LABEL SPOTLIGHT: Aesthetic Death (United Kingdom)
There have always been few labels peddling in doom metal dedicatedly and UK based Aesthetic Death label are one among them. In my early years, I used to refer to them as being Esoteric’s label (as they released majority of the band’s catalog) and in the last decade, have unearthed some absolute gems such as Eibon, Murkrat, Fatim Elisum, Wreck of the Hesperus and more. It made sense to throw more light on the overlooked but extremely high quality and seemingly passionate label and write about some of their newer, more relevant releases. Thanks to the contribution of the fine Transcending Obscurity webzine staff, we’re able to to put together a worthy feature highlighting this doom metal label. ~ Kunal Choksi (Editor-in-Chief)
Goatpsalm (Russia) – Downstream (Funeral Doom Metal / Dark Ambient)
It’s hard to pin down Goatpsalm from Russia. They are a mix of ambient, doom, black and folk with a dash of the funereal and atmospheric thrown in. It’s one of the few bands whose arrangements are operatic at times in their ambition and still contain riffs that are packed tight. Their album ‘Downstream’ had all the combinations coming together in one epic album and it remains one of my favorite listens when it comes to metal albums with overtones of folk mysticism. They can sound utterly original at times and they retain this consistency in producing unique riffs song after song which is refreshing. Overall thanks to Goatpsalm I got into my ambient phase and I did not regret it for a bit. ~ Dinesh Raghavendra
Lashblood (Russia) – UnBeing (Avant-Garde Black Metal)
Over the past few years, Russian metal has developed it’s own regional identity owing to all the atmospheric black and doom metal bands coming from the region. However, Lashblood from St. Petersburg has a sound that is unlike any other band from Russia (or from the world to be honest) and this becomes clear upon listening to the band’s latest release ‘Unbeing’. Lashblood’s core lies in cold, old school black metal. But they meld it with contemporary ideas like progressive metal and even a bit of jazz to give it a, dare I say, neo-noire-ish feel. This includes everything from infusing black metal riffs with odd time signatures and even including a very jazzy saxophone on almost every track. There are even hints of a psychedelic lean, bringing to mind the likes of Hail Spirit Noir. Even with all these avant-garde ideas coming together, Lashblood manage to retain that venomous, blackened hate in their music. This record is a brilliant idea of what’s possible when old school black metal meets contemporary avant-garde inclinations. ~ Shrivatsan R.
Mekigah (Australia) – Litost (Black / Doom Metal / Ambient)
Mekigah are about as effusive as they come. This duo from down under started putting out albums in 2008 and so far it has been a mixed journey for them with three albums down and the fourth coming out this year. They started off with ‘The Serpent’s Kiss’ which was at once symphonic and darkly brooding. ‘The Necessary Evil’ saw them deviate from their debut as they tried to prove their versatility by attempting raw and sludgy styles and then came ‘Litost’ three years ago with it’s intense, feral and almost aggressive energy that is at once personal and fiery. This is a band that has been continuously upending expectations and I can only wonder what they have in store for fans this year. Their sheer unpredictability makes them one to watch out for. ~ Dinesh Raghavendra
The Nihilistic Front (Australia) – Procession To Annihilation (Doom / Death Metal)
There’s clearly a dearth of Disembowelment-sounding bands and The Nihilistic Front, from Australia, partially fill that void. Their brand of doom is massive and has a harsh grinding quality to it, but on the other hand it’s extremely bleak and funeral doom-esque. There’s a sheen of industrial elements reminiscent of Godflesh and even Drug Honkey, which adds to the “extreme doom” sound of theirs and on the whole the propagates their post-apocalyptic vibe like few others. ~ Kunal Choksi (Editor-in-Chief)
ThrOes (Australia) – This Viper Womb (Dissident Metal)
Plenty of bands try and proclaim new, pretentious genres for themselves, but I’d wager none have actually earned the right to it like Trent Griggs from ThrOes has. ‘This Viper Womb’, released in 2016, was the laborious result of Griggs’s self-imposed 11-year reclusion away from the metal world and an expression of his disillusionment and venomous honesty. Proclaiming a new genre — “dissident metal” — the album’s ten tracks take open-minded listeners on a dynamic, thought-provoking, and yes, aggressively headbanging journey that denounces recent metal tropes and always keeps you guessing. With tones and melodies reminiscent of groove, black, death, and progressive metal, it is at once all and none of these things. Challengers beware — wrangle with this twisting, writhing organism if you dare, because once it sinks its fangs in, its potent poison may grant you a new perspective. ~ Eric Seal
Whelm (Denmark) – A Gaze Blank and Pitiless as the Sun (Sludge / Doom / Post Metal)
Initially released in 2013, this standalone full length release from Danish band Whelm, went unnoticed by majority of metal listeners. It’s a good thing then that Aesthetic Death released a CD version of this record in 2015. This album is a mix of doom, sludge and post metal that manages to incorporate the ethereal leanings of post metal with the grimy, crushing sludge riffs. Dominated by an atmosphere that sucks the happiness out of any room, this record is uncompromising in its melancholic outlook. At the same time, it also manages to crush the listener by the mere weight of the riffs and guttural death metal vocal work. Just like many of the albums you’ll find in this list, Whelm is not a band that is easily accessible. The juxtaposition of the post metal leanings with the earth shattering sludge / doom can get a bit too chaotic in initial listens. However, the lengthy tracks tend to grow on the listener and within a few listens, one tends to get lost in the atmosphere. This album could have easily been lost to obscurity. But thanks to the reissue, it sits as one of the most unique albums in my personal record collection. ~ Shrivatsan R.