Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AMERICAN AFTERMATH: Grim Kim Kelly’s Top 10 Demos Of 2011

Original post (with song streams/Youtube videos) - http://americanaftermath.net/2011/12/20/grim-kim-kellys-top-10-demos-of-2011/#more-8562

Hello, American Aftermath. My name is Kim Kelly (or Grim Kim, if you insist). I suppose I’m something of a guest writer (party-crasher, more like) as Ross asked me to contribute something to the site’s year-end roundup. After procrastinating mightily, I presented him with this haphazard list of my favorite 2011 demos (and almost demos). I had to turn off Demoncy to revisit a couple of these babies, so you’d better fucking appreciate it.

Get a load of Kim on Twitter and her personal blog (which you are currently on - Ed).

Lycus – Demo MMXI
This wondrous slab of atmospheric funeral doom is quite simply the best demo recording of the year, if not the best album outright. It’s unbelievable that this is an initial offering – the complexity, maturity, and crushing, heaving emotions encapsulated within these three compositions is nothing short of breathtaking. These forgotten sons of Samothrace, distant cousins of Anhedonist, purebred descendents of Asunder…trust me, you’ll be hearing a lot about Lycus in the coming months (especially after The Flenser entomb this masterpiece in wax come the new year).

Bell Witch – self-titled
Bell Witch move at the slow, measured pace of an elegant funeral party, trudging along beside the pallbearers’ shining black leather shoes and picking their way, carefully, through the weeds. Droning, despondent, deceptively simple, and steeped in desperate pathos, this recording transcends the world of mere doom. The two minds behind is have also spent time in Samothrace and Lethe, which should tell you something.

Niantiel – Cavern of the Skeletal Spirits
Surreal, dissonant black metal thrown up from the void. Though Negative Plane’s psyched-out mindfuckery may be a good reference point for this Virginian horde, the sound they’ve created on this three-track demo is truly unique. Ominous, chiming chords, howling vocals, unsettling atmosphere, the stains of occult ritual…

One Tail One Head – Tandava
This is technically an EP, but the recording quality is subterranean enough to land it a place amongst the demo-level masses. OTOH feature members of Celestial Bloodshed, Behexen, and Mare, but this is no mere “supergroup” – this is pure fucking holocaust. Primitive in execution, slavish in its devotion to the old ways, and gloriously raw, Tandava is a chaotic hellstorm of Norwegian black metal vengeance – and a damn enjoyable listen, if you have the stomach for it.

Pilgrim – Forsaken Man
Without contest, Pilgrim are one of the most exciting new true doom bands to emerge from North American shores in ages, and Jon Rossi’s voice is the closest thing to a national treasure to which American doom has lain claim since Wino first picked up a mic. In short, this band is a perfect example of epic, traditional doom metal (it’s no wonder Metal Blade have signed on for their debut LP), and their debut offering makes it all to clear that Pilgrim have only begun their slow, certain rise to the top.

House of Atreus – Demo I
Melodic death metal isn’t all Gothenburg trills or wimpy American metalcore leanings. “Melody” does not have to be a slur; rather, in the case of some, it is a deadly weapon. House of Atreus wield their harmonic tendencies like a scythe, slicing through the thick, galloping death metal riffs that make up the bulk of this release and leaving fresh, oozing scars. Arghoslent are an obvious reference point, but this Greek horde are clearly well-acquainted with their countrymen Varathron as well. This is fucking fantastic.
listen here.

It’s impossible to tell who created these recordings; Rhinocervs are a shadowy collective, affiliated with the Black Twilight Circle and responsible for releases by Glossolalia, Odz Manouk, etc. Their two 2011 demos are exercises in primal fury – lo-fi, raging slabs of total misanthropic hate in the guise of cold, driving black metal. Oh, and all their songs are untitled, because fuck you. Good luck Googling ‘em, nerds.

So a cadre of Brooklyn’s crustiest death metal dudes got together and formed a band, and, big surprise, it RIPS! Trenchgrinder feature past and current members of hometown homies Attake and Mutant Supremacy with artist Owen Rundquist manning the mic with his savage, shrapnel-coated roar. Bolt Thrower-worshipping riffs, breakneck d-beat machinegun blasts, punk as fuck speed, devilishly murky tones – it doesn’t get much better than this.

Mutilation Rites
NYC’s hardest touring, hardest-hitting black metal band may have hit the bigger leagues (‘sup Prosthetic) but they truly fucking earned it, by playing hundreds of shows, self-releasing a string of solid releases & splits, and spitting out some of the meanest, truest extreme music this city has to offer. Inhumanely intense and ice fucking cold, Mutilation Rites channel Mayhem at their best and Enslaved at their blackest, drawing down the moon onto a craggy base of crusty punk fervor. Their latest demo is yet another triumph of evil.

Doomslaughter – Downfall Progenitor
Bestial Belorussian extremity. An unholy amalgamation of black, death, and thrash metal, leaning towards the cult of death but even throwing in a few moments of certain doom before bringing the hammer of antichrist down – Doomslaughter fucking rule, and Iron Bonehead are releasing their next effort, so you know it’s good. I can’t stop listening to this.

Bonus Round:
This band doesn’t actually have a demo recorded yet, but the handful of songs they’ve posted so far have captured my heart, and the world needs to take notice of this newest addition to the NZ hordes. Behold, SABBATIC GOAT:
listen here

METAL INJECTION: Grim Kim's Top Ten Releases of 2011 That You've Never Heard Of

Original post: http://www.metalinjection.net/lists/best-of-2011/grim-kims-top-ten-releases-of-2011-that-youve-never-heard-of

Every year, Rob asks me to contribute a year-end list to this fine establishment, and every year, I harsh everyone’s buzz by submitting the most putrid, willfully esoteric hodgepodge of sonic brutality I can conjure up. The following list spotlights some of the best underground releases of 2011; it’s been a good year for metal, and this is only a taste of what’s out there. There’s more to life than Mastodon (or even Leviathan). Come, my fanatics. Enter the eternal fire.

Ensorcelor – Crucifuge
(Media Tree Recordings) – This Quebecois horde’s first full-length album is one of the most perfectly-crafted releases of the past five years, and it’s a wretched shame that it has been allowed to fester in relative obscurity. A sinuous creation of ash and bone, dark and light, Crucifuge is a black metal record at heart, merged with a sludgy temperament and some of funeral doom’s more harrowing hallmarks – crawling pace, shivering tension between riffs and chords, coarse, cavernous vocals. However, Ensorcelor allow so much interplay between the spacious passages, the slow, resolute tempo, and the washes of ambiance, bathes them in cold, desolate atmosphere, and cloaks it all in a muted production effort, draped it across the recording like wispy strands of dying Spanish moss, that this monument of filth becomes something close to beauty.

Void Meditation Cult – Sulfurous Prayers
(Hell’s Headbangers) – Harrowing, hateful, and primitive, three songs of blasphemous black/death supremacy make up Void Meditation Cult’s virgin offering. Murderously slow and graced with some of the most bilious, guttural invocations this side of Wormphlegm, ‘Sulfurous Prayers’ was torn from the crypt and dragged straight down to hell. Highly, highly recommended.

Blasphemophagher – The III Command of Absolute Chaos
(Nuclear War Now!) – The third full-length from Italy’s finest apocalyptic war command is an unrelenting slab of bestial black/death, swathed in layers upon layers of distortion. Hellishly fast, lo-fi, and thick as blood, Blasphemophagher show no mercy, hammering out Blasphemy-baiting odes to nuclear hell and radioactive carnage in an orgy of violence. UGH!

Lycus – Demo 2011
(Graceless Recordings) Originally formed in 2008, lain to rest, and now, with this year’s demo, resurrected in despair, California’s Lycus are a welcome addition to the doomed pantheon. Mournful, weighty funeral doom in the vein of genre titans Skepticism and Worship and peers Loss; elegant in its despondency, achingly beautiful in its sorrow. Doomed forever, forever doomed.

Dolorvotre – Dolorvotre
(Crepusculo Negro) – The shadowy collective of musicians known as the Black Twilight Circle have unleashed a slew of demos and collaborations over the past few years, but few have stood out as brightly as Dolorvotre, who build upon the so-primitive-it’s-almost-punk black metal template lain down by brothers in arms Volahn, Ashdautas, Blue Hummingbird on the Left, et al, but dose their seemingly simplistic melodies with swirls of psychedelia and haunt their chainsaw riffs with hallucinogenic nightmares. Murky, claustrophobic, and bleeding raw, Dolorvotre are not meant for everyone – the sub-demo recording quality will cause many to shy away, but those who dare will not regret their foray into this subterranean cell.

Bestial Raids - Prime Evil Damnation
(Nuclear War Now!) – This album is fucking barbaric. Prime Evil Damnation is the second LP from this Polish cult, and sees them marching leaps and bounds ahead of their previous efforts. Submerged in filth and impenetrable darkness, constructed from an unholy meeting of black and death, and rife with Satanic hate, Prime Evil Damnation is intensity personified, a swirling void of chaos and menace augmented by vicious backing vocals from Vaz and Impurath of the immortal Black Witchery. Buy or die.

Oskoreien – Oskoreien
This one-man entity creates epic, nature-inspired atmospheric black metal in the vein of Altar of Plagues, Panopticon, Falls of Rauros, Agalloch, but still stands alone. Oskoreien immediately brings to mind the triumphant feel of Bathory’s Hammerheart, filtered through the sweet air and crystalline waters of the great Northwest and imbued with ancient wisdom. Gorgeous expanses of fragile post-rock mix gently with the harshness and purpose of the album’s more blackened passages, songs ebb and flow like waves at sunset, and it’s far too easy to lose yourself amongst the waves.

Ritual Necromancy – Oath of the Abyss
(Dark Descent) – Truly disgusting, stifling, churning, atonal death metal, torn from the pages of John McEntee’s songbook and flung into the cavernous depths that spat out like-minded Incantation-spawn Antediluvian, Cemetery Urn, Disma, Portal, et al. Ritual Necromancy practice ancient, occult death worship, smeared with black vomit and with tendons cut to slow them to a wretched crawl. They are not reinventing any wheels or breaking down barriers, but in this world, regression trumps progression. Hail infernal death.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – Blood Lust
All roads lead to Black Sabbath. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats decided to take their pilgrimage early, trawling the paisley-clad, riff-worshipping, occult-laced , bluesy oozing confusion of seventies acid rock and late sixties witch rock on their way back to Birmingham. When Jinx Dawson dances with the Devil, Uncle Acid’s there running Ol’ Scratch’s fiddle through a Big Muff. When Iommi strummed his way through that inimitable Sabbath boogie, he was there again to filter it all through 666 layers of smoke and mirrors. When Electric Wizard climb up onto their dopethrones to sleep off the druglust, Uncle Acid is there to unplug their amps, mellow their buzz, and pack the bowl. Blood Lust is hazy, fuzzed-put, bad trip psychedelic doomed stoner rock from a trio of depraved acid casualties with Satan on their side. Tune in, tune down, drop out of life with bong in hand.

Botanist – I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose from the Dead
(tUMULt) – You have never heard anything like this before. Not simply because it’s a bit more on the obscure side, but because there is nothing on this dying planet that sounds like Botanist. The words “experimental” and “progressive” get thrown around willy-nilly by any band who’s ever owned a Yes record, but how many of them have composed a double-album suite played entirely on hammered dulcimer, accompanied by various percussion and one inhumanly twisted voice? That’s what I thought. The idea behind Botanist is rooted in ecological awareness and a deep love of the natural world; the Botanist himself professes a desire to see “ the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.” As for the music? It’s gloriously weird, saturated with otherwordly tones and startling transitions, both ambient and jarring, intriguing and alienating, harsh yet lush. Black metal’s misanthropic core and trademark nihilistic croak anchor it all in place, but that’s where the similarities between this and metal as we know it end abruptly. Enter the Verdant Realm – but don’t stray too far from the path, lest you never return.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Excuse the rant, but: unless it’s a favor for friends/allies or a publication I genuinely adore (or a guest column of some kind), I will not work for free. I am an internationally published writer with PLENTY of credentials who has been doing this for almost a decade. Would you ask a plumber to fix your drain pro bono, or a painter to simply give away his canvases? No? Then don’t expect the same from me.

It’s like booking a gig. If you want people to come out and have a good time, you book a decent band, offer them a guarantee, and give them some free drinks to keep them happy - they’ll put on a great performance, you’ll clean up at the bar, everyone wins. If you just want to fill in room space, book a shitty local band, have them play for free (and sell tickets, “for exposure”) and then act all puzzled when no one comes.

This is not to belittle or denigrate bloggers or journos who work for free, or to demonize non-paying publications, at all. Working for free and providing quality material are not mutually exclusive concepts - I’ve been doing both for years, and so many many, many others. Doing something for the pure love of it is a beautiful thing. Being compensated for hours of hard work and years of dues-paying is also a beautiful thing.

This is simply something I wanted to say.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Top Records of 2011: Metalsucks Edition

I'm doing a million versions of my supposed "year-end list" because 1. I hate narrowing things down, 2. I want to bring attention to as many of the releases I enjoyed this year as is within my power to do, and 3. people keep asking me. Already turned in my lists for the Terrorizer and Invisible Oranges polls, agreed to do listy lists for Metal Injection, Brooklyn Vegan, Cvlt Nation, and American Aftermath, and just had my Metalsucks one posted today. Here's that (and my goofy face) - also bear in mind, the order is purely arbitrary. I adore all of these releases equally, just had to skim 15 off the very top.

When I was first making this list, I had a hard time thinking of that many new albums I’d actually listened to in 2011. But once I actually got home and went through my iTunes/most recent pile of vinyl scores/the mid-year list I wrote, I realized that it’s actually been a damn good year. A few early favorites were supplanted by more recent discoveries and sneaky year-end releases (sorry, Aksumite; hello, Wrathprayer!). Two of my enduring picks came courtesy of the always-excellent Gilead Media, who could use a hand right now and richly deserve your support.

Most of the albums I really loved fall beneath the “black metal” umbrella (11/15), but there are a couple monuments of death and a few doomed souls thrown in there as well. Hell, I would have just written down Beherit’s Live at the Devil’s Studio 1990 fifteen times if I thought I could get away with it.

So, here’s my list! I decided to leave the descriptions a bit vague this year to pique curiosity and inspire further exploration. Spoiler alert: Opeth’s not on it, and I still think that Burzum re-recording was a terrible idea. No, I’m still not sold on the Sonne Adam record (Armed with Hammers was better, and the production on Transformation was far too clean), and if you’re going to leave pouty comments saying that “I’ve never heard of any of these bands, jeez!”, I recommend you direct your browser to Metal Archives and start typing.

15. Reveal, Nocturne of Eyes and Teeth (High Roller) – Eerie, horror-obsessed, lo-fi, classic ‘80s-styled black/thrash.

14. Corrupted, Garten der Unbewussthelt (Nostalgia Blackrain) – Enigmatic, atmospheric, slow-burning, beautiful doom.

13. Blasphemophagher, The III Command of the Absolute Chaos (Nuclear War Now! Productions) – Primitive, bestial, unrelenting black/death metal.

12. Absu, Abzu (Candlelight) – Complex, aggressive, thrashy, immensely satisfying mythological occult black metal.

11. Inquisition, Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Hell’s Headbangers) – Inimitable, memorable, savage, melodically-inclined old-school black metal.

10. Barghest, Barghest (Gilead Media/Big Mountain) – Cold, hateful, Second Wave-inspired black metal.

9. Wrathprayer, The Sun of Moloch: The Sublimation of Sulphur’s Essence Which Spawns Death and Life (Nuclear War Now! Productions) – Ritualized, chaotic, warmongering, bestial black/death.

8. Void Meditation Cult, Sulfurous Prayers demo (Hell’s Headbangers) – Menacing, sepulchral, esoteric, crawling black/death/doom metal.

7. Altar of Plagues, Mammal (Profound Lore/Candlelight) – Gorgeous, expansive, windswept, post-everything black metal.

6. Necros Christos, Doom ov the Occvlt (Sepulchral Voice/Van/AJNA Offensive) – Crushing, atmospheric, mid-paced, uber-occult 90’s-style death metal.

5. Wreck of the Hesperus, Light Rotting Out (Aesthetic Death) – Filthy, desperate, bludgeoning, funereal death/doom.

4. Negative Plane,Stained Glass Revelations (AJNA Offensive/Invictus Productions) – Warped, ingenious, experimental, otherwordly black metal.

3. 40 Watt Sun, The Inside Room (Cyclone Empire/Metal Blade) – Aching, fragile, emotionally heavy, Warning-esque doom.

2. Ash Borer, Ash Borer (Psychic Violence) – Entrancing, atmospheric, mercilessly aggressive Cascadian black metal.

1. Bosse de Nage, II (The Flenser) – Twisted, addictive, depraved, obscure black metal.

(Dis)honorable mentions (LPs):

False, False (Gilead Media) – Vicious, dynamic, innovative, schizophrenic black metal.
The Wounded Kings, In the Chapel of the Black Hand (I Hate)
Amebix, Sonic Mass (Easy Action)
The Atlas Moth, An Ache for the Distance (Profound Lore)
Wolvhammer, The Obsidian Plains (Profound Lore)
Antediluvian, Through the Cervix of Hawwah (Profound Lore)
Falls of Rauros, The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood (Bindrune)

(Dis)honorable mentions (EPs/splits/demos):

Cruciamentum/Vasaeleth split 7”, Eroding Chaos Unto Ascendant Flesh
Batillus/Mutilation Rites split 7” (Shinebox)
Pilgrim, Forsaken Man demo (self-released)
Bell Witch, Bell Witch demo (self-released)
One Tail One Head, Tandava EP (Terratur Possessions)
Niantiel, Cavern of the Skeletal Spirits demo (self-released)