Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence contributing writers Langdon Hickman and Colin Dempsey. 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.
Peter Griffin once asked, “Where are those good old-fashioned values on which we used to rely?” While he was talking about entertainment at large when he posed that question, stroking his inappropriately-shaped chin, it’s debatable if he’d ask heavy metal, the genre that holds onto its good old-fashioned values with a Mankind-Mandible-Claw-like grip, that same query. This is to say that metal is laden with refinement more than drastic innovation.
Now, this is actually good in that metal has arguably never been better than it is now, but it makes the style difficult to enter for newcomers. It’s tough when you’re not someone who roams Encyclopaedia Metallum for new releases and instead is just looking to start listening to more metal. Heavy metal scratches a particular itch in particular people, which is why some listen to symphonic metal while others prefer to brush their teeth on a regular basis.
However, how are you supposed to find the itch that needs scratching if you lack the diction to define it? For example, what would it matter to you if a hypothetical old-school death metal band combines Morbid Angel’s solos and atmosphere with Cryptopsy’s vascularity if you don’t know what distinguishes either of these traits? Thus, some of these reference points are null and void, while to some people, that combination amounts to their favorite band.
The point is that metal’s self-referential nature compliments its self-reliance while making it difficult for those looking to engage with its decades-old framework for the first time. The hidden benefit is that likely, if you enjoy a particular subgenre from a specific time, then you can find direct descendants of that scene who are active today. Metal’s stubbornness is both its weakness (for the aforementioned reasons) and its strongest aspect. The music has an expiration date as far-flung into the future as uncooked lentils. That’s why people seldom throw “antiquated” or “dated” around when talking about metal, even when it comes to legacy acts. As such, metal’s core appeal is — and can be found in — its endurance.
That endurance powered us through the most dismal month of the year. November delivered an overabundance of high-quality metal, ranging from poppy black metal to dead-as-a-corpse death metal. Read our eight choices for the most impressive underground albums of the month below.
— Colin Dempsey
Critical Extravasation – Order of Decadence
Critical Extravasation’s debut is a desecration of the Russian regime, one so abhorrent that all band members fled Russia this autumn and have issued multiple condemnations of Putin’s actions on their social media. Their disgust courses through Order of Decadence, informing many of its technical segues, tempo changes, and early thrash/death throwback stylings. Critical Extravasation reaches back further than just old-school death metal, turning the clock back to a time when death metal was a more exaggerated and adventurous take on thrash. As such, there’s no over-the-top gore or Satanic atmosphere on Order of Decadence; it is instead a considered investigation into how a group can push death metal while remaining true to the genre’s intentions. That’s how you get moments like the sublime bridge on “Waltz of Hypocrisy” or “Redeeming Flames,” which plays like a moody alternate timeline Death track. In short, this album is peak pure death metal. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Colin Dempsey
Cryptae – Capsule
This is what extreme metal should be. The delineation between black and death here is nonexistent, the bleeding space between the avant-garde, experimental, and progressive wholly fused, and with enough hits of the now-trendy nu-metal to give it a sense of punch and character. That this is played in part by one of the guys in Dead Neanderthals, who cut some of the most wild contemporary free jazz on the planet, is no shock; the tension between what metal is in history and practice versus what it can be if that inner weirdness runs rampant motivates and sparks this material. Every song has a new totally weird guitar tone, scuzzy and scabbed over, and the frantic interjection of late-era Morbid Angel and Obscura-era Gorguts into nu-metal fabric creates endless insane propulsion. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Langdon Hickman
Dream Unending – Song of Salvation
This band remains one that emerged seemingly from my dreams, the wizard’s profound slumber giving birth to new perfect forms. A duo consisting of members from Tomb Mold and Sumerlands making deeply progressive death/doom? My god, does my might know no limit? This, their second record, takes everything about the first record and turns it up, pinching the Wish You Were Here format of long tracks bookending shorter material and using it to great effect. Those two epics are the true stars of the show, but the immaculate sense of pacing they produce here, perfectly replicating the Side A / Side B split in energy, makes this a captivating and rich listen even at its modest run-time. Tomb Mold once themselves delivered two LPs in about a year’s time; unlike then, here it is the second record that is the superior document, showing Dream Unending as a group quickly establishing themselves as one of the best going. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Langdon Hickman