“Mining Metal” is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence writers Joseph Schafer and Langdon Hickman. The focus is on noteworthy new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from small and independent labels — or even releases from unsigned acts.
Normally, the autumnal months mark a high point in the year for metal fans. This year, of course, is no average year, and the looming economic uncertainty and a persistent global health crisis are enough to sap the pumpkin spice right out of my latte and lend a bitter hit to the smell of bonfire smoke.
But some joys, thankfully, cannot be snuffed out. They include: the equinox, 31 days of scary movies and, of course, boatloads of metal. As the designated “Scary month” in the commercial calendar, October usually delivers a smorgasbord of heavy rock records.
As mentioned, 2020 is no normal year, and many records are being kept waiting for a hopefully more rewarding 2021. That said, this October has brought no shortage of precious metal, from an ex-Ghost guitarist’s incredibly eccentric solo record to the best John Zorn album that John Zorn never wrote. We also have an exclusive video premiere from UK act Wytch Hazel. Enjoy a feast of heavy music treats just in time for Halloween. — Joseph Schafer
Wytch Hazel – III: Pentecost (“Spirit and Fire” Video Premiere)
UK quartet Wytch Hazel ride at the vanguard of the proto-metal revival. Hints of Scorpions and Black Sabbath in their music adorn their conjurations, as do remnants of more obscure but no less beloved acts such as Pagan Altar, or Wishbone Ash. Unexpectedly, vocalist and guitarist Colin Hendra is a devout Pentecostal Christian (hence the album title) and his faith colors these songs with remarkable conviction. That all said, the sing-along hooks throughout the album transcend denomination. See our exclusive premiere of the video for the song “Spirit and Fire” below. Buy III: Pentacost here. —Joseph Schafer
Convulsif – Extinct
Much like Ex Eye before them in recent history or John Zorn’s Painkiller and Naked City much earlier, Convulsif take the more adventurous path of situating themselves neither fully within heavy metal nor full outside, instead becoming an exciting hybrid form, one able to stride capably from one space to another. This sense of freedom of motion propels the five girthy tracks on Extinct, allowing them to pivot and develop from Godfleshian noise walls into The Body-style sludgy freakouts, tapping into the avant-garde underground kinds of Alamaailman Vasarat in one stretch before giving a Boris/Merzbow-style pummel the next. The beat changes on the part of the drummer vastly shift the mood, showing a drummer on compositional equal footing with his bandmates, something always a treat for this kind of heaving organic music. This is progressive music in the deeper sense, one that trusts itself to adventure over the realms of the known. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Langdon Hickman
Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengæst
Post-metal, the often lugubrious and gorgeous mix of atmospheric rock, looping song structures, and sludgy riffs, was once a heavyweight contender as far as sub genres go. Things have come a long way since Isis was opening for Tool. Bands like Crippled Black Phoenix have taken a back seat to more straightforward music. However, this Swedish collective, ever unperturbed by trends, have delivered a fascinating collection of tracks with Ellengæst. The record sports a murderer’s row of guest vocalist, including Vincent Cavanaugh from Anathema, Ryan Patterson (formerly of Coliseum), Jonathan Hulten from Tribulation (more well known as a guitarist) and… Gaahl. Before you swirl your wine and mutter “Satan”, know that Ellengæst is a mellow affair, content to bathe in Floydian psychedelia rather than bash and blast. Crippled Black Phoenix excel at atmosphere and melody, and in their hands what could be a mushy and overcooked collection of unrelated tracks comes across as a chef’s choice tasting menu with a nifty Bauhaus cover at the end for desert. Buy it on Bandcamp. —Joseph Schafer
Cryptae – Nightmare Traversal
It is fair in many respects that Cryptae did not choose to follow up their 20-minute single song release Vestigial with a collection of songs instead of another enormous and complex composition. Especially when the results are something like Nightmare Traversal, a piece that turns their career-long/multi-project knack for complex and shifting internalizations into a set of cruel miniatures, like haggard bone-worn wretches emerging to taunt you with trinkets made of human viscera from their hillside caves. That these are players with a track record of contemporary jazz and avant-garde music makes sense in retrospect; this is death metal, pure and primal, but there are approaches to rawness, to punkiness, and to that necessary macabre rot that arise from a subtle and obscured sophistication. And yet, density and thoughtfulness aside, they still manage to provoke that most primitive and potent death metal exaltation: ough. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full
A union of elements that makes significantly more sense following the genre expansion Thou underwent throughout 2019. They’ve displayed a profound grasp of elements substantially airier and more delicate than their previous blackened earth sonics might have led us to believe. Partnering with a contemporary shoegazing art rock master like Emma Ruth Rundle works exactly as well as you might imagine, Thou acting as a mightier firmament upon which for Emma to drape her swirling absinthe melodies and Emma acting as a conduit to actualize the progressively more ruminative elements Thou has been chasing in recent years. There is also tremendous respect shown across May Our Chambers Be Full; each clearly adores and admires the other, uses the other to tease out elements that have always been present in both of their approaches to music. There is a difference between a roaring amplifier and a roaring heart and this collaboration knows how to easily cross that divide. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman
Gorephilia – In the Eye of Nothing
In any other month’s worth of metal picks, Gorephilia would be one of the more off-the-wall recommendations; the Finnish quartet’s take on death metal leans into the genre’s eldritch tendencies. Those eccentricities earned them a small but devoted buzz with the release of their 2018 album Severed Monolith – buzz that grew uncertain when their vocalist, Nemesis, passed away a year later. In the Eye of Nothing is their first foray with founding guitarist Jukka Aho taking on vocal duties, and with him behind the mic the band delivers a more-than-worthy follow-up. Aho and fellow guitarist Pauli Gurko remain expressive, musical soloists with a gift for unexpected flourishes. When they’re not shredding their faces off, Gorephilia play meta-as-rhythm-section with aplomb. Try not to bang your head during the maelstrom verse riff to “Ouroboran Labyrinth.” Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Henrik Palm – Poverty Metal
Henrik Palm’s name might not be familiar to most readers, but his work for a while was nearly ubiquitous. Palm was a guitarist and songwriter in now-defunct gothic traditional metallers In Solitude, who still cast a shadow on many contemporary acts. After that he donned a mask and cloak to join Tobias Forge in Ghost circa Meliora. In both projects, Palm’s charisma and moribund attitude elevated the music. His solo work is less easily digested. Left to his own devices, Palm’s imagination has drifted toward the eccentric: wisps of garage rock and post-punk deep cuts comingle with Voivod-ish chord phrasings on Poverty Metal. There’s even a gender-bent Twisted Sister interpolation to further subvert listener expectations. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Joseph Schafer
Lamp of Murmuur – Heir of Eclipitical Romanticism
Observe and relish in the rarity of me discussing a second-wave black metal record. Typically, newer records of this style don’t move me; while I can indulge endlessly in iterations of death metal’s myriad approaches, the same modal operation in black metal often leaves me frustrated. So it was to my tremendous surprise when this one-man group, one that absolutely steadfastly refuses to color outside of the lines, managed to just as absolutely blow my hair back. There is that magic tantalizing sense of vision at work here, a real grasp of that Romanticism-via-punk magic of early black metal, where grand and ornate technically demanding visions of cathedrals and scaffolds of sound had to be filtered through youthful sloppy aggression and recording into tape decks. I can be cynical to the kind of unique magic this style contains, and Lamp of Murmuur gleefully are forcing me to eat crow. Buy it on Bandcamp. — Langdon Hickman