Welcome to the second instalment of Only Death Is Real. This time round we swing from power electronics to decaying cosmic black metal, giving equal coverage to EPs, full-lengths and splits. Click on the title and you’ll find yourself on the relevant Bandcamp page.
Axebreaker - Brutality in Stone (Self-released/Phage Tapes)
Locrian's Terence Hannum formed Axebreaker a couple of years ago with the idea that this power electronics project would be extremely confrontational and unapologetic in its anti-fascist outlook. Hannum’s music veers from stark beats, pulsing waves of sound, stomping drums and vocals that are tempered with a sneering edge. Brutality in Stone is a record that rages from beginning to end and uses aggression to create questions and form answers as to why the world is currently standing on a knife’s edge.
Nothing is sacred in the Axebreaker world and Hannum is not afraid to show how utterly corrupt and yet seemingly beyond reproach governments are. War is futile, destined to kill more than the lives it purports to save and for Axebreaker it’s clear that there are people who should answer for that destruction. The themes present have repeated themselves time and time again and will continue to do so unless action is taken.
Azator - Horrors From Aeons Past (Self-released)
Comprised of tracks from over a decade ago and played live many times prior to the band breaking up in 2008, Argentinian group Azator came together in 2015 to immortalise the songs they created together and this year saw the EP finally released. Horrors From Aeons Past is a punchy record that plays with black metal elements, thrash guitars and an overarching sense of grandeur. The songs are vibrant, interesting and, considering they are the best part of ten years old, still hold a sense of urgency and freshness.
Vocals are rendered in a classically guttural style while the guitars are clear, soaring and distinct throughout. Synthesised strings during "In Satan's Hole" add to the epic scale Azator are aiming for and while for many bands this could be seen as a corny, cheesy element, for Horrors From Aeons Past it works perfectly, adding an intriguing dimension to a cool little EP. The hope for Azator is that they will record new music in the near future and with songs so solid already under their bullet belts, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the word out about this band.
Of Blood and Mercury - Strangers (Self-released)
The brainchild of Emptiness member Olivier J.LW and Bathsheba’s Michelle Nocon, Of Blood and Mercury tread the synthesised path of post-punk/goth with gorgeous ease. Keyboards are the main instrument here and the sounds created give a defiant darkness to the proceedings while Nocon’s voice adds an ethereal quality to the three tracks the band offer on this EP. Resonant waves curl around her voice as it moves towards finality and while the songs never quite burst into life, there’s a slow-burning, haunting quality to be found.
Evocative and beautiful in equal measure, Strangers is a fascinating debut for the Belgian quartet (the band also features Emptiness drummer Jonas Sanders and Soror Dolorosa’s David Alexandre Parquier on bass) and the songs here are pitch black pop at its finest. “Walk The Void” is a restrained ode to death while “Estranged” speaks of waiting for a return and the pain that comes along with knowing that it can never happen.
Primitive Man/Hell – Split (Translation Loss Records)
Primitive Man and Hell are two of the heaviest bands around right now and on this split they both show exactly why that is the case. The two tracks from Primitive Man are desperate in their hate and vocalist ELM uses his voice to create moments of utter desolation – the progression of “Oily Tears” is a masterclass in pure disgust and the pummelling drums also do much to punch that theme home - the controlled rage found in here is far more terrifying than letting go completely.
Hell’s MSW has long been a purveyor of misery and on “Nuumen” that wretchedness spills from a voice laced with spite and guitars that are hazy with effects. Much of Hell’s music is obscured by a smokescreen; vocals often sit a little further back and melodies are hidden under layers of guitar or bass, and lyrics are usually kept to a bare minimum – the music tells the story of pain and death and in “Nuumen” there is a distinct lack of hope to be found.
Starless Domain - EOS (Self-released)
Self-released digitally in January, Starless Domain’s debut, EOS, is a cosmic trip into the outer reaches of the unknown universe. It’s harrowing black metal that strives for an aura of desolation and finds it within its high-pitched screams, curious musical textures, chaotic layers of sound and a recurring motif that subtly points to the repetitive doom we find ourselves a part of. Listen closely and listen completely and you will find much to discover in Starless Domain’s pitch black world.
Founded by members of Stellar Descent and Twilight Falls, Starless Domain take their black metal on an entirely different path from those bands and create black metal that is completely devoid of light, hope or certainty and instead use sterile, mechanical drums to forge a sense of alienation. Vocals sit a little further back in the mix with screams, guttural roars and overlapping voices giving life to the maelstrom that swirls around them and synthesisers add a dimension of ambience that serves to push forth the idea that EOS is outside of the boundaries of earthly knowledge.