Welcome back to another Noob Heavy roundup, where we give you the rundown on releases we loved that you might have missed. February continued the strong start to 2023, so buckle up and let’s get to it.
In case you missed one, here are quick links to each of our full reviews for February releases:
Mithridatum – Harrowing
Soulmass – Let Us Pray
Chop Chop Chop Chop Chop Chop Chop – We Live as Ghosts
Ulthar – Anthronomicon / Helionomicon
Arklay Mountains – May the Dark Shine Your Way
Ophiocordyceps – Anthropocene
Telomyras – Telomyras
Dragoncorpse – The Drakketh Saga
Frosk – Stone Prison
Megaton Sword – Might & Power
Iron Curtain – Metal Gladiator
They Greive – To Which I Bore Witness
Enemy of Reality – Where Truth May Lie
Now on to our other faves!
Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags
Blackened speed metal from Scotland
Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags is a evolutionary step forward for James McBain – while the first two records were good, they were very singular in their design and approach. Here we can see McBain step further into the murky unknown, exploring more fleshed out compositions and new musical ideas. Opener “The Nuckelavee” is an incredibly catchy blackened speed banger, full of riffs and vocal hooks, straight from earlier records. But there’s more – the title track is more drawn out and feels closer to straight black metal, yet still finds room for a punky gang chant of “WARLOCKS!” in the chorus and some deft lead work in the bridge. This song, and multiple others, also feature superbly used bagpipes. From Slayer and Motörhead homages to the lyrical shift, alongside the musical expansion, this exploration simply gives Hellripper a stronger identity through its sense of place – this is Scottish music, modern and mythological, crafted with a more powerful focus through its broadening scope, marking Warlocks Grim as McBain‘s best work to date.
Disgustulent – LOD
Death metal from British Columbia, Canada
From Vitharr Monteith and Shawn Hillman of Svneatr (whose music we’ve reviewed here) and drummer Taylor McDonald comes this killer new death metal project, and its first EP offering is a doozy. Think the evil, dissonant riffage of Morbid Angel meets a cloaked serial killer holding a rusty block hammer dripping with blood in a filthy back alley and you’re on the right track to their sound. It’s grimy and punishing for the entirety of its 18 minutes, and all three tracks offer something compelling of their own. “Tomb of Al-Rasha” twists and rips at the edges of sanity with its chorus made for audience participation, while “Rotting Maw of Mephisto” is a relentlessly violent assault of blasting carnage. The real star, though, at least in my estimation, is the final and longest track: stunner “Lord of Destruction”, which lumbers eerily into hideous being with an angular but deliberate golem-walking riff and then proceeds to take a pair of stone fists to your skull for the better part of five minutes. Hillman’s fretless bass is enormous and bruising, McDonald’s work on the kit is punishing and just a touch quirky, and Monteith lays down a cursed hoard’s worth of malevolent riffs and solos. The latter two share vocal duties and sometimes join together for particularly brutal passages. It’s goooooooood shit, folks.
Pest Control – Don’t Test the Pest
Crossover thrash from England, UK
The easy sell for this one is calling it “thrash metal Gulch“, but if you need more to go on than that then essentially this is 21 minutes of raging crossover thrash that nails the metal and hardcore sides of the equation in roughly equal measure. The riffs are fast and tight and there are loads of guitar solos lifted straight from the school of Slayer or Metallica or whoever, but there’s also a very clear punky urgency and vocalist Leah has what you might call more of a classic hardcore bark especially. Even as it absolutely whistles by the band find time for some brief but crucial dynamic variation in opener “Extermination” and later interlude “Hibernation” to keep things feeling sharp and gripping, and they’re helped no end by the mastering of Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Enforced, Municipal Waste) who certainly knows a thing or two about what an album like this should sound like.
Clouds Taste Satanic – Tales of Demonic Possession
Instrumental stoner/doom/post-metal from New York, US
Are Clouds Taste Satanic one of the best bands in the world right now? Perhaps, but I’ll admit I’m more than a little biased. They’ve been on the cutting edge of instrumental stoner/doom since they formed in 2013, and each album has been an opportunity to grow. Their first double album (sorry, 2019’s Evil Eye and Second Sight don’t count), this might be Clouds Taste Satanic at their absolute best; each song feels like the score for an epic film. The guitar playing is otherworldly, the drumming is bone-shatteringly precise, and the overall vibe will take your mind far, far away. If you haven’t listened to this album yet…what the hell are you waiting for?
Algiers – Shook
Alternative hip-hop/post-punk from Georgia, US
Algiers’ fourth full-length is a great record not because it touches on so many different genres across its 55-minute runtime, and not even because it nails all of them, but because every single step it takes is made with a sure-footedness that always serves the band’s overall vision. Whether it’s the chaotic noise punk of tracks like “73%” and “A Good Man”, the Run The Jewels-esque swagger of “Irreversible Damage”, the jazz-addled “Out Of Style Tragedy”, or the gospel-influenced showstopper “Green Iris”, this is an album that could and perhaps even should be an absolute mess, but instead manages to make a cohesive statement with community, anti-racism, and anti-capitalism at its heart. So collaborative is the spirit of this record that the band even list its many guests – among them Big Rube, Zack de la Rocha, and Backxwash – on the front cover, but if anyone steals the show it’s frontman Franklin J. Fisher, his unflinching lyrics and versatile delivery holding the listener’s gaze even as the album ranges as widely and wilfully as it does.
Nameless Mist – Lifeless
Depressive/suicidal black metal
Self-described “trans anarchist DSBM”, Nameless Mist is the perfect shot of pure depresso for your dreary morning. And although it is extremely somber, it carries that comfort found only in the whisper of death on the edge of perception, lingering thoughts, or outer threats. As sole member Lauren Straily puts it, “this album is about death and rebirth. burning down the old ways. tearing apart the liars, the murderers. violence towards they who wish us dead. you know who you are.” The guitar work on this album is exquisite, carrying so much anguish and rage in varying forms, whether its plucked strings or waves of tremolo washing over you. Opener “Ashes” hammers a drum beat that to me carries the chill of the crescendo score from 28 Days Later, anxious and driving, honed to a perfect level of tension. This is an album to submerge in, drenched in all its self aware misery and the comfort of a doomed existence.
Chora – There Lies a Friend I Once Knew
Post-metal from Tennessee, US
It is very kind of Cult of Luna’s Magnus Líndberg to have mastered an album for a group who could one day pose a very real threat to his own band’s towering post-metal legacy. The reason for such big bold words is that Chora seem to understand what many others don’t, which is that post-metal isn’t just about repeating the quiet-loud-quiet thing to ever-diminishing returns. There Lies a Friend I Once Knew does do all the dynamic stuff of course, but it’s got a proper emotional heft to it, even in the sentence spelled out by its tracklist: “You’ve come to grief – old man, so there you must lie.” There’s also a real grace and patience to this record; the heavy parts are never rushed in too early, and the more delicate parts are treated with the same care and attention as everything else rather than just playing for time before the next big riff. It’s this which makes the album feel genuinely worthy of the hands the band chose to master it, and of course when things do kick off they are every bit as gloriously devastating as one could possibly hope.
Ontborg – Following the Steps of Damnation
Melodic death metal from Italy
Okay, first thing’s first: it’s preposterous that these guys aren’t from Sweden. I listened to the entire record convinced that I was enjoying a delightful slab of melody-heavy death from a bunch of Swedes, and for good reason, because these tunes have that oh-so-familiar combination of toothy HM-2 chainsaw tone, wickedly earwormy melodic lines, and perfectly balanced punishing aggression. It’s a recipe for a good time, and Ontborg does it justice from start to finish. Frontman Lukas Flarer’s mid-range roars have more than a little Matti Kärki in them, and so they seem to fit the guitar tone to a tee, and his brother Christoph Flarer puts on as rock-solid a performance on the drums as you’ll hear. The record’s ten tracks cover a lengthy 55 minutes, but the songs themselves range wide enough and have enough substance to keep that runtime from being a chore. “Steps of Damnation” puts the hooks in immediately with a classic simple but catchy melodeath riff, and epic “To the North” sits near the midpoint, a remarkably beautiful acoustic intro leading to the sort of stately mid-tempo death ballad that you can get lost in. Ontborg aren’t doing anything new here, but what they’re doing they’re doing extremely well, and all death metal fans should make sure to spin this at least once.
Territorial Pissants – Shit Sandy
Noise rock from North Carolina, US
Remember 2018 when life seemed so much simpler, and QOHELETH released Black Kite Broadcasts, their concept album about a radio broadcast intercepted from a post-apocalyptic future? Well, that concept is back in the form of Territorial Pissants, one of the made-up bands formed in the wake of the Black Kite Crisis. Their debut EP, Shit Sandy, is twitchy, scratchy, and sounds more than just a little paranoid; these four tracks will have you looking over your shoulder and squinting at shadows like you’re in some kind of futuristic sci-fi thriller. Not much is known about the Black Kite Crisis, but it doesn’t sound pretty. But when you consider it’s a “post-apocalyptic” future, you shouldn’t expect it to sound pretty.
Lotus Eater Machine – Prisoner to Seven Demons
Mathcore/deathgrind from Massachusetts, US
From the band formerly known as Geisterfahrer, Prisoner to Seven Demons is one of those records that goes straight in the ‘mathcore headfuck’ category – you know, next to all those bands like Pupil Slicer and Frontierer and Fawn Limbs and so on. It’s arguably the death/grind influences that really set this one apart though, especially when the vocals get super ugly and guttural, or when the band throw a harder groove in amongst the more panic-stricken chaotic stuff. Penultimate track “Scrapmetal Dermatologist” shows off a bit more range in particular, its descent into tortured sludge metal and harrowing cries of “Fix me God” bringing to mind the likes of Cult Leader and even Primitive Man before closer “Landmines in Heaven” ends the record at its noisiest and most untethered. Consider this also a shout-out for the excellent new album from See You Next Tuesday which came out on the same day as this and provides an uncannily similar thrill.