Takhisis – Takhisis (self-titled)

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Label: Blackened Death Records

Pope Richard seems like the kind of guy who’s never satisfied unless he’s creating something. As well as running Blackened Death Records, he’s also the creative force behind over a dozen different bands, the latest release from which is the self-titled album as Takhisis. The album serves up 40 minutes of crushing occult doom, full of catchy hooks and powerful riffs, but more than that, it’s possessed of a dark, subtly seductive atmosphere, full of clandestine sorcery and secret gatherings. It also feels like one of the most confident, assured records that Pope Richard has put his name to, and considering the consistent quality of his records, that’s quite something.

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Petrification – Summon Horrendous Destruction

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Label: Sentient Ruin Productions 

It can be nice when a record lives up to your expectations. With a band name like Petrification, and a title like Summon Horrendous Destruction, and artwork like that, you’d no doubt be hoping for this 7″ to contain some dirty, old-school death metal. And you’d be exactly right. Summon Horrendous Destruction was originally released (and quickly sold out) on cassette earlier in the year, but is now being released on vinyl by Sentient Ruin, giving this slice of fetid metal another chance to inflict its pestilence upon the world. It’s a good thing, too, as this is no-nonsense death metal done right, sounding like it was dragged out of some moldy cavern, and as crushing as any other purveyor of old-school death you would care to name.

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Syn Ze Sase Tri – Zaul Mos

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Label: Code666

First off: that artwork. It continues the themes presented on previous covers but taken to an even higher degree, and it sure is striking, what with it’s crusader style central figure and its heavenly wolves and its general OTT power metal-ness. Yet press play on the album, and the music is just as striking, in a far more impressive manner. Combining symphonic metal with that sense of Transylvanian darkness and mystery that Negura Bunget laid down the template for, as well as a progressive edge that recalls Arcturus, Zaul Mos – the fourth album by Syn Ze Sase Tri – is a grandiose, dramatic album of progressive, pagan black metal that is far more serious and striking than initial reactions to its artwork may suggest.

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Death Vanish / Misanthropos – Split

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Label: Eternal Death

There’s a lot of black metal out there. It’s a statement so obvious it barely needs saying, but the amount of music being released under what was originally the most inward-looking and hostile of extreme metal sub-genres is, frankly, absurd. And a lot of it is absolute, utter shit, too. It can be depressing, going through hordes of new releases and demos in the hopes of finding something worth your time. But sometimes, you’ll strike gold, and come upon something that makes it all worthwhile. The new split between Death Vanish and Misanthropos is one such example. Put bluntly, this is incredible, and should be mandatory listening for anyone interested in black metal in 2017.

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Cadaver Soiree – Demo 1

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Label: Self-released

If you’re anything like me, then as much as you might be able to appreciate modern, technical, slickly produced death metal, it’ll never win your heart in the same way that the dirty, heavy, gruesome likes of Autopsy have. Full of memorable riffs and a delightfully crushing old-school feel, the demo from Cadaver Soiree is sure to appeal to fans of early death metal; it might not stray far from the traditional template set down in the 80’s, but it does it so very well, and with such passion, that it’s hard to hold this against the demo or band.

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Shepherd / Death By Fungi – Split

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Label: Inspirus Records

Though there are still those who will dismiss the genre as being conservative and regressive (musically, at least), hardcore is a broad church, with a great variety of sounds and styles to be found. Indian bands Shepherd and Death By Fungi are excellent examples of this, not just because their sounds avoid typical hardcore cliches and take in a wide range of influences, but also because both bands are, quite simply, really good. This split showcases the two delightfully heavy bands, and is a highly recommended half hour of bruising yet intelligent hardcore.

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Yards – Excitation Thresholds

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Label: Truthseeker Music

Excitation Thresholds is not an easy listen. The debut album from London band Yards is an unsettling, anxious slice of modern hardcore, conjuring that same sense of restless doubt as Converge did with You Fail Me. This is not an album that is concerned with making the listener comfortable, or even on providing an inherently enjoyable time, but instead on providing a sonic journey of hurt and pain. Yet as difficult a listen it can be, Excitation Thresholds has a certain charm to it, and an almost primal sense of catharsis offered within its ten tracks.

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