Mining Metal: Anatomy of Habit, BIG|BRAVE, Gravehuffer, Reuerorum ib Malacht, Skratte, Theophonos, Trespasser, and Ulthar

A rundown of the best underground metal releases of February 2023

best underground metal albums

    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.

    So, I’m on the autism spectrum. A fun side-effect of that is, under the right conditions, art for me can be extremely sensorial, with sound cascading into color and shape and image, on and on. When I say this, I don’t mean to imply that autism is the only way to have synesthesia or that all autism can turn into synesthesia or any of those kinds of totalizing comments. It turns out something being a spectrum means, duh, it naturally has lots of different ways and intensities it can show up. This synesthetic response to especially art is just one that has, for the bulk of my life, been tremendously joyful.

    When I was a kid, obviously, I had no idea that this is what was going on exactly. It was as much a shock to me that this wasn’t how most people experienced art as it was for so many on social media to learn that not everyone has an inner monologue, that not everyone when you say a word like “apple” actually pictures an apple in their mind, or any of the other funny elements of perception we take for granted in ourselves. It turned out as I got older I especially shouldn’t have taken this one for granted; under periods of depression, this response seems to totally shut down for me, my senses being so muted by the depressive spell that even this otherwise typical response in me completely turns off. It’s quite literally like seeing in three dimensions and then suddenly everything is flat, like the color of the television shuts off. This is the mechanical aspect when, for me, something that once was magical suddenly becomes dull and lifeless.


    Part of what draws me so tightly to music like heavy metal and progressive music and experimental art is precisely how, for my brain, it creates these vast, unfolding panoramas. A great record doesn’t just make sound come out of speakers or headphones; it rewrites my perception of the world for a brief time, bursts to life in liquid motion. A great record, regardless of its genre or style, is a gateway to some other world, to realms of imagination. Writing for me has always been a task of necessity, a perpetually failing attempt to communicate these things I see, literally see, inside of my head, a task made even trickier by the autism that generates these things. I’ve been struggling the past few months to reconnect with that sense, to re-spark the fire. For those of us with depression and bipolar, this is a constant battle. But all it takes is one record to burst full to life for me again to remind me why it’s a battle worth fighting. If you’ve ever wondered why I tend to pick such outré weirdness sometimes, well, now you have your answer. It’s not a put-on or an attempt to out-weird anybody; these are the keys to inner realms, at least for me.

    Langdon Hickman

    Anatomy of Habit – Black Openings

    This, to me, is what prog should be: vast, both encumbered and unencumbered, dream music, a map of the heart and imagination. Anatomy of Habit lives in the same rarefied air as groups like Kayo Dot, maudlin of the Well and, further back, Magma or Univers Zero. These are vast soundscapes, drawing here from folk, country, doom metal, industrial, the experimental rock of groups like Coil, the early stormy wings of post-rock (especially Godspeed You! Black Emperor), no wave, post-punk, dub, on and on within that wing. I doubt they sit and imagine themselves as a prog band, which ironically is one of the best ways to achieve quality progressive material. The impetus here is of the vast pools of shadow that stain the human heart, mapping the labyrinth of cognition and feeling and memory, the confused map of the psyche which screws up the order of events, makes surreal dreamscapes of what once was clear experience. I could live inside of this music forever; it is a constant companion in my writing, and I hope always to match its strange and tenebrous colors and fibers. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman

    BIG|BRAVE – nature morte

    Their weapon is, of course, the human heart. There is a time for metal of the imagination, metal of fury and even fun. BIG|BRAVE have always lived in another space for me, one that is less focused on being metallic per se and more of using metal as the incidental palette to achieve the kinds of emotional and textural work that they do. This type of ambient-adjacent work, heavy on atmosphere and moodiness, is a hard sell for the more riff-centered, and I am sympathetic to that, but this stuff slices my heart open, slips the knife gently between my ribs and opens me up like a fish on a wooden dressing table. Like Neurosis at their best or Sumac basically anytime at all, this is music that wields Sonic Youth-style maximum distortion to create sculptures seemingly out of gel, crystal, television static, warm ocean water. The sentiment of country music lingers over this, a remnant of their folk record collab with The Body, and it’s precisely that new element that lifted this above 2021’s Vital. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman