“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.
Happy new year from your Mining Metal team. Langdon and I couldn’t be more excited to present a new year of underground music. Yes, 2020 promises exciting new albums from some of metal’s most celebrated acts, but we also encourage you to keep one ear attuned to the new, the adventurous, and even the unsigned.
January tends to be a slow month in media. Like any other business, labels worldwide take holidays off and must account for the end of the year bookkeeping, which leaves few man-hours left for January releases. Cynics might call January a repository for leftovers, but for enthusiasts like us, January is a haven for some of the most adventurous releases of the year — which even we might not be able to cover otherwise. The slow release schedule for the month also allowed us the bandwidth to cover one excellent release from 2019, which we weren’t able to digest until recently. — Joseph Schafer
Death. Void. Terror. – To The Great Monolith II
Death. Void. Terror. produce an atmospheric black metal that suffuses the subgenre with the same sense of celestial malice that black metal thrives on. Thankfully, these overtures are pointed to more meditative ends, the great gaping internal void one faces deep in the throes of intense meditation and ritual, rather than something political grimy, which frees us up to dive deep into these sweltering mad soundscapes with a mere spiritual unease rather than a political one. It scratches a similar itch as Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze albeit one pointed at a more explicitly “magickal” direction, feeling as musically Choronzon-bound as its title and accompanying text implies. It shimmers like heatwaves rather than moves, swirls in slow circles instead of building in clear crescendos or progressions, like mid-period Neurosis on a bad black trip. Buy it from Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Garganjua – Toward the Sun
I’ve seen this group described as stoner metal which doesn’t do great service to the rich progressive streak in their doom metal. It’s better to think of them as a sludgier approach of the same sonic ideas as Pallbearer without the sometimes concerning label associations. They are labelmates with Møl, Secret Cutter and Conjurer, which outlines well the sonic breadth of this record. There are strains of post-rock, post-metal, doom and sludge, all married by a melodic and progressive core not unlike a group like Samothrace who prided themselves on massive metallic portraiture. These are rich and deep songs, ones which feel near boundless in their imagistic capacity. Anticipate seeing this record on year-end lists from those with their ear to the ground. Buy it from Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Hazzerd – Delirium
Alberta’s Hazzerd sound straight out of the ‘80s. That ought not to be surprising since Canada’s retrospective metal scene currently fires on all cylinders with acts like Smoulder and Striker. Unlike those bands, Hazzerd plays a nasty-but-technical style of thrash that recalls Megadeth’s jazz chops, Overkill’s criminal snark, and Toxic’s frenetic energy. They do this so well, in fac,t that one might wonder how they manage to sound so polished since Delirium is only their sophomore record. However, they’ve been playing together for nearly eight years under various names with a mostly consistent lineup. Lead guitarist Toryn Schandlisch also mans the fretboard in trad metal breakouts Traveler, and in both projects, his solos are a highlight. Drummer and Vocalist Dylan Westendorp smartly delivers his smirking and often funny lyrics with a piercing rasp — the perfect balance between entertaining and menacing. Buy it from Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Fliege – The Invisible Seam
Brooklyn’s Fliege jokingly refers to themselves as blackened hair metal, but the band’s debut record isn’t kidding around. A concept album responding to Ingmar Bergman’s seminal film The Seventh Seal, it expands on the genre-agnostic approach of the band’s self-titled debut LP while also leaning hard on the synthesizer contributions of new member Chris Palermo. The results gesture to the psychedelic synth beds once prominent in Chicago black metal as well as Godflesh’s pounding industrial percussion. The secret ingredient, however, is guitarist Coleman Bently’s surprisingly evocative and sweet clean singing. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
The Mystic Forest – Ancient Woods
This is an interesting one, managing to fuse elements of the burgeoning microgenre of cottage/cozy synth (the kinder and gentler cousin to dungeon synth) with atmospheric black metal. The production is the right mix of high and lo-fi, managing to feel at once like a crusty and kvlt metal demo while still having the necessary sheen for the fantastical-leaning elements music like this calls for. I’m not so big on European power metal anymore but I’ll always have a bit of fantasy nerd in my heart (most metalheads do, whether they admit it or not!) and so something like this which manages to evoke those elements gracefully plays well for me. Plus they’re an international band, and anything that helps break the US/Eurocentrism that plagues the metal world, myself included, is a good thing. Buy it from Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Odious Mortem – Synesthesia
Tech death has a mixed reputation, having the propensity to produced aimless unemotional riff salad or some of the most cerebral neck-snapping brutal riffs on the planet. Synesthesia is of the latter variety. The group formed in the immediate post-Necrophagist boom when it felt like great tech death bands were a dime a dozen. Most of the players got scooped by Decrepit Birth, another titan of the micro-genre, which stymied work on a second full-length for a decade and a half. It turns out that time off was well-spent; this is a tech death record capable of sitting next to the greatest of its peers and holding its own with keen songwriting that values joy and emotional momentum over showcases of technicality. They don’t need the showcases anyway; when you play this good, every riff no matter how complex bleeds virtuosity, as any truly great player learns how to do. Buy it from Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Porta Nigra – Schöpfungswut
On their third record, Germany’s Porta Nigra deliver progressive and arty black metal without apology. Naturally, it’s on Soulseller, a label often dedicated to black metal’s most MFA-oriented permutations. From their lavish album art to their lyrical fixation on the end of the 19th century, their music focuses on detail-oriented craftsmanship. Digesting Schöpfungswut requires several listens, but thankfully the songs are so energetic that hitting repeat never feels like a chore. Special mention goes to guest vocalist Tongue, who excels at throaty-but-intelligible growls as well as beer-hall style choruses. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Rorcal – Muladona
Since January tends to be a somewhat low-volume month for new releases, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge an album that I missed last year. Geneva’s Rorcal has been releasing great music since the early aughts atmospheric sludge boom, but tend to play that style of music with a somewhat harsher edge — fans of Inter Arma would to well to check out their entire discography, perha[ps beginning with their latest, Muladona. These days it’s rare that an album frightens me. Rorcal freaked me out with Muladona by dipping into the harshest noise I’ve heard since Knelt Rote and incorporating terrifying storytelling. The concept album is inspired by Eric Stener Carlson’s horror novel of the same name — find its Goodreads page and you can even see a member of the band comment about adapting it. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
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