Sifting Through Bandcamp – August 2020

Saturday, 22nd August 2020

Looking to get away from the late summer heat? Bandcamp continues to pour out plenty of metallic options (not to mention the continued Bandcamp Fridays the first of each month) for those seeking something new or exotic to explore. This month we cover Alter Idem, The Aphelion, Black Harvest, Encryptor, Hoax of Upsala, MĀRA, The Neologist, Seppuku, Steps of Odessa, and The Violet Dark.

Alter Idem – Fragments of Consciousness
Brutal death metal with a little dash of tech is what Alter Idem is offering with this short but sweet 4-song EP. There’s a lot of monstrous and heavy riffs that stomp and slam all over the place with the required oomph, but there’s also a more progressive angle that comes out as well. There’s a palpable sense of atmosphere that accompanies tracks like “…And Unravel” that gives it an extra boost. Effective tempo changes and extreme vocal variety also aids the band. A strong introduction to this Australian act.

The Aphelion – Control
Three songs of post-hardcore/metalcore brings us up to speed with the latest from The Aphelion. Interesting and playful riffs are the focal point of the act, which can take on a more progressive spin from time to time as well. The songs are pretty driving in tone, launching into some catchy choruses that feel more ethereal than pop-influenced. A strong crunch to the riffs makes headbanging involuntary with the more energetic parts, like on “Brute.” Another act found based on seeing the brilliant cover art, The Aphelion mesh nicely with that somewhat dark yet shining perspective that the initial glance provides.

Black Harvest – Sun Across the Fields
No stranger to this site with previous releases, the newest offering from Black Harvest sticks to the band’s strengths and expands on them. While only hosting three songs, it’s 30-minutes in length so expect some lengthy jaunts across blackened and melodic death metal ventures with an ear for the progressive. Each track takes full advantage of its runtime, and the changes that occur through each are sweeping and elegant. It can range from haunting post- vibes to more frantic and raging blackened death (“Oracle” stands out as a personal favorite here), and there’s well thought-out transitions that hold it all together with ease. Excellent stuff!

Encryptor – Player One
Encryptor brings us instrumental prog metal that doesn’t shy away from some synth use. Given the title Player One, some of the synths are reminiscent of video game music at times (the title track) but it’s far removed from chiptune or synthwave in nature. The guitar melodies still stand front and center, with a good variety of textures from more upfront and metallic (“Every 108 Minutes”) to softer and more atmospheric in tone (“Zugzwang”). The cherry on top is that the music is layered and has depth, but never becomes too showy – instead sticking to creating a mood within the songs.

Hoax of Upsala – Initium
Lots of groove. That’s the first thoughts of Hoax of Upsala and Initium. They’ve got a modern sound that feels like a slurry of influences that range from metalcore to thrash and death metal, but the grooves really take the cake. The vibe is pretty upfront and aggressive, but the band also weaves in some catchy choruses (“I Can’t Find Peace”) without difficulty and more importantly, without draining the power out of the song. Good, energetic music that captures enough melody to stand out – Hoax of Upsala has some promise as they continue to move foward.

MĀRA – Self-Destruct. Survive. Thrive!
Another groovy one for this month, MĀRA has a foot more firmly planted in death metal at the same time. But the act offers a wealth of different influences as you move through the release. Everything from scorching melodeath/thrash riffs to eerie melodic atmospheres to massive death metal grooves is in their skill set, and it makes for a captivating listen. Highlight “Beauty of Humanity” features a guest appearance by Bjorn Strid doubles down on some of the brutality but also sails high with a strong melodic chorus. That said, each song as its own personality and there’s much promise here for those wanting a taste of both melodic and extreme sounds. Don’t sleep on this one!

The Neologist – Are We Not Drawn Onward to the New Era (Disc 1)
This isn’t really new material per say, but it’s a perfect starting point for anyone getting into the band who enjoys melodic death metal. The Neologist play a strong mix of older In Flames and Soilwork-esque melodies and this release is remixed/remastered/re-imagined tracks from their past – all in one nice, convenient place. The polished up treatment on these tracks is worth a look for anyone familiar with the band too, as the sonic jump is significant and really makes the tracks pop. The Neologist has been an underrated group in this genre, and this release really allows them to put their best foot forward. 2021 will bring Disc 2, which is all new material! It’s ‘name your price’ too, so no reason not to check them out.

Seppuku – Book of the Five Rings
Finding this one within the brutal death metal tag and not seeing a gory cover, it seemed like it would be different. Instinct was on, as Seppuku manage to tow a fine line between melodic death metal and the aforementioned brutal one. Truth be told, the melodies are what makes Book of the Five Rings pop more, with fiery solos and some galloping tones (“Germination”). Something that gives it an older Gothenburg quality, but the brutal death tones give it a fresh appeal. An obscure reference at this point, but the first act that comes to mind hearing this is Autumn Leaves in their earlier material. Another ‘name your price’ download that is easily worth a look.

Steps of Odessa – Obsidian Skies
Mixing together everything from super catchy to super techy, Steps of Odessa offers an interesting blend to their modern sound. On the one hand, you can hear more straight-ahead metalcore/deathcore influences, but on the other they don’t spare in more relentless aspects – be it more melodeath and thrash influences, or some slight tech death flavorings. So you end up with something that immediately stands out as hooky, but with enough layers that you can uncover as you return to it. One of those cases where there is actually a bit of something for everyone, but without making it a piecemeal or compromise in the end.

The Violet Dark – Fade the Shadow
Tough to really peg The Violet Dark into much of a genre corner, other than the ‘heavy metal’ banner. There’s a bit of traditional metal influences, particularly in the guitar playing, that gives them a bit of a triumphant flair, but there are some heavier moments as well (“Bought and Sold”). Some great melodies, from both the vocals as well as the instrumentation, really round everything out. Nice to hear a ‘female-fronted’ act like this that stays rooted in the essence of the genre without the need to overdo and toss in massive amounts of symphonic or poppy material. An act to keep your eye on if you want something firmly metallic.