After death … I rule, once again!

•May 20, 2015 • 9 Comments

Ah, Spring … a time when the back seat of my car unveils bits of granola bars and Gogurts past (along with the scents of same), my dog begins his annual uncontrollable barking in my yard at passing cyclists, and the guilt of doing very little of my best laid plans (as relates to home maintenance) all threaten to overwhelm my 40-ish brain. Luckily, as always, Metal is there, bringing me back into focus with the passion and unmistakable aural violence that helped fuel this week’s humble update. As Marty handled the last WG foray solo, so too this time do I bear the mantle alone, giving him space to scheme Bindrune’s upcoming assault on the underground. Anyway, enjoy this week’s foray into two excelling Australian exports and Denmark’s purveyors of 100% ‘true’ metal of death, and as always, post those playlists and discuss: what albums thus far in 2015 are keeping your Spring fever night-terrors in check?

Jim Clifton Playlist:
Sea Witch – The Blackened Sea
Sacrilegium – Wicher
Gruesome – Savage Land
Satanic Warmaster – Fimbulwinter
House of Atreus – The Spear and the Ichor that Follows
Skogen – Vittra
Murg – Varg & Bjorn
Ahamkara – The Embers of the Stars
Grimoire – L’aorasie des Spectres Rêveurs
Nocturnus – The Key
Varathron – His Majesty at the Swamp

Dead River Runs Dry – Hierophants of the Storm

•May 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

DDRDHaving reviewed a demo of theirs back in 2012, I’d wondered if more Aussie black/death/thrash goodness would be forthcoming from these would-be progeny of other Down Under greats like Destroyer 666, Denouncement Pyre, et al, and now Dead River Runs Dry’s first full-length has arrived, and what a hellblazing scorcher it is. Taking the ability to seamlessly amalgamate multiple extreme metal genres like the aforementioned now-in-the-Netherlands-living KK Warslut and co. (along with their penchant for latter-era clean production cues), DDRD’s Hierophants of the Storm will have your spike-studded wrists grasping oranges heavenward one moment, while proudly pumping them Judas Priest-fan style the next. Each song contains riffs running the full gauntlet between classic metal and its most extreme neighbors, switching up styles continuously, but the most memorable guitar assaults are always repeated enough to enable the listener to easily discern one song from the next. For these reasons I find myself wanting to tag Dead River Runs Dry simply “metal” without prefix. Simply put, Hierophants of the Storm’s tracks are composed and comprised of sounds carefully arranged in the proper how and why of structural decision-making, creating something both extremely heavy and difficult to forget.
Prime example of this classic-meets-extreme paradigm displays prominently on ‘Skull of the Wind’, a song which takes riffs that could fit comfortably on an old Whiplash cassette and then marries them up with the slavering guitars and vocals of (a ‘deathened’) version of Funeral Mist’s Maranatha. Of course, the primary influence I detect is that of their Australian brethren and forbears – the outgoing riff at 3:45 would feel completely at home anywhere on D666’s untouchable Phoenix Rising in terms of its anthemic glory and neck-cracking refrain.

Each subsequent spin of this debut uncovers a respect for and inclusion of metal’s most poignant and often, most obscure corners, and if dutifully attended to, will provide long-lasting benefit to the listener with subsequent spins. Order this and bask in a new, non-boring entrant into the scene. -Jim

Self-released

StarGazer – A Merging to the Boundless

•May 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

a3702832010_2I enjoy straight-up, corpse-feasting death metal and corpse-painted black metal as much as the next guy, returning to each often during my spin-vinyl-wash-dishes time, but it’s never too long before the need for an odd combination of the two comes to the forefront of my plate-scrubbing soundtrack. StarGazer’s latest, A Merging to the Boundless, shows the Aussie prodigies once again neck-flailing and experimenting just as they have with previous efforts, but for those uninitiated, don’t click away now thinking this band or this album is yet another yawn-inducing display of ‘look at me!’ musical over-acting – StarGazer’s ‘prog’ (if that term even applies here) is quashed time and time again in favor of a head-pummeling Black/Death Metal that is pure, just infused with fretless bass runs that would cause Steve DiGiorgio to skidmark his undies with a ‘why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-could-have-had-V8’ moment. From the Morbid Angel/Aura Noir combo opener of ‘Black Gammon’, you know you’ve got something special invading your earholes, and though shredding solos and odd-time breaks abound, by song’s end all you be left with is the desire to start the song again – because it’s the song itself that has taken up residence in your mind’s reel-to-reel. Things get really bizarre on oddly-named second track ‘Old Tea’ (also my second-favorite song on the album) yet even amongst the fingerbone-cracking six-string chord weirdness, the droning, Snake-from-Voivod vocal of Damon Good, and demented atonal jazz rhythms of Denny Blake (both of whom split time in Mournful Congregation, Cauldron Black Ram, Martire, etc) the knowledge that riff ecstacy is right around the corner stays close at hand, and makes these adventures in genre-bending powerful and – more importantly – tasteful.

On personal favorite ‘Grand Equilizer’, StarGazer’s employment of tri-chords amongst the malaise elevates the album to its heretofore hinted-at black/death greatness, as that famed structure of dark music injects a palpable eeriness into each movement of the eleven minute Hell-journey that remains Beelze-loved even during a distortion-less guitar, quietly-chorused bass interlude that sets up a triumphant, late 70s/early 80s (read: classic metal) closing to this mid-tempo, masterful track.

As on previous efforts, StarGazer’s Altars of Madness Morbid Angel influences arise often amongst the more straightforward riffs on the album, but for the most part these come across as more subtle than before (with the notable exceptions of the aforementioned ‘Black Gammon’ and the absolutely neck-cracking ‘Merging to the Boundless’). But a love of Sadus and, ultimately, their own complicated yet still digestible songwriting are what make StarGazer who the are, and what makes A Merging to the Boundless a release that deserves both attention and respect. –Jim

ps – StarGazer are about to embark on a tour with Undergang, also reviewed this week.

Nuclear War Now! Productions

Undergang – Døden Læger Alle Sår

•May 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Undergang”I like my death metal crude, primitive, and soaked in real human guttural vocals.” – Dave Torturdød of Undergang, Convivial Hermit #7 interview

Undergang have always produced the kind of death metal brain-chewing zombies would actually make if their capacities for effort expanded outside quests for warm-blooded flesh. These Danes do the true sounds of disgust and do them well: dirty, down-tuned guitars seep and scour like those on first album-Bolt Thrower. Heavily distorted bass brings an unburied, always-audible crust above the overall mix. Drums handle both doom and death’s-head-banging sections with equal aplomb, while avoiding over-blasting boredom induction. Putrid belch vocals vomit forth in Craig Pillard/undead-throat-singing monk style. And while many hoist the OSDM flag high, the energy found here has little to do with any oft-imitated Swedeath – this is tweaking-while-Autopsy-plays-though-blown-speakers, grime-ridden death, with a dash of punk attitude. This is Undergang.

If you have already heard the band’s 2009 debut Indhentet af døden or 2012’s Til døden os skiller , you know exactly what to expect … however, in Undergang’s case, a listener’s ability to get what he or she expects (and for that to be a good thing) remains one of Undergang’s strongest traits. For Døden Læger Alle Sår (as on the aforementioned albums) not only continues a rotting-trio sound revered by underground death metal fiends, but also showcases Torturdød’s ability to twist staple death metal riffs just enough to make them his own. Unlike their fellow anachronistic brethren in death’s mostly weak attempts at injecting originality in composition while honoring their heroes, with Undergang, you’ll find it a bit more difficult to say “yeah, that riff came directly from ”. Instead you’ll find it easy to crack your forehead against the steering wheel when the fret-slides herald midtempo time changes in ‘Døden Læger Alle Sår’, when drums kick in on the unforgiving march of ‘Ad Ligbitum’, and when ride cymbals are victimized on ‘Kronisk Betændelse i tarmene’. And when the doom dirge of ‘Lemlæstelsens Kunst’ makes its way beneath your skin, your compulsion to crash the nearest funeral of a stranger will be overwhelming.

Ultimately, Undergang’s latest will touch that dying vein of death metal within you if you have that insatiable old school itch, but if you don’t, I’d still recommend spending quality time with Døden Læger Alle Sår, for this band’s energy derives from the uncomfortable death metal spirit, in direct opposition to the (sometimes tolerable) often forced and tired ‘let’s be more melodic-it’s innovative!’ ethic espoused by some in the better-known annals of the 2015 death metal underground. Thanks be to UG for that. -Jim

ps – Undergang are about to embark on a tour with StarGazer, also reviewed this week.

Dark Descent Records

(stream of new material can be found here, or simply enjoy their 2013 EP Søm Til Din Ligkiste below)

You take the midnight subway train….

•April 1, 2015 • 9 Comments

You’re callin’ all the shots….

This song has been rotting in my brain and driving me nuts all day, no matter what I play to get it out. Don’t you hate that?

Back with another, although short, update. Jim and his family are on vacation and left me to hold down the fort. Didn’t get as much free time for listening to new releases like I wanted to, but 3 reviews are better than a long cold silence.

But we shall return next week with a bit more for you to consume. In the meantime, hit me with those playlists as I’m always curious to see what I’m missing out on.

You’re struck by lightning’…. you’re in love!!!! There…. now it’s in your head as well. You’re welcome. -Marty

Marty Rytkonen – Playlist
Thulcandra – Ascension Lost
Monstrosity – Millennium
Satanic Warmaster – Fimbulwinter LP
Naglfar – Vittra LP
Astrophobos – Remnants of Forgotten Horrors
Absu – Absu
The Accused – Oh Martha
Immortal – Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism
Angel Corpse – Hammer of Gods
Perdition Temple – The Tempter’s Victorious
Bak De Syv Fjell – S/T
Cemetary – Godless Beauty
Sacrilegium – Wicher
Gorefest – Rise to Ruin
In Flames – The Jester Race
Kenn Nardi – Dancing With the Past (GAH!!!! Rules!)
Leviathan – Scar Sighted
MGLA – Groza
Joy Division – Still 2LP

Hypothermia – Svartkonst

•April 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

hypothermiaI have always been curious about this band, but have never pulled the trigger when releases would surface for purchase. When the mood for depressive black metal hits, it is nice to have a variety to pull from, especially if there is a hint of originality arising from the audial misery. Gothenburg, Sweden’s Hypothermia are indeed walking their own path when it comes to the dreary side of black metal, but as I absorb Svartkonst, the bands 5th full-length, I’m left understanding the vibe and direction this trio is going for, but I can’t help but desire something more out of the journey.

Svartkonst is depressive black metal in spirit for sure, as the mournful progressions drift along in a shroud of darkness, but the material is presented with nearly clean guitars as Hypothermia allow the natural distortion of the amps to model their sound. This allows the compositions to take on a spacious atmosphere, but the songs are so stripped down and based on repetition and straight forward drum work, that I would quickly become bored with the songs. Even when harsher distortion creeps in to infect the lazy gate of these tracks, it does little to break the monotony. The biggest void Hypothermia did not fill and would have possibly made a huge difference, it the absence of vocals. I have heard in the past that they are an instrumental band, which is likely the main reason why I haven’t investigated their previous work. In the case of Svartkonst, vocals would have been a welcomed addition to this material, for the overall flow of this album steadily stirs like a river, but it is slow moving and lacking in dynamics.

Hypothermia know how to pile on the mope and sound like no one else that comes to mind which is a very favorable quality. However, I really wanted to like these guys more than I do, but I just can’t get around the fact that their songs really go nowhere/sound interchangeable and when pressed into the construct of an album, they struggle to find their muse early on and never seem to recover. Hypothermia is neither trance inducing or particularity innovative leaving Svartonst to simply wallow in a pool of boredom. -Marty
Agonia Records

Perdition Temple – The Tempter’s Victorious

•April 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

perdition templeGene Palubicki is a death metal warrior. One cannot deny his blazing riff swords and ear for crafting furious hymns that devastate with intricate complexity, while never losing site of memorable songwriting. Angel Corpse was a demon of a band on stage and on CD that stands the test of time as if hurled forth by the very winds of hell. Though that band will always hold a special place in my DM arsenal, time marches on and you simply cannot destroy a warrior and his work.

Enter Perdition Temple, a band that strikes me as the natural progression of Angel Corpse, but everything seems even faster and more intense/urgent. Bill Taylor has even re-joined forces with Gene on this album to further seal this twin guitar union with fire. As the Coroner-esque technical fills explode from the tracks Extinction Synagogue and Devil’s Blessed, where the bass follows the guitar mayhem perfectly, my mind is blown and it is hard to deny the astounding technical proficiency on display. Gene maintains his obvious Morbid Angel influence on this material, but you can tell he went into the creation of The Tempter’s Victorious with the intention to create some of the most fierce material of his career, while effortlessly laying waste to countless heavy hitters in the modern death metal world. The speed is teetering on the brink of chaos, but drummer Ronnie Parmer holds things together with his crushing double bass work and machine like blasting style. The riffs are endless and with so many tremolo shifts and whammy bar shrieked solos arising from the battlefield, Perdition Temple ask a lot of the listener to absorb and comprehend. The songs are very complex and at times alienating, but with that violent pulse in the guitar work twisting thoughts into an almost hypnotic trance, multiple listens are demanded and one begins to discern the subtle hooks to eventually heed the command. Even though I found Impurath’s (Black Witchery) vocals to be a bit dimensionless in his mid-ranged, reverb drenched croak, I soon realized that this style and performance worked well with the overly busy nature of the tracks he was attempting to empower. In the end, the music becomes the focal point and every meticulously shredded note and crushing break from the speed is crafted with madness in mind and violence in heart.

The Tempter’s Victorious is a lot to take. 8 hefty tracks that feel like there is a 30 riff minimum will leave you feeling winded and a bit battered sonically. Granted, I don’t find myself listening to modern minded death metal much these days, for my preference is typically for the old days and style of death that is more grit than flash, but having said that, Perdition Temple has created a very interesting and hammering body of work that I find very appealing and meticulously sculpted. A brighter, more live sounding production would have given this material even more of a raging attack, but this is a very minor point to be made about an impressive album. Crushing. -Marty
Hell’s Headbangers

Perdition Temple – Sovereign of the Desolate 7”

•April 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

perdition 7 inchThis 2 track 7” was the precursor to the Tempter’s Victorious featuring a new, non -album track and a fitting cover of Blasphemy’s Weltering in Blood. Both tracks are exclusive to this release which makes the 7” even more relevant and worthy to acquire. The title track is right in line with the material that followed it due to the searing movement and blasting perfection. The one thing that sets this apart is a sharper production which gives this material even more of a spark to become an inferno. Perdition Temple nailed Weltering in Blood, somehow making it sound more formed and intense at the same time. Perdition Temple are definitely a band to further inspect if bands like Angel Corpse, Revenge, Black Witchery and Tyrant’s Blood adorn your battle jacket. -Marty
Hell’s Headbangers

Again Shall be…

•March 25, 2015 • 3 Comments

It has been far too long. Seriously. It wasn’t until I sat down and began to write my first review in ages that I realized how much I missed Worm Gear. The interaction with all of you and being able to sit and singularly focus on someone’s piece of music. Though this is a smallish update, Jim and I are back in spirit and mind. So what inspired the hiatus? Burnout. Busy family life for both of us. And the fact that Bindrune Recordings has been picking up steam. Finally. Been working since 2000 to see this happen. You will never hear me bitch about that. I’m just going with it and we had to step away from WG to realize how much it meant to us. So yes, should we go silent again, do know that we will return at some point. This has been slogging on since 1995… how could we stay away?

One thing that was a bit overwhelming, is to realize the amount of releases that we missed out on spewing about while we were gone. so not all of these reviews will likely be current in moving forward. We will likely pick and choose to keep it interesting.

I can’t even wrap my head around what came out last year, although there was a lot of great stuff. Jim took the time to throw a list of favorites from 2014 and I may do the same at some point, but for now the year is a clouded mess in my head other than the stunning (in my perhaps not so humble opinion) music that we have released.

So for future plans… the whole thing. Massive amounts of reviews. Select interviews. Band discography retrospectives. Album streams. Perhaps some goest writers? Sure! We’re back. -Marty

Marty Rytkonen – Playlist

Ahamkara – The Embers of the Stars
The Sex Pistols – Flogging a Dead Horse
Monstrosity – Imperial Doom
Waldgefluster – Femundsmarka – Eine Reise in drei Kapiteln (Test press 2LP)
Alda – Passage (master)
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal Demos
Kjeld – Skym
Darkenhold – Castellum (My god this rules!)
Fall of the Leafe – Evanescent, Everfading

Jim’s Favorite Albums of 2014

Since it’s been too long in coming, I’ll spare everyone descriptions of these albums’ sounds and any attempt at putting them ‘in order’. Here are the 2014 albums that have had me take the most notice – enjoy:

Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
Waldgeflüster – Meine Fesseln
Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith
Woman Is the Earth – Depths
Panopticon – Roads to the North
Krieg – Transient
Falls of Rauros – Believe In No Coming Shore
Thou – Heathen Spectral Lore – III
Howls of Ebb – Vigils of the 3rd Eye
TrenchRot – Necronomic Warfare
Heavydeath – Demo I (Post Mortem in Aeternum Tenebrarum)
Ifing – Against this Weald
Skogen – I Döden
Nachtreich / Spectral Lore – The Quivering Lights

Darkenhold – Castellum

•March 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

darkenholdThe term “Castle Metal” is a relatively new one to me. The first time I ever heard it was from Tanner Anderson who half in jest described Obsequiae as being a Castle Metal band. We laughed. But it stuck. The thing is, opening up a clever new sub-genre for the sake of sticking bands that fit such a title into it’s descriptive dungeon is good for floundering “writers” like myself who are always eager to add something colorful to their metal vocabulary. Yes I know… needing to describe something with a tidy tag is lame and often cheapens the art so painfully toiled over by the musicians creating it, but for the sake of making my life easier, fuck it. Enter the French Quintet, Darkenhold. With a brooding castle adorning the cover of the very enjoyable Castellum, I feel very confident in dropping the Castle Metal bomb right here like a 13′ tall iron gate.

Having never heard this band before, the opening minutes of Castellum instantly enchanted me due to Darkenhold’s truly great overall atmosphere that harkens back to the early and exciting years of black metal. The band possesses the spirit of the genre perfectly and fill the 10 tracks on this album with endlessly memorable “medieval” scales that unfurl hooks that you simply cannot get away from. Add colorful synth work to accentuate these melodically charged riffs and you are indeed ushered away from this plane of existence back to the romantic dark ages where sword met shield and honor burned in the hearts of men… well those men who didn’t happen to die from the plague that is. There is that moment where I realized that in some way, Darkenhold had united the viking metal spirit of Bathory with For All Tid era Dimmu Borgir as the opening Bathory tribute riffs on “Glorious Horns” nodded to their influences with majesty and conviction. And that is fine with me! The lions share of Castellum is mid-paced which allows all the songs to develop and lope along within vibrant layers of melody. You can hear the bass lines perfectly and the synths add so much feeling to these songs. The vocalist maintains that higher register screaming style which suits this material perfectly and further points to the 90’s as main their era of influence.

Darkenhold nailed a style of black metal that I still hold dear and upon spinning this opus, one cannot deny Castellum multiple spins. The songwriting rings out as so mature and patient. These tracks really develop nicely and slowly, to eventually soar within a metallic majesty that has become their own style. Castellum are great. No joke. Castle fucking metal yourself into oblivion with this truly epic treat. -Marty
Those Opposed Records

Devilspit – Grim, Hateful, and Drunk

•March 25, 2015 • 3 Comments

DevilspitBlack metal punk continues to be well-explored in the modern era, but rarely has the style been fleshed outward enough to hold my interest long. Around comes Brittany, France’s Devilspit with a heavy enough dose of originality for me to keep my finger away from the virtual ‘stop’ button on the available stream of it’s second release (and first for Caligari Records), Grim, Hateful, and Drunk. While a linking vibe of necro-debauchery drips from each fetid track as its title implies, you will be pleasantly surprised by sole member Körpserizer’s inclusion of early ‘80s post-punk guitars and vocals (displayed prominently on opener ‘Dedicated to my Enemies (Prelude to Ignorance’) and that style’s accompanying solemnity, adding weight to the alcohol-infused delivery of grim guitars and mid-tempo drumwork. And in the midst of dark punk stompers like ‘A Tout Les Faux’, don’t be surprised to hear a somber, dark synth interlude with a reverb-laden, roving-medieval riff carrying out the latter portion of the song. Körpserizer just plays upon expectation well, for while you’ll hear the familiar three-chord beer-guzzle on ‘A.R.P.M.’, as the song nears its end, a melancholy melody-line rides over said riff, seguing into what sounds like bagpipes being played by a hammered-on-Springbank Scotsman. It’s as if Devilspit sonically tells honest during-and-after tales of over-indulgent nights spent in seedy metal/punk dives of choice: there will be Satanized-frivolity in the moment, but all shall be eclipsed afterward by the hellish hangover awaiting the next day.
The final two tracks, ‘’The Witching Stone’ and ‘Mon Caveau’, give themselves fully over to the eeriness hinted upon in earlier tracks, each driven by strange, reverb-drowned guitar-realizations that creep into the mind but have little in common with albums of the black metal punk ilk. And the resultant feeling that, taken on the whole, Grim, Hateful, and Drunk is indeed something uncommon will resonate well after the final sound you’ll hear on the album – namely, that of (fittingly enough) Mr. Körpserizer actually ‘devil’-spitting.

Caligari Records

House of Atreus – The Spear and the Ichor That Follows

•March 25, 2015 • 1 Comment

House of AtreusWhile (luckily) few stomach the “views” of Arghoslent, many in the extreme metal scene champion the actual music of the band itself, the band’s mostly mid-tempo galloping riffery finding its inexorably catchy way into misanthropic minds. Fans may have wondered what the accumulative impact of those West Virginians’ arrangements could have been if somehow extricated from their author’s hate-fueled lyrics, but ever since Minneapolis’ House of Atreus appeared in 2011 with their first demo, the answer has been available: yes, powerful, melodic war metal is quite capable of going beyond any influence or content, and can tread boldly into the realm of pure sonic bludgeoning well within its own right.
This is not to say that House of Atreus’ debut full-length The Spear and the Ichor That Follows, due out May 5th on Dark Descent, should be considered a simple rehash of the triplet-driven, harmonic battle cries of Arghoslent’s aural exploits, just with different words – no, House of Atreus’ metal Minnesotans incorporate their own chosen doses of melodic ‘80s thrash (perhaps a bit of Time Does Not Heal Dark Angel, Mind Wars Holy Terror, maybe even a little early Voivod) and death metal outside of the Arghoslent repertoire, even adding occasional light touches of black metal (especially Greek ungods Rotting Christ and Varathron) in their cauldron of darkness. Like their brothers-in-spirit Sacriphyx, HoA are unafraid to downpick with the need to instigate head-snapping blood lust in its listeners, or to indulge in a purely anthemic guitar solo whenever necessary. The militaristic and memorable death metal-bark cadence of Anxietous Nero (aka bassist/vocalist Dan Huddleston) relates tales of Greek tragedy, war, along with Shakespearean quotes, all in unflinching accompaniment to the menacing march of spear-thrusters like ‘Veiled in Dignities of Wrath’, a song conjuring an enraged riff-discipline Roman centurions of old could appreciate. The open-chord reverie of ‘Heir to the Crown of Sodom’ explodes into a barrage of palm-muted guitar mortar that will either convert or slay the haters upon first listen (and if you have any doubts about the ‘brutal-ness’ of Shakespeare, listen intently to the sample of ‘Titus Andronicus’ at song’s end, leading into ‘The Beasts of Antiquity’ – pure darkness). Aptly-named closer ‘The River Black’ machines the album’s only shrieking black metal-style lead vocal with a heart-stirring, arpeggio-shredding lead guitar into one of the band’s best tracks.
The Spear and the Ichor That Follows will surely polarize metal fans for different reasons; some for where the heart of its sound takes inspiration, others by the brazen melodicism of its song structures in comparison with other Dark Descent releases (aside from Crypt Sermon’s and the last Horrendous, of course). I care nothing for the inevitable, oncoming wave of discourse either way – Huddleston deftly dismissed it here
over a year ago – and instead urge you to give this early End of Year list contender a careful listen. -Jim

Dark Descent

Kjeld – Skym

•March 25, 2015 • 1 Comment

KjeldWith 1 lonely 2010 EP lurking in their back catalog, the Netherlands own Kjeld may not be stirring a prolific stew, but judging by the highly advanced songwriting and strong unification of ferocity and mid-90’s Scandinavian atmosphere, Skym is a mature and very striking release for this quintet. It is all about quality and not the quantity after all, and this band has delivered a searing full-length with depth and focus.

Even though Kjeld often lay the blasting hammer down, Skym benefits from excellent pacing in the speed department. The band knows when to ease off the attack to allow subtle synth textures to seep in along with a well placed and audible bass line and it gives the album a lot of character when they embrace a slower frostbitten groove. The riffwork is truly great, centering on those higher end chords that disorient with a strangely melodic dissonance for the aforementioned Scandinavian influence, but tracks like Us Grun break out of the mold with a plodding double bass march and hefty power chord riffs that inject a pleasing weight to their sound before erupting back into the memorable nature of their tremolo firestorm. Repeated listens really unlock the genius in these tracks, for each song holds onto a life all it’s own within the scaring framework of Kjeld’s hateful style. This feeling is further perpetuated by vocalist Skier’s unwavering and blistered screams. He doesn’t break character with his full on delivery and it somehow acts as a sensible contrast up against songs with so much feeling and movement as found on the hook laden track Bonifatius.

Skym has arrived and really appealed to my appreciation of the mid 90’s black metal aesthetic by way of endlessly memorable and superiorly crafted songs. There is an obvious passion and conviction detonating from this material and even in a sea of bands decades deep, Kjeld managed to rise to the surface and demand just as much attention from the listener as they themselves have put into the feeling and traditional spirit within this expertly sculpted album. -Marty
Hammerheart Records

Myrkur – Myrkur

•March 25, 2015 • 2 Comments

myrkurDuring the Worm Gear hiatus, there have been a lot of albums that have come and gone that at the time I had a lot of opinions about. Thankfully this one was still in the Relapse cue, so let’s see if I can dig back into those old frustrations and anger and rekindle this thought process…

There was a time in Worm Gear’s history where Relapse Records was closely involved with the print side of the zine. They sent out issues with all of their outgoing orders. They advertised. They NEVER tried to influence or censor our raw opinions. They cared and were eager to see it grow. For that, I will always be grateful, for those were indeed some really great times that won’t soon be forgotten. The bands and albums Relapse released back then were influential at times and largely really great. And also in those days, they said they would NEVER release a black metal album. I heard that time and again it seems. NEVER!! So for Relapse 2014 to get behind a “black metal” album, it’s gotta be something really special right? It’s gotta be! So I entered into the S/T Myrkur release ready for something fantastic, especially when bands like Ulver are dropped in the propaganda pages. What hit me was 7 songs of underdeveloped, barren and a just plain terrible attempt at 1 person in a pop band’s interpretation of black metal. This isn’t a “ladies shouldn’t be in BM” rant at all, for opinions like that are ridiculous. For me it’s all about good or bad and Myrkur’s songs are scattered and swirling around the bowl. There is one riff on this release that I like and it appears at the 1 min mark of Ma Du Braende I Helvede with it’s awkward and interesting flow and dirty sound. That was redeeming for a measure, then it was back into songs that really didn’t make any sense with a tone that was lacking distortion and overall feeling. The pitch singing in between tracks is competent for sure, but sounds like it belongs in a different band/style. Her grim vocals are processed in an attempt to make them sound more disturbed and they really are not much of a focus when looking at these songs as a whole. Nattens Barn for example is a disjointed mess from beginning to end. The structure is mostly linear where riffs start, play for a couple measures, end with an awkward transition, and go into another unrelated riff. The whole of this MCD is like this. Nothing concrete musically or structurally to hold onto. The whole thing just sounds like someone with some obvious guitar skills just can’t figure out how to write a real song containing interest, dynamics or feeling to save her ass.

In closing, I have read a lot of really favorable reviews for this release and have seen record collectors on youtube proudly showing off their vinyl copies. I gotta ask…. what the hell is the matter with all of you? You like this? There is no accounting for taste I know, but when the music presents itself like a half assed train wreck, one has to wonder what it is one sees in the result. Did Relapse sign Myrkur on its musical merit? Fuck I hope not. Did they sign Myrkur because it is the project of a woman? I don’t think so! Did they sign Myrkur because the person behind it is in a pop band evidently popular enough to mention in the bio info and is a famous model? Yes! That’s got to be it! And for that point, bypassing musical integrity and something creative in favor of a sound marketing plan, they should be ashamed! Thankfully Relapse, you have held to your promise and haven’t yet released a black metal record even though you think you have. Strike one. -Marty
Relapse Records

Unrest – Grindcore

•March 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

UnrestThe title says it all really, but this burning power trio brings an old fashioned grind asswhooping to the table on this, their debut full-length. No demo. No warm-up EP. From obscurity to obliteration is what this album should have been called, but in spite of my apprehension, there is no denying the attention to detail found within.
With members found in the ranks of Woe, Trenchrot and Crypt Sermon filling the positions, Unrest are no strangers to the front lines, so I think this is why this material works so well in spite of the fact that the album is fashioned after the Nasum (and the like) formula. Offsetting vocalists handle the higher end screams and a deeper growl/shout in a predictable manner and get the job done, but really the standout for me is the music. From full on grind to punk tinged D-beat, Unrest craft 12 well considered songs that you probably have heard before, but the fact that the riffs are so damn catchy really shows that they know what they are doing putting this material together. Strange chord phrases and other interesting twists in the musical composition as on the track False Brotherhood and others, do hint at subtle black metal appreciation and this helps inject a welcomed feeling to seep into the songs other than the rip your fucking face off all the time, which I must admit these guys also handle perfectly well.

Unrest have all the grindcore genre defining characteristics covered on this album, but inject enough of their own spirit into the mix to make this set of songs go from pretty enjoyable to “damn good”. Grindcore certainly isn’t dethroning any classics when I want to be assaulted by this style, but I do like this debut effort and plan on putting it all up in my Ipods nefarious business. -Marty
Unspeakable Axe Records

Every day, blows by in a world of corrupt addiction …

•October 8, 2014 • 15 Comments

The extreme busyness of Bindrune has done much to stymie the flow of Worm Gear words to you, our dear readers, but though we must necessarily divert after-day-job attentions elsewhere time to time, we shall always return to the discussion of the extreme sounds that motivate us all. That said, let us skip past any rambling long preamble and get right to the reviews. Please post your playlists, and also let us know what experiences you’ve been up to in the past month of our absence!

Jim Clifton Playlist
Death – Spiritual Healing LP re-issue
Dissection – The Somberlain
Diskord – Oscillations
Falls of Rauros – Believe in No Coming Shore
Panopticon – Roads to the North
Bathory – Blood Fire Death
Bathory – Under the Sign of the Black Mark
Evoken – Atra Mors
Destruction – Release from Agony
Adramalech – Psychostasia

Marty Rytkonen Playlist
Falls of Rauros – Believe in No Coming Shore
Nechochwen – OtO
Witherscape – The Inheritance
Obsidian Tongue – A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time
Lost Horizon – A Flame to the Ground Beneath
At The Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
At The Gates – With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness
In Flames – The Jester Race
Dan Swano – Moontower
Ac/DC – Powerage

Ellorsith – 1959

•October 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

EllorWith the tens of thousands of extreme metal bands throughout the world vying for attention, and most of these staking claim on the often-tried and ever-trve topics of Satan and related ephemera, the added difficulty of garnering interest by means of subject matter, as well as the ongoing need to do so by music itself, cannot be often overcome by those trying their hands at black/death art. Where many fail, Ellorsith succeed, taking as their lyrical focus the Dyatlov Pass Incident, in which nine skiing hikers perished under “mysterious” circumstances forty-five years ago (read more about that here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2401175/Dyatlov-Pass-Indicent-slaughtered-hikers-Siberias-Death-Mountain-1959.html). Ellorsith do justice to their chosen concept with a black/death evocation of cold and loss, with disharmonic, openly strummed riffs providing the perfect backdrop for sound-based hallucinations of negative temperatures and frozen extremities. Occasional palm-mutes break up the swarming blizzard of riffs so that the listener never falls prey to a drooling drone, and surprisingly tasteful, forlorn leadwork capture the despair of the doomed students as they come face-to-face with their killer/killers, natural and unnatural alike. Augmenting the atmosphere is 1959’s perfectly-wrought lofi production, skilled drumwork and bending basslines of pure death. And all the while, the Yeti death-bark of this Scotland, UK quartet’s vocalist relates the intriguing story through four tracks (five counting the appropriately disquieting intro) across varying tempo and tides of terror, interspersed by a choir chant and the creeping, crying words of some arcane priest which pepper Ellorsith’s frozen admonitions of sound with a dissemination of Russian supernatural legend.
Though little is known about this new band, their debut cassette on the high-quality Caligari Records has done exceedingly well (sold-out for now). Pick it up on bandcamp. Disturbing and dark-world-building composition at its finest. –Jim

Caligari Records

Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith

•October 8, 2014 • 2 Comments

MareCogAfter experiencing and re-experiencing again and again the amazing 2013 Sol collaboration between Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore, I expected Mare Cognitum’s follow-up to be the musical equivalent of terra-forming, and it does not disappoint. From the opening/ominous keyboards that rise from the space between stars, to the densely-layered choir of guitar lines and riffs that take your mind by the hand and pull you into an astral plane by the means of noise-canceling headphones, you will know a scant two minutes into this wonderwork that what lies before you can be classified as black metal high art. Moreover, Phobos Monolith stands (like my placement of the aforementioned Sol last year) as one of 2014’s best extreme metal releases. Thus, out of sunny Santa Ana, California cometh once again the dark musical vehicle of Jacob Buczarski, the singular talent behind this, Mare Cognitum’s third full-length release. Through unrelenting drums, droning yet harmonious black metal riffs with death metal underpinnings and Jacob’s strangling throat, you have adequate propellant to take you closer to a cosmic genesis than you ever have before. But make no mistake – this is much more than a contemplative glide to the far reaches of the Universe. Phobos Monolith launches you as you’d expect a starship actually would: excoriating, buffeting, jarring, and tearing you free from our familiar magnetic field with a unique combination of hyper-tempos and always combined melody/dissonance that never quite settles or unsettles in the ear; the music just forces your mind’s eye ever-forward, attentive to the glorious riffery and awe-imbued arrangements that await you. Mare Cognitum’s assault isn’t without some mercy, however; on ‘Nuomenon’ an interstellar aural play of the broadest kind brings through an array of emotion as widely-varied as the disparate, Ouroborous-like guitars could possibly have the capability to display. But the whirling, death metal dervish of ‘Ephemeral Eternities’ comes quickly thereafter, again firing forth from the speakers with enough zeal to break anyone out of any elliptical orbit of contentment.
There are moments when I fear Metal is coming close to saying all it can say, and bemused I find myself returning for long periods to albums past for the feeling of that old spark of depth and ingenuity. But then albums like Phobos Monolith – though rare – are found, always waiting around Art’s corner, ready to restore my faith in this music stemming from the shadow-side of existence, this music that resonates, and will do so, always. -Jim

I, Voidhanger

You are not what you own

•August 20, 2014 • 3 Comments

Happy Wednesday friends! 2 new reviews this week for something new to ponder. 2 things this week. First the topic. “You are not what you own” so poignantly penned on Fugazi’s Repeater. A statement against consumerism that rings true as a harsh reality. As I listened to that album this evening and heard that chorus, it made me think about my music collection and how I value it. I have been a metal collector since my teens. Unapologetic. I find buying new music to be comforting and possessing a big collection to be rewarding when sharing with friends. It made me think about being a metalhead… again… unapologetic till the end, but Ian MacKaye made me think about the things I have surrounded myself with. Does it define me? Does it define you?

Secondly… Some of you may know that I own/run/co-own Bindrune and Eihwaz Recordings with fellow Worm overlord, Jim Clifton.

Last week we launched a free/donate what you want compilation via bandcamp featuring new and relatively new tracks from many talented artists on both labels’ growing rosters. This also includes a non album/exclusive track by Nechochwen. A lot of good stuff here for you to check out and I’d like to take this moment to encourage all of you to go stream the comp and download it if you like. Our gift to all of you. Thanks for the support!

Until next time, share your thoughts and your playlists! Take care. -Marty

Jim Clifton
Brimstone Coven – s/t
Falls of Rauros – Believe in No Coming Shore
Endlichkeit III–V
Horrendous – Ecdysis
Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane
Possessed – Seven Churches
Motorhead – Bomber
Horn – Naturmacht
Bolt Thrower – For Victory
Darkthrone – Plaguewielder

Marty Rytkonen Playlist
Untamed and Eternal (Bindrune Compilation)
Ulver – Vargnatt
Ulver – Bergtatt
Ulver – Natten Madrigal
Algaion -Oimai Algeiou (thanks for the reminder Unaerth! Haven’t spun these guys in some time. Was a nice reminder how awesome they are!)
Algaion – Vox Clamentis
Falls of Rauros – Believe in No Coming Shore
Fugazi – Repeater
Brimstone Coven – S/T
Vallenfyre – Splinters

Act of Impalement – Echoes of Wrath / Hyperborean Altar (demo compilation)

•August 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

ActOfImpalement (200x200)Caligari Records continues its cassette assault upon the underground with a demo compilation from Nashville, Tennesee’s Act of Impalement, a trio with ears open to what has worked in doom/death’s slow-to-mid-paced past and the minds to lash it all together effectively for the present. Imagine a ‘Morbid Tales’-era Tom Warrior employing a Boss HM-2 instead of a tube screamer over-drive pedal, and you’ll get an idea of not only the thick and persistent guitar tone, but also the well-worn songwriting style that hasn’t lost its decayed-flesh luster over the last three decades. Act of Impalement aren’t writing new manuals for the modern extreme metal minion to find guidance, but that’s just fine; the band’s amalgam of early Celtic Frost/Hellhammer (heard somewhat more on ‘Hyperborean Altar’) and ‘90s OSDM remains infectious and engaging throughout both sides of the tape. ‘Teutoburg Forest’ will blissfully carry those in the know back ‘To Mega Therion’s more nightmarish, slow doom-ridden moments, with bends and fourths a-plenty augmenting the evil pouring forth from your speakers, while the latter half of opening track ‘Echoes of War’ has the sound of a baked-in-the-sun ‘Left Hand Path’ LP. All the while, vocalist Dark Druid’s blend of LG Petrov cadence, NYDM-style low roars, and the throat-shredding capabilities of a young John Tardy keep the dirges moving along with an intensity that matches, and in some moments even surpasses some of their blast-beating brethren. A worthy addition to your rectangle-shaped physical audio collection. -Jim

Caligari Records

 
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