Trying to keep up with Profound Lore Records is no easy task. Every year it seems that the label bombards us with more and more quality releases, and being a one man show here at THKD, I often find myself stretched incredibly thin as far as my ability to listen to and write about as many new albums as possible is concerned; some stuff inevitably slips through the cracks. In an effort to prevent that from happening, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite recent PL releases in one place. What follows is a brief rundown of each one.
Alraune – The Process of Self-Immolation
After gracing us with a scathing EP earlier in the year, Nashville, TN’s Alraune continues to impress with their debut full length The Process of Self-Immolation. Sounding as nasty and noisy as ever, the quartet create black metal that’s both utterly corrosive and rife with atmosphere. The band take many of their cues from the Scandinavian second wave, but there is also a raw, blue-collar aesthetic at work that seems to be unique to USBM.
Sonically speaking, there is nothing even remotely polished about Alraune’s approach, but there are some great songs buried underneath the filthy distortion. Each of the four proper tracks is eight minutes or longer, but more often than not they justify their length with a twisted sense of dynamics. One gets the impression that Alraune’s music could spiral into madness at any moment, yet the band somehow manages to harness that madness into something frightfully coherent.
In a time when most US black metal seems to want to go the progressive route, it’s nice to hear a band bringing some real savagery and reckless abandon to the table. Alraune’s rough-hewn sonics and complete lack of pretension make The Process of Self Immolation one of the more enjoyable slabs of USBM released so far in 2014, in fact its only real competition at this point might be Barghest’s bulldozing The Virtuous Purge. This is a great opening salvo, and something tells me these guys are going to put out a USBM masterpiece somewhere down the line.
Auroch – Taman Shud
In spite of the fact that they’ve been kicking around the underground since 2008, I was unfamiliar with Vancouver’s Auroch prior to receiving the promo for their second album, Taman Shud. Indeed, what a pleasant surprise it was to discover this quasi-technical blackened death metal trio, which features two members of the mighty Mitochondrion and not only equals the quality of that band but gives them a run for their money. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Auroch is the first band in 2014 to come out of nowhere and really grab my attention.
Auroch take after their elder countrymen such as Gorguts and Cryptopsy, but manage to create a sound all their own by incorporating a strong black metal influence. The production is clear but retains a raw edge, along with an incredibly dark atmosphere; for a band with this much going on instrumentally, being able to hear them mangle their instruments is key, but so is creating feelings of ugliness and unease, and Auroch achieve this balance seemingly without even trying, it’s simply who they are as a band. The sound is chaotic, but Auroch exert such control over their music that chaos becomes a weapon of cruel precision in their hands.
Taman Shud clocks in at a brief twenty-five minutes, and it’s great to hear a band with a flair for technicality that’s also wise enough to write songs that don’t overstay their welcome. Auroch appear to be the complete package; a band that understands the crucial importance of self-editing, is technical without degenerating into pointless fret-wank and able to whip up a distinctive sound using time-honored components. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future, as well as exploring their back catalog.
Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
Dead Congregation made some serious waves back in 2008 with the release of their debut album Graves of the Archangels, a release that split the difference between Incantation and Immolation, seemingly beating both death metal stalwarts at their own game in the process. You’d think the Greek band would’ve been quick to capitalize on the success of that excellent work, but instead they made us wait an agonizing six years for a follow up. At long last, Dead Congregation have returned with Promulgation of the Fall, and while it might not be quite the game-changer that Graves of the Archangels was, it is nonetheless an excellent followup to that modern classic.
Those expecting any sort of evolutionary leap forward will be sorely disappointed, as Dead Congregation continues to mine the same territory they did a little over half a decade ago. That said, it is excellently executed, and there isn’t a band on the planet that does this style as well as they do. Each song is crammed with twisted riffage and gloomy, cavernous yet just-clear-enough atmosphere, which makes Promulgation of the Fall one of the few truly deathly-sounding death metal albums to be released this year. The production is indeed quite dense, yet the riffs are still given plenty of breathing room and never sound like the amorphous mush that bands attempting this style seem to favor.
Whether or not Dead Congregation have managed to top their first album with Promulgation of the Fall remains to be seen, but either way they still manage to blow 99.9% of oldschool death metal bands out of the fucking water. If you dig riffs (and I know you do), this is the death metal album to get in 2014. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take another six years for the next album to drop.