In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
It’s hard being an album released at the end of the year. Everyone and their brother is publishing an end of year list (*wink*), and folks are so busy checking out what they’ve missed throughout the year some real interesting releases can get lost in the shuffle. Here at Nine Circles, we endeavor to make sure these lost children, these metal leftovers, get some of that nutrient-rich critical loving so they have at least a fighting chance to get noticed in between the bourbon-enhanced eggnog revelries and inevitable familial infighting. Today’s let’s shed some light on Sepulchral Curse and Blood Tyrant.
At the Onset of Extinction is the second EP from Finnish death metallers Sepulchral Curse, and sees a maturity in the classic death metal sound (think Convulse and Demigod), mixing in subtle progressive and hardcore elements to create a compact blast of power. There’s some black metal in there as well (there’s black metal in everything these days) but the emphasis is definitely on pummeling old school death metal with enough ideas to carry a full album, let alone an EP.
Opener “Envisioned in Scars” lets you know in the first two minutes this isn’t a standard grunt and get it over with death metal song. What starts out as a standard but solid modern death metal tune – complete with cavernous grunts and growls for vocals – takes a left turn at Albuquerque (Is Bugs Bunny still on TV?) with an almost hardcore shout/scream refrain, the music shifting gears to accentuate the change in style. It doesn’t last long, but it grabs your attention. “In Purifying Essence” and “Gospel of Bones” follow similar trajectories, laying down solid grooves of death metal interspersed with bursts of shouted hardcore menace and rhythmic changes that keep everything frozen and fresh. But the real MVP is the nine and a half minute closer “Disrupting Lights of Extinction” which takes the formula on the previous songs and turns the Epic setting up to 11. By slowing the gallop down and letting the production breathe a bit, it’s a great indicator of what Sepulchral Curse can bring to the table, and I’m looking forward to see these ideas continue.
Holy shit look at that cover. Do you really need me to tell what kind music Blood Tyrant is interested in playing? Even their Bandcamp page is necro and hostile, explicitly stating that any messages sent through the page will NOT be answered. And that’s probably a good thing, because I suspect the Wampyric Specter and Baron Yrch Malachi would respond with either scowls or a flaming torch. So let’s let those sleeping dogs lie and see if there’s anything original in Aristocracy of Twilight to talk about.
In this day and age where it’s relatively cheap and easy to get access to digital recording equipment, you have to really try to get your metal to sound as lo-fi as Aristocracy of Twilight does. Sounding this low-rent ain’t easy, folks. One of the benefits of it, however, is it really forces the listener to listen, to find buried in the mix those startling ideas that carry the music out of the murk and leave a mark on your soul. It’s what I found in albums like Under a Funeral Moon and Under the Sign of the Black Mark; really, any of your now-classic “Under…” albums. You get the same thing in songs like “Barbaric Wampyrism” and “Clandestine Bloodmists” which is admittedly an awesome title. There’s melody buried in the tremolo picking, the drums are suitably recorded to sound like they were found in a cave, and the vocals are completely unintelligible. You get a bit of a weird anachronism with the keyboards, which stand out like a sore, enclosed in spike gloves, thumb against the hiss and fuzz of the other instruments, but I think that’s what it’s supposed to sound like when bloodmists meet in secret. If you like that lo-fi goodness that came with the onset of the Norwegian black metal invasion this doesn’t reinvent the wheel so much as copy it.
Aristocracy of Twilight is available now on Iron Bonehead Productions. For more information on Blood Tyrant, look for bloodmists meeting in secret…most likely at twilight.
With a few weeks left in the blot that is 2016, there’s a few things lurking under the rug we’ll endeavor to bring to your attention. In the meantime, go easy on the eggnog and heavy on the metal.