Lines In Wax


Month: May 2024

Christ Denied – Christopsy (2024)

Christ Denied return with one of the most typical and boring brutal death metal releases I have ever heard. The old shit had tons of character in its quirky drum machine metal, this one sounds like it could have been made by AI. The kindest word I could use to describe this one is “serviceable”. If you are an absolute ravenous nut for death metal then check this out, otherwise I’d give it a pass.

Iron Maiden – Fear Of The Dark (1992)

The title of this record carries such a high reputation one could be fooled into thinking that this is one of the classic Maiden albums. You would of course, be wrong. Fear Of The Dark is a puzzling affair where the first and last tracks (especially the last!) are great whilst the rest of it is an ocean of bad rock music. Like, I’m sorry but what the fuck is Bruce doing with his voice? The production on Fear Of The Dark is fantastic but it cannot save the sheer boredom that is the majority of its run time.

Graveland / Honor – Split CD (2000)

Honor, on this split at least, sound like a poor man’s Absurd. It’s not bad, and in fact is entirely servicable, but the other bits and bobs I’ve heard from them are much better. This split has much more black metal oriented material rather than the RAC stuff that they seem to be much better at. As far as Graveland goes, the stuff here is also fairly middling, with much better quality sound and songwriting material found on any other Graveland release in this era. With all of the above in mind, and considering the wealth of material elsewhere from both bands, this split can only be rated average at best.

Graveland – Spears Of Heaven (2009)

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Spears Of Heaven recently, purely because I don’t really know how I feel about it. On the surface of it, it’s like a poor man’s version of Will Stronger Than Death, at least in regards to production and the incredibly grating drum programming, which seems to have lost all nuance and is reduced to a ear-fatiguing series of clicks and clatters. On the other hand, in isolation, nearly every track on Spears Of Heaven is an excellent Graveland track. So there is quite the dilemma here. I guess the decision is easy to make however, when there is so much Graveland material, and a lot of which is better – then the choice is easy. This may make Spears Of Heaven an underdog of sorts.

Graveland – Prawo Stali (2000)

I made a jokey comment in my Creed Of Iron review that the production and heavy riffing on that album made Graveland sound like Mortician. Now, this pointless fucking remix only goes and doubles down on that feature, so I guess it’s not a joke anymore lmao – the already dense sound of Creed is remixed with extra layers of fuzz and distortion. Listening to a Graveland reworking (my good heavens does that man like to revisit old recordings) is always a surprise. Here’s my official call for the remix of 1000 Swords (retitled 1001 Swords) where all the songs are redone in the style of Mortician. Make it happen!

Graveland – Will Stronger Than Death (2007)

Another stormer album from Graveland. The latter era is far superior to the original trve kvlt shit, I think I can safely say that now (subjective to my own tastes of course). Drums on this thing are still manic as fuck but seem to be more under control – I’m guessing they are programmed in now as they seem far more precise than in the past. Production is heavy and chunky, harking back to Creed Of Iron but without going totally ham on the heaviness. All in all it’s a fucking brilliant cocooning, and listening to these sheer fucking EPICS unfold over and over is just bliss, to be honest. Shame the cover art is so shite haha

The Gates / Behrosth – Split LP (2022)

Nice split. The Gates are really solid, with excellent production and a down to earth 70s kinda sound with just the right amount of added flair. The Behrosth side is a little more unstable, which arguably allows for more exploration and expermentation in the black metal meets occult rock style. With both their similarities and also their differences, these two bands match each other perfectly for this split.

Graveland – The Fire Of Awakening (2003)

Edit: When I initially reviewed this I made the mistake of listening to the 2014 remake first, so my perspective was perhaps a bit skewed by coming back to the original afterwards. I really like both versions however, as they each have something to offer. They are both easily 4/5 albums at a minimum. The original review is below. Cheers! I didn’t get off to a very good start with Graveland. The classic albums, which are fawned over so much, hit me with a resounding “meh”. I have gone on to develop an appreciation for albums like Thousands Swords but some of those early records are still so laughably bad that I cannot to this day understand what all the fuss is about. Mid/latter period Graveland however, has u-turned my scepticism around the group and solidified me as a fan of Darken’s music. The hat trick of Creed Of Iron, Memory And Destiny and now Fire Of Awakening has sealed the deal. Darken and his legions were on something of a roll in the early 2000s. Production is not hugely different here nor is the style of songwriting, but the tracks are just phenomenal, especially album closer “The Four Wings Of The Sun” (mmm I wonder what they could possibly be talking about there), which is probably my favourite Graveland track to date.

Graveland – Dawn Of Iron Blades (2018)

Quite possibly one of the most pointless re-recordings in the history of metal. Dawn Of Iron Blades 2018 does little to absolutely zero in regards to either improving or worsening the experience of said album. If anything, the original sounds a bit dingier, and this a little brighter, but once you’ve adjusted during the first track the rest of the experience is more or less the same, in my eyes (or ears).

Berosth – Оазис (2021)

I’m not entirely sure what to call this whole subgenre of “Black Magick SS worship”, there simply must be a better name for it? Anyway, Berosth, in their recent release of Oasis, if you’ll forgive my heathen anglicisation, is a solid example of how to operate in the genre. Black metal is mixed with kooky occult sounds and a little dollop of Uriah Heep, and voila, she lives! Oasis has the benefit of also being very well produced indeed. There’s a lot of garbage out there in this style (sorry) but Berosth immediately stands out as having their shit together.

Graveland – Fire Chariots Of Destruction (2005)

Not sure who or what lit the fire under Rob Darken’s arse but the difference between this album and the previous year’s release, Dawn Of Iron Blades, is staggering. Production is fat, riffs for DAYS, croaky frog vokills better than Abbath and Dagon combined, tales of pride and glory and warships and fuck knows what else. The percussion is still shambolic, like a Viking warrior stumbling onwards from the battle field riddled with arrows and bleeding from the head, but shambling onwards nonetheless. Bless that (war)horse you rode in on, Mr. Darken, this could well be the best Graveland album. Oh, and is it just me or does “War Wolf” sound like the theme to Twin Peaks? I must be tripping.

Uriah Heep – Salisbury (1971)

Salisbury didn’t resonate with me as much as the debut, with it feeling – if anything – like something of a side-step. The incredible organ playing seems toned back and the vocals are ridiculous in parts. That being said, the production, being clear yet deep with an analogue warmth, is fantastic, and the final (title) track is seriously epic. The band seem to let loose here; organs, flutes, choirs, solos for days. It saves the album, IMO.

Satanic Warmaster – Aamongandr (2022)

If you thought Fimbulwinter was clean then get your dirty little ears around wrapped around this clinical fucking record! SW really did come full circle from misty / muddy / kvlt as fuck black metal tinged with that trademark Finnish melody, right through to a polished album producing powerhouse filled with triumphant hymns that illicit knotted erections from furries, black metallers and enraged redditors all the same. What am I trying to say, exactly? What is this fever dream of a review? Aamongandr is tight as fuck, let’s not debate that. The guitar work is great, the production is fantastic and Werwolf’s vocals are insanely good. Despite the time gap, it builts off the template laid by Fimbulwinter, but is perhaps, in a fair criticism (and the only criticism I can levy at it aside from making furry jokes), it is now too clinical a sound for a project known to be at the forefront of the intense and trve black metal underground. The sound is, perhaps, a little too sterile now. It is a minor complaint, because otherwise Aamongandr is a very enjoyable listen. Anyways, I’m off to place a massive order of wolf cocks over at Bad Dragon.

Khanate – Clean Hands Go Foul (2009)

Ugh, what a nasty mess! In what barely constitutes music in parts due to how sparse and desperate it is, this disturbing full length release by Khanate is highly recommended for those fans of the sick and twisted and / or the slow and tortured. The vocals are savage and raw, barely holding together the shambling backdrop of glacial sludge. Clean Hands Go Foul is worth checking out for the 32 minute closing track alone, “Every God Damn Thing”, which really pushes the boundary of the whole Khanate sound.

Burzum – Den Store Samlingen (2009)

I have a version of this CD (South American with different art) that I thought would be a cool way to pick up a ton of Burzum bootlegs in one fell swoop. Alas, little did I know, I would say about 2/3 of this CD is actually old Ildjarn tracks. Now, I like old Ildjarn tracks, but it’s not exactly what I signed up for. Either way, this thing is another bizarre oddity in the Burzum unofficial history, and it’s cool to have it just to have the Once Emperor and Et hvitt lys over skogen EPs in my collection, as the 7″s cost a fucking fortune.

Burzum (Ildjarn) – Svarte Dauen (2003)

I have absolutely zero fucking idea what I have here, but it does not match the tracklist for any of the versions of Svarte Dauen that I can find online, from any country or release year. Yet, apparently, what I have is a version of Svarte Duaen, released as a 10″ EP. (sigh) – as if the world of Burzum bootlegs wasn’t confusing enough. “My Key to the Purgatory” and “Rite of the Cleansure” are track names that appear on the Burzum Reh 1 demo from 1991, but what I’ve got here I’m pretty sure is more Ildjarn stuff passed off as Burzum. The final track on this thing (on my version and on the ones I can find online), is “Seven Harmonies Of Unknown Truth”, which is 100% an Ildjarn track, which hilariously found its way onto an “official” Burzum compilation pressed by Back On Black. What a fucking joke. This is a fun listen of lo-fi black metal and spacey synths. I;’m just pretty sure 75%+ of it is not even Burzum. I have this EP bundled into the Den Store Samlingen CD and the tracklist is completely different: 1. Channeling the Power of Souls into a New God2. My Key to the Purgatory3. Rite of the Cleansure4. Seven Harmonies of the Unknow Truth

Burzum (Ildjarn) – Spell Of Destruction (2002)

As with the Feeble Screams 7″, this is a fake bootleg consisting of fucking Ildjarn demos, not Burzum songs. It’s interesting that so many fake Burzum bootlegs exist. Whoever made this (and perhaps the other releases) is either a colossal idiot or a scammer. Either way, they have permanently muddied the waters for those looking for unreleased or hard to find Burzum demos. As for this release, yeah it’s cool – but it’s not Burzum.

Burzum – Once Emperor (2001)

Verrry dusty, very old, very lo-fi demos from Varg released in bootleg 7″ form. Almost unlistenable in some respects, yet very interesting in others. This is definitely a release for the collectors out there. I believe you can also find versions of these tracks on the semi-official Draugen – Rarities compilation.

Burzum – Et hvitt lys over skogen (????)

The title track is fantastic, if a little rustic, but this is to be expected. I’d never heard this before now even though it appears on the Draugen compilation, that comp is such a shitshow I never made it all the way through. A great early Burzum track and well worth seeking out, It is on the b-side here however where the audio quality drops off. It contains what appears to be a rehearsal demo or very early rough take of “Lost Wisdom”, which phases in and out as the tape it is sourced from appears to be degraded significantly. Either way, it is still a vital listen for die hards and archivist types. The release date of this 7″ is disputed, hence the ???? I have placed in the title. It is believed to either be late 90s or early 2000s.

Burzum – Memories In The Mist (2024)

More Thulean Mysteries grade ambient piano work from Burzum. If not entirely original, it is at least hypnotic and spellbinding in the true ways that Burzum can invoke, which is more than I can say for a lot of the recent single releases. One thing to note however is the dreadfully low sound quality on the instrumentation here. His earlier synth / keyboard work sounded glorious – including the “post prison” synth albums – but from 2020’s double album onwards, the quality seems to have taken a nose dive. I don’t know if it is anything to do with the fact that none of this stuff is being mastered properly, but outside of the fact that the composition itself is interesting and enjoyable, the actual audio fidelity is terrible, like a squashed mp3 file.

Magic Moss – Volume 01 (2018)

Few bands come out the gate with a debut as strong as Magic Moss. Oddly, it’s the b-side which shines the most here, with “We Are the Ones” being a bluesy, psych-heavy romp through an upbeat soundscape of 60s/70s swagger, fuzz and rushes of organ sounds. Production is excellent; warm, balanced and with a decent soundstage. Recommended!

Iniquity – Serenadium (1996)

Thick, chunky, nasty, brutal death metal for the whole family to enjoy. The condensed all treble all bass production is enough to give anyone a headache after forty minutes or so, but I’d be lying if I said Serenadium didn’t rip; there are some fucking great songs here. The original master has a bit more breathing room, but if you pick up the 2017 remaster, expect to be pummelled into the ground by an overcompressed finished product. If you like your metal to breathe, definitely check the original.

Iniquity – The Hidden Lore (1998)

Chunky, unforgiving brutal technical death metal from the US of A. Really low and bassy production, with clear triggered drums and breathing room for the more melodic riffs. Vocals are the usual Cookie Monster affair, but you know what you are in for when it comes to something brutal like this. Not as good as Serenadium, but a decent companion to that album.

Burzum – Winds of the Vanished Realm (2024)

It perhaps says a lot about the state of Burzum in 2024 if a near 15-minute long atmospheric piano piece has you thinking “hey, this isn’t half bad!”. What would usually be filler or an ambient piece to round things out has actually cemented itself as the most interesting thing to come from the project in 2024. This is mainly because of the stark difference between the work here and the other lacklustre black metal demos that Varg has been pumping on in anno domini 2024. Winds of the Vanished Realm reminds me of a more long-form attempt at what the project was doing with the various online-only single thats came in the years leading up to the Thulean Mysteries double album.

Insane Clown Posse – Flip The Rat (2019)

ICP are another one of those bands where the “side” releases are just as good – or in this case – better than the main studio albums. It’s easy to overlook these so-called “sideshow” releases, especially with the focus on the whole Joker’s Card saga. Flip The Rat is the accompanying EP (at nearly an hour long lol) to the Fearless Fred Fury era, and is a refreshing beacon of decent fucking music in the sea of mediocrity that is the “second deck” of ICP’s career. Flip The Rat at the very least actually sounds like a horrorcore record and is a perfect companion to the Fearless Fred Fury album. If you find the second deck a bit lacking then don’t miss this one, it’s easily one of the better releases from the period.

Insane Clown Posse – The Marvellous Missing Link: Found (2015)

Well, if you thought the “Lost” version of Missing Link was poor, then boy are you in for a treat here. By far the worst ICP full length since The Tempest, “Found” is a listless, mind-numbingly bland set of songs that offer next to nothing to the ongoing Dark Carnival ethos. It feels like an album for an album’s sake, and no amount of modern production is going to change that. Honestly, you could probably take the best tracks off both “Lost” and “Found” and still have a fairly poor release.

Insane Clown Posse – The Marvellous Missing Link: Lost (2015)

It felt like the first of the two Missing Link albums was off to a strong start, with tracks like “Shock” or “Apocalypse” (the latter being the very definition of a deep cut!), but unfortunately it quickly falls to the wayside with what seems like consistently rehashed content. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting ICP to go off on a whole other thing this far into their career but stuff like “Confederate Flag” (“Rebel Flag”?) and “Vomit” (insert literally anything off Hell’s Pit) are basically just the same songs from before but done again with more boring, middle of the road production. Unfortunately, this ocean of boredom makes Missing Link: Lost one of the weakest entries not only in the second deck but the whole ICP catalog.

Sidetracked / Surfer Joe / MethXCamp / Heckdorlan – Split 7″ (2022)

Squeezing FOUR bands on a 7″ at 45 RPM is a bold move but fuck it this is powerviolence. Let’s run this down: Sidetracked coming at me like some mad preacher screaming down a megaphone in the middle of the street, backed with a powerviolence three piece, of course. A refreshing approach, I’ll say that! The interestingly-named Surfer James have a much fatter sound. Really blows your fucking neck out, with huge pit-widening riffs and more, how shall I say, “traditional” bellowed vocals for the style. Tight blasts to boot, too. Fucking great shit this. Flip over for my favourite Bristol-based noise mongers MethXCamp, who so far have the best production of the whole split (I would never have seen that coming, I’ll be honest haha). Considering it was recorded “in a moldy attic” this shit sounds great. These guys are seriously under-rated. RIP MethXCamp. Heckdorlan is absolute fucking chaos. Kinda reminds me of the Total Fucking Destruction side of their split 7″ with Agoraphobic Nosebleed. I’m getting bass-noise, snares wound so tight it sounds like a fucking gun shot, just absolute indecipherable carnage when it comes to vocals. All in all – this is a fucking great split.

Schnauzer / Doktor Bitch – Split 7″ (2011)

There’s such a perfect air of rediculousness to Schnauzer that I just can’t help but be in a good mood after listening to it. “Gym Konya” is off his nut, in the most endearing way possible. The tracks here are more of the good ol’ absurdist Ohio “scrap metal” that you would come to expect from the project. RIP dude. This shit is one of a kind! Doktor Bitch (lol) took me by surprise. A compressed soundstage packs out with fuzzy, bass-heavy thrash. These guys really got it in for Sarah Palin, which is a reference that has aged like milk. Who gives a fuck about her? It really makes this EP show it’s age. Anyway, the execution is pretty good, I just don’t really give a shit about Sarah Palin.

Regurgitate / Skullhog – Split 7″ (2008)

I can’t remember where I picked up this 7″, but it was probably one of the stalls at OEF – pretty sure Skullhog played one year and I got it then. I have no idea! Haha! Anyway, Regurgitate stuff here is great, 3 traxxx ov waxxx on their side. Fast, d-beat led gurgling gore is the order of the day with a fat sound and enough mosh parts to keep the pit wide fucking open. Great shit. Skullhog are fantastic too. Originally known as Bile, this group from the Netherlands bring a few shots of sickness here that remind me of the whole Impetigo school of “death metal”, which is just absolutely fine with me. Raw and punishing, with deep chugging riffs. Glorious.

Ungfell – Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz (2018)

This is the second full length from Ungfell, an excellent black metal project from Switzerland. The production is fantastic, reminding me of the warmer analogue sound on some of the later Darkthrone albums – but of course Ungfell are entirely their own beast. Comparisons could be made I suppose to early Peste Noire, but Ungfell’s own uniqueness shines brightly through the songwriting on this excellent full length album. I love how the bass pops beautifully through the mix, which is always a treat for a black metal record, and the vocal shrieks invoke chills to go with that otherwise warmer overall sound. Very happy to have picked this up on LP format.

Thor’s Hammer – Fidelity Shall Triumph (1997)

A bit rough around the edges with pacing and timing (of course it is, it’s got the dude on it from Graveland who can’t drum for shit), but otherwise quite endearing and entrancing black metal. I love the record sleeve. It’s one of those that I’ve seen knocking about for years now, and it really does add to the atmosphere. Production is serviceable, nothing majorly different or outlandish, and the songwriting is interesting. The truth of the matter is that I’ve heard far better black metal as well as far worse (including from the same band). All in all, an interesting debut.

Thor’s Hammer – May The Hammer Smash The Cross (2000)

Quite possibly, actually, in fact, definitely, without a doubt, Thor’s Hammer’s second album has one of the worst overall sounds that I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if it’s entirely up to production either, this seems like an artistic choice taken somewhere along the line, resulting in the perfect storm of a bad idea being poorly executed and with horrendous production. Truly, this is awful, with absolutely zero redeeming qualities. Not sure what happened here, the debut was pretty decent.

Phlegm – Clothes Hanger Abortion (1990)

Noisy, hideous “death metal” tinged grindcore from back in’t the old daze. Grim blasts of unintelligible noise is the main course for your delectation, although the record does descend into a longer track where there’s repetitive spoken word / clean section of vocals, just in case you really wanted to know what kind of disgusting shit this lot were shouting about. I kinda lose interest here, even on repeat listens the pace is lost when the record derails for this sludgy section, but the rest of the recording is well worth it for noisy music enthusiasts.

Candlemass – Tales Of Creation (1989)

Messiah is here for the final album in his original classic run, Tales Of Creation. It’s not the strongest of the earliest albums by the band, but still has a slew of decent tracks, my absolute favourite being “Into The Unfathomed Tower”. However, with the inclusion of a re-recorded song from Epicus… as well as a lot of these songs being worked from early demos, one can’t help but escape the feeling that Tales… is a step backwards, or at least to the side, rather than forwards. You can do no wrong by enjoying this album, but it is easily the weakest of the original run of Messiah-fronted records.

Black Sabbath – In Moscow (1989/2008)

Sabbath’s short residency in Moscow after the fall of the iron curtain is a fairly famous event in their long and varied history. Touring with Cozy Powell, Neil Murray and Tony Martin, desperately trying to claw back some credibility with a solid lineup and a new album on a new label (for Sabbath), the Moscow shows seemed to come at a good time for the band. The band played both matinee and evening shows for the crowds in Moscow, and whilst the two that were documented (one matinee and one evening show, of which video also exists of varying quality) may have slight differences, the bulk of the set is identical between the two. Interaction between the crowd and the band is especially awkward. I’ve always found Tony Martin, excellent as his voice may be, to be a pretty uninspiring character when it comes to whipping up the crowd, so throw a Russian translator into the mix and things get even more cringy and awkward. Musically, the band were tight as fuck and the quality of the recordings of this set of shows is extremely high. I believe it was intended for this to be an official live release, but for a multitude of reasons the idea fell through. I’m pretty fascinated by this era of the band and have listened to many boots from this era but the Moscow shows are probably your best bet in regards to quality / fidelity – as well as having the accompanying video footage – even if they aren’t personally my favourite recordings from the band.

Devin Townsend Band – Synchestra (2006)

Synchestra was the Devin album that came out around the time I properly became aware of his wider output as a musician (rather than just SYL). At the time, this thing just could not compare to SYL’s Alien and I immediately consigned it to the bin. With more adult ears, I can appreciate about half of this, and the other half unfortunately drags the album down in a soup of breathy synths and meandering guitars. As with any solo DT from this period onwards especially, it seems quality control is out the door, and every single last morsel and idea gets packed into each album, which can be overwhelming – not because it’s too much or too technical or too abstract – but well, because it’s boring. Several individual songs of excellent quality and the gorgeous production job both save this thing from sinking (or is that synching hur hur hur) to the bottom of the shit pile, but repeat listens from me in the future are probably unlikely.

Cattle Decapitation – Karma.Bloody.Karma (2006)

Karma Bloody Karma is another notable step forward in the evolution of the Cattle Decap sound. The gory explosions of Humanure are streamlined further and then expanded on with more intricacy, brutality and maturity. The production is clear and balanced, allowing the bass to feature prominently without detracting from the guitar and drums, and Travis’ vocals are excellently disgusting on this one. Even though I picked the picture disc up upon release (think it was the Accident Prone pressing?) this album didn’t really gel with me – I was hoping for more goregrind and instead we got more technical, savage death metal. Now that I’m no longer a 17 year old obsessed with shady goregrind, I can appreciate Karma Bloody Karma for what it is: fucking excellent.

Graveland – Dawn Of Iron Blades (2004)

A drop off in quality from the previous run of several mostly excellent albums. Dawn Of Iron Blades is more of the same from the likes of Fire Of Awakening but with a lot of the soul missing. It’s still good, but it’s starting to feel like they are going through the motions, which despite the rocky quality of the band’s long discography, is the first time I’ve experienced such a thing from Graveland. There will never be a need to spin Dawn Of Iron Blades over any of the other albums in this era.

Goatmoon / Ride For Revenge – Split CD (2008)

Interesting mix of stuff here. You’ve got Goatmoon originals which are great, followed by a Ride For Revenge set of originals, which are dark, murky, bass-led mires of noise. You then get a TON of Goatmoon rehearsal recordings, which, honestly, have absolutely fucking zero value for me (not saying there aren’t others who would interested in hearing these) and then the whole thing is capped off with this huge 20 minute noise piece from R4R (lol). Honestly, the sequencing on this thing is wild, even if it was originally for a double LP or something. It just doesn’t flow at all.

Grief – Dismal (Compilation) (1993)

Not to be confused with the 12” EP of the same name, this later reissued Dismal (with altered artwork) combines the original Dismal EP with the S/T Grief EP and the band’s tracks from the split with Utopia. If you’re not paying attention it can almost seem like this version of Dismal is one of the band’s full lengths, because they are so consistent across these three early sessions that it’s unreal. A great starting point for getting into Grief.

Grief – Grief (1992)

Oof! Heavy as shit sludge metal that’s gonna hit you right in the dick. Probably not quite as good as the Dismal 12” but we are really splitting hairs here. We’re talking minute differences in production and songwriting at the absolute most. Well worth your time, ears, and mental energy.

Post Mortem – Coroner’s Office (1986)

A mixed bag of metallic styles, unfortunately not all of which stick the landing. When it does work however, Post Mortem’s quirky and unique take on the blending of metal hits like little else. There’s some interesting takes here, and the whole thing warrants multiple listens to get your head around, but the patchwork quilt of successes vs misses may put some people off. A for effort, though.

Hummis – The Breakening (2021)

I know this is clearly a spoof of sorts but fuck me is this actually really good goregrind music hahaha – my only complaint is that this isn’t long enough! Could have easily gone for a full 7” worth of material here, would buy the absolute fuck out of that.

Coffin Storm – Arcana Rising (2024)

Really cool shit. Took me a few listens to really get into it because Fenriz’s vocals just sounded a bit odd to me. It felt as though they didn’t quite match the rest of the music, at least on first impressions, but the whole thing has grown on me massively. It’s cool to see some long running members of the Norwegian black metal scene come together to do something slightly different. I know Darkthrone have been incorporating this doomy kind of traditional / old school metal sound into their stuff for a while now, but nothing like this. Also, this thing has Apollyon on drums – that guy is a machine! Really interesting to hear him play more “naturally” here (at a more flowing pace, no triggers, etc). The production on the debut from Coffin Storm is as big yet as warm and as organic as you would expect, considering the names involved. Comparisons sound wise could be made to Fenriz’s own Isengard, as well as the varied catalog of King Diamond, but the basis of this group’s sound exists in the trad doom of Trouble, St. Vitus, Pentagram and the like. I can’t imagine this will be for everyone, but it’s a solid metal album and I’m glad they made it.

Sarke – Varunah (2009)

Colour me grey and blue and dead from exposure to subzero temperatures! That is how I feel after being exposed (finally) to the first Sarke record. It is probably quite ignorant of me to say that I feel like I’ve found a secret cache of bonus Darkthrone albums, but that’s only because Nocturno Culto has such a unique voice. After several listens of course, this narrow view disappears, especially when you’ve learnt the intricacies and differences in Sarke’s compositional elements. On top of the excellent black metal, the production is fantastic. It sounds organic and natural yet completely crystal clear and powerful. I cannot recommend this enough.

Dr. Satan – Microwaved Uterogiblets (2007)

Back in 2007 when I was running a small distro, Dr. Satan sent me a bunch of these and I ended up keeping one for myself. There seemed to be a period of time where these tiny 3″ CDs were quite popular. I haven’t seen any for a while now, outside of the few that I own from “back in’t day”. Anyway, Microwaved Uterogiblets is pure Mortician worship through and through, but pay attention and you will be rewarded by a lot of personal, original additions and intepretations to this kind of brutal “one note” sound. I’m not sure what happened to the Dr. Satan project (not much by the looks, considering how difficult it is to find info online about it), but this remains a worthy listen to those who are interested in down-tuned, gory, drum machine death metal.

Gangrene Discharge / Spewtum – Split CDr (2018)

More gargling gore excellence from the forever putrid caves that Mr. M calls a “studio”. Gangrene Discharge is top drawer blasting lo-fi gurgling for the discerning goregrind degenerate. Spewtum is much the same but a bit looser around the edges, like a splattering of blood filled diarrhoea after passing a solid log the size of a Pringles can. Yeah.

Tu Carne / Germen / AxTxS – Split CD (2003)

Seriously good shit! For those into the world of messy, disgusting goregrind, then this is the creme de la creme of sick, twisted, splattered metal. Germen and Tu Carne are like spiritual successors (the latter of the former), so having them both on one CD makes a ton of sense. The new find for me here is AxTxS who are just downright fucking sinister. Musically they are also not too dissimilar to Germen, but the vocals, goddamn; echoing shrieks of agonizing pain! Vocals sound like someone being amputated with a chainsaw (no anaesthetic!) at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Suuuuuper sick shit all round, 100% linesinwaxxx approved – need to hunt down a physical copy of this shit pronto!

1349 – 1349 (2001)

The first ever 1349 EP lacks the finesse and absolute complete sonic carnage that would be perfected on later records but it is still not an EP to be sniffed at. The drums are astoundingly fast, and the riffs fall into some interesting and complex-sounding patterns, which adds to the frantic energy. Vocally, things work better on the later offerings but to say the vocals here are bad would be an outright lie.

The Exploited – Punks Not Dead (1981)

The first Exploited full length starts everything off with a bang. Boasting a now dated but still fantastic production job (the drums hit like sacks of sand but the bass pops through the mix like a needle though wet paper), Punks’ Not Dead sets out to prove to the 1980s exactly what is declared in the title. The title track, “Cop Cars”, “Blown To Bits”, “Dole Q” and “I Believe In Anarchy” are all instant classics in my book. Make what you will of the band’s later flirtations with crossover thrash but this shit is as punk as it gets. Exploited barmy army!

Christ Denied – …Got What He Deserved (1996)

My only experience with Christ Denied was seeing Anaal Nathrakh having their set cut short at OEF 2013 so that these guys could play. It was one guy with a guitar and a drum machine, and a vocalist dude who stood completely still and wore sunglasses even at like midnight. I was like, WTF is this bullshit? Lmao – it seemed like Mickey Mouse bedroom death metal compared to the shortened aural assault of the ever excellent Anaal Nathrakh. That experience put me off checking out Christ Denied for many years, but the loss is truly mine own, as Got What He Deserved is an excellent slab of death metal. I love me some fuckin drum machines so the upfront honestly of the drum sound chosen for this thing immediately grabbed my attention. Took me right back to the 2006 obsession with drum machine goregrind and death metal haha – in all seriousness though, this is a great record. No frills, perhaps, but there’s some surprising twists and turns with the riffs and the whole thing is brutal as fuck.

Grief – Dismal (1992)

Super heavy, super slow, super sludgy, super depressing. There’s something about the 4 tracks on the original release of Dismal which is just so purely and utterly disgustingly beautiful. I think the production has a lot to do with it: the drums are crisp as fuck, the guitars hit like a ton of bricks. I’m not always the biggest listener of “sludge” metal but this shit is up there with the best of the genre.

Blasted Pancreas – Pathogenic Organisms In Blood (2023)

Not many bands bounce back after a personal tragedy and such a gap between records, but Blasted Pancreas are here to show everyone that they are stronger than ever. Gone is the overarching theme of worshipping Lymphatic Phlegm (though no doubt they are still a massive influence), instead we get a much more chunky and robust style of goregrind. The vocals fit more a brutal death / “tupa tupa” style of goregrind, but the percussion and guitars are fast as fuck.

Satarial – …And The Flame Will Take The Temples Of Christ (1996)

Unusual but really fucking cool black metal from Russia – supposedly the first Russian black metal band, even. Not sure if that is true but this is awesome either way. Gives me Graveland vibes in places (hypnotic repetitive tracks with folky instruments and odd parts) but has more of a grounded 90s metal feel underneath the medieval / pagan pomp and ritual that accompanies it. Well worth a look in if you’re after something off the beaten track that doesn’t sound like it was recorded on a wax cylinder.

Cattle Decapitation – Humanure (2004)

Humanure was the first Cattle Decapitation CD I ever owned. I remember seeing the artwork on their website (which was completely decked out in this theme back in 2004/05 – damn I miss old websites) and I was immediately sold. At the time, the gory metallic mush that is their sound was super intimidating and impenetrable. I thought it was the coolest thing, though. Going back through the band’s discography chronologically now, it’s easy to see the massive step up that Humanure was. It doesn’t sound like a different band or anything too drastic (although Dave Astor was replaced on drums), but the gore and disgust of the first few releases and the sporadic noodling of To Serve Man come together on Humanure in a more focussed way than ever before. Granted the songs are still considerably messy, but there is a technical precision underpinning it all, not to mention a solid production effort. Humanure is probably the last true “gore” related Cattle Decapitation record, with the sound getting cleaner and more precise – and ranging in more dare I say meaty subject matter – from this point onwards.

Cathedral – A New Ice Age (2011)

When Cathedral announced they were throwing in the towel my friends and I rushed to London to witness their final show (having seen Cathedral live several times I can safely say the finale was the best) where this 12” was for sale. With Rise Above being, well, Rise Above, I assumed that this would be a crazy collectors item and a great momento of the last show. Well, turns out I was wrong on both accounts because A.) it’s not worth shit and B.) they didn’t play any of this stuff live lmao  To be honest though, that personal anecdote aside, this is a fucking great 12”. Both tracks are decent in their own right, with the band’s trademark latter era CHUNKY production style and heaviness. The Last Spire may not exactly thrilled me but this preceding / companion single I found to be well worth my time. Sabbath worship out da ass!

Uriah Heep – Very ‘Eavy… Very ‘Umble (1970)

A great album, but one that is sometimes dragged down by the tedium of tracks such as “Come Away Melinda” or “Lucy Blues”, which really affects the pacing in the middle. It is a crying shame because this thing bolts out the door with its opening track, “Gypsy”, a song that is easily one of the greatest rock songs of all time. In fact, this album is worth it for “Gypsy”’s organ performance alone. Side B again, is excellent, so I try not to be put off too much by the previously mentioned offending tracks.

Probot – Probot (2004)

I remember this coming out like it was yesterday, which in hindsight makes me feel real fucking old! Looking at this now, at this insane cast of characters – this fucking STACKED release filled with incredible guest spots – it makes me realise I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was talking about when it came to metal in 2004. I thought I was the bees knees but I didn’t know shit, clearly. Anyway, this fucking rules. The production is fantastic. Proper solid stuff. Fucking shout out to Dave Grohl for playing every single instrument on this thing. I’m not the biggest fan of his bands but props are due where props are due. I could go track by track on this thing but honestly every song slaps. I’m not too fussed on the King Diamond track, the Jack Black track or the Mike Dean track but otherwise every other collab is incredible. A fantastic album.

Lymphatic Phlegm / Morgue Breath – Split LP (2024)

Serviceable offerings from Lymphatic Phlegm, who come to us here with chunky, clear production (unless I’m out of the loop on the ongoings of the ‘Phlegm then that’s news to me brah brah). Tracks are solid goregrind but I’ll be honest, they’ve done far, far better elsewhere in their long and crazy discography. Morgue Breath kill it here. Muddy, heavy death metal for the whole family to enjoy. Has that gory edge to proceedings which makes it even more delicious. Suuuuper fucking solid and detailed production too, you can hear every single detail suspended in its own part of the sound stage.

Agathocles / CxTxD – Split Tape (2016)

Good initial AGx session, padded out significantly with unnecessary live tracks but the intial studio session (very rough quality) is great. Just what I come to Agathocles for. CxTxDx on the other hand are maybe not so great, low quality “mincecore” that is basically just noisecore. Very frantic / hectic / chaotic, but blurs together into one big session save for some punctuation marks in the form of samples (which I think are taken from the Slave To The Grind movie?).

Black Widow – Return To The Sabbat (1969/1998)

I’m not an expert on early British psych / rock music, but Return To The Sabbat is the supposed original version of the Black Widow debut. I am incredibly glad that it saw the light of day however because this archival recording from the dying embers of the 60s is head and shoulders above anything else that I have heard under the Black Widow name. Granted, I have not heard it all at this point but the difference is night and day. The analogue warmth of the tape recording is to die for, and the general vibe of the session is as smooth as butter, with Zoot Taylor’s organ being a particular highlight. Honestly, every second of this thing is just an absolute pleasure to listen to. I’ve had it on repeat for a few days now, which says a lot. Fantastic stuff.

The Caretaker – Everywhere, An Empty Bliss (2019)

Acts beautiful as a companion to / introduction to / extension of the enormous Everywhere At The End Of Time series. As groundbreaking as that is, it can be an intimidating listen – one that I have only made it through from start to finish once. Everywhere, An Empty Bliss pulls from most of the different stages present in the End Of Time series, and compresses them into a far more digestible – and dare I say enjoyable – album. It feels a little odd talking about The Caretakers aural experiments in presenting dementia as “enjoyable”, but it is hard not to appreciate the artistry that has gone into configuring this web of fractured samples and haunting electronics. Truly, a unique experience.

Antropomorphia – Rites Ov Perversion (2014)

No frills death metal from The Netherlands. Sometimes what you need is a straight forward shot of brutality right to your brain. In such a use case, Antropomorphia does not disappoint. The production is not how I would personally like, but it is fully serviceable and once you’ve adjusted to the explosion of sound that you’re about to be subjected to, you can begin to appreciate the meat and potatoes of the songwriting on display. For when you don’t want to fuck around, this is the record to spin. The art is fantastic too.

Tangerine Dream – Atem (1973)

A strange one (that’s saying something!) from the early series of Tangerine Dream albums. The unfolding soundscape is almost sinister in its composition, although it is ultimately enjoyable and even relaxing, despite the unexpected presence of drumming. I’m getting a personal sense of dissonance between the tracks; as in, there is no harmonous link between them all, and they seem very disjointed. For a project like Tangerine Dream, I think it is in important that an album can speak for itself as a whole. Atem cannot do that. This does not mean that the contents are not worthy of examining, however. There are some excellent compositions here. Unfortunately, on the sheer scale of the quality present in other early offerings from Tangerine Dream, Atem is unlikely to recieve repeat listens from me.

Wicked Lady – The Axeman Cometh (1993)

Feel good hard rock / proto heavy metal is the order of the day. I’ll be honest with you, I was not aware of the sheer age of the original recordings when I listened to this thing. I am blown away, in that regard. The production should have been a give away, really. The guitars are ear-piercingly thin, but their distorted jangle gives this thing it’s charm, along with the loose feel of the drums and the thrum of the bass. I’m not super fussed on the vocals, which vary in quality and sound somewhat amateurish, but otherwise this is a highly enjoyable listen.

Horna / Behexen – Split LP (2004)

A storming split from two long-running bands of varying legendary status. I’ve not much been the biggest fan of Behexen, but they shine here too, in the strongest form I’ve encountered them in to date. Their four tracks are sweeping, glorious epics in the misty yet muddy black metal style. Horna have a slightly rougher production, only just, but offer slightly better songwriting, opening up the first half of this split with dare I say gorgeous compositions of hostility and darkness. The drumming is particularily of note, but the whole group is firing on all cylinders here. The vocals are rabid as fuck. This split is well worth hunting down.

Curta’n Wall – Terr’ble Death (2021)

Tis most like that yon wulde indeede suff’r a e death in the tymes of olde. When thy lords send thee to batt’l and thon axe clea’v or thon sword strike true, then a terr’ble death wulde b’falle ye. There be no glory on the batt’l fielde, only terr’ble death. Curta’n Wall then, is here to provide the soundtrack to such an unfortunate fate. Terr’ble Death is one of the stronger earlier efforts from this excellent little project, which a coherency to proceedings that is not quite present elsewhere. There is less focus on the mad instrumentation here, instead the “metal” side of the Wall shines through better here. All in all, tis a welcome entry to the Curta’n Wall discography.

Curta’n Wall – Crocodile Moat!!!!!!! (2022)

Crocodile Moat is peak Curta’n Wall. Move over Siege Ubsessed, because the Moat is where it’s at. Crocodile Moat just flows better, and the songs that do repeat have superior versions here than on the full length. Not sure what it is exactly; but this one just hits different. It hits perfect, in fact. Like a flail to the back of the head. Tidy.

Burzum – Beyond The Gate (2024)

It’s hard to explain how strange it is to see a legendary act fall apart in real time like this. Especially, I suppose, after said act was supposedly retired, especially from guitar-based music / black metal. This 12 minute “epic” sees more GarageBand drums, more lacklustre mixing, and more overlong meandering songwriting that goes nowhere. I must give props where they are due, and that is for the excellent frosted tapestry of riffs that sit beneath this one, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Curta’n Wall – Siege Ubsessed (2023)

After a series of splits and EPs, the bizarre Curta’n Wall drops a full length album. I was a tad concerned that something so whacky would translate into a full length format, but for the most part it seems to fare quite well. Every time I feel like things are about to get a little stale, Curta’n Wall switches things up, or transitions into a new song / section / instrument that immediately renews my interest. Speaking of instruments, this thing is loaded to the gills with all sorts of crazy medieval sounds. If you too are Siege Ubsessed (lol), then this record will serve you well, my liege. Some things I will say however is that a few of the tracks contain what I can only describe as guest vocals from Elvya, whose dulcet tones I don’t quite think match the freak show that is Curta’n Wall. Also, I’m no scholar of this project but there’s a number of tracks here I notice as being rerecorded, some with what feels like new instrumentation, and in every single case I have preferred the originals. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if I just summarised by saying that this an interesting album but not something that is going to appeal to everyone.

Impaled – Death After Life (2005)

Impaled’s sophomore record is a fairly mature interpretation of the “Carcass” template, turning biting, gore-tinged metal numbers into something a bit more three dimensional. The strong production job helps, but it’s the compositions which sell this. They really make this one stand alone; unique, instantly recognisable as Impaled, despite featuring all of the hallmarks of the melodic yet brutal pathological sound. The “custom made” samples / interludes are also a nice touch, adding even further to the albums character. A strong offering, for sure.

Satyricon – The Shadowthrone (1994)

The importance of Shadowthrone for Satyricon cannot be understated. It is a record of progress, seemingly with the band taking massive strides since Dark Medieval Times, both in the complexity of their music and the delivery of said music via a cleaner production style. The production is of course still absolutely raw enough for fans of 90s black metal but expect a clear, balanced soundstage in which every instrument hangs in its own space, fully audible and enjoyable, which is a rarity for black metal, I can tell you that much. A highlight of any Satyricon record is always going to be Frost’s drumming. His fills and accents are one thing, but his precision and accuracy is another. Fantastic work. Sonically, the strings and the keyboards that augment them all go together perfectly, the guitar like several frosted layers of tapestry. Vocally, this is a strong album for Satyr, too. I feel like Shagrath from Dimmu may have taken a lot of inspiration here for Enthrone Darkness Triumphant onwards. Shadowthrone is an excellent record. I can only hope that the recent remaster brought some extra listeners back to this icy classic.

Xasthur – Portals Of Sorrow (2010)

Black metal Scooby Doo music for clinically depressed maniacs and / or Pitchfork readers from 2010. I’m joking of course, but Portal Of Sorrow barely feels like an album, with its neither here nor there semi-instrumental takes. Expect the usual Xasthur production, but a whole truckload of weirdness and different vibes that just ends up sounding pretty disjointed.

Haemorrhage / Dead – Split CD (2008)

Haemorrhage are – as per usual – on top form here. Grisly, gnarly, slightly sloppy (but it’s OK) goregrind from the masters. Riffs for days, sickness for a few days more, from the opening chainsaw sample to the finale note played. Dead on the other hand are a bit chonkier. Their “sexy” goregrind / death metal hybrid hits like a slab of roast beef to the back of the head (eyyy!), more in the vein of CBT / Gut without actually sounding like those bands. Cool shit.

Cattle Decapitation – To Serve Man (2002)

Taking the early days Cat Decap platters of splatter in a tighter, more precise and streamlined a direction. To Serve Man is like one of those injections that makes you throw up all over yourself, shit yourself, and then pass out. But only after hearing this whole album first. Some of the directions can be nauseating, with neck snapping changes in ideas / riffs but the delivery is so totes brutes that I’m all for it, to be honest.

Decapitated – The Negation (2004)

The Negation is the band’s follow up to the legendary and IMO game changing Nihility. On the surface of it, The Negation is like Nihility part 2, which should be a good thing I guess considering how incredible that album is, but for reasons I’ve not really addressed until now, The Negation never really landed with me and this was when I parted ways with Decapitated back in’t day. Don’t get me wrong, some of the songs here are absolutely incredible. That lightning in a bottle feeling from Nihility and even Winds… is still here (kind of), with the dream team of superfukkenfastblurzovdeffmetal in Vogg, Martin and Vitek delivering deliciously complex yet insanely brutal compositions of sound. It’s the band’s final album also with original vocalist Sauron, so this should be a fitting end to the original trilogy, right? The issues that do come then, are with the flow of the album. I think. Maybe there’s something about the way these tracks are ordered, maybe it’s just the nature of the tracks in general. I’m still not completely and entirely sure, but whilst they might be great in isolation, in the form of an album they don’t really work all that well. It’s a strange one, I’ll be honest.

Deafheaven – Roads To Judah (2011)

I found Roads To Judah, whilst engaging, to not be as fully realised as the vision of “blackgaze” the band perfected with Sunbather. The songs are sprawling epics much in the same vein, but if anything, having less screamo / shoegaze elements in the music and instead being more “nice” regular black metal (like Alcest, yknow?) actually does harm rather than good. Never thought I’d be calling for more of either of those two genres in my black metal I’ll be honest with you, but here we are. I understand of course, that Roads To Judah came first, and this was a more formative version of their sound, so I have taken that into account whilst rating this one.

Sepultura – Kairos (2011)

Kairos is another latter day Sepultura record that whilst being pretty fun and actually very well made / produced, still ultimately falls into just being “OK”. There is nothing about Kairos, for all its excellent musicianship and fantastic vocal performances from Derrick Green, that is particularly bad or even boring. It’s just somehow the album blurs into one gelatinous blob no matter how many times I spin it. Well played, I’ll give it that, but dangerously generic.

Judas Priest – Invincible Shield (2024)

Well, colour me surprised at how fucking good this is. Goddamn! Yes, Firepower and Angel Of Retribution were solid, consistent and more than serviceable, but I was strongly of the opinion that Priest hadn’t done an excellent album since Painkiller. Here comes Invincible Shield them, to knock me off my high horse. Bloody heck! At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, because it has the same super slick and modern metal production as the albums I mentioned above. Whilst that kind of production is more than suitable for a bazillion metal bands, the sounds of classic Priest are not something I would associate with such a clean “pro tools” feeling sound. But the songs on this thing are so fucking good that I don’t even mind that it’s overproduced. Everything sounds fantastic, especially Halford, who is putting out incredible work for a man of his age. It’s a shame Tipton isn’t really involved anymore and of course KK hasn’t been around for a while but if Invincible Shield was the final Judas Priest album I wouldn’t even be mad.

Exhumed – Dissecting The Caseated Omentum (1992)

What’s better than death metal? Why, sloppy goregrind mixed with death metal, obviously. Taking pages from the books of not only Carcass, but also Xysma, Impetigo and even Autopsy, this early daze incarnation of the now legendary Exhumed is a treat in primitive metal brutality done right. The demo grinds along like a rusty machine, but one that will hit you with lethal amounts of force if you are not careful.

Calderum – Mystical Fortress Of Iberian Lands (2022)

Calderum’s Mystical Fortress Of Iberian Lands really took me by surprise. This thing goes hard! Combining melodies and hooks with ferocious blastbeats (the latter often becomes the focus of more “brutal” black metal) and balancing a “kvlt” sound with a clear and warm production, Calderum literally ticks all of my fucking boxes. Seriously, the drumming on this is absolutely fantastic; “Fortress Of Doom” will give you a good example as to why, with tons of inspired fills and variations, switch ups and cymbal flourishes that don’t overcrowd the song but instead contribute massively. The “dungeon synth” interludes are brilliant in their own right too, proper Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall energy going on here. Fucking class stuff.

Castle Rat – Into The Realm (2024)

One doesn’t want to ask such a question, but one feels one has to – would Castle Rat be popping off as much as they currently are if they didn’t look the way they do? I’m talking mostly regarding enigmatic and super-talented frontwoman Riley Pinkerton AKA The Rat Queen, but also the rest of the group with their various monikers and disguises. The Scooby Doo aesthetic, whilst clearly working, gives a whole Blood Ceremony meets Ghost feeling. The sad truth is that occult rock / trad doom / 70s “metal” revival bands are a dime a dozen, so does Into The Realm hold up once you take away all the theatrics and imagery? Does it work on an intrinsic musical level? Well, kind of. The previously mentioned Rat Queen has a great voice (when it’s not drowning in awful effects), reminding me of Rosalie Cunningham or Alia O’Brien, but the backing band, whilst serviceable, never quite offer anything that stands out. The production has this weird blown out sound on the percussion, I guess to make the soundstage artificially fuller than it actually is, but the guitar work is fun, if nothing else. Outside of highlights “Cry For Me” and closing track “Nightblood”, none of the tracks on this thing are any better than “Ok”, which is well, not really OK, at least not in a genre where a hundred million other bands are vying to replace you in an instant. Look, this is an entertaining album. It’s not like, actually bad (outside of a few choice effects / filters on the vocals which actively detracts from the overall experience), but I expected more.

Death In June – The Snow Bunker Tapes (2013)

The Snow Bunker Tapes is the same set of songs from Peaceful Snow but instead of piano we get the tunes in an OG Di6 configuration of acoustic guitar with additional sparse twinkles of percussive affectations. In some cases this works well, the guitar matching up well with a lot of the songs that failed to wow on piano (just do a side by side listen for both versions of opening track “Murder Made History” to see what I mean). Oddly, the inverse can also be the case, such as for the track “Peaceful Snow”, which in piano form is one of the best songs ever written yet the guitar version is bizarrely upbeat, trundling along at a fair clip which kills any mood the piano version had. I think the best thing to do is to listen to both sets of songs and then pick and choose the best from each session to make like a super cut called The Peaceful Snow Bunker or something. In fact I might actually do that right now…

Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997)

Historically, I’ve had a hot / cold relationship with the solo albums of Devin Townsend. Much to my surprise then, when going back to the very first one from 1997, I found that I truly enjoyed this album. Devin’s “wall of sound” production is in its infancy but still mostly present; sheets of guitars and synths are the backdrop for this collection of compositions, setting the stage for the growing levels of bombast that would unfold on future records. As it stands alone, Ocean Machine is a record comparable as much to shoegaze as it is to prog or even metal. Favourite track: “Bastard”.

Angel Witch – Loser (1981)

Noticeably different from the debut album in both in terms of tonality and general production, the Loser 7” sees Angel Witch adopting a more “fun”, cheeky approach to their dark NWOBHWM sound. Historically, it’s the start of a change that did not pay off for the group, but nevertheless this three track single is an interesting and enjoyable listen. “Dr. Phibes” is arguably the weakest of the three, but the other two are great little pieces of heavy metal.

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol: Ray Gillen Mix (1986/1987)

These original versions of the tracks that would go on to make up The Eternal Idol are a treat to listen to. It’s not as groundbreaking a reveal as the original sessions for Born Again, but hearing Ray Gillen’s original vocals is a treat for Sabbath fans whichever way you cut the cake. The songs didn’t quite get the full studio polish up in these takes, but the roughness (it’s not exactly black metal haha) is a small price to pay in return for the songs sounding more natural, and then you’ve got the added benefit of Gillen’s voice mixing things up even further.

Satanic Warmaster – Fimbulwinter (2014)

Listening back to back with Nachzehrer, the difference between the two full lengths is staggering. It’s like night and day (or two different bands). Here, Satanic Warmaster’s sound is polished up, this time more so than at any other point in his discography (at least chronologically and to my memory). The drumming is the most notable improvement; fast and ferocious and most importantly beautifully recorded. It helps lay an enviable foundation of brutality and precision, making the gulf between the noisier, slightly sloppier recording on the previous album even wider. On top of that, Werwolf’s guitars sound that extra bit sharper and his vocals bite that extra bit harder, too. From its opening moments until the closing lulls of the dungeon synth style closing track (Mortiis’ lawyers may be in touch over that one as it’s a smidge familiar sounding lmao), Fimbulwinter is a nonstop attack on the senses.

Angel Witch – Angel Witch / Gorgon (Single) (1980)

Without doing side by side listens it’s hard to really differentiate between these versions and the same tracks from the debut album, but both songs work rather pleasantly together as a 7” single release. Not to mention the art is cool as fuck, so if I ever saw this at a used record store for a decent price I’d probably pick it up because it’s a cool little package.