“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.
Even in troubled times like these, there’s cause to celebrate. For example, it’s our anniversary. We’ve been compiling some of the best underground metal sounds here at Heavy Consequence for one year as of this month, and we hope to continue to do so for as long as we can. It’s a privilege we do not take lightly, and we thank you deeply for your continued support.
The spring brings some of the most anticipated metal releases to shelves. This year is no exception, and we’d be remiss to not mention the excellent new records by Katatonia, Oranssi Pazuzu and Cirith Ungol, which are all just a little too high-profile for Mining Metal’s purview. Several of the records below, however, are just as strong and will likely catapult these bands into the same upper echelon.
Please enjoy these new releases. The current economic situation means many records slated for the next few months are indefinitely delayed so savor these sounds instead, and remember: the times are not kind to musicians so if you like what you hear, please buy a copy. Happy anniversary. — Joseph Schafer
Black Curse – Endless Wound
This has been a year of eating crow for me! Endless Wound sits alongside the newest from The Acacia Strain and Afterbirth as making me take back my stances on subgenres within the world of death metal that I typically turn my nose up at, here being war metal (Joseph, alas, will never recant). My issues with war metal generally are hard to articulate but often sit closer to political problems than the music itself, an issue Black Curse sidesteps entirely, allowing me to freely absorb these radically noisy and gunk-crusted death metal riffs. There’s something necessary and admirable about the continued like of heavy metal that sounds like it was recorded through a headset into a boombox with a blank cassette, something primordial and affirming, and Black Curse here nail both that worshipful vibe as well as delivering a set of spiritually-scourged pitch-black scalp-rippers. Oh, and they’re a supergroup! Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Destroyed in Seconds – Divide and Devour
One of the worst things a brand can be is too-clever. Lists of influences and contemporary sound-alikes often mislead and obscure rather than illuminate. Not LA’s Destroyed in Seconds though. Their twitter handle is “dbeatdown” and that’s exactly what they deliver: the boom-pow bombardment that Discharge made their signature and now defines a solid half of crust punk as a genre. To those listeners as-yet unschooled in the unstoppable propulsive power of this particular metal-punk percussive trick, Destroyed in Seconds’ long-awaited second record, Divide and Devour, is a great place to start (Disfear’s Live the Storm is the sine qua non, though). Like many other crusties, these songs blend chainsaw guitar tone with furious leftist politics into a comforting stew for these disquieting times. Unlike many of their peers, Destroyed in Seconds know how to lay into a riff — to be expected from veterans of Phobia and State of Defiance. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Cemetery Filth – Dominion
Sometimes I worry that the American Old School Death Metal revival is reaching a saturation point. When Blood Incantation is getting mentioned (deservedly!) by ultra-mainstream publications, where can we go, really? Then I hear a record like Cemetery Filth’s debut Dominion and I think, “Oh, that’s right, we can go straight to hell and have a wild ride doing it.” These Atlantans pack sweltering Southern heat into each sticky riff that flows from the sweaty fingers of guitarists Matt Kilpatrick and Ryan Guinn. Where other bands might wash these licks out with an endless stream of blast beats, Cemetery Filth wisely sticks to the tumbling siege engine tempos mastered by Asphyx and Soulburn. For added spice, Guinn and Kilpatrick’s solos cut nicely through the din and deliver blasphemous psychedelia in line with what I expect from Immolation. Hellfire and brimstone sound like a nice day at the beach after just a few songs. Naturally, Dominion comes courtesy of always-reliable death dealers Unspeakable Axe. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Elder – Omens
This is another band that, by their next release, will likely be just a kiss too big for coverage in underground columns and venues. And for good reason! Their early records were compelling prog sludge/doom, but ever since they cleaned up their approach on Lore, their arc has gradually been to a particularly heavy and expansive prog rock a la Pallbearer. There are long stretches here where, like their last two or three records, you question whether they’re really a heavy metal band anymore, albeit joyously. The vocals are, admittedly, what will make or break this record for you; as the guitars have tilted more toward the alt-prog of modern-day Dinosaur Jr., so too have the vocals, and this will either feel warm and human to you or a bit thin. What won’t be a test is the music, which is some of the most gorgeous contemporary prog on the planet. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Lord Vigo – Danse de Noir
Germany’s Lord Vigo took me by surprise with their newest record, Danse de Noir. Even a minuscule sampling of their music allies the band squarely in the ascendant epic doom camp, the cohort of bands headed by Grammy-nominees Candlemass and championed among the young by Mining Metal alumni Smoulder and Crypt Sermon. Lord Vigo perform the style well — drummer and vocalist Vinz Clortho has the prerequisite Dio-esque pipes and the guitar melodies reach elegiac heights without casting heaviness aside. This record though represents two departures for the band: First, epic doom is rarely this hooky. The combination of a light ’80s pop aesthetic and serious choruses more in line with cult-classic NWOBHM inquisitors Witchfinder General render the music more palatable to casual fans — to be expected from the always tune-forward leadership at High Roller records. Second, the whole record is about the ’80s sci-fi/film noir (hence the title) classic Blade Runner. Lord Vigo have always been cinephiles, their name refers to the villain in Ghostbusters 2, but this particular pop-culture touchstone deepens the experience of songs like “Memento Mori.” Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Solicitor – Spectral Devastation
Solicitor gives me a specific feeling. It’s the same feeling you get watching Saturday morning cartoons — especially the kind where two protagonists, usually behind the joystick of two powerful, toyetic war machines, decide to join forces. Their avatars of destruction fuse into a larger, stronger, even more toyetic gizmo and my mouth waters. Solicitor unites musicians from two now-defunct Seattle area traditional metal institutions, Substratum and Hexengeist. Both of those earlier projects’ records come highly recommended, but Spectral Devastation feels like a step forward. Vocalist Amy Lee Carlson’s emotive snarl carries these ultra-aggressive strikes into the stratosphere. At the same time, Solicitor never sacrifices tunefulness for pure speed and attack. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Traveler – Termination Shock
April, as it turned out, was also a great month of that central pillar of the music we so love, traditional heavy metal. Termination Shock is Traveler’s second record, a tight hybrid of traditional metal and speed metal, bleeding with the same cybernetic cool that the early 80s metal records caught somewhere between the fading light of NWOBHM and before thrash and power metal permanently split off from speed metal. There is roughness here but there are also sky-rending hooks, your hands twisted into shaking claws and your eyes clutched as tight as a teenager’s while shrieking along to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate in their parents’ basement. Another all-time trad metal band dropped a record this month too, albeit on a label too big to cover here, but seeing them next to Traveler feels wonderful, healthy, the old guard producing superlative work alongside the hyper-talented younger bands. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Ulcerate – Stare Into Death and Be Still
April single-handedly dropped a fat stack of Album of the Year contenders and this is one of them. Stare Into Death and Be Still feels more like an alternate evolutionary path off of The Destroyers of All, removing the increasing anxiety-inducing sheets of noise from their past two and leaning harder on the post-metal and doom metal timbres, albeit within a technical death metal framework. The results here are, ever as always for this band, some of the most emotionally resonant death metal you’ll ever hear, sounding like a particularly brutal Portal but feeling like Neurosis or perhaps Isis with a particularly neanderthalic set of riffs in their bag that day. Ulcerate are at the very top of a what a column like this can cover, and for good reason; they are on the cusp of blowing up within the death metal world, and deservedly so, given that they already have enough records to qualify as Hall of Famers. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman