Mining Metal: Anatomy of Habit, BIG|BRAVE, Gravehuffer, Reuerorum ib Malacht, Skratte, Theophonos, Trespasser, and Ulthar

The post Mining Metal: Anatomy of Habit, BIG|BRAVE, Gravehuffer, Reuerorum ib Malacht, Skratte, Theophonos, Trespasser, and Ulthar appeared first on Consequence.

Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence contributing writers Langdon Hickman and Colin Dempsey. 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.

So, I’m on the autism spectrum. A fun side-effect of that is, under the right conditions, art for me can be extremely sensorial, with sound cascading into color and shape and image, on and on. When I say this, I don’t mean to imply that autism is the only way to have synesthesia or that all autism can turn into synesthesia or any of those kinds of totalizing comments. It turns out something being a spectrum means, duh, it naturally has lots of different ways and intensities it can show up. This synesthetic response to especially art is just one that has, for the bulk of my life, been tremendously joyful.

When I was a kid, obviously, I had no idea that this is what was going on exactly. It was as much a shock to me that this wasn’t how most people experienced art as it was for so many on social media to learn that not everyone has an inner monologue, that not everyone when you say a word like “apple” actually pictures an apple in their mind, or any of the other funny elements of perception we take for granted in ourselves. It turned out as I got older I especially shouldn’t have taken this one for granted; under periods of depression, this response seems to totally shut down for me, my senses being so muted by the depressive spell that even this otherwise typical response in me completely turns off. It’s quite literally like seeing in three dimensions and then suddenly everything is flat, like the color of the television shuts off. This is the mechanical aspect when, for me, something that once was magical suddenly becomes dull and lifeless.

Part of what draws me so tightly to music like heavy metal and progressive music and experimental art is precisely how, for my brain, it creates these vast, unfolding panoramas. A great record doesn’t just make sound come out of speakers or headphones; it rewrites my perception of the world for a brief time, bursts to life in liquid motion. A great record, regardless of its genre or style, is a gateway to some other world, to realms of imagination. Writing for me has always been a task of necessity, a perpetually failing attempt to communicate these things I see, literally see, inside of my head, a task made even trickier by the autism that generates these things. I’ve been struggling the past few months to reconnect with that sense, to re-spark the fire. For those of us with depression and bipolar, this is a constant battle. But all it takes is one record to burst full to life for me again to remind me why it’s a battle worth fighting. If you’ve ever wondered why I tend to pick such outré weirdness sometimes, well, now you have your answer. It’s not a put-on or an attempt to out-weird anybody; these are the keys to inner realms, at least for me.

Langdon Hickman

Anatomy of Habit – Black Openings

This, to me, is what prog should be: vast, both encumbered and unencumbered, dream music, a map of the heart and imagination. Anatomy of Habit lives in the same rarefied air as groups like Kayo Dot, maudlin of the Well and, further back, Magma or Univers Zero. These are vast soundscapes, drawing here from folk, country, doom metal, industrial, the experimental rock of groups like Coil, the early stormy wings of post-rock (especially Godspeed You! Black Emperor), no wave, post-punk, dub, on and on within that wing. I doubt they sit and imagine themselves as a prog band, which ironically is one of the best ways to achieve quality progressive material. The impetus here is of the vast pools of shadow that stain the human heart, mapping the labyrinth of cognition and feeling and memory, the confused map of the psyche which screws up the order of events, makes surreal dreamscapes of what once was clear experience. I could live inside of this music forever; it is a constant companion in my writing, and I hope always to match its strange and tenebrous colors and fibers. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman

BIG|BRAVE – nature morte

Their weapon is, of course, the human heart. There is a time for metal of the imagination, metal of fury and even fun. BIG|BRAVE have always lived in another space for me, one that is less focused on being metallic per se and more of using metal as the incidental palette to achieve the kinds of emotional and textural work that they do. This type of ambient-adjacent work, heavy on atmosphere and moodiness, is a hard sell for the more riff-centered, and I am sympathetic to that, but this stuff slices my heart open, slips the knife gently between my ribs and opens me up like a fish on a wooden dressing table. Like Neurosis at their best or Sumac basically anytime at all, this is music that wields Sonic Youth-style maximum distortion to create sculptures seemingly out of gel, crystal, television static, warm ocean water. The sentiment of country music lingers over this, a remnant of their folk record collab with The Body, and it’s precisely that new element that lifted this above 2021’s Vital. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman

Gravehuffer – …Depart from So Much Evil

…Depart from So Much Evil is metal as a lifestyle brand. The Missouri-quartet Gravehuffer are as varied as their album art implies, bounding through heavy metal pillars like thrash, death, and sludge with a hardcore attitude. (Note that this hardcore mindset informs their movement between these spaces rather than an outright aesthetic.) “Go Murder, Pray, and Die” is straight-laced grindcore, but it contrasts the sludge-ridden preceding track “Brainstorm.” The manner in which Gravehuffer masticate genre lines throughout the first five tracks is impressive. However, the main event is how much ground the 22-minute title track covers. There, Gravehuffer enter an amorphous realm, undergoing mitosis as they move between disjointed, conflicting styles. Yes, you can still point out whether a segment is thrash or noise, but “Depart From So Much Evil” is more akin to Sufjan Stevens’ “Age of Adz” (bet you didn’t see that comparison coming!), a daunting testament to throw everything at the wall with nails to ensure it all sticks. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Colin Dempsey

Reuerorum ib Malacht – Aieganzes Aigonzis : Angels of God

Confession: I’ve returned to writing a novel I’d put on pause about four years ago, about psychosis and God and the terror of the digital age and the dissociative psychic smearing of the post-modern condition and all kinds of stuff like that. This record sounds how, ideally, I want the novel to feel: broken, terrified, splintered, incoherent save for this wretched pulse. Malacht proposes a kind of Christian experimental black metal that indulges deeply in the sense of eye-rolling hysteria and electronic psychosis of true angels, the babbling of tongues and schizotypal imagery of the prophetic books. They use vaporwave as a disorienting component, a way to fracture the black metal, pulling from the frankly laughably bad early digital art covers of metal records from the ’90s that, for people like me, echoes with a certain kind of nostalgic charm. This is deeply chaotic music, only for the brave or deeply damaged, of which I am one, and the fact that I get to give them a platform here is one of the rare and precious treasures of my job. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman

Skratte – Akt II: Des Wolfes Klagen

Skratte’s second album is a Brothers Grimm tale brought to life. The German one-man act tells stories of werewolves and freezing to death in the countryside without a hint of mourning for those lost. Akt II: Des Wolfes Klagen is also, and this is more important, the perfect saturation of cheese. Skratte’s insistence on cheese makes the record a romp, which is not characteristic of many folk-meets-goth-meets-black metal albums. Occasionally, it plays like a spooky ’80s revival, for instance, when Skratte draws from gothic rock in all its over-the-top baritone vocal goodness on “Kältetod.” In other places, like the 15-minute “Der Waldgeister Tanz,” he strikes a pristine balance between bloodletting metal and traditional folk. Then there are moments of serenity and delicacy that overtake “Vidéki Ballada.” To be this varied yet tonally consistent would be reason enough to listen to Akt II: Des Wolfes Klagen, but it’s the cheese that gives it its charm. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Colin Dempsey

Theophonos – Nightmare Visions

In 2020, Serpent Column released arguably the year’s best EP, Endless Detainment, and one of its best albums, Kathados, leaving a gaping hole where everyone tried to find something a tiny bit similar. After releasing 2021’s Katartisis, sole member Theophonos folded the project. Under their solo stage name, they’ve reappeared to release Nightmare Visions, which sounds exactly like its title. It’s just as exhilarating as Serpent Column’s earlier work, with slippery time signatures, dusty tones, and an overwhelming pace. What distinguishes it is its immediacy. Theophonos enjoys allusions to Heidegger and mythology, but they depart them there for terror. To achieve this, Nightmare Visions embodies a purer combination of black metal and metalcore, rife with the presence of a sleep-paralysis demon. It’s easier to digest in turn, though to do so requires as much patience as it does discipline. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Colin Dempsey

Trespasser – Ἀ​Π​Ο​Κ​Ά​Λ​Υ​Ψ​Ι​Σ

If you’re going to insert an exclamation point into a song title, you need to earn it. On “Forward Into the Light!”, Trespasser plunder it from ruling class’ claws. The Swedish black metal duo take aim at what they consider modernity’s greatest sin: debt. They educate on how debilitating debt is for lower-class people, how it’s a tool for oppression, and how it must be exhumed instead of slowly phased out. Trespasser’s manifesto is as gripping as possible; action is necessary now. They make no reservations on Ἀ​Π​Ο​Κ​Ά​Λ​Υ​Ψ​Ι​Σ of the fact that they are reacting to both black metal’s fascist problem and the bite lacking from some left-wing bands in the genre. As such, Ἀ​Π​Ο​Κ​Ά​Λ​Υ​Ψ​Ι​Σ recognizes their ideal to create, in their own words, “relentless anarchist blast-beat mayhem.” Buy it on Bandcamp. – Colin Dempsey

Ulthar – Anthronomicon/Helionomicon

I slapped my desk like a god damn ape, shrieking and howling and hurling my chair through the wall the minute this promo hit my inbox. This is my wet dream; a death metal band clearly with deep progressive plaudits in the pocket looking at their expanding discography, their masterful debut and intriguing but flawed sophomore release only to troubleshoot, well, everything. These songs are just more more: more black metal evil riffing, more tight thrash and whiplash rhythms, more wide-eyed prog that feels deeply in the mode of especially the Italian greats (I’ll spare you the true proghead namechecks here), all without sacrificing even one whit of the turbulent ferocious death metal that is the basis of this double-record. The split of discs is a canny decision, the two prog epic title tracks on one disc with an equal 40 minutes across 8 more tightly packed songs on the other. But, to my delight: The prog epics are utterly free from flab, comfortable peers with the modern great epics of Blood Incantation, Cryptic Shift and Bedsore, while the shorter songs are still replete with progressive ideas and riffs. Early AOTY contender; my perfect record. Buy it on Bandcamp: Anthronomicon, Helionomicon. – Langdon Hickman

Mining Metal: Anatomy of Habit, BIG|BRAVE, Gravehuffer, Reuerorum ib Malacht, Skratte, Theophonos, Trespasser, and Ulthar
Langdon Hickman and Colin Dempsey

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