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Mining Metal: Bedsore, Defeated Sanity, Drouth, EMBR, Havukruunu, Maggot Heart, Rebel Wizard, and Skeleton

on July 30, 2020, 2:33pm

“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.

Metalheads, permit me a brief digression into hip-hop fandom: Do you remember that last year rapper extraordinaire Megan Thee Stallion declared these months Hot Girl Summer? I sure do.

In contrast, this year feels more like the Hot Seat Summer, with not much to look forward to besides an endless stream of anxiety-inducing news articles chronicling dire political and social climes, and not much anyone can do about it though there’s a constant fire under our butts to at least try to do something — anything.

There’s not much that we can do in this column besides curate the finest that underground metal has to offer for your inspiration and edification. But even in that task there is something that we can do: make some promises.

From the start, we envisioned Mining Metal as a column that would outright ignore any acts with fascist or racist overtones, and instead promote records and artists which we ourselves would not hesitate to support monetarily. I want to take this moment to re-affirm that commitment in public. We will never knowingly serve up any music that explicitly or implicitly supports oppression. Mining Metal should be a place where conscientious music lovers can feel at ease, and we promise to do our very best to keep it that way.

That said, we’ve got eight picks today that will absolutely crush you: one of the world’s finest slam bands returning alongside a triumphant Finnish black metal entry, plus debuts from some of the most ferocious young bands on earth. Fans of clean singing can look to Maggot heart but won’t find much comfort in their urban decay, either. In spite of the headlines, it is once again Hot Riff Summer. – Joseph Schafer

Bedsore – Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Italian death metal’s a strange beast: the country’s mainstream output is dominated by bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hour of Penance, who deal in opulent, technical and hyper-blasting tunes fit for the pit and sleeker than hell. Bedsore is different, drawing more from death metal’s syrupy and progressive lineages – think The Chasm, or especially, Opeth. Longtime readers of this column know that I don’t compare anything to Opeth lightly – that band’s sound is so conic and inscrutable that no straightforward imitation has ever nailed it. Bedsore approach progressive death metal from the side, eschewing clean guitar and singing passages for lush vintage synthesizer accompaniment drawn straight from the proggy slasher film soundtracks of their forebears in Goblin. The result is a modern fever dream of obtuse soundscapes, a thick fog hiding seductive monsters within its effervescent coils. Buy it from Bandcamp. – Joseph Schafer

Defeated Sanity – The Sanguinary Impetus

A common complaint of certain wings of death metal is that they can sometimes lose the plot in their pursuit of the various colors of the rainbow. Not so with Defeated Sanity; for 20 years now, they’ve sat in the dead center of the genre, being an undeniably modern death metal band even as the tides of taste have shifted around them. The Sanguinary Impetus outlines, however, what makes them so special. While they sit in the center, like an octopus or some tentacular Lovecraftian horror, they have tendrils in seemingly every sector of the desolate spaces of death metal. One moment will bring a high-minded prog passage before descending into guttural bestial brutality. They’re a band as likely to beat you down with progressively slower, heavier death metal breakdowns as they are to give you a ravenous burst of Suffocation-style tech death. All hail death metal. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman

Drouth – Excerpts from a Dread Liturgy

Black metal has a sordid history and America’s wing of the genre is no different. The rub is, frequently repugnant bands with regressive politics or abusive members deliver on great songwriting, whereas the genre’s left wing spend too much time on politics or Twitter and too little on songcraft. Drouth are the rare exception, a guilt-free band that still channels the razor-wire bite that Darkthrone did so well. Founding members Matt Sticker (guitar) and Patrick Fiorentino (drums) spent three years crafting their sophomore LP, Excerpts from a Dread Liturgy, and in so doing shed their second guitar and bass slots. Even with half of the band replaced, Drouth reign down fury, this time with more nuance and sophistication. Their sophomore album, focuses on elongated song structures, each nearing the ten minute mark, and trades some of the saturated tones of their earlier work for more airy and atmospheric aesthetics. Double-bladed riffs still lie waiting like spring-loaded booby traps for those with the patience to trespass into Drouth’s menacing woodland. Who says the good guys can’t be bad ass? Buy it from Bandcamp. – Joseph Schafer

EMBR – 1823

On paper, EMBR land somewhere between Pallbearer and Elder, having a similar gargantuan cinematic scope to the fullness of their doom metal while living in similar melodically-driven psychedelic spaces. However, unlike those peers, EMBR’s songs tend toward the shorter side, with the longest still clocking in at just under 7 minutes. Their sense of spaciousness, however, isn’t compromised; if anything, these truncated runtimes force them to produce an approach to doom that is more eventful and immediately dynamically rich than those who prefer to sit on the same roaring fuzzed out chord for half-hour spans. The approach to vocals skews even further from the typical, harsh vocals a rarity and a melodic approach that feels often more akin to alternative rock than the occasionally limited vocal approaches we can see in this genre. If you’ve been looking for a hybrid between Royal Thunder and Windhand, EMBR’s debut has you covered. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman

Havukruunu – Uinuos Syömein Sota

One of the benefits of music across the language barrier is a record is allowed to become full evocation, the tenor and atmosphere of the album wrapping up with the cover art to produce an effulgent and free aesthetic experience that feels totally individual, owned, unique. I’m certain there is a certain pagan heft to Havukruunu’s music in its natural context; they certainly have painstakingly arranged these songs and, my god, can that guitarist play (a rarity in black metal!). But what propels me most about this record, the enthralling core, is how I can almost taste the steel of the Ringwraiths’ armies as I ride out over the plain with the blessed Riders of Rohan. Their fantastical sweep taps into the bleeding ground between power and black metal, blending a fierce energy with keen melodicism that erupts into these vast and panoramic sweeps of rich imagery. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman

Maggot Heart – Mercy Machine

Though they’ve toured the United States and pack a murderer’s row of beloved musicians in their orbit, Germany’s Maggot Heart remain sadly under-represented on this side of the Atlantic. The power trio is led by guitarist and vocalist Linnéa Olsson, formerly of The Oath, and on their sophomore LP, Mercy Machine, augmented by former In Solitude drummer Uno Bruniusson and bassist Olivia Airey of UK prog-thrashers Hybris. Some of the metal community’s tardiness to the Maggot Heart party might be because the band doesn’t fit neatly into the metal idiom — they don’t have a page on the ever-mercurial Metal Archvies, for example. Olsson’s nervy guitar tone and jagged compositions owe more to the post punk of Wire as they do to Warlock, and Bruniusson’s rhythms have an unmistakable garage rock edge, free of double-stroke bass drum passages. But close listening reveals the unmistakable chord voicings of prog-thrash legends Voivod, as well as some of the black metal algebra that Blasphemer brought to Mayhem. But really, Maggot Heart deal in unmistakable attitude – Olsson’s tales of sexual debauchery, sadistic fantasy and urban alienation evoke Patti Smith’s poetry as well as the constant apocalyptic partying of Lemmy Kilmister and his compatriots in Girlschool. Mercy Machine shows no mercy and promises only a stiletto high heel pressing down on your throat. Kinky. Buy it from Bandcamp. – Joseph Schafer

Rebel Wizard – Magickal Mystical Indifference

Rebel Wizard have the incredible knack of producing music that perfectly bisects the high-minded artfulness of certain more obscure and abstract prog groups with the beery, bleary-eyed commitment to rockin’ that I look for in something like Mutoid Man. The palette here may be black metal, but don’t pay too much attention to that. The primary motivator here, as elsewhere, is a keen-witted NWOBHM flair, one that would feel at home spiritually next to the similar works of one-man metal mastermind Chris Black even if it doesn’t quite like them. Magickal Mystical Indifference is full of the heavy metal thunder that makes you practice your guitar bare-chested in your bedroom at the age of 14. As the forthright and righteous steely counterpart to his parallel project Nekrasov, this achieves an aesthetic synchrony, committing to heavy metal’s orgiastic and immediate power just as much as its heady and cerebral domains. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman

Skeleton – Skeleton

Upstart underground label 20 Buck Spin hits a double header this month with two of the year’s finest albums. They released Bedsore’s debut (see earlier in the article) and also the opening Salvo from Austin’s blackened metalpunks Skeleton. These three cowboys have been threatening to release their first full-length since 2016, when blending black metal’s primitivism and hardcore punk’s brashness was a slightly more unique proposition. Their self-titled doesn’t tread any new ground, but it absolutely tramples their well-trod territory with a knack for catchy songwriting — each tune packs some shout-along chorus or at least hummable riff, that is if the listener can discern notes beneath the feedback. These 11 tracks show up for the gunfight early, empty their chambers in under 30 minutes without pausing to reload, except for one brief instrumental, and then get the f**k out, probably with your significant other consensually hog-tied on the back of one of their stallions. When we can have live shows again, skeleton promise to be a pit favorite. Buy it from Bandcamp – Joseph Schafer


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