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.

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.

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