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.
Looking back on 2022, three bands dominated what little coverage metal receives outside its usual carnival. Chat Pile, Undeath, and Dream Unending were everywhere, and rightfully so. Three young bands in three disparate styles dropping bombshells all within a few months of each other doesn’t happen often, and it practically never gets the coverage those three groups earned last year. Their stellar records highlighted metal’s best eccentricities through vastly different sounds broadcast from distinct regions. Oklahoma City, New York, and the nebulous ether betwixt astral projection and the conscious mind all waved metal’s flag proudly, signaling onlookers to visit and stay a while.
That was in 2022 though. This is the new year, and as played out as they are, New Year’s resolutions are fun. Doubters lambast them, saying that if the resolutions were worth sticking to, they wouldn’t need a calendar change to inspire them. However, not only are doubters no fun, but our brains are hard-wired to seek solace and comfort, two elements that are scarce in the realm of lifestyle changes, new habits, or disemboweled death metal. There’s just so much excitement nuzzled within new beginnings. Oftentimes change comes at the environment’s whim. We change because we must, rarely because we want to. There’s power in electing to change, to motivate ourselves to evolve from what we once were. That’s the thought process that’s kept metal vibrant throughout its lifespan — its raging desire to differentiate itself from its prior identity, whether that’s through improving upon itself or dismissing all that came before it.
That being said, metal’s New Year’s resolution needn’t reach for the stars as Undeath, Dream Unending, and Chat Pile did. There’s a lightning-in-a-bottle aspect to crossover coverage that you can’t consciously manifest, else lightning strikes you in the middle of a soccer field. Truthfully, I cannot prescribe a resolution to an entire genre. I’m not a doctor nor am I omnipotent enough to bend the direction 50 years of music has taken and will travel onwards. Instead, I implore everyone to make a change. Step outside the comfort zone protecting you from seabears. Dive into the strangest releases or, if you’re already accustomed to the abstract, listen to metal so traditional Manowar would stick their noses up to it. These aren’t the only lanes you can take to expand your intake, they’re merely suggestions.
With that taken care of, let’s move on to our suggestions and recommendations. Despite January’s usual dearth of quality releases, there were more than a fair few worthwhile metal albums that dropped during it. We’ve also deemed releases from December viable because last month’s column reflected upon 2022 as a whole. Enjoy pilfering through our picks from metal’s favorite season as you prepare for Valentine’s Day.
— Colin Dempsey
(Tapping mic: Is this thing on? Hey all, it’s Langdon. Just wanted to pop in for those of you who read these intros for a shout out to a great record we missed from last year: Klang Shreit Nicht’s Erbauliche Andacht, an operatic goth metal record that has more in common with Virus and Van Buens Ende than Moonspell or Nightwish. Sometimes we find these things late too, but this one’s too good not to point out. Anyway, on with the show!)
ANTIMONUMENT – Concealment
Normally, I’m averse to war metal. Often, it sounds like complete garbage to my ears, pointing toward noise but not preserving enough sonic fidelity to make the noise feel like it matters. Not so here; the last time I felt such a feral response to this type of metal was, if I recall, fellow Brazilian’s Nailbomb. Technically a re-release from 2021, this is the first time the record has gotten distribution outside of a Brazilian micro-label and is functionally its international debut, so I say it counts. The grounding element here are death metal’s burrowing riffs, the deep single note tremolos with pounding blasts, which then is colored by the noise and black metal-derived leads. The new mix on this re-release especially highlights the sensitivity of these compositions and arrangements, the exact sense of breath I mentioned before that war metal so often lacks. It amounts to something closer to the pure agony of Godflesh than your endless Revenge clones; smarter guitar chords and drum parts indicate a more sophisticated aim to boot. Despairing corrosive death metal? Perfect. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Langdon Hickman
Conjureth – The Parasitic Chambers
The Parasitic Chambers is so strong that I do not want to write about it. I only want to point at it with the optimism of a child watching their favorite cartoon, giddy and giggling, and have that convince you to listen to it. Alas, the San Diego-based death metal troupe’s sophomore album deserves more than that. Conjureth play to keep their instruments from running away from them, pining them down for a brief second with a riff or a drum line, only for their tools to scramble their way out and they must pivot to a new tactic to control them. They’re also grimy in all the right ways; every tone seems like the group tested them in a laboratory to give you the stink face (the highest non-verbal praise one can pay to a death metal band, short of the fabled invisible orange). The cherry on top is The Parasitic Chambers’ production, which aerates their pungency while sounding as clear as day. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Colin Dempsey
Geistlicht – Fading Light
While black metal occasionally sounds like an arms race between its most vile components and emotional hedonism, Germany’s Geistlicht illuminates its less heralded aspects. They throw much of the discourse around atmosphere, production, and nihilism out the window for good-ass foundations. Their second album in a year’s time, Fading Light commemorates gothic overtones. Synths seep through the wallpapers on “Full Moon” and instill the title track with arcane incantations. It’s epic and melodic without overbearing or doubling down on either to falsely elevate its grandeur. Instead, Geistlicht gallop through haunted cathedrals without buffoonery. Take it this way; death metal is often praised for its purity and the simplicity with which it excels. Riff good, drums heavy, production nasty; the crowd goes home happy. Black metal seldom earns respect simply for its laurels. Geistlicht’s Fading Light proves that it can. It does what no album outside of black metal could do. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Colin Dempsey
Hammers of Misfortune – Overtaker
When finalizing this installment, we were torn on whether to perhaps include the vicious always-satisfying black metal of Misthyrming, the luxurious and dreamlike drone of Boris’ third album of the year, or the absolute bonkers weirdo metal of Quimico. Ultimately, though, this recent Hammers record passes the muster of being out of the way enough for most metal listeners while also being experimental and of superlative quality. For years and years, this band has been the trve hesher’s prog metal of choice, marrying the techno-thrash of the late ’80s and early ’90s with the weirdo prog metal of the mid-’90s as shown more by bands like Power of Omens and Sieges Even than Dream Theater. This new one has all the imagination-stoking post-Danny Elfman vibes of a Devin Townsend record but as played by a backing band of Watchtower with touches that feel like classic progressive rock. And if any of those names I dropped are unfamiliar? Consider this entry a bounty of riches. Discover why this is quietly one of the best bands on the planet and has been for decades. The August Engine forever. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Langdon Hickman
Iravu – A Fate Worse Than Home
Iravu is a solo black metal act from Malaysia unbound from planetary shackles, their impetus being a drive to locate somewhere better than where we currently reside which, for those unaware, is plagued by antiquated beliefs, oppression, and othering yet defended under traditionalist values. A Fate Worse Than Home does not speak much about its home. Instead, it careens through the stratosphere. The cosmic elements come through a progressive lens, and Iravu pull from the best progressive musicians: nerds. There’s a fair amount of flair and showmanship in Iravu’s guitar work which, although not apparent on the pummeling track “The Creature,” gives the record a brighter tone. However, don’t let the science-fiction concept fool you, A Fate Worse Than Home is not so divorced from humanity that it forgets itself. It may chronicle an astronaut’s unsuccessful search for life in space, but it’s much more about the horrors on our planet that come from our hands. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Colin Dempsey
Negative Vortex – Tomb Absolute
Death metal for me is a primal thing, closer to the majesty of progressive rock than any other type of music. The sonics are pure image-making and those images are likewise, depending on how you look at it, either flattened versions of the hyperdimensionality of pure feeling or maps that emerge from those feelings. That hypermap, the correlation of sound, image, and feeling, is to be fair the gut of all music; I’ve described, in short, what art is and how it works. But there’s a particular profound efflorescence of it in this space, psychedelic and howling, the terror and joy of God and death, power and pain wrapped up together. That I am writing in this manner attempting to discuss this record I hope shows rather than tells the level of heart-in-throat joy this record brings me. My last year has been intermittent pain; in this absolute tomb, I feel my chains rust and fall away. Buy it on Bandcamp. –Langdon Hickman