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Mining Metal: Dungeon Serpent, Hellish Form, Lantlos, Mesa, Midwife, Mordred, Night Crowned, Sallow Moth

A rundown of the best underground metal releases of July 2021

Mining Metal
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    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.

    As I write this introduction, I’ve just found out about the passing of Mike Howe, vocalist of the criminally underrated band Metal Church. He was 55 years old — too young.

    The last time I memorialized a musician in this column, it was Entombed vocalist L.G. Petrov. Howe’s story differs from Petrov’s in two critical ways. First, because Petrov’s passing was unfortunate but expected, whereas Howe’s was surprising. Second, while Petrov and Entombed had gone their separate ways, the band had achieved notoriety commensurate with their artistic output. In contrast, Howe had been an active member of Metal Church at the time of his death. Despite 40 years of existence, the band isn’t as well known as they deserve to be.

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    Metal Church was one of the Seattle-area ’80s heavy metal bands that, alongside Sanctuary and Queensrÿche, established a nuanced, gloomy-but-sharp and progressive-but-aggressive sound that dabbled in speed, thrash, power and even a touch of glam without committing to any one adjective. Apocryphally, Lars Ulrich considered joining Metal Church at one point, when they were still based in the Bay Area. The band’s first three records showcase ultra-high-class songwriting. Howe’s debut with the band, 1989’s Blessing in Disguise, was released via Elektra Records.

    It’s worth noting that Howe was not Metal Church’s first singer. David Wayne sang on the band’s first two albums. Sadly, Wayne also passed away too young at 47 years old.

    Despite their acumen and pedigree, Metal Church belong to the echelon of great bands that deserve wider recognition — bands like Trouble, Fate’s Warning, Solitude Aeternus, Forbidden, Exciter, Accept, and so on.

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    This is all to say that, in my opinion, there ought not be any more excellent bands who only get their due after the untimely loss of a great talent. It’s for that reason, among others, that we continue presenting the best underground metal albums each month, including the ones listed below for July 2021.

    Author’s Note: This intro was completed just before I found out that founding Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison had also passed away at the young age of 46. Needless to say, Jordison was an immense talent, and I could easily write an entire essay about his brilliance behind the kit. That said, Heavy Consequence has already paid tribute to Jordison with a list of his 10 Most Jaw-Dropping Slipknot Drum Moments. Rest in peace, Mike Howe and Joey Jordison. —Joseph Schafer

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    Dungeon Serpent – World of Sorrows

    The Old School Death Metal revival has been boiling for at least five years now (let’s call the release of Blood Incantation’s Starspawn as the point of ignition though that ignores the legion of bands that never put the Autopsy cassettes down, or the battalion of hardcore bands that doubled down on the HM-2 pedal before them). Old School death metal’s original peak only lasted for about that long (I’m calling the release of Death’s Scream Bloody Gore in 1988 as the start though of course bands like Bathory and Possessed were at it earlier, and ending it in 1993 with the release of Cynic’s Focus). Nothing truly ends in the time of the internet, but after this long, many of the old guard started to expand their sound and add – gasp! – melody. Sure, Melodic Death metal ran itself into the ground after just as long, but the movement that brought us At the Gates, Carcass, Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy (and, uh… In Flames…) deserves a reappraisal too, and it might just get it if Dungeon Serpent has anything to say. This Canadian one-man project captures the raw beginnings of the melodeath movement, with aplomb, adding mournful solos and pit-ready riffs to the now retried-and-verified chainsaw rock formula — dig that elegiac bridge in the middle of “Cosmic Sorcery.” The debut LP World of Sorrows doesn’t shy away from its bedroom origins or some of melodeath’s less-appealing fatures (typewriter drum programming) but it has a ton of heart, making it probably my most-loved debut album of the year so far. Buy it on Bandcamp.—Joseph Schafer

    Hellish Form – Remains

    Slightly bending the rules to bring this record from the tail end of June to your attention. Hellish Form blend funeral doom of the crushing and impossibly slow variety, the kind driven these days by Body Void and Bell Witch, with the dappled kosmiche synthesizer soundscapes of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. There is a deft sweetness to the synthesizer portions, one that cuts counter to the deep sorrow of the doom in a manner that recalls Nightfall-era Candlemass. There’s something to be learned here for other bands about how grace notes of melodicism can make that next doom section burst with tears rather than just rattle the speaker cabinet. This is masterful stuff, absolutely end of year worthy, and given its close proximity to July anyway seemed a justifiable tweak to put down on paper. Buy it on Bandcamp.—Langdon Hickman

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    Lantlos – Wildhund/Glitchking

    Once upon a time, Lantlos was just another blackgaze band, producing rich music in a nascent field. But then Melting Sun came along, truly one of the best metal records put to tape, and the true essence of the group seemed to burst like moth from cocoon. Wildhund/Glitchking, the newest double album of the project, pursues those same euphoric post-metal directions pursued on Melting Sun, here adding the brightness and punch of modern day Deftones and Devin Townsend to the mix. That is, at least, until the second disc, when suddenly the timbre changes to abstract electronic portraiture, the same emotional space explored through cracking digitalism rather than the bleeding watercolors and organicism of the countering disc. Lantlos is on an exit trajectory from heavy metal, but this has only made them greater over time. Wave them goodbye from places like this as they depart for the grander stages they deserve. Buy it on Bandcamp.—Langdon Hickman

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