Beats and yelling from: DeathSlaughter, Adaestuo, Insurgency

DeathSlaughter: Passing Through the Valley of Sodomites
Out 3rd August on Cianeto Discos/Timeworn Records

Viscus primordial beginnings give rise to rich symphonic aspirations on the second album from the Brazilian outfit known as DeathSlaughter. ‘Passing Through the Valley of Sodomites’ exemplifies black metal as interpretated by artists from the hotter climbs of Southern Europe and South America. Dirty, primitive, warm, yet boasting a rich and studied melodic flesh to place upon a direct yet playful rhythmic skeleton. It is totally at ease with its own sense of melodrama and at times whimsical theatrics, with all the ancillary symphonic baggage that often comes with this territory.

DeathSlaughter are more rooted in old school thrash than they are the epic heavy metal of the Hellenic school, the riffs lurch from first wave black metal to dirty punk, to early thrash gallops of playful energy. Yet packaged within the relatively modest production values are plenty of rewarding and surprisingly well integrated nods to folk metal, camp occultism, and psychedelia. All is tightly packaged into a unified force of metal as muddy as it is bright.

The mix is about as DIY as they come. The guitar tone – although thin – carries plenty of body, allowing it swim through genres and styles with ease, losing no momentum in transitioning from moods of euphoria and intoxication to blunt punches of thrashing energy. A distorted mid-range bass bleeds almost entirely into the guitar tone, but it can nevertheless be discerned adding an agreeable element of abrasion, thus bolstering the violence on offer here.

Drums keep things relatively mid-paced, maintaining marches and gallops of rhythm over sustained blast-beats. Although their sound is tinny and weak, they are able to cut through the other instrumentation without issue, allowing the listener to appreciate the creative rhythmic swells that bolster the melodic offering on display. Vocals veer from guttural pontifications to ghoulish snarls alongside other aural detritus.

Despite the sloppy presentation, this is a work of sophisticated extreme metal with one foot in the past whilst maintaining an undeniably firm grip on their own identity as distinct from their contemporaries. ‘Passing Through the Valley of Sodomites’ uses primitivism as a Trojan Horse to smuggle in all manner of nods and references that are freely integrated into the finished package. Basic tempo manipulation, crescendo building, and clashing textural offerings are manipulated to have the greatest impact possible, allowing DeathSlaugher to deliver the maximum amount of musical nutrition out of every bar. A work that speaks to the primitivist and the poet in us in equal measure.

Adaestuo: Purge of the Night Cloak
Out 30th August on W.T.C. Productions

The latest EP from Adaestuo is a stark iteration of what I’ve often labelled “modernist black metal”. The tool kit is very much the same as the more historical or fantastically minded corners of the genre, but all is manipulated and contorted into creating this claustrophobic, suffocating atmosphere more in line with industrial and noise than the outdoor triumphalism of traditional black metal. Dissonance, chromaticism, aesthetically artificial drums, all take ‘Purge of the Night Cloak’ into a very urban, concrete setting despite using much the same techniques and timbres as any black metal.

A mechanistic guitar tone guides us through a familiar dance of tremolo picked riffs, albeit via chord progressions of only the most miserable minor key variants when not falling into total dissonance. Vocals – although squarely of the black metal caste – display that podium grandstanding style typified by Maniac on Mayhem’s ‘Grand Declaration of War’. Ambient noise and martial industrial furniture clutters the backdrop of these pieces, further placing the listener in the oppressive environment of brutalist architecture and totalitarian ideological dogmas, a far cry from exhilarating heroism or nature worship.

Lustmord seems to be a pronounced background influence here. The EP consists of one part industrialist black metal one part dark ambient. The latter of which pivots on swells of loose textural vocalisations, drab piano chords, and harsh histrionics. This is again noteworthy. The ambient arm of typical black metal is often something approximating the dungeon synth style. But for this modernist iteration of the genre, a more imposing, nihilistic, and ultimately artificial aesthetic packaging is required. Thus the medievalist ditties and fantasy folk flourishes are jettisoned in favour of abstract manipulations of tones, textures, volumes, and tension.

This presents a mirror image of how the black metal segments play out. Despite the clear presence of riffs and discernible chord progressions, the pieces flow with a liquid fluidity that almost threatens to collapse into ambient noise at times. Thus the enjoyment of ‘Purge of the Night Cloak’ is chiefly located by disregarding its metallic origins entirely, and focusing on this as a work of pure ambience, albeit a harsher iteration of the genre.

Adaestuo are not unique in this regard. There have been many attempts to reacquaint black metal with these aesthetic kindred spirits, especially in recent years as a societal pincer movement of ideological pressures has become increasingly hard to avoid. But this EP is noteworthy for both riding this wave at its apex and adding a valuable chunk of vocabulary to the subgenre, both increasing its expressive range whilst keeping it well anchored in material already familiar to its audience.  

Insurgency: Primitive Shrines
Out 29th July on Dying Victims

‘Primitive Shrines’ is the tantalising hint we have been craving from this artist since the punk/thrash/black metal bedlam of 2017’s ‘Militant Death Cult’. This is an undiluted injection of razor sharp guitar violence, relentless d-beats, and vocals emanating from the heart of the riot itself.

Riffs are formed from fragmented power chord segments that are constantly ripped apart by staccato chromatic accents, framing each micro structure in boundless disorder. The guitars also maintain the rhythmic thrust of each piece, by framing the riffs around percussive emphasis, allowing the drums to act as agents of chaos in their wake. Fills or tempo changes are few, but this only serves to heighten their impact and overall control on the direction of the music. A distorted bass rumble can be heard beneath the cacophony, for the most part allying with the shape of the guitars, thus legitimising their one dimensional violence.

Despite the violence of Insurgency’s latest EP, there is a delicacy to its cultural placement that warrants scrutiny. The end product may look like an act of complete disarray. But Insurgency are secret master craftsman, manipulating a primitive style in subtle ways not open to less attuned minds. Their music sits at the flashpoint between first wave black metal, British d-beat, and early thrash.

But the strain of early thrash discernible within Insurgency is rife with grounded ideological life, eschewing the party nihilism or pretensions to epicism that the US arm of the genre embodied by the late 80s. It is for that reason that the nods to early black metal fit so well within this framework. It is not just the usual suspects of Sarcofago, Bathory, or Hellhammer that can be heard here, subtle accents and link riffs would easily be at home on an early Gorgoroth album for instance, sitting hand in hand with Cro-Mags riffs and vocals that slot neatly into the early grindcore milieu.

This brief three track EP packs an impressive degree of cultural signifiers that are fast becoming Insurgency’s stock-in-trade. But they approach it with a nuance, skill, and ideological awareness lacking in so many other old school apers. And as a result come out with dense, novel, and bracing chunks of primitive extreme metal in spite of the overt retroist aesthetic.

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