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.
As I scanned over our list of promos and wondered what I should take for a review this week, I was put into a predicament. Both Eave and The Glorious Dead came highly recommended, I had listened to singles from both Phantoms Made Permanent and Into Lifeless Shrines (respectively) and really enjoyed them, I’m a sucker for both of the genres these albums fall into and they’re both Bindrune releases, which is synonymous with extremely high quality in my mind. How, then, to choose which one to review? As a now infamous taco commercial suggests, “¿Por qué no los dos?”
First up, Michigan’s The Glorious Dead bring the thunder with their self-styled brand of “filthy Northern death metal,” and filthy it is. The band has existed in one form or another since 2008, but after finally nailing down a stable lineup in 2017 and entering the studio in 2019, they’re set to release both their debut album and Bindrune’s first death metal release with Into Lifeless Shrines. The whole affair is a love letter to grimy, sludgy, riff-laden old school death metal is blissfully devoid of subtlety or ostentation. Drawing as much inspiration from the 90’s Florida scene as Sweden in the 00’s, Into Lifeless Shrines features a healthy mix of midtempo grooves, thrashy riffs, mournful melodies and doomy crawls that effortlessly capture the vibe of the classics while still being able to put their own spin on things. Vocalist TJ Humlinski’s growls ring deep in the same way that Mikael Åkerfeldt’s do on the classic Bloodbath albums (and you know how much I love those), and the rest of the crew set up a foundation that moves from blast beats to creeping sludge and back again seamlessly, all while churning out nearly endless headbangable riffs.
It can’t be overstated how much Into Lifeless Shrines scratches the itch that comes from needing more old school death metal worship in my life. More than a gimmick, more than pandering, these are musicians who are masters of a craft and they not only take their cues from the greats that have gone before them, but that they deserve to stand next to them as equals. This is an album that is wall to wall riffs, and high caliber ones at that. Not only are they catchy like the plague, they do something to me fundamentally as an organic being. As soon as “Vitreous Hemorrhage” kicks in with a fury I feel it in my gut. There’s something primal and visceral about really good death metal that makes your head bob around involuntarily and your jaw clench up and your face distort into a permanent grimace. Into Lifeless Shrines does that for me. It compels me to lay waste to my living room in a fury of mosh pitting. The little punches of melody, the squealing pinch harmonics, the sickening crunch of chugged guitar strings, pounding double bass and guttural, bowel-churning growls all come together to make something that feels ancient and timeless.
Maine’s Eave are up next, and they are the real reason why it was so hard for me to choose between these two albums to review. Into Lifeless Shrines is a no-brainer for me; I worship at the altar of old-school death metal, so it’s no surprise that as soon as I saw the album, I signed my name on it, and it’s no surprise that I love it as much as I do. Phantoms Made Permanent, however, came out of nowhere to me. I took a chance on the title track as it appeared on my YouTube recommendations and I immediately fell head over heels for the ultra-melodic, ethereal black metal that the crew has absolutely perfected on their sophomore release. It’s equal parts light and uplifting, somber and melancholic, with the trademark blast beats, reverb-soaked tremolo chords and acoustic and clean passages that help break up the sonic drench. As far as atmospheric black metal goes, it doesn’t do anything that really pushes the boundaries, but then again, it doesn’t really need to. It just needs to take me to where I need to go, and it does that wonderfully.
To put things into perspective, Into Lifeless Shrines is to nasty-boy riffs as Phantoms Made Permanent is to gorgeous melodies. There seems to be no end in sight to them, making this a lush and evocative listen from start to finish. It’s a little soft around the edges, I would argue that that’s the point, and also there’s still plenty of bite when there needs to be. The band plays around with dynamics well, hitting the extremes of gentle and aggressive but never moving between them in a way that seems jarring. “Funereal Burn” opens right up with humongous blast beats and buzzsaw guitars that laser in before gradually drifting off into layered melodies and howling vocals that build right back up again. The title track strikes a more aggressive front, with less melody and more discord in the guitar work, and heavier overall but still touched with a melody that cuts through with a mournful pang. There’s plenty of different textures and emotions offered here, and it’s all wrapped up in a tightly executed package that shouldn’t be slept on.
So there you go! A two-for-one special, courtesy of the folks at Bindrune, and the second Second Circle this week. That’s…four circles, I think, unless I forgot to carry the pi. You know I wouldn’t steer you wrong so do yourself a favor and do what I did: treat yourself to a second helping this Friday.