Album Review – Forlesen / Black Terrain (2022)

This doomed entity hailing from Portland, Oregon brings forward four monolithic songs that will fully immerse the listener in a contrast of the serene and cacophonous in their new opus.

Formed in San Francisco, California at the end of 2016, but currently based in Portland, Oregon, Atmospheric Black/Doom Metal outfit Forlesen draws from Epic Doom, Black Metal, Slowcore and Dark Ambient to subvert traditional songwriting with their new full-length, entitled Black Terrain, which weaves heartbreak and hypnosis to show the band at their most vulnerable and vicious. Mixed by Jack Shirley at The Atomic Garden, mastered by Garrett Haines at Treelady Studios, and displaying a beautiful artwork by Benjamin A. Vierling, Black Terrain brings forward four monolithic songs, at times approaching twenty minutes in length, fully immersing the listener in a contrast of the serene and cacophonous, showcasing the evolution in the sound crafted by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ascalaphus (Botanist), vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Bezaelith (Lotus Thief), guitarist Petit Albert (Lotus Thief), and drummer Maleus (Kayo Dot, Maudlin Of The Well) from their debut effort Hierophant Violent,  being therefore highly recommended for fans of Candlemass, Dead Can Dance, Low and Neurosis, among several others.

An eerie, otherworldly start gradually evolves into an atmospheric and somber Doom Metal sonority led by the sluggish beats by Maleus in Strega, while Ascalaphus, Bezaelith and Petit Albert darken the skies with their minimalist but heavy-as-hell riffs and whimsical vocalizations, flowing smoothly while also offering us all a neck-breaking rhythm. Furthermore, its beautiful guitar work will penetrate deep inside our hearts, also showcasing a perfect balance between the delicate vocals by Bezaelith and the devilish roars from her bandmates, making an instant connection with the title-track Black Terrain, where the band continues to permeate the air with their melodic and grim sounds. The whole song is effectively energized by the tribalistic drums by Maleus while Bezaelith delivers introspective, ethereal vocal lines, suddenly morphing into the Black Metal-infused aria Harrowed Earth, bringing to our avid ears a multi-layered, enfolding and caustic explosion of sounds spearheaded by the blast beast by Maleus and the wicked, dirty riffage by Ascalaphus, Bezaelith and Petit Albert. Put differently, it’s Atmospheric Black Metal at its finest, evolving to a more obscure form of Doom Metal as time passes by. Lastly, in Saturnine the lyrics will put you in a doomed trance (“Come now and let it all go… / Time is a beast devouring it’s children / Wild eyed, the ever churning tide / He does suppress the cries of nascent sovereignty / Lest golden ages be undone / Time makes beasts of all its golden children / Wild eyed, the ever churning tide / As we egress through parodies of infancy / And we await being born / Go now and let it all come…”), while the music remains serene, infuriated, lugubrious and alive all at the same time, resulting in a spot-on fusion of Ambient and Doom Metal.

The doomed beast known as Forlesen can be found on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other details about their wicked music, and you can also stream all of their creations on Spotify. However, if you want to show your true support to the underground, you should purchase a copy of the eccentric Black Terrain from the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp page, from Metal Odissey as a CD or double LP, or from Apple Music, showing all the passion you nurture in your blackened heart for contemporary doom. The songs in Black Terrain might be lengthy, sluggish, somber and pensive, but that’s exactly what makes the album so compelling, consequently  inspiring the band to keep spreading their wings over this black terrain we live called earth.

Best moments of the album: Strega and Harrowed Earth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2022 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing
1. Strega 19:10
2. Black Terrain 8:57
3. Harrowed Earth 12:29
4. Saturnine 18:07

Band members
Ascalaphus – vocals, guitars, synth, harmonium, bass
Bezaelith – vocals, bass, guitars, synth
Petit Albert – guitars, synth, Hammond B3 organ, backing vocals
Maleus – drums

Guest musician
Leila Abdul-Rauf – glockenspiel, trumpet

Album Review – Splintered Throne / The Greater Good of Man (2022)

The reaper is calling us all to join this electrifying American squad in their quest for Heavy Metal to the sound of their awesome new album.

Having already captivated audiences on the West Coast for over a decade with their high energy performances, Portland, Oregon-based Heavy Metal powerhouse Splintered Throne is beginning the next chapter in their solid career by unleashing upon us their new album The Greater Good of Man, delivering bluesy influences with dynamic bass, groove rhythms and soaring vocals just the way we like it in metal music. Produced by Kevin Hahn and Splintered Throne, recorded at Primal Studio and Opal Studio, mixed and mastered by Kevin Hahn at Opal Studio, and with graphic design by Jen Taylor of VividPix & Design, The Greater Good of Man showcases all the talent and passion for heavy music by frontwoman Lisa Mann, guitarists Matt Dorado and Jason “JMo” Moser, bassist Brian Bailey and drummer Kris Holboke, resulting in a dynamic collection of energy, emotion and storytelling. “I still pinch myself that I’m even in this band – and now we’ve written and recorded a kick ass album? It’s as good a feeling as sex and chocolate,” commented Lisa about the album.

The slashing guitars by Matt and Jason will invite you to raise your horns in the name of metal in The Reaper is Calling, being quickly joined by the hammering drums by Kris and the soaring vocals by Lisa in a pure, unfiltered 80’s Heavy Metal feast for our total delight. Then drinking from the same fountain as some of our metal heroes the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon and Accept, Lisa continues to lead her henchmen in The Crossing, with Kris showing no mercy for his drums supported by the rumbling bass by Brian; followed by Morning Star Rising, a beautiful power ballad by the band where Lisa steals the spotlight with her passionate vocal performance, flowing powerfully to the pounding beast by Kris and the striking solos by Matt and Jason. And putting the pedal to the metal it’s time for the title-track The Greater Good of Man, where all band members are on absolute fire spearheaded by Lisa’s fiery vocals while we’re also treated to some thrilling, ass-kicking solos.

If you’re a fan of Warlock you’ll have a blast with the epic tune Let it Rain, again showcasing an amazing job done by the band’s guitar duo with their piercing riffs and solos, not to mention its galloping pace is perfect for banging your head together with the band. Inspired by those struggling with addiction and to those who made it into recovery, Underdogs is another touching ballad by the quintet where its backing vocals provide Lisa with all she needs to shine on vocals; whereas let’s all slam into the circle pit to the sound of Night of the Heathens, a song tailored for heading into the battlefield armed with ass-kicking Heavy Metal, with Brian and Kris bringing the heavy artillery to the music while the guitar solos by Matt and Jason will pierce your ears in great fashion. The second to last blast of awesomeness by Splintered Throne, titled Time Stands Still, brings forward their more Hard Rock vein, with Lisa once again showcasing all her vocal range and talent accompanied by the solid instrumental form her bandmates, and last but not least the band offers us the re-recording of their 2017 ballad Immortal 2020, already released in 2020 as you can see, this time with Lisa on vocals of course plus a few adjustments to the overall result, resulting in a great “bonus track” for us fans.

As aforementioned, Splintered Throne have just started a new era in their career with The Greater Good of Man, and in order to show them your utmost support you can start following the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other cool stuff about them, stream more of their awesome music on Spotify and on YouTube, and obviously grab your copy of The Greater Good of Man from their own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon sooner than you can say “splintered throne”. Heavy Metal made in Portland, Oregon has never been as fantastic as now thanks to the amazing job done by Splintered Throne in their newborn opus, and I can’t wait for more of their stunning music in the near future to raise my fists in the air and have a beer with the band while my heart is filled with pure metal and joy.

Best moments of the album: The Reaper is Calling, The Greater Good of Man and Night of the Heathens.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2022 Independent

Track listing
1. The Reaper is Calling 4:10
2. The Crossing 6:09
3. Morning Star Rising 5:50
4. The Greater Good of Man 3:55
5. Let it Rain 4:04
6. Underdogs 4:50
7. Night of the Heathens 3:23
8. Time Stands Still 4:03
9. Immortal 2020 4:34

Band members
Lisa Mann – vocals
Matt Dorado – guitar
Jason “JMo” Moser – guitar
Brian Bailey – bass
Kris Holboke – drums

Album Review – Nocturnal Wanderer / Gift of the Night (2021)

This unknown entity will crush your soul with its newborn beast, offering endless midnight mysticism and reverence for all that goes by night.

Formed in the Spring of 2021 in the Pacific Northwest region as a one-man anonymous project, Portland, Oregon-based Black Metal entity Nocturnal Wanderer has just released its debut full-length opus, entitled Gift of the Night. Recorded and produced at Sacred Atavism, and featuring illustrations by Thaumaturge Artworks and lettering by NW, the album showcases a traditional Black Metal sound and minimalist compositions, yet allowing the occasional Heavy Metal style solo to seep in. Ferocious while at the same time strangely serene and triumphant, Gift of the Night is a singular beast offering us all endless midnight mysticism and reverence for all that goes by night, being therefore highly recommended for admirers of the music by Havukruunu, Malokarpatan, Panphage and Arckanum, among others.

The opening track Twilight Befell is an infernal, raw Black Metal feast with darkly poetic lyrics (“Eventide arrive / Sunlight’s glow fading / Darkness creatures stirring / Bats flitter across the black sky / Aria of dusk / Air chill and sharp / Breathe the night into lungs”) to properly kick off the album, whereas our anonymous lone wolf continues to hammer his drums and extract sulfur from his stringed axe in Darkness in Rapture, another demented old school Black Metal tune presenting all elements we love in the genre. Then adding the most Stygian elements from Doom Metal to his core sonority it’s time for the sinister Sentient Shadows, where once again this one-man horde presents a visceral job on the guitars and drums until the very last second; and drinking from the blasphemous fountain of classic bands the likes of Mayhem, Immortal and Dark Funeral he brings forward By Moonlight, showcasing another round of sick riffs, incendiary blast beats and venomous roars. His second to last breath of darkness comes in the form of Distant Stars in Distant Skies, sounding absolutely haunting and vile, all spiced up of course by his grim, otherworldly gnarls, and there’s time for one final blast of obscurity by Nocturnal Wanderer entitled The Amberdawn, which takes too long to take off and lacks those traditional Black Metal words and growls, but nothing that would cause any harm to the album.

If you consider yourself a true servant of darkness, you can enjoy Gift of the Night in its entirety on YouTube, and of course purchase a copy of such raw and intense album from the project’s own BandCamp page, from the Nameless Grave Records’ webstore or from the Balor’s Eye Productions’ BandCamp page, diving even deeper into the void that consumes our souls. Although the entity behind  Nocturnal Wanderer doesn’t want to disclose his identity (at least not for now), that won’t stop fans of the darkest side of music, including myself, to thank him for bringing into being Gift of the Night, a precious gem of the underground that will help in keeping the flames of Black Metal burning for centuries to come, leaving us even more curious to know the real name of a creature so loyal to the dark.

Best moments of the album: Darkness in Rapture and By Moonlight.

Worst moments of the album: The Amberdawn.

Released in 2021 Nameless Grave Records/Balor’s Eye Productions/Altare Productions

Track listing
1. Twilight Befell 4:45
2. Darkness in Rapture 3:57
3. Sentient Shadows 5:39
4. By Moonlight 5:27
5. Distant Stars in Distant Skies 5:25
6. The Amberdawn 6:10

Band members
Anonymous – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Mare Cognitum / Solar Paroxysm (2021)

A Portland, Oregon-based one-man Cosmic Black Metal entity returns with his fifth full-length opus, finding a new voice for his frustrations with humankind through five aggressive, metallic songs.

From the depths of the outer rim to solid footing of green earth, Solar Paroxysm, the fifth full-lenth opus by Portland, Oregon-based one-man Cosmic Black Metal entity Mare Cognitum, finds itself moving from the impossible to the familiar, with the project’s lone wolf Jacob Buczarski occupying himself with the failures of humankind over the past epoch, finding a new voice for his frustrations through five aggressive, metallic songs. Featuring a beyond stunning artwork by Adam Burke at Nightjar Illustration, Solar Paroxysm lifts the veil and reveals the true musicianship which has fueled Mare Cognitum since its impetus a decade ago, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the Stygian creations by Spectral Lore, Dawn, Blut Aus Nord and Chaos Moon, among others.

In the beautiful opening track Αntaresian, a beyond atmospheric and enfolding start grows in intensity and darkness until exploding into visceral Black Metal where Jacob showcases all his dexterity with his fulminating beats and blazing riffs, as well as showing his deep passion for old school and modern-day extreme music, roaring with tons of anguish and despair in his blackened heart. And Jacob keeps firing unstoppable blast beats and fills, razor-edged guitar lines and rumbling bass punches, generating a massive wall of sounds that will penetrate deep inside your psyche in the 11-minute aria titled Frozen Star Divinization, a lecture in Atmospheric Black Metal infused with classic Black Metal nuances; whereas investing in a more obscure and menacing sonority by presenting elements from Blackened Doom and classic Doom Metal we have Terra Requiem, where Jacob’s riffage is absolutely mesmerizing, dragging us all into his Stygian lair forever and ever while the music flows majestically until the song’s epic finale.

The following aria, entitled Luminous Accretion, already starts in full force with Jacob hypnotizing our senses once again through his whimsical riffs and classic Black Metal drumming. Moreover, there’s not a single space left in the air, resulting in top-of-the-line Atmospheric Black Metal for lovers of the genre, or in other words, one of the most complete, detailed and therefore best extreme music songs of the past few years. And last but not least, we’re treated to Ataraxia Tunnels, sounding primeval and intense from the very first second thanks to Jacob’s thunderous drums and piercing riffs, not to mention the hints of Epic Metal added to its core musicality, and of course it’s not an Atmospheric Black Metal song if it doesn’t carry pensive, austere lyrics for our total delectation (“Visions conjure throughout / A delusion searing into memory / So vividly / Once compulsively wrought / Now imbued to confine a once-great mind / Forever”).

The sinister and obscure realms of Cosmic Black Metal ruled by Jacob and his Mare Cognitum can be further explored by following the project on Facebook and on Instagram, by streaming more of his wicked creations on Spotify and, above all that, by purchasing Solar Paroxysm from the project’s own BandCamp page, from the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp page, from Metal Odissey in CD and double LP formats, or from Apple Music. Now suddenly so outwardly truculent and antagonistic, Mare Cognitum finally reveals the project’s true essence with Solar Paroxysm, inviting us all to join Jacob on a one way journey into madness and sorrow, with his Cosmic and Atmospheric Black Metal being everything we need to get lost in darkness for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: Frozen Star Divinization and Luminous Accretion.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 I, Voidhanger Records/Extraconscious Records

Track listing
1. Αntaresian 11:16
2. Frozen Star Divinization 10:59
3. Terra Requiem 10:35
4. Luminous Accretion 10:51
5. Ataraxia Tunnels 12:31

Band members
Jacob Buczarski – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Hulder / Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry (2021)

The past is alive because the present is dead. With the glorious birth of Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry, long live Hulder!

One of the best-kept secrets hailing from the underground Black Metal scene, Portland, Oregon-based one-woman entity Hulder was formed back in 2018 as the sole work of the selfsame Hulder, whose real name is Marz Riesterer, a native of Mechelen, Belgium but currently residing in the United States. She quickly went to work on Hulder’s first demo released in 2018, titled Ascending the Raven Stone, ancient and regressive but with no shortage of technicality. Hulder then began crystalizing her aesthetic in her subsequent albums both in sheer sonics as well as visuals, culminating now in 2021 with her debut opus Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry. Recorded at De Pestkerk Studio and mixed at The Underworld Studio, this demonic opus is structured like a true album, with side one kicking in an utterly feral manner and cresting along to vicious wanderlust while side two furthers the synth mysticism and maintains a more triumphant aspect, with each of its eight tracks being deeply rooted in 90’s classicism, from the paganisms of earliest Enslaved  and Kampfar to the hypnotizing grit of classic Judas Iscariot. Supported by session drummer Necreon (Cauterized, Funebrarum, Trepanation), Hulder is on absolute fire throughout the entire album, offering our ears old school, raw Black Metal that’s utterly dynamic, engaging, nuanced and transportive, but undeniably physical in its pulsing vistas of darkness and mystery.

The opening track Upon Frigid Winds is pulverizing from the very first second, with Hulder beautifully growling the song’s Stygian words (“Almighty force of the damned / Awakened by eons of pain / Born of destruction and carnage / Brought to light once again / Upon frigid winds we ride / Blaze the path of retribution / Clashing of mere mortal weaponry / Force of evil remains eternal”). In other words, it’s classic, grim Black Metal, period. And our dauntless black metaller keeps darkening the skies in Creature of Demonic Majesty, blasting her guitars and bass mercilessly, therefore crafting a beyond menacing ambience while Necreon keeps smashing his drums nonstop; then inspired by the early days of renowned acts the likes of Immortal, Marduk and Mayhem, Hulder explodes our senses with the sulfurous Sown in Barren Soil, presenting an amazing job done with her piercing riffage, and always supported by the precise Necreon, of course. And it’s time to soothe our souls to the sound of the folk-infused, atmospheric tune titled De Dijle, where Hulder meticulously blends the sounds of nature with phantasmagorical keys and her trademark she-demon gnarls.

After such mesmerizing tune, Hulder offers our avid ears the mid-tempo Atmospheric Black Metal aria Purgations of Bodily Corruptions, once again boosting the song’s malignancy with her devilish keys and riffs, whereas Lowland Famine brings forward old school Black Metal in its purest form from start to finish, with the venomous she-wolf roars by Hulder being beautifully complemented by her Cradle of Filth-inspired keys. Put differently, the song effectively epitomizes Hulder’s talent and passion for extreme music; and switching gears to an atmospheric, almost shoegazing sonority Hulder captivates us all with her delicate vocals in A Forlorn Peasant’s Hymn, exploding into visceral Black Metal while displaying poetic lyrics barked by our one-woman army (“A trail of fallen kin lie before me / As far as my tired eyes can see / A bloodred horizon to illuminate my path / I hear their cries as they share in my agony”). Finally, let’s crack our necks headbanging to the menacing From Whence an Ancient Evil Once Reigned, where Hulder’s slashing riffage and low-tuned bass generate a massive wall of sounds enhanced by Necreon’s bestial drumming, putting a sensational conclusion to such inspiring and medieval album.

I guess I don’t need to say we have right in front of us one of the most detailed, organic and infernal albums of 2021, and we don’t need to listen to anything that will still be released this year to make such statement. Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry is a true gem of extreme music, making me wonder what’s next in the career of this talented Belgian-American metaller. Hence, don’t forget to give Hulder a shout on Facebook, to stream more of her awesome music on Spotify, and to purchase Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry in less than two weeks from several distinct locations including her own BandCamp page, the Iron Bonehead’s BandCamp page or webstore, Record Shop X and Apple Music. The past is alive because the present is dead. With the glorious birth of Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry, long live Hulder!

Best moments of the album: Upon Frigid Winds, Sown in Barren Soil, Lowland Famine and A Forlorn Peasant’s Hymn.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Iron Bonehead

Track listing
1. Upon Frigid Winds 3:22
2. Creature of Demonic Majesty 3:33
3. Sown in Barren Soil 4:43
4. De Dijle 6:33
5. Purgations of Bodily Corruptions 4:23
6. Lowland Famine 5:26
7. A Forlorn Peasant’s Hymn 6:03
8. From Whence an Ancient Evil Once Reigned 5:07

Band members
Hulder – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Necreon – drums (session)

Album Review – Dead Animal Assembly Plant / Bring Out The Dead (2020)

Bring out your dead to the sound of the post-apocalyptic Industrial Metal by this Portland, Oregon-based army of freaks.

The Sweet Meats Slaughterhouse, founded in 1895 by Wilhelm Schröder, was internationally known for their advances in industrialized butchery, producing around 30% of the meats consumed in the United States at that time. In 1915 a tragedy struck the small town Wilhelm called home when all the livestock took some unexplained fatal disease, and the ever resourceful Wilhelm turned to the only available meat, the townsfolk. When they discovered the terrible truth they enacted their own form of justice, feeding the once prolific Mr. Schröder to his own machines. The Sweet Meats Slaughterhouse remained eerily quiet and vacant, until one night horrible noises resembling music emanated from the dank hallways, resulting in the birth of Portland, Oregon-based Down N’ Dirty Industrial Metal outfit Dead Animal Assembly Plant. Founded in 2007 by frontman Zach Wager, the band currently formed by Zach and his bandmates Eric ‘Zerø’ Bergen and Rebecca ‘Buzz’ Wager on the guitars, Nick ‘Nix’ Snyder on bass and Jason ‘Skorn’ Moore on drums is set to release their fourth full-length opus titled Bring Out The Dead, effectively combining elements of rock, metal and industrial from the 90’s until the present day. Mixed by Fernando Ruiz Jr. at Primal Recording Studio, mastered by Kevin Hahn at Opal Recording Studio, and with photography by Mothmeister, Bring Out The Dead is highly recommended for fans of Nine inch Nails, KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Ministry and Rob Zombie, among others, bringing strong post-apocalyptic and horror influences to give it an extra touch of insanity.

Like a true infernal assembly line, the intro Cemetery Slums opens the gates of the underworld to the raw and industrialized A Violent Breed, showcasing austere lyrics dealing with everything that’s wrong with the human mind (“I am a violent breed / Programmed to be obscene / These hands praise ignorance / The blame becomes routine / My mind is a dirty bomb / Full of pettiness and virgin blood / With scriptures burned inside my head / Peddled and preached by empty men”), while Eric and Rebecca extract venomous, razor-edged sounds from their axes, sounding at times like a more metalized version of the already heavy-as-hell music by NIN. Then we have The Ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche, which by the way carries a great title for a modern and atmospheric Industrial Metal extavaganza, led by the robot-like drums by Jason while Zach madly vociferates the song’s wicked words, resulting in an amazing choice for a dark and goth party soudtrack, whereas Colors Under Attack couldn’t have started in a heavier and more thrilling way. This is old school Industrial Metal and Rock blending the sonic havoc blasted by icons like Rammstein, Ministry and KMFDM, with Nick and Jason generating a rumbling atmosphere with their respective weapons nonstop.

In the eerie and absolutely grim Somewhere Else, Zac’s vocals walk hand in hand with Eric’s and Rebecca’s metallic riffs, remaining obscure until the very last second and building an instant bridge with Sacred Disgrace, featuring the stunning New York City-based violinist and violist Lulu Black as a guest musician. Uniting the heaviness and groove of Industrial Metal and Neue Deutsche Härte with the finesse of Lulu’s violin, the song also offers an interesting paradox between her delicate sounds and Nick’s low-tuned bass jabs, reminding me of some of the best creations by the one and only Marilyn Manson. And the atmospheric and instrumental bridge Ghost Transmissions sets the stage for Behold the Righteous Plague, sounding heavier and more Rock N’ Roll than its predecessors but still bringing the band’s trademark Industrial Metal for our total delight, with Zach being utterly demented on vocals accompanied by the slashing riffage by the band’s guitar duo and Jason’s blast beats. Do the Inferno is probably the most fun of all songs, feeling like their personal “tribute” to NIN but also presenting a Misfits-inspired vibe, with Nick adding endless groove and thunder to their musicality (and the final result couldn’t have been more awesome, of course), and last but not least more of their classic industrialized sounds will penetrate deep inside our minds in The End of You, showcasing an amazing job done by both Eric and Rebecca on the guitars while Zach continues to lead his horde of freaks with his enraged vocals.

The release date of this excellent album of Industrial Metal might still be unknown due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m sure sooner than later we’ll all be able to purchase a copy of Bring Out The Dead, which is by the way a very suggestive title for such nasty period the entire world is facing, from the band’s own BandCamp page or from the Armalyte Industries’ BandCamp page, as well as form other retailers like Apple Music and Amazon. In the meantime, you can support the mechanized freaks from DAAP by following them on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about the band, and subscribe to their YouTube channel or search from them on Spotify to listen to more of their acid and industrialized creations. As the end of the human race draws near based on all the madness and evil things happening pretty much everywhere right now, I personally suggest you add Bring Out The Dead to your post-apocalyptic playlist, banging your head to the first-class Industrial Metal played by DAAP while our putrid and corrupt society goes straight to hell.

Best moments of the album: A Violent Breed, Colors Under Attack, Behold the Righteous Plague and Do the Inferno.

Worst moments of the album: Somewhere Else.

Released in 2020 Armalyte Industries

Track listing
1. Cemetery Slums 1:42
2. A Violent Breed 4:10
3. The Ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche 4:26
4. Colors Under Attack 4:02
5. Somewhere Else 3:00
6. Sacred Disgrace 4:41
7. Ghost Transmissions 2:22
8. Behold the Righteous Plague 4:14
9. Do the Inferno 3:34
10. The End of You 4:15

Band members
Zach Wager – vocals
Eric ‘Zerø’ Bergen – guitars
Rebecca ‘Buzz’ Wager – guitars
Nick ‘Nix’ Snyder – bass
Jason ‘Skorn’ Moore – drums

Guest musicians
Lulu Black – violin on “Sacred Disgrace”
Regulo Junior – additional guitars on “Behold the Righteous Plague”

Album Review – NONE / Damp Chill of Life (2019)

Accept hopelessness and succumb to the brand new opus by this unknown entity from the Pacific Northwest, picking apart your psyche and destroying your seasonal optimism with their oppressively bleak atmosphere.

Since their introduction in the spring of 2017, the enigmatic and anonymous Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal unity NONE, from Portland, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, has crafted disturbing and emotionally devastating music that have garnered the attention of many listeners of the genre. After having released their self-titled debut opus on April 11, 2017, a thick shroud of piercing guitar interwoven with haunting synth and tortured vocals marching in despair towards an empty void, followed by Life Has Gone On Long Enough exactly one year later, on April 11, 2018, developing its tortured personality further, NONE returned this spring like clockwork, once again on April 11, with their brand new effort entitled Damp Chill of Life, weaving visionary soundscapes with first-class Depressive Black Metal, picking apart your psyche and destroying your seasonal optimism with their oppressively bleak atmosphere.

As atmospheric and cold as possible, the intro Fade embraces our souls in darkness and sets the tone for the chilling and piercing sounds from the 10-minute aria The Damp Chill of Life, with its Doom Metal beats, melodic riffs and an ethereal background generating the perfect ambience for NONE’s desperate, raspy gnarls. In other words, this is a lesson in Depressive Black Metal, alternating between serene passages and aggressive and dense riffs and vociferations, and flowing majestically until its melancholic ending. Cease also begins as mournful as a lonely morning in the woods, with the music exploding into the most Stygian form of Atmospheric Black Metal you can think of after four minutes of pure serenity, all enfolded by beautiful piano notes and anguished vocals, once again showcasing a touching finale and building an instant connection with You Did a Good Thing, where the uncanny duo delivers more of their delicate but at the same time crushing music. Furthermore, eerie voices exhale anger, despair and the feeling of loss, matching flawlessly with the music to give the listener a true and deep melancholic taste.

It’s Painless To Let Go brings forward another visceral hybrid of Depressive and Atmospheric Black Metal, this time infused with Doom Metal and Blackened Doom nuances, with the duo delivering somber guitar lines, creepy vocals and endless obscurity for our total delectation; whereas I Yearn to Feel is a semi-acoustic composition by NONE that will penetrate deep inside your mind and take you on a journey through vast, gelid lands, always led by crystalline piano notes and showcasing an enfolding aura. And the music remains bold and inspiring, reverberating into A Chance I’d Never Have, beginning with acoustic guitar lines and growing in intensity and fear until an avalanche of dark and crisp sounds invades our ears. In my humble opinion, this is perhaps NONE’s record with the most introspective vocal lines, and this song is the perfect depiction of that, with its second half offering the listener sheer melancholy and rage in the form of top-of-the-line contemporary Depressive Black Metal.

I’ve already had the utmost pleasure of reviewing all albums released by NONE since the inception of such idiosyncratic and mysterious entity, and I must tell you NONE definitely know how to transform all the solitude, wilderness and bitterly cold winds of the Pacific Northwest into the best Depressive and Atmospheric Black Metal one can ever imagine, showing how connected they are with their homeland. Hence, you should take a good listen at Damp Chill of Life in full on YouTube (especially on your loneliest days), and grab your copy of such bitterly cold album of extreme music from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webstore (by the way, you can find all special bundles of the album and all of NONE’s previous releases by clicking HERE), as well as from Apple Music, Amazon, CD Baby or Discogs. Simply succumb to the music by NONE, accept hopelessness, and finally realize you are no one, nowhere, and nothing.

Best moments of the album: The Damp Chill of Life and It’s Painless To Let Go.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Fade 1:58
2. The Damp Chill of Life 10:30
3. Cease 8:50
4. You Did a Good Thing 5:08
5. It’s Painless To Let Go 5:56
6. I Yearn to Feel 3:45
7. A Chance I’d Never Have 7:57

Band members
Anonymous – vocals
Anonymous – all instruments

Metal Chick of the Month – Kayla Dixon

Death falls so heavy on my soul… Death falls so heavy, makes me moan…

Things are about to get doomed, heavy and extremely sexy here at The Headbanging Moose with our metal chick of the month of May. Trained in classical, jazz and musical theatre vocals, as well as acting and dance, the talented and stunning Kayla Dixon, frontwoman for Doom Metal institution Witch Mountain and for Alternative Metal outfit Dress the Dead, is among us to prove once again that black girls do have a place in the world of heavy music, and she has been doing that in great fashion with her beyond powerful vocals since joining Witch Mountain in 2015. Hence, after listening to Kayla singing for the very first time you’ll get absolutely addicted to her voice and performance, no doubt about that, therefore going after everything she has already recorded in her career, it doesn’t matter if it’s metal or not.

Born on March 20, 1995 in Glendale, California and raised between Lancaster, Pennsylvania, California, and Maryland (as you can see, she moved a lot when she was a kid), Kayla has been singing since the age of five, joining a Jazz band at the age of 13, when she began to hone her vocal skills and discovered her passion for performing. Having studied ballet, modern and contemporary techniques at the American Dance Institute, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Maryland Youth Ballet, among others, not to mention she’s a trained actor of Stanislavski and Meisner techniques (which contributed to her deep understanding of the importance of storytelling on stage), Kayla has already participated in several projects in her career, such as productions at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Levine Music, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts, also making an appearance in in the Sundance award winning movie I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, on Netflix, as well as in the TV series Portlandia, Grimm and Outlaw. In addition, she said in one of her interviews she doesn’t sit at a keyboard or think about intervals or scales, unless she’s writing harmonies. She usually writes the melody first, thinking about “what words match this melody and how can I put this melody into words?”

Kayla got her first contact with heavy music during her teens due to her sisters, who used to listen to bands like Marilyn Manson, Tool and Nine Inch Nails, and she fell in love for that type of music. After straying away from that for a while, she said it was when she was in the ninth grade that she rediscovered all those bands, later turning her attention to other heavier and more complex bands such as Meshuggah. She mentioned in one of her interviews that it was the intensity of metal music that really caught her attention at first, as she feels she can express all her emotions and feelings through metal. In addition, she also said that the energy coming from the audience while you’re on stage is also what makes heavy music so special for her.

Regarding her career with both Witch Mountain and Dress the Dead, everything started back in 2015 when Kayla, who had recently discovered the music by Witch Mountain, saw on their Facebook page they were auditioning for a new vocalist after the departure in 2014 of the amazing Uta Plotkin, prior to the release of the album Mobile of Angels. She then decided to take a shot at that by submitting a video audition, admitting she was a little nervous as she loved Uta’s lyrics and the vocal melodies, but fortunately for all of us fans of rock and metal Kayla became the band’s new frontwoman (and let’s not forget she was only 19 years old at the time). Four years later, this excellent Portland, Oregon-based band formed back in 1997 released their first full-length album with Kayla on vocals, self-titled Witch Mountain (which by the way she was responsible for all lyrics), not to mention their 2016 single Burn You Down, impressing not only the band’s diehard fans with her potent voice and her ability to easily switch between clean and harsh vocals,  but also her own band members. “When she laid down a scratch track in the studio and was going back and forth between the cleans and the dirties, our producer Billy and us were just sitting there laughing with joy,” recalls guitarist Rob Wrong. “For her that was just a scratch track, and we’re just like ‘most people in the world can’t do this.’ For Dixon, the possibility to cross styles and alternate between clean and screaming vocals is ‘a breath of fresh air.’”

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Then in 2018, one year after parting ways with former The Haunted vocalist Peter Dolving, Dress the Dead announced a new lineup with our goddess Kayla on vocals in an unexpected move by many. “A mutual friend reached out to me about Dress the Dead.  One of my first thoughts was, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready or even at an appropriate talent level to be replacing someone like Peter Dolving for these guys.’  I’d battled with the idea in my head for several months before finally reaching out.  I had listened to and loved 1969, but what really hit me hard was when I heard the other songs that are still unreleased that they sent me.  I had no idea how musically diverse this band would turn out to be,” said Kayla about joining her second major band, but as what happened with Witch Mountain her vocals matched Dress the Dead’s music flawlessly, as you can enjoy in the excellent songs 1969, There Goes The Sun and Promises & Kisses. In addition to that, just to give you an idea of how healthy her relationship with her new bandmates is, take a look at this fun YouTube video titled “Dress The Dead – Crappy Comments”, where Kayla and the rest of the band read and discuss about the most ridiculous comments they received from fans via social media.

Our hardcore vegan (yes, she’s a vegan) had also been involved with several other bands and projects before joining Witch Mountain and Dress the Dead, each one offering Kayla a chance to showcase all her highly developed vocal skills. For instance, she was (apparently) the vocalist for a Cleveland, Ohio-based Groove/Death Metal band named Demons Within during an unknown period of time, and the lead singer for Sacramento, California-based Power Metal act Helion Prime from 2016 until 2017, with whom she recorded the sensational single Remnants of Stars, in 2017. Apart from that, she also started lending her unique voice now in 2019 to a British/Romanian Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal band named Clouds during some of their live performances, and she also appeared as a guest vocalist in the song Buried In Sand, from Clouds’ 2018 release Dor – Bonus Album;  in the electrifying title-track Terminal, from the 2017 album Terminal, by British Melodic Progressive Metal band Divinity Compromised; and more recently in Living Light, from the 2019 album Divided by Darkness, by Phoenix, Arizona-based Doom Metal act Spirit Adrift, to be released later this month.

Touring is always one of the most difficult and demanding tasks in the life of a musician, and as a talented vocalist that Kayla is she obviously warms up her voice (and mind) properly before going on stage, sometimes meditating for a few minutes to reach her desired state of mind prior to performing. As a matter of fact, Kayla mentioned that meditation was one of the main activities she discovered through the years to fight her childhood traumas, to work on her spirituality and to remain strong when facing any type of adversity. She also said that, to keep her body and mind healthy while touring with Witch Mountain, who by the way have a very aggressive touring agenda, she tries to eat well and work out whenever she can, avoiding things like partying and drinking. Even with all those precautions to stay in shape, Kayla said that due to her incendiary performances each show ends up being fairly exhausting for her but energizing at the same time, saying it’s another form of “meditation” for her. “Music is a way for me to express that negativity and get it out. There’s also a positivity about it. So, it’s very energizing. Music is what makes me happy and I believe it is my life’s purpose,” commented Kayla, and if you take into account the fact that when she’s not on tour she can be giving vocal lessons or acting (albeit she hasn’t being doing a lot of that lately due to her busy schedule), it’s the utmost proof she was born to be an artist.

As curious as this might sound, Kayla always mentions in her interviews that she considers herself an introvert, although she’s not actually afraid of talking to people. Despite having introverted tendencies, she confronts that inner fear by working really hard on it, saying that fear doesn’t have to be who she really is or her story. And even more curious than that, she mentioned that one thing she loves doing for relaxation and fun is watching horror movies, with her favorite one being the 1982 cult movie Poltergeist and also mentioning Suspiria as another movie she enjoyed a lot (I just don’t know if she’s talking about the 1977 original one or the 2018 version). She said Poltergeist really freaked her out, that it was extremely scary in her opinion, so how can this be a relaxing activity, right? Anyway, still talking about ghosts and paranormal activities, she said she had a few paranormal experiences in her life, as her mother was really into that kind of thing and would tell her about ghosts she saw. She mentioned that when she was seven years old she was sitting in the living room around Christmas time watching the classic TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and when she went to her room there was this white figure of an old man standing. In addition, her dad, who’s by the way a pastor, also claims he’s seen a ghost in his church, which used to be an old-fashioned one-room school house back in the 1900’s, describing the appearance of the ghost in great detail. If ghosts truly exist or not, no one knows for sure, but if Kayla channels those encounters and experiences into her music, and we all know the unknown has always been a magnificent inspiration for all genres and subgenres of heavy music, we can rest assured she’ll keep providing us first-class rock and metal for decades to come.

Kayla Dixon’s Official Facebook page
Kayla Dixon’s Official Instagram
Kayla Dixon’s Official Twitter
Kayla Dixon’s Official YouTube channel
Witch Mountain’s Official Facebook page
Witch Mountain’s Official Instagram
Witch Mountain’s Official Twitter
Witch Mountain’s Official BandCamp page
Dress the Dead’s Official Facebook page
Dress the Dead’s Official Instagram

“When I get on stage, I lose control and there’s not much I can do about that.” – Kayla Dixon

Album Review – Elegiac / Pagan Storm (2018)

Forging the New Wave of American Black Metal, behold this talented one-man army from Portland, Oregon and his brand new melodic, aggressive and bestial full-length opus.

Forging the New Wave of USBM (or American Black Metal), Portland, Oregon-based one-man army Elegiac is into this creative and productive overwhelming attitude that all the most influential bands of the 90’s were in at their very beginning, dwelling with the most typical references of the early Scandinavian heritage influenced by the more pragmatic synthesis of the USBM roughness in the project’s brand new opus entitled Pagan Storm. Since its inception in 2014 in San Diego, California by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Zane Young (from several underground acts such as Airengrav, Blitzgeist, Gormanudr, Lord Impotent and Tideless), Elegiac has released three EP’s and four full-length albums, as well as a demo and several split albums, but it’s with Pagan Storm, which features a classy and epic cover art by Joe McEvoy, that this Black Metal beast has reached its most melodic, aggressive and flammable shape and form.

Zane wastes no time and quickly darkens our minds with his sluggish Doom Metal-inspired beats and demonic gnarls in the opening track titled Rituals of War, evolving into a dissonant and Mephistophelian feast of Black Metal without a single empty space in its over eight minutes of obscurity. Then we have Allegiance and Honor, more brutal and piercing than its predecessor, presenting darkly poetic lyrics (“Calling to the gods of my blood / Deep within my memory / Return my mind to the patterns of old / And teach me the wisdom now tossed away / By the desert god of Abraham / A true plague of the mind and flesh / An empty shell… / An empty slave… / An empty shell… / An empty slave… / Molded for their every will…”) and leaning towards contemporary Melodic Black Metal, with Zane’s roars reaching a truly infernal level throughout the entire song; and dark clouds of Black and Doom Metal spread upon humanity in the 10-minute aria Somber Morning, where Zane delivers the most Stygian guitar lines and delicate but vile beats of the whole album in a demonic display of extreme music that will haunt the souls of the lighthearted. And strident guitar lines kick off the also blackened extravaganza named Through Ancient Eyes, where Zane keeps growling like a demonic entity while pounding his drums in a damned and somber manner. Put differently, if you love the rawest and most sulfurous form of underground Black and Doom Metal, this song is just perfect for you.

A lot more vibrant and electrified than its predecessors,  Purity of Winter brings forward a rumbling and dense sonority for our avid ears, or in other words, a lesson in visceral Black Metal with both guitar and bass lines sounding as crude as they can be, resulting in an enfolding fusion of melancholy, crushing sounds and tones, and the desolation of the winter. In Golden Fires of Victory we face the menacing, obscure gnarls by Zane accompanied by his blast beats and demented guitars, sending a sound message to the unbelievers that the gates of hell are open and darkness is upon us, feeling vile and crushing from start to finish; whereas in the title-track Pagan Storm the talented Zane takes his fury to a whole new level, growling and screaming in the most bestial way while unleashing demonic but at the same time very harmonious riffs from his guitar, once again adding a considerable dosage of modern-day Melodic Black Metal to his raw core sonority. And last but not least, how about 10 minutes of melodic and dynamic Black Metal to darken your metal heart even more? That’s what Zane offers in the closing tune Ancient Spirit, a fantastic “waltz of the damned” where his anguished lamentations add an extra layer of melancholy to the musicality, while his flammable riffs keep invading our ears until the music fades into pitch black darkness.

The somber and eccentric world of extreme music crafted by Zane and his Elegiac can be better explored by visiting the project’s official Facebook page, and of course if you have what it takes to dive deep into the crypts of Hades together with Zane you can purchase Pagan Storm from the ATMF’s BandCamp page or webstore. Hence, after listening to this potent and hellish opus by Elegiac, I bet USBM, our beloved American Black Metal, will be one of your favorite genres whenever straightforward and devilish extreme music is needed in your everyday life, with Pagan Storm becoming your personal reference in the underworld of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Purity of Winter, Pagan Storm and Ancient Spirit.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 De Tenebrarum Principio

Track listing
1. Rituals of War 8:17
2. Allegiance and Honor 5:07
3. Somber Morning 10:20
4. Through Ancient Eyes 7:33
5. Purity of Winter 7:03
6. Golden Fires of Victory 6:49
7. Pagan Storm 7:16
8. Ancient Spirit 9:41

Band members
Zane Young – vocals, all instruments