Interview with AS from Malokarpatan

As I’ve extensively said in the past, both here and in other places, Malokarpatan is easily one of the best, most interesting, and most exciting new bands in black metal. Stylistically, they draw from oft-disregarded ancient wells of inspiration such as Master’s Hammer, Root, and many others that they talk about in the interview below. Lyrically, they stay away from English and focus on the myths and folklore of their Slovakian homeland, giving them an additional unique touch and mysticism that not many bands dare emulate. Each record so far, including the one that’s coming out in March, has been an evolution from the last one without losing anything that makes Malokarpatan special- another rarity. Below is a long interview I did with principal songwriter and band founder A.S.

Read the interview on Toilet ov Hell. Published on February 3, 2020.

Interview with Denimal of Road Warrior, Stargazer, Cauldron Black Ram, and more

gfAustralia’s Road Warrior blazes bright and mean. Formed by members of enduring extreme metal bands, Road Warrior represents a new foray into a different kind of sonic destruction from what the band has done before in their other projects, channeling the muscular spirit of bands like Griffin and Jag Panzer with a healthy dose of Australian spirit. Power (review here), released near the end of 2018, is already becoming a recent favorite and left me hungry for more; fortunately, frontman and main songwriter Denny “Denimal” Blake has taken the time to answer some questions about the band for me.

Read the interview on Ride Into Glory. Published on January 13, 2020.

Interview: Wannes Gubbels from Pentacle

Pentacle are without a doubt one of death metal’s most powerful enduring flames. Formed at the tail end of the ’80s and eternally channeling the spirit of the earliest days of the genre, Pentacle have never compromised their musical quality, style, or ideals even across some of death metal’s darkest years; in 2019, they returned for the glorious Spectre of the Eight Ropes (review here), and Wannes was kind enough to respond to questions for this monstrously long interview with me.

Read the full interview on Toilet Ov Hell. Published on January 6, 2020.

Review: Pentacle – Spectre of the Eight Ropes

How many bands can keep chugging away for decades and still bring out a tremendous album each and every time? The list is certainly short, and shorter still every year you go back in time. Dutch death metal heroes Pentacle formed all the way back at the tail end of the ‘80s, and though they’ve always moved slowly, they’re finally back for their third album, Spectre of the Eight Ropes. If you only clicked this article to see if Pentacle still has it, you can skip the rest of it and just buy the album, because once again, Pentacle have brought their ancient feeling to a new and crushing record.

Read the full review on Toilet Ov Hell. Published December 31, 2019.

AOTY 2019 List – Toilet Ov Hell

It’s been another great year for metal, and the time has come for publications to start putting up their album of the year posts. Mine can be found below; the text contains my choices, and the link has them again (scroll down to “BW”- that’s me!) with little reviews, links to full reviews, and links to interviews if there are any.

10. Chevalier Destiny Calls
9. Magic CircleDeparted Souls
8. Ares KingdomBy the Light of Their Destruction
7. Funereal PresenceAchatius
6. TerminusA Single Point of Light
5. Unaussprechlichen KultenTeufelsbucher
4. Vultures VengeanceThe Knightlore
3. PentacleSpectre of the Eight Ropes
2. Capilla ArdienteThe Siege
1. OrodruinRuins of Eternity

Top Albums ov 2019 w/ Karhu, BW, and Leif Bearikson

Review: Twisted Tower Dire – The Isle of Hydra

The ’90s were a dark time for heavy metal, especially in the United States. To remedy that, Virginia legends Twisted Tower Dire formed in 1995 to try and breath new light into true heavy metal, starting off as a long-winded epic heavy metal band and gradually getting catchier and catchier as time went on. These days, the band play something between classic US power metal and European power metal, delivering more big choruses than the hammering true metal that they formed to make- not a bad thing, because their newer stuff is fantastic, but it’s a different animal.

Read the review on Ride Into Glory. Published on December 16, 2019.

Bulgarian epic metal double feature: Trotyl and Dr. Doolittle

Most people probably don’t think of Bulgaria in the ‘80s as a particular hub of heavy metal. If they think about epic heavy metal, they almost definitely don’t. In fact, the metal-archives only has eleven releases marked for the entire ‘80s as being Bulgarian, with several being from the same bands. In spite of this, two of those releases feature some of the ‘80s best epic metal; neither of those take the same form as bands like Manowar or Manilla Road, but is something more mystical, with a heavy focus on repetition to create atmosphere and driving vocal lines. These bands are Trotyl and Dr. Doolittle, with the releases respectively being Lunatic and Every Man Needs A Woman.

Read the feature on Ride Into Glory. Published on December 9, 2019.

Review: Vastum – Orificial Purge

Vastum have been around for a few years now. I’m sure my perspective on them is a bit different from people not from California, but to a lot of people, they’re legends here. They’re possibly the single most venerated death metal band from our great state since Autopsy themselves to a lot of people, with a not small contingent that holds up their most recent album, Hole Below, as the single greatest death metal album since Graves of the Archangels. Their sound has always been rooted in massive and chunky mid-paced riffs, with a heavy focus on brutal rhythms and ignorant attacks- the heaviest parts of Demigod or Bolt Thrower with a hell of a lot less melody.

With the band’s third full length album (many people consider Carnal Law to be a full length because of the length and it being reissued on vinyl and CD down the line, but I believe it was originally intended to be a demo), Orificial Purge, the band sees themselves adopting some new pleasantly disturbing growth. Instead of each song approaching a zenith of sonic destruction, Vastum’s music has become more thoughtful; Hole Below featured a handful of more atmospheric sections with spoken word, and Orificial Purge features a hell of a lot more of them, and more varied composition in general.

Everything seems bigger and more expansive, with just as many huge riffs as before, but with a new focus on how the riffs build up, catchier vocal lines than ever, and a much more dynamic approach that may not appeal to modern caveman metal afficionados as much but that hits me harder. Where before a groove might have carried into a neck-snapping breakdown or just into another groove, there’s a new sense of grotesque purpose to the songwriting that feels really refreshing. “I On The Knife (Second Wound)” has some of the band’s fastest riffing to date but also some of the slowest, and the way the song crescendos into its bleak and reflective end is a perfect snapshot of the change that’s come over Vastum to such great effect.

“Fear of sacrifice, the knowledge of pain.
Fissured, known, the fist of truth will yawn.
Orgy, cross, light, crepuscular loss.”

The experimentation on the album becomes more apparent with repeated listens, and with focus. A disinterested listener juggling work or a forum might miss the two minute long intro leading into the title track, or the string intro to His Sapphic Longing. Melody and leadwork take a higher place in the compositional stew than ever but are offset by the remaining bulldozing caveman sensibilities, and small details carry more weight than ever. None of this is to say that Vastum has suddenly become Unaussprechlichen Kulten, but this new side to them is a welcome change.

As always, the guitars are huge in the mix, as are the vocals. The dual-vocal assault that Dan and Leila comes across as being far more important than vocals usually are in a death metal album, and carry sections that wouldn’t work instrumentally powerfully, tying the music together perfectly. Earhammer Studios has been Vastum’s recording home since Patricidal Lust for a good reason and the band’s sound is impossible to compare to anyone else save for the handful of people already cloning them. I wish Luca’s bass was a bit more separately audible, but given how massive the mix is, that feels like a small complaint on an album I otherwise have nothing to complain about.

A final note is that I really dig the artwork. Save for an alternate cover version of Patricidal Lust Vastum has stuck to monochrome since their inception, and color suits them as well as the artwork suits the album.  

Buy Orificial Purge here, and follow Vastum on Facebook here.

Review: Mirror – Pyramid of Terror

The wild, hard rocking heavy metal of the ‘70s and early ‘80s has been enjoying a resurgence of sorts in recent years as more and more bands yearn for musical days long gone. Most of that revival focuses on the more mystical side of that coin, with occult rock, love letters to Blue Öyster Cult,  and the ethereal leads of Pagan Altar enjoying some success. There’s a lot less (good) homage to the higher-octane groups like Scorpions, Rainbow, and Deep Purple.

Read the full review on Toilet ov Hell. Published on December 4, 2019.

Interview: Unaussprechlichen Kulten

Unaussprechlichen Kulten is one of the best bands active today playing death metal. I’ve talked in depth about my feelings for them, largely via the reviews I did of their last two albums for this site (review 1, review 2). Fortunately enough for me, I got a chance to chat with them at this year’s edition of Never Surrender festival in Oakland, and to do a full interview with them via email after the festival had ended. To those who haven’t given them a shot yet, I’d recommend checking out their last few albums, their split with After Death (aka Nocturnus), and reading the reviews I posted up above.

Read the interview at Toilet Ov Hell. Published on November 19, 2019.