There’s so much music released, whether physically or digitally, that keeping up with what’s going on becomes almost like a full-time job. There’s only so much one person can listen to and subsequently write about and so a lot of smaller releases may slip through the net.
With Only Death Is Real the aim is to bring together a selection of those releases – EPs, demos, independent/small label released debuts – and give them a little space on the world wide web. Genre-wise they will somehow fall within the realm of metal or be associated with the darker side of life in one way or another because the remit of this writer falls squarely in the centre of that world.
Bandcamp links are included because artists need support and bandcamp is great.
Sweden has a long history with black metal and Blood Worship pay tribute to that fact with an extremely self-assured debut EP from a (sort of) one man project from Martin Andersson. Featuring huge sweeping guitars, ice cold guest vocals from Astrophobos bandmate Micke Broman and pummelling percussion from Fleshgod Apocalypse live drummer David Folchitto, Death’s Omnipotence is a thrilling ride that is as fun as it engaging.
From the opening notes of “A Dirge for the Damned,” Blood Worship grab the attention; military beats pour from the drums and the guitars immediately call to mind classic black metal riffs, submerging you in the world of Death’s Omnipotence without a pause for breath. “Rites of the Inner Shrine” is a fiery track that rolls in climbing guitars and stormy chaos while Broman’s lead vocals command attention from the outset. His voice is a great fit and on final track “Shadows Etched in Stone” the combination of frosty vocals and classic tremolo riffs from Andersson gives Blood Worship a delicious and vibrant atmosphere that while evocative of the past, still sounds fresh and interesting.
Originally released independently in 2017 (and featuring a Songs:Ohia cover), Transparent to the World is the work of a black metal project hailing from Germany. A year later and the band found themselves with a label willing to release the debut demo on vinyl and the rest is very recent history. Although sadly lacking in the aforementioned cover, the four tracks are now boosted by the inclusion of a Systral track.
Atmospheric black metal is the overarching theme for Blyh and on "The Strength Of A Woman Can Be Boundless" they meld climbing guitar riffs with despairing shrieks and moments of stark beauty, turning their world into a torrent of anger that occasionally finds the light in the darkness. The relentless pace ramps up even more with "Transparent to the World" pulsing with sly malevolence, daring you to ignore the ones that fade into the background, screaming for recognition in the shadows. It's a theme that rears its head often in Blyh's words and it’s clear that the spectre of invisibility is something that follows those behind the band closely.
Black metal is an outsider's genre and Blyh take that base element and turn it into something of their own; their own pain, emotions and rage, and Transparent to the World moves through that narrative with ease - for a debut it's extremely self-assured and it will definitely be interesting to hear where the band take their sound next. Darkness can hold much beauty and in their debut work Blyh try to find the light in a world which has left them in the void.
Formed from the ashes of much loved London noise band Palehorse, Remote Viewing sees this new quintet bring a tangible feeling of dirt to their take on sludge. Movements are slow, weighty, rolling in pain and filled with dread. Not one moment on Blood Loss bears any resemblance to hope or happiness and instead this debut writhes with despair in every single second.
“Suitcase full of Exposure” trudges on chunky riffs and Nikolai von Stieglitz’s (ex-Palehorse) harsh vocals before the hidden rhythms of “Pelican’t” filter into view. The vocals tend to be held back from the mix of Blood Loss with the words sitting a little out of reach, lower than the fuzzy guitars and the powerful drums and feeling restrained somehow. The technique is purposeful and allows the fire of the instruments to drive the songs forward with the vocals only becoming more prominent with the howls of “Limbs to Fold.”
The narrative unfolds in small steps and as the voice is gaining confidence Blood Loss becomes ever more full of fury at just how shitty life can be.
Italy’s The Secret are back with a three track EP that states their claim for one of the hardest bands in the constantly expanding black metal genre. Having been extremely quiet after the release of Agnus Dei in 2012 The Secret are back and angrier than ever for their first release in six years which also included three years of no communication between members of the band.
Lux Tenebris is a firestorm of sound with opening track “Vertigo” churning with guitars clashing against hollowed out voices, drums beating against feedback and a filthy attitude to finish it off. The pace of “The Sorrowful Void” is relentless from the outset and The Secret makes no bones about their absolute disgust with the world we live in with vocalist Marco Coslovich twisting his voice around the layers of guitar in snarls and guttural growls. "Cupio Dissolvi" plays with doomier textures and The Secret show they've pushed away from the simpler structures of past releases in order to embrace the more chaotic side of black metal; guitars are layered over one another to create a maelstrom of sound while the abyssal nature of the song is allowed to flourish in the darkness.
The Secret are still mightily aggressive and Lux Tenebris is pulsing with rage. Time will tell whether they are back for the long term but with live performances coming up the future looks promising.
Death rock has long been a bedfellow of the metal world with bands like Grave Pleasures and Soror Dolorosa finding a home with the leather clad worshippers of the underworld. The post-punk textures that those bands bring to the fore meld well with the darkness inherent in metal and the despair that genre peers such as Joy Division were so adept at creating within their music also attracts many fans from the metal world. It’s a clever mix and one that U.S. Grave are also taking the time to curate.
Featuring members of Arizona’s Take Over and Destroy, themselves a fairly heavy metal outfit, U.S. Grave are a death rock band with designs on world domination. Their power pop debut Voice Of An Idiot Ghost is a mission into the heart of darkness and the music conjures images of basement clubs in the 80s, cloaked in leather and smoke, whiskey in hand – U.S. Grave would not be out of place in such a scenario.
The title track is all jangly guitars and deep, sensual vocals that are by no means perfect but evocative all the same. There’s something about the post-punk/death rock genres that don’t necessarily require beautifully clean singing but instead a voice full of emotion and humanity and that’s something that U.S. Grave has in spades. Voice Of An Idiot Ghost is an assured debut that should see the band go far.