Sifting Through Bandcamp – May 2016

Saturday, 28th May 2016

Continuing with the “more is more” theme from last month, there’s plenty of new Bandcamp material to continue to cover. There’s never a drought for material to be found, though as the medium continues to get popular, there’s more to “sift” through it seems. This month we examine Dark Oath, Death Fortress, Faith in Ruin, Forthteller, Frozen Gate, Lost Nebula, Nightmarer, Onomasy, Release the Long Ships, The Ritual Aura, The Slave Eye, Torturous Inception, and Xehanort.

Dark Oath – When Fire Engulfs the Earth
Release Date – April 2016
Location – Portugal
Style – Melodic death metal

Always nice to find another band that holds to the melodic death standard of old: put as many majestic leads and melodies into each track while finding a sense of balance with aggression. Dark Oath keeps to the heavier end at most points, happy to move into a speedy gallop while interweaving some stunning leads and added synth (without drowning everything out). Fist-pumping riffs (see “Thousand Beasts”), throaty screams, grandiose atmosphere (“When Fire Engulfs the Earth”), and stick-in-your-skull melodies make this release that melodic death metal fans simply must check out.

Death Fortress – March of the Unyielding
Release Date – April 2016
Location – New Jersey, USA
Style – Black metal

Death Fortress’ 2014 release Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable was an underrated gem of US black metal, and March of the Unyielding follows closely in its footsteps. A seamless fusion of ‘90s Scandinavian black metal with a dose of American extreme brutality keeps the rpms on this one locked in the full-on position. But they layer in some fine melodies (and occasional delving into atmosphere) into the frantic tremolo picking and things never get tedious. Instead you get an album that is the best of both worlds: rampant speed and abrasion, but keeps you coming back to discover the melodies found within.

Faith in Ruin – Anathema
Release Date – April 2016
Location – Georgia, USA
Style – Progressive deathcore

Burly material that blurs between deathcore and melodic death metal, the first surprise was the catchy acoustic ending to “Five.” While the band does keep a more American approach to brutality, the melodic sensibilities of “The Dark Whores Apocalypse” give the band a deeper feel to their sound. Instrumental track, “The Polygon” uses more progressive melodies and further diversifies Faith in Ruin’s sound. They keep things cohesive though, and the end result is that Anathema has a modern feel that will draw many in, but there’s plenty of substance below the surface that will intrigue for a number of listens.

Forthteller – Madman EP
Release Date – May 2016
Location – Florida, USA
Style – Metalcore

Somewhat melodic metalcore that offers some haunting atmosphere is what Forthteller brings on Madman. “Shapeshifters” splits time between darker spoken word-esque sections and heavier moments, whereas lead-off “Carthage” has a sprawling heaviness to it along with some breakdowns that are given some proper placement to aid in their effectiveness. The strong suit is the melodies, which have a more bleak feel that some other bands of this ilk, which “Arbiter” does a nice job of fleshing out. Nice to hear a metalcore-esque band focusing on the darkness rather than chugging riffs and breakdowns – there’s some potential to be had as they move forward.

Frozen Gate – When the Last Light Fades
Release Date – May 2016
Location – Switzerland
Style – Symphonic black/death

Offered up as a teaser for their upcoming fall full-length, Behind the Dark Ice, this three song EP does wet the taste buds as it should. Symphonic extreme metal that should find itself nicely nestled between bands like Septicflesh or Dimmu Borgir with a more death metal slant, Where the Last Light Fades finds equal footing with its symphonic elements and metallic riffing. Frequent blast binges and frenzied riffs offer a nice counter to more atmospheric moments such as the opening to “Enter the Gate.” The title track ends things at the pinnacle, with a pummeling display of death metal-inspired riffs melding with epic synths. A name to watch for later this year.

Lost Nebula – Stories Set in the Future
Releaase Date – April 2016
Location – Mexico
Style – Progressive metal

Progressive metal that will please fans of Dream Theater and Karnivool, Lost Nebula uses strong melodies to enchant the listener while making sure the riffs stimulate the brain. Equally enchanting are vocalist Quetzalin Dominguez, who has plenty of charisma and presence, particularly on “Soul Sleep I.” Musically, the “Soul Sleep” trilogy is a real strong point, balancing between Dominguez’s soaring vocals and galloping melodic riffs with some classic metal leadwork. An absolutely fantastic combination of great female vocals, classic metal vibes, and progressive/modern riffage.

Nightmarer – Chasm EP
Release Date – May 2016
Location – Florida, USA
Style – Dissonant death metal

A two-song EP that reeks of heaviness, Chasm is nothing short of monstrous in its atmosphere. The dissonant riffing is thick and meaty, alongside vocals that are equally scathing. What is interesting is how they achieve that more cavernous sound without resorting to a muddy production. This one is clean and sleek, yet still simulates that same feeling of suffocating darkness. The bleak feeling is notable and helps the band stand out from the likes of the Incantation-esque approaches that seem to becoming commonplace. A full-length of this caliber could easily raise the bar.

Onomasy – Ashes and Dust
Release Date – May 2016
Location – Spain
Style – Modern and technical death metal

Hard-hitting death metal that is just as frenetic as it is technical, there’s a certain Unique Leader-ness to what Onomasy does. They frequently go full-tilt on the speed dial, but the riffs and intricate melodies that they execute while at these speeds are drool-inducing. When they decide to dial back the speed, you are given some devastating mid-tempo stomping. They find a balance between it all, and Onomasy’s strength is that they can pull off incredible technical melody without sounding mechanical – partly due to the change up to slower and groovy segments and songwriting ability. Just as commanding as any signed act in this genre, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were snatched up by a lucky label soon.

Release the Long Ships – Holocene
Release Date – May 2016
Location – Hungary
Style – Instrumental post-metal/rock

Back in 2014, Release the Long Ships’ Wilderness was a stunning Bandcamp find. Gorgeous and emotive post-metal that carried the listener on an instrumental journey. New effort Holocene is no different. It feels more expansive in tone, but the sweeping melodies and dreamy atmospheres are here and possibly stronger than the last go-round. Acoustic guitars and electric ones share plenty of space and add to the album’s richness. “Feathers and Bones” contains harsh vocals from Cameron Boesch (of Nullingroots – another excellent Bandcamp find), and it still fits nicely – the instrumentation is rich and grand with tone. Ferenc Kapiller again does everything from instruments to cover to production – a name to watch as word gets around.

The Ritual Aura – Ghostgate EP
Release Date – April 2016
Location – Australia
Style – Technical death metal

Another release this month meant as a preview for a full-length due later in the year (Tæther is due in November), The Ritual Aura’s Ghostgate is worth mention for its jaw-dropping artwork and sheer strength of the two songs here. Featuring some help from Linus Klausenitzer (Obscura) and Malcolm Pugh (Inferi), The Ritual Aura have stepped up their game and gotten some back-up for good measure. Ghostgate has more atmosphere than its proceeding album and a more cohesive feeling overall. The technical aspect is just as strong, but the way the band explores the layout of each song leads to the feeling that something really special lies in store for us at the end of the year.

The Slave Eye – Black Rust
Release Date – May 2016
Location – North Carolina
Style – Melodic black/death metal

One initial listen to The Slave Eye might lead you to believe they were Scandinavian with their melodies and approach. Fast, tremolo-picked melodies with a thrashy energy is what makes the two tracks here shine. They don’t feel inclined to keep things in blast territory at all times, which helps give them more identity (see “Gorgon Tongue”) and there are some rather catchy riffs that fill much of the landscape. A solid mash-up of darkness and memorability. Sure to scratch the itch for melodically inclined fans.

Torturous Inception – Void
Release Date – May 2016
Location – New York, USA
Style – Brutal death metal

Hot off of last year’s Headfirst into Oblivion EP, Torturous Inception have returned with Void. Brutality from start to finish, with plenty of visceral slams, is what the band delivers, and Void continues this tradition. Composed of 3 original tracks and a cover, the standout appears to be “A Dismal Future,” which has some of the most severe slams of the disc and some explosive speed. There’s plenty of energy and neck-breaking riffs – the band has been around for 5 years and have continued to improve with each release.

Xehanort – Re: Birth
Release Date – May 2016
Location – Florida, USA
Style – Progressive deathcore

Video game-inspired metal. Last month we had metal inspired by Dark Souls (Blacksoul Seraphim), this month we have metal inspired by Kingdom Hearts. Xehanort takes a djenty approach to death metal, with some occasional synth usage and effects building to a sound that is rather heavy. Mid-tempo churning suits this one best, and allows some progressive melodies to introduce themselves in songs like “Re: Struggle,” which give the music an added atmospheric feel at times. It’s a cool concept, and there are even some cleans introduced in “Soul: Requiem” that add another nice touch. While this writer has only a passing familiarity with Kingdom Hearts, Xehanort still leaves a strong impression.