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.
This month marks the three-year anniversary of Mining Metal. Happy birthday to us.
This is also my final installment of this column. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’ll miss it terribly. I already do.
I owe our dedicated readers an explanation: You will notice that Langdon has written all the blurbs this month — and not for the first time this year. I still love metal in all its forms (well, almost, I still can’t do war metal). The truth is my responsibilities outside of this column have expanded so much that I can’t give this column the cultivation I feel it deserves. I also feel the bands deserve someone who can express their stories with undivided (or at least less distracted) attention. And I feel that you, the readers, deserve a columnist who has more bandwidth to keep your interests in mind.
Some of those competing responsibilities are musical — I produce a festival; I sing in a band (I hope to see some of you in person sooner than later!). But most of them are mundane: growing responsibilities in my career, a never-ending stream of home maintenance tasks, and a time-consuming but necessary focus on personal health. These are the same things that put great bands on hiatus more often than not, and at last they’ve caught up with me (the attention-grabbing breakups and personal acrimony that dominate news feeds are, thankfully, the exception, not the rule).
When Langdon and I started Mining Metal we had a few goals: to expose bands with limited or no label resources to a wider audience, to cheer on the intrepid spirit of independent musicians, to represent the widest possible breadth of metal’s sonic palate, and to offer people a well-vetted selection of music that won’t pique any guilty feelings for listeners who choose to be socially conscious with their spending.
I think we’ve accomplished all those goals. I’m proud of our work. And Langdon, at least, isn’t stopping.
Langdon will be continuing this column with new co-writers, continuing the mission he and I embarked on three years ago with fresh voices and new perspectives. I think it will keep this column interesting. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to trust Langdon’s taste, even when his initial pitch seems a bit… interesting. Readers, you’re in capable hands.
Thank you for going on this journey with us. Thank you for giving me so much of your precious attention. Thank you, Spencer, and everyone else at Consequence for believing in this project. And thank you Langdon for joining me in this battle and continuing the fight.
Into Glory Ride, and Eternal Hails!
Bedsore/Mortal Incarnation – Split
Sometimes, patience in writing these things pays off. Say, for instance, when one of my favorite contemporary death metal bands Bedsore delivers from out of the blue a surprise 17-minute long track. Their work on this split cuts the difference between Hemispheres-era Rush and Crimson-era Edge of Sanity, producing a prog-death epic that feels like emerging from a lurid opium dream. That sensibility continues on Mortal Incarnation’s near 15-minute cut, which swaps out the more outre and traditional progressive rock touches for the more contemporary and sublimated forms, using doom metal (a genre of metal deeply tied to prog as an originating element) in its place to create a shifting and moribund landscape. This juxtaposition works well; the 30-minute surprise LP opens with starfaring synthesizers and ends with abyssal squalor, showing a thoughtful and composed span of time where other splits feel scattershot and haphazard. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Corpsessed – Succumb to Rot
Good lord, this band is wet. I made an off-handed half-joke recently that death metal can be sorted best into two groupings: dry death metal and wet death metal. Anyone who’s heard enough of the stuff will be able to follow this but, for the less initiated: This new Corpsessed record sounds like steaming bile and swamp muck, like a pool of the kinds of bodily fluids you produce in the midst of a diphtheria or cholera attack. This is, of course, meant as high praise; death metal, being extreme, is one of genres that can sustain all kinds of moods, including these most bilious and frankly gross ones. The production and mixing still allows the riffs to cut and pummel when needed, clearing up to reveal surprisingly limber basslines and well-mixed drums (always a treat!). But the overall mood is pleasantly close to the cover: some kind of f**ked up guy, and then a whole lot of wet stuff just kind of around. God I love death metal. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Egregore – The Word of His Law
Egregore, a new group formed by two current members of similar progressive-minded black/death metal bands Auroch and Mitochondrion, pursues a form between those two previous groups. While Auroch wrote pieces that felt fastidiously composed, as rife with measured riffs as any technical extreme metal band but focused thoroughly more on the atmosphere those riffs might create, Mitochondrion was substantially more wild, feeling more like wandering sideways through the liquidity and slime of lurid dream. Egregore, fittingly, situates itself between these poles, instead delivering what could comfortably be called progressive extreme metal but without the sense of pomp or overt technicality that can sometimes convey. This is programmatic music, meant to score moods, images, sequences, fluorescence; it feels often closer to the wanderlust-ridden progressive material of a group like Cultes des Ghoules. This approach breaks open the core of these players’ works as well, making their magickal intensity suddenly and shockingly legible. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Mizmor/Thou – Myopia
As mentioned before, a benefit to patience is being able to catch these surprise releases in the hand rather than letting them pass like phantoms through the night air. Here we have a collaborative LP by two remarkable bands, the first being a funeral doom band that has focused primarily on the howling void in the heart that comes from irretrievable loss of faith (something I and many others are quite familiar with) while the other is simply one of the foremost sludge metal bands in the world, able to shapeshift into any of a million different forms to fit whatever task they set themselves upon. Here, that task is one largely of black metal, tapping into the guitarist of Thou’s time in Barghest and all players’ mutual love of the genre to produce the most ascerbic and caustic set from either group. That is not to say it is without the progressive, sludge, and doom elements that make Thou so great or the expansive and heartbreaking doom that makes Mizmor so emotionally savage; these are simply used as brief emotionalist breaks between blistering blastbeats and savage shrieks. These are two bands that bear their hearts on their sleeves and are not afraid to make unabashedly emotional music; their time playing and adoring punk certainly attests to their clear-heartedness. Here, it produces, once again, a potent and riveting record. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Pharmacist – Flourishing Extremities On Unspoiled Mental Grounds
A tale of how genre labels matter: Having been told this was goregrind, a genre that despite my love of death metal I have a more complex relationship with, I initially put this record on the backburner. The only thing that kept it on the list at all, to be frank, was the promise of liquid smooth fusion-style solos from Andrew Lee, a friend of the column and producer of some f**king superb records. So lo and behold when I press play the look on my face when I am presented not with grind, at all, but instead ripping and lush death metal of the early ’90s prog vintage. The material here feels closer to what Pestilence, early Gorguts, and others would have produced now in the 2020s had they stayed the course rather than evolving or devolving as those various groups did. The average song length here is just over seven minutes, each song packed with a delightfully Time Does Not Heal-era Dark Angel amount of riffs as well as those delicious fusion/death metal hybrid guitar solos from Andrew. This will undoubtedly make my year-end list; this is everything death metal does right all in one place. Superb. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Pyrithe – Monuments to Impermanence
Noise rock fans get really, really mad when you call what they do prog; in fairness, most boomerish prog fans also get mad at this cross-reference. Credit to Pyrithe, however; they seem unafraid of how the avant-rock elements of noise rock naturally lend themselves as much to the wildness of prog as to the wildness of punk, and even to the hoary and wild edges of metal. This record feels, like all great noise rock should, like melting. There is composition, certainly, and even moments of beauty, but the overriding sensation is that of magma, the geological equivalence of the approach toward immanence, an infinite movement, a music without organs. The role of players here flips and twists, from lead to rhythm, in all forms of hybrid and synthesis. It’s as fun to try and keep up with these guys as it is to just take in the music, scratching that unique acrobatic itch this stuff is so good at dialing into. It’s fitting that a band that started its life with a live record of unheard material would focus so much on the living, perpetually differenciating aspect of music as this. It’s buckwild. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Reuerorum ibn Malachtum – Vacuum. The mystery of faith. We proclaim your death oh Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again. Förlåtelse och Levitation.
I was introduced to this group a few years ago with admittedly a much more… normal sounding record. Their approach is Roman Catholic black metal, drawing the same kind of theological intensity from the brutalities of Christian ideology and myth image as more Satanic work does. However, somewhere in the past few years this group has clearly given themselves over entirely to their avant-garde impulses, synthesizing almost every methodology and approach to post-black metal that exists under the sun. Seemingly everything is here, from found sound to noise to industrial to electronic music to more straight ahead material and more. These are less songs and more intense performative collages; one could easily imagine this as a 90-minute record comprised of 200 tracks chronicling each movement-in-miniature as the four behemoth tracks we have here. The result, however, is the same; this record is as forceful as it is encyclopedic, presenting an image of the God of everything and not just of justice or peace. It is a map of the universe in miniature and, for more conservative black metal fans, should present a strong challenge to their too-small view of the genre and its capabilities. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise from the Grave
It’s rare to find someone like me praising a band for becoming less progressive, but the shape of the world and its art has funny ways of making you contradict yourself over time. Despite dialing back some of the more obviously muso moments on this LP compared to their earlier work, Undeath does so clearly not because of diminishing ambitions but instead sharpening songcraft. This record is a fucking bulldozer; tracks plow one into the next, riffs seem to melt away from the heat of the riff that comes after, and the 30-plus minutes passes in the blink of an eye. There are still some fingertwisters lurking on here, but the group’s ear for producing challenging but ultimately driving and propulsive death metal has taken the forefront. The group feels the most synthesized and unified here than ever before; the new rhythm players serve well not just to bolster the presence of the rhythm parts but also to bridge the space between drums and lead guitars, producing a more harmoniously structured whole. This is simply superbly executed death metal, proving once again why it’s the greatest art humanity has yet produced. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman