“Mining Metal” is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence writers Joseph Schafer and Langdon Hickman. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts.
As September gives way to October and the darker half of the year begins, the autumnal flower of heavy metal reaches its full bloom. Around this time, labels rush to release their finest albums, in hopes that they’ll remain fresh on people’s minds when making year-end lists (and also Christmas lists). Not to mention, as will be discussed next month, bands dogpile on late September and October release dates as Halloween grows near.”
In 2019, however, Halloween has come a month early, it seems. September yielded so many great records (including two of my favorites for Album of the Year, so far) that Langdon and I could not narrow our selection down to just eight. Therefore, as a celebration of the autumnal Equinox, here’s an extra dose of Mining Metal: 12 albums instead of eight, ranging from grindcore to old-school speed metal and even a pair of thrash picks. Enjoy the cornucopia — it’s not likely to happen again this year — and don’t skip the two exclusive premieres. — Joseph Schafer
Algebra – Pulse?
You just can’t easily find good new thrash bands these days. The genre’s still catching its breath after the explosion of Exodus clones that flooded the market when Municipal Waste was at their height. Fortunately for those readers wearing high tops, this month’s Mining Metal packs two uncommonly powerful thrash records. The first comes from Switzerland’s Algebra, who proudly uphold the technical and progressive thrash metal tradition laid down by their fellow countrymen Coroner, as well as other esteemed acts like Voivod and Toxik, though they’re a little more violence-inducing than their forebears. Their third LP, Pulse?, comes overflowing with riffs, odd time signatures, tapping solos and skank beats in a hearty stew sure to leave moshers as well as mathematicians satisfied. The whole record, courtesy of the always-reliable Unspeakable Axe records, is premiering below — pre-order it from Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
We sometimes forget that Blut Aus Nord is a peer to other inventive early post-black metal bands like Ulver, but with a formation in 1993 and a debut two years after, we can begin to grasp why their career has been so wide-ranging. Hallucinogen is another strong entry in their powerful body of work, leaning away from the clattering industrialisms of the past few records toward the abstracted alien prog of Vindsval’s work on the last Pyramids album. It isn’t quite as lysergic as the title suggests, but is an inventive, satisfying, and colorful approach to black metal nonetheless. Buy it via Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Cloud Rat – Pollinator
The makers of 2015 year-end favorite Qliphoth return with another frenetic pulse of grind. Like any great grind record, Pollinator ironically plays more like a 30-plus minute multi-movement piece of music than a collection of short tracks, with the group’s finely-tuned ear for juxtaposing dynamic energies of songs in fruitful and additive ways. And while for some grind with an album-oriented focus may sound worryingly lame in a musical world driven by unbridled intensity, Cloud Rat still pack more than their fair share of cerebral metallic punk in machine-gun blasts and thunderous rolling fills. Buy it via Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Crypt Sermon -The Ruins of Fading Light
If you’re listening to anything else right now, do yourself a favor. Stop scrolling, wait until the song you’re listening to is done, pause, and then listen to “The Snake Handler”, my favorite song from Crypt Sermon’s sophomore record, The Ruins of Fading Light. I’ll wait.
Done? What a ride, right? This Philadephia outfit pulls off these type of songs like a magician pulls coins from a child’s ear. Unabashedly sworn to the legacy of fantastical doom metal bands like Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus, Crypt Sermon up the ante with incendiary guitar playing and the jaw-dropping voice of Rev. Brooks Wilson. The medieval lyrical themes only serves to wrap their morbid observations on human life in a light, fantastical package. Go ahead and buy this one and tell them that I sent you; It’s probably my favorite record of the year. Buy it via Dark Descent Records. — Joseph Schafer
Goatess – Blood and Wine
Traditional doom done right. Goatess’ first two records featured a lesser-acclaimed former vocalist of St. Vitus, easily the greatest early doom band of all time, and this, the group’s third LP, follows in that same vein, drawing deep from Born Too Late-era St. Vitus to create slinking, smokey, heavy as hell groovy rock music. Goatess are a band that remembers that Black Sabbath didn’t ignore the wiggle of the hips, playing with just the right amount of looseness that also seems to imply they’ve heard their fair share of Josh Homme’s contributions to the genre in his earlier work. Buy it via Svart Records. — Langdon Hickman
Haunter – Sacramental Death Qualia
This month sees Opeth releasing their fourth album since abandoning all the heaviest parts of their sound. As good as it is, many listeners like me have been left thirsty for more metal that can operate in the death metal trenches as well as the progressive rock skies in the same song. Enter San Antonio’s Haunter. Previously a knotty black metal band that curiously shared a name with a Pokemon, the band make a remarkable shift on their sophomore album for elongated chiaroscuro songwriting with scorching lead guitars. Sacramental Death Qualia manages to scratch the psychonautical itch that so few outfits reach and when they do it’s oh so satisfying. Buy it from I, Voidhanger Records. — Joseph Schafer
High Command – Beyond the Wall of Desolation
Crypt Sermon aren’t the only outfit drawing inspiration from the Knights Templar and the Crusades. Worcester, Massachusetts’ High Command likewise ride for Byzantium, albeit on a crossover thrash steed. For those wondering what might happen if the boys in Cro-Mags decided to play a little D&D and learn a few Dio riffs, look no further than High Command’s first full length, Beyond the Wall of Desolation. Great thrash is hard to come by these days, but High Command provide with aplomb on songs like “Visions from the Blade”. This style of music tends to fall apart after only a couple of minutes per song, but this outfit sustains cavalry charges for up to eight minutes on what may be the year’s strongest debut. Now bend the knee, and buy it from Southern Lord Records. — Joseph Schafer
Mizmor – Cairn
Mixmor’s new album Cairn has gotten loving praise from every corner of the metal world and for good reason. It’s not just one of the best albums of the year but one of the very best funeral doom records of all time, up there with modern masterpieces by Bell Witch and older classics by Evoken and Mournful Congregation. A harrowing record that lives deep inside its subject matter, the tremendous heartbreak of losing one’s faith, that manages to explore that well-covered ground without feeling cliche, redundant, or preachy. A fitting compatriot to Gilead’s impeccable release lineup this year. Buy it via Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
No One Knows What the Dead Think – No One Knows What the Dead Think
This record requires some backstory. Beginning in New Jersey in 1991, the enigmatic grindcore trio Discordance Axis accelerated the already-speedy genre into lightspeed. Vocalist Jon Chang, guitarist Rob Marton and drummer David Witte (now of Municipal Waste) forged a career as futuristic as it was beautiful over the course of three albums, ending with the still jaw-dropping 2000 album The Inalienable Dreamless before disbanding. Chang continued the band’s legacy in spirit with his Gridlink project, but Marton remained underground until now. No One Knows What The Dead Think reunited Marton and Chang for a one-off album that’s just one member shy of a true Discordance Axis reunion — Witte can no longer play at the speed these songs require due to an injury — they even rerecord one song from Axis’s debut to cap the project off. Buy it via Willowtip Records. — Joseph Schafer
War Cloud – State of Shock
After all that heaviness, maybe a reprieve is in order. Not that the Bay Area’s War Cloud are a light listening experience by any means. No, the air raid siren that begins album opener “Striker” accurately hints at the themes and sound of the record that’s to follow: bombing runs, strafing runs, barnburners and various other means of aerial assault. Or, put more simply, War Cloud neatly sum combine the already similar sounds of early ’80s Motorhead and Kill ‘Em All-era Metallica. Their sophomore LP, State of Shock, premiered below, is speed metal par excellence, with plenty of shout-along choruses and snappy riffs wrapped in a fun war plane aesthetic. Best of all, War Cloud never neglects an oft-forgotten classic metal trope: the oddly melodic bridge riff (see “White Lightning”) that made Accept so effing good. Buy it via Ripple Music. — Joseph Schafer
Weeping Sores – False Confession
This has been a fine year for death-doom. Legendary Japanese band Coffins returned with a hell of a release and alongside them newcomers Weeping Sores (featuring members of Tchornobog and Pyrrhon) drop a standout debut, showing the health of the sub-genre. It’s well-needed, too; too long has the genre been plagued with bad, cliche-driven gothic metal with little in the way of the viciousness the death metal component should bring. Weeping Sores leans heavily into that component, bringing tight and rough death metal riffing and a slow, pained roar to the doom pacing and ambiance. Buy it via the Metal Odyssey webshop. — Langdon Hickman
White Ward – Love Exchange Failure
An urban investigation of black metal, trading out the cliched vistas of winter forests and lakes for the similar coldness of cities and working class apartment complexes. An elevator pitch might read something like: “Ihsahn’s solo material but with the black metal dialed way, way up,” with the presence of smooth jazz saxophone lines over blast beats being a welcome sonic space for those keeping up with the surprisingly fertile crossover ground between adult contemporary and black metal. A young and inventive band that, only two albums in, has developed a style that’s both strong and deep, with lots of direct and progressive wings left to explore. Buy it from Debemur Morti Productions. — Langdon Hickman
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