Towards the back of the Vault, just past Reese’s cell, there’s a small staircase that leads to a hidden subterranean chamber where we keep the real underground shit. These are the obscure releases and rare finds that will get you points with the cool kids.
Welcome to Beneath the Vault, a column in which we take a brief look at the many review requests we get from bands that aren’t always fortunate enough to afford a promotional campaign or the backing of a big record label. Whether you like your music like you like your coffee or prefer listening to groovy tunes with headphones and some smoke, we’ve got you covered with these underground treasures. If you’re a band and would like a review or a spot in this column, click here to put in a request.
Devil Flower Mantis
Genre: Heavy Psych
Released April 2nd, 2018
The first release we’re looking at is a three song demo from heavy rockers Devil Flower Mantis. It’s actually a live recording, which gives the demo a rawness that I dug. As far as stoner rock releases go, it’s fairly straight-forward with guitar riffs that sound as crunchy as a bag of Fritos, and bass as gravely as a country dirt road. But what really makes it stand out is how fiercely the band attacks each riff in unison, which brings a lot of heaviness to the compositions and plants them somewhat in the doom genre. It also doesn’t hurt that Nikolas Kalogirou’s powerful but gritty voice adds another layer of thick fuzz to the mix. In general, it’s a short listen made up of a couple rockers sandwiched around a heavy psych song, but the demo shows a ton of promise, and I’m looking forward to the band’s studio debut later this year.
Death Toll Corp.
Genre: Crossover Hardcore Punk Metal
Released April 14th, 2018
Hardcore punk from San Francisco with some really dirty thrash riffs! These guys have been friends since high school, and it’s pretty obvious that they’ve been playing music together for a long time. The interplay between the two guitarists seems effortless whether they’re swapping vocals or trading opposing licks. The guitar work on this is endlessly entertaining. For instance, some of the solos on “Vultures and Leeches” and “Catching Fire” are really creative and it’s surprising how well they fit into the music given how odd some of the melody choices might seem on their own. Overall, the music is filthy and unrelenting, but the album has a few satirical sketches that let you catch your breath. Another thing cool about this release is that there’s also a comic by Jon Orc to accompany it. You can read it on their website here.
Vitam Et Mortem
Sinfonia para el Funeral de un Ángel (Symphony for an Angel’s Funeral)
Genre: Blackened Death Metal
Released October 10th, 2017
Next up we’re looking at Colombia’s Vitam Et Mortam’s sixth release Sinfonia para el Funeral de un Ángel. The band is self-described as blackened death metal, but they pack a lot of melody with some symphonic and folk elements into their music, which makes it a rich listening experience. Operatic choruses, flutes, and keys give it an epic quality that at times reminds me of early In Flames and At the Gates. It’s a well-crafted ambitious effort, and it’s obvious that a lot of work went into its creation. Even though this release came out late fall, they are already in the pre-production stage of their sixth album, which is themed around the violence and armed conflict that have plagued Colombia for the past 60 years.
Genre: Stoner/Desert Rock
Released January 25th, 2018
Some music was just made for listening to in your car, and after writing that, I suddenly realized why they called this one Roadburner. These are great summer tunes for whether you’re riding a motorcycle along the coast, driving down a desert highway in a convertible, or…ahem, just heading to the grocery store in your Prius to get a gallon of milk. Electric Huldra have put together some really tight desert rock with fresh riffs and a vocalist reminiscent of Foreigner’s Lou Gramm. They group lacks a bass player, but I honestly didn’t feel like there was any low-end missing from the mix. The two guitarists more than make up for it. All-in-all, this is a great album for fans of the genre, and I expect I’ll be cranking this one often over the next few months.
Les Années Décapitées
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Released March 2, 2018
French one man band Braume have created a captivating and enthralling 33 minutes of black metal on Les Années Décapitées. Forging mind-bending riffs and post-metal resplendence with atmospheric black metal songs that positively drip with emotion, this really is a thoroughly engaging and highly immersive release. More than anything, it’s probably the melodies that get me though. I listen to this, and they transport me into the cosmos, where it seems there’s an endless array of bright, splendid sights to see. I love the album cover too. Absolutely nothing to do with the cosmic feeling I get from the music, but there’s something clean, crisp, and deeply satisfying about it. Les Années Décapitées has really impressed.
Released March 30, 2018
Now here’s an interesting proposition, at least from my perspective. This sounds like the type of thing that should have come out in the late 90s, fusing hardcore and nu-metal together, as it does in many ways. Having said that though, there are still plenty of more contemporary influences that can be heard in the band’s music too, making for a very charismatic and enjoyable collection of songs. Stuck between eras, but not to its detriment, Hivetower are walking a path that could so easily have resulted in something generic and stale, but has actually resulted in exactly the opposite. I loved the debut album of UK nu-metallers Number One Son, (the follow up was less good); Hivetower sound like these mixed with Every Time I Die, Poison the Well, and a dashing of djent.
Genre: Post-Black Metal
Released March 31, 2018
This Portuguese one man post-black metal act has crafted a wonderfully evocative and emotive album here. It’s an instrumental album, and the focus is very much on providing a rich tapestry of loss and woe for the listener to drown in while still hanging on for dear life to some bright strands of hope that appear here and there. It’s warmly melodic and has an ambient core, mixing post-metal, black gaze, and soft atmosphere into a collection of tracks that may lack aggression, but makes up for this with layers of feeling and evocative soundscapes. It’s easy to get lost in music like this, and there’s some quite affecting music on this album.