The post Mining Metal: The Best Underground Metal Releases of May and June 2022 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.
To inaugurate this new chapter of our ongoing work here, my body decided to reward me with a unique treat: contracting COVID. It turns out, dear readers, that COVID is bad, and it feels bad, and you don’t want it. After 24 hours of Blakean visions born from my fevers, fading in and out of consciousness literally from midnight to midnight, body wracked in pain and expelling all kinds of fluids at any moment, I was then laid into a weeklong spate of the worst bronchial BS I’ve experienced in my life. For reference, a previous apartment gave me mold exposure which permanently screwed up my lungs to the point where I routinely get what can only be described as “the foamies”, so my statement here should have a bit of weight to it. This is all to say those rising numbers you’ve been seeing of a new wave are legit and you should take them seriously; this stuff is no joke.
Turns out it wasn’t just my body that decided to crap out recently, either. A brief glance at the American political apparatus reveals the wheels driving us closer to an apocalyptic hybrid of theocratic and capitalist control enmeshed in a fascist grid. People have decided to solace themselves by indulging in misogyny and ableist sentiments about personality and behavioral disorders thanks to a popular celebrity trial. Roe v. Wade has been officially overturned, something that’s been brewing in conservative enclaves for decades ever since the fall of segregation in the early ’70s, with some already calling at its back to review things like the right to contraceptives, gay marriage, and even recriminalizing sodomy which would in turn make being gay quite literally illegal. And all of this off of the back of inflamed assaults on trans rights globally. In general, it seems like all of us are having a pretty bad time and coping with everything about as poorly as we possibly can. Ah, well, isn’t that just the way of things? Normally I’d have something more… well, not cheery, certainly not given all of this, but at least more thoughtful to say. But the COVID fog is still rattling my brain if I’m honest. It feels like I am submerged in a dream, wrapped in opium smoke.
But enough moaning about the disease that’s affected so many of our lives! Today is also a new day, the debut of my new co-writer Colin Dempsey, who I am very excited for you all to come to know, and we inaugurate this special occasion with a double-sized installment covering both May and June. As you can see here, he has an odd ear like me; our habit of bringing you not only the most underground but often strangest and most surreal wings of underground heavy metal, all without cause for moral concern about who you are giving your dollar, goes unabated. The animating force for Mining Metal, from us as writers up to the editors and even the very site we run on, is love for this music. Rest assured that no one gets rich trying to put the shine on this material and if there’s payola, I don’t know a single band, label or writer who’s benefited from it. We all, Colin included, just want to experience wondrous things and show them to as many people as we possibly can. Your years of coming along with us is immensely appreciated as much by us as by the bands we bring to you. Here’s to many more!
Blut aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
I can now say from experience that listening to this record while experiencing COVID and pain-induced fever visions produces a hellish mental landscape. I could see tendrils lashing up from purple waters, purple and red, like a fetid algae was abloom, birthing eyes. It fits; the sound here leaps off from Hallucinogen, the last record from this project (ignoring completely the progressive black metal record Forhist that came between the two), developing that record’s hybridized progressive industrial sounds into something more, well, abyssal. This is not a record of subtlety, either in its titling or in its sonic approach. You are consumed by the waters immediately, sluiced along avant-garde corridors and seasick melodies that feel graced by black and doom metal but remain free from them. The closest comparison might by the Pyramids record A Northern Meadow that both Vindsval and Colin Marston collaborated on, a record that likewise followed the avant-garde off the edge of the page into something terrifying and rivetingly pure. Vindsval is one of the very best and at this rate leaves us a legacy as rich as Quorthon’s. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Choronzon – Madness Swallows This Flesh
You can tell when I’ve been in a strange mood by the amount of scaldingly abnormal black metal I am listening to at the time. Choronzon, much like Reuerorum ibn Malachtum and Formless Body that I have featured here before, produce a post-Voivodian progressive/avant-garde black metal hybrid. These songs feel always just on the precipice of falling apart, like if notes were a micrometer out of alignment it would feel like random noise rather than deliberate composition. Layers clash like lightning, taking a seeming hyperpop sensibility and applying it to digitized extreme metal production. There are moments where this record feels more like if Fire-Toolz got substantially more into Cynic and early ’90s Pestilence than if 2000s Mayhem (best Mayhem, by the way) got into fusion records. Perhaps the most pleasant shock however is, despite the description, this record comes across more thrilling than cerebral. There is clear thought and deliberacy here, but as the chaos star on the cover tells us, so too is there chance and risk — and that sense of vitality motivates these pieces more than the heady conceptual end. If you never understood this weirdo stuff, maybe this one will make it click for you. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Cleaver – No More Must Crawl
Occasionally, it’s more important to capture an essence rather than directly emulate an object. A concept can be more fruitful than a recreation because it evokes a stronger response. That’s the key appeal of Cleaver’s No More Must Crawl. The French trio’s debut carries metalcore’s late ’90s and early 2000s spirit more than it replicates any single act from that era. Cleaver thrust against hardcore’s confines without the mathematics of their forebearers. They’re more face-melting than they are mind-bending. No More Must Crawl is akin to downloading forum posts of users discussing their favorite turn-of-the-century metalcore albums without outright naming them. Thus, Cleaver are more nostalgic in theory than they are in practice. They have the benefit provided by 20 years of hindsight and select what still resonates today from that well of knowledge. The end result is a streamlined metalcore dosage that smells like it’s spent two decades maturing in a vacuum-sealed bag. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Katharos – Of Lineages Long Forgotten
Symphonic black metal is a balancing act. There’s an internal push-and-pull dynamic between its maximalist desire to swell at every possible second and black metal’s inherent primitivism. Feeding too heavily into either temptation results in a paltry alchemic reaction. Or it should, but Katharos spit in that assumption’s face and indulge both temptations. Surprisingly, their second album Of Lineages Long Forgotten succeeds by accepting those inclinations shamelessly. The symphonic underpinning that laces tracks like “Lay Yersinian Siege” round out the sonic landscape. Modest overindulgence may sound like an oxymoron but it’s the best way to describe Katharos’ vision. Of Lineages Long Forgotten doesn’t vary its dynamics much, meaning that you need to take its full force at once. Were there a dearth of bouncy riffs like those on “I Waged War,” or if the melodies on “Feigned Retreat” were less sinister, or were any other components out of step, then Of Lineages Long Forgotten wouldn’t be so easy to digest. Yet, it goes down remarkably smoothly. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Katharos XIII – Chthonian Transmissions
One of metal’s best attributes is how bottomless its pit of weirdness is, to the point that even if you learn that a band plays “black/doom metal/dark jazz,” (according to Katharos XIII’s Metal Archives page) you’d still be clueless about their sound. The easy answer is that Chthonian Transmissions is as wide-ranging as it is off-kilter. There are legible black metal tirades and earth-crushing doom metal segments, but you’re here for the weirdness. Katharos XIII tend to decompose over a track’s length, morphing between a crawling heathen and waltz. Gothicism binds every piece together. It’s in their girthy bass tones, Manuela Marchis’ clean vocals, and especially in the saxophone. It’s what transforms the title track from a disintegrating jazz lounge into a cavern. Chthonian Transmissions compels not because it’s an oddball, but because there’s logic to its ghastly fever dream. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Molten Chains – Orisons of Vengeance
Orisons of Vengeance is a dingy album. It’s a group of rats in the cellar nibbling away at carcasses. Molten Chains understand that danger is best served in reservations. As such, Orisons of Vengeance is rather understated; everything that Molten Chains excel at glimmers because they dare not operate with pomp. Their edges unveil themselves in glimpses rather than full reveals, whether they be Brenton Weir’s slightly-tinged vocals wherein he grovels like a gremlin or in brief thrash tangents. Actually, Orisons of Vengeance has a beating thrash metal heart that circulates blood throughout a traditional heavy metal musculature. It’s a lean album. Their compositions are athletic enough to bound between anthems like “Hand of God” and multi-phrasal descents like “Martyrdom.” Molten Chains ditch extremity in favor of a jagged skeleton that grants them mobility. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Mournful Congregation – The Exuviae of Gods – Part I
Sure, this may be described by the band as an EP, but when it clocks in at 40 minutes and is designated part 1 of a 2 part cycle, we can more accurately view it as a staggered-release double album. Granted, doom metal bands have always been notoriously bad at understanding proper lengths for things; see Reverend Bizarre’s 70-minute EP Harbinger of Metal, which only makes sense as such when you remember their final record was over two hours long. Still, Mournful Congregation make potent and rich funeral doom, evading the thinness that weakens the sole Thergothon release (I’m begging for a remaster!) while also avoiding making overly busy or fussy music that would breach the funeral tone. This record reeks of rainwater sluiced through old stone, dripping over rotting windows of moldering manors, the stench of the fen beyond the glass, the marble of the mausoleum caked in vine. Just as great funeral doom should. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Nechochwen – Kanawha Black
If you, like me, put this record off because you were told it was a black metal record and those words no longer make something immediately enticing, then listen to me: This is not a black metal record. There is black metal on here, certainly, but there’s just as much King Diamond-style progressive/traditional heavy metal, Michael Hedges-style New Age acoustic guitar work, death-doom, even a brief touch of what feels like Midwest emo on one of the riffs in “I Can Die But Once”. Originally, I intended to cover a completely different record for this fourth slot but, at the encouragement of a friend, I put this record on and was nearly immediately brought to understanding. This group is far from a one-note hackneyed second-wave knock-off band, instead being a far-ranging and shockingly virtuosic group that feels much closer to the Mur album I featured earlier this year spliced with righteous and virtuous heavy metal than anything of the Norwegian golden years of black metal. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Bekor Qilish – Throes of Death from the Dreamed Nihilism
Ever as always, I, Voidhanger reigns as one of the greatest labels of all time not just of metal and prog but of any genre, period; consider this our standard stand-in for that illustrious body of work as a whole (as well as a space-saving measure!). This month’s representative record is a ferocious combination of laser-precision black metal and the kinds of stargazing open-hearted prog rock of Signals-era Rush. The tone is almost closer to the proggy post-Steely Danisms of a group like Once and Future Band turned rotten on the inside rather than other black metal peers, and this approach (combined with tight runtimes) produces a thrilling and emotionally salient burst of progressive extreme metal. Worry not about this getting lost in the weeds of avant-gardism; these songs are as easy to approach as they are lush and, frankly, killer. Voidhanger never misses. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Doldrum – The Knocking, or the Story of the Sound That Preceded Their Disappearance
The initial shell of black metal gives way, revealing a molten Voivodian core of prog underneath. The thrust is the weird fiction of Appalachia, Lovecraftian flair in the same rotten wood and mountain stone that Poe and Bierce found suitable for their moribund tales of imagination and mystery. This record was quite a shock to me; while I had enjoyed the demo that most of these songs came from, the initial sonic palette led me to imagine the band much more in the weirder end of raw black metal, a space I like but find difficult to consistently love. Their shift of sonic palette, allowing both some needed clarity and space around the instruments to really give them a sense of presence, caused this material to flower rapidly for me. This is one to return to again and again; it’s already secured a year-end spot from me. Simply a must listen. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Horns & Hooves – I Am the Skel Messiah
Over the past two decades, black metal artists have been finetuning the genre’s latent beauty, and Horns & Hooves represent the peak of that ascent to splendor. The Brooklyn trio’s debut LP recalls heaven’s majesty by turning “F**k my hole and steal my soul” into a hook and using a prolonged sample from a jerk-off instructional video as an interlude. Sarcasm aside, I Am the Skel Messiah is the personification of carnal desires. Horns & Hooves dive back into black metal’s ’80s origins when Venom sang about jacking off to their teacher and one-up them in every regard. They have a thrashy kick and are much more athletic in their compositions. As such, they’re not just a funny band. There are some utterly harrowing moments, like the shrieks of horror on “Baphomet in Steel,” or the glacial-the-point-of-being-chilling pace on “A Wailing, and a Weeping, and a Busting ov Cheeks.” It just so happens that Horns & Hooves were down bad upon writing I Am the Skel Messiah, and there’s nothing wrong with being horny on main. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Krallice – Psychagogue
My love for Krallice is, by this point, beyond fanatical, breaching instead into the vaunted realms of the worshipful. In fairness, it is a love they have repaid in spades. On this, their second album of the year, they take the changed up instrumental arrangements of their previous record — seeing Colin Marston abandon his role as second guitarist to instead become synth player and auxiliary drummer — but fuse it with the more immediate and existentially vivacious emotionalism of the first period of their career. This results in the group embracing what feels like a blackened hybrid of King Crimson and Yes, with gentle and almost jazzy clean blastbeats paired against erudite guitar and bass counterpoint that feels like Rush’s “Xanadu” or “Natural Science” as played by Weakling. I’ve said before and will continue to say: This is the ideal not just of black metal but extreme music to me. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Merihem – Incendiary Darkness
Diction goes a long way in metal, so when a band’s debut album’s press release includes “Qliphotic” and “quintessence” then they’re going to be toying with some forces that they shouldn’t. Merihem, an international collaboration between members of Suffering Hour and Frostmoon Eclipse, among others, tap into the spiritual elements of modern black metal (think chanting vocals and dense atmospheres) to invoke something grander. However, the appeal of Incendiary Darkness is the simple touches that recontextualize cornerstones of black and death metal. Though Merihem rely on lead tremolo picking and blast beats, they also pull from death metal for a more encapsulating sound. They tug you deeper into their world, as it feels like there’s no breathing room in the mix. This could be suffocating if implemented improperly, but Merihem layer themselves so well that there’s always a focal point, whether that’s the impressive lead guitar lines or vocalist Tiúval himself. The cogs in Incendiary Darkness’ machine turn so smoothly that you could almost forget it was recorded transatlantically. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Oblivion Castle – Sorcière
Sorcière, Oblivion Castle’s third EP in just two years, is commanding unlike anything else they’ve created. Prior to this release, Oblivion Castle mastermind Victoria Carmilla H. primarily recorded dungeon synth, a genre that’s rarely domineering. Their new release, then, is Oblivion Castle retaking the bull by the horns. Carmilla H. parts with regular vocalist Wampyric Strigoi in favor of Sorcière (yes, that is their name according to Bandcamp), whose burrowing vocals are a much better fit for the more fleshed-out approach here. Oblivion Castle keep dungeon synth’s macabre sensibilities in the form of organ interludes, but they assume a more rigid posture of black metal with dashes of epic doom. These compounding aspects give Sorcière its might. There’s a stronger presence compared to Oblivion Castle’s prior releases as dual guitar strides take center stage and the synths recede into the mix. The result is a forceful entity that nearly outgrows its short runtime. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
Vile Haint – Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters
Last year, Primeval Well released Talkin’ in Tongues with Mountain Spirits, a black metal meets folk meets Western album that sounded exactly like its title. While Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters is not a companion piece to that record, it carries the same hallowed atmosphere. However, it sounds less like a tale retold and more like the ghostly interaction itself. Zac Ormerod and Ryan Clackner, the two members both Vile Haint and Primeval Well share, go against the grain of Cascadian black metal for a rawer approach. They don’t marvel at the American landscape’s majesty but soundtrack a transaction between spirits. Like its name proclaims, Sacrificial Baptism in Murky Waters is dingy, and its clouded production obfuscates it to the point that it mimics a haunting. But Vile Haint are more than just spooks and ghouls; they employ Southern rock solos to inject some Americana into pieces like “From the Abyss that Yawns,” turning these incantations into more geographically-relevant affairs. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Colin Dempsey
White Ward – False Light
The first mistake people make when listening to or writing about White Ward is thinking through the lens of black metal. That is an important developmental tool of their music, certainly, but it both traps us as listeners and alienates White Ward as a group from a better contextualizing web of influences and colors. What has made them so successful aesthetically, historically and here on their new album, is how their music is closer in spirit to something like the progressive dark metal of Katatonia, the Ocean or contemporary Ihsahn, having their eyes set more on gloomy and tear-stained sophisticated art music that happens to be shot through with the textures and methods of extreme metal. Their music pours down like post-metal, a Cult of Luna style eruptive catharsis in blastbeats and saxophone rather than a Mayhemian icy scour. It is their continued cleaving to this emotional core that makes False Light another brilliant record from the group. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman