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.

Auðn – Farvegir Fyrndar

Iceland is quickly becoming a burgeoning center for extraordinary underground metal and Auðn might have what it takes to be one of the leaders of such fervent movement with the new melancholic blackened album “Farvegir Fyrndar”.

Immediately “Veröld Hulin” evokes wintry mesmerizing atmospheres with arcane drum beats and soft arpeggios leading straight to a primordial ensemble of blackened guitar riffs and distant ominous growls that never truly overpower the inner melodic nuances.

“Lífvana Jörð” channels immense melancholy with ethereal guitar melodies bearing a remarkable crestfallen mood that continues to emerge throughout the entire song even if enraged vocals and faster guitar driven patterns often acquire particularly obscure tonalities.

“Haldreipi Hugans” continues to balance darkly poetic melodies and a mysterious blackened force as slow gentle harmonies are simply entwined to a massive dosage of aggressive guitar riffs and drums.

With similar bleak yet charismatic melodic textures “Ljósaslæður” gains hypnotizing power through surreal minimalist guitars and gloomy atmospheres that simply surround the harsher blackened core.

With crispy instrumental clarity “Skuggar” features a graceful crescendo of darkly captivating melodies genuinely evoking a rather emotional sonic palette that persists even through the scattered traditional black metal ferocious moments.

Channeling absolute darkness and multifaceted atmospheric black metal “Farvegir Fyrndar” holds the beloved Nordic mix of ethereal melodies and cold heavier sonic assaults as Auðn carefully weaves the elements of an essential winter soundtrack.

Cloak – To Venomous Depths

Georgia based young band Cloak is eager to enter the chaotic realm that is the current metal scene with the promising debut album “To Venomous Depths”.

“To Venomous Depths/Where No Light Shines” dwells in the darkest limbo where rock and black metal meet and inevitably embrace. Cloak doesn’t refrain from crafting deliciously addictive guitar driven grooves that bear the malevolent heavy dynamics of doom and dark metal while fully embracing a mystical grim atmosphere that continuously fuel the song’s melodic core.

The compelling darkness of “Within the Timeless Black” is constantly enhanced by a similar black ‘n roll attitude that influences the whole instrumentation as the galloping mid paced rhythmic sections are naturally entwined with highly somber melodic passages filled of monolithic dark atmospheres.

There is an enchanting gothic feel on “The Hunger” reminiscent of the unforgettable early days of gothic metal. Here guitars focus mainly on the creation of melancholy infused melodies that reach a cathartic acme in a dreamy yet quite dreadful breakdown.

“Beyond The Veil” begins with a hymn to the darkest shades of metal and remarkable doom accents that will contribute to craft a more dramatic mood in the suspenseful introspective breakdown while a fair dosage of crunchy riffing and faster drumming keep an unrestrained blackened core obviously enhanced by proper vicious growls.

“Deep Red” starts with comforting somber melodic guitars that recall the ethereal darkness of Cascadian black metal but soon Cloak delivers a charismatic blast with entertaining classic heavy metal riffage and  gradually build loads of energetic rhythmic dynamics characterized by monumental blackened flavors.

While “To Venomous Depths” displays the expected rough edges of a debut album you can readily perceive the refreshing passion for dark music behind the work of Cloak and certainly we can expect much more on the band’s next endeavor.

Cannabis Corpse – Left Hand Pass

Cannabis Corpse emerges from a true passion for Floridian death metal shared by Municipal Waste bassist / vocalist Phil “LandPhil” Hall and drummer Josh “Hallhammer” Hall, who created the band in 2006. While many might not take this band seriously, maybe because of the sense of humor or the gore stereotypes, the latest release “Left Hand Pass” demands the listeners’ full attention.

With somber tonalities “The 420th Crusade” opens the album focusing on intriguing guitar dynamics, especially compelling in the eclectic solo, while the relentless rhythmic section and the vicious growls bear a ‘90s death metal attitude.

“Chronic Breed” again stands out for the particularly multifaceted guitar work while the rest of the song is all about crazy rhythmic patterns relying on super thick riffing and drumming.

The title track unleashes an overwhelming series of fast & ravenous riffing segments and the wild technical guitar solo simply cuts through such rhythmic fury.

“Papyrus Containing the Spell to Protect Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is In the Bong Water” might win as most original title of the year and Cannabis Corpse concocts an initial ritualistic mood swiftly followed by fierce death metal grooves that include the usual breakneck speed shenanigans but also less intimidating guitar passages.

On “The Fiends That Come To Steal the Weed of the Deceased” the lyrics regarding a passionate interest for marijuana continue to entertain the audience while the band is engaged in a furious distorted jam that culminates with a savagely interesting guitar solo.

With slick precision and unrestrained brutality Cannabis Corpse concocts the expected ravenous death metal anthem so let’s say that lovers of this particular genre will certainly embrace & enjoy “Left Hand Pass” without hesitation.