Back on track with new releases from †††, Creeper, Stortregn, Sulphur Aeon, The Lion's Daughter, The Ritual Aura, Body Void, Pumpkin Guts, Biledriver and a bunch of other stuff that more than makes up for the new Beartooth.

8 months ago

I'm pretty sure last week was the worst release week ever, and that was even with completely overlooking this absolute travesty. Thankfully, this supposedly most unlucky and horrific of release days is here to make up for it, delivering an absolute glut of outstanding and genuinely very cool releases for you to sink your elongated teeth into.

Top Picks

The Lion's Daughter – Bath House (progressive/blackened/industrial sludge thrash)

I don't know what i was expecting from a new Lion's Daughter record, but it wasn't this. Having recently been known for concocting haunting industrial soundscapes and intimidating labyrinths of blackened prog-death, Bath House sees the Missouri act bringing their ever-prevalent thrash-undercurrents to the fore while delivering a record that might just be their best and most idiosyncratic statement to date. There's not really any other band quite like The Lion's Daughter, but here they come off something like an combination of Fucked Up! and The Atlas Moth sound-tracking cult 2016 cosmic horror film The Void, and bringing with them all the darkness that ungodly concoction entails. Even at its most accessible—i.e. the almost-uplifting and entirely melodic refrain of "She Does Not Exist"—Bath House remains an unsettling affair, pitching itself as a more overtly horrific sequel to the more subtly unsettling Skin Show (2021) and even somehow managed to live up to its extremely gnarly cover art.

Stortregn – Finitude (progressive tech-death)

As good as Stortregn's 2021 album Impermanence already was, its follow-up outclasses it in almost every way. The Swiss melodic-black-metal-turned-tech-death outfit have doubled down on the progressive tendencies that crept their way into their previous record, blowing its successor up into a vivid prog-death odyssey that rarely ceases to astonish. Finitude is everything I wanted the new Carnossus, or even the last Hath album to be. As with Tomb Mold before them, it's hard to believe at times that this is the same band that made (the, again, already very, very good) album beforehand. It's as if something happened in between then and now, that meant everyone in the band had to stay at home with nothing better to do than practice their instruments all day. Oh wait...

Sulphur Aeon – Seven Crowns and Seven Seals (blackened prog death)

Fans of putrid and uncompromisingly progressive extreme metal (and seriously sick album covers) are spoiled for choice today. In contrast to the lush beauty of Stortregn and The Lion's Daughter's more introspective and psychologically disturbing take on cosmic extremity, Sulphur Aeon keep things more traditionally external and overwhelming in their perplexities. As with Stortregn, however, the band have also accentuated the more progressive and ambitious aspects of their previous outings and far exceeded them as a result. The title-track, especially, is a masterful, dredging tribute to almighty Cthulhu that will have you furiously checking the liner notes in disbelief that no one named Hannes Grossmann or Christian Münzner was involved in its construction. Cthulhu Fhagn R'Lyeh, amirite?!

(Dis)Honourable Mention?

Creeper – Sanguivore (horror punk, goth glam)

Despite the above emphasis on cool underground extreme metal bands, the album I was most anticipating from the current batch of releases was the third full-length effort from spooky UK punk crew Creeper. The much-touted and overtly theatrical band have always been an intriguing prospect and it seemed like they may have finally hit their stride with the release of Sanguivore's glammed-out lead single "Cry to Heaven" (below), which remains one of the best songs of 2023 and is surely responsible for the largest surge in leotard sales since Flashdance (1983) first hit theatres. "Teenage Sacrifice" and "Black Heaven" followed suit, being almost identical yet equally worthy goth-glam offerings.

Unfortunately, those songs wound up being the only of their kind on the entire album, which is otherwise filled with fairly standard horror-punk/gothic Americana affairs (and a rather annoying wedding/Christmas bell refrain). The combination could have worked, in principle, provided the transitions were smoother and there wasn't such a huge drop off in quality between the glammed-up material and the album's other offerings. The band seem to know it too, having released all and only the three goth-glam songs in the lead-up to its release. Epic, nine-minute opener "Further Than Forever" is impressive in its ability to perfectly imitate The Misfits, Meat Loaf, AFI, Danzig, My Chemical Romance, Cradle of Filth and the Sisters of Mercy, often all at once, but it's a bit much as an opening statement and it doesn't leave the album much room to grow from there. Indeed, the track—with it's galloping fade-out and promises of a future apocalypse—might have worked much better as the album's climax, even if that would have disrupted its overall allusion to Bat Out of Hell-by-way-of-Interview with the Vampire (which also maybe isn't as valuable as the band might think).

It's also a bit disappointing to see(/hear) keyboardist Hannah Greenwood taking a step back vocally, after her star-making turn on "Ghosts Over Cavalry" from 2021's American Noir EP, which would have fit perfectly on here as well, while also bringing a bit of much-needed life to the record's saggy mid-section. It's also ironic that Greenwood is largely absent on an album which explicitly focuses on a female figure, yet has somehow wound up being Creeper's most masculine effort to date. Greenwood's parts are also a standout on 2007's Eternity in Your Arms, which still remains the band's best overall effort, even if Sanguivore suggests a promising path for them to travel further down in future. Now excuse me while I go grab my leotard and punch-dance it out for the thousandth time.

Release Roundup

Acid Blade – Shooting Star (trad metal)

Akouphenom – Death Chaos Void (progressive death doom)

Alasteth – The Nihilism Of Alasteth (trve black metal)

All Its Grace – To What End? (melodeath)

The Answer Lies In The Black Void – Thou Shalt (goth doom)

Arabrot – Of Darkness And Light (alt goth)

Arborescence Of Wrath – Inferno (brutal death metal)

As The Sun Falls – Where The Silence Reigns (post doom)

Beartooth – The Surface (melodic metalcore)

Beastwars – Tyranny Of Distance (stoner metal)

Biledriver – Let The Sun Swallow All (post sludge)

Black Bile – L’Oratoire (doom metal)

Blade – Joker And Clowns (progish hard rock)

Blessed Curse – Pray For Armageddon (death thrash)

Body Void – Atrocity Machine (noise sludge, doom grind)

Catafalque – Dybbuk (depressive doom drone)

Comaniac – None For All (prog thrash)

Corrosive – Wrath Of The Witch (melodeath doom)

Cosmic Jaguar – The Order Of The Jaguar Knights (culturally sensitive metal)

††† – Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete (progressive crooncore)

Decembre Noir – Your Sunset | My Sunrise (melodeath doom)

Drawn And Quartered – Return Of The Black Death (death metal)

The Dollyrots – Night Owls (pop punk)

Droid Killer – The Terminator vs. The Preacher (doomy metal)

Edge Of Forever – Ritual (heavy metal)

Electrocutioner – False Idols (death thrash)

False Fed – Let Them Eat Fake (post metal)

Felonie – De Seve et de Sang (black metal)

Fleshworks – Diabolus Ex Machina (blackened death metal)

Fortid – Narkissos (melodeath folk)

Free Throw – Lessons That We Swear To Keep (alt rock, emo)

Furia – Huta Luna (blackened folk?)

Gevaudan- Umbra (funeral? doom)

Gods Of Gaia – As Daylight Dies (symphonic melodeath)

Hagatiz – Cursed To The Night (black metal)

Hannah Wicklund – The Prize (rock, pop)

Hegeroth – Disintegration (blackened death metal)

Jonathan Young – Children Of Night (power metal)

Kaunis Kuolematon – Mielenvalta (symphonic metal/doom)

The Keening – Little Bird (sad violin doom)

Kings Crown – Closer To The Truth (dudes rock)

KK Null & Dao De Noise – Digital Demons (noise)

Krieg – Ruiner (black metal)

Laster – Andermans Mijne (weird prog)

Malformed – The Gathering Of Souls (death metal)

The Menzingers – Some Of It Was True (indie rock, alt rock)

Michael Voss – Rockers Rollin' (A Tribute To Rick Parfitt) (grandpas rock)

Mindrazer – A Thing of Nightmares (thrash)

Modern Technology – Conditions Of Worth (noisy sludge)

A Mourning Star – A Reminder Of The Wound Unhealed (hardcore, metalcore)

Nitrate – Feel The Heat (pervy dudes rock)

Ohmwork – In Hindsight (doom)

Olymp – Olymp (thrash/speed metal)

On Thorns I Lay – On Thorns I Lay (deathy doom)

Oni – The Silver Line (melodic metalcore)

Overthrow – Ascension Of The Entombed (blackened death metal)

Persecutor – Vendetta (melodeath thrash)

Popior – Pomarlisko (melodeath thrash)

Private Mind – The Truth You See (post-hardcore, punk)

Pumpkin Guts – Death, The Devil, and Dismemberment (spooky punk)

Pynuka – Not In The Sense We Did Something Wrong (electro folk, dub)

The Ritual Aura – Heresiarch (tech death)

Ronnie Atkins – Trinity (hard rock, heavy metal)

Sadistic Force – Midnight Assassin (black thrash)

Selenoplexia – Exalt And Despair (crossover death thrash)

Seraphic Entombment – Sickness Particles Gleam (death doom)

Silent Revenants – The Withering Of The Blue Flower (poorly produced symphonic metal)

Slidhr – White Hart! (brutal blackened death metal)

Sonic Tides – Six Sided Square (alt prog)

Sour Times – Awaken The Voiceless (metalcore)

State Of Deceit – Stalked By Daemons (melodic groove death)

Sucking Leech – Errordynamic (hardcore, crossover)

Suicide Puppets – Beyond The Veil (industrial metal)

Swartzheim – Sympathy (thrash)

Tardigrade Inferno – Burn The Circus (whacky metal)

Terreur Nocturne – Solitude Post-Mortem (black metal)

Theocracy – Mosaic (power metal)

Thetan – Grand Ole Agony (sludge grind?)

35 Tapes – Fabric Of Time (prog rock)

Twin Temple – God Is Dead (“Satanic Doo-Wop”)

Ural – Psychoverse (thrash)

Vanishing Kids – Miracle Of Death (goth doom)

Varg – Ewige Wacht (folk metal)

Venera – Venera (dark electro)

Voidescent – Dust And Embers (doomy black metal)

The Voynich Code – Insomnia (deathcore)

Joshua Bulleid

Published 8 months ago