“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.
We don’t know about you, but we’re about ready for the real world to stop resembling heavy metal lyrics. As the pandemic continues and long-overdue social change sweeps America and the world, Sepultura’s mighty “Refuse/Resist” comes to mind — a song more relevant now than ever. These are the times that metal has prepared us for. These are the times that metal will get us through.
Of course, Sepultura don’t need our signal-boost. Instead, this month offers a few slabs of eldritch and mind-bending death metal from Finland, France, and America, and even one particularly unique take on sludge. To sweeten that stiff drink, the underground has also offered new traditional metal offerings with plenty of hooks and choruses. In particular, don’t skip Magick Touch, whose new record is premiering below. —Joseph Schafer
Magick Touch – Heads Have Got to Rock’n’Roll
In contrast to our present cruel and growing crueler summer, Norway’s Magick Touch traffic in sticky-sweet pop metal that evokes warm weather, clear skies and good times. On the razor-thin intersection of hair and power metal circa 1984 — think Rose Tattoo on cheap meth, or Riot V on their way to a beach in a red convertible and you’re in the right mindset — their third album Heads Have Got to Rock’n’Roll feels like an artifact not only of the Reaganite past but of an idyllic parallel universe that I’m sure we all wish we could find a portal to. Though the record’s immaculately paced you could throw these songs on shuffle and find something catchy each time the track changes. From the cowbell-packing “Love is a Heart Disease” to the arena-swaggering “Waiting for the Parasites”, each tune, packs a sing-along chorus buoyed by ebullient vocal harmonies and anchored by mid-paced stomp perfectly timed for raised fists and chugging beers—hence why we’re premiering it below. You deserve a pick-me-up, and this leather-clad Norwegian power trio has the uppers. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Exocrine – Maelstrom
About a decade ago, the kind of hi-fi progggy deathcore that Exocrine traffic in was, to me, the most exciting new permutation in metal, thanks to bands like Obscura and the Faceless. By my estimation the genre’s overall quality has dropped alongside the output of those two bands, with a few records standing out as powerful exceptions. Maelstrom is one such exception. Progressive in scope and varied in sound, it has all the depth and mystery that the aquatic monstrosities in their art and lyrics demand. Each song has its own identity, and in sequence they build a growing sense of danger, which is impressive since the band comes out of the gate with bloodthirsty aggression both vocal and rhythmic. Special attention ought to be paid to the tasteful saxophone work, which in most other circumstances might come across as cheesy, but here suits the music nicely. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Joseph Schafer
Hail Spirit Noir – Eden in Reverse
On paper, perhaps I should have foreseen Hail Spirit Noir evolving from a nervy post-black metal band into an out-and-out King Crimson/Pink Floyd hybrid psych/prog metal outfit. Their ear for this kind of metal-adjacent starry-eyed prog is self-evident given how natural all of it sounds in their hands, exploring the same warped psycho-terrain as their more black metal-aligned material once did but now enriched with an added lysergic modernist drenching. The final sound of Eden in Reverse evokes the cold wet shapes of bizarre ’60s furniture and mod stylings, all egg chairs, and blobby wallpaper, the molding scent of science fiction novels like keys to the ladder beyond the stars lurking just beyond your window. Prog metal is a dear favorite of mine and formerly-black metal groups tend to approach it with a sense of vivacity and imagination that’s thrilling. Virus may be gone, but we still have Hail Spirit Noir: cherish them. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Langdon Hickman
Lantern — Dimensions
You’ve got to love it when a band sounds as cool as their logo looks. Finland’s Lantern reach for the sky with their logo, but their newest album, Dimensions, lands in deep space. With the old school death metal revival has come a renewed interest in cosmic lyrics and aesthetics that too often translate to a soupy morass of guitar effects posturing as atmosphere. Lantern smartly remember that in space there is no atmosphere (hence, nobody can hear you scream), and so deliver their music with a vacuumed clarity. Vocalist Necrophilos in particular shines with a gruff but totally enunciated singing style, all the better to compliment Cruciatus’ sharp and illuminated stabs of lead guitar. As a Finnish death metal band, their sense of melody always zigs instead of zags, keeping on the very edges of hummability, but unlike many of their compatriots Lantern’s non-Euclidean melodic lines still worm their way into your brain if given the opportunity. As intriguing as the album is, closer “Strange Monolithic Dimensions” hints at an even more beguiling future over the course of its quarter hour runtime. If the infinite black void between worlds is this cool, shove me into the airlock and hit the big red button. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Joseph Schafer
Midnight Dice – Hypnotized
Chicago’s Midnight Dice formed from the ashes of Satan’s Hallow, a traditional-style metal quintet who independently released one of the best metal albums of 2017 (seriously, listen to it), played Germany’s prestigious Keep it True festival and then promptly went on indefinite hiatus, leaving big shoes to fill. Midnight Dice live up to their previous incarnation’s promise with aplomb on their debut EP, Hypnotized. Smartly, Midnight Dice don’t follow The Satan’s Hollow formula to the letter – with only one guitar, they focus less on melody and solos, and more of aggression, with a thicket sound and overall faster attack. Hypnotized strikes with speed and fury without sacrificing tunefulness. One thing remains unchanged: vocalist Mandy Martillo is powerhouse singer, capable of hitting glass-breaking notes without sacrificing attitude. Their debut LP just jumped to the top of my most-anticipated records list. Until then Buy it on Bandcamp. —Joseph Schafer
Pyrrhon – Abscess Time
Once, it would have been fitting to call this group a technical death metal band. That trio of words has experienced some monumental shifting of the bones, almost so much so that they threaten to burst free from the skin, but at least early in Pyrrhon’s career it was accurate. On Abscess Time, their perennial mutation lurches them slick and slimy free from those constraints. Death metal is still present but now is a single mote among many, with most of the ligaments seemingly constructed from heavy and nihilistic experimental noise rock. Ultimately, however, the struggle to define this music is less important than the pure and imagistic sound of it, wet and disgusting, the hybrid child of punk, extreme metal and experimental music. The cover feels the perfect and perhaps only real encapsulation of this record: a sickly hand, a human brain, swirls of color like bile and waste. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Langdon Hickman
Ulthar – Providence
Death metal like Ulthar’s, one that twists and writhes with weirdness and avant-garde flourish, short-circuits my brain and reduces me to a grunting lizardman stomping around my home smashing chairs against the walls. Providence builds successfully off of Cosmovore, their debut, sadly sacrificing an epic track for a more evenly-distributed sense of the weird over the course of the record. Their sense of atmosphere remains impeccable, synthesizing black metal tremolo riffs, Morbid Angel-isms and just a kiss of Voivod-ian outsideness to round out the offering. There is never too much of this deeply Lovecraftian sense of death metal in the world; this mutant psychedelia, human limbs bursting into vast antenna arrays of teeth and greasy strands of hair to signal outer lords, is what the genre is perennially called to be. For all the people harping on the OSDM revival: let’s see you release something this good. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Langdon Hickman
Vile Creature – Glory Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
It feels uncanny that this record got released now of all times. There is a political angle to this interrogation of apathy, of course, but even before that, the ravaging sludge-scape of pure sickness that cascades like ash and vomit from the speakers feels almost impossibly prescient. Vile Creature tap into that very primal and pre-rational draw of sludge that pioneers like Acid Bath and Eyehategod helped create it for. There are other types of extreme music that seek to tickle the brain and ignite the spirit, as it were; Glory Glory! Apathy Took Helm! seeks something different, a draining of the cyst, crying until you vomit, screaming until you pass out. This is music of grief and rage, pure and virulent, like a rotting limb or flesh sloughing off the charred black bone. Lord knows we need that now. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Langdon Hickman