Darkness comes in many forms. A band doesn’t necessarily have to scream about Satan or pile on the distortion in order to take listeners to pitch-black places. Subtle Cruelties, the debut album from West Coast duo Barren Harvest, is an exquisite example of this. A collaboration between Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros and Atriarch’s Lenny Smith, Barren Harvest’s sound is rooted in the subtle tones and textures of ambient and neofolk, yet somehow manages to be darker and more sorrowful than even the most depressive of black metal bands.
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.
I’ve been listening to various forms of heavy music for a long time, and as the years go on, my attention span gets shorter and shorter, especially when it comes to choosing bands to write about. Basically, if your band can’t pique my interest within the first thirty seconds of the first song (excluding intros), consider yourselves SOL. This has made it increasingly difficult to discover new acts to cover, as it seems that much of the scene is currently plagued by a complete and total lack of ability to self-edit.
During my misspent youth, I obsessed over so-called “alternative rock” almost as much as I did heavy metal. Among my favorites was The Smashing Pumpkins; the band’s swirling and spacey yet surprisingly metallic hard rock was like nothing I’d heard before at that point, and I found it much easier to identify with main man Billy Corgan’s nerd/asshole/hopeless romantic shtick than Kurt Cobain’s junkie poet. I might have had more Nirvana posters on my wall, but I listened to Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness way more than I did Nevermind.
At the end of 2014, I began to reacquaint myself with music outside of the metal spectrum. I’d been pretty much completely immersed in the genre since starting THKD back in 2009, and it was time to change things up; variety being the spice of life ‘n’ shit. At the forefront of this change in listening habits has been an unhealthy obsession with Brighter Death Now, the pioneering death industrial project of former Cold Meat Industry head honcho Roger Karmanik. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Karmanik released With Promises of Death, the first BDN full length in a number of years back in October of 2014 via his new label Familjegraven, and it is every bit the sickening listen fans have come to expect from him.
There’s no shortage of great shows happening in Sacramento every month, but the dregs of being a responsible adult often keep me from going to them. When you’re a corporate lackey that gets up for work bright and early at 6:45 AM, going to a show on a weeknight that doesn’t even start until 8:00 PM isn’t really in the cards. But there was no way I was going miss out on Incantation; the death metal legends are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a string of West Coast dates, and with Funerus, Mortuous and Plague Widow in tow, this one was guaranteed to be a rager.
It’s been a while since I’ve discovered anything particularly worthy of coverage via Bandcamp, but just when I was about to give up hope, I stumbled upon Psalm 88, a sub-label of Berkeley’s Acephale Winter Productions that’s dedicated to producing limited edition C20 cassettes featuring black metal’s rawest of the raw. The fledgling venture has already cranked out four releases in just a year of existence, all available on tape or for pay-what-you-want download. All four releases are well worth your time, and you guys know I’m not a fan of lengthy intros, so let’s dive right in.