Sifting Through Bandcamp – May 2014Saturday, 10th May 2014
With two of these Bandcamp articles in the bag, it seemed time to start focusing more on the present times. The albums containing herein all have released in either 2013 or 2014. Not that there’s any shortage of quality material in sight (if anything, there’s a wishlist that is getting too big for it’s britches). There will probably be a few ‘oldies’ to come should something worthy be discovered but for now let’s focus on the task at hand. This month we examine Ashen Horde, Cara Neir, Cascus, Judicator, Mourning Wolf, Nuklear Frost, Status Abnormis, Terricide, The Arcane Order, and The Mire.
Ashen Horde – Sanguinum Vindicta
Release Date – March 2014
Location – California, USA
Style – Black metal immersed in a massive thrashy wall of sound
For Fans Of – Immortal, Strapping Young Lad
Ever wondered what Strapping Young Lad would sound like through a black metal filter? Listen to “Midwinter’s Loss” and “Midwinter’s Lust” and wonder no more! Perhaps a slight stretch, but the SYL influence is clear. Ashen Horde is a one-man band that plays some pretty intense thrash-inspired darkness. The upfront drum programming does aid in this wall of sound that pulls Ashen Horde away from most traditional black metal. Occasionally, some of the cold, black metal aesthetic rears its head, most prominently in the raspy vocals. There are some interesting melodies to be found without breaking any character as well, such as in “Smoke and Mirrors.” You can’t go wrong with this one if you are looking for some frenetic black metal that isn’t afraid to cross-pollinate.
Cara Neir – Portals to a Better, Dead World
Release Date – October 2013
Location – Texas, USA
Style – A violent yet soothing blend of prog, punk, hardcore, and black metal
For Fans Of – Converge, Between the Buried and Me, Ulver
Quite possibly one of the most exciting bands to come forth out of these articles so far, Cara Neir take their version of black metal with the ferocity of punk and hardcore. The first two tracks are standout enough with their vicious energy and intriguing genre hybridization to warrant inclusion here. But as the disc progresses, there are more influences and directions that step forward. Progressive, crust, and even post-rock merge with the segments of biting, punkish black metal to create something truly special. By the time you reach the end of the 10-minute closer, “3,380 Pounds”, the band will have mashed so many different sounds together you’ll be hard-pressed to truly put a tag on them. All of their discography (including a recent split and EP) is available at a ‘name your price’ download, so there no reason you should be missing out on these guys. Truly must-hear stuff.
Cascus – Cascus
Release Date – July 2013
Location – Oklahoma, USA
Style – Progressive death metal
For Fans Of – Behemoth, Opeth
Merging together full-scale assault death metal a la Behemoth and Decapitated with the subtle complexities and dynamics of Opeth is no simple task. The four songs on Cascus’ debut EP do exactly that, without fail. Mostly focusing on the uptempo, blastbeats are frequent companions with some aggressively melodic riffing. When things do take a turn for the slower, “Malevolent” and “Nexus” have no problems funneling in some solid clean vocals to match the tone. An occasional thrash influence rounds things out (“Abolition”) with some stellar solos to boot. Keep your eyes on these guys in the future.
Judicator – Sleepy Plessow
Release Date – June 2013
Location – Arizona, USA
Style – Power metal with some NWOBHM nods
For Fans Of – Iced Earth, Blind Guardian
A concept album involving Prussia and the rise of Frederick the Great, Judicator’s approach is more scholarly than most. Intelligently written lyrics lay the groundwork for the often mid-paced and thrashy tempos with some Iced Earth-inspired guitarwork. Vocally a mix of Ripper Owens and Hansi Kursch, the band does not shy away from some deathened roars and spoken word to further their story. At over an hour, the concept keeps interest well; only the 11-minute “Blut vom Himmel” seemed a bit too long. The band is currently running a crowd-funding campaign for their third release (coming in September), and have also released a teaser EP also available at Bandcamp for those interested.
Mourning Wolf – Elmhaven
Release Date – January 2013
Location – Michigan, USA
Style – Melodic death metal meets atmospheric black metal
For Fans Of – Darkest Hour, Alcest
Fusing elements of melodic death metal and early metalcore (read: before they started adding clean vocal choruses to everything) onto the Cascadian black metal tag gives Mourning Wolf a significant advantage over their nature-loving pals. For one, the driving tempos give the songs more energy to work with, while retaining enough atmosphere and suitably raw recording tone to keep the BM-purists happy. Secondly, it seems less meandering and more focused, structurally speaking. Despite the odd contrast, Elmhaven is cohesive and full of gloomy melodies that will stick around far past the two-song EP’s final notes. It will be interesting to see how they continue with a full-length effort.
Nuklear Frost – Subjugation
Release Date – March 2014
Location – Minnesota, USA
Style – Old school melodic black metal
For Fans Of – Amiensus, Naglfar, Inquisition
Discovered through their association with Amiensus’ Joe Waller, do not expect the grand melodies of said band to appear here. This is old school, hate-filled black metal of the highest order. Though there is plenty of tremolo picking and blast beats to be had by all, the dizzying speed doesn’t prevent them from incorporating some razor sharp, catchy riffs. They also seem to possess an impeccable knowledge about when to slow things down or change things up to avoid blastbeat burnout. Add some absolutely searing vocals to the top of this and you’ve got yourself a real winner. One of the strongest straight-up black metal albums, signed or not signed, in recent memory.
Status Abnormis – Call of the Void
Release Date – November 2013
Location – Finland
Style – Industrial death metal
For Fans Of – Gojira, Meshuggah, Fear Factory
Combining the syncopated riffing of Meshuggah and Textures, the heft of Gojira, and the industrial edges of Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad, Call of the Void is a densely heavy record. Full of thick grooves and powerful orchestrations, tracks like “The Glass Coffin” feel majestic in scope, while other tracks, like “Misguided Fear” use some unique clean vocals to add to the experience. They don’t simply rely on groove though, and when things get fast, they create a punishing wall of sound (again, not unlike SYL) through blast beats, dizzying riffs, screams, and effects. Fans of any of the bands mentioned will easily enjoy this one.
Terracide – Primordium
Release Date – February 2013
Location – Washington DC
Style – Melodic death with soaring power metal choruses
For Fans Of – Scar Symmetry, early Into Eternity
While firmly rooted in the melodic death movement, Terracide elevate themselves from ‘follower’ status with their high-energy formula of thrashy material and high ratio of Maiden-esque power metal. A good mixture of scream/sung vocals, alongside some grandiose riffs, give the three songs here some real urgency. For a first-timer, the songwriting is truly impressive in the sense that it maintains a super catchy, melodic feel while keeping the speedy and somewhat technically driven material visceral enough to appease the metal masses. The band has recently completed their first full-length (Existence Asunder) and will be available in early June.
The Arcane Order – Promo 2014
Release Date – May 2014
Location – Denmark
Style – Symphonic death/thrash
For Fans Of – Devin Townsend, Fleshgod Apocalypse
Certainly the biggest name to be included in this column, The Arcane Order released two excellent releases for Metal Blade Records, ending with 2008’s In The Wake of Collisions. Laying dormant ever since, Promo 2014 is their first musical output since then and feels like a continuation of exactly where the band left off. The often epic and foreboding sounding keyboards, Flemming C. Lund’s sprawling leads (he has to be one of metal’s most under appreciated axe-men), Kasper Thomsen’s roars, and the pounding drums of Morten Lowe Sorensen are as impressive as ever. The Arcane Order’s songwriting dynamics have only increased with age, being able to switch between the ethereal and ominous seemingly at will, without sacrificing the backbone of punishing death/thrash. The two tracks provided are simply not enough material after a 6-year drought. Never given their due time in the spotlight, hopefully this will catch the ear of the right label that can back them 100% and get them to the level they’ve always been deserving of.
The Mire – Glass Cathedrals
Release Date – February 2014
Location – United Kingdom
Style – A mix of post sludge, doom, and progressive rock
For Fans Of – The Ocean, Cult of Luna, Isis
After several solid EPs, Glass Cathedrals is the first full-length effort from The Mire. Don’t let the “post” label get you down, The Mire keep things decidedly heavier (and less meandering) than most. Crushing sludge riffs and powerful shouts are counterbalanced by some transcendent melodies and equally potent clean vocals. Some of the guitarwork is reminiscent of The Ocean as well. From the pummeling opening to “Trance Monolith” to the atmospheric title track, Glass Cathedrals runs the emotional gamut. Crazy to think that they tried to ship this to labels and no one was interested. This is the very definition of a sleeper hit.