While 2019 has shown that home studios are only getting better with the release of better emulators and cheaper “ready to record” prepackaged setups, the increase of quantity has not shown a proportionate increase in quality across the music spectrum. Metal has been in a particular weak state despite the best releases of the year being better than those of previous years, the overall quality was so low that even the present editor had to explore non-metal underground music in hopes of finding something of great quality. While such “expeditions” have been for the most part fruitless, the best of the year can only leave the metal listener with a sense optimism of what the new decade has to offer. Without any further ado, here is the best underground metal of 2019.
Fleshcrawl – In the Catacombs of Flesh
Fleshcrawl return after a twelve year layoff with this abortion of an album that should be avoided. The overall motion of the album is extremely bizarre as the band start with one decent song before slowly spiraling into simple chugging rhythms reminiscent of later Entombed and slowly falling into pure saccharine Melodeath. The vocals have devolved into the almost shouted Nu Death vocals popular in the early 2000s. The weak vocals lead these songs and help distinguish them by shouting each title multiple times. The lyrics perfectly illustrate to what mentally deficient depths this band has descended to with golden quotes likes “Suffer you fucking cunt, die you fucking cunt”. The drums have devolved into follow the riffs without any of the intelligent fills and patterns that were once emblematic of this band. In the Catacombs of another man’s flesh!
The venerable Royal Yacht serves many a pipe-smoker as a staple, since it presents the ultimate rarity, a high-powered Virginia-based blend that also manages to be flavorful, smooth, and sweet. Famous for its unique topping — a combination of rum, Tawny Port, citrus, and possibly honey — this blend has delighted smokers since 1912 and proves to be the most divisive blend most will encounter.
Back in the 1980/90s – a time when underground metal wasn’t just a click away – buying compilation albums was a fun and affordable method for discovering new music. As introductions to specific styles or scenes – some of which otherwise remained restricted to the tape trading community – they’re the perfect option. Also, compilations occasionally featured alternate takes or tracks that couldn’t be found on the albums proper. Ultra Metal serve both functions; presenting the then current state of Czechoslovakian underground metal and offering exclusive versions of specific songs.
Although it might disappoint some readers, it’s probably advisable to begin this review by stating that this is not a lost recording by a well-known Polish musician. However, the music does fall somewhere within the black metal sphere. Darken is a three-track EP released by guitar-virtuoso Toby Knapp, presumably conceived as an attempt at writing and performing music in the language of mid-to-late-1990s melodic black metal. Joining the multi-instrumentalist on vocals and as lyrical contributor is a certain Necrotriton, while drums are obviously computer-generated.
The crown-jewel of this album is titled after the previous record, Hammerheart and uses epitaphial lyrics by Quorthon over the music of British composer Gustav Holst. It summarizes the affinity between Bathory and classical music by being a tribute on metal’s compositional heritage and romantic roots, but also going beyond that; it summarizes the beauty of self-sacrifice, a Viking funeral on the eschaton of human existence. Our analysis ends here.
In Nomine Satanas. One of the greatest black metal songs that have ever been or will ever be, a few parallel vocal movements of fifths is transformed into a hymn to love, sojourn and homecoming: Bond of Blood. This is a beautiful song. It celebrates two things:
Many of you have enjoyed Eikona’s musically advanced take on Dungeon Synth and perhaps find yourselves wanting to know more about this enigmatic act. Thankfully, the musician behind Eikona made time available to answer a few questions.
Part IV: The Spiritual Significance of Struggle and the Mountain
“The most spiritual men, as the strongest, find their happiness where others would find their destruction: in the labyrinth, in hardness against themselves and others, in experiments. Their joy is self-conquest: asceticism becomes in them nature, need, and instinct. Difficult tasks are a privilege to them; to play with burdens that crush others, a recreation. Knowledge-a form of asceticism. They are the most venerable kind of man: that does not preclude their being the most cheerful and the kindliest.”
Is it delusional to believe in a revitalization of our much beloved music? Judging by the everflowing stream of nonsense bombarding our ears for the last 20 years or so, it is all too easy to answer the question affirmatively. What ultimately makes it worth hanging around just a little longer are the precious few and often unexpected discoveries that somehow manage to make it to your stereo. Like Zarathustrian Impressions by the debuting epic death/black metal ensemble Polemicist. With a combined assault of evocative melodies, erudite songwriting and conceptual rigeur, these Philadelphians have not only helped restore faith in underground music, but also cleared the path for further exploration in the crossection between black, death and heavy metal.