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.
Sumerlands - SumerlandsRelapse Records
Revivalism is a rather duplicitous tool to wield in heavy metal. For an act to adorn the thorny ‘throwback’ crown is to curmudgeonly accentuate that the past was just more pioneering than the present. Innovation is spared for straight laced replication where the scene’s ascendants become today’s master of puppets. Yet in a curious turn of the tides, it’s America’s new throng of metal classicists that are not parroting the sounds forged by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of the late 70s, but instead uprooting its origin and nurturing it back to life overseas. Diamond Head, Judas Priest, Angel Witch, and so on; the UK’s episodic binge of style and talent laid the foundations for its darker descendants. But it’s taking acts such as Philadelphia’s Sumerlands to play foreman on these ground works, ensuring that if there is to be an insurgence of NWoBHM revivalism, it’s going to be legit.
It’s also going to be American.
Vocalist Phil Swanson has previously sung with Atlantean Kodex and Hour of 13, providing that Ozzy-esque warble sans the Brummy twang. Production from guitarist Arthur Rizk (Inquisition, Power Trip, Pissgrave) is sharper than a hosing of dry ice. This debut is both creatively and technically dexterous, fuelled by riffs that carry a Yankee swagger. It’s tortuously clever and far removed from the throws of snorey metal atavism. Traditionalist naysayers, think again.
Black Tomb - Black TombSelf-released
Doom-by-Candlemass from New England. Judging from their online presence, this group have only been musically active within the past month. Yet having already broken the 1000 plays mark on respective streaming platforms, securing a cassette distribution deal with Colorado’s Graven Earth Records and Indonesia’s Hellas Records, and recently having to place a larger order after selling out of merch, Black Tomb’s shining reputation is preceding their embryonic lineage.
This is by no means a shocking revelation considering the shin splinting, Electric Wizard wrestling weight of their debut; eight fuzz blown ruptures of glassy screams, adept percussion and hella noise. Perfectly archetypal artwork too.
Svrm - При смертиSelf-released
Ukraine’s perpetually untouchable track record with black metal seems to keep rolling year after year. There’s always this intangible air of gross dysphoria in its sound. The self-destructive feeling of mortal grief you get when you realise all optimism is replaced by an impenetrable cynicism towards the human race. It’s cold. Unfathomably so. Svrm perfect this. Having released their debut, 7, last year, very little is known of the outfit. Here, the artist(s) remain faceless, nameless, and hopelessly dismal.
Production standards for При смерти are slightly clearer than last year’s record, yet their nefarious stitching on harsh guitars and dissonant ambience remains. And rather than committing solely to black metal’s familiar tropes, Svrm exhibit an uncanny effortlessness with disparate time-signatures and left field refrains. Over two single tracks, Svrm defy boundaries.
Log Driver - Extinction is ForeverSelf-released
‘Deforestation-core’ claim Log Driver in their self-description. Sickeningly quirky. Yet the irony of this repugnant tagging stands that the Mansfield, Connecticut group keep the subject matter of widespread deforestation and low impact forestry directly at their core. Consisting of brothers Matt Kaminsky on drums and Dave Kaminsky on guitars, bass and vocals, the duo’s project concentrates on recurring lyrical themes of burning to a cinder, the defiling of Mother Nature and the impending extinction of the human race in the wake of uprooting earth’s final traces of woodland. ‘When the last tree falls, do you listen, to the thunderous wail, against the grain of the dead,’ hails guest vocalist Brendan James Hayter during Extinction Is Forever, a combative splurging of grind and black metal. Pretty harrowing stuff. Structurally arresting, lyrically consuming; a consciously solid effort here.
SubRosa - For This We Fought The Battle Of AgesProfound Lore
Yevgeny Zamyatin’s landmark of Soviet literature, 1924’s We, is an opus of grand utopian idealism. Built in a Panopticon-like dystopia, its mathematical symbolism, prototypical postmodernism and commentary on the moral industrialisation of a society’s inhabitants was all but too radical for the time of its first publication. Parochial and literal references to weapons of mass destruction and the omnipresence of a ‘secret police’ in what is portrayed to be some kind of mandala universe resonated with a West-wary Russia, who subsequently banned the book until 1988 due to official censorship. It pre-dated Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 by two decades and is as chillingly topical today as it was almost a century ago.
As over decorated this arc may be, SubRosa utilise We‘s literary finesse and weave together their finest concept record to date. Coalescing doom with inferences of neo-folk and traditional chamber music, the group prove here that by concentrating on elaborate scholarly motifs doesn’t mean sacrificing accessibility. …The Battle Of Ages is a patient, meditative listen based around a novelistic vernacular that not only suits their liturgical sonics but intensifies the listening experience. Doom rarely breaks through the glass ceiling as directly as SubRosa have with this release.
Myrkur - Mausoleum EPRelapse Records
From its inception, Denmark’s Myrkur has been branded as a polemical act. Birthed by Amalie Bruun, Myrkur’s debut, M, was released just under a year ago to both critical acclaim and unwarranted boohooing from tropes of reactionary misanthropes who like to refer to themselves as ‘purists’.
Somewhere down the line M‘s blacker-than-onyx black metal was wrongfully perceived as too gimmicky, too paint-by-numbers, too dependent on the record’s guest-features (Teloch of Mayhem, Chris Amott from Arch Enemy and Kristoffer ‘Garm’ Rygg from Ulver all contributed to the recordings). ‘Painfully bland,’ one critic wrote. Literally nothing can prepare Bruun’s detractors for Mausoleum. This EP is a live recording from the Emmanuel Vigeland Mausoleum; a darkened shrine depicting the Rise and Fall of Man. M’s staggered blast beats and ruinous screams have been replaced by piano, acoustic guitar and the Norwegian Girls Choir. Mausoleum extracts the shreds of beauty from M‘s repulsive mess and garnishes them with dulcet choral sopranos. This isn’t audibly ballistic, but what it lacks in distortion it makes up for in guttural emotion. Undeniably heavy and kvlt as fvck.
Balance Interruption - Door 218Satanath Records
Another trip to Ukraine only this time with less of the blackened bleakness we’re accustomed to and more of a capricious journey treading through techy grind, industrial-tinted sax solos and software-assisted track segues. Suicidealer is the only track currently available to listen to off of Balance Interruption’s third LP, Door 218, set for release at the tail end of this month on Russia’s revelatory Satanath Records. It’s bold, inscrutable and genuinely just really weird. As Door 218‘s taster, Suicidealer is unfathomably moreish.