Not to be confused with the long-running Bay Area thrash/speed metal band of the same name, Norway’s Heathen is an obscure black metal entity that recently released its debut full length via the mighty Caligari Records. The first thing that struck me about Heathen is that there is literally no information on them to be found; nothing is known about the band’s lineup, their online presence is meager to say the very least, and they’ve already developed a penchant for self-titling multiple releases. Indeed, there is an air of mystery that surrounds Heathen, but if this excellent tape is anything to go by, rest assured that they have much more than an esoteric image going for them.
It’s been a few months since we last heard from the increasingly prolific Caligari Records, but fear not, because the label has recently released yet another slew of great tapes, the greatest of which just might be Seven Bloodied Ramparts, a reissue of the third album from obscure UK metallers Bretwaldas of Heathen Doom. Originally seeing an extremely limited physical release back in 2010, Seven Bloodied Ramparts might be a bit of an oldie at this point, but make no mistake, this is an album that deserves to be heard well beyond the handful of diehards that picked up on it the first time around.
Although Satanic Warmaster has long been one of my favorite black metal bands due to their unwavering commitment to genre traditionalism, I found myself rather underwhelmed by their last full length, 2010’s Nachzehrer. The production was atrocious (and not in a good way) and to be blunt the songs simply weren’t there; the goofy looking werewolf on the cover and the less than insightful interview SW ringleader Satanic Tyrant Werwolf granted me that year did little to improve my opinion.
Beginning life as a traditional-sounding Norwegian black metal outfit, Oslo’s Dodheimsgard have evolved drastically with every release, to the point that if you were to play each of their full-length recordings to someone who was completely unfamiliar, they’d likely attribute them to several different bands. This near-constant state of progression and reinvention has made DHG into one of the most exciting groups to emerge from the Scandinavian second wave, the lengthy periods of inactivity between albums doing nothing whatsoever to dull my anticipation of their next move.
Yes friends, I realize that hating on any Venom album that isn’t Welcome to Hell, Black Metal or At War with Satan is the cool kid thing to do. But, I’ve never been one of the cool kids, and as such I’ve found much to enjoy amidst Venom’s latter-day discography; even if those albums aren’t as ground-breaking as the first three, that doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining. From the Very Depths is Cronos and Co.’s thirteenth full length, and although it’s by no means perfect, it’s certainly as enjoyable a slab of throwback heavy metal as you’re likely to encounter in 2015.
Finland’s Archgoat have been spewing their patently barbaric brand of blackness since 1989 and are the very definition of a “cult band;” they’ve put out only three full length albums in their two-plus decades of existence including 2015’s The Apocalyptic Triumphator, which makes its release feel like a special event. But it’s not just special because it’s a rare occurrence; the simple fact of the matter is that Archgoat do this style of bestial black/death metal better than just about any other band in existence.
Of all the trends that have to come to prominence within the metal underground over the last several years, the murky/cavernous death metal thing is surely the least interesting (pro tip: if you really want to piss some people off, refer to this junk as “caverncore”). In fact, I’d say my interest in bands shitting out non-riffs from underneath a pile of wet blankets is exactly zero. But there are exceptions to every rule, and the mysterious Canadians known as Malsanctum have proven that there is something to be said for this sub sub genre with Metamorbid Fetishization, their debut(?) release on Germany’s ever-prolific Iron Bonehead Productions.