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August 2017 Highlights – TO Staff

Every month when I do one of these monthly round up intros, I hope that the next month would bear good tidings and that I’d have something uplifting to write about the world. But yet again, this month has been filled with natural calamities and escalating tensions among nations don’t seem to make things any easier. With all this doom and gloom, one can only hope to switch off one’s senses to reality. Fortunately we have some solid releases this month to offer us that mental getaway. So before I bring everyone’s mood down, here’s some kickass music to check out! ~ Shrivatsan R.

Atriarch (USA) – Dead as Truth (Deathrock, Relapse Records)


Portland’s premiere deathrockers present this bleak, suffering world of ours with their fourth full-length album comprised of bleak, suffering tunes. Though each song sounds distinct from one another — from the sepulchral drudgery of Dead to the scathing, burned-by-sunlight Repent‘Dead as Truth’ retains a strong identity thanks to Atriarch’s penchant for dreary, driving rhythms. It goes without saying that this isn’t the feel-good album of the year, but it’s never been more to your benefit to enjoy the sound of someone else’s suffering. ~ Eric Seal

BLK OPS/Cave Bastard (USA) – Split (Sludge / Noise / Grindcore, Accident Prone Records)

BLK OPS Cave Bastard

Let’s start with Austin, Texas based BLK OPS. This trio take their side of the split and use it to absolutely bludgeon you into oblivion. Their version of sludge metal includes a heaping helping of noise designed to disorient you as they land sonic haymakers and body blows. Though filthy is an apt description in one sense, this word is not the first one that comes to mind with BLK OPS. I would give that honor to the word ‘punishing.’ Speaking of punishing, let me introduce you to Cave Bastard from San Diego, California. The great thing about splits is that you can have a cohesive message from two completely different directions. Cave Bastard use grind as their main medium of destruction, though do also delve into the realms of sludge for their further punishment. Where BLK OPS hit with the power of a sledgehammer, Cave Bastard have the honor of finishing you off with a never ending stream of jabs to the throat and eye socket. ~ Rick Jackson

Death Yell (Chile)- Descent Into Hell (Death / Black / Thrash Metal, Hells Headbangers)

Death Yell

Death Yell’s debut full length has been a long time coming but is definitely worth the wait. Originally formed in 1988 (with a short two year run under the name Pestilence in 1986), the Chilean group released a highly regarded demo and split with Beherit before calling it quits in 1991. Twenty six years and a few splits later, ‘Descent Into Hell’ finds Death Yell sounding just as rabid and destructive as ever and they have the riffs to back it up. Like some of their other South American counterparts from the 80s, the instrumentals blur the lines between death metal, black metal, and thrash, with songs able to whip things up into fast paced mayhem before settling into slower, ominous riffing. Vocalist Galleta delivers a raspy scream that sounds genuinely unhinged, and the recording smartly puts him slightly above the rest of the band. Fans of everything extreme metal need this album in their collection. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Der Weg Einer Freiheit (Germany) – Finisterre (Black Metal, Season of Mist)

Here we have dark and emotive black metal that blends together furious aggression with esoteric atmospheres. Sorrowful moods and bleak melodies effortlessly flow from the music, with the intricate and well-composed music seeming to take on a life of its own, powered by the darkness at the heart of this particular beast. I like the band’s fiery intensity, and I like even more that this is weaved into the atmospheric elements with a coherence and focus that’s lacking in lesser works. ‘Finisterre’ is a work of lethal beauty. ~ Nigel Holloway

Fleurety (Norway) – Inquietum (Avant Garde Black Metal / Noise, Aesthetic Death)

‘Inquietum’ is a bizarre and unhinged album, or more properly, a collection of tracks from several 7” releases. Billed by the PR company as ‘Blackened Noise Avant-Chaos,’ Fleurety is a strange amalgamation of influences. I suppose that sub-sub-sub-genre will suffice as well as any. More properly, the band is probably beyond genre, choosing rather to combine whatever influence they best see fit to show forth their esoteric vision. There is certainly blackening at various points throughout. The noise influence is clear. One could make a case that avante (meaning stylistically advanced) fits as well. Chaos is probably the most obvious. There are also jazz influences, hardcore influences, lounge influences, and 80s New Wave influences. Sounds like a muddled mess? On the surface it is, but should you allow yourself the time to dig in, to process, to attempt to view the art, then you may find yourself richly rewarded. ‘Inquietum’ is difficult art for the intelligent consumer of chaotic sound. ~ Rick Jackson

Khazaddum (USA) – Plagues Upon Arda (Death Metal, Self Released)


Tolkien and metal go way back. Good friends indeed over the years, some bands using a mere name from the lore like Cirith Ungol, Morgoth and Carach Angren to the full on, metal has managed to continue the epic tales of said Tolkien for decades, and so it should, for they are tales worthy of the best of us.

Strangely enough these guys hail from Milwaukee, not the sort of place you would expect to find a Hobbit or Wraith, but hey have chosen to go full tilt with their passion for all things LOTR, and they succeed without sounding the least bit corny. Brutal as fuck, no compromising here ladies and gentleman, and although from different ends of the spectrum they have made this guy as happy as when he first heard Warcrab. Heavy shit, great lore and fantastic musicians, what more could you ask for.. Khazaddum don’t just bring a couple of Goblins to the fight, in the words of Boromir “They have a Cave Troll”, and he will kick your arse! ~ Andrew Cook

Khmer (Spain) – Larga Sombra (Blackened Crust Punk, Halo of Flies / Wooaaargh)

Madrid based four piece Khmer have been slugging it out since 2012, releasing a demo, couple of splits and an EP through the years. When it comes to their 2017 full length debut ‘Larga Sombra’, the band holds nothing back. The result of this is a 25 minute blackened crust blitzkrieg that moves your heart, while bashing your face at the same time. By maintaining the perfect balance of icy second wave black metal and Tragedy like melodic flourishes over a d-beat hardcore based rhythmic underpinning, Khmer make the music as vile as it is emotional. Constant shifts in pace coupled with third party influences like death metal and sludge keep the listeners hooked as Khmer dish out tracks about personal struggles and hatred for today’s mankind. Even the instrumental tracks here add to the emotional depth, making Khmer a worthy additional to the recent slew of excellent blackened crust acts ~ Shrivatsan R

Ledge (USA) – Cold Hard Concrete (Sludge Metal, Translation Loss / Hibernation)


Has the recent break up of Weekend Nachos left a void in you? Then fret not, as frontman John Hoffman is back to focusing on his solo sludge project Ledge. The aptly titled ‘Cold Hard Concrete’ is the band’s debut full length and while it might not be a direct replacement for Weekend Nachos, the anger and malice contained in the record does stand up to it. While the main field of play is sludge, things are not really quite straight forward. Influences from other styles like hardcore punk, death metal, doom and stoner metal make their presence felt. All these come together to achieve one common goal – to keep things as heavy as possible and boy, do they manage to do that! ‘Cold Hard Concrete’ is exactly as the name indicates and is probably the heaviest record you’ll listen to this year. ~ Shrivatsan R

Lymphoma Twins (USA) – The Love and Light of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ (Sludge / Hardcore, Self Released)

Lymphoma Twins

Skirting the fine line between atmospheric, post-metal flavored sludge and the hardcore roots of the genre comes Boston based quartet Lymphoma Twins. Their debut album titled ‘The Love and Light of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ’ came out earlier this month and frankly I didn’t know what to expect going in. But one listen to the tracks here makes two things clear; 1. The JC referred to by Lymphoma Twins is probably not the same one worshiped by many around the world. 2. These dudes have a debut album that deserves to be heard by anyone fascinated by hardcore and sludge. The music encapsulates elements that are both atmospheric and hardcore inspired to create a sound that is noisy, hypnotic, abrasive and aggressive all at once. With anti racist message set to vicious hardcore beatdowns in BLM, the dark, opium mist like sludge doom of It Follows Her…, and the psychedelic paranoia induced by Jesus the Christ, Lymphoma Twins deliver a record that is as varied as it is addictive. Heck, there’s even a hauntingly dissonant saxophone thrown in there for a little bit! So stop thinking and bow down to our (seemingly) arachnid savior. ~ Shrivatsan R

Mist of Misery (Sweden) – Shackles of Life (DSBM, Black Lion Records)

Mist of Misery

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed any DSBM. Frankly, the genre has gotten a little boring, with too many bands sounding the same. While Mist of Misery clearly fall within the genre boundaries, they do tend to color outside the lines a bit, especially by adding some symphonic elements. Making music since 2010, the quartet have had the benefit of time and experience to develop their sound. What we hear on this, the first of what I understand to be a quartet of connected mini-albums, is a sublime blend of the savagery and sadness, melancholy and massiveness. The pummeling drums and the vicious guitar riffs blend seamlessly with the ethereal piano and choral harmonies. All the while, vocalist Motuz Denatus shrieks his wails of emotional agony, venting the bile from his being. ‘Shackles of Life’ has me at least dipping my toes in the deep sea of DSBM once again. ~ Rick Jackson

Necrolytic Goat Converter (USA) – Isolated Evolution (Depressive Black / Death Metal, Self Released)

Necrolytic Goat Converter- Isolated Evolution

When I first heard tell of this project, I was skeptical to say the least. In fact, I almost didn’t bother to listen. You see, the project name, Necrolytic Goat Converter, is a crowd-sourced joke about all things blatantly black metal combined with the a reference to the auto industry where Chris Voss, the one man behind this one-man project, works. It sounds ridiculous, does it not? Except, it’s not…at least not musically. ‘Isolated Evolution’ deserves to be taken seriously, because it’s excellent. ‘Isolated Evolution’ sounds way more advanced than a first full length should. The album is primarily black metal with depressive tendencies and some death metal and even groove metal influences. This is dark and obliterating black metal with a little swing to it. Sounds strange? What do you expect from a project whose name comes from a joke? It’s no joke though. Necrolytic Goat Converter plays exceptionally engaging black metal, a cut above much of the current pack. Believe it! ~ Rick Jackson

Phylactery (Canada) – Necromancy Enthroned (Thrash / Death Metal, Unspeakable Axe Records)


I love surprises! ‘Necromancy Enthroned’ has become the gift that keeps on giving. Surprise number one: This album is one of those rare releases that not only purposely (I’m sure) has a low production value sound, but manages to make it an asset. Too many underground bands use low production values to sound trve kvlt and then just end up sucking. Surprise number two: Death metal that I’m pretty in love with. If you’ve consistently read my writing, you’ll know that this is an uncommon, though not unheard of, occurrence. I’m so much more generous to other genres than I am to death metal. It helps that Phylactery leans way over towards the war metal side of things, with clear reminders of Revenge, my all time favorite of the style. Surprise number three: Actually not a surprise, considering the war metal leanings – all the best war metal is from Canada. Phylactery is from Canada, specifically Edmonton, Alberta, which is where I was born. Way to hold the city high, gents. In the final analysis, Phylactery more than makes the grade. They take a filthy, depraved style of metal, and manage to make it both interesting and engaging within the sheer brutality of the album. This one is going on my list. ~ Rick Jackson

Shepherd / Death by Fungi (India) – Split (Sludge / Hardcore, Self Released)

I have been looking forward to this release for some time now, it features two bands at the opposite ends of the sonic palette. Shepherd have adopted a more frantic sound on this split unlike their debut album ‘Stereolithic Riffalocalypse’. My favourite track from their side is the stoner anthem Weed Dealer which feature guest vocal from Ganesh Krishnaswamy (Kryptos, Bevar Sea) & Sunneith Revankar (Bhayanak Maut). Death by Fungi take forward the ‘Bombay hardcore’ sound from their EP, in dearth of. My favourite track from their side is Dead Soil with jarring guitar riffs and vocals. The 4 tracks on the split demonstrate how much the band have grown as musicians in the past year.
Unfortunately this is last we will hear from both bands as Shepherd have called it quits and Death by Fungi have gone on hiatus. Pick up a copy below as it is only available digitally for now. ~ Peter K

Sons of Crom (International) – The Black Tower (Heavy Metal, Nordvis Produktion)

Sons of Crom

Following up their incredible debut album Riddle of Steel was never going to be something that was easy to do, but Sons of Crom appear to have pulled it off with style. If you haven’t encountered this band before, make sure you pick up both this latest album and their first one; they’re both worth it, make no mistake. Sort of what you’d imagine a mash up of second wave black metal and traditional doom would sound like, ‘The Black Tower’ is this and more. The band play what can be termed, I suppose, blackened heavy metal, mixing elements of folk, doom, and power metal into their style as well. It’s diverse, epic, highly compelling, and absolutely kicks ass. Simply put, a stunning record. ~ Nigel Holloway

The Hirsch Effekt (Germany) – Eskapist (Progressive Metal, Long Branch Records)

One of the most original albums of the year. German trio The Hirsch Effect play an avant-garde amalgam of progressive, mathcore, death metal, and indie rock that will constantly keep you guessing. Structurally, ‘Eskapist’ is perhaps best understood within the context of groups like Sigh and Igorrr. The band members are clearly influenced by a number of disparate styles, and rather than choosing just one at the expense of the others concluded, “let’s play ALL the things.” I hear elements of everything from Torrential Downpour and Between the Buried and Me to The Mars Volta and Mew. ‘Eskapist’ is an album that must be experienced from start to finish; sampling a single track will only reveal a single piece of a 1000-piece puzzle. ~ FlightOfIcarus

Thy Art is Murder (Australia) – Dear Desolation (Deathcore, Nuclear Blast)

Crunch! Growl! Slam! Chug! Wham! Blammo! Whoosh! HORNS! Blast! WEEEEEE! Gargle! Stomp! SMASH! Gurn! Fwoaargh! Crush! Yeah! Shit! RAAAGH! Squeal! RIFF! Stonk! Pow! Honk! SOLO! Bounce! ATTACK! Hell! BLIMP! CRASH! CRAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! ~ Nigel Holloway


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