Album art for Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy by De Magia Veterum.

Album Review: De Magia Veterum – Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy

Evoking a sound that listeners can recognize as “evil” is black metal’s crowning achievement. The genre’s early (and continued) ties to Satanic themes help, of course, but it is the sound (the scales, the notes, the use of dissonance, et cetera) of black metal that causes the mind to make the imaginative leap from simple music to full-blown apocalyptic soundtrack.

Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy by De Magia Veterum, one of the many brainchildren of prolific Dutch musician Mories, is as much a drone album as an impressive avantgarde black metal album, yet it maintains a singular vision in harnessing the latter’s raw, primal force and arresting it to a suffocating gothic atmosphere. With Naked, I daresay there hasn’t been quite a journey to hell like this one since Virgil accompanied Dante in Alighieri’s Inferno.

Imagine a horde of imps stumbling upon an orchestra, and you’ll have an idea of the ensuing chaos that begins with “Trumpeteering the Sulphur Lakes,” which sets the malevolent tone and blistering speed for the rest of the album. Production-wise, the forefront of the mix swells with layers of hellish organs that are, at times, indistinguishable from the guitars, which whirl like dervishes in the background. We’ve all heard walls of sound in our metal before, but tracks like “Terebinths of Mamre” blast with the heat of a pressurized cauldron, its fell steam generated by the devil’s own furnace. Frequent, sometimes even abrupt key changes on tracks like “Quench My Thirst With Night” never let you settle into any given riff, even against a constant dirge of blast beats. The vocals are every bit as deranged as the music, shifting from operatic singing to hoarse screams to even what I’d describe as spoken word. Every instrument here works together to form an unstoppable wall of blackened noise that can steal your breath away.

I feel like to try and find more common musical aspects like “dynamics” and “groove” would undermine what Naked Swords Into the Wombs of the Enemy does best, which is to create the most unnerving atmosphere the imagination can muster. Still, it has an air of perverse majesty about it, much in the way that Henry the VIII could still be referred to as “majesty” as he lopped off the heads of his wives. And like that king of old, De Magia Veterum wields a great and terrible power that will positively rule you.

Album Review: The Drip – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability

At the risk of sounding like a complete ignoramus, I’d like to go on record as saying I know next to nothing about grind. Its permutations, its lyrical themes, its musical tropes — even the other genres it tends to play nice with — so let’s put all that aside, shall we?

Now let’s also put aside whether or not Washington’s The Drip even classifies as grind, or deathgrind, or d-beat, or whatever the fuck else I see people calling them. Because none of that matters when you hear what’s on offer with The Haunting Fear of Inevitability.

The whole album, front to back, is a whirlwind whiplash of energy and aggression, and it takes whatever form will accomplish that the quickest. Passages with hauling blast beats shift gears into herky-jerk d-beats. Phlegmy hardcore shouts deftly morph into brazen death metal barks. A melting pot of influences is cooking on full blast here, with no time for solos, or even choruses for that matter.

This is metal, and it’s the ass-kicking kind.

Album art for The Drip's The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, featuring a hooded decaying skull.
(Image source: Toiletovhell)

But why stop there? The Haunting Fear of Inevitability easily bludgeons every other part of the body too, from face to fanny. You’ve got balls-out bangers like “Terror War Industry” that clock in at under a minute and a half, while longer jams like “Anathema” slow down for groovin’ (okay, you could hardly call 2:45 “long,” but I’m trying to be respectful of these boys’ time). A good number of tracks fall into the latter category, which makes for a more dynamic listening experience.

Some music just makes you want to go nuts, and Haunting will let you do that. The album lacks the elitist sophistication I usually look for in metal these days, but I can’t deny the unbridled electricity charging every song. This isn’t thinking man’s metal, no sir — you’ve got five dudes terrorizing their instruments, delivering a slammin’ set of tunes. But that’s not to say the songs themselves aren’t thoughtful.

Thankfully, The Drip doesn’t sacrifice smart songwriting for pure auditory manhandling. Want neat and tidy song structures? The end of “Blackest Evocation” revisits the machine gun percussion from the song’s intro, which ties a neat little bow onto an explosive package. If you want something more organic, look no further than “Dead Inside.” A breakneck beginning slows to a shambling gait a mere minute in, a pace that continues for the remainder of the song and makes for one of the album’s more memorable tracks.

Ultimately, your being a fan of grind matters less than you being a fan of metal in general. There’s plenty of grinding (??) going on during the punishing half hour that is The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, but they’re pulling from genres in a way that makes sense. It all makes an intimidating/unfamiliar genre a bit more digestible. And you don’t have to subscribe to any of these things! If you even remotely like your metal bearing down on you like a chrome-plated rabid warthog, you’ll find something to like here. Then again, if you’re turned off by one track, the other twelve aren’t likely to convince you. But if you, me, and everybody else ends up getting into grind this year, I reckon we’ll have The Drip to thank for it.

Album art for Mesarthim's The Great Filter / Type III.

Album Review: Mesarthim – The Great Filter / Type III

Fans of spacey soundscapes and crunchy riffs may already be familiar with Australia’s Mesarthim. The two-man atmospheric black metal/trance outfit has consistently produced albums, EPs, and singles of various lengths since 2015 through independent digital releases via Bandcamp. Now, their first physical release comes from Avantegarde Music, which packages Mesarthim’s two EPs from December 2016 into one convenient compilation entitled, The Great Filter / Type III.

Both songs, “The Great Filter” and “Type III,” vary enough in their own right, yet share many of the same elements that make them distinctly Mesarthim. Long instrumental and vocal-driven passages soar with catchy, headbanging melodies and a weighty ambiance as vast as the cosmos themselves. Constant blast beats thunder beneath layers upon layers of triumphant orchestral synth patches before giving way to simplistic yet elegant mid-tempo hi-hat beats and melodic riffage. Trance-inspired transitions break up the more metal-oriented parts, helping add much-needed dynamics and interstellar flavor. Overall, the vocals and instrumentation evoke a sound associated more with melodic death metal acts like Wintersun, or even the more symphonic black metal elements of newer Shade Empire, but that doesn’t detract from what Mesarthim tries, and ultimately succeeds, to do.

A word of warning, however: “The Great Filter” clocks in at over a whopping twenty minutes, and “Type III” will take you an a just-as-modest eighteen minute and forty second journey. Most of the sections, save for the trance breakdowns, are repeated so often and for so long that I can’t help but think the songs would have benefited from some major paring-down. Without a more thorough editing pass, the truly epic parts lack the emotional payoff you’d get from them being used more sparingly. That said, Mesarthim’s solid track record of releasing quality atmospheric black metal, including The Great Filter / Type III, has me confident that when they shoot for the stars, they’ll more or less nail the landing every time.