We are forced to reckon and perhaps rethink the idea of ‘space’, its rather unique capacity for confinement and ‘bruise-heavy’ mental skirmishes that comes pre-packaged when its employed under all things quarantine. The cause for quarantining should be respected, yes, but sometimes we need a few salves to soothe those rather unruly ‘side effects’ that comes with living long in a certain space. Getting stuck in our homes for this long and being asked to enjoy enforced solitude is by no means easy. Our mental health, both individually and collectively, is put to the test. Sometimes it may only be a crack away from revealing its rather mushy interior.
And in times like these – with metal’s penchant for all things dystopian/pandemic – album titles and their lyrics can move from being prophetic to being just plain ludicrous (I still love it though).
Regardless. it’s important to keep listening, to keep that conversation with music alive and kicking!
Drown out those sorrows you say? Let’s listen to…
Artwork by Nightjar Illustrations/Adam Burke
1. Drown – Subaqueous
Tchornobog (“Black god” in Ukranian) was an interesting death doom debut to say the least. Markov, the sole person behind the project takes a turn for the benthic with his comparatively older band called Drown. Funeral Doom with a melodicism that is teasing at best but alluring nonetheless. Even Poseidon would have a few godly facial muscles sagging.
2. 200 Stab Wounds – Piles of Festering Decomposition EP (Maggot Stomp)
Now some prodding with sharp objects to get you out of that ‘eternal wallowing’ in despair. Short, crisp and all things caveman pummeling. This is a fine death metal EP that fits into this emergent American clique of grimier death metal bands that’ve come out on the Maggot Stomp label (think Frozen Soul and Malignant Altar).
Artwork by Artem Demura
3. Macbeth – Gedankenwächter (Massacre Records)
A band that has a long and storied history, replete with a few run-ins with the Stasi, and one of the first bands from the erstwhile German Democratic Republic. What I love about this particular release are those lovely anthemic/cathartic choruses (Krieger/In sienem namen). Cool as fuck.
Artwork by Nightjar Illustrations/Adam Burke
4. Solothus – Realm of Ash and Blood (20 Buck Spin)
First encountered these guys with their last release on Doomentia Records which was surprisingly good to begin with. This is Finnish death metal painted over with that now infamous sheen of gloomy atmospherics that saddles both death and doom metal. This is no different, but for me the high point of the release is when they go into those melodic soloing modes. Think Mithras, albeit much slower, darker and with adequate breathing space to sink in.
5. Beggar – Compelled to Repeat (APF Records)
Initial listens would suggest that they’d fall squarely into the category of those more grimier, uglier and altars of debauchery-spinoffs of Electric Wizard. I’m here talking about the sludge that bands like Dopethrone and Demonic Death Judge sort of espouse. They are definitely in that league and a breath of fresh air in a niche that has gone increasingly stale over the years in terms of memorability.
Artwork by CT Nelson
6. Sutrah – Aletheia EP (The Artisan Era)
This is death metal philosophical discourse 101. Trying to capture Ancient Greek philosophical concepts such as ‘lethe’ (meaning ‘oblivion) and it’s opposite, Aletheia (or ‘disclosure’) is a grand exercise unto itself. But something which metal is not new to (here, here and here). Regardless something as concept heavy as this requires a treatment that is nothing short of grandiose. And yet that is something Sutrah does in style and I mean you could literally hope for nothing less from members of a band that have connections to the whole Canadian circle of proggy tech death that includes the likes of Chthe’ilist, Serocs, and Zealotry. You must check out the debut too if you end up digging this.
7. Vredehammer – Viperous (Indie Recordings)
I end this list with the 3rd album from Vredehammer. Fitting I’d say. It’s a jolt of unrelenting blackened death with the death metal aspects having a heightened presence throughout. Now this is probably because of the beefier tone that they use – but here you do begin to grasp a thread or two the close attention to the riff that bands like Desaster and Destroyer 666 employ. And while on a similar vein, it’s not yet traded for a frenetic full frontal assault.
P.S. And oh fuck! Those synth passages are to look out for! Remember the first time you listened to, say Quartz’s Charlie Snow????
P.P.S. Now if this is all TLDR for you then I’d recommend tuning into my little playlist of sorts, that focuses on some of the best tracks (not necessarily best albums) for 2020 in IMHO.