Glorior Belli – The Apostates

French black metal band Glorior Belli returns triumphantly with the latest effort “The Apostates” showcasing strong black metal roots leading to a traditional ferocious sound but there is much more to be discovered on this album.

Emerging from a familiar realm of darkness the primary guitar riffs of “Sui Generis” hold fiercely menacing tonalities as an ominous aura fills the atmosphere even when the rhythm section slows down with malignant groovy melodies and a sense of impending doom.

On “Deserters Of Eden” you can perceive a strong blackened essence as guitars & drums unravel thunderous fast dynamics accompanied by the expected dosage of furious growls yet the band will deliver also groovy guitar driven rock twists that certainly add diverse nuances to the primary heavier core.

The title track begins with enthralling guitar work focused on the creation of profound darkened melancholy but also loads of catchy rock grooves confidently embracing different styles to ultimately craft a refreshing music blend that cannot be unnoticed.

On “Jerkwater Redemption” there is no space for orthodox black metal rules as blackened rock grooves keep on rolling with catchy guitar riffs that effortlessly blend obscure tones further enhanced by diabolical growls and accessible rhythmic patterns.

To some “Rebel Reveries” might sound like a shot in the dark because Glorior Belli temporarily ditches the black metal obscurity to boldly embrace a soothing Southern rock melodic galore but it does make sense for a band that doesn’t care about pre-defined genres so there are also loads of sing along melodic hooks built over pleasant but still somber guitar harmonies.

“The Apostates” certainly revolves around a fair dosage of magnificent blackened essence but the true highlights of this work of music must be found in the inner sonic diversity that often channels catchy rock grooves as Glorior Belli demonstrates audacious creative force exploring classic rock territories.

Chaostar – The Undivided Light

Fans of Greek titans Septicflesh are certainly familiar with Chaostar, the spellbinding experimental project led by guitarist and composer Christos Antoniou, and the new long awaited release “The Undivided Light” definitely holds a theatrical essence and an adventurous spirit that once again aims to defy standard music genres.

The bewitching elegance of Androniki Skoula’s voice introduces the hypnotizing sonic realm of “Tazama Jua” which delivers a fascinating blend of majestic classical arrangements with baroque symphonic accents and modern ambient layers that seamlessly surround the theatrical vocals throughout the song.

“Blutbad” initially focuses on minimalist melodies and highly dramatic operatic vocals creating a quite enigmatic atmosphere that in the final part will lead to more complex orchestrations channeling exquisitely darkened vibes.

The title track favors mysterious electro/ambient arrangements that smoothly accompany Androniki’s stunning operatic performance through a captivating orchestral crescendo which features classical graceful melodies, epic cinematic composition and slightly dissonant rhythmic variations.

“Ying & Yang” offers a softer approach with luminous arpeggios and otherworldly vocals that flawlessly create intensely emotional melodic cascades in the midst of wistful atmospheres while the mood becomes utterly enthralling as traditional instrumentation crafts delicate melancholic harmonies.

From a Chaostar album you should expect the unexpected as Christos draws inspiration from the pristine beauty of classical music but doesn’t refrain from exploring other music territories such as electronica & rock leading to the dramatic composition of “The Undivided Light” which delivers a truly unique sonic experience.

The Undivided Light

Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow

American trio Deathwhite raises the bar with the release of the first full length “For A Black Tomorrow” focusing on the creation of melancholia infused melodies and an emotional music journey.

“The Grace Of The Dark” immediately showcases the whole album’s gloomy mood blending cohesive guitar melodies and occasional softer contemplative moments through a series of understated elegant rhythmic crescendos always enhanced by a quite genuine vocal delivery.

The desolate mood of “Poisoned” is fully expressed since the very beginning where graceful acoustic harmonies will introduce gothic tinged grooves but will often return to add extra melodic depth and emotional intensity which is also matched by the naturally heartfelt vocals.

“Eden” feels even more melancholic with distant dreamy arpeggios naturally evolving into darker melodic soundscapes where guitars certainly hold a prominent role providing a generous dosage of sorrowful harmonies as well as some more energetic rhythmic dynamics.

“Death And The Master” immediately channels a profound melancholia that will inevitably captivate the listeners with sorrowful minimalist melodies which will soon embrace a distorted darkened rhythmic momentum as guitars build mid-paced catchy grooves and maintain a prominent melodic essence in the solo.

The title track definitely doesn’t deviate from the contemplative music formula which here is further enhanced by a smooth familiar ensemble of crispy guitar riffs and plenty of crestfallen melodies that will recur throughout the song channeling darkly emotional vibes with growing intensity.

While “For A Black Tomorrow” is not exactly groundbreaking, Deathwhite confidently embraces 90’s dark metal signature elements and fills the album with several pleasantly introspective moments & consistent accessible melodic grooves that will easily attract lovers of such genre.

Hooded Menace – Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed

Finnish doom cultists Hooded Menace demonstrate to be truly dedicated to authentic extreme doom metal on the latest effort “Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed”, a work of music aptly devoted to the darkest shades of this timeless genre.

The lengthy album opener “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” bears the mark of traditional ‘90s funeral doom as guitars craft impeccably melancholic melodies recurring through the heavier rhythmic maze built by fierce riffing & drumming while monumental growls contribute to amplify the harsh aspects of this track but melodic guitars will gain the spotlight again delivering familiar & beloved gothic allure especially palpable in the solos.

“In Eerie Deliverance” certainly stays true to the title as a haunting atmosphere permeates the powerful rhythmic patterns with a generous dosage of heavy riffs embellished by weeping harmonies and ethereal female vocals that will carry a feeble luminous essence while additional melodic guitar work continue to evoke pure doom desolation.

Like a monochromatic funeral march “Cathedral of Labyrinthine Darkness” is filled with slow super heavy rhythmic segments perfectly represented also by massive thick bass lines as the whole instrumentation channels maximum obscurity but melodic guitars are always present to create moments of understated gothic finesse.

Starting with a forlorn series of gothic tinged arpeggios “Charnel Reflections” fully embraces an eerie mood with exquisite melodic concoctions drenched in utter misery & melancholy as classic doom dictates keeping a balanced mix of dreadfully thick riffage and contemplative harmonies that will always evoke pleasantly darkened nuances.

From beginning to end “Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed” dwells in a realm of unfiltered darkness where Hooded Menace meticulously weaves perennial gloomy melodies and bursts of death metal aggression.

Shining – X – Varg Utan Flock

Swedish controversial band Shining is often surrounded by stories of madness and erratic behavior but nobody could ever deny that Niklas Kvarforth is one of the most talented creative minds in the extreme metal scene and the tenth album “X – Varg Utan Flock” continues to unfold the band’s unique music pathway through intensely dark nuances and unrestrained emotions.

“Svart Ostoppbar Eld” immediately drags you into impossibly darkened depths with untamed raw guitar riffing introducing primordial black metal roots as the tight rhythmic section acquires chaotic speed and extremely cold tonalities while Niklas delivers painfully savage screams. Yet this oppressive blackened urgency will be interrupted by soft melancholy infused arpeggios and bleak melodic tapestries rightfully culminating with a pleasantly heartfelt guitar shredding solo.

“Gyllene Portarnas Bro” will easily become a favorite track with its palpable inner demons and exceptional emotional quality embedded in the brilliant guitar work as the exquisitely poignant recurring guitar melodies feel simply addictive and unforgettable. Here Niklas focuses on a dramatic vocal delivery with the expected dosage of outpouring charisma and anguish while slow burning graceful melodies and enchanting arpeggios keep a dominant role throughout the song even if there are occasional bursts of blackened fury.

“Jag Är Din Fiende” offers faster infectious blackened rhythmic dynamics with sharp guitar riffs marching frenetically through layers of subtly majestic Nordic bleakness and Niklas’s voice is absolutely filled with inspired theatrical anger but Andy La Rocque’s compelling guest guitar solo brings a marvelous classic metal mood into such obscure sonic realm followed by a sorrowful dreamy breakdown.

The classical piano piece “Tolvtusenfyrtioett” is made of pure melancholy and provides a contemplative break before entering the epic darkness of “Mot Aokigahara”, a song that certainly matches the dreadful moody atmosphere of the entire album. Refined, almost relaxing, arpeggios surround Niklas’ haunting vocal performance and lead guitars continue to impress the listeners with loads of passionate harmonies before a ghastly brutality takes the lead for the last time with fierce riffing & drumming enhanced by ominously ardent growls.

Regardless of any gossip about disputable behavior and suicidal messages, Shining’s music should always be the center of attention and with “X – Varg Utan Flock” Niklas & co. confidently goes beyond the average characteristics of a black metal album with a remarkably radical songwriting approach that will definitely solidify their seminal status in the current metal scene.

Sinistro – Sangue Cassia

Following the spellbinding album “Semente” released last year expectations are really high and Portuguese artsy post- doom quintet Sinistro is ready to surprise the listeners again with the brand new enchanting opus “Sangue Cassia”.

It would be hard to find a better album opener than the lengthy “Cosmos Controle”, a lovable moody music piece that relies on detailed cinematic atmospheres to assemble fragmentary images or memories. Constant ethereal sonic cascades are fully supported by a classic slow & heavy doom rhythmic backbone, featuring noteworthy bold bass lines, enriched by somber guitar melodies and extraordinaire vocalist Patrícia Andrade will put a spell on you to ultimately entrap you within a gloomy dream with her lascivious voice.

With a bewitching atmospheric/ambiance beginning “Lotus” slowly proceeds to channel sorrowful doom soundscapes with an overdose of lugubrious chords seamlessly entwined with memorable melancholic guitar melodies while Patrícia’s vocal performance is infused with pure sensuality and sophisticated charisma.

“Petalas” features a wistful ensemble of inspired minimalist melodies and eerie atmospheric layers resulting in more ambiance oriented track that enhances the poetic emotional qualities of Patrícia’s vocals but there are still understated doom accents within the rhythmic patterns.

“Abismo” returns to fully embrace powerful doom dynamics as guitars emerge from darkened depths with absolute gloom and renewed intensity confidently marching through a hypnotizing maze of lavish dreadful atmospheric layers while just like an enchantress Patrícia delivers graceful yet empowering vocals.

“Cravo Carne” dwells in a realm of undiluted darkness where guitars become particularly fierce in mournful doom fashion but also focus on the creation of enticing melancholy infused melodies surrounded by opulent atmospheric arrangements while Patrícia’s voluptuous voice sinuously and confidently moves through the stylish instrumental passages.

Through the emotional whirlwind and the sultry darkened essence embodied by “Sangue Cassia” Sinistro is establishing a unique mature identity and elegantly continues to follow an intriguing music pathway that will inevitably fascinate the listeners.

Complete Failure – Crossburner

American grindcore maniacs Complete Failure finally & proudly unleash the latest full length “Crossburner” which could be easily categorized as one of the most relentlessly angered album of the year.

The vicious album opener “Schadenfreude” relies on a violent rhythmic backbone where guitars and drums try to be as fast as possible creating a rather chaotic whirlwind yet there is also a calmer introvert breakdown favoring modern atmospheric nuances.

“Suicide Screed of Total Invincibility” starts with somber low guitar phrases evoking a contemplative mood but at times blasts of rebellion take over with a crescendo of belligerent guitar driven force and hateful screams.

Some groovy guitar riffs on “I Am The Gun” gradually gain brutality that will eventually lead to breakneck speed rhythmic dynamics and insanely furious screams.

With a dismal mood on “Curse Of Birth” the whole instrumentation concocts another round of old school particularly harsh rhythmic patterns.

“Demise of The Underdog” can definitely be ruthless with impossible speed and an intensely crunchy riffing galore yet eventually the rhythm slows down and you get some space to breathe.

Maintaining the aggressive dynamics that characterize the whole album “A List With Names On It” doesn’t show any sign of weakness with relentless guitars riffs but once again the band introduces slower introspective passages that still hold super heavy dynamics.

“Crossburner” aptly delivers a chaotic inflamed sonic assault with scattered darkened atmospheres as Complete Failure just never seems to take a break with a full blown infectious grindcore formula that true lovers of this subgenre will certainly comprehend.

Archspire – Relentless Mutation

The third album in any bands career can be tricky. it is usually seen as the pivotal release to see if a band can evolve their sound or phone it in by reworking material mastered from their first two. With the well received The Lucid Collective, one wouldn’t blame Archspire for going the route so many have and play it safe. Quite the contrary, the Vancouver crew have achieved something few bands in the tech death scene have been able to accomplish, namely expand their melodic foundation at the same time as doubling down on technicality and retain integrity. While these two elements have of course been featured exclusively in their previous work, Relentless Mutation brings a fresh perspective to their writing and progressing upon it tenfold.

The most notable improvement, which cannot be understated, is the guitar work of axemen Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli. On previous efforts, majority of the riffing, while technically impressive and played with conviction kinda lacked any real impact. A lot of the parts kind of felt like sped up technical exercises and not really song-like. While any tech death band worth their salt will have the obligatory masturbatory shredding aspects, Relentless Mutation offers a balance to this chaos. The contrapuntal nature to the guitar and bass parts adds a serious depth to the brutality. The progression of the guitar writing from the previous album is so much more advanced its somewhat jarring.

From the neck break pace of opener “Involuntary Doppleganger” with its almost neo-classical main theme that lowers down to the 8th string bowels of the guitar,  featuring a melodic solo, and finally leading way to a somewhat jazzy clean guitar part really showcases whats in store for the listener this time around.  “Human Murmuration” starts with a Muse like arpeggiation leading to a grooving guitar drum dialogue, which is unlike anything found on TLC. “Remote Tumor Seeker” doubles down on the signature machine gun-esque hyper blasting courtesy of Spencer Pruitt. And while a song like this may have previously been filled with guitar exercise riffs, the faster “tech” parts found here almost sound like Johan Sebastian Bach on a cocaine fueled bender: unrelenting 16th notes, with cascading notes playing counterpoint at its most extreme. All of this leading up to the grooviest and catchiest outro on the record.

The production is also of notable improvement. The guitars are so much more full sounding across the sonic spectrum, for both highs and lows. The bass sits just under them, offering a nice low end foundation for the drums to further fill out. The snare drum is prominent in its auditability, but thankfully it sounds like a “real” snare offering a satisfying attack during the insane barrage of blasts found throughout. The vocals are just above all of this, but never overwhelming. This is no small feat considering the vocals from Oliver Rae Aleron, which are spit out & quasi-rapped with the same intensity and vigor as the other instrumentation.

Relentless Mutation while still holding true to their self-described “Stay Tech” aesthetic in which Archspire revels, heightened melodicism and songwriting not only stand out from the pack, but all the while decimating the competition. Opposed to the masturbatory endless shredding and noodling found on the previous releases, the deep counter point and song craft offered here is something to behold. If tech death is your game, Archspire is the name you need to check out, and quick. Stay Tech indeed.

Virvum – Illuminance

Following a record deal with Season Of Mist Swiss quartet Virvum has re-released their punishing technical death metal debut album “Illuminance”.

“The Cypher Supreme” immediately starts with mind blowing tempo variations as the whole instrumentation draws clear inspiration from modern virtuoso prog style and certainly guitars tend to be fundamental in the creation of flamboyant progressions.

In the beginning the title track evokes luminous minimalist soundscape with the softest melodies but swiftly enters a particularly intense technical sonic realm that relies on precise guitar progressions marching through a claustrophobic fast rhythm which continues to mutate from primordial brutality to ambiance driven patterns.

“Ad Rigorem” continues to impress and surprise the listeners with a majestic series of guitars progressions following borderline abstract rhythmic patterns and showcasing great prowess & creativity in fact all the virtuoso guitar leads simply hold a strong charisma.

On the complex lengthy album closer “II: A Final Warming Shine: Ascension and Trespassing” Virvum goes beyond any expectation seamlessly creating dazzling technical prog oriented moments where guitars simply engage in eclectic progressions that inevitably steal the spotlight in the midst of savage death metal dynamics. Also the polychromatic melodies shine for the guitar sound clarity and the surreal atmospheric tonalities.

Overall, Virvum definitely hold an aggressive death metal core yet the truly noteworthy moments of “Illuminance” must be found in the instrumental technical variety that certainly showcases great potential and high expectations for the future of the band.

Altarage – Endinghent

In a world where everybody wants to become a famous rockstar Spanish death metallers Altarage beg to differ keeping total anonymity and proclaiming a nihilist approach (towards music or life in general?) that feels extremely palpable on the crushing newest release “Endinghent” .

“Incessant Magma” glorifies an immense sense of cold darkness that inevitably infuses each guitar riff and drum blast while distant pitch black atmospheric echoes render the whole instrumentation quite surreal.

“Spearheaderon” feels like an ominous sonic spiral with recognizable blackened rhythmic patterns that become simply breathless even when guitars slow down to increase malevolent tonalities.

“Rift” might be the most dissonant tune you ever listened to as for a while guitars simply follow a sort of imaginary rhythm that knows no boundaries. When a more listenable blend of murky atmospheres and cascading heavy guitars takes over Altarage diligently guides the listeners through a darkened asphyxiating sonic realm.

“Barrier” is devoted to arcane darkness with tormented vocals straight from the expected blackened abyss lost in time and space while guitars gallop fiercely until slower hypnotizing doom oriented phrases depict a desolate obscure world.

The secretive musicians behind Altarage certainly fulfill their desire to keep an enigmatic music vision delivering immense brutality with cacophonic accents and while extreme metal acolytes will be intrigued by “Endinghent” others might not fully comprehend it.