Sacred Son – Sacred Son (Self-titled)

Sacred Son - Sacred Son

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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Cadaver Soiree – Demo 1

Cadaver Soiree - Demo 1 - cover

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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Abandoned By Light – Melancholia

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Label: Self-released

DSBM is a considerably broad church now, to the extent that, as a descriptive on its own, it’s almost meaningless. Encompassing everything from the most melodic moments of introspection, to drawn-out odes of nihilism, the genre has grown considerably, especially in the last ten years. Solo act Abandoned By Light‘s fifth album, Melancholia, situates itself firmly in the darkest end of the sub-genre, with guitars that move between jarring dissonance and frostbitten melodies competing with hate-filled vocals and merciless drums. Much like the artwork, the only shades to be found here are different hues of black, and that is both the strength and weakness of Melancholia.

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Necrolytic Goat Converter – Isolated Evolution

Isolated Evolution Cover

Label: Self-released

Just over a year ago, the demo/album from one-man band Necrolytic Goat Converter impressed me greatly, with its blend of DSBM that was as self-mocking as it was serious. So, hopes were high for new album Isolated Evolution. It’s a slightly different beast when compared with that initial record, but the core of therapeutic DSBM is still there. What’s changed is that there’s a greater sense of song-craft, with these songs having strong melodies and an almost accessible character. But even so, there’s still a lot of darkness and searching for catharsis at play, with the self-mockery toned back for something that feels incredibly honest and personal.

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Mad Spanner – Wrong Shade Of Orange

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Label: Self-released

As I’ve noted elsewhere recently, the problem with most so-called comedy bands is that they aren’t actually all that funny, and rely on offensive or shocking “jokes” to mask a lack of decent songs. Wrong Shade Of Orange by solo act Mad Spanner makes no attempt to hide its absurd sense of humour – I mean, just look at that cover – but the thrashy punk/grind on the album is strong enough to stand on its own. However, the humour is of the kind that won’t be to everyone’s taste, and can be – to me – rather hit-and-miss. That said, there’s still more than enough here to have kept me entertained.

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Raised By Owls – The Great British Grind Off

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Label: Self-released

The main problem with most “comedy” bands is that they simply aren’t funny. This is often further compounded by the fact that most bands who try to be funny forget to write worthwhile songs, so that even if the jokes fall flat, at least there’s a solid base of riffs to fall back on. England’s Raised By Owls differ from most comedy bands in that they’re actually genuinely funny; and even if they weren’t, their grindcore is more than strong enough to stand on its own. Combining a very British sense of humour – which should be evident from the title of The Great British Grind Off alone – with varied, impressive grind, this album is a winner on all fronts.

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Khazaddum – Plagues Upon Arda

p.u.a. cover

Label: Self-released

I’m sure that there will be those who balk at Plagues Upon Arda, simply because of its lyrical content. Khazaddum are hardly the first band to take inspiration from The Lord Of The Rings, but most bands who do so handle the matter in ways that is, frankly, cheesy and immature. This album avoids any such pitfalls though, comprised as it is of relentless, pummeling death metal that takes inspiration from the likes of Behemoth and Nile. Far from being a novelty record, Plagues Upon Arda is an album of real strength and talent that would surely stand out even without its atypical lyrical themes.

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