Forlesen - Hierophant Violent (2020)

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One of the very few advantages of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we can now work from home and listen to music non-stop. As one of the more interesting releases to creep into our inbox, today we have Forlesen and their two song, 36 minute release “Hierophant Violent”. Featuring members of Lotus Thief, Kayo Dot, Botanist, Maudlin of the Well this band creates a transcendental musical experience with a very powerful and carefully crafted sound.

Kicking off the release with the hypnotizing atmospherics of “Following Light”, the band creates a very dreamy mood as the song progresses into magical ethereal interludes and very cathartic moments. The guitars and drums are perfectly leveled with the atmospheric elements, allowing a very unique interplay between these elements and the haunting male and female vocals.

Nicumo - Inertia (2020)

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Unleashing one of the catchiest Melodic/Gothic Metal/Rock releases of 2020, today we have Finland’s Nicumo and their latest release “Inertia”. With a sound very reminiscent of bands like To/Die/For, H.I.M and even The Man Eating Tree, this band brings back a sound that has slowly been dying and delivers nine superb tracks for the nostalgia fans of emotional and catchy music of the mid 2000’s.

The album kicks off with the soaring vocals of “Three Pyres”, a very subtle track that showcases the band’s influences from both the Metal and Rock scenes. The mixture of vocal styles and excellent guitars make for a very catchy and engaging opening song. With a very well defined formula, the band delivers superbly catchy songs like “Dark Rivers”, “Witch Hunt” and its epic chorus section, and the moody “Tree of Life”. For those looking for more mellow and introspective pieces, “Same Blood” has that ballad-esque edge, similar to bands like (late) Lacrimas Profundere.

Bythos - The Womb of Zero (2020)

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Hailing from Finland and featuring members of Horna, Behexen and Ajattara, we instantly expected “The Womb of Zero” to be a furiously crushing Black Metal release and we got more than what we bargained for. While the BM elements and influences are there, the heavy melodic and Doomy prevail in this release to craft a very unique and completely unexpected sound. Delivering perfectly balanced songs, this release shows a very unique and different side of the band members involved.

The album instantly crafts a very sinister atmosphere with the devilish riffs of “Black Labyrinth”. Here is also where you notice that the tempo is a bit slower than expected, as it creates a very cavernous and crushing vibe. The harsh vocals are perfectly blended into melodic and at times Doomy riffs as the opener song fades into the dramatic guitar leads of “When Gold Turns into Lead”. If you start listening to the album on this track, you would be confused as it has a certain old-school Katatonia/October Tide vibe.

Manes - Young Skeleton (2020)

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With the volume of promos we get every day, we rarely look into the ones that contain singles. That being said, when the name Manes popped into our inbox, we had to drop everything else and pay undivided attention. As one of our favorite genre-bending bands, this Norwegian outfit continues to push the boundaries of music with their creative exploits and “Young Skeleton” is no different. If you like a mixture of Rock/Metal and tons of atmospheric elements, then Manes is definitely a band to explore.

Opening with the title track, we get a somber track that slowly builds up with very subtle elements until Tom Engelsøy guest vocals perfectly lead this piece. The song has a very nice progression as the lush atmospherics slowly complement the minimalist percussion. Delivering a more complex and layered approach, “Mouth of the Volcano” unleashes the full Manes sound with brilliant guest vocals from Anna Murphy (Cellar Darling) and Ana Carolina Skaret (Mourning Sun) paired with regular vocalist, and alongside eerie atmospherics. Creating a chaotic and yet lush experience, this track gives us a bit of a mix between Manes and Lethe.

Ayyur - Balkarnin (2020)

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It is not every day that we get a release from Tunisia, and it is even less common that it is actually pretty good. Today we have Ayyur with their highly atmospheric and experimental Black Metal unleashing their two-song EP “Balkarnin”. With a knack for cavernous atmospheres and punishingly slow riffs, this release is one strong introduction to this very promising band.

The EP sets a very hypnotic mood with the slow riffs of “I”, combining them with harsh vocals and a certain Doom vibe. As the guitar leads develop into an atmospheric interlude, the band creates a commanding atmosphere that is both bone chilling and dense. Without much flair or additional elements the rudimentary rawness of the band’s sound is quite direct and effective.

Ulcerate - Stare Into Death and Be Still (2020)

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As one of the most expected releases of 2020, today we have Kiwi’s Ulcerate and their impressive full-length release “Stare Into Death and Be Still”. Pegged as Technical Death Metal, this release is as refined as it is brutal, delivering nearly one hour of savagely crafted songs that will rattle your speakers and skull. With an unrivaled finesse, this release is by far on one of the best we have heard in 2020, so be ready to be blown away.

Opening with the crafty layering on “The Lifeless Advance”, we are instantly immersed into the band’s punishing world of high-octane drumming and intricate guitar work. Juxtaposing walls of sound with the inhuman vocals of Paul Kelland, the band creates very cavernous and intimidating pieces like the crushing opener and its more playful counterpart “Exhale the Ash”. There is an underlying melodic aspect to the band’s sound that makes songs even more effective in delivering their contrasting fast-paced brutality onslaughts of intense riffs and growls, as we can hear in the moody album title track.

Order of Orias - Ablaze (2020)

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Hailing from the land down under, today we have Black Metal duo Order of Orias and their ravaging full-length release “Ablaze”. Featuring six tracks of devilish music, the band finds the perfect balance of atmosphere and harshness to create nearly 40 minutes of blistering and demoralizing music. Aimed at Black Metal purists, this release unleashes relentless guitar work and pummeling drumming, similar to bands like Immortal and early Satyricon.

Wasting no time to showcase their brutality, Order of Orias opens with the blistering riffing of “Blood to Dust”, a superbly violent track that commands respect and shows great determination. The onslaught continues with the demoralizing “Gleaming Night” and its crafty tempo changes, and the sheer brutality of “Raging Idols” with its killer guitar leads and polarizing tempo changes. Black Metal comes in all shapes and sizes, but consistency in terms of brutality while introducing ambiance is something that this release excels at.

Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin Kynsi (2020)

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Unleashing a highly mysterious and depraved orgasmic aural assault, today we have Finnish outfit Oranssi Pazuzu and their highly expected fifth full-length release “Mestarin Kynsi”. Having sonically abused all their fans for the last decade, the band continues their musical exploration with 51 minutes of music spread in six captivating tracks. If you think the band was weird and trippy in the past, wait until you listen to this release.

Opening with the trance-inducing “Ilmestys”, the band slowly builds up and introduces their funky mixture of effects, sickening vocals and crushing guitar work. If the first track didn’t create enough anxiety in the listener, “Tyhjyyden sakramentti” continues the aural exploration with chaotic ravaging passages filled with weird distortions and an overall sense of urgency that creates a very demoralizing and brutal atmosphere.

Blaze of Sorrow - Absentia (2020)

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Constantly evolving and refining their sound over the years, today we have Italy’s Blaze of Sorrow and their latest Atmospheric Black Metal opus: “Absentia”. Featuring seven songs and nearly 45 minutes of lush music, the band shows how their sound continues to improve with intricately crafted songs that are both pummeling and melodic. With similarities to bands like Fen, Agalloch, Saor, this outfit has marked their own path of blended melody and aggressiveness.

The album opens with the folky “Settimo Requiem”, a song that features a lively mood with creative tempo changes and a very epic feeling. The band’s ability to swing from ravaging Black Metal onslaughts to melodic interludes is amazing as it allows them to completely re-shape the direction of songs with these transitions as the pulverizing “Furia” demonstrates.

Myth of I - Myth of I (2020)

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After receiving tons of Black and Death Metal releases in the last few weeks, it is quite refreshing to get something completely different in Myth of I’s self-titled debut release. Featuring a very improvisational and fluid approach to songwriting, the band unleashes nearly 50 minutes of highly technical instrumental Metal music. Ranging from Progressive Metal to Technical Death Metal (minus the vocals), this release perfectly blends a wide gamut of styles under a cohesive and catchy umbrella.

Opening with a dreamy intro, the album gets in full swing with the fabulous “The Illustrator” and its crafty guitar wizardry. Full of tempo changes and intricate drum patterns, this release perfectly leads to heavier and more experimental pieces like “Cherophobia” and “Obsidian Vale”. Doing away with traditional song structures, the tracks in this release flow freely weaving back and forth between proggy influences and heavier counterparts.

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