Album Stream: Litha – ‘Litha’

Though many of you might recognize Andrew Black as the other half of Mizmor’s Dialeithia, or maybe you’ve seen him onstage with Hell or the aforementioned Mizmor. Black’s resume is impressive, including a rich discography of ambient and quieter music, but he is first and foremost a metal musician–Litha is his first solo outing as one. Drawing inspiration from some very specific sources, but with his own doomed twist, Andrew Black’s first entry as a “depressive black metal” musician is a powerful one, complete with sorrowful chord progressions and an overall morose atmosphere. Litha grips the listener with a strong understanding of depression’s darkest depths and inner uncertainties, transmuting these negativities into deep, personal darkness. Litha’s self-titled debut is streaming here ahead of its Friday release.

S/T by Litha

From the artist:

When I think about this album as a whole it’s really just me arguing with myself and attempting to make sense of my own inconsistencies. Observing my anger, the guilt that follows, and realizing the things that bother me about other people are actually what I dislike most about myself.

Litha releases November 17 via Tartarus Records.

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Track Premiere: Valdrin – “Paladins of Ausadjur”

The best and most memorable black metal out there remembers that it’s metal first. Atmospheric black metal? It should be atmospheric, anyway, you know? Post-black metal? What does that even mean anymore? When it comes to black metal, Valdrin‘s brand of black metal walks between the rows, never fully committing to one specific sound (especially on their lengthy new album), but what they do in a consistent manner is remember their roots. There are many -isms found in Throne of the Lunar Soul, and the most important of them all is how dedicated to being a metal band (as opposed to a post-rock band with blast beats. Yes, I’m talking about your “atmospheric black metal” band.) they are.

With strong songwriting, memorable melodies, riffs galore, and an overall “over-the-top” mentality guiding Valdrin throughout Throne of the Lunar Soul, I at times hesitate to call this a black metal album because that genre term is simply too limiting. So what if there are harsh vocals and blast beats? Those exist in grindcore, death metal, goregrind–do I need to keep listing off genres to make this point? Valdrin made a great, catchy metal album here, and I’m all for it. Most importantly, there are some stellar Windir-isms (do you not see the swords?) to be found on this album, especially on “Paladins of Ausadjur,” which is streaming below. Accordion? In my metal? Believe it. Embrace it. Embrace the metal.

Throne of the Lunar Soul by VALDRIN

From the band:

“Paladins of Ausadjur” is the fourth chapter in the story of Throne of the Lunar Soul, where Valdrin and his trusted horde are led through the vast metropolis of his celestial homeland, towards the tower of Mater Ausadjur. As icy winds howl through the city, the horde is overcome by the omniscient power of the grand matriarch, whose tower serves as the pillar supporting the glass dome which encapsulates the Ausadjur world. As they enter the hollow structure, the voice of the queen echoes down the golden walls, beckoning Valdrin alone to ascend the staircase. Atop the highest spire of this land, he awaits judgment for failing in his mission to save Earth, all those centuries ago.

Throne of the Lunar Soul releases November 24th via Blood Harvest Records.

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Track Premiere: Malokarpatan – “Maharal a Golem”

The Slovakian evil metal masters reign supreme. Though Malokarpatan‘s last album album Krupinské ohne featured a doomier and more deliberate sound, it’s with the upcoming Vertumnus Caesar that we get a proper stylistic successor to the blackened heavy metal sound the band perfected on Nordkarpatenland back in 2017. Situated just past the album’s halfway point, “Maharal a Golem” capitalizes on Vertumnus Caesar‘s spookier elements. Highlighted with cinematic and synthesizer-led passages that punctuate a greater sinister sense which pervades the album, the song riffs as hard as the atmosphere it creates. This fusion of black metal, heavy metal, and B-movie soundtracks is a natural sort of progression for primary songwriter and guitarist As, whose other project Remmirath uses a similar sort of playfulness to make a greater creative point. Listen to an exclusive pre-release stream of “Maharal a Golem” below.

Vertumnus Caesar by Malokarpatan

Vertumnus Caesar releases October 27th via Invictus Productions.

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Album Premiere: Bergfried – ‘Romantik II’

Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Erech Leleth’s universe is vast. From projects like Ancient Mastery’s power metal-inflected black metal resistance songs to Summer Haze ’99’s shoegazing blast and Carathis’ guitar heroism, this Austrian musician’s vision encompasses all his projects to tell the story of a fantasy world. In Bergfried Erech Leleth, here known as Erech III. von Lothringen, is joined by singer Anna von Savoy to recall the story of wartorn lovers. Rooted in heavy metal and glam, but with an undeniable rock and power metal sheen, Bergfried’s Romantik II continues the story begun with last year’s Romantik I. Though the tale is tragic, Leleth and von Savoy’s hard-hitting, melodic metal is filled with anthemic choruses and sharp riffs alike. Falling in line with Leleth’s other projects’ Medieval mindsets, Bergfried, too, is steeped in a regal, folk-inspired melodic sense, but with a larger-than-life presence which can be ascribed to Leleth’s sense of songwriting pageantry. Streaming in full below ahead of its Friday release, Romantik II is the next great step in Erech Leleth’s epic trajectory. Bergfried is your new favorite heavy metal band.

Romantik II by Bergfried

Romantik II will be released on vinyl and cassette by Fiadh Productions.

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Track Premiere: Auriferous Flame – “Beyond Light, Beyond Reason”

Though Spectral Lore mastermind Ayloss’ oeuvre has never been synonymous with the stylistically conservative and “old school,” this Greek multi-instrumentalist and songwriter has proven to always have something up his proverbial sleeve. Venturing into the world of black/thrash metal, Auriferous Flame‘s bludgeoning riff-fest is reminiscent of days of yore, when “black/thrash metal” meant being unbridled and absolutely ridiculous more so than re-stealing a handful of Mustaine’s riffs over a blast beat. This project’s upcoming (and most certainly over-the-top) album Ardor for Black Mastery most certainly appealing to those who possess an “old-school” mentality but want to try something new. Stream “Beyond Light, Beyond Reason” ahead of Ardor for Black Mastery‘s release below.

Ardor for Black Mastery releases October 6 via True Cult Records and Stellar Auditorium.

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Track Premiere: Dripping Decay – “Abundant Cadaveric Waste”

From deep within the Pacific Northwest, Maniac Neil rises once again! Otherwise known as the mind behind Frightmare, Blood Freak, and many other highly quality death/grind bands, Neil’s new band Dripping Decay‘s more traditional, riff-inspired brick shithouse of a debut album Festering Grotesqueries‘ putrid and bloated mix of death metal and grindcore is a solid reminder that The Maniac‘s mastery is something to truly behold. “Abundant Cadaveric Waste,” which is streaming ahead of Festering Grotesqueries‘ August release date, is a gore-infested and horrific bout of by-the-books and absolutely gross anti-musical mania. Maniac Neil is fucking back, folks. Don’t miss this.

Festering Grotesqueries by Dripping Decay

From the band:

“Abundant Cadaveric Waste” is a blasting, Death/Grind cornucopia of wild tempos and fills that describes what happens to your organs when you die from a deadly disease, no longer viable to be sold for science or illicit black market activities…

Festering Grotesqueries releases August 18th via Satanik Royalty Records.

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Track Premiere: Imperial Crystalline Entombment – “Of Blizzards and Banshees”

WE ARE STILL FUCKING ICE! proclaims frozen black metal outfit Imperial Crystalline Entombment (heretofore referred to as ICE), opening their first album in two decades. Known for their especially frigid take on the already cold genre, ICE’s Ancient Glacial Resurgence shows this band hasn’t missed a beat in their absence. Citing spontaneous composition and subconscious inspiration, ICE’s second album is just as potent as their 2003 debut, the lauded and recently reissued Apocalyptic End in White. Using strong songwriting comprised of even more powerful riffwork, ICE’s return is marked with a strong sense of quality, fervor, and a special, icicle-encrusted sort of Blashyrkhian-esque might. ICE are fucking back, and they are still fucking ICE. Take an advance listen to “Of Blizzards and Banshees” ahead of Ancient Glacial Resurgence‘s release date below.

Ancient Glacial Resurgence releases September 1 via Debemur Morti Productions. Pre-order links below:

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Full Album Stream + Interview: Lightbreaker – ‘Annihilation of the Annealids’

Death metal and grindcore phenomenon Leon del Muerte might be known for his splattery approach to music, but this Portland-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter has an Ace up his sleeve. Helming a new project, Lightbreaker, del Muerte looks to mid-’90s black-and-avant-garde metal (especially Oxiplegatz) to tell the story of extraterrestrial visitors known as the Annealids. Complete with a conceptual comic book that tells the story in parallel with Annihilation of the Annealids, del Muerte’s take on the “visitors from outer space” story tells a tale of ignorance, destruction, and predation on a peaceful race of beings who eventually assimilate into human culture.

“I started in December 2017, and it’s my first self-release so I wanted to go nuts with it,” del Muerte says over a video call. “A lot of things fell into place in a cool way like Biran Churilla who hit me up on Instagram about doing art. He’s a legit comic book artist, so I traded him some guitars for the work. I built the studio that I’m in for this album. I had ideas about what I wanted to do lyrically and wanted to make it a concept album. It’s highly influenced by Alf Svensson’s (ex-At the Gates) Oxiplegatz project. After a bunch of false starts, once I started writing it it came together pretty quickly. I even tried to get Alf Svensson on it and went to the end of the earth and the guy is unreachable, so I followed in his footsteps by myself.”

Looking to find a distraction from his mother’s failing health, del Muerte’s earliest ideas for the Lightbreaker project were scattered and ambitious. How could he make this one single piece that flows through the whole story? After talking with other people close to him, del Muerte fleshed out the greater concept and how it fit with the music.

Featuring soaring, clean sung vocals which veer towards the operatic (performed by former Witch Mountain singer Uta Plotkin, Only Zuul’s Quinton Gardner, and del Muerte’s own wife Elizabeth Schall), Annihilation of the Annealids‘ over the top presence and pristine talent took a good period of time to get to where it was. Though he hit many roadblocks, Leon del Muerte persisted.

“I actually had two other vocalists who sang on the record initially,” he explains, “but due to time constraints or just shit running long, sometimes people just kind of fall off the radar after a while. I wasn’t able to get them to complete their parts. In the meantime, I reached out to Uta Plotkin (ex-Witch Mountain). She’s more of a soulful singer and I wanted more of an operatic vibe, but I sent her the lyrics and told her to do her own thing with minimal guidance. She just went for it! Same with Quinton Gardner from the band Only Zuul, he’s the opera metal guy in Portland. His vocals are really strong and he got what I was going for immediately. I just let him rip, let the people do the thing you like to do the thing they’re good at. He even wrote some lyrics and tied the story together.”

Along with Gardner, Schall, and Plotkin’s practiced, powerful vocals are del Muerte’s harsh vocals–a multi-tracked, otherworldly foray into extreme metal’s most extreme sounds. Though still operating under his traditional “hyper-deep and putrid death growl” range, del Muerte put intense thought into his performance.

“In my head I came up with these goofy rules like how humans sing and aliens growl,” he explains. “I did my vocals in a way I normally don’t do them with lots of layers.”

“The record starts out with a first contact story,” del Muerte says, telling the story behind Annihilation of the Annealids. “The story of the humans at that point is that a dictator-ish guy was the commander of Earth and the planet is dying–they’re looking for another planet to inhabit or maybe find resources they could use to fix Earth. They stumble upon the Annealid planet, and the humans bring them to Earth. The story then skips ahead to when the Annealids have integrated into society but are looked down on by humans. They’re big, like Engineer sized (referring to Prometheus). At some point in the story it is revealed that the Annealids are fireproof and have crystalline skin. The commander’s idea is that he’s going to find as many Annealids as he can, strip them of their skin, and build domes to protect humans from the environment they’ve destroyed. At some point the Annealids send out a distress signal and it’s revealed that they’re a junior version of a much larger galactic empire and the elder Annealids are some of the most powerful nations in the galaxy. They come and rescue the Annealids and the door is left open for a part two. The last line is literally ‘to be continued.’”

Del Muerte has been sort of pigeonholed in the death metal scene, often finding himself in gory or humorous bands. With Lightbreaker, this long-standing member of the scene gets a new chance to redefine himself as a much more serious musician with passions outside the poopy and gory.

“I’m an avid reader of tons of sci-fi–even the name Lightbreaker is a reference to a ship from ‘The Expanse,’” he says. “I’ve never actually been in a death metal band that writes about death, it’s all been toilet humor and stuff like that. Having a sci-fi sort of theme was pretty easy for me to transition to. Sci-fi is my number one thing.”

Leon del Muerte is self-releasing the Lightbreaker album on vinyl and CD (as well as digitally) all through his Bandcamp this coming Friday. You can stream Annihilation of the Annealids ahead of release below.

The Annihilation of the Annealids by Lightbreaker

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Full Album Premiere: Big Garden – ‘To the Rind’

I am such a mark for ’90s and early aughts alternative rock. Like, seriously. Stone Temple Pilots, Hum, Failure, Third Eye Blind, Local H… the list goes on, and it’s in near constant rotation ’round these parts (when I’m not listening to black metal). Gilead Media signees Big Garden are part of a great new movement of this type of music’s revival, playing a shoegazing type of grungy alt-rock that sounds as much like a time capsule as it does a tribute to what I consider to be a glorious time in music. To the Rind, Big Garden’s newest album (which is streaming in full below), answers the question I often ask myself: “what if the ’90s’, but now?” With more modern production qualities and a thicker presence than an era which was defined by “still trying to understand digital audio,” Big Garden enters the ’90s throwback arena armed with knowledge and practice. What if the ’90s, but now, indeed. Listen to To the Rind in full and read an interview with Big Garden songwriter Mitch Wells (also of, you know, Thou) below.

There has been a select and small resurgence of ’90s style alternative rock music (I’m thinking artists like Nothing, Cloakroom, et cetera) over the past decade. What is it like being a part of a greater rebirth of this style?

Well I’m not sure we’re part of a greater rebirth (yet!) I think bands like Fleshwater and Ovlov and Toner and Hotline TNT and Just Mustard, along with the ones you mentioned, have been out there doing it for a bit, and hopefully we’ll have something to add to the sound that they’ve kept going in recent years. But I guess the fact that this interview is happening means something, so… cool! Yeah, we rule!

Since this approach is experiencing a bit of a redo and new Renaissance, do you feel this era of music is timeless?

I do, yeah. No joke, I was in Baskin Robbins like two weeks ago and Stone Temple Pilots was on and the two 19-year-old kids were singing every word. It was very sick. I asked them how they knew this song and both of them said they grew up listening to it and just love it. I guess their parents, who would be just a little older than me, were potheads or something? The girl behind the counter said she grew up with Pearl Jam and STP and stuff like that and it was the coolest thing! So yeah, I do think grunge and ’90s alt music will be around forever. My mom is still a huge Pearl Jam head. Hey mom!!

What was it about this style of shoegazing, grungy rock that first appealed to you?

It was never really the intention of making that exact kind of music honestly. It’s just sorta what came out. I’ve never been in a band, at least one I was writing for, that sounded like what I wanted it to sound like.

When I was in a band called Baby Boy I really wanted us to sound like that screamo band Ten Grand, but I don’t know how to write stuff like that, so it was just a punkier version that ended up being okay.

I really wanted this band to sound like Stone Temple Pilots, but damn who can write like the DeLeo bros? No one! So this is just sorta what our version of that. If I knew how to write hookier hooks that would definitely be a thing, but I don’t hate what we ended up with. I think we’re great, and I think you’re great.

While the originators of this style pop up on “throwback” stations (read as: oldies, oof), how do you feel as a modern representation of this era of alternative rock?

I feel good about it. I think everyone in the band, to some extent, grew up with punk and metal and grunge and 90s alt stuff, so it’s built into us. If what we’re doing now appeals to my parents (hey mom!) and people a liiiittle younger than us, then I think we’re doing a good job of representing that era. There’s one kid who’s like 22 or something, in a VERY sick band called Flip Fitch, and he digs our band so that’s a good sign. I think something that sticks out when looking back then was how huge these bands were. You’ve got like Primus and STP playing MTV summer bash whatever, and people are going nuts! Like everyone at Daytona Spring Break is losing it to Tommy The Cat. Alt rock/grunge or whatever was everywhere. I don’t know if it’s ever going to have that kind of reach again, but it definitely seems to be growing. And just in time too, we wanna play MTV Spring Break!

As you are on what has historically been mostly a metal label (Gilead Media), why do you feel this fusion of grunge and shoegaze, among other styles, appeals so much to metal fans?

Does it? So far it’s mostly our friends who have said nice things, but I’m not sure how receptive true metal-heads will be. I think the fact that Matthew (singer guy) and I are in a popular-ish metal band definitely helps and gives us a leg up with that community, but who knows if they’ll really let us in. If anything, I think what helps is that we’re juuuuuust heavy enough (sometimes) to get away with also being soft and quiet and spacey. There’s a wide enough door to walk through that gets you into the room. Also, can you listen to metal ALL THE TIME? Take a break, listen to us!

To the Rind releases Friday via Gilead Media.

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Blast Worship: She

Where they from?
Anchorage, Alaska. I regret to inform you that I am a fan of the New York Mets (LOL–ed) and, good lord, have they sucked just complete ass so far this season. Yesterday they blew a four-run lead against the Phillies by hitting two batters (also walking three, but who’s counting–ed? and a Matt Batty fielding error. There is something comforting about the Mets being bad though, it just feels like the natural order of the universe, but still, embarrassing.

Why the hype?
She isn’t really too much of a grind band — but when they do blast, look out — but how many chances do you get to write about from freakin ALASKA! She sound like a healthy mix of older Harms Way and Trap Them and their latest album was recorded by the almighty Taylor Young, which gives them plenty of hardcore street cred. For what it’s worth, they are one of the very few North American bands who I feel have used the HM-2 pedal rather well, and by that I mean it doesn’t sound like a swarm of bees attacking an am radio.

Latest Release?
Goodpaster, self-released. This album carries a variety of experimental passages that lift it beyond your typical modern hardcore album but perhaps my favorite is the absolute nu-metal banger that is “New Ceilings.” I listened to it exactly one time and magically grew dreads and my pants were sagging well below my knees. Unbelievable. Max Cavalera would be proud.

Goodpaster by She

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