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.
Released on November 22, 2019
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Astralborne’s debut album takes tricks learned from listening to Amon Amarth, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity and puts them to good use. Yes, this is riff-obsessed, lead-focused melodic death metal, and it’s quite tastily done. The band aren’t afraid to flex their musical muscles on this release, and the songs generally err on the longer side. There’s an epic streak here, and the band use it well. Galloping melodic guitars, punctuated by blast beats, run riot, while deep growling vocals keep things brutal as the music takes on an energetic, colorful life of its own. The three bands quoted at the start of this text are mere signposts, as Astralborne have taken their influences and produced songs that explore their self-created metallic landscape with vigor and purpose. As albums destined to be overlooked by the metal masses go, Eternity’s End is quite the underground gem.
Pillars of Creation
Released on August 29, 2019
Genre: Progressive Metal
Sometimes you blindly stumble upon an album, and you instantly know it’s something special. Pillars of Creation is exactly one such album, and I knew it barely a minute or so into the first track. This is an epic progressive metal album that’s clearly been put together by people with both skill and passion. Based around a core trio, there are also several guests on the album that bring extra instruments to play. This is a multifaceted, textured release, one that’s rich in musical content and talented songwriting. Despite an obvious debt to Opeth, Obsidian Tide have more than enough of a personality of their own to pull this material off convincingly. Each song has its own identity and shines in its own individual way. From layered progressive rock to melodic death metal muscle, Obsidian Tide put their best feet forward on every track on this album, and have easily done themselves proud. Professionally recorded, Pillars of Creation is a masterful debut release, one that I must insist you listen to at your earliest convenience. Fans of Communic, Wilderun, Tool, Eternal Storm, Dream Theater, and, (of course), Opeth should lap this up eagerly. I can’t imagine this band will remain unsigned for long on the considerable strength of this.
Released on October 26, 2019
Genre: Black Metal
Epistēmē is Dimholt’s second album, and it’s a well-written and well-diversified release. Dimoholt’s raw black metal assault strikes a fine balance between professional delivery and underground menace. The album is paced well, with each track flowing nicely from one to the next. The band’s use of a variety of different speeds and modes of attack works in their favour, especially as this is an album that’s over an hour in length. Across the songs Dimholt move from scathing aggression, to atmospheric mood-setting, to hook-based catchiness, to esoteric darkness, to grim melodic appeal, and many other states; yep, Dimholt cover a fair bit of ground across the album, but do so in a coherent, familiar way. Each song has something interesting and notable to offer the listener, even if it’s just a section of guitars or a particular vocal refrain. The songs, overall, are very strong, however, and Epistēmē has a lot of strengths. If you like the sound of a cross between Schammasch, Behemoth, and Emperor, built on a sturdy second wave base, then this is one for you. This really is very good.
Forged Faith Bleeding
Released on May 1, 2019
Genre: Death Metal
Are you ready for something unashamedly old-school, underground, and nasty? Of course, you are, which is why I bring you the debut album from France’s death metallers Iron Flesh. Forged Faith Bleeding wastes no time on crappy introductions or anything soft like that. Instead, the music blasts straight out of the speaks at full throttle, all covered in spikes and leather, and holding multiple bladed weapons. This beast means business. It’s well-executed stuff, and I like that the band aren’t afraid to operate at different speeds and with a variety of weapons of assault. Blasting aggression, sinister groove, lethal riffs, cavernous vocals…Forged Faith Bleeding has what you need for an OSDM bloody feast. The ghost of Swedish death metal, (Dismember in particular), haunts Iron Flesh’s music, but doesn’t completely possess it; it’s a big influence, but not the be-all and end-all of the band’s sound all of the time, (there’s an old-school Hypocrisy side to their sound too, for example – check out ‘Harbinger of Desolation’ in particular, but it appears in quite a few places, quite satisfyingly). Raw and ugly this album may be, but the band know how to write a decent tune, and Forged Faith Bleeding is worth your time to check out.
Black Sheep Parade
Released on September 21, 2019
The second album from Polish grinders Straight Hate is 29 minutes of ferocity. Mixing the Swedish styles of Rotten Sound and Nasum with a crusty Napalm Death vibe, this new album also carries a greater influence from both death and black metal, and the end result is a very satisfying and enjoyable experience. The songs are violent and vicious, kicking you in the head multiple times before you’ve even blinked. One of the good things about Straight Hate, however, is that in amongst the general savagery of their assault, there is room for nuance and atmosphere here and there. Admittedly, these parts are not the norm, but they enhance the overall offer of the music. A song like ‘The Kneaders’ is a great example – blistering brutality, dynamic punk energy, and melodic mood, all wrapped up together. I enjoyed the band’s 2016 debut Every Scum Is a Straight Arrow, but I’m pleased to say that three years later Black Sheep Parade finds Straight Hate improved, heavier, and nastier than ever. Top grind.
Bittersweet Temptation to Disappear Completely
Released on December 8, 2019
Genre: Black/Doom Metal
Brought to us by a member of Hungarian black metallers Hænesy, Bittersweet Temptation to Disappear Completely is the debut album from black/doom band Mádra, and it’s one worth hearing. Considered and mood-driven, the music offers darkly forlorn atmospheres punctuated by occasional expressions of emotive violent aggression. Haunting pianos and keyboards enrich the rest of the music, providing layers of depth to be swallowed up by. Blackened screams seem to drift in and out of esoteric mists, like daemonic predators swimming just out of sight. These songs are raw and filled with malevolent auras and despondent atmospheres, switching between the malignant and beautiful with ease. Composed almost in an experimental formless style, Bittersweet Temptation to Disappear Completely is all about dark, blackened atmospheres, and it crafts these very well. Recommended.