Columnus Metallicus: Heavy Metal For June Reviewed By Kez Whelan

Kez Whelan looks at the best heavy metal released during June

Is it just me, or has there been a lot of great death metal released recently? This subset was basically my bread and butter when I discovered the wonderful world of extreme metal as a pimply teen, but I drifted away from it as time went on, growing increasingly disinterested as the genre seemed flooded with second-rate Entombed clones, overly clinical technical wankery and the empty, soulless machismo of the whole “deathcore” thing.

Don’t get me wrong, there have always been great death metal bands making great death metal records, even during that dark period at the turn of the 2000s, but they seemed to be the exception to the rule back then; whilst most other metal subgenres were flourishing and venturing out in all kinds of bizarre new directions, death metal seemed, well… dead.

Recently, however, something’s changed; whatever identity crisis death metal was going through seems to have resolved itself, as bands like Morbus Chron, Blood Incantation and Venenum have captured that old school sound without just ripping it off, instead remaking classic death metal styles in their own image, whilst bands like Artificial Brain, Chthe’ilist and the absurdly named Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum have been flying the flag for tech-death without descending into mindless shred, keeping engaging song-writing and infectious riffs at the fore. June in particular has belched forth an alarming amount of decent metal, and death metal in particular, so let’s get stuck in…

Gravetemple – Impassable Fears


This feels like it’s been a long time coming. Originally splintering off from Sunn O))) as a way for Stephen O’Malley, Attila Csihar and Oren Ambarchi to tour Israel in 2006, the outbreak of the second Lebanon war shortly beforehand did little to deter them, perhaps only adding to the bristling tension and overt, claustrophobic darkness of live debut The Holy Down. That record’s percussive element was further expanded on 2008’s Ambient / Ruin demo, with Ambarchi passing the sticks to Australian drummer Matt Sanders (Blood Duster, Sadistik Exekution). Sanders’ more precise, death metal indebted style brought a bizarrely satisfying rigidity to O’Malley’s free-flowing drones and Ambarchi’s unnerving digital bass clicks, hinting at great things to come from the group. Besides another very limited live release in 2009, that would be the last we’d hear of Gravetemple for a while as the project overlapped and grew back into Sunn O))).

Gravetemple maintained an occasional live presence however, with the seeds for debut studio album Impassable Fears being sewn during a run of UK dates in 2013. And it’s a good thing too, because Gravetemple always felt like more than just a one-off experimental tangent, but a significantly different beast to Sunn O))) to warrant further exploration. Impassable Fears runs at a compact half-hour length, and it feels like all those great ideas that fizzled up to the surface during Ambient / Ruin’s frenzied brainstorm have been refined and chiselled down to turn them into the best album they could possibly be. Ambarchi is in fine form back behind the kit, seemingly mixing a bit of Sanders’ death metal flavour into his own free-improv style on tracks like the mind-smearing ‘Elavult Foldbolygo’. Stunning centre-piece ‘Athatolhatatlan Felelmek’ sees jittering tom fills interrupted by sporadic blasts and thunderous cymbal swells, whilst O’Malley unleashes a searing lead over menacing, slow motion chug. It almost sounds like an Incantation song melting away to reveal its frothing, molten core, a hideous amorphous stew in which familiar sounds collapse into grotesque, Cronenberg style abominations, and it’s fucking brilliant, basically.

Impetuous Ritual –Blight Upon Martyred Sentience

(Profound Lore)

Whack this Impetuous Ritual album on directly after Impassable Fears, and you’d be forgiven thinking the distance between Gravetemple and contemporary death metal had been greatly exaggerated. Opening with the heart-stopping drone of ‘Void Cohesion’, the Australian quartet’s third opus kicks off with a powerfully sparse drum beat propelling a wall of fluctuating feedback and guttural vocal exclamations in an intimidatingly sluggish manner that’s more like Corrupted than any of their deathly peers. It makes the speed of next track ‘Apoptosis’ all the more jarring, as wild, noisy solos that border on free jazz spiral out of face-melting blastbeats and wrist-witheringly chaotic riffs. That intensity actually manages to build throughout the course of the album rather than dissipate; ‘Inordinate Disdain’ keeps the momentum going whilst adding a subtle but potent dose of melody, whilst ‘Untoward Evocation’ appears to spin wildly out of control, as clusters of pointed, Immolation-esque riffs collapse into slow, dissonant chunks before bubbling back up to the surface again.

The experimental aspect of this album shouldn’t be surprising given that both guitarists Kevin Kevinson and Brad Lee Long are also members of death metal deconstructionists Portal, but it’s definitely more pronounced than the first two Impetuous Ritual albums, which felt more like an exercise in all-out fury compared to Portal’s more intricate and atmospheric style. Blight Upon Martyred Sentience is, to my ears, the band’s best yet, finding a perfect balance between ear-bleeding brutality and unpredictable yet memorable song-writing. That’s not to take away from the quality of the first two albums, or even to suggest that this album’s more avant-garde moments are anything less than traumatically aggressive, but Blight… feels more measured, dynamic and effective, and is all the better for it.

Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him

(Century Media)

Originally a means for Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh to blow off some steam and create an altogether filthier racket than his day job, Vallenfyre have since become a reliably heavy entity in their own right. Fear Those Who Fear Him, their third album and first as a trio, is probably their crowning achievement thus far, with songs like ‘Messiah’ and ‘Dead World Breathes’ being the fastest, grindiest and downright nastiest songs the band have put to tape. It’s not all scathing speed, however; ‘Amongst The Filth’ is a fat, morbid slab of death/doom, with Greg’s guttural croak and deliberate phrasing a deadringer for Winter frontman John Alman, whilst the vast, miserable dirge of ‘An Apathetic Grave’ sounds like a long-lost out-take from Paradise Lost’s classic Gothic opus.

There’s still very much a contemporary edge to these songs, however. Whilst obviously indebted to records like From Enslavement To Obliteration and To Mega Therion, at no point does Fear Those Who Fear Him ever feel like just a bunch of ageing metal dudes pining for the mid-80s. Keeping his ear to the ground, Greg is still a keen supporter of new bands, and that hunger for fresh music shines through here, preventing this from being merely an exercise in nostalgia. For example, the brute-force immediacy of songs like ‘Kill All Your Masters’ and ‘Nihilist’, combined with their anthemic quality and surprisingly catchy sloganeering choruses, reek of the last Nails album, and there’s simultaneously a very classic and modern feel to the destructive, syncopated grooves of ‘The Merciless Tide’ (not to mention the deliciously beefy production). There’s no bullshit here; this is a snarling, stream-lined beast of a metal record that should get old and young heads banging with equal enthusiasm.

Municipal Waste – Slime And Punishment

(Nuclear Blast)

It’s been five years since we’ve heard any new music from Municipal Waste, although it was beginning to feel like the band’s “party thrash” shtick had worn a little thin over the course of five albums. If Waste ’Em All was the frenzied pre-drinking session, then Hazardous Mutation was where the party really peaked, with The Art Of Partying being the raucous, luxuriously inebriated shenanigans that followed. By the time Massive Aggressive rolled around, the party was fizzling out, finding itself in that weird early morning nether-zone, making The Fatal Feast (Waste In Space) seem like that fiend who keeps insisting everyone has one more line come daylight. Sure, he’s still beavering away with the same enthusiasm he’s had all night, but as you clutch your head and squint to keep the first of the sun’s rays out of your bloodshot, lifeless eyes, you can’t help but thinking you’d really rather just head to bed now, thanks.

It seems we all needed a break, with the Waste guys taking some time off to delve into other projects. As a result, everyone seems to have returned with more focus, making Slime And Punishment seem much fresher than the last two records. The addition of second guitarist Nick Poulos has added a little extra spice too, with songs like ‘Dingy Situations’ deploying some shreddin’ melodic leads. Really though, it’s kind of business as usual, with the band’s usual blend of classic thrash riffing, brief crossover structures and goofy sense of humour running throughout. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Slime And Punishment that makes it more successful than its predecessor – maybe it’s that those catchy call-and-response choruses are even snottier and more infectious time around, maybe it’s the punchier running time, maybe it’s the newfound versatility that Polous has brought, maybe it’s just that the riffs are better – but whatever it is, it feels good to have ‘em back.

Suffocation – …Of The Dark Light

(Nuclear Blast)

Brutal death pioneers Suffocation have also found themselves in a strange flux for the past few years, with a revolving cast of not only drummers, but also vocalists ever since easily-recognisable frontman Frank Mullen stepped down as a touring member. Given all this, it’s a marvel that eighth full-length …Of The Dark Light is as solid and focused as it is, sounding much more confident and refined than their last few records. It’s not perfect; the production is fairly flat sounding, with a horribly compressed kick drum sound, but as 1993’s Breeding The Spawn will attest, Suffocation fanatics are willing to overlook dodgy production if the songs are good enough, and they certainly are here. Many of the dense, hectic song structures here seem to hark back to the band’s early days, with tracks like ‘Caught Between Two Worlds’ exploring twisted, convulsing rhythmic patterns and ‘Your Last Breath’ ripe with that subtle but incredibly sinister use of melody that made records like Pierced From Within such enduring classics.

Whilst as mind-bogglingly technical as always, it feels as though the songs have been given a little bit more room to breathe here. ‘Return To The Abyss’ is an absolute banger, dropping surprisingly straight-forward, almost punky riffs in amongst the dazzling, arthritis-inducing musicianship that has always been Suffocation’s calling card, whilst opener ‘Clarity Through Deprivation’ manages to make the standard blast/breakdown formula sound fresh again with its hulking, delightfully primitive mid-section. Vocally, Frank sounds pretty good too; though noticeably lacking the feral energy he had on their first few records, his gruff bellow is as distinctive and commanding as ever. There are backing vocals on many of the tracks here from The Merciless Concept’s Kevin Muller, who does a good job of emulating Frank’s vocal style; such a good job in fact, that Frank himself claimed to be unable to tell which lines were his and which were Kevin’s on initially hearing the master. It’s fairly telling after a few spins, to be honest, but that’s not a slight on Kevin’s vocals at all, more a testament to what a recognisable and powerful frontman Frank is, especially within the world of death metal. If Suffocation can continue spinning plates to keep the band functioning whilst still putting out records of this high calibre, then long may they reign.

Dying Fetus – Wrong One To Fuck With


Whilst Suffocation are near universally hailed as innovators, a lot of metal fans still seem to turn their nose up at Dying Fetus, which I’ve never really understood, as Maryland bruisers were arguably just as pivotal to the genre’s evolution in the late 90s. Both bands upped the ante for technicality whilst also incorporating taut, muscular breakdowns, injecting a bit more groove into death metal’s frantic bludgeon. Maybe it’s because Suffocation had a more cerebral air about them, whilst Fetus went for the crowd-pleasing approach with big, bouncy, brash songs about killing people, and could never bring themselves to indulge in overly technical passages for too long without plunging into some of the most infectiously knuckle-dragging beatdowns ever committed to tape (as this new album’s opener ‘Fixated On Devastation’ demonstrates beautifully as a flurry of wild, sweep-picked notes breaks into a stubbornly buoyant chug just seconds later). With a title as brazen and endearingly meat-headed as Wrong One To Fuck With, their eighth album is unlikely to win over any of their staunchest critics, but, well… fuck ’em. This is pretty much everything a fan could want from a new Fetus album in 2017.

Though Dying Fetus, much like Motörhead and AC/DC, have been criticised for re-writing the same record throughout their career, each of their albums provides a suitably different take on their trademark sound to warrant its existence, and Wrong One To Fuck With feels like their most self-aware album yet (yes, despite that title), fulfilling fan expectations whilst subtly subverting them. This is Dying Fetus we’re talking about of course, so they haven’t gone down the same abstract path as a band like, say, Portal or Gorguts, but this album seems to have a knowingly convoluted quality; it’s almost as if as the band are shooting a sly wink at long-time supporters with some of the song structures here, dropping surprises like the fractured melodic passage halfway through ‘Ideological Subjugation’ or stunted yet enormously satisfying riff that opens ‘Unmitigated Detestation’. At 53 minutes, Wrong One… is almost twice as long as all of Dying Fetus’s other albums, and arguably runs out of steam a little before the heroically goofy, tailor-made-for-festival-moshpits swagger of the title track closes the record. Having said that, the band sound thoroughly energised for the most part, and the amount of great ideas (and even better riffs) here prove that’s still plenty of life in this old dog yet.

Phobia – Lifeless God


It’s crazy to think that Orange County grind institution Phobia have been around for almost three decades now. Well, in one form or another; Lifeless God, their sixth album to date, features an almost entirely different lineup to their last full-length, 2012’s raging Remnants Of Filth, though you may not be able to tell on the first listen. Much like Dying Fetus, you know exactly what you’re gonna get from a Phobia album, but that’s more a sign of consistency rather than lack of ideas. Lifeless God is pretty varied, however; whilst Remnants… was barely 20 minutes of blistering speed, Lifeless God breaks up its half-hour running time with slower, chuggier songs (like ‘Traumatized’ and the seriously flattening ‘Devotion’) and some of the punkiest sounding stuff they’ve done in a while, with songs like ‘Party In Hell’ and ‘Killed It’ harking back to the crustier D-beat moments of their ’98 debut, Means Of Existence. ‘Everything’s Vicious’ alternates between galloping, fist-in-the-air guitar harmonies and their usual face-shredding grind, and there’s even a cute little spoof of modern powerviolence called (you guessed it) ‘Fuck Powerviolence’, which is a fun change of pace even if it has an air of “old man yells at cloud” about it.

The bulk of Lifeless God, however, is the band’s trademark razor-sharp grindcore, which speeds along with palpable, unrestrained ferocity on tracks like ‘Coward To Hate’, ‘Death To Freedom’ and the Trump baiting ‘New Fourth Reich’, while ‘Intimidator’ takes all of 17 seconds to pulp your cranium with a potent concoction of blastbeats, detuned riffs, larynx scraping shrieks and wailing divebomb solos. This feels like an album that would satisfy fans of any period of Phobia’s career, doing a good job of balancing their crusty origins with the sharper, more vicious sound they’d go on to make their own. Sure, it’s nothing new as such, but that’s hardly the point, and (with the ever-present exceptions of Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror, naturally) how many other grindcore bands are still making records this savage 27 years after their inception? Turn it up, grind your mind, rinse and repeat; job done.

Dystopian Future Movies – Time

(Oak Island/Cargo)

I’ve been waiting with bated breath for a full-length from this Nottingham trio since they released their debut in 2015, an eerie and forlorn combination of melancholy post-rock, shoegaze textures, bleak Neurosis-esque atmospheres and colossal doom-laden riffs, all topped off with guitarist Caroline Cawley’s emotive vocals, which manage to sound simultaneously fragile and introspective whilst soaring and powerful, in that same way Chelsea Wolfe excels at. Theirs is a gloomy but refreshingly original sound: not quite doom, not quite indie rock, not quite post-punk, but existing in some hitherto unexplored state between the three.

Debut LP Time is much more of a slow-burner than the EP or last year’s NYD single, and though (with the exception of the tumultuously catchy ‘Fortunate Ones’) it may lack the immediacy of songs like ‘Lace Armistice’ or ‘Paint It Red’ on the first listen, multiple spins reveal it to be a much darker, more expansive and expressive animal. The sparse ‘Wasteland’ makes for a disarmingly intimate intro, contrastingly nicely as ‘Dulled Gilt’s turbulent, clanking post-metal riffs crash down like waves amidst distant, skeletal chords and gentle, Low-esque vocals. The hauntingly minimal ‘Pieces’ builds from a whisper to a roar with an incredible amount of restraint over its six-minute duration, making its yearning, double-kick backed crescendo seem all the more cathartic when it hits, whilst ‘Dissonant Aggressors’ weaves an absolutely beautiful tapestry of droning guitar feedback which seems to accelerate with the inevitable, unstoppable grace of an avalanche, culminating in a vast, heady stew of slow-motion fretboard fireworks. If you’re prepared to lose yourself in it, Time is a sombre, moving record that yields many rewards and will probably stay with you for a very long time.

Space Witch – Arcanum


Stoke-On-Trent may not be the first place you’d think to find pineal-gland-squeezing psychedelic doom, but the city’s own Space Witch have been producing exactly that for almost a full decade now. After a string of demos and EPs, their self-titled debut in 2014 was an absolute monster, offering up over an hour’s worth of dense, spacey riffery over the course of two gargantuan 30-minute-plus tracks. By contrast, second album Arcanum is a much more streamlined affair, unfurling with clear thematic focus over the course of 43 minutes and four tracks. If the first record’s glacial pace and gradual, grandiose movements felt like the doom metal equivalent of 2001: A Space Oddyssey, then Arcanum’s vivid, colourful thrill ride is more like a glimpse into an alternate universe where Alejandro Jodorowsky directed Flash Gordon and drafted Electric Wizard to provide a soundtrack.

Fifteen minute opener ‘Cosmonoid’ sets the scene perfectly, as distant, floating licks gradually evolve into a cacophony of weighty, droning guitars, cosmic synth flourishes and dramatic choral vocals. Indeed, the use of vocals is much more pronounced here than anywhere else in the band’s largely instrumental discography, but they’re implemented in a much more imaginative and bizarre manner than the standard “Ozzy impression with a fuck-tonne of reverb” approach of many other current doom bands, with synth/electronics wizard Peter Callaghan ranting and raving on tracks like the driving ‘Astro Genocide’ in a manner very reminiscent of Robert Calvert on Hawkwind’s Space Ritual. His voice is used sparingly but to great effect, adding a sort of eccentric narration to the album, and when Callaghan’s prose gives way to an unexpected blastbeat and a flurry of wonky, twisted notes on the aforementioned track, it’s rendered all the more surreal. ‘Hex’ is another banger, as Callaghan’s theatrical and oddly catchy bellow is underpinned by guitarist Darren Rowlands’ gigantic, squelchy tones and vertigo-inducing riffs, propelled along with lurching force by drummer Dan Mansfield and bassist Tomas Cairn’s thunderous rhythmic might. Closer ‘Battle Hag’ is an older song from the band’s first demo, but fits in perfectly here, sounding much fuller than the demo version with its pulverising intro giving way to a spacious mid-section in which creepy chords, 80s sci-fi keys and vibrant theremin swells orbit a taut bass groove and burly, up-tempo beat. It’s a fittingly dream-like conclusion to what has to be Space Witch’s tightest, most assured release to date; heavy enough for the doom heads, whimsical enough for the prog nerds and potent enough to have the psych fanatics tripping for weeks, Arcanum is a big, bold metal space opera for the whole family.

Under – Slick


The UK’s current doom scene (as lovingly documented in upcoming feature length The Doom Doc) is producing a lot of weird and wonderful stuff right now, like the gloriously deformed mutant that is Under. The trio have been wholeheartedly embraced by the sludge crowd despite not really being a sludge band per se; sure, their syrupy, angular riffing certainly sounds sludgy, but if we’re trying to pin genres on this debut album, there’s much more of a ’90s noise-rock feel here, albeit played at doom tempos and with a distinctly progressive flavour throughout. ‘Home’, for instance, begins with jittery guitar swirls, sounding like an early Nirvana song malfunctioning, then bursts into a jarring Meshuggah-esque swing before one of the album’s most monstrous nod-inducing riffs drops out of nowhere like a sack of lead being pushed off a bridge. ‘Slump’, meanwhile, with its clattering, jazzy percussion, wandering bass licks and blaring, discordant guitar is more like one of King Crimson’s wilder excursions, and maintains a suitably lurid energy until it’s grotesquely heavy climax, as a grimacing, Melvins style riff gets slower and slower and sloooowwwweeer until it’s eclipsed by noisy, shimmering feedback.

‘Straw Man’ stands out too, as its jostling introductory bounce gives way to a harrowing dirge à la early Swans, with the band screaming “Pay lip service to the straw man!” mantra-like, with terrifying conviction. Lyrically, Slick is as interesting and obtuse as it is musically, with the band sneering lines like “He goes to football on the weekends/he’s got a job, he’s got a girrrrrllfrrriiieeeennd” like a young Mark E. Smith having a panic attack on the crunchy, sarcastic ‘Tended Ones’, or crooning “I built my house on a fault line/it’s not much but it’s all mine” on ‘Home’. The vocals are split between all three members, darting between throaty screams and melodic chants, giving the album a demented choral feel at times; the dual vocals that open ‘Innards’, for example, alternate between herculean bellow and tender, ethereal falsetto, like some ungodly fusion of Conan and Queen. That sounds like it wouldn’t work on paper, but then that’s the beauty of Slick; none of this should really work “on paper”, but Under somehow manage to make it sound utterly convincing in the flesh. A great, fiercely unique debut, all in all.

Khost – Governance

(Cold Spring)

Birmingham industrial duo Khost have grown a lot in just a few years, and third album Governance is a further refinement of their hellish sound. Not even serious personal illness has halted their creativity; after being prescribed the wrong medication by a doctor, Khost’s Damian Bennett found himself hospitalised during the writing process of the album. Not to be deterred, the experience inspired tracks like ‘Cloudbank Mausoleum’, and with its sparse yet claustrophobic atmosphere, stream-of-consciousness flow and extreme air of physical discomfort, it’s easy to see why. Like most of Governance, the track has a lot of space, which certainly works in their favour. Whilst Copper Lock Hell’s combination of harsh industrial metal, noise and samples was invigorating, it was perhaps a bit cluttered at times; in comparison, Governance is incredibly confident in its pacing, allowing distant vocal samples and squeals of abrasive electronica to float in and out of the band’s syrupy doom riffing with an unhurried elegance.

‘Redacted Repressed Recalcitrant’ is a fantastic opener, with Andy Swan’s guttural vocals, and the brutish heft of the riffing lending the track a suitably deathly feel, whilst ‘Subliminal Chloroform Violation’ and ‘Low Oxygen Silo’ showcase the band’s unique use of cold electronics and eerie field samples, the latter combining forlorn middle Eastern horns with a piercing high-pitched wail that sounds uncannily like The Body’s Chip King. ‘Coven’ allows their riffier side to come to the fore, culminating in an irresistibly propulsive groove, whilst songs like ‘Depression’ and ‘Defraction’ venture deeper into noisier, more abstract terrain, with the latter making brilliant use of melancholy cello, courtesy of Jo Quail. All these disparate sounds gel so smoothly and conjure up such a surreal, hypnotic aura that, at this point, referring to Khost as just an “industrial” or a “metal” band feels like it’s doing them a disservice. There’s certainly elements of both, but the duo are walking their own path, sounding more unique and defiant with each release, and Governance is the most well-realised vision yet of their lysergic nightmare-scapes.

Tyrannosorceress – Shattering Light’s Creation

(Tofu Carnage)

Just when you thought all the good band names had gone, in waltz a young Texan quintet called Tyrannosorceress. Yep, that’s right, Tyrannosorceress. Go on, say it aloud, let it slide off your tongue, allow the image of a cloaked, omnidimensional dinosaur wielding some impossibly huge magical sceptre to plant itself firmly in your mind’s eye; if that doesn’t make your inner-child shout ‘fuck yeah!’ before indulging in some most excellent Bill & Ted style air-guitar, you’re officially dead inside. Thankfully, they’re not some second-rate stoner doom knockoff either, with riffs both as imposing and mystical as the name implies. They almost sound like Leviathan-era Mastodon reimagined as a black metal band, especially during songs like ‘Senescent And Supreme’, with dazzling southern licks and fat sludgy riffs co-existing with savage blastbeats, reverb-laden shrieks and a dark, sinister atmosphere.

This kind of proggy, well-produced black metal seems to be all the rage right now, but there’s still something very fresh about the sound of this debut full-length. Tyrannosorceress can stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers – there’s a hint of Astrophobos’ cosmic horror about blistering epic ‘In The Light Of The Sabbat Moon’, for instance, whilst the rustic melancholy of ‘Haunting Black Infinity’ recalls the first Vattnet Viskar album and the windswept ferocity of ‘The Call To Chaos’ matches Ash Borer for intensity – but the band already have their own distinct personality, imbuing Shattering Light’s Creation with a rich, heady charm all of its own.

Triumvir Foul – Spiritual Bloodshed


Speaking of Ash Borer, they’ve certainly been busy. After releasing third full-length The Irrepassable Gate late last year and embarking on a European tour, drummer M and bassist/vocalist R somehow found the time to record a second album with their death metal project Triumvir Foul. Far removed from Ash Borer’s elegant sound, Triumvir Foul specialise in murky, depraved filth, having more in common with Teitanblood, Grave Miasma or Swallowed than anything in the USBM scene.

The appropriately titled ‘Entranced By Filth’ is an immediate highlight, alternating between flattening grooves and all-out blitzkrieg as reverb drenched roars blur into frantic, rapid-fire cymbal splashes and a guitar tone that feels like wading through raw sewage. The pair are just as effective when delving into doomier or less chaotic territory too, as the gleefully barbaric title-track somehow manages to remain evil as fuck whilst deploying a rhythm that’s bouncier than an inflatable castle full of baby goats, and the seething closer ‘Vrasubatlatian Rites’ uses sinister Autopsy-esque guitar harmonies to chilling effect. Whilst warped and twisted, Spiritual Bloodshed is nonetheless a fairly no-nonsense record. Unlike that new Impetuous Ritual LP, for example, this doesn’t really feel like it’s breaking any new ground for the genre, but it rages with such intensity and mucky fervour that it doesn’t really matter. This is dark, dank doom-laden death metal done right, and damn, it feels good.

Völur – Ancestors

(Prophecy Productions)

After all that racket, what better way to unwind than the latest from Canadian prog-folk-doom trio Völur? With Laura C. Bates’ violin taking what would usually be the role of a guitar, the band occupy a similar sonic space to Wolvserpent, or a more stripped down, ritualistic SubRosa. The rhythm section are no slouches either, with fantastically named drummer Jimmy P Lightning pulling double duty in post rock troupe Do Make Say Think, and bassist Lucas Gadke also a member of Blood Ceremony; though if Blood Ceremony’s whimsical odes felt like medieval ballads detailing some fantastical voyage, occult ceremony or psychonautical misadventure gone awry, then listening to Völur feels like actually experiencing said event first hand, with each song shrouded in eerie olde-worlde mysticism.

Ancestors is their second album following last year’s Disir, and feels even more enveloping and hypnotic, with not one of its four pieces dipping below the ten minute mark. Each track has a very distinct vibe; ‘Breaker Of Silence’ begins the album on a meditative note, allowing deep, resonant chants to evolve into a searing, violin powered finale, similar to some of the more raucous moments from that last Godspeed You! Black Emperor LP. The appropriately titled ‘Breaker Of Skulls’ provides the album’s heaviest moment, sounding a bit like Finland’s unhinged Horse Latitudes as the trio ride a thick, demonic bass gallop whilst Lucas barks away with manic intent. ‘Breaker Of Oaths’ is more like some bizarrely euphoric hybrid of Clannad and early Om, as big fuzzy grooves and distorted low-end co-exist peacefully with stirring, upbeat violin flourishes, before giving way to a dense, almost death/doom outro. Finally, the album’s emotional apex ‘Breaker Of Famine’ pairs dark, luxurious and Eastern sounding violin melodies against slow, mournful riffs like a doomier Dead Can Dance, before unexpectedly exploding into a flurry of early Ulver-esque black metal. Throughout Ancestors, Völur manage to conjure a vibrant, colourful collection of sounds, moods and tones from what is essentially a very stripped back, minimal set up, lending the album a very earthy, organic feel.

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