Portland, OR’s premiere boutique metal label Vrasubatlat has been an unstoppable machine since the label opened its doors in 2015. Gaining almost instant regard for its projects and commitment to a cohesive aesthetic, the label has attracted followers in high places in the short amount of time it has been releasing music, cementing relationships with fellow local hotshots Fallen Empire Records and one of my favorite noise labels Unseen Force. I’ve been riding this particular hype train since the first batch of releases dropped, and today it is my pleasure to be able to share my thoughts on not one, not two, but three new full-length albums that span across all the styles of music that make Vrasubatlat the diverse treasure trove it is.
Adzalaan – Into Vermillion Mirrors
The first of three offerings is the debut full-length album from Adzalaan, Into Vermillion Mirrors. Adzalaan is the project of label founder and frequent contributor known simply as R. Each of these releases features R in some capacity or other, but Adzalaan is the only release that sees R shaping the sound completely, handling all instruments and songwriting solo. Somehow, I managed to forget to listen to the project’s self-titled demo from last year, so Into Vermillion Mirrors has been my introduction to Adzalaan’s music, but perhaps diving into a fully realized sound has its benefits. Fitting in nicely with the ugly, misanthropic sounds of the Vrasubatlat roster, Adzalaan still manages to carve its own niche by injecting sonic twists and turns into their brand of black metal. Lilting guitar lines, similar at times to those found on 2016’s Predatory Light album (if that provides a frame of reference) provide angular offsets to the aggressive, death-tinged black metal that forms the bulk of the project’s sound. The riffs here wind serpentine, yet always upwards in trajectory towards a greater climax. Into Vermillion Mirrors is an album of constant motion, frantic and disorienting at times, but never without purpose.
Dagger Lust – Siege Bondage Adverse to the Godhead
Our second offering today is one you may remember as being one of my most anticipated albums this year. Dagger Lust’s Siege Bondage Adverse to the Godhead is this trio’s first full-length album after two staggeringly good demo releases, and is the full realization of the sound they have built for themselves. One of the more unorthodox band’s on Vrasubatlat’s roster, Dagger Lust utilize bass guitar, harsh noise, drums, and vocals to craft some of the most unsettling music among a roster that seeks to unsettle. While my initial worry was that the production on this album would be too muddy to let the individual parts shine, particularly the bass guitar with its heavy distortion, things rarely become incomprehensible, even during the parts of Siege Bondage that border on grindcore levels of intensity. Indeed, Siege Bondage is the most intense Dagger Lust recording yet, a rumbling, gargantuan beast that expands on both the free-form harsh noise and the chaotic metal sides of the band’s coin to create a scuzzy, disdainful sound that many bands try to capture but few succeed at mastering. It’s safe to say I was not disappointed here.
Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
Serum Dreg were one of the first bands Vrasubatlat gave to the world; their 2015 demo Impure Blood was only the label’s second release, yet in just under 15 minutes the act distinguished itself for its ability to craft death metal that hearkened back to the old days of unfettered grotesquerie. After years of radio silence, Serum Dreg have finally become the last of the label’s original lineup to release a full-length album, and it’s apparent that the time spent in solitude has allowed the band to hone their craft to a razor edge. Lustful Vengeance is an ugly and vicious album of to-the-point death metal. Whether in songs with earworm choruses of “DEATH DEATH RITUAL DEATH DEATH RITUAL DEATH DEATH RITUAL,” or titles such as “Blasphemic Black Death Noise,” this is an album that tells you straight up what to expect from it, and the results deliver on that promise. No nonsense, just riffs. As death metal should be.
Sometimes it can seem like an uphill battle being buried under new music, but a triple threat of releases from one of my favorite underground labels is a challenge I am more than happy to tackle.