A VIEW FROM A CAVE: SEEN THROUGH THE FACIAL HAIRS OF PROG-CAVE-OGIER – 2023, VOL. Two – W/ Arnaut Pavle, Faithxtractor, Memoriam, Deviser, Frozen Dawn, Putred, The Abbey, Gravehuffer, Host

Hi, you fellow cave dwellers and metal-mongers alike. Another month has passed and maybe we should see if we have missed something in the release department, right?

First off, I need to admit that something crucial slipped below my radar in January. Transylvanian Glare, the second full album of black metal entity Arnaut Pavle was released in January 20th and it was terribly missed from the list of that particular month.

With Transylvanian Glare, they have somewhat topped the black metal tree, as far as it goes for my particular tastes. Yes, it is easy to throw the name Darkthrone around with it, but what makes it really stand out from the rest of the zillion second wave black metal screechers is the heavy use of elements from hardcore, punk, and early German thrash metal like Sodom and Destruction. Just take a listen to tracks like “Baptized in Jesus Piss,” for example, and you know what I mean here.

It is headbangable! This element of punk and thrash also reminds me heavily of Bathory‘s first three albums, and you cannot go wrong with any of that. So, if you are a fan of the Swedish Reaper, you will surely find plenty from Arnaut Pavle.

Another January release missing from the previous list was Faithxtractor from Cincinnati, Ohio. Their fourth album, Contempt for a Failed Dimension, is almost like a death metal version of Arnaut Pavle. Very much riff-oriented, trusting in the good old values of old-school death metal with a thrash metal influence.

As none of the old school death metal was exactly un-melodic, Contempt for a Failed Dimension is also rich with the right kinds of tricks. Not saturating the sound a bit, the ‘tractor rather hides the rich melodic variety within the riffs that do come with plenty of groove and excellent playing through and through.

The name of the late great Demigod gets thrown around with this band a lot and for good reason. I would also like to add Cartilage and maybe early Edge of Sanity and Sentenced here too. Well, anyhow… This is pretty much a flawless take on a modern view of early ’90s death metal. If you like that kind of thing, you will love Contempt for a Failed Dimension.

February started with a big and positive surprise. Anyone who has followed the death metal scene even a tiny bit in recent years would surely be aware of what Memoriam sounds like and what the story behind the band is. Yet, their fifth album, Rise to Power, still has the power to take people by surprise. At least it did exactly that for me.

Yes, heavy Bolt Thrower vibes still loom all around, but when the first track, “Never Forget, Never Again (6 Million Dead)” gets about halfway through, Memoriam kicks off with a heavy Paradise Lost tone, and from there on it is easy to say that this record is a whole new chapter for Memoriam. The almost flawless balance between chunky and beautifully depressed melodic qualities lifts the record to whole new heights. I can already announce Rise to Power to be my favorite album from the band.

There is always some sort of special magic around black metal from Greece. One of the lesser-known names in the country, Deviser, released their first album in twelve years in February. Evil Summons Evil is a pretty damn perfect take on the traditional sounds of the genre, still managing to come across a bit more melodic and cinematic in places. It balances rather nicely around the traditional and modern. Likely to be among the best black metal releases this year, this is a must for fans of Old Man’s Child, Rotting Christ, and even early Dimmu Borgir. Evil Summons Evil is very easy to like, but it does not come across as cheesy or a sell-out as albums in this general direction tend to do. Very much recommended, I should say!

Frozen Dawn from Madrid, Spain, released their latest offering in February as well. The Decline of the Enlightened Gods could be a worthy recommendation to anyone who got excited about Deviser. Rather than riding between Norway and Greece, Frozen Dawn took their train to Sweden.

This album is heavily nostalgic, perhaps more than Evil Summons Evil, and it throws the listener to the glory days of melodic death/black metal that was at the top of its game in Sweden around the mid-90s. Dark Tranquillity, Necrophobic, Unanimated, and Sacramentum, for example, dwelled in this particular direction with great success around that time and Frozen Dawn is sitting firmly on that very same throne with their latest. Not only a nostalgia trip, but The Decline of the Enlightened Gods is also an easy record to enjoy and spin over and over and over again.

Romania’s Putred offer a pretty damn authentic take on the more cryptic qualities of the 90s. Whereas most of the reference bands thrown around so far were keen to take extreme metal to new, perhaps more accessible directions, Putred hails the obscure demo era of death metal and does it in damn perfect fashion.

This album could have been released on a shabby tape a good 30 years ago, but it still does not sound like copying someone’s past glories but has an identity of its own, like the vast majority of early underground metal did. So, Repulsie Post-Mortem should be on the very top of every underground metal freak’s list at the end of this year. It has everything. The songs, the sounds, and the eerie obscurity to it. Simply too damn good to be ignored!

Finland’s The Abbey made another worthy album debutant for 2023. Word of Sin was released in February and it features musicians from Sentenced, Sacred Crucifix, and Shape of Despair, heading musically toward the territories of doom and occult rock.

Benefiting greatly from the use of both female and male vocals, Word of Sin is pure ear candy for fans of the debut albums by Ghost and The Devil’s Blood. Circulating heavily around the subject of a certain Aleister Crowley, The Abbey has found a perfect balance between an occult rock and a progressive 70’s heavy rock delivery all without sounding the least bit cheesy. If the occult rock genre became fast a bore somewhere around 10 years ago, The Abbey finally seems to be able to bring something fresh to the table.

Boasting perhaps the best melodies in 2023 so far, Word of Sin is a marvelous album people should really dig deep into. Heavy with the occult side of the story, they still somehow are able to marry it together with rich musicianship and most of all, self-confidence. As the album closes with mind-blowing “Old Ones,” one is keen to draw a line to the classic albums of Rainbow, with the rich use of dominating guitar melodies and organs. Another strong contender for the 2023 Album of the Year.

Falling into the same pit of putrefaction as Faithxtractor, Finland’s Tramalizer should be checked out for the very same reasons. Fumes of Funeral Pyres is the first album from the band featuring members of Förgjord, Unhoped, and Cryptborn, and it plunges deep into the Dismember end of the pool.

To stand apart from the myriads of Entombed clones, Tramalizer shakes the formula up with odd bits of hardcore punk thrown into the blender. This is a vibrant, vital, and noteworthy release in the somewhat saturated field of music and therefore should not go ignored! Not trying to re-write Left Hand Path, or Like an Everflowing Stream, Fumes of Funeral Pyres stands on its own merits. A rare thing, I have to admit. 

As this month’s list seems to be a full-on old-school fest already, might as well throw in Gravehuffer from Missouri too. Definitely more grindy than Faitxtractor and Tramalizer, Gravehuffer can also take you fast to the days of the 90’s underground metal scene. Loyal to all the ethics of the underground, their latest album …Depart from So Much Evil could almost be a lost gem from the heydays of underground metal.

Gravehuffer’s sound could be described as a more serious version of Birdflesh and it sure is an interesting combination of varied elements and dynamics. As if Napalm Death had gone experimental somewhere around their Harmony Corruption album, this piece of music is an absolute must for all the fans of the early ’90s death/grind scene!

Last but definitely not least I’ll mention Host. The synth-pop alter ego of Paradise Lost sees Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh return to the direction their main band had around the turn of the millennium. If you were into their more experimental albums like One Second, Host, and Believe in Nothing, this one should be on your list to check out for sure.

Possessing all the doom and gloom of their trademark sound in Paradise Lost, Host displays the flipside of their depressed coin with the rich use of synthesizers, monotonic drum beats, and vocal melodies. “Better than recent Depeche Mode” is a sentence often used in this context and for good reason. It sure is better than their obvious idols and even if it is not metal per se, IX is an album that should go well with all the souls gone down the joyless drain of depressed music. Catchy as the flu, only far more enjoyable.

So, here we are again. Hope you found something to chew on from the list and hope to see you again soon. All the best and bang the head that does not bang, as it is so hairy.


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