Over The Voids – Over The Voids (self-titled)

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Label: Nordvis Produktion

Whilst most bands that seek to offer praise to certain musical time periods end up feeling like little more than tired copies of those that came before, there are some bands who manage to clearly hearken back to an earlier time without being a simple imitation. Over The Voids can be counted amongst that small number, with their self-titled album clearly recalling the dark, mysterious nature of mid-90’s black metal; but at the same time, the album never sounds as if it is ever content to simply repeat what others have done before it, adding aspects of atmospheric black metal in to the mix. As such, it is an individualistic take on a highly imitated style of black metal, conjuring a melancholic, captivating aura over its 37 minute duration.

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Mendacium – Decimating Titans

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Label: Self-released

There is a point at which the only reaction one is capable of is anger. There are limits to how much people can stand before lashing out in rage, and considering the state of the world in 2017, it is surprising that there aren’t as many people taking the route that Daniel Jackson has with Mendacium. The Void Ritual mainman created this project to create a more violent, dark kind of black metal than would fit with the spirit of Void Ritual, and debut release Decimating Titans certainly possesses a lot of anger and violence. There is still plenty of second-wave influenced melody and atmosphere, but compared to Void Ritual the mood is far more belligerent, the tempos faster, and the sense of violent catharsis very much real.

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Pink Mass – Necrosexual

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Label: Self-released

It’s easy to forget just how challenging early extreme metal was back in the 80’s. The sounds of bands like Hellhammer, Sodom, or Repulsion might be taken for granted now, but when they first emerged, they were truly shocking. It’s rare now to come across something that not only captures the sense of musical extremity of those bands, but also the unorthodoxy; the way they did not care for genres or convention, but set out to create something original of their own. New Jersey band Pink Mass manage it though on their new record Necrosexual, a startlingly fearless mixture of early black metal, death, grind, and crust that does not care for genre norms or making the listener comfortable, and is all the better and more dangerous for it. And that’s to say nothing of the way they challenge the non-musical norms of extreme metal. Previous album Slvt Kvlt was good, but this is fantastic.

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Spill Your Guts – Hungry Crows

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Label: Self-released

Shanghai’s Spill Your Guts are the kind of band that pretty much everyone needs in their lives. Though nominally a hardcore band, their style of music takes in much more than that descriptor suggests, with previous releases Full Blast and Slip and Fall including plenty of elements taken from black metal, crossover, and full-on thrash metal. Theirs is an energetic, invigorating sound that is all but guaranteed to brighten your day and add a burst of energy. Full length Hungry Crows builds on what has gone before, pushing the energy levels even higher, and is the best thing the band have done so far.

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Sacred Son – Sacred Son (Self-titled)

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Label: Self-released

I’m sure every blogger and writer approaches their reviews differently, but here’s the case for me: about half the time, I won’t even look at an album’s artwork until a few spins have gone by. We all know that presentation influences our perceptions of a record, and so getting the opportunity to listen to something without seeing the artwork can be a boon, helping ensure that judgments made on the music are based on the music itself, not the packaging.

Yet, there’s no denying the importance of artwork to a record, and it’s because of this that Second Son have been gathering some unwelcome attention recently in the underground metal press. Rather than some monochrome Transilvanian Hunger knock-off, or lurid depiction of Satan or the horrors of humanity, Sacred Son is presented with a photo of sole member Dane Cross on his holidays, looking pretty happy with life. Frankly, if people are taking issue with Sacred Son simply because of that, then it’s further proof of how concerned with image (rather than music) parts of the black metal underground are; and it’s their loss, because the music contained within is uncompromising, forceful, and in large parts, every bit as grim as the cover isn’t.

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One Master / Ninhursag – Split

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Label: Eternal DeathRed River Family Records

Regular readers will know that I hold Eternal Death Records in high regard, considering them to be one of the most consistent and discerning bastions of underground extreme metal in the US. You’ll also know that I consider Eternal Death regulars One Master to be one of the most under-rated bands in modern USBM, with their ferocious brand of black metal being consistently devastating. Following hot on the heels of their excellent full-length, Lycanthropic Burrowing, comes a new split release with Ninhursag, a co-release with Red River Family Records, that sees One Master unleash some of their most ferocious music yet; whilst Ninhursag’s take on black metal is more other-worldly and cold, yet no less effective for it.

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In Twilight’s Embrace – Vanitas

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Label: Arachnophobia Records

The best black metal isn’t always the most immediate. It’s a genre where there is much to be explored in the shadows, with subtle changes, repetition, and a general disregard for convention often holding the most potential. Yet there’s also a good number of bands playing black metal who can take you by the throat, and it only takes a single play of their album for you to understand just how good they are. The new album from Poland’s In Twilight’s Embrace, Vanitas, is one such example. This is black metal with all superfluous elements removed, streamlined in to its most deadly form, unleashing an all-out assault right from the start with great results.

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