Decibel Magazine is the world's foremost heavy metal authority. Based in Philadelphia, PA, we have never deviated from our original mission of exploring the past, present and future of extreme music. Decibel has exhibited an insatiable curiosity for all things heavy, covering both the underground and mainstream with painstaking obsession and irreverent humor.
Astute readers of Decibel semi-regular Vicious Circles vinyl column will recognize the name Intercourse. The Connecticut noise rock/hardcore crushers have been plying the Deadguy-friendly trade since 2014, and band’s previously full-length, Everything is Pornography When You’ve Got an Imagination, was a hit with our own Shane Mehling, who simply stated “I’m not sure why everyone wouldn’t want to hear his.” Honesty, we’re not sure either, which is why we’re streaming the quartet’s brand new Bum Wine EP in full for you right now.
Following up their 2018 demo Atavism, the mysterious Portuguese blackened punk band Black Mold are set to release their second demo, this one dubbed Tales of Degradation. In conspiracy with international extreme metal cartel Helldprod Records, Tales of Degradation drops this Friday on cassette, limited to 80 copies.
On Tales of Degradation you’ll be treated to four raging tracks of neck-stomping blackened filth. Best part is you can actually hear what the band are doing. The curtain of lo-fi static is drawn to reveal a sound that embodies the band’s Satanic nature and their no doubt degenerate lifestyles. Somewhere between Panzerfaust and Poison Idea grows deadly Black Mold.
“Black Mold stands for nothing,” according to the band themselves. “Tales of Degradation is just one step forward in this cathartic journey into oblivion, through darkness and hatred. Uncompromised and primitive, this demo compiles 4 obnoxious songs pointed towards the Black Mold’s inner abyss.”
Where they from?
Washington D.C. When I was about 11 years old, my dad took our family on a trip to D.C. and I remember him telling me that the city’s roads had been designed to be confusing on purpose so that if any foreign army were to invade our capital they would have difficulty navigating it’s streets. Well, after skimming nearly the entire Wikipedia article on Washington, I have found no mention of this anywhere. Basically, by researching this article I found out my dad is a liar and my image of him as a man has been completely destroyed.
What do they sound like?
A mish-mash of really good bands but ultimately I feel like they’d fit in on A389 if that label was still a thing.
Why the hype?
I was explaining to someone just the other day how the whole D.C./Baltimore/Virginia region is a hotbed for American grind/powerviolence and I remembered the stellar record this band had just put out. I’ve heard people compare them to Magrudergrind and though such a comparison might be tempting I feel that ultimately Needle is a different animal. First of all, the song structures here are more chaotic, spazztic and jarring, much more akin to a powerviolence bands like Cave State and Chainsaw to the Face than anything Avi Kulawy and co. managed during their tenure as American grind kings (this is not a knock against them at all, one thing I love about Magrudergrind is that they’re basically the American version of Eurogrind bands like Rotten Sound and Nasum). Also, this is not a band afraid to slam! Some of the groovier passages can tap into Ground levels of ignorance, and if you’ve learned nothing else from this column, just know that I fucking love Ground. My dad says he loves Ground too, but we all know he’s a FUCKING LIAR!
Needle - S/T EP (2019) Full Album HQ (Grindcore) - YouTube
S/T, their debut full-length. “S/T” stands for “Self-Titled”, did you know that? I did not. Anywho, like I previously mentioned this is an album enveloped in chaos that only peels away the insanity to deliver truly punishing breakdowns and caveman mosh parts, such as at the end of “Extinction Blast” and “Reaper Descends.” Also, there’s a fair amount of guitar feedback here but I actually don’t mind it too much. That is the true sign of an album that’s grown on me. Now excuse me, I need to go crowdkill my dad.
Vale‘s 2017 self-titled demo introduced the world to the crust-infested black metal group, showcasing four energizing tracks, which comes as little surprise given that Vale share members with Ulthar, Void Omnia, Abstracter and Atrament. Their follow up to that demo comes in the form of Burden of Sight, Vale’s debut record that expands on their demo.
Vocalist Kate Coysh deserves special mention for her bloodcurdling shriek throughout the record, giving each song extra emotional weight while also demonstrating a recognizable vocal style. Whether you’re here for slow crust or galloping black metal, it can be found on Burden of Sight.
“We wrote a record that was reflecting what was crashing down around us in real time,” Vale tell Decibel. “The album’s dystopian world view is a stone’s throw away from the reality of the current state of destruction that so many of us face. It’s a scream of anguish after a fatal blow, knowing all other hope is already lost.”
Burden of Sight is out May 24 on The Flenser, but you can listen to it early below.
Our good friends from Six Most Metal Breweries were once again in attendance at the third annual Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest 2019 at the Fillmore Philly last month. In addition to taking in pours from the 18 breweries (and one meadery) on hand, they still managed to stay sober enough to chat with bands, brewers and fans. This brand new video segment features interviews with members of Enslaved, Heavy Temple, Dave Witte of Municipal Waste, Outer Heaven, and brewers from Oliver Brewing, Adroit Theory, Brimming Horn Meadery and more. You can watch the full episode below, and find previous Six Most Metal Breweries features on their official YouTube channel.
Love it or hate it, the HM2 pedal is a death metal essential and it would appear that Burial Remains are on the side of the former. The Dutch death dealers’ latest album, Trinity of Deception, is a filthy exploration of death metal’s crustiest corridors, leading the listener down a path paved by Entombed, Grave and Dismember.
It’s on display throughout album opener “Crucifixion of the Vanquished,” which you can stream below exclusively through Decibel.
BURIAL REMAINS (Netherlands) - Crucifixion of the Vanquished (Death Metal) Transcending Obscurity - YouTube
The members of Howling Sycamore would surely bristle at the term “supergroup,” as such preconceived notions of what extreme metal is supposed to be are pretty much the antithesis what the band members are going for on their anxiously awaited new album, Seven Pathways To Annihilation (slated for release on June 21 via Prosthetic). Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that band’s collective resume boasts current and ex-members of Watchtower, Tryptykon, Hate Eternal, Ephel Duath for fucking starters in its ranks. The founder of the latter, Davide Tiso, provides some context on the record’s first single.
“I consider ‘Initiation’ the perfect track to introduce the second Howling Sycamore album,” says Tiso. “Among the most epic and adventurous songs in the lot, ‘Initiation’ features some of the guitar riffs I’m most attached to, like the guitar waltz mid song that I play over an insane blast beat by Hannes Grossmann. The song features a beautiful performance by Jason McMaster, I get goosebumps when he’s singing the double vocal melodies on the very last riff. ‘Initiation’ features also wailing guitar solos by Kevin Hufnagel who returns as a guest in this album, since our very different guitar playing styles match so well. Lyrically, I feel that the song has the same mood and colors of the stunning album’s cover artwork by Dehn Sora.
“As Jason McMaster sings, ‘Initiation’ is ‘an ode to dark times’ and I’m thrilled to offer it for you today, may it charge your day like a lightning.”
Scottish black metal duo Valaraukar formed out of the ashes of black-thrash outfit NNGNN (short for Nolti Nan Gana Nan Nolta) in 2018. Luckily, for metaldom, chief slayers Sovereign (drums) and Vagath (guitars, vocals) picked an easier — if only slightly — moniker for their new cosmically filthy black metal. That is: Valaraukar. Now, those in the know will probably pick the twosome’s new name as coming from Tolkien’s legendarium since Valaraukar is Quenya (Elvish) for Balrog, the Morgoth-aligned Maiarin that lived immortally — before they were vanquished by Ecthelion and Gandalf, respectively. OK, enough Tolkien nerd time. Today’s post is focused squarely, balefully on the Earth forms of Valaraukar.
Since their formation last year, Valaraukar quickly summoned a two-song demo in the form of Harnessing of Hostile Forces. Released digitally through Bandcamp, the songs “Hostile Forces” and “Conquering the Void” quickly caught the attention black metal hordes the world over. Namely, however, the blistering savagery of Valaraukar commanded the leadership at Iron BoneHead (Perverticon, Omnipotence) from the lands of westernmost Germany to bind the Scots to their burgeoning label. And so it was done, via steel chains, fresh blood, and dried flesh that Valaraukar officiated their fealty, for which we have new album, Demonian Abyssal Visions, arriving on the Summer Solstice to quench the light and bathe humanity in a veil of blackness.
So, denizens of the blackest metaldom your new favorite black metal band has arrived on the winds of Old Smoky. Bow down to Valaraukar’s “Visions of Truth Amidst Black Fume” now before it’s too late!
** Valaraukar’s debut album, Demonian Abyssal Visions, is out June 21st on Iron BoneHead Productions. Pre-orders are not up yet, but visit the label’s website (HERE) to order Demonian Abyssal Visions on CD or LP.
What’s up, beak freaks! Your old boy Waldo comin’ atcha with all (OK, some) of the new reviews that are fit to print. As always, just remember that I’m a parrot and you are not!
So, ex-Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl is releasing his first LP as Gaahl’s Wyrd, GastiR-Ghosts Invited, on Season of Mist. Gahhl is known for being pretty extreme (do some research!) and the artistic driving force behind later Gorgorth. So, what’s this about? This is a basically a new band for the maniac and surprisingly, this is pretty good. This has some atmospheric type jams, and Gaahl’s voice kinda dominates the whole thing. The production here is crisp and clean and SO not trad black metal. Maybe that’s why I’m finding this a little interesting, this has elements of black metal and has one foot firmly planted in that genre but is NOT wholly a black metal record (one track’s opening riff wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mastodon record). What this is, is a pretty solid metal record. So, fans of traditional black metal will be disappointed, but this bird brain is not. 7 Fucking Pecks.
Gaahls WYRD - From the Spear (Official Track Premiere) - YouTube
The utterly filthy Lord Gore is back at it (sorta) with the disgusting The Resickened Orgy on Horror Pain Gore Death. This is a recollection of their first two records (Resickened and The Autophagus Orgy). For those of you NOT in the know, this is a VERY heavy band, I mean death metal in its purest form. There’s NO tech here, no fancy frills and NO CLEAN VOCALS. This is punk rock mixed with death metal in one messed up package. I LOVE the brazenness of this band. This is pure death metal. Mid paced rock beats and just overall disgust. Check it! 8 Fucking Pecks.
Lord Gore - Gastric Gore-Met (taken from the release The Resickened Orgy on HPGD) - YouTube
Eons ago, Saint Vitus hit the scene with some raw stoner doom that was a little unheard of at the time. This classic band has not really ever received their just desserts. This, being their 8th studio record, doesn’t really break the mold here, but that’s not a bad thing. Saint Vitus roars with the sound of a band that is old enough to be most bands daddies. Rock, doom, some sludge and uh… more rock pervade this release and for the most part this is pretty good. There is no drudgery here, just the sound of a band that has a 35-year history kicking some ass. 7 Fucking Pecks.
Saint Vitus - 12 Years In The Tomb (official track premiere) - YouTube
I don’t know HOW I missed Full of Hell’s new record Weeping Choir, but you SHOULD NOT miss it. It’s awesome! Check out one of the best bands in the grindcore world right now!
This piece happens to be one that I’ve been circling like the skittish second-hand of a tightly wound watch for more than a calendar year, (far before Fallow Heart was a glimmer in this sorry ol’ patrician’s monocle) and I dearly hope you’ll pardon the delay. I’ve certainly touched on it before, (check the Everyone’s a Critic post, for example,) but I don’t feel that I’ve adequately expressed how troubled I’ve been when it comes to the album review process. Initially, after I was finally allowed the proper elbow-room to take a swing and articulate my impressions, this turmoil came as a tremendous shock to me. Like most civilians, I was an aggressively opinionated punter and also like most, I tended to assume that my judgement was—for whatever reason—more precious than that of my peers. I mean, for starters I was a writer, man; forever several chapters into penning some book that I was bound to ultimately desert. I’d had a couple of bits of poetry published… I was always staring searchingly towards the horizon from my window seat at some coffee shop, playing a super low-stakes game of chicken with holy inspiration. Plus, I’d fronted my own metal band and then went on to play in several prog and pop outfits afterwards, (always flying the flag of course; always the sore-thumb sporting the Genghis Tron or the Ulver t-shirt.) Who could possibly be better equipped to rake some middling troubadour over the coals? Who else had the damn gravitas to craft such vital commentary? (Hint: loads of people actually; fucking scads of them.)
There’s hardly anything more natural than to have a visceral reaction to art; we’re programmed with zero satiation or budgeting for beauty. When we feel wracked by those currents of repulsion or of attraction, when that shiv of fascination gallops through us and passionate opinion comes to boil within our chests we naturally desire to confess our judgement to one and to all. People need to know how the creation in question fared after being forced through the sieve of our holy prejudices and preferences. Right? Actually, no, chief, not really. Your encounters are entirely your own and they’ll never be precisely reproduced, try as you may to manipulate another into appreciating a work in the same manner.
To review a piece of music is an egoistic exercise; it has to be, right? And no, of course, ego isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself. In Latin, the word simply translates as ‘I’ and it’s from that lonesome perch that the reviewer must access a work in order to determine its worthiness. And presuming the reviewer composes with clarity and has a keen enough grasp upon the subject wriggling beneath the glass, the final review’s audience can in good faith fathom that subject’s worthiness or otherwise. I guess. But… it’s still just opinion we’re talking about, isn’t it? And what if my opinion could be utterly and entirely qualified as correct or righteous and I -sheathed in my righteousness- deem an album unworthy? Does that really mean that there aren’t inherent, fawning zealots of the release in question who could find joy in the work despite the unquestionable fidelity of my judgement? No, it does not; thank god.
So it occurred to me that talking to other journalists about their individual approaches and philosophies regarding the album review process might clarify things. I reached out to a handful of Decibel contributors as well as to a pair of veteran journalist/tastemakers who I greatly admire, (becoming initially acquainted with them in the old Metal Maniacs rag as a kid.) However, in my desire to skirt any potential echo chamber I wanted a musician’s perspective as well, and happily, I was able to pin down several who were game to discuss the topic from the opposite vantage point. Toss in a label head along with a press agent for good measure and the dialogue’s marvelously close to splintering at the seams. But each and every participant squandered a tremendous amount of their time on my neurosis and offered wickedly penetrating insights, ergo I intend to include as much of their wisdom here as I reasonably can.
Though I probably sound like I’m still weaving myself into friggin’ sheet-bend knots fretting over the subject, it ain’t actually the case. My concerns regarding the process have largely abated -in part owing to the long distance therapy session that I quasi-unintentionally devised. (Actually, Decibel’s own Joseph Schafer offered me one simple piece of advice that’s served to buoy me in this arena ever since.) What small discomfort I may feel these days when sizing up a review’s target relates far more to spirit than to ethics and it goes like this: Because opinions, (however reasoned,) establish mental and emotional boundaries they can stymie expansion and exploration. Put another way: opinions are the blemishes of past impressions and by their nature serve to redirect us from the present, back into that same, familiar cubicle where everything’s precisely as we left it and there is nothing left to explore. Spirit insists on boundlessness; it fucking hates cubicles. But a review must hinge—in part—on prior experiences and that mire of prior experiences belongs to ego, a creature ever pinioned to the rear view mirror.
I’ve ultimately found meaning in the review exercise and can only hope that something of my output’s offered a kind of value to someone other than my bloated checkbook, (as you’ve correctly presumed, music commentary generates mad f-ing paper.) Still, as I’ve detailed the concept of this work to friends, casual acquaintances and otherwise, I’ve been encouraged to hear my old concerns parroted back to me again and again: You know, I’ve always wondered, what’s even the point of music criticism? How can someone reasonably levy a score on an album based on mere opinion? What gives you the goddamned right? (We’ll get to all of these, but don’t bother expecting cut and dried summations. Expect instead to appreciate the process more greatly and to understand your own biases more intimately; believe me: that, my friends, is enough.)
“You’re so creative,
with your reviews,
of what other people do.
How satisfying that must be for you.”
—David Bazan, “Selling Advertising”
“(I should) transliterate this like some hierophant,
but I’m not sure I should or I’m sure that I can’t.”
—Forrest Pitts, “The Cannon of Christ and Venery”