Divide and Dissolve “Gas Lit” [Invada Records]

atavist   5/28/2023   12-inch, A Library

This is the third LP from this Melbourne-based project made up of Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill. It begins with Reed’s strangely lilting and looping saxophone harmonies, subsequently joined by a powerful fusillade of Reed’s massive guitar work and drums by Nehill. The second track further examines the dimensions of slow drums played hard and layers of blasted, droning guitar. The third track is a spoken-word piece featuring Minori Sanchiz-Feng with a minimal backing track. The fourth track closes out Side A with themes reminiscent of the first track. Side B drops in with a jolt of higher tempo, high-energy attack. Divide and Dissolve conjure some sublime and harrowing textures, exhibited in Side B’s second track, seeking out their own unique interpretation of the doom genre they are most readily (if somewhat uneasily) associated with. They are not necessarily about making the listener comfortable. Their sound is an expression of the weight of history they carry with them. They seek to rattle the injustice of the world out of the walls and crevices where it lurks and breeds. Turn it way up.

Cerebral Rot “Excretion of Mortality” [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   5/15/2023   A Library, CD

You might be wondering what is going on in that first track. Some sort of slasher film-style narration? The repeating crawling-spider motif will burst forth with riffs like a full arachnid assault; the walls and floor pulsate with the horde. Death has many faces, and here it is really filthy, leering as you squirm. I do appreciate that weird chorus-like effect on the guitars, particularly on “Spewing Purulence”. “Bowels of Decrepitude” gets the guitars lined up in formation while the drummer throws in an unexpected snare hit on occasion. If it’s crooked and nasty, just keep it in there. Weird guitar effects, perhaps some keys (though no one on the album is credited for it). So much rot. This band is really after that one thing. Their relentless pursuit of putrefaction has led them to innovate, or in other words, engage in some bizarre behavior, while straining to maintain the colossal mass that modern death metal extracts from its subjects. Satan be praised, this release upholds the mass ritual; see “Drowned in Malodor” and “Retching Innards” for further details. They close out with an eleven-minute epic, complete with a strange intro, in which they throw in a bit of everything in the arsenal.

Sightless Pit “Lockstep Bloodwar” [Thrill Jockey Records]

atavist   5/14/2023   A Library, CD

A crackling, twitchy descent into a maze of subterranean passages reveals thrumming beats and gentle washes of abrasive noise, ringing voices and hard words. A collaboration of Lee Buford (The Body) and Dylan Walker (Full of Hell), Sightless Pit’s antecedents are well-represented in the KFJC library. But much like recent additions by The Body & OAA and The Body & Thou (there’s even a Full of Hell/Merzbow in there), the motor for most tracks on “Lockstep Bloodwar” is the collabs and guest appearances. Midwife adds ethereal, reverb-drenched dulcet vocals that set the weighted words spinning. This sets up YoshimiO, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, and Gangsta Boo, a Memphis-based rapper who sadly passed away earlier this year. This might be the last thing Gangsta Boo put on tape—she completely slays it, and it’s worth as much heavy rotation as safe harbor will allow. Staff might recognize Lane Shi Otayonii from the Nadja CD added late last year; here she contributes to another great track with an FCC to be mindful of. The title track is a lighter interlude with legit dance floor beats forming a respite between two massive trios of collab tracks. The Frukwan & Industrial Hazard track has a definite machine-chiseled vibe going, like hip hop falling apart and reassembling itself from scrap metal; halfway through it really locks in, and Frukwan’s vocal stylings ratchets things up a level. The Claire Rousay track “False Epiphany” is so “Mezzanine”-era Massive Attack until the vocal track snaps us into the present. By the time the death-doom vocal track floats in on an uneasy summer evening breeze, Atavist has discovered his favorite track on the album. Excellent lyrical delivery from Crownovhornz on “Shiv”. The harshest approach from Buford and Walker is reserved for “Morning of a Thousand Lights”. “Futilities” brings it down, with black metal vocals drifting through and entwining with the ghostly vocals of San Francisco’s Foie Gras. FCCs tracks 2, 3, 7.

Nucleus – “Entity” – Dark Descent Records

atavist   4/25/2023   A Library, CD

Nuclear detonations hollow out the asteroid’s core and spin up the artificial gravity. Death metal from Chicago’s Nucleus takes to the final frontier to rain ruin upon humankind from the cold void beyond, in their second full-length release from 2019. Lyrics describe some sort of galactic war against an all-consuming entity devouring worlds until it can be corralled and imprisoned in a manufactured timespace rift. Perhaps. It is death metal, so we can permit the lyrics to gurgle through the proceedings like billowing smoke, and focus on the overall brutality of the gathered host. It is not stratospherically technical in the vein of Archspire or Nile, which one might expect for a far-futured lyrical subject. Instead, the sound here attempts to convey the upwelling of dread and relentless hopelessness of world extinction against an ageless, tireless, and remorseless master. Off-kilter clean guitar picking in places, sudden time signature changes, smattering of keys, and a healthy layer of grime cut through the decent recording. Songs are constantly mutating from one vile form to another. The album is made up of essentially two halves, each four songs long, and within each half, tracks are designed to run together. So as a result most tracks have somewhat abrupt beginnings and endings. Set controls for the pit of extinction.

Endless Floods “II” [Dry Cough Records]

atavist   3/14/2023   12-inch, A Library

French minimalist doom from 2017. (It’s a mere coincidence that I’m getting around to this review on the heels of another atmospheric river, in the midst of a winter of seemingly endless floods.) In this trio the fuzzed out bass and drums do the heavy lifting and the guitar shows up on occasion to glide up over the din. Sonically, there are a lot of cues to the early protoplasma in the dank Pacific Northwest of the late 1990s/early 2000s: the sparse, battered drums, massive bass teetering on the brink of feedback, spare guitar clinging to the baritone register, strained, raw vocals screaming in the background. They thank their friends, family, and Heavy Metal (you’re welcome!), but also like the indie proto-doom of yesterday’s PNW, they don’t fully embrace many of the signature emblems and signals of the genre, retaining screamy, lofi near-punk (post-punk?) aesthetics and general rainy-day malaise. Two massive tracks (24 and 19 minutes) with a delicate two-minute acoustic guitar intermission between them.

Anatomia/Undergang [coll] [Me Saco Un Ojo Records]

atavist   3/14/2023   12-inch, A Library

Heeaaavy. Plodding. Menacing. Doom-laden death. Here are five tracks on a split 12″ from a couple projects well-known to KFJC. Anatomia’s vocals run the range from hissing growl to gargling howl. On the epic first track “Total Darkness” the tempo is akin to funeral doom while the timbre is filthy enough to keep a gangrened foot in the world of death metal. The second track, “Bound to Death”, ratchets up the tempo while the saliva-flinging vocals remain immersed in heavy reverb. Undergang make for good disc mates with plenty of their own phlegm to spit at the world. Pounding, driving, siren guitar ascent. Medium tempo stuff with some faster breaks thrown in. A highlight is when their second track, “Helt til Rotterne”, locks into death machine mode. On its heels, the third track “Taksidermi” makes for a strong closer, dialing in the range of sounds that Undergang have mastered. All Undergang tracks clock in over four minutes and under five.

Tomb Mold “The Bottomless Perdition” [Blood Harvest]

atavist   2/28/2023   A Library, Cassette

Debut 2016 demo release from this Toronto-based project. Sci-fi sounding intro in the opening track drops into a deliciously knuckle-dragging doom section before the all-out pummeling begins. This is fast, relentless stuff. “Valley of Defilement” has a hardcore feel based on its blistering speed. Fierce, hateful energy. Some great tone despite the lo-fi demo-quality recording, and the technical mastery is already there in the tight instrumentation. Massive death-metal vox and raw overdriven guitar sound, brief soaring leads that foreshadow more polished subsequent releases, like 2019’s “Planetary Clairvoyance”. Nothing extra, just tight fucking death metal. Super consistent, every track is killer. The last track takes us out with a slower, epic breakdown section, so hit that for a slightly different feel.

Desekryptor “Chasm of Rot” [Blood Harvest]

atavist   2/28/2023   A Library, Cassette

The air is thick with vile rumblings over Fort Wayne, Indiana. This represents Desekryptor’s first post-demo release, from 2017. Featuring the super-reverbed death vox we know and love, massive, thick guitar, and concussive drum attack. Sprinting through the darkened halls only to stumble and writhe in the fetid bog of moldering corpses. Medium-length tracks for the most part (3–5 minutes) enable you to drop in a bit of crushing filth into your set with relative ease. Descend the crypt, inhale these malevolent odors, and await the end.

Lvcifyre “The Broken Seal” [Dark Descent Records]

atavist   2/7/2023   12-inch, A Library

Banshee guitar squeals, blastbeat attack, London’s Lvcifyre redirect the bedlam in a split moment from one structure to the next in rapid succession on their third full-length. While some death metal contemporaries are lashing their guitars into some truly disquieting tones, in contrast Lvcifyre has a decidedly 90s vibe to this reviewer, a harkening back to older traditions. The technical mastery is there, so where does the band’s individuality begin to reveal itself? One indicator is “Headless Rite”, with a rhythmic structure that leans almost progressive. Partake of various depravities in the lyric sheet, soaked in devillust. Pretty consistent, track to track. With the closer, “Black Mass”, they set the table with a slow procession before lifting their knives to carve into this death metal corpse.

Procer Veneficus “The Cold Gloaming” [Students of Decay]

atavist   2/6/2023   A Library, CD

Noble sorcery in the form of hyper-processed guitar drones, processed to the extent that nearly all traces of recognizable guitar sounds recede into the shadows. Reverb blankets the windward side of the Santa Cruz Mountains and spills over to the Bayside like a rolling host of wraiths. There is ritual intent here. The midnight hour set the scene for the original audio capture. Thus the sounds for summoning ghosts are properly prepared. Turn this up and feel their cold breath on your neck.

Worm “Bluenothing” [20 Buck Spin]

atavist   1/22/2023   A Library

Florida’s Worm return, dedicated to their deathed-up doom while grafting on elements of symphonic black metal key noodlings. Breathless cascading riffs and screaming thrash—particularly in that final track, Shadowside Kingdom—that endeavors to out-eighties the eighties. Does it exceed the speed of light and thereby reach its goal? Perhaps not, but I enjoy drinking heavily of this draught. Crushing boulders for days leavened by soaring guitars with a classic eighties ring and… those keys. I’m not especially sympathetic to overtly symphonic metal, and yet this doesn’t annoy me. Juxtaposed against the crushing hopelessness, it lends some sort of horror movie imagery that nudges the album on a slightly altered trajectory from their earlier release, Foreverglade.

Orthodox “Axis” [Alone Records]

atavist   1/22/2023   A Library

A quintessential release from these old Spanish doom masters, conjured in 2015. It has a bit of many elements that I think of when I think of the Orthodox sound. There are the horns that open Cara A—minimalist, distilled structures, their shadows dancing in the beam of a flashlight. This passage leads to Crown for a Mole, a straight-ahead drum+bass pummeling with Marco Serrato’s signature vocal style, always run through a vibrato-like effects pedal. The bass starts riffing around, almost improvisationally while the drums whirl; what could possibly go wrong? (Don’t answer that question.) Usually a power trio, this album was captured during a four-year period without their main guitarist, leaving a rhythm section with extensive experience in free improvisation and extreme jazz variants collaborating with a cast of reed, horn, and percussion players. It’s interesting that a 2017 release of theirs, Supreme, actually got filed in our Jazz Library. I think the doom metal elements in Axis tip it firmly into A Library territory, though the weirded out jazz influence persists. Once you’ve entered the halls of Medea, traipse through its dusty colonnades, feel the earth quaking below. There are simply gorgeous textures here, provided by Carlos Pérez’s guitar work. Orthodox are known to explore themes rooted in Mediterranean folklore in their lyrics. Contrast the European martial lilt in Axis/Equinox to the double bass drifting down a river through the forest in ¡Io, Sabacio, Io, Io!, with folk vocal stylings of Xavier Castroviejo. Canícula blasts out the speakers one last time before the final track acts as a sort of reprise, a return to the theme that launched the journey, turning on its axis. 


Exaltation “Under Blind Reasoning” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

atavist   11/29/2022   12-inch, A Library

Grim death from New Zealand. Driving, staccato structures offset by open, ringing riffs. Blooded talons and wings black as night. Anguished cries of suffering and guttural bellows of disgust. The sound, expertly engineered, is rich and layered. Check the excellent bass tone, accentuated by drum hits, at the start of “Ascension” to get a sense of the massive foundation this monstrosity is built upon. Overall, “Ascension” is an early favorite. In most tracks you can hear some less conventional riff construction amidst the all-out barrages; “Blaspheme Mortality” provides a good example. Plenty of tone to entomb oneself in. The album closes with “Divider of Redemption”, and the two guitars ring together during the breakdowns like a baleful wail. Prepare yourself for the cold earth.

Blood Incantation “Timewave Zero” [Century Media]

atavist   11/29/2022   A Library, CD

Creepy deep space soundtrack styles. Beautiful synth washes build in ominous layers. Blood Incantation exhibited similar passages in their previous release “Hidden History of the Human Race”, but there the passages contrasted their blistering technical death metal attack. Here, it’s two long tracks of cold, dark expanse sprinkled with the light of distant stars and galaxies, with no death metal to disturb the tranquility. Heavy Moog obsession and liner notes that indicate without subtlety a clear celestial lineage back to Brian Eno. After a time, acoustic guitar, tambura, and other acoustic instruments join into the mix. Zone out into oblivion as you crest Timewave Zero.

Helm “Axis” [Dais]

atavist   11/1/2022   A Library

Glitchy electronics and sampled acoustic sounds, twittering, quivering. Lots of smoky gauzy echoing sounds adrift in the mist, offset by start/stop drumbeats. Dreamy, atmospheric passages, as in track 3, “Crash”. Half-drowsy, half-anxious loops. Clangy percussive elements appear, borderline industrial, but never overwhelm the mix, maintaining the uneasy sleep. The last two tracks are a bit longer and ratchet the uneasiness, just so. Helm is Luke Younger, who grew up in East London listening to pirate radio, recording sounds of all kinds with a basic tape recorder, and gravitating towards electronic music. He’s been fairly prolific since ~2008, and this is the fifth Helm addition to the library.

Abkehr “In Blut” [Vendetta]

atavist   10/11/2022   12-inch, A Library

Abkehr is German for departure, turning away, renunciation, estrangement. With “In Blut” (In Blood) we have reverb-drenched atmospheric black metal from Germany. The audio quality is such that the reverb sound does not pose a detriment to the other tones. This is a solid recording with articulate guitar work, satisfying bass tone, and hissing/wailing vocals that don’t overpower the mix. Some compare this to Leviathan, a prominent figure in the US atmospheric black metal scene, and I think I hear what they’re hearing. The concept and execution reminds me of some of the black metal and BM-adjacent sounds of the previous decade. Side 1 (tracks I and II) is good, while Side 2 is better. Track III features a massive death march played at doom tempo. Insatiable, it threatens to devour the world before capitulating at last. Track IV begins with a simple guitar riff that evokes a desolation before the main din arises to envelope the listener in its cloak of hatred, until finally withdrawing into the black night.

Wolfe, Chelsea “Hiss Spun” [Sargent House]

atavist   10/2/2022   A Library, CD

This release from 2017 pairs Wolfe’s ethereal, cathedral-reverb vocals and occasional doom-lantern guitar work with a massive sound constructed by a host of collaborators, captured with icy ferocity by the prodigious Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio. Wolfe’s vocals both ride the storm and join the din to shake the ground below. The tracks “Vex”, “Particle Flux”, and “Offering” have a more electronic feel. “Twin Fawn” is deceptively quiet and withdrawn until it bares its fangs. The brief “Welt” integrates some industrial textures before revealing a reprise of “The Culling”. The menace of “Two Spirit” lies in its somber progression, brooding power veiled under the surface. Wolfe later realized her songwriting is a form of witchcraft, casting spells to confront dark forces in the self. She closes her eyes when she writes and sees landscapes and colors reel before her. FCC track 12, “Scrape”.

Blanck Mass – “Ted K (Original Motion Picture Score)” – [Sacred Bones Records]

atavist   9/28/2022   12-inch, Soundtrack

Luscious dark electronics. Martial precision for a mind marching to war with everything, offset by tranquil moments shot through with unease. Though I’m familiar with the Unabomber story, I haven’t seen the film, so I’m assessing the work of Scotland-based Blanck Mass as I would any other addition to the library. These are short tracks that establish a variety of moods, though all have a tension rattling underneath them. As we get deeper into side B, some of the sounds get just a bit scarier, with jarring, clanging bits and crescendos. Interesting segues, beds, and superimpositions possible…

Dreadnought “The Endless” [Profound Lore]

atavist   9/27/2022   A Library, CD

This Denver-based project has been honing their craft in relative obscurity for some years now. “The Endless” marks their fifth full-length release, and this second release on Profound Lore may create a larger audience for their ambitious blend of progressive structures and metal-inflected textures. Dreadnought partakes in contrasts: clean, melodic vocal harmonies versus rending cries that pierce the night, massive overdriven guitar and bass mixed with clarion keys and drums. Their fusion of seemingly disparate musical influences challenges new listeners. The musicianship and musicality is there. With this release they’re keeping the song structures a bit more succinct—earlier releases feature longer, sprawling tracks that I happen to enjoy, but I suspect these shorter tracks provide an easier introduction to the Dreadnought sound, an exploration of far-off lands discovered in dusty books, assailed by dark forces, with hope shuddering in the cold winds of time. Queue up a track and let the story unfold.

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.

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