Mortuous “Upon Desolation” [Carbonized]

atavist   9/19/2022   A Library, CD

The latest full-length release from this legendary Bay Area death metal collaboration, and their first full-length in four years. Relentless pursuit of concussive obliteration. Sudden tempo changes, super-tight and cacophonous. It’s hard to predict where they’ll go from one passage to the next within one song. “Nothing” has a great breakdown in the middle of the track with a violin part deftly mixed into a brief period of relative respite and calm. They want to explore all the sounds of death, like the unhinged high-register guitar solos in “Metamorphosis”. Clear the path for “Days of Grey”, a more straight-ahead driving maelstrom that devolves into a dirge befitting the title. It has a cohesion some of the other tracks don’t have, though the discohesion of those tracks is part of their allure. Blastbeats welcome us to “Defiled by Fire”, while the violin returns to take us out. Soaring guitars amidst the churning murk of “Burning Still…”.  Most tracks clock in around 4 to 5 minutes and all are worthy, each skillfully presenting a variety of delirious and devastating sounds with dizzying technical precision and, most importantly, unchecked fury.

Nightfell “A Sanity Deranged” [Parasitic]

atavist   9/14/2022   A Library, Cassette

Massive layers of drums, bass, guitar, and vocals rendered by two Portland-based doomslingers in teeth-buzzing clarity by the evil wizard Greg Wilkinson. This is death metal shot through with sorrow and regret, to the extent that their slower passages, like the beginning of the track “To The Flame” moves into funeral doom territory, complete with a clean, lamenting choral element in the background. “Holiness Digested” is a short segue track before the epic title track is unleashed. Hear the darkness that has collapsed upon the self to torture that which would seek the light, only to find a prison of its own making, circling paths of infinity…

american “Violate and Control” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

atavist   8/16/2022   12-inch, A Library

american are a duo out of Virginia who prefer not to capitalize their name. In this 2017 release, their mix of vocals, stripped-down guitar, and industrial-adjacent precision recalls recent efforts to take vestiges of the black metal format and stray well outside those bounds. This is territory that has been explored in recent years by projects like Loss of Self, Botanist, and Liturgy, among others. The track “Bedsheet Ossuary” is an early standout. Climbing, yearning, but ultimately bleak, like cresting a slag heap only to find a plain of ruin stretching to the horizon. They’re willing to go shoegazy (“Forever a Wicked Form”) and dabble in pure noise (“Submission Psalm”). They can also lay down a riff and drive the fuck out of it (“Amorous and Subdued”) before spiraling into dissolution. “Ischemia- The Longing Agony” features a 911 call of a child reporting the suicide of her brother. They even throw a Godfleshy doom-tempo track in for good measure (“Defecting Ways”). I hear a bit of Unsane in “I Am Thine Enemy”. Save room for the staggering, reeling defeat of “Paradise Again”. One LP, several ways to ingest your gloom. 

Mystic Charm “Shadows Of The Unknown” [Nuclear War Now! Productions]

atavist   7/26/2022   12-inch, A Library

Slow- to mid-tempo doom with deathy elements, a pummeling march laden with a bit of atmosphere. There’s nothing extra. Riffs are laid down purposefully like chiseled stones to raise a rough-hewn tower from which the evil in this world can more clearly be seen. Earlier this year Nuclear War Now! Productions released this double LP, consisting of material recorded in 1994, 2001, and 2017. It takes its name and album cover artwork from the band’s only full-length release from 1994. In the middle of Side C, with the track “Hell Did Freeze Over”, the 2017 EP “Hell Did Freeze Over” begins. The “Hell Did Freeze Over” stuff was originally recorded in 2001, but the remaining band members working on it were dissatisfied with the result, so they brought back the original vocalist, Rini Lipman, in 2017 and completed it properly… A circuitous route for this double LP, to be sure. I suspect the effort was made because this group from the Netherlands, as sporadic as their output was over the years, were on to something. The vocals of Lipman in particular are exceptionally evil and paved the way for those who dared to follow. Where the 1994 tracks are raw and spare, the 2001/2017 tracks demonstrate additional refinement. Lipman’s vocals are maybe a bit more evil, and a different drummer ups the technical mastery. The tracks named after the releases are intro tracks, but otherwise you can drop in anywhere for a consistent execution of no-frills death-doom. FCCs tracks D1 and D3.

Ufomammut “Fenice” [Neurot Recordings]

atavist   7/19/2022   A Library, CD

Ufomammut have demonstrated a willingness to take on conceptual material in the past, but they’ve upped their game on “Fenice” (pronounced Feh-NEE-chay, I reckon, the Italian translating to “Phoenix”). A sci-fi intro that glimmers like readouts in the darkened cabin of a well-worn spacecraft until the band kicks in. When they do, I hear a different vibe happening compared to earlier stuff I’ve heard from them. I wouldn’t say it’s upbeat—maybe manic. Until the crushing breakdown, which is pure Ufomammut, and yet a bit more immediate, more visceral. They’re balancing the frenetic and the long structures simultaneously. The gravitational lensing of space time is heavy enough to land it in some of our more psychedelic programs. That brief guitar solo in track 3, Psychostasia, with the massive bass below is killer. Given the translation of the album title, this reviewer anticipated track 4, Metamorphoenix, as a possible title track, and as such, might serve as a microcosm for the larger macrocosmos of the album. But no, gentle textures give way, so gradually, to a building riff, but it’s quite symbiotically joined to track 5, Pyramind, much as track 2, Kheperer, is a natural dissolution/extension of track 1, Duat. With Pyramind the hammering riff is thrown down until all is left a shambles. Where some past Ufomammut compositions have driven ideas nearly into the ground, on “Fenice” they never stay in one place for too long. The final track, Empyros, is a relatively short and driving closer to drop a little adrenaline into a set. Atavist is pleased.

Glacial Tomb “Glacial Tomb” [Gilead Media]

atavist   7/19/2022   12-inch, A Library

Metal from Denver, selecting and alloying elements of death and doom, blackened around the edges just so. Technical, but not dizzyingly technical. Thick, but not bone-crushing. Track A3 nearly buckles under its own weight. Tracks A2 and A4 have a momentum to them that carries them along better to this reviewer’s ears. The tracks are seldom fast, but also they aren’t mid-aughts glacial advances of doom riffs. I’ve been listening to a lot of projects lately that take this or that element to an extreme, while Glacial Tomb tread more to the middle. Skewed perspective aside, it’s still heavy and well-executed. The glaciers aren’t advancing, but receding to their oblivion, revealing a chaos of pain exposed to the sun. Soaring guitar solos that can’t help but be bright and soar above the murky detritus below. Each of the three band members experienced deaths of close relatives within months of recording the album, and they channeled that grief into the work.

Genogeist “Genogeist” [Black Water]

atavist   6/29/2022   12-inch, A Library

Fast, furious, crusty thrash metal. Definite hardcore element as well. Quick tracks that drop in fast and get right to the pummeling. Old-school, grimly focused on the proper expression of hatred for the machinery of control. An older form of sonic fury pressed into service to fit our current moment of inexorable decline. The excellent recording captures what I imagine to be a ferocious live sound. There’s an FCC in Gridlocked but you’ll be hard-pressed to make it out.

Mamiffer “The Brilliant Tabernacle” [Sige Records]

atavist   6/15/2022   12-inch, A Library

The KFJC library currently has a handful of Mamiffer tracks on splits and collaborations. These are spare, almost austere compositions built around keyboards/piano with a light touch of additional instrumentation, exploring spaces of loss. In contrast, “The Brilliant Tabernacle” is a collection of gentle songs about new life, the experience of parenthood, seeking a spiritual mooring in a new world created from the ruins of the old. Primary collaborators Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner had their first child during the album’s approximately six year development period, and the album’s title came to Coloccia in a dream. This work provides a further exploration into the Mamiffer sound, operating in spare composition, with folk instruments folded in. The sound is anchored around Collocia’s vocals and keyboards. There are at times loud things, pounding drums and distorted guitar, that seethe below the surface. The group wants this played loudly so that the dynamic range Randall Dunn created can be fully experienced. Beautiful and at times ethereal and haunting.

Cryptae “Nightmare Traversal” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

atavist   5/31/2022   12-inch, A Library

Riffs with machine-like rhythms. Growling guitar sound that never roars, with a surprising amount of depth. Cryptae exhibit discipline and even some restraint. This is weird metal, doom leavened with an almost math-rock element. Simple patterns repeat and continuously evolve. The effect, in tracks like Oubliette, can swerve into the mesmerizing. Simply a guitarist and a drummer from the Netherlands, with deathy vokills buried in the mix. Maybe they used some other stuff in the studio, some synths maybe. The drummer is Rene Aquarius, current drummer for Dead Neanderthals, who also appeared on Coffin Lurker’s “Foul and Defiled” and Plague Organ’s “Orphan”, a 39 minute masterwork of menacing beauty within frenzied repetition. We also have one of his solo pieces in the library. Aquarius’s work helps contextualize Cryptae in the mathy and strange but starkly and uncompromisingly heavy terrain, here paired with relative newcomer Kees Peerdeman on guitars. Submit to the machine.

Cthonica “Typhomanteia: Sacred Triarchy of Spiritual Putrefaction” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

atavist   5/25/2022   12-inch, A Library

So cold…vocals like an icy wind that pierces all coverings. Numbed and delirious, the listener stumbles to a barren earth of jagged stones as the freeze takes over. Lo-fi drums buried in the mix like an awareness of physical harm being done, but numbed senses can’t fully feel it. The first track is an epic length of disparate parts, weirdly put together. Nihilistic death metal with black inflections gives way to a menacing atmospheric interlude gives way to home-recorded-sounding doom passages. Generally there are a lot of great tones and textures within a palette of death and decay throughout the record. Within this desolate medium, Cthonica unearth their own unique derangements. Debut double LP from 2019 by this Venezuelan project.

Worm “Foreverglade” [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   4/19/2022   A Library, CD

Thankfully projects continue to till the decomposing detritus found at the intersection of death metal and funeral doom. Why not when more filth piles up every day? Transposing the clear chimes of echoing, chorus-y guitar with utterly filthy doom chugs and deranged squeals. Vox steeped in the rotting vapors of a Floridian swamp. The session drums, especially the double kick, are well-captured in the recording and properly assertive. The second track adds some churchy monk vocals and has an epic soaring riff, and lo, I detect keyboards. Seriously old-school solos that would have found a home in the late 80s. “Empire of the Necromancers” has grand, melodic passages, setting up “Subaqueous Funeral”, which, vokills aside, is so… pretty. Which is fine for this soft-hearted reviewer, if surprising and unsettling. Worm closes this out with a return to the doomed sounds, circling back to where it began, as the cycle of despair must be renewed endlessly.

Soyuz Bear “MMXV” [Zanjeer Zani Productions]

atavist   4/19/2022   A Library, Cassette

This limited edition cassette from 2015 captures a crusty slab of French doom from a project that has since disbanded. Side A has three more polished studio tracks, and side B has three rehearsal tracks engineered by the band. Side A checks the boxes for the bongrip soundtrack though the riffs aren’t super original. Side B, being a rehearsal, captures a little air and space and basically squashes the vocals in the mix. And though I usually don’t advocate for the live stuff, track 5 “GHB Uber Alles” might be the most vital track on the release. Where the studio stuff walks the path, the rehearsals capture a band imbibing and going for it, and it works in their favor. This is followed by the closer “In the Abyss”, with some groove-laden riffs to get stoned heads nodding in unison. Possible FCC in track 1; in this genre it can be hard to make them out, but steer this one into safe harbor.

Qrixkuor “Poison Palinopsia” [Dark Descent Records]

atavist   4/18/2022   A Library, CD

From an upwelling of cinematic horror emerges a relentless armada poised to break the mountain with a downstroke of contempt. Ridiculously complicated, monstrous track lengths—both clocking in over 24 min. Doom riffs and filth setting up a blastbeat passage that happens until, well, another complicated thing is happening. There is no wavering in their intent—Qrixkuor are in a feverish madness stringing this together. Halfway through the first track, “Serpertine Susurrus – Mothers Abomination”, the cinematic horror intro returns and resets the chess board. A new build, seemingly more resigned, or perhaps just steeled for what’s to come. When the onslaught returns, it hews to a narrower line. Careening guitar solos round out the proceedings. The wildest, proggiest blastbeat section closes the track in hyperventilating abandon. One heretical opinion, a sneaky DJ could opt to play the first half of the track or the second half, treating them as parts one/two and fading in/out on the orchestral middle section (I myself am inclined to stretch the break clock just enough to play the monstrosity in its entirety). In “Recrudescent Malevolence – Mother’s Illumination” we have reached a desolate promontory, we can see a vast reek stretching below us. A film reel of horror. Guitars moan in agony. The barrage commences. After a nearly seven-minute slow build, things are coalescing a bit, but the approach remains more restrained than the previous track. For those who crave speed, this track doesn’t fully launch until about ten minutes in. Corpse vocals wreathed in echoes, maelstrom of drums. And similar to the previous track, disconcerting horror movie music thrown into the middle of the track, setting up the second half. Like both tracks on the album needed an intermission, so heavily laden are they. Bombastic, perhaps, but it’s interesting to hear death metal obsession magnified to this almost unbearable level.

Genocide Pact “Genocide Pact” [Relapse Records]

atavist   4/9/2022   A Library, CD

Death metal oozes from an old-school vein in the seams of the nation’s capital. Medium-length tracks, straight/no chaser. Riffs land like the plodding gallop of a horse made of boulders, the blasting amplification a filthy dust that billows in the wake. Guitar reaches for the sky only to be pulled back into the befouled earth. The band have, in their words, watched friends die while the world around them crumbles, and this is an expression of where they found themselves in 2021. It is at once uncompromising in its pursuit while rigidly adhering to its adopted USDM traditions. A tension arises between abandon and restraint. Perhaps in such a disorienting time it reorients to pursue mastery within an established form. Drop in to be crushed.

Leimer, K. “Irrational Overcast” [First Terrace Records]

atavist   3/12/2022   12-inch, A Library

Another installment from Kerry Leimer, released in 2019. Presented are beautiful, calming sounds that can turn an edge and towards the pensive. With the tracks spanning three to seven minutes, each is gifted with a propulsion to paint a landscape at a glance, or perhaps encapsulate a long narrative in a condensed space. Sparse sampling and swelling strings, exquisite renderings of winter landscapes lost. There is hurt at the heart of these tracks, a pervasive underlying anxiety. Delicate keys and electronics finding their way through dusk. “Weather on the Fen” is an early favorite, but they’re all equally worthy.

Cardinal Wyrm “Devotionals” [Self Release]

atavist   2/2/2022   A Library, Cassette

Absolutely killer cassette from this Bay Area trio with heavy experience in other projects, particularly due to the presence of Leila Abdul-Rauf (this is the first CW release added to KFJC to feature her). Released deep into pandemic year one (Dec. 2020), it asks, “Do we have another battle left in us?” Doom-laced, soaked in driving riffs, and peppered with a few straight-up guitar solos. And yet this sound is very distinct and unlike other stuff I’ve been reviewing lately. Unconventional vocal stylings: mostly clean, eccentric passages from drummer Pranjal Tiwari, like a possessed town crier reading from an occult scroll cut with ghoulish whispers. Abdul-Rauf brings a guitarist’s perspective to her bass guitar work. The sound is agile as it plays off Nathan Verrill’s guitar. All the pieces really start to fit on tracks like “Imposter”—great intro, building structures, ideal lyric content for the vocal stylings, vocal contrast from with an ethereal Abdul-Rauf addition, but most satisfying to my ears is the range of sounds Abdul-Rauf generates from the bass. In “Canticle” Abdul-Rauf provides vocals reminiscent of her work in both Vastum and Saros, like a compilation album jammed into a song. I’m probably going to play this thing to death on my show.

King Woman “Celestial Blues” [Relapse Records]

atavist   2/2/2022   A Library, CD

KFJC most recently encountered the work of Kristina Esfandiari on the brooding, electric Nghtcrwlr release “Let the Children Scream”. Here she returns to the guitar-driven King Woman, a project at times propulsive and furious, other times restrained and simmering, the sound of the loss that sinks and gathers in the pit of your stomach. The charisma in Esfandiari’s voice can lure you into the abyss and echo in your mind long after you remove the headphones. I suggest this could serve as the coronation Thurston Hunger hoped for when we acquired the Degrida/Sick Bed single in 2013. 

FCCs: Entwined (tr 6) and Ruse (tr 8)

Crust “Stoic” [No Name]

atavist   1/11/2022   A Library, CD

I slipped a limb into the Slim Bin to reveal a fresh cut of doom metal from Russia. Crust wear their hearts, and their rather earnest lyrics, on their sleeves—all in English, and surprisingly easy to discern. What sticks out to me is the unusual production that brings the vocals to the forefront more than other projects working in the same vein. Mournful, dabbling in faster death metal passages on one track, and stonery guitar meanderings on the next. It was a riff on the third track, A Blind Man in Darkness, where something clicked and I started to see Crust’s full potential emerge. I find myself enjoying the instrumentation despite the self-help/don’t fall victim to your urges/be a stoic! vibe to the lyrics. This is one of the weirder doom records I’ve reviewed for that reason alone. Once we settle into the second half of the album, the works seem more encumbered by resignation than truly unbridled by rage. Tracks six and seven nearly collapse under their own weight, but a more patient listen will discover finer elements. The instrumental closing track, Desert, provides a relief from the vocals with some borderline psych feels from the soaring guitar.

Rider / Horse “Select Trials” [Ever / Never]

atavist   1/11/2022   12-inch, A Library

Those familiar with Spray Paint will recognize the spoken/chanted vocal stylings of Cory Plump. Here he’s getting through a pandemic with some jangly, angular, minimalistic rock in collaboration with Chris Turco, who has contributed to projects like Trans Am and Les Savy Fav. We encounter pounding rhythms, jittery guitars, and various electronically induced textures running underneath. Some amorphous weirdness on the last two tracks must be the pedal steel by Zoots Houston. The sound quality is a little sharper than some Spray Paint stuff I’ve heard—props to Turco for handling the engineering where they opted to make this thing, in Plump’s COVID-shut down music venue. The sound is sharp, anxious, and full despite the minimal instrumentation. A dance of structure and discohesion. Chime Inn and Code Clicker are early favorites. “I’m growing tired of getting tired” he says in The Windows are Your Arms. For real.

Gateway “Flesh Reborn” [Chaos Records]

atavist   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Descend into the black cavern and hear the voices rise echo around you in a foul greenish glow—thundering drums, viscous guitars. Belgium’s Gateway craft the massive doom-hammer riff and frequently ratchet the tempo up to a solid gallop. There are some instances of odd vocal textures paired with the rancid crypt breath. The first three tracks are relatively short and quickly unfurl the pummeling onslaught. The title track, in contrast, is the longest and closes out the 26 minute EP, a mournful dirge that, in time, introduces a ghastly riff, but otherwise keeps the tempo low and the atmosphere thick with decay. 

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