafening and overwhelming wall of sound accompanied by thunderous drum rolls, cavernous death metal-isms and some of the most violent, unhinged vocals the band have put to tape yet. Just as it all seems too much to bear, the track breaks to the kind of skeletal, desolate guitar chords that typified the first half of their Widowmaker LP. This calm can’t last however, and at this segment’s gruesome apex, all hell breaks loose with a volley of jaw dropping blasts and glass shattering screeches, as the same chords that seemed so sparse and minimal a few minutes ago suddenly sound like the entire weight of the world crashing down on you all at once.

Terminal Aggressor II arrives at an interesting transitional point in Dragged Into Sunlight’s history, and will likely be remembered as such. But whatever the future may have in store for them, this EP is a brilliantly well-realised combination of all the sounds and styles they’ve previously explored, wrapped up in one absolutely bludgeoning half hour package. Whilst the band are most well known for their intensity and overwhelming sonic force, they’re also masters of tension and release and are clearly in this for the long game. Much like Widowmaker, Terminal Aggressor II is a release that requires patience but will reward it tenfold.

Kirk Windstein – Dream In Motion


Crowbar frontman and all round sludge metal lifer Kirk Windstein unveils his keenly awaited solo album this month, but anyone expecting an acoustic record or just more Crowbar will likely be very surprised. Dream In Motion doesn’t shy away from big juicy riffs when appropriate, but it’s largely a more ethereal, introverted and subtle beast than Kirk’s other projects. Songs like ‘Once Again’ and the forlorn ‘Necropolis’ have a downbeat, Southern gothic vibe to them, easing off on Kirk’s trademark bowel juddering guitar tone but sounding no less crushing, with Windstein showing off a gentler, more reflective side to his usually gruff, bellowing vocals. ‘The World You Know’ ploughs similar terrain but makes room for some of those majestically mournful, weepy guitar harmonies that he excels in.

Songs like the title track and dynamic, affecting ‘Hollow Dying Man’ bring back some of the heftier riffs and forceful doom that you’d associate with Crowbar, but even then there’s a different atmosphere here. At a push, it’s more akin to the rich, gloomy melodicism of Crowbar’s magnum opus, 1998’s Odd Fellow’s Rest, than the more aggressive, brash sound of the band’s recent records, and it’s a sound that suits Kirk really well. Whilst Crowbar might be famous for their sludgy riffs and dense sonic might, there’s always been a vulnerability and raw emotional honesty to them that has helped their metallic bluster hit harder and deeper than a lot of their more overtly macho peers. In many ways, Dream In Motion feels like Kirk has taken that feeling, distilled it and crafted a full album from it – and make no mistake, this is very much an album rather than a collection of odds and sods or songs that weren’t good enough for Crowbar. It has a clear narrative arc and flows really nicely – the transition from defiant self-improvement anthem ‘Toxic’, for example, into the gorgeous, meditative instrumental ‘The Healing’ not only makes thematic sense but sounds fucking great too. Even the closing (and surprisingly faithful) cover of Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’ seems to fit the record’s theme too, and it’s a blast to hear Kirk’s weathered voice and distinctively gristly guitar sound making the song his own.

Ultimately, Dream In Motion proves what sludge fans have known all along; that, even without a wall of amplifiers and deafening doomy riffs behind him, Kirk is still an incredibly gifted and compelling song writer in his own right, and one of the leading lights of the whole NOLA sludge scene.

Body Void / Keeper – Split

(Tridroid Records / Roman Numeral Records)

If it’s deafening doomy riffs you’re after though, then this is hands down the best this January has to offer. A split between two of today’s most promising new doom bands, the first side finds crushing San Franciscan trio Body Void continuing to hone their bleak, punishing sound into an ever more minimal and harrowing beast. This has been an ongoing process, as the band have progressed from the more up-tempo, D-beat laden sludge of 2016’s Ruins to a slower, denser and more oppressive style on 2018’s I Live Inside A Burning House, akin to contemporaries Primitive Man but with more high-pitched shrieks instead of guttural bellows. This song, ‘Androgyne’, might just be their heaviest yet however, allowing huge detuned chords to linger uncomfortably before suddenly giving way to ear-piercing squeals of feedback, in a manner very reminiscent of Burning Witch’s ‘The Bleeder’. As minimal and restrained as it is though, this isn’t just another doom exercise in pushing as much air out of an amp as possible – ‘Androgyne’ remains interesting throughout, passing through several different segments in a very organic manner (including a sweat-drenched punky crescendo, complete with an absolutely hellish blast section), before collapsing back into a thick, droning void.

Keeper, meanwhile, you might remember from their excellent splits with Brighton misery merchants Sea Bastard and Canadian blackened sludge duo Old Witch back in 2015. Doom fiends have been waiting with bated breath for more ever since, and whilst it might not scratch that full-length itch just yet, the two tracks they offer up here amount to an immensely satisfying return. ‘Trial And Error’ feels like quick sand, a truly despondent mire of a song that just seems to get nastier and nastier as it progresses – it’s like a more stripped down Thou jamming on Xasthur riffs until their collective spirits break. The vocals here are more of a throaty, raspy howl than the larynx shredding banshee wail of Body Void, and they seem to get more and more pained and tormented as the split continues. ‘Twenty’ is even sparser, conjuring a tortured soundscape bereft of booming distorted guitars as skin-crawling drones steadily echo out beneath what sounds like an extremely painful vocal exorcism. Great stuff, here’s hoping we won’t have to wait another half a decade for more!

Midnight – Rebirth By Blasphemy

(Metal Blade)

With a new label and a title like Rebirth By Blasphemy, you’d be forgiven for expecting a musical evolution of sorts from Cleveland’s most raucous musical export, especially given that their last album, 2017’s Sweet Death And Ecstasy was bookended by two longer, more ambitiously structured songs. But come on – this is fucking Midnight we’re talking about here, and as soon as ‘Fucking Speed And Darkness’ begins with a throaty “OUGH!” and a riff so sleazy you’ll want to make sure your tetanus shots are up to date before hitting play, you know you’re going to be in for another rip-roaring half hour of rambunctious blackened speed metal filth. And this does not disappoint; D-beat fuelled, hook laden bangers like ‘Devil’s Excrement’, ‘Cursed Possessions’ and ‘Escape The Grave’ are classic no nonsense Midnight ragers, and the kind of infectious tunes you’ll be able to sing along to by the time the second chorus loops round on your first listen. There are a couple of more mid-paced numbers too, that build on Sweet Death’s experiments whilst retaining true to the Midnight sound. ‘Rising Scum’, for example, uses a thumping groove similar to Venom’s ‘In League With Satan’ as a springboard for sweaty classic rock leads, ominous vintage metal chords and Athenar’s feral, thoroughly disgusted vocals, whilst the title track is an authoritative, churning stomper, pitched somewhere between Celtic Frost and The Stooges.

‘Warning From The Reaper’, meanwhile, is an unlikely fusion of greasy garage punk and booming, clap-along stadium rock swagger, a combo that really shouldn’t work as well as it does here, Athenar’s aggressive bark preventing things from ever seeming too cheesy or insincere. Likewise for ‘The Sounds Of Hell’, a rollicking little ditty that comes across like a Satanic, coked up Status Quo, and is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. For the most part though, Rebirth is business as usual for Midnight, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Metal Blade seems like the perfect home for the band too, given that their primordial blend of punk, first wave black metal, early thrash and good ol’ fashioned rock & roll feels like a physical manifestation of all the label’s Metal Massacre compilations combined, back when all these sub-genres weren’t as rigidly defined and bled into each other in an extremely unpretentious, unmediated way. Get drunk, get naked, play this thing as loud as you possibly can and start your new year in style.

Reaper – Unholy Nordic Noise

(Iron Bonehead)

Midnight might worship at the altar of first wave of black metal, but Sweden’s Reaper go one step further, sounding like their influences include the first Bathory album and literally nothing else. Well, OK, maybe that’s not entirely fair – some of the guitar leads on tracks like ‘Severing Tentacles Of Faith’ and ‘Horn Of Hades’ are a bit more orchestrated and elaborate than the ones you’d find on Bathory’s self-titled, but the filthy thrashing pulse of songs like ‘Arctic Wrath – Blood And Bone’ and ‘The Birth Of War’ are deadringers for Quorthon’s early days. Sonically, this thing is right on the money too, with everything from the unremitting, musty thump of the kick drum to the cold, trebly hiss of the guitar and even the throaty, croaking vocals sounding like they’ve been cryogenically frozen from 1984. If Bathory had never progressed to the proto-black metal of The Return and instead emphasised the thrashier speed metal stylings of their debut, this is probably what their second album would have sounded like – the wonderfully titled ‘Ravenous Storm Of Piss’, for example, brings those beer drinkin’, hell raisin’ Motörheadisms to the fore with thrilling effect.

So Unholy Nordic Noise is derivative as fuck then, but the whole thing is so much fun you’ll hardly care, whipping past in a blur of snarling metallic fury and providing exactly the cold, seething kick in the teeth you need to start your year off with a bang – unless of course you’re not into the first Bathory album, in which case (and I say this with the utmost respect) stop reading this column immediately, you fucking wimp.

Haunt – Mind Freeze

(Shadow Kingdom)

If you’re more prone to fetishising early NWOBHM than first wave black metal however, then fear not, Californian upstarts Haunt have you covered. The four piece have generated quite a buzz of late with their shamelessly 80s tinged sound, and whilst it’s tempting to say that what Reaper are to Bathory, Haunt are to Angel Witch, there’s a bit more going on here than just Kevin Heybourne worship, no matter how uncannily similar frontman Trevor William Church’s melodious, slightly nasal vocals are. Tracks like ‘Fight Or Flight’ draw more from early thrash and D-beat for example, whilst the title track, for better or for worse, recalls The Ultimate Sin era Ozzy Osbourne in all his OTT stadium filling pomp.

This being the band’s third album in as many years however, unfortunately the cracks in their formula are beginning to show. ‘Light The Beacon’ is a curiously flat opener, for example – whilst the warm, booming production sounds immediately inviting and thunderous, the song itself is a bit of a dud, with a lifeless yet incessant hook that will stay with you for all the wrong reasons. There’s been an inexplicable upsurge in the amount of keyboards this time round too, all with that slightly naff quality that typified a lot of 80s metal acts and their attempts to "branch out". In fairness, these keys manage to create a suitably spacey, evocative intro to ‘Have No Fear’, but in songs like ‘Divide And Conquer’ they just sound clumsily implemented and distract from the admittedly scorching guitar licks on display. Worse still, ‘Saviours Of Man’ is in danger of drifting into saccharine AOR schmaltz, with only the Maiden-esque guitar squeals distinguishing it from your average Kenny Loggins B-side. Mind Freeze isn’t a terrible record by any means, but doesn’t feel fully deserving of the hype surrounding it at all – and when bands like Angel Witch themselves are still putting out much stronger records than this one, it’s hard to recommend Mind Freeze to anyone but the most obsessive NWOBHM devotee.

Mortiis – Spirit Of Rebellion

(Dead Seed Productions)

If slightly naff keyboards are your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear Mortiis is back! Honestly, I did not expect another dungeon synth record from Håvard Ellefsen in 2020. After releasing several albums worth of minimal medieval ambience in the mid 90s, everyone’s favourite Norwegian forest troll abruptly shifted gears to gothic synth pop with 2001’s The Smell Of Rain, before gradually morphing into a dance floor friendly (and probably far more lucrative) industrial rock band from 2004’s The Grudge onwards. Even his carefully cultivated aesthetic become more palatable, eventually ditching the exaggerated Tolkien-esque goblin prosthetics entirely until he looked more like someone you’d see crawling out of Slimelight at 4AM than an inhabitant of Mordor.

Spirit Of Rebellion is a wholesale return to his roots however (even the prosthetic nose has been re-donned!), to the point that this could have easily been released in 1995 and nothing would have seemed amiss. Structurally, it’s very similar to his first few albums, consisting of two lengthy pieces compromised of numerous shorter passages that all combine to create one eerie, labyrinthine whole. The first builds from subtle keyboard flourishes to a truly bombastic, grandiose peak, whilst the second makes prominent use of what sounds like a MIDI soprano, with booming synthetic vocal lines underpinning sweeping medieval melodies. Whilst the production is more robust than his old work, the actual sounds themselves are just as tinny and cheap. That was always a big part of Mortiis’ early charm however, and maybe it would sound wrong with more polished, cinematic synths, but it’s hard not to wonder what this would sound like with a more elaborate sonic palette. Still, Mortiis manages to get a lot of mileage out of these sounds and builds a genuinely immersive atmosphere nonetheless.

Given that Spirit Of Rebellion is such a knowing throwback to records that came out 25 years ago but doesn’t really build on or progress that sound in any way, it does feel slightly redundant – but that said, Mortiis does sound a lot more at home here than anywhere else. Back in the early 90s, nothing else sounded like this (whereas his industrial stuff always existed very much in the shadow of bands like Nine Inch Nails or Ministry), and with dungeon synth seemingly en vogue right now, it’s entirely fitting that the genre’s pioneer should return to show a new generation of Casio enthusiasts how it’s done.

Obsidian Tongue – Volume III


American duo Obsidian Tongue really impressed me with their second album, 2013’s A Nest Of Ravens In The Throat Of Time, a solid hour of earthy atmospheric black metal with a nice stripped down sound and a vivid imagination in the song writing department. Following a split with Infera Bruo in 2015 however, the band have been silent ever since. Thankfully it turns out that guitarist/vocalist Brendan Hayter has been steadily refining and honing his craft rather than stagnating, having enlisted the help of Falls Of Rauros’ Raymond Capizzo after the departure of original drummer Greg Murphy. Capizzo brings an extra dose of energy to these songs, with his blasts feeling absolutely ravenous and capable of shredding your face off in seconds. In fact, it feels like everything about the band has been taken to the next level with this album – the faster, nasty black metal bits are even faster and nastier, the atmospheric passages are even more enveloping and emotive and the songs themselves are even more intricate and memorable. Hayter’s clean vocals are sounding stronger and more confident than ever, and whilst his harsh screams are still just as effective, his vocal melodies this time around are infectious and immensely powerful.

Epic fifteen minute opener ‘Anatkh’ makes this all abundantly clear from the off, contrasting savage blackened riffs with forlorn, elegant vocals that bring to mind early Woods Of Ypres (a band that Hayter briefly played bass in back in 2011), before culminating in a symphony of stunning, swirling guitar harmonies atop sorrowful open chords. ‘Poison Green Dream’ is one of the most ferocious and visceral pieces the band has recorded yet, whilst heart stopping centrepiece ‘Return To The Fields Of Violet’ is arguably their most beautiful, building to an intense Agalloch-ian climax complete with a genuinely eerie, mournful guitar lead and some of Hayter’s most expressive vocals, bringing to mind Warning and 40 Watt Sun’s Patrick Walker in their yearning, pained phrasing. ‘Empath’ is another lengthy, ambitious piece combining Into The Pandemonium-esque spoken female vocals with some of the album’s most obtuse and head spinning riffing. Volume III is ten minutes shorter than its predecessor, but somehow seems to cram in even more ideas and memorable moments without ever feeling cluttered or unfocussed. Simply put, this is the band’s best album so far, and if they can maintain this focus and intensity for volume four, they’ll be well on their way to becoming one of atmospheric black metal’s most powerful contemporary proponents.

Worm – Gloomlord

(Iron Bonehead)

Speaking of two-pieces, Floridian death/doom duo Worm return with their second album this month, and they’re leaning even more heavily into their already palpable diSEMBOWELMENT influence. Songs like ‘Rotting Spheres Of Sentient Black’ absolutely reek of the Australian pioneers, right down to the sinister, reverb drenched clean guitars echoing out over waves of thick, muddy distortion. ‘Apparitions Of Gloom’ dishes out more blastbeats, tremolo riffs and high register shrieks, and ‘Melting In The Necrosphere’ offers some more traditionally deathly riffery à la Incantation, but for the most part, Gloomlord largely dwells in dark, dank doom territory, all lurching, desolate riffs, muted guttural rumbles and booming, snail paced drums.

Worm’s sound isn’t quite as well-realised or compelling as, say, Spectral Voice, but this almost works in their favour, shrouding the record in an obscure, unsettling fog, its rough and ready production only adding to the swampy, suffocating atmosphere. Their sound is still largely the sum of their influences however, with nothing here (save perhaps monumental closer and album highlight ‘Abysmal Dimensions’, with its sickly, forlorn melodies gradually spiralling out into a grotesquely beautiful tapestry atop an increasingly punishing dirge) really breaking the traditional death/doom mould, but there’s certainly a lot of promise here – and if you’re a sucker for this style, this is a pretty damn tasty slab of misery to see you through January at the very least.

Snorlax – II

(Brilliant Emperor Records)

It might seem sort of ridiculous to name your extreme metal band after a Pokémon, but it’s not like metal has ever shied away from using fantasy as inspiration. Is it any less ridiculous to name your band after a character from The Lord Of The Rings? Maybe it seems so, as we’ve got loads of those already whilst this is the first (to my knowledge) to pay tribute to Nintendo’s animal hoarding franchise, but why? Is it just an age thing? The Lord Of The Rings is an established work of literature with its own lore in a way that Pokémon isn’t – but would it seem less absurd in ten, twenty years from now once the property has passed into the annals of history? Is it just the perceived family friendly quality Pokémon has that feels at odds with the darkness of extreme metal? Sure, the bright primary colours and joyful aesthetic of the Pokémon cartoon hardly scream “black metal”, but then, in fairness, neither did Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated The Lord Of The Rings film. To that extent, you could argue the spooky, dimly lit caves in the original 1996 Game Boy Pokémon game, teeming with unknown horrors round every corner, make for far better source material for extreme metal than a bunch of jaunty cartoon hobbits having a pissed up singalong. After all, what could be more “metal” than lawlessly roaming the land, capturing and harnessing the power of wild beasts and utilising them to destroy any rival that might stand in your way? Right, guys? Right?

Anyway, if you can look past the name, II is a satisfyingly ferocious slab of blackened death metal, with the emphasis on death. Tracks like ‘The Chaos Ov Iron Oppression’ and ‘Encapsulated Apocalypse’ (two songs presumably about the indignity of being imprisoned inside a Pokéball for the majority of your waking life) deliver waves of swirling black metal dissonance and harsh, unrelenting blastbeats, but the guttural vocals, sweep picked licks, pinch harmonics and palm muted chunks of tracks like ‘Infernal Devourment’ place this thing firmly in the death metal camp. The final track ‘Impending Abysmal Wretchedness’ is a particular highlight, courting both black and death very nicely indeed as it veers between jangly high end tremolo and fat, churning riffs, all topped off with a deliciously wild dive bomb lead. The production here is a lot crisper and clearer than your standard solo black metal act, with every instrument punching through the mix quite satisfyingly. II won’t change your life, but for what it does, it does very well.

Leeched – To Dull The Blades Of Your Abuse


There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this Mancunian hardcore trio’s mean, violent sound, but I have to admit that neither 2017 debut Nothing Will Grow From The Rotten Ground or 2018’s You Took The Sun When You Left did much to distinguish themselves from a lot of other dark, brooding and grindy modern hardcore bands to my jaded old ears. They were both perfectly functional, decent records, but I never found myself reaching for them over albums by, say, Helpless, Let It Die, Minors or countless others. To Dull The Blades Of Your Abuse is a different story however – it’s not that their sound has really changed or evolved all that much in the interim, but it’s been refined into a much more exciting and volatile proposition. The cold, bleak atmosphere they were aiming for previously feels a lot more realised here, with an effective use of industrial noise underpinning the whole thing, bubbling up to the surface on stark, mid-tempo tracks like ‘Now It Ends’ and ‘Let Me Die’, one of the album’s most claustrophobic and unsettling highlights, complete with Aaron Turner-esque bellows. There’s quite a contrast between these slower, more single minded tracks and frenetic cuts like ‘Earth And Ash’ and ‘I, Flatline’, which assault the listener with a barrage of different ideas as manic blastbeats, histrionic guitar squeals and random bursts of harsh noise all whip past at frenetic pace before falling into hulking, knuckle dragging breakdowns.

It’s similar in many ways to what Code Orange attempted to do on 2017’s confused and muddled Forever, only a lot more successfully put together and menacing sounding. There’s still a fairly disjointed, cluttered feel to some of these songs though (with songs like ‘Famine At The Gates’ seeming more like a loosely combined series of breakdowns than an actual song), and Leeched are definitely at their best when either keeping things short and sweet (like the raging ‘Burn With Me’) or allowing themselves enough room to let the suffocating nature of their sound really take hold, as on dense closer ‘Black Sun Ceremony’. The actual sound of this album is crushing, boasting a thick, gristly production that just seems to ooze out of your speakers like vile black sludge. There is a genuinely confrontational quality to this record too that makes it easier to overlook its shortcomings – or in other words, you’ll be too busy getting absolutely battered to care about any compositional blind spots. This is a big step in the right direction for Leeched, and it’ll be interesting to see how they progress from here.

Agvirre – Silence

(Trepanation Recordings/Surviving Sounds)

Manchester yields another gem this month, with the debut from this Werner Herzog inspired black metal trio ticking all the right boxes. Over the course of two lengthy pieces (plus the obligatory atmospheric intro, of course), the band weave a chaotic yet strangely beautiful wall of noise, with their anxious blend of black metal and post rock coming across as a lot less serene and polite than a lot of other bands currently mining this style. Maybe it’s the tortured, desperate screams, maybe it’s the dramatic, restless violin accompaniment (it’s sort of reminiscent of the first At The Gates album in that regard, which is never a bad thing), maybe it’s the themes of struggling with mental health grounding the record or the cluttered yet somehow cohesive compositional style – whatever it is, Silence sounds much more aggressive and unhinged than your typical Deafheaven clone.

‘Muzzle And Mask’ is a sprawling, almost overwhelming melting pot of different styles, darting wildly between downbeat post-hardcore riffing, blizzard-like black metal, bizarre operatic wailing and dissonant, angular skronk. It’s a lot to take in, but somehow manages to hold together whilst retaining that thrilling “might fly off the rails at any given moment” vibe. ‘Abandonment’, meanwhile, is a lot more focussed, and allows that wild violin to come to the forefront, building a Panopticon-esque soundscape with blistering drumming, morose tremolo picked chords and some truly harrowing, hoarse DSBM style screams. At the apex of the maelstrom, it unexpectedly breaks into a melodic, major-key chorus, like some forgotten Alcest song ghost-written by Weezer, before collapsing in a brief neo-classical flourish and abruptly ending. There are a lot of ideas on this EP, and whilst they might not be structured in the most accessible manner, this unpredictable, chaotic approach suits the band’s subject matter and really helps them stand out amidst the glut of atmospheric black metal bands currently doing the rounds. A very promising start.

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