Abazagorath – Disciples of Sacrilege (2017)

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As one of the most revered USBM bands, Abazagorath delivers their latest offering in the shape of a live cassette titled “Disciples of Sacrilege”. Perfectly capturing the band’s raw energy and sound evolution, this tape features the band playing songs from all studio releases. Clocking in around 50 minutes and being highly limited (150 copies); this is an item that cannot be missing in any USBM collection.

Opening with a savage rendition of the 1997’s “Rites of the Black Herald”, we are shown that the band’s three piece line-up means business. While there are small stylistic differences between the songs as the band evolved, tracks like “Ancient Steel” and “Beyond the Veils of Obscurity” are very well updated to the band’s current sound but still retain the quirks that made them brilliant during their heyday.

Ghost Bath – Starmourner (2017)

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Continuing with their impressive momentum after the release of “Moonlover”, Ghost Bath returns on a bigger label and with a more expansive sound in “Starmourner”. Delivering over 70 minutes of soul crushing music, the band continues to evolve with a richer and more diverse sound. Equally pleasing for older and new fans, this release is a perfect continuation of the band’s path.

After the mood setting intro track, the band gets down to business with the incisive lead guitars of “Seraphic” a highly emotional and ravaging track. The onslaught continues with the sheer brutality of the opening of “Ambrosial”. Here we have the traditional shrieks being outlined by pummeling drums, and before you know it the song turns highly melodic and hypnotic with some truly outstanding passages.

Amorphis + Swallow the Sun – 4/6/2017 – Slim’s, San Francisco, CA

With Amorphis finally returning to tour the US, there was no way we would miss going to this killer show. Braving the pouring rain and crappy Bay Area traffic, we managed to make our way up to Slim’s to be in time for the openers: Swallow the Sun.

Hailing from Finland, Swallow the Sun delivered a killer set with their moody Death/Doom / Melodic Death Metal sound. As the only opener, the band had around 45 minutes to deliver their highly melancholic music.

Dynfari – The Four Doors of the Mind (2017)

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Unleashing their most mature work to date, today we have Iceland’s Dynfari and their fourth full-length release “The Four Doors of the Mind”. Delivering over 48 minutes of majestic music, the band finds itself transitioning into more atmospheric and dreamy music than before while retraining some of their aggressive roots.

Opening with the dreamy album title track, the mood is set with a very martial pace and very interesting spoken vocals. The album continues its build-up as “1st Door: Sleep” slowly picks up the pace and the clean guitars give way for heavier distorted riffs, harsh vocals and pummeling drums. Keeping up the intensity, “Sorgarefni segi eg þér” delivers seven-minutes of killer tempo changes and lush melodic passages.

Owler – Waves (2015)

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Hailing from Finland, today we have a band that perfectly combines elements from Post-Rock/Post-Metal with traditional Finish Melodic Death Metal. Delivering over 25 minutes of melancholic music, this band could be described as a mixture of The Man Eating Three with Before the Dawn.

The EP starts with the lush “Throes”, a track filled with melancholic clean vocals and dreamy guitars. At first glance, the guitars seem a bit heavier than usual for this type of music, but they do an effective job at preparing the listener for what is to come. As “Distance” kicks off we are instantly reminded of Before the Dawn during their “Soundscape of Silence” years. The mixture of growls and clean vocals is very effective and they perfectly contrast the ethereal keyboards and weeping guitars.

Dimmu Borgir - Forces of the Northern Night (2017)

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Finally immortalizing one of their iconic full-orchestra and choir shows, today we have Dimmu Borgir and the monumental “Forces of the Northern Night”. Featuring around 90 minutes of live material both in video (DVD or Blu-ray) and audio CD’s, this is one of the most epic live releases we have seen in a while. Not needing any introduction, this band will blow you away with the intensity they bring to the live shows.

We are only reviewing their Wacken Open air show in 2012, where the band was accompanied on stage with the Czech National Symphonic Orchestra and the Schola Cantorum choir. In this already legendary concert, the band played the full “Abrahadabra” album first, and then a pretty solid selection of their greatest hits. The first part of the concert hits the listener hard with epic renditions of crushing songs like “Born Treacherous” and “Gateways” featuring a guest appearance by Agnete Kjølsrud.

Obitus – Slaves of the Vast Machine (2017)

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As a true testament of intensity and brutality, today we Obitus’s latest full-length “Slaves of the Vast Machine”. Comprised of one 45-minute behemoth of a track, this release showcases a master class in crafting intricate Black Metal music that is both engaging and ravaging. While most people would expect this piece to be filled with interludes and atmospheric passages, we are treated to quite the opposite as it is intense and violent from start to finish.

The sole track waits no time to deliver is blistering message with a barrage of punishing riffs and crushing drums. This opening level of intensity is quite brutal and it showcases that Obitus is here and it means business. The band’s vocalist, Johan Huldtgren, does a great job unleashing aggressive BM shrieks that perfectly fit the intensity and rawness of the music. Multi-instrumentalist, Anders Ahlbäck, brings down the hammer with superbly crafted drum patterns and intricate tremolo picking sections which bring this release to life.

Netra – Ingrats (2017)

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One-man outfit Netra returns after five years to unleash the very unique “Ingrats”. Mixing Industrial/Trip-hop/jazzy elements with Black Metal, this release delivers nearly 40 minutes of exciting Avant-garde music. As with the previous Netra releases, this one will keep you at the edge of your seat always wondering what kind of surprises the songs have in store for the listener.

Opening with the mysteriously jazzy “Gimme a Break”, the band brilliantly eases the listener into being quite shocked with the savage intensity of the following track. On “Everything’s Fine”, we get the same trippy elements, but they are paired with punishing harsh vocals and intense riffing. The track again flips on the listener before finishing as it slowly eases into the trip-hoppish atmospheric interlude of “Underneath My Words, The Ruins of Yours”.

Slagmaur – Thill Smitts Terror (2017)

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After eight years in the making, we finally get the return of Norway’s Slagmaur and their unique take on Black Metal. With “Thill Smitts Terror” the band delivers over 45 minutes of truly bizarre and disturbing music that will fully immerse the listener into the band’s own deranged world. If you like bands like Diabolos Rising and Mysticum, but want an extra touch of madness, this band has you covered.

With “Innferd” setting up a very dark and somber mood, “Drummer of Tedworth” is the first creepy Industrial-influence piece that truly showcases Slagmaur’s weirdness. Perfectly juxtaposing sinister riffs and Industrial percussions, they create a very sickening and truly immersive atmospheric experience. The band’s oppressive atmosphere is nicely continued in the punishing track “Werewolf”, one of the heaviest and busiest tracks in this release.

None – None (2017)

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Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, today we have None and their bone chilling self-titled debut release. Set to be released on Hypnotic Dirge Records, this Canadian label has managed to uncover one of the most atmospherically rich Black Metal outfits to ever come out of the USA. Featuring around 30 minutes of music, this release concocts long song filled with brutality and beauty. With similar influences to Cascadian BM bands, this one band you want to keep an eye out for.

Opening with the devastating “Cold”, the band instantly sets a very immersive mood filled with powerful riffs, hypnotic keyboard arrangements, and gut-wrenching vocals. Reminding us of outfits like Wolves in the Throne Room, this track creates a dense atmosphere that immerses the listener into the band’s punishing melancholic world.

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