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.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many anticipated that a year or more without touring would prompt musicians to create a surplus of material to be released afterward. Now that America’s becoming increasingly vaccinated, that prediction looks to be panning out. Not only are there a slew of spectacular releases on the horizon (and I don’t just mean Carcass, though their new song “Kelly’s Meat Emporium” is a must-listen), but many of them come from bands that never broke up but also haven’t been particularly active, either.
Many of our picks this month are the first we’ve heard from bands in five or more years, suggesting that some of these records have been marinating in post-production for some time. Obviously, I’m speculating here, but the high quality bar these long-awaited records set suggests that the songwriters have had more time to consider their creative decisions and deliver good performances.
Nowhere is that more evident than on Fade Out, the first album by Take Over and Destroy in five years, premiering below. And while that album’s a must-listen, its seven cohorts deserve your attention as well. – Joseph Schafer
Take Over and Destroy – Fade Out
Arizona’s Take Over and Destroy bring the video nasty ruckus on their fourth LP, Fade In, premiering below! Originally a death and roll band that L.G. from Entombed (RIP) could be proud of, these Sonoran delinquents have slowly but surely evolved their sound to incorporate hints of gothic rock and vintage synthesizer worship to underline the horror film aesthetic that’s come to define them (this process yielded one of my most listened-to albums of 2016, their self-titled album). None of these individual elements are unique, though. Take Over and Destroy adopted them before doing so was chic; rather, what stands out about them is their knack for hooky songwriting. Such memorable tunes ought to be expected from a band that shares a pedigree with Gatecreeper and Spirit Adrift. On Fade Out, they’ve upped the bombast, centering many of their songs on arena-ready one-two drum grooves. They could pass for a shoulda-been-massive ’80s band if not for vocalist Chthon screaming bloody murder. Like a great splatter auteur, Chthon and company save their big moments for the third act. Late-album standouts like crusty blaster “Exit Bag” and the majestic closing title track hint at even more fascinating evolutions after this entry in the series fades out.
Buy it on Take Over and Destroy’s website.— Joseph Schafer
Avtotheism – The Sleeper Awakens
A death metal concept album based on one of John Carpenter’s most underrated films, Avtotheism have delivered a slab of death metal that wields the curious corners and strange dissonances of metal toward a stark and emotionally rich terrain. The vistas here are immediate: Beksinski paintings, macabre and webbed with threads of flesh, all caged in gothic darkness flashed with wicked red. Some albums crafted meticulously detailed scenes dressed in full-color; here, there is only the stark rays of darkness like obsidian cast from stone eyes, gazing at distant horror obscured from our sight. Most notably, Avtotheism don’t lose themselves in the miasma of atmospherics and technicality; these are well-honed songs, crafted and sharpened, that just happen to contain the high-brow touches so many bands find themselves either foolishly avoiding or naively overindulging in. Like a fever dream or the bloody cough of the pestilent, dressed for death. Buy it on Bandcamp.— Langdon Hickman
Boss Keloid – Family the Smiling Thrush
Boss Keloid’s approach to progressive sludge draws from the relatively unfashionable well of Gentle Giant, adored icons of the progressive rock faithful but little celebrated beyond those walls. As such, Boss Keloid’s music is replete with curious medievalisms and winding harmonies that arrive at the ear almost as serialism, all wedged against decidedly post-Mastodon approaches to the fusion of sludge, heavy rock, and arena-sized stacked harmonies. This is hard rock from an alternate universe where prog never slipped below the water of popular music in the US and UK, where Kyuss moonlighted doing sets of Yes covers, where the splinter-tongue sidewinder poetry of prog’s most abstract epics informed the grunge-indebted sludge pioneers. Boss Keloid are too surreal to be stoner rock, managing an archness that keeps its cool, like Lewis Carroll with downtuned guitars. A riddle, a poem. Buy it on Bandcamp.— Langdon Hickman
Code – Flyblown Prince
UK black metal iconoclasts Code have hovered in the genre’s most forward-thinking periphery for years. Their most well-known album, 2009’s Resplendent Groquesque, showcased the band’s brutalist chops (guitarist and songwriter Aort can shred with the best of them) while also leaning into the proggy weirdness of bands like Borknagar. Since then, the band’s replaced vocalist Mat McNerny I (now of Graffve Pleasures and Hexvessel) with Wacian, an accomplished crooner in his own right, and with that change came a pair of increasingly mellow almost Leprous-ish albums. Flyblown Prince, though, returns the band to its more menacing roots without downplaying Wacian as a singer. His paranoid bellowing counters Aort’s orthodox arpeggios and violent cross-string slashing on “By the Charred Stile”, a song that shows the breadth of contemporary black metal as a genre in less than five minutes. Meanwhile, “Rat King” might just be their most bombastic song to date. More than a welcome return to form, Flyblown Prince is a must-listen to those looking for extreme metal’s queasy, cutting edge. Buy it on Bandcamp.—Joseph Schafer
Pharaoh – The Powers That Be
This one’s been a long time coming. Pennsylvania progressive power metallers Pharoah last graced record store shelves in February 2012, and they’ve crafted a likely album of the year in their long pause. Of course, the band’s pedigree all but promises excellence — drummer and vocalist “Professor” Chris Black is a prodigious songwriter and legend in his own right as the man behind pop-metal optimists High Spirits and dearly-departed darkness peddlers Dawnbringer. Bassist Chris Kerns and guitarist Matt Johnson both collaborated with Black in other projects. Behind the mic stands Tim Aymar, former vocalist for Control Denied, the traditional metal project once led by Death mastermind Chuck Schuldiner. To augment Pharoah’s attack, The Powers That Be features guest slots from acclaimed soloist Jim Dofka as well as Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain of Voivod. But even that murderer’s row of musicians isn’t preparation enough for the indelible hooks of the title track and alte-album standout “Dying Sun”. This is the kind of album Mining Metal was made for. Buy it on Bandcamp.—Joseph Schafer
Siderean – Lost on Void’s Horizon
I’ve written it in this column before but will do so again: technical thrash is having a year — see previous entries on Terminalist and Paranorm for proof. Slovenia’s Siderean step into the ring with a decidedly more eldritch approach on their debut album, Lost on Void’s Horizon. Gauzy and cavernous, their take on tech death owes at least as much to Grave Miasma and Blood Incantation as it does to Exodus’ Bonded by Blood. In fact, were it not for their previous ten year history as Teleport, the thrash connection might not be so readily apparent. Normally, I dislike this style of production. Weird EQ levels or “cavernous” audio aesthetics tend to have me reaching for the stop button at warp speed (no Portal for me!). However, Siderean make it work, thanks in no small part to the propulsive spine that remains in their music from the Teleport days. The real highlight here, though, are the guitar leads. Penetrating and potent, the solos that Matija Dolinar and David Kocmur have crafted here cut through the gloom and add brilliant highlights to an otherwise shadowy suite. I’ve listened to Lost on Void’s Horizon multiple times just to get another taste of their shredding. Buy it on Bandcamp.—Joseph Schafer
Witch Cross – Angel of Death
It’s always a treat when these hesher deepcut groups not only come back but return to us this strong. For the uninitiated, Witch Cross is a Danish traditional heavy metal band dating back to the same scene that gave us the earliest material of Mercyful Fate. Witch Cross both then and now are a bit cleaner than their contemporaries, presaging later developments in power metal, and here show that same polished clean power we associate with the more bright and loud end of traditional heavy metal. Angel of Death, however, is still at heart a metal record by one of the early practitioners and, as such, roughness abounds in that charming and quintessential heavy metal sense; these are not destined to conquer radio waves but instead to satisfy the leather-clad faithful. Heavy metal is an eternity. Buy it from High Roller Records.— Langdon Hickman
Witch Vomit – Abhorrent Rapture
There’s something so fulfilling about full-dynamic range death metal. Witch Vomit’s surprise EP feels like it engulfs and surrounds you, a fleshed-out soundfield for melting the flesh from your bones. There is no reinventing the wheel here; Witch Vomit are clear worshippers at the rotten altar of death metal’s storied histories and forms, and rather than wasting time faking an innovation some more obscure band did years ago instead cut to the chase and give four meaty, near perfectly written songs. Everything is here, from chainsaw riffs that bore through you like vicious hateful worms, gruesome atmospherics, and solos that would make Azagthoth weep Satanic slime and acid. This is precisely the shape of what death metal should be: gross, weird, violent. Buy it on Bandcamp.— Langdon Hickman