Emptiness – Nothing but the Whole (Dark Descent, 2014)

a0173805231_10Underground metal is a land of extremes.  Bands playing so fast that a human drummer can’t keep up, bands playing so slow they make a glacier look speedy, bands trying to play the heaviest, the most technical, the most brutal, the most… ah, fuck it, you get the idea.  What I’m attempting to get at is, there’s typically no such thing as subtlety in the circles we travel in.  This is what makes Emptiness’ Nothing but the Whole such a refreshing album.  Where other bands seek to crush your soul in the first thirty seconds, Emptiness would rather watch it slowly wither and die.

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Compelling Natural Force: A Caligari Records round-up (Heavydeath, Act of Impalement, Ellorsith).

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As Caligari Records continues to pick up steam, it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep up with the avalanche of quality cassettes.  Fifteen releases deep and not a single dud in the bunch is a hell of a track record, and you can pretty much rest assured at this point that anything Caligari puts its name to is going to be excellent.  Case in point: the label’s three latest releases are all very different from one another, but all well worth your time.  So without further ado, let us investigate the latest from Caligari’s cabinet…

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Dispirit and the art of total immersion.

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As a heavy metal fan, I’ve seen dozens of amazing shows.  But I can probably count on one hand the number of shows that fully immersed me, the ones that made real life and all the horrific mundanity that goes with it melt away completely, the ones that made me feel like I was alone in the universe with nothing but the band and the music.  Dispirit’s headlining set at the Starlite Lounge last Sunday night was one of them.

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Belphegor – Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast, 2014)

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If there is one thing metal critics hate, it’s consistency.  Satan forbid a band should find a sound that works for them (not to mention their fans) and stick with it, dooming their albums to forever be referred to in print as “more of the same” “a rehash” “nothing you haven’t heard before” etc, etc.  Luckily, I’m not a critic, and I love it when bands I enjoy give me exactly what I want. Such is the case with Austrian black/death heavyweights Belphegor, who’ve returned from an uncharacteristic three year silence with Conjuring the Dead.  To say that it’s everything you’d expect from a Belphegor record would probably be the understatement of the decade, but predictability isn’t much of a factor when what you’re predicted to do is kick ass.

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Harassor – Into Unknown Depths (Dais Records, 2014)

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One of my favorite things about digging into the metal underground is when one great band leads me to another great band.  That’s exactly what happened when Lord Time mastermind Andorkappen (aka Sandor GF) turned me on to Harassor, the LA black metal trio he plays drums for.  They’ve just released their fourth full length, Into Unknown Depths, via Dais Records and it’s a damn fine slab of bulldozing USBM if ever there was one.

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Gloam – Vanquished (self-released, 2014)

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I first encountered Santa Cruz’s Gloam a while back thanks to the band sharing a guitarist with Fiends at Feast, another Santa Cruz-based outfit I’ve been shouting about for quite some time.  But in spite of this connection, Gloam is assuredly a very different animal.  The quartet’s debut demo was a rather stunning piece of atmospheric black metal, but with Vanquished they have surely surpassed it, pushing their sound forward while at the same time adhering to black metal’s time-honored traditions.

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