Blood Spore – Fungal Warfare Upon All Life

Out now on Blood Harvest Records

Citizens of Arkham, beware, for the undiscriminating portals to the cosmic nether has summoned another pesky anti-creation to raze your insignificant little town. With a band logo as inscrutable and impossible as the most obtuse of eldritch horrors, Blood Spore has crashed onto the American Death Metal scene like a meteor from the outer rims of unfathomable space with their debut project, Fungal Warfare Upon All Life. Focusing on the shroomy specimens of Lovecraft’s universe as opposed to his more popular underwater creatures, the quartet peddles in a particularly damp and moist form of Doom/Death suitable to their subject matter.

            Lurching threateningly out of a shadowy vale close to your childhood home, “Hostile Fruiting Bodies” slobs, gushes and rushes like the most repulsive of Lovecraftian slime. Moving from grimy Doom to brisk elephantine stomps to tremolo riffs buzzing like fat flies around withering crops, the track presents a survey of everything the subgenre Doom/Death has going for it in 2020. Swaddled in a warm and musty production, the opener succeeds in introducing the listener to the fetid world, but fails to plant its mycelia firmly in his/her cerebral cortex.

            “Cede to the Saprophyte” goes further in its scene-setting, chiming and clanging like murky invocations in the midst of a hilltop stone circle. The band manages to introduce a certain gothic melodiousness to the ceremony without wandering too far from their Death Metal habitat, deepening the atmosphere. As the bass snakes around the guitar like a purple tentacle from an unseen and unwanted void, the vocals are layered in an overwhelming manner, heightening the sense of foreboding. The track one-ups the preceding one significantly, pulling the listener further into the sickening mythos of Lovecraft. 

            The lyrics do not try to hide their allegiance to the mysterious H.P, painting a world in familiar, nauseating greens, even including references to specific stories in his canon. “Apex Colony” is both the final track on the EP and the most substantial one. Depicting a humanity as doomed as can be, the track has an urgency to its first minutes that proves riveting. Spewing out choppy riffs and infectious beats, the band comes together nicely, stretching their fingers towards greatness in unison. After a mid-song dirge as slow and revolting as Yog-Sothoth waltzing with a limp, the track unfortunately segues into vague riff-soup in its latter half, concluding the EP on a weak and less than horrifying note. 

            Blood Spore’s dedication to the creepy craft of our favourite gloomy curmudgeon is undoubtedly passionate, and Fungal Warfare Upon All Life is an oftentimes enjoyable toe-dipping into a thick and pungent pond of iridescent puke. With a more varied vocal attack and some slightly more distinctive ideas, the full-length (that hopefully is on its way) should very well be worthy of your attention. If you need some sonic slime to further soggify your next read-through of The Dunwich Horror, then paste this piece of rotten tofu to your vinyl player and savour the sickly odour emanating from the speaker.

6.5/10

Hellgoat – Death Conquers All

Out on Boris Recordings

Hellgoat is an American black metal band from Atlanta delivering raw, trebly black metal to the ravaged masses. They have stayed more or less true to the ethos of the second wave through a smattering of demos, EPs and LPs, only stopping once or twice along the way to up the fidelity by marginal amounts. Death Conquers All is their second full length, originally released in 2011 by Graveless Slumber Records, but recently released by Boris Records. 

            “Slay the Lamb” starts off the proceedings by strategically scaring away any person not fully devoted to the blast. The track is a pure second wave assault; Scorching white noise guitars riding on a drum track that stays blasting for 90% of the song. The bass faithfully sticks to whatever the guitar is doing, while a Grutle Kjellson-like rasp guides the troupe through the blood red fog. This track is as straight-forward as it gets when it comes to black metal, but fear not, Hellgoat has a lot of unexpected tricks up the sleeves of their sacrificial robes.

            Already by the second track, the Trve is starting to give way for more adventurous impulses. The track is more low-end heavy, and breaks up the regularity with some irregular bars and a discordantly doomy bridge. The song structure also treks beyond the three-part simplicity of its preceding brother. By the beginning of “Summon Him”, I’m already starting to envision clichés of black metal iconography slightly warped. The ceremonious intro creates a strange atmosphere, conjuring the picture of an altar on wheels being rolled out in front of a rapaciously worshipping congregation. The wheels are a tiny detail separating the scene from any ordinary satanic worship, and so it is with Hellgoat’s music. The details separating this album from any other bare-bones black metal album are tiny, but they’re present.

            The band continues to mine a sound combining the unrelenting but hooky power of Gorgoroth with occult doom bridges in the vein of old Candlemass. Completing the elixir is the rare speck of punk-ish snarl, like the straight-outta CBGB riff that is well hidden behind the blast-beat-as-side-chain section of “Summon Him”. The band varies up their attack every so often, toying with the familiar style in subtle ways so as to not tire the listener. At the record’s B-side, the band opens up its sound to include slightly more noticeable detours, injecting the latter parts with vigor. “Feast of the Goat” has a bridge where the bass actually gets to lead the flock for a couple of bars, while “Behold the Tempter Spoke” inserts phaser effects and bass arpeggios, progging up the proceedings substantially. This evolution crests naturally with the longest song of the record, “March of the Corpse Rats”, where Enslaved-stomp and gently twisting 777 Sect(s)-lite riffs entwine in musty lovemaking.

            Death Conquers All presents enough subtle twists to entertain the knowledgeable and corpse-painted cretin looking for crinkles in the black metal carpet. The production, while beefier and more listenable than the mix on their debut, is still pretty rough if you’re not into the demo-quality of most second wave projects. But if you’ve spent a fortnight under the freezing moon, and still find the boreal valley as appealing as ever before, then the searing noise of Hellgoat can prove a worthwhile companion through the night.

7.0/ 10

Imprecation – Damnatio ad Bestias

Out on Dark Descent Records

In the many years since the genre of metal was dragged kicking and screaming onto the international stage in the late 70s, there’s been quite a lot of turning stones going on. The trusty metal wayfarers have dug their shovels into every seemingly fruitful mound of earth across the lands, making entire subgenres, waves and local scenes out of the resulting produce. But while there’s almost no such thing as an unturned stone in metal anymore, some stones have been turned more times than others. 

            Gleefully old-school, satanic as a church-burning Norwegian second-waver, and filthy as the boys in Cianide dragged through the amorphous mass of flesh on the cover of Mental Funeral; Imprecation has found their hallowed stone and are content with turning it over until Sisyphus has finished pushing his. This putrid form of death metal will continue to spread its malignant wings throughout the continents as long as there are humans walking and breathing and willing to perform the necessary rituals. There are no expectations of originality whenever you put on one of these discs, the only thing that matters is whether the band in question manages to rumple your work suit and offend your neighbors.   

            Imprecation is definitely up for the task, untidying suits and upsetting the countenance of neighbors with fierce determination. The band of black-clad brothers have delivered two previous full-length helpings of blasphemous barf* before venturing on the task of bringing us the latest one, Damnatio ad Bestias. The formula hasn’t changed to any considerable degree; the band is still pumping out grimy death metal colored in at the edges with some atmospheric keyboard and samples. The most substantial upgrade from the previous records to this one might be the production, which is noticeably beefier and fuller on the new record. With the production on their side and two previous albums behind them, Imprecation set off into the world to wreak havoc on the uninitiated.

            “Temple of the Foul Spirit” Kicks off the proceedings with some dour and crawling OSDM, commencing the ritual in a suitable manner. The snaking, mildly off-kilter riffs turns the mind to the more calculated evil of Necrot, while the slower trudges reminds me of the dungeon-crawling cretins in Vastum. The tempo veers all over the spectrum throughout the record, making for a constantly exhilarating ride. The latter half of “Morbid Crucifixion” Bolt Throwers its way out of the speakers like an armored tank trawling around the seven planes of hell, before “Baptized in Satan’s Blood” sprinkles some black metal fairy dust over the infernal concoction. The keyboard is used sparingly but effectively, always bringing something extra to the track when it decides to rear its head.

            The record continues in this vein for its 37-minute span, letting the diversified riff-attack make up for the lack of true variation. Along with the winding structure and the dynamic treatment of tempo, the band comes a long way without really needing to change up their core components. What does end up missing is the stand-out moments needed to push the band from good to great. The only song that really sticks out from the bunch is “The Shepherd and the Flock”, with its grinding slow parts and a guitar solo that sounds like Satan relieving himself of a particularly stubborn tapeworm. Delivering more tracks like this might make Imprecation a bigger competitor when it becomes time to take stock of which 10’s death metal bands managed to turn the stone most skillfully. 

            If you have an unending hunger for the rancid meals offered by the grotesque chefs of the underground death metal scene, then Damnatio ad Bestiasis as good enough a recommendation as any. The band obviously has a burning passion for fiery racket, so throwing some coin in their direction is a great way to assure them that there are still cave dwellers out there willing to receive unholy sermon. Imprecation probably won’t instigate any paradigm shifts any time soon, but within the walls of the ever-turning mills of death metal, they are definitely pulling their weight.

*This is nothing but a compliment of course.

7.0/ 10