Welcome to Crack’s monthly round-up of extreme music

Make no mistake, the fringes of music are closing in on you. A world preoccupied by weighty, formless experiments, corpse painted theatrics and palm-muted misery is now but a click away. Those record sleeves decked with unreadable logos – the ones formerly only available in specialist shops in grimy small town malls – are now yours for the taking.

In the last few years the heaviest, most difficult artists committing their work to tape have been able to find an audience with relative ease. Sure, the audiences might not be huge but they’re always fiercely devoted. It’s a beautiful mystery. What seems totally absurd to one listener completely absorbs another. Those who are absorbed? They’re in it for life.

Grindcore, black metal, death metal, power electronics – call it what you like – each month we’re rounding up the best extreme music we can find on the internet and feeding it back to you.

Marsh Dweller - The Weight of Sunlight

Elhwaz Recordings

It would be pretty strenuous to critique John Owen Kerr’s Marsh Dweller debut without referencing Austin Lunn’s Panopticon project. Removed from their respective solo works, the pair are occasionally partnered together for Louisville’s folk doom outfit, Seidr. Separately, their compositions travel down analogous currents of black metal multi-instrumentation, aesthetically rooted to nature and earth’s organic power.

Yet, while similarities between these colleagues are indisputable, their sonic resemblance is rather tenuous. Where Panopticon opts to submerge his arrangements with treble-bound ambient shrills, Marsh Dweller consolidates momentary bursts of blast beat with a more riff-centric nod to traditional heavy metal. The only obstacle Kerr is currently grappling to overcome is matching (or outshining) the prominence of his fellow Seidr cohort. And while guest spots from members of the likes of Nechochwen and Obsequiae fatten this release’s integrity, The Weight of Sunlight may have been delivered a few years’ too late to emerge unscathed by the mothership shadow cast by Panopticon et al. Nevertheless, this debut deserves to be pulled from the saturated murk of its genre and embrace the true light of day.

Vukari - DIVINATION

Bindrune Recordings

Traversing the contentious planes of ‘atmospheric’ black metal, Chicago Illinois’ Vukari return with their third full-length and first record since their marriage to Bindrune. Here, the production standards have been lightly glazed yet possess a kindred likening to their prior releases. What is undeniably distinct with DIVINATION, however, is the four-piece’s maturation in song construction. Their assemblage of scabrous vocals, Satyricon-esque blast beats, and prototypical tremolo work is neatly built on the periphery of melodic, free reigning ambience. Spenser Morris’ bass lines are particularly noteworthy thanks to the adept mastering skills of sound engineer, Justin Weis. And instead of overburdening these tracks with dispensable lead lines or electronics, the group hone in on singular themes and germinate around them. DIVINATION associates itself with a special sect of black metal; one that forcibly shakes the genre’s curmudgeons, willing them to shed what is left of their traditionalist posturing and accept that the form is evolving. Certainly, Vukari are set to be one of these acts championing this generational progression.

Forgotten Spell - Epiphaneia Phosphorous (Angel, God or Insanity)

Self-Released/ Psychedelic Lotus Order

Solitude takes years to perfect. Isolation from civilisation, for the most part, is an unhealthy practice in social renunciation. But Germany’s Angra Malakh has not only seized upon his hermetic nature, but thrived from it. As Forgotten Spell, Malakh has dejected the digital age and, sans a handful of tape releases distributed by the now defunct label Parasyte Curse, has never committed to constructing any kind of official full length document of his art over the course of the past fifteen years. Yet this clandestine work ethic has done nothing but legitimised the soloist’s mysticism and allure. Epiphaneia Phosphorous is essentially a capsulising of Malakh’s legacy. It’s a polyphonic celebration of Germanic black metal in its purest state. Malakh’s vocal modulations are consumed by something plainly diabolical. Something genuinely frightening. Guitars trip in and out of time. Percussion just ruffles endlessly without any direction. It’s a harum-scarum record and the most candid example of conventional black metal currently available.

Ringworm - Snake Church

Relapse Records

This is another face-slapping reminder that crossover acts don’t just work but have the capacity to convert the sniffiest of metal sticklers. Cleveland’s Ringworm have spent the past couple of years dismantling their blue-collared hardcore heritage and reconditioning it with the grit and gravel of Motörhead-impregnated metal. Snake Church, their eighth full-length album is a short (finishing just post 30 minutes in length) “testament of vicious aggression,” or so the group claim. And over twelve fleeting tracks this testament, albeit a rather orthodox direction for Ringworm records, this aggression is undeniably tangible. Mastering from Nails (RIP?) and Xibalba go-to producer, Brad Boatright gives Snake Church a discipline otherwise lost in the band’s A389 worthy, battering offensive. So while this record isn’t exactly trailblazing, it’s an absolute thrashing of metallic, tooth-loosening beatdown and riff crippling d-beat.

NAG - S/T

Fysik Format

“Time to get off the couch and start a punk band,” NAG, a Norwegian crust metal three-piece emphasise on their Bandcamp page. They’re a scratchy, rowdy, wayward threesome with the intent to galvanise their audiences. Their debut self-titled is to be released early September and if these four preview tracks are anything to go by, it’s set to be a robust concoction of mosh-pocketed punk with canonical salutes to classic black metal. From the outset, NAG are presenting themselves as Norway’s despondent loudmouths with a clearcut desire to forge a wretchedly fruitful career.

VRTRA - My Bones Hold a Stillness

Sentient Ruin Laboratories

A great rush of attention has been bestowed upon VRTRA in recent months on the buildup to the release of this three-track 31 minute long EP. And what the Bay Area by Sacramento outfit appear to have attain over this short-lived time is a resonant merging of doom and atmospheric black metal suffocated by the group’s impenetrable authenticity. “Devoid of all strength, just as in life, a shrivelling body wastes thanklessly away and will never rise again,” read the lyrics to opener, Perpetually Hag Ridden, “Paralysed and mute like a botched lethal injection, helpless, I’m pathetic.” Poetic melodrama on this scale is so rhapsodic, so operatic, so bizarrely romantic that VRTRA’s potential seems boundless, almost bigger than what their current reputation surmounts to. The self-released version of My Bones Hold a Stillness’ tape pressing (limited to 50 copies) has already sold out while Sentient Ruin Laboratories takes the responsibility for a more widespread distribution. Come September 2, VRTRA’s reign will begin.

Malevich - Only The Flies

Star Rat Records / Murder On Ponce

Malevich are from Atlanta, Georgia and unashamedly so. For Malevich’s hysterical, indisposed, acerbic sludge-grind-hardcore-metal clutter thunders like the shuddering axel of a Georgian pickup tearing through The Peach State. In the 60’s, ATL’s own Martin Luther King Jr. adopted the slogan ‘The City Too Busy To Hate.’ With Only The Flies, it seems Malevich are too busy hating to think otherwise. A holy mess of a record.

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